“This feels like a glorious dream.”
Chuckling, Fergus pressed his cheek to his wife’s bare shoulder and asked, “How so?”
Oriana just smiled as she answered, “This. Us. I never dreamed of wedding a man like you. Especially not as an arranged marriage.”
“Ah,” said Fergus. “I’ve surprised you.”
He smiled and asked, “Was it a good surprise?”
Oriana kissed his forehead and replied in a near whisper, “The best.”
Smiling, he closed his eyes. When Fergus reopened them, his heart sank as he saw not the stone ceiling of his own room at Highever but the plastered ceiling of the Palace in Denerim.
“I should have never left,” he murmured as he lifted his still good hand to his face. “Oh, Ana, I should have been there.”
There was a noise from the direction of the door then Aedan quietly said, “Then I might be mourning you as well.”
Fergus looked over at him and hissed, “They might be alive for it as well. Ana, Oren, Mother, Father…I and all the other men could have kept it from happening.”
“At that moment,” pointed out Aedan in one of his infuriating I’m-right-and-you’re-wrong tones. As Fergus directed a glare at him, his little brother held up his hands defensively. “You had the same lessons as me and more, Fergus. Logically it is mad to face a foe you know is greater than your own head-on. And Howe is just enough of a bastard and a coward to work around that by attacking when Highever’s strength was gone. If you had been there, he never would have struck that night. He would have just waited for another opportunity and possibly have killed all of us.”
Suddenly feeling weary right down to his bones, Fergus closed his eyes and asked quietly, “When did you grow so wise, little brother?” There was no answer for a moment as Aedan crossed the room to sink onto the end of the bed with a heavy sigh.
“I’m not half as wise as I should be.”
“Wiser than I at the moment.”
“Oh, I’m sure that’ll be amended the moment that healer Anora sent for gets here. They’ll put you back together and I’ll fade back into the shadows again.”
“Shadows?” repeated Fergus, opening his eyes to arch an eyebrow. That certainly sounded nothing like Aedan. “What in the Maker’s name are you talking about?”
Aedan flicked a hand out as he said, “I mean what’s been going on since we got here. I’ve either been here with you discussing Highever, talking to Anora and her Captains about how to stall everything that’s bound to happen sooner or later, and skillfully avoiding every one of Loghain’s men who try to back me into a corner. I’d really rather not be dealing with all of that and be the blade at your back.” He paused to shrug helplessly. “I’ve discovered recently I’m absolute rubbish at real politics.”
For the first time in a little while, that drew a real laugh out of Fergus and he shifted his good leg under the blankets to nudge his brother in the spine with his foot. “Now that,” he drawled after a moment, “I could have told you years ago.”
“Oh, shut up.”
There again was a shadow of the little brother he’d been missing since their reunion, seeing him really only when Alistair had visited before his flight from the city. He knew, of course, that it would be a long while – years or more – before either of them were anywhere close to what they once were but that was something. And he would take every little bit that he could get.