A/N: This story is an answer to a Cheeky Monkey challenge set by Eva Galana. The challenge was issued as follows: Write a story - one shot, several chapters, full length novel, whatever - where the 'true' happy ending is merely Alistair with his Warden. The only specifics for this challenge are: 1. There has to be a happy ending (Alistair with his Warden love). 2. Alistair is NOT King.

I'll admit, this challenge got away from me, and it's now coming to you in 7 chapters. *sigh*. I am LONG-WINDED.

Anyway, entire story is beta'd by the invincible Mackillian. Enjoy :)




The new recruit was... not what he was expecting.

First of all, she was an elf, and a she, and also unlike any she he'd ever seen before in his life. As if the tattoos of swirling vines that climbed down the right side of her face and neck weren't strange enough to his sheltered sensibilities, they disappeared into the low neckline of her leather armor, which was not only cut to be very distracting, but also didn't seem to serve much purpose.

Nothing like charging into battle with your entire midriff exposed.

Her rich brown hair was swept back and elaborately braided with little charms and beads that glinted in the sun as they cascaded down soft curls that fell to the center of her back. Her eyes were so dark they appeared nearly black, delicate black eyebrows slashing across fair skin, and, as far as he'd seen, drawn together in a perpetual frown.

She regarded the Warden Commander with no particular esteem, and him with no particular interest, the distance in those eyes only overridden by an unnatural glossiness in her stare. Alistair didn't have to touch her to know her skin would be fevered, as well. They didn't have much time if they wanted to save her from the poison that crawled in her veins—the fact that she hadn't succumbed already was pretty remarkable.

She shifted impatiently through Duncan's explanation of the mission, standing apart from the others with her arms crossed tightly beneath her breasts, seemingly unsure of which one of them she wanted to glare at more. Duncan had already warned him that she was there against her will, by order of her Keeper, but Alistair had still somehow not expected her to be quite so... hostile.

Later, when they found the wounded soldier in the Wilds and she snapped that they didn't have time to save him, Alistair was just short-tempered enough to retort, "What, you have another appointment or something?" before he could stop himself. A glance at her fevered eyes was reminder enough to make him feel like the worst kind of fool to forget the situation that she was in.

After the man was on his way, he made an attempt to apologize for his careless remark. She was just alone and probably frightened, and being eaten away from the inside by an illness she likely didn't even know existed until it had infected her. A little kindness couldn't hurt, and might help her sheathe her claws around him. "We still have time, you know. Duncan wouldn't have sent you on this errand if he didn't know you could handle it."

"I have no memory of asking for your opinion, shem."

Never mind.


"It occurs to me I don't know your name."

Alistair had decided not to try to speak to the woman again, at least not without Duncan there to serve as a buffer, but as usual, his mouth had ideas entirely separate from the ones in his head.

She glanced over her shoulder, moving swiftly and gracefully through this patch of smelly swamp that led to nowhere, while the rest of them stumbled behind, apparently eager to get back to Ostagar. She still wore the same bored expression she had worn since leaving the camp, though it was admittedly an improvement over her glower. "It took you this long to realize as much?"

He ground his teeth together. "Well, in my defense, you've never bothered to call me anything but shem, so I didn't think we were name friends just yet."

Her expression changed only marginally, but he thought, for a moment, that she might have been trying not to smile. "Name friends?"

"Yes. It's the relationship just above not-punching friends, but not quite as high as conversation friends."

"I see." The smile was definitely there—just a subtle curving to her full lips that she was trying to keep hidden. "Is this a habit, to define relationships by hierarchy?"

It was impossible to tell if she was being serious or not, with that strange, formal speech of hers. "Doesn't everyone?"

The smile was abruptly gone, as though she had just remembered who it was she was talking to. "To categorize people by easily defined expectations? No, that is most assuredly a human trait."

"Because Maker knows you haven't made any preconceptions of your own here." Alistair hadn't meant to say it out loud, but he couldn't deny he was a little proud of himself for having done so. He had decided he was done putting up with random abuse the moment he left the Chantry, although he hadn't really followed through on that conviction as of yet. At least, not until he met her.

She was quiet for a long time. He began to think she had just decided to ignore him entirely, which, he had to admit, probably wasn't such a bad idea. She surprised him, turning to him just before they entered the gate, though she didn't quite meet his eyes. "I'm called Lyna," she said at last.


Alistair didn't claim to be the leading authority on—well, anything, really—but he at least knew weapons, and the way in which people treated them. As he paced under the archway, impatient to hear the horns that would signal the start of battle, he watched the way the Dalish checked her arrows, examining the missiles for any sign of damage or flaw. Her bow rested on her ground at her side. It was a beautiful weapon, intricately carved with the same pattern of looping vines that she wore on her face, and obviously well cared for. The wood held the soft glow of frequent polish; the soft, supple leather that served as a grip was clean and tightly wound in place. He had already witnessed the way she handled herself in battle; she was certainly no novice, but it was the evidence of an honest respect for the weapon that intrigued him.

"Does archery interest you?"

He nearly jumped at the question. She hadn't even looked up from her work. He fumbled for a reply for a moment, caught off guard both by the knowledge she had been aware of him staring at her as well as the fact that this was the first time she had bothered to initiate a conversation with him. "It does." He gave her a crooked smile. "But mostly because I'm really bad at it."

"Did they not offer such training in your Chantry?"

He raised an eyebrow. "Some."

"It is a useful skill that you would do well to learn. Brutish weapons like swords are of little use in, say, hunting."

"That would depend on what you were hunting, wouldn't it? Bows don't do so well against apostates, or so I'm told, and that was all they were really interested in teaching me. And I'm not that bad at it. I do okay. So long as the target is still. And there's no wind. And I have at least a full minute to take aim."

She made a noise beneath her breath—it took him a startled moment to realize it was a hint of a laugh. "I apologize. I didn't mean for that to sound quite as condescending as it did. I simply love the artistry of mastering the bow. Members of my clan that favored the sword, as you do, were always willing to point out that I could be a bit of a snob about it."

I can't imagine why, he thought wryly, though was wise enough to keep that thought to himself. It was another piece to the ever-growing puzzle that was Lyna. She had yet to warm to him even a little, but at least her sulking glares were occurring less frequently since her Joining. Alistair had to wonder just how much the Taint had been affecting her personality. It wasn't something he had bothered to consider before now.

"If you have something to ask me, I would prefer that you do so. I find your hovering slightly unnerving."

"Oh! Sorry." He had been staring again. He quickly dropped his eyes and resumed his pacing, eager to be out of this awkward situation and doing something. He strongly suspected he knew why he had been left behind, but Cailan's late concern for his well-being was unwelcome and more than a little annoying. He wasn't good at being sheltered.

"You seem even more animated than usual."

"Do I? Well, epic battle, raging darkspawn, and everyone I know down there fighting without me. Little things like that have a tendency to make me antsy."

She finally glanced up at him, her eyes narrowed in curiosity. "Are you always so candid with your cynicism?"

"No. Sometimes I'm ironic about it."

The horns finally sounded in the distance, much to his relief. Lyna didn't answer him, picking up her bow and marching ahead as though he weren't even there. Alistair shook his head, muttering beneath his breath, "I guess the Dalish also don't have much of a sense of humor."

"Humor, yes," she said over her shoulder, making him start in surprise. Maker's breath, she had ears like a bat. "The need to use it to disguise who we really are? No. That we do not suffer from."


A swollen moon hung low in the sky, casting the landscape below in a ghostly light despite the late hour. Alistair huddled deeper into his cloak, but nothing could stave off the chill that filled him to his very bones. It had been three days since the defeat at Ostagar, and still, he his surroundings felt surreal and foreign, edges and details as blurred and gauzy as a dream.

He only wished he could wake up.

When he heard Lyna approaching, he knew she was being courteous with heavy steps so as not to startle him, but still he flinched a little when her hands abruptly appeared at his shoulders, draping a blanket there. "You'll freeze, sitting out in this wind," she said, sitting down next to him. She was wrapped in her own blanket, looking at him with undisguised concern in her eyes.

He wasn't sure why she was being so nice to him, but it made him uneasy. "Thanks," he mumbled, pulling the blanket tighter, though it was for her peace of mind than any concern for his own comfort. Frankly, he just wanted her to go away. He wasn't in much of a mood for company, certain that it wouldn't take much of her blunt honesty to set him off.

He wasn't wrong.

"I doubt if your Duncan would have meant for you to grieve this way."

"You didn't know anything about him." He heard the harshness of his voice, but was too numb to care. The Dalish had never shown anything other than mild disdain for their late Commander. She had no business trying to mourn him now.

Instead of growing angry, Lyna only sighed. She looked up at the sky, the stars shining in her impossibly dark eyes, and he got the feeling she was seeing something much further away, something beyond their reach. "No, I didn't. And I cannot pretend to know what you are suffering. But I am familiar with what it is like, to have your clan taken from you," she said, very softly.

For long into the night, they sat alone on the hill in silence, and though Lyna stayed at his side, Alistair had never felt more alone.


"What is wrong with you?" Alistair was aware of the shocked looks he got when he reached out and grabbed Lyna by the arm, spinning her around to face him. The refugees camped outside the Lothering Chantry backed up a step, apparently convinced such a foolhardy act of bravery would end badly for him.

The flash in her eyes and the way her hands curled into fists at her side made him pretty sure they weren't over-reacting, either.

"Take your hand off of me."

"You don't just march in and start threatening a Revered Mother. Maker's breath, is talking to someone such a foreign concept to you?"

"Take your hand from me or I'll do it for you." She jerked free of his grip, surprisingly strong for her slender frame. "I have been taken away from my home, deliberately poisoned, been left to die by a shem lord I know nothing of, and now I am expected to stop a mad Old God without so much as the simplest of instruction on how to do so, and you dare to lecture me about how I behave?" It was the most emotion he had seen from her yet, and he doubted he would have had an answer ready even if he wasn't convinced she was about to try to slit his throat. Instead, she pointed at the gaping onlookers, lowering her voice to a hiss. "They look on me with nothing but fear and revulsion, no matter how I chose to conduct myself. Even a hint of restraint and they have it fixed in their minds that I'm a flat-ear dog to be kicked at for their own amusement. I'd rather die."

"And you will, if you keep pissing off everyone we come across." He stepped closer, towering over her. It was hard to remember, sometimes, just how small she really was, since she strutted around like she was ten feet tall. "You're going to get us both killed if you don't bring it down a notch."

She laughed bitterly. "This is your world. What reason would they have to turn on you?"

"I'm every bit as wanted as you are, the last I checked. Why don't we go ask Loghain which one of us he'd rather seen in irons? Because I'm guessing he doesn't care much either way."

She opened her mouth to retort, but couldn't think of anything to say, and snapped it shut with a sharp click before she whirled around and stalked away from him. Alistair shook his head, gave the onlookers his best nothing-to-see-here-folks look, and followed after her, thoroughly convinced that the Maker was laughing at him the entire way.


"I fear I was not very fair to you, earlier today."

He nearly sliced his hand open on the dagger he was sharpening. He fumbled for a moment, hands grappling to catch the weapon and the stone before he dropped them completely. That accomplished, he looked up to see her standing over him, a hint of a smile playing at the corner of her mouth.

"You did that on purpose."

She laughed—an actual laugh, which was a sound he had begun to doubt she was capable of. He wasn't even entirely certain until that point she had teeth. "I didn't. I am not considered very quiet, where I am from." Her face fell slightly, and she sat down beside him, keeping her eyes on the fire. Alistair got the impression she had some sort of an internal struggle with herself before she finally spoke again. "I realize that you have not been given any reason to see me differently, but I can tell you, I have not been... myself, of late. There were those in my clan who believed me to be too blunt, at times, chiding me for my lack of restraint. I think you can sympathize."

He snorted and went back to work. "Me? Never."

"Yet, I was not hated, like I am here. I am not used to being despised." He glanced up at the quiet confession, but she was looking at her hands, still unwilling to meet his eyes. "If you had marched into my camp and threatened my Keeper, I would have filled you with arrows without a second thought. And yet, you try to make me understand what it is about me that offends you so. There is courtesy in that, I suppose."

"You don't offend me, Lyna." She finally looked at him, raising an eyebrow, and he chuckled to himself. "Okay, so, that's not entirely true. But I don't hate you. And the only time you offend me is when you're doing it deliberately."

She dropped her eyes again. "As I said, I don't believe I have been very fair to you."

Alistair sighed and shoved a hand through his hair, idly wondering if all women were this complicated or if he was just marked out by the Maker for torment. "We're in this together, you know. It wouldn't be completely ridiculous for us to try being friends."

She looked at him for a long time, studying him as if she were seeing him for the first time. "I think I would like that very much... Alistair."