The Brink - nyxueaurelia - Baldur's Gate (Video Games) [Archive of Our Own] (2024)

Table of Contents
Chapter 1: Astarion - The Cell - Before Summary: Chapter Text Chapter 2: Taliana - The Sewers - Before Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 3: Astarion - The Cell - Before Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 4: Astarion - The Tavern - The Beginning Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 5: Taliana - ???? - The Beginning Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 6: Taliana - Daggers Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 7: Astarion - The Plan Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 8: Taliana - Bloodstained Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 9: Astarion - A Taste Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 10: Taliana - Frostbite Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 11: Astarion - Velvet Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 12: Taliana - Savior Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 13: Astarion - Desire Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 14: Taliana - Bonfires and Moonlight Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 15: Astarion and Taliana - Engagement Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 16: Astarion - Memory Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 17: Taliana - Melody Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 18: Astarion - Interruptions Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 19: Taliana - Gossip Girls Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 20: Astarion - Violet Sky Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 21: Astarion - Lethality Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 22: Taliana - Missed Connection Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 23: Taliana - Propositions Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 24: Astarion - Confessional Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 25: Taliana and Astarion - Trusting Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 26: Astarion - Blood Sport Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 27: Taliana - Devils Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 28: Taliana - The Bear Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 29: Astarion - Nightmare Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 30: Taliana - Truth Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 31: Astarion - Solitude Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 32: Taliana - The Favorite Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 33: Astarion - Jealousy Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 34: Taliana and Astarion - Falling Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 35: Taliana - Breakdown Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 36: Taliana - The Cell Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 37: Astarion - Panic Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 38: Taliana - Doomed Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 39: Astarion - Shattered Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 40: Taliana and Astarion - Pieces Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 41: Taliana - Goheno Nin Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 42: Astarion - The Break Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 43: Astarion - Fear Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 44: Taliana - Rewind Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 45: Astarion - Judgement Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 46: Taliana - Protection Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 47: Astarion - Catharsis Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 48: Taliana - Burning Lights Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 49: Astarion - Rebirth Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 50: Taliana - Little Green Dress Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 51: Astarion and Taliana - All Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 52: Astarion - Blood Like Wine Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 53: Astarion - Moonlit Reflection Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 54: Astarion - The Pile Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Chapter 55: Taliana - Stones Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 56: Astarion - Destruction Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 57: Astarion - Burn Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 58: Taliana - Endgame Summary: Notes: Chapter Text Notes: Chapter 59: Epilogue - Three Months Later Notes: Chapter Text Notes:

Chapter 1: Astarion - The Cell - Before

Summary:

I wake up scared
I wake up strange
I wake up wondering if anything in my life is ever gonna change
I wake up scared
I wake up strange
And everything around me stays the same...

~ Barenaked Ladies, "What a Good Boy"

Chapter Text

It was never a good day when you woke up in a puddle of your own blood.

He groaned, fighting to open his eyes. When that proved to be too much of a challenge, he reached a hand out, feeling the ground underneath him. It was tacky with blood - his blood, he assumed - and rough and uneven. Rocks, he thought. Stone of some sort.

His consciousness was fluttering back in, bit by bit, bringing with it absolute, mind-numbing pain. Not the kind of pain you could just try to ignore; no, this was the type that demanded your attention, the type that throbbed in your veins, the type that made you unable to think of anything BUT the pain.

He took a few deep breaths, trying to focus on anything but the blistering pain on his back. It was starting to come back to him, piece by horrific piece.

The tomb.

Cazador.

Needle.

Astarion moaned, the memory fitting back into place. He’d spent the last year locked in a tomb for doing the unthinkable : he had refused to bring a target back to Cazador. The boy had been so sweet; he had believed every silken word that had fallen from his lips. He’d been so shy, so excited to be kissed, to be touched, to be known. And Astarion just couldn’t bring himself to hand over a soul as pure as this one.

Cazador knew, of course. Punishment came swiftly; he had been hung by his wrists in the kennel, forced to watch as his master took that sweet, pure boy apart, all whilst he screamed for Astarion to help him. When it was finally over, hours later, he’d been banished to a tomb for over a year. The darkness, the silence; while these were things he used to cherish - enjoy, even - he now had a healthy fear and respect for them.

When Godey’s skeletal hand finally broke the seal on the tomb, Astarion sobbed in relief.

He should have known better.

That was how he had found himself stripped bare, kneeling on the uneven floor at Cazador’s feet. How he found himself screaming and howling to any gods who might listen once the needle bit into his back. How nothing - how no one - had listened.

It had taken hours. An entire night. He lost any sense of time, any sense of self as the knife had carved through his skin. Slowly, deliberately, every motion excruciating.

“Are you enjoying my needle, boy?” Cazador had hissed.

Astarion had only managed a sob that twisted into a scream.

“Every time you move too much or scream too loud, boy, I will start over.”

He meant it.

Hours upon hours, the knife Cazador called his needle scraping through the tender flesh of his back, marking him, branding him. The blood ran down his shoulders, down his arms, puddling slightly around his nails.

For a while, he was gone; his body was on the floor, but his mind had gone somewhere he couldn’t reach. Eventually he felt himself being dragged down a hallway, down some stairs, his legs scraping and banging against the uneven floor.

The sound of a door opening, and then he was thrown inside with no regard for how he would land, his fangs slicing his lip open as he hit the floor. And that was how he had woken up in a puddle of his own blood; the amount was staggering. He could barely open his eyes; he was so drained, so weak.

He was laying face down, head turned towards a wall, a tiny window with iron bars through it in his line of sight. No more than a grate, really. He could hear the sound of water swirling past, and realized he must be somewhere in the bowels of the palace, likely near the sewers. There was no other water nearby, so it had to be that.

He tried to lift his head, but it was impossible. So he stared at the tiny scrap of a window, listening as the water rushed past below him.

There was something else, though.

If he wasn’t a vampire spawn, he would never have heard it. One of the few traits he enjoyed about his immortal life was the extraordinary hearing. There was another noise accompanying the water, so faint and ethereal he was sure he was hallucinating.

A humming, soft and melodic, a run of notes that sounded like flowers blossoming, like the moon rising, effervescent and beautiful.

He wasn’t entirely sure he wasn’t just hearing things at this point; his vision had gone strangely dark and distorted around the edges, and sound was coming to him as if through a tunnel.

Astarion tried his hardest to listen, to hear the humming as it crested and broke apart before reforming into beauty.

The darkness overtook him, the memory of the melody twisting itself into him as he faded away.

Chapter 2: Taliana - The Sewers - Before

Summary:

In a few weeks I will get time
To realize it’s right before my eyes
And I can take it if it’s what I want to do
I am leaving, and this is starting to feel like
It’s right before my eyes
And I can taste it, it’s my sweet beginning
And I can tell just what you want
You don’t want to be alone…

~ Two Door Cinema Club, “What You Know”

Notes:

As noted before, this is based on RavenROSE_99's beautiful short, specifically this one. Click and watch, you won't regret it.

Chapter Text

Taliana sat on the uneven ledge above the water, swinging her feet. The height didn’t bother her; while most wouldn’t sit where she was currently perched, she welcomed the solitude it offered. She adjusted the hood on her new cloak, admiring the rich, plush plum hue of it. It had cost her a pretty penny, but the guild was paying well these days if one was willing to do the work. And, of course, Tali was always willing to work if the coin was right.

She hummed cheerfully to herself, just a few notes as she adjusted her position. She reached for her pack, rummaging around in it until she pulled out a sweet roll she had stashed away that morning. She nibbled a bit of icing off the top, the sweetness so much it almost hurt, before taking a full bite, eyes closing in pleasure as she did. It was delicious; fluffy, delicate, everything one could ever want in a treat. She’d had some coin left over after purchasing the cloak, and had decided she could spare a few more coins to truly treat herself. So, she had a sweet roll, as well as a bottle of Baldurian red wine. She popped the bottle open, taking a long drink before sighing happily.

Tali pulled her bow into her lap, testing the string and running her fingers over the smooth wood of the frame. She gazed out over the water rushing below her as she did, tracing her fingers up and down the curve of the bow, up and down, almost a reflex. She supposed most people wouldn’t choose a sewer as their location of choice to come relax, but she had always liked it down here. It was always quiet, except for the water racing below the city, and it was rare to encounter others. On the occasions one did find another lost soul underground, they tended to avoid eye contact and pretend they’d never seen each other. So, for those reasons alone, she rather enjoyed it down here. It was dark, yes, and it didn’t always smell the best, but the solitude was hard to beat.

She took another bite of her roll, followed by another long pull from the bottle of wine, content. She hummed a few more notes, tapping out the rhythm with the heels of her boots before actually singing notes to match her humming. No actual words, really, just clear notes that echoed pleasantly around her.

This was the other thing she loved about being in the sewers, especially in this particular area. The ledge was high, over the water, but the walls were low, giving any sound a haunting, reverberating echo that she adored. She continued, her voice dancing and flitting from note to note with ease, the sound echoing back to her, an unintentional duet. She paused, enjoying the notes as they bounced around her, weaving a melody in the air.

“Ahhhh, ah, ahhhhh, aHHHH!” she tried.

Ahhhh ah ahhhhh aHHHHHHHH, came the echo.

She smiled, the sounds pleasing her immensely.

Really, life here was perfect.

Chapter 3: Astarion - The Cell - Before

Summary:

I can feel their eyes are watching
In case I lose myself again
Sometimes I think I'm happy here
Sometimes - yet I still pretend
I can't remember how this got started
But I can tell you exactly how it will end
Every day is exactly the same...

~ NIN, "Every Day is Exactly the Same"

Notes:

TW : Cazador

Chapter Text

He wasn’t sure how long he’d been down here.

Godey appeared occasionally, no rhyme or reason to his visits, tossing dead rats in his direction. Early on, he had to drag himself closer to grab the rodents, their vacant eyes staring at him as he tore into them like a starving dog. The blood clotted and clung in his throat, making him gag occasionally, but he fought the urge to vomit as hard as he could because he needed the blood in any way possible. It would take him hours to pick all the fur off his tongue; a thick layer that he would swear never went away.

Eventually, he’d gotten to a point where he could think somewhat clearly. His back still burned like fire, especially where Godey had made a point to rip the scabs off with a wire brush.

“The master wants it to scar, boy. I can either do this, or you can let him write on you again.”

An easy choice, really. Astarion kept his mouth shut, letting his mind float into the ceiling, out the window, following the melody he kept hearing. He had been delighted when he heard the humming again and again; he’d been so sure it was a hallucination that first night. It was not; it was real and it gave him something to focus on, something to enjoy, even while picking rat bones out of his fangs.

He questioned how long he’d been down here sometimes.

Days?

Months?

Years?

He had no concept of time anymore. His world was nothing but pain, starvation, the cold floor, and the beautiful, floating melody that would comfort him most nights.

He wondered where it was coming from. Who it was coming from, really. It was always the same notes, beautiful and ethereal, soothing whatever was left of his soul. There had been a few nights where he hadn’t heard it, and he had felt irrationally betrayed when it wasn’t there. Sometimes it was just humming, but other nights - the best nights - it was notes thrown into the air, light and beautiful. No actual words that he could make out, but the melodic nature of it was still mesmerizing. He tried to picture who might be producing the song; was it a beautiful human, with hair like golden silk and eyes like rain? Perhaps a wood elf, with swirls of dark curls and dark eyes. Maybe even a high elf like himself, with elegantly pointed ears, warm skin, and auburn waves spilling over her shoulders like a waterfall. Or, perhaps, it was a hallucination after all, his mind trying to save him from himself.

This was his ritual every night once the melody started; he would lay as close as he could to the grate, eyes closed, painting a picture inside his mind. On a good night, this could take him hours as he meticulously detailed his dreams, right down to each tiny freckle. It kept him sane; it took him away from the cell, away from the pain, away from the horror show his life had somehow become. He had long since lost count of the days by now; all he had to go on was how stiff the scarring on his back felt at any given time. It had been weeks since Godey had taken the brush to him, declaring that the master would be pleased with his markings. Astarion breathed a sigh of relief, hoping that meant he may be let out of this wretched cell soon.

Cazador himself came for him three nights later, to ensure he had been properly subdued. He must have been satisfied, because he allowed his obstinate, frustrating spawn back into the main palace. Astarion was on his best behavior; he knew his every move was being watched, scrutinized, analyzed. But as the months went by, and slowly bled into years, he relaxed ever so slightly. The tightness of the scars on his back lessened a bit as time marched on, and the time he had spent in the cell was nothing more than a vague nightmare.

Somehow, Astarion even forgot the melody; if asked to repeat it, he wouldn’t have been able to replicate it. It was just another wisp of smoke in his mind, a part of himself locked away. It was the only way to survive; he would relegate the worst pieces to the darkest corners of his mind, and they would only return to haunt him in nightmares. As long as he kept the mask on and played his part, he would never need to think about it again.

Chapter 4: Astarion - The Tavern - The Beginning

Summary:

Lately I’ve been skeptical
Silent when I would used to speak
Distant from all around me
Who witness me fail and become weak
Life is overwhelming
Heavy is the head that wears the crown
I’d love to be the one to disappoint you when I don’t fall down…

~ Limp Bizkit, “Re-arranged”

Notes:

Starting to dip slightly into my own head canon here. Forgive me. :P

Chapter Text

“Oh, gods. Yes, yes, YES,” moaned the woman as he steadily pounded into her.

He didn’t know her name. He was sure she had told him, but he made it a point these days to not remember them. It was easier just to call them various pet names; it lessened the chance of him calling someone the wrong name, and the vast majority of his marks seemed to swoon when he called them darling, pet, love.

It was also easier to forget them and what he was going to do to them if he didn’t have a name to hold on to.

“Yes, darling, you’re taking me so well,” he crooned. She writhed beneath him, her hair a swirl of gold against the sheets.

Astarion was trying to pay attention; he could tell she was close to finishing and he always tried to leave them satisfied before he walked them to their doom.

Outside, there was a distant scream, followed by another. Then another, accompanied by an explosion so loud the entire tavern shook.

She screamed, causing Astarion to leap off her and run to the window, naked except for his shirt, to see what was going on. He grabbed for his pants and hopped into them, shuffling his way to another window as he laced them up before grabbing his boots.

“What’s happening?” she cried, clenching the sheets above her breasts.

“I’m not sure, darling -” he started, right as there was another booming explosion, followed by even more screams.

The building rocked violently, throwing him to the floor and almost tipping her out of the bed.

“What in the hells -” Astarion yelled. “Is someone trying to blow up the entire bloody city?”

He was closer than he realized.

There was a horrible screeching from outside, so loud he had to clamp his hands over his ears. He staggered to his feet, trying to get a good look.

He had to be seeing things. That was the only explanation. Because really, why else would there be a huge, tentacled…thing flying through the air? It resembled a ship, somewhat, but a multitude of thick, fleshy tentacles stretched away from it, slamming down into the streets as it flew past.

He ran out of the room, the woman yelling after him as he slammed the door shut. In seconds he was outside, running as fast as he could in the direction of the Szaar palace. Surely, he’d be safer there, even with Cazador.

Another horrific screech came from above him; Astarion glanced up at the sky and collided with a nearby crate as he saw what had caused it. Holes were ripping open in the sky above him, and dragons - yes, bloody dragons - were flying out, in hot pursuit of the strange ship.

He spun around a few times, trying to decide which way to run, finally choosing a nearby alley so he could cross over to the palace.

Astarion made it about halfway before one of the tentacles swirled down the alley, smashing windows and awnings as it approached. He skidded to a stop, turning - and felt something huge and heavy slap into his back.

Then, nothing.

Chapter 5: Taliana - ???? - The Beginning

Summary:

Windmill, windmill, for the land
Turn forever, hand in hand
Take it all in on your stride
It is ticking, falling down
Love forever, love is freely
Turned forever, you and me
Windmill, windmill, for the land
Is everybody in?

~ Gorillaz, “Feel Good Inc.”

***

And just where do you think Taliana might be...?

Hmmm.

Notes:

TW : Brain worms.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Tali sighed in frustration, leaning back against the cold stone of the wall. She squinted at the circle she’d drawn in the dirt a few feet away from her, taking careful aim with the pebble in her fingers before letting it fly.

It clinked to the ground, nearly landing in the bulls-eye she had drawn in the middle of the circle. She frowned, picking up another pebble and giving it a toss. This one landed almost exactly in the center, and she smiled in satisfaction. The hood of her cloak was slipping down, and she tugged it back up, the rich purple fabric hiding her face from view.

In the distance, she heard a vague noise, almost like an explosion, but it was so far away she couldn’t quite tell what it had been. She struggled to her feet, shaking her leg to wake it up so she didn’t fall flat on her face, a hand on the wall for balance.

There was another bang, closer this time. Definitely an explosion of some sort. Shouts and exclamations came from the corridor above; at first, they just sounded excited. It didn’t take long until they became panicked screams, making the hair on the back of her neck stand up.

She pressed against the bars, peering out, not able to see much because the torch in the hallway had gone out. Across from her, the old man was clinging to his bars, looking more alive than she had ever seen.

“This might be it,” he informed her, looking somewhat gleeful about the situation.

“What might be -”

That was as far as she got before the wall at the end of the hallway exploded, shards of rock and dust and sand flying towards her. She spun around, her back taking the brunt of it, falling to her knees under the force.

She managed to turn around, scuttling backwards on her hands like a crab, her eyes huge as a large, undulating tentacle slapped through the new gap in the wall, knocking her door askew. She eyed it for just a moment, weighing the danger, before she slipped her slight form out the crack, dashing down the hallway.

She was about to dive through the doorway into the main hall when she skidded to a stop, looking back the way she’d came.

The chest.

She really should run.

But.

Tali wrestled with herself for just a moment before dashing back to the chest, praying it wasn’t locked, because she certainly didn’t have the time to look for the key or to pick the lock. For once, luck was on her side, the chest opening easily. She found what she wanted in an instant, her hand closing over the smooth, familiar wood of her bow, her other hand snagging her quiver of arrows, slinging it over her shoulder with practiced motion.

“Run!!!”

That was the old man, staring out into the new tentacle-induced gap in the wall, his eyes widening. There was an ungodly screech from outside, so loud she had to clamp her hands over her ears, and through the hole she could swear she saw a dragon fly past.

“What in the hells,” she mumbled to herself, mesmerized.

“What are you doing, girl? RUN!”

Taliana shook herself out of her daze, scaling the rubble with ease, the placement of her feet steady and sure. She crested the top, sliding down the rocks on the other side, dust billowing around her.

She was out.

She turned and ran, tearing away from the wall, heading towards the main street. The screams of panic were getting louder with every step she took, making her reconsider her current path. She glanced up, her feet freezing in place as she gawked at the sky. There was some sort of large…ship, perhaps? - in the sky, strange, fleshy appendages extending from it as it moved, undulating and slashing. It was being pursued by multiple red dragons - she rubbed her eyes to verify that she wasn’t seeing things. Nope, it was indeed a tentacle ship being chased by dragons.

“I should’ve stayed in there,” she muttered, debating her next move. She took a few steps down a nearby side street before another one of those strange tentacles swirled down the road, smashing buildings as it went, stones and glass flying everywhere. She ducked, covering her head with her hands, when she felt something slap into her back, knocking the wind out of her.

That was the last thing she remembered until she woke up in some sort of pod, with a mindflayer floating towards her, shoving some sort of terrifying worm at her face. It wriggled and twisted, showing circles of tiny teeth, before lunging straight towards her eye. Tali screamed, but it was no use.

She had been infected.

Notes:

Let me know what you think! I hope you all are enjoying the ride. :)

Chapter 6: Taliana - Daggers

Summary:

Let me keep you in this place
You'll be better off this way
I will keep you warm and safe
You'll be better off this way
You learn to love the price you pay
Trust me dear, you're better off this way.

~ Guster, "Airport Song"

***

I'm sure they'll all get along just fine.

Right? Right???

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The first thing Tali noticed was the sand. Fine, delicate flakes of sand, nothing like the type she saw back in Baldur’s Gate. The second thing was the fact that she was alive, somehow. She groaned, rolling over slowly, the sun beating down on her face.

She could hear water; once she managed to sit up, the ocean greeted her, lapping gently at the beach she was laying on.

“Gods,” she muttered, rubbing her head. She struggled to her feet, looking around. She had absolutely no idea where she was; clearly, somewhere on the coast, but this was unfamiliar territory for her. A bit of polished wood peeked out of the sand next to her, and she grabbed for it, breathing a sigh of relief as her hand fit around the curve of her bow. Her quiver appeared to have somehow survived the crash, still strapped to her back, arrows intact. Having them made her feel braver, and she started down the beach, looking for clues as to where in the hells she was.

She strolled along for a minute, gasping as she saw a body laying a short distance away, a braid of black hair half-buried in the sand. She recognized her; she’d been on the ship with her in one of those horrible pods before Tali had freed her. The two of them had fumbled their way through the ship together, eventually picking up a fierce Githyanki woman. And, somehow, they had managed to crash the strange vessel in the middle of nowhere. Tali stumbled towards her, shaking her shoulder.

The woman jolted awake, sitting up quickly, then spinning around to vomit. Tali jumped back with a squawk, barely protecting her boots from the spray.

“You,” the woman mumbled, wiping her mouth.

“Me.”

They eyed each other suspiciously for a moment before Tali extended a hand to haul her to her feet. The other woman swayed slightly for a moment before recovering and shaking some sand out of her hair.

“I’m Shadowheart,” she finally said. “I don’t think I really had a chance to introduce myself up there.”

“Taliana,” she said. “Tali, to my friends.”

“Taliana, then,” replied Shadowheart. “I suppose we should stick together for now. Safety in numbers and all that.”

Tali nodded, looking around some more. “Do you have any idea where in the hells we are?”

Shadowheart shook her head. “The coast, clearly, but there’s a lot of coast.”

Tali shrugged. “Well, I guess we’ll try this way first then,” she said, walking towards the remnants of a path. Shadowheart lagged behind, still shaking sand from her clothes.

As they crested the hill, they were met by two rather unusual sights. The first was the remains of the ship they’d been on; it had clearly crashed to the ground and shattered into a mishmash of parts. Blood and tentacle bits were everywhere; Tali paused momentarily to shake an exceptionally gross bit off the toe of her boot. The second unusual sight was the man. An elf, like her, but incredibly pale, with a head full of silvery-white curls. He was dressed oddly; his clothes seemed a bit old-fashioned and overly fussy, with lots of golden embroidery and ruffles. He was peering down into the wreckage, looking concerned.

“There, there’s another one,” he said, his voice smooth and silky. “You can kill it, right? I saw you killing others on the ship.”

Tali rolled her eyes, pulling her bow off her back and taking a few steps forward to get a better look.

A split second later, she was flat on her back in the sand, a dagger held at her throat, and extremely pissed off at herself for dropping her guard.

“What in the absolute hells are you doing?” she yelled, twisting beneath him. He tightened his grip, Tali stilling beneath him as she felt wetness sliding down the side of her neck from where his dagger had nicked her in the struggle.

YOU were on that bloody ship with me. What did you do to me?”

“I didn’t do anything to you, you damn idiot. I got yanked up into it somehow. One minute I was on the street minding my own business, the next everything was exploding and then I was in one of those weird pods.”

He loosened his grip on her, scrambling to his feet. He never lowered the dagger, but he let her stand back up. She reached up to wipe the blood off her throat, glaring at him before meeting his eyes - they were a dark, glowing red - and suddenly felt something in her head twist.

She got a blur of images; running down a street in Baldur’s Gate in the dark, a woman with hair like gold, an explosion rocking the ground.

He stumbled back from her, clutching his head.

“What in the hells was that??” he snapped.

Shadowheart finally spoke up; she had just been watching the two of them grapple in the sand, clearly uninterested.

“It’s obvious, isn’t it? Those tadpoles they jammed in our eyes are now in our brains. I doubt we have much time before we all turn into mindflayers,” she sniffed, like this was a daily occurrence for her.

The elf eyed Tali carefully, pulling his dagger back somewhat. “The worm, of course. That explains things, somewhat. And to think, I was ready to decorate the ground with your innards,” he said. He paused briefly, before adding, “Apologies.” He rummaged in a pocket, tossing her a delicately embroidered handkerchief, gesturing at her neck.

Tali slowly removed her hand from her bow. “Apology accepted. I might have done the same thing if the roles were reversed.” She wiped the cut a few times before handing the cloth back to him, nodding her thanks.

He chuckled slightly, repocketing it. “Ah, a kindred spirit. My name’s Astarion. I was in Baldur’s Gate when those beasts snatched me,” he told her, punctuating it with a flourish and a theatrical bow.

Tali raised an eyebrow at him, clearly unimpressed.

“I’m Baldurian as well.”

He huffed at her, eyes skimming up and down. “Is that so? We clearly move in different circles,” he said, condescension dripping from every word.

She narrowed her eyes at him. “My name is Taliana. Tali, to my friends. This is Shadowheart,” she added, nodding at her. Shadowheart waved a few fingers in his direction half-heartedly.

“Well, Tali -” he started.

“Taliana.”

They eyed each other. Astarion hesitated briefly before giving in. “Fine. Well, Taliana, do you know anything about these little worms?”

“They’re going to turn us into mindflayers,” she said dryly.

“Turn us into -” he chuckled, a guffaw of laughter escaping. “Of course it will turn me into a monster. What else did I expect?”

Tali tilted her head, hearing the disappointment in his voice. He glanced over at the ocean, sadness slipping across his face for just a split second. “Although, it hasn’t happened yet,” he said, looking back at her. “If we can find an expert - someone that can control these things - there might still be time.”

She rolled her eyes. “Control it? I’d rather get rid of it.”

“Well, yes, of course. But first things first, darling.”

Darling???”

Behind her, Shadowheart snorted with laughter. She glanced around Tali to address the pale elf for the first time.

“I’d watch it if I were you, Astarion. She’s not carrying that bow just for fun.”

“Of course,” he agreed. “Apologies, darling.”

Tali gave him her best murderous glare. He smirked for a moment before letting his most charming smile settle on his lips.

“You should travel with us. Our odds are better together,” said Shadowheart. Tali spun around, the murderous glare now aimed at the dark haired woman. Shadowheart gave her a coy smile, toying with the end of her braid.

“You know, I was ready to go this alone, but maybe sticking with the herd isn’t such a bad idea,” he mused. He eyed Tali again, the corner of his mouth twitching into a smile. “And you seem like a useful person to know. All right, I accept. Lead on,” he declared, giving her his best curtsey and a flourished gesture towards the path.

“Seriously?” muttered Tali. “Fine. But I won’t hesitate to shoot you if you even think about aiming that dagger at me again.”

“Of course, darling. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“For f*ck’s sake,” she mumbled under her breath. She turned to continue down the path, taking three steps before she spun back around. “No, you go first,” she said, glaring at him.

“Or we could just go together,” he pointed out. “I’m not afraid of your friend here putting an arrow in my back, if she wants to follow.”

Shadowheart twirled her mace in his direction, giving him her sweetest smile. “Works for me,” she said, dropping back behind them.

“Fine,” snapped Tali. She stalked down the path, Astarion keeping pace with her, and Shadowheart trailing behind them.

If she didn’t kill them both by morning, it was going to be a miracle.

Notes:

Hope you're enjoying. Please let me know what you think. :)

Chapter 7: Astarion - The Plan

Summary:

Oh no
Here it is again
I need to know when I will fall into decay
Something wrong with every plan in my life
I didn’t really notice that you’ve been here…

~ Lacuna Coil, “Heaven’s a Lie”

Notes:

Just getting to know each other. And a bit of reminiscing about landing on the beach.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Astarion leaned back on the pillow in front of his tent, eyeing his new companions. The one with the long, dark braid - Shadowheart - was kneeling in front of her tent. Either meditating or praying; he wasn’t sure which.

The annoying wizard that Taliana had yanked out of a portal was poking through the food stores, inspecting their meager supplies. Astarion hadn’t bothered to learn his name; the man would not shut up and was already driving him crazy. As he rattled through the supplies, he pulled a book out of a crate, setting it down nearby before triumphantly holding up a carrot.

Astarion eyed the book; he loved to read. It was one of the few pleasures he had been able to enjoy whilst under Cazador’s thumb. He weighed the situation for a moment before pushing himself to his feet and sauntering over.

The wizard jumped in surprise when he saw Astarion. “Yes?” he asked.

“Might I borrow that book there, darling?” he asked, giving him his most charming smile.

The man blinked at him a few times before shrugging. “Fine with me. It’s not mine to begin with.”

“Fabulous,” he said, scooping it up and wandering back towards his tent. His eyes skimmed the trees surrounding them as he did, pausing when he spotted Taliana stalking out of the woods, a bucket of water in her hands. She carried it over to the wizard, saying, “Here you go, Gale,” as she plunked it down next to him.

Ah, right. Gale. That was his name. He supposed he should at least try to remember it, since there were only five of them.

Number five - Lae’zel - the githyanki warrior Taliana had shot out of a cage - was sharpening her sword in front of her tent, studiously ignoring everyone. Astarion liked her - her first move had been to stab a nearby tiefling as soon as she was out of the cage they’d trapped her in. He appreciated anyone with such a finely honed sense of violent justice. Apparently, she had fought her way through the ship - she called it a Nautiloid - with Taliana and Shadowheart. She seemed to have a healthy respect for Taliana, but he was honestly impressed that she and Shadowheart hadn’t killed each other yet. He supposed it was still early; he shouldn’t lose hope.

As for Taliana herself…well, she hadn’t shot him yet. There was that, at least. She wasn’t too bad to look at, either; elven heritage, likely wood elf, he guessed, based on the rich, coppery brown shade of her skin. She was tiny; her frame was slim and delicate, the top of her head barely coming up to his chin. Perfectly pointed ears with two thin braids in front of them, the rest of her dark hair drawn up into a somewhat messy ponytail. Her eyes were a rich, deep brown, intensely dark, offset with a trace of metallic green eyeliner; he had to admit, it worked for her. A scar ran down the right side of her face, splitting her eyebrow in half and continuing down her cheek, but it didn’t do much to mar her good looks. If anything, he thought it made her look better.

He watched Taliana as she moved to talk to Lae’zel, her movements graceful and fluid. He narrowed his eyes; he knew that type of motion. Interesting. He hadn’t expected to find anyone whose skills resembled his anytime soon. As he watched, she slid over towards Gale, making almost no noise as she moved, her plum colored cloak rippling behind her.

Astarion tapped his fingers against the cover of the book, thinking. Formulating a plan. He always felt better when he had a plan. He ducked into his tent, sprawling out on the bedroll inside, thinking things over.

When he had woken up, facedown in a pile of sand, the first thing that shot through him was sheer panic. He was warm. No, hot. He scrambled to his feet, racing towards the nearest patch of shade under an outcropping of rock. He frantically examined his hands before running them over his face, a whimper escaping him as he did.

What???

He slowly extended his hands out in front of him, eyes wide. He slid one foot forward, then the other, reaching out tentatively. A fingertip passed into the sunlight, then another. Then his entire hand. He waved it back and forth, incredulous.

“What in the sweet hells…,” he whispered. He stretched out his other hand, feeling the warmth of the sun on his skin for the first time in over two centuries. He took a deep breath, finally stepping completely into the light, waiting for his skin to flake away like ash.

But it never happened.

A peal of laughter escaped him, and he spun around once in joy before throwing himself to the ground, limbs akimbo, soaking up every ounce of sun possible. The heat pulsed into him, warming him, making him feel alive.

There was something else.

He could no longer feel the pull of Cazador’s will upon him.

“What…,” he whispered. “How?”

As he was puzzling that out, he heard footsteps approaching. Upon seeing two women cresting the top of the hill, he adopted his best ‘confused and weak’ pose, peering into the bushes. A quick glance, and he realized he recognized them both from the bizarre ship he’d been on. They’d run right past his pod, leaving him trapped in there.

Jerks. Thankfully, it had opened as the ship had started going down. He still wasn’t entirely clear how he’d made it onto the beach unscathed, but all things considered, that was the least strange thing that had happened to him today.

He probably shouldn’t have held a dagger to Taliana’s throat, but he had been so flustered by the sun and the lack of pull on him that he may have overreacted a tiny bit.

Okay, a lot.

She was just lucky she hadn’t gotten hurt worse with all her flailing. Really, she should’ve had better sense than that. It wasn’t his fault.

Astarion carefully pulled the handkerchief out of his pocket, examining the dried blood on it. He could still smell it; she smelled like cinnamon and caramel, with a touch of apple. He touched his tongue to the stain experimentally and had to stifle a moan; he didn’t know anything could possibly taste that good. Cazador’s rule of not being allowed to drink from ‘thinking’ creatures suddenly made a lot more sense; even that tiny taste had his mind racing, his nerves electric. He licked at the stain again, desperate, craving the taste. The feeling.

He wanted more.

He needed a plan.

He was never going back.

Notes:

*** I understand the dried blood thing is not 100% compliant with D&D/vampire logic. Just work with me here. :P

I hope you're enjoying! Let me know what you think below!

Chapter 8: Taliana - Bloodstained

Summary:

See how I’ll leave with every piece of you
Don’t underestimate the things that I will do
There’s a fire starting in my heart
Reaching a fever pitch and it’s bringing me out the dark…

~ Adele, “Rolling in the Deep”

***

Welcome to the Grove, we've got fun and games.

Or goblins. Mainly goblins.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Tali brushed some sweat out of her eyes, admiring the pile of goblin bodies surrounding her party. She pulled an arrow out of the one nearest her, wiping the blood off on the leg of her pants before putting it back in her quiver.

“You really need a rag or something for that, darling,” came a familiar silky drawl.

She rolled her eyes at the pale elf who had materialized next to her.

“And why would I do that?” she asked. “The bloodstains on the pants make anyone else think twice.”

He blinked at her a few times, finally letting out a chuckle. “Good point, Tali.”

“Taliana.”

“Right, right. Apologies, darling.”

She glared at him. “Did you need something, Astarion, or are you here just to judge me?”

“Technically, darling, I’m judging your pants.”

“Oh for -” she started, getting interrupted as Lae’zel stomped between them.

“Come. We must find my people’s creche before we all turn into ghaik,” she hissed. “You may fight on the way there, if you must.”

“We weren’t -” they both said in unison, stopping and staring at each other.

She met his eyes, and a sudden snort of laughter escaped her.

He shrugged at her, tossing her a wicked grin as he sauntered away. She shook her head, watching him go.

He was too damn pretty for his own good. Gods. She was glad he annoyed the hell out of her, because otherwise she would’ve happily considered sneaking into his tent for some entertainment the night before. He was quite nice to look at, though, when he wasn’t being a pain in her ass. He was on the taller side for an elf - she thought he was likely a high elf, although she hadn’t asked. Alabaster skin, unblemished and beautiful. Silvery-white curls that always looked slightly messy, but in that casually attractive sort of way. A sharp jawline, full lips, strong nose, high cheekbones - gods, an artist could make an entire career out of sculpting and drawing him.

But then there were the eyes; they were a dark, rich scarlet, almost crimson. Unusual, even for an elf. Then again, she hadn’t known many high elves; perhaps his eyes and skin were normal amongst them and she was just ignorant of it. Either way, they were strangely beautiful, framed by dark, lush lashes that she was irrationally jealous of.

She watched him walk away, noticing - not for the first time - how gracefully he could move. There was a certain agile, delicate smoothness to his movements, not unlike some sort of cat stalking its prey. She had thought she was light on her feet and undetectable, but he put her to shame, as much as she hated to admit it.

Tali sighed, yanking another arrow out of an expired goblin. She started to wipe it on her pants, then hesitated. She groped in her pack, finally pulling out a shred of cloth she’d picked up from somewhere, and wiped her arrow off with that. As she dropped it back in her quiver, she realized Astarion was watching her. A sly smile slid across his face as he watched; he raised an eyebrow at her knowingly before turning back to the crate he was rummaging in.

She shook her head, annoyed with herself.

Damn it.

She took a moment to focus, looking around. They were looking for a grove of druids; hopefully they’d be able to find supplies there before continuing the hike to Lae’zel’s supposed creche. According to her, her people had a machine that could remove their little brain worms. Tali wasn’t sure how she felt about letting Githyanki machinery poke around in her head, but it had to be a better choice than turning into a mindflayer. She was hoping that the Archdruid healer they’d heard about could be found in this supposed grove; druid magic sounded like a much safer option to her.

Shadowheart waltzed past her, twirling her mace slightly. She had turned out to be a formidable cleric, much to Tali’s joy. Anyone who could patch her back up if things went poorly was automatically one of her favorite people. Shadowheart had seemed indifferent to everyone thus far except Lae’zel; the two of them had been spatting and spitting insults at each other since they’d met. Oh well; as long as she was willing to heal everyone - Lae’zel included - it should be fine.

They all wandered along the road together, Gale chattering endlessly about the weave and Waterdeep. Tali was trying to tune him out so she could pay attention to their surroundings, when she heard the unmistakable sound of an arrow being drawn back. She jumped to the side, scaling the nearby rocks automatically to get to higher ground. Below her, Lae’zel had let out a fierce roar as she charged forward.

“Oh, there’s the druids,” commented Shadowheart, pointing at a gate around the corner. “Lovely,” she continued, drawing her mace and whacking an approaching goblin on the head.

At the gate itself, several men were yelling to the tieflings above to open it. Goblins were bleeding out of the woods behind them; Tali notched an arrow and let it fly, pegging one in the eye.

“Nice shot, darling,” Astarion told her, drawing back an arrow of his own. It flew into the crowd, hitting a goblin in the middle of his forehead.

“Pretty nice shot yourself, darling.”

He snorted, snagging an arrow out of her quiver to take another shot.

“Hey now!” she protested.

“Your arrows are nicer,” he said mildly, another goblin dropping, this one with an arrow in his nose.

A man was leaping down from the back of the gate, a rapier in his hand and yelling something about the ‘Blade of Frontiers’ joining the battle.

“What in the hells is he on about?” she asked.

“I have no idea, darling. But he just stabbed a goblin, so don’t shoot him just yet.”

“Fine, fine.”

Below her, Gale had launched a fireball into the fray, causing the odor of burnt goblin to waft through the air.

“Gods, Gale, did you have to do that?” asked Shadowheart, waving her hands in front of her. She sighed in disgust before sending a pulse of healing magic towards Lae’zel, who had one goblin attached to her leg, another to her sword, and was winding up to punch a third. Lae’zel let out another roar, swinging her sword to dislodge the goblin on it and stabbing the one stuck to her leg.

Tali couldn’t help but laugh. “Should I help her?”

“Do you want her to stab you in your sleep?” Astarion answered.

“Good point,” she conceded, watching Lae’zel fling the now-dead goblin off her leg.

The whistle of an approaching arrow made her gasp, and she was suddenly flat on her back, Astarion covering her body with his own as a flaming arrow flew over them, missing him by inches. He ran a hand up over his hair, cursing.

Tali stared up at him, eyes huge. He grinned down at her, brushing his thumb across her cheek briefly.

“I didn’t expect to have you on your back this soon, darling.”

What???”

He clambered off her and yanked her to her feet, dusting his pants off as he did. Taliana was still boggling at him, unsure if she should yell at him or thank him.

“Uh - thank you…I think?”

“Anytime, darling,” he said, his voice dipping dangerously low. “How’s my hair?” he asked, back into his normal silken drawl.

She stood on her toes, peering at it as he bent over.

“Just a slight singe,” she told him, tracing her fingers through his curls briefly. For a moment she thought he had shuddered at her touch, but she didn’t have a chance to dwell on it. From below, Shadowheart called, “Are you guys all right?”

“We’re…good,” she answered. Her eyes met his red ones and the wave of heat that washed over her damn near knocked her off her feet. He touched her hand ever so lightly before leaping down from their perch, yanking arrows out of goblins as he went.

Tali blinked a few times, trying to figure out what in the hells had just happened before she followed him down, heading over to the self-proclaimed ‘Blade of Frontiers’ to see what his deal was. Gale was negotiating with the men at the gate, and a moment later it started to rise, allowing them entrance into the grove.

Hopefully this so-called archdruid could fix their little worm problem so she could get back to the city before she lost her head over this damn pale elf.

Notes:

Honestly, we aren't really spending any time in the Grove. Sorry. Wave to the druids and tieflings, we'll mostly only see Halsin later.

Apologies to the Rolan lovers out there, I know I've done you dirty.

Thank you for reading, and please let me know what you think. :)

Chapter 9: Astarion - A Taste

Summary:

This is what I thought
I thought you’d need me
This is what I thought
So think me naive
I’d promise you a heart you’d promise to keep
Kiss my eyes and lay me to sleep…

~ AFI, “Prelude 12/21”

***

When in doubt, bite your friends.

Notes:

TW : Vampire bites.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

He couldn’t sleep.

Granted, he was a high elf; he didn’t really ‘sleep’ as it was. It was more a descent into a trance, a way to relax and reset his mind, but he couldn’t even do that.

He was hungry.

He’d slipped away from the camp the first night, prowling the woods until he’d found an unsuspecting boar. A quick leap and slash, and he was able to drink his fill and return to camp unnoticed.

Unfortunately, he’d missed a crucial step; he’d left the damned carcass right next to the road. He’d been so happy to catch something that it had somehow slipped his mind. And sure enough, they’d walked right past it the next day.

Everyone had been studying it and exclaiming over it; it clearly was not just a ‘normal’ dead boar. Deathly pale, drained of all its blood - it was quite the mystery to them. Astarion hung back, letting them debate the creature’s cause of death before asking if they were going to look for these silly druids, or debate a exsanguinated boar the rest of the day.

Taliana had glanced at him for a moment; he couldn’t quite read the look in her eyes, but he kept his face carefully neutral. She didn’t say a word, though, and hadn’t asked him about it, so hopefully she would forget about it before long.

Besides, they had a new companion in the camp tonight to distract her. Wyll - the so-called Blade of Frontiers - had joined their strange little group of misfits once he realized that they also had tadpoles in their brains. He was apparently hunting some demon from Avernus - Astarion hadn’t really paid attention to the details - and was happy to come along for the ride for now.

The Archdruid - his name was Halsin, they’d been told - had been kidnapped and dragged off to the nearby goblin stronghold. Astarion had a bad feeling Taliana was thinking about playing hero and going after him, but then again, he’d rather slaughter goblins any day of the week before having his brain poked by questionable Githyanki machines. So if she decided the druid was the best choice, he was going to go along with it.

He needed to stay on her good side, after all. It was all part of the plan.

He pulled the handkerchief out from under his pillow, sniffing at it.

He was so damn hungry. All the fighting and hiking was burning through his energy at alarming rates; it turned out that starving was easier if you weren’t moving at all.

He finally stood, exiting his tent, determined to find something. Hells, even a squirrel would help at this point. It was late; everyone else should be asleep by now.

A shape near the fire caught his eye. Taliana had apparently dragged her bedroll outside tonight and was asleep next to the fire, alone. He moved closer to her, silent, stalking. He was only a few steps away when logic settled back in and he froze, turning away from her.

That was when a slight breeze trickled past him, bringing with it the scent of cinnamon and caramel. He spun back around, the hunger lurching up into his throat in an alarming fashion.

He’d never been able to actually drink from a so-called ‘thinking’ creature before; Cazador had strictly forbidden it. The closest he’d ever gotten was licking that damn handkerchief. He hesitated, torn between a fervent desire to know, a hunger so strong it was making his throat burn, and the fear of being discovered and staked by his new companions.

He moved a step closer. Surely, he could be quiet enough, no? He’d spent two centuries moving like a ghost; she wouldn’t know. She would just think something had bit her the next morning. A critter of some sort. A really large spider. Anything. Right?

He crouched next to her. She was curled on her side, her throat exposed to him. He shouldn’t do this, he knew better, Cazador would kill him if he ever found out, would throw him back in the tomb, he couldn’t -

The need overwhelmed him and any rational thoughts he still had left in his mind, and he planted his hands on either side of her head, lining himself up with her neck. He closed his eyes, listening to her pulse, determining the best spot.

That was when her fingers clamped on to his hair, yanking his head back.

Notes:

Hope you're enjoying; please let me know what you think!

Chapter 10: Taliana - Frostbite

Summary:

So you heard
I crossed over the line
Do I have regrets?
Well, not yet.
There are some
Some who give blood
I give love
I give…

~ Tori Amos, “Give”

***

In which things get vaguely spicy. But like, Taco Bell Mild sauce spicy. The smut is coming later.

Notes:

TW : Vampire Bites

Chapter Text

Tali was exhausted; she’d shot so many goblins today that she’d lost count. And her tent was cold. She’d dragged her bedroll outside, the light and heat from the fire warming her and soothing her. She had curled beside it and been asleep in minutes.

It seemed she’d only been asleep for a few minutes before a strange sensation washed over her; a peculiar feeling of being watched. She was suddenly wide awake, and the fear that shot through her was instantaneous.

“What in the sweet hells do you think you’re doing??” she hissed, grabbing Astarion by the hair and yanking his head back from her.

The utter panic in his face was palpable. “I wasn’t going to - I’m not going to hurt you - I just need…,” he stuttered.

“Need what?” she snapped, shoving him away and pulling the dagger out of her boot. His eyes widened in alarm, holding his hands out in front of her in a placating manner.

There was a pause as he met her eyes, finally letting out a deep sigh.

“I just need blood,” he mumbled.

Out of everything Astarion possibly could have told her, blood hadn’t even been on her list of answers. She rocked back on her heels, lowering her dagger as she stared at him. He tilted his head slightly, letting the ruffles of his shirt fall away as he gave her a wide smile.

Her eyes skimmed back and forth; the two small scars on the otherwise perfect skin of his neck. His exceedingly pale neck. The crimson eyes. And now, the pointed fangs, visible in the firelight.

“You’re a vampire,” she breathed, eyes wide.

“Technically, dear, I’m a spawn -”

“But you were about to bite me.”

“I’m not some monster,” he hurried to explain. “I feed on wildlife; boars, kobolds, things like that. Not people.”

“The boar,” she said, connecting the dots. “That was you.”

“Yes.”

She narrowed her eyes at him. “And what exactly were you planning to do here, Astarion? Drain me and leave me for dead for the others to find in the morning?”

“Of course not, darling. Never. I just wanted a taste, really. I would be stronger, I would fight better, be able to think more clearly with a little bit of blood,” he said, a slight pleading tone creeping into his voice.

She slowly stood, sheathing the dagger back in her boot. He watched her carefully, uncertainty all over his face.

“Just a taste,” he said, low and pleading.

She folded her arms across her chest, unsure.

“Please,” he said softly. He raised his eyes to hers, the desperation in them clear.

“Okay,” she whispered. She wasn’t even sure why she was agreeing to this; she should’ve just jammed a stake through his heart. “But not a drop more than you need.”

“Really?” The amazement was clear in his voice.

“Yes. Now let’s do this before I change my mind,” she told him, giving him a bit of a smile.

His usual air of confidence had returned as he looked around.

“Shall we go to your tent, darling?” he asked. “You should probably make yourself comfortable.”

She eyed him suspiciously, leaning to pick up her bedroll. He scrambled to help her, and a minute later they were in her darkened tent, Tali sitting on the bedroll, looking at him nervously.

“Is this going to hurt?” she asked nervously.

“Only for a moment, my dear,” he answered. “Why don’t you lay down?”

She hesitated; he was watching her every move, the hunger in his eyes unmistakable. She wasn’t entirely sure if it was for her blood or for something more. She had no idea why the hells she had agreed to this -

Oh, who was she kidding. She knew exactly why she’d agreed to this. She’d just be lying to herself if she said the blatant want in his gaze didn’t affect her; the heat coiling in her lower belly said otherwise.

She laid back, adjusting herself against her pillow. He knelt over her, a knee on each side of her thighs, making sure she couldn’t move too much. Tali swallowed hard; it had suddenly hit her how close he was about to be. He touched the side of her face gently with cool fingers, encouraging her to turn her head.

She obliged, tilting her head to the side. He then slowly brushed her hair back; she released her hair from its usual messy ponytail at night, and her dark hair swirled around her neck. His fingers brushed against her throat as he did, and she shivered pleasantly.

Oh my Gods, Tali, what are you even doing??

He leaned down, lips a breath away from her neck. He could hear her pulse racing; the veins in her neck were twitching along with it. He lowered his lips to her neck, planting a feathery kiss against it, then another, and another as he tried to find the perfect spot. Tali bit her lip, trying to repress a moan.

He pressed a final kiss against her neck before sinking his fangs into her. This time, Tali couldn’t hold back the moan that slipped out; she clapped a hand over her mouth and shut her eyes. Apparently, Astarion couldn’t hold back either; a strangled groan of pleasure came from him, sending a jolt of heat straight through her.

It did hurt; the initial bite felt like shards of ice stabbing into her throat, slowly creeping down her neck, leaving a strange ache as it went. But after a moment, the ache was almost a warmth, alternating with shots of icy cold as he pressed his tongue against her to encourage the blood to keep flowing. Her other hand reached up to tangle in his hair, and she could’ve sworn he practically purred at her as her nails scratched against his scalp. She shifted slightly, heat coiling and twisting inside her, dampness gathering between her thighs. Some feral part of her brain was in control as she raised her hips against him, a groan muffled by her hand sneaking out. He responded instinctively and immediately, one of his legs moving smoothly from the outside of her thigh to the inside.

“Astarion -” she whimpered, not even sure what she was about to say. She was spinning, dizzy, overwhelmed with the sensations tearing through her. One of his hands had slid up under her tunic, skimming the bare skin of her back and pulling her closer. His leg was pressing against her, and Gods help her, she was slowly grinding against his thigh, biting her lip to keep from crying out.

“Oh, Gods,” she managed; the world was blurring and twisting wildly around her, either from him touching her like this or the blood loss; she had no damn idea at this point. Her vision was starting to darken, and for one strange, floating moment, she almost closed her eyes to succumb to whatever fate awaited her.

“Astarion, stop,” she whispered, pushing at his shoulder. He released her, sitting back between her legs, blood still on his lips, looking somewhat dazed.

Her last thought before the darkness drowned her mind out was how much she had liked it. And with that, she was gone.

Chapter 11: Astarion - Velvet

Summary:

Til now, I always got by on my own
I never really cared until I met you
And now it chills me to the bone
How do I get you alone?

~ Heart, "Alone”

In which Astarion realizes he may have a problem....

Notes:

Super short chapter here. Apologies.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Astarion was in a daze. Stars were colliding behind his eyes, warmth rushing through his body, every single nerve on edge. He lifted a shaking hand to wipe the blood from his lips, touching it to his tongue reverently.

Gods. He suddenly understood exactly why Cazador had forbidden drinking from thinking creatures. He had thought the blood staining the handkerchief had tasted good? He’d had no idea. None. Her blood was the single best thing he’d ever smelled, ever tasted in his entire life. He could still taste it on his tongue, a lingering note of sweetness with a touch of spice, a breath of apple - it had slipped down his throat like velvet, caressing him as he swallowed it.

He looked down, realizing with a jolt that Taliana was unconscious.

“f*ck, f*ck, f*ck,” he hissed under his breath. Then he actually looked at her, at how beautifully undone she was, and then he was mumbling, “f*ck,” to himself for reasons he didn’t entirely want to contemplate. He gently tugged her shirt back down, smoothing it carefully. His fingers slipped through her hair, brushing it down over her shoulders, covering the bite marks. He noticed for the first time that she had the faintest dusting of freckles across her nose and cheeks, blending beautifully with her coppery skin.

He leaned back, becoming aware of how hard he was as he adjusted himself to a more comfortable position. He traced a finger down the side of her face, then clambered to his feet, staggering ever so slightly.

He snuck out of her tent, heading to his own and collecting a healing potion and a flask of water. He deposited them next to her head so she’d see them in the morning; hopefully that would help. That done, he returned to his tent and collapsed onto his bedroll.

This time, the trance came immediately, and Astarion faded away.

Notes:

I hope you're enjoying! Please drop a kudos or bookmark or comment; I'd love your feedback, and there's a lot more of this to come.

Chapter 12: Taliana - Savior

Summary:

Now here I go
Hope I don’t break down
I won’t take anything
I don’t need anything
Don’t want to exist, I can’t persist
Please stop before I do it again
Just talk about nothing
Let’s talk about nothing...

~ Bad Religion, “Infected”

***

The Blighted Village is always a good time.

Dialogue almost entirely from RavenRose_99's short, which can be found here :
(Yes, she knows. She's good with it.)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uqCrGxNcsX0&ab_channel=RavenROSE_99

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Tali skirted around the edges of the village, squinting at the rooftops and counting archers.

“How many?” breathed Astarion, crouched next to her.

“Five on that one, three there, one in each window, and I can’t get a good line of sight on the buildings in the middle,” she whispered.

“I’ll go left, you go right, everyone else up the middle?”

She nodded in agreement before rejoining the rest of the party, explaining the plan.

“Sounds good to me, soldier,” chirped Karlach. The tiefling was the newest member of their band of misfits, and Tali absolutely adored her. As it turned out, she had been the devil Wyll was hunting, and it took a few minutes of tense conversation before the truth was clear. She’d been forced into the Blood Wars in Avernus against her will, and Wyll was able to see the truth of her story due to the tadpoles. It seemed they were, possibly, even going to be friends instead of hunter and prey.

Karlach towered over Tali, with red skin and a mess of dark hair, golden eyes, and one broken horn. She glowed with an internal fire, due to the infernal engine that had been forced on her during her time in Avernus; unfortunately, it rendered her unable to touch others because of the heat it generated. She was also an absolutely fierce barbarian, having spent the last ten years in Avernus battling demons. Despite all that, Karlach was a walking beam of sunshine; she was an absolute delight to be around. Tali shot her a smile before laying out the rest of the plan.

“Lae’zel, you go with Karlach, please. Shadowheart, stay near them, but not TOO close. Wyll, Gale, find cover on the ground and then melt faces off. Astarion and I will be on the roofs to start,” Tali finished.

Everyone nodded in agreement; a moment later Karlach let out a deafening yell as she charged in, whacking a goblin and flinging him into the air as she went. Behind her, Lae’zel hissed in appreciation before skewering one of her own.

Tali pulled the hood of her plush purple cloak over her head, ready for action. She shimmied around the inside of the fence until she found the stack of crates she’d seen earlier. A few seconds later, she’d scaled them easily and was now perched on the roof, bow in her hand. She scanned the village, taking a shot at a goblin in a window, smiling in satisfaction as the arrow stuck in its eye before collapsing backwards.

Movement across from her caught her attention, and her heart did an alarming leap up her throat as she realized what she was seeing. Astarion was backed against the building that he was supposed to be climbing, cornered by an extremely angry looking female ogre. She raised her club menacingly, and Astarion ducked, covering his head.

“How the f*ck did we miss an ogre???” she mumbled to herself before letting an arrow fly.

The ogre toppled backwards, an arrow protruding from her left eye.

“You probably should be paying better attention while you’re skulking around,” Tali called down to Astarion.

He rolled his eyes, and before he could snap out a retort, he’d flung a knife in her direction.

Tali yelped and jumped back, her eyes wide as the bugbear that had been sneaking up behind her plummeted to the ground, Astarion’s dagger lodged in his throat.

“You were saying, darling?”

From below, Lae’zel yelled, “Will you two save your argument for when we aren’t in battle? Your banter is insufferable.”

“Why thank you, Lae’zel,” Tali called back. “Your assumptions are always appreciated.”

She couldn’t hear it, but she knew that had just earned her a disgusted “t’chk” from the Gith.

“Aw, I think it’s kind of cute,” said Karlach, cheerfully smashing two goblin heads together, their bodies swinging like rag dolls as she did. “I’d love to have somebody to flirt with mid-battle.”

“It’s a good way to get people killed!” yelled Gale. “Some help for a wizard in need??” He was getting backed into a wall by a goblin, holding his staff in front of him to deflect the blows.

Wyll skidded over to the wizard, rapier slashing and goblins falling. “Ah, thank you, Wyll,” said Gale, dusting his robes off.

Tali took a flying leap to the next rooftop, landing in a graceful crouch, pulling the hood of her plum-colored cloak back up over her head. “I’d hardly call whatever Astarion does ‘flirting’,” she commented. “More like…desperate cries for attention.”

Astarion leapt over to join her, giving her a dirty look as he landed even more gracefully than she had, annoying her deeply. “For your sake, darling, I’ll pretend not to have heard that.”

“Let’s face it, your lines could use some work,” she teased, notching another arrow and impaling a goblin in the nose. “Or maybe it’s the delivery. Either way, you seem a bit rusty,” she goaded.

RUSTY??” yelped Astarion. “I’ll have you know I’ve seduced countless suitors in my day! Nearly all of which were putty in my hands by the time I was through with them!”

“Nearly is the important word there,” Tali returned, eyes sparkling with mischief.

From below, Shadowheart mumbled “If they won’t shut up, I’m going to kill them.”

“I would gladly help you,” Lae’zel agreed.

“I’m just saying, you could stand to try a little harder,” Tali told Astarion, who was visibly seething.

“Try a little - has it ever occurred to your pretty little mind that you just have sh*t taste???” he countered.

“My, you really do get defensive -” Tali started, her words dying in her throat as the ogre staggered to her feet, raising her club into the air, and hurling it at them with alarming speed and accuracy.

Without even thinking about it, Tali shoved Astarion as hard as she could, sending him sprawling to the side right before the club crashed into the roof beside her. She plummeted through the hole, slamming into the dirt floor of the stable below, all the wind knocked out of her.

The ogre crashed into the stable, grabbing her club off the ground and taking a dizzying swing at Tali. Tali managed to yank her dagger loose just in time to hold it horizontally in front of her, the club catching the edge of it. The blade turned slightly in her hand as she tried to hold it away from her, slicing a huge gash into her palm and making her yelp in pain.

She was about to panic when a figure jumped through the hole in the roof, daggers out. Astarion landed directly on the ogre’s back and proceeded to pummel the back of her head and neck with his daggers until she slumped to the floor, blood spreading across the floor rapidly. He stood there with his back to her, shoulders heaving, blood dripping down his arms.

Tali stumbled to her feet, spitting out a mouthful of blood and gripping her injured hand with the other as she did. “Astarion?” she called. He still hadn’t moved, staring at the ogre’s body.

She could hear his ragged breaths from across the room. She slowly approached him, finally standing in front of him, but she got the peculiar feeling he wasn’t actually seeing her.

“Whoa, hey,” she started, her voice low. “Are you good?” she asked, reaching out to cradle the back of his head in her hand.

He blinked a few times, expression re-settling into its normal confidence. “Ah, so sorry, darling. Must have gotten carried away,” he told her, reaching up to touch her hand.

She pulled her hand away, accidentally smearing her blood across his cheek as he did.

“Don’t worry, darling. It’s fine,” he told her, heading for the door. “It looks like everyone has finished off the rest out here.” He wiped at the blood on his face surreptitiously, touching his fingers to his lips as he did.

Tali nodded, silent, before following him outside, pretending she didn’t see his shudder of relief as he tasted her blood on his fingers.

Notes:

Please leave a kudos or comment or bookmark if you're enjoying the ride. Things will be getting a little spicy next chapter....

Chapter 13: Astarion - Desire

Summary:

Here we go, we're at the beginning
We haven't f*cked yet, but my head's spinning
Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you?
Why can't I speak whenever I talk about you?
It's inevitable, it's a fact that we're gonna get down to it
So tell me -
Why can't I breathe whenever I think about you?

~ Liz Phair, "Why Can't I?"

Time for a little bit of spice.

The actual full smut is coming later, but we need some foreplay, after all.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

He was, once again, hungry.

Astarion couldn’t remember the last time he’d had to expend this much physical effort in such a short amount of time; day after day of walking interspersed with stabbing anything that looked at him strangely was breaking him down.

He laid on the blanket in front of his tent, trying to summon the willpower to go hunt. Everyone else was crowded around the campfire, enjoying the stew Gale had made earlier. Even though it would be useless for him to eat it, he truly enjoyed the smell of it. Where the wizard had procured all the random herbs he could smell from, he had no clue, but it made for an enjoyable experience for him. He’d always been a fan of herbaceous scents, and the wizard had been delivering in spades lately.

He rolled onto his stomach, flipping open a book about smithing that he’d found in one of the now-abandoned buildings in the village. They’d made camp in one of the more intact buildings - a barn - giving them the best accommodations they’d had yet. Astarion had camped out in the loft of the barn, giving him a good view of the others, but affording him some privacy and quiet.

He had decided to wait until everyone had gone to bed before venturing out. Taliana had informed the rest of their companions about his true nature the day after he’d bitten her; they’d taken it…okay. No one had been outright terrible to him about it, but several of them - Gale and Wyll, especially - had been keeping their distance. Lae’zel had taken care to inform him that she wouldn’t hesitate to kill him if he even looked at her neck, but really, he wouldn’t expect anything less from her. Overall, though, it had gone better than expected; he’d been sure they’d tell him to f*ck off.

People were finally starting to head to bed, and Astarion sat up to watch as the group around the fire eventually dwindled to none. He climbed down from the loft soundlessly and slipped out the door, hoping he’d be able to find something to sink his teeth into. He set off for the gate at a quick pace, wanting to get it over with, when he collided with something warm and solid.

“Gods, Astarion, what the hells are you doing?” gasped Taliana from the ground.

He hurried to help her up. “I’m so sorry, darling. I was lost in thought. I need to hunt tonight and I wasn’t expecting anyone to be out here.. What in the hells are you doing out here, anyways?”

Taliana brushed some dirt from her pants. “Apology accepted,” she told him. “And for why - well, sometimes a girl just has to pee, all right?”

He snorted in reply. There was a long, loaded pause as she regarded him.

“What?” he finally asked her.

She bit her lip, looking nervous. Eventually, she looked up to meet his eyes before whispering, “You can hunt me, if you’d like.”

“Wha - really?” he said, eyes widening. He’d been shocked enough when she’d let him bite her once; he hadn’t even dared to dream of getting another chance at it.

She nodded, a dusting of blush sneaking onto her cheeks.

“Why darling, did you happen to enjoy that?” he asked her, noticing the flush immediately.

She huffed a sigh before pinning him with a knowing look.

“You know I did. And I know you did too,” she said, letting her eyes slide down his body, focusing briefly on his crotch before returning to his eyes.

“Oh, I was aware,” he said, voice low. “I could feel your little shakes of excitement.” Her blush intensified, and he chuckled slightly, eyes dark and dangerous. “I wasn’t expecting you to like it so much, but I certainly did enjoy myself, darling.”

He stepped closer to her, pleased when he heard her heartbeat pick up the pace. Another step, and he gently curved a hand around her waist, fingers slipping up the bare skin of her back underneath her tunic. She shivered under his touch, swaying forward against him.

“What do you really want, Taliana?” he whispered, his lips against her ear. Two centuries of experience had him knowing damn good and well what she likely wanted besides being his dinner, and he was all too familiar with the transactional nature of favors. He leaned back to look at her before ducking his head down to brush his lips against hers. The shuddering sigh that came out of her in response made him kiss her more firmly, tongue brushing against her bottom lip, stroking against hers when she immediately opened her mouth to him. A slight brush of his fangs against her lip, and she shuddered against him once more, her arms winding around his neck.

She pressed herself against him, a hand dipping down his stomach to run it over the bulge in his leathers momentarily. He let out a hiss of pleasure at the contact, pulling her closer with the hand at her back. His other hand slid under the front of her tunic, cupping one of her breasts before rolling her nipple between his fingers, eliciting a low moan from her.

“Perhaps we should find somewhere more…secluded than the middle of this village, darling?” he murmured in her ear.

Taliana nodded in agreement, looking around. Astarion spied the remains of a store nearby and headed for it, pulling her along behind him. Once inside, he kicked the door shut and evaluated the choices. He settled on the table against the wall, scooping Taliana up in his arms and depositing her on it before moving to stand between her legs. He nuzzled his face into the crook of her neck, breathing her in and planting a few gentle kisses on it before drawing back.

“You never answered my question,” he told her, fingers gripping her chin so she would have to look at him.

“Which one?” she asked, somewhat breathless already.

“I asked what you wanted,” he said, before leaning in to press a hot, open-mouthed kiss on her collarbone before continuing his way up her neck.

“Bite me,” she whispered, fingers tangling in his hair.

“Is that all you want?” he asked, slowly tugging at her shirt to peel it off her. He dipped his head to swirl his tongue around one nipple, his fingers teasing at the other, producing a low groan from her as he continued his ministrations.

She whimpered, hooking a leg around him to pull him closer to her. He growled in approval; he always had appreciated a lover who knew what they wanted. She drew her other foot up next to her, bracing it on the edge of the table, her knee pressing into his side.

Taliana slid her hands down, untucking his shirt so she could slide her hands underneath it. Her hands went to his waist so she could run her hands up and down his chest, feeling the way his muscles tensed and relaxed under her hands. Finally, she leaned forward, head on his shoulder, so she could whisper into his ear.

“Make me come,” she whispered, her breath hot against him.

He chuckled at her, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear.

“How could I deny such a…reasonable request?” he murmured. He could hear her breath catch and he smirked, shifting slightly to the side so he could splay a hand across her stomach, teasing at the waist of her pants. She raised a hand to the back of his head, pulling him in to kiss her. He traced his tongue along the seam of her lips, pleased when she immediately gave him access to properly plunder her mouth. She finally broke away, trying to catch her breath, and he took the opportunity to slip his hand into her pants.

She was soaked; he hummed in approval as she buried her face in his neck and dug her nails into his shoulders. He ran his fingers up and down her folds, not quite touching the sensitive bundle of nerves at the top yet. She squirmed against him, trying to get herself in a more favorable position, but he had kept a tight grip on her waist with his other hand. He parted her ever so slightly, fingers ghosting over her, a moan slipping out of her as he did. She whimpered, whispering, “Please?”

At that, he slid a finger inside her, capturing her resulting gasp in a deep kiss. He added another finger; she was beautifully warm and soaking wet around him as he moved them in and out of her. The hand on her waist slid up to cup a breast, rolling a nipple between his fingers. She rocked her hips forward, seeking more friction, and he obliged by running slow circles around her cl*t with his thumb. He increased the pressure ever so slightly, causing her to claw at his back.

“Like that?” he whispered, tracing his tongue up her neck, along her ear.

She nodded, eyes closed, a breathy moan slipping out.

“That’s it, darling,” he said softly, listening to her breath hitch and catch, feeling her tense around him. “You’re so close,” he continued, moving his thumb faster against her. Her breath was coming fast, an occasional whimper sneaking out. He hooked the fingers inside her just right, putting pressure on the sensitive spots deep inside her, swallowing her gasps with a kiss as she clutched his shoulders even tighter.

“Go ahead,” he whispered, breaking the kiss. “I know you want to.” She shuddered, face pressed against his neck.

Come for me, Taliana,” he ordered, and as if on cue, she unraveled against him, body trembling, clenching violently around his fingers, her breath hot against his neck as she choked out his name. He slowed his movements somewhat, letting her ride it out until she stopped twitching against him before he stopped completely, withdrawing his fingers and pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

She dropped her head to his shoulder, trying to catch her breath. He kissed her neck delicately, giving it a lick in warning before he sank his fangs into her, causing her to moan again, her arms wrapping around him as she laid her head back in surrender.

She tasted just as good as she had before, possibly even better. A groan escaped him as he drank, his tongue pressing against her to encourage the blood to keep flowing, pure ecstasy pouring down his throat. One of her hands came up to twist in his hair, and he hummed in satisfaction at the feeling.

He was paying closer attention this time; when her grip on his back started to loosen he let her go after a few more swallows, giving the wounds on her neck a few parting licks. She slumped against him bonelessly, head buried against his chest.

He pulled back from her, locating her shirt and dropping it over her head. She finally seemed to recover somewhat, asking, “What about you?” Her hands traced along his waist, her intentions obvious.

“As much as I would enjoy that, darling, I don’t want you passing out cold in the middle of things. It would be a bit of a mood killer. Soon,” he promised.

She shrugged, leaning back into his chest. “All right. But promise me you’ll let me know if you need blood, okay? I...kind of like it,” she murmured against him.

He chuckled, smoothing her hair back into its usual messy ponytail and expertly retying it with deft fingers. Tucking a loose strand back behind her ear, he whispered, “I kind of liked it too. Come on, darling, let’s get you to bed before you actually do pass out.”

She acquiesced, swaying a bit as she got to her feet. He kept an arm on her as she wobbled along, trying to keep her upright.

He escorted her back into the barn, then to her tent. She looked up at him, a smile teasing at the corners of her lips before she stood on her toes to kiss him.

“Thanks for the…lovely evening,” she told him, her eyes dancing with mischief. “Good to know all that lockpicking has made your fingers rather nimble.”

He snorted at her. “Go to bed, Taliana,” he told her, a smile breaking across his face.

“Astarion?”

“Yes, darling?”

“You can call me Tali,” she whispered. He smiled then, a real smile, before touching the side of her face gently and heading for his tent in the loft.

Notes:

Thank you for reading!

Please drop a bookmark/kudos/comment if you're enjoying the ride.

Chapter 14: Taliana - Bonfires and Moonlight

Summary:

Come to me, come to me
I am waiting for you
Come to me
I can’t wait
Follow me, follow me
As I trip the darkness
One more time
Follow me, follow me
I awake from madness
Just in time…

~ Lacuna Coil, “Trip the Darkness”

***

It's the night of the tiefling party, and things are heating up.

Taliana considers climbing a mountain, Shadowheart points out the obvious, and the forgone conclusion approaches.

Notes:

The smut is next chapter. Gird your loins.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Tali finished another loop around the bonfire in Wyll’s arms, giggling as he passed her off to Shadowheart, who managed to twirl her once before stumbling and slamming into Gale, who caught them both.

“Little too much wine tonight?” the wizard asked, chuckling.

“You look like you’ve had a bit yourself, oh great Wizard of Waterdeep,” Tali returned, noticing the flush in his cheeks. “Besides, this is a night for celebrating!” Shadowheart attempted to twirl her again, the two of them staggering and nearly falling into the bonfire before Wyll grabbed them.

“Hey, I’m the only one who’s supposed to be on fire here,” commented Karlach, watching.

“Fine, fine,” said Tali, swaying slightly against Shadowheart, who had swiped the bottle of wine Gale was holding.

“Hey now,” he protested, swiping for it. She danced out of range, taking a long drink, dragging Tali with her as she went.

It was, indeed, supposed to be a celebration. They had managed to successfully liberate the Emerald Grove, massacring a ridiculous amount of goblins, bugbears, and a drow before locating Archdruid Halsin in the depths of their camp.

Unfortunately, Halsin didn’t know of a cure for their little brain worm issue, but he seemed sure that answers would lie in Moonrise Towers, in the Shadowlands. Tali was already bracing herself for traversing them; she’d heard many tales of the area in the city, and she was not looking forward to the experience. On the plus side, Halsin had agreed to join them, which Tali found pleasing on several levels.

“I have an idea,” Tali told Shadowheart, only slightly slurring her words.

“What’s that?” she replied, dropping down onto a nearby crate with considerably less grace than normal.

“I am going to go talk to the druid.”

Shadowheart raised her eyebrows at her before passing her the wine. “What about your vampire?”

Taliana flushed, ducking her head. Her eyes shot over to said vampire’s tent; he was nowhere in sight. She hadn’t said a word about their little village excursion the other night to anyone, but Shadowheart was incredibly observant and intuitive.

“What about him?” she asked, trying to adopt her best innocent look.

Shadowheart rolled her eyes. “Please, Tali. It is abundantly clear that he wants to f*ck you.”

“Oh, my Gods,” she squawked in protest. “I am going to go talk to Halsin.”

Shadowheart snickered, waving a few fingers at her politely as she departed.

She peered around, looking for the druid, finally spotting him lingering near the trees. She sauntered towards him, admiring as she did. He was huge; all brawn and muscle, standing a good two heads taller than her, possibly more. But under all the muscle, he seemed to be quite the gentle soul, and she was somewhat intrigued with him. And, well, the handsome face and kind hazel eyes certainly didn’t hurt.

The mountain of a man nodded at her as she approached, a smile spreading across his face. “Oak father preserve you, Taliana,” he said. “I thank you again for all your help.”

“Not joining the party?” she asked him.

“I’m having a lovely time right here, watching everyone enjoy themselves,” he said sincerely.

“Come, want to have a drink with me? Or a dance around the fire?” she offered. She felt bad that he was just hanging back and wanted him to feel welcome and included.

He chuckled at her. “No thank you; the truth is, I rarely imbibe. It goes straight to my head and before I know it, I’ll be breaking into song and declaring love to the first person I see.”

“Sounds like a good time to me,” she said coyly, gazing up at him. Gods, she had given Astarion crap about his terrible lines the other day, and here she was, not doing any better.

“Then you’ve clearly never heard me sing,” the druid chortled. “That makes you VERY fortunate.” He laughed heartily, a rich, warm laugh that made Taliana want to dive into his arms for a hug as soon as possible.

She restrained herself, finally saying, “I don’t know…I bet you’re good at lots of things.” She let her eyes drift up and down his massive frame, admiring his biceps and chest.

He raised an eyebrow at her, clearly catching on. “Maybe that’s true. And I imagine you’re rather resourceful yourself,” he told her, sparking a ray of heat through her spine. Her hopes were quickly dashed when he brushed a kiss across the back of her hand, saying, “But there are many grateful people who want to spend time with you. I should not keep you to myself, as enjoyable as that would be. Go on, enjoy yourself, have some more wine. There’s plenty of…thirsty people here,” he told her, a knowing look gleaming in his eyes.

Defeated, Tali slunk back to the fire, flopping back down next to Shadowheart, who passed her the bottle of wine she was holding.

“Problem?” the cleric asked mildly, waiting for Taliana to hand the bottle back.

“Oh, nothing. Just got shot down by the Archdruid, it’s fine.”

Shadowheart snickered, taking a long drink from the bottle. “I can’t really blame you for trying. That’s a mountain I think many of us would like to climb.”

Tali burst out laughing. “Exactly.”

Shadowheart raised her eyebrows at her, still chuckling. “Of course, if you were looking for some…entertainment,” she started, taking another drink, “I’m pretty sure Astarion’s been waiting for you,” she finished, returning to her prior line of thought.

Tali looked over towards his tent. He had finally come out from wherever he had been hiding, and was lounged in front of it, drinking straight from a bottle.

With his shirt half open and looking devastatingly beautiful.

“f*ck,” she muttered, feeling the heat twist in her lower belly.

Shadowheart shook her head, still chuckling, before she pushed at Tali. “Go,” she told her, amusem*nt clear in her eyes. “He’s not exactly my type, but I’d bet he’s quite a good ride.”

“Shadowheart!” she said, doing her best to look scandalized.

The cleric rolled her eyes at her. “Have fun, Tali. Mind the fangs, I don’t want to have to heal you in the morning.”

Taliana got to her feet, shaking her head and heading towards the vampire.

“Hello, darling,” he greeted her. “You know, I never thought I’d hear people singing my praises for saving their lives. And now that they are…,” he paused, taking a long drink from the bottle in his hand. “I hate it.”

Tali burst out laughing, dropping to her knees next to him. “What, the hero thing isn’t doing it for you?”

“Absolutely not,” he sighed. “It’s dreadful. All these tieflings in the camp, whatever racket that bard is producing, and whatever THIS is -” he said, holding up the bottle, glaring at it. “It tastes like vinegar. You’d think we’d at least have some decent wine to celebrate with.”

Tali took the bottle from him without asking, taking a swig and sputtering. “Gods, are you sure this is even wine? It’s not some exotic poison, is it?”

“Well, I’ve had almost the entire bottle and I’m still alive, darling.”

She started to giggle, not wanting to point out the obvious.

He huffed at her. “You know what I meant. It at least hasn’t killed me a second time, how’s that?”

She descended into full laughter, flopping down on her back next to him. He was still sitting above her, and she was momentarily distracted by the way the moon illuminated his hair.

“You’re really beautiful,” she said suddenly.

He eyed the bottle of wine suspiciously. “Perhaps it is poison if it has you spouting compliments that quickly.”

“No no,” she said, laughing. “The moon. Behind you,” she struggled to explain. “You just…you look really good,” she finished, her voice soft. She reached up to touch his cheek lightly, smiling.

“Are you trying to seduce me, now that the druid has turned you down?” he asked her, a teasing note in his voice.

“You saw that?” she squawked, dismayed and somewhat embarrassed.

Astarion raised his eyebrows at her, clearly amused. “Darling, I think most of the people here would like to enjoy the company of the druid. I certainly can’t blame you for trying.”

“Wait, does that mean you’d enjoy his…company?” she asked, intrigued.

He shrugged, taking another drink of the questionable wine before answering. “I’ve bedded an unfathomable amount of people over the centuries, darling. Beautiful people are beautiful people, regardless of anything else.”

Taliana marveled at him for a moment, not expecting that answer. “Good to know,” she said, a smile creeping onto her face. “I’ve operated the same way myself, to be honest.” He nodded in agreement before finishing off the bottle, tossing the empty bottle behind his tent with a resounding thump.

He gazed down at her, and Tali felt a jolt of heat burn through her. She pulled herself up, leaning in to press a kiss against his neck. One of his hands came up to circle her waist, tugging her closer.

“I have an idea,” she whispered against his ear.

“I’m listening,” he said, eyes dark and dangerous.

“I think we should take a nice, long walk into the woods and find somewhere quiet so I can even things up,” she murmured. His fingers tightened against her waist ever so slightly. “I mean, since I’m not woozy from blood loss and all,” she continued, lightly tracing her tongue up the point of his ear. She nibbled the highly-sensitive tip of it, gratified when she heard him suck in his breath.

Without a word, he stood, hauling her to her feet, and together they headed into the woods, leaving the sounds of the party behind them.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 15: Astarion and Taliana - Engagement

Summary:

The need you buried deep
The secrets that you keep are ever ready
Are you ready?
I’m finished making sense
Done pleading ignorance
That whole defense
Spinning infinity, boy
The wheel is spinning me
It’s never ending, never ending
Same old story
What if I say I’m not like the others?
What if I say I’m not just another
One of your plays, you’re the pretender
What if I say I will never surrender?

~ Foo Fighters, “The Pretender”

***

You know what time it is.

If smut isn't your thing, just skip this chapter. :P

Notes:

This is my first time actually posting smut, so be gentle, lol.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Astarion led Tali into the woods, trying to remember where he’d seen the opening in the trees. A few minutes later, he pulled her under a low branch and through some bushes, gesturing to a perfect spot ringed by trees, affording anyone in it a decent amount of privacy. He’d been fully prepared to seduce her tonight, but she had saved him the trouble. He took a deep breath, trying to settle into what he knew how to do, what he’d been trained to do, before turning back to her.

All part of the plan.

She was watching him closely, eyes dark, the hint of metallic emerald eyeliner she wore catching the moonlight. He pulled his shirt off, tossing it behind him, and slowly circled her, tracing his fingers across her side, her back, finally resting against the side of her face as he stood in front of her.

“I’ve been waiting for this,” he murmured to her, gently tucking a strand of hair back behind her ear, before running his fingers up to the tip, watching in satisfaction as her knees nearly buckled when he pinched it lightly. “Waiting to have you,” he continued, his hands dropping to her waist, catching the hem of her shirt. He carefully tugged at it, making it creep up and expose her bare skin to the night air inch by agonizing inch.

“You don’t have me yet,” she returned, as if she wasn’t standing in a secluded spot in the forest, getting undressed by a vampire that she’d propositioned.

“Don’t I though?” he said, her shirt edging up over her breasts. “You’re here, after all. And I don’t think you want to talk,” he whispered, pulling it completely over her head and dropping it beside her . He lowered his head, pressing cool, open mouthed kisses down her neck, across her collarbone, down her chest to capture a nipple in his mouth, his hand teasing the other.

She moaned, her fingers knotting in his hair as he nibbled at her.

“What do you want, Tali?” he murmured, releasing her nipple and moving back to her neck.

“I…oh, Gods,” she stuttered, as his hands stroked her bare skin and drove any sort of rational thought from her head. She was having a hard time remembering how to make sentences; Astarion touching her like this was drowning her mind with nothing but lust-filled thoughts. She finally got it together, asking, “What do you want, Astarion?”

He looked vaguely confused for just a moment, as if he had never been asked such a thing. But he recovered quickly, answering, “What do any of us want? Pleasure. Yours, mine…our collective ecstasy,” he said, untying her hair from its ponytail and inhaling her scent, all cinnamon and sweetness as it cascaded around him. “That’s what you want, isn’t it? To lose yourself in me?” he finished.

“Yes,” she answered instantly, making him grin. If she was being honest, she’d wanted that since the first night. There was something about this damn pale elf that pulled her in like a magnet, made her want him beyond all reason. “Please,” she said, her voice softer. She traced her hands down his back, vaguely registering the harsh ridges of scarring there before he backed her into the nearest tree, his knee knocking her legs apart to pin her in place. His mouth captured hers in a searing, passionate kiss; she clung to his neck and moaned as his tongue swept her mouth, his hands cupping her breasts. She pressed herself against the leg between hers, the pressure delicious and welcome.

Her hands went to his waist, intent on returning the pleasure he’d given her the other night, but he shifted out of her reach, catching her wrists in one hand and holding them against the tree above her. Tali moaned openly, feeling exposed, controlled, and painfully aroused. He chuckled against her, a hand moving to tug at her leggings, pushing them down.

“Hands on the tree, darling,” he told her, releasing her wrists so he could free her from her boots and leggings completely. She whimpered, keeping her hands pressed against the tree as he stripped her, goosebumps rising on her flesh in the cooling night air. He took a moment to admire her nude form; he hadn’t been able to tell much under her armor, but now that she was bare before him, he could see she was built like a dancer or an acrobat. Tiny, but not as delicate as one would think; she was all lean muscles and curves in all the right places. He ran his hands down her body, curving over her hips and caressing her thighs. He dropped to his knees in front of her, guiding her leg over his shoulder and exposing her beautifully to him.

Tali was having a hard time keeping her hands to herself, as well as not crumpling in place. The arm under her leg slid up, gripping her waist and stabilizing her. Then, a single finger tracing against her, dipping to press against her entrance.

“Gods, you’re soaked,” he marveled appreciatively. “This all for me, darling?” he asked, gazing up at her from his position between her legs. He swiped his fingers against her, a sharp inhale of breath coming out of her as he did. He held her eyes as he ran his tongue over his fingers, tasting her. Tali was pretty sure she was in imminent danger of combusting on the spot as she watched him.

“Will you just f*ck me already?” she panted, tangling her fingers in his hair.

“I think I told you to keep your hands to yourself,” he reminded her. “Patience, darling.” She whined, keening into a moan as he took a slow, deliberate lick up her folds. She clamped her hands back onto the tree, holding on for dear life as his tongue carefully caressed up one side, down the other, barely brushing against the bundle of nerves at the apex of her thighs. Her hips canted forward slightly into the air as she moaned, desperate for him to touch her.

“Astarion, please,” she begged, her nerves on fire, the heat between her legs almost unbearable at this point.

“Please what?” he asked innocently, peering up at her from between her thighs, the heat in his gaze undoing her even more.

“Touch me,” she gasped, struggling to keep her hands off his head.

He decided she’d squirmed enough for the moment, plunging two fingers deep inside her while assaulting her cl*t with his tongue, Tali yelping in response before clapping a hand over her mouth. He hooked his fingers at a well practiced angle, hearing her moans pitch up in response while he drew circles around her cl*t, occasionally stroking across it. Judging from her responses, he knew she was already balanced on the brink, waiting for him to throw her over the edge.

He paused in his ministrations, looking up at her before saying, “You are absolutely delicious, darling.” He scraped one of his fangs against her inner thigh lightly, licking up the thin line of blood that appeared, before diving back in, a low growl coming from his throat as he did.

f*ck,” hissed Tali, her nails digging into the tree so hard that she was sure she would have to pick bark out from under them later.

She had never had an experience like this; he knew exactly where and how to touch her in a way that set her on fire. Her moans had gone breathy and higher pitched as she rocked herself against his face, and he finally locked his lips around her cl*t, sucking slightly. Everything blurred wildly for a moment as her org*sm ripped through her, choking out his name. He kept a tight grip on her, working her through the aftershocks, before gently lowering her leg and standing, pressing her into the tree to kiss her. She could taste herself on his lips, salty and sweet, and she nearly buckled against him, her head dropping against his chest while she tried to catch her breath.

“Holy sh*t,” she muttered against his bare chest. She could practically feel his smirk above her as he slowly traced his fingers down her back, curving around the swell of her ass and pulling her closer.

He slid his hands back up, stroking down her arms and putting her hands on his waist, before raising her brows slightly at her. She chuckled, quickly unlacing his trousers, running a hand over the considerable bulge she could see in his leathers. She pulled him free, admiring him, eyes dark and lust-filled.

He kicked his pants away, stepping back so she could kneel in front of him. He gathered her hair back and held on to it, eyes pinned to her as she took him in hand, her tongue slowly swirling around the head of his co*ck, flattening her tongue to stroke the underside from base to tip. He leaned his head back, groaning, as she closed her mouth over him, her hand stroking the base of him as she did.

Tali stroked him, her lips caressing him in tandem, enjoying the momentary control she had over him, watching as his eyes nearly rolled back as she took him even deeper into her mouth.

“So good,” he breathed, fingers tightening in her hair. “Gods,” he muttered, his voice trailing off as she continued her work.

He pulled back from her a moment later, admiring the saliva shining on his co*ck, the bright look of bliss in her eyes, the way she was shifting and squirming.

“I need to be inside you, darling,” he told her, his voice low. He dropped to the ground, pulling her with him, one of his knees fluidly moving between her legs to hitch one of her legs up as he crawled on top of her.

“Yes, please,” she said, hooking a leg around him as they settled against each other.

Tali reveled in the feel of his weight against her, the coolness of his skin, the faint citrusy smell that hung around him like a cloud. She could feel him nudging against her, and she moaned, shifting against him, her wetness rubbing against him and causing him to swear under his breath.

“Tell me what you want, Tali,” he whispered against her ear. It seemed a silly question to her, given the position they were currently in, but she was so desperate at this point that she didn’t question it.

“f*ck me,” she told him, rocking against him and causing him to slip inside her just a bit. “Please, Astarion,” she managed. He groaned, holding her hips steady. He met her eyes, a slight smile on his face, before he pressed forward, sheathing himself inside her in one swift motion.

f*ck,” she yelped, grabbing at his shoulders. He held still, forehead against her shoulder, body trembling like it was taking everything he had to give her a chance to adjust before he moved.

“Good?” he whispered against the shell of her ear.

“Very,” she gasped. He leaned back to smirk at her for a moment before starting a slow, deliberate pace, steadily unraveling her with the smooth rhythm of it.

“You feel so good wrapped around my co*ck, darling,” he told her, gripping her hips firmly. “So f*cking tight,” he continued, a groan rattling in his throat as he bottomed out in her.

Tali wrapped her legs around him, head back, eyes closed in ecstasy. She whimpered, raising her hips to meet him, and he smiled, setting into the rhythm he knew oh so well, drawing noises of pleasure from her with every movement.

Tali was pretty sure she’d hit some level of pleasure she hadn’t known existed until two minutes ago; while she certainly had a solid bit of experience, Astarion was an entirely different beast. The fullness inside her, stretching her to her limits, the addictive rhythm of his hips, the way he knew how to manipulate her body - she had never had sex like this before. She supposed she shouldn’t have been surprised that he was exactly as good at this as his insinuations and flirting had suggested, but in her experience, the most confident men were some of the worst she’d ever had. Astarion was, rather clearly, an exception to the rule.

She opened her eyes, looking up at Astarion as he drove into her, a frisson of alarm settling through her when she saw his face. It was the same look she’d seen after he’d killed the ogre - he was there, but he wasn’t.

“Hey,” she whispered, a hand behind his head. “Come back to me,” she said.

He blinked a few times, refocusing on the woman below him. This was Taliana; she defended him to the group, she let him drink her blood, she bantered with him and sassed him like no one else ever had. She had saved him from an ogre bashing his skull in without question. This was Tali. She saw him. She was his choice, not Cazador’s.

He lowered his face to kiss her, a blaze of unexpected emotion surging through him. He slipped a hand between them to tease his fingers against her, groaning when he felt her walls clamp down around him in response.

“Are you going to come for me, darling?” he asked, increasing the pressure against her cl*t.

“I - gods - Astarion - you’re going to make me -” she panted against him, feeling the heat pool between her legs, balancing on the precipice of her org*sm, body tense against him.

“That’s it,” he murmured, thrusting into her warmth vigorously as his fingers toyed with her cl*t. “I want to hear you,” he breathed into her ear, as he delivered the perfect amount of pressure against her most sensitive bundle of nerves.

“Astarion - f*ck -” she managed before she came apart beneath him, her org*sm a full-body experience as lights collided behind her eyes. Her body jerked up into his, and she moaned his name again, gripping his arms in an attempt to stabilize herself as pleasure tore through her.

He picked up the pace, his name on her lips driving him dangerously close to the edge. She tilted her head back in invitation, and he plunged his fangs into her neck, blood pouring into his mouth as he spilled himself inside her.

f*ck,” she swore, muscles still fluttering around his co*ck as he stilled inside her. He moaned against her neck, forcing himself to let go of her.

“f*cking hells, Tali,” he gasped, licking the last traces of blood off her throat. “You taste even better with my co*ck inside you.”

“Gods,” she managed, legs still wrapped around him. She reached up to run a hand over his curls, tugging him down so she could kiss him. He tasted like wine and iron, and she ran her tongue against his, tasting her blood in his mouth. It was…surprisingly not bad, she thought to herself.

He finally pulled out of her, causing her to whine at the loss of fullness inside her. He chuckled, rolling onto his back in the grass, extending an arm to her. She curled against him immediately, her head in the hollow of his shoulder, his hand on her waist, a leg tangled over his, one hand tracing abstract patterns across his chest.

Astarion ran his fingers through her hair, letting it slip through like silk, her scent fluttering towards him even more as he did. He leaned over to press a kiss against the side of her head, relaxing.

“You good?” she asked softly. He nodded against her, his grip on her waist tightening. She smiled, nuzzling against him.

“Sleep, love,” he murmured quietly.

She closed her eyes, and with the weight of him pressing against her side, she slept.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 16: Astarion - Memory

Summary:

My body is a cage
That keeps me from dancing with the one I love
But my mind holds the key -

~ Arcade Fire, "My Body Is a Cage"

***

Please see RavenROSE_99's beautiful short here that covers this chapter and the next.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lecenbpPMsM&t=13s&ab_channel=RavenROSE_99

Notes:

This chapter and the following are, possibly, my favorite two in this entire work.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The camp was quiet, just the way he liked it.

Astarion was lounging in front of his tent, leaning against a plush, red pillow and reading a book he’d borrowed from Wyll the other night. Shadowheart and Taliana were sitting near the fire, chatting softly, the buzz of their conversation barely registering.

“Goodnight, then,” Shadowheart said, getting to her feet and heading for her tent.

“Night!” called Taliana cheerfully. She also got to her feet, stretching momentarily before bending and twisting, rubbing at her lower back.

Astarion had gone back to his book when she approached, leaning down over him.

“Has anyone ever told you how adorable you are when you’re brooding over a book?” she asked, a teasing note in her voice.

He rolled his eyes at her, chuckling. “Darling, as intoxicating as your presence is, the last thing I need right now is your witty commentary.”

“Hrmph. Pity,” she said, standing and swishing away. “Try not to have TOO much fun over there, darling,” she called. She sank back down by the fire, warming her hands near it.

Astarion shook his head as he watched her go, amused. He loved her teasing, although he would never admit to it.

Quiet fell back over the camp.

Astarion returned to his book, studiously ignoring Taliana, who was still sitting near the fire. His fingers toyed with the corner of the page, about to turn it.

The silence was broken by Tali, humming softly to herself as she rubbed her hands together.

Astarion froze; somewhere deep in the recesses of his mind, a sliver of remembrance had broken loose. He knew this song. He knew it. Beautiful and ethereal.

Taliana kept humming quietly, eventually switching to actual notes, but no real words. Just a melody, soft and delicate. The sound of flowers blossoming. Of the moon rising. Sweet and effervescent. He couldn’t quite place the melody as it swirled through him, and then -

oh gods

he remembered he remembered he remembered

His back burned like it was on fire, and under his fingers he could feel the rough stone floor, tacky with his own blood.

He gripped the corner of the page so hard that it ripped beneath his fingers. His eyes were watering fiercely and he had to blink rapidly to try to hold the impending breakdown back.

From her spot by the fire, Taliana glanced over at him. The look on his face made her breath catch in her throat; he looked like he was about to fall to pieces. She paused in her humming, trying to work out what was going on.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you meant for me to be quiet indefinitely,” she offered, raising her eyebrows at him.

“No, I -” he started, breaking off when he heard how shaky his voice was.

He took a deep breath and tried again. “Please, feel free to continue,” he said softly. “It’s…rather pleasant, actually.”

She studied him closely; it was clear she could tell something else was going on here. He prayed she would let it go, because he felt like he was about to shatter.

Finally, she nodded, drawing her knees up to her chest and continued her humming, occasionally switching into the sung notes, poking at the fire as she did.

He stared at his book, not seeing a single word anymore. All he could see was that awful cell, with its tiny little grate of a window, the dried blood all over his hands, the pile of rat bones in the corner.

Her voice echoed in his ears as he remembered the little game he used to play each night, trying to picture who might be producing the sounds that gave him life. Gave him hope.

The reality was more beautiful than anything he could have ever dreamed of.

He wasn’t sure he’d ever felt like this; the swell of emotions tearing through him felt like it was about to drown him. He slapped his book shut, lowering his head into his hands and taking a deep, shaking breath.

He was so lost in his own head that he didn’t realize that Tali had approached him. He felt a tentative hand on his shoulder and fought the urge to scream.

“Astarion?”

He just shook his head. He couldn’t answer the questions he knew she must have right now. Couldn’t even look at her, for Gods’ sake. This was a complication he’d never seen coming, shattering any plans he had had into bits.

“Astarion,” she said, a little more firmly. She sat next to him, scooting closer. He tensed up, coiled like a spring and ready to snap.

Then, the lightest of touches on his hair, her fingers tucking a curl back behind his ear.

“It’s okay,” she whispered, leaning her head to rest on his shoulder. He wanted to laugh, to snap at her to leave him alone, to start running and never come back -

He did none of those things. Instead, he closed his eyes and rested his head against hers, the melody still swirling in his head.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3
~ nyxue

Chapter 17: Taliana - Melody

Summary:

Dancing on wire
Both ends are on fire
Cut me loose -
Nowhere to run
No more room to pretend...

~ Queens of the Stone Age, "I Appear Missing"

***

This chapter and the prior are probably my favorite two in the entire work. I hope you love them.

Please see RavenROSE_99's beautiful animated short that this chapter and the previous were based on. It's stunning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lecenbpPMsM&t=23s&ab_channel=RavenROSE_99

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Tali couldn’t figure out what had just happened.

She’d spent a pleasant evening chatting with Shadowheart; a few more evenings like this and they might, possibly, even become friends without the help of wine. Madness. The cleric kept her secrets to herself, offering very little personal information, but they were slowly getting there. She’d at least managed to find out what her favorite flower was. World-shattering knowledge, really.

She’d stood to stretch before noticing Astarion still awake, his nose in a book as per usual. She was pretty sure he actually read more than Gale did, which was quite surprising since the wizard lived for knowledge. Astarion seemed a bit different; while Gale gravitated to magical tomes and esoteric texts, Astarion would read anything he could get his hands on. She appreciated his approach, really; it must be nice to be able to escape into any book one picked up.

She considered going to bed, but decided to flirt with him a bit first. They hadn’t spoken about the night after the tiefling party, and Tali didn’t want to be the one to bring it up. Astarion was painfully difficult to read most of the time, and the last thing she wanted was to make a complete fool out of herself by reading more into it than a good time.

He shooed her off after her attempt, going back to his book. Tali sighed in disappointment, sitting back by the fire to sulk, reminding herself she’d at least gotten one amazing experience from him. She poked at the fire absentmindedly with a stick, humming to herself; eventually she let a few notes slip out, enjoying herself.

That was when she snuck a glance at Astarion, and dropped the stick she was holding.

The look on his face was absolutely haunted; if anything, he’d gone even paler than normal. She panicked slightly, finally saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize you meant for me to be quiet indefinitely,”

“No, I -” he started, breaking off immediately. His voice was shaky and uneven; he couldn’t meet her eyes. “Please, continue,” he said softly, his voice almost back to normal. “It’s…rather pleasant, actually.”

She studied his face in the dwindling firelight for a moment; she couldn’t quite work out the expression on his face. It looked like he was trying his hardest to look ‘normal’, but was a half-step away from going to pieces.

Tali sat back, resuming her humming. She kept glancing towards Astarion; he eventually slapped his book shut and leaned forward, putting his face in his hands.

She had a bit of an internal struggle for a moment; she didn’t want to leave him, but at the same time, he was giving off intense ‘please leave me alone’ vibes. She finally approached him cautiously.

“Astarion?”

He shook his head, refusing to look at her.

“Astarion,” she tried again, firmer this time. She sank down next to him, scooting close enough that their shoulders touched. She could feel the tension in his body; she half expected him to bolt inside his tent.

His hands shook ever so slightly, betraying him. She reached up a cautious hand, carefully tucking one of his silvery-white curls back behind his beautifully pointed ear. He let out a shuddering breath, tensing even more.

“It’s okay,” she whispered to him. She leaned her head onto his shoulder, gazing into the remains of the fire. A beat of silence passed, then another; she felt some of the tension melt out of him as he leaned his head against hers.

They sat there for an indefinite amount of time; the fire had burned down to just smoldering coals when he finally moved.

He pulled away from her, studying her closely, like he’d never actually seen her before.

Perhaps he hadn’t.

He reached a hand up to cup the side of her face, his thumb gently stroking along her cheek. Tali closed her eyes, leaning into his touch. A moment later, his lips pressed against hers softly, his other hand curving around her waist to pull her closer before resting his forehead on her shoulder.

“What is it?” she asked him.

He shook his head against her.

“Another night, Tali,” he whispered. He finally met her eyes before saying, “I’ll break if I try right now.”

She blinked at him in surprise; she hadn’t expected that level of raw honesty. He dropped his head back to her shoulder, his face against the crook of her neck.

“Okay,” she whispered back, stroking his hair. He closed his eyes, a content noise coming from him as she did.

Feeling completely unsure of herself, she finally asked, “Would it be all right if I stayed with you? I’m not expecting anything, I just…kind of feel like I shouldn’t leave you alone right now.”

He sat back, clearly perplexed by her offer.

“I…I think I’d like that,” he said thoughtfully.

She crawled past him into his tent without another word. His bedroll was topped with an assortment of plush blankets and a few overstuffed, embroidered pillows. She sat down near a pillow, waiting as he followed her in. He laid down, pulling a fluffy red blanket up over himself before tilting his head at her. She smiled a bit before laying down next to him, tugging the blanket over herself as well.

Silence.

He looked over at her, uncertainty all over his face. She held her arms out towards him and he only hesitated for a moment before he closed the gap between them, resting his head on her chest. She wrapped one arm around his shoulders and used her other hand to stroke his hair, feeling him start to slowly relax against her.

“Okay?” she whispered. Something about the whole situation felt incredibly delicate, like she was walking a tightrope with him but didn’t know the act.

He nodded against her, content.

Līrĭnen cuivië-lancassë”, he whispered, so quiet she could barely hear him.

“I - what?” she asked. Her Elvish was more than a bit rusty; she hadn’t spoken it daily since she was a child.

He didn’t answer.

“Okay,” she whispered. “It’s okay.”

He squeezed her a bit tighter, and Tali nestled her face in his curls, closing her eyes and waiting for sleep.

Notes:

So let me tell you all when I knew I'd officially gone off the deep end with this project. It was when I found myself spending nearly three hours one night trying to translate a single phrase in Elvish.

You'd be surprised at how damn hard that is. Are there English to Elvish translation sites? Yep. Did each one give me a WILDLY different result? Also yep.

This was the resource I ended up using. It was all pain.

https://eldamo.org/content/language-pages/lang-q.html

You'll find out what it means later. :)

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 18: Astarion - Interruptions

Summary:

You blame yourself
For what you can’t ignore
You blame yourself for wanting more
She’s the one for me
She’s all I really need
She’s the one for me
She’s my one and only…

~ Smashing Pumpkins, “Zero”

***

After last night's revelations, Astarion is struggling to figure things out.

In the meantime, there's always some inconvenient interruptions.

Notes:

This is where the creative liberties are starting to kick in. A lot of familiar events will appear in this work, but may be somewhat out of order or have dialogue somewhat altered. I've tried to keep the general spirit of things, but to fit my head canon, sometimes things had to change slightly. Please don't be too mad, I promise I had reasons!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

When Astarion came out of his trance early the next morning, he was pleasantly warm for once. It took him a moment to realize that it was because Taliana was still asleep, snuggled close against him. He smiled a bit, reaching over to brush some loose hair away from her face, and she nuzzled closer to him in her sleep.

Gods. I think she broke me.

He laid back, studying the roof of his tent, the heat of Tali’s body comforting against his. The warmth was soothing, and he wrapped an arm back around her, letting it spread through his limbs.

Astarion was at a bit of a loss when he really thought about it; his normal routine was always to seduce someone and then bring them back to Cazador. The sheer idea of spending more than one night with the same person was completely foreign. And yet, after his realization last night, he already knew that he wanted more than just one night with Tali.

Hells. I want more than nights.

He peered down at the delicate wood elf who had completely blown his defenses apart as if her sleeping face somehow held the answers he was seeking. He had the curious sensation that she had somehow unintentionally dropped the guard he was so used to keeping up. It was almost as if realizing that she had been his lifeline for so long - even if it had been unknowingly - had completely snapped some key part of his brain when it came to protecting itself with her. To be honest, it scared the absolute hells out of him, but at the same time, the idea of not having her scared him even more.

She was his. She was always supposed to be. He just hadn’t known such a thing was even possible for him.

He leaned over, brushing a kiss against her forehead, a hand stroking down her back steadily. After a few strokes, she cracked open one dark eye, a smile spreading over her face as she saw him.

“Hi,” she whispered shyly.

“Morning, darling,” he said, leaning in to rest his forehead against hers.

“You good?” she asked tentatively.

“Very,” he told her, pulling her a bit closer.

Her smile spread. She tilted her head up, and he leaned down to kiss her gently. Then, not so gently. And then her fingers were knotting in his hair, and he was shifting on top of her, kissing his way down the column of her throat.

She had just let out a sigh of satisfaction when there was a sudden commotion from outside the tent.

“That relic belongs to my people! You will return it!”

“I could just slit your throat now, you know. If anyone asks, I’ll tell them you were turning.”

Before he could even react, Tali had rolled out from under him and pushed her way out of his tent into the dim light that came before dawn. He followed a moment later, taking in the scene before him with a cross of amusem*nt and annoyance.

Shadowheart was hovering over Lae’zel, a dagger to her throat, the strange artifact she was always toying with discarded in the dirt beside the pair.

“What the f*ck are you two even doing?” said Taliana, a current of rage all too apparent in her tone.

Shadowheart leaned down farther, pressing her knee firmly against Lae’zel’s chest. “She wishes to take the artifact that I’ve been tasked to carry away from me. She claims it’s some sort of Githyanki relic,” she snapped, her dagger moving precariously close to the other woman’s throat.

“And she has stolen a Githyanki relic. She should not have it. It belongs with my people,” hissed Lae’zel.

Taliana stormed over to them, anger practically crackling off her skin.

“Get the f*ck off her, Shadowheart. You don’t want to do that.”

The cleric eyed her for a moment, weighing the threat, before she pushed herself away from the Gith, still holding her dagger.

Lae’zel clambered to her feet, seething. “If you wish to fight for it, istik, I would be happy to grant you a swift death,” she growled at Shadowheart, stepping backwards to scoop up her sword.

“I’d love to see you try,” sniffed Shadowheart.

Lae’zel let out a scathing hiss, and as she started for Shadowheart, clearly intent on skewering her, Taliana stepped in front of her.

Astarion was now watching with alarm; Tali had no armor on, and no weapons.

“Get out of my way, Taliana,” snapped Lae’zel.

“No.”

“She needs to pay for her crime. That belongs with my people!” Lae’zel’s sword arm was trembling, the blade drifting uncomfortably close to Taliana.

“No, Lae’zel.”

Taliana was, by far, the smallest person in the camp, and yet, here she was, facing down a highly pissed off Githyanki warrior and a Sharran cleric with a generous amount of dangerous spells in her back pocket. She barely came up to their shoulders, and standing in between them unarmored, she looked positively tiny.

Astarion took a step forward, but her hand shot out his direction instantly, gesturing for him to stop. Wyll and Karlach were both hovering outside their tents, and Gale was frozen in place, peering out the flap of his tent.

“That little artifact is the only thing keeping us from turning into mindflayers,” snapped Taliana. “If you’d prefer that, Lae’zel, by all means, take it. But I want you to stand there and watch while it happens.”

Lae’zel glared at her, clearly pondering the choice. “I would not mind watching the cleric become one,” she hissed. “But I would prefer not to see the rest of you suffer.”

“Stand down, Lae’zel. Now.”

“T’chk,” she muttered, sheathing her sword on her hip.

Taliana spun around to face Shadowheart next. “You had that with you when I met you. I will assume, for now, that it is yours, regardless of how it came to be in your possession. I do not believe you purposely stole it from a Githyanki vault.”

“That’s because I didn’t,” she said, still glaring daggers at Lae’zel. “It was given to me to bring to the city.”

“Fine, then. Until proven otherwise, I will assume it’s yours. Now put your f*cking dagger away, Shadowheart.”

The cleric gave her a deadly look, but Taliana didn’t even blink as she stared her down. “I’m not kidding, Shadowheart. Put it away.”

“Fine,” she said, annoyance lacing through her voice as she replaced it in her boot.

Taliana turned, eyeing the rest of them. “Does anyone else have some burning desire to kill someone in camp this morning, or can we eat some damn breakfast and try to get these worms out of our heads before those kill us?”

Silence.

“That’s what I thought.”

She spun on her heel and stalked back to Astarion’s tent, ducking back inside without a word.

Astarion stood outside his tent, completely thrown off as everyone slowly turned to stare at him.

He shrugged, tossing a smirk towards the group, and ducked back inside his tent.

Tali was sitting on his bedroll, face in her hands, her breaths shaky as she pulled them in and out.

“Taliana? Hey,” he said, somewhat awkwardly. He sat next to her, resting a hand on her shoulder.

“I’m fine,” she said, her voice trembling a bit. “Just working the adrenaline out.”

“I have to say, darling, that was rather impressive.”

She snorted, raising her head so she could look at him.

“I’m serious,” he said. “There you are, this tiny little unarmed ranger, and the fierce Githyanki warrior and the bitch on wheels Sharran cleric would rather stand down than f*ck with you.”

Taliana looked at him, amusem*nt creeping into her eyes, before she suddenly snorted with laughter.

He started to chuckle too. “You have no idea how entertaining - yet terrifying - that was to watch, darling,” he teased.

She swatted his shoulder, still laughing.

“Gods,” she managed. “I can only imagine the heckling I’m going to get once everyone gets over the shock of them trying to murder each other and realizes I came out of your tent.”

He shrugged. “Let them. I don’t care.”

She studied his face, a grin breaking over her own. “Me either. Want to have some really loud sex and make it even more awkward?”

He shook his head at her, snickering. “As much as I’d love to ravage you, darling, we probably need to join them for breakfast before another fight breaks out.”

She chuckled, leaning in to kiss him before waltzing out of his tent, head held high.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 19: Taliana - Gossip Girls

Summary:

Well, I've got a secret, I cannot say
Blame all the movement to give it away
You've got something, I understand
Holding it tightly, caught on command
Leap of faith, do you doubt?
I cut you in, I just cut you out
Whatever you do
Don't tell anyone...

~ Queens of the Stone Age, "The Lost Art of Keeping a Secret"

***

There are few things I love writing more than some good old-fashioned girl gossip.

TW : Excessive fluff and silliness.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

The Underdark was not exactly Taliana’s favorite place to be, all things considered.

It was painfully slow going; everything they encountered seemed hell-bent on killing them, slowing them down, or otherwise inconveniencing them. She was more than over it by the end of the first day.

She did enjoy seeing all the exotic plants and flora around; everything seemed to glow with an otherworldly light. If one was able to forget that most of it wanted to kill you, it was almost downright pretty.

They had left the warmth of the sun behind, trudging along the cool pathways that lined the Underdark. Tali held her bow loosely in her hand, hoping she was being overly cautious, but the way things had gone so far, it seemed a foregone conclusion that she’d need it before long.

“This is not my idea of a good time,” Shadowheart muttered, falling into step beside her.

“I know. Mine either.”

“Hrmph.”

“Anything I can do to make it better?”

The cleric eyed her for a moment, a bit of a sly smile sneaking onto her face.

“I don’t like that look, Shadowheart,” Tali said, chewing on her lower lip.

“A bit of gossip always does my spirit good,” Shadowheart said, giving her a side eye.

Tali rolled her eyes, looking around. The two of them were in the middle of the pack, decently separated from the others.

“Fine,” she hissed. “What?”

Shadowheart had the nerve to look absolutely delighted with this turn of events.

“I was just wondering how things went after the party,” she said, a wicked gleam in her eye.

Tali flushed, pretending to be extremely interested in a glowing mushroom she had just walked past.

“I never really got a chance to ask,” she continued.

“That’s because you were too busy trying to murder Lae’zel.”

Shadowheart sniffed dismissively. “Yes, yes, whatever. Don’t change the topic, Tali.”

“Shadowheart,” she whined. The cleric was nearly giddy at this point; she was clearly enjoying making her squirm.

“It’s just, my tent was the farthest from camp, you see.”

Taliana squeezed her eyes shut, making a mental note to kill Astarion for not realizing how close to camp they had been. Then she paused, wondering if she needed to kill him for knowing exactly how close to camp they had been and not caring. Either was possible, she supposed.

“And, well, sound carries at night,” Shadowheart continued, her eyes sparkling.

“Oh my gods,” Tali huffed. “Why are you even asking if you already know?”

“Because I didn’t know for sure until you looked ready to die at the possibility of sound carrying.”

Taliana practically tripped over her own feet, sputtering, while Shadowheart burst into laughter.

“Oh, you bitch,” Tali said, not unkindly. “That was good.”

“I know,” said Shadowheart, giving her a deceptively sweet smile.

Tali shook her head, unsure if she needed to be mad or impressed.

Karlach bounced up to join them, poking at a mushroom as they went past.

“What are we talking about?”

“Taliana’s afterparty adventures.”

“Oh, right,” said the tiefling, her eyes lighting up. “You were f*cking Fangs, yeah?”

“Karlach!!” squawked Tali in protest. She went to shove her before thinking better of it, settling for giving her a death glare.

“What?” asked Karlach, eyes wide. “I thought that was like…common knowledge?”

“What the f*ck,” muttered Taliana. “Does everyone think I’m sleeping with him?”

“Yes,” Shadowheart and Karlach said in unison.

Taliana groaned. “Oh, for f*ck’s sake.”

“Well, I mean, you are, aren’t you?”

“It - I - gods. It was once.”

“And you really expect me to believe you’d turn down a second chance? Especially since you came out of his tent last night?” asked Shadowheart, chuckling. “Tali, it’s been clear since the first night that he had a thing for you.”

“A ‘thing’?”

“You are literally the only person he listens to here, ever.”

“That’s because I somehow ended up in charge. I would like to file a formal complaint about that, actually.”

“Tough luck, soldier. I think you’re stuck at this point.”

“Well, sh*t.”

There was a pause, and all three of them started giggling.

“What is going on back there?” called Wyll. He was a decent distance ahead, walking with Lae’zel and the vampire currently in question.

“Nothing!” they all yelled back.

“I believe they are having some good old fashioned girl talk,” Astarion drawled. He’d been listening the entire time, and he was rather enjoying himself. If he was being honest, getting good gossip and secrets was probably one of his favorite pastimes.

“What, do you want to join us?” Shadowheart called to him. Tali elbowed her firmly, the cleric snickering in response.

“I do enjoy gossip,” he called back. “But since I seem to be the topic, I’ll leave you to it.”

Tali froze in her tracks, her face turning a rather interesting shade of red.

“Vampire hearing, darling,” he called, answering her unasked question.

“Well, f*ck,” she grumbled. Beside her, Shadowheart was nearly cackling with glee at this revelation.

“There’s really only one thing to do now, you know,” she told Tali.

“What’s that?”

“How was it?”

Taliana paused, shaking her head. Ahead of her, she could see Astarion also pause, clearly waiting for her answer. He turned, flashing her a wicked smile, all fangs and danger, sending a thrill through her.

“It was f*cking fantastic,” she said with a grin.

It may have been her imagination, but she was pretty sure Astarion had pulled himself up taller and was preening somewhat. He turned around again, blowing her a kiss, before falling back into step next to Wyll.

Karlach and Shadowheart were both gawking at her and giggling.

“Well, you asked,” Tali pointed out.

Karlach sighed heavily. “I really wish I could touch people. I need to get laid.”

Shadowheart eyed her. “If you fix that heat problem, let me know.” It was hard to tell due to the red skin, but Taliana was pretty sure Karlach was blushing furiously.

“Gods,” said Tali, giggling. “This entire camp is going to have carnal knowledge of each other by the time we’re done.”

“We can only hope, darling!”

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 20: Astarion - Violet Sky

Summary:

I am not a stranger to the dark
Hide away, they say
Cause we don’t want your broken parts
I’ve learned to be ashamed of all my scars
Run away, they say
No one’ll love you as you are…

~ Keala Settle, “This Is Me”

***

The Underdark is always a good time. In other news, Taliana is really good with a bow and Astarion lets someone in.

This is the point where my head canon takes over fully when it comes to some of Astarion's background. More explanation in the end notes.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

“Don’t step in that, Tali!”

Taliana skidded to a stop, carefully hopping over the pile of moss at her feet. She gave Halsin an apologetic smile and continued down the path, bow in hand.

“Why does everything here want to kill us?” mumbled Gale, looking distressed. “I hate it.”

“Awww, come on, mate, it’s not that bad. It’s kind of pretty, even!” said Karlach, poking at a glowing mushroom.

“Would you all stop complaining and just WALK?” That was Shadowheart, clearly exasperated with everyone. In her defense, she’d been busy; everything in here did want to kill them, and her healing had been spread thin at this point.

“This ground is quite unstable,” said Lae’zel. “I do not like the vibrations.”

“Vibrations?” said Astarion, somewhat alarmed.

“Yes, can you not feel it, vampire?”

“I can’t say I’ve noticed them, darling.”

Wyll spoke up. “I thought the ground was rolling under my feet as well a moment ago, but I thought I was just imagining things.”

Taliana huffed, stopping and turning to the group. “Is ANYONE else sure the ground is vibrating or otherwise doing something strange?”

Silence.

“Maybe you two need to walk on the other side of the path,” she said, directing her comment to Lae’zel and Wyll.

“Fine,” snapped Lae’zel. Wyll shrugged, following her to the other side of the path.

As he did, there was a sudden, violent rumble from beneath them, enough to knock Wyll straight into the Gith, who caught him reluctantly before shoving him away.

“Okay, that I felt,” said Shadowheart. “What in the hells is -”

She was cut off when a creature blasted out of the dirt near her feet, throwing itself across their path and smacking into Gale from behind, sending him sprawling. It was heavily armored, and vaguely resembled a giant centipede.

“Bulette!” snapped Halsin. He shifted to his bear form, charging the creature before anyone else could react.

Taliana scaled the nearest mushroom in the blink of an eye; across from her, Astarion was doing the same. He lined up an arrow, then huffed in dismay. The creature was heavily armored, and any arrows were sure to be a waste.

Right as that thought left his head, an arrow flew from Tali’s position, wedging itself in the miniscule gap in the armored plates. Astarion spun around to gawk at her - he was much closer to the creature than she was, and he knew even in this position, he wouldn’t have a prayer of doing what she just had.

Another arrow flew, burying itself in yet another tiny gap.

“What the hells,” muttered Astarion, boggling at the delicate figure across from him. Below him, Karlach had used her axe to pry an armor plate off the creature, and Lae’zel was joyously impaling it.

“Is that it?” called Tali.

“Looks like it,” Halsin called back. “They rarely travel in packs.”

She slid down from her perch, shouldering her bow as she did.

“That was some impressive shooting,” Gale told her, his eyes adoring.

Oh, hell no.

“Yes, darling, quite marvelous,” he said, swishing behind her and smoothing the hood of her purple cloak back over her head, glaring daggers at Gale as he did so. The wizard met his eyes, distaste plain on his face, before turning away without a word.

Astarion barely refrained from rolling his eyes into the next week.

“We should probably find somewhere to camp soon,” called Tali.

Murmurs of agreement rose amongst the group, everyone looking around.

“There’s a cave over here, if you all would follow me,” said Halsin mildly.

“How do you know that?” asked Gale.

“I spent a generous amount of time in the Underdark in my youth,” the druid answered, somewhat side-stepping the question. “I still know it well.”

Taliana shrugged. “Good enough for me. Follow the bear.”

Sure enough, Halsin led them to a cave before long. It was a good space to camp; enough room to spread out, but not so deep that one couldn’t see all the walls. Astarion approved of the druid’s choice and set to work putting his tent up.

After the general hubbub of the evening meal had died down, Taliana set up a schedule to keep watch; even with the cave, none of them trusted the Underdark in the slightest. Astarion had a late shift; he headed to his tent in the meantime, needing some time to think.

He curled up in his nest of blankets, thinking over the night before. If anyone had told him that the person responsible for the melody that had kept him alive for months upon months was in this little mindflayer-infected group, he would have laughed at the ridiculousness of it all. But it wasn’t ridiculous; it was real and he was at a complete loss as to how to handle it. He’d had a plan, after all, and here Tali was, blowing his plan to bits without the slightest hesitation. Without even KNOWING she was doing it.

Damn her.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. He wasn’t supposed to start to care. Caring never went well in his world; one always lost anything they called their own. But he DID care. She’d saved him, even though she didn’t know it. Any time he looked at her now, that was all he could think of, and trying to keep his usual distance firmly in place was becoming nigh impossible. It was like she had completely broken him without even meaning to.

“Gods,” he muttered to himself. “What am I even doing?” He rolled over, adjusting his blankets.

After a generous attempt at trying to trance, he huffed to his feet, figuring he’d keep whoever was on duty company. Granted, he knew he wasn’t always the best company, but sitting alone in his tent with his thoughts wasn’t ideal. He prayed it wouldn’t be the wizard; then again, he could always blame his untimely disappearance on the dangers of the Underdark, if it came down to it.

Luckily for Gale, Wyll was perched on a fallen log at the mouth of the cave, a hand on his rapier, staring out into the Underdark with that strange stone eye of his. Astarion took care to walk loudly enough that he didn’t scare the hells out of him. The last thing he needed was to wake up Shadowheart to get her to heal him after Wyll impaled him if he snuck up on him. The warlock heard him, spinning around and smiling when he saw him.

“Can’t sleep?”

“Not a bit. It’s too…still here.”

Wyll nodded like that made perfect sense to him. He stretched his legs out in front of him, crossing his ankles as he did so. They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes, staring out into the darkness.

“You’re from the city, aren’t you?” Wyll finally asked him, breaking the silence.

He nodded once. “Indeed. Not originally, of course, but it’s been home for the last two centuries.”

“Where were you from originally?”

Astarion hesitated, weighing the question for a moment before he finally answered. “Sildëyuir.”

Wyll frowned. “I’m unfamiliar with that name.”

“I’m not surprised,” he said. “It’s part of the Feywild. A demiplane.”

Wyll’s eyes lit up with recognition. “The Feywild? Fascinating.”

He nodded tersely. As a general rule, he tried to NOT think of his homeland. He hadn’t been back in well over two hundred years. It tended to make him feel some strange sense of loss, of longing, that he found deeply uncomfortable.

“I…don’t remember it well. I was quite young, even by elf standards, when I lived there. Vague impressions. Feelings. I’m not sure,” he concluded, breaking off abruptly.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to pry,” said Wyll earnestly.

“It’s fine, darling. After two centuries I have found that my mortal memories are nothing but foggy shapes that never really settle into anything that feels real, if that makes sense.”

This was mostly true. He did have a few very clear bits that remained, but they were things he held deep inside; for centuries, those shreds of memory were the only things that were truly his. He cherished them more than he could ever explain; if he closed his eyes and concentrated, he could still see the darkness that permeated the land, the lush, inky shade of violet that colored the sky, the stars that sparkled brighter than any he’d ever seen outside of his home. He had the vaguest memories of soaring towers, all glass and the palest, whitest stones, of the music and magic that pulsed in the air, the way the air was alive with it.

He also remembered the mist, but that was a part he had tried to forget. Of course, that was the part he remembered the best.

Appeased, Wyll sat back. Astarion wondered, not for the first time, why the man was so NICE all the time.

“It’s the home of the star elves,” he said softly. He wasn’t even sure why he offered that bit of information up. Perhaps because Wyll seemed happy to just take whatever knowledge he deemed worthy of giving him.

“Really?” asked Wyll, intrigued. “That name I do know. A type of high elf, yes?” Astarion nodded. “Fairly reclusive, from what little I’ve heard?” He nodded again.

“How old were you when you left?” the warlock inquired. Astarion glanced at him, and upon seeing nothing but true curiosity on his face, he decided to answer.

“Very young. Time passes strangely in the demiplane. We left when the mist came.” As soon as the sentence came out of his mouth, he wanted to kick himself.

“Mist?”

Astarion shook his head. To his recollection, he’d never spoken about that, ever. It was so, so long ago.

“Don’t worry about it. You don’t have to explain,” said Wyll, looking concerned.

He huffed, thinking. Finally, he said, “When I was a child, the nilshai came. From the Ethereal Plane. They started opening portals to their own realms, and when they did, the mist began to sweep through Sildëyuir. Their mist leaves blight in its wake. We left for other parts of the Feywild.” He was surprised with himself, at how well he actually did remember those events. He could remember the trees, the way they had blackened, the way the ground had swelled with pitch-black mud, the consistency of oil.

“I’m sorry you had to leave like that,” said Wyll softly. “That must have been difficult.”

“I don’t remember it very well. Nor do I remember much of what came after that until we came to Baldur’s Gate. My mortal memories of the city are very limited. I was a magistrate,” he said, stopping before he said too much. He also remembered the events that had led to him being turned, but that was something he planned to never speak into existence.

“Hmmm,” said Wyll, thoughtful. “I can see you as a magistrate,” he said, looking Astarion over with a grin. Astarion rolled his eyes at him, somewhat amused.

“Thank you,” he continued.

“For…what?”

The warlock shrugged at him. “For trusting me a tiny bit.” He cracked a smile at him, and Astarion snorted before shaking his head in amusem*nt.

“Don’t get used to it, now.”

“I would never.”

They both chuckled, staring out into the Underdark. Astarion gazed thoughtfully at some of the glowing mushrooms and fungus nearby, some long-ago wisp of memory itching just below the surface.

“There was moss like that,” he said suddenly.

“Like…what?”

He nods at the mushrooms. “The glow. It…grew on the trees, I think,” he murmured. In his mind’s eye he could almost see his childlike hand touching it, marveling at the glow, before running off to play. He shook his head, trying to focus.

“I bet it was beautiful,” Wyll said, tucking his legs under him.

“It was,” he said softly. “It was.”

Notes:

Okay so, stay with me here.

As best as I could tell from my research, there is no *official* word on exactly what flavor of High Elf Astarion is. There ARE a few clues pointing towards Moon, but my innate feeling was Star. He has a lot of the traits as per D&D standards, and his name's translation of Little Star also gave me that feeling. So, that was what I went with because it was what made sense to ME. For all we know, he could be half of each.

I understand some of the exact timeline does not perfectly line up, but there's also the fact that time passes differently in the demiplanes. So I'm going to suspend belief here and say that yes, I feel this is possible. I also fully accept that I may be completely wrong, but this was just what worked in my head. If I'm completely off base, my apologies, but I hope you enjoy it for the entertainment value. <3

I do, however, love the theory of Astarion keeping what bits he remembers deep inside as something Cazador could never touch or take away from him. I got stuck on that idea early on and when I was researching, Sildëyuir and its history made a lot of sense to me for him.

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 21: Astarion - Lethality

Summary:

If I could find a way to see this straight
I’d run away, to some fortune that
I should have found
By now
And so I run now to the things they said could restore me
Restore life the way it should be…

~ Young the Giant, “Cough Syrup”

***

Everyone hates the Underdark.

Astarion gets personal with Taliana.....in a 'I just want to ask questions' kind of way.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Astarion slumped against his tent, exhausted. From what he could tell, his fellow adventurers weren’t faring much better than he was. The Underdark was quickly sapping any good moods they had away at an alarming pace. In the last few hours alone, they’d gotten attacked by a minotaur and set off a bunch of strange arcane traps that pelted them with lasers. Shadowheart was so tired she could barely stand; the amount of healing she’d had to do had been ridiculous. Gale and Wyll had to practically carry her into the village. Astarion hated to admit it, but even he was worried about her.

After all, who else was going to heal him?

Taliana, thankfully, had negotiated their way into the myconid village, so they actually had some semblance of safety tonight. Astarion didn’t consider himself easily impressed, but Tali’s mental quickness when it came to negotiating tricky situations was truly top notch. He wasn’t sure where she’d acquired her skills, but he rather enjoyed watching her work her magic. Truth be told, it was kind of hot.

At the moment, it looked like Tali was negotiating with a trader near the edge of the village. He peered around, trying to see what everyone else was up to. Gale was poking at some of the native plants suspiciously, while Halsin was gesturing enthusiastically, clearly explaining their various uses. Lae’zel was kneeling by her tent, sharpening her weapons yet again, giving any of the myconids suspicious looks if they got anywhere near her. Shadowheart was laying on the ground near the fire, her head in Wyll’s lap, while Karlach sat nearby, looking concerned. Wyll was gently stroking Shadowheart’s hair; she looked absolutely wrecked from the day. Astarion pulled himself to his feet, rummaging in his pack for a moment before heading their direction.

“Here,” he said with no preamble, handing a large healing potion over. The cleric managed to open one eye to look at him.

“Thanks,” she mumbled. “I must look like sh*t if even you are trying to help me.”

“Darling, I’m wounded you think so little of me,” he told her.

Wyll chuckled, taking the bottle from him. “You want this, Shadow?” he asked her.

“Please,” she said, struggling to sit up. Astarion extended a hand for her to grab briefly, pulling her upright so she could lean back against Wyll.

The warlock carefully opened the bottle for her, and she took several long drinks, making a face at the taste.

“You’d think they’d have come up with a healing potion that didn’t taste like rotten herbs by now,” she mumbled. “But thank you, Astarion.”

“It must have helped, you actually have both eyes open now,” he teased her.

“You’re lucky I’m too exhausted to silence you.”

He grinned, taking a bow as she dropped back to the ground, putting her head back in Wyll’s lap. Taliana walked up a moment later, holding a blanket, which she carefully draped over the cleric.

Shadowheart chuckled, her eyes already closing. “Thanks, Tali.”

Taliana reached down, patting her shoulder reassuringly. “You need anything else?”

“Mmm-mmm,” the cleric mumbled. Wyll sighed, patting her hair gently.

Tali frowned, concerned. “I’ll come check on her in a bit,” she told him. “Come get me if she gets worse?” she continued, the second part directed to Karlach, who nodded.

“You got it, soldier,” the tiefling chirped.

Astarion trailed after Tali as she headed towards her tent. “Mind if I join you, darling?” he asked, as she crawled inside. She looked surprised for a moment before nodding.

Her tent was small, but cozy. Her bedroll was covered with several fluffy blankets, as well as a handful of soft pillows. He dropped down next to her, poking at the small pile of books nearby.

“I didn’t have you pegged as a reader of trashy romance novels,” he commented.

“What, do you want to borrow one?” she countered.

He peered at the titles. “The Dashing Rogue of the Gate? Is that one about me, darling?”

She cackled. “I don’t think so. Maybe there’s a sequel about you though.”

“I can only hope,” he said, giving his best wistful look. She snickered, sliding down to lay her head on a pillow, tugging a blanket up around her.

“I’m surprised you haven’t read it yet, since you have your nose in a book every time I look at you in camp,” she pointed out.

“I enjoy a good story, what can I say.”

“Oh, do you now?”

“I do,” he said. “Maybe you could tell me a story, Taliana. What did you use to do with yourself back in the city?” he asked. He had gotten steadily more curious about her the more he’d seen her in action, although he strongly suspected he knew at this point. But it was always entertaining to try to tease information out of people, and really, what else did he have to do tonight?

“What do you want to know?” she tossed back.

“Anything,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be anything exciting. Just tell me something about you.”

She was quiet for a moment, thinking. “I don’t like oranges.”

He snorted. “I was hoping for something a bit more personal, darling.”

“My favorite color is purple.”

“Oh, you’re living on the edge now,” he told her, chuckling.

“I worked for the Guild,” she said. He raised his eyebrows; that made a certain amount of sense.

“Should I even ask what you did for the Guild?”

“Whatever brought in the most coin,” she said with a shrug.

Astarion narrowed his eyes; he was familiar with the Guild and the work they did. While a lot of jobs entailed smuggling or con jobs, he knew exactly what jobs paid well. He eyed her, his gaze floating over to her bow, leaning against the wall of her tent.

Taliana’s face was giving nothing away. Astarion studied her carefully, nodding to himself.

“You’re not going to tell me, are you,” he finally said.

“Nope,” she said, smiling sweetly.

He chuckled, shaking his head. “You’re going to keep me on my toes, though, aren’t you.” It was a statement, not a question.

“Yep,” she answered, the sweet smile still on her face.

“Maybe,” he started, leaning in towards her, “I just need to weaken your defenses,” he murmured, leaning in to run his fangs lightly up her neck.

“Oh, that isn’t even fair,” she protested.

“I think it’s plenty fair,” he replied, moving to put a knee on each side of her thighs so he was kneeling above her. She reached up, pulling him down on top of her, giggling as he nibbled his way along her collarbone.

“I would like to remind you,” she managed, gasping as he ran his hands under her tunic, “that I need to check on Shadowheart in a minute.”

“Spoilsport,” he grumbled, rolling off her. She swatted at him, both of them laughing. He flopped down next to her, toying with her hair absentmindedly.

A pleasant silence hung between them as she curled against him while he combed his fingers through her hair.

“You know, don’t you?” she said softly.

Astarion contemplated her for a minute; he had been fairly sure for quite a while now, but her answers had all but confirmed it to him. “I believe so.”

She raised her eyebrows at him, waiting.

“I’m guessing you were a bow for hire,” he finally said. “And from what I’ve seen, I’d bet you were a damn lethal one.”

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Fun fact : after RavenROSE_99 previewed this I got a DM yelling "WAIT HOW DOES TALI HAVE THE SAME BACKGROUND AS MY TAV WTF"

Yes, we somehow mind-melded the same general background without having even spoken to each other. Go figure.

Chapter 22: Taliana - Missed Connection

Summary:

I feel something so wrong
Doing the right thing
I feel something so right
Doing the wrong thing
I couldn’t lie, couldn’t lie, couldn’t lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive…

~ OneRepublic, “Counting Stars”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Taliana rolled closer to Astarion as he ran his fingers through her hair, untying her ponytail.

His words hung in the air between them for what felt like an eternity before she sighed.

“Yes,” she finally said. She hadn’t planned on actually admitting to it, and now that it was out there, she wasn’t sure what to say.

“Where were you when the mindflayers took you?” he asked, his brow furrowed.

She sighed again.

“Wyrm Rock.”

“I don’t suppose you’re going to tell me which part of Wyrm Rock, darling?”

She rolled her eyes. “I think you know damn good and well which part, darling.”

“Should I even ask how you ended up there?” he asked mildly, carefully undoing the braids that framed her face.

“No,” she answered abruptly. “I don’t really want to talk about it.”

To her surprise, he dropped the subject, smoothing her hair back quietly. He leaned in to kiss her forehead before settling down against her.

“I…I should go check on Shadowheart,” she mumbled. “I’m sorry.” She ducked out of the tent, leaving Astarion and her past behind, taking a deep breath as she left. Then another, before squaring her shoulders and heading over to the fire.

Shadowheart was sound asleep, her head still in Wyll’s lap. Wyll himself was now leaning back on a crate that hadn’t been there before, also asleep. Nearby, Karlach was chewing on a piece of sausage and taking swigs of ale from a large tankard.

“Did you get him the crate?” she asked the tiefling. Karlach nodded, offering her the ale. Tali took a long drink, before handing it back and nodding her thanks.

“I’m going to bed, I think. If she gets worse or you need me, just come get me,” Tali told her. “If I’m not in my tent, I’m in Astarion’s,” she added. Karlach grinned at her mischievously.

“Watch the fangs, soldier,” she said with a chuckle. Tali saluted her before sauntering back to her tent.

Astarion was still sprawled on her blankets, now reading the ‘Dashing Rogue of the Gate’ book.

“I knew this would be trashy, but I wasn’t expecting it to be THIS bad,” he commented. She snorted before dropping back down next to him.

“I missed,” she said. He closed the book, setting it aside and watching her.

She rubbed her hands over her face, pulling her knees up against herself.

“I’m a Guild assassin,” she said quietly. “But I think you already figured that out.”

“The arrows gave you away, Tali.”

“The arrows -” she started, her voice trailing off as she realized. “f*ck. You knew even then?”

“I suspected, yes,” he said. “You don’t normally see arrows like yours on a common ranger.”

She shook her head at him, marveling that he’d caught that. “That was like, the second day,” she mumbled. She remembered him swiping an arrow out of her quiver outside the Grove, commenting that hers were nicer. She hadn’t suspected a thing at the time, but she also had been underestimating him then.

The arrows he was referring to were the ones rarely seen outside of professionals. They were lighter, more balanced, flew farther, and the tips held poison better than any other kind. Tali had actually made many of the ones she had herself; they weren’t exactly available for sale at shops.

“And then I saw you shooting yesterday. I’d seen you shoot before, of course, and you had fantastic aim. But weaving an arrow under the armored plates of that bulette? THAT is not something you see every day. I’ve had two centuries of practice, and I wouldn’t have been able to make that shot, much less twice.”

“I was very good at what I did,” she said quietly. “But you only have to miss once to get caught.”

He nodded, pulling her down next to him. She curled against him, her head on his chest as he resumed toying with her hair.

“I took a job that was going to pay well enough to move out of the city,” she said. “I was something of a ghost for years. I got the job done, and no one ever saw me. I lived at various safe houses scattered throughout the city, but never really had a place just to call my own. So my hope was that I’d get this done and then…start over. The whole thing kind of wears you down eventually,” she said ruefully.

“Should I even ask what kind of job paid that well?”

She weighed the answer for a moment before finally saying, “Lord Enver Gortash.”

“Holy f*ck, Tali,” he said, unable to keep the shock out of his voice. “You’re lucky they didn’t kill you on the spot.”

“I know,” she said. “The only thing that saved me was the fact that they weren’t completely sure I had been the guilty party. They picked me up and threw me in the Wyrm Rock prison and lost the key, I’d assume, until they got around to actually bothering to try me for the crime. I’d been there for a few days when everything started shaking wildly, and then this…tentacle thing smashed through the wall. Next thing I knew, I was waking up in a pod on the Nautiloid and having a dagger held to my throat by a vampire,” she told him, poking him in the ribs.

“I said I was sorry about that,” he grumbled.

“Hey, I don’t blame you. I’m honestly still surprised I didn’t shoot you on sight.”

“Thank you for restraining yourself, darling.”

She laughed, relaxing against him. He stroked her back gently and she melted against him even more.

“Who even hired you for that?” he mused.

“I truly don’t know,” she said. “I never knew. The Guild passed the information along, but whoever put the request in was never revealed. Clearly someone knew, but that wasn’t information I was ever privy to. I was just there to aim and fire.”

He nodded; he’d expected as much.

“You should get some sleep, love,” he told her softly.

“So should you,” she countered. “You look like you haven’t actually slept in days.”

“That would be because I haven’t.”

She frowned, studying his face, the dark circles under his eyes all too apparent. Suddenly, it clicked and she sat up next to him.

“You need blood, don’t you.”

He sighed, rolling onto his back. “Yes,” he finally said. “That wasn’t why I followed you in here, though.”

“Why did you?”

“Darling, is it so hard to believe that I enjoy your company?”

“Well, no. I didn’t even realize though, there’s nothing for you to really hunt here and it’s not particularly safe to go off on your own. I’m sorry I didn’t see it sooner.” She felt oddly terrible about it as she laid back down next to him, sweeping her hair away from her neck.

He crawled half on top of her, pausing to kiss her before settling himself against her neck. She inhaled sharply as he sank his teeth into her, smiling as she felt his body relax against hers. She ran a hand through his curls, massaging her fingers against his scalp. He groaned against her happily, finally letting her go after a minute or two. He licked the last traces of blood off her neck before dropping down next to her, looking relieved.

“Better?”

He nodded, hesitating for a moment before he said, “Tali?”

“Hmmm?”

“Would you -” he started, stopping and looking almost shy before continuing. “Would you sing?”

She blinked at him in confusion a few times, and he softly said, “I’m just so tired.”

The recognition came to her, then; his reaction to her humming at the fire that night.

She nodded, and he closed his eyes, adjusting the blankets over them. She started humming, eventually slipping into the sung notes, watching as his face slowly relaxed, the tension fading out of his brows as he descended into his trance.

She reached out, delicately pushing a piece of hair back out of his eyes, a wave of affection coming over her.

“Sleep well, Astarion,” she murmured, curling up against him.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 23: Taliana - Propositions

Summary:

Round and around, and around, and around we go
Oh, now, tell me now, tell me now, tell me now, you know
Not really sure how to feel about it
Something in the way you move
Makes me feel like I can’t live without you
It takes me all the way
I want you to stay…

~ Rhianna, “Stay”

***

But honey, do drop in at the Last Light Inn -

(If you get that reference, wanna be friends?)

Actual summary :

Karlach enjoys petting people, and Taliana is getting tired of Gale....

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Tali was balanced on a barstool, inhaling her second mug of ale and considering a third. Beside her, Shadowheart was steadily working her way through a bottle of wine, occasionally sparing a glass for Gale. Across the room, Wyll was perched at a table playing lanceboard with Lia, one of the tieflings from the grove, looking more relaxed than he had in days.

The Last Light Inn was a shining beacon of peace and tranquility in the Shadowlands, literally. Tali had heard tales of how horrible the Shadowlands were, but they had not prepared her adequately for the reality. Constantly foggy, dark, an aura of evil and despair hovering in the air, making her skin crawl. One had to carry a torch at all times, or the curse affecting the lands would start slowly sapping away at one’s health, eventually weakening the victim until they didn’t have the will to move anymore. It was exhausting, both physically and mentally, and the entire party was wrecked by the time the glowing bubble surrounding the inn came into sight.

It hadn’t taken long for Tali to procure several rooms for their little group, as well as make her acquaintance with Jaheira, an older Harper who was the stuff of legends. Taliana was well familiar with her name, as well as the Harpers themselves, due to her time in the city and the work she did with the guild. She had been thrilled to actually meet the woman; she had been part of a group to save the city a century ago. Karlach had also been beside herself with joy, having grown up on stories of THE Jaheira, and she probably would have tackled the older woman in her glee if she hadn’t been scared of burning her to death.

Fortunately for Karlach, the handsome tiefling blacksmith, Dammon, that they had met back at the Grove was here now, and he had been delighted to see them again. After some tinkering and hammering and fussing with the infernal iron they’d found in the Grymforge, he had created a few parts for Karlach to try in her infernal engine. Taliana had stood nearby nervously as Karlach had gingerly installed the parts that would supposedly cool her down enough to touch people again.

“Did it work?” Tali asked her, watching as Karlach poked at her chest suspiciously.

“I…I’m not sure, soldier,” she said, looking uncertain.

“Well, I suppose there’s really only one way to find out, isn’t there?”

Karlach’s eyes widened in alarm as Taliana lunged for her, pulling her into a hug. A moment later, the alarm turned into sheer glee, the tiefling scooping her up and spinning her around.

“Oh my GOSH, soldier, I can touch people I can touch people I can -” she exclaimed, throwing her arms around Dammon next, a litany of thanks exploding from her as she did. Dammon flushed under her attention, returning the hug.

“It was an honor, Karlach,” he told her, giving her a bit of a bow.

“Tali, I need to go hug everyone. Right. NOW,” Karlach exclaimed, dashing for the inn. Tali followed, not wanting to miss the show.

Wyll was her first victim, getting yanked out of his chair and spun around. He cackled with glee, running his hands over her horns enthusiastically. She took off for Shadowheart next, practically knocking the cleric off her barstool. A moment later, the two of them were hopping up and down together, both grinning. As she watched, Shadowheart leaned in, clearly whispering in the tiefling’s ear, causing a huge smile to break over her face.

“Don’t even THINK about it,” hissed Lae’zel as Karlach approached her a moment later. The tiefling hesitated for just a moment before patting her arm instead and then going for Gale, who was smiling broadly.

“I’m so happy for you, Karlach,” he told her, standing back and holding both her hands. She twirled in place, her enthusiasm contagious.

“I don’t think she saw me, darling,” came Astarion’s smooth voice from behind Taliana.

“Want me to tell her?” she asked mischievously.

“Don’t you even THINK -”

“FANGS!”

Tali burst into helpless giggles as Karlach grabbed the vampire from behind, giving him an enthusiastic squeeze before running her hand through his perfectly-mussed head of curls.

He sighed at her, doing his best to look annoyed, but he failed miserably. A smile twitched at the corner of his lips and he reached out to hug her properly, much to the tiefling’s delight. She bounced away, overjoyed.

“I really couldn’t say no,” he told Tali, chuckling.

“Aww, I’m so proud of you,” she teased. He rolled his eyes at her, trying to contain his smile.

“I have no idea how she’s stayed as cheerful as she is,” he commented. “She’s…” he trailed off.

“Walking sunshine?” Taliana supplied.

“Exactly,” he agreed. “I’ve never known anyone quite like her.”

“I don’t suppose your supersonic vampire gossip hearing picked up whatever Shadowheart asked her?”

“Of course it did. Let’s just say our darling cleric is planning to make good on her offer of helping Karlach out now that she can touch people.”

“OH,” squeaked Tali, remembering. She started giggling, Astarion barely containing a grin.

After she got herself under control, she handed him a small key. “For your room upstairs.”

“I get my own room?” he asked, chuckling.

“Well, they had mostly doubles, so Gale and Wyll were taking one, Karlach and Shadowheart were taking one, and Lae’zel and myself in the last. So that either left you the floor or the one single.”

He snorted. “You know I don’t really sleep, right?”

She deflated in front of him. “Ah, sh*t,” she said. “I knew that.”

“It’s all right. A nice cozy spot to trance in is never a bad thing.”

She gave him a coy smile, mischief in her eyes before she said, “Of course, I could keep you company.” She took a step closer to him, but not quite touching him.

He reached out to hold her waist automatically, pulling her closer. She met his eyes, seeing the heat in them.

“Do I need to dump some cold water over you two?” asked Gale as he passed them.

Astarion gave him his best death glare before releasing Tali and stalking over to join Wyll, who was now alone at the lanceboard table.

Tali sighed at Gale. “Really?” she asked.

He sniffed at her, offended. “You do remember he’s a vampire, right?”

“I’m well aware, thank you so much for reminding me,” she replied, giving him her best evil look.

“I’m just trying to look out for you,” the wizard protested.

“Gale, believe it or not, I’ve looked out for myself for quite a long time. And it isn’t any of your damn business who I spend my time with, anyways.”

“But -”

“I don’t want to hear it,” she snapped. “Let it be. I’m not kidding.”

“I just want you to know you have…other options,” he muttered, staring at his feet.

Tali gawked at him for a moment before saying, “Are you making a pass at me right after hearing me tell the vampire that I’m planning on staying in his room tonight? I just want to make absolutely SURE I have this right.”

He opened his mouth, clearly about to continue the argument, but he closed it a moment later, wariness in his eyes. He held his hands up to her in a placating manner before walking back to the bar.

Tali rolled her eyes and huffed off to join Karlach. She needed a drink.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 24: Astarion - Confessional

Summary:

Where I was
I had tears I couldn't cry
My emotions
Frozen in an icy lake
I couldn't feel them
Until the ice began to break
I have no power over this
You know I'm afraid
The walls I built are crumbling
The water is moving, I'm slipping away
I throw myself into the sea
Release the wave, let it wash over me
To face the fear I once believed -

~ Bruce Dickinson, "Tears of the Dragon"

***

Asking for help is, of course, the hardest thing to do.

The end of this chapter both breaks my heart and makes me happy to see Astarion finally explain the truth behind Līrĭnen cuivië-lancassë.

Notes:

TW : Cazador and the various horrors that go with him : abuse, violence, implied SA, coercion.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Astarion joined Wyll at the lanceboard table, a bottle of wine in his hand. He held it up to the warlock quizzically, and when he nodded, he poured him a glass.

“Do you play?” asked Wyll politely.

“I used to,” he said. “It’s been a long time.” He took a long drink straight out of the bottle, trying to pull his thoughts back in.

Wyll started to reset the board, giving him a minute to think. He had a sinking feeling that he needed to talk to Taliana, and soon; she deserved to know what was waiting for him in the city.

Plus, the melody. He couldn’t get the image of her profile framed in the firelight out of his head. The notes kept swirling in his mind, as they had since the night he’d realized the truth.

“....go first?”

Astarion jolted back to attention, realizing Wyll was talking to him. “Sorry, darling. What was that?”

The warlock looked at him strangely before asking, “Do you want to go first?”

“Uh, sure. Yes,” he said, trying to focus.

There was a long pause before Wyll asked, “Astarion, are you all right?”

“Of course, darling,” he said nonchalantly.

There was another long pause.

“But…Wyll, can I ask you something?” he said. He wasn’t sure what had just possessed him, but he needed some reassurance before he jumped into this with Taliana. He and Wyll had developed some sort of tentative…friendship, he guessed, over the last few days. And from what he had seen, the man was very level-headed and calm. If he was going to fish for advice from anyone, he seemed the safest bet.

“Of course,” he said, raising his brows. His stone eye stared blankly ahead.

“I…” he started, not sure how to explain. “I did something I shouldn’t have, and I didn’t really feel bad about it until I knew more. And now I feel…awful.”

Wyll took a long drink of wine, waiting.

He sighed heavily. “I don’t know how to make this sound any better. But from the moment I met her, my entire plan was to be with Taliana so she wouldn’t turn on me. So I’d be safe,” he mumbled. Wyll took another drink, brows drawing together.

“And then I found out she gave me life years ago, although she doesn’t know it. And now I feel like a piece of sh*t.”

Wyll tilted his head, looking confused. “Gave you life?”

He shook his head, unwilling to explain further. “She got me through a terrible time. But she doesn’t know. And I didn’t realize it until a few days ago.”

Wyll looked thoughtful, studying the vampire across from him.

“You know you have to tell her, right?” he asked mildly, like it was nothing.

“She’s going to hate me.”

“You don’t know that,” he said softly. “Tali is tough, and she’s smart, and she’s a hellcat when she’s mad. But I’ve seen how she looks at you, Astarion.”

Astarion looked up, something very much like hope trickling in.

“You think so?”

Wyll nodded, draining his glass as he did.

“Talk to her,” he said.

“But what happens -” he started, cutting off abruptly. Wyll sat back, waiting to see if he would finish the sentence.

“But what happens when she realizes I’m a monster?” he said in a rush.

Wyll, of all things, laughed.

Astarion glared at him. “Thanks for that,” he said dryly, moving to stand up.

“Astarion, wait. I meant no offense,” said Wyll, holding a hand out to stop him. He hesitated for a moment before sinking back into his chair, eyeing the warlock.

“You realize, of course, that by definition, I’m a monster hunter? That’s what I’ve done for years.”

Astarion nodded sharply. “Get to the point, Blade.”

“How many times have I tried to kill you, Astarion?”

He blinked in surprise, thinking it over. Wyll raised his eyebrows at him knowingly before twirling a lanceboard piece idly in his fingers.

Astarion nodded, sighing. He started to stand before pausing to look at the other man, casually leaned back in his chair, glass in hand. “Thank you,” he said softly. He hesitated for a moment before adding, “The horns look good on you. Truly.”

Wyll chuckled self-consciously, patting at the curved horns that he had recently acquired. “Thanks.”

Astarion gave him a nod, standing and looking around for Taliana. He spotted her with Shadowheart, the two of them lounging at the bar. He headed towards her before he lost his nerve, lightly touching her shoulder.

“Can we talk?” he asked her quietly.

“Is this about the room AGAIN?” she asked teasingly.

He shook his head. Seeing the look on his face, she clearly realized this was something more serious and calmed down.

“Yeah, of course,” she said, standing. He led her upstairs into the tiny room that was his for the night, holding the door open for her.

She dropped down onto the bed, watching him closely.

“Astarion?” she asked, an entire list of questions in one word.

He sank down to sit on the floor in front of her, rubbing his face. “I don’t know where to start.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “I’m not on a schedule.”

He chuckled slightly. “I guess I need to start with the big picture. You’re Baldurian; do you know who Cazador Szaar is?”

Her brows lifted slightly in surprise. “I know the name, yes. He had requests come through the Guild occasionally, but I never took one.”

“Thank gods for that,” he muttered. She looked at him in confusion for just a moment before it clicked.

“Oh, f*ck,” she said, sitting up. “He’s your master, isn’t he.”

Astarion managed a nod. “He is. He turned me about two centuries ago. And my job the entire time was to bring him bodies.”

“What do you mean…bodies?” she asked hesitantly.

“He’s a vampire lord, darling. He requires a steady diet of blood, tears, and souls,” he muttered. “My siblings and I - his spawn - were tasked with bringing him victims night after night after night. My entire reason for being was to seduce anything with a pulse and then walk them to their doom.”

“You couldn’t just…not do it?” she asked, confusion on her face.

“It’s a lot easier to judge the situation if you’re not in it,” he snapped. “Part of being a spawn is being completely under your master’s control. He flexes his will on you, and you no longer own yourself, your actions, your body. You’re a slave.”

“I’m sorry,” she said softly. “I didn’t realize.”

He nodded at her, trying to remember that she had no way of knowing any of this. He took a deep breath, trying to keep it together.

“That is what’s waiting for me in Baldur’s Gate,” he told her. “Cazador will not be happy that I slipped his leash. Our little tadpole friends in our brains seem to have made me my own person again; he doesn’t control me anymore. It’s how I can walk in the sun again.”

“And I want to kill him. But I’ll need your help,” he said, a pleading note creeping into his voice.

Tali sat back, digesting all the information he’d just given her.

“I can’t go back,” he whispered, his face in his hands. She reached out, putting a hand on his shoulder reassuringly.

“What do I need to do?”

“I’m not sure yet,” he told her honestly. “I’ll find out more once we get to the city. One of my siblings will certainly know more. I know he’ll be looking for me. Do you remember that Gur hunter we met in the swamp?”

Taliana nodded, realization on her face. “He was sent by Cazador?”

“Absolutely,” he answered. “It’s why I was so nervous when he started explaining,” he said, chuckling as he remembered how it had gone. He had caught Tali’s eye as the man had explained he was hunting a vampire spawn named Astarion, and as soon as she nodded, he had buried a dagger in the man’s eye.

She nodded slowly, returning to the previous thread of thought. “And of course I’ll help you with Cazador. Anyone who used you for that long is certainly not on my good side.”

He nodded his thanks before sitting back, the nerves twisting violently inside him.

“Spit it out, Astarion,” she said, leaning back on her hands. She could clearly tell he wasn’t done.

He stood, pacing back and forth in front of her, anxiety bleeding out of every move he made. “Look, when we met, I had a plan. A nice, simple plan. Manipulate you, seduce you, make it so you’d never turn on me. Things I’ve done hundreds - no, thousands - of times in my life,” he said, ticking everything off on his fingers as he paced. “It was easy, instinctive. And all you had to do was fall for it,” he continued.

Tali’s face was guarded; she eyed him suspiciously as he continued pacing.

“And all I had to do was not fall for you,” he finally blurted out. “All I had to do was not care. But you really have a way of ruining plans,” he said. “You were a complication I never considered, never saw coming.”

He stopped pacing in front of her, and she was momentarily taken aback by the look on his face. The perfect, controlled mask he normally kept on was gone, replaced by something…unsure. Earnest. Terrified. She met his eyes before asking, “So you slept with me just to keep me from turning on you?”

He huffed out a breath, shoulders slumping. “Yes.”

She shook her head, the hurt clear in her eyes.

“Taliana, by the time we got to the Underdark, things had changed. I knew then,” he protested.

“Knew what, Astarion? What magical revelation did you suddenly have that made this all okay? Gods, why did I even TRY with you?”

“But, Tali -”

“But, Tali what, Astarion? What else can you possibly tell me here? That you conveniently realized that you suddenly liked me? You had your fun, and I just fell right into your lap?” Her voice shook slightly, betraying her nearness to tears.

Līrĭnen cuivië-lancassë”, he whispered, taking her hands and looking her in the eyes.

“What?” she said, taken aback.

“Please let me explain,” he pleaded. She was about to tell him no, about to storm out of the room, when she saw how panicked he was. She hesitated, sitting back and eyeing him.

He let out a shaky breath, relieved she hadn’t left. “I need to show you something, first.”

“Okay…” she said, suspicion still clear on her face. He took a deep breath before pulling his shirt over his head.

“Seriously, Astarion? I am not about to f*ck you again -” she started, cutting off sharply when he turned around.

He stood still, shivering slightly, his back exposed fully to her. He had never willingly displayed it to anyone of his own accord; he’d always tried to keep a shirt on whenever he was with a mark for Cazador. He heard her sharp intake of breath as she stood up behind him. He could feel her fingers touch one of the scars at the top and he fought the urge to pull away from her, the urge to scream.

“Astarion…” she said, her voice strangled. “What…who…” she tried. Her fingers slowly traced over his back, over the runes that marred his back in a circle, long slashes and sharp lines everywhere. She couldn’t imagine how he’d even survived the process; it took up his entire back.

“A gift from Cazador,” he told her, turning back around to face her. Her eyes were huge, fear tracing over her features. “He said it was a poem. Carved over the course of one evening with a knife he called his ‘needle’. He would start over if I moved too much or screamed too loudly,” he muttered, closing his eyes. He could see the pool of blood spreading around him, see his arms bathed in crimson.

“It wasn’t a needle,” he continued. “It was dull. I don’t remember much after a certain point. I don’t know if I passed out, if I was able to separate myself, I just don’t know. My brothers dragged me down into the depths of the palace and threw me in a cell. The next thing I clearly remember is waking up in a puddle of my own blood,” he said, eyes dark and distant.

“But…why?” she asked. “Why would he do that?”

Astarion let out a harsh bark of laughter. “Because I did the unthinkable, darling. I didn’t bring him a toy one night.”

“You couldn’t find one?” she asked, trying to understand.

“I found one,” he said softly. “A boy. A young, beautiful boy. He was so sweet. So innocent. And his only crime was meeting my gaze from across the bar,” he continued. “He’d never even kissed anyone before. He made me feel special, like I was the best thing to have ever happened to him,” he said, his face dark. “And I couldn’t bring myself to hand that sweet, innocent boy over to Cazador. I was willing to take whatever torture was guaranteed to come my way.”

“So he used you as a piece of parchment?” she said, sadness on her face.

“Eventually,” he muttered. “He knew, of course. He knew. Cazador hung me by my wrists in the kennels and had my brothers find the boy. And then he made me watch while he took that poor, beautiful boy apart, while he screamed for me to help him the entire time,” he whispered. “Cazador always did like to play with his food.” Tali’s eyes filled with tears and she reached out to take his hand.

“After he killed him, he put me in a tomb. Alone. For a year,” he whispered. Tali made a strangled gasp of horror, her hands tightening on his. “It was so dark. Silent. I was so damn hungry. I ate whatever insects came close enough to me. That was all I had.”

“I was so happy when they let me out. I should’ve known better. That was the night he carved his little poem in my back,” he told her. “I can still remember how much blood was covering my arms as I knelt there in front of him,” he said quietly.

“Gods, Astarion. I’m so sorry you had to go through that. I can’t even imagine…” she trailed off, shaking her head.

He shrugged, trying to block it back out.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “What does any of this have to do with me?” She gazed up at him in confusion.

Līrĭnen cuivië-lancassë,” he said again, reaching a hand out to cup her cheek.

She stared at him blankly. “I need help here, Astarion. My Elvish is incredibly rusty, I haven’t spoken it daily in years. Not since I was a little girl.”

“When I was in that cell, Taliana, I woke up on the floor in a puddle of my own blood. And the only thing I could see was this tiny window - almost a grate - and it was above the sewers. I could hear the water rushing below the city constantly.”

“But that very first night, I heard something else, too. As a vampire spawn, I have rather extraordinary hearing; I would never have heard it otherwise. It was just humming, occasionally switching to actual notes, and it was beauitful.”

Tali’s eyes widened almost to the very edges of her face.

“I heard it almost every night. I would lay there on that stone floor, as close to the grate as I could get, waiting to hear it. There was a little game I’d play with myself, trying to picture the source of it,” he said softly. He traced his thumb across her cheek and she closed her eyes, leaning into his touch.

“It turns out the reality was more beautiful than I ever could have dreamed of,” he whispered, stepping forward to lean his forehead against hers.

Taliana was trembling ever so slightly as he continued. “I forgot it for years,” he murmured to her. “I took everything that had happened in that cell and locked it away. It was the only way I could live. And then, I’m sitting there, reading my book, and I heard you -” He stopped abruptly, biting his lip.

“‘Līrĭnen cuivië-lancassë’ doesn’t have a perfect translation into common, but the phrase it comes closest to is ‘the song on the brink of life’. And that’s what it always was to me, a song that held me on the edge of wanting to live,” he finished. He gently held her face in his hands, his scarlet eyes locked on her rich chocolate ones. “You’re why I’m still here, Taliana.”

Taliana’s mouth opened and closed a few times, like she was trying to find words and kept losing them immediately. Her tears spilled over, Astarion gently wiping them away with his thumbs. She met his eyes, the surge of emotion in her nearly overwhelming. And without any better ideas of what to do, she closed her eyes and sang the notes, clear and bright for him.

It only took a moment before he burst into tears, clinging to her like he was drowning. And all she could do was wrap her arms around him and keep humming softly, driving away the darkness for him again like she had so many times before.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 25: Taliana and Astarion - Trusting

Summary:

Tell me something, boy
Aren't you tired trying to fill that void?
Or do you need more?
Ain't it hard keeping it so hardcore?
I'm falling
In all the good times, I find myself longing for a change
And in the bad times, I fear myself -

~ Lady Gaga, "Shallow"

Notes:

Content warning : Shameless (but kinda sweet??) smut.

However, there's things that I do think are worth reading and knowing BEFORE the full smut kicks in, so stop at the ***** if you aren't here for that part.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

She wasn’t sure how long they stood there, clinging desperately to each other. It took quite a while for Astarion to stop weeping; it was like some seal had been broken inside him and years of memories and pain were wrenching their way out of him. Tali dropped down to sit on the bed, laying back and pulling him down with her. He buried his face in the crook of her neck, still sniffling occasionally. One of her hands ran up and down his back, feeling the ridges of scarring under her fingertips. The other hand she kept on the back of his head, tracing her fingers through his hair lightly as she murmured gentle, sweet bits of comfort to him.

Eventually, his tears stopped, and he loosened his grip on her somewhat. He lifted his head to look at her, and she smiled at him, stroking his hair back. He closed his eyes, the sensation soothing him and calming him.

“Come here,” she whispered, tugging at him. He slid up so he was even with her, and she pulled him in for a soft, lingering kiss. “Do you need blood?” she asked gently. She knew the hunting choices had been incredibly slim in the Underdark, and the Shadowlands were even worse. He nodded at her, relief clear in his eyes.

She leaned her head back, tugging her hair out of the way for him. He nuzzled against her neck, the flutter of her pulse a siren song to him as he gently kissed his way up and down her throat, searching for the perfect spot. He pressed his lips to her skin gently, almost reverently, before giving her a tiny lick of warning as he sank his fangs into her as carefully as he could. She moaned quietly, relaxing against him as he drank from her, slow, languid swallows. His tongue gently laved against her, coaxing more blood to flow, and she closed her eyes, lost to the sensation.

He finally let her go, licking the wounds a few times for good measure before kissing her. She could taste her blood on his lips, metallic and sweet.

“I’m staying in here,” she whispered, snuggling against him. He chuckled, his head dropping to her chest.

“I suppose I can deal with that,” he teased. She snickered, curving a leg around him in invitation.

“I take it back, by the way,” she told him.

“Take what back?”

“Remember when I said I wasn’t going to f*ck you again?” she murmured against his ear, a hand sliding down to stroke the bulge in his leathers.

“Oh, that part,” he replied, a groan slipping out of him as she palmed him firmly.

“I was,” she whispered, sitting up to pull her shirt off, “totally lying,” she continued, nibbling her way up his neck, as he pushed her back down onto the bed.

He chuckled, bracketing her head with his arms, his fingers tangling in her hair. He met her eyes, and he was somewhat alarmed to feel something he wasn’t sure he’d ever felt in the last two centuries : he was nervous.

“What is it?” Tali asked him, seeing the indecision on his face. He dropped his head to her shoulder, shaking his head in bemusem*nt with himself. He finally propped his chin up so he could look at her. He was sure that if he could still blush, he would be.

“I have bedded a ridiculous amount of people in the last two centuries, Tali -” he started.

“This is not a good start, Astarion,” she interjected.

“No, listen, please,” he beseeched, and she quieted, tucking a curl back behind his ear absentmindedly.

“I’ve bedded a lot of people in the last two centuries, and this is the first time I can remember being nervous,” he finally said, looking off to the side and considering hiding under a pillow.

Tali gazed up at her vampire, bemused. “Why?”

He looked almost embarrassed before he finally said, “Because this is the first time I think I’ve ever actually cared about what I’m doing. The only time I’ve willingly chosen to.”

“You know, I’m perfectly fine just doing whatever you’re comfortable with,” she whispered in his ear. “If it’s too much, just say so. It’s not a big deal. I don’t want you doing anything you aren’t okay with.”

He nodded briefly before explaining, “Any sort of…intimacy, it was something I just performed to bring bodies back to Cazador. And trying to break the mindset of that goal, the whole performance of it…I don’t really know how, Tali. I don’t know how to be with someone, no matter how much I’d like to.” He slid over so he was laying next to her, throwing his arm over his eyes.

“I have an idea,” she finally said. “But you’ll have to trust me.”

He chewed on his lower lip for a minute, mulling it over. He moved his arm, peering at her.

“How about this,” she continued. “Give me a safe word, and if it’s too much, I’ll stop, no questions asked. I don’t want to make you uncomfortable, but I want to try to help…” she said, trailing off.

He cracked a smile at her before chuckling and rolling back to stare at the ceiling.

“What?”

He was still chuckling as he finally said, “Tali, love, I think this may be the first time in two hundred years someone has asked me for a safe word. It’s usually the other way around.”

She shoved at his shoulder playfully. “Never mind then.” She neglected to tell him exactly how much she liked the idea of him taking charge to the point she needed a safe word; that was definitely a conversation for another time.

“I didn’t say no,” he reminded her. “I just said I don’t think I’ve ever…done this that way.”

They eyed each other for a moment, Astarion holding her waist and rubbing circles against her hip with his thumb.

“Owlbear,” he finally said.

**********

She grinned at him, leaning in to brush a kiss against his lips. She rolled out of the bed, adjusting the oil lamps in the room so the lights were dimmed. Then she stripped off the rest of her clothes as he watched with interest, propped up on one elbow.

She nodded at him, gesturing at his remaining clothing. “Off,” she said. He shook his head, chuckling, but obliged her, sliding them off and tossing them onto the floor. He raised an eyebrow at her, and she gestured for him to lay back down, which he did after only a brief hesitation.

Tali knelt on the end of the bed, shuffling up so she was between his knees, before she explained, “What I was thinking is that since you’re used to ‘performing’ towards a goal, maybe it would help for you to relax and let me take care of you instead.”

He turned the words over in his head, unsure about handing over control of the situation. She sat back on her heels, not touching him. That was what made his mind up; she was respecting his limits and not moving until he gave his okay.

“Yes,” he breathed, eyes locked on her. A smile slid across her face, and she dropped her hands to his shins, stroking up and down before moving up to massage his thighs. He shifted slightly, trying to relax.

“Just breathe,” she whispered. Her hands moved up to his stomach, stroking up across his chest, fingers tracing along taut muscles that slowly relaxed under her touch. Despite his reservations about the whole thing, he couldn’t help but enjoy how warm she was against him, her hands leaving trails of delicious heat everywhere they went.

She scooted a bit closer so she could reach his shoulders, gripping them and pressing her fingertips into the muscles at the base of his neck. He groaned, his head falling to the side.

“Gods, that feels good,” he mumbled. He reached down to grip her upper thighs, the only part of her that was really in range. His hands started sliding up, heading towards her chest, and she caught them, putting them back on her legs.

“Don’t worry about me,” she reminded him. He grunted at her in disapproval, but it quickly devolved into another groan of pleasure as she worked her fingers across his shoulders again, kneading overly tight muscles until they loosened under her touch. She moved on to his upper arms, fingers pressing into the muscles there, before caressing his forearms. Finally, she laced her fingers with his before shifting to put a knee on either side of his hips so she could lean down and gently kiss the skin along his collarbone. He leaned his head back, barely stifling a moan as she slid against his length; he’d been hard since she had started touching him.

Tali smiled against his shoulder, trailing kisses up his neck, down his jaw, running her tongue along the point of his ear, making him shiver pleasantly. She nipped at his neck, pulling another groan, nearly a growl, from his throat. He gripped her hips, trying to move her against him, and she lightly caught his hands, pressing them back down onto the bed beside him. He grumbled, opening one scarlet eye to glare at her.

“I can’t even touch you?”

“Not yet,” she said sweetly. She reached up to untie her hair, letting it tumble over her shoulders, a wave of cinnamon sweetness wafting over him. He screwed his eyes closed, trying to resist the urge to thrust up against her, but the slight intake of breath he heard from her indicated he hadn’t resisted as much as he’d meant to.

“Behave,” she breathed against his lips, before kissing him slowly, languidly, like she had all night to do so. Her tongue traced against his lips, sliding against his before purposely brushing against his fangs, a trace of blood blooming in his mouth. He moaned against her, gripping the sheets as tightly as he could as her taste drifted down his throat, delicate warmth the entire way.

“Tali…” he started, but then realized he had no idea what else to even say as she kissed her way down the other side of his throat, running her tongue along his collarbone. “f*ck,” he finally spit out, his eyes drifting closed again. He heard her breathy chuckle against his chest before she started to slide down, down - thank the Gods - down to his aching co*ck. Her mouth closed over him immediately, drawing an absolutely sinful moan from him as she did.

He tangled his fingers in her hair, grateful when she didn’t move to stop him. He looked down to watch her, another moan slipping out when he realized she had her eyes locked onto his. As he gazed at her, she popped him out of her mouth, running her tongue around the head of his co*ck, tongue teasing the sensitive underside before taking him back in again.

f*ck,” he groaned. He tugged at her hair lightly, trying to signal her to stop because she was dangerously close to undoing him already. She did, gazing up at him. “Please,” he begged her, trying to pull her up. She smiled, giving him one more sinful lick, then one more for good measure.

Tali watched him closely as she worked her way back up his body; his eyes were locked on hers, and she could see him, fully with her. She carefully lined him up with her entrance before slowly sinking down, inch by delicious inch, his eyes practically rolling back in his head as she did. He gripped her hips, clearly looking for something to hold on to, as she started to slowly rock against him. She groaned, the stretch of him inside her absolutely perfect as she ground down on him.

He tightened his grip on her hips, trying to thrust up into her at a well-practiced pace. It only took her a moment before she rested a hand on his cheek, whispering, “No, stay with me.” He blinked, refocusing, just holding onto her waist now but letting her move at her pace rather than overtaking her. She slowed, taking his hands in hers and leading them up to her breasts, which he happily accepted, thumbs abrading her nipples and cupping them in his hands.

She picked up the pace ever so slightly, grinding her cl*t against him as she sank down, pleasure stabbing her with every motion. Heat was pooling rapidly between her legs, the edge approaching at an alarming rate. She adjusted herself to take some of the friction away, keeping herself in check, more concerned with Astarion’s pleasure than her own.

Astarion pulled her down to him, kissing her with as much passion as she would allow before burying his face in her neck as she proceeded to slowly and steadily f*ck him senseless. He had never been so aware of everything as he was right now; the moist heat of her wrapped around him, her limbs tangling in his, her hair falling around him like a curtain, surrounding him in the sweet smell of caramel and spice. The lingering taste of her in his mouth, in his throat. Her knees pressing against his thighs, her hands rubbing up and down his chest, across his shoulders, keeping him locked firmly in the here and now with her touch.

He had almost no warning when she finished yet another agonizingly delicious slide down his co*ck before he came, hard, a strangled, “f*ck!” escaping him as he thrust up into her desperately. She moaned, adjusting herself slightly so she could drag herself against him a few times before she shattered, clenching and spasming around him. She dropped down against his chest, his arms winding around her tightly.

“f*ck,” he muttered, seemingly unable to find any other words. Tali rested her head against his shoulder, her fingers tangling in his hair, rather pleased with herself that she had reduced her usually loquacious vampire to a single repeated curse.

Astarion was in somewhat of a daze, reveling in the warmth of Tali’s body pressing against his. In the part of his brain that was almost working, he was vaguely aware that he had probably just had the best sex of his life. The most aware sex, for sure; he hadn’t been able to drift or shift into automatic mode with her in control, touching him constantly, making him stay with her. For once, he hadn’t been pulling from his eternal bag of tricks; he was just enjoying himself, and that alone was a revelation - that he could, indeed, just enjoy himself. Madness, he thought, threading her hair through his fingers gently, feeling it slip through like silk.

He leaned his head back, letting her burrow into his neck, arms still wrapped around her. He didn’t think she had meant to, but he was pretty sure she had just completely broken him in the best way possible. Because right now, he felt more alive and real than he had in centuries, with Taliana’s warm weight against him, with the softness of the bed below him, the dim glow of the oil lamps illuminating the room, the smell of cinnamon sweetness in every breath, the faint aftertaste of her blood in his mouth. He was here. He pressed a kiss to Tali’s temple, and she hummed in pleasure above him.

“You good?” she whispered softly, stroking his hair back.

“Tali, love, I think I’m beyond good right now,” he told her, his vocabulary finally stabilizing to something besides f*ck. He could feel her chuckle more than he could hear it before she tilted her head to kiss him gently. She carefully untangled herself from him, sliding down to lay beside him, nuzzled against his chest, an arm and a leg casually draped over him. He groped for the blanket at the end of the bed, finally snagging it and pulling it up over them.

“Thank you,” he whispered in her ear. She squeezed him gently in response, and he closed his eyes, more at peace than he had been in centuries.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 26: Astarion - Blood Sport

Summary:

Bend me, break me, any way you need me
All I want is you
Bend me, break me, breaking down is easy
All I want is you

~ Garbage, "I Think I'm Paranoid"

***

Araj can f*ck right off. And then keep f*cking off.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Moonrise Towers was a dismal place; the building itself was dark and clammy, making Astarion want to shiver as the air passed over his already too-cool skin. He and Taliana were poking around, welcomed inside as the True Souls they were, and had already gotten to see Ketheric Throm murder a goblin. Well, technically, the goblin had tried to murder HIM - but the man had simply yanked the axe out of his chest, dropped it in front of her, and said, “Try again.”

As much as Astarion hated to admit it, the man had style.

Taliana was across the room, haggling with a merchant and trading a handful of old weapons for a heavy bag of coins. She hefted it up into her hand momentarily, nodding in satisfaction, before tucking it safely away in her bag.

She crossed back to Astarion, her eyes troubled.

“I don’t like this,” she murmured to him.

“Me either, darling,” he replied. “Let’s finish looking around and get the hell out of here.”

They wandered into a kitchen, and Astarion suddenly recoiled.

What in the hells is that awful smell?

Taliana glanced over at him, frowning. “What is it?”

“You don’t smell it? Something smells…wrong,” he said, wrinkling his nose in distaste.

Tali looked at him blankly, sniffing at the air suspiciously. “I don’t smell anything, but your nose is certainly better than mine.”

He made a face, the smell getting stronger as he approached a door they hadn’t checked yet. Astarion pulled it open, and he suddenly had all the answers he needed to his question.

The room was set up much like a laboratory; thick stone shelves lined the walls, and flasks and bottles littered every surface available. Piles of herbs hung from wooden racks, and there were several overflowing bookcases.

And on the far end of the room stood a woman; a dusky-skinned drow. And she smelled wrong.

“Greetings, True Souls,” the woman said, approaching them. “Can I help you?”

Taliana’s eyes narrowed, and she stepped slightly in front of Astarion. “No, we were just passing through. Our apologies.”

“Wait!” the woman said. “My name is Araj Oblodra, purveyor of potions and an expert in sanguine arts.”

Astarion felt his spine stiffen; there was something about the way this woman was looking at him that made him deeply uncomfortable. Taliana had clearly picked up on it already, because she took another step sideways, standing fully between him and the strange drow. He realized with shock that the smell was coming from the woman; while he could always pick up the scent of most people’s blood, whatever was lurking in this drow’s body was wrong. Deeply, terribly, wrong.

The woman was staring at him, transfixed, her eyes gliding over his face, down to his neck, and a slow smile crept across her face. “You’re a vampire,” she breathed, her eyes widening.

“And?” asked Taliana. “So what if he is?”

“I make potions using the sanguine arts, like I said. Blood is a very powerful component.” She glanced at Taliana briefly before focusing back on Astarion. “I can give you a potion that will enhance your power significantly, for the right price. It’s extremely rare and valuable.”

“And what, exactly, would this price be?” asked Tali.

The drow gazed at him longingly, finally saying, “I’ve dreamed of being bitten by a vampire since I was a little girl. Bite me, and it’s yours.”

“Excuse me???” Astarion exclaimed in shock. “You want to be bitten?”

“To feel my life slipping away? To hang on the edge of life and death? Yes, I want it,” she breathed, still staring at him.

“Now, hold on just a minute here - I will have to decline your…offer,” Astarion managed, eyeing the woman suspiciously.

She turned to Taliana, looking somewhat annoyed. “Can’t you get your pet to cooperate, True Soul?”

Astarion blinked in shock; he knew that men were often servants to women in drow culture, but he certainly didn’t expect this.

In front of him, Taliana’s shoulders tensed. “He’s not a pet. He’s a person.”

The woman sniffed at her dismissively. “A person who should be listening to you. This is a very valuable potion, it would be ridiculous to turn it down.” Her eyes flickered down to Taliana’s neck before she said, “And he clearly feeds off you. Surely you understand my fascination. I don’t see what the problem is here.”

Astarion closed his eyes; he already knew what was coming, and he was trying to prepare himself for having to bite this disgusting woman. She took a step closer, her scent drifting towards him, and it took everything he had to not retch.

He was so busy concentrating on preparing himself and doing his best to not vomit that he hadn’t realized that Taliana’s entire body had tightened, and he could practically feel the anger coming off of her.

She leveled a glare at the drow, her eyes narrowing. “The problem is that he is a person, not a pet,” she hissed. “You are not coming anywhere near him unless he expressly asks you to. He said no. So back off, bitch.”

Araj took a few steps back in shock; Tali’s hand had drifted to her waist, her hand on her dagger. Her eyes fluttered back and forth between the two of them one last time before she held her hands up in a gesture of defeat, backing away slowly, her eyes never leaving Taliana.

Taliana spun around, stalking towards the door. It took Astarion a moment to realize what had just happened; he hurried after Taliana, stunned into silence.

He followed Tali out a side door, skirting around the outside of the building, as she stormed back in the direction of their camp in the middle of a deserted town outside the towers. He didn’t say a word, and she was still visibly fuming.

Is she mad at me for saying no?

He sighed to himself; that felt like the most likely scenario. He couldn’t imagine why else she would still be so angry, now that they had left. They were approaching the camp, and she made a beeline for his tent, ducking inside without a word. Well, their tent, he supposed; Tali hadn’t even bothered setting her own up. He huffed out a sigh, stretching out next to the fire.

Gale raised his eyebrows at him; he was holding a pile of vegetables in his arms, clearly getting ready for dinner. “Everything okay?” he asked tentatively.

“Fabulous, darling,” he muttered.

“I - okay.” The wizard ducked over to the crate he used for food prep, starting to peel carrots.

Astarion stared into the fire, watching the flames shimmer and dance.

f*ck.

“Would you care for some help?” he heard himself asking, before he even really thought about it.

Gale actually turned around, as if to verify that Astarion was, indeed, talking to him. “Of course,” he finally said. “Care to chop these?” He indicated the pile of carrots he’d already peeled. Astarion nodded, sliding another crate over to use as a tray before starting to chop.

“Small pieces,” the wizard said, a hint of a smile on his face.

“Oh. Right,” he muttered, examining his pile of mismatched chunks. He evened them out, Gale nodding in approval.

They worked in companionable silence for several minutes, the rhythmic clicking of the knives against the vegetables and crates somewhat soothing.

“Ah, those are perfect,” Gale said, nodding towards his most recent pile. Astarion shrugged, continuing to chop.

“How did you learn all this?” he asked Gale.

“Oh, well. I spent a year or two alone in my tower in Waterdeep. One must eat, after all, so I was rather forced to learn.”

Astarion raised his eyebrows. “Alone?”

“Mystra,” said Gale in explanation.

“Ah. Right,” said Astarion, remembering Gale’s tumultuous relationship with the goddess. “I once spent a year in a tomb, so I understand how the solitude can really get to you.”

Silence.

Astarion cut one final piece of carrot, looking up to see Gale staring at him in shock. “What?” he asked, furrowing his brow.

“In a tomb?” Gale asked, clearly sounding like he hoped he had misheard.

“Yes,” he answered shortly. He hadn’t even been thinking, really, when he’d told him that; his mind was too preoccupied with Taliana and trying his hardest to not cut his fingers off.

“Gods,” Gale murmured. “That’s awful. I’m sorry.”

He shrugged, shoving the carrots off the crate and into a large bowl. “I don’t recommend it,” he said dryly. He got to his feet, brushing his hands off on his pants. He gave the wizard a brief nod before turning and heading to his tent; he could still feel Gale’s eyes boring holes in him as he went.

Taliana was sprawled on her back on the bedroll, staring at the top of the tent when he crawled in.

“I’m sorry,” he offered into the silence.

“What?” she said, confusion fluttering across her face. “Why in the absolute hells are you sorry?”

He stared at her, feeling completely off balance. “Aren’t you angry because I didn’t get the potion?”

She stared back at him, sitting up so she could look at him more closely.

“Astarion,” she started, her eyes softening. “I’m not mad at you. I’m deeply upset with that drow.”

“You - what?” Now he was even more confused.

Taliana leaned forward, brushing a curl back off his forehead. “Do you truly not know?” she asked softly.

He sighed, biting his lip for a moment before he answered. “What I do know is that I was fully prepared to do it. I was sure you were going to ask me to. He met her eyes, his throat feeling tight. “You could’ve asked me to, and I would have without question. But you didn’t. And I’m grateful.”

Taliana was looking at him in shock. “Astarion, I would never ask you to do something you didn’t want to. You must know that by now.”

“I should. But that doesn’t mean I expect it. My saying ‘no’ to something hasn’t exactly been taken seriously by anyone in two centuries.”

She sat back, running a hand through her hair. “I don’t think you realize how much restraint it took for me to not stab her.”

“Gods, I’m glad you didn’t,” he said with a shudder. “That smell that I was complaining about in the kitchen? It was her. Something was…deeply wrong with her blood.”

“Wrong?”

“I don’t know how to explain it. But it smelled rotten, nearly. Horrid.”

Tali gave him a wry smile. “I guess it’s good I didn’t resort to cold blooded murder, then.”

He chuckled, shaking his head at her. “Darling, the fact that you were ready to murder her at all is possibly the nicest thing I can remember anyone doing for me in ages.”

She snorted. “Did you forget about the other night?”

He grinned at her. “Absolutely not,” he told her. “I have to say though, love…what was it you told her, exactly? I remember, but I want to hear it again,” he said, amused.

Tali grinned at him. “What, the ‘back off, bitch’?”

“That would be it,” he confirmed. “That is absolutely the hottest thing you’ve ever said.”

She gave him another grin before playfully asking, “Oh, is it now?”

“Mmm-hmm,” he said, slowly tipping them back onto the bedroll. He nipped at her neck, relishing her sharp intake of breath. “Just so you know, Gale’s cooking out there. So you’ll have to be nice and quiet,” he murmured against her ear.

“I’ll do my best,” she said, curving a leg around him, and then there was no more room for conversation at all.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 27: Taliana - Devils

Summary:

We find gods and religion
To paint us with salvation
But no one
No, nobody
Can give you the power...

~ Paolo Nutini, "Iron Sky"

Notes:

A very short chapter here that I debated about even including, but decided it was too important to Astarion's character to leave it out. We'll be getting into much longer and more...interesting chapters though in the next few days.

~ nyxue

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

It was never a good day when Raphael decided to make an appearance.

The handsome, overdressed devil with a voice like silk and ashes had shown up several times throughout their travels, each time tossing more mysteries and deals in their direction. Taliana had refused him each and every time - until he confronted them before leaving the Shadowlands. He had a deal to offer, and as much as Tali wanted to tell him to crawl back to the hells, she couldn’t.

His offer this time was simple : slay a sworn enemy buried deep in the Shadowlands - an orthon named Yurgir - and he would fully explain Astarion’s scars. The desperation on her vampire’s face was enough for her to finally agree to his demands.

To give the devil his due, he visited shortly after they killed Yurgir for him. “Vanquish the beast, and all will be revealed,” he had promised. True to his word, he was here in their camp with answers. Tali hung back slightly, listening and letting Astarion do the talking.

Raphael smirked at them before starting to speak. “I discovered all there is to know about those scars of yours - it’s a rather grim tale, even for my tastes. Carved into that ivory skin of yours is one part of an Infernal Contract between the archdevil Mephistopholes and your former master, Cazador Szaar. In full, it states that Cazador will be granted knowledge of an infernal ritual so vile it has never been performed,” he said, his eyes narrowing.

“The Rite of Profane Ascension,” he declared, spreading his arms theatrically in front of them. Taliana could see the tension in Astarion’s body as he listened to the devil lay out his destiny.

“It promises to be a marvelous ceremony,” he continued. “Very elaborate, incredibly ancient, and entirely diabolical. If he completes the rite, he will become a new kind of being - the Vampire Ascendent. All the strengths of his vampire form will be amplified, and alongside them he will enjoy the luxuries of the living. The arousals and appetites of man will return to him, and unlike Astarion, he will have no need of a parasite to protect him from the sun,” he said, a smirk on his face.

“But the ritual has its price,” he cooed. “As all worthwhile things do. Lord Cazador will need to sacrifice a number of souls, including all of his vampiric spawn, if he is to ascend.”

“Imagine how he felt, then, when one of those precious spawn simply disappeared into thin air,” he told Astarion, the dangerous, amused smirk back on his face.

“The only missing piece is Astarion,” the devil stated, pointing at him. “You are the final piece he requires to complete the ritual - your scars bind you to it. Your soul will set off a wave of death, bringing Cazador his twisted life. And that, my toothsome friend, is that,” he finished with another flourish of his hands. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have business elsewhere.”

With that, Raphael stepped back, giving Astarion a wry smile as he faded into a flash of light with a snap of his fingers, and he was gone.

There was a long silence as Astarion pondered Raphael’s words; the implications the devil had just presented were crushing.

“Hmm,” he finally murmured, breaking the silence between them.

“Cazador is a piece of sh*t,” Taliana snapped, venom in her breath. “We’re going to stop him.”

Astarion ignited in front of her, spinning around to pin her with a burning gaze. “Do you really think it’s so simple?” he snapped.

Tali wilted under his rebuke, finally saying, “We can’t let Cazador complete the ritual. He could unleash horrors we can’t even comprehend.”

“The end of my life among them,” sniffed Astarion. “Just when I was starting to enjoy it. He’ll never leave me alone. I didn’t think he would when I was just one more wretched toy for him to play with. But if I’m the key to this power he craves, he’ll hunt me to the ends of Faerûn. I need to take the fight to him,” he said.

“What do we need to do?” she asked. She certainly had no idea how to go about tackling a power hungry vampire lord.

Astarion pondered her question for a moment before speaking. “First of all, I need to know where it is happening. To the public, Cazador is an ordinary noble - a little reclusive, perhaps. He has a grand palace on the hills of the Gate, where he hosts the city’s high society. I don’t know if he’d perform the ritual there - it feels too public and he could risk exposure. All I know is I can’t unravel the secrets of Cazador’s ritual until we get to Baldur’s Gate. Cazador may be a master of secrets, but my brothers and sisters must have seen something.”

Taliana nodded; it seemed a solid first step to her. “How do we find them?” she asked.

Astarion chuckled, a wry smile on his face.

“Darling, they’ll find me.”

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3
~ nyxue

Chapter 28: Taliana - The Bear

Summary:

I want to tell
If I am or am not myself
It’s hard to know
How far or if it all could go
Waited far too long
For something I forgot was wrong
I don’t know all the answers, I think that I’ll find
Or have it within the time
But it’s all that I’ll have in mind
Until I fall away…

~ Gin Blossoms, “Until I Fall Away”

Notes:

I really, really like this chapter and I hope you do too. <3

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The Shadowlands were finally behind them, much to Taliana’s joy. Ketheric Throm lay dead behind them, and the strange netherstone she’d pried from his armor was tucked away safely in her bag. They were rapidly approaching the city, trudging along the dusty road leading to the tiny town of Rivington, which sat a few miles outside of Baldur’s Gate.

“We should probably find a camp before we get too close,” she called back to the group.

“If we go left at the stream, we’ll end up at the old lookout,” Jaheira told her, her voice lilting beautifully over the words. She had joined them after the events at Moonrise Towers, much to Karlach’s absolute joy. Taliana just wanted to listen to her talk; the older Harper had a beautiful rhythm and accent to her words that she loved to listen to.

“Sounds good to me,” she said. “Everyone follow Jaheira!”

There were general grumbles of exhaustion from everyone, but they all continued down the road, dust swirling behind them.

Jaheira was correct; the old lookout was an absolutely brilliant place to camp. It was set back against a large hill, with a large cliff on the other side of it, making it quite secure. There were also several abandoned stone buildings scattered about, giving them indoor accommodations to put their tents in.

“The lookout is up there,” said Jaheira, gesturing. Taliana wandered along the path she had indicated, her breath catching when she saw the view. From their position, she could clearly see the city of Rivington spread below them, and in the distance she could see the expanse that was Baldur’s Gate. The river Chionthar stretched as far as she could see, flowing gently around the city.

She stood there, smiling, glad to see the city. She already knew the city was going to be difficult for many of them, but it was still home, and therefore at least some part of her was happy to see it. She turned, heading back to the center of camp, looking to see what needed to be done.

Before long, Tali was sitting on the ground next to the fire, helping Gale peel potatoes for the evening meal.

“I’m thinking I can boil these up with some fresh herbs - I found some rosemary earlier - and use some of the milk to make a cream soup. We could add some of the carrots, too,” he said, chattering endlessly as they worked.

“That sounds amazing to me,” she told him, cutting the potato she was working on into neat squares.

“No meat?” asked Karlach, looking distressed. She had walked up to dump more wood on the fire and looked truly dismayed at the prospect of a meatless dinner.

“Oh, I think we have some dried sausages over in the storage crate,” he said.

“I’ll get them,” Tali volunteered, having just finished the potato she was working on. She hopped up and headed over to their storage area, shoving crates around until she found the correct one.

“Gale, how many?”

“Five?”

“More like seven!!” corrected Karlach.

She snickered, grabbing six, figuring that was the happy medium. Jaheira had joined Gale, and she was chopping carrots. Halsin was helpfully putting up Gale’s tent, since the wizard was busy cooking. Wyll and Shadowheart were chattering near her tent, passing a bottle of wine back and forth. And Lae’zel was in the middle of her fourth set of push-ups, her evening calisthenics in full swing.

Astarion sauntered out of the woods near her; he’d left a while ago to hunt and had clearly been successful. His movements were much looser and languid than usual. Almost…too loose, she realized, as he stumbled over his own feet on his way to her.

“There you are! My friend!,” he greeted her enthusiastically, wrapping his arm around her and attempting to dip her as if they were dancing. Tali squawked, trying to keep her balance and not drop the sausages she was holding. He scooped her back up, pressing a kiss to her neck.

“Um, Astarion?” she asked, somewhat bewildered. They may have been officially involved at this point, but he generally hadn’t seemed to be the sort for public displays of affection.

“Yes, love?” he asked, attempting to kiss the other side of her neck, tripping over her foot in the process.

“Are you…drunk??” she asked incredulously. Karlach scooted up behind her, grabbing the sausages and taking them to the relative safety of Gale’s cooking.

“NO,” he said, looking somewhat offended. “Well, yes, I suppose, in a manner of speaking. Not alcohol, of course. A bear. He took a little of my blood, I took all of his,” he told her proudly, swaying slightly.

“That sounds like a dangerous meal,” she told him, starting to be amused in spite of herself.

“So’s ANY meal worth having,” he informed her. He staggered slightly, bumping into her.

“Ooookay,” she said. “You’re coming with me.”

“Are you planning to take advantage of me, darling?” he asked her, giving her a lustful gaze.

“Not tonight. Come on, we’re going to go sleep it off,” she said, taking his hand and heading for their tent.

“I don’t sleep, Tali,” he reminded her. But he seemed more than happy to accompany her, even if he was stumbling every few steps.

From the fire, Gale and Karlach were gawking at the entire exchange, Karlach finally descending into fits of giggles.

“I like drunk Fangs,” she said, chortling.

Gale shook his head, annoyed. “She needs to be careful,” he mumbled.

“Ahh, come on, Gale. Tali’s a big girl, she can handle herself.”

“He’s a vampire,” he reminded her.

“So?”

Gale’s eyes practically bugged out of his head as he flailed at the tiefling. “He. Is. A. Drunk. VAMPIRE.”

“I sure am, darling wizard!” called Astarion, right before Taliana dragged him into their tent.

Gale snorted in frustration. “I forgot about his supersonic hearing.”

“I HEARD THAT TOO, WIZARD!”

“Oh for -” Gale sputtered, finally giving up and returning to his soup. Beside him, Karlach was laughing so hard she was nearly in tears.

“Don’t encourage him, Karlach,” the wizard sniffed.

She finally got control of herself, an occasional giggle still sneaking out, before saying, “Ah, come on, Gale. You have to admit that was pretty funny.”

“I fail to see the amusem*nt in this -” he started.

“DID I MENTION I DRANK AN ENTIRE BEAR???”

Over by her tent, Shadowheart and Wyll were both doubled over with laughter. Jaheira’s shoulders were quaking with laughter, and Halsin had stopped with the tent assembly because his guffaws were threatening to undo his work. Even Lae’zel had cracked a smile, pausing in her calisthenics to watch the entertainment.

Gale’s lips twitched slightly before the corners of his mouth quirked upwards. A moment later, a burble of laughter exploded from him. He sat down on the log near the fire, cackling with the rest of them.

“Sometimes, Gale, sh*t is just funny,” said Karlach, wiping tears from her eyes.

He held his hands up in surrender, still laughing. “You win, Karlach,” he managed.

Inside the tent, Tali was struggling with her drunk vampire, who, at least, seemed to be an affectionate drunk. Probably better that than not, she figured, considering that the only people who could probably hold back a drunk and angry Astarion would be Halsin or Karlach.

He collapsed on his bedroll, gazing up at her. He raised one pale finger, beckoning to her.

“Astarion -” she started, shaking her head.

“Come here, Tali,” he said, lounging back on a pillow.

She sat next to him tentatively, waiting for him to pounce on her. Instead, he sat up, sliding behind her and pulling the tie out of her hair, letting it ripple down her back in loose waves.

“What’re you up to there, Astarion?” she asked him, amused.

He combed his fingers through her hair a few times before deftly parting it into several sections and beginning to braid it. He leaned his chin on her shoulder and asserted, “I am going to do your hair.”

“I…see that,” she said, giggling.

“I’m good at it,” he informed her confidently. She shrugged, relaxing as he got to work. He started humming to himself behind her, eventually switching to the fluid, musical words of Elvish.

She smiled, enjoying this rather silly and unusual version of Astarion. He kept working, tying off a braid here, a braid there, eventually smoothing his hands over her head. She reached up to feel her head and blinked in surprise - she now had two french braids, one on each side of her head, with the ends wound together in some sort of elegant knot. He reached forward to pull a few pieces of hair loose to frame her face before sitting back in satisfaction.

“Should I even ask how you know how to do that?” she asked, a combination of baffled and impressed.

“I had sisters, you know,” he said.

“Before?” she asked. “Or do you mean after…?”

There was a long silence, punctuated by him leaning his head against her shoulder.

“I don’t know about before,” he said softly. “I don’t remember. But I had several spawn sisters. After two hundred years, you learn a lot of random things, really. One of them taught me how to do all sorts of braids and curls and such. It passed the time,” he said, wrapping his arms around her.

“Huh,” she said. “Well, thank you. I like it,” she said, patting her head again. He made a pleased noise against her before starting to hum again.

“What were you singing?” she asked him.

Nanwie nauvar ilye olo’rilyar,” he told her, his voice tracing over the words in a way that she immediately loved. “It’s an old lullaby.”

“I love it,” she said, leaning back into him. “What does that mean?”

“All your dreams will become reality.”

“I love it even more.”

“Do you have any other random talents picked up over the last two hundred years that I don't know about?” she asked, curiosity getting the best of her.

He chuckled before answering. “I do, actually. I’m very good at embroidery, darling,” he informed her. He pointed at the leather doublet he wore often, indicating the fine golden stitching it was embellished with.

“Seriously?” said Tali, leaning over to examine it closer. “That’s beautiful, Astarion.”

“Thanks.” He nuzzled against the side of her neck, nipping at it.

“You can’t possibly tell me you’re hungry after an ENTIRE BEAR.”

“For you, always,” he said. He pressed a kiss to the now-exposed back of her neck, making her shiver. He hummed happily against her, completely relaxed against her back.

“You want to lay down, maybe?” she asked him.

“That would make things…easier,” he said, sliding his hands under the edge of her tunic, resting on the bare skin of her stomach.

“My dear, you are not in your right mind at the moment and I kind of feel like sex isn’t a great idea,” she said, trying to regain control of the situation as his hands started creeping higher.

“Sex with you is ALWAYS a great idea,” he asserted, hands now cupping her breasts.

“Astarion. Seriously. Bad idea,” she said, scooting forward. “Besides, everyone is about to be eating dinner right outside your tent. How about we wait until later, at least?”

He grumbled against her, but pulled his hands back, flopping down onto the nest of fluffy blankets that dominated his tent.

“There you go,” she said softly, stroking his hair back and tucking a few curls behind his ears. He closed his eyes as she continued, smiling.

“I like that,” he mumbled.

“What, me petting you?”

“Mmm-hmm.”

“I swear, you’re like a cat sometimes. Independent, cranky, and demanding head scratches.”

He smirked up at her, opening one ruby eye to look at her. “Meow.”

“Astarion…” she started, giggling. “Go to sleep,” she told him.

“I don’t SLEEP,” he reminded her, scooting closer and draping an arm over her.

“You know what I mean,” she grumbled at him. He smiled, closing his eyes.

Fifteen minutes later, he was deep in his trance, his face peaceful. Tali carefully untangled herself from him, edging her way out of the tent, hoping someone had saved her a bowl of soup. Gale was still at the fire, staring into it pensively. From what she could see, the others were either in their tents, or at the stream bathing, from the sounds of it.

“Is there any soup left?” she asked Gale, who startled at her voice. He nodded, indicating a bowl sitting on one of the crates they’d been using to chop vegetables on. “Thanks,” she said, grabbing it and tearing into it. “Oh damn, this is REALLY good,” she told him, closing her eyes and savoring it.

“Glad you like it,” he said dryly, still not looking at her.

Taliana sighed, putting her spoon in her bowl and looking at him. He was doing his best to look everywhere but at her, and for once, had nothing to say.

“What, Gale?” she finally asked, exasperated. “Look, I know you’re mad that I’m with him. I just don’t know why you’re so mad.”

He scuffed the toe of his boot against the dirt, silent.

“Are you going to talk to me, or have we reached the silent treatment stage?” she finally asked, taking another bite of soup. It really was excellent.

“I just wish you’d given me a chance,” he finally said, still staring at the ground. “And I don’t understand why you’d even risk a relationship with someone who could kill you if they lose control momentarily.”

Taliana raised her eyebrows, annoyed. Without a word, she leaned over and tapped his chest, right where the netherese orb lurked under his flesh.

“That's not the same!” he protested, finally looking at her. “I have control over it. I never wanted it in the first place!”

“So…you’re saying Astarion wanted to be turned into a vampire spawn to serve a sad*stic master for two hundred years, and that he has zero control over his nature? I’d think very carefully before you answered that, Gale,” she finished, her eyes blazing.

“He bites you, Tali.”

“Because I let him.”

There was a pause before he finally said, “Why?” HIs voice was soft, and his eyes met hers, the hurt clear.

Tali sighed, sitting back. “Honestly? Because I like it. Because it makes him happy. It makes him more effective. Oh, but also, I like it.”

He looked at her, bewilderment all over his face.

“It’s truly none of your business, Gale, but since you’re so stuck on this, I’ll spell it out to you. I like it. I ask him to. It feels good. It makes him feel good. Oh, and again, I like it,” she hissed, staring him down. “I’m sorry it upsets you, but by now I’d think you know me well enough to know that I wouldn’t put up with something I hated. You have to trust me.”

“I do,” he protested.

“You do, except when it comes to Astarion, you mean.”

He sighed. “Yes.”

“I don’t know what else to tell you, then. I’ve been honest with you, and if that’s not good enough, it’s not my problem anymore,” she snapped. She stood, grabbing her bowl of soup. “Thanks for dinner,” she tossed back over her shoulder as she stalked back to the tent.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 29: Astarion - Nightmare

Summary:

And everything I've held too tight inside
Could make a part of me die
And if my lips could only speak the name
The dam would break...

~ Toad the Wet Sprocket, "Dam Would Break"

Notes:

Time for some TW : implied SA, physical assault/abuse, PTSD/trauma, Cazador.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Astarion was peering into a tiny window lined with iron bars, no more than a grate, really. He was standing on a ledge, water sloshing beneath him. It took him a moment, since he’d never seen it from this angle, but he knew where he was. He was in the sewers, looking into the cell that Cazador had thrown him in.

That was disconcerting enough, but a small noise from inside the cell pulled his attention back to the grate, instead of the swirling water of the sewers.

What in the hells???

He grabbed the bars, panic setting in. Taliana was in the cell, laying on the floor, blood seeping from a cut on her cheek. As he watched, she slowly pushed herself upright, crawling into the corner where he used to pile all of his rat bones. She curled into a ball, hugging her knees, rocking quietly in place, her shoulders shaking.

“No…” he whispered, trying to pull the bars apart, to chip the stone away, anything. Anything to get her out.

The door to the cell swung open without warning, and Astarion started screaming.

Cazador.

His old master was framed in the doorway, as repulsive and terrifying as he had been the last time he’d seen him. His inky black hair was slicked back perfectly; ruby red lips pulled back to show elegantly pointed fangs. His clothing was extravagant and fussy; the shirt was ruffled, with lace on the ends of the sleeves, peeking out from under an elaborately embroidered silk jacket. Boots made of the finest leather, with embossed silver caps on the toes, clicked into the cell, towering over Taliana’s slight form.

Astarion pulled the bars as hard as he could, a sob ripping loose from his throat.

As he watched, Cazador grabbed Taliana by the hair, yanking her into the middle of the cell, giving him a perfect view. He watched, horrified, as Cazador ripped into her throat, biting chunks of flesh out of her neck, not even bothering to really drink her blood. Astarion banged against the stone, sobbing helplessly.

“Tali…” he moaned, attempting to reach an arm into the cell.

Cazador had pinned Taliana’s arms down, his knees clamped to her thighs to hold her in place. He ripped at her clothes, groping and touching every inch of her that he could. Astarion wailed, trying to yank the bars from the wall.

He watched as Cazador descended on her, watched as she struggled against him. She finally whimpered his name, then louder, and louder.

astarion

Astarion?

ASTARION!!!

He jerked out of his trance, hands grabbing for daggers that weren’t there, his breath heaving in and out. He lept back, his posture defensive, utterly disoriented.

“ASTARION!”

Hands caught his wrists, and he flailed wildly, a feral growl ripping out of his chest. One of his hands smacked into something soft and warm, followed by a gasp of pain.

“Astarion!”

He snapped to attention, wheezing, his body shaking violently. His eyes raced back and forth, taking in his surroundings, and then reality clicked firmly back into place.

He was cowering in the corner of his tent, arms up, ready to fight. Across from him, Taliana was sprawled across the bedroll, a hand held against her cheek in shock, a bruise already swelling and forming as he watched.

“Oh gods, Tali, no, I’m so sorry -” he started, reaching for her.

She held her hands up to stop him, sliding away from him warily.

“Are you back now?” she asked, a glimmer of fear still in her eyes.

He slumped down to the floor, his hands over his face, trembling. A moment later, he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder, moving up to cup his cheek.

“Astarion?” Tali whispered.

He lunged towards her, throwing his arms around her waist and burying his head against her neck, his breath heaving in and out. She wrapped her arms around him, sitting back on the floor and rocking him gently as he clung to her like a scared child.

He finally pulled away, looking up at her, guilt twisting down his throat as he saw the bruise covering her cheek, nearly swelling her eye shut. “Oh gods, Tali, your poor face -” he whimpered. “I’m so sorry.”

“What just happened, Astarion?” she whispered, the fear still in her eyes. “I didn’t think you could dream while trancing.”

“It’s not common, but it does happen from time to time,” he said softly. “In my experience, the only times it does is for nightmares.”

She pulled him against her chest, stroking his back, feeling him shiver.

“About…Cazador?” she asked tentatively.

He nodded once, closing his eyes.

“You want to talk about it?”

He shook his head vigorously, still rattled by the images in his head.

“You kept saying my name,” she said quietly.

He bit his lip, tears coming to his eyes.

“You were in the cell, okay? He had you. And he…he…” He stopped, unable to go any further.

“Okay,” she whispered. “It’s okay. I’m okay. Come here, love,” she said softly, laying down in the nest of blankets and holding her arms out to him. He curled against her immediately, some of the tension dissipating as she pulled the blankets up and carefully stroked his hair back. His breathing was finally slowing down somewhat, although he was still shaking slightly.

“You’re all right, love. I’m all right. Shhh,” she soothed. She started humming, eventually shifting into sung notes, quiet and gentle. The familiar melody was relaxing him further, and eventually the worst of the panic seemed to have passed.

“There you go,” she murmured against his hair. “You’re all right.”

He clung to her, breathing her in, both of them quiet.

They were both still awake when the sun started to rise a few hours later.

Notes:

Please, please, PLEASE heed the trigger/content warnings from here on out - you will be seeing more in the next 10-ish chapters than anywhere else in this work. Take care of yourselves.

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 30: Taliana - Truth

Summary:

And you don’t see me
But I threw you the obvious
Just to see if there’s more behind the
Eyes of a fallen angel
Eyes of a tragedy
Here I am, expecting just a little bit
Too much from the wounded
But I see, see through it all
See through
See you…

~ A Perfect Circle, “3 Libras”

Notes:

CW : Cazador, abuse, implied SA, PTSD, torture, body horror, oh, and Cazador and his circus of horrors.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The one benefit of not being able to sleep was being able to peer out the flap of the tent, waiting for a glimpse of Shadowheart. Tali had been doing precisely that since the sun had started to come up, squinting in the direction of the cleric’s tent. Her persistence was rewarded when she shuffled out of her tent a half hour or so later, wandering in the direction of the stream.

“I’ll be back,” she whispered to Astarion, who nodded.

She slipped outside, skirting around the back of the tents, following Shadowheart.

Her cleric was splashing water on her face before standing and stretching.

“Before I scare the hells out of you, I’m here,” she said. Even with that warning, Shadowheart jumped.

“Gods, Tali, you can’t DO that to me,” she gasped. Then she actually looked at Tali, and her eyes narrowed.

“Taliana? What the f*ck? Where is he?”

“Shadow, no, it’s not like that -” she started.

“I swear, if Gale was RIGHT I’m never going to live it down -”

“Shadowheart! Give me a second to explain,” Tali pleaded.

The cleric eyed her suspiciously, clearly still debating if she needed to go put a stake through the vampire first.

“I know it looks terrible. He was in his trance last night and had some sort of…nightmare? Night terror? I don’t even know. But I tried to wake him up out of it, and he panicked and came out swinging. It was absolutely an accident.”

Shadowheart’s eyes slowly traveled over her face; Tali could only assume she was trying to decide if she believed her.

“I wasn’t aware you could dream while in a trance,” she finally said.

“He said it’s extremely rare, but when it does happen, it’s almost always nightmares.”

Shadowheart chewed on her lower lip for a moment, still looking suspicious.

“Shadow, I’m telling you the truth.”

She finally nodded, her eyes dark and troubled. “I’ll fix it this time, Tali. There best not be a next time,” she muttered. She hovered her hands over Tali’s face, murmuring softly, and a soothing coolness spread over her face, then faded.

“You’re good,” she said, turning back to the stream.

“Thank you.”

“Don’t make me regret doing that, Taliana.”

Tali nodded tightly, turning to walk away. She paused, turning back around for a moment.

“Please don’t tell the others,” she asked softly. “Please.”

Shadowheart gave her a curt nod. Tali turned to leave again, and then heard a “Hey, Tali?”

“Hmmm?”

“Who did your hair?”

“Who do you think?”

They regarded each other for a long moment before the cleric threw her hands into the air.

“That’s it, I officially do not understand your vampire. Gods.”

Tali snickered, waving as she sauntered back to camp.

She ducked back into Astarion’s tent, smiling as she crawled back into the pile of blankets. He looked her over, sighing in relief.

“Remind me that I owe her one,” he muttered. “Otherwise I’m pretty sure the rest of the camp would’ve staked me.”

“She threatened to do it herself before I explained.”

“Gods,” he grumbled. “What a mess.”

“She won’t talk, Astarion.”

“I know. But the fact that you had to do this at all is…” he said, trailing off, still unhappy.

She sighed, taking his hand. “It was an accident. I’m not upset.”

He nodded, rolling over onto his back, staring at the top of the tent.

Taliana contemplated him for a long moment, trying to decide if she wanted to push him or not. Finally, she said, “Do you want to tell me?”

He closed his eyes, his jaw tensing slightly. He sat up, pulling his knees to his chest and wrapping his arms around them. When he finally spoke, it was clear he was fighting to keep his voice even.

“Taliana, you just do not understand what he is capable of. You can’t understand the level of depravity and destruction he delights in inflicting on people. The things I’ve seen, the things that have been done to me, the things I’ve had to do to others…you can’t understand,” he finished bitterly.

“Try me.”

He shook his head slightly. A long silence hung in the air between them before he finally spoke.

“Being a spawn is rather like being a puppet on a string. Your master flexes his will, and you bend. There is absolutely nothing that you can do to fight it; it’s a pressure that overtakes every bit of your body, forcing you to obey. Some days, the orders may be to bring back a beautiful girl for him. Some days, it may be to eat putrid, decaying rats. And some days, it might be walking on ankles that had been shattered as punishment, every single shard of bone ripping into you as you walk to your master, stumbling and falling because they can’t support you. And getting back up to try it again and again.”

“I frustrated Cazador in a lot of ways, I think. He spent two hundred years trying to completely break me, and I still had a stubborn streak that he just couldn’t remove. If he needed a spawn to make an example of, I was always going to be his first choice. I’ve been hung by my wrists in the kennels for days on end. I’ve been flayed alive. Whipped more times than I could even count. Nails ripped out. Bones broken, allowed to heal for a week or so, and then broken again. Wood jammed under my nails. Breaking in new spawn. I hated that more than anything else.”

“Some of the things I saw…I will never be able to get them out of my head completely. I saw children turned into thralls and forced to kill their parents. Parents turned into thralls, forced to kill their children. People hung for days while they screamed the walls down, begging for it to just be over. People tortured for days, weeks, until Cazador got bored with them and finally killed them. He peeled the skin off the back of one man and then f*cked him to death,” he finished. He was staring somewhere into the corner of the tent, his eyes empty and disconnected.

“Cazador was always searching for more power. He regularly entertained the upper crust of society in Baldur’s Gate, currying favor with anyone who may be of use to him. Parties, soirees, masquerades, they were all a common thing in his palace. He loved to wine and dine the richest, most powerful nobles he could find. Or the people who held positions that might be of use to him.”

There was a pause as he took a deep breath before spitting out the next words.

“The highest honor Cazador could…bestow…on one of these favored individuals was their choice. Their choice of his spawns for the night, or for the weekend, if one was very unlucky. To be used or abused however they saw fit. You’d be surprised just how depraved the nobles of the city can be to those they consider monsters,” he spat, struggling to keep himself under control.

Taliana was looking at him in complete horror as she realized what he was saying. Her tears finally spilled over, a hand over her mouth.

“That’s why I say you don’t understand, Taliana. It was two hundred years of being a means to an end, and every instinct I have tells me that nothing has changed. It’s hard to undo that many years in a few short weeks of freedom,” he told her, his voice tight.

A horrible twist of nausea ran through her, and she had to swallow hard to keep herself under control. No, she didn’t understand - he was right. She couldn’t understand, because this was a level of abuse and savagery she’d never experienced.

“Astarion…” she started, her voice shaking.

He cut her off to say, “Let me tell you one more thing. The nightmare I had, Cazador had you. If he even finds out you exist, you’ll be as damned as I am when he finds me. You’re -” He stopped abruptly, shaking his head.

She realized he had said “when”, not “if”. The nausea intensified, her mouth watering. She took a slow, deep breath, trying to calm down.

“I’m what?”

He finally huffed out a breath, meeting her eyes before he said, “The only thing I truly care about. You don’t understand how fun that would be for him.”

Tali shrank back from him, fear creeping across her face.

He shook his head. “I should just leave,” he whispered.

She grabbed his arm in a momentary panic, like he would dart out of the tent at any moment. He looked at her, his scarlet eyes sadder than she’d ever seen them. He reached out to gently push the loose strands of hair behind her ear before resting his forehead against hers.

“The problem is that I can’t. I…gods, Tali. I don’t know what this is, or what we’re even doing, but I don’t ever want to lose it.”

She reached a hand up to cup the back of his head. “Please stay,” she whispered. “I need you.”

He gave her a tortured look before saying, “I know. I need you too.” He gently took her face in his hands, leaning in to kiss her tenderly.

“Are you two ever getting up?” called Gale from outside the tent. Tali had to refrain from giving the wizard a bitching out he would never forget. Astarion, however, didn’t have her level of filter, and he whipped the tent open to glare at him.

“Wizard, we are working a few things out in here, so if you could leave us be, that would be delightful,” he bit out through clenched teeth.

Gale ignored him entirely, leaning sideways to see Taliana. “Tali? Are you all right?”

She flew out of the tent, a cloud of rage seething around her. But she had forgotten the violent nausea from a few moments ago, and the sudden change of position rendered her doubled over, vomiting last night’s potato soup near the edge of Gale’s robes. He yelped in surprise, jumping backwards.

With as much dignity as she could muster, she wiped her mouth with the back of her hand, keeping eye contact with the wizard the entire time. He wilted under her glare, backing away slowly.

“Nope,” she said. “We’re doing this now. You come with me,” she hissed, grabbing Gale’s arm and hauling him in the direction of the stream. Once they were a sufficient ways away from the camp, she whirled around to face him.

“Let me make this very clear to you, Gale of Waterdeep. I like you. I like you despite the fact that you are hellbent on being an absolute asshole to the man I chose to be with. That said, if you KEEP being an absolute asshole to the man I chose to be with, I will NOT like you anymore. You need to straighten your sh*t out and act like a goddamn adult, because I am over all of your dramatics when it comes to this.”

He opened his mouth to speak, but she wasn’t done with him.

“Furthermore, I have been up half the night and I am clearly not feeling well. Don’t f*cking push me today.”

“Why were you up half the night?” he asked quietly, concern on his face.

“You really think I’m going to answer that?”

Gale shrank back from her, his eyes wary. Finally, he huffed out a deep breath. “You’re right. It’s none of my business, I know that. And I truly do apologize for my actions.”

“I’m not the one you should be apologizing to,” she snapped.

“Still, I know you’re upset with me, and rightfully so, and for that, I apologize. I’ve judged the vampire unfairly.”

“Astarion.”

He hesitated for a split second before acquiescing. “Astarion. I’ve judged him unfairly. I swear to you that I’ll be a better man from now on.”

She studied him, eyes narrowed, before nodding. “All right then.”

“All right.”

With that, she pivoted and stalked back to the camp, only stopping to vomit a second time near a mangy-looking tree.

“For f*ck’s sake,” she grumbled. “I hate today.”

She stormed back into the camp, a much-subdued Gale trailing behind her. She made it to the tent before swearing profusely and skittering towards the treeline, vomiting one final time.

“f*ck,” she hissed, wiping her mouth. Shadowheart came over, peering at her closely.

“Tali?”

She shook her head, resting her forehead against the nearest tree.

“I feel like sh*t.”

“You look like sh*t.”

She snorted, cracking one eye open to look at her cleric, who was regarding her suspiciously.

“Did Gale try to poison you with the soup?”

“Hah. No. It was great. I’m just a little upset and my body is rebelling.”

Shadowheart studied her for a moment before saying, “You know, you don’t look real well. I think maybe you need to go back to bed while the rest of us go scout out Rivington.”

“No, I’m good -”

“We’ll leave Astarion here too so he can take care of you. You two have fun,” she said, the corners of her mouth twitching.

Tali shook her head, catching on. “Who would I be to argue with the cleric?”

“Exactly.”

Shadowheart swept back towards the fire, yelling that they were leaving in fifteen minutes. Tali headed back to the tent, crawling inside and collapsing onto the blankets. Astarion regarded her glumly before handing her a mug of water. He stood, starting to pull his armor on.

“Nope,” she said. “We’re staying here. Shadowheart’s orders,” she said, amused. He raised his eyebrows at her quizzically.

“Apparently if you puke multiple times in front of the cleric, she will order you to stay in camp and relax while everyone else goes to town. Oh, and also, you need to stay to take care of me.”

A smile slid onto his face, dark and mischievous. “Remind me I really owe her one.”

Before long, they could hear the general commotion of everyone leaving, arguing about what needed doing and who would be doing it. “Gods, how do they even function without you?” Astarion asked her in amusem*nt.

“They’ll be fine,” she replied, finishing off the mug of water. “Trust me, between Jaheira and Shadowheart, they’ll wrangle them all just fine.”

“How are you feeling, love?”

“I’m okay. It was just a stress thing that got made a lot worse by Gale being an idiot. If I hadn’t stood up and moved, it would’ve been fine,” she sighed, rolling her eyes.

“I heard you yelling at him,” he said. “Thank you,” he murmured softly. “I hate that anyone would think I’m out to cause you harm.”

“He’s just jealous,” she said, laying down and putting her head in his lap. “And apparently he doesn’t do real well with rejection. I think I got it through his head this time though.” She yawned, the lack of sleep starting to show.

Astarion looked at her in concern before saying, “Try to get some sleep, love.”

“But I’d rather spend the time with you.”

“I’ll still be here. Now sleep.”

She was ready to protest, but her eyelids seemed to weigh significantly more than usual. She kept her head in his lap, adjusting herself to a more comfortable position, and closed her eyes as he stroked her hair, humming the elvish lullaby from the day before. Before she knew it, she was gone.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 31: Astarion - Solitude

Summary:


Love, love is a verb
Love is a doing word
Fearless on my breath
Gentle impulsion
Shakes me, makes me lighter
Fearless on my breath
Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath...

~ Massive Attack, "Teardrop"

Notes:

Brief smut; skip the section between the *** if that's not your bag.

We're about to the city, and things are about to pick up steam. Appreciate you all for reading and commenting, it gives me life. <3

Sorry about the delay in getting this chapter up, depression is a bitch, y'all.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Astarion leaned back against the pillows in his tent, trying to not disturb Taliana, who was deeply asleep with her head in his lap. He traced a finger along the side of her face, relieved to see that the bruise from earlier had vanished without a trace. He gently moved a few errant pieces of hair out of the way, sighing deeply as he did so.

It was quiet; everyone else had headed into Rivington, leaving him alone with her. And as much as he would’ve liked to take advantage of it, she was clearly exhausted and he wasn’t about to wake her up, considering he was the reason she hadn’t slept in the first place.

Gods. He was still unnerved about earlier; both his nightmare and the resulting aftermath. He had tried to be as honest as he could with Tali about Cazador, but there was just so much he didn’t really have words for when it came to the horrors he’d lived through. There was so much he’d locked away in corners of his mind, so much he’d forced himself to forget. He’d tried to tell her enough so she would get how serious it was, but he also realized very quickly that there was just no real way for her to understand.

He knew his fears were legitimate. If Cazador caught wind of him being anywhere nearby, with friends, he would be thrilled to know that his renegade spawn had a weak point. If he caught wind of Taliana’s existence and what she meant to him…he didn’t even want to think about it. He shivered, trying to force the thoughts from his mind. They’d just have to kill him first; it would be all right. It had to be. He looked down at Tali, her face peaceful as she slept, and he could feel tears pricking at his eyes. He reached down, gently running a finger down the side of her face, a lump in his throat when she instinctively leaned into his touch, even in sleep.

Love. It was a strange word, one he had never really had much use for aside from using it to coax unsuspecting souls into bed with him to bring them to Cazador. It was just a word, an exhale of breath, something that shouldn’t mean anything. He’d never really considered its meaning, nor tried to figure out what it actually felt like. If he was being honest, he’d always figured it was something he no longer had the capability for. Perhaps when he was mortal, he did, but he certainly had no memory of it.

But he was getting an inkling that maybe, just maybe, he was starting to understand all the silly songs the bards were always singing about it. It was more than a word, perhaps; it was the way Tali traced her fingers through his hair, the way he always tried to meet her eyes when he was nervous, the way she knew what he needed even when he didn’t, the way she would relax against him when he held her. He leaned back, studying the ceiling of his tent as if it might hold all the answers. Thinking. Wondering. Dreaming.

He loved her, and it scared the absolute hell out of him.

f*ck.

It was a few hours before Tali finally stirred; she had rolled off his lap and into the nest of pillows and blankets that dominated his tent awhile ago. He’d been laying next to her, reading a book on alchemy he’d swiped out of the wizard’s tent. Did he care about alchemy? Well, not really. Did he care about annoying the wizard? Absolutely. So he fully planned to take his sweet time reading it.

She cracked one dark eye open, looking around blearily for a moment.

“Hi, love,” he greeted her.

“I didn’t mean to sleep so long,” she mumbled, yawning. “I wanted to be with you.”

“You were. You were just asleep.”

She swatted at him, chuckling. “You know what I meant.”

“How are you feeling?”

She sat up, shifting around for a moment or two before saying, “Fine, I think. I was just upset earlier and I guess my body decided to display it dramatically.”

He regarded her glumly. “Tali…”

She sighed at him in annoyance. “I’m fine, Astarion. I’m good.”

He nodded before leaning back to stretch his arms up into the air. “You know, I think I’m going to go get a bath in the stream when it’s not the middle of the night,” he mused. He tended to go at strange hours, not wanting the others to see his back. “Come with me?” he asked, looking down at her through his lashes.

Her stomach flipped again - pleasantly, this time - and she pushed herself to her feet, following him outside.

Astarion leaned against one of the large rocks bordering the stream, watching as Taliana tentatively dipped her toes into the water.

“It’s actually pretty nice,” she reported.

“I wouldn’t know,” he said dryly. Unless things were blatantly warm, he tended to not notice the temperature of things very well.

Without any hesitation, Tali started to strip in front of him, neatly folding her clothes and setting them down in a shaded patch of grass. He eyed her, appreciating the smooth lines of golden skin, the gentle curves of her breasts, the grace in her movements. She reached up to touch her hair, hesitating.

“I don’t want to take it down,” she told him, chuckling. “You did such a nice job.”

He couldn’t stop the grin that stretched across his face at her praise. “Did I, now?”

“Even Shadowheart liked it, and you know she’s got high standards with hair,” she said. The cleric was well-known to circulate around the camp, attempting to do anyone’s hair who would let her. Tali herself had worn quite a few Shadowheart-inflicted crowns of braids over the last few weeks.

“Oh, well, I must be good then,” he teased. “Take it down if you want. I’ll redo it later if you’d like.”

She carefully pulled the knot at the base of her neck loose before loosening the braids, her hair exploding around her in a riot of waves. She shook her head at him aggressively, making him chuckle.

“Are you getting in here or not?” she asked. “I feel like you’re just…watching me.”

“That’s because I am, darling,” he said, his voice dipping lower than usual.

“Oh, do not get that voice out.”

“What, this one?” he said, letting his years of honeyed charm drip from every word.

“Gods, Astarion.” She stared at him in slight awe. “How do you even do that?”

“Practice,” he smirked. He pushed himself away from the rock, pulling off his shirt. “Lots of practice,” he continued, almost in a whisper. His pants were next, puddling on the ground next to the shirt.

Tali pushed herself into the deeper water, blatantly ogling him as he sauntered his way over.

The water was only waist deep at the most, and Taliana had sunk down onto her knees to submerge as much of herself as possible. He joined her, dropping down next to her, sighing in relief.

“When we get to the city, I am going to find us a room with a very large tub for at least a night,” he told her.

She grinned. “Promise?”

“Mmm-hmm,” he said. “Possibly our own room too,” he continued, taking her chin in his hand so she would look up at him. She shivered slightly under his touch, the implications and promise making her want to squirm. He bent his head to kiss her lightly before saying, “Although, I probably should actually clean up now before everyone gets back. I don’t want…” He didn’t finish his sentence, but Tali could easily fill in the blanks.

“No problem,” she said easily. She waded back to the shore, retrieving the soaps and sponges from the basket near the water’s edge.

“Here,” he said, taking them from her. “Sit.” Tali dropped to her knees in the water, tracing her fingers over the surface. A moment later, he was scrubbing her hair, massaging her scalp expertly.

“You are way too good at that,” she mumbled, somewhat blissed out. He chuckled, making sure he’d done a thorough job before moving on to scrub her back.

“I’m going to have to start waking up in the middle of the night to come out here with you,” she mused.

“Or I need to get over it and just start coming at normal hours.”

She shrugged, leaning back to dip her hair in the water to rinse it. “Don’t do it unless you’re ready, love.”

Astarion sighed, scooping some water in his hands to drizzle over her back. “I’ll probably never be ready. It scared me all the way to the hells just to show you.”

“Why? Was it because of why you were showing me, or just the fact you were showing it at all?”

“Showing it at all,” he said, starting to scrub his arms. “You’re the only person I’ve ever willingly shown it to.”

She turned to look at him, eyebrows raised. “I didn’t realize that,” she said softly. “Thank you for trusting me.”

He studied her for a moment, thinking. Before he could second guess himself, he handed her the sponge and soap and turned around, gesturing at his back.

“Are you sure?” she asked him gently, a hand resting on his arm. He nodded, not trusting his voice. He steeled himself, taking a deep breath, and a moment later he felt the sponge moving across his back, carefully scrubbing. He flinched unintentionally and she paused, asking, “Does it hurt?”

“No,” he said, the slight tremor in his voice betraying him. Tali rubbed a soothing hand across his shoulder before continuing.

the sponge felt like the wire brush across his back, ripping open the wounds with every motion, sickening pain spreading through him. he could almost see the blood trickling down his arms, feel every layer of scab as it tore away -

“Stop,” he gasped, stumbling a few steps away from Taliana, his ears ringing. He turned back around, sinking down to sit where the water was more shallow. Tali knelt in front of him, taking his hands in hers, concern etched all over her face.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry -” she started.

He took a shaky breath, then another, and one more for good measure before he tried to speak.

“Don’t apologize. I asked you to,” he managed. “It’s okay. I just…didn’t expect it would do that to me.”

“Okay,” she whispered. “It’s okay,” she continued before pausing momentarily. “Can I hold you?” she finally asked.

He nodded, scooting towards her so she could pull him into her arms, one hand stroking his hair back as he buried his face in her neck. He could hear her pulse racing, thrumming under his lips, and he kissed her throat absentmindedly. Then again, this time with more intent, pressing his tongue against his favorite spot, the need to escape into her warmth overwhelming the brief moment of panic.

“Come on, love,” she told him. “Let’s get out of the water first, maybe?”

“Oh, right,” he said, trying to focus. He stood, and then reached down to grab Tali’s upper thighs, scooping her up against him so she was pressed to his chest and he could carry her. He started back for the camp at a brisk pace, making her giggle.

“Clothes?” she asked breathlessly.

***

“Later,” he told her. “I need to put more than my fangs in you, the sooner the better.” She shivered against him, pressing herself even tighter to him, legs wrapped around his back. He ducked into his tent, lowering her to the blankets, his mouth capturing hers as he did. She moaned into him, still wrapped around him like a vine. He ran his hands across her chest, toying with her nipples, eliciting a low whine from her. His co*ck pressed against her inner thigh, and he shifted slightly, an absolutely delighted groan coming out of him when he felt how slick she was. She ran her tongue against his, pressing into his mouth and scraping it against his fangs, reminding him that he had two appetites that he very much wanted to fulfill as soon as possible.

With an eagerness and zeal that surprised him, she reached down to guide him into her, a breathy whimper escaping her as he slid into her easily. He set a fairly quick pace, thrusting into her firmly, her moans pitching higher rapidly. He was nibbling and licking her neck somewhat obsessively, occasionally breaking off to kiss her deeply, but he kept returning to her throat.

“Bite me,” she hissed into his ear. “When I come.”

f*ck, Tali,” he choked out; even the idea of doing so threatened to throw him right over the edge. He slid a hand down to tease against her cl*t, running quick circles around it. She clung to him, her breath hot against him as he rammed into her.

“Astarion, I’m -” she barely managed to say before her org*sm hit her, clenching hard on his co*ck, a sharp yelp escaping before she clapped a hand over her mouth. He sank his teeth into her, stars exploding behind his eyes as the blood poured into his mouth and his co*ck poured his release into her at the same time.

“f*ck, f*ck, Astarion -” she wailed, legs tight around him as he pounded into her a few final times, still spasming around him as the icy numbness spread down her throat.

He continued to drink from her, all rich sweetness racing into him like velvet, a guttural moan issuing forth from his chest. It took everything he had to let her go; she always tasted good, but like this? Unreal. He pressed his tongue against the puncture wounds, licking up the last of the blood before collapsing next to her.

“Holy sh*t,” he managed, turning his head to look at her. She was gasping for breath, looking rather out of it. “sh*t, Tali. Are you all right?” he asked, concerned he’d taken too much blood.

“I’m fine,” she panted. “You just f*cked me so hard my brain stopped working for a minute.”

He burst out laughing, pulling her into his arms. “Sorry, love,” he told her, amusem*nt clear in his voice.

“Gods, don’t be. That was…”

“Amazing.”

They both chuckled, Astarion dropping a kiss on the top of her head as he held her.

***

“So, going to get us a room, hmm?” she asked from somewhere against his chest.

“It would be rather nice to have an actual door,” he mused. “And a bed.”

“Good point. Then I won’t have to be quiet.”

“Darling, you are not quiet.”

“I try to be! It’s not my fault you’ve had more time to get really good at everything.”

He snorted at her. “Everything, you say?”

She rolled back so she could actually look at him. “Well, everything we’ve done,” she clarified, flushing slightly.

He raised his eyebrows at her, clearly sensing an opening. “Is there something else you’d like to do, Taliana?” he asked, tracing a finger up her arm.

Her blush deepened. “I’m…open to experimenting,” she finally said.

He waited, the corners of his mouth twitching up into a smile.

She huffed out a sigh of exasperation, throwing a side eye in his direction as she did.

“Darling, believe me when I say I think I’ve likely heard it all at this point,” he told her, a bit of a chuckle slipping out. “That was my job, remember?”

She frowned for a moment. “I wouldn’t want to ask for anything that would…make you think of that.”

He shook his head. “It’s you,” he said. “It’s different. You were never his choice,” he murmured.

“Oh,” she said softly, resting a hand against his shoulder.

“Tali…” He paused, considering his words. “It’s different because this is real,” he finally said. “You’re incredible. You deserve something real.”

“Astarion…” Her eyes searched his face for a moment before she pulled herself closer to him, squeezing him gently.

“Did that make sense?” he asked, mulling his words over. “This whole…talking about things is difficult for me. I’m trying to figure it out.”

She leaned back, looking him in the eyes, her affection for him all too clear. “It made perfect sense.”

He nodded, rather pleased with himself.

A minute later, they could hear the sounds of everyone returning to camp, bags being tossed on the ground and weapons clanking. Tali groaned, rolling over.

“Didn’t they just leave?”

“It sure feels like it.”

“I should probably go get our clothes from the stream,” she said, chuckling.

“Probably a good call, love. Otherwise they’re going to think we drowned.”

With that, she rummaged in her pack, pulling some clothes on, sad to leave the bit of solitude they’d shared behind. As she stood to leave the tent, she paused, glancing back at him for a moment.

“I would rather enjoy needing a safe word sometime,” she said, her dark eyes sparkling with mischief. With that, she ducked out of the tent, leaving him staring after her, a slow smile spreading across his face.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 32: Taliana - The Favorite

Summary:

How do you do it?
Make me feel like I do?
How do you do it?
It's better than I ever knew...

~ Incubus, "Stellar"

Notes:

Hi everyone! Sorry about the bit of a delay, but I should be back on schedule now.

I have a new work going, so if you're a fan of Wyll/Astarion, please check out Price Tag on my account. <3

Thanks for reading!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

It felt like ages had gone by before Taliana finally walked back through the gates that marked the entrance of Baldur’s Gate. She gazed around, all the familiar buildings and noises soothing her soul.

Beside her, Karlach was practically dancing. “Soldier, I am SO GLAD to be back here. I wasn’t sure I’d ever see the city again,” she enthused.

“This is a far cry from my forest,” commented Halsin, looking around him. He clearly was not enjoying himself nearly as much as the tiefling.

“I wanted to go to Sorcerous Sundries -”

“I need a drink -“

“I think the cathedral is there -”

“The Devil’s Den might be a good place to start -”

“Okay, okay, okay,” called Taliana, trying to get control of the group. “I know everyone has wildly different things they need and want to do. But can we all agree that the first thing we need is somewhere to stay?”

There was silence, followed by many nodding heads. Well, except one.

“Lae’zel?”

“I would rather procure a new breastplate. I want to be prepared when we retrieve these netherstones.”

Taliana closed her eyes, trying to find some patience.

“Okay. But we still need a safe place for you to put your new breastplate, so I suggest everyone follow me for now. I have an idea.”

“T’chk.”

“I heard that, Lae’zel.”

“Do I want to ask what this idea might be, darling?” Astarion asked, materializing next to her.

“The owner of the Elfsong…owes me a few favors,” she said cryptically, a finger tapping against her bow. He caught her meaning immediately, covering a snort of laughter with a semi-believable cough.

Taliana hauled her group down the streets of the city, finally shoving open the familiar battered door to the Elfsong Tavern.

“Tali!” boomed a voice from behind the bar as soon as she walked in. She pushed her hood back, grinning.

“Hey, Alan,” she greeted him. She’d known him a long time; the guild often used him as a point of contact for a lot of jobs, passing information through him.

“I was worried about you, my friend. I hadn’t seen you since the whole tentacle ship thing,” he said.

“I was…indisposed,” she said. He chuckled, nodding.

“Caught for once, eh?”

“Something like that.”

“Caught doing what?” That was Gale, paying closer attention than Taliana would’ve liked.

“Pickpocketing,” said Alan easily. “She’s got quick fingers and a quicker grab.”

Beside her, Astarion smothered a laugh, causing her to jab him in the ribs. “I’ll say,” he said in a low voice meant only for her. She jabbed him again, trying to fight the giggle she could feel rising in her throat.

Gale was eyeing her in disbelief.

“Pickpocketing?” he asked.

“Does it matter, Gale?” snapped Shadowheart. “Gods.”

“I - no. It does not.”

“Thank you,” grumbled Tali.

Alan watched the entire exchange, amusem*nt clear on his face.

“I see you’ve found yourself some friends, Tali.”

“I have. We’re going to be in the city for a bit and I was wondering if the upper floor was still…being remodeled.”

“Ah. Yes. Terribly long job, I’m afraid.”

“Then I’m sure you have a discounted rate for me, since it’s unfinished and all.”

He rolled his eyes at her.

Tali plunked a coin purse on the counter in front of him. “That should do.”

He picked it up, jingling it suspiciously. “It is coins this time, right Taliana? And not metal with a few rocks?”

“Gods, you do that ONE time -” Behind her, Wyll was absolutely cackling, trying to smother the sound with a hand and failing miserably.

Alan shook it again. “Fine, Tali. You’re lucky you’re my favorite,” he said, sliding a key across the counter to her.

“You know I’m always your favorite,” she said sweetly. She pulled her hood back up and pivoted, leading the group up several sets of stairs, stopping in front of a set of double doors. She unlocked them and shoved them open, gesturing grandly at what lay inside.

“What in the absolute hells, Tali -” said Gale, gawking.

She grinned. The upper floors of the Elfsong had long been labeled as being ‘remodeled’, when in reality they served as a landing pad for guild or friends of the guild who needed a place to cool off. The room everyone was entering was more like several rooms all in one; there was a large central area, with plush rugs and multiple couches. Surrounding it were multiple nooks and crannies, with curtains enclosing more than enough beds for everyone. Bookshelves, wardrobes, mirrors - everything was clean and gleaming, and the long dining table was set. As if on cue, there was a rattle from behind it, and Tali moved to haul a giant basket out of the dumbwaiter, plunking it down in the middle of the table and beginning to unload a plethora of meats, cheeses, and fruits.

“Bloody hells, soldier,” said Karlach, hopping around and inspecting everything before crashing down in a chair at the table and stuffing cheese into her mouth.

“What she said,” murmured Astarion from behind her. “And later, I want to know why you’re his favorite,” he said, his voice low and dark as he palmed her waist. She shivered slightly under his touch, giving him her most innocent smile. His eyes darkened a bit more, his grip tightening slightly.

“Astarion, are you jealous?” she asked him incredulously. Everyone had scattered throughout the room, claiming beds and examining everything.

“It would appear that I am,” he grumbled, drumming his fingers lightly against her waist.

Taliana flushed; something about the way he was looking at her was doing things to her. “I’m…going to go find us a bed,” she said, sliding out of his grip. He followed her as she ducked into an unoccupied nook behind a curtain, dropping her pack at the foot of the bed with a thump.

A second later, she was pinned against the wall, being kissed to the hells and back by her vampire, who had pressed his body tightly to hers.

“I - oh. sh*t. Sorry. I was looking for a - nevermind.” Wyll ducked back through the curtain, his face a curious shade of red.

Astarion let her go, his forehead thumping against the wall next to her head. “f*ck,” he breathed.

Taliana was feeling somewhat light headed and vaguely embarrassed. At least it had just been Wyll, as opposed to Shadowheart or Gale.

Astarion dropped his pack next to hers, raising an eyebrow in question. She nodded, still a bit out of breath, and he disappeared back through the curtain.

“f*ck,” she mumbled to herself, way more turned on than was probably socially acceptable, given their location. She took a few breaths and ducked through the curtain, where most of her companions were milling about, chatting.

“I know everyone has various personal things they want to take care of,” she called. “So have at it. Just be back by midday tomorrow. And try to not get arrested, please.”

“You’re taking all the fun out of this, soldier,” grumbled Karlach.

“Sorry, that’s as good as it gets. Now scram.”

Astarion reappeared next to her momentarily. “I’ll be back, love. Need to handle a few things.” She nodded, watching him slip out the door.

People started to slowly disperse, and before long it was just Taliana left with Jaheira. The older woman had settled herself onto the couch with a mug of tea and a painful groan.

Tali dropped into a chair next to her. She hadn’t spent a ton of time with the Harper, but she always enjoyed listening to her talk.

“How are you faring, Taliana?” she asked.

“I’m…good. I think. It’s been a lot lately.”

“You are feeling better?”

Tali flushed slightly. “Yeah. I was just a bit upset about something and apparently the position change of getting up to yell at Gale did me in.”

Jaheira chuckled. “Yes, the wizard can certainly make one want to yell at him. He has a good heart, but he also does not know when to keep his mouth shut.”

Taliana snorted in response. “That is Gale in a nutshell.” She paused, regarding the woman, before asking, “Hey Jaheira, what do you think of Wyll?”

“Ah, do you want my opinions on all of our companions? I could be persuaded to share them.”

Tali grinned at her. “What do I have to do to persuade you?”

“You have to let me start with you, of course.”

She blinked, somewhat taken aback at that answer. “I suppose that’s only fair,” she said slowly.

Jaheira looked at her, and Taliana got the feeling that Jaheira actually could see straight through her if she wished to. Hell with being a druid; she probably should’ve been a seer.

“You are one who commands the respect of everyone here, even though you are by far the smallest. They listen to you as if you were larger than Halsin. I am unsure if you realize how much everyone has come to rely on you and care for you on this journey; it is the little things they all do.”

“What…what do you mean?”

Jaheira stretched her legs out in front of her before answering. “When was the last time you had to sharpen your own dagger? Lae’zel has always done it before you even think to. Gale will always set aside a bowl of food for you without even thinking about it. Wyll and Karlach have been taking turns taking your tent down while you organize everyone for the day. And as for your vampire - well, it’s clear you are the only one he listens to, ever.”

Taliana blushed; Jaheira was right. She hadn’t even really realized the little ways people had been taking care of her over the last few weeks, and she was somewhat ashamed of herself for not realizing.

“Talking about me, Jaheira?” Astarion had appeared at the double doors, a faint look of amusem*nt on his face.

“Perhaps.”

“Taliana, I would very much like it if you would accompany me out when you’re finished here,” he said. Something in his eyes sent a lick of heat up her spine.

Jaheira was watching her with something that very closely resembled amusem*nt. “Have fun, Taliana,” she said, and yes, there was indeed a bit of a chuckle in her voice.

Taliana stood, giving her a nod of thanks, before joining Astarion outside the doors. He took her hand, leading her down the stairs.

“Should I ask where we’re going?”

“I believe I promised you something when we got to the city.”

“Oh. OH,” she squeaked, remembering his promise to get them their own room.

He flashed a smile at her, the dark and dangerous one that she loved so much, and she knew she would follow him anywhere.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 33: Astarion - Jealousy

Summary:

Don't ask me
What you know is true
Don't have to tell you
I love your precious heart
I - I was standing
You were there
Two worlds collided
And they could never tear us apart..

~ INXS, "Never Tear Us Apart"

Notes:

I have a Wyll/Astarion romance going as well, if you'd like to check it out! It's called Price Tag, and it's an AU story. :)

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Hrmph.

Jealous?

Well, f*ck.

He’d never really considered himself the jealous sort, but then again, he hadn’t really had anything to call his own for well over two centuries.

He stalked back towards the tavern, spinning a key in his hand before sliding it back into his pocket. He clattered up the stairs, just in time to hear Jaheira saying something about “the vampire - you’re the only one he listens to, ever.”

He slid in the door silently before saying, “Talking about me, Jaheira?”

The older woman didn’t miss a beat. “Perhaps.”

He gazed at Taliana before saying, “Taliana, I would very much like it if you would accompany me out when you’re finished here.”

On the stairs, she asked, “Should I ask where we’re going?”

“I believe I promised you something when we got to the city,” he murmured, giving her his best dangerous smile.

Tali nearly squeaked in reply, making him smile even wider.

A minute later, they were on the street together, her hand in his as he led her along several side streets and alleys. Tali’s cloak fluttered behind her, a plum-colored ribbon on the wind.

“I rather love that cloak, you know.”

“Oh, do you now?”

“It suits you.”

“Why thank you, darling,” she teased.

“I’ll like it even more when it’s on the floor shortly,” he continued, gratified when she nearly tripped over her own feet. He leaned closer, his lips against her ear. “You have no idea how much I’m looking forward to showing you how jealous I possibly feel.” Tali’s face turned a rather interesting shade of red, and she picked up the pace beside him.

“You know, I did rather like that idea,” she said nonchalantly.

“What idea would that be, darling?”

“Oh, the one where I might have to say owlbear.”

f*ck,” he hissed, pulling her along faster.

“How much farther?”

“Why?”

“Because I have the feeling you’re about two seconds away from f*cking me on a bench in the middle of the city.”

“That’s because I am,” he grumbled through gritted teeth.

She gave him a cheeky smile, and he shook his head at her. “What am I going to do with you, darling?”

“I was hoping for whatever you want.”

Tali.” He glared at her, incredibly glad he could no longer blush. “You are going to get us both arrested for indecent exposure and disturbing the peace if you keep that up.”

“I already broke out of Wyrm’s Rock once.”

“Oh, for f*ck’s sake -”

She was giggling helplessly, nearly having to run to keep up with him.

“I am strongly considering an alley,” he mumbled at her.

“Now now, let’s not be hasty here. I’m sure you’ll have more options wherever you’re taking me.”

He pulled her around a corner, pinning her to the wall and kissing her much like he had in the tavern before Wyll walked in. He released her after she was breathless and gazing at him with dark, lust-filled eyes before pulling her along again.

“That looked like a perfectly good alley,” she objected.

“It may have been, but we’re going right here,” he said, turning to pull open the door roughly twenty feet from the alley. She burst out laughing, and she let him lead her up the stairs and into the room he’d procured earlier in a smaller inn on the edge of the city. He shut the door behind them, locking it with a resounding click, and with that, they were finally alone somewhere with a bed and a door for the first time in weeks.

Notes:

As always, thank you so much for reading. Please leave a kudos/comment/bookmark if you've been enjoying the ride, I would deeply appreciate it. <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 34: Taliana and Astarion - Falling

Summary:

And I’d give up forever to touch you
Cause I know that you feel me somehow
You’re the closest to heaven that I’ll ever be
And I don’t want to go home right now
And all I can taste is your sweetness
And all I can breathe is your life
And sooner or later, it’s over
I just don’t wanna miss you tonight
And I don’t want the world to see me
Cause I don’t think that they’d understand
When everything’s made to be broken
I just want you to know who I am…

~ Goo Goo Dolls, "Iris"

Notes:

Content warnings : pure smut. Skip to after the *** if that's not your bag, because I do think the last part of this chapter is some of the best stuff I've done in this entire work when it comes down to how these two interact.

I love them so much.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

She was watching him closely, a smile tracing over her lips. “So, what did you have in mind?”

He leveled his gaze at her before spinning her around, one hand resting against her throat, the other across her waist. Her breath hitched slightly and she leaned her head to the side, exposing her neck to him. He brushed his fangs gently against her neck before pressing several slow, languid kisses up the column of her throat.

“Before we…get started here. If anything is too much or you aren’t enjoying yourself, owlbear. Should your mouth be occupied at the time, tap twice on my leg,” he whispered in her ear. She moaned, pressing back against him. “I need your words here, Tali.”

“Owlbear. Tap twice. Yes. I want…” she hesitated for a moment, unsure.

“Hmmm?” he said, the hand on her waist moving to rub slow circles against her hip, the one at her throat tightening ever so slightly.

“You,” she finally said. Her answer seemed to please him, because he spun her back around, unclasping her cloak and letting it drop to the floor. His fingers went to the laces on her top, pulling them painfully slow.

“I thought you were in a hurry to f*ck me,” she told him, looking up at him through her lashes.

“That was before I had you in a locked room with a bed and none of our companions can come barging in or bang on the door with ridiculous questions.”

She looked thoughtful for a moment before giving a nod of agreement. He chuckled, resuming his unlacing before peeling her shirt off of her.

“Gods, you’re beautiful,” he murmured, ducking his head to kiss her. It started off rather sweet, but before long it had turned demanding and needy, her arms tangling around his neck, one of his pressing her closer to him while the other stroked up her bare side to cup a breast, caressing her nipple. She finally pulled back, trying to catch her breath, and he dropped down further, fangs teasing along her other nipple. She moaned, a hand twisting in his hair as he lavished attention on her breasts, her collarbones, her neck, before coming back to her mouth.

“Astarion…”

“Yes, darling?”

“I need…more. Something. f*ck.” Her ability to make any sort of complete sentence had apparently abandoned her already, and he was still fully dressed. He was way too good at this, she thought for a moment, but then it was gone because she was pinned against the door now, his leg in between hers, kissing her like it was the most important thing in the world. Her hands went to the edge of his shirt and he obliged, pulling it off and letting her run her hands down his back. He shifted his leg slightly, pulling a moan from her as the pressure between her legs changed. She gave in, grinding against his leg, whimpering.

He pulled back, grinning. “That bad, hmmm?”

Yes.”

His hands went to her waist, slowly tugging her leggings down, taking her underclothes with them. He ran his tongue up her neck, whispering, “Don’t worry, love. I’ve got you.”

“That’s what I’m afraid of,” she managed, as he expertly stripped her out of everything left below her waist, leaving her naked before him, shivering slightly. He gathered her wrists together before holding up the lacing of her tunic, raising his brows at her.

“f*ck, yes,” she said instantly, eyes sparkling.

“Gods, I adore you,” he growled, efficiently tying her wrists together before attaching them to a clothing hook next to the door. He stepped back, admiring his work; she was completely nude, marks trailing up and down her neck, a flush warming the skin of her chest and face. She shifted slightly and he could see the dampness already between her thighs. He took a step closer, running a single finger along her, humming in pleasure.

“You are,” he whispered, mouth against her neck, “soaking wet for me, love.”

She moaned, hips canting slightly into the air.

“I did want to know, though,” he mused against her, nibbling his way down her neck, “why you’re his favorite.”

She choked out a laugh. “Is that what you’re worried about?” A hand came up to circle her throat, the other stroking up one inner thigh, then the other, just enough to fan the flames higher but not high enough to give her any relief.

His grip tightened ever so slightly. “You see, I didn’t realize -” here he ran a single finger up her folds, pulling a breathless moan from her - “that I hadn’t had anything to call my own for two centuries until now.” His finger dipped against her, sliding a slow, agonizing circle around her cl*t. “Until he said that, and I realized I did not want to share.” He increased the pressure slightly, Tali cursing in response.

“So, I wanted to know why you’re his favorite,” he continued, leaving his finger in place but ceasing the motion. She whined, attempting to tilt her hips against him, but he was ready for her, the hand on her throat moving to grip her waist firmly.

“Probably because…f*ck, Astarion, I can’t think like this.” The hand between her legs left, rising to grip her throat lightly again, pressing her back against the wall.

“Is that better?” he asked innocently.

Taliana barely resisted the urge to swear profusely at him before she finally said, “Probably because I’m the only person who actually treats him like a person and not just a fountain of information. He’s always been nice to me, I’ve always been nice to him, I helped him collect a few outstanding debts. Things like that. He’s never touched me.”

He chuckled at her, leaning down to scrape his fangs across the length of her neck, barely piercing the skin of her shoulder.

f*ck,” she swore. “Astarion, please.”

He looked thoughtful as he licked the traces of blood off her shoulder. “Well, I suppose that’s a good way to be his favorite.” His hand was between her legs again, fingers gliding along her folds, Tali twisting to try to find more friction. He ran his tongue back up her neck to her ear, finally whispering, “I’d prefer to keep you to myself.”

“Gods, Astarion, you can have me. You’ve had me since the day you knocked me down in front of the Grove to keep me from getting shot.”

He grinned at her, one of his actual real smiles, not the practiced ones he was wont to hand out most of the time. “Good,” he said, before plunging two fingers into her. She yelped, her body bowing away from the wall. He put a hand back on her waist, pressing her back. “I haven’t decided yet, you see,” he mused, fingers moving all too slow. “I’m not sure if I should make you come like this or with my tongue.” She moaned, attempting to move against his fingers, but his grip on her waist was too firm. “Or I could just f*ck you first.” He hummed thoughtfully against her. “What do you think, darling?”

Taliana’s mind was nothing but pure lust and arousal and need, her focus entirely on the fingers slowly driving her insane. “Fingers,” she panted. He shifted the angle ever so slightly, pressing on the sensitive spots inside her, his thumb moving up to circle her cl*t. She was dangerously close to the edge already, and he moved the hand at her waist up to her hair, pulling just hard enough to hurt in a delicious fashion. He sped up slightly with his fingers and increased the pressure on her cl*t, bending to just barely bite her neck, and that was all she needed before she came, hard, clenching violently around his fingers. She was suddenly extremely glad he’d gotten their own room, because the noises coming out of her would have surely rendered her unable to face anyone else the next morning. He kept his hand in place until she had stopped twitching against him before letting her go. She swayed in place for a moment, and he reached an arm out to catch her while untying her from the hook.

“f*ck,” she mumbled against his chest. He smoothed her hair back softly, peering down at her.

“I’m surprised you went with fingers,” he commented mildly.

“I didn’t think I could wait for you to get there with your mouth,” she explained, chuckling against him.

He burst out laughing, kissing the top of her head. “I suppose I didn’t consider that.” He carefully untied her wrists, massaging them.

“You are still wearing far too many clothes,” she told him, fingers dancing along his waistband.

“Am I? I was getting to that,” he said, huffing at her impatiently. He looked at her closely, as if trying to decide what to do with her next. She gave him her sweetest smile, and he shook his head at her, chuckling. “Well, darling, I was considering seeing how well you could listen.”

She shivered slightly, and the corners of his mouth twitched up. “Oh, you like that idea?” She nodded emphatically, the spark of lust back in her dark eyes. “You want me to tell you exactly what to do? Tell you to suck my co*ck?” She whimpered, nodding even more emphatically.

“I would very much like to f*ck your throat,” he murmured, watching her face to gauge her reaction. She bit her lip for a moment, looking unsure.

“Words, Tali.”

“I haven’t done that in a very long time. But I would love to try for you if that’s what you’d like.”

He nodded, seeming to come to some sort of decision before kissing her gently, just once, before taking a few steps back, eyes narrowing.

“On your knees, darling,” he told her; his voice dropped into some sort of half growl, half purr on the word knees, making hers practically give out. She knelt immediately, sitting back on her heels with her hands resting loosely on her thighs. He gave her a wicked grin; she’d clearly danced down this path before.

He circled her slowly, just once, unlacing his leathers as he did, stopping in front of her.

“Take my co*ck out.”

She complied, hands going back to her thighs, eyes locked on the erection in front of her.

“Put a hand on my thigh, darling.” She did.

“Two taps, yes?”

A nod.

“I need your words, love.”

“Two taps. Yes, Astarion.”

“Good girl,” he praised her. A whimpered moan came from her in response, making him grin. “Oh, you like that, do you?” She nodded vigorously. “Then be a very good girl and show me what you can do with that smart mouth of yours.”

She took him in hand, running her tongue from the base of his co*ck to the tip, swirling her tongue loosely around the head, tasting the bit of cum already there. He let out a low hiss of pleasure, a hand gripping her hair just enough to remind her that he had a grip on her. She started to suck in earnest, taking him as far in her mouth as she could, using her hand to compensate for the parts she couldn’t.

He let her continue for a moment, moaning, before threading his other hand into her hair as well.

“Relax,” he said. He gave her a second, before pulling her down farther on his co*ck, bumping against the back of her throat before pulling back, making her gag slightly. Her hand tightened slightly on his thigh, but she didn’t tap.

“Relax, love,” he said, before repeating the motion, pressing her forehead to him. She was ready this time, managing to suck as he pulled back, causing him to let out a string of curses.

“I’d ask where you learned that, but I’d much rather keep your mouth occupied,” he told her, fingers tightening in her hair before pulling her down again. Tali groaned; it had been quite awhile since she’d done this, but it appeared it was a skill one never truly forgot. For a few minutes, the only sounds were the depraved wet slurps and occasional gags, interspersed with Astarion’s moans. He finally dragged her back off of him, gazing down to examine her. Her lashes were wet and there was saliva coating her chin, but she was gazing up at him with a rather self-satisfied look.

“You are full of surprises,” he chuckled. He pulled her up against him, kissing her deeply before dragging her over to the bed, bending her over it. He slid into her from behind, hands gripping her hips firmly, as she pressed her face into the bed. Astarion reached out to catch her hair, pulling her head up enough to get her face out of the mattress, saying, “I want to hear you, love.”

She nearly wailed in response as he thrust into her, the hand still on her hip digging into her skin hard enough to bruise. He was hitting spots inside her that she’d nearly forgotten existed, pulling a symphony of moans and whimpers from her.

“That’s it, love,” he encouraged her. She knotted her fingers into the sheets, tension building rapidly as he moved.

“Astarion -” she started. “Gods,” she spit out.

He let go of her hair, reaching down to run fast circles around her cl*t. She whimpered, entire body quivering, before she went hurtling headlong into her org*sm, spasming around his length as he pressed into her.

“Tali - f*ck,” he managed before his hips stuttered against her and he groaned, spilling himself inside her. He dropped on top of her for a moment before thinking better of it, rolling to his side and gasping for air he didn’t technically need. Next to him, Tali was looking completely dazed as she rolled onto her side to face him, a smile sneaking onto her face as she did.

— *** —

He gently stroked her hair back behind her ears, leaning down to kiss her.

“All right?” he asked her quietly.

She nodded, pulling him against her. He shifted his weight to the side, dragging her along with him. He leaned in to kiss her again, tracing a finger along the side of her face.

“Do I even want to ask where you learned that?” he asked her, amusem*nt in his eyes.

“I’m not sure. Will my answer set off another round of seething jealousy that ends in spectacular sex?”

“It’s always possible, I suppose,” he mused, twisting a rogue piece of her hair around his fingers.

She chuckled, rolling onto her back and pulling the blankets up over them. Finally, she shrugged and answered, “Ages ago I dated a man with a taste for domination, and I found I rather liked it in controlled doses. It was a good way to just…let go, I guess. I always like to be so in control of myself, and to give it up occasionally with someone I trusted was…refreshing.”

“Whatever happened to him?”

She went quiet for a moment before she said, “He’s gone. He worked for the guild for years. It caught up with him one night.”

The hand in her hair stilled momentarily. “I’m sorry.”

“It was a long time ago. It’s all right.”

“Still.”

She rolled over so she could look at him. “Should I ask where you learned that?”

“Darling, I was a professional rake for two centuries. I suspect that vampires, in general, tend to have tastes that aren’t exactly plain. We have a lot of time to experiment.”

He paused for a moment. “It was rare that I had control over anything. The nights a mark enjoyed things like this were…almost a relief.” He brushed her hair back gently. “Never be afraid to ask for what you want with me, Tali. If it’s something I can’t do, I’ll tell you.”

She nodded thoughtfully, snuggling closer to him.

“You know, this is something I never did,” he told her.

“What? Having a nice snuggle after?” She poked him playfully in the ribs.

“Yes. It’s…nice. I never cared to talk to my marks; I didn’t want to know anything about them. But you, you I want to know everything about.”

She smiled at him. “Well, what would you like to know?”

He looked thoughtful for a moment. “Have you always lived in the city?” he finally asked.

She shook her head. “I grew up in Mosstone. It’s a fairly small city in Tethyr, but it’s a trade hub. It’s very close to the deep forests, and that’s where I spent most of my time. It was obvious pretty early on I had absolutely no hope as a druid, but I seemed to make a decent ranger.”

“I absolutely cannot see you as a druid.”

“No one could,” she said, both of them chuckling. “Something I think you likely don’t know and will be surprised to learn is that I’m not a full wood elf.”

“I’m not entirely sure I believe that, love,” he said, tweaking the tip of her pointed ear gently.

“It’s true. My mother was a full wood elf. Father was half human, half wood elf, much to the great disappointment of my grandmother. I’m sure you’ve noticed by now that I do, in fact, sleep.”

“I did, but I’ve also known a few elves rather insistent on sleeping, so I didn’t really question it. This group is full of weirdos, after all.”

She giggled, swatting at him affectionately before continuing.

“My father died years ago. Humans don’t live nearly long enough. Not that he was around much anyways; he was a druid and spent the majority of his time in the forest. I didn’t see him often, honestly. My mother died when I was very young; I don’t really remember her. My grandmother is the one who raised me. She was the one who taught me…well, everything. She was a better shot than I am.”

He raised his brows at her. “That’s somewhat terrifying.”

She grinned at him, giggling. “We used to do trick shots for fun in the backyard all the time. Threading arrows where they should never go. I loved it,” she said wistfully. “When she got sick, I was already living in the city. She was gone before I was able to get back,” she said softly. “I regret that deeply.”

Astarion rubbed her back gently. It was nearly impossible for him to understand and relate to what she was telling him, but he could tell it was important to her. And that was enough for him to want to at least listen and remember.

“You're not wrong. I would’ve never thought you weren’t a full wood elf. You’re practically a textbook picture of one,” he teased, tugging at a strand of her hair.

She shrugged. “I look exactly like my mother did, apparently. Or that’s what my grandmother told me all the time, anyways.”

He smiled at her before leaning in to kiss her lightly.

“Anything else you wanted to know?” she asked, tapping her fingers on his chest.

He was quiet for a long moment before he finally turned to look at her.

“Why me?”

“I - what?”

“Why me?” he asked softly. “You could’ve had any of us, you know. So why the clearly f*cked up vampire?”

“I like a challenge.”

“Tali,” he said, exasperated.

She was quiet, clearly pondering the question, her face going serious before she answered. “I won’t lie. At first it was just…attraction. I liked having someone to have fun with. But…then I started to see you,” she said softly. “I could see around the snark, the attitude, the pretty words. And you let me in, even though I could tell it went against everything you were when you leaned your head against mine that night. And I was gone,” she whispered, her hand cupping his face.

Astarion stared at her, some sort of unfamiliar emotion unfurling in his chest. He couldn’t place it; it was an utterly foreign feeling. And then -

He dropped his head to her shoulder, his lips against her ear, before he closed his eyes and let himself freefall into the unknown.

“I love you.”

She stilled in his arms, pulling back so she could look into his eyes. He brought a hand up to tenderly brush against her face, a smile playing on the edges on his lips. His face was softer and more open than she had ever seen it, his crimson eyes locked on hers, and she could see nothing but honesty and trust in them.

“I love you, Astarion,” she whispered back. Another smile broke across his face, this one shy and boyish, all guile and poise gone; it was clearly just so him that it took Tali’s breath away. He gently cradled her face in his hands as he leaned in to kiss her just once, delicate and sweet. And with that, it felt like the ground had given way beneath them as he fell with her in his arms.

Notes:

Thank you for reading, I hope you've been enjoying this. I adore Tali and her dynamic with everyone's favorite gremlin of a vampire so much.

Please note that from here on out, things are about to go to absolute hell and I'm sorry.

~ nyxue

Chapter 35: Taliana - Breakdown

Summary:

Oh, cause they will run you down, down til the dark
Yes, and they will run you down, down til you fall
And they will run you down, down to your core
Yeah, so you can't crawl no more
And way down we go....

~ Kaleo, "Way Down We Go"

Notes:

Yep. We're going there. I'm so sorry.

Chapter Text

“I am not even going to ask what you got up to last night, Tali,” said Shadowheart, her eyes dancing.

“I will,” commented Karlach.

“Oh, for f*ck’s sake,” she said, giggling. “I don’t think I need to exactly explain this.”

“Not with your neck looking like that, you don’t.”

“Shadow!”

Karlach leaned back in her chair, propping her feet on the table. “I just want to know how you dodge the fangs.”

“From the looks of it, she doesn’t.”

“I swear, you two -”

They all disintegrated into giggles. The three of them were sitting at a small table outside the tavern, eating some bread, cheese, and fruit before heading out to pick up supplies. She and Shadowheart were supposed to be acquiring potions and potion-making items, but it appeared a heavy dose of gossip was on the menu first. Karlach, of course, had to join in as soon as she realized girl talk was in progress, and she was gleefully shoveling cheese into her mouth while participating.

Tali sat up straighter, defiantly pulling her hair up into its usual messy ponytail, a rather glorious string of bites and marks extending down her neck. With as much dignity as she could muster, she looked at Shadowheart and said, “I had a lovely time.”

Her cleric burst out laughing, putting her face in her hands. “Tali, I adore you, but I will never understand that vampire of yours.”

“Me either,” she said, a bit of a goofy smile drifting across her face.

“Wait, wait, wait,” said Karlach, pointing at her. “What is THAT look?”

“What?”

“That dopey smile!”

“My smile isn’t dopey.”

“Well, it normally isn’t, but it sure is right now.”

Tali reached out for her mug of tea, taking a long sip for courage. Or to stall. One of the two; she wasn’t sure which. She looked at the table, tracing her fingernail along the grooves of the wood before she looked up at her friends, both waiting expectantly.

“He said he loves me,” she said softly, her face flushing.

Karlach cackled with glee, rocking back in her chair and nearly tipping herself over. “It’s about damn time,” she said with a grin. “It’s been clear since, oh, the Shadowlands.”

Shadowheart nodded in agreement. She leaned over, looking at Tali. “And you?”

Tali peered up, meeting Shadowheart’s kohl-rimmed eyes before nodding shyly.

Shadowheart actually smiled, reaching out to squeeze her hand. “I’m happy for you, Tali. Truly.”

“Me too, soldier. Gods knows it’s good to see people happy these days, considering we don’t know exactly how many we have left.”

Tali grimaced. “I’m trying not to think about that part,” she said. The thought of dealing with the netherbrain honestly made her want to hide in a corner and cry, but she knew she was going to have to face it before long.

“Tali, should I even ask what happened to your wrists?” asked Shadowheart mildly, holding up the hand she had just squeezed.

She took another long drink of tea before she cheerfully said, “No.”

Karlach burst out laughing. “I didn’t know you had it in you, soldier.”

“Me either,” agreed Shadowheart. “Good to see you’ve got some spice in there.”

“What, you thought I had no spice?”

“I figured you had to have some, since you were actively sleeping with a vampire. Bland people definitely do not f*ck vampires.”

Tali tossed a piece of bread at Shadowheart, which she easily caught and popped into her own mouth.

“Hey, nice trick,” said Karlach admiringly.

“You should see me do that with apples.”

“Wait, like an entire apple? Do I get to throw an apple at your head?” Karlach sounded way too excited about the prospect of using Shadowheart for target practice.

“Don’t even think about it,” she told the tiefling, poking her in the ribs. They all laughed heartily, Karlach examining the contents of the table in a not-so-subtle fashion. She scooped up a piece of cheese, tossing that at the cleric, who snagged it and ate that as well.

“Nice.”

Tali giggled. “You know, I’ve lived in the city here for years, and I’m pretty sure this is one of the only times I’ve sat with girlfriends and gossiped and giggled. This is pretty amazing.”

“I’m usually not one for friends and such,” Shadowheart started, kicking Karlach under the table when she started to laugh. “But I’m rather glad you were the one who landed on the beach with me, Tali.”

“We’ve come a long way from you sitting back and watching Astarion consider murdering me while you braided your hair.”

“Hey now, I was just fixing it!”

“Fangs tried to murder you?”

“We had a bit of a misunderstanding when the Nautiloid crashed. Clearly, we’ve worked it out since then.”

Karlach cackled. “I’ll say. Did you even get any sleep last night?”

“I mean…I got a few hours before we came back here.”

“How are you even walking??”

Taliana choked on her tea, sputtering at the tiefling in mock outrage. Then she sat up as straight as she could, met her eyes, and said, “I bribed Shadowheart to heal me.”

With that, they were all done for, giggling helplessly and wiping tears out of their eyes.

“What did she even bribe you with?” Karlach asked Shadowheart.

“She has to let me do her hair whenever I want until this is all over.”

Tali sighed deeply. “It will be a terrible burden for me to bear, it’s true.”

Shadowheart tossed a piece of bread at Tali, who missed catching it. She sighed in disappointment.

“We best get going. It appears you will need all the potions you can get to keep your reflexes sharp. It’s starting to get dark, too.”

Tali rolled her eyes affectionately at her, and they all stood. Karlach waved, trotting back inside to find Wyll; they were supposed to be visiting the Devil’s Den and procuring some of the stranger alchemic ingredients needed.

Shadowheart linked her arm with Tali’s, and they wandered down the road in companionable silence. She reached over to tug the hood of Tali’s cloak up over her head, patting her gently as she did.

“I am happy for you, Tali,” she said softly. “I really am. You’re the first true friend I can remember having.”

Tali turned, pulling her into a hug. “And you were my first friend in this whole crazy thing, and I couldn’t have done this without you. I rather adore you, you know.”

Shadowheart grinned at her, tugging her along the road. “I think the actual alchemic supply store is there,” she said, pointing to a shop with a display of flasks and dried herbs in the window. “And the apothecary is over there,” she said, pointing to a smaller shop, set back against the alley.

“You take the herbs, I’ll get the potions?” Tali said. “I suck at alchemy.”

“I wasn’t going to say it.”

She gave Shadowheart a playful shove before heading towards the shop. She was about to enter, when she heard a broken sob coming from the alley beside it. She frowned, a hand on her bow, and headed down the shadowed path.

There was a woman sitting around the corner, a dark cloak pulled around her, sobbing into her hands.

“Hey, are you all right?” Tali asked her, kneeling in front of her. “Are you hurt?”

The woman looked up, and Tali’s heart jumped into her throat as she met a pair of glowing, bright red eyes. She stumbled backwards, slamming into a hard, cold wall - a hard, cold wall that snickered darkly, before pressing a cloth against her face that smelled strongly of bitter herbs and ice. She struggled, flailing wildly, but her limbs were rapidly feeling too heavy, her eyes struggling to stay open. There was a horrible cracking noise, and she heard the sound of wood hitting the ground, followed by the clatter of her bag, coins and scrolls spilling across the stones. She opened her mouth to scream, but it was too late, much too late.

The last thing she saw was the woman, her face much too close to hers. “Don’t worry. The master has been expecting you,” she whispered, her breath a cool breeze against Taliana’s face.

the master?

A bolt of pure fear shot through Taliana as she registered what the woman was saying.

no no no no no -

She was gone, limp in the arms of one of Astarion’s siblings as he spirited her away towards the Szaar palace.

Chapter 36: Taliana - The Cell

Summary:

Forget the horror here
Forget the horror here
Leave it all down here
It’s future rust and it’s future dust
A choir of furies in your head
A choir of furies in your bed
I’m the ghost in the back of your head
Cause I’m -

~ Foals, “Spanish Sahara”

Notes:

Hi. Heed the content warnings here, PLEASE.

TW : abuse, violence, blood, implied SA.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Dark.

Pain.

Water.

Taliana struggled to open her eyes, but only one seemed to be able to actually open. She tentatively reached up to touch her face, whimpering when she was met with what felt like a huge gash running across her forehead and into her scalp, swelling one of her eyes shut. Her face was sticky with blood; some was dried enough to be tacky, but a good bit still felt fresh.

She managed to roll over, her breath hissing out in pain as she did, before her eyes landed on a thin, narrow strip of window with bars over it. No more than a grate, really.

Wait.

A grate?

She thought she had been scared earlier when she had approached that sobbing woman and been met with glowing red eyes. She had been so, so wrong. THIS was terror, pure and simple.

She knew exactly where she was, and the fear flowing through her now was almost incapacitating.

I’m dead. I’m so sorry.

She scooted closer to the grate, wincing as she did. She reached out to touch the bars, noticing the bruises decorating her arm.

I’m going to die here.

In the distance, Tali could hear footsteps approaching. Panicked, she curled into a ball, cowering in a corner as the door swung open.

“This? This is the girl?” a man asked, contempt dripping from every word.

“It is, Master,” came a soft reply.

“Hrmph. Leave us.” Tali had begun to shake so hard she could feel her teeth chattering.

Footsteps approached her. A moment later, he grabbed her hair and dragged her out of the corner, Tali yelping in pain as he did.

He regarded her with a disdainful gaze. “So you are the one my spawn has been laying with? He always was a terrible judge of character,” he spat.

He studied her carefully, eyes raking up and down her body.

“You know who I am, I assume?” Had he not been holding her by only her hair, his voice would have sounded almost friendly.

Taliana finally looked at him, fear ripping through her. He had dark hair, slicked back over the collar of his elaborately embroidered doublet. He was smaller than she had expected, but he held himself as if he were bigger than Halsin. Incredibly pale, with crimson lips curling back to display his fangs. His eyes were a bright, vicious red, staring straight into her soul. She knew. This must be Cazador Szaar.

He yanked her hair harder, hard enough to make her eyes water, nearly lifting her feet off the ground. “I asked you a question, girl.”

“Cazador,” she gasped, a hand swiping ineffectively at his as she swayed under his grasp.

“Pitiful,” he sniffed, throwing her back to the ground. She scrambled backwards, hands skidding across the uneven stones. He stalked towards her, eyes narrowed.

“It’s good to know he hasn’t forgotten his family while he’s been off - experimenting, shall we say.”

Tali could feel her temper flaring, and she considered reigning it in for a split second before realizing her chances of leaving this cell alive were slim at best.

“What would you even know about family?” She glowered at him, her anger warring violently with the fear inside her. “You did nothing but abuse and torture him for two hundred years.”

He sniffed in disdain. “He always did require more discipline than the others.”

“Discipline?!?”

He smiled at her, and that somehow scared her even more. There was no emotion behind it; it was a dead, empty thing that looked completely wrong on him. “It’s not my fault his screams sounded the sweetest,” he said, that maddening smile extending even more.

“Oh, you bastard,” she said, visibly trembling. He glared at her, shoving her back with the toe of his boot, like she was nothing more than a discarded piece of trash on the ground.

“Here is how this is going to go, girl,” he hissed. “You will go back to my wayward spawn. And you will bring him to me.”

“f*ck you,” snapped Taliana. A split second later she was reeling from the blow to the side of her head, her vision narrowing and wavering wildly. She was wrenched back up by her hair, and then blinding, agonizing pain in her throat. She screamed, the sound echoing endlessly in the tiny room. She realized how gentle Astarion always was with her; this was savage, ripping bites, with zero regard for her safety. She could feel blood pouring down her chest, across her shoulders.

Cazador let her go, dropping her to the floor, her blood smeared across his face. He pressed an elegantly booted foot on her chest; gently at first, then not so gently. She shrieked as she heard a rib snap, and then another, and another.

I’m dead. I’m so sorry, love.

“And the worm has been feeding on you? He forgets his place.”

Tali managed a choked sob in reply while struggling to get a deep breath, her freshly-shattered ribs impeding the process. She could feel blood dripping back from her neck into her hair, soaking it.

He grabbed her hair again, lifting her enough so he could look into her eyes.

“I think I’ll be letting you go,” he mused. She froze, not trusting him for a moment.

“After I’m done with you, of course,” he continued, running a clawed finger slowly up her arm. “I think that will do nicely.”

Taliana closed her eyes, remembering everything Astarion had told her about the torture that Cazador could inflict. Her fear was an all-encompassing thing at this point, leaving no room for anything else.

I didn’t understand.

He dug his claws into her shoulders, shoving her flat on her back. An entirely new type of terror awoke in her brain, a horrible realization of what was coming. She tried to push him away from her, but she was pinned beneath him. Trapped.

Her screams ricocheted through the room, echoing into the sewers, and Taliana could only pray it would be over quickly as he descended upon her.

Notes:

I struggled a lot with this chapter. I won't lie. This one wasn't fun.

It's worth noting that when I sent this chapter to my friend who previews my stuff, I got a DM back immediately going "WHAT IS THAT CHAPTER NAME NYX NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO"

So yeah. That happened.

I really waffled on how far I wanted to push this, and I finally made my decision on one simple fact : Cazador would push it as far as possible without actually killing her. And so that is what I did.

The next few chapters are going to be rough. I'm sorry now, and make sure you're in a good headspace before you tangle with them.

~ nyxue

Chapter 37: Astarion - Panic

Summary:

If you love me, don't let go
Oh, if you love me, don't let go
Hold, hold on to me
Cause I'm a little unsteady
A little unsteady
Hold on, hold on to me...

~ X Ambassadors, "Unsteady"

Notes:

Content warnings : blood, violence, implied SA, panic, anxiety.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“Where did you last see her, Shadowheart?” he asked, trying to keep the panic out of his voice.

“She was just going around the corner to the apothecary, Astarion. I was supposed to meet her there when I was done. But she wasn’t there.”

Astarion took a few deep breaths, trying to contain the fear that was threatening to choke him.

“She probably just went somewhere else, yeah?” asked Karlach, trying to keep a hopeful note in her voice.

“I don’t think she’d just wander off,” said Wyll quietly. “We should go look for her.”

“Come on already then,” said Karlach, already moving towards the door.

Astarion and Shadowheart hurried to the alchemy shop first, peering behind crates, barrels, in shops, looking for a trace of Taliana. Shadowheart was actually flustered, which scared Astarion even more; the cleric was usually unflappable.

“Come on,” she said, hurrying down another alley, then another, and another.

No Tali.

“Astarion,” breathed Shadowheart, her voice breaking. “I - look -“. She pointed at the ground; his heart dropped when he recognized it as what was left of Taliana’s bow.

“No,” he whispered, kneeling. Shadowheart was already gathering the pieces, putting them in her pack.

They stared at each other in mute horror for a moment before she grabbed his wrist, dragging him back out of the alley.

They were nearing the wall separating the upper city from the lower, near Cazador’s palace, which was making Astarion even more nervous. He stopped walking, shaking his head at Shadowheart.

“I don’t want to go near there,” he muttered. She looked like she was about to admonish him for this, but hesitated and then nodded.

“I’ll look. You go that way,” she said, pointing towards the apothecary.

He ducked inside, asking the dwarf working the counter, “Have you seen a wood elf? Dark purple cloak?” The man shook his head, and Astarion flew back out the door, turning in a circle. There were several alleys nearby, and he chose the one closer to the Szaar palace.

A familiar scent wafted towards him, and panic twisted its way up his throat.

No. Please, no.

He ducked down the first alley, fingers tracing along the wall. He turned the corner into the second, eyes searching everywhere. Near the end, he saw a smear of something dark against the wall, and he slowed to look at it. It was a smear, turning into a full handprint at the corner, still wet with blood.

The scent of caramel and cinnamon assaulted him, and terror like he had never known sliced into him like a knife. He touched a shaking finger to the blood before tasting it, confirming what he already knew.

Taliana.

“No no no,” he whispered, his hands shaking violently as he spun around, looking, smelling. There was a trail of blood leading away from him, thickening as he followed it, the fear all but drowning him at this point. He followed it to a tiny alcove at the back of the building, and he let out a howl as he saw her.

“Tali? Taliana?” he asked frantically, trying to gather her into his arms. She was drenched in blood; there was a gash across her forehead, fading back into her scalp, and some sort of injury to her neck that was pouring blood. She was naked except for her beloved purple cloak, blood covering most of her body. He couldn’t even tell where it all was coming from at this point.

“Oh gods, no, no, no - Tali? Taliana? Tali??” he said, his voice pitching higher in panic. She was breathing, but just barely. He took off running for the tavern, screaming for Shadowheart as he did. She appeared at the end of the road, her eyes widening in panic as she raced after him.

He crashed into the tavern, flying up the stairs and slamming his shoulder into the door to give him access to the huge room they were sharing. Halsin and Jaheira both jumped up in alarm at the noise, and gasped when they saw what he was carrying.

“Help me,” he pleaded. Halsin took a giant arm and swept everything off the table with a crash, as Jaheira ran for supplies. He gently placed Taliana on the table, finally getting a good look at her wounds.

It took a moment before his brain could reconcile what he was looking at; the amount of blood coming from the gash on her head and her neck was staggering, not to mention the myriad chunks of missing flesh on her abdomen and dozens of slashes riddling her limbs. Her arms and legs were mottled with bruises, various shades of purple and blue surfacing under her skin. One of her eyes was swollen shut below the gash on her forehead, the skin shiny and tight. He was having a hard time looking at this battered, broken version of Tali, and remembering the one curled against him last night, eyes sparkling with mischief. The one who said she loved him.

“Taliana…” he whispered, her name almost sounding like a prayer on his lips.

Blood was starting to drip off the table, pooling on the floor next to his foot.

From behind him, the door slammed open and Shadowheart flew into the room, running to Tali’s side and immediately pushing wave after wave of healing magic into her body. Halsin joined her, mumbling under his breath and adding his magic to hers. Jaheira rejoined them, a pile of supplies in her arms. She shoved Astarion out of the way so she could attend to Taliana’s neck, which was still dripping a terrifying amount of blood.

Astarion was shaking violently, watching as they worked over Taliana, who still hadn’t moved. Some of the smaller cuts were closing as Shadowheart did what she did best, the skin knitting together and bruises slowly fading as he watched. He moved to the bottom of the table, putting a hand on her bare foot, the one thing he could easily see wasn’t injured. As he did, he looked up at her body, and his legs nearly gave out when he realized her thighs were covered with bites. Vampire bites.

He staggered away from the table, a scream ripping out of him as the truth slammed into him. Warm arms caught him from behind - Karlach had rejoined the group, along with Gale and Wyll.

He struggled violently in Karlach’s arms, cursing and screaming. Karlach was talking to him, but he couldn’t hear the words. She pulled him back, trying to get him away from the table.

“I’m going to f*cking KILL him, I’m going to kill him, I’m going to…” he screamed, flailing against Karlach wildly.

“Some help here?” the tiefling said, her voice tight. Wyll joined her, and the two of them dragged him out of the room, still screaming, but it was deteriorating into sobbing.

He knew. He knew. He knew.

“Hey, hey, Fangs, it’s okay. They’ve got her. They’ve got her, Astarion,” said Karlach anxiously.

“You don’t understand,” he sobbed.

“What don’t we understand? Who are you going to kill?” asked Wyll, holding his shoulders firmly and looking into his eyes. “Astarion. What do we need to know?”

He took a deep, shuddering breath, trying to ignore the frantic noises coming from the other room.

“Cazador. Cazador had her,” he whispered, his voice breaking. Then his knees really did give out, and Karlach adjusted her grip to hold him up.

Karlach and Wyll exchanged a look.

“f*ck,” breathed Wyll. He turned and hurried into the other room where the healers were still feverishly tending to Taliana. That alone broke Astarion even more; he wasn’t sure he’d ever heard Wyll curse in the entire time he’d known him.

Karlach looked at him, her eyes filling with tears. She pulled him against her, arms warm and tight as she tried to calm him.

“Astarion?” called Shadowheart. “I know you’re upset, but I need you.”

Moving like he was underwater, he stumbled back to the table.

“What do we need to know?” she asked him urgently.

“He bit her,” he said, his voice sounding curiously detached. “As long as he didn’t force his blood on her, she won’t turn.”

She bit her lip, nodding, before turning and casting yet another spell on Tali. He was relieved to see that she was waking up somewhat, but he also knew that being awake would come with crippling pain.

Gale joined them a moment later, holding a small flask with a milky blue substance in it.

“Tali?” he asked gently, near her ear. “Do you think you can swallow this? It’ll help,” he said, brushing her hair back.

Tali managed a vague nod, and Gale slowly tipped the potion into her mouth. A minute later, she let out a sigh and some of the tension went out of her face. Gale carefully kissed her forehead, away from the gash, before standing and getting out of the way.

“Astarion, here,” said Halsin, handing him a bucket of water and a stack of rags. “See if you can clean her up a bit.”

“I think I’ve done all I can do for now,” said Shadowheart, slumping against the table. Gale hurried to get a chair under her before she dropped to the floor. Jaheira was fiddling with a pile of bandages, scented strongly with herbal medicine, gently arranging them across her arms, her neck, her forehead.

Halsin nodded in agreement, scooping Shadowheart up into his arms with only a token protest from the cleric before carrying her to her bed. Jaheira was placing the last few bandages, attempting to cover the wounds on Tali’s inner thighs. But the second she touched her leg, Tali let out a shriek, curling away from her as best she could. Astarion’s knees buckled yet again, his eyes meeting Jaheira’s desperately. The older woman apologized repeatedly to Taliana, tears shining in her eyes as she did so. The Harper reached out to grab his arm, steadying him, before gently smoothing Tali’s hair back, whispering softly to her.

“Stay with her,” she told him. “And wake me before you need me.”

He nodded, biting his lip. He found a chair and pulled it up next to her, and started to slowly clean the blood off her arms, his mind racing with horrible, blood-stained scenarios on what had happened to her.

It was his fault. This was all his fault.

Notes:

Thank you so much for reading. I promise things will get better, but it's going to be a rocky road for a bit.

~ nyxue

Chapter 38: Taliana - Doomed

Summary:

All my life, I wanted to fly
Like the birds that you see way up in the sky
Making circles in the morning sun
Flying high in the sky til the day is done
I can’t break away
Like a child in his fantasy
Punching holes in the walls of reality
All my life I wanted to fly
But I don’t have the wings, and I wonder why…

~ Big Pig, "Breakaway"

Notes:

Content warnings : Panic, blood, implied/referenced assault, aftermath of assault.

Chapter Text

Cold hands were dragging her down a hall, her bare feet scraping against the stones. She was barely in her own body at this point; whoever she used to be had been left behind in that horrible cell.

There was the sound of a door opening, and she could feel grass under her feet for a brief moment. Then a gate creaking open, and she was shoved unceremoniously out, crumpling to the ground.

Run.

She had to get away.

RUN.

She stumbled along, the road bending and swaying beneath her feet.

She couldn’t see. She couldn’t think.

She slammed into a wall, her hands trailing against the bricks uselessly. She supposed she should be more concerned about the fact that she was actively dying, but all she wanted was to sleep. To close her eyes so it would all stop.

I didn’t understand.

Her foot caught on the edge of a wall, pitching her forward into the ground. All the breath huffed out of her as she slammed into the stones, a shriek ripping out of her as her broken ribs stabbed into her. She crawled as far as she could before her body gave out, dropping her back onto the ground. She rolled over as best she could, her eyes finding the moon hanging full and heavy above her, a hand stretching up towards it.

I’m sorry, love.

Someone was calling her name frantically.

She tried to open her eyes, tried to answer, but it was just too difficult. She couldn’t seem to control her body anymore; she figured that should bother her, but the relief of not having to do anything was too great.

An absolutely heartbroken howl, before someone was picking her up and jostling her in their arms, sending spears of pain through her body.

Blurs of motion.

A silvery braid of hair, floating above her.

Screams.

Voices, overlapping and urgent.

“Taliana? Tali??”

Numbness.

“Is she -”

“Grab those bandages from the -”

Pain.

“Taliana? Can you hear me?”

Taliana was drifting in and out of herself, occasional snippets of what was happening seeping into her conciousness. Jolts of warmth pushed into her chest repeatedly, bringing her back into awareness. Back into the mind-numbing pain ripping through her. She moaned, then whimpered.

A gentle hand brushed her hair back, and a moment later a potion was at her lips. She did her best to swallow it, feeling the world fade pleasantly around the edges as it took effect. A light touch on her forehead, and then nothing.

Someone was poking at her neck, at her arms. The sharp smell of herbal remedies reached her nose, as well as the scent of woodpine and musk when a huge shadow moved near her, resting a tender hand on her arm. Gentle hands touched her leg, trying to put bandages on her inner thighs. She shrieked, just once, trying to curl into a ball on the table.

Someone was apologizing frantically, her voice lilting beautifully over the words and stroking her hair back. Tali was trembling violently, tears steadily falling down her face. The same lilting voice continued whispering soft bits of comfort to her, a hand resting on her shoulder.

She drifted, everything blurring around her. Another figure had sat down beside her, holding her hand.

A firm voice in her ear; she had to struggle to focus on it.

“Did you drink from him, Taliana?”

She managed to shake her head, and the sigh of relief he exhaled was deep, almost a sob.

She faded away again, everything around her too bright, too loud. She was shivering, and she felt someone layer blankets on her until it stopped.

“Thank…” she mumbled, unable to finish the thought.

“You are welcome,” said a sharp, familiar voice. Lae’zel. “Tell me if she needs more. I will make the innkeeper give us everything he has if she needs them.”

When she floated back in, the room was quiet. She managed to turn her head enough to see a figure in the chair next to her. Her vision was still fuzzy, but she could make out the tangle of silvery-white curls that she loved.

He was covered in blood; the entire front of his shirt was stiff with it, as well as his sleeves. Smears of blood were on his cheeks, in his hair. She had never seen him as totally undone as he was right now. As broken. He was slumped in the chair, his elbows on his knees, his face in his hands, a portrait of misery. She concentrated, extending a hand towards him, every motion taking unreasonable amounts of effort. Her fingers bumped against his arm and he jolted, standing to look at her.

“Tali?” he whispered, his hand cupping her face.

“Hi,” she managed. Then, “It hurts,” she said, almost apologetically.

“I know, love. Gale’s working on another elixir for you right now, okay?”

She gave a tiny nod, whimpering as she did.

“Oh, Tali,” he said softly, stroking her hair. “You’re going to be okay.”

She made a noise of disbelief, her eyes drifting closed.

Tears slid down her face, Astarion gently wiping them away.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled.

“Wha - why?” he asked, sounding stunned.

“Didn’t…stay. Shadow.”

“Love, this wasn’t your fault. They would’ve taken both of you if they had to.”

she should have let him kill her. provoked him until he did. she had sentenced them all to death. they were all dead.

“Should…should have…,” she mumbled.

“Should have what, love?”

“Let him…kill me.”

He pulled back from her, the horror plain on his face.

“Doomed,” she told him. Before he could ask more questions, Gale bustled up with another elixir for her, and then everything faded away.

Chapter 39: Astarion - Shattered

Summary:

Well, I took a walk around the world to ease my troubled mind
I left my body lying somewhere in the sands of time
But I watched the world float to the dark side of the moon
I feel there's nothing I can do...

~ 3 Doors Down, "Kryptonite"

Notes:

Content warnings : blood, aftermath of assault.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Should have let him kill me.

Doomed.

It didn’t take much for Astarion to connect the dots. You weren’t a spawn for two hundred years and not know how your master operated.

He knew. He knew.

Cazador still needed him. He had done exactly what he had feared the most. What better way to provoke him than by destroying the only thing he loved?

He had no doubts that the lives of all his companions, as well as himself, had been threatened.

He had no doubts that Taliana had received but a fraction of what he had dealt with, and it hurt him more than anything that had ever been done to him. Hells, he would sit in the tomb for as long as Cazador wanted if it meant he wouldn’t touch Tali.

But he had.

He had no doubts as to what he had done to her. The chain of bite marks on both inner thighs were practically a glowing sign to let him know what had happened. In a few short hours, he had reduced his beloved spitfire of an assassin into a trembling shadow of herself. His hands tightened into fists, his nails cutting into his palms.

He gently smoothed Tali’s hair back before starting the process of wiping the blood off her face. He realized with a jolt that the metallic emerald eyeliner she always wore was hopelessly smeared, and that damn near broke him again. He took a slow, deep breath, trying to keep it together before continuing.

He started on her hair next; it was stiff with dried blood, darker than it normally was. He carefully dipped the length of it in the bucket, gently removing the worst of it. The blood near her scalp would have to wait for now. He moved on to her hands, delicately picking bits of stone and gravel out of her palms and scrubbing the blood from her knuckles. It was slow, methodical work; she was absolutely covered in blood, and he didn’t want to fully wake her.

Thankfully, she slept on, her breath hitching and catching even in sleep, like she was trying not to cry. He pressed a kiss against her forehead, his heart shattering for the hundredth time this evening. He dropped his forehead to hers, a hand on each side of her head.

A gentle hand touched his shoulder, and he turned to see Gale hovering awkwardly behind him.

“I can sit with her, if you’d like,” he offered.

Astarion shook his head. “I’m not leaving her.”

The wizard nodded. “Would it be all right if I sat with you, at least?”

He nodded, gesturing at a nearby chair. Gale sank down into it, sighing.

“I’m sorry, Astarion,” the wizard said quietly. “For ever doubting how you feel about her. I’m truly sorry. Anyone who saw your face earlier would know how much you love her.”

Astarion closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose for a moment. He finally nodded at Gale, unable to speak.

“You should probably find a new shirt before she actually wakes up. And clean yourself up a little,” Gale said softly. “Otherwise, you’re going to scare the hells out of her.” Astarion looked down at himself properly for the first time, shocked at the sheer amount of blood coating him. The entire front of his shirt was stiff with it, streaking down onto his trousers. Even his boots had a generous amount staining the toes.

He slumped in defeat. “I’ll be back in five minutes,” he told Gale.

“I’ll take care of her, Astarion. I promise,” the wizard said sincerely. He gave him a nod before heading for his bed, rummaging through his pack for a change of clothes. Once he’d found those, he went to the bathing room, intent on getting the blood off his face and arms.

A few minutes later, he thought he’d done an okay job. This was one of the few times where not being able to see himself in a mirror truly pissed him off. He did his best, swearing slightly under his breath.

As he walked out, he crashed directly into Wyll, who grabbed his shoulder to steady him.

“Do I still have blood on my face?” he asked him.

Wyll inspected him closely, reaching up to rub a spot near his ear, and then another next to his eyebrow.

“Are you all right?” the warlock asked him softly.

“Of course I’m not, darling.”

Wyll sighed, his non-stone eye dark and troubled. He gave Astarion a brief hug.

“It’ll be alright, Astarion. We’ve all got her. We’ve got you,” he said, biting his lip.

Astarion managed a nod of thanks before heading back down the hall.

Astarion took a few deep breaths before returning to Tali, who was still deeply asleep, Gale beside her, holding her hand.

“She hasn’t moved,” he told him reassuringly. “I’m going to go get her next elixir.” They had been feeding her a steady supply of elixirs of dreamless sleep, trying to keep her as unaware as possible until Shadowheart could heal some of her more extensive wounds. Jaheira strongly suspected she had multiple broken ribs, just based on the stuttering, tense way she was breathing, and Shadowheart had agreed with her. For now, it was just safer to keep her asleep as much as possible.

Astarion nodded his thanks, taking his place next to her again. He adjusted the blankets Lae’zel had demanded from the innkeeper, making sure she was completely covered. She whined, adjusting herself slightly before another tear ran down her cheek. He rested his head against her shoulder, trembling.

He was going to f*cking kill Cazador.

Notes:

Thank you so much for reading; this piece has been a labor of love and it makes me so happy to see more people slowly discovering it. Toss a kudos or bookmark or comment if you're so inclined; this is actually a finished work that has an AU piece that goes along with it so you'll have a lot to read! <3

~ nyxue

Chapter 40: Taliana and Astarion - Pieces

Summary:

Don't fall away
And leave me to myself
Don't fall away
And leave love bleeding in my hands
In my hands, again
Leave love bleeding in my hands, in my hands again...

~ Fuel, "Hemorrhage"

Notes:

Content warnings : blood, aftermath of assault, trauma.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

The next time Tali drifted back into consciousness, light was streaming in the windows. She could hear low voices around her, and smell herbs and cooked meats. It was reassuring; these were the smells of breakfast with their little group of misfits.

She managed to open her good eye, disoriented as her vision blurred and swam for a few moments before actually seeing anything.

“Tali?” asked a soft voice. She struggled to focus, finally locking her eye on Shadowheart. She was alarmed for a moment; her cleric had dark circles under her eyes and her hair was twisted into a messy knot on top of her head instead of its usual neat braid.

“Hi,” she mumbled. Shadowheart practically crumpled in relief, gripping the edge of the table and fighting back tears.

“Hi, sweetheart,” Shadowheart whispered. “Can you tell me what hurts the most?”

Taliana took a moment to review herself, attempting to move her limbs slightly.

“My neck. It’s still hard to breathe. And…” she trailed off. Shadowheart bit her lip, hard, the tears spilling over as she understood.

“Okay,” she said, gently brushing a hand over Taliana’s hair. She hovered her hands over Tali’s neck, whispering quietly, the slight blue glow shifting from her hands into Tali’s body. Tali blinked in relief as the swelling around her eye diminished, her vision returning to normal. She moved her hands lower, repeating it over her chest, then lower. Taliana moaned in relief; she could finally take a proper breath, her ribs knitting back together fully.

“Oh gods,” she mumbled. “I can breathe.”

“Breathing is important, yes,” Shadowheart said, a slight smile on her face.

Jaheira bustled up to the table, her arms loaded with more bandages, all smelling of various medicinal herbs.

“I told you to get me before she needed me,” she huffed.

“I’m sorry, Jaheira. I didn’t want to let go of her.” That was Astarion, still sitting silently next to her, clasping her hand in both of his.

Jaheira sighed, her eyes softening as she looked at him. He was, quite frankly, a disaster. His usual debonair style was reduced to a threadbare sleep shirt and a pair of cotton pants. He was barefoot, and his hair was sticking up wildly. The worst part was his face; he had looked completely haunted since he’d walked back into the room with Taliana in his arms.

Shadowheart finished her last healing spell, moving around to Astarion. He jumped when he felt her fingers in his hair, pulling away sharply.

“Calm down, Astarion. Let me sort you out a bit,” she said softly. He hesitated for a moment before giving her a slight nod, too drained to argue. She gently combed her fingers through his hair, trying to right some of the wayward curls. After a moment, she went to retrieve a comb and a bowl of water and set to work. Carefully combing sections of hair, dampening her fingers, winding the hair around them, setting it in place. Astarion slowly relaxed as she worked, finally just leaning forward to put his head on the table next to Taliana’s while the cleric worked.

“There you go,” she finally said, rubbing his back soothingly as she finished.

“Much better,” commented Jaheira, who had been delicately removing bandages that were no longer needed and changing the ones that were.

“Thanks,” he whispered. Shadowheart patted his shoulder before wandering into the main part of the room, sinking down into a couch in front of the fire.

“Astarion? I…brought you something.”

He turned, seeing an hesitant looking Gale standing behind him, along with Wyll.

“Er, we brought you something, I guess,” the wizard corrected himself.

Wyll heaved a large pack down from his shoulder, setting it at Astarion’s feet. He pulled it open, revealing a pile of glass bottles, all carefully labeled and full of dark red liquid.

Bemused, he asked, “What in the hells is this?”

“We thought you might be hungry, and we also knew you wouldn’t want to leave her, so we sort of…bribed the butcher to bleed out some animals for you and bottle it. I’m pretty sure he thinks we were preparing for some demonic ritual, but enough coin stopped the questions,” Wyll explained.

Astarion boggled at them, reaching in to pull out a few bottles. “Chicken? Boar? Duck?” he read aloud. “They’re even labeled?” He couldn’t help himself; a snort of amusem*nt escaped. A moment later, he was laughing helplessly, even as tears ran down his face.

“Is…is that okay?” asked Gale anxiously.

“This is probably the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me,” he told them sincerely. He wiped his eyes, beyond touched at their thoughtfulness. “Thank you both so much. Truly.”

A smile broke across Gale’s face before he gave Astarion’s shoulder an affectionate squeeze. Wyll grinned at him, before looking at him thoughtfully and asking, “Did you do something different with your hair?”

“Shadowheart,” he explained. They both nodded in understanding; the cleric was forever trying to braid Gale’s flowing locks, and Wyll regularly allowed her to braid his hair tightly against his head.

“It looks nice,” said a thin voice. They all turned to look at Taliana, who was watching them.

“Hi, love,” he said softly, scooting closer to her immediately.

“Hey, Tali,” said Gale, managing a smile. Wyll waved at her, smiling, before grabbing Gale’s arm and dragging him away to give them some privacy.

“They brought me blood,” Astarion said, amused. “Like, went to the butcher and had them bottle and LABEL a ton of it,” he continued, the astonishment clear in his voice.

“They love you,” she mumbled, still sleepy from the elixirs they’d been feeding her.

He chuckled to himself. “I suppose they do.”

“Mmm,” she answered.

He leaned in, mindful of where he rested his hands on the table. “What do you need, love? Are you hungry? Thirsty?”

She was quiet for a long moment before she finally said, “Could I take a bath? Please.”

“Of course, love. Let me check with Shadowheart and Jaheira first though.”

She nodded, eyes closing again.

Shadowheart and Jaheira both agreed that it would be all right, so long as he promised to not leave her alone and to not submerge her neck. He swore he’d take good care of her, and twenty minutes later, the huge copper tub in the bathing room was full of steaming water.

Astarion stood next to Tali, pondering the best way to get her in the tub. Finally, he said, “Tali, love, I’m going to have to carry you back there, but it’s going to hurt.”

“It already hurts. Just do it,” she whispered.

He carefully gathered her up in his arms, leaving a blanket wrapped around her.

She realized immediately that he’d been right; the change of position was excruciating. Tears came to her eyes immediately, and Astarion froze, unsure what to do.

“Just go,” she said, teeth gritted.

Jaheira materialized next to them, hands hovering above Taliana, wisps of green slinking down into her. Tali relaxed noticeably, sighing in relief. Astarion nodded his thanks, hurrying the rest of the way down the hall, holding her as carefully as he could.

Once in the room, he sat her down on the wooden stool next to the tub, faced with a new problem. She’d been wearing her beloved purple cloak when he’d found her, and none of them had realized that perhaps they should have taken it off of her. It was fused to the skin of her back, sticking to what must be open wounds, although he couldn’t see what.

“f*ck,” he muttered, examining it.

“Tali, I’m going to try putting you in the tub, and hopefully that will soften this up enough that I can get the cloak off you, alright? This is going to hurt, love,” he warned her.

Taliana braced herself, biting her lip hard as Astarion slowly eased her into the water. It felt good at first, on her feet and lower legs, but as he lowered her more, the water seemed to find every bit of broken skin on her body, stabbing her with shards of pain. She yelped, grabbing at the edge of the tub. Astarion stopped, holding her about halfway in.

“Just do it,” she hissed. He took a deep breath and submerged her the rest of the way, a wail of pain coming from her as he did. She was shaking violently, steam rising around her, tears falling fast, but she was in.

She took several slow, deep breaths, trying to get herself under control before she looked at Astarion.

“I need help,” she whispered, her voice cracking.

He nodded, stripping down to his underwear before carefully climbing in with her, trying to not notice the red tinge already staining the water. Thankfully, it seemed the water had loosened up her cloak, and he began the tedious job of pulling it off of her, occasional sobs and yelps of pain coming out of her as he did, but he finally got it off. He tossed it over the side of the tub, where it landed on the floor with a wet thud, leaking bloody water all over the floor. Her back had several long slashes across it; Astarion recognized it immediately as welts from a whip.

“Oh, Tali,” he whispered miserably.

She pitched herself forward against his chest, and he was momentarily flummoxed as to where to put his arms. He finally curved one gently around her shoulders, the other hand cupping her head lightly.

“You were right,” she whispered, her voice broken and jagged.

“About?” he asked, already dreading the answer.

“That I didn’t understand,” she said, a sob ripping out of her. “I didn’t understand.”

“Oh, love,” he whispered, realization clicking into place for him. He remembered telling her that she didn’t understand what Cazador had done to him, what he was capable of.

“This was my fault,” he said, his voice breaking. “He never would have touched you if it wasn’t for me.”

She was crying, horrible, choking sobs of pain coming from deep within her, each one breaking his heart a bit more.

“I’m so sorry, Tali,” he choked out, his own tears breaking free.

“It wasn’t your fault,” she said, resting her head on his shoulder. “It was that sick f*ck of an ex-master’s fault. He wanted a way to hurt you. And I was just too tempting of a target.”

“They must have been watching us for days,” he said unhappily. “I should’ve realized he’d have people watching my every move. I know better than this.”

She lifted her head, eyes blazing.

“This wasn’t your fault, Astarion. You didn’t walk me to the front door to hand me over on a silver platter. He did this entirely to get under your skin and piss you off so much you’d go flying in there with a half-co*cked plan. And that would make it so much EASIER for him to pull you back under his control, if you’re not in full control of yourself in the first place.”

He sat back in the water, stunned into silence. He looked her over - tiny, battered, bruised, and still stronger than him.

She was right.

He cupped her cheek in his hand, thumb lightly stroking against her face. “You’re right, love.”

She raised her eyebrows at him, “Well, that didn’t take as much convincing as I expected.”

He snorted at her, shaking his head. “I’m still going to f*cking kill him.”

“I would expect no less.”

He met her eyes. “I will.”

She sat back, eyes closing. He gently moved her so he was sitting behind her and started on her hair, lathering it with a sweet-smelling soap. His fingers massaged her scalp, and he tried his hardest to not see that the suds coming off her head were all blood-tinged. But as he ran his fingers down through the length of her hair, his breath caught in his throat when he saw that his hands were fully covered with bloody soap.

“What’s wrong?” Tali asked, realizing he had frozen behind her.

“It’s…nothing,” he managed, his voice sounding slightly strangled.

“Astarion.”

He wordlessly shoved his hands around her.

“Oh,” she said, her voice tiny.

He went back to scrubbing and rinsing quietly. Hoping that Taliana couldn’t tell that silent tears were running down his face the entire time. He moved on to her back, carefully cleaning between the areas of raw skin while she rested her forehead against the edge of the tub.

“I think that’s about as good as it will get for now, love,” he finally told her, glad his voice had stabilized somewhat.

“Thank you,” she said softly. “You have no idea how much better that feels.”

He did, actually, but he felt it probably was not the best time to point that out. Instead, he climbed out of the tub, wrapping himself in a towel, and debating what to do with Tali. Given the wounds on her back, he wasn’t sure wrapping her up was the best idea.

“Tali, love, let me get dressed and go find Shadowheart so she can look at your back, all right? We didn’t know about it.”

She nodded, forehead still resting on the edge of the tub.

He pulled his clothes on quickly before popping back into the main room. Shadowheart was still on the couch, chewing on a piece of melon, looking somewhat wrecked. Astarion actually looked at her and was taken aback; her hair was in a messy knot on top of her head and the circles under her eyes could rival his when he hadn’t hunted in a few days.

He hesitated after seeing her, but she’d already turned to look at him.

“Do you need me?” she asked.

He wavered for just a moment before saying, “Yes, if you aren’t too worn out. We didn’t see her back.”

Shadowheart closed her eyes for a moment before swearing and pushing herself to her feet.

“I can ask Jaheira if you’re too tired -”

She gave him a death glare as she walked past him, heading to the bathing room. He trailed after her, feeling terrible for even asking.

Taliana lifted her head when the door opened, watching as a very tired looking Shadowheart came in, with an apologetic Astarion behind her.

“Let me see, Tali,” said the cleric, all business. She shifted as best she could, wincing as Shadowheart gently touched her back, evaluating. She murmured softly, hands hovering over her back, and the skin slowly pulled back together, looking fragile, but at least not open anymore.

“Good?” she asked, swaying slightly. Astarion reached out as if to catch her elbow, but clearly thought better of it, keeping his hands to himself.

“Thank you, Shadow,” she whispered. “Please go get some sleep. I’ll be okay.”

Shadowheart sighed, the annoyance dropping off her face as she gently touched Taliana’s hand. “Wake me up if you need me,” she said, before turning and swishing back down the hall.

“She looks like she’s about to pass out,” said Tali, eyes dark with worry.

“She was up the majority of the night, checking on you every hour or so.”

Tali turned to look at him, her eyes filling with tears.

“Hey now, none of that, love,” he said, rushing to soothe her. “Most of us were up, believe me.”

“Can I get out?” she asked, her tears spilling over.

He moved to help her, wrapping her gently in a towel, followed by a blanket.

“I can walk,” she said, when he moved to pick her up. He nodded, offering her an arm, which she did accept. They shuffled out of the room, Tali glancing back just once to look at her cloak, laying on the floor in a soggy plum-colored heap, bloody water leaking out of it.

“I loved that cloak,” she muttered. Her spine suddenly stiffened, and she spun faster than Astarion expected as she looked around wildly.

“Tali?” he asked, trying to keep a hand on her.

“Astarion - my - where - where’s my bow?” she asked desperately.

Astarion hesitated, the lie coming all too easy.

“I don’t know, love, you only had your cloak when I found you -”

“But - but - is it still there? It has to be,” she said, hands gripping the front of his shirt.

“Okay, Tali, okay. I’ll go look. Come on, let’s get you settled first,” he pleaded. She followed him reluctantly, fighting back tears.

Karlach was the first person he saw when they entered the room, and he passed Taliana off to her, saying, “I’ll be right back, fire girl.”

“Fangs, where are you -”

He caught Shadowheart’s eye as he moved towards the door, and he saw the faintest hint of a nod from her.

Back in the room, Karlach was left with an inconsolable Taliana, who she had gently guided over to one of the beds. Tali was curled against her shoulder, weeping, while the tiefling patted her hair.

“Hey, soldier, it’s all right. Fangs is out looking for it, yeah?”

“It’s gone, Karlach, I know it is -”

“He might find it, don’t give up yet.”

Behind them, Shadowheart rose from the couch and slipped out the door quietly.

Wyll peeked around the corner, concern on his face. “What’s wrong?” he asked Karlach in a low voice.

“Her bow. It’s gone,” she said sadly. Taliana had her face buried in her neck at this point, sobbing. Karlach gave Wyll a pleading look, but the warlock just looked back at her blankly, clearly having no ideas on how to make this better.

In the hallway outside, Astarion shifted his weight back and forth nervously. He could still hear Tali crying, and he gritted his teeth in frustration. Shadowheart slipped out the door, and they looked at each other helplessly.

He followed Shadowheart to a corner, and the cleric pulled the pieces of bow out of her pack, biting her lip.

“f*ck,” he said unhappily, running a finger over the splintered wood. “I don’t want to tell her.”

“Me either.”

They eyed each other for just a moment before the cleric sighed. “Come on, Astarion.”

Notes:

There's light at the end of the tunnel, I promise.

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!

Do you like all my silly lyrics at the start of each chapter? That playlist is here!

Thank you so much for reading, I truly appreciate you!

~ nyxue

Chapter 41: Taliana - Goheno Nin

Summary:

I hear the sound, echoes beneath
Angels and skylines meet
And I'm straining to reach
The light on the surface
Light on the other side
I feel the pages turning
I see the candle burning down
Before my eyes, before my wild eyes
I feel you holding me
Tighter, I cannot see
When will we finally breathe?

~ Fleurie, "Breathe"

Notes:

Content warnings : blood, post-trauma, but things are getting a little better?

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Tali was laying on a bed, cocooned in a blanket, with her head in Karlach’s lap, trying to stop crying. At this rate, her head would dry up completely, she figured; she’d cried more in the last day or two than she had in years. The heat from Karlach’s body was soothing, though, and she sat up to snuggle closer to the tiefling, the heat radiating through her and alleviating some of the aches in her body. Karlach draped an arm over her, and Taliana finally just gave up and crawled into her lap, letting the tiefling wrap herself around her.

“Good?” Karlach asked. Taliana had her face buried under her chin, and she nodded, relaxing against her.

“That feels really good,” she mumbled. She could hear Karlach’s pleased chuckle, and fingers carefully stroked through her damp hair, untangling it.

Approaching footsteps made her lift her head, and she saw Astarion and Shadowheart walking up to her, both of them looking fairly reluctant.

She waited, and when neither of them said anything, she finally asked, “What?”

They exchanged a look, and Shadowheart finally brought her hands out from behind her, holding what was left of her bow. Tali reached a hand out, stroking the familiar curve of wood, now ending in jagged splinters.

“No, no, no - it’s all I have left - no -” she stammered, before completely breaking. Deep, tearing sobs jerked their way out of her, and she grabbed for the pieces, pulling them close to her.

Dimly, she was aware of Karlach letting her go as cool hands took the place of hers. She kept running her fingers over the wood, unable to stop the tears. Astarion rested his chin on top of her head, holding her gently.

It seemed to take forever for her tears to slow yet again, but they finally did, and she sat up, examining the pieces in her hands. She rested her forehead against them for a moment, whispering, “Goheno nin”. Next to her, Astarion jerked his head towards her in surprise, clearly not expecting to hear Elvish from her. Forgive me.

She gazed up at him, her face still wet with tears. “How much do you know about wood elf culture?” she asked, voice trembling.

He hesitated for a moment, and she could tell from the look on his face that he was already putting the pieces together.

“Who?” he finally asked her softly, nodding towards the pieces in her hands.

“My great grandmother,” she whispered. “My haruni had it made for me when I came to live with her after my mother died. She was the one who taught me how to shoot. How to move. How to be what I am today.”

Astarion nodded; all of his reading came in handy occasionally. While he’d never personally encountered it until now, he was familiar with the concept of planting a tree on top of a deceased loved one in wood elf culture, with pieces of the tree being used in weapons and armor for generations to come.

“I’m so sorry, Tali,” he told her gently. “I know it’s irreplaceable.”

Her eyes filled with tears yet again.

“Would you do something for me, please?” she finally asked.

“Of course, love.”

“My cloak. Rescue it and dry it out so I can wrap this in it. Please.”

He nodded, touching her shoulder gently as he stood to do what she’d asked.

Taliana sat on the bed alone, staring down at the pieces in her hands. She could still hear her grandmother’s voice in the back of her head. “Hinya, light, delicate, like the wind. Breathe, then aim. Listen. Hear everything, my child. The aim is there, you just need to hear it.” She dropped her face into her hands, dragging in a shuddering breath.

Astarion returned, holding a mug of water and a plate with some bread and cheese on it.

“Your cloak is drying. And you need to eat something, love.”

She took the plate, picking at the bread reluctantly. After a moment, she put it down, shaking her head.

“I can’t.”

“Tali…” Astarion started, trailing off. “Maybe later?”

She nodded, curling herself into a ball on the bed. He gently arranged the blankets over her, stroking her hair softly.

“Lay with me?” she asked quietly. “Please? I don’t want to be alone.” His eyes softened, and he laid down next to her, not touching her. She burrowed against him, her head on his chest, an arm around him. He carefully wrapped an arm around her, using his other hand to keep stroking her hair. She relaxed against him, and he adjusted the blankets over them so she was in a bit of a fluffy blanket nest, just her face barely peeking out.

“Good?” he asked her.

She nodded against him, her fingers tightening around his side.

He sighed, untangling a bit of hair as he stroked her head.

“I’m so sorry, Taliana,” he whispered. “For all of it.”

She closed her eyes, pressing her face against his chest.

“I saw you,” she said, her voice low. “After.”

He tilted his head to look at her quizzically.

“After you brought me back. It must’ve been early on, I’m not sure. But you were absolutely covered in blood from head to toe,” she said, her voice distant.

“Tali…”

“I saw your face, though, melamin.”

Astarion froze against her, clearly remembering his anguish as he’d sat next to her, clinging to her hand, covered in her blood. A moment later, he realized what she had just said, and he felt a lump in his throat. My love.

“You never left my side,” she whispered. “I know that.”

“I did when Karlach and Wyll dragged me away at the beginning,” he mumbled. “And when Gale sent me to change so I didn’t scare the hells out of you, but I guess you saw me anyway.”

She nodded against him.

“I didn’t understand before. I still don’t understand completely now. But, Astarion…I understand that you’re the most resilient person I know. I don’t know how you did it.”

He blinked at her, stunned into some sort of silence for once. He pressed a kiss to her forehead, letting out a shaky breath.

“Sleep, love,” he whispered. “Please.”

She snuggled against him, the warmth of the blankets cozy around her, and she faded away as he held her, silent tears falling down his face.

Notes:

Some of the things in this chapter as pertains to wood elf culture do have roots in classic D&D knowledge, and some is my own exposition and thoughts.

****

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!

Do you like all my silly lyrics at the start of each chapter? That playlist is here!

Thank you so much for reading, I truly appreciate you!

~ nyxue

Chapter 42: Astarion - The Break

Summary:

I’m walking down the line
That divides me somewhere in my mind
On the borderline
Of the edge and where I walk alone
Read between the lines
What’s f*cked up and everything’s alright…

~ Green Day, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

Notes:

I told you things would start to get better!

At least, until they go to hell again!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

It was a strange time for Astarion.

Taliana was in fairly good shape after a few days, thanks to Shadowheart, Halsin, and Jaheira’s magic and knowledge. Physically, anyways. The scar twisting down her throat was going to be a painful reminder for the rest of her life; that much was obvious.

She’d been extremely quiet, which didn’t surprise Astarion too much. It was like some of the light behind her eyes had been snuffed out, and he hated seeing her looking so…muted. It was Tali, but it wasn’t. He knew it would take time; one didn’t simply ‘get over’ an experience like that just because the physical wounds were healed.

The group had started planning the invasion of the Szaar palace with a vengeance in the days following Taliana’s attack. Gale and Shadowheart had been procuring vast amounts of potions and scrolls, Wyll had been doing surveillance, and Lae’zel had been sharpening everyone’s weapons to the finest points possible.

There was just one little problem.

“I am not letting you go without me,” snapped Taliana.

Astarion huffed out a breath, looking down at the delicate spitfire of a wood elf that he adored more than anything, and debated tying her to the nearest chair to keep her from coming with them.

“Tali, if you think I’m letting you get anywhere NEAR him -”

“That’s why I’m not going to get ‘near’ him, Astarion. I’m a f*cking sniper, remember?”

“Taliana, no.”

“I’m going, Astarion.”

They glared at each other, both fairly glowing with anger.

Wyll finally intervened after hearing them have the same argument for the fifth time, pulling Astarion aside.

“Astarion, you’re going to have to let her go,” he said quietly.

He fumed, glaring at the warlock. “Whose side are you on here, Blade?”

“There is no possible way she will let you go without her, unless you plan on locking her in here. And even then, I’m betting she’s more than resourceful enough to find a way out. And I’m guessing you’d rather have her with you than alone and trying to find you.”

He had him there, and they both knew it.

“f*ck.”

Astarion glared at him before spinning and stalking out the door. He needed to clear his head.

The streets were bustling along at this hour, and Astarion followed the flow of people, trying to calm down. He leaned against a building, listening to merchants call to prospective customers, to young boys trying to sell papers.

The shop across the way caught his eye, and without really thinking, Astarion wandered over to look in the window. He ducked inside a moment later, a smile creeping across his face.

A half-hour later, he returned to the rooms in the Elfsong, a package tucked under his arm. The room was quiet; most of the group was out running errands this time of day. He could see Halsin at the table, whittling away at a piece of wood, and they nodded at each other in greeting. He ducked through the curtains that separated the corner of the room where he and Taliana had been sleeping, pausing when he realized she was actually there. She was curled on the bed, facing the wall, tracing her fingers against the wood.

“If you’re coming to argue with me some more, Astarion, please come back later,” she said, her voice thick.

He sat down next to her, sighing when he saw her face. She’d clearly been crying again; he rummaged for a handkerchief, handing it to her. She sniffled, blowing her nose noisily before sitting up to lean against the wall.

He stroked her hair back gently for a moment, wiping away the remnants of her tears.

“I brought you something.”

She raised an eyebrow, a bit of life coming into her eyes. He gestured for her to come closer, and she complied, sitting next to him. He handed her the paper-wrapped package, chewing on his lower lip, hoping he’d done the right thing.

Tali pulled at the string holding the package shut, tearing the paper, and a pile of rich, emerald green fabric tumbled into her lap. She looked at him quizzically, standing up to shake it out.

“Oh…” she said softly, her eyes widening.

“Do…do you like it?” he asked hesitantly.

She turned the cloak this way and that, taking in all the details. It was a deep, rich emerald green, with metallic emerald embroidery tracing along the edges, making it shimmer and gleam slightly as it moved. The lining was a plush forest green velvet, the clasp shaped like a scattering of golden leaves. She ran her fingers over it, stroking the velvet lining, before pulling it on, lifting the hood over her spill of dark hair.

She still hadn’t spoken, and Astarion was shifting his weight nervously from foot to foot. Without warning, Taliana lunged at him, throwing her arms around him.

“It’s beautiful, Astarion. Thank you so much,” she said, letting go of him and sliding over to the standing mirror near the bed so she could admire herself. “I love it,” she whispered.

“I know it’s not purple, but you look beautiful in green, love. And when I saw the embroidery - it matches your eyeliner,” he said, chuckling. He joined her, resting his head on top of hers. She blinked for a moment, still not used to not seeing him reflected in a mirror, but the moment passed.

“I absolutely love it,” she said, wrapping her arms around his waist. “Thank you.”

He leaned down to kiss her forehead, pleased with himself for getting it right.

“Astarion?”

“Yes, love?”

“What…what color were your eyes before?” she asked softly.

He was taken aback, blinking at her in confusion for a moment as he thought about it. “I…I don’t know, actually. I…I can’t remember,” he said, his voice fading slightly.

“I’m sorry. I was just…wondering.”

She stood on her toes, leaning up to kiss him in apology, and he ran a gentle hand over her hair to cup the back of her head as he returned the kiss.

“I know you don’t want to think about this, Tali, but we probably need to go shopping for a new bow for you before…” he said, letting his voice trail off. She slumped against him, sighing. Finally, she nodded, and let him take her hand and lead her out into the city.

“Tali, let me see!!”

Taliana giggled, spinning in place, while Shadowheart admired the cloak fluttering around her.

“Did you do that?” the cleric asked Astarion, a smile edging onto her face.

He shrugged noncommittally, leaning against the wall.

“He did,” Tali informed her. Shadowheart caught her arm to cease her twirling, pulling the cloak out to admire the embroidery. She ran a delicate finger along the edges, smiling. Taliana hopped away, cloak fluttering behind her as she went.

Shadowheart stepped closer to him, closer than he would usually be comfortable with, before whispering, “You did good, Astarion.” She squeezed his hand briefly before sliding past him, tossing him a rare smile as she did. If he still had the ability to blush, he was pretty sure he just would have.

Across the room, Jaheira was now admiring the cloak, while Lae’zel was carefully studying the bow Taliana had selected.

Shopping for a bow had been rather traumatic for them both; Tali, of course, wanted nothing to do with the whole thing, and Astarion just wanted her to rip the bandage off and get it over with. It had taken several shops and stalls and more than a few tears from her before they happened upon a tiny stall selling random Elvish armor and artifacts. And, thankfully, they had a bow displayed that Tali had made a beeline for. He’d taken her to the city barracks afterwards to try it out, and while it certainly wasn’t her old bow, she was still a better shot with it than the vast majority of people would be with any bow. That settled, they were back at the tavern for the night, with a vampire lord on the menu in two days’ time.

Tali picked at her plate; she hadn’t had much appetite since everything had happened. Jaheira nudged her gently, her eyes concerned.

“You need to eat, Tali,” she said quietly. Everyone else was busy debating the pros and cons of various elixirs, and no one was paying much attention to them.

She shook her head.

“I can’t.”

The Harper looked thoughtful for a moment. “Is it no appetite or nausea?”

Yes.

“Both, I guess. I don’t really want to eat, and what I do eat makes me feel pretty sick,” she admitted.

Jaheira got up and headed for the kettle, clearly on a mission. She came back a few minutes later, handing Tali a mug of tea. She sniffed it, getting a sharp whiff of mint.

“Mint?”

“Peppermint. It will help. Try that with just some bread, if you can. Please.”

She sighed, reaching for a slice of crusty bread. Small nibbles, interspersed with sips of tea.

Huh.

She finished off the slice of bread after a few minutes, slowly sipping the rest of the tea.

“Better?” asked Jaheira.

“I think so,” she said, somewhat surprised. “Thank you.”

She was rewarded with a bit of a smile, and the older woman smoothed her hand over her hair affectionately. “I’ll make some more for you to have later.”

Tali smiled. “I’d like that.”

Notes:

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!

Do you like all my silly lyrics at the start of each chapter? That playlist is here!

Thank you so much for reading, I truly appreciate you!

~ nyxue

Chapter 43: Astarion - Fear

Summary:

If you're lost, you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall, I will catch you, I'll be waiting
Time after time
Time after time
Time after time...

~ Cyndi Lauper, "Time After Time"

Notes:

Content warnings : anxiety, PTSD, references to prior assault/abuse but nothing detailed, vampire bites.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

A day later, the invasion of the Szaar palace was officially scheduled for the following day.

The evening meal was almost in full swing when Astarion melted away, ducking behind the curtain into the space he shared with Tali. He looked around, taking a shaky breath, before curling himself into the small space between the bed and the wardrobe.

He was scared. Beyond scared, really. The idea of waltzing back into the Szaar palace was enough to make his mouth feel like a desert; like a boulder was resting in the pit of his stomach. Perhaps sheer terror was a better description. He leaned his head back against the wall, closing his eyes. He could still hear Cazador’s voice in his head, the rules that had governed every aspect of his life for two centuries.

Thou shalt not drink the blood of thinking creatures.

Thou shalt obey me in all things.

Thou shalt not leave my side unless directed.

Thou shalt know that thou art mine.

mine. mine. mine.

“Astarion?”

He jumped, Taliana’s voice yanking him out of his memories. She knelt in front of him, the faint moonlight through the window barely lighting the side of her face.

“What are you doing back here?” she asked softly.

“I…”

He had no real answer.

“I don’t know.”

She nodded like that made all the sense in the world to her.

“Do you want me to sit with you?”

He shook his head immediately, but when she moved to stand, one of his hands shot out without his permission, grabbing her hand. She looked at him, confused for a moment, before sinking down onto his lap, a knee on either side of his thighs, her head on his shoulder. He let out a shuddering breath, wrapping his arms around her and burying his face in her hair.

She carded her fingers through his hair gently, nails scratching against his scalp occasionally, and he slowly relaxed under her, her slight weight helping to keep him grounded. His face had found its way through her hair to her neck, and he pressed a cautious kiss against her skin, a hand rubbing her back in soothing circles as he did.

“Astarion…”

“I’m sorry, love,” he said immediately, pulling back. She studied him, eyes dark and luminous, before she seemed to come to some sort of decision, pulling her hair back.

“Go ahead,” she whispered. “You’re going to need it for tomorrow.”

“Taliana…” he managed, his voice somewhat strangled.

“Just…stop if I tell you to,” she said, her voice faltering ever so slightly.

He leaned his forehead against hers, drumming his fingertips on her back as he considered her offer. This close, she smelled beyond delectable; his mouth was nearly watering. But his eyes kept sliding to the other side of her neck, now branded with a twisting scar that ran from her jawline almost to her collarbone.

He gently pushed her shoulders back, shaking his head. “I don’t think it’s a good idea, love,” he said, using up any willpower he still possessed.

Something flared in her eyes, dark and ugly.

“Am I just tainted goods now?” she finally said, bitterness in every single word.

“It’s not that, Tali.”

“What, then? You’ve barely been able to look me in the eyes since…”

He pinched the bridge of his nose for a moment, eyes closed. She was still on his lap, trembling ever so slightly.

“I just know what it’s like when you’re willing to do anything to feel something again. And I don’t want you to just agree to things because you can’t stand how numb you feel,” he finally said.

She jerked away as if he’d slapped her, sliding off him and sprawling back with a thump. Astarion cringed; he should have just kept his mouth shut, he knew it - what was he even thinking -

His spiral was interrupted by Taliana scrambling madly towards the bed, grabbing for pillows. He sat forward, watching her with alarm as she got a good grip on several before pressing her face into them and screaming.

Even with the pillows, it was loud; all conversation in the main room ceased in a heartbeat, and the only sound was Tali’s strangled screams. Shadowheart appeared at the curtain almost instantly, peering in at him with wide eyes, and Astarion waved her away with one hand, the other gesturing at Tali helplessly. The cleric hesitated for just a moment before ducking back into the main room, and Astarion could hear her herding everyone towards the table, as far from them as possible.

Astarion knelt next to Tali, who was still doubled over, pillows pressed to her face, but her screams had faded to choked little noises, interspersed with sobs. He rested a hand lightly on her shoulder, just enough so that she knew he was there, but enough that she could move away easily if needed.

After a minute or so, she dropped the pillows, taking deep, shuddering breaths. She looked at him, the pain so raw in her eyes he almost felt like he was intruding by looking into them. Without a word, she shuffled closer to him on her knees before crawling into his lap, curling against him with her head tucked under his chin and her arms wrapped around him.

“Okay, love. You’re okay,” he whispered, cradling her against him. An occasional sob escaped her, but otherwise, she was quiet, pressed against him.

“Oh, Tali,” he murmured, rubbing her back gently. “I know.” Her breath hitched at that, and he felt her fingers tighten against his back.

He wasn’t sure what came over him, but the next thing he knew, he was talking softly to her. Telling her about Sildëyuir. Describing the inky violet of the sky, how her cloak had reminded him of it the first time he saw her. The way the stars sparkled like broken glass in the sky, brighter than any seen in Faerûn. The glowing moss on the trees, the way he would run his fingers through it while playing. The magic and music that fluttered constantly through the air, tickling his skin and electrifying every nerve. The crests and swirls of the buildings, all brilliant white stone and glass, and how beautiful it had been against the darkness of the sky. How he’d held those memories so deep for so long, because they were the only thing that he could call his own while under Cazador’s control.

She slowly relaxed against him, letting his words paint a vivid picture in her mind until she, too, could see the towers rising against the velvet of the sky, see the shine of the stars glimmering above her.

Astarion hesitated for a moment before trying to root around in his own brain, awakening the tadpole in it. Tali jerked against him, clearly feeling his mind against hers, and he ran a soothing hand down her back.

“Trust me, melamin,” he whispered.

Her mind opened, and Astarion pushed, letting her see the fragments of his life that had come before. The shreds he remembered, the ones he held absolutely sacred. The things that had always been only his. A quiet gasp came out of Tali and she straightened up slightly, a hand extending as a glowing tree swirled past her mind’s eye. Everything blurred and broke apart as Astarion lost control of the connection, sitting back and huffing out a deep breath.

Tali looked at him, eyes wide, and he knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that she saw him. Who he was, what he had been, what he was now.

Some sort of light went on behind her eyes, and he felt her mind against his. He hesitated only a moment before he opened, and -

It was dark, and he was laying on a blanket, looking up at an elf with alabaster skin and swirls of silvery-white hair. The moon was behind him, bathing him in an ethereal glow, making him appear even more beautiful. Astarion worked his way down the face, noting the brows, a silver closer to the color of a dagger. A strong, regal nose, high cheekbones, and an angular jaw; lush lips with a hint of smile lines around the edges, with a glimpse of fangs as he smiled. The eyes were a deep, rich red, almost scarlet, framed with thick, dark lashes. He was sitting up, pressing his lips against the smooth neck of the elf -

All too soon, the image broke apart, and Astarion was left panting against Taliana. He knew exactly what he had just seen - her view of the night of the tiefling party, when she had said he was beautiful.

“You - how -” he stammered, the ability to make complete sentences abandoning him.

“You saw?”

“Do you have any idea what you just did?” he hissed, pulling her tightly against him. “Taliana, do you even have a clue?? My face has been a complete mystery that I haven’t been able to recall for two hundred years. And just like that, you gave it to me.” He was still stunned, the image of the pale elf revolving in his mind. His inability to see himself had been a sore point for a very long time; not being able to remember his own face was upsetting at the worst of times, disconcerting at the best. And here was Taliana, just giving him back something he’d thought was long lost like it was nothing.

“It had never occurred to me that you could send specific images or memories until you did that,” she said. “And we just talked about the eye thing earlier, so…”

He shook his head at her in disbelief.

“I love you,” he whispered fiercely against her ear, crushing her against him.

“I know,” she answered. “I love you too.”

He scooped her up, moving them to the bed. She curled against him, a hand running up and down his arm without thinking. She paused, looking up at him.

“What did you call me earlier?”

He blinked at her, somewhat confused. “Melamin?”

“That,” she confirmed. “What is that?”

Feeling even more confused, he finally said, “You don’t know? You called me that the other day.”

She looked at him blankly. “I’m lost,” she said. “When?”

“It was after the bath. You were still pretty out of it, I suppose.”

She frowned. “What does it mean?”

He smiled a bit, touching the side of her face. “My love.”

She flushed slightly. “I guess whatever bits of Elvish I have left surface when I don’t try.”

“For what it’s worth, the most I’ve ever heard from you was right after the bath. I’m not sure why it surfaced then, but I heard several words and phrases from you.”

“Huh,” she said, looking baffled. “You’ll have to tell me later. That’s odd.”

He nodded, adjusting the blankets over her as her eyes started to slide closed.

“Thank you,” she told him. “For showing me. It was beautiful.”

He pressed a kiss to her forehead before rubbing her back gently, watching as she slowly drifted off. Once he was sure she was deeply asleep, he carefully untangled himself from her, intent on going out to hunt. She hadn’t been wrong; he needed strength for tomorrow.

In the main room, he was surprised to see Halsin still awake. The druid was lounging on the rug in front of the fire, whittling what appeared to be…a duck?

“Oak father preserve you, Astarion,” he rumbled, nodding to him. He hesitated for a moment before asking, “How is she?”

He ran a hand over his face before dropping down onto the couch. “She’s asleep.”

He could feel Halsin studying him, warm hazel eyes tracing over his frame.

“You’re exhausted, my friend.”

Astarion let out a bark of laughter. “Of course I am. We’ve been going for weeks, and we finally get to the city and I think I’ll get a chance to breathe, but no, we’re chasing netherstones and a damned shapeshifter, I’m f*cking starving, and then my psychotic ex-master vampire lord takes the only thing I give a sh*t about and returns her in pieces entirely to f*ck with me, and I’m doing my best to keep her together, but I can’t keep myself -” He stopped as he heard his tone slowly going higher and more hysterical. He stared at the ceiling, sucking in a deep breath, then another, not wanting to fall apart in front of this mountain of a man.

Halsin moved closer, holding an arm out to him wordlessly. He shook his head, the tears barely staying put.

“My friend, if you can’t keep yourself together, you won’t be able to keep her together.”

“You don’t think I know that?” he hissed, the tears finally spilling over. He swiped them away angrily, but more kept coming.

Halsin slid even closer, resting a giant hand on his shoulder.

He finally broke, crumbling against the larger elf, trying to muffle his sobs with his fist. The druid wrapped large arms around him, pulling him close and not saying anything. Astarion let him, too damn tired and too overwhelmed at this point to care.

Eventually his tears stopped, and Halsin released him, sitting back on his heels.

“I’m sorry,” Astarion muttered, his voice breaking. “I’m not usually like this.” He swayed forward slightly and Halsin caught him, pulling him back into his arms. Astarion vaguely considered resisting for a moment, but Halsin was just so warm. So…safe. And he was so, so tired.

“I do not think anyone would judge you for the feelings you have right now, Astarion.”

He huffed a laugh of disbelief, resting his forehead against Halsin’s broad chest.

“Also,” the druid started, his voice rumbling in his chest beneath Astarion’s head, “I would like to offer a solution to at least one of your problems.”

“And what would that possibly be?”

The man shrugged his expanse of shoulders. “You said you were starving. I am large and have what I am sure is an abundance of blood, as well as healing magic.”

Astarion sat back, completely flabbergasted by the offer.

“You’re serious.”

The druid nodded.

“You are willing to let me bite you?” he asked, making absolutely sure Halsin was clear on what was being offered.

“I believe that would be the most efficient method, yes. I would prefer to not cut my arm and bleed into a cup, but if that would be more palatable for you -”

“Stop, stop, just stop,” stammered Astarion, his head swimming.

“Of course, if you are uncomfortable with the idea, we can forget this conversation ever happened.”

“I…” Astarion was at a loss; while he and the druid had been friendly, he would have never expected him to offer himself up. He hadn’t even considered any of his other companions except for one night when Tali had asked him what he thought everyone else might taste like and they had spent an amusing half hour or so debating the subject. But now, with his hunger burning his throat like a red-hot poker and the smell of Halsin’s blood wafting towards him, rich and savory, he could feel his resistance crumbling rapidly.

“Okay. Yes. Please, I mean,” he managed, completely caught out.

Halsin turned his head agreeably, pushing strands of dark brown hair away from his neck. Astarion leaned in, smelling, listening, and sank his teeth into him, a groan of relief sneaking out as blood poured into his mouth.

The druid tasted wildly different than Taliana; he was more savory and rich, lingering on the tongue like a fine wine. Where Tali’s blood was sweet and light, his had an undercurrent of heaviness, an earthy note surfacing the more he drank. Halsin was quiet, an arm looped around Astarion’s waist, waiting patiently. Astarion’s fingers tightened on the man’s shoulders, tongue pressing against warm skin, feeling warmth flood his extremities. He finally let go, licking away the last traces of blood, the larger man shivering slightly as he did. Astarion sank back onto the couch, exhausted. Halsin murmured a few words he didn’t understand, and the marks on his neck closed and vanished without a trace.

“Get some sleep, my friend,” he said kindly, a large hand brushing his hair back. Astarion staggered to his feet, feeling somewhat like he had when he’d drank the entire bear; the floor seemed to be shifting ever so slightly.

“How about that,” he muttered. “I guess it’s the bear.”

“Pardon?” asked Halsin, looking somewhat alarmed.

“Nothing, druid. I just seem to be a bit…drunk.” He banged a leg against the couch, swearing. He righted himself, trying to aim for the curtain of his room, but he seemed to be seeing multiple curtains.

“Well, f*ck.”

Halsin was watching him with some concern, slowly melting into amusem*nt as Astarion tripped over one of his feet, before gazing up and commenting, “You’re f*cking huge.”

“Come, little elf,” he said, moving to pick him up. He was chuckling quietly as he scooped a vaguely protesting Astarion up over his shoulder.

“Are you taking me to bed, darling?” he managed, still attempting to sound seductive whilst being carried like a naughty child.

“I’m taking you to your bed,” Halsin confirmed, pulling the curtain open.

“Shame,” Astarion slurred. “You’re rather beautiful.”

He could hear Halsin’s snort of laughter before he gently deposited Astarion on the end of the bed, next to a sleeping Taliana.

“As are you, my friend. Now get some sleep.”

“Oh, fine,” he huffed, pulling his boots off. “Do I at least get a bedtime kiss, darling?”

Halsin’s eyes darted back and forth between Astarion and Tali, before leaning in to drop a chaste kiss on the top of his head.

“I’ll take it,” he said, stretching out next to Taliana, who curled against him immediately.

“Goodnight, Astarion,” said the druid, amusem*nt still clear in his eyes.

“Goodnight, Archdruid.”

Notes:

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!

Do you like all my silly lyrics at the start of each chapter? That playlist is here!

Thank you so much for reading, I truly appreciate you!

~ nyxue

Chapter 44: Taliana - Rewind

Summary:

Last fire will rise
Behind those eyes
Black house will walk
Blind boys don’t lie
Immortal fear
That voice so clear
Through broken walls
That scream I hear…

~ Gerard McMann, “Cry Little Sister”

~~~***~~~***~~~

Shoutout if you know what that lyric is from without having to look it up. It was way too appropriate to not use it here.

~~~***~~~***~~~

My lovely friend Kel wrote an absolutely spectacular piece of hilarious smut called Hardware Deviants and believe me when I say you are doing yourself a disservice if you don't check it out.

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Taliana awoke the next morning to a twist of anxiety already dwelling in her chest. Astarion was already awake, lacing himself into the drow armor he’d acquired a while back and rather loved.

“Morning, love,” he greeted her.

“Hi,” she said, rolling over to look at him. She threw her legs over the side of the bed, stretching her arms over her head before she rummaged in the pile next to the bed for her armor.

“So you know, Tali…” he started, looking somewhat unsure. “The druid volunteered himself last night as part of my meal plan. I hope that was all right…?”

She blinked a few times in surprise, freezing with a hand pulling her hair up into a ponytail.

“I…I guess I never really thought about it. But given the circ*mstances, I can’t say I have any issue with it,” she finally said. “That was kind of him to offer.”

Astarion nodded, lacing his boots up. “He’s a kind man, I think.” He chuckled briefly before continuing. “As a side note, apparently it’s just something with bear blood.”

“Wait, what?”

“Well, remember how it went when I drank the entire bear…?”

“Of course I do - wait, are you saying Halsin caused the same thing?”

“Either that, or I was so damn tired that everything started swaying.”

Tali gawked at him for a moment before a giggle burst its way out of her. “I am SO sorry I missed this.”

“Well, something tells me he’d be more than happy to let you watch if I ever bite him again. He’s very into ‘sharing nature’s gifts’ and all,” he said, doing his best Halsin impersonation for her. She giggled harder, shaking her head.

“I cannot deal with you and your bear-blood-drunk-hangover right now,” she finally said, full out cackles of laughter coming from her as she headed for the curtain. “I’m going to find some breakfast.”

“You do that, love,” he said, sliding his daggers into place on his hips and picking up his crossbow.

An hour later, their little group was pressed together outside a door in the lower city, somewhat underneath the Szaar palace. Taliana looked them over; she’d decided on Lae’zel, Shadowheart, and Wyll to accompany Astarion and herself. As badly as she wanted to bring as much firepower as possible, Astarion had assured her that smaller would be better for navigating the palace as quietly as possible.

It didn’t take long for Astarion to talk his way inside; everyone knew exactly who he was, and how badly Cazador still wanted him. They clustered together in the entrance hall, looking around at the heavy draperies and rich carpets that surrounded them. Candles were everywhere, illuminating a variety of paintings - and, amusingly enough, mirrors - on the walls. The air had a vague, musty odor, a faint whiff of death that made the hair on the back of Tali’s neck stand on end. Her steps faltered ever so slightly as they moved; Wyll reached out and lightly touched her elbow in reassurance. She closed her eyes for a moment, trying to lock herself into the mindset she had used for so long.

This is just a job. This is just another target. All you have to do is aim and fire when the time is right. That’s all it is.

She reached a hand into her pack, brushing her fingers over the scrolls Gale had specifically given her.

“You’ll know when to use them, Tali. They’ll change everything.”

She hoped he knew what he was doing.

The vast majority of the palace passed in a blur; if asked later, she wouldn’t have been able to describe it. But she did hear Astarion’s words as they moved through the halls; sometimes he sounded almost reminiscent as he talked about certain rooms, other times the venom in his voice was all too clear.

That was all before Astarion kicked open the door to the kennels, and Taliana felt her heart drop. Her eyes raced around the room, taking in all the sordid details; the chains on the floor with thick cuffs, chains on the ceiling, also with cuffs. Small metal cages, nothing in them but straw. And bloodstains; gods, the amount of dried blood everywhere made it difficult to discern what color anything had originally been. A few battered tables with straps to hold down unwilling participants, each littered with a horrifying array of implements : scalpels, needles, hammers, and - Tali had to do a double take - a saw covered in a vast amount of dried blood.

f*ck.

He’d talked about this with her, of course, but actually seeing it drove home an entirely new layer of horror that she had been unprepared for. As she was working all this out, Astarion had pinned a skeletal form against the wall, wringing answers from what appeared to be a pile of bones.

A few well placed broken bones later, and they had the answers they needed. Astarion took a moment to crush what was left of Godey into dust, a grim sort of glee on his face as he did so. He stalked out of the room, heading for Cazador’s personal chambers.

“He said he was under us,” Astarion mused, poking around on the desk. “But I don’t know how to even get down there. I know where…” He stopped, hesitating briefly, before saying, “I know where some of the cells are, but there’s nothing else down there. Just a long corridor with a handful of isolated cells.” Tali shivered at his description; she knew exactly what he was talking about.

“Astarion? Come here a minute,” called Wyll from a corner of the study. “The floor here is…odd.”

They clustered around it, peering at the strange slab of floor under their feet.

Lae’zel let out a low hiss. “It reeks of death here.”

“It is a vampire’s mansion, darling.”

“T’chk.”

“No, she’s right.” That was Shadowheart, her brows narrowed. “It’s very…wrong here. I think this is some sort of elevator.” She moved her foot around, freezing when she heard a click under the heel of her boot. “Everyone on!”

Everyone scrambled to join her, and the platform began to slowly sink into the bowels of the palace.

“Oh, gods,” whispered Taliana. The air around her was strangely cold, and all she could smell was death and decay. “What is this?” she asked Astarion. The atmosphere got thicker and more oppressive with every passing second, and Tali instinctively grabbed her bow as they sank lower and lower.

He turned in slow circles, shaking his head. “I lived here for two hundred years and never knew this was here. None of us did.”

The smell got stronger the lower they got, and Taliana wasn’t sure if she should be grateful or not when the elevator finally ground to a halt. Wyll had pulled part of his cowl up to cover his nose, and she followed suit, adjusting her cloak to cover the lower half of her face.

That was when they found the cells.

Two cells; one full of - Tali had to fight the wave of nausea that washed over her - children. Some very young, all with gleaming red eyes. The other, full of adults, all marked with runes.

Tali had seen Astarion visibly shaken exactly once, and she’d been mostly unconscious at the time. But this - these cells - he was clearly shaken to his core, especially once one of the men called out to him.

“YOU. I know you. You’re the one from the tavern,” he hissed, red eyes blazing. Hands with hopelessly dirty nails clung to the bars, and his hair hung in lank, greasy strands. “You smiled and joked and got me drunk.”

“Gods,” breathed Astarion, stumbling back a step. “You - no. You’re dead.”

“You called me so many sweet things,” the man continued, his fingers curling around the bars tighter. “My name sounded like a lyric on your tongue.”

For one brief moment, Taliana was sure that Astarion was going to faint - could vampires even faint?? He’d gone even paler than he normally was. Apparently, Wyll thought the same thing, because he stepped slightly forward to put a hand behind Astarion in a split second, his other hand gently guiding Taliana behind him, shielding her from view.

“Sebastian,” whispered Astarion, and oh gods, he did sway slightly on his feet for just a moment.

“You remember me.”

“You were handsome. Shy. You’d never been kissed,” Astarion continued, almost as if he was in a daze. Taliana jerked her head up in recognition, her eyes flying between Astarion and what was left of Sebastian. She felt a hand on her back, and was shocked to see it was Lae’zel, gripping her waist ever so slightly.

“You taught me how. And then you destroyed me,” hissed Sebastian. He let out a feral growl, an arm reaching out out the bars and swiping at Astarion, narrowly missing him. The bars glowed a strange, swirling red, and Sebastian crumpled to his knees, keening.

“It can’t be,” muttered Astarion. He was assessing all the faces in the cell, something bleak and broken crossing his expression. “I know so many of these faces,” he whispered. He swallowed hard before continuing. “They’re my conquests. I pursued them, seduced them, and brought them to Cazador. He told us he was feeding on them,” he said helplessly. “But he turned them. He turned every last one into spawn so he’d have souls for his damned cursed ritual.”

“How long?” Sebastian’s voice was thin and trembling as it interrupted him.

“What?” asked Astarion, taken aback.

“How long have I been down here?”

Taliana closed her eyes; she did not want to hear the answer she knew was coming.

“One hundred and seventy years,” Astarion answered. “You were one of my first.” He couldn’t meet Sebastian’s eyes; he stared down at the toes of his boots.

“My family…my friends…they’re gone. You took them from me. You took EVERYTHING from me,” Sebastian yelled, slamming a fist against the bars.

“We’re here to destroy Cazador,” Astarion finally said.

“You can’t. It’s not possible.”

“Where is he?”

“Further in. In the ritual chamber. His staff, it controls everything. He never sets it down; you’ll never get it.”

“We’ll find a way,” said Astarion, his voice surprisingly gentle. He finally looked Sebastian in the eyes. “We’ll be back. You have my word.”

Astarion stumbled back a few steps before moving to the doorway, his head down. Tali touched his arm gently, and he pulled away, shaking his head. He looked at her, the strangest expression on his face. Finally, he said, “You know, if I’d ever met you on the streets of the city, it could have been you in that cell.”

Taliana froze, eyes wide. She knew he was right, and the thought was too much to bear at the moment.

“Come on. We have a ritual to stop, remember?” Shadowheart swished past them, heading into the next room. That was enough to snap them both out of it, following her down the ancient stairs.

They hovered in the shadows near the top of the stairs, peering down at the situation below.

“f*ck,” breathed Astarion.

f*ck, indeed. Taliana gazed down into the chamber, seeing a large platform engraved with elaborate runes in the center. Several lines came off it, leading to - Tali had to blink to make sure she was seeing it correctly - bodies floating in the air, held in place by some sort of magic. Tali was no mage; she never had been, but even she could feel the ancient, dark current of weave pulsing through the air in here. She rubbed at her arms, shuddering at the sinister feeling.

“Six spawn,” murmured Shadowheart. “In the air.” She glanced at Astarion, a hint of fear breaking over her face for a moment.

“What do we do?” asked Wyll, crouching next to Taliana.

“We kill him,” said Lae’zel, like it would just be that simple.

Tali peered around the room, noticing the thick chain extending off the platform they were currently on. Astarion followed her line of sight, shaking his head.

“Tali, don’t even think -”

“It’ll be my best chance, and you know it.”

They eyed each other for a moment before he nodded. “You go. We’ll go down. And…I’ll see you on the other side,” he whispered, touching his forehead gently to hers. She caught his hand, and all too soon his cool fingers slipped out of hers as he headed down to face his past.

It’s just another job. It’s just another job.

She took a deep breath and jumped, emerald cloak fluttering behind her as she fell, her feet locking tightly around the chain. She pulled herself up, nimbly scrambling up the chain to kneel on a higher platform, behind a column.

Too far.

Below her, she could see that Astarion was yelling at Cazador; the room was too large for her to make anything out due to the echos. She could see Lae’zel’s hand on her sword, Wyll’s posture shifting slightly, Shadowheart gripping her mace.

I need -

Her eyes whipped around the room, spotting another platform at the same height, but farther away. Much too far. She reached into her pack, pulling out a scroll and whispering the incantation, feeling the weave yank her through the air in a burst of silvery mist.

Much better.

Cazador was yelling at Astarion; whatever he had just said caused him to charge at him, attempting to slam a dagger into his face. But Cazador suddenly waved his staff, and Taliana watched in horror as Astarion went rigid and frozen, his shirt ripping away from him to expose his scars. His body floated up into the air before slamming into position on the empty spoke, a rush of ancient red weave pulsing through the platform. Even from her position, Taliana could see his scars glowing a vicious, angry red, pulsing in time with the weave.

A lot of things happened very, very fast after that.

On the platform, all hell had broken loose. A wave of his staff, and Cazador was now surrounded by a host of bats and ghouls and hellhounds, giving him time to back away and start chanting the ancient words of the ritual. Lae’zel charged into the fray immediately, sword swinging, pieces of bats and ghouls flying away from her. Shadowheart summoned her spirit guardians, and the brilliant light from them was repelling anything undead away from her. Wyll was tossing eldritch blasts left and right, launching ghouls off the platform as he skirted his way around the edge, trying desperately to reach Astarion.

Tali peered down, not wanting to give her position away until it was absolutely necessary. Cazador had charged at Shadowheart, but he suddenly doubled back, howling in pain.

The spirit guardians -

The light suddenly went on in Taliana’s head, and she fumbled in her bag.

I hope Gale knew what he was talking about.

Below, Wyll had made his way to Astarion, and managed to pull him down, gasping for breath. He stumbled briefly, but quickly regained his balance, catching the dagger Wyll tossed him before grabbing a short sword off a nearby fallen ghoul and charging into the chaos.

Come on, MOVE, you son of a bitch -

Cazador turned, his focus back on his wayward spawn. Taliana clutched the scroll in her hands, whispering the words, drawing on whatever ancestral knowledge lurked in the elvish part of her mind, gasping as the arrow she was holding suddenly began to glow, slowly pulsing brighter and brighter.

She didn’t have any time to think, any time to plan; the light was getting so bright she almost couldn’t see.

Listen, hinya.

Taliana notched her arrow and let it fly.

Notes:

So, fun fact. What Taliana is about to pull here is exactly how I dealt with Cazador the first time I fought him, and it worked so well I literally broke the fight. Unfortunately, it's since been patched out, but I couldn't resist using it here because I felt like a freaking genius when it worked.

~ nyxue

~~~***~~~***~~~

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!

Do you like all my silly lyrics at the start of each chapter? That playlist is here!

Thank you so much for reading, I truly appreciate you!

~ nyxue

Chapter 45: Astarion - Judgement

Summary:

Well, I was there and I saw what you did
Saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off that grin
I know where you've been
It's all been a pack of lies
And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, oh Lord
And I've been waiting for this moment
For all my life -

Phil Collins, "In the Air Tonight"

Notes:

I know this is a short chapter and I'm sorry!

We are officially in the last chunk of this work now though. Sob.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

All he could see was a haze of red.

His back was absolutely screaming with pain; it felt like something was trying to rip his soul straight out through his scars. He could hear screams, and some part of his mind realized they were his own.

He’d been so confident, right up until Cazador had waved that staff and sent him flying into the air, locked in the empty position in the circle. Wisps of ancient weave drifted past him, twisting into him and choking him. There was a definite mist of red surrounding him, blurring his vision and his mind.

What the f*ck am I supposed to do from here??

He could barely see the platform.

What is even happening?

He had absolutely no clue what was going on; his vision was nothing but crimson haze at this point.

But he could hear it. He could distinctly hear the sound of Lae’zel’s battle cry as she charged into the fray, the sound of Wyll obliterating things with his eldritch blasts.

There was a sudden ripple of light, spinning slowly; Shadowheart must have summoned her spirit guardians.

f*ck f*ck f*ck -

He tried to move, to pull free, but the weave was much, much too strong. The pain in his back was slowly approaching a point where he wasn’t going to even be able to think if it kept up.

Suddenly, someone was pulling at his hand, grunting with exertion. Another firm pull, and something gave, sending Astarion plummeting to the stone floor. He nearly landed on top of Wyll, who had come to his aid.

“All right, Astarion?” the warlock asked, giving him a quick once-over as he gripped his arm, waiting for him to regain his balance. Astarion swayed slightly before his equilibrium returned, his feet sure and steady.

He nodded, and Wyll tossed him a dagger before blasting a nearby ghoul. “Come on. Let’s f*ck him up.”

Astarion grinned at Wyll, giving the dagger a quick spin in his hand before turning and slamming it into a passing bat. He was regaining his focus quickly, and he leaned over to grab a sword off a nearby dead ghoul, ready to charge into the chaos.

“Tali?” he asked Wyll, eyes flying around the platforms in the air, his heart lurching into his throat.

“I don’t know -”

Astarion did his best to choke down the panic that was threatening him; he certainly had bigger issues in front of him.

Cazador - perhaps sensing his absence from his position in the air - had spun around, and he had Astarion locked in his sights.

His master glared at him; it was a look Astarion had seen hundreds, if not thousands of times over the centuries. Utter disdain. Rage. Hate.

For once, he welcomed it. He gave the dagger in his hand another spin, settling his weight onto his back foot, both weapons up and ready.

He looked Cazador straight in the eyes, and he did the one thing that he knew would absolutely enrage him.

He smiled, letting it slowly creep onto his face, eyes narrowing.

Cazador hissed at him, clearly enraged that his renegade spawn was, once again, ruining his plans. He crouched, coiled and ready to leap, and -

That was when the sun exploded on the platform.

“Holy f*ck,” he yelped, staggering back, momentarily blind.

It took him a split second to realize what had happened; he could still see fragments of light hovering in the air near a platform above them. Taliana had shot an arrow enchanted with daylight directly into the midst of a bunch of undead - all of whom were now staggering around and screeching as the light caused their skin to flake away like ash.

Cazador himself was shrieking; the arrow had gone straight through his upper arm. A perfect shot, really; the enchanted tip was still exposed, and it was more than doing its job as the light seared into the vampire lord. He was suddenly gone, the arrow clattering to the floor and glowing so brightly Astarion couldn’t even look at it. A blur of mist raced towards the coffin near the back of the platform, seeking the sanctity of sleep.

“Clean them up!” he yelled to his companions, who were dispatching undead left and right. Arrows rained from above, impaling ghouls and bats at an alarming rate.

He ran for the coffin, his heart in his throat as he ripped the lid off.

It was time.

Notes:

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!
It's also got a second part now called Scar Tissue which is going to be quite the ride, so please come check it out!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!

Do you like all my silly lyrics at the start of each chapter? That playlist is here!

~~~***~~~***~~~

I mentioned this on the prior chapter, but I literally broke the Cazador fight by doing EXACTLY this on my first playthrough. I wiped my first attempt, but I realized that the spirit guardians was damaging everything...to which I went, "Huh, I wonder if -"

And cast daylight on Astarion's bow and snuck him down the side and sniped Cazador with it. The fight was nearly over before it began, because he wasn't even able to yank Astarion out of the fight. I seriously thought I'd broken the fight, but nope. All was well.

Sadly, that's been patched out. I felt like an absolute genius when it worked though. God bless Larian and them letting us just exploit logic.

Chapter 46: Taliana - Protection

Summary:

Is there a heaven or hell?
And will I come back?
Who can tell?
Now I can see what matters to me
It’s clear as crystal
The places I’ve been
The people I’ve seen
Plans that I made start to fade -

~ Jem, "24"

Notes:

Content warnings : Blood, violence, trauma.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Taliana dug out yet another scroll, blurring through the air to land on the main platform next to Wyll, who grabbed her arm and pulled her back immediately. It only took her a moment to realize why; Astarion had ripped Cazador out of his coffin and was advancing on his prone form, the elaborately carved dagger he’d taken from his master in his hand.

Shadowheart also shifted so she was in front of Taliana, her shield held up and ready. Beside her, Lae’zel gripped her greatsword, hissing under her breath.

“Get your hands off me, worm.”

“I’m not the one in the dirt,” Astarion snapped, towering over Cazador’s cowering form.

“You wretched, ungrateful child,” hissed Cazador. His eyes slid away from Astarion, finally finding Taliana behind the others.

“At least you brought me a toy this time, boy,” he sneered. To Taliana, he said, “This is what he truly is. I created him to be what he is.” He looked back at Astarion, adding, “She was one of the most…enjoyable toys you ever brought me.”

Astarion’s face was a thundercloud, every muscle in his body tense. “Leave her out of this.”

Cazador scoffed at him; he was clearly trying to do his best at maintaining the upper hand, when it was painfully clear he’d already lost it.

Astarion shifted his grip on the dagger ever so slightly. “One last thrust and I’ll be free of you. I’ll never have to fear you again.” His voice was strangely soft, given how tight his body was.

“And then? What will you be without me? A shade? A spectre in the shadows, devoid of all purpose?”

“I am so much more than what you made me,” he hissed, his grip on the dagger tightening.

He spun around to Taliana, his eyes finding hers. “I can do this, but I need your help,” he said, a sudden urgency in his voice. “Show me. Show me my scars so I can use him.”

“What?” whispered Tali, sliding closer to Shadowheart. “Astarion, you can’t possibly be thinking of -”

“If I complete the ritual, I won’t have to fear him ever again. I won’t have to fear anyone ever again,” he said, a pleading note of desperation creeping into his voice.

“I know you think this will set you free, but it won’t,” Tali said, trembling. “It will trap you, just like it trapped Cazador.”

He blinked a few times before giving his head a slight shake, almost like he was falling back into himself.

“You…you’re right. I can be better than him,” he said softly. He took a step closer to Cazador, who was cowering away from him. “But I’m not above enjoying this.”

With that, he grabbed his master by the hair and proceeded to slam the dagger into his chest. Then again. And again. And again. Cazador howled pitifully as blood splattered everywhere, drenching Astarion’s arms, his torso, his face. Pouring out onto the floor, surrounding them in a halo of crimson. He kept stabbing, and for a brief, horrific moment, Taliana was afraid he would never stop.

But he did, dropping to his knees in the pool of blood spreading across the ground, the dagger hitting the ground with a final ring of metal kissing stone. And Astarion threw back his head and wailed; it was a sound of utter despair, pain, disbelief, loss - Taliana shuddered, the hair on her arms standing up as he screamed his pain into every corner of this wretched place. The scream eventually faded into heart wrenching sobs; the kind that came straight from the gut, that only came from pure suffering.

Beside her, Taliana could feel Shadowheart and Wyll both trembling, and she could hear Lae’zel’s sharp intake of breath. Feeling like she was sleepwalking, Taliana stumbled forward, intending to go to him. A hand caught her arm, pulling her back, and she turned to see Shadowheart shaking her head ever so slightly at her. She hesitated, wanting to yank her arm free and go to him, but then realized what the cleric was trying to convey.

He needed to be alone at this moment, letting it all go.

His fellow spawn approached him slowly, now freed from the weave of the ritual. Astarion choked in several more shuddering breaths before staggering to his feet, scooping up the staff that rested next to his fallen master as he did. He spun it around idly in his fingers for a moment, examining it with vague fear and horror on his face.

She watched, silent, as he proceeded to free the rest of the spawn from the cells, asking his siblings to escort them into the Underdark. She watched as he snapped the staff in half over his knee before pitching it into the chasm surrounding them, ending the cycle of power and enslavement that had carried on for centuries in one swift, decisive motion. Finally, he turned to them and said, “I…I think we’re done here. This place reeks of death. Let’s just go.”

Taliana nodded, and they silently headed back up the stairs, the only sounds their footsteps echoing off the stone and Astarion’s hysterical breath hissing in and out as he tried to get control of himself. No one said a word; at the elevator, Wyll shrugged out of the robe that covered his pants and tunic and gave it to Astarion, who was still in nothing but his leathers, boots, and a vast amount of blood. Astarion nodded his thanks, pulling it on.

Taliana felt a light nudge against her hand, and Astarion’s index finger linked itself with hers. She glanced at him, tears filling her eyes.

Shadowheart reached out to the sigil on the wall, the world twisting past in a blur of color and confusion before they appeared outside the tavern.

“Cover him,” Taliana murmured to the rest of the group before they entered. They surrounded Astarion, forming a protective wall around him as they escorted him up the stairs, shielding him from prying eyes. Once outside the double doors to the room, Lae’zel gave him a solemn nod before heading inside. Wyll squeezed his shoulder gently before following her, and Shadowheart just studied his face for a long moment before reaching out to take his bloody hands in hers for a brief second.

Then it was just Tali, standing in the hallway with a blood-soaked and mute Astarion. His face was curiously blank, not unlike the look she’d seen after the ogre incident.

“Astarion?” she said softly, carefully adjusting her grip so she was lacing her fingers with his. She didn’t get an answer, but she also hadn’t really expected one.

“Okay,” she said, taking a deep breath. “Okay.”

Notes:

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!

It's also got a part two now, so take a look at Scar Tissue if you're down for AU BG3 goes CSI!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!

Thank you so much for reading, I truly appreciate you!

Chapter 47: Astarion - Catharsis

Summary:

I knew what I wanted, I went out and got it
I did all the things that you said that I wouldn't
I told you that I would never be forgotten
And all in spite of you
I'm still breathing
I'm still breathing
I'm alive.

~ Sia, "Alive"

Notes:

Content warnings : anxiety, panic attacks, disassociation, trauma.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Everything was coming at him like he was underwater; sounds were strangely distorted and distant, colors were too bright and warping in front of his eyes. His one anchor to reality was Taliana’s hand, warm and soft in his, and he clung to it desperately, terrified that if he let go he’d never find his way back.

He followed her as she pulled him along, trusting her to guide him safely through the chaos roaring through his head. She started to let go of him and he panicked, gripping her hand tighter.

“Okay,” she said, her voice wavering and fading. “I’m going to run you a bath, Astarion. Do you want me to help you?”

He nodded, or at least he thought he did.

She led him along with her, starting to fill the tub with steaming water. Things were vaguely coming back into focus; he could see the steam rising off the water, and the blur of emerald green that he knew was Taliana’s cloak.

“Astarion, I’m going to have to let go for just a minute so I can unlace your boots. I’m going to put your hand on my hair so you know I’m still here, all right?”

He hesitated for a moment before squeezing her hand. True to her word, she guided his hand to her hair as she knelt in front of him, freeing him from his boots. He could feel her shuffling around, and heard her boots get tossed into the corner with his.

His focus was slowly returning; he was still shaking violently, but the worst of the haze was starting to clear somewhat.

“Astarion?” Taliana was in front of him, her hand gently cupping the back of his head. “Come back to me, love.”

He tried, he truly did, but the noise in his head was still too much to cope with. He put his hands over his ears, closing his eyes, hoping she would understand. He heard a soft, “Oh,” of recognition from her, and a moment later, all the lights in the room were off, save for one dim candle.

That helped.

“I’m going to help you with your pants now,” she said softly. “Same thing, putting your hand on my hair.”

She did, and a minute later he was naked except for the generous layer of blood coating the upper half of his body. She gently guided him into the tub, keeping her hands on him until he sank down into the water. He was still shaking violently, bursts of adrenaline ricocheting through him uncontrollably.

“I’ll be right back, Astarion,” she said. “I need to get my armor off.” He reluctantly released her hand before sinking down into the water, ducking his head under the surface for a moment. The sudden dulling of sound seemed to help, and when he resurfaced, Tali was climbing in with him.

“Give me an arm,” she said softly. He obliged, and she started slowly scrubbing the blood off his arm, working her way down to his hands, then repeating on the other side.

Another violent shake ripped out of him, making the water ripple around them.

“He was lying.” His voice sounded tiny and pathetic, even to him.

“I - what?” Taliana paused, holding the washcloth next to his face.

“When - when…” He couldn’t get the words out.

Taliana blinked at him in confusion, gently wiping one of his cheeks. “It’s okay. You don’t have to tell me.”

“No,” he said, his voice finally returning somewhat. “Taliana. What he said. To you.”

She gently wiped his other cheek, silent.

He closed his eyes, debating, as she rubbed across his forehead.

“When…when he said you were a toy I had brought for him. That I was just doing what I’d been taught.”

Her hand faltered for a moment.

“He was lying, Taliana,” he told her.

“I know.”

“I would never -”

“Astarion.”

“Tali -”

“I believe you, Astarion,” she said, taking his face in her hands. “I believe you. Not him.”

His eyes searched hers for a moment before he leaned forward, dropping his head onto her shoulder.

She wrapped her arms around him, and he hissed in pain, pulling away.

f*ck,” he swore. Taliana was looking bewildered as she started to apologize, and he turned just enough so she could see his back.

f*ck,” she echoed. “Gods, Astarion.”

“What the f*ck happened?” he asked, wincing.

“It…I’m not sure. I think something with that strange weave, when he yanked you up? But every single line on your back is…almost raw looking? f*cking hells,” she muttered, her fingers delicately touching his shoulder. “It’s like it opened it up somewhat.”

He rested his head on the edge of the tub, a somewhat hysterical bark of laughter escaping him. “That better not be permanent. That would be my luck, seared for life by some f*cked up vampiric ritual.”

“I’ll get Shadowheart -”

“No.”

“Astarion.”

He hesitated, head still on the edge of the tub.

“Halsin,” he finally said.

“Fine. But if he doesn’t know or can’t help, THEN you have to let me get Shadowheart.”

He grumbled in agreement. She gently guided him to lean his head back so she could start washing some of the blood out of his hair.

Everything was quiet for a few minutes, save for the sound of water splashing and being poured. He was still shaking occasionally, but it had slowed down dramatically.

“Tali…”

“Hmm?”

“What…what do I do now?” he asked, his voice thin.

She hesitated for a moment.

“I’m not sure. Figure out what you want out of being free. Pray we survive the netherbrain. Ride off into the sunset and take a very long vacation somewhere.”

He snorted. “Tali, if we live through this, I will take you anywhere you want to go.”

“We could go visit Gale in Waterdeep.”

“Except there.”

They both chuckled. She finished with his hair, and he turned to face her. He slid closer, his legs stretched across her lap, his head on her shoulder. He pressed his face against her neck, breathing in her familiar scent. She turned enough to kiss the top of his head, a hand stroking through his damp curls.

“I’ll take you to Mosstone,” she said softly. “It’s no big city, but it’s peaceful. It would be a nice place to recover from…everything. It’s quiet, and the forest truly is beautiful.”

He hummed thoughtfully at her. “I’d like that,” he said, surprised at how much he truly meant it.

“Do you want to get out?”

He shook his head against her, wrapping his arms around her waist. Some part of him felt that she was still the only thing keeping him anchored in this plane, and the idea of letting her go wasn’t very appealing.

“Okay,” she said. She leaned back, letting him settle more comfortably against her. “It’s okay.”

Notes:

Things are getting better for these two, finally. We do have a few more particularly rough patches, but there's a lot of sweetness and light in their future. :)

~~~***~~~***~~~

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!

It even has a part 2 now from Wyll's POV that is basically AU BG3 goes CSI. And, well, you should check it out because I'm pretty proud of how it's shaping up. You can check out Scar Tissue right here!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!

Thank you for taking the time to read, and consider dropping a kudos or bookmark if you've enjoyed it!

~ nyxue

Chapter 48: Taliana - Burning Lights

Summary:

Kick out the gloom
Kick out the blues
Tear out the pages with all the bad news
Pull down the mirrors and pull down the walls
Tear up the stairs and tear up the floors
Oh just burn down the house
Burn down the street
Turn everything red and the beat is complete
With the sound of your world going up in fire
It’s a perfect day to throw back your head
And kiss it all good bye….

~ The Cure, “Doing the Unstuck”

Notes:

Content warnings : definite weird uses of my HC, references to assault.

This was originally two chapters, but I eventually combined them because it felt like they went together in some odd way.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

After Tali finally coaxed Astarion out of the tub, she ushered him into their curtained off corner of the room, a blanket wrapped around him.

“Sit,” she said, indicating the bed. “I’m going to find Halsin.”

He glared at her before standing and rummaging for a pair of pants.

She sighed, turning and heading out to look for the druid.

She found him in his usual spot, lounging on the rug in front of the fire. She could only assume he preferred the floor because his massive frame probably didn’t fit very comfortably on most of the chairs.

“Halsin, can I borrow you?” she asked quietly.

“Of course,” he said, getting to his feet. He followed her; Tali could feel the eyes of their other companions watching as they disappeared behind the curtain.

“What can I do for you?” he asked.

“It’s - well - probably better you see for yourself,” she said, ducking around the corner to where Astarion was still sitting on the bed. “The ritual did…something odd to his scars.”

“May I please take a look, my friend?”

Astarion sighed heavily before standing and turning. Halsin winced at the sight, as did Tali; out of the bath, it looked even worse to see the entire thing so angry and inflamed.

“Well, druid?”

“A moment, please,” Halsin said. “Would it be all right if I touched?”

“Yes, fine, whatever,” said Astarion, his teeth gritted. Halsin reached out a thick finger, gently pressing down on one spot. Astarion’s breath hissed out sharply, but he didn’t move.

The druid leaned closer, finally hovering his hands over Astarion’s back and murmuring under his breath in a language Tali vaguely recognized as some form of druidic. Wisps of green flowed from his hands, deflecting straight off Astarion’s back like an invisible barrier was blocking it.

Halsin stepped back, frowning.

“I’m sorry, my friend, but I believe you are going to need the cleric. This is beyond my knowledge of natural healing.”

Astarion stared up at the ceiling, a muscle in his jaw twitching. He gave Taliana a terse nod, and she headed back out to the main room, returning a few minutes later with the cleric.

A moment later, all three of them were examining his back. Tali could see the tension gathering in Astarion’s shoulders, and she reached out to squeeze his hand reassuringly.

Shadowheart was frowning, examining it closely. She was whispering softly, hands moving this way and that, clearly trying to unravel whatever was happening.

She finally stepped back, Astarion spinning around as soon as she was done. “Well?”

She sighed. “You’re not going to like this, but I suspect you may just have to wait it out. Whatever that is, that ancient weave worked its way into your skin, and it isn’t taking kindly to any attempts to subdue it.”

Astarion’s face was inscrutable as he listened to her.

“That said, given that the ritual was not completed, I don’t think it’s permanent; rather, it’s more that it’s in stasis for now. Unless…”

She gestured, and he turned around again, this time much more slowly.

More whispering, and Astarion yelled, “f*ck!!” as a ghostly red silhouette of his scars suddenly pulled away from his skin underneath Shadowheart’s hands, shattering as the cleric hissed a final word. He stumbled forward into Taliana, who caught him as he stood there gasping for air, curses escaping on each exhale.

“Halsin, if you would?” said Shadowheart primly.

The druid tried again, and this time, Astarion slumped forward against Taliana in relief. “f*ck,” he whispered, voice breaking. Tali peered over his shoulder, relieved to see everything back to normal. Astarion stumbled forward a few more steps, collapsing onto the bed, an arm over his face.

“What the f*ck was that?” he finally said, moving his arm to look at them.

“Cursed magic that took refuge in your scars. That was me removing it,” said Shadowheart. She hesitated before saying, “I’m sorry that hurt so much. I honestly didn’t expect that to work.”

He dropped his arm back over his face. “Thank you both,” he said, before rolling over to face the wall.

Taliana thanked them both profusely, and they left her alone with Astarion. She sank down on the bed next to him, resting a hand on his shoulder.

“Do you want me to sit with you, or do you need to be alone?” she asked quietly.

He rolled back to look at her. The clear misery on his face was plain as he rolled closer to grab her hip. He pressed his forehead against her thigh before whispering, “Stay. Please.” He reached up to tug her down to him and she obliged, laying on her back next to him. He immediately attached himself to her, his head on her chest, an arm over her waist, a leg over hers. He groped around for the blanket, pulling it up over them.

She smoothed her fingers through his hair, pressing a kiss to his forehead. “I love you,” she told him softly. He reached up to cup her cheek, pulling her down so he could properly kiss her.

“I love you too,” he murmured against her lips. “Tali?”

“Hmm?”

“Hum? Sing? Either. Please.”

“Of course,” she told him. She started to hum quietly, still stroking his hair, and pretended to not see the steady stream of silent tears trickling down his cheeks.

Tali couldn’t sleep; she’d been staring at the ceiling for what felt like hours. Astarion, thankfully, was asleep, as best she could tell; he didn’t seem like he was actually in a trance, but he was definitely out cold. Either way, she was glad for it; he’d had a rough day, to put it mildly.

She finally pulled herself out from under him, watching as his arm groped at the bed where she’d just been, making a grumpy whine before settling back into regular deep breaths. She carefully ducked through the curtain, slipping into the main room.

Maybe some tea would help. It couldn’t hurt, at least.

She headed for the table, scooping the kettle up from its spot over the fire as she did. Jaheira had clearly made her some peppermint tea for her earlier and left it in the kettle, and Tali was all too happy to drink it.

She sank down onto the floor in front of the fire, leaning back against one of the couches, mug in hand. The flames flickered steadily, dancing and undulating before her.

She’d always liked to watch things burn.

“Tali?” came a hesitant voice.

She turned, seeing a very unsure looking Gale behind her.

“Hi,” she said, taking a sip from her mug. “Want some tea?”

He blinked a few times in surprise. “I think I would,” he said. He poured himself a mug - adding a vast amount of sugar, Tali noticed - before sitting on the floor next to her.

“Are you all right?” he finally asked, his voice low.

She closed her eyes for a moment, pressing a hand against them.

“No,” she said. No point in lying, considering the last few weeks she’d had.

“I’m sorry to hear that,” he said softly. “How’s Astarion?”

“I think he’s actually asleep for once, not in a trance. I didn’t even know that was a thing.”

“I do believe that is a situation that can occur for elves in certain situations. If they’ve been injured or sick, for example. Or if they’ve been unable to trance well for a long period of time, or are truly exhausted. I’d be willing to bet at least two of those are true for him,” the wizard finished with a nod. He was clearly delighted to be able to educate her on the topic.

She chuckled a bit to herself. “I would be willing to bet that you’re correct.”

Gale went a bit pink, clearly pleased with himself.

“Is there anything I can do for you?” he asked quietly.

She looked over at him, a tear escaping as she did, meeting his eyes for a moment. She scooted a bit closer wordlessly, and he extended an arm, wrapping it around her shoulders. She had a brief internal debate before crumbling and resting her head against him, the steady warmth of him soothing.

He said nothing, just shifted a bit so she could be more comfortable.

“I’m so tired,” she whispered.

“I’d be surprised if you weren’t.”

“It’s all just…so much,” she said, a few more tears escaping. “I feel like I picked up multiple lifetimes of trauma in the last few weeks. It’s not just what happened to me, it was the hell of today. Seeing everything he’d described to me so nonchalantly, and realizing how utterly horrible and f*cked it was for him there. I will never unsee that kennel, or be able to completely forget how it smelled down there. Gods,” she muttered, shivering against him. He patted her shoulder soothingly, and she continued. “I don’t know how he survived it, to be honest,” she whispered. She had a feeling she should stop talking, but her head was just too full of the events of the day.

She was so tired.

“I didn’t understand him, you know,” Gale mused. “At first. I thought he was all smoke and mirrors and pretentiousness. But then I started to see shades of what he really was, and from what I’ve heard about what his life was before…” Gale shook his head. “I don’t know how he does it. I’ve never seen anyone as hells-bent on surviving as him.”

She sighed, dropping her forehead back onto his shoulder. The hand around her shoulders shifted to stroke up and down her back lightly. With his other hand, he made a quick motion, surrounding them in a burst of glittering lights. She chuckled, smiling as she watched. Another motion, and his mage hand appeared, snagging the kettle and refilling her mug of tea. Yet another, and the flames burning in the hearth changed colors, shifting to a deep violet, to blue, to red, to orange, and finally back to normal.

“Is this what wizards do to entertain themselves?”

“No. It’s what we do to keep from going mad.”

“So you’re telling me you weren’t already mad?” she teased.

“Madness is subjective, after all.”

“I am way too tired to engage in a battle of words and wits with you, Gale.”

He smiled, moving his hand again, making the twinkles of light coalesce and shimmer brightly for one final moment before shattering into nothing.

“That’s quite all right, Taliana,” he said. He paused, and she could feel him tense slightly before he finally said, “Today must have been hard for you too, and not just because of Astarion.”

She stilled, her breath catching in her throat.

“Don’t,” she whispered, her voice raw.

He nodded, squeezing her shoulder a bit before humming thoughtfully, flicking his fingers and sending pinpricks of light into the air in front of them again.

“He loves you, you know,” Gale finally said. “I know I was…difficult about it, and for that I do truly apologize. I found that any doubts I may have had about his intentions vanished the second I saw him after he found you.”

Tali raised her head, looking at him. No one had really spoken about this with her, and her memory was a kaleidoscope of images and moments that made little sense.

“Tell me. Please. What happened,” she finally said. “I don’t remember. I don’t think I want to remember, but I do want to know what happened.”

He bit his lip, uncertainty all over his face.

“Please, Gale.”

He sighed, pulling his arm off of her to fold them on top of his drawn up knees, resting his chin on them.

A dark silence hung between them, the pinpricks of light slowly fading out of existence.

“I wasn’t here, yet, when he found you,” he started. “I was on my way back from Sorcerous Sundries. I had just come around the corner where I could see the tavern when I saw Astarion, practically flying up the street, with a bundle of purple cloth in his arms. I couldn’t figure it out, at first, why he was running like that, or what he was holding. And…and then your arm dangled loose,” he said, his voice low. “That’s when I started running.”

Beside him, Tali was trembling violently. She reached behind her to pull a knitted blanket off the couch, wrapping it around herself. It did nothing for the tremors, but it did make her feel a bit more secure.

“I got to the door of the tavern right behind Shadowheart. I don’t think she even saw me; she was trying to get to you as fast as possible. And then I got upstairs, and…” He stopped, his voice breaking slightly. “And you were on the table, Halsin and Shadowheart working on you, Jaheira collecting bandages and supplies. Astarion…Astarion was at the end of the table, holding your foot, and Tali…if I had ever doubted how he felt about you, the look on his face erased it all. Just…haunted. Broken. I don’t even have the words, really,” he said, staring into the fire.

“Karlach and Wyll got back just in time for him to start screaming. They had to drag him into the other room for a few minutes to try to calm him down. It was…I never want to hear that again. It was one of the worst things I’ve ever heard. Jaheira sent me to find the elixirs of dreamless sleep, and I gave you one while you were on the table.”

“That I remember,” she murmured. “Just barely.”

He nodded. “It was a long night. I don’t think any of us slept. Everyone was…pretty upset, to put it mildly. It was…bad,” he said, his voice trailing off.

“What was he screaming about?” she whispered, unsure if she wanted the answer.

Gale regarded her for a long moment before he answered. “He…realized what had happened,” he finally said. She shivered violently, tiny threads of memory slotting into place. Astarion’s panicked face. The insistent questioning of whether she’d drank from him. The elixir. Jaheira and the bandages.

She was still shaking; Gale reached out to pull her into his arms. She relaxed against him, her face against his shoulder.

“Thank you for telling me,” she whispered. “I know that wasn’t easy.”

He chuckled, somewhere against her hair. “It wasn’t,” he confirmed. He released her from his embrace, keeping an arm around her, and they fell quiet, Gale cycling the colors of the flames almost absent-mindedly. “You should go to bed,” he finally said.

“I should.”

They didn’t move.

Tali was starting to doze off when Gale gently touched her arm. “You need to go to bed, Taliana,” he said softly.

She sighed, slowly pulling herself to her feet.

“There you go,” he said encouragingly. “Bed.”

She took a few steps towards her corner before turning. “Thank you.”

He smiled at her, a true, genuine smile, making the warmth in his eyes all too clear. “It was my pleasure, Taliana.”

She stumbled back through their curtain, dropping herself back into bed next to Astarion, who immediately wrapped himself around her like a vine. She gently brushed his curls back, thinking that she’d never seen anyone so desperate for touch as him. Even in sleep, he was clinging to her.

She gently kissed his forehead before adjusting the blanket over them. This time, sleep came easier, and she joined him in his peaceful slumber.

Notes:

Yeah, so, clearly the scar/curse thing is pure theory and extrapolation on my part, but I feel like it's not that far-fetched of a thought. I have no basis or evidence for this being a Thing in D&D, but the idea had come to me and I just REALLY wanted to use it.

~~~***~~~***~~~

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!

We're nearing the end of this.

Is this when I tell you I have 80-some pages of a modern AU written dealing with these two?

Chapter 49: Astarion - Rebirth

Summary:

Some would say your life was sad
But you lived it anyway and so maybe
Your friends, they stand around and watch you crumble
As you falter to the ground
And then someday
Your friends, they stand beside as you were flying
Oh, you were flying oh so high...

~ Candlebox, "Far Behind"

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

As a general rule, Astarion was not one for just laying around and letting the world move on around him. But in this case, it seemed to be the only thing to do, really. He rolled onto his side, running his fingers along the woodgrain of the wall. A curious numbness had settled over him in the last few days.

With Cazador gone, he was free.

He should be happy.

Right?

He rolled over onto his stomach, pressing his face into the pillow, catching traces of Taliana’s scent as he did.

“f*ck,” he mumbled under his breath. He rolled over again, staring at the ceiling.

Maybe a book would help. He pried himself out of bed and padded out into the main room, intent on searching some of the bookshelves for…well, anything, at this point.

“Morning, mate,’ Wyll greeted him from the table. He was devouring a pile of eggs on toast, the scent of fresh herbs wafting towards him.

“Good morning, darling. Your breakfast smells marvelous,” he said, feeling the mask slip firmly into place.

He was fine.

Wyll gave him a Look.

“What?”

“Astarion,” he sighed. “Don’t. Not with me. Come on.”

He blinked at him a few times, completely thrown off.

“I just wanted a book,” he said sulkily. “Don’t worry, I’ll be out of your hair in a minute,” he said, peering at the choices on one of the shelves.

Wyll hesitated, clearly debating if he should push his luck. He took another bite of eggs, silent.

Astarion felt his shoulders slump in defeat. “Okay. I’m sorry,” he muttered. “I’m just trying to be, Wyll, if that’s all the same to you.”

Wyll held his hands up in defeat. “There’s a book by my bed about monster hunters from Neverwinter, if that’s your thing. You can borrow it.”

Astarion pondered it for a moment before nodding. “Sure.”

Wyll wiped his mouth, hopping up and heading back to the curtained off chunk of the room he split with Gale. He came back a moment later, handing Astarion a battered book.

“It’s pretty good. They kill lots of dragons.”

“Dragons are good.”

Wyll gave him a wry smile. “Unless they’re trying to eat you. Let me know how you like it.”

Astarion nodded his thanks, heading back to his little corner. He sank down into the tiny spot between the bed and the wardrobe, opened the book, and started to read.

“Good book?”

Tali was peering down at him, shrugging out of her armor and dropping her pack on the floor. She’d been out with Karlach, picking up more arrows.

Astarion jumped; he hadn’t even heard her. “Apparently so. I didn’t even hear you coming.”

She grinned. “The supersonic vampire hearing failed for once?”

He raised the book at her. “There’s dragons.”

“Oh, well, that explains it.”

She sat in front of him, cross-legged. “Do you want to come out of there?”

He shook his head. He liked this spot; it was a tight fit, yes, but it was strangely soothing to him.

“Okay.” She stood, stretching.

“Tali?”

“Hmmm?”

“What…” he started, stopping abruptly, rubbing his forehead. He held the book closed with one long finger, looking thoughtful before he continued. “Why am I so numb?” he finally asked, a pleading note in his voice.

She regarded him, eyes dark and thoughtful.

“Because everything that tormented you for two centuries got destroyed the other day, and the fact that it’s gone is too immense to even comprehend right now?”

He blinked at her a few times.

“Well, when you put it that way, I’m not surprised I’m numb.”

“Love, I’d be more worried if you weren’t.”

He snorted, carefully putting a thin strip of fabric in the book to hold his place before placing it on the bed.

“I don’t know what I am anymore,” he said, his voice low. “Who I am. Everything that defined me for so long is just…gone now.”

She sat back down in front of him, taking his hands.

“The way I see it, you’ve been three versions of yourself,” she said softly. “Whoever you were before you were turned. Who you were under…Cazador. And who you are now that he’s dead and buried.”

Buried.

A spark of memory flitted back to him, something he hadn’t thought of in a long time. Decades. Probably longer.

“Tali, love, would you go somewhere with me later?”

She looked confused for a moment. “I’d ask where, but I already know you won’t tell me. Of course I will. When?”

“Later. After dinner, perhaps. It’ll be easier at night,” he said softly.

“Now I’m really concerned.”

He flashed her a bit of a smile. “Don’t worry, love. I’ve got you.” He eyed her for a moment, looking her up and down.

“What?”

“Wear something nice,” he told her.

Notes:

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!

Price Tag also now has a part 2, which can best be described as ' Wyllstarion BG3 AU goes CSI'. If that intrigues you, take a look at Scar Tissue!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!

Do you like all my silly lyrics at the start of each chapter? That playlist is here!

Thank you so much for reading, I truly appreciate you!

~ nyxue

Chapter 50: Taliana - Little Green Dress

Notes:

I bring you the fluffiest of fluff. Oh yes. I love this chapter DEEPLY and I hope you enjoy it.

Chapter Text

“Shadowheart, I need help.”

The cleric turned, silvery braid swinging. Tali had come scampering into her room, looking a bit discombobulated.

“What do you need?”

Tali sighed, shifting her weight back and forth. “I think I have a date.”

Shadowheart’s eyes lit up with glee. “Oh, do you now,” she said, grinning.

“It would appear I do. What the hell do I wear?”

Shadowheart snorted. “Tali, my dear, we are going shopping.”

“I was afraid of that.”

“Get Karlach. She’ll kill us if we go without her.”

“Oh, gods.”

A half-hour later, Tali was being dragged down the main street of Baldur’s Gate by a very enthusiastic Karlach, an amused Shadowheart, a bemused Jaheira, and a confused Lae’zel.

“Explain to me why we all need to assist Taliana with this task? Why can she not just wear her armor? Looking like a fierce warrior is always attractive,” the githyanki sniffed.

“Because, Lae’zel, her date is with Astarion. Do you really think he’d prefer her in something that covers as much of her as possible?” Karlach asked patiently.

“It can be taken off if sexual relations are imminent -”

“Okay, okay, stop that sentence RIGHT there, Lae’zel,” squawked Tali. “No.”

“T’chk.”

Jaheira let out a snort. “Ah, this will be a delightful trip, I can already tell.”

Shadowheart held open the door to Carm’s Garms, gesturing for everyone to get inside. They all filed in obediently, peering at the walls and racks.

“They do not sell armor here.”

“No sh*t, Lae’zel. She needs something nice,” Karlach explained, still attempting patience.

“Armor can be very nice. Have you not seen my breastplate? The etching is magnificent.”

Karlach ran a hand through her hair, trying to not laugh. “Let’s try this. What color does Tali look best in?”

“Green,” said Jaheira and Shadowheart immediately.

Lae’zel looked bewildered for a moment before carefully studying Taliana.

“Dark green,” she finally said. “The inside of her cloak.”

“That’s the spirit, Lae’zel,” Karlach cheered.

The gith rolled her eyes, stalking over to inspect a painfully frilly garment in the window.

“For what it’s worth, I actually agree with Lae’zel for once,” said Shadowheart, looking somewhat annoyed at this fact.

Taliana snickered. “I’m so glad fashion finally brought you together,” she teased.

Lae’zel’s hiss and Shadowheart’s exaggerated eye roll made Tali giggle even harder.

“Taliana? This?” asked Jaheira, stepping out from the back of a rack. She held up a short, simple green dress.

“I think she needs something nicer,” Karlach said, chewing on her lip.

Shadowheart drifted towards the back wall, inspecting the choices. Tali ran her fingers over a nearby rack, completely amused by the entire thing.

A few more dresses were found and rejected in swift fashion, and Tali was starting to consider Lae’zel’s idea of just wearing her armor. Her cloak was nice, at least; that had to count.

“Taliana.” That was Lae’zel, in the very back corner of the store. Karlach was the closest to her, and she started hopping in place when she saw what the gith had found.

“This one, Tali,” the tiefling chirped.

Taliana headed towards them, where Lae’zel was gesturing to a dress near the back of the rack.

“Oh,” she said softly, reaching out to run her fingers over it.

It was perfect, really; it was a rich, dark green, nearly the color of her cloak. Long, with a slit up to just above the knee, the straps gathered in delicate gold chains, leaving the arms bare.

“That,” Shadowheart agreed, looking at it. Jaheira was also nodding in approval.

“If we all agree, it must be right,” Tali said, scooping it up.

As she headed to the counter to pay, Shadowheart slid up next to her. “You’re going to look beautiful,” she said, giving her a hug.

Tali grinned at her, handing over a bag of coins to the gnome woman behind the counter. “Will you do my hair?”

“Of course.”

“Gah, I feel so…weird,” Tali said, squirming.

“Hold still!”

Shadowheart was patiently pinning the straps of her dress, making it fit perfectly. Karlach was sprawled on the floor nearby, watching and admiring her skills.

“It’s too bad I couldn’t ask Astarion to do this,” she mused.

“What?” asked Shadowheart in confusion, a pin balanced in her mouth.

“He’s really good at needlework.”

“Tali, you can’t just tell me that when I have a pin in my mouth, I nearly swallowed the damn thing.”

“Sorry!”

“Every time I think you cannot possibly surprise me with whatever random fact you offer up about your vampire, you come up with something that I would have NEVER even thought of,” Shadowheart said, chuckling. She patted Tali’s shoulders, nodding. “There.”

“Thank you,” she said, inspecting herself in the mirror. “Gods, I can’t even remember the last time I wore a dress.” She turned her head this way and that, admiring her hair. “And I love the hair,” she said. Shadowheart had delicately braided the sides of her hair back, catching them together at the crown of her head and weaving them into an intricate knot. Shadowheart eyed her critically, pulling a few wisps of hair loose to frame her face.

“Perfect,” she said.

“You look fabulous, soldier,” said Karlach, sitting up straight. “Hold on. Let me get Jaheira and Lae’zel!”

“Thanks,” she said shyly.

Karlach hopped out of the room, coming back with the Harper and the gith.

Jaheira smiled warmly before saying, “That looks lovely on you, Taliana. You will have a great time tonight, I’m sure.”

Lae’zel still looked somewhat confused; she studied Tali carefully, finally walking in a slow circle around her to take it all in. A brief flash of understanding slid across her face, and she said, “I understand now why armor was an inappropriate choice. This…frock is ridiculous and impractical, but you are very appealing in it.”

Taliana had to struggle to swallow her laughter, finally saying, “Thank you, Lae’zel. I’m glad it meets with your approval.”

Shadowheart brushed her fingers over her hair, inspecting her closely, before nodding.

“Go blow his mind, Tali,” she said, grinning.

Chapter 51: Astarion and Taliana - All

Summary:

I am covered in skin
No one gets to come in
Pull me out from inside
I am folded, and unfolded, and unfolding
I am colorblind
Coffee black and egg white
Pull me out from inside
I am ready
I am ready
I am ready
I am fine…

~ Counting Crows, “Colorblind”

Notes:

A large amount of the dialogue in this chapter is ripped directly from the game, mainly because I think it's absolute perfection the way it is and I felt like I would be committing some sort of sin if I changed it.

There have been several tweaks to the event though, to suit what has happened in this fic.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

There was a rustling at the curtain, and Astarion smoothed his hands over his doublet before turning. He could see a flash of dark hair and a bit of green, so he stepped over to pull the curtain aside.

Well.

Taliana stood there, shifting back and forth nervously. A smile broke over his face as he looked her over, taking her hands and pulling her closer so he could see. She was clad in a dress; that was a surprise. It was long, almost to her ankles, and a rich, deep forest green, incredibly flattering against her coppered skin and dark hair. A long slit in the skirt, and delicate gold chains weaving the straps together. She was wearing a pair of simple leather sandals, and her hair had been caught half-up in a twist of delicate braids.

“You are absolutely stunning, love,” he told her.

She blushed, smiling shyly at him. “You look pretty nice yourself,” she said, eyeing him.

“Why thank you, darling,” he cooed. He was in a black doublet with dark red accents and fine silver stitching, dark pants, and boots. He offered her his arm, and she took it, still rather pink in the cheeks.

Shadowheart and Karlach were both peering out of their room, watching them as they made their way to the door. Astarion nodded at them, and they were both smiling, watching them go.

He led Taliana downstairs, and once on the street, he tightened his hold on her arm.

“There’s somewhere I’d like to take you that…will seem strange. But I do plan to take you somewhere else afterwards,” he said.

“Astarion, you know I’ll follow you anywhere,” she said, looking up through her lashes at him.

He smiled at her. “Just…trust me on this one.”

“Always.”

He led her down the darkened streets, weaving in and out of alleys, before hesitating slightly.

She looked up at him, eyes luminous in the moonlight.

He took her hand, and led her into the cemetery.

***
Tali really wasn’t sure what she had expected, but the Baldur’s Gate graveyard had not even been on her list of possible places for the night.

Astarion gave her a somewhat apologetic look, before saying, “I swear I’m taking you somewhere better after this. There’s just…something I’d like you to see.”

She nodded, following him as he led her deeper into the grounds.

It was utterly silent, the only sound an occasional leaf blowing across the stones. He led her farther into the graveyard, not speaking, clearly looking for something. He finally stopped in front of a stone, older than the rest and weathered, vines twisting around it, almost obscuring the writing. Taliana squinted at it, her heart dropping as she made out the ‘Ast’ in the name, turning to stare at Astarion in disbelief. He leaned down, pulling the vines away carefully, almost reverently, exposing the rest.

Astarion Ancunin.

Astarion was quiet, staring at the stone, before finally speaking, his words slow and measured.

“Nearly two hundred years, and I never came back. Not since the night I woke up down there. I had to punch a hole in the coffin and claw my way through six feet of dirt. Then, when I finally broke the surface, retching up dirt and congealed blood, Cazador was waiting. From that day on, I was his.”

“You were never his, Astarion,” she whispered. “Whatever he had, he took by force.”

“Maybe,” he responded wistfully. “But he did take it. There’s almost nothing left of the person I was. Just a name on a rock. For nearly two centuries, I stalked the streets like a ghost, while the person I was lay here, dead and buried. Now I need to figure out who I am. What I want.”

Taliana looked at him, emotions swirling in her wildly before she finally asked, “And what do you want, Astarion?”

He gazed at her, a tenderness on his face she had never seen before. “You. I want you,” he said quietly.

“You were by my side through all of this,” he continued. “Through bloodlust and pain and misery. You were patient. You cared. You trusted me when that was an objectively stupid thing to do,” he told her, seeing a smile flicker onto her face as he spoke.

“I feel safe with you. Seen. And whatever the future holds for me, I don’t want to lose that,” he said softly. Tali was biting her lip, trying not to cry, her heart expanding with every word he spoke.

“You won’t,” she told him, a rogue tear escaping. “Whatever comes next, I’ve got you.”

“Thank you,” he replied, his voice low and gravelly with emotion.

He glanced at the tombstone again before saying, “Well, I should probably fix this.” She watched as he pulled his dagger out, approaching the stone. He knelt down and carefully, deliberately, he chipped away at it until the year of death had vanished. He traced his fingers over the stone before saying, “I’ve been dead in the ground long enough. It’s time to try living again.”

He stood, turning to her, his gaze softer than she’d ever seen it. He gently rested a hand on the side of her face, before finally saying, “I love this. I love you. And I want it all.”

Tali wrapped her arms around him, her head against his chest. His arms came down to circle her, holding her close as he rested his chin on the top of her head. He held her for a long moment, before pulling back slightly so he could duck his head down to kiss her, gentle and sweet.

“I love you,” she whispered against his lips. He pulled her close again, and they stood there, entwined in the middle of the graveyard, the moon tracing delicate lines of light across them occasionally, for what felt like forever.

He finally let her go, pulling back and holding her hands. “Might I interest you in a drink, darling?”

She grinned. “Absolutely.”

“I was thinking we could head into the upper city; there’s a lovely bar near the waterfront. Rather fancy, it’s where I used to go when I was a magistrate.”

Taliana hesitated for a moment before saying, “Can we just go to the Blushing Mermaid? I could absolutely do with some trashy wine and terrible bard songs.”

He burst out laughing. “That was actually my first choice, darling, but you looked so nice I thought I should take you somewhere more fitting.”

“Hell no. Let’s get drunk and sing bawdy songs.”

“Gods, I love you.”

“I know,” she said sweetly. “Now come on.”

Notes:

Do you like Wyllstarion? Please check out Price Tag!

Price Tag also now has a part two. Check out Scar Tissue if you're interested in that!

Do you like absolutely filthy Bloodweave? Please check out Stacks!
***now with a chapter 2. Whoops. Apparently it's going to be a whole work.

Chapter 52: Astarion - Blood Like Wine

Summary:

I feel your breath upon my neck
A soft caress as cold as death
I didn't know you well back then
I blame it all on luck and vain
Your blood like wine, I wanted in
Oh, darling get me drunk and make me feel

It's not my fault
I'm not to blame
These ain't my sins
I broke my chains
There's more to do, and I still want to live.

~ Borislav Slavov, "I Want to Live"

Notes:

Content warnings : References to prior assault (no details), drunk vampire.

Chapter Text

“Ohhhh, here lies a young maiden who never kept the score - it’s Charlotte the Harlot, the cowpuncher’s whor*!!” Tali and Astarion bellowed the last line along with the rest of the crowd, drinks in the air.

Tali was flushed and giggling; she’d had several glasses of wine by this point and was clearly starting to feel it. Astarion was working on yet another glass of Baldurian red, trying to catch up with her.

“Can you even get drunk on something besides bears?” Tali asked him, swaying towards him as she balanced precariously on a barstool.

“I can. It just takes me a lot more,” he told her. He’d briefly tried using alcohol as a way to escape when he first came under Cazador’s control, but it took such a large amount that he’d discarded the idea within a week.

“Wait,” she said, her eyes lighting up. “I have an idea,” she said.

“And what is your idea, my love?” he said, running a hand down her arm.

“Well, if I’m good and drunk, and you bite me -”

“Not so loud, Tali!”

“Sorry,” she said, dropping her voice and leaning in to whisper in his ear. “If you bite me, will that work?”

He pondered her question, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.

“You know, that’s a good question. I actually don’t know. You and Halsin are the only ‘thinking’ creatures I’ve ever tasted, after all. And I’m fairly sure neither of you have been completely trashed when I have.”

She nodded. “It sounds like I need to get trashed then.”

“Tali -” he started, chuckling.

“It’s for SCIENCE,” she informed him, waving the bartender over.

Astarion shook his head at his tiny darling of a wood elf, trying to calculate exactly how many drinks someone her size would need.

“Are we going for ‘I can’t walk’ or ‘I’m completely asleep’?” she asked.

“Oh, gods,” he said, starting to laugh. “Let’s aim for ‘can’t walk’, perhaps?”

“Marvelous,” she said, downing the shot the bartender had just arrived with.

The bard was starting up yet another bawdy drinking song, Tali bouncing along with the music. She was perched on a barstool at the corner of the bar, and Astarion had moved to stand behind her when it was starting to look like she was in real danger of falling off it. She leaned back against him, rolling her head back onto his shoulder to look up at him.

“Hi,” she said, giggling.

“Hi, love,” he responded, bending to kiss her lightly.

She sighed, giving him a dirty look.

“What’s that look for?”

“Like you mean it,” she informed him, spinning around so she was facing him, the bar at her back.

“Oh,” he murmured, ducking his head closer so his lips were near her ear. “Are you saying I didn’t put enough…feeling into that kiss?”

“Yes,” she said, pouting.

“My apologies, love,” he said, cupping his hand behind her head to draw her in for a proper kiss that was completely improper in the middle of a bar. He released her, admiring the intensifying flush on her skin, before asking, “Will that do?”

She hummed in agreement, working on another glass of wine.

“I think,” she said, starting to slur her words ever so slightly, “That this glass will DO it.”

“I’m inclined to agree with you, darling.”

He smiled indulgently at her, spinning her back around so he could loosely wrap an arm around her waist from behind. She was steadily finishing her glass, finally thumping the empty stem down onto the bar.

“Perfect,” she managed.

“I have a feeling I’m about to have to carry you.”

“Probably,” she said, looking rather pleased about this development. He waved the bartender over, handing him a bag of coins, before getting Taliana off her barstool in one piece.

He shook his head, leading her out into the cool night air, Tali tripping over random stones and her own feet as they went.

She was giggling helplessly, her arm linked in his.

“I am drunk,” she informed him.

“I can tell, love,” he said, amused. “Do I need to carry you?”

“I don’t know if you need to but I kind of want you to.”

He scooped her up, pressing a kiss against her temple as she settled against his chest.

“Ah, now this is the way to travel. The Vampire Express.”

“I suppose I could always consider that for future employment. The Vampire Express, for all your Baldur’s Gate travel needs.”

“I like it. Except I don’t want you carrying anyone else. If you get to be jealous, so do I,” she said, still slurring a bit.

“I suppose that’s fair. I’ll just carry you around whenever you’re tired. Or drunk. Or bored.”

She giggled against him, her hold on his neck tightening slightly. She leaned up, nibbling on his neck a bit.

“Ouch!” he yelped suddenly. “Tali!” He rubbed his neck where she had just bit him. It hadn’t particularly hurt so much as it completely caught him off guard.

“I just wanted to try it,” she told him, attempting to nip at him again.

“You are a menace when you’re drunk.”

“Thank you.”

“That was not a compliment, darling.”

She gave him a charming smile. “Rude.”

“You’re the one who bit me!”

“Technically, you’re the one who started that.”

He was chuckling and shaking his head at her. “I suppose so.”

“Oh, I had a question for you,” she said, perking up. “What did Halsin taste like?”

He adjusted her in his arms, the Elfsong finally in sight. “Different. More…savory. Earthy.”

“So…like a bear.”

“Basically.”

“What do I taste like?”

He paused, looking down at her fondly. “You are pure sweetness, love. With a bit of spice. Kind of…cinnamon and caramel. A bit of apple. Mouthwatering, really.”

“Huh,” she said, shrugging. “Figures, I taste like potpourri,” she continued, snickering.

He continued down the road, Tali’s slight weight in his arms. The slit of her dress was directly under his left hand, and he couldn’t resist sliding it up the outside of her thigh slightly.

“Oh, so that’s what the slit is for,” she said. “I knew it had a purpose.”

“This is a very lovely dress, darling,” he told her, running his left hand up her side now. “It looks beautiful on you.”

“Would you believe Lae’zel is the one who found it?”

“You almost made me drop you, Tali,” he chuckled. “Are you serious?”

“Well, after Karlach convinced her I could not, in fact, just wear my armor, she was doing her best to help in her own way. And then she found this, and I kind of love it.”

“I kind of love it too,” he mused, still stroking her side. “You would’ve looked quite fetching in your armor, though.” They had arrived back at the tavern, and Astarion made his way up to their rooms, using his shoulder to nudge the double doors open.

Shadowheart and Wyll were still up, involved in what looked to be a very vigorous game of lanceboard. They both looked up when the doors opened, boggling at him as he set Taliana down.

“She’s fine, I promise. Just a little drunk.”

“I do not know what this vampire is talking about,” she said, swaying into him. Shadowheart was attempting to keep a straight face and failed rapidly, a snort of laughter escaping her.

“She is going to regret everything in the morning,” the cleric chuckled. “Come get me tomorrow and I’ll patch her up.”

Tali saluted her before turning and vaguely aiming herself in the direction of their curtain. Astarion jumped to grab her before she slammed into the nearby bookshelf, realigning her so he could drag her towards their bed.

She collapsed onto the bed as soon as he pulled the curtains, kicking her sandals off.

“Science time!” she told him cheerfully, holding her arms out to him.

He joined her on the bed, crawling on top of her much like he had the first time he’d ever bit her. His thighs on each side of hers, a cool hand gently turning her face, before burying his face in her neck, sniffing and nibbling his way along it. Tali wiggled beneath him, and he stroked her hair back, whispering, “Hold still, love. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“No - it’s -” she started to say, as he started to press kisses against his chosen spot.

“No,” she whispered, pushing his shoulders away.

He climbed off her immediately, sitting back on his heels near her feet, looking down at her in confusion.

She was shivering slightly, a hand on her neck.

“Taliana?” he asked softly.

“I…I can’t. Not my neck,” she managed, trembling.

Realization hit him then, and he sat back, a dark feeling in the pit of his stomach.

That f*cking BASTARD.

“I - could we - wrist? Is wrist okay?” she whispered.

“Of course, love, but if you don’t want this at all, you know it’s completely fine, right?”

“I do want it. I just…not there. I can’t. Not yet.”

He brushed a thumb across her cheek, wiping away a renegade tear. She offered her wrist to him, and after a long moment he took it, pressing reverent kisses against her skin.

“You’re sure?” he asked her gently.

She nodded. “Lay with me?” she whispered. He nodded, laying down next to her and pulling her close before carefully pressing his fangs into her wrist. Her breath caught sharply and alarmingly for a moment; he froze, not yet actively drinking. He could hear her pulse racing at a breakneck pace, and the arm around her moved to slowly stroke her back in soothing strokes.

He looked up at her, looking for some sort of guidance on her face since his mouth was full of her wrist. She finally opened her eyes, nodding at him, and he started to drink from her, a relieved groan pulling from his throat as he did.

She was quiet next to him, slowly relaxing as the venom kicked in and did its job. Her free hand moved to tangle in his hair almost without thinking, and he smiled against her skin; she’d done that every time he had ever drank from her, and he loved it an unreasonable amount. He finally let her go, giving her wrist a few gentle parting licks.

“So?” she asked, a slight tremor still in her voice.

He rolled his neck, looking around.

“Well,” he started, unsure. “Oh.”

“What?”

“We only have ONE curtain, right?”

She started to giggle again. “Yes.”

“Huh,” he said, watching everything spin and blur ever so slightly. “You know, I probably should’ve remembered I already drank a bunch of wine at the bar.”

“Are you somehow more drunk than I am? Actually, I think I’m less drunk now that you’ve done that, the ceiling stopped moving.”

“Yessssss.” He rolled onto his back, blinking as the ceiling undulated above him. “Wow.”

“You all right there, love?” she asked, peering at him. “Do you need to do my hair again?” she asked, amusem*nt creeping into her voice.

“I am goddamned delightful,” he informed her.

She nodded, rolling closer to him and burrowing against his chest.

“May I take your dress off, love?”

“I - yes - but what are you doing…?” she asked, sounding slightly concerned.

He sighed, annoyed with himself for not thinking to clarify first. “As lovely as it is, darling, I didn’t think you’d want to sleep in it.”

She grinned, sliding off the bed to shimmy out of her dress, carefully draping it over the wardrobe and snagging one of his shirts to wear to bed. It came to mid-thigh on her, and while he was usually highly protective of his clothes, he adored seeing her in them. He was still seated on the bed, and she was nearly on the same eye level with him for once. He gently turned her around, pulling her down to sit on his lap, and started to carefully take her hair down out of the intricate twist of braids.

“Shadowheart did a lovely job,” he commented, gently unraveling a braid and letting her hair fall down her back in rippling waves.

“She nearly stabbed me with a pin when I told her you could’ve fixed my dress up easily,” she told him, chuckling.

“Oh, gods,” he muttered, shaking his head and pulling another braid loose. “You’re going to ruin my reputation at this rate.”

“Your reputation, hmm?”

“Yes. I work hard to maintain this pretentious, rakish persona, you know.”

She started to giggle. “Apologies, love. I’ll tell her you’re an asshole.”

He burst out laughing, dropping his head down against her back. “You say that like she doesn’t already know that.”

“Well, yeah. But I think she thinks you’re pretty okay by now. She’s happy for us, you know.”

He shook his head, loosening the last braid and running his fingers through her hair. “There you go. Lay down for me, love.”

She turned in his arms, taking advantage of their now-similar height to kiss him lustily a few times before flopping onto the bed in a rather ungraceful fashion. “This good?” she asked, her voice muffled by the blankets.

“Perfect,” he said, sliding closer so he could run his hands all the way up her back before stroking across her shoulders. She let out a groan of pleasure, her body relaxing quickly as he continued.

He kept working, making sure to press into the tense muscles where her shoulders met her neck, earning another relieved groan. It was rather satisfying, really, to feel the tautness underneath her skin and then feeling it release as he carefully worked the knots out.

“That feels incredible,” she said, still muffled by the blankets.

“Good,” he said, smiling to himself.

She was nearly asleep when he finished. He stripped, crawling into bed with her and brushing her hair back so he could see her face. She peeked up at him with one dark eye, the corner of her mouth lifting slightly in a smile. “I love you,” she told him, scooting herself closer so she could drape herself over him.

“I love you too,” he murmured, running his hands up and down her back as she settled against him. “Sleep, love.”

Chapter 53: Astarion - Moonlit Reflection

Summary:

A sickened mind and spirit
The mirror tells me lies
Could I mistake myself for someone
Who lives behind my eyes?
Will he escape my soul
Or will he live in me?
Is he trying to get out
Or trying to enter me?

~ Ozzy Osborne, “Diary of a Madman”

Notes:

Hi. Yes. Content warnings for this one. Please heed these.

CW : overt references and vague descriptions of assault, aftermath of said assault, trauma.

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

Astarion surfaced out of his trance abruptly; he sat up, looking around in confusion for a moment. Something had pulled him out, and he wasn’t sure what until he saw her.

Taliana was no longer in bed with him. She was standing in front of the full length mirror next to the bed, wearing nothing but his shirt, her hair a dark tangle down her back.

“Tali?” he asked, his voice rough with sleep still.

She paused in front of the mirror, the light from the moon casting shadows across her as she reached a hand up to trail down the scar on her neck. He sat up on the bed, watching her with mounting concern.

“He marked us both,” she said, her voice low. There was an odd tone in her voice he couldn’t quite place; he reached a hand out to catch hers, squeezing it gently.

“I hate it,” she murmured. “I hate seeing it every time I look in the mirror.”

Something sick and sour itched at the back of his throat, making his stomach turn. He wasn’t sure what to say; while he too had been marked, he had never seen his. And he certainly didn’t have to see it every day. Some part of him vaguely wondered which was worse. Another part of him realized it didn’t matter.

“He practically ripped my throat out,” she muttered. “I always thought that saying was an exaggeration. I know better now.”

“Tali…” he said, his voice trailing off as he realized he had no idea what to say.

“I’m sure you know,” she said, her voice barely audible. “What he did to me.”

His fingers tightened against hers, and he had to fight to keep his voice steady as he said, “Yes.” He traced his thumb along the back of her hand lightly.

“I don’t remember much after a certain point,” she continued, her voice still so soft that even with his extraordinary hearing, he had to strain to listen. “I don’t know if it was from the blood loss, the pain, or just the shock. He ripped my neck apart before he…” She stopped, closing her eyes. “I’d lost a lot of blood before that,” she finally said.

He had to swallow hard before he trusted himself to answer. “It was likely all of them, love.”

She made a small noise, her shoulders hunching forward.

“You don’t have to talk about this, Tali. Unless you want or need to,” he murmured, abandoning the bed and standing to wrap his arms around her.

“I don’t want to,” she choked out. “But it’s just there, festering under my skin all the time. And I can’t make it go away,” she whimpered, rubbing her hands up and down her arms.

He took a deep breath, all too aware that he was completely out of his depth.

Astarion moved so he was standing in front of her, blocking the mirror. “Look at me, Taliana,” he whispered. She finally dragged her eyes up to his, almost as if she was in a daze.

He squeezed his eyes shut before steeling himself and asking, “What do you need to tell me?”

There was something bleak and broken in her eyes as she looked at him, and a blackened silence hung between them for far too long before she met his eyes, almost apologetically, and started to talk.

Astarion rested his head against the wall, tension in every inch of his body. He was back in the tiny space between the bed and the wardrobe, trying his hardest to not completely come apart.

In the bed next to him, Taliana was thankfully asleep again; she had finally gotten it all out, it seemed.

He felt like he was about to break apart at the seams as her words echoed in his head; truth be told, this was worse than any torture Cazador could have ever inflicted on him personally. He could block out what had happened to him. But he couldn’t block out what had happened to her. Hells, he realized, this was his final torture from Cazador. The bastard always had known what would hurt him the most.

He rested his head in his hands for a long moment before pulling himself to his feet, picking up the bucket next to the bed that Tali had vomited in several times throughout the process. Whether it was from the alcohol or the words, he couldn’t say, but the end result was the same.

He carried it out and down the hall to the bathing room, dumping it out in the sink and rinsing the bucket out. He put it down for a moment before thinking better of it, taking it back to the room and leaving it by the bed. Tali was curled into a tight ball in the corner of the bed, burrowed under the blankets, and he carefully straightened them around her before wandering back out to the main room. Maybe he could find another book. He certainly wasn’t going back into his trance anytime soon.

Astarion slumped down to the floor, leaning against the couch, completely drained. He slid over to peruse the bookshelf, giving up after a moment when it seemed too difficult. Slowly, he rested his head against his knees, the darkness in the back of his head swarming forward sickeningly.

“Astarion?”

He jerked his head up at the cool voice calling his name; Shadowheart was standing near the fireplace, hair loose around her shoulders, looking down at him with concern.

Right. She was always up at dawn.

“Morning, darling,” he said, his voice sounding wrong even to him.

She leveled him with a piercing stare, before walking over and settling herself on the floor in front of him.

“Astarion?” she tried again, her voice much gentler this time.

He rested his head back on his knees, unable to meet her eyes.

She sat back, contemplating him. Finally, she just moved to sit next to him, not saying a word.

They sat there in a strange space of floating silence for several minutes before she silently offered him a hand. After a long moment, he took it, lacing his cool fingers with hers, glad for something to anchor him. He rested his head on his other arm, draped over his drawn up knees.

“She talked,” he finally said, his voice muffled by his arm.

Her fingers tightened against his slightly. “Oh,” she said, her voice low.

They sat together in silence for several more minutes, hands linked, a horrible sense of understanding between them. He knew quite well that Shadowheart loved her too; he could still see the look of utter panic that had been on her face as she’d flown back through the doors that night. And he’d seen the tears spill over that morning when she’d asked Tali what hurt the most. She understood him, probably more than anyone else ever would when it came to this.

As if reading his mind, she softly said, “I love her too, you know.” He turned his head to look at her, seeing the sheen of tears in her eyes. She tightened her grip on his hand briefly before letting go so she could turn towards him fully.

“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice breaking. “I’m so sorry.”

He nodded at her, closing his eyes tightly. There was a rustle of movement as he was pulled against her, a feather-light kiss brushing against his forehead, and she was gone.

Notes:

This chapter HURTS ME and I'm sorry but I couldn't make myself get rid of it.

I promise we get some sweetness the next few chapters.

love,
nyxue

Chapter 54: Astarion - The Pile

Summary:

I don't want to go
But baby, we both know
This is not our time
It's time to say goodbye
Until we meet again
Cause this is not the end
It will come a day
When we will find our way
Violins playing, and angels crying
When the stars align, then I'll be there -

~ Loreen, "Tattoo"

Notes:

I honestly kind of love this chapter and it's the kind of sweet fluff that makes me all giggly.

Although I do apologize for the pain at the end.

Chapter Text

“Wyll, your horns are poking me!” complained Shadowheart.

“Sorry, sorry. I’m still getting used to them.”

Shadowheart snorted, sprawling backwards into Gale, who let out a squawk of surprise.

Taliana was eyeing them all, amusem*nt clear in her eyes. Astarion was sitting on the couch behind her; she was on the floor, leaning back against the couch between his legs, one arm loosely hooked around his calf. He was in the process of unbraiding and re-braiding her hair - he’d found it was a marvelous way to burn off anxiety, and Tali adored him playing with her hair. A win-win, really.

“Are you all going to fit?” That was Jaheira, standing back from the sunken part of the room in front of the fireplace, boggling at what was transpiring.

It had been Karlach’s fault, of course. Had anyone else even tried to suggest this, he had no doubts everyone would’ve just laughed. But, it was Karlach; sweet, funny, walking sunshine Karlach, who had gone to pieces in front of them all after they had killed Gortash.

The heartbreak in her voice when she’d looked at them and asked, “Am I f*cking missing something?” had nearly caused him to burst into tears on the spot. They all knew, now, how limited her time was, even though no one wanted to directly acknowledge the fact that her infernal engine was guaranteed to kill her, and soon, unless she returned to Avernus.

She’d been quiet about it for several days. But today, with the nether brain on the horizon, she’d gone to her room for a while, emerging with her mattress balanced in her arms.

“Um, Karlach?” Tali had asked, a slight bit of alarm in her voice.

The tiefling had tossed the mattress down into the sunken central area with a resounding thud, before turning and going to repeat the process with Shadowheart’s.

“Karlach, darling?” Astarion tried. He and Tali had been sitting at the table; she was nursing a mug of Jaheira’s peppermint tea, and he was carefully filling the tips of her arrows with some drow poison he’d looted from a chest in Gortash’s quarters.

The tiefling finally looked up at them. “I’m going to get your mattress too, don’t worry,” she said.

“That actually does make me worry, darling. What in the sweet hells are you up to?”

She huffed a sigh, finally turning to look at them. “Seeing as how I likely don’t have much time left on this plane of existence, I’d like to make the most of it. And I want to do something I’ve never done.”

“Which is…rearrange the beds?” questioned Gale, finally looking up from the book he’d had his nose buried in.

She sighed again, barely refraining from rolling her eyes. “Isn’t it obvious? We are having a sleepover tonight.”

Tali apparently couldn’t restrain herself; a snort of laughter snuck out.

Karlach gave her a wounded look.

“It’s something I never got to do. And if I don’t do it now, I’ll never get to.”

Taliana sobered quickly. “I’m sorry, Karlach.” She eyed the mattresses, a smile tracing across her lips. “Need help?”

The tiefling beamed at her. “Hell yes, soldier. I figured we’d make a giant mattress in here with all of ours.”

Astarion blinked at her a few times before shrugging and getting to his feet. “I’ll get the ones on the left.”

“Aces,” she said, grinning.

And now, several hours and several bottles of wine later, they were indeed all sprawled together in a comfortable mishmash of bodies and blankets in front of the fire, all the other lights snuffed out.

Jaheira shook her head at them again before turning and carrying over the tray she’d been fussing with, passing it to Gale, who managed to shuffle it into the middle of the sea of blankets and bodies without any mishaps.

“Ooooh, thank you!” chirped Karlach. Jaheira, clearly in mothering mode, had assembled a tray of bread, cheese, fruit, and sweets for them to snack on. She passed Gale several fresh bottles of wine, a chorus of thank-you’s coming from the pile.

“As delightful as this looks, my old bones require an actual bed,” the Harper informed them. “I shall see you all in the morning,” she continued, smiling at them all as she swished out the doors, clearly heading to her home in the Lower City.

“Awww,” grumbled Karlach, flopping backwards in disappointment. She crashed into Halsin, who gamely caught her before adjusting his position so she could lean against his massive frame. “I was hoping she might stay.”

“Are you sure?” asked Shadowheart. “She probably was going to start telling us to keep it down and behave,” she said, chuckling.

“Possible,” Astarion drawled from his perch on the couch, unsure about joining the actual party on the sea of mattresses just yet.

“She may have had the correct idea,” sniffed Lae’zel, who was nonetheless helping herself to some bread and cheese. Gale refilled her wine, and she gave him a curt nod before scurrying back into a corner.

“Well, I think it’s kind of nice,” said Wyll. He was laying flat on his stomach, his head nearly in Shadowheart’s lap while she carefully braided his hair back into neat rows against his scalp.

Astarion gave Taliana’s head a pat, admiring his handiwork. Her hair was woven up into braids that circled her head like a crown.

“Hey, that’s cute,” Shadowheart commented. “Nice job there, Astarion.”

“Why, thank you, darling.”

Shadowheart finished off the last row of Wyll’s hair, petting his horns affectionately before shuffling towards him, grabbing a slice of melon off the tray as she did.

“Scoot over, Tali,” the cleric said. Taliana shrugged, sliding out of the way, and Astarion didn’t even have time to protest before Shadowheart had settled herself between his knees.

“Presumptuous, aren’t we,” he told her, leaning back.

She patted his leg lightly. “Come on,” she said. “I have twice as much hair as Tali, you’ll have fun.”

He rolled his eyes, shaking his head. He still was getting used to the whole casual touches between friends thing, and he supposed this was just another level of it. He huffed out a sigh as he started to carefully free her silvered hair from the thin chains that caged her braid.

Tali glanced at him, eyes meeting his briefly, clearly assessing if he was okay. Apparently, he passed her test, because she crawled towards the tray, collecting some bread and cheese, as well as more wine. Provisions acquired, she leaned back against Gale’s shoulder, taking a long swig from her glass.

Astarion had managed to free all of Shadowheart’s hair, and he had to admit that she was right; her hair was a silken cloak of silver, thick and wonderful to run his fingers through, reaching more than halfway down her back. He combed his fingers through it several times, enjoying the feel of it.

“Any requests?” he asked dryly.

“Whatever you like,” she told him.

“Ah, you do know how to sweet talk me,” he commented, brushing his fingers through one more time, thinking. He smiled a bit, starting to section pieces off and plan out what he was doing.

“I’m learning,” she said, chuckling.

“That’s not a bad idea, actually,” mused Karlach. “May as well get the hair out of the way for tomorrow’s adventures.”

Lae’zel crawled out of her corner to get behind Halsin, parting his hair and beginning a series of tight, confident braids. The druid winced; the gith clearly had a firm hand.

“Get Gale’s,” Shadowheart told Tali. “He could use a new look.”

“Now hold on just a minute,” the wizard started to protest.

“Too late, Gale,” said Tali with a grin, kneeling behind him. Karlach pulled herself away from Halsin to come watch what she was doing, pausing to refill her glass on the way.

They lapsed into a gentle lull of easy conversation, wine flowing freely, punctuated by Halsin’s occasional swears in Elvish as Lae’zel yanked on his scalp. Despite her methods, Astarion had to admire her skills; she’d braided just the sides of his hair back in multiple thin French braids until they were behind his ears, where she tied them off and let them flow down with the rest of his hair. He patted his head suspiciously before smiling.

“Thank you, Lae’zel. While I am not excited about my headache, this will certainly keep my hair out of my eyes for battle.”

She gave a low hiss of approval. “That would be the point, druid.”

Before long, Tali had finished with Gale; she wasn’t nearly as accomplished with hair as the others and he was sporting a somewhat dodgy knot of braids.

“I see why you always have a ponytail, Tali,” Karlach teased. Tali gave her an affectionate shove, and she flopped backwards onto the mattresses in mock defeat before yanking Taliana down with her. The two of them giggled, Karlach draping herself around the tiny wood elf before yanking a blanket over them.

“No funny business under there, fire girl,” Astarion called, finishing off another perfect braid.

“Astarion,” gasped Karlach with as much indignation as she could muster. “I would NEVER.”

“I would,” Tali chimed in.

Shadowheart let out a delicate laugh. “I thought this was a sleepover, not an orgy.”

“No, no, the orgy is for if we survive the nether brain,” Tali said, reaching up and tugging Gale down with herself and the tiefling. He protested weakly for a moment before succumbing, letting himself be added to what was looking to be a pile of cuddles.

Wyll sat up, shrugging, and slid over to join them. His long legs tangled with Karlach’s, and Tali stretched an arm over him, gently rubbing his scalp in between the rows of braids. Wyll’s eyes nearly crossed in pleasure; Astarion could only assume his scalp was beyond tender.

Halsin evaluated the situation before just flopping down on his back near them; the druid had an ample amount of body to curl up against. Lae’zel let out an annoyed grumble before carefully laying down between Wyll and the druid, her head resting on one of Halsin’s massive biceps.

“You better finish up there, Astarion, or we won’t have any room,” Shadowheart informed him mildly.

“I’m not sure -“ he started to say, tying off the last braid. He’d woven her hair into several long fishtails, silky and smooth, before twisting them up at the nape of her neck in a complicated knot.

“You’ll be fine,” the cleric said, taking his hand and pulling him with her. He tried to keep his balance but failed as he got tangled in a blanket, falling directly onto Halsin. The mountain of a man gave his head a gentle pat before carefully sitting him up next to him.

“Wait -“ Astarion said, trying to find the words.

Shadowheart had crawled into the pile, her head on Wyll’s shoulder, a hand tangling in Gale’s hair.

Tali lifted her head from Gale’s back, checking on him. He could feel Halsin’s heat next to him, and after a long moment, he sank back down against him, trying to contain a happy sigh at the warmth coming from his giant frame.

“Hey Karlach,” said Tali. “Go keep Astarion company there, he’s probably not been completely warm in decades.”

“Ooooh,” she chirped happily, crawling over the mess of legs, arms, and blankets so she could drape herself against his back.

“I’m not sure about - ooooh,” he groaned, his protests vanishing as soon as he was wrapped in the tiefling’s warmth at his back, the druid’s at his front.

He grumbled, trying to sound as cranky about the situation as possible, even as he luxuriated in the sensation of not freezing for once.

“You know, Astarion, you could try saying please or thank you occasionally,” said Shadowheart, barely containing the laughter in her voice.

He lifted his head off of Halsin’s chest enough to peer over at her before giving her his most charming smile. “Please shut the f*ck up, thank you.”

As the rest of them cackled, Gale said, “That’s progress, someone want to mark that down?”

“I swear, Gale, if you didn’t smell like bile, I’d bite you for that.”

“Ouch! What the hell, Tali?”

“Well, if HE can’t bite you -”

“Oh, for f*ck’s sake -”

Astarion laughed - gods, he wasn’t sure he’d truly laughed in ages until he’d met these people - before saying, “Thanks, love!” He paused, then asking, “So how does he taste?”

Taliana hummed thoughtfully, and Gale squawked in indignation again; she’d clearly gone for another taste.

“Like a wizard.”

“So…does he taste like a pile of books?” asked Karlach.

“I don’t know, you can try him -”

“Hold on, hold on -” Gale protested, clearly realizing he was about to get gnawed on in the name of science.

Wyll, who was the next closest to Gale, patted his shoulder. “Don’t worry, I won’t bite you.”

“Well, thank gods for - HEY!”

“I didn’t say anything about licking,” the warlock continued.

Half of them were full out cackling at this point; Gale had sat up, a look of annoyance and amusem*nt all over his face.

“I should’ve stayed in Waterdeep,” he muttered, trying his hardest to look mad and failing miserably. Tali grabbed his arm and yanked him back down into the pile of bodies, a muffled huff coming from him as he settled back into the mix.

He heard Tali’s chuckle of approval from behind Gale; he could just see one of her arms wrapped around the wizard’s waist as she got comfortable.

“I feel like I need more wine for this,” Shadowheart remarked.

“Help yourself,” said Wyll, groping for the bottle. She snagged it, drinking straight from it for a long moment before passing it over to Gale, who had his arm up for it.

“I mean, there’s a good chance this is the last night we get to do this, after all,” Taliana said softly. “Nowhere I’d rather be right now than on the floor with you all, honestly.”

General murmurs of agreement came from around the room; people shifted closer, bound by their fates.

Lae’zel spoke up unexpectedly. “I would like to hear what everyone’s strongest memory is of our time together.”

“Like, the best thing that happened, or the funniest, or the worst?” asked Gale, sounding intrigued.

“Whatever suits you, wizard.”

The room was quiet as everyone considered the possibilities.

“I’ll start,” said Halsin. Heads turned in his direction, waiting. “For me, it was the party after the grove; I had been captive for an unfortunate amount of time by then, and seeing everyone free was wonderful. But I also got to see all of you interacting for the first time, and even then, I could see the bonds between you, and I could only hope to be part of them.”

“Way to set the bar too high for the rest of us,” Karlach teased, poking him. He let out a low chuckle, patting her horn gently.

Shadowheart spoke up next. “For me, it was freeing the Nightsong and rejecting Shar. I would never have had the strength to do it without the support of you all,” she said, her voice soft.

Wyll lifted his head up. “Breaking my pact with Mizora.”

“Having friends,” said a low voice. Taliana had sat up, her arms wrapped around her knees. She gazed out over them all before explaining. “Most of you don’t know that I worked as a guild assassin for years. The job doesn’t exactly lend itself to friendships; I was a ghost for the last decade, probably more. Being with you all daily was an experience I didn’t initially want, but now I can’t imagine not having had it,” she finished, swiping at her eyes before throwing herself back down behind Gale, burying her face against his robes.

Karlach was nodding. “My answer is similar to Tali’s. My favorite thing has been just sitting around talking every night. I didn’t know how much I had missed that when I was in Avernus.”

“Cooking for you all,” said Gale. “It truly made me happy to contribute like that on a daily basis.”

Lae’zel looked thoughtful before she finally said, “I will not forget watching Astarion after we slayed his master.”

All the air in the room seemed to vanish for a moment; Astarion slowly sat up to look at her, her golden eyes locked onto his firmly.

“You got the revenge you had sought against an enemy who had tormented you for hundreds of years. That is to be celebrated, and I am honored to have been part of it.”

He stared at her, speechless, before slowly nodding his thanks.

Quiet reigned in the room, everyone turning to look at him, waiting for his answer.

He was a hair away from giving one of his usual flippant answers that didn’t truly answer the question - that was what he planned to give - but that wasn’t what came out of his mouth.

“Realizing.”

Everyone was looking at him, confused, except for Taliana, who had made a small noise in the back of her throat, her hand covering her mouth. He met her eyes for a long moment, unable to speak.

“Realizing what?” Karlach finally asked gently.

He closed his eyes; everything in him wanted to back out of this answer.

But.

He wanted them to know.

Someone besides him deserved to know how she’d saved him.

And really, who better than these people he truly considered friends?

His words came slowly, sounding almost broken. “When I…I was under Cazador’s control…I…f*ck. My back - the night he did that, he had me…gods. Had me thrown into a cell in the palace. I woke up in a puddle of my own blood, and I was so weak I couldn’t move. All I could see was this grate that looked down into the sewers,” he murmured.

“I’d hear this humming every night over the sound of the water. Vampire hearing and all. Sometimes notes. A melody, the same almost every night. And it gave me something to hold on to. To look forward to. It was beautiful.”

The room was absolutely silent, everyone hanging onto his halting words.

“And then one night right before the Underdark, I was sitting and reading my book, and I heard her,” he said, his voice low.

Heads swiveled to look at Taliana, who had tears streaming down her face.

“You?” asked Wyll, his voice hushed.

She nodded, reaching up to wipe at her eyes.

“Her,” said Astarion softly. “It was always her.”

There was a muffled sob from across the room, and he looked up to see Gale pressing his arm against his face. Everyone else was regarding him, eyes huge, several with tears in them.

“That is beautiful, my friend,” rumbled Halsin, patting his shoulder. Exhausted, Astarion dropped back down, curling against the druid, Karlach’s heat still thrumming through him from behind. Taliana crawled across the mattresses to him, slipping her slight form between him and Halsin. He leaned down to kiss her gently before pulling her close, Halsin bracketing them with a hulking arm.

Everyone slowly settled down, a gentle pile of bodies and blankets curled and twisted together.

From behind him, he heard a sniffle, and he rolled over to see Karlach with tears streaming down her face silently.

“I don’t want to go,” she whispered, her voice incredibly small.

He gazed into her honey-gold eyes, a deep sadness churning inside him for this strange, silly tiefling he’d grown to adore.

“Come here,” he said. She dove at him, draping herself against his chest, her broken horn poking into his shoulder. He gently rubbed her back as she sniffled against him. Halsin had realized by now, and he reached a huge hand over to cup the back of her head gently. Tali stretched her arm out, rubbing her back.

A hiccuping sob echoed in the room.

It was Lae’zel who moved first, getting close enough so that she could rest a hand on the tiefling’s leg. Shadowheart crawled over, resting her head next to hers, a hand gently petting Karlach’s hair.

Gale and Wyll exchanged a look and a shrug before relocating; Wyll rested a hand on her unbroken horn, and Gale stretched out behind Karlach, throwing a leg and arm over both of them.

Everything was quiet except for the crackling of the fire and Karlach’s tears.

When she finally spoke, her voice was still tiny, nothing like her normal commanding tone.

“Thank you all. My friends. My family. I love you all.”

Chapter 55: Taliana - Stones

Summary:

I want 'em back, I want 'em back
The minds we had, the minds we had
How all the thoughts, how all the thoughts
Moved 'round our heads, moved 'round our heads -

~ Lorde, "Ribs"

Notes:

I'll be honest with you all here, I struggled with these last few chapters because it was damn near impossible to stay completely canon-compliant with the fights, speeches, help, etc, because everyone had a different experience depending on their choices. So, yes, some things will be glossed over, or tilted to fit my narrative. I'm sorry now, but we'll be back on track shortly!

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“Are you sure this is the right way?” asked Shadowheart, her arm covering her mouth and nose.

“The Emperor said the sewers. So…maybe?” said Tali, her boots squelching sickly in the mud.

“Yes, darling, but where in the sewers?”

“I don’t know. My gut feeling says it has something to do with that strange pool near the temple of Bhaal,” she mused. They’d stumbled across it shortly after killing Orin the Red, and something about it had made her want to crawl out of her own skin. It didn’t look like anything important, just a stagnant lake of water enclosed in a cave, a horde of rats scrambling around on the ground near it.

But.

Tali headed down the ancient stone path that led to the temple, turning left into the ruins instead of continuing farther inside the temple. She wasn’t sure why she was so sure this was correct, but every instinct she had told her this was the place.

She pushed open a thick iron door, the chittering of rats echoing around her as the air thickened even more.

“Gods,” she muttered. “I almost hope I’m wrong -”

She crumpled to the ground, hands clamped to her head, her mind feeling like it was being cleaved in two.

you. you should not BE HERE.

“Tali!” Astarion started for her, but it was too late; her mind was about to snap. Just as she thought she couldn’t take another second, the pressure in her head stopped momentarily, letting her stagger back to her feet. She plunged a hand into her pack without thinking, fingers closing over the hard-won pieces of stone that looked like nothing, but were everything.

The ground was trembling beneath Taliana’s feet as she struggled to keep a grip on the glittering stones that promised them freedom. Her head felt like it was about to split into pieces as the nether brain screamed inside her once more, threats and orders bouncing in her skull wildly.

“f*ck,” she swore, stumbling backwards into Lae’zel. She was struggling to breathe; the putrid, dank air of the sewers was permeating every inch of her lungs. The air was too thick, too spoiled.

There was another violent tremble, this one strong enough to knock Tali to the ground. She scuttled backwards, realizing that the nether stones she was desperately clutching were suddenly alive. They had warmed under her skin, and were now resonating and vibrating ever so slightly, a multicolored glow emanating from her hand. She opened her hand, watching in awe as the stones flew up in front of her, swirling and twisting in the air before clicking together firmly and dropping back into her hand.

She staggered to her feet, clutching them, her head clearing ever so slightly.

That was when something began to break the surface of the water in front of her.

“Oh, gods,” she whispered.

It was huge, nearly the size of the cavern, with thick tentacles spreading off around it. Spikes protruded from the bottom of it as it slowly hefted itself out of the water. It was, indeed, a brain; an absolutely gigantic one. Taliana stumbled backwards again, watching in horror as it ever so slowly ascended, its full form finally revealed.

And then she heard it, deep inside her mind, coming from the tadpole, it felt like. She screamed, a hand to her head as the tadpole undulated wildly inside her brain.

You think you know why you are here.

You think that by enslaving me with the nether stones, you will be able to free yourself.

Tali clapped her hands over her ears, another scream ripping out of her throat.

The ground beneath her feet suddenly jerked strangely, lifting her into the air, moving her closer to the brain. She realized a moment later that it wasn’t just a brain; she was looking at the face of a mind flayer, gigantic and distorted at this size.

From below, she could hear her companions screaming her name.

The stones twitched in her hand sharply, and Taliana’s focus became crystal clear. She concentrated, clutching them with a desperation born out of the need to survive, feeling them heat even more under her touch.

Free us, she thought. She could feel her mind extending tendrils into the nether brain, tracing along the pathways and thoughts, the stones bolstering her will.

FREE US.

Beams of light were shining from each stone, piercing through the brain like lasers, its mental screeches of anguish deafening inside her head.

The light intensified, pulsing before her, and Taliana was blasted backwards, flying through the air and falling all too quickly.

Before she could hit the ground, Gale managed to catch her with his mage hand, gently lowering her. Her head was splitting with pain, and all she could do was watch in horror as the brain charged upwards, blasting out of the cave and into the city.

THE CITY.

“f*ck, f*ck, f*ck -” she screamed, watching as the brain tore away from them, rocks and dust raining down upon them as it blew the roof right off the cave it had been hiding in.

“Come on,” yelled Gale, a portal already twisting itself into existence in front of them.

“Where does this go?” yelled Astarion, running towards it.

“Up!”

That was all the explanation they got before they all staggered out onto what appeared to be a floating rooftop from a building, shadowy figures descending upon them.

It wasn’t much of a fight, really, especially not once everyone found their rhythm; arrows and spells flew through the air rapidly, and Lae’zel and Astarion lept in to finish off anything that was still alive after she and Gale had weakened them.

A portal shimmered into existence near the edge of the rooftop, undulating and glimmering.

Taliana was strangely pale as she turned to Astarion, her hands trembling.

“Will you kiss me?”

He gave Taliana a slight smile. “Well, darling, who knows if we’ll have another chance,” he mused, pulling her close. She wound her arms around his neck, and he ducked his head to kiss her.

Shadowheart cleared her throat after a moment, and he let Tali go, giving the cleric an apologetic look.

“It’s not like we’re trying to save the city and our own heads or anything,” she commented dryly. “By all means, feel free to make out while everything explodes.”

He rolled his eyes at her, shaking his head.

“Are we going in there?” asked Gale, looking rather pale.

“I don’t think we have much choice, darling.”

“f*ck,” breathed Shadowheart. She smoothed her hands over her braid, taking a deep breath as she did.

“Do we even know if we can get back if we go in there?” Astarion asked. Much to his dismay, everyone just shrugged at him.

“Great. So we jump in the creepy portal and…hope for the best?” he said, stepping back and resting a hand on Tali’s shoulder.

“You’re not going to like this answer,” she told him, a rueful smile on her face.

“I was afraid of that.”

Notes:

Can you believe we're almost at the end? AHHHH.

3 more real chapters and an epilogue to go. Insane.

Thank you, anyone who has stuck around for this. I appreciate it so much.

Chapter 56: Astarion - Destruction

Summary:

If this is to end in fire
Then we should all burn together
Watch the flames climb high into the night
Calling out father oh
Stand by and we will
Watch the flames burn auburn
On the mountainside…

~ Ed Sheeran, “I See Fire”

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Taliana gazed around, giving the portal before them one last suspicious look. She reached out to it, but paused, turning to look at everyone. Her eyes slowly traced over the group, nerves and affection all too clear in her eyes.

“If we live through this, I’m buying the drinks,” she said. She dove into the portal with a shriek, and everyone rushed to follow her.

“Oh, f*ck,” whispered Gale. “Where are we?”

He wasn’t sure. But lurking below them, surrounded by rings of floating, scaly purple platforms, was the netherbrain.

Lae’zel let out a hiss, skirting away from him and leaping down the rings with a grace he hadn’t known she possessed.

Gale had slid sideways, and Astarion did a double-take when he saw the wizard’s eyes glowing a strange, ghostly blue, his palms crackling with so much power that even he could feel it, several feet away. Beside him, Taliana ducked down, her cloak rippling behind her as she dashed to a position across from the wizard.

“Go!” she screamed. Her voice should have echoed, but it seemed like it was being absorbed by the giant brain lurking in front of them.

“f*ck, f*ck, f*ck,” Astarion whispered, trying to decide on the best approach. He settled for aiming his crossbow and letting a bolt fly, slamming into a tentacle and making the monstrosity in front of him let out an undulating wave of noise that felt like a scream.

Lae’zel had made it down the platforms, and Astarion was momentarily breathless as he watched the Gith bear down on the thing, sword raised, a battle cry ripping from her throat, her face utterly fearless.

I always did like her.

Shadowheart was hunched down near him, trying to stay out of sight, golden swirls of healing magic floating between her palms. She glanced to their right, and Astarion heard her sudden intake of breath right before she grabbed him, yanking him to the left, nearly making him drop his crossbow off the platform.

He was about to ask her what in the hells she thought she was doing when there was an absolutely unholy crackling from their right, a pure wave of energy and lightning flying from Gale’s fingertips, blasting anything it came into contact with into shards. Lae’zel must have felt the power of it, because she leapt up and back to the left, throwing herself out of harm’s way right before the spell slammed into the brain so hard it felt like the entire room shook.

“f*ck, Gale!!” yelled Taliana, knocked flat on her back, her fingers barely holding on to her bow.

The wizard staggered for a moment; Astarion’s eyes widened in terror as he jumped out from under the cleric, throwing himself in Gale’s direction. The wizard swayed unsteadily for a moment, his right foot dropping back off the ring as Astarion lunged for him, catching his royal purple robes with pale fingers and pulling as hard as he could. It was enough to swing Gale forward just enough for him to grab the wizard’s thigh, and he wrapped his arms around it, slamming the man to the ground inches from the edge. His shoulder crashed against the ground at an unfortunate angle, and he swore profusely at the pain.

Gale blinked at him, completely stunned, both from the aftermath of his spell and from the rogue saving him from certain death. Astarion jumped to his feet, hauling Gale with him, and dove back down the rings, drawing his daggers as he went, trying to ignore the searing pain in his shoulder.

Taliana had righted herself and was impaling the brain with a flood of arrows, piercing it in various places, clearly searching for a weak point. Shadowheart had thrown a heal to Gale, who swayed one last time before recovering himself, a fireball flaring from his fingertips. Lae’zel had lept her way back down yet again and managed to sever one of the flailing tentacles, her triumphant snarl sending a thrill down his spine.

More spells.

More arrows.

Will this thing ever die???

“Astarion!”

He turned to see Taliana, gesturing towards the top of the brain. A flaming arrow was stuck there, and his eyes widened in understanding. Without even thinking about it, he jumped.

Something caught him slightly in the air, lifting him higher, and it took him a moment to realize that Gale had assisted him with his mage hand.

He rose higher, higher - and then he dropped, daggers out, aiming straight for the spot Taliana had marked with the arrow. As the blades plunged into the spongey mass below, a roar of noise invaded his brain, a parade of horrors from every corner of his life.

clawing his way through six feet of dirt, his nails breaking off, fingertips bleeding

thrown onto the bed, gagged, as cazador approached him from behind

sebastian, bound at his wrists and ankles, weeping and screaming for astarion to help him

the crowd of gur surrounding him that horrible night on the streets of baldur’s gate, right before they attacked him and left him for dead

gathering tali’s broken body into his arms, running as fast as he could back to the tavern

Moment after moment after moment; Astarion struggled to pull his mind back from the horrible mass below him, struggled to let go of his daggers in an attempt to break the connection.

There was a scream, deafening and horrific, and then he was falling, unable to hear anything but those howls.

They were coming from his own throat; he could feel it going raw and ragged as he screamed.

An explosion, so violent it felt like his brain was being pulverized inside his skull - and then he wasn’t just falling, he was plummeting back down to the world below, leaving the horrors behind him.

Notes:

Let me tell you, writing the endgame stuff was HARD. There's just so much of it and so many ways it could go. I took some poetic license here and used as much canon as I could, but I had to bend some of it to fit within this frame of reference. Please don't kill me. :P

Yep. We're almost done. I honestly can't believe it.

Thank you so much if you've stuck this out. <3

Take a look at my other stuff if you'd like; everything else I've done is modern BG3 AU stuff.

Brink will have a modern AU piece that....goes along with it that will start going up when it wraps up.

love,
nyxue

Chapter 57: Astarion - Burn

Summary:

My friends are so distressed
They’re standing on the brink of emptiness
No words I know of to express
This emptiness
I love all of you
Hurt by the cold
So hard, and lonely too
When you don’t know yourself -

~ Red Hot Chili Peppers, “My Friends”

Notes:

A fair amount of dialogue in this chapter is ripped directly from the game, mainly because it's just too f*cking perfect the way it is. Who am I to mess with Larian's perfection?

(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)

Chapter Text

“sh*t sh*t shiiiiiiiiiii -”

Astarion was falling, much too quickly, towards the Chionthar river, spinning in the air like a rag doll. Near him, Shadowheart was flailing wildly, screaming, “I can’t SWIM!!”

“T’chk.”

“Time and place, Lae’zel!!” That was Taliana, her eyes wide as they continued to plummet towards the river.

Suddenly, they all slowed, floating gently the last twenty feet or so, sinking slowly towards the water. Astarion looked up, never more grateful for the wizard, who was somehow managing to concentrate enough on his featherfall spell even with imminent death approaching.

They all splashed lightly into the water, bobbing back to the surface easily. Shadowheart was still flailing, and Lae’zel swam to her smoothly, hooking an arm around the cleric’s neck.

“Still!” she snapped. Shadowheart whimpered, but she stopped flailing in the Gith’s grip, realizing that perhaps she wasn’t going to drown today.

“Come on,” said Taliana, swimming easily towards the docks. Astarion followed her, Gale closely behind him, and Lae’zel bringing up the rear with Shadowheart clinging to her.

“Oh my GODS,” yelled a familiar voice. “They’re alive!” At the end of the dock stood Karlach, jumping up and down with joy as they approached. Wyll, Jaheira, and Halsin ran to join her, waiting until they were close enough to haul them up onto the dock.

Astarion sprawled out flat on his back, exhausted, rubbing at his left shoulder, which had taken a brutal hit when he had yanked Gale back onto the ring.

Suddenly, there was a weight on top of him; Taliana had draped herself over him, alternately giggling and sobbing. He wrapped an arm around her, closing his eyes.

“Holy f*ck,” he muttered. She had her face buried in his neck, still giggling and crying helplessly.

“I love you so much,” she managed, kissing whatever parts of his face she was able to hit.

He chuckled, wrapping his good arm around her. “Melin gin,” he told her, managing to catch her lips as she moved.

She clambered off him, still crying and laughing. Shadowheart pulled her up, hugging her tightly, and a few seconds later it was nothing but a huge knot of everyone hugging each other in relief, in joy, in absolute disbelief that they were all somehow still here. He winced as Halsin attempted to embrace him; the druid frowned for a moment before casting a restoration spell on him, his shoulder cracking violently back into place and moving correctly again. He nodded his thanks and then hugged the man without restraint.

It took several minutes for everyone to calm down somewhat, and it was Jaheira who finally asked, “What should we do now?”

Tali pondered the question for just a second before she grinned. “I promised everyone drinks if we lived through this. I say it’s celebration time.”

General cheering and noises of acceptance echoed around the docks, and Astarion rubbed at his shoulder, still rather shocked that he was alive.

He should have known things were going too smoothly.

“And look, I can even still walk in the sun. Incredible. Perhaps our little tadpole friends changed something permanently,” he told Tali with a grin, extending his arms to soak up the late afternoon sun.

A split second later, two horrible things happened in such quick succession that everyone was caught completely off guard.

“Ouch! - no. No no no -”

There was a sudden spike of pain in his hand, causing him to jerk it back towards himself. A pain he was all too familiar with. Astarion held his hands out, horrified to see his skin beginning to peel and flake as the late afternoon sun streamed down onto him.

No. Oh Gods, NO.

“Oh, Gods,” he managed, backing away from everyone, a hand going to his face, feeling another piece of skin flake away like ash.

“I’m - I’m sorry. I have to go!”

He spun around, running as fast as he could towards the harbor, diving into the first patch of shadows he saw.

He could hear Taliana’s shriek of “Astarion!” as he ran as fast as he could, followed by her scream of, “Oh, f*ck, Karlach!”

Behind him, he could hear multiple people calling his name, as well as several screams of, “Karlach!”

What have we done?

He cowered in a corner behind a large crate, hidden under a fishing boat that was hanging from its rigging. He dropped down, arms around his knees, hands clamped over his ears, rocking in place as a howl tore itself loose from his throat.

What have we DONE?

He whimpered, rocking faster. He could distantly hear the chaos still occurring on the docks, and his heart sank as he realized what was happening.

“No, no no,” he whispered, trying to find a gap in the crates so he could see. “Oh, Karlach.”

He shoved the crate sideways just enough to give him a better view, although with everyone crowding the dock, he couldn’t see the tiefling. Or Taliana, for that matter.

But he could hear them.

“We did it, soldier. The city’s going to be all right. And so are you.”

There was a pained groan, and Astarion could just see a flare of flames from his position, his fingers digging into the wood of the crate.

“Engine’s finally cooked. Held on just long enough,” he could hear Karlach gasp in between wheezes of pain.

He closed his eyes tightly, feeling a knot twist its way into his chest.

Not Karlach. Please.

“So? How’d I do?” Karlach still managed to sound cheerful, somehow.

He heard a broken sob that he knew was Taliana, and he dropped his forehead against the crate, tears starting to escape as he heard her reply.

“You were spectacular in every way, Karlach,” she choked out.

“So were you. My friend. My companion. I adore you.”

Tali managed a sob in response.

“Careful, hot!” He saw another flare of flames, his stomach dropping as he realized the truth : there was nothing he could do about what was about to happen to the sweet, eternally cheerful tiefling he’d grown to truly care about.

“I never gave up. I did my best. I did my BEST. It’s the one thing I couldn’t beat, isn’t it? I wanted to live in my city. With my friends. But life is for the living, and I saw - gods -” Another flare of flames, and a whine of pain.

He was crying in earnest now, hands flat on the crate, trying to angle himself so he could catch one last look.

“Goodbye, sun. Goodbye, sea. Goodbye.”

“Oh, Karlach,” he whispered. “No.”

Another voice echoed towards him then, making the knot in his chest twist even tighter as he realized what it meant.

“No. Stop. I won’t allow this. Karlach, you’re coming with me back to Avernus.”

Wyll.

“Gods -” he managed, an audible sob breaking loose.

Not Wyll too. Please.

“We can’t let her die. Not like this. Not now.”

“No, you can’t -” Karlach protested, but Wyll cut her off.

“What do you say? Die here, now, or live on with people who love you? Zariel won’t touch you, Karlach, I swear it,” Wyll declared.

“All right, all right. But we have to go. NOW,” wheezed Karlach, the glow of flames intensifying even more.

“Come on, then. Avernus awaits. To our next adventure we go,” said Wyll, his voice soft and affectionate.

There was a brilliant flash, and then silence except for the sounds of his friends in tears. Alone, Astarion turned, curling back against the crates, pulling his cloak around himself and sobbing.

What have we done?

Notes:

So the ONE THING I wanted this chapter to convey is something we don't really see a lot of in-game, even playing Astarion's origin story. We see him run, we see him hide - but then what? We know he's got extraordinary hearing, and that got me thinking about how f*cking AGONIZING that had to be to listen to what was going on at the docks, knowing damn good and well there wasn't a single thing he could do about it. And that's why this chapter is written the way it is.

This one hurt to write, a lot. Because I can't even imagine how horrid that would be to hear your friends fade into another realm, and not even be able to see it happen.

love,
nyxue

Chapter 58: Taliana - Endgame

Summary:

Oh, take me with you
I don't need shoes to follow
Bare feet are running with you
Somewhere the rainbow ends, my dear
Oh, take me with you
Chase rabbits into their burrow
Bare feet are running with you
Today, even the rain can cut me up...

~ Tori Amos, "Take Me With You"

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Taliana was on her knees on the end of the dock, staring at the empty place where Karlach and Wyll had just been in complete shock, tears running down her cheeks.

Shadowheart pulled her to her feet, holding her arm tightly. Tali glanced at her, unsurprised to see the cleric also in tears.

Hells. She looked around at the rest of the group and realized there wasn’t a dry eye amongst them, except for one.

Lae’zel.

The Gith stood silently for a moment, watching them, before taking a few steps away, looking into the sky and calling, “Quulos!”

There was a roar from above as the sky wrenched itself open, an immense red dragon streaking out of a portal and swooping towards them with slow, steady beats of its wings before it came to rest on the ground in front of Lae’zel.

She turned to Taliana, taking both of her hands in her own.

“I can never forget you. Your name will be etched in our slates. You will be called mla’ghir - liberator.”

The Gith turned and mounted the dragon, her feet sure and steady as she planted them on either side of the spikes trailing down its back.

Tali stared at her, more tears spilling down her face as she drew herself up as tall as possible and nodding slowly, respectfully, to her.

A slow smile spread across Lae’zel’s face as she returned the nod, before lightly touching the dragon on the side of its neck.

“To the skies!” she cried.

And they were gone.

Tali dropped to her knees, stunned at the loss of three of her dear friends in the span of several minutes.

She’d known there would be a price for freedom.

She just hadn’t realized it would include pieces of her heart.

She couldn’t find Astarion.

She, Shadowheart, and Gale had searched the docks thoroughly, and they’d been unable to find him.

Oh gods, no. Please. Not him. Please.

The wizard finally looked at her and said, “Taliana, we should head back to the tavern. I’m sure he just found somewhere to hide until it gets dark enough for him to move safely. There’s no reason he would’ve left.”

But what if there was?

Shadowheart jogged back up to them, shaking her head. “I can’t find him, Tali.”

She gave them a tortured look and Gale sighed, reaching out and putting an arm around her.

“I’m sure he’s fine, Tali. We’ll find him. Come on.”

Shadowheart took her other arm, planting a kiss on the side of her head. “It’ll be okay, Taliana.”

Please.

They stumbled into sheer chaos downstairs in the Elfsong when they returned; Tali would’ve sworn half the city was crammed into the bar, drinking and celebrating. A closer look revealed it was her companions and a mix of people who had been assisting them along the way - she could see a bunch of Harpers in one corner, a handful of Fists in another, several of the tieflings from the grove, and even Dame Aylin and Isobel. She caught Jaheira’s eye from across the room, and the Harper shook her head, clearly indicating she hadn’t seen the vampire either.

f*ck f*ck f*ck.

“I’m going to go upstairs and change,” she told Shadowheart and Gale, gesturing at herself. Her clothes were stiff with blood and sand, not to mention still damp in quite a few places.

“I’m coming with you,” said the cleric. The two of them slowly thumped up the stairs, pushing into the large room in silence.

Shadowheart stared at the open curtain that separated her part of the room from the rest, her eyes filling with tears as she looked at Karlach’s bed, littered with a mess of clothing, a broken sword, several bottles of beer, and multiple empty tankards.

“f*ck,” she muttered. Tali took her hand, leaning her head against her shoulder.

“She deserved better,” she said softly.

Shadowheart nodded silently. “I’m glad she has Wyll with her, at least,” she finally said, wiping at her eyes. “But I’d rather they be here with us.” She hesitated, her tears fully spilling over. “I even miss Lae’zel already,” she managed, a sniffling sob escaping.

“I know,” soothed Tali, hugging her. “I didn’t expect any of that,” she murmured. “I didn’t realize what the full price of freedom was going to be.”

A sniffle came from above her head as the cleric rested her chin on the top of her head.

“I hate this,” she finally said. She let Tali go, heading for her corner of the room to change.

Tali watched her go, heaving a sigh before turning to wander into her part of the room.

“Hello, darling.”

She nearly jumped out of her skin when Astarion greeted her, perched on the edge of the bed.

“Astarion!” she nearly screamed, throwing herself at him and knocking him backwards.

He caught her, wrapping his arms around her as they fell back onto the bed.

Taliana couldn’t help herself; she started to cry, even as she peppered his face with kisses.

“Are you alright? Where were you? Gods, you scared the absolute hells out of me,” she told him, dropping down on top of him and clinging to him.

“I’m fine, love,” he said, smoothing his hands down her back. “I was tucked back behind a bunch of crates until it got dark enough to come back.”

“We were looking for you,” she whispered to him.

“I know,” he said apologetically. “But I got out of there as fast as I could once I was sure I wasn’t going to be burnt to a crisp. I’ve been up in the bell tower for the last few hours.” He paused, and then said, “I needed…some time to think. I’m so sorry I scared you,” he continued, touching her face softly.

“Are you okay?” she asked, clambering back off the bed to stand and face him.

“Never better, love. Except for that whole ‘vampire rules apply again’ part,” he said, bitterness in his voice.

She wilted in front of him. “I’m so sorry, Astarion.”

“Yes, well, what’s done is done,” he said dismissively. “We can’t change it now.”

Tali looked at him helplessly, a sick feeling rippling through her stomach. “Astarion -” she started.

“Taliana. Please, love,” he murmured. “I was up in the bell tower for a few hours, thinking about freedom. How I’m free of the parasite. Free of Cazador. How I’ll never be in someone’s power again,” he said softly.

“And all it cost was my life in the sun. Now I belong to the shadows,” he continued, a trace of his earlier bitterness back in his voice.

He looked up, meeting her eyes with an intensity so strong it put a shiver down her spine.

“So. What happens next?”

Taliana looked at him thoughtfully, pondering the question. “Perhaps we can find a way to let you walk in the sun again.”

He blinked at her in surprise. “You - you think that’s possible? I suppose there is a chance,” he mused. “And if there’s a chance, no matter how small, I’m going to take it.”

He gave her a sly smile. “And it would mean setting off on another adventure together. Is…that what you want?” he asked. “Is this what you want?” he continued, gesturing at himself self-consciously. “I would understand if you wanted to go your own way,” he finally said, staring at the toes of his boots.

Tali just stared at him for a moment before she started to laugh. “You absolute idiot,” she managed to say, wrapping her arms around him. “Did you really think there was a chance I was letting you go after all this? I love you, Astarion.” She gave him a bit of a smile, watching as his face lit up. Surprise, perhaps. Pleasure. Absolution.

He pulled her close, an arm around her lower back, his hand cupping the back of her head so he could duck down to kiss her gently. “And I love you, Taliana.”

She took his hand, cool against hers.

“Okay, then.”

Notes:

Well.

280 pages.

91,288 words.

Nearly 6 months.

And we're here at the end, with only an epilogue remaining.

There's a modern AU that I've been working on that goes with this and the first chapter of that will go up after the epilogue goes up.

For any of you who have stuck it out through all 58 chapters, thank you so very much. This piece has really been a labor of love and I learned a lot along the way. I hope you've enjoyed it, and I hope you loved Taliana as much as I did.

Raven_Rose99, if you see this, thank you for kickstarting my brain. I appreciate it more than I can even say.

love,
nyxue

Chapter 59: Epilogue - Three Months Later

Notes:

(See the end of the chapter for notes.)

Chapter Text

Astarion yawned, stretching out in the hammock that hung on the porch, a canopy of leaves and flowers tangling on the ceiling above his head. He groped around, his fingers finally landing on the book he’d been reading earlier before he’d fallen into an unintended trance.

He gazed around, shaking his head in disbelief slightly. He was surrounded by green; he, a city boy through and through, had been in the middle of a forest for two months now. And, surprisingly, he didn’t regret it in the slightest. That didn’t mean it still didn’t confuse him on a daily basis, however. This wasn’t something he’d ever expected from his existence, and yet here he was, a creature of the night, housed in one of the most beautiful places he’d ever seen.

Taliana had made good on her promise to bring him home with her to Mosstone. Neither of them were very inclined to stay in the city any longer than necessary after everything had happened, and they had left a few weeks after the nether brain had fallen. Perhaps they would return later, but for now, they were content to hide away in the thick forests of Tethys.

Saviors of the Gate, indeed.

Her ancestral home had been kept safe over the years, as was custom for wood elves. She’d been delighted to see that it had been kept reasonably clean, the gardens out back meticulously maintained. It had made settling in surprisingly easy, and once the locals stopped asking too many questions about the strange, pale elf she’d arrived with, they’d led a quiet, comfortable existence. She’d introduced him as her partner without hesitation, which had made him feel warm in a way that he’d never known before.

The dwelling was simple, just a few rooms intersected with large trees. A small kitchen with an attached dining room, a sitting room with a huge stone fireplace, and two bedrooms, one with a bathroom cut out of natural stone.

He loved it.

It was theirs.

The best part, however, was the back porch; there was a hammock hanging from the roof of it, far enough back that the sun couldn’t reach it. A menagerie of flowers and vines tangled across the beams above, a veritable garden floating above him. The view of the forest behind the house was jaw-dropping. The tallest trees he’d ever seen, rich, lively shades of green, the smell of loam and leaves in the air, the sound of the river flowing a short distance away. He could - and did - spend hours in the hammock, reading or just staring out into the trees. The best days were when it rained; watching and hearing it tumble through the canopy of leaves was mesmerizing. There were planters and barrels everywhere, flowers and exotic plants in every corner, and he’d developed a bit of a liking for maintaining them since they’d arrived.

Melamin?”

“Out here, love,” he called back.

Taliana stepped out the back door, smiling.

“I think you spend more time in that hammock than you do anywhere else,” she said, her eyes warm.

“It’s comfortable,” he said, stretching.

She smiled at him indulgently, leaning down to kiss him.

He really hadn’t thought he could love his delicate spitfire of a wood elf anymore, but that was before he saw her truly relaxed. There’d always been an underlying current of tension in her during their travels, and seeing her now, loose and smiling - he loved it. She smiled so much more, and she just seemed…settled, he supposed. Happy.

Her hair was long and loose around her shoulders, and she was wearing a long, floating brown robe over her tunic and leggings. Druid clothes, really, moreso than ranger clothing, but she’d certainly spent more time in the gardens in the last few months than she had with a bow in her hand. Although, they had spent several memorable evenings with Tali attempting to teach him her grandmother’s trick shots with arrows. He had finally concurred - with a deep sigh - that she was truly a much better shot than he was, much to Tali’s amusem*nt.

He untangled himself from the hammock, closing the distance to pull her into his arms and kissing her. And then kissing her again, because he could; they had the luxury of time and privacy now. Some of his favorite memories were shortly after they’d arrived; there’d been several days where they hadn’t even bothered to get out of bed, luxuriating in a sea of relaxed conversations, languid touches, and unhurried sex.

It had taken some time for Taliana to get comfortable in her own skin again; Astarion had found himself just holding her for quite a few nights while she trembled uncontrollably, the darkness that still lurked in her mind resurfacing unpredictably. Something he was all too familiar with himself, to be honest. But, like most things in life, it was slowly improving with time, and seeing the light come back into her eyes had been one of the best things about being here.

“I’m glad we came here,” he told her for what felt like the hundredth time. He hadn’t been sure about it, aside from a vague desire to get the hell out of the city for a bit. He’d been surprised at how much he truly enjoyed it here. There was a peace that settled over him here that he’d never felt anywhere else, and he craved the feeling like it was a drug.

As for Taliana, she hadn’t spent much time in Mosstone in the last ten years or so, but not much had changed. Forests, the same families that had lived here for millenia, all happy to help them settle back into the community. They’d been suspicious of Astarion, to be sure, when they had arrived, but her vampire certainly knew how to charm people when it suited him, and he’d worked overtime for a bit when they’d settled in. He often helped locals with various chores and tasks - provided that he could do them after the sun went down - and was already respected as a fierce hunter who could provide food. It hadn’t taken long before they treated him like one of their own, much to Tali’s joy.

“I’m glad we came, too,” she whispered against his ear. She knew this wasn’t a permanent situation, but for now, she was more than content to enjoy her time with Astarion and just breathe.

“By the way,” she continued, pulling a piece of parchment out of the pocket of her robes. “We got a letter.”

He raised his brows at her, waiting.

“From Withers. Asking us to come back to where it all started. A reunion of sorts, I suppose.”

He hummed thoughtfully. “And?”

“I mean…I suppose…”

Astarion was struggling to contain his laughter. “Spit it out, Tali.”

“If we don’t go I’m going to f*cking kill you,” she blurted out, laughing. “I miss them.”

“You know…I miss them too, love.”

“Can I tell Shadowheart that?”

He cut his eyes at her, shaking his head at the mischievous look on her face.

“Ah, Taliana,” he said, cupping the side of her face in his hand. “I suppose I can suffer an evening with the only friends I’ve ever had for your sake.”

“Thought so,” she said sweetly. “I love you too.”

Notes:

Well. This was it.

Nearly six months of work, 280 pages, over 90k words.

I hope you enjoyed it. Thank you for being here.

If you've ever wanted to talk to/compliment/complain/etc at me, you can find me on Discord under nyxueaurelia.

The first chapter of the modern AU that accompanies this is now available. It's called Memento and you can check it out now.

My darling friend Kel wrote a hilarious little modern AU piece called Candyland and just trust me when I say it's worth the click. Please check it out, because it's hilarious and just FUN.

Thank you all so much. I hope you loved these two as much as I did.

love,
nyxue

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