He hated being pitied.

And that was all he saw on the faces of his companions after they returned from Denerim's slums - pity, and sorrow, and enough kindness that it burned like fire and Alistair wondered if he got up and threw them all into the damned river would that at last be enough to stop their incessant staring? As though they expected him to be.... somehow not Alistair anymore, now that the last of his most precious illusions had been ripped away from him.

Okay, well, maybe it was a little naive of him, to walk into that hovel to meet a woman he had only recently known existed and expect a warm welcome. But was it so awful of him to hope for a little acceptance from the last living person with whom he shared blood?

It wasn't his fault that he'd killed their shared mother in childbirth.

Or so he told himself, hollowly, sitting at camp, throwing pine knots on the fire for the dull pleasure of watching them spit whorls of sparks up into the night air.

Fearless leader had been the worst - telling him that he didn't need Goldanna or her ilk, that everyone in that motley crew of unlikely heroes cared about him like they were family - and there was an essence of truth in that, but it wasn't what Alistair wanted to hear. He didn't want to hear Wynne comforting him ('in his time of loss,' what an absolute crock, he hadn't lost anything he hadn't had in the first place) or Leliana patiently explaining to Sten about why the qunari should allow the knight to have first watch, or Ohgren offering to get him drunker than skunks, or even the damned dog, nosing his shoulder and whining in commiseration. He didn't want to so much as think about Zevran's ribald offers of 'companionship', either.

If they were any nicer to him, any more ready to soothe his pains and ease his burden, he was going to scream.

And possibly go on a murderous rampage, bashing brains in with the soup-ladle and spouting one-liners about his stew and how did they like it now.

No one had told Morrigan, of course. The witch had never been much one for fireside chats, and though Wynne and fearless leader had warded away everyone else from the center of the camp, they did not think to guard against Morrigan, because of all people, she was the last voice that they expected to approach him in comfort. Alistair had to blink in mild surprise, then, when she stepped boldly into the circle of the firelight and plopped herself down about an arm's length to his left, her sculpted face cool, amberglow eyes unfathomable as the cat whose form she sometimes wore.

"'Tis unlike you, to mope about so," said the witch; he blinked again, harder, but her gaze did not leave the fire, and he could not immediately summon an answer. "Did you step upon a butterfly in battle, or somesuch other ridiculous thing?"

"I... met my sister in Denerim," he said, slowly, and though Morrigan rolled her eyes, she did not interrupt him as he expected. His gaze went to his hands, nervously wringing themselves over and over in his lap, and he laced his fingers corset-tight against each other to still their frenetic movement, to give him room to think. "She wasn't exactly happy to see me."

"I cannot see why she should be, with such a buffoon for a brother," agreed Morrigan, and he cast a look her way that would have seared a lesser being, but she did not glance back, instead reaching over absently to his pile of pine knots, flicking one into the fire with an effortless twist of the wrist. "I have never met my sisters, if indeed I have them, as the legends claim. But I cannot imagine that such a meeting would go well, no matter the reason or setting."

And that gave him pause, assembling in his mind the vision of half a dozen Morrigans, mirror images of each other one and all, bickering with such noise and intensity that they would drown out all the world until the end of the Fade, for the pure argumentative joy of it; he decided then that Thedas could handle only one Witch of the Wilds, thank you very much. "That's different," he said, weakly, and she affixed her yellow eyes to him and spoke archly, "Is it? Have you anything to tie you to her? A shared childhood memory, perhaps, or a memento, anything at all other than your blood?"

"Well, no," he blinked, and she threw another knot upon the fire, where it crackled merrily, oblivious to the strangeness of the unlikely conversation it was audience to.

"Then should it come as any surprise that she feels no kinship to you?" pointed out Morrigan, mercilessly. "Under such circumstances, I would think that the dog would feel closer to you than this alleged sister. Free your mind from her - your depression casts a pall about the entire camp, and there are better things in which to absorb yourself."

And then she rose and stalked back into the shadows, as if she had never come at all, and Alistair was left staring and blinking in her wake. The worst part of it was that she was, of course, exactly on the money. Not that he would ever admit it -

- but he felt better, bizarrely. Just a little. And now he felt almost.... indebted, to Morrigan of all people -

Damnation. If she ever found out, he would never live that one down.