Disclaimer: "Dragon Age: Origins" and all its expansions and additional content is the property of Bioware and EA Games. Large portions of written content within the game, as well as Dragon's Age: The Stolen Throne, and Dragon's Age: Calling, are the creation of David Gaider. Original scenarios and characters are used under the creative license of the writer, ItalianEmpress1985. No profit is being made and the following story is for entertainment purposes only

Words From The Author: Sarcasm by osmosis here! :p And the longer he's around her, the worse it'll probably get. That's alright though, I think, Alistair could use some more witty retorts in his life, can't save the ones he has just for Morrigan. ;) And Gwyneth's a pretty pathetic rogue!class, I must say, can't even disarm a lousy claw trap. :p

So more early group hijinx and Lothering! Though no Leliana just yet. I want to do separate one shots for Alistair/Leliana and Morrigan/Gwyneth, so these are mostly Alistair/Gwyneth (no romance!) but I will have Gwyneth's reaction to Leliana in the next drabble probably. Little tidbits snuck in here that I think might be reminiscent of the main story, for any of you FnF readers, a 'hey, they're still doing these same things almost a year later!' but still loose enough that non-readers can still enjoy this . . . I hope.

Just one drabble here, but it's a bit on the long side, compared to the other two.

Not 'Too' Awful

They should have made it to Lothering by nightfall, but Gwyneth hadn't been used to traveling on her feet for so long. The trek from Highever to Ostagar had been filled with too much grief and shock for her to even consciously remember how she'd managed that, in comparison. So it was that the sun was dipping down and they were forced to make camp. Alistair complained about it, until Gwyneth had shouted enough to drive him away to go hunting for food, pouring salt in the wound by making him take Noble with him so 'at least one competent hunter' was out there . . . but he'd gone all the same.

The road was littered with abandoned campsites, left by fleeing refugees. Morrigan said that it was likely Chasind leaving their Wilds behind them. Everyone spoke of how brutal the southern barbarians could be, but it seemed not even they were equipped to deal with droves of darkspawn. The horde itself would remain at Ostagar for a few days longer, gorging and collecting their spoils, while regrouping for another move, or so the witch, Flemeth had suggested. Gwyneth didn't know differently and it made sense besides. However, that meant the darkspawn had plans, had tactics, and that in itself was scary, and it meant they were only two days ahead of them at the most. It didn't leave the displaced noble feeling very secure, and maybe she should have kept going. Yet, while she may have agreed with Alistair that she should've pushed herself a bit harder, she wasn't about to throw her lot in with some peasant slash templar slash Grey Warden, slash whatever else the fool wanted to toss in there. The man collected former 'titles' more than her brother had collected those naughty luminary cards from Tevinter.

A tarp had been confiscated from such an abandoned campsite, the material made out of a treated lambskin or something similar, and large enough to protect her from the rain if a storm kicked up. As uncomfortable as the tents were that Duncan had possessed, she missed them now. Morrigan didn't seem to mind, but she had already proven herself resourceful with what little supplies they did have and Gwyneth could admire her for that. She had odd ways, the witch, but she could prove useful despite them.

Currently, Gwyneth found herself reassessing that.

"My foot's still caught, except now I'm frozen as well!" Gwyneth griped, holding herself up off the ground with her elbows bent and one leg held out, the other at a strange angle while a poorly constructed claw trap had her foot. Its shoddy make and her fine boots had been about the only things that kept it from sinking straight through to her flesh. 'Brainless Chasind cows, leaving this behind!'

Morrigan cocked her head this way and that, blinking owlishly. "I had thought a frost spell would break the lock." She tried to hold back a smirk at the lines of frost that dusted the new Warden's traveling breeches.

"Well clearly it didn't! Get me out of this! I want out! I want . . . "

Alistair chose that moment to emerge from the brush, carrying an armful of late season wild apples, Noble standing beside him with a dead hare in his mouth. The former shook his head when he finally realized what was going on, the latter howled, dropped the hare and huffed over to his mistress' side.

"Oh, come now, tis hardly that dire." Morrigan scoffed at the mabari but the beast actually glared at her! "Do not think to manipulate me, dog, I am far better than you at it. Your wide eyed pouting does you no favors." He whined and she turned her head. "I suppose it is not likely that you have any experience with traps, failed templar."

"I'm not a 'failed templar', I just never took my vows. We've been over that!" Alistair growled.

"Would you two shut up and get me out of this!" Gwyneth shrieked as Noble sniffed at the trap, gingerly sticking out one paw and trying to pry it open with his nails. It didn't work and he was soon barking at it, biting on the rusted metal. "Oh, baby, don't. You don't know where this has been. You wouldn't want any of that in your mouth."

"Your mongrel always has some kind of carrion in his teeth, a little rust is hardly a concern." Morrigan scoffed, but at Gwyneth's hot glare, she sighed, kneeling down to try her hand at breaking it open with her magic.

"How did this happen?" Alistair went over to the collection of their knapsacks, pulling his out to put the apples inside.

"Apparently, the shit heel that camped here before us, set traps for any bandits on the road. Ack! That's too hot!" The noblewoman groused, narrowing her eyes on Morrigan as she melted the ice off with warm hands, made more so by the small mage fire dancing in both cupped palms. "I wanted to tie one end of that tarp up, and this tree seemed perfect." She gestured accusingly to a tall fir tree, as if its bristles were laughing at her, instead of just shaking in the wind. "Then I stepped in this bloody trap!"

Morrigan put a curled fist beneath her jaw. "Well, this is not working."

"No! Really?" Alistair snickered, bringing a small wrapped knife out of his pack, taking the layered muslin off it. Some idiots would've probably just tossed it in there, but a few accidental cuts had taught Alistair a better way of transporting anything sharp. "Luckily, I think I might be able to get it."

"Oh, huzzah, my hero! Quickly, Morrigan, be sure you can revive me, I might faint away into a dead swoon!" Gwyneth rolled her eyes at the mage, both women grinning at each other. Alistair looked less amused. "Fine, do as you will . . . but don't stab me!"

"Believe me, it's more and more tempting by the second." He grumbled under his breath, crouching down and holding the corner hinge of the trap with one broad hand, blade pressed into where it had locked in place.

"Who randomly carries knives with them, anyway?" The impertinent cinnamon haired damsel in distress pouted, and it might've been cute if she wasn't so prickly.

"Nothing random about it, I need it for skinning dinner, and I use it to pick my teeth sometimes." Alistair rambled off, concentrating on the task.

Gwyneth was aghast. "To pick your teeth? And you intend to use it for that after sticking it in this?"

"Why not?" Alistair shrugged carelessly.

She made a strangled noise in her throat. "Your habits are utterly disgusting!"

He paused, turning his head to glare at her. "You know what, sweetheart? Why don't you try to get yourself out of this, since that's worked so well for you so far."

"Don't call me sweetheart!" Gwyneth sniped, unaware that the two of them had once again forgotten about Noble and Morrigan and everyone else for the sake of bickering with each other. As he got up in an angry huff and actually started walking away, she almost choked over her next words, but managed. "Wait!"

Alistair paused, back turned on her, but waiting as she'd asked.

"I'm . . . sorry. I'd just . . . well I'd really like to get out of this, my leg is starting to cramp." When he finally did turn around, Gwyneth tried her most charmingly helpless expression, set of wide eyes, and fearful pout with slumped shoulders. It always worked . . . well, almost always. Just one more word . . . "Please?" and there it was.

"Fine, fine, but a little gratitude would be nice, you know?" He tried not to look at her, it made the sour, thin line of his mouth hard to maintain. It was pretty bad that Alistair would crumple that easily, but he didn't have to make it obvious as well.

Morrigan had given up altogether, shooing Noble away from her side as he tried to give her the dead hare, in lieu of his mistress' predicament. "I do not want it, flea bag! No, whining at me is not going to change my mind!" Then . . . "Oh, alright! Set it by the campfire and maybe we will cook it for dinner."

"Be nice to him, you should be honored that he thought to present you with his prize. Mabari take a lot of pride in their hunting skills!" Gwyneth shouted across the camp, perturbed when Morrigan waved her off, but she was otherwise occupied by watching Alistair work, anxious to be free. "Careful, careful!"

"I am being careful, but you telling me to, is more likely going to distract me . . . so stop it." He tilted the blade at a higher angle, trying to listen for the tell tale click that would signal he'd found the catch. If it hadn't been for the hunts he'd gone on in his youth, he might not have known such things, and Alistair felt some pride in that, but didn't want to say so, since Gwyneth would probably take it away by not caring. It certainly crossed his mind to leave her like that . . . but the pout had done him in, wide eyes looking up at him, all silver and glinting with suspicious moisture, and there he was. "Just a bit more, I think I've . . ." There was the click, the trap springing open with a metallic grating. "Got it!"

Gwyneth was quick to pull her foot away, the tightness of her face easing away from anxiety and into relief. "Oh, thank the Maker. . . and you." She added as an afterthought, at Alistair's disgruntled frown. "Tsk! Would you look at that!" She ran her fingers over the gouges in the leather of her boot. "These were my best traveling boots, too, and now they're ruined!

"I'm sure we can find a cheap pair in Lothering, but I've some leather strips that I use to bind my wrists, if you want one to wrap around yours until we get there." Alistair offered, certain she wouldn't take him up on it, and she didn't.

"You must be joking. Me, a Cousland, wearing peasant boots purchased on the fly as we make our flight north with the rest of the unwashed refugees?" Gwyneth sniffed in distaste, holding her head high in the air as she stood with as much grace as she could muster, a dirty sidelong glance given to the trap that had cost the spoiled girl her favorite boots. "I'd rather contract the mange."

"Suit yourself then, as the cold water and mud seeps in and your toes freeze and have to be cut off later. I'll probably have to use this knife, too." He had his back turned on her, so she couldn't see the cheeky grin he was wearing, ready for her reaction and Gwyneth didn't disappoint.

"Ah . . . p-pardon? Cut off?" She paled considerably, and since Gwyneth was already pale, it made her almost as white as fresh linens, though some yellow was settling in beneath her eyes.

"Oh yes, maybe you'll get lucky and ole witchy face over there might have some herbs or something to take the pain away, you know once the gangrene sets in. Nothing for the smell of the pus though, all oozing and . . ." Alistair continued, having to bite his cheek after every four words, to keep from laughing. Thankfully Morrigan was occupied getting her own 'nest' sorted out for the evening, otherwise she might turn him into something worse than a toad for talking about her, again.

"Stop, stop!" Gwyneth gagged, a hand over her mouth, and when she finally caught a look at his reddening face, she glared. "You're a liar!"

"No, I'm really not, just exaggerating mostly, but you should see yourself, you look like you're going to toss your stomach on the ground." He could barely breathe as he doubled over, hands on his knees, Gwyneth's nostrils flaring in time with his guffaws of laughter. "Oh, come on! Really though, you will get awfully uncomfortable if we don't get new boots for you. Peasant boots are better than no boots at all . . . aren't they?"

An irritated breath blew a wayward curl from her face as Gwyneth pouted, not so cutely that time, arms folded over her chest. "I . . . suppose." The words were almost painful to say, and she stopped glaring to look for Alistair's pack on the ground. "Didn't you say you had some leather strips I could use?"

The laughter ceased, as he eyed her. "Maybe I did and maybe I didn't, but where's that gratitude for getting you out of the trap?"

"I said thank you." She stood her ground.

"Yeah, barely." He also stood his ground.

Gwyneth snorted at that, rolling her eyes, but stepped closer as Alistair watched her warily.

"What are you doing?" His folded arms came loose and he almost flinched, anticipating something terrible.

Gwyneth grabbed his jaw in one long fingered hand, her palm cupped over his chin to turn his face sideways and he was a bit too shocked to pull away, even more so when she planted a brief, feather light kiss on his cheek. A low, breathy 'thank you' whispered against his ear. When she pulled away, she looked very smug, lips turned in the corner in the ghost of a smirk that she didn't quite manage. "Better?"

"I . . . ahh, yes. So, you wanted those leather strips?" He offered with a short nervous laugh, resisting the urge to watch her over his shoulder as they both walked away. Later she'd be after him to get rid of that trap, probably, against such 'menial labor' herself. Right then, however, for a brief moment, Alistair caught himself thinking Gwyneth might just have moments where she wasn't too awful.