Title: Pup
Author: Jakia
Word Count: 644
Summary: For swooping_is_bad challenge 3. Alistair sees Fem!Cousland's shade in the Temple, and asks a question: why the nickname Pup?

It was strange to think that everyone could see the spirit as she could.

At the time, the only thing she thought about was her father, how he was standing there before her. How he smiled even in death. How he told her he was proud of her, that he loved her, dearly.

Morrigan commented first, of course. She never was one for any sort of affection, never mind that of a parent's unconditional love for a child. She spoke strongly, and hastily, on how she felt the shade was nothing more than a waste of everyone's time, a stupid challenge on the temple's part. If it had truly wished to test the group, it would have shown a separate shade to each of them and allowed them to face their own demons. It was stupid of it to pick on just their fearless leader. If Cousland hadn't known better, she would have thought Morrigan was standing up for her, against the Temple, against the Chantry, against the rituals and the tests they had been forced to endure. Fortunately, Cousland knew better.

Zevran, upon seeing the dead ghost of Teryn Bryce Cousland, was his usual perverted self. He made cat-calls and whistled. In Zevran-speak, age only meant experience, and the gray hair of the elder Cousland did not deter him. She was a little surprised death did.

"Truly, 'tis a shame he is dead. He was a fine looking man. Strong arms. You'd expect most noblemen to be a bit hefty, but not your padre. Mmm, I bet he kept your mother happy, no?"

She learned to ignore him, as she usually did.

No, it was Alistair who surprised her. Alistair, who was unusually silent and somber through the entire event, unlike his usual joking self. Alistair, who saw the ghost of her father just the same as Morrigan and Zevran, but said nothing. He did not say one smart comment, one wise-crack, one silly remark. It was strange. She suspected he was just being sensitive, which she appreciated. Still, it was…odd. She was use to his comments, and to be without them seemed unnerving.

Eventually, he said something. "Pup? That's the one thing I don't get. Why did your father call you Pup? Er, your father's shade. In the temple, thingy."

She stared at him.

"If you don't want to answer, you don't have to. I didn't mean to pry, I was just curious. I mean, I don't exactly think of puppies when I look at you, you know?"

She whistled, and Sparks, her faithful mabari hound, came rushing to her side.

"Sparks was originally Fergus's dog." She whispered softly, reliving the memory of the dead. "I was so jealous…I was eleven at the time, and Fergus was seventeen. He was more interested in girls than dogs. I wasn't. Er, interested in girls, I mean." She fumbled lightly, and he laughed at her words.

"I was interested in dogs, though, and Sparks was so cute as a puppy. Well, Fergus and Sparks never really bonded so to speak, and I followed Sparks wherever he went. Eventually, Nan just started yelling at the pup and I'd follow like it was my own name. Dad thought it was cute. The name just stuck, even when Sparks wasn't a puppy anymore." She rubbed the dog gently behind the ears. "I was, though. I still am. I guess in Dad's eyes, I'll always be his adorable little Pup."

She would never be called Pup again, would she? The thought made her cry softly.

Alistair wrapped his arm around her, comforting her. "Maybe someday, you'll have pups of your own."

"Not likely, due to the Taint."

He held her anyway. "You never know. Stranger things have happened."

As she fell asleep crying in Alistair's arms, she dreamt of herself, Alistair, and a litter of Pups to call their own.


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