Title: Let Me Be Your Shield
Author: karebear
Rating: T (dark themes ahead: child abuse, implied rape, suicidal thoughts... you know, the usual Dragon Age)
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/Notes: Deeper exploration of Amell/Alistair, initially inspired by "Night Watch," now (December 2011) "fixed up" to take into account Rhyanon's more-detailed origin story, told in "How To Save A Life." References to Anders also tweaked to make it fully compliant with "Isolation" - telling stories out-of-order is fun! Some chapters changed more than others, obviously. Some changed not at all. The changes skew more heavily toward the beginning - by the end, I think I'd found my rhythm and nothing really needed to change.

"Let me take the fall,
Let me take the blame,
Let me carry you from hell to home again...
Let me be your shield,
Let me take away the pain you feel,
Let me be the light that guides your way through darkest night.
Let me be your armor."

- Assemblage 23, "Let Me Be Your Armor"

"You were a mage hunter?" she spits, and somehow she manages to make it sound more like an accusation than a question.

But despite the angry heat in her voice, he doesn't miss the way she steps back, out of reach, or the way her body tenses as she steels herself against an attack that isn't coming, or the flash of pure terror in her eyes.

And for some reason he can't even figure out, he feels the need to defend himself, or at least convince her that whatever she thinks templars are, that's not who he is.

Maybe it's because she's about to be one of them, a Warden. Maybe it's just because of what Duncan said, about the necessity of playing nice.

Maybe it's because he really can't handle every single mage he talks to thinking his mere presence is an insult or an attack.

"Well how are we supposed to feel?" she demands.

He kicks nervously at the dirt, and before he even realizes it his fingers are tightening around the familiar grip of his sword.

Great. Now she has even more reason to think he wants her dead.

He doesn't. He can't actually think of a single templar he'd known who'd wanted to kill a mage.

But some of them must, or why would she be so scared?

He hastily lets go of the weapon.

"I never finished my training," he mumbles. "Duncan conscripted me before I took the vows."

From her icy glare, that's a technicality that doesn't exactly matter.

"He saved me, actually," he adds, after the briefest moment of hesitation.

"He saved me too," she says sharply, and for a moment Alistair begins to hope that maybe at least he's found a place to start, until she continues. "He used the Right of Conscription to stop Knight Commander Greagoir from having me executed under suspicion of blood magic."

Alistair's eyes widen.

"Are you a blood mage?"

Idiot! He insists he's not a real templar and that's the question he picks to ask?

"No. Not that it matters. Why should you believe me when none of the other templars did?"

She's waiting for him to attack her, to do what every other templar would do upon hearing the words "blood magic." Good thing he's not a templar. He'd have been the worst one ever, because he can't stand the thought of having to kill some innocent kid.

Not an innocent kid, whispers a voice born of years of training. Abomination. Corrupted. Demon.

He tells the voice to shut up, because she clearly expects him to try to run a sword through her and he's not going to do that. Darkspawn is one thing, but this... this is something else entirely.

He swallows hard. "I believe you," he says quietly.

At minimum, he trusts Duncan, and when he forces himself to look again at this new companion of his, all he can see is a vulnerable girl, younger even than he is. "And for what it's worth, I'm sorry."

"I don't need your apology," she snaps.