We Could Have Had It All (Rewrite)
"The scars of your love
Remind me of us
They keep me thinking
We could have had it all."
~Rolling Deep, Adele
This was it, Alistair thought, tracing the small notch mark on the tree's trunk. It had taken him nearly two hours of stumbling around in the dark to find the damned engraving. A simple gash along the bark, barely discernible from the normal grooves, stained with berries; if you weren't looking for it, there was no way you'd even know it was there; something he knew its creator had counted on.
Counting his steps to the left, he searched for the entry he knew would be there. "Son of—" Alistair swallowed a curse when he hit a stone hidden by a bush, the throbbing in his large toe making him wonder exactly when he had become such a pansy. It wasn't all that long ago that he had been in the thick of it, gaining cuts, scrapes, and burns, fighting for his life on a daily basis.
All right, he conceded, it had been three years but that wasn't that long, was it?
Three years as the King of Ferelden had made subtle changes in him that Alistair was still discovering; changes he was no longer certain he liked. True the confidence boost was nice, so was the unlimited supply of delicious foods, but the fawning, Alistair shuddered at the thought. So much ceremony and decorum, he would gladly admit he missed the days eating charred rabbit, laughing with his old friends, spending the night watching the stars with her.
Yael Tabris, Maker even her name brought an unbidden smile to his lips. The redheaded spitfire had captured his heart with her sharp wit and vast intellect. For an elf who grew up in the capital, she had been amazingly talented with a blade, managing to knock him flat on his ass the first time the two of them spared. The woman had had hell dumped in her lap and took it all in stride, capturing the hearts of nearly every person she ran into.
Swallowing the lump in his throat as he finally found what he was looking for: a canopy of false floor carefully concealed by brush and debris. Lifting the interwoven branches up, dirt and leaves flaking from the square, Alistair quickly ducked into the tunnel it had hid. He was plummeted into near darkness when he let the earthen door shut; the only light was streaming from above through very thin cracks between the branches.
Knowing he would be concealed in the underground path, Alistair fumbled at the pouch on his hip, searching for the light he could not use in the forest for fear of being seen. The small runestone was annoyingly illusive and it took the blond several moments to finally find the cloth that he had covered it in. Blue-white light shone like a torch from the small stone as he pulled it from its hiding spot, lighting the tunnel around him.
Shadows danced on the walls, giving a burst of adrenaline to his step. Creepy factor of it all aside, Alistair was excited and nervous; a bundle of unspent energy. Part of him couldn't believe he was actually doing this; Eamon would be livid when he found out Alistair had snuck away from the guard, nevermind what his reaction might be to the quick note he had jotted before escaping. 'Gone to visit old friend. Be back later.' Even he cringed at the way it sounded.
Alistair suddenly grimaced, wondering if the horse would still be in the forest where he left it. Technically, as King, he couldn't be charged with horse-theft—most people fell over backwards to try and give him what he wanted—but he still felt bad about it….kind of. Well he felt bad about scaring that stable hand. Poor elf nearly wet himself.
Now that he thought of it, he had to remember to thank the boy, not only for not raising the alarm when he found Alistair trying (and failing) to saddle a horse but also for finding him a suitable change of clothes. He never would have made it this far in his own ornately sewn clothes—nevermind the lecture he would have gotten for getting them so dirty.
He was ashamed to admit that he was a bit out of practice and the first mile or so of the ride to Vigil's Keep was horrible. Since he had become King he only had chance to ride a horse twice, all other times he was either herded into a carriage (which was entirely too ostentatious for his liking) or he marched alongside everyone else. That wasn't to say he forgot how to ride, only that he definitely could use some practice; he was certain he would have a giant bruise from falling off the horse. Twice.
Coming to a fork in the tunnel, he stilled, squinting at the two passageways, nerves making the better of him and causing his confidence to slip. All the escape routes he had known her to make never had two paths. Scratching the back of his head, Alistair frowned, searching for anything he could recognize as her code.
Yael had always been cautious, a life of keeping secrets, whether it was from her father due to her swordplay training, the garrison for elves were never allowed to carry weapons, or even, he supposed, her friends; her trust was hard to earn. It had taken nearly a year of traveling with her for the redheaded rogue to begin sharing her cypher.
Along the ground he finally spotted what he was looking for. The path he had just come was marked only by a stick acting like a post near the wall, ambiguous enough if he hadn't noticed it was standing straight up. On his right was a feather, a simple hawk's feather lying along the wall while on his left was a rock—well three rocks.
The branch was obviously for the woods Alistair had just left.
The rocks were symbolizing weapons, something he had learned from her one day while sparing. Since elves were forbidden blades, Yael learned to turn anything into a weapon and nothing was quite as painful as a rock flung at your head.
The feather would have baffled him if he had not remembered her collecting ones just like it and turning them into pens so she could keep writing in her journal.
Turning to the right, deciding that she would not be on the training grounds this late into the night, Alistair continued on; excitement starting to pulse in him. He was really doing this. He was really going to see her.
Absently, he tried to brush off the dust and dirt that had accumulated on his clothing, some part of him desperate to make himself more presentable. It had been three years since he had last seen her. Three long years—and it wasn't for lack of trying!
He had visited the Keep on multiple occasions, mostly on official business but she always seemed to be gone. Once Alistair had managed to delay news of his arrival until he actually arrived in the courtyard only to be told that she was 'just here a moment ago'. A frown tugged on his lips, realizing she probably snuck out the same path he was using to sneak in.
He got monthly reports from the Keep, using his influence as the King as well as the fact he was still technically a Grey Warden to stay apprised. Alistair had originally done it in hopes of communicating with her, perhaps some hopeless romantic in him had flared and he thought about exchanging coded letters within the documents. Maybe somehow explaining to her how stupid he had been to let Eamon's advice influence him over the woman he loved.
Unfortunately only one missive from the last thirty-six had been by her—an impersonal note sent seven months after the Blight ended and sharply informing him of the darkspawn who named itself the Architect. All the others were written by the Seneschal or some other lackey. It seemed that she was steadfastly refusing to have anything to do with him.
She hadn't even told him when she found Morrigan a few weeks back!
He had to hear about it from the Seneschal, who obviously did not have all the information. Mirrors, elven lights, spirits, the letter was practically nonsense. All that had been clear was that Yael had found the witch and let her go again. That alone frustrated him to no end; Morrigan effected them both, the child that had been created, the friendship that had been shattered, both of them had ties to the woman. The fact Yael hadn't even bothered to write him herself irritated him. Though, Alistair thought sighing to himself, the queen was probably pleased with the lack of contact between the two Wardens.
'Elizabeth Sighard', daughter of the Bann of Dragon's Peak, a well-educated noble woman, was politically and physically perfect for the role of Queen of Ferelden. She was pretty enough, long black hair, gray eyes that could make many a courtier wobble at the knee. The woman could command respect and admiration by simply walking into a room and giving one of her shy smiles. The Nobles loved her, the people adored her.
But she wasn't the woman Alistair wished he had as queen.
She wasn't the woman he loved.
Around him as he was lost in thought, the earth walls had given way to stone and soon so did the path beneath his feet.
The biggest mistake of his life had been the night after they won the Landsmeet. Eamon had taken him aside and bluntly told him that he was going to be expected to sire an heir. Alistair would never forget the look on the old man's face when he pointed out that, while Alistair's fellow Warden was an amazing commander and had moved mountains to secure a better future for Ferelden, the elf was unsuitable for the position of Queen and that, unless Alistair wished to take her on as a consort, their relationship would need to end immediately.
The path ended at a stone staircase that twisted up into darkness. Soundlessly, Alistair began to climb, heart pounding in his chest, mind turning back to that day.
He had thought about that horrible day a thousand times. The morning before the Landsmeet had been filled with passion, one last hour together in each other's arms, neither certain if they would live passed the gathering. They had entered that room united, in love, and determined to put an end to the Blight no matter the cost.
The last kiss the two of them shared burned into his memory. She had been celebrating with the others in the dining hall, relieved that they had finally put an end to the civil war and brought the focus back around to the Blight.
Alistair had stayed hidden for a moment, watching her from the doorway, listening to her laugh and cheer with the others, teasingly refusing Zevran's offer of a celebratory kiss and allowing Oghren to refill her mug with whatever Maker-awful ale the dwarf always carried. When she had seen him her face had lit up, shining like it only did for him. Her kiss was filled with passion and hope, ecstatic that they had won the Landsmeet.
Yael had been everything to him. Their entanglement had been so sudden, so unexpected. He had scarcely known her before he realized he had fallen for her, craving her witty retorts, her rich laughter, relying on her strength and dedication, even the lazy half smile she gave everyone, cocky and full of depreciating humor drove him wild.
She was slow to trust, the dark abuses from humans in her past had always had a surge of protectiveness run through him. The first time he truly saw her smile, brown eyes sparkling, it transformed her face. Alistair had known from that moment there was no other woman for him, no one else could ever begin to compare.
And he had broken her heart.
Bad news had piled upon worse when the two of them learned why Grey Wardens were needed during a Blight. When she came to his room that night, he hadn't know what to expect but her convincing him with an emotionless mask to bed Morrigan had not been it.
And even he was willing to admit he had responded poorly when she left him behind at the city gates, barely even sparing him a glance before heading off into the city, Sten, Morrigan, and Zevran at her back. Nevermind how he had spoken to her during his coronation, the aloof and formal address she had given grating on him. It hadn't been until later that he learned that she had been given a script to recite, a final slap in the face to the elven hero so that she would not 'embarrass the crown.'
Coming to a stop at the end of the staircase, Alistair stared at the back of a thick tapestry. He suddenly found himself freezing, unable to move forward or back, heart hammering in his chest like he was facing a darkspawn in his skivvies.
So much had gone wrong while the world was righting itself.
Alistair had allowed himself to be swept along in the snobbery of nobility. He had all but abandoned the woman who he had given his heart to long ago. Part of him had hoped that he would be able to put her behind him, that whomever was deemed 'appropriate' would be someone he could love. If things had been different, Alistair was certain he could have fallen for Elizabeth. She was intelligent, refined, a devote believer; everything he had thought he would want once upon a time.
But he didn't.
Elizabeth played the dutiful wife and queen while he acted the part of a loyal King. Alistair was certain she did actually care for him and he respected her but he could never honestly bring himself to say he loved her. His heart had belonged to Yael Tabris and they both knew it.
Despite the neutral relationship between them, Alistair was not as blind as he once had been. He knew that Elizabeth loathed any mention of the Hero of Ferelden, from him or anyone else. Save the day of celebration of when the Archdemon fell, where Elizabeth made her appearances and speeches, cheering on the victory like she was expected to, if anyone brought up the woman who had saved them from the Blight, Elizabeth's face would darken and her eyes would harden before she tersely changed the subject.
To her credit, she never said a word in public against Yael but more than once Elizabeth had coldly told him how inappropriate it was for the King of Ferelden to be pining after an elven Grey Warden. More than once she had affixed him with a chilling disapproving look when she found the letters he had attempted to write to Yael. If Elizabeth found out where he had gone, Alistair was certain he would never hear the end of it.
Shaking all thoughts of his wife from his mind, Alistair slid the runestone back into his side pouch, wiping his sweating hands on his linen pants. It was now or never and Andraste's ass he was not going to walk away from Yael a second time.
Licking his lips nervously, he gathered his courage. Moving the tapestry aside, Alistair slid into the room, letting the wall-hanging fall silently over the opening behind him. His eyes quickly adjusted to the lighting in the room and he felt his heart skip a beat when he saw her sitting at the large wooden desk that was covered in papers and books.
Yael was hunched over the desk, referencing a thick tome before scratching something down on the paper in front of her. The rich red hair he had loved to see shine in the sun was pulled away from her face and cascading down her back, much longer than he remembered but still as beautiful as ever.
He drank in the sight of her, his heart pounding like a giddy school boy. She was really here, in front of him, flesh and blood, alive and breathing. Maker, it took all his self-control not to bound toward her, sweep her in his arms and never let her go again.
"You have exactly ten seconds to explain how you found that passage and why you broke into my study." Her tone was almost conversational but Alistair could hear the steely edge to it.
Despite the threat, Alistair grinned. "You always mapped out an escape route." He announced cheerfully.
Yael stiffened in the chair, her shoulders going rigid, her head turning just enough to angle toward him but not to actually look at him.
He took a step into the room. "The trick is knowing how you mark the outlet. Once you know that, ta-da." Alistair declared. "As for why I broke in, I came to see you."
Abruptly she stood, shuffling through the papers spread across the desk. "I seem to have missed the announcement that you were visiting, King Theirin."
Grimacing at the title and the formality of her tone, Alistair clapped his boot together, mocking the royal herald. "Announcing King Alistair Theirin, ruler of Fereldan. There, all announced."
To his disappointment his glib remark didn't make her laugh or even smile, if anything the tension increased.
Frowning Alistair moved toward her. "Every time the Keep was forewarned I would come, the Commander of the Grey mysteriously was absent."
His breath caught in his throat when she looked at him, a hardened emotionless stare as though she was trying to read him but he didn't notice, far too lost in finally seeing her again to care.
She was still as beautiful as he remembered. Her freckles stood out on her pale skin, dozens of them scattered across her nose and cheeks, accenting the soft angles of her face. Two brown eyes gazed out beneath thick lashes, an intensity that made his heart quicken within their depths. She hadn't aged a day, he realized. Save for the small scar cutting through her left brow to just below her eye, she looked exactly the same.
Abruptly breaking eye contact, Yael turned, sweeping a small pile of books that had been perched on the edge of her desk off and walking away from him, toward the bookcase, her movements jerky and stiff.
Tilting his head to the side, Alistair leaned against the desk, arms loosely crossed over his waist, watching her. "Missing me once, I'd understand."
She slid one of the books into place, refusing to respond.
The second volume she pushed in with a little more force, causing it to make an audible thump when it hit the back of the bookcase.
Yael struggled with the last book, standing on her tiptoe, trying to place the thick leather tome on the top shelf.
"You've managed to be elsewhere," he moved forward. "Every time I've come for the last three years." Alistair started to take the book from her to put away when she looked at him with a stone cold gaze, her rich brown eyes guarded.
Batting his hand away, she shoved the tome back into its spot. "I've been busy." She responded flatly.
"You've been avoiding me."
Once again she looked at him, her expression was impossible to read. "I am the Commander of the Grey." Yael stated, a challenge sparking in her eyes. "Grey Wardens respect the laws of the land but are not governed by them, King Theirin. As you are no longer a Grey Warden, if and when you visit is none of my concern."
Alistair frowned. "A Grey Warden isn't something you can stop being."
Turning away from him, she walked back to the desk. "Why have you broken into my study, King Theirin? Is there something I can do for you?
"Yes!" he said exasperated. "You can stop avoiding me."
"I'm not avoid—"
"Damn it to the Void," Alistair stalked forward and grabbed her by the arm, spinning her to face him. "You are!"
In one movement she was free from his grasp, twisting his arm off her and bending it backwards behind him as he found himself shoved face first against the desk, a dagger poking into his side. He had forgotten how fast she was.
After a moment she released him, taking a step back. Rubbing his now aching arm as nonchalantly as he could, Alistair blinked back his surprise when he saw her offering the dagger out, hilt first. Looking at his waist, he felt his cheeks flush when he realized that she had taken it off his belt.
"I have a great many responsibilities, King Theirin." She stated coldly, leveling her gaze. "None of which include you." As if to emphasize her point, Yael once more turn her back to him.
A spark of anger settled in him, hurt at her dismissal. "Or your family it seems." He retorted without meaning to.
Yael stilled, the dig hitting home. "Shianni's murderer has been taken care of." Her voice was tight as though it took everything in her to control the emotions she was feeling. "There was little need for me to return for her funeral."
Alistair scowled, shaking his head. "'Taken care of'," he repeated in derision. "Yes, wonders of wonders, the murdering bigot in our jail suddenly turning up dead the same day there are reports of Zevran Arainai being in Denerim." He searched her for a reaction but there was none. "And where is the assassin now, hm?"
"He's returned to Antiva." Yael said tersely.
If anything her immediate answer caused the bubble of jealousy to twist in him further. He had always been resentful of the blond elf who never made any attempt to hide his affection for Yael. The fact that not only did she instantly know his whereabouts but that Zevran was still her companion after so long grated him.
"Bed a little lonely without him?" he accused, quickly regretted his words.
The look of pain that flickered across her face before being hidden behind that emotionless mask of hers made his heart clench, lamenting that he had once again hurt her with his thoughtlessness.
"And how is your queen?" Yael deflected coldly. "From the news we hear, she should be about ready to give birth."
His cheeks burned again, partially embarrassed and partially proud. "She had the babe two weeks ago." Alistair admitted.
Her face twitched.
"A son." He offered even though Yael hadn't asked. "He'll be christened and presented to court by the end of the month."
The pressure Eamon and other nobles had laid on him once he had married—barely four months after the Archdemon fell—had been heavy. Scholars had gathered as much information as they could on Grey Wardens and the taint, seeking if anyone had ever been documented as having children after becoming a Warden.
It had never been done.
No one, in all of the history of the Grey Wardens, had managed to get pregnant, whether it was a female or male Warden hadn't mattered. Somehow the taint was a very effective birth control.
That thought had made Eamon frantic, uncomfortably mentioning the need for an heir every time the two of them spoke. So when Elizabeth had finally gotten pregnant, the news had ricocheted across Ferelden. A Circle healer and two normal physicians had been assigned to around-the-clock-care of the pregnant queen, their sole job to ensure the baby was brought to term.
Twice there had been a scare that had left everyone anxiously praying; once when Elizabeth was violently ill, a full week of high fever left all their nerves a little frayed and another when she felt cramps six months in that was followed with bleeding; both of which lead to nothing serious. Other than an unusual craving for meat slathered in pickle juice, her pregnancy was fairly normal.
"How wonderful for you." Yael said numbly. Once again she turned her back to him, facing the desk. "If you wish information on passing the taint to the babe, I'm afraid we have already sent the court all our documents." she was busying herself with straightening up the mess of books and papers. "The queen is currently the only documented case of a child surviving to birth."
The blond started. "Surviving to birth?" he repeated, his heart racing. "Someone else managed to get pregnant?"
Her shoulders tensed.
Rounding the desk to look her in the eyes, Alistair didn't miss the alarm and pain that flashed across her face before it was tucked behind that damned mask of hers. "I thought Elizabeth was the first case of a Warden pregnancy." He grimaced, wrinkling his nose. "I mean besides Morrigan."
"I must have misspoke." Yael attempted to straighten the pile of parchment. "That is, of course, what I meant."
"No." Alistair whispered, studying her face. "No that isn't what you meant." Reaching out he captured her hand, stalling her, desperate to understand. "Was there another pregnancy? Did another Warden have a child?"
Pulling her arm away from him, Yael abandoned whatever she had been doing. "I misspoke, King Theirin." The redheaded elf didn't even wait for him to respond before she headed toward the door.
Following her into the hall, Alistair's mind raced. The Yael he knew had never misspoken like that; blurted things out in anger yes, bluntly revealed truths yes, but confused facts like that—his breath caught.
"Yael!" he exclaimed, stopping her in her tracks. "Tell me."
Everything in her body language screamed tension, her head was bowed, shoulders rigid, if he hadn't noticed her right arm quivering slightly he would have thought her to be stone.
"It does not matter. Your precious heir has survived." Turning Yael looked at him, something dark swirling behind the impassive mask she tried to keep up. "There is nothing more for you here."
Alistair winced, his heart aching at her words. "Yael," he tried, taking a step toward her, reaching out.
She flinched, shying away from him.
"Yael, please." He whispered, trying to get through to her. "Tell me what you know." Alistair swallowed hard. "This is the life of my son." He implored. "Please."
Her hands clenched into fists at her side, her knuckles turning white. "The Queen's child survived to birth, King Theirin." Now it was his turn to flinch, the way she kept saying his title causing his gut to wrench. "There are no other documented cases of this occurring, therefore no new information can be given." The formality was grating.
Refusing to let her original statement slide, Alistair took a step toward her. "But," he emphasized. "You found information on another pregnancy?"
It took what seemed like forever for her to respond and when she did, he almost missed it. Her curt nod caused everything in him to speed up and slow down at the same time.
"Who?!" he prodded fervently. "Who was it? What happened?"
Yael hesitated, the reluctance slowly killing him. "The child did not survive to birth."
Alistair sighed, raking his hand through his hair in exasperation. He already knew that! Why wasn't she giving him a direct answer?! "And a parent was a Warden?" he asked needlessly. "Can I speak with them?" Alistair pushed. "The parents, the Warden, I mean. Have they tried again?"
"They separated." Yael responded curtly.
Disappointment filled him. He had hoped that he could find out more details, somehow create an accounting of what happened when a child is created with a parent who had the taint. "I suppose you're right." Alistair acquiesced, realizing even if the parents had stayed together how callous it would be to go and pester them with questions when their child perished while his had not. "If the babe did not make it to birth than it has little bearing on my son."
She twitched slightly, her lips pressing into thin lines. "The Seneschal shall see to you if you require lodging for the night, King Theirin." Yael stated. "If you'll excuse me, I have business elsewhere."
His mind caught up with him a moment later when he looked up in time to see her disappear around the corner. "Hey!" Alistair hurried after her. He'd be damned if he was going to let her get away again. "Yael!"
The lithe elf slipped into a room without slowing.
"Yael Tabris, come back here!" Alistair stopped the door from shutting, pushing his way into the room. "I'm not going to go away that easily."
For the first time since he had come that night, he saw her temper flare, eyes sparking with anger. "Get out of my room." She demanded.
Whether it was because he was used to getting his way now as King or the burning emotion throbbing in his heart, Alistair shook his head. "No." he said firmly. "We haven't seen each other in three years. I won't wait another three to get answers from you. I want to know why you're been avoiding me."
Yael drew a weapon, seemingly out of nowhere—though he was fairly certain it had come from her boot. "Get out of my room or I swear, king or not I'll make you."
"I'm not leaving here until we—hey!" Alistair jerked backwards as she thrust the knife forward, clearly trying to scare him off rather than hurt him. He dodged another lunge, his elbow hitting the door and inadvertently knocking it shut. "Yael I—" he avoided another sweep of the blade. "Enough!" He grabbed her by the wrist in a move that she had taught him during the Blight and immediately reversed their positions, forcing the dagger from her hand and throwing it aside. "Yael I just want to talk!"
Alistair couldn't help but feel his heart rate quicken when he realized she was now pinned against the door, their bodies pressing together.
"Let me go." Her voice quivered, steadfastly refusing to look at him.
"Yael, please—" He tried again.
"Move out of my way, King Theirin."
Irritation sparked in him. "Stop calling me that!" he huffed in vexation. "What ever happened to Alistair? Hell I'll even take 'little pike-twirler'." He couldn't help but shudder at the nickname Oghren had given him.
Burning brown eyes shot to his face, pain and longing written in their depths, her mask of indifference finally cracking. "There is nothing more between us, Alistair."
He felt goosebumps run down his arms when she finally said his name.
"Unhand me and go back to your queen."
"Nothing between us?" Alistair repeated shaking his head. "Yael, I've thought of you every day for the past three years. You cannot begin to imagine how many hours I spent long to see your smile, to hear your laugh." His hand cupped her face, gently brushing a few stray strands of her red hair out of her face. "I've tried to see you every chance I could, written you letter after letter. I've spent every moment of the last three years trying to get by without you and failing." He ducked his head, ashamed. "I though a clean split would end what I felt for you; that I could move on and take on my responsibility."
She trembled beneath his touch.
"But I couldn't." Alistair looked at her, willing her to understand. "Yael Tabris, I love you. I never stopped."
His lips crashed against hers. For a moment his world stopped. Memories of them soared through his mind. The nights they sat huddled by the campfire trying to keep warm; the moment he realized he was falling for the elven rogue at his side; his horribly awkward gift of a rose; their first kiss; the first time they made love; all of it washed over him. Their love, the passion that had fueled their fight all came back to him as though they had never been apart.
Pulling away for air, he looked down at her, hoping, praying that she would feel the same; begging whatever god was out there that she was still his. Pain suddenly exploded around his waist as she kneed him between the legs.
Gasping, he staggered back, falling to one knee in agony. "What the hell was that for?" Alistair squeaked, trying to get the pain under control.
His frustration bled away when he realized she hadn't moved from where he had pinned her. She seemed frozen, breathing heavily, staring at him as a single tear trickled down her cheek.
"Yael?" he tried to stand, reaching for her.
She took a step away, avoiding his touch, the same look of pain and disbelief etched on the shadowed lines of her face.
"Yael, I made a mistake." Alistair shifted, using the wall to support himself as he got to his feet, wincing at the residual pain.
"A mistake?" her voice cracked.
"Yes." The word came out harder than he meant it to. "A mistake," he softened his tone. "You have to understand, Eamon came to me after the Landsmeet and told me about my," he scowled. "'Responsibilities.'" He was growing to hate the word. "I had just been named the leader of an entire country, delivered justice to the man who killed thousands, and finally had enough support to present a proper defense against the Blight. I was completely overwhelmed by it all."
Her face twitched. "Were you?"
"Yes." He insisted. "So when Eamon came to me talking of heirs and marriage, I panicked." Alistair took a step toward her, willing her to understand. "He told me that you would not be accepted as queen."
"Because I'm an elf?" she shot.
Alistair grimaced. "That," he admitted. "And the fact you're a Warden." He took another step toward her. "The Wardens couldn't afford to look as though we had done all this to rule a country." He hated how that sounded but politics were politics as he quickly learned. "I needed an heir to the throne and Wardens have enough trouble on their own to get pregnant, nevermind two of them."
Something flickered across her face too quickly for him to read.
Running a hand through his hair, he sighed. "I was given a choice of having you as my mistress or breaking it off with you entirely."
"And I accepted it!" Yael exclaimed, jerking into action as though he had accused her of something, tears shining in her brown eyes.
"I know but—"
She cut him off. "I accepted that you ended it even though it killed me inside."
He winced. "It killed me to do it." Alistair admitted softly. "Then we found out about the cost of slaying the Archdemon, followed by Morrigan," he shuddered at the thought of the woman. "And then you left me at the gates," the bubble of anger twisted in him, still resentful. "I acted poorly, at the estate, at Redcliffe, at the coronation." He floundered, trying to explain himself. "When you spoke so coldly at the coronation I couldn't handle it. You wouldn't even look at me."
"And why should I?" Yael ground out. "I did everything you and those pompous noble pigs asked of me and all of you treated me like I was garbage! Like everything I had sacrificed to save Ferelden meant nothing." She glared at him. "Like I meant nothing."
"Damn it, Yael. I tried to make it right!" Alistair said frantically. "I tried to see you after I found out that it was a speech written for you but you had already left. I wrote you and you never responded! I did everything I could think of to talk to you; I needed you to understand, to see," he huffed, not even sure what he had wanted back then.
Her brown eyes flashed with anger "See what?" she spat. "See that the man who claimed to love me, threw me aside when I didn't fit his new life? Understand that it's all right for an elf to bleed and fight for Ferelden but not for one to have any relations with a noble?"
"If you had just seen me," he tried. "I wrote you letters, attempted to see you as often as I could. I tried to make it right, I tried to find you but you were always gone!"
"I had a job to do!" Yael shouted taking a step forward. "Whether you bloody nobles believed it or not, darkspawn don't just fucking disappear after a Blight. Pockets of them still were attacking Ferelden." She waved her arm at the door. "Vigil's Keep was attacked upon my arrival by a talking darkspawn—and that was six months after the Archdemon fell!"
Alistair almost growled in frustration. "I know! I just wanted this to be different!" he found himself bellowing. "I just wanted you!"
Breathing heavily, the two of them stared at each other, his declaration weighing in the air between them.
"You had me, Alistair." She spoke so softly that he could barely hear her. "I was yours and you ended it because I wasn't good enough."
He flinched at her words. "Yael."
She met his gaze, tears still glimmering in her eyes. "Time can't be rewritten."
"But we can." He captured her hand, stunned at how cold it felt. "Yael please, I love you more than I can possibly say."
Her hand trembled in his, the want and desire flashing across her face before melting into resignation. "Go back to your queen, your son." She whispered pulling away.
Alistair bit back curse words. "I needed an heir." He snapped, irritation getting the better of him again. "Even if I had stayed with you, that wouldn't have changed; as King of Ferelden I needed an heir!"
Yael recoiled as though he struck her, pulling her hand away. The anguish was quickly being replaced by an emotion he couldn't name. A sort of acrimonious look crossed her face and a moment later, her lips twisted into a harsh smile. Shaking her head, she abruptly turned, barely missing Alistair as she flung the door open, practically marching out of the room.
Staring stupidly after her, it took Alistair a moment to snap into action, following her, words escaping him as he once again chased after her down the halls of Vigil's Keep. Where in Thedas did she suddenly feel the need to go? It wasn't like the Yael he knew to let someone else have the last word—it had been something that he had once found irritatingly cute about her.
"Where are you going?" he demanded, surprised at how far she had made it before he had caught up. "I won't let you walk away, Yael."
The elf didn't respond, pushing open the door on her left and leading him outside, each step filled with a heavy determination. She was following a small dirt path away from the Keep that was barely visible, heading toward what appeared to be a small garden with several trees and a bench across from the largest one.
"Yael!" he exclaimed grabbing her arm, forcing her to stop. "Please, look at me. Tell me what I can do to make this right between us."
A world of emotions swirled on her face. Without a word she glanced to something in the garden. Taking the hint, Alistair turned, following her gaze and trying to figure out why Yael had stormed out here. Finally he spotted something, a carved stone sitting next to the only tree that stood by itself.
Bewildered at her reasoning, he arched his brow at her, a mild annoyance at her refusal to explain. Alistair moved toward the stone, wondering exactly what was so important about a hunk of rock.
It was then that he realized the stone was a grave.
His amber eyes flickered to her and then back down, attempting to understand. The marker appeared simple enough, made of a gray-black granite that was a common headstone, a name elegantly carved into its face. On the ground in front of it was a single red rose, quite similar to the one he had given Yael when he first started falling for her. Similar flowers were on the ground, all in varying degrees of decomposition, making it clear that a fresh rose was place at the grave frequently.
"What are we doing here?" he tried to sound gentle but the question came out as more of a barked demand.
Yael didn't answer, her eyes fixated to the stone, pain written on her features.
Sighing, Alistair crouched down, determined to get some sort of comprehension as to why she had brought him to a random grave. He leaned toward the marker, trying to decipher the carvings in the dim light of the half moon. His blood ran cold when he finally made out the words, shock setting in.
Duncan Alistair Tabris
You Were Made From Love
Perplexed, he stared at the marker, blinking rapidly as he read the words again and again, attempting and failing to make sense of what he was seeing.
Yael had a child?
Alistair's brow furrowed, his mind working overtime. When had she been pregnant? Or better yet, how had he not heard of this? He had made it clear that any news regarding his fellow Warden was to be given to him immediately. How could something like this have escaped notice?
Tracing the name, he lingered on the first, pain wrenching in his gut alongside a sense of admiration. Duncan Alistair Tabris, if the child's namesake had been alive, Alistair was certain he would have been embarrassed, after all the honor of having a child named after you was immense—nevermind the fact Wardens were supposed to let go of family ties. A thought suddenly hit him, his attention swinging back to the second name.
She had named her child after him?
That didn't make any sense at all; after he had broken her heart, using her own words 'threw her aside like garbage' she had still named her child after him?
"The healers told me it was a boy."
Alistair glanced at her and then back the stone. Poor Yael, he thought with a sigh, sending a silent prayer up to the Maker. "I am sorry for your loss." He whispered, finally understanding why she hated talking about Elizabeth's pregnancy so much.
If she had lost her child while the queen's survived, it must have—jealous reared its ugly head in him, cutting off his thoughts and replacing the empathy he had had for her. Pulling his hand away from the stone, Alistair stood, looking at her, sullen, frowning in confusion and resentment.
"You did not give him the elf's name?" he bit back the stream of insults that wanted to follow, some childish part of him wishing to taunt her, point out that Zevran had refused to claim his part of the babe.
Yael remained impassive, gazing down at him. "There is only one man I have ever lain with and I put the only name I could on the headstone of our son.
Rearing back, Alistair looked sharply at the grave again, heart pounding audibly. "But…" he stammered. "But that would mean—" the blond felt as though the world was spinning around him, his mind racing to catch up. "When?" his voice was hoarse. "How?"
"That morning, before the Landsmeet." She answered quietly, coming forward.
Alistair's hand pressed to his head as though he could hold back the raging tide of questions that were flooding through his mind. "I don't understand." His heart was hammering in his chest. If she had been pregnant when they found the Archdemon—for the second time that night his blood ran cold. "But Morrigan's ritual?"
Yael brushed a few stray leaves off the top of the headstone. "Succeeded." Her fingers traced the arc of the stone. "Whatever magic she enacted took dominance, it was not until much later that I realized I was with child."
Swallowing hard, he tried to speak, to voice any one of the hundreds of thoughts that raged in his mind. Why had she kept this from him? If he had fathered a child he had the right to know! Or better yet how had she kept anyone from finding out? The grave was hardly hidden, meaning that the Seneschal had to know of it. Alistair tried to compose himself. The woman he loved more than anything in the world had been pregnant with his child and he had never known.
Seconds later Alistair finally settled on a question, some part of him desperate to know how the child had passed as though knowing would some how make a difference. Had he been a stillborn? Had their child died from a wound Yael had received in some ill-advised battle because he had not been there to protect the reckless rogue?
"Was it the taint?"
A bitter look crossed her face. "Oh, if only it were that, King Theirin." She said scathingly. "If only it had been my duty that took our child from me."
His throat constricted. "Then what?"
Yael looked away from him, her voice going flat. "I miscarried."
Alistair felt his heart clench, his attention turning back to the grave of the son he never knew he had; the son who never lived; the son he could have had with the only woman he ever loved. His eyes were suddenly drawn to something half hidden under the grass. Bending down, he brushed the long weeds aside, realizing a moment later that it was a date—an oddly familiar one at that.
What was it about that date that was nagging him?
Then something clicked in his mind.
"Oh Maker." He breathed, falling to his knees. "No."
He looked sharply at her and then back, trying to get some proof that it was wrong, that the date glaring out at him was false. Yael only watched him, the hard sad gaze of someone who had cried too much over something. Tears began to fall down his cheeks as he realized what his stupidity had done; how his foolishness had not only cost him Yael but their son.
The date carved into the headstone, the date that marked when the child of the woman he loved had passed was the very same day as his wedding.
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