My Sweet Girl
The story began as it always had.
"Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a palace by the sea. She was a special little girl, with a special name given to her by her mother." Da smiled at her, his blue eyes over bright in the candles. He tucked her in, their bedtime ritual one of rote now. He smoothed back the short red hair that always flopped in her eyes and pressed a kiss to her forehead.
She wiggled her toes under the blanket. "Da, we live on the bank of the Minanter, don't we?"
This was new. Da seemed surprised at her question, almost like a tradition was being broken. "Aye, sweetling, that we do."
She looked up at him. "Then why does the little girl live by the sea? The river is a different place."
His lips quirked and she knew he was trying to hold back his laughter. She wished he wouldn't; Da didn't laugh very often. She settled back into the pillows, trying to school her expression into the one of serene patience like the portrait above Da's fireplace in his study. She knew it displeased him when she did it, but she also knew he couldn't refuse her when she did.
His smile faltered. "Well, sweetling, a long time ago, your mum and I lived in Kirkwall. You were born there, although you were yet a tiny bairn when I left with you. Kirkwall is by the sea, and your mum's home there could rightly be called a palace."
She nodded thoughtfully, her fingers twining in the bedclothes. "Will you tell me the rest of the story, then?"
The tick shifted beneath his weight as he sat, settling in for the story. She wiggled to the side so he could place his back against the headboard, shifting her pillow so he would be comfortable. He gave a rumbling laugh and obliged her, a warm hand on her back as she immediately scooted back over to curl up next to his side.
"As I was saying, 'once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a palace by the sea. She was a special little girl, with a special name given to her by her mother.' Do you know why that is?"
"Because her mother loved her very much, so much that the Maker saw it and was pleased. He gathered her mother up into His embrace, wanting to share her love like Andraste did."
"Aye, sweetling, that's the truth of it. Her mother was so beautiful, she held the Maker in awe, and He gathered her close very early on, because He could not bear to be parted with her for long." Da always had to stop at this part, she knew. She felt his breathing hitch in the way it always did, and hugged him tightly, knowing that it would pass. His hand moved in little circles on her back, soothing him more than her.
"Her mother named her just before the Maker took her away. The little girl's name was the last thing she said on this earth, and that made the little girl a treasure worthy of the highest king." Da's voice was husky, and his brogue seemed thicker than normal. He drew her up beside him, the hand on her back moving to stroke her hair. "Her mother asked her father to protect her, in a letter that was carried many miles by a dwarf with a crossbow. He came into her father's study, dripping wet from the storm, and told him the whole story. The next day, her father rode to the castle by the sea, where the little girl was. He took her back to his own castle to live, and she grew up to be a beautiful woman, with her mother's smile."
He pressed a kiss to the crown of her head as she settled back against the pillow. "Da, why didn't mum want to live with you? Maybe you could have kept the Maker from taking her so soon." Her voice was muzzy with sleep, one hand fisting to knuckle at her eye as she yawned. She missed the stricken look that passed across her Da's face, just for that instant as he rose to tuck her in again.
"You would be surprised at the number of times I asked that of myself, little Andra. When I find an answer, you'll be the first to know."
She had already settled into sleep, her hair fanning out on the pillow and her green eyes closing as her breathing evened out. Sebastian licked his thumb and forefinger, snuffing the candles and banking the fire before he left her as he always did.
She was awoken in the middle of the night by shouting. She slipped quietly from her bed, little bare feet padding across the rug to the door. She could see little in the light of the banked coals of the fire, but she knew her Da's voice, and he was angry. She pressed her ear to the door, her heart thrumming in her chest as someone else raised his voice. She peeked through the crack, but she could see that the hall was empty.
The shouting was coming from Da's study. She crept down the darkened hallway, drawn to the sliver of firelight under the door. Snatches of conversation could be heard now, and she willed her heart to stop pounding as fast as she tried to listen.
"…she is not your responsibility in the first place!"
"…was mine from the second you left…"
The crack of a fist meeting flesh sounded through the door, and she pressed her eye to a keyhole. A stranger was standing over Da, his fists balled in anger. Da was sprawled on the floor, his hand over his jaw as his lip bled onto his white shirt. She opened the door almost without realizing it and flew to him, her small body shaking in fear as she stared up at the stranger, who had gone rigid with shock. She placed herself between her Da and the man, her fists out and at the ready.
"You leave my Da alone!" Tears were beginning to streak down her face. She cried with anger, and she hated it. Da had always kissed the tears away, saying she was better to cry than to say something she didn't mean. Well, she meant what she said now.
"You…" The stranger seemed weak in the knees as he looked at her. He sagged visibly, his whole frame seeming to deflate. He staggered back to a chair and sat, the bluster gone from his lungs. Bedraggled blonde hair caught in a club at the nape of his neck shone gold in the firelight, and he passed a scarred and calloused hand over his eyes. "You didn't tell me she looked so much like her."
"You were too busy punching me to ask, Anders." Da sat up with a groan, holding his shirt to his bleeding lip. She turned to make sure he was all right, and he managed a weak smile for her. "Sweetling, it's all right. You should go back to bed."
"He hit you." Her brows creased, and she turned back to the stranger her Da had called Anders. "You hit my Da. You say you're sorry, right now."
A small, shocked laugh bubbled up from the man in the chair. His shoulders sagged, sending the black feathers on his robes into a spiraling flutter. "Honey, if you knew what I know, he'd be apologizing to you."
"Anders." The word was a warning and a promise, wrapped into one. Da reached for her shoulder, his fingers light. "Andra, you should go back to bed."
She shrugged her shoulder out of his grasp. Her voice was icy cold, a shadow of an adult's with the danger it promised. "He hit you, Da. I would see him apologize."
Blonde eyebrows shot upward. "Well, nice to see that tone is passed on by blood, at least. Very well, honey, if that will allow you to sleep, I will do you one better."
His lips quirked in a grin as he rose from the chair, striding over to her in a few quick steps. She did not shrink from him, merely raised her fists. A sadness passed over his face as he looked at her, then vanished as he reached for her Da, his hands glowing green. She watched in awe as the split in her father's lip mended, leaving nothing but a few streaks of dried blood in its wake.
"My apologies, Sebastian."
Her eyes rounded to the size of dinner plates. "You're a mage?"
He chuckled. "Yes, I am."
Her fear and anger gone with the apology, she reached out a hand for one of his shoulders, her fingers pressing into the feathers there. "Mum was a mage."
"I know." His large, calloused fingers pressed over her own, impossibly large. "Does my apology satisfy?"
She nodded, feeling magnanimous. "Aye, serrah, it does. You are a gentleman once again."
"I think you should go to bed now, like your da asked." He fought a grimace at the words, replacing it with a smile.
She turned to Da, noticing that he was wearing a pained expression. She hugged him, curling her fingers at the nape of his neck, and he stroked her head soothingly. She could feel his throat move as he swallowed.
"Anders…would you like to tuck her in?"
A sharp intake of breath from the mage, and then she felt her da standing, lifting her in his arms as he carried her back to her room. He settled her on the edge of the bed, stepping back as the mage sat down awkwardly beside her.
His weight shifted the tick like da's, but he seemed to not know what to do with his hands. Finally, he let out a shaky breath and smoothed the hair back from her forehead.
"Come now, little one, let's get you all tucked in." His voice was a low murmur, and she looked to Da, who nodded. She settled back into the pillow, letting him draw the covers up to her chin. The adrenaline in her little system was already wearing off, and she could not help the yawn that threatened to swallow her face as she gazed at both men through sleepy eyes.
"You promise you won't hit Da again, serrah mage?" she asked.
"I promise, honey. You have my word." He rested a calloused fingertip on her nose, curious warmth flowing from him to her as the digit glowed with a soft blue light. She gave a smile, slipping into sleep as the mage's breath hitched, just like Da's did when he told the story.
"You could have told me."
Sebastian sighed. "How was I supposed to get word to you? You're a known fugitive, and Varric was with her."
They were back in the study, Sebastian seated with a goblet of wine, Anders pacing the floor.
"She's the daughter of two mages. My daughter, Sebastian. What will you do when the templars come for her?"
Sebastian scowled. "I'll deal with that when the time comes. You have my word that the templars will not have her. She's shown no sign so far."
"I was twelve when I went to the circle. I showed my powers far later than any mage I knew."
"I will handle it."
"I could teach her – "
"Anders, for once in your miserable life, think beyond yourself and your selfish desires." His grip on the goblet tightened, the knuckles whitening. He did not meet Anders's eyes, staring into the flames of the fire instead. "What life can a fugitive rebel apostate give a little girl? Sleeping in ditches, healing the sick for a few coins or whatever they happen to have on hand? Going without for days before finding food or shelter and running from templars at every turn? I've kept her safe, fed, and sheltered for her entire life, and she's never known want or sorrow. You could not even protect her mother when they drove the sword through her chest."
He speared Anders with a look. "You're also a Warden. How many years until your Calling? Five, ten? How do you explain that to a little girl?"
Anders sighed, scrubbing a hand through his hair. "You've lied to her. She knows you as her father."
"And why shouldn't she? I've been more a father to her than you have, and that's the truth of it." He sat back, draining his glass. "Her mother asked Varric to deliver her to me when she died, Anders, because she knew I would take responsibility, whatever my feelings for you, because I loved her."
Anders fisted his hands at his sides. "And I'm supposed to just roll over, let you take my daughter from me?"
"I never tried to take her from you, Anders. I'm following the last wishes of an old, dear friend. She asked me to do this, to shelter the one thing she loved above all else, above either of us." Sebastian held his gaze, blue eyes boring into amber, willing the mage to understand. "She's as much my daughter as yours now. I beg of you, please leave me with this, with her. I could never have her mother's heart, but let me do this."
Anders sagged against the fireplace, his face in his hands. "I would like to see her, when I'm able."
Sebastian nodded. "Done. So long as you bring no templars to our door, you are welcome to see her."
Anders looked mildly surprised, but he nodded as well. "I suppose I should thank you."
"I didn't do this for you."
"I know, that's why I should thank you." He made his way to the study door. "I'm going to look in on her, and then I need to move on. But I'll be back sometime next year."
A/N: Your heart strings, I will tug on them. No, this isn't a joke, I filled this one on the k!meme, too. Dragon Age, let go of my brainmeats, plzkthx. Daddy!Sebastian is frigging adorable, though. C: