My starting response to a challenge I set over at the Dragon Age Writers' Corner forum (link on my profile - the more the merrier): "Write with a pairing you don't usually use/that surprises you. Long or short as you want."

In another time, another place... This is, by the way, absolutely disconnected with Armour and totally AU to it.

This is an odd attempt to write a pairing I don't usually experiment with. Ever. It just doesn't compute in my head, making it extraordinarily difficult to write, but blame Suilven and her brilliant pieces for making Morristair remotely believable to me.

All She Is Not

He is all she is not.

He is light where she is dark, broad where she is lithe, soft where she is sharp.

He looks at her as he walks out of his sister's home, daring her to say something, and she sees the invisible line she must not cross. Their comments are barbed, unfriendly, but they understand each other enough to stop, stop when they begin to tear wounds into each other. This is his sorest point, and their words will be savage, finally descending into irreparable hatred, if she chooses it. There is a long moment, hazel eyes meeting gold, and then she has to look away, swallowing, her throat suddenly dry. It is foolish, pointless, but this is the line she will not cross. She sees the raw anger and pain in his eyes, and recognises it all too well.

He is sitting on a riverbank, cleaning his armour, when he sees the swan, and notices that it's black. Her. She makes her way back to the bank, re-taking her human form as she steps onto land; he watches the transformation, watches her, and can't help thinking that there's a certain frightening beauty in it.

Morrigan, beautiful? A harsh half-laugh escapes him at the thought, but, he realises suddenly, she is - raven-haired, full-lipped, slender, a wit as quick as his own (though he hates to admit it)... Oh, he should not go there. The thought makes him profoundly uncomfortable; he shifts where he is sitting, frowning and trying to put the traitorous idea out of his mind.

Those odd, golden eyes of hers flicker to his for a moment, and he swears he sees a smirk pull at the corner of her mouth as she spots him staring like a fool.

Then the look is gone, and, stretching, she walks back to camp. He looks to his shield to stop his eyes following her.

He is certainly pleasing to the eye, in a... wholesome sort of way, she supposes - it is purely superficial, and she is unashamed of admitting it. Is it his personality that makes him so repellent to her, then?

She rolls her eyes as the fool embarks upon a conversation with their leader about... cheese. There is a Blight hounding them, and he's contemplating dairy products? She walks behind them, pretending not to listen; then the joke comes, something about Redcliffe Red - the Warden laughs loudly, and suddenly her lips twitch, a laugh threatening to break through. She swallows it down.

No. This is... dangerous. His humour is ridiculous, boyish. It is not hers.

He hears of Flemeth's plan, and bile rises in his throat before he can stop it. The thought of Morrigan - bitchy, angry, generally frightening Morrigan - replaced is... unwelcome? He raises his eyebrows, surprised at himself, but, testing the image in his head, finds that it's actually unpleasant. His eyes do not leave her as his friend hands her the grimoire.

The night after they kill Flemeth, he brings everybody stew, even Morrigan (though he doesn't know why).

In his opinion, running at the Archdemon naked wielding a wooden spoon would be preferable to actually trying to have a conversation with her, and he makes to shove the bowl at her and, well, run. She looks up at his approach, eyes gleaming in the firelight, and there is something so unfamiliar about her in that moment that he stops, only half-realising what he is doing. "Are you... all right?" The words fall from his lips awkwardly, and she frowns.

"Why would I not be?"

"Your mother's just died, Morrigan."

"Do not bother to mourn a woman who would have killed us all without a second thought." She's staring into the fire, though, and her voice has lost its usual cutting sharpness - she's quiet, thoughtful.

He has a sudden thought, remembering Lothering. "You're not laughing."

She looks at him again then, as if searching for something that eludes them both, and he swears the witch almost smiles. "No. A... surprise, I must admit." No snide words about his apparent stupidity? Well, tonight is just full of surprises. There is a pause before she adds quietly, "'Twas not as if she loved me." There is something in her eyes he's not sure of for a moment, and then he realises what it is. Pain. He hadn't recognised the slight glimmer of unshed tears, but now he sees them, and it shakes him. Something stupid in him responds to that, and his hand is on her shoulder before he can stop it.

She looks at it for a moment, then her eyes are on his, something closing, hardening in them, and she spits, forcibly removing his hand, "I do not want your pity, templar."

He lets it fall limply by his side, swallowing. "I... ah. Right." Then he escapes back to the main campfire, feeling her eyes burning into his back. He guesses he shouldn't be surprised by yet another rejection - but why does this one hurt?

She does not want his pity. Whether she needs it is another matter entirely. She has helped to kill her mother today, yet not one of them have come to her, said anything to her...

... Except him. Her eyes are drawn to the man once again, and she frowns at the unfamiliar warmth that rises within her as she remembers the touch on her shoulder.


Days later, a hurlock finally finds its way past his guard, and he hears his name being called in a voice that's strange to his ears. Perhaps because it is usually in derisive tones, rather than concerned ones. Morrigan? he thinks curiously, as the comforting darkness reaches out to embrace him.

He wakes in his tent, shadows flickering on the canvas from the... candles? He doesn't remember them. Worryingly bloodstained bandages have been tied across his chest, and they make him remember what happened.

There is a cleared throat very close to him, and he looks to his side to see Morrigan sitting cross-legged next to his bedroll, holding a mug of... something. "You are awake," she says, simply, pointing out what he already knows. She leans over to hold the mug to his lips, and he tastes some sort of weird herbal tea, nearly spitting it all out when their eyes meet and he realises that she's practically on top of him. The intimacy of the situation is lost on neither of them, his face heating, and suddenly he wants to... What? Pull her closer? Does he have a deathwish?

She simply gives him a small... smile, he thinks, though that can't possibly be right. "I will tell our noble leader" - her voice wraps sarcastically around the words - "of your recovery." She ducks out of the tent, and he wraps his arms around himself, shivering, filled with something it takes him a moment to place.

Regret. Maker, he misses Morrigan. He slaps a hand to his forehead. He must have received a blow to the head as well.

He sits up, the action making him groan with pain, and searches for a shirt.

She looks up a few hours later at the sound of footsteps, surprised to find that their owner is Alistair, who sits by her fire; she realises with a mix of relief and a strange hollowness in her chest that he's being very careful not to get too close to her. He swallows, before beginning, "I... Thank you. For all you've done."

"It was not for you," she replies coldly, again surprised as she sees hurt flicker across his face before he pushes it down. "Wynne was occupied healing the assassin."

She is lying.

She is injured, what she knows is a broken leg bleeding freely, and she doesn't see it when the genlock rushes at her, sword held aloft. There is something so frightened, so vulnerable in her surprise as she looks up that he finds his shield in front of her before he can blink.

She glares at him. "Get out of my way, fool!"

He shakes his head, grunting as he stops the genlock's sword again. "Not... this time." He won't lose her like this. He won't.

In that moment, he looks at her, breathing heavily, and she sees something of hers reflected in his eyes, rendering her speechless.

No, she realises. It is she who has been the fool.

Distant sounds echo in the night as she sits by her fire, shivering slightly as she listens to him, deep in nightmares. Once, she would have slept through this - now, she can't.

There is muttering and rustling is he half-falls out of his tent in the dreams' aftermath, looking up as he sees her fire lit. She finds herself calling to him. "Alistair."

He stumbles over, still half-asleep, and she holds out a mug, a new recipe, without a word. It should help him sleep, and warm him on a night such as this. Why is she offering it to him? She has no idea, only the rawness of what has changed her in these last few months giving an answer, and she continues looking into the fire.

He gives her a nod of thanks, slumping to the ground beside her and taking it. He sits there for a few seconds, then has to make one of his ridiculous comments, mouth twitching. "A cup of tea solves everything. Very Fereldan." He looks to her when he receives no reply, and the words tumble out of his mouth in a confused, hurried mess. "What is your problem? If we have to work together, you could at least pretend you didn't hate me."

Her eyes finally meet his, and her voice is quiet. "Hate you?"

He raises his eyebrows, but she sees his breath catch, his eyes flickering to the floor. "You don't? What is this, then?" He is breathing faster, eyes still on the ground, waiting for an answer she cannot give.

"I... I do not know." Her hand is cautious as it settles over his own. She cannot help but remember what she had said to the Warden: "Why the need for all this touching?" She thinks she finally understands when she hears his breath hitch again, hears him swallow, an action she has come to know is one of his nervous habits, and something in her tenses.

There is a moment of silence, their breaths the only sound in the stillness, as he stares at their hands, then his own responds and clasps hers tightly, thumb rubbing across the knuckles. He looks at her a moment, and she hears their breathing stop, then closes the distance between them, his hand coming to rest in her hair. The kiss is gentle, tentative, his lips, hot from the tea, on hers, cold from the night air.

He is warmth where she is ice.