Title: Night Watch
Author: karebear
Rating: K+
Characters: Female Amell/Alistair
Standard Disclaimer (Dragon Age): I don't own these characters or the world they inhabit. Bioware built the sandbox. I just play in it.
Summary: Maybe there's a difference between "watching" and "watching out for."
Notes: I'm replaying Origins now with a female Mage Warden, which I've never done before. And I needed some sweetness. Because Dragon Age does tend toward dark and depressing.

Alistair has been nothing but kind to her, but still, she can't trust him.

It's not his fault.

But she knows what he is, even if he swears that he isn't, anymore. Never really was, he says.

But she sees it in the way he will never let his guard down around her, not completely.

Feels in in the way he is always just close enough when she weaves a spell, ready to leech her power away if he has to, to throw a ward between her and the Fade.

He is always watching her.

She knows exactly what it means, when a Templar watches a Mage.

And when he talks about the Harrowing "Just one time. Once was enough," what she hears is "she was an innocent girl and they forced a demon into her and then I killed her."

That could have been her, if things had gone differently.

She thinks it's no accident that Duncan threw the two of them together. The Grey Wardens fight the Darkspawn. That's their most important priority, and they'll let a lot of things go if it helps in that mission, but that doesn't make them stupid.

Of course they'd keep a Templar close by, to watch their Mage.

Just in case.

She thinks it's a pretty fucked up sense of humor on the Maker's part that the two of them are the only ones left after Ostagar.

They spend a lot of time together, talk a lot. She is fascinated by him, although she doesn't want to be. He is the first person she met outside of the Tower, isn't he? No, that was the Kennel Master, the man who taught her how to heal his huge, scary dog. He's probably dead, or the dog would have gone with him instead of following her even though she never wanted it to.

Except that he's growing on her now. She likes the way it feels to have some living creature that she can rely on to stay close to her no matter what, to guard her while she sleeps and make sure she's eating, even if the food he tries to bring her makes more likely to lose her appetite, not less.

Not all that different from Alistair, then.

He tells her that he didn't choose his path either. He hated the Chantry. He was ten years old, and no one asked his opinion on the matter.

But still, if he'd really wanted to, if he'd really hated it so much, he could have run, gone... anywhere. He wouldn't have been hunted, to be dragged back or killed by people like him.

He had a choice.

She never did.

He is completely open and honest with her. As much as he tries to deflect her curiosity with stupid jokes, he answers all of her questions and admits his weaknesses.

She... doesn't.

She doesn't talk about her feelings, doesn't talk about her past.

"I lived in the Circle Tower. What's to tell?"

Except sometimes she slips.

Like when the nightmares come, and he is always waiting for her to join him at the dying fire. And she knows it should be comforting, but all she can think is that he is always watching her.

This demon that haunts them in their dreams, it doesn't mean the same thing to him as it does to her.

It's not something she can just ignore.

Because she is a Mage, and she has been warned, over and over, every day, for years, that this is how demons come into the world.

They come in the night.

They come because of her weakness, and her sin.

And as much as she tells herself that the Chantry priests and the Templars are all wrong, what scares her more is the nagging, whispering voice in her mind that won't shut up. The one that asks, What if they're right?

And these dreams are so much worse than the Harrowing, because this time she has no control at all.

The archdemon consumes everything, every night inside her head, and she can only watch.

And listen.

Alistair says he can't understand the demon, but she can.

Not by the words, but by the terror that cuts through to her very core.

"You're shaking."

"I'm fine," she mumbles, not looking at him.

"No, you're not." He wraps a blanket around her shoulders and hugs her close, and she wants to protest, to push him away, but she can't.

Because she needs it, she realizes.

This closeness. This understanding.

"Why are you doing this?" she whispers.

"What?" he asks, and he sounds genuinely confused.

Taking care of me, she doesn't say.

That's not what Templars do.

He takes her hand. "You're my friend, Rhyanon."

"We can't be friends."

"Why not?"

"Because," she snaps, pulling out of his grip. "I'm a Mage. And you're..."

"Not a Templar," he insists, again. "I only fight Darkspawn magic. I'll never... not to you. I swear."

She wants so badly to believe him.

"You're not a Templar?"

"Praise Andraste, she's finally listening to me," he quips. And then he looks her in the eyes, dead serious. "I am not a Templar," he repeats. "And you're not a Mage. I mean, you are, but... we're Grey Wardens now. That's what matters. That's the only thing that matters."

He puts his arm around her again, and this time she lets him.

"Stay with me," she whispers. She cannot let go of his hand.

"Of course."

He holds her until the dawn breaks the darkness.

Maybe there's a difference between watching and watching out for.