Chapter 1: Uh-Oh
“Hey, let me down!” he squirmed, those short legs paddling freely.
The Qunari snarled, “Not bloody likely,” then she turned and caught the human flesh clogging up the door, “oh, hi your Majesty.”
“Don’t mind me,” Alistair chuckled. “I’ll keep far out of your way.” He was used to the hustle and bustle of the Solver’s agency by now. Voices shouted out questions from one end of the room to the other, the sound of quills scratching against vellum a constant background noise, and...sure enough there glittering in the back of the madness were the eyes he expected.
“Lunet,” Alistair tipped his head to the elf that was both confusingly secretary and second in command at the same time. He paused and thought of Karelle. Actually, that wasn’t so surprising. “Where’s...?” he began, when a voice called from behind a giant stack of crates.
“I’m back here.”
“Reiss,” he finished first to Lunet -- who only shrugged, then got back to jabbing her pastry into a stein of coffee. Sliding through the office’s maze of desks, always shifting thanks to evidence piling up at random, Alistair came to a seeming impenetrable wall made of stacks and stacks of boxes. Somewhere behind it was the woman he loved, the clear sound of her belabored breath breaking past the wooden barrier.
“Hello!” he shouted, a hand cupped to his mouth. “Excuse me, keeper of the boxes, but have you seen a lovely elf by any chance? About five foot seven with golden hair, eyes of summer, and the sharpest tongue you’ve ever faced?” Alistair felt a snicker from the dark haired elf behind him and he tipped his head in recognition.
“Oh for the...” Reiss growled, when her head shot out through a hole. Her cheeks were flushed bright red, and she’d doffed her hat to reveal that familiar bun, though the requisite dagger was nowhere to be seen.
“Hello,” Alistair smiled before bending over and placing a soft kiss to her perturbed lips. Her hand lashed out from behind the wall, fingers tenting against his cheek for balance as she returned the affection. “Busy?”
“When aren’t I?” Reiss volleyed back. Groaning, she slid half her body through the hole, slightly widening it. “If you maybe duck down you can get in through here.” It took more than his ducking, Alistair having to suck in his gut which he’d always considered rather trim, as well as feeling the unfinished wood snag upon the backside of his trousers. But, after a bit of impossible bending of his body, he made it back to where her desk sat.
Walled off from the rest of the office, a strange silence fell, as if they were in a secret cave hiding from an oncoming storm. Reiss wiped her hands off on her tunic, oddly missing the scrap of plate metal she always wore. A few ink stains and whatever filth clung to the boxes trailed behind her hands, but Alistair didn’t care.
“Maker’s breath, you’re beautiful,” he murmured, entranced with the set in her glistening eyes and the turn to her smile.
“You always say that,” she answered back, but a soft blush rose upon those cheeks.
With a curl of his fingers, he tipped a breakaway tendril of golden hair back behind her ears and whispered, “Because it’s always true.” This time Reiss crossed the distance, her hands wrapping tight around the back of his neck while her lips devoured his. She must have been famished, her tongue quickly finding its way in to resuscitate his. Pinning his palms around her waist, Alistair wished to shed every stitch of clothing off her.
“Oi, you two better not be snogging in there,” Lunet’s snarky voice managed to reach them through the barricade.
Breaking away from him with a sigh at being interrupted, Reiss smiled, “Hello, husband.”
“Hello, wife,” he whispered, always lighter when he could say those words to her. There was almost no one else in thedas who knew, but damn it, it meant something to him. “Let me guess,” he gestured to the boxes, “there was a great estate sale and you simply had to buy everything in the place.”
“Ha,” Reiss laughed once, her body slotting against his side in a half hug. Pointing to each section of wall, she explained, “Let’s see, Dixon Hill case, an Adrian’s Ghost Monk, missing Miss Marples, and the Purloined Pussy.”
“You’re looking into someone’s missing cat?” he asked, surprised she’d take on such a small matter.
Reiss blinked a moment, then blushed, “Not exactly, no.”
“How are you surviving back here?” he stared around at this secret base where no one else entered or left. “How long have you been surviving in this?”
“Not very, a few days,” she waved her hand as if it wasn’t a problem, “I can slip out if the need arises and I trust my people to handle anything big that comes through the door.” Reiss pressed her warm lips against his neck, obviously trying to distract him from her current predicament. Sadly, Alistair was a simple man and it was working perfectly for her.
Moaning in the back of his throat, he turned, prepared to do all the snogging he wanted with the boss. Reiss slipped away, those dangerously smart eyes sizing him up. “You got here rather quickly...”
“I had little to do today. Really. Pinkie swear,” he extended it out and even under her scrutinizing stare, she returned the gesture with her own. “The castle’s been recuperating from the huge birthday party.”
Reiss smiled wide at that, “How’d it go?”
“Pretty good. Spud ushered in the big six with near on ten thousand of her cousins around. Maker’s sake, I have no idea how many there are, it’s just a sea of tiny hands and feet flapping around up there. Spent the day eating cake, opening up presents, drinking punch, eating more cake, then riding around on ponies.”
She tipped her head at that, “You didn’t ride a pony, right?” Slowly her eyes darted down his form that’d crush the poor thing.
“Had to, the birthday girl insisted. While all the kids were saddled up and squealing, I sort of waddled around over top the poor thing squished between my thighs.”
The bright laughter echoing in Reiss’ throat was enough to make up for his abject humiliation. In truth, it wasn’t that bad, Spud clapping like mad every time the pony whinnied in annoyance. And he didn’t get kicked, so that was good.
“How’d Cailan take it?”
“About as good as can be expected at three,” Alistair admitted. “At first he was terrified of the thing. I couldn’t blame him, the poor pony’s bridle was festooned with ribbons. It looked like its head was being consumed by a cotton candy colored squid. Then he saw his sister wanted to ride and we couldn’t stop the kid from leaping into a saddle.”
Reiss slid out from hugging him in order to sit down upon her desk. Her eyes kept staring up at his face while she gripped onto the edge for balance.
“It’s real fun when he’s at that age to want to do everything his sister does and she’s at the age where she doesn’t want a damn thing to do with him. Near on everyday it’s an utter conniption over ‘Daddy, he’s touching my things!’ ‘Daddy, I don’t wanna take Caywen!’ And of course my son’s just crying ‘Sissy’ and chasing after her as if it’s all a fun game.”
Her sweet shoulders began to shake a little at a contained laugh from his misfortune. Reaching forward, her fingers skirted with his and she gripped to his hand. “They’ll grow out of it.”
“Maker’s sake, I hope so. There was a near on meltdown right outside the chantry steps because ‘Caywen touched my kerchief.’ And Cailan’s bawling because Spud’s being mean and he’s so very tender hearted about such things. I thought the Grand Cleric was going to have me excommunicated, then tossed into the stocks on the very spot for it,” he paused to shake his head at the children that both filled and drained his life. It was a good day when it came to a wash. “At least Cailan’s pretty much out of nappies.”
She smiled at that, “I don’t think Lorace got the idea until he was nearly five.”
“And you never let your brother forget, I bet,” Alistair smiled at her. Reiss only lifted a shoulder, but the ornery grin told him all he needed to know. “Anyway, castle’s sleeping all that off when not pursuing hordes of children in various stages of sugar berserk rages. All I had was a meeting this morning with the Denerim crew and a few letters to answer. Oh and keeping up the diary for Lanny. Day 65 since I took your potion, still no dreams. Can’t sense darkspawn, but there are very few in the city for some reason. Perhaps they’re not impressed with the spring salons this year. The horrifically tainted are so fickle. All in all, seems to be working.”
Reiss tugged their clasped hands together, drawing him away from his story telling gaze right to her eyes. A hint of tears brimmed in them as she whispered, “Good.”
Cupping her cheek, Alistair bent over to press his forehead to hers. “I’m sticking around as long as I can,” he promised her and moved to press his lips to hers and seal the deal.
Suddenly, Reiss yanked her head back, a hand flying up to her mouth. Her entire face knotted up in concern and panic as she whipped around searching for something, but after a moment it seemed to pass. “Sorry, I’ve been fighting this Maker awful stomach bug for the past few days. Because,” she raised her voice to be heard through the boxes, “someone brought in tainted potato salad!”
Lunet’s groan pierced through the barricade, “How long do you intend to blame me for that?”
“Until I stop vomiting comes to mind.”
“I already swore I wouldn’t get any lunch from that cart ever again. What more do you want from me? My blood?”
Reiss sighed, “Do not tempt me.”
Softly, Alistair parted his fingers over her forehead, noticing how clammy it felt to his touch. “Are you pushing yourself? Should I go? I don’t want you to get sicker for my sake.”
Smiling, she wrapped her arms around the back of his neck and tugged her head against his chest. “Please stay. I feel better when you’re around.”
“Okay,” he sighed, dipping down to pull her fully into a hug, “but I’m guessing this means dinner is out.”
That same seasick queasy face returned, Reiss shaking her head away. It passed just as quick as before and she snarled, “I’m going to kill Lunet.”
“You say that every time I visit,” Alistair chuckled. “Come on, you should probably take it easy. Bosses can take half days after all.”
He expected her to argue, she always did whenever he showed up early, often leaving the King to prod around in her desk drawing things or sometimes questioning witnesses that strolled in. But this must have hit harder than she let on as Reiss nodded her head and slipped to her legs. With her arms still wrapped around him, she turned her head to shout, “Lunet, I’m heading upstairs to rest. You can handle lock up.”
“Already figured I would,” she shouted back as smug as ever.
Reiss rolled her eyes but curled tighter to him. Together they took the long stairs up to her private apartment where hopefully no one below would overhear their vigorous reunion.
She meant to rest, but when Alistair’s fingers began to slide across her back undoing a stuck button to help her into her pajamas, well...
“You need a bigger bed,” he complained, as he always did for every visit.
“Last I checked, there’s only one of me,” she sighed, snuggling tighter against his warm chest. Those fingers that’d teased and tempted her body carefully parted her fallen hair. Reiss stopped keeping anything in her bun on the days she knew Alistair would arrive. It was only going to wind up crashing to the ground anyway.
“What about Muse?” he pressed a kiss to her hair, as if sealing his job at combing it, letting those strong hands traipse down her naked back.
“The dog does not sleep in my bed,” Reiss growled. “Maker’s sake, there’s barely enough room for me.”
“Ah ha!” he cried, trying to sit up but it was impossible with all of her laying on top of him. “It is too small.”
Struggling up to her elbows, she crawled higher to stare deep into those cocksure eyes. Muse didn’t whine and wheedle as great as Alistair did, probably because it didn’t work for the dog unlike the human. Brushing her swollen nose against the side of his, Reiss tasted those tender lips still flushed from their exertions. He seemed to abandon his thoughts on the bed, Alistair’s hands skirting up around her waist to tug her tighter against his stomach.
Maker’s breath, she moaned in the back of her throat. The nights in her bed had felt particularly lonely as of late, their last encounter being of the official variety save a quick lunch together. It felt like weeks since he’d massaged the pads of his palms into her hips or rolled them back to cup her ass.
Reiss noticed that the potion the Hero created for the both of them seemed to be having another effect, age finally creeping up to take down his infamous appetite. But the small layer of fluff that turned mountains of abs into molehills didn’t damper an inch of her desire. It was kinda fun to snuggle to a softer body and not worry about a bone prodding into her more tender flesh.
“I missed you,” Alistair moaned, his fingers skirting off her hips to curl up her stomach. Ever so softly he graced those palms against her breasts, but it was pain instead of pleasure that seared against Reiss’ skin. She sat up fast, her hands slipping over both to try and coddle them tight.
Wincing at the pain and concern in his eyes, she sighed, “Sorry, they’ve been temperamental lately.”
“Oh,” his hands barely drew against her naked thigh, those sweet brown eyes weighing her attempting to soothe her aching chest. “Reiss, did I hurt you before? I...”
“No, no,” she raced to comfort him, “it comes and goes at random. Been doing it for a few days now.”
“That’s why no metal breastplate,” Alistair mused, surprising her.
“You noticed that?” she turned to him, that investigator always on the lookout for new talent honing in on him.
He chuckled, both hands splaying against the pillow in a strange defeat, “Noticed, stared enraptured at your chest. Tomato, red orange.” The cheeky smile caught her in a familiar loop, both of them grinning like idiots upon each other, when it suddenly fell. “You’re not sick, are you?”
“You mean aside from whatever stomach knot Lunet put me under?” she groaned, glad it was fading. Perhaps she’d finally overcome the slippery thing. It felt like it’d been a good week she’d suffered this barely simmering flu, which wasn’t entirely surprising. Reiss had a habit of pushing herself too hard for too long.
Exhausted, she curled up back on top of her husband, her fingers climbing up and down the feathery chest hair. “I doubt it’s anything serious. It’ll pass in time.”
“I’m more worried about pains in your chest, that can be deadly,” the usually sunny voice skipped deeper into a hole, his eyes burning through her dilapidated ceiling.
“Alistair,” Reiss whispered his name which always seemed to calm him. “They’re tender is all. It can happen. Maybe the breastplate is pinching too tight, or I laid on my stomach too long, or...”
A thought trickled through her mind.
They’d already been down that road before. It wasn’t possible, as she’d proven to herself over the years.
“Or...?” Alistair prompted, staggering up to stare into her eyes. But Reiss was too busy glaring through the air to look back at him.
Sixty five days since he was in theory clean of the taint. What if...?
Reiss slid off him, her feet hitting the ground as she hunted for clothing. Most of hers was scattered to the four winds of her tiny apartment, Reiss not being one to cling to orderliness. She snagged on a pair of trousers, then slipped her hands through a robe. Far too large for her, she usually kept it around for Alistair in the event there were any surprises knocking upon her door and he had to clothe himself quickly.
The man sat up on her bed, “What are you doing?”
“Downstairs,” she said, wadding up a pair of pants and hurling them at Alistair, “I think everyone’s gone for the day, but just in case.”
He held them up in utter confusion, those expressive eyebrows knotted together. “In case of what?”
Reiss yanked open the door, causing the oversized robe to expand and leave her sternum further exposed. Normally, she’d blush at so much of her skin being free but her mind was too busy broiling in concern. No, not again. Padding down the stairs, she emerged out into her desk area still swamped by the wall of evidence. Barely any light flickered from the fire beyond her mess, and she heard no noises out in the agency, but still she held her breath while yanking open drawers and digging through them.
“What are you doing?” Alistair asked, his voice hissing as he attempted to slide a shirt on over his head.
“Looking,” Reiss answered back, not meaning to be smart, her brain too focused on the hunt. “I know it’s here, somewhere.”
“I wouldn’t be surprised if you have the Sword of Mercy somehow lost in one of these boxes,” Alistair mused, his fingers running over one of them.
Shuffling through sheafs of papers and upending ink bottles, Reiss ransacked her own desk about to give up hope when her prize rolled out from the back of the drawer. Leftover from a potion master case, they’d been using up the evidence as it became clear no one was going to collect the stock. A handful of the more useful but less necessary ones wound up under her eye. It was stupid, there was no reason for her to keep this one, but Lunet said it wasn’t as if she’d ever need it, so it fell to the boss.
With a set in her shoulders, Reiss placed the bottle onto her desk. It drew Alistair’s eye away from whatever had captured it. “Okay, I’m guessing you found whatever you needed.”
“Not quite yet,” she sighed. Glancing around her desk, she turned and spotted the ceremonial sword her lover gave her for saving his life. She scooped up the bottle off her desk and marched over to it. Steadying her finger, she plunged it against the point.
“What are you doing?” Alistair hissed, watching Reiss dribble a drop of blood into the bottle. It swirled with her scarlet life before fading back to crystal clear.
She held the bottle tight, her eyes hunting over it. “Blue and it’s empty,” she recited the mantra from what felt another lifetime ago. Alistair’s fingers landed on her shoulders, kneading into the robe’s neck as he must have felt her anxiety. “Red and...”
Reiss thought it’d take time, it had before, enough for her to unstick her tongue and voice the fear nibbling in her ear, but like flipping a switch the entire potion bottle turned bright red. Her fingers began to shake, the ruby liquid sloshing back and forth before she tucked it tight to her chest.
“Red and...?” Alistair prompted. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“I,” Reiss swallowed her fears and turned to find him. He looked panic stricken, the same fear on his face he wore when he thought she’d been lost to the darkspawn. Gently she placed her fingers to his face and sighed, “Red and there’s a baby. I’m pregnant.”
“You...” his eyes darted down first to the bottle declaring for all to see, then to her queasy but flat stomach. “You’re, there’s a...but how...? Oh shit!” he groaned, “oh shit, shit, shit! I didn’t think that it would. I mean, it’s been years, and years ,and...” He gulped, sweat percolating on his brow as the pair of them absorbed the news.
They were going to have a baby together.
One half elf to one half king.
“Reiss,” his face was blank, his fingers curling over her cheeks as he lifted her eyes to his. “What are you thinking? Feeling?”
“I hadn’t considered,” she blinked, listening deep within herself. There was fear cloaked in trepidation. She’d never had a baby before. What would happen to her body, her life? But... A smile skirted around her lips, her eyes closing in a few soft tears. “I’m happy,” she admitted.
“Oh thank the Maker,” a great smile enveloped Alistair’s face, his fingers tugging that nearly white hair skyward. “I mean, I’m ecstatic. A baby! Another! To think...” he bent over, his face skirting near her stomach to whisper, “there’s one growing inside of there. And with you.”
Alistair staggered up to cup her cheeks, pressing a sweet kiss to her lips, “A child with the woman I love is, well, it’s beyond anything I ever dreamed of. To tickle those tiny toes and have big green eyes staring up at me while I try to craftily change a nappy without getting pissed on.” He laughed in obvious joy at the thought.
“The child could have your eyes,” Reiss mused, her heart opening up to the possibility. A baby tucked inside of her at this very moment, getting bigger and stronger with her every breath. Her hand wrapped tighter around her stomach. She never really paused to think that being with Alistair meant there were no children on her horizon. It was enough to be with him, but a part of her on occasion regretted the loss with a small pang.
He curled his hand around the back of hers, the pair of them clinging to this miracle of Andraste herself. “I love you,” Alistair whispered.
“I love you too,” Reiss smiled, trying to shake off another round of queasiness rising in her gullet. Damn, she’d have to stop blaming Lunet for it.
A baby. Maker, no matter how many times she thought it, it still sounded impossible. Inside of her.
“What do we do? What do I do?” she mused to herself.
“For now,” Alistair scooped her up into his arms as effortlessly as their first year together. She giggled, nuzzling tight to his neck, “we head upstairs and celebrate. Later, we’ll argue and foot stomp over whether junior should attend a prestigious charter school in the Free Marches or be trained by the Avvar in strategic loincloth placement.” It was silly, she had so much to plan but...there was a good nine months left to go. He was right, for now they had something magnificent to celebrate.
Alistair carried her up a handful of stairs, when he suddenly paused, and blanched white. “And first thing tomorrow I send a missive to Lanny. She’ll want to know about this unexpected side effect.”