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About Deviant Meat and Sarcasm Gal XDFemale/United States Groups :iconcircle-of-magi: Circle-of-Magi
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Meat and Sarcasm Gal XD
United States
Current Residence: US of A
Favourite genre of music: Alternative/Rock
For my followers here who aren't on tumblr: I have seven fics ranging in length from 1500 to 4000 words from the Dragon Age AltPair week back in June. I did Jowan/Leliana. (Trust me, it does work. Though I am just a tad biased xD)

Anybody want me to post 'em here? They're all saved in, so it won't be hard to do, I just don't want to flood my gallery with rarepair fic that no one's gonna care about.
  • Reading: Scoundrels by Timothy Zahn
  • Drinking: coffee


In hindsight, Trinne had to admit there were probably much better--smarter--ways she could have reacted. But in the heat of the moment, without the luxury of time to rank her options from smartest to dumbest, she had fallen back on instinct. The same instinct she been following since she was eight years old: protect Jowan. A sizzling, angry lightning spell was a tad different than older, mocking apprentices, but her solution to both was to put herself between the threat and him. The enchantment on her new armor absorbed enough of the lightning to render it non-lethal, but not enough to keep her from crying out in pain as she dropped to her knees.

It was all sort of a blur after that. She was pretty sure she heard Jowan swear--a rarity in and of itself--as the sound of spells and combat filled her ears, but was more focused on breathing, trying to summon enough energy to heal herself, even a little. It hurt too much, she couldn't concentrate. And then Alistair was scooping her up to carry her back to camp, and she didn't even protest because if she opened her mouth she was going to whimper, she just knew it. They traveled in silence, the group of them, though Trinne could tell Jowan was biting his tongue--hard--to stay that way. When they reached the campsite, Alistair made a beeline for Wynne's tent, Jowan close behind them.

The white-haired mage looked up from the book she was studying, briefly puzzled and annoyed at the interruption before she absorbed the sight before her. "What happened?"

"Lightning spell," Alistair explained as he set Trinne down on the stool Wynne indicated. "Caught her in the chest."

Wynne tsked sympathetically and shook her head. "I'll see to her." She made a shooing motion. "You boys wait outside. I need room to work."

Alistair obeyed. Jowan didn't. "I need to talk to her."

Trinne watched the older mage purse her lips unhappily, noticed the thunderclouds in her best friend's eyes, and braced herself. "H-He can stay."

"Oh, very well," Wynne sighed. "Make yourself useful, at least, and help me get her armor off so I can see the extent of what I'm dealing with here."

Jowan nodded and turned his attention to the buckles on Trinne's armor, working so silently it was kind of unnerving, if she was honest. Quiet she was used to. Completely silent usually meant something was bothering him.

"What's got you all bent outta shape?" she mumbled teasingly as the breastplate came away and breathing got easier.

"Bent out-" Jowan's mouth pressed briefly into an angry line as he pointed at the scorched hole in her armor. "That, Trinne. That is what has me bent out of shape! You very nearly got yourself killed!"

"But I didn't! And it was protecting you!" she fired back, irritation trumping the pain momentarily as she pulled up her shirt for Wynne's examination. "You're welcome, by the way."

"That's not- I'm..." Jowan sighed and raked a hand through his hair. "I am grateful for that, don't get me wrong. But I don't need you playing chicken with death to protect me-"

"Contrary to all appearances," Trinne muttered, wincing as Wynne felt along the sprawling injury. The healer motioned for Jowan to turn around as she gently pulled Trinne's shirt off to see the extent of the damage.

"I was summoning a barrier," he snapped, spinning to face away from the women. "I would have been fine!"

"Well, I didn't know that!" she groused, biting back a curse as healing magic surged into the nasty electrical burn.

"You would have, if you'd waited another half a second before jumping in front of a lightning bolt wearing metal!" 

"It's enchanted metal, thank you very much!" Trinne protested, sighing slightly in relief as the pain in her chest eased. Her arm was getting tired, and she let it rest against the top of her head as she continued, "It has lightning resistance-"

"That you've never tested before!" Jowan pointed out heatedly. "How did you know it would be good enough?"

"I didn't, I just figured it was better I get hit than you..."

"Why?!" He started to turn around as he asked, caught himself, and settled for crossing his arms as he aimed the glare meant for her at the canvas of Wynne's tent. "Why is it better for you to get hurt or killed than me?"

"Because I don't know what I would do without you!" Trinne snapped.

"And, what, you think I'd somehow manage better if something happened to you?!" Jowan gave an almost bitter laugh. "I think you have that backwards, Trinne."

"No, I-" she growled in frustration, glaring at his back. "It's instinct. I've been lookin' out for you so long, it's just pure instinct at this point to put myself between you and danger."

His posture relaxed a little. "You don't have to do that anymore, though. I appreciate it, and Maker knows I needed it when we were kids, but I don't now."

"Oh, yeah, sure, just give up a behavior I've developed and reinforced over the course of almost a decade an' a half," Trinne deadpanned. "I'm sure that'll be easy as pie." A teasing smile quirked her lips. "'Sides, it's probably better this way; you and I both know I'm less of a baby about pain."

"That's completely untrue!" Jowan protested, and she would lay money he was rolling his eyes.

"Sure, sure," she drawled, pulling her shirt back on after a nod from Wynne. "That's why Sweeney rappin' our knuckles for passin' notes in class made you cry twice as long as I did."

"Trinne, I was eight. And he hit harder for me 'cause he's old-fashioned girls are delicate or something." Jowan turned, having deduced from the rustle of fabric that it was safe to look. "So, how bad did it scar?"

Trinne pulled up her shirt enough he could see the pinkish starburst scar poised at the lower edge of her ribcage. "Could be worse, even if it does spread far enough Alistair's gonna be the only one to see the whole thing."

Jowan made a face. "Aw, thank you very much for that mental image."

"You're very welcome," she replied sweetly, moving with only a little stiffness as she collected her armor. "And you're also welcome for the saving your life thing."

He half-smiled. "Thank you, really, but never do that again. I'm not worth it." He pulled her into a hug so abruptly she almost dropped her armor.

"Bullshit. You are to me!" Trinne protested. "But I'll work on it," she promised, voice muffled against his shoulder. "We've both done some growing since the last time I had to save your ass. So I will try to trust your instincts rather than just act on mine. But I can make no promises beyond that; I'll try."

"That's all I ask," he assured her, ruffling her hair as he let go.

"Brat," Trinne muttered in exasperation, shifting her grip as the pieces of her armor tried again to escape her grasp.

"And there's not a thing you can do about it," Jowan grinned, ducking out of the tent.

She huffed out a sigh, thanked Wynne for her help, and beelined after her best friend. We'll see about that.  
Of Instincts
This was written for two reasons. A) I need practice writing arguments. Always. They're a weak point for me, and y'know, practice makes perfect and all that. B) Trinne and Jowan's friendship is one of my favorite things ever and the more love I can give that the better. But they don't argue over much, so I went with one of the few things that would do it; namely, one doing something stupid and reckless to try and protect the other. Trinne is the Protective Older SiblingTM in this arrangement(also the more reckless), so she got to do the honors.  That also brought up the issue with her learning/remembering Jowan can take care of himself now(mostly), and how much they'd hate to lose each other. (Which is, honestly, the driving point of their fight--Trinne was terrified of losing Jowan, so does something that makes Jowan afraid he was gonna lose her... Ugh, this brotp)  And yes, if you're wondering, this is canon for Of Wardens and Pariahs
Jowan, Wynne, and Dragon Age in general belong to BioWare

Trinne Amell is mine 
The disappearance of Alistair Theirin, king of Ferelden, was discovered shortly after lunch, and promptly threw the palace staff into a panic. Every room was searched, to no avail. The grounds and gardens, as well, with an equal lack of success. The simple fact of the matter was they had no idea where to look.

Luckily, Marta did. Dodging frantic servants and deliberately avoiding an increasingly irate Arl Eamon, she meandered toward a far-flung corner of the grounds. It was desolate and empty this time of year, nothing growing save one huge, old tree.

"You know, this makes a better hiding place in the summer," she laughed as she approached, breath clouding the air. "When there are actual leaves."

"You're still the only one who's found me." Alistair grinned at her, perched on a sturdy branch fifteen feet up.

Marta put her hands on her hips and gave him a mock-reproving look. "That's another thing, Your Majesty; you can't go running off and hide from problems."

His grin widened. "It's working so far."



"Will you come down from there? This angle is murder on my neck."

"I dunno, I kind of like you having to look up to me," he teased. "Besides, this branch is surprisingly comfortable."

Marta stared at him for a second or two, let out an exasperated huff, and started to climb the tree; skirts, cloak, and all. When she reached the branch Alistair was perched on, he looked suitably impressed. She was fairly certain she looked more than a little smug, but that was allowed under the circumstances. "Out with it, what's bothering you?"

"There's some ball that's traditionally held this time of year. Eamon's been badgering me to 'continue the tradition' so people can see both that the darkspawn didn't destroy our heritage and that I'll respect my predecessors, or something like that."

"And you don't want to?" Marta probed, twisting the end of her ponytail.

Alistair sighed, picked at a loose thread on his cuff. "I've only been king a couple months, Marta. I'm afraid I'll mess up and it'll be a disaster. Or Eamon will try to use it as a match-making opportunity, b'cause Maker forbid I stay single awhile..." He stared at the ground. "I wonder, if I jump from here and break my leg, if I can get out of going."

"Or," she chuckled softly. "Alternatively, I could go as your date."

"Really? You'd do that?"

"I'm kind of hurt you even need to ask," Marta teased. "You're king, I'm your chancellor, we're friends, and neither of us has a... currently available significant other."

"I am sorry you haven't found Thomas yet," Alistair said. "But if you're really willing to accompany me, Lady Cousland, I do believe I'll take you up on that." A thought occurred and he frowned. "What if we have to dance? I'll step on your toes or trip or something."

"No, you won't. For starters, there's this wonderful thing called practice," Marta said lightly. "We'll have plenty of time to fit some in before the ball. You'll be dancing like you've been doing it your whole life by the time I'm done with you."

"I notice you're talking like I've decided to have this ball," he teased.

"You sounded like you had a minute ago," she pointed out playfully. "And I really think you should. It's a good tradition, and it's always been fun in the past."

"You've been before?" Alistair couldn't keep the surprise out of his voice.

Marta nodded. "With my family. Teyrns usually get invited to those sorts of things."

"Well, then, you can make sure I do everything right."

"I would do that anyway," she laughed.


"Now come on, let's head back inside, before people start worrying you were abducted."

It took an odd mix of careful planning and reckless leaps, but both king and chancellor got down out of the tree without any broken bones.


True to her word, Marta made sure Alistair practiced--dancing, etiquette, the traditions associated with the king's role at the ball. More than once he joked that she was a harsher task master than the Chantry sisters, which Marta simply smiled and took as a compliment. But unlike the Chantry sisters, Alistair actually listened to Marta. And so, sure enough, by the day of the Wintersend Ball, he was more than competent at all of the necessary skills to avoid making a fool out of himself. He found himself actually looking forward to this ball--for more reason than Marta offering to be his date.

I'm sure she just meant as friends, he scolded himself mentally, watching as she worked out color schemes with the royal seamstress. She even listed your friendship as one of the reasons it made sense. Still, it would be a challenge, knowing the assumptions people would make, seeing the two of them there as a couple. And knowing how badly he wished those assumptions could be true.

But they weren't and they couldn't be, a fact he just had to accept. It was enough to be friends. A mantra he found himself repeating more and more frequently as the Wintersend Ball drew closer. Most of the time he even meant it.


One of Marta's more fervent wishes for the ball was granted the morning of, as a pair of calloused hands covered her eyes and a familiar voice playfully demanded, "Guess who?"

She dropped her book and jumped up to hug her brother, unable to resist commenting, "You remember it's a bad idea to startle someone with my training, right, Fergus?"

He just laughed and tweaked the end of her braid. "I was trusting your finely honed instincts to know I meant you no harm."

"Well-played," Marta conceded, tightening her hug. "It is good to see you. I wasn't sure you'd come."

"And pass up a chance to see my baby sister?" Fergus said warmly. "Perish the thought. Are you getting enough to eat, Mar? You feel thin."

"Warden appetite," she shrugged. "I'm fine. But come sit down, tell me about your trip, how the rebuilding's going."

He sat in the chair next to hers. "Uneventful, and slowly, respectively. Howe must've let his men run rampant as a herd of cattle while they occupied the castle. There's a lot missing, a lot to be fixed. Oh, but we did find this." He reached into a pocket of his shirt and pulled out a small flat box. "I thought you might want it for tonight."

Marta took the box, but hesitated slightly before opening it. A soft gasp escaped her when she saw what was inside. "This was Mother's."

Fergus nodded, watching her almost reverently brush her thumb over the necklace, a small sapphire set between the Cousland laurels done in silver. "I'm sure she's want you to have it."

Overwhelmed with emotion, all Marta could do was smile and nod gratefully.

"Well, I'm sure you have things you need to accomplish before tonight, m'lady Chancellor, and I would very much like to get some rest before I spend the night dancing. So I will see you later, little sister." Fergus stood to leave. "And at that time, we'll discuss how things have been for you." He gave her a meaningful look, kissed the top of her head, and whisked off before she could form a reply.

"How does he always, always know?" Marta whispered to the necklace as the door clicked shut.

He's your brother. It's his job to notice when things are bothering you. The little voice almost sounded like her mother for a moment, and Marta blinked back tears. It wouldn't do to have red eyes at the ball, not when Alistair was so adamantly insisting he'd need her help.


The process of getting ready for a royal ball was rather more involved when you were hosting instead of merely attending. Marta was interrupted multiple times as her maids did her hair and helped her dress. Finally, however, everything was accomplished and ready, and with one last pat to the reddish-golden brown braid that circled her head--a move more habit than anything--she went to meet Alistair.

She very nearly laughed, and couldn't entirely restrain a giggle, when she saw him. Whether by coincidence or the wiles of the palace seamstress, they matched. Well, sort of. Marta's dress was dark blue, inset with deep red down the front and sleeves, trimmed subtly in silver. Alistair's tunic was the reverse; dark red inset with blue and accented by what looked like woven silver and gold. His crown for the night was a simple thing; more coronet or circlet than anything.

"Wow," he murmured fervently upon laying eyes on her. "People are definitely going to talk. You look beautiful."

Her cheeks warmed and she fought the urge to fiddle with one of the wide, draped sleeves. "Thank you. And let them." Marta cleared her throat and twirled a loose, curling wisp of hair. "You look very handsome yourself, my friend. What do you say we give the nobility a show?"

Alistair grinned boyishly and extended an arm. "Let's." 

Marta linked her arm through his and they headed for the ballroom, in perfect step without even trying.


As expected, the pair of them turned every head in the room when they made their entrance. Marta's hand tightened on his arm ever so briefly as the whispers started and spread, and Alistair wondered if they bothered her. After all, most of them were likely accusations of social climbing, "isn't chancellor enough for her?", "she won't stop until she's queen.", and various other comments that painted her as a gold-digging harpy rather than the gentle diplomat he knew her to be. Then, too, there were the romantics; watching King and Chancellor cross the room arm-in-arm, already writing the love story in their heads.

If only they knew, Alistair thought wryly, maintaining what he hoped was a benevolent smile. If only they knew he'd loved her since before he breathed a word about his heritage. If only they knew her friendship was the thing he cherished most in the world. If only they knew that was as far as it went; friendship. If only they knew how quickly he would leap at the chance to court her, marry her, love her properly and freely. But they didn't. No one did, not even Marta. He valued her friendship too much to push for something he knew would never happen.

They reached their places at the head of the table and sat, Alistair very carefully recalling and following all the etiquette pointers Marta had given him. How to sit, what to do with his hands, the length and manner in which to nod a dismissal to the servant responsible for moving his chair. He still felt like a child trying desperately to mimic the effortless grace of the nearest adult so no one would know how clueless he was. And then Marta offered an encouraging smile, and the knot of tension in his gut loosened, just a little. Meals were relatively easy, so long as you remembered to wait through the blessing, chew slowly, and which fork to use when. Amid copious joking about his 'raised by dogs' quip from ages ago, Marta had made sure Alistair was well-versed in all three.

The chantry sister offered the blessing, Alistair rose and reeled off the short, traditional welcome speech, and the meal began. It was obvious to anyone with eyes that the gossip was flowing as freely as the wine, but there wasn't much to be done about that. Let them talk.

Marta leaned over slightly to whisper, "You're doing wonderfully."

"So far," he returned in an undertone. "This is the easy part. I have another, longer speech later in the evening, and I have to manage to dance without stepping on your toes."

"Leaving aside that you haven't done that the last three times we've practiced, my toes have been through worse," she assured him. "If you should prove me wrong and step on them, I will survive. In fact, I believe you still owe me a bruise or two for the elbow to the temple in the tower of Ishal."

"Oh, you mean when you very nearly knocked me unconscious while we were fighting an ogre?" Alistair ribbed playfully.

Marta gave a small, sheepish chuckle. "Yes, that would be the occasion to which I was referring. I will remind you I was still adjusting to both fighting as part of a team and your fighting style specifically, however. And you still managed to kill the blasted thing."

"Only because Bear proved an adept distraction," he shrugged. "I probably would've wound up paste if he hadn't found such joy in being an anklebiter."

She smiled. "It's not a role mabari get to play often,"

Their conversation shifted through small talk to more meaningful topics the rest of the meal; everything from Bear's recently acquired habit of sleeping sprawled across Marta's pillows to how the rebuilding of Highever was progressing. Several times as she passed on what her brother had told her, Marta shot him keen looks that said she knew he was deliberately keeping the focus of the conversation off him, but Alistair didn't care. So often their talks revolved around his struggles, how his day had gone, what Eamon was trying to talk him into now. Marta was very good at pretending she didn't matter, and for once he wanted to show her that someone believed otherwise. 


As a teyrn's daughter, ignoring gossip was a skill Marta had learned roughly around when she mastered the proper curtsy. That didn't mean she didn't notice, just that she was very good at letting it roll right off her. "Water off a duck's back," Delilah used to laugh as the two of them held their heads high and pretended they hadn't heard women twice their age critiquing their hair, their dresses, their everything. The skill was just as handy now as it had been back then. She could hear the murmurings, hidden behind fans or not at all, guess at their content, but worrying was useless. And thus pointless. She wasn't about to let somethign pointless ruin the fun she was having.

The meal wound down and she and Alistair led the following exodus to the ballroom. The nobles milled about chatting until the palace musicians struck up a lively tune.

Before they were halfway through the first stanza, Fergus had materialized at her elbow, grinning impishly as he extended one hand. "Care to dance, sister?"

Marta raised an eyebrow in mock censure. "Awfully bold of you to cut in on the king, brother."

Alistair raised a hand to forestall Fergus' apology. "Go right ahead. This song's a bit fast for me. I'll reclaim her attention later."

She smirked at the teasing in his tone and the protective look that flickered in Fergus' eye. "Very well. Lead on. Fergus."

The dance was a favorite with both Cousland siblings, and they fell in step with ease. "So what's this about reclaiming your attention later?" Fergus asked, raising his arm so Marta could spin.

Which she did, expertly, before answering. "I believe it's customary at social functions to spend at least the majority of your time with whomever accompanied you to said function." She fixed her brother with a knowing look. "And on that note, where's Alfstanna? I don't recall seeing her thus far tonight."

Fergus shot her a sour look. "Her brother relapsed. How did you know?"

Marta shrugged, half smile playing at her lips. "Simple deduction, brother dearest. Of all the nobles who survived the Battle of Denerim, she's the one who's been helping the most with rebuilding, both in Denerim and in Highever. Since I know you wouldn't attend a function such as this alone, lest the noblewomen descend upon the poor, widowed teyrn; and I'm equally sure you've thrown yourself into the reconstruction of our home with enough vigor to ensure you don't have a social life, it follows you would invite the woman who's been helping. The only question that remains is if yours is simply a friendly arrangement, like mine and Alistair's, or perhaps a gateway to something more."

Fergus laughed, shaking his head in bewilderment as he reeled her out and back in, keeping perfect time with the other dancers around them. "Damn, you're good. Although it's definitely the former; I'm not ready yet to even contemplate remarrying, and Alfstanna is focusing on Irminric's recovery. Neither of us is even looking for anything more. I will, however, congratulate you on doing an excellent job deflecting attention. Now that you've interrogated me regarding my date for the evening, I feel it only fair that you answer a question or two as well. I had no idea you wanted to be queen."

"That's not a question, and I don't," Marta retorted. "Alistair and I are just friends. That's all."

"Yes, because I look at my friends the way he looks at you," Fergus said dryly.

"No, that's-" She sighed. "He's worried about me tonight, that's all. I mentioned something about memories of my family attached to the Wintersend Ball, and I think he's concerned I'll break down in tears or something."

"If you say so." He only looked half convinced. "As your brother, it's part of my job to look out for you-"

"And there's nothing that needs looking after there," she assured him. "There's more risk of memories being an issue than Alistair."

"Why?" Fergus frowned.

Light brown eyes dancing with mirth, he held her closer than strictly required by the dance. "I would very much like to kiss you, Lady Cousland."

"I would very much like to let you, Ser Howe."

Marta bit down hard on the tears that accompanied the memory. "Just... Just in general. This ball was so important to Mother, and being here without them... and wearing her necklace...." she sighed, brushing her fingers against the pendant. "It hurts a little."

"I understand," Fergus nodded as the dance ended. "Much as I enjoy your company, Marta, I would much rather be dancing with Oriana."

She pressed a comforting hand to his arm as his voice caught on the name. "I know this must be even harder for you. I really appreciate that you came anyway."

He ginned. "I wasn't about to let you endure this bit of pageantry alone. But given our earlier conversation, don't you think you should return to your actual partner for the evening?"

"Probably a good idea," Marta agreed. "One dance with my brother is all well and fine, but much more than that and the gossips will turn it into me avoiding Alistair. And that's the last thing I want; he's still finding his feet as king and worrying about his leadership capabilities as it is, Maker knows I don't need anyone giving him ideas."

Fergus pulled her closer for one last hug. "Wouldn't want that. Have fun, sister."

"You as well, brother. I'll send up a prayer Alfstanna arrives soon to save you from the womanly hordes," Marta smirked, nodding towards a small gaggle of unaccompanied women who were clearly waiting for the first available man to dance with. "Good luck."

She slipped away with his hissed, "Brat," ringing in her ears and a serene smile on her face as she went in search of Alistair.


They found each other on the dance floor, feigning a first meeting.

"I've heard a great many interesting things about you, Ser Howe," she murmured, extending her hand toward him.

"As I have about you, m'lady," he returned, bowing to kiss her hand."Might I suggest we share a dance as we investigate the truth of this hearsay?"

She inclined her head and arched a brow, actually managing to look quite regal for a moment, before nodding. "A wise suggestion." Her hand stayed safely resting in his as they prepared to dance. It wasn't until the music started and granted at least the illusion of privacy that she let a crack form in their charade. "Thomas, you have no idea how much I've missed you."

"Oh, I rather think I do," he contradicted, smiling. "For I've missed you just as much."

"Well, then. We should make the best of our time together," she said, gracefully twirling under his upraised arm as the music swelled.

"Won't it look suspicious if we only dance with each other? I think I saw King Cailan eyeing you as if he wished to request a dance," he joked.

She scoffed quietly. "I'd rather dance with you than with a dozen kings."

He raised an eyebrow. "Then I shall do my best to be worthy of such sentiments, Lady Cousland."


The memory faded, leaving Marta with a sad smile tugging her lips. The Maker did have a sense of humor. Now she was here without Thomas, and there was a different king. One she was very much looking forward to having as her dance partner.

It didn't stop her from mssing him, though. Blast it, Thomas, where are you?

If you haven't found him yet, you probably never will, at least alive

She shook off the thought, even as it sent icy chills down her spine. Tonight was not the time for such thoughts. Tonight was  for-

"Marta? You okay?"

She spun at the gentle touch on her shoulder, slapping on a  smile. "Alistair. There you are. I'm fine, I was just looking for you, actually."

Alistair looked skeptical, but didn't argue--even as he cupped her face in one hand and brushed away the tear hanging in the corner of her eye. "There. Now people will believe you when you tell them that."

Marta shot him a grateful smile as he let his hand drop. "Thank you. There's just... a lot of memories to work through. But I'll manage." I always do.

I'm so proud of you, pup.

Her smile wavered, and Marta cleared her throat. "Shall we dance?"

"If that's what you want," Alistair nodded. "I think I know this one well enough." He took the lead as they made their way to the dance floor. "I had an excellent teacher, after all."

Marta laughed, the vise around her heart loosening slightly. "Thank you for the high praise, Your Majesty."

"I only speak the truth," he said, as his hand came to rest on her waist.

"You are a lady to be held in the highest regard." 

She sucked in a sharp breath, her grip on Alistair's hand tightening briefly. Nothing his look of concern, she tried to smile. "Just another memory."

Alistair frowned as the two of them began moving. "You're having an awful lot of them. Is it because of that?" He shot a meaningful look at her necklace.

Marta shook her head. "If it were, the memories would be of my family, not..."

It only took a second or two for him to catch what she couldn't say. "Thomas?"

She nodded wordlessly and felt is hand flex against her waist. They danced in silence for a few moments, Marta regaining her composure, Alistair focusing on his feet. The sweet and slow tempo made this dance an easier one, but the fact remained he had only just recently learned it. 

"Thank you," Marta whispered, finally breaking the silence, comfortable and natural as it was.

"For what?"

"For knowing the value of not saying a word." She sighed. "Thomas is... a tricky subject right now; knowing he's innocent of his father's schemes, but not knowing if he lives... The fairy tales never made it seem this complicated."

To his credit, Alistair smiled at the weak joke. "The fairy tales glaze over a lot at the end, I find. The hero slays the dragon or evil villain, marries the princess, and they live happily ever after. They don't give a step-by step of how all of that's accomplished."

"Everyone wants to skip to the happily ever after,"Marta murmured. "Without the hard work. At the moment, I understand that painfully well." She paused. "What if... I mean, what if he's not- if he's..."


She was breaking his heart. Alistair pulled her closer and rubbed her back. "Then you'll cry--on my shoulder, if y'like--and keep going. Because that's who you are, Marta; you mourn tragedy and loss as they're due, but you pick yourself up and keep going. They may change you, but you don't let them paralyze you."

"This might," she whispered, leaning her head against his chest.

Alistair took a deep breath, praying  she couldn't feel his racing heart. "It won't. Not for long, anyway. You're a strong woman, with friends who care about you, and a heart to help and protect people. It's one of the things I-" love- "appreciate most about you. Plus, if it tries to keep you down long term, I'll drag you out of it. Or be a listening ear. Whichever you need."

Marta lifted her head and smiled gratefully, though he could see the tears shining in her eyes. "Thank you. Either one will mean more to me than I can put into words." She took advantage of the next step in the dance to rise on the balls of her feet and kiss him on the cheek.

He couldn't stop his eyes from fluttering closed briefly as her lips brushed his skin, or his stomach from twisting in a knot. I was only with a great deal of effort that he retained his composure enough to whisper, "It's no more than you did for me. Fair's fair."

She kissed me, reverberated inside his head, every echo making his heart skip a beat, no matter how many different ways he tried to reign himself in. It was on the cheek. Obviously just a friendly gesture. It was a thank you. She's clearly still in love with Thomas and will never see you as anything other than a friend and brother in arms.

So? I'll take it.
 Despite knowing what this must look like to any observers or gossips witnessing the comfortable familiarity between them, friends was enough.

As Marta smiled once more in gratitude, Alistair could only hope that one day, when he thought that, he would absolutely and entirely mean it. Because he'd never doubted himself like he did at the moment.


Alistair was... quiet for the rest of the evening. Or, at least, quiet for him. He carried out the rest of his kingly duties for the Wintersend Ball, joked a little with her to make her smile, gave the longer speech without a single flub, and was all warmth and sincerity interacting with his people. But there was something, an edge of solemnity, after their dance, and Marta couldn't help but worry she'd overstepped her bounds with the kiss. Yes, it had been on the cheek, yes, she'd simply meant it as a friendly gesture of gratitude.

But it probably hadn't looked like that to other people. She cursed herself for an idiot as she realized that. In the heat of the moment, her heart laid bare and Alistair being his usual wonderful self, it had seemed only natural. It's what she would have done were they on the road. Only, they weren't on the road. They weren't simply Wardens, just Alistair and Marta, anymore. They were King and Chancellor and standing in the middle of perhaps the most public place in Denerim. 

And she'd kissed him. On the cheek or on the lips, both would mean the same to the gossips. "The Cousland girl's not content with chancellor, she wants to be queen" or "oh, how romantic". She rubbed her fingers over the sapphire in her necklace and could practically hear Mother's lectures on propriety and comportment. No wonder Alistair was acting different; he was trying to balance out her over-familiarity. So she took her cue from him and was the picture of propriety the rest of the night.

It wasn't until things had wound down, nobles heading off to their homes or other lodgings and they were free to retreat to the privacy of the royal wing that Marta dared broach the subject. "I'm sorry." 

"For what?" Alistair, bless him, looked as exhausted as he did confused.

"The kiss," she said softly, unpinning her braid and letting it fall down her back. "It was... ill-advised, given our circumstances. I just forgot myself and where we were in the heat of the moment."

"No, Marta, that's not something you need to apologize for," he protested, raking one hand through his hair, which dislodged his coronet. He fumbled to catch it, then spun the thin gold circlet between his hands as they walked. "There was nothing wrong about it. I-I mean, I don't think it was im-improper or ill-advised of whatever. It was just a friendly gesture, right?"

"Yes, but that's not what it looked like to other people, I'm sure," she pointed out, fidgeting with the jewel-studded hairpins.

"Hang what it looked like to other people," Alistair growled. "You're my friend, and I care about you, and I don't want you feeling like you have to worry about that."

"But you're king now," Marta reminded him gently. "We do need to worry about that, because your people's opinion of you matters. And if they think your chancellor is a gold-digging, social-climbing... tart, that reflects poorly on both of us." She sighed and drew off her necklace. "So next time I decide to have a complete breakdown about my missing lover, I'll be sure to do it in private."

"I see your point," Alistair conceded around a yawn. "See, this is why I like having you around. You're smart and think about things likethis."

"Not because I'm the only one who'll put up with you?" she teased.

"...Well, there's that, too," he rejoined, making a face at her. "G'night, Mar."

Marta blinked in momentary surprise when she realized they were outside her room. "G'night, Alistair. Get some sleep, and remember we're meeting with the Orlesian ambassador tomorrow."

"I remember," Alistair promised. "You get sleep, too. I'm gonna need you. I-In the meeting."

"As my king commands," she couldn't resist joking as she darted into her room.

Fortunately, the memories that had plagued her during the ball did not follow her into her dreams, making that a relatively easy promise to keep. 
A Friendly Arrangement
Yet another Marta Cousland fic, because I love her and her friendship with Alistair. This fic is brought to you by the trope Unrequited Pining and the song "So Close" from the Enchanted OST.
Title: Damn Good View
Author: queen-scribbles
Game: SWtOR(specifically post-KotFE)
Characters/Pairings: Theron Shan/f!Imperial Agent
Disclaimer: World and characters don't belong to me, and all I get out of this is the fun of playing with BioWare's toys

Theron was not a stupid man. Reckless and impulsive at times, sure. Prone to follow his conscience over official orders, usually. Liable to be sarcastic when he should keep his mouth shut, definitely. But he wasn't stupid. Or blind, or deaf. And he would have to be all three to miss the fact Jaaide needed and wanted a break. The slight slump to her shoulders and barely perceptible shift in her voice when Lana confirmed there would be no time for a vacation told him all he needed to know.

She was burning out. From what little she'd shared of her past with Imperial Intelligence, he'd gotten the sense she'd been under fairly constant physical and mental strain for a few years even before the Revanite mess, and things had been pretty nonstop since Lana and T7 busted her out of carbonite(which didn't really count as a break, far as he was concerned, since she couldn't tell time was passing). There was only so much the body could take--even a cybernetically enhanced one. As Jaaide was so fond of reminding him whenever she found him in some random place, passed out from exhaustion after attempting his third straight all-nighter, surrounded by datapads and empty caf cups. Half smiling at the most recent of those memories, Theron made a brief stop by the cantina before heading straight to Jaaide's quarters.


He didn't even knock, just punched a few keys on the entry pad so the door slid open and walked in.

Jaaide looked up from the datapad she was reading and gave him a wan smile. "You know you're the only one who can get away with that, right?"

"I had a feeling," Theron grinned as the door closed behind him. "It's my charm, isn't it?"

"Absolutely," she deadpanned, setting down the datapad and stretching. "That and the rugged good looks. Nothing serious like knowing I can trust you or anything. And not that I'm unhappy to see you, but what're you doing?"

"Returning a favor," he said, setting down the bottle and glasses he carried with a soft clink. "I think you need a break."

Jaaide rubbed her eyes, laughing softly at the irony. "Theron..."

"I know there's a lot of work to be done, believe me, but the galaxy is not going to spin out of control if you take twenty minutes to have a drink with your boyfriend."

"While Lana might argue the point, I certainly won't." She gave another tired smile. "I've been on the other side of this scenario too many times."

"Exactly my point," Theron said dryly. "I owe you. And just to make sure we don't get interrupted..." He paused by her computer and slid a dataspike in one of the ports. "Comms blackout," he explained before she could even ask. "My implants, your implants, room comms, all of it. Might as well be turned off."

"Won't they get nervous if they try to contact me and get static?" Jaaide queried. "Lana especially."

Theron shook his head. "They won't get static. I programmed it to... well, it's basically an electronic 'do not disturb' sign. So it'll broadcast a thing tellin' them to try again later. More or less."

She was smiling--a real smile--as she stood to cross the room and hug him, tightly. "Are gadgets like that one of the perks to falling in love with a slicer?"


"Much as I appreciate the gesture...." Jaaide sighed and rested her forehead against his chest. "What if... what if we lose track of time, or forget to undo that when we're done and it keeps spouting its smoke screen? People would get nervous then, and I wouldn't blame them."

"Way ahead of you," Theron promised, rubbing her back. He frowned briefly; fairly certain he hadn't been able to feel her spine the last time he hugged her. Is she eating enough? "The spike'll burn out in an hour. Just in case."

"That's an awfully big safety net for a twenty minute drink," she hinted. "You always give yourself that much leeway?"

"Nah, you're a special case." He chuckled when she swatted his arm. "C'mon, we're wasting time. And I only have one rule about this drink: not one word about anything relating to Arcann, SCORPIO, the Eternal Throne, any of it. Deal?"

"Deal," Jaaide agreed happily, snagging the bottle and heading for the window seat that overlooked Odessen's forests. "Have you seen the view from here before?"

"Can't really say I've ever cared to look before," Theron teased, following with the glasses in hand. "Always been a bit distracted. Plus I usually don't make it far enough in to actually see anything out the window."

Jaaide was too good at what she did to really blush, but she did shoot him a mischievous smirk. "Fair point. Here's your chance, then.  After you tell me what's in the bottle."

"Cassandran brandy. It's apparently nothing special according to the bartender, but I was honestly just looking for something that tastes good.  Didn't need it to be special, just good." He sat next to her on the cushioned, curving benchseat that allowed a view out he window, almost automatically raising his arm so she could snuggle in against his chest. "That is a nice view..."

"Isn't it?" she said softly, staring off at the endless canopy of trees that stretched toward the horizon. "You ever wonder about the future? What we'll do after... after everything is taken care of?"

"Sometimes. I'm sorta waiting to see what state the galaxy's in before I make long term plans," Theron pointed out, one hand rubbing her shoulder as the other wriggled the stopper out of the bottle.

"Good plan." Jaaide was silent for a long moment, like she was working up the courage to admit something. "I want to vanish. After we've set things as right as we can, I want us to find a semi--but not too densely--populated world and just... retire. I don't want to be the one in charge, the one everyone looks to for answers and salvation. I want it to be just me and you, and the freedom to do whatever we want."

"That does sound nice." He left unsaid how long it would likely take to accomplish. "So, I'm in your vision of the future, huh?"

She gave a soft chuckle and squeezed his hand in gratitude for the sort-of redirect. "I've yet to plan one that excludes you. You're stuck with me, I'm afraid."

"Worse things have happened," Theron commented glibly. "I think I  could live with that."

"I'm flattered," Jaaide deadpanned, shifting slightly to a more comfortable position.

"You should be; I wouldn't settle down for just anyone," he deadpanned right back, pouring them each a drink. He handed one to her, raised his in a half-joking toast. "Here's to vacations."

"May I actually get to have one before I die," she replied glibly, clinking her glass against his.

In the moment of silence that followed as they both drank, Theron silently promised himself that even if it earned him Lana's wrath, he was going to make sure Jaaide got a decent break at some point. "So, whaddya think?"

"About the brandy?" Jaaide swirled what was left in her glass. "It's rather good. I like it."

"But?" he prompted, hearing what she was leaving unsaid.

"I'm always going to prefer cometdusters over everything else." She sounded almost apologetic as she leaned her head back against his shoulder. "But really, Theron, this is quite good."

"S'alright, everyone has their favorites," Theron shrugged. "Just out of curiosity, why cometdusters?"

Jaaide shifted enough to let him see the mischievous look that went with her chuckle. "A combination of fond memories and liking the tingly sensation."

"You like tingly, huh?" He didn't even try to hide the insinuation behind the question as he kissed the top of her head.

This time she did blush. "No comment."

Theron laughed. "I'll have to remember that little tidbit. Might come in handy in the future."

Jaaide lazily swatted him with her free hand. "Theron."

"Yes?" he said innocently, causing her to sigh in exasperation. It turned into a yawn maybe halfway through. "Tired?"

"Stars, yes," she admitted. "But I'll be alright."

"I know." He nudged her glass. "Drink up, before we run out of time."

"You weren't planning to leave the bottle?" Jaaide teased as she swallowed another mouthful of the dark liquid. "Y'know, this grows on you..."

Theron raised an eyebrow, took another sip himself. "Hey, you're right." What had tasted slightly above average now rated markedly higher. "I wonder if it's an acquired taste, or if gettin' a little tipsy relaxed our standards?"

She laughed, an adorable sleepy-sounding giggle. "Does it really matter?"

"No, not really," he conceded, smiling to himself as he felt her weight settle more heavily against him. He carefully worked the mostly-empty glass free of her loose grip and sat both it and his own glass on a nearby end table.

"How much longer?" Jaaide mumbled, twisting to snuggle in closer almost by instinct.

Theron flicked a glance at the wall chrono. "Fifteen minutes, give or take."

"Mmkay... We can just enjoy th' view..." She was asleep almost the second she stopped talking.

He had to resist the urge to cheer as he pressed another kiss against her hair. He hadn't been trying to get her to sleep, exactly, but he'd been more than a little hopeful it would happen. She'd been running herself into the ground since her last fight with Arcann, and much as she gave him grief for his (admittedly atrocious) sleep schedule, Theron knew her own wasn't much better.

So he'd sit here for fifteen minutes, sleeping spy nestled snugly against him, and enjoy the view she was so proud of until it was time to wake her up. Then she'd be a bit rested and they could get back to work...


"Theron." Something poked him.

He slapped it away without opening his eyes.

"Theron." A more insistent poke, and this time he grunted as he tried to knock it away. There was a soft chuckle and something warm pressed briefly against his forehead. "Wake up, sleepyhead."

Theron pried his eyes open with a groan, pausing halfway through a yawn/stretch combo when he was greeted by an extremely close up view of warm green eyes, underscored by freckles and surrounded by scars.

"You were right," he mumbled, rubbing a crick out of his neck.

Jaaide cocked an eyebrow. "About what?"

"Damn good view," he grinned, and watched her roll her eyes.." "How long...?"

"I slept for hour and a half," she informed him, trying to scowl and not quite succeeding. "Woke up to an increasingly frantic Lana all but yelling in my ear since your blackout spike had worn off. Assured her I was alright, I had just fallen asleep. Didn't mention where or why, so hopefully she won't come after you."

"'Preciate that," Theron muttered, frowning at the pink streaks that decorated the sky. No way it's that late.

Jaaide followed his gaze and grinned in almost perverse pleasure. "You slept another two hours after I woke up, and honestly, I think you would have stayed out if I hadn't developed a guilty conscience about further wrecking your sleep schedule. But I've spent too much time nagging you about getting more sleep, I really don't regret taking advantage of a golden opportunity."  

"You sneaky little minx," he drawled, unable to resist matching her grin.

"It's not like I did it on purpose," she protested, offering him a hand up. "Just took advantage of a presented opportunity."

Theron took the offered hand, briefly considered pulling her back onto the couch, then discarded the idea and levered himself up. "Same difference."

"You're one to talk," Jaaide snorted. "Or do you really expect me to believe you weren't half-hoping I'd fall asleep?"

His grin widened. "Guilty. But in my defense, I was planning to wake you up at the end of our twenty minutes. I wasn't planning on falling asleep myself."

"Considering I happen to know you pulled at least two all-nighters in the past week, that was awfully optimistic of you," she pointed out sweetly.

Try three and a half, Theron corrected mentally, but just chuckled as he nodded a concession. "True. I guess it all worked out for the best anyway. We both needed sleep."

"Mm-hm," Jaaide nodded, thumb running over his knuckles, looking a tad distracted as she stared at the setting sun.

"'Course, didn't get to enjoy the view nearly as long as I wanted," he teased, sliding his other arm around her shoulders.

"Well, you'll just have to drop by sometime to rectify that, won't you?" she teased back, letting go of his hand so she could turn to enjoy the view as well.

"Guess I will," Theron nodded, as the two of them stood and watched the sun set. It is a damn good view.
Damn Good View
Oy, this has been sitting in for entirely too long. Completely done and everything, I just keep forgetting to post it. Jaaide needed a break after fighting Arcann, and Theron was determined to see she got one. Cuz he's a good boyfriend. And then the mental image of them falling asleep together on the couch cuz they both have terrible sleep schedules was too cute to resist.
Theron Shan and SWtOR belong to BioWare

Jaaide Arien is mine
As they exited the chantry and made their way down the steps, Astrid was profoundly grateful that Sebastian didn't try to break the silence. Her mind was a muddle of white lilies and Gamlen's face as he tried not to show how scared he was, and she didn't think she could have held a conversation if she tried. The few extra minutes of silence as they walked gave her time to collect her thoughts before they reached Fenris' mansion.

Neither of them were surprised when it was Isabela who opened the door. "Hawke? Is something wrong?"

"Mother's missing." Astrid hesitated, picking at a splinter peeling off her staff. Maybe if she didn't say the words, she could keep them from being true. "She... she received a bouquet of white lilies today."

Isabela's jaw tightened. "Shit. Fenris!"

"I'm right here." He was already in his armor, hefting his greatsword to its place on his back as he descended the stairs.

"Showoff," Isabela sighed. "Give me a second, Hawke." She dashed into a side room to retrieve her daggers. Astrid used the time to explain things to Fenris.

"So, where do we start?" Sebastian was the one to ask, once they were all gathered in the front hall and prepared to set off.

Astrid took a deep breath, knowing that neither he nor Fenris would like her plan much. "Gascard du Puis. Gamlen was going to head back to Lowtown, see if he could find anything, but that'll take too long. Gascard might know something already."

To her surprise, neither man protested. They both simply nodded, and Fenris commented, "Lead the way."

Her hands were shaking as she did.


Gascard was lurking in a back corner of Darktown when they found him, "borrowing" a ruined hovel of a house that stank of sweat and rat piss. Astrid didn't even bother to knock, just kicked the door open and stormed in. "The killer you've been tracking, where is he?"

The nobleman's brow wrinkled. "Hawke? What are you doing here?"

She slammed a hand against the table with enough force to make Isabela jump and leaned in close. "He has my mother."

Gascard frowned. "That was fast."

The words had barely left his mouth before Astrid was grabbing the front of his shirt and shoving him against the wall. "What's that supposed to mean?!" she hissed as Sebastian and Fenris tried to pull her off.

"He took Alessa today, as well," Gascard informed her. "I am surprised at the recklessness, that's all."

She let him go, raked a hand through her hair. "Well, then we need to find him somehow. Any tricks or ideas you failed to mention last time we met?"

He hesitated, twitching nervously when Fenris' hand started toward the hilt of his sword. "Wait, wait! There is one thing I can try. Since he has Alessa."

"Do it," Astrid barked. There's no time. 

Gascard pulled out a small vial, the inside stained red. "Alessa's blood. I can do a ritual. It will tell us where she is."

That's blood magic, a voice in her head protested, years of her father's lectures revolting at the very idea.

I don't care, she snapped back, bristling like a trapped animal as her morals bent under the weight of panic. I won't be too late this time, I won't. "Hurry up and do it, and if we arrive to naught but corpses, yours may join them."


She was scaring him. The realization hit Sebastian as he stared at the mage's face, watching her as she watched Gascard. He'd never seen her so much as raise her voice, certainly she'd never threatened anyone. And now blood magic, as this surely was? But what scared him perhaps the most was that he understood. Having lost his own family, knowing what hers meant to her, he could understand the desperation etched in her face, her posture. And so he kept his protests and misgivings about using blood magic to himself. Because if this choice had been presented to him--one small ritual, a chance to save someone and get revenge at the same time--he couldn't say with certainty that he'd refuse. So instead he sidled up next to Astrid and took her hand. There was a half-second's delay, and then her fingers wrapped tightly around his. They stood in silence together, not needing words. And while it may have simply been his imagination, Sebastian would have sworn Astrid had relaxed just a little by the time Gascard finished his ritual and gave them a location.


Her heart sank roughly to her toes when Gascard's ritual led to an all-too-familiar abandoned foundry. "No. Please, Maker, no."

"We've been her before, haven't we?" Isabela asked warily.

"Yes," Fenris confirmed, drawing his sword. "Looking for Mharen and Ninette de Carrac. Do you feel that?"

"Balls, it's not just me, then," Isabela muttered, daggers suddenly in hand, the blades gleaming dangerously even in the low light. "There's something off here, Hawke. Worse than last time."

Last time. The panic hit full force and nearly knocked her to her knees, one hand scrabbling for support against a mildewed wall. Worse.

"Astrid!" A hand on her shoulder, than cupping her face, anchoring her to reality. "Just breathe. Focus."

She struggled, but did as he asked, and after a few seconds, a pair of concerned blue eyes came into focus. So blue...  Shortly after, the rest of Sebastian's face followed suit, and her heart began to slow. "Thank you," she panted, around a weary and grateful smile.

"Don't mention it," he assured her, his hand drifting back to her shoulder. "Dare I ask what you found last time?"

"Bones. Blood. A-A severed hand. A ring... Like someone had been using this place for sacrifices." She rested her forehead against the wall. "If I'd been just a little bit faster, we might've caught the son of a bitch then..."

"Hey, none of that," Isabela butted in, making Astrid acutely aware of how close Sebastian had been standing. "You are not responsible for whatever depraved bullshit other people dream up, you hear me, Hawke? Let's go find this asshole and put him down for good."

"Couldn't agree more, 'Bela," Astrid nodded, mustering a tremulous smile. She shot Sebastian a grateful look as she filed into the lead.

There were demons, as she'd expected. And more than last time, which she'd also expected. What she hadn't expected was the trapdoor. Tucked in a corner but far from hidden, the wooden hatch was thickly spattered with fresh blood. It made her want to vomit. So close. They'd come so close to finding his bolthole last time. Fenris hauled the trapdoor open and started down the ladder it revealed, Isabela right behind him. 

Sebastian held back a moment, glancing at Astrid. "How're you holdin' up?"

"Well as can be expected," she said grimly, free hand fidgeting with a buckle on her robes. "Better for having you with me."

"Whatever I can do to help," he assured her, checking to make sure Isabela was all the way down before he began descending the ladder.

Astrid turned to Gascard. "After you."

He raised an eyebrow. "Don't trust me, Hawke?"

"No," she replied bluntly. "After you."

Gascard sighed and climbed down the ladder. Astrid followed, her nose wrinkling at the stale, sour smell that permeated the air at the bottom. They'd barely ventured into the first large room when they were attacked by demons and shades.

It was as they finished the fight , last of the frozen demons shattering under a blow for from Astrid's staff, that she saw it; a grey-haired figure, clad in bright silk and laying entirely too still on a makeshift table. "Mother!"

Too late. You were too slow again. Why are you never good enough to save the people you care about? The thought mocked her as she lunged toward the table, grasped one slender shoulder-

And Alessa rolled onto her back, sightless eyes fixed on the ceiling. The woman's name slid from Astrid in a breathless, relieved gasp.

"There's still time," she whispered, bile rising as it hit her she had just felt relief that an innocent woman was dead.

Just because it meant Mother might be alive.

This time she did vomit. She felt Isabela's hand on her shoulder, was vaguely aware of Gascard fidgeting impatiently, but stayed as she was until she was certain she was done.

"Come on," she said, gripping her staff more tightly. "We need to keep moving." I've wasted enough time

They pressed on, harried by demons and shades and undead every step of the way, crumpled notes slowly piecing together what this man was doing. Talk of Mharen having her hands, another woman having her ears... It gave Astrid a very bad feeling, a knot that kept tightening in the pit of her stomach.

And then she saw the gleam of gold, snagged on the wall near a flight of stairs. The sick feeling sharpened as she pulled the necklace free. "Mother's locket." Her fingers curled around the golden pendant, the broken chain dangling free. "She'd never willingly part with this..."

"We'll find her, Hawke," Fenris promised in an undertone as he cautiously made his way down the steps. Astrid and the others followed, equally cautious. At the bottom, they found themselves in what must have been the killer's living area--a half-made bed, chairs, scattered books and papers. Gascard started looking through some of the papers, but Astrid's attention was captured by the painting over the fireplace.

"That woman..." she breathed, sick feeling tugging at her gut. "She looks like Mother..."

Her friends' attention all snapped to where she was looking and she heard the sharp intake of breath before Fenris and Isabela cursed.

"We must be gettin' close," Sebastian murmured reassuringly, hand on her arm to offer support. "Obsessive as he's comin' across, I can't imagine this man livin' too far from his... work space. We'll find her, Astrid."

All she could do was nod, swallowing hard and clutching her mother's locket a little tighter as she prayed they found her alive.

Sebastian was right; it wasn't too much further in that they found the man they were seeking. He was nothing like she expected; not tall or short or wild-haired, just a thoroughly average older man. The only things that might make someone think twice about him were the maniacal gleam in his eyes and the power she could feel rolling off him--probably augmented by dabbling in things he shouldn't.

His voice, however, was exactly as Astrid had expected. "Ah, there you are," he crooned around the least-genuine smile she had ever seen. "I was beginning to wonder what was taking so long. Leandra was so sure her loving daughter would come for her."

Was. No, not again. Please, Maker, not again. "Where is she?!"

Even as the demand surged from her, twisted by anger at this piece of filth saying her mother's name like they were old friends, Gascard pushed his way past her. "Quentin!"

Her attention snapped to the nobleman. "All this time you knew his name?! You couldn't bloody give me that?!"

"You might have found him without me, then," Gascard shrugged. "And I need what he knows."

"And what does he know, exactly, that was worth risking the lives of every woman in Kirkwall?!" Astrid hollered, eyes flashing fury.

"Necromancy," Gascard replied evenly, eyes still fixed on Quentin. "How to cheat death itself. If you won't teach me willingly, old man, I'll settle for tearing the secrets from your skull."

Astrid's jaw tightened, the familiarity in that last sentence confirming her suspicions. "You. Bastard. To think I gave you the benefit of the doubt, that first time. You fed me your sob story about your poor murdered sister-"

Quentin laughed at that, interrupting her tirade. "No, no sister. Just an incredibly determined student, and a mentor who couldn't teach him properly after my wife died." His voice dropped to a whisper, almost reverent. "Do you know what the strongest force in the universe is, Astrid?" He barely paused before answering his own question, not giving her time to process the shift in conversation or the fact he'd used her name. "Love. I pieced her together, from memory." Quentin paced as he talked, circling the high-backed chair that sat between him and them. Astrid gripped her staff harder as she watched him, imagining her fingers were wrapped around his throat instead of the wood. "I found her fingers, her eyes, all the things I loved about her... and at last her face. Oh, how I've missed this beautiful face." His hand reached out, caressed the huddled figure perched on the chair. "Do you have any idea how long I've searched? How far I've gone to find her again? And now that I have, beloved, no force on this earth shall part us!"

A small nudge from the impassioned mage was all the seated figure needed to lurch to her feet, clad in a dirty white mockery of a wedding gown. A painfully familiar face was framed by the tattered veil and rough, uneven stitches cutting across her neck.

Mother. A wordless bellow of rage and pain surged from her lips as Astrid flung a stonefist at Quentin's head.

"No!" Gascard lunged forward, summoning a spell of his own to knock the stonefist off-course. "You cannot kill him, Hawke! I need-"

He never finished the sentence. Fenris' greatsword rammed through his chest at the same instant an arrow pierced his throat. The nobleman's body collapsed in an unceremonious heap as Fenris removed his sword.

And four sets of very angry eyes focused as one on the crazed necromancer.

But Quentin was ready for them. With a wave of his hand, undead warriors and demons stood between them and him. A few more gestures, and the skeletal corpses moved like puppets on strings. Which was exactly what they were, Astrid realized grimly as she dodged the claws of a demon and used sheer force of will to crush the thing to the ground. Unfortunately, the puppet master was hiding inside an arcane shield, safe from both magical and physical attacks as he threw more waves of enemies at them. Astrid forced herself to clamp down on the unmitigated fury roaring in her ears. She knew how those shields worked; that all she had to do was wait. Sure enough, after the third band of undead and demons fell, Quentin's shield started to flicker. Her lips curled in a feral smile as she started gathering power, letting it simmer just below the surface until the shield faltered and failed entirely.

And then, with a furious cry, she sent a huge, sharpened hunk of ice flying toward Quentin with enough force it skewered his chest and pinned him to the wall. He let out a single choked gasp, blood seeping from the corners of his mouth, and then slumped limply against the ice.

The... thing wearing her mother's face tottered and fell with the sustaining magic gone. Astrid lunged forward instinctively to catch her. "No, Mother!" Not you, too. Please, please, stay with me. 

Glazed eyes blinked open and met hers as she cradled the patchworked form in her lap, a beatific smile curving cracked lips. "I knew you'd come for me..."

"Of course, you know me," Astrid managed around the lump in her throat, keenly aware of the friends gathered around her. "I'm always here to save the day." Except now. Except the one time it matters on a personal level, the one time it's someone close to me.

Well, not the one time.
 Images of her father, of Bethany, even of Carver danced in her mind. Sickness, an ogre, the Blight... now this. It didn't even help reminding herself Carver wasn't dead, he wasn't, because she'd still failed. She paused to shove away the rising panic and swallow the threatening tears. "I'm sorry, Mama. I didn't mean it when I said I wanted you to leave me alone. I know you only give me advice because you love me, and I'm sorry for that and sorry I wasn't fast enough..."

"Shh, shh, darling, it's alright. I understand. That man wanted to keep me trapped in here, forever. But now, I'm free." Her smile widened, almost lazily, like she was waking from a nap, not dying in her daughter's arms. "I'll get to see Bethany again, and... and Malcolm. But you..." The smile vanished, replaced by concern. "You'll be all alone."

"Oh, don't worry about me," Astrid deflected, blinking away tears as a hand settled gently on her shoulder. "I'll... be fine."

It was a lie. The doubts and blame were already circling. Too slow, too slow, you failed again. But did you really expect any different? 

"My little girl's grown up so strong," he mother murmured, voice fading. "I-I love you, Astrid. And I'm proud of you. I've always been proud of you." Her eyes slid closed, and the body cradled in Astrid's lap went limp.

"Mother?" She felt the tears start in earnest when there was no response. "Mother?!"

"Hawke..." Fenris' voice was hesitant, wanting to offer comfort and condolence, but reluctant to say The Words she knew but didn't want to hear. It was when the elven warrior rested his hand next to Sebastian's on her shoulder that she started to crumble, and when Isabela's joined them, she broke completely.

Astrid lost track of how long she sat there--two minutes, five, ten--curled over the dead woman who was both her mother and not, her friends' hands resting on her shoulders in a silent show of support. But, badly as she may have wanted it in that moment, life didn't stop. It didn't even slow down. And so she sniffled, wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, and offered a wobbly smile of wordless thanks to Sebastian, Fenris, and Isabela. "I-I need to... Gamlen shouldn't see her like this. But I have to tell him. And Carver..."

"We'll help with whatever you need, Hawke," Isabela promised. Astrid took them up on it.

It didn't take long to clear off one of the long tables Quentin had used for his experiments. It wouldn't have been her first choice for her mother's pyre, but they had to work with what was available. The ancient and dry-rotting table caught fire quickly, even from the miserably small spell Astrid was able to conjure. She watched numbly as Sebastian said the prayers and her mother was consumed by the flames. Jaw set firmly in a bid to bottle up her emotions until it was safe to break again, she strode over to Quentin's corpse, still pinned to the wall by her giant icicle, jerked his head back by the lank grey hair, and slit his throat with her dagger.

"No resurrection or cheating death for you," she whispered harshly, watching the blood run down the front of his robes. Gascard required no such assurances, between the gaping hole in his chest and the arrow through his throat. Satisfied neither of them could possibly walk away from this to hurt someone else, Astrid headed for the stairs.

"Hawke..." Isabela nodded toward the still-burning table. "Aren't you forgetting something?"

"No," Astrid replied flatly. "The foundry walls are stone, there's nothing close by enough to catch, and I'll stay to make sure it's contained, but I want this place to burn. All his notes, all his research, all his experiments, I want it to burn with him and his bastard apprentice." And with that, she turned and left, one brittle step at a time.

By the time they made it back to the ladder up to the trapdoor, they could hear the roar of the growing conflagration below them, as books, papers, and dried-out wood fed the flames. By the time they exited the foundry, smoke was belching out the trapdoor. And by the time Fenris and Isabela solemnly took their leave, she could see embers winking in the few high windows the foundry possessed. 

And Sebastian stayed. Didn't say a word--though she did see him murmuring what she assumed was the Chant once or twice--didn't try to make it better, didn't even make the first move to offer comfort, respecting her space. But when her hand groped seeking human contact, he took it and didn't let go until the flames had died and they returned to Hightown.

"Thank you," was all that made it out when they parted ways at her door. Please stay seemed too presumptuous and tangled in her doubts until Sebastian had vanished from sight. I don't want to be alone was too broken and likewise wouldn't come out. With a sigh, Astrid pushed open the front door of her mansion, feeling the numbness settle in as she was greeted by two very hopeful dwarves. It stayed heavy on her shoulders all through talking to Bodahn, to Gamlen, dulled her nerves to the point that when her uncle spat "Why couldn't you have just been normal, like Carver?" upon hearing the killer was a mage, it didn't even sting. Then came the parade of friends, trickling in as word reached them, offering heartfelt condolences and promises of support.

And after that came the emptiness. Knowing Bodahn, Sandal, and Orana were downstairs didn't make her room seem any less lonely--even with a mabari curled up next to her. Storm seemed to know exactly what was wrong, and stayed where she was, head in Astrid's lap, all night long. A night Astrid spent staring at the wall as she absently stroked her dog's head, unable to sleep. As the first hints of dawn peeked through the window, she glanced down at the locket still clutched in one hand and loosened her grasp enough to flick it open. She stared at the pictures inside for a long moment before working her way out from under the sleeping mabari and padding softly from her room.

She wasn't sure how long she stood outside her mother's room, trying and failing to work up the courage to enter, alternating between fiddling with the locket and picking at the sleeve of her too-big sleep shirt. It had been Carver's, a fact that did nothing to improve her state of mind when she recalled it. Finally, with a deep breath and a tight squeeze around the locket that had already imprinted itself into her palm, she stepped forward and opened the door.

It almost hurt more that it didn't hurt. There was no overwhelming wave of emotion, no crippling rush of loss, just the empty, buzzing numbness of a soul bled so dry the tears wouldn't even come. Astrid stood just inside the doorway, surveying the room and its contents; the jewelry box on the dresser was open, the dress Mother had worn to the de Launcets' still draped over a chair. It bore so many signs of its occupant planning to come back it made her heart hurt. She was so lost in her thoughts, the battle with her doubts, she nearly jumped out of her skin at the sound of a quietly cleared throat. 

"Sorry," Sebastian apologized, seeing her flinch. "Bodahn let me in. I wanted tae check on you."

"You're up early," Astrid mumbled, trying to both hide and slow her racing heart.

"Dawn prayers," he shrugged, eyes full of concern. "What's your excuse?"

"Couldn't sleep," she admitted. "I just..." she stepped further into the room, traced a finger along the edges of the jewelry box before she looked back at him, not even caring if she was mess. "I can't stop thinking... this is my fault."

"No, it's not!" Sebastian contradicted, voice thick with fierce indignation as he followed her into the room and tipped up her chin to insure she met his eyes. "This is the farthest thing from your fault, H- Astrid."

The tears started to prick as she struggled to believe him. "Maybe if I hadn't yelled at her, hadn't gotten her upset, she she would have been paying more attention and he wouldn't have been able to grab her. Or if I'd been just a little bit faster-"

"And maybe if I'd behaved myself and not been given to the Chantry, I could have done something to save my family," Sebastian said, cutting her off.

"That's ridiculous, you'd've just been killed, too," Astrid retorted, swiping at tears.

"No more ridiculous than you assumin' the burden of another's evil, Astrid," he countered quietly, pulling her into a hug. "I'm with Isabela on this; other people's depravity is not your responsibility. You did your best-"

"And it wasn't enough!" she keened, fingers curling into the fabric of his shirt. "It's never been enough. Ever. I couldn't save my father, I couldn't save Bethany, the best I could do for Carver was a delayed death sentence, and now this... It can't happen again, Sebastian." She looked up at him, eyes red from the tears. "I am not strong enough to do this again. I can't let anything happen to y- anyone I care about again."

His breath caught at her exhaustion-induced slip, and he held her closer as the tears finally started in earnest. "While I believe you're a good deal stronger than you think you are, I do understand the sentiment. And I'll do everything in my power tae help you keep it."

"Thank you," Astrid mumbled, voice even further muffled by his shirt. They both felt when her knees wobbled, and moved almost as one toward the bed. She couldn't bring herself to do more than sit on the edge, but it was better than standing. "Y'know, Storm wouldn't budge from my side all night. Why do I have a feeling you're going to be at least as stubborn as she was?"

Sebastian chuckled quietly, his thumb rubbing absent circles against her shoulder blade. "B'cause while I'd never claim tae be as good a companion as a mabari, I do at least have the tenacity of one."

She felt the barest hint of a smile reluctantly tug ever so briefly at one corner of her mouth. "Trust me, Sebastian, you're more than good enough for me."

She felt him smile ever-so-slightly against her hair as he settled in next to her. "An' that's more than good enough for me."

Astrid tucked her legs up under her, curling in closer to his chest even as she asked, "Won't they need you at the chantry?"

"Maybe. You need me more."

A small whirl of selfish relief danced in her chest at the words, and she decided not to protest them. They were true, and the relief of having someone she didn't have to be strong for, who she trusted enough to let him see her break, was indescribable. So Astrid sat on her mother's bed, held close by the person she trusted most with her grief, and cried. Tomorrow she could go back to being the stalwart champion who let nothing deter her from solving Kirkwall's problems.

Today she just needed to be broken, and to know that it was okay.
Good Enough
This follows pretty closely on the heels of  Comfort. Like, immediately on the heels of it. Because All That Remains is one of only two points in the game that Astrid was not the "Let's seek a peaceful solution" diplomat who like to fix things peacefully. For obvious reasons. It's also one of the few times she didn't  feel obligated to pretend she's stronger than she actually feels. And when both she and Sebastian started seriously questioning if they were "just friends" or if there was the possibly there for More. (Well, more accurately, Astrid stopped lying to herself that Seb was 'just a friend', and Sebastian started wondering how deep his feelings for her went. Either way, this was a turning point in their relationship) 
Sebastian, Isabela, Fenris, and Dragon Age in general belong to BioWare

Astrid is mine
She's two and doesn't know what the words little brother mean when Mama lets her crawl up on the bed to see the noisy, red-faced baby. He looks almost like a doll, with hair to match hers, and she says as much. "No, Jayele," Mama corrects with a smile. "This is Telcontar, and you're his big sister."


She's four and has decided little brother means thing that likes to pull hair. "Ow!" she screeches as chubby fists snarl in her dark red ponytail yet again, and smacks him away. "Jayele, don't hit him," Mama says. "He doesn't know any better," Mama says. "You get to help teach him and protect him," Mama says, and that's all well and good, but who's gonna protect her from him?


She's seven and has changed her mind. Little brother must be code for The brat who won't stop borrowing my toys and leaving them all over the ship. Tel always takes responsibility so Mama doesn't yell at her, but she still wishes he would stop. So she fiddles with the lock on her toy chest until she's the only one who can open it.


She's twelve and never thought a game of tag could go so sour. And sour is being gentle, she thinks as Mama scrubs and scrubs, trying to help her get the paint off her skin and out of her hair. It's a losing battle. Tel's not helping matters, even if it's not technically his fault. "That color looks good on you," he teases, and starts calling her Silver. She glares but keeps her mouth shut, hoping the nickname will fade with the paint. It doesn't.


She's thirteen and Tel is looking at her with a special level of awe. She pretends not to notice, that her attention is on the departing customs officer, but can't help grinning and ruffling his hair. "Think Mom an' Dad'll be proud?"
He nods, casting a single, worried glance after the officer. "Is he gonna get in trouble?"
"Nah, it's be fine," she promises. "And we're not hurting anyone by makin' a little more money."
"You're awesome."
Her grin spreads as she hooks one arm around his neck and gives him a noogie. "So're you, sprout."


She's fifteen and those pirates were not supposed to show up yet. Her parents double-time unloading the cargo hold, Silver and Tel keeping an uneasy watch for trouble. A blaster shot rings out and Tel yelps in pain and suddenly she's firing blindly at the kriffing moof-milkers who hurt her baby brother as she drags Tel back up the Corellian Angel's ramp. "Aren't we gonna help fight?" he protests as their parents follow suit. "The pirates are after the refugees, we shouldn't just leave them."
"They can take care of themselves," Dad says, checking the blaster burn along Tel's forearm. "And I'm not about to risk you and your sister on a fight that's not ours." Tel's not happy, but she's relieved. His yelp is echoing in her head and her hands won't stop shaking. One day, she intends to fly around the galaxy with her brother, helping people and righting wrongs, but not today.


She's sixteen and still taller, a fact which drives Tel absolutely insane. To cheer him up, she offers to arm wrestle, which they both know he always wins now. "Don't worry, little brother," she teases as he pins her hand to the table, "I'll be the brains, you be the brawn, and we'll save the galaxy one underdog fight at a time."


She's eighteen and they're fighting again about how to do that. Silver wants to supply and defend the underdogs so they're ready when the next bully comes along. Tel wants to remove the bullies as a threat altogether. "Can't hurt people if you're dead."
"Can't help 'em either," she retorts, and they go around again.


She's nineteen and never felt so betrayed in her life. But badly as she wishes she was dreaming, Tel's still wearing the Republic military uniform, packed bag at his feet. "How could you?" she demands, as cracks form in all of her plans.
"How could I not?" he counters. "I can help people better this way."
"Oh, really? Can you, Telcontar?"
He winces at the extra syllables, at the pain and hurt and anger behind them, but nods. "Yes, I can, Jayele."
Her eyes narrow. "Y'know, part of your job'll probably be hunting people like us. Like your family."
"I will never turn you in," he swears. "But you could come with me, Silver. You got plenty of talents the SIS could use."
She snorts. "No kriffin' way. You know how I am about takin' orders, Tel. You don't have to go, either, y'know. Just cuz Mom's got some war hero ancestor who helped save the galaxy three hundred years ago doesn't mean you hafta do it now!"
"That's not why I'm doing it." Tel sighs, runs a hand through his hair. "I want to help people, and this is the best way for me to do that." And then he's gone, leaving all her dreams for the future as dust on the ground. "I'll always be there if you need me," he promises anyway, and she nods at his retreating back.
"Same to you, little brother."


She twenty two and a weird mix of nervous and excited. She wasn't expecting her parents to retire for a few more years, but here they are. Standing in the living room of their palatial new home on an out of the way world, exiting gracefully(and alive) as Dad hands her the datapad with the ownership documents for the Corellian Angel. The first thing she does on her ship is call Tel. She's forgiven him(mostly) and he'll know what a big deal this is for her. "What's up, sis?" his voice squawks out of the comm unit. His base must only be allowing audio transmissions today.
"Dad gave me Angel!" she says gleefully, running a hand over the console.
"Silver, that's great! There's nothing wrong with him or Mom, is there?" he double checks.
"Nah, just decided to retire," she assures him. "How're things with you?"
"Oh, um, I made Corporal." His voice sounds muffled, but she chalks it up to old speakers.
"Yeah? How'd ya score that?"
"Caught a rocket to the face protectin' my squad."
"I'm fine, sis. Well, fine-ish," he amended. "It didn't fully catch my face. I just shielded my squad from the blast-"
"I love you, too, big sister, but you can't protect me from everything, and this is literally what I signed up for."
"Okay," she grumbles, hating that he's right; she can't protect him. "You just lemme know if you need me..."
He chuckles. "Ditto. And congratulations."


She's twenty four and he's the first call she makes when some sleazeball steals her first big sale--and her ship, stranding her on Ord Mantell of all places. Tel promises to see what he can do, but "I don't know much that'll be." He just made Sergeant, after all, and they're going to be shipping him out any day now.
"S'alright, I'm a big girl," she assures him. "'Sides, the farm boy sidekick's good help and good company."
"Oh, sure, you say that now," Tel jokes, and she rolls her eyes as she cuts the call.


She's twenty six and she's married the "farm boy sidekick", who means infinitely more to her than those three words can ever express, and Tel's piqued he wasn't invited to the wedding. "Well, it's not like you invited me to your promotion ceremony, Major," she needles. "'Sides, we didn't invite anyone--it was just me an' Corso."
"You do realize you'll have to have another one, then, right? Mom'll kill you if she doesn't get to go to a wedding."
"You'll just hafta take care of that," she sasses, and he snorts.
"Don't think me'n Els are quite there y-" he stops himself, but it's too late.
"Oh, so you do have a girl," she teases. "Here I thought you were gonna wind up a 'married to the Republic' diehard or somethin'. Tell me about her."
He does.


She's twenty seven and wishing dearly she'd never heard of the Revanites, and that her knowledge of the Sith Emperor had stayed limited to 'He's scary and bad news'. But Tel needed her, so she helped him. And now she has a Dark Council member comming her while she's trying to sleep. "Marr, you've got my brother's comm frequency," she groans. "Call him instead. A SpecForce Major'll be more help than me, I'm sure." She ends the call and curls back up with Corso, doesn't think any more of it. Until the Expedition is attacked, Marr's flagship blown to pieces, and everyone MIA is assumed KIA. The guilt is immediate. I was supposed to protect him and instead I got him killed. Fortunately, the stubbornness isn't far behind. Tel's not dead. He can't be. Not her little brother, who blocked a rocket and only got a few scars and cybernetics in exchange. She just has to find him. Because that's what family does.


She's thirty two and her little brother is dead. Has to be; she's been looking for five years and can't find a trace of him. Even in the mess that is the galaxy right now, she should be able to find something. It doesn't exactly speed things up, she supposes, that they keep detouring to help people. And Arcann is a tyrant and a bully--the kind Tel always wanted to stop--so she detours a lot. When reports and rumors first surface of the fiery-haired Outlander, she refuses to get her hopes up. It would feel like losing him again if she's wrong. But Corso won't let her her be entirely cynical, and the Alliance sounds like a good cause, anyway.


She's thirty two and her little brother is alive. She can tell the other Alliance leadership isn't used to new recruits greeting the Outlander with tight hugs and name calling, but she doesn't care. Tel's alive, and she found him, and just for a second everything is right in the galaxy. And then the jerk pulls on her ponytail and she slaps him up the back of the head.
"Don't make me regret worryin' about you," she grumbles.
He laughs and hugs her again. "I missed you, big sister."
"And I missed you, little brother," she replies, ruffling his hair and silently swearing never to fail at her job again. She promised to protect her little brother, and that's what she's going to do. Because whatever else little brother might mean, it meant family. "You know I'm always here for you, right?"
He nods, grinning. "Ditto."
And tweaks her ponytail again.
Little Brother
The result of me wanting to settle up the history of Silver and Tel's relationship(they're siblings, they're close, but I wanted to work out the details) and try out a different style of writing. I like it, but don't know if I'll do anything similar in the future. I feel like this sort of thing has even more potential to get away from me than my regular stuff.

SWtOR storylines and universe belongs to BioWare

Silver and Tel are mine


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ThePhoenixKing Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2016
Hope you have a fantastic birthday! Keep up the great work!
queen-scribbles Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2016
Thanks, and I shall try my best! 
Wirls Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2016
I have been offline today, but it should still be the 12th there by you so HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Hope you have a fantastic day! *much huggles and butt touches* <3
queen-scribbles Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2016
Hee hee thanks!
Maloneyberry Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2016  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Happy birthday!!! :D
queen-scribbles Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2016
Thank you! :)
NeroonCousland Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2016
Happy Birthday to You!
queen-scribbles Featured By Owner Jun 12, 2016
Thanks! :D
Captain--De-Lorenzo Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2016  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Thank you so much for the +fav Meow :3
tainted-knight Featured By Owner Jun 22, 2015  Student Digital Artist
Thanks for the :+fav:
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