Of Families

Written for the LiveJournal Team Alistair's official weekly swooping challenge. Option 2.

"So, a sister, hm?" It was highly unusual, this intrusion. Morrigan wasn't usually the type who stroke up casual conversations with anyone in the camp. In that regard she was even more reclusive than her, and that was to say something. She was called M'Lady Hedgehog by several of her father's knights, and Fergus addressed her as The Grumpy One when only family was present. But as Morrigan sat down next to her by the fire where their leader was busy smearing armor polish on her greaves, she was seemingly unaware of the 'do-not-disturb-me' aura Giovanna Cousland projected consciously.

Or the witch just ignored it, she didn't know. She never exactly knew with her. She wanted to like her, but they had too many similarities in their ways to really get along. They both liked our privacy, didn't like to talk about their past, had a fondness for shiny things (Giovanna for her armor, Morrigan for jewelry) and took a certain grim satisfaction in killing darkspawn.

But this? And asking her? And asking that question? The witch implied a thousand more things with those three words than their mere meaning. Again.

And she hated that.

"Pardon?" She chose to respond after counting exactly to five, with slightly raised eyebrows. She spat on the rag she used for polishing: there was a beginning of a rust spot next to one of the straps that was probably from a stubborn drop of blood.

"He has a sister in Denerim." Morrigan clarified, stretching out her long legs and smoothing her raven-dark locks behind her ear. "'He' means our charming Alistair, of course. You two went to see her. Did she like you?"

"Are you becoming your mother now?" Giovanna inquired; she didn't look at the other woman. Her tone was the one she'd learned from her mother when someone overstepped a boundary at some court function—ice that burned. She tapped her sword, resting by her side on the log. "Just in case, you understand. You speak in riddles and meddle in other people's personal business, you know."

"Oh. Did I touch a nerve?" The witch's delicate features showed only indifference. "I am so sorry." She shrugged. "But I guess you've answered my question."

"Nope. I just called you a bitch." Giovanna said sharply, finally looking at her. "Stop baiting me like that. And stop being such a… Why are you laughing at me?"

"You really should wear a badger on your shield as your coat-of-arms." Morrigan said, still smiling. "I'm merely noticing how unusually and studiously you two ignore each other since you came back from that supposed supply trip in the city, and I thought you might need a less biased opinion on this than Leliana's. Or Wynne's."

"I 'd rather ask Shale first." Giovanna muttered, looking towards the edge of their camp where the stone golem brooded.

"You're stalling." Morrighan pointed out. "Besides, I trusted you with my secrets. It's only fair. And fairness, I guess, is important to you."

"Pester, pester, pester." She bristled, but set the greave and the rag aside. "And a blackmailer, too."

"Yes, I am a black-hearted, ruthless blackmailer bitch without any compassion or a desire to be nice just for nice's sake. Consider my upbringing, and the way I haven't killed anyone from our company yet, and just answer the question. Did his sister like you?"

"His sister is a bitter, resentful woman, with an even worse outlook on life that you." Giovanna burst out in a harsh whisper that took Morrigan aback with its force and the raw pain behind it. "She was only interested in his money for her five children, all out of wedlock. She's a washerwoman, and…" She swallowed. " She went on and on about how he shouldn't have expected anything after all these years, after how their mother was treated, after how she was thrown out of the castle he grew up in. It was horrible. The look on his face, just standing there, after he gushed about how he was looking forward to finally finding a family all the way to the city. I…" She shook her head. "I told him I was sorry, but…He didn't listen. He…threw his money pouch on the floor and stormed out. We…haven't spoken since."

"Although I fail to see what her being a washerwoman has to do with anything, that doesn't sound like something his all-sunshine outlook on life would take well." Morrigan rested her chin in her palm as she considered for a moment. "Don't get me wrong, I think the man could use some clues about how things really work, and I'd have thought being a templar and a Grey Warden should really harden someone, but..." She poked the fire with a stick absently, then took a deep breath. "Fine. I am the dark cloud on the horizon of his life anyway. Want me to talk to him?"

"Wanting you to…what?" Giovanna stared at her with eyes narrowed. "Why on earth would you want to do that?" Her throat was dry from speaking way too much already, and especially with her. This was a hard day. She wanted to go and kill some darkspawn, stat. Failing that, she needed a drink.

"'Cause I am a heartless bitch with a dark outlook on life?" Morrigan's laugh had no mirth in it. " 'Cause you don't want to hurt him by telling him 'I told you so'? 'Cause I know something about family members not wanting you, or wanting you for their own needs only, or…" She left that unfinished and stood up abruptly. "And don't think for a second that I like you or him more, or that I care about how you two look at each other sometimes as if no one else exists in this universe." She smoothed down her leather pants and rubbed her hands together briskly. "Consider this a repayment for that mirror you gave me, right?"

"It was a gift, Morrigan." Giovanna murmured under her breath, but the witch didn't hear her. She was already marching resolutely towards a tent at the edge of the camp, her eyes glinting with determination, chin thrusting forward.

"Alistair." she announced as she swept into the tent without even stopping. "Stop brooding. We need to talk. About family."