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Miracle

Contents


Chapter One - Uh-Oh

Chapter Two - And Baby Makes...

Chapter Three - If He Asks

Chapter Four - A Little Rain

Chapter Five - Made in Love

Chapter Six - The Queen's Deal

Chapter Seven - Securing the Line

Chapter Eight - One Day

Chapter Nine - The Beginning

Chapter Ten - Baby Shower

Chapter Eleven - It's Time

Chapter Twelve - Help

Chapter Thirteen - The Whole World

Chapter Fourteen - Moving On Up

Chapter Fifteen - O Holy Night

Chapter Sixteen - Hello There

Chapter Seventeen - Penance

Chapter Eighteen - Legitimate

Chapter Nineteen - Happy

Chapter Twenty - Guarded Heart

Chapter Twenty-One - K.E.W.

Chapter Twenty-Two - Hate

Chapter Twenty-Three - Fear

Chapter Twenty-Four - Survive

Chapter Twenty-Five - Dada

Chapter Twenty-Six - Black Wings

Chapter Twenty-Seven - Witch Hunt

Chapter Twenty-Eight - Confrontation

Chapter Twenty-Nine - Now What?

Chapter Thirty - Weakness

Chapter Thirty-One - Pride Goeth Before A Fall

Chapter Thirty-Two - Old Blood

Chapter Thirty-Three - The Straw

Chapter Thirty-Four - Choice

Chapter Thirty-Five - Bet On It

Chapter Thirty-Six - Epilogue

Chapter Thirty-Seven - Extra Kids Chapters















CHAPTER ONE

Uh-Oh


A giant qunari lady's horn almost smacked right into Alistair's cheek. Luckily, he had just enough waning training in his blood to dodge first before asking questions. The woman in question was spinning on her feet, trying to wrestle with a dwarf that had no mind to pay for whatever crime he kept insisting he didn't commit. She groaned, her eyes rolling as the dwarf inched his manacled hands around a desk and drew forth a small letter opener to defend himself. Unaware of the King enjoying the show, the newest detective yanked up the dwarf by the waistband of his pants and dangled him high in the air.

"Hey, let me down!" he squirmed, those short legs paddling freely.

The Qunari snarled, "Not bloody likely," then she turned and caught the human flesh clogging up the door, "oh, hi your Majesty."

"Don't mind me," Alistair chuckled. "I'll keep far out of your way." He was used to the hustle and bustle of the Solver's agency by now. Voices shouted out questions from one end of the room to the other, the sound of quills scratching against vellum a constant background noise, and...sure enough there glittering in the back of the madness were the eyes he expected.

"Lunet," Alistair tipped his head to the elf that was both confusingly secretary and second in command at the same time. He paused and thought of Karelle. Actually, that wasn't so surprising. "Where's...?" he began, when a voice called from behind a giant stack of crates.

"I'm back here."

"Reiss," he finished first to Lunet -- who only shrugged, then got back to jabbing her pastry into a stein of coffee. Sliding through the office's maze of desks, always shifting thanks to evidence piling up at random, Alistair came to a seeming impenetrable wall made of stacks and stacks of boxes. Somewhere behind it was the woman he loved, the clear sound of her belabored breath breaking past the wooden barrier.

"Hello!" he shouted, a hand cupped to his mouth. "Excuse me, keeper of the boxes, but have you seen a lovely elf by any chance? About five foot seven with golden hair, eyes of summer, and the sharpest tongue you've ever faced?" Alistair felt a snicker from the dark haired elf behind him and he tipped his head in recognition.

"Oh for the..." Reiss growled, when her head shot out through a hole. Her cheeks were flushed bright red, and she'd doffed her hat to reveal that familiar bun, though the requisite dagger was nowhere to be seen. 

"Hello," Alistair smiled before bending over and placing a soft kiss to her perturbed lips. Her hand lashed out from behind the wall, fingers tenting against his cheek for balance as she returned the affection. "Busy?"

"When aren't I?" Reiss volleyed back. Groaning, she slid half her body through the hole, slightly widening it. "If you maybe duck down you can get in through here." It took more than his ducking, Alistair having to suck in his gut which he'd always considered rather trim, as well as feeling the unfinished wood snag upon the backside of his trousers. But, after a bit of impossible bending of his body, he made it back to where her desk sat.

Walled off from the rest of the office, a strange silence fell, as if they were in a secret cave hiding from an oncoming storm. Reiss wiped her hands off on her tunic, oddly missing the scrap of plate metal she always wore. A few ink stains and whatever filth clung to the boxes trailed behind her hands, but Alistair didn't care. 

"Maker's breath, you're beautiful," he murmured, entranced with the set in her glistening eyes and the turn to her smile.

"You always say that," she answered back, but a soft blush rose upon those cheeks.

With a curl of his fingers, he tipped a breakaway tendril of golden hair back behind her ears and whispered, "Because it's always true." This time Reiss crossed the distance, her hands wrapping tight around the back of his neck while her lips devoured his. She must have been famished, her tongue quickly finding its way in to resuscitate his. Pinning his palms around her waist, Alistair wished to shed every stitch of clothing off her.

"Oi, you two better not be snogging in there," Lunet's snarky voice managed to reach them through the barricade.

Breaking away from him with a sigh at being interrupted, Reiss smiled, "Hello, husband."

"Hello, wife," he whispered, always lighter when he could say those words to her. There was almost no one else in thedas who knew, but damn it, it meant something to him. "Let me guess," he gestured to the boxes, "there was a great estate sale and you simply had to buy everything in the place."

"Ha," Reiss laughed once, her body slotting against his side in a half hug. Pointing to each section of wall, she explained, "Let's see, Dixon Hill case, an Adrian's Ghost Monk, missing Miss Marples, and the Purloined Pussy."

"You're looking into someone's missing cat?" he asked, surprised she'd take on such a small matter.

Reiss blinked a moment, then blushed, "Not exactly, no."

"How are you surviving back here?" he stared around at this secret base where no one else entered or left. "How long have you been surviving in this?"

"Not very, a few days," she waved her hand as if it wasn't a problem, "I can slip out if the need arises and I trust my people to handle anything big that comes through the door." Reiss pressed her warm lips against his neck, obviously trying to distract him from her current predicament. Sadly, Alistair was a simple man and it was working perfectly for her.

Moaning in the back of his throat, he turned, prepared to do all the snogging he wanted with the boss. Reiss slipped away, those dangerously smart eyes sizing him up. "You got here rather quickly..."

"I had little to do today. Really. Pinkie swear," he extended it out and even under her scrutinizing stare, she returned the gesture with her own. "The castle's been recuperating from the huge birthday party."

Reiss smiled wide at that, "How'd it go?"

"Pretty good. Spud ushered in the big six with near on ten thousand of her cousins around. Maker's sake, I have no idea how many there are, it's just a sea of tiny hands and feet flapping around up there. Spent the day eating cake, opening up presents, drinking punch, eating more cake, then riding around on ponies."

She tipped her head at that, "You didn't ride a pony, right?" Slowly her eyes darted down his form that'd crush the poor thing.

"Had to, the birthday girl insisted. While all the kids were saddled up and squealing, I sort of waddled around over top the poor thing squished between my thighs."

The bright laughter echoing in Reiss' throat was enough to make up for his abject humiliation. In truth, it wasn't that bad, Spud clapping like mad every time the pony whinnied in annoyance. And he didn't get kicked, so that was good.

"How'd Cailan take it?" 

"About as good as can be expected at three," Alistair admitted. "At first he was terrified of the thing. I couldn't blame him, the poor pony's bridle was festooned with ribbons. It looked like its head was being consumed by a cotton candy colored squid. Then he saw his sister wanted to ride and we couldn't stop the kid from leaping into a saddle."

Reiss slid out from hugging him in order to sit down upon her desk. Her eyes kept staring up at his face while she gripped onto the edge for balance.

"It's real fun when he's at that age to want to do everything his sister does and she's at the age where she doesn't want a damn thing to do with him. Near on everyday it's an utter conniption over 'Daddy, he's touching my things!' 'Daddy, I don't wanna take Caywen!' And of course my son's just crying 'Sissy' and chasing after her as if it's all a fun game."

Her sweet shoulders began to shake a little at a contained laugh from his misfortune. Reaching forward, her fingers skirted with his and she gripped to his hand. "They'll grow out of it."

"Maker's sake, I hope so. There was a near on meltdown right outside the chantry steps because 'Caywen touched my kerchief.' And Cailan's bawling because Spud's being mean and he's so very tender hearted about such things. I thought the Grand Cleric was going to have me excommunicated, then tossed into the stocks on the very spot for it," he paused to shake his head at the children that both filled and drained his life. It was a good day when it came to a wash. "At least Cailan's pretty much out of nappies."

She smiled at that, "I don't think Lorace got the idea until he was nearly five."

"And you never let your brother forget, I bet," Alistair smiled at her. Reiss only lifted a shoulder, but the ornery grin told him all he needed to know. "Anyway, castle's sleeping all that off when not pursuing hordes of children in various stages of sugar berserk rages. All I had was a meeting this morning with the Denerim crew and a few letters to answer. Oh and keeping up the diary for Lanny. Day 65 since I took your potion, still no dreams. Can't sense darkspawn, but there are very few in the city for some reason. Perhaps they're not impressed with the spring salons this year. The horrifically tainted are so fickle. All in all, seems to be working."

Reiss tugged their clasped hands together, drawing him away from his story telling gaze right to her eyes. A hint of tears brimmed in them as she whispered, "Good."

Cupping her cheek, Alistair bent over to press his forehead to hers. "I'm sticking around as long as I can," he promised her and moved to press his lips to hers and seal the deal.

Suddenly, Reiss yanked her head back, a hand flying up to her mouth. Her entire face knotted up in concern and panic as she whipped around searching for something, but after a moment it seemed to pass. "Sorry, I've been fighting this Maker awful stomach bug for the past few days. Because," she raised her voice to be heard through the boxes, "someone brought in tainted potato salad!"

Lunet's groan pierced through the barricade, "How long do you intend to blame me for that?"

"Until I stop vomiting comes to mind."

"I already swore I wouldn't get any lunch from that cart ever again. What more do you want from me? My blood?"

Reiss sighed, "Do not tempt me." 

Softly, Alistair parted his fingers over her forehead, noticing how clammy it felt to his touch. "Are you pushing yourself? Should I go? I don't want you to get sicker for my sake."

Smiling, she wrapped her arms around the back of his neck and tugged her head against his chest. "Please stay. I feel better when you're around."

"Okay," he sighed, dipping down to pull her fully into a hug, "but I'm guessing this means dinner is out."

That same seasick queasy face returned, Reiss shaking her head away. It passed just as quick as before and she snarled, "I'm going to kill Lunet."

"You say that every time I visit," Alistair chuckled. "Come on, you should probably take it easy. Bosses can take half days after all."

He expected her to argue, she always did whenever he showed up early, often leaving the King to prod around in her desk drawing things or sometimes questioning witnesses that strolled in. But this must have hit harder than she let on as Reiss nodded her head and slipped to her legs. With her arms still wrapped around him, she turned her head to shout, "Lunet, I'm heading upstairs to rest. You can handle lock up."

"Already figured I would," she shouted back as smug as ever.

Reiss rolled her eyes but curled tighter to him. Together they took the long stairs up to her private apartment where hopefully no one below would overhear their vigorous reunion.


***


She meant to rest, but when Alistair's fingers began to slide across her back undoing a stuck button to help her into her pajamas, well...

"You need a bigger bed," he complained, as he always did for every visit. 

"Last I checked, there's only one of me," she sighed, snuggling tighter against his warm chest. Those fingers that'd teased and tempted her body carefully parted her fallen hair. Reiss stopped keeping anything in her bun on the days she knew Alistair would arrive. It was only going to wind up crashing to the ground anyway.

"What about Muse?" he pressed a kiss to her hair, as if sealing his job at combing it, letting those strong hands traipse down her naked back.

"The dog does not sleep in my bed," Reiss growled. "Maker's sake, there's barely enough room for me."

"Ah ha!" he cried, trying to sit up but it was impossible with all of her laying on top of him. "It is too small."

Struggling up to her elbows, she crawled higher to stare deep into those cocksure eyes. Muse didn't whine and wheedle as great as Alistair did, probably because it didn't work for the dog unlike the human. Brushing her swollen nose against the side of his, Reiss tasted those tender lips still flushed from their exertions. He seemed to abandon his thoughts on the bed, Alistair's hands skirting up around her waist to tug her tighter against his stomach.

Maker's breath, she moaned in the back of her throat. The nights in her bed had felt particularly lonely as of late, their last encounter being of the official variety save a quick lunch together. It felt like weeks since he'd massaged the pads of his palms into her hips or rolled them back to cup her ass. 

Reiss noticed that the potion the Hero created for the both of them seemed to be having another effect, age finally creeping up to take down his infamous appetite. But the small layer of fluff that turned mountains of abs into molehills didn't damper an inch of her desire. It was kinda fun to snuggle to a softer body and not worry about a bone prodding into her more tender flesh.

"I missed you," Alistair moaned, his fingers skirting off her hips to curl up her stomach. Ever so softly he graced those palms against her breasts, but it was pain instead of pleasure that seared against Reiss' skin. She sat up fast, her hands slipping over both to try and coddle them tight.

Wincing at the pain and concern in his eyes, she sighed, "Sorry, they've been temperamental lately."

"Oh," his hands barely drew against her naked thigh, those sweet brown eyes weighing her attempting to soothe her aching chest. "Reiss, did I hurt you before? I..."

"No, no," she raced to comfort him, "it comes and goes at random. Been doing it for a few days now."

"That's why no metal breastplate," Alistair mused, surprising her.

"You noticed that?" she turned to him, that investigator always on the lookout for new talent honing in on him.

He chuckled, both hands splaying against the pillow in a strange defeat, "Noticed, stared enraptured at your chest. Tomato, red orange." The cheeky smile caught her in a familiar loop, both of them grinning like idiots upon each other, when it suddenly fell. "You're not sick, are you?"

"You mean aside from whatever stomach knot Lunet put me under?" she groaned, glad it was fading. Perhaps she'd finally overcome the slippery thing. It felt like it'd been a good week she'd suffered this barely simmering flu, which wasn't entirely surprising. Reiss had a habit of pushing herself too hard for too long.

Exhausted, she curled up back on top of her husband, her fingers climbing up and down the feathery chest hair. "I doubt it's anything serious. It'll pass in time."

"I'm more worried about pains in your chest, that can be deadly," the usually sunny voice skipped deeper into a hole, his eyes burning through her dilapidated ceiling.

"Alistair," Reiss whispered his name which always seemed to calm him. "They're tender is all. It can happen. Maybe the breastplate is pinching too tight, or I laid on my stomach too long, or..."

A thought trickled through her mind. 

No.

They'd already been down that road before. It wasn't possible, as she'd proven to herself over the years.

"Or...?" Alistair prompted, staggering up to stare into her eyes. But Reiss was too busy glaring through the air to look back at him.

Sixty five days since he was in theory clean of the taint. What if...?

Oh Maker.

Reiss slid off him, her feet hitting the ground as she hunted for clothing. Most of hers was scattered to the four winds of her tiny apartment, Reiss not being one to cling to orderliness. She snagged on a pair of trousers, then slipped her hands through a robe. Far too large for her, she usually kept it around for Alistair in the event there were any surprises knocking upon her door and he had to clothe himself quickly.

The man sat up on her bed, "What are you doing?"

"Downstairs," she said, wadding up a pair of pants and hurling them at Alistair, "I think everyone's gone for the day, but just in case."

He held them up in utter confusion, those expressive eyebrows knotted together. "In case of what?"

Reiss yanked open the door, causing the oversized robe to expand and leave her sternum further exposed. Normally, she'd blush at so much of her skin being free but her mind was too busy broiling in concern. No, not again. Padding down the stairs, she emerged out into her desk area still swamped by the wall of evidence. Barely any light flickered from the fire beyond her mess, and she heard no noises out in the agency, but still she held her breath while yanking open drawers and digging through them.

"What are you doing?" Alistair asked, his voice hissing as he attempted to slide a shirt on over his head.

"Looking," Reiss answered back, not meaning to be smart, her brain too focused on the hunt. "I know it's here, somewhere."

"I wouldn't be surprised if you have the Sword of Mercy somehow lost in one of these boxes," Alistair mused, his fingers running over one of them.

Shuffling through sheafs of papers and upending ink bottles, Reiss ransacked her own desk about to give up hope when her prize rolled out from the back of the drawer. Leftover from a potion master case, they'd been using up the evidence as it became clear no one was going to collect the stock. A handful of the more useful but less necessary ones wound up under her eye. It was stupid, there was no reason for her to keep this one, but Lunet said it wasn't as if she'd ever need it, so it fell to the boss.

With a set in her shoulders, Reiss placed the bottle onto her desk. It drew Alistair's eye away from whatever had captured it. "Okay, I'm guessing you found whatever you needed."

"Not quite yet," she sighed. Glancing around her desk, she turned and spotted the ceremonial sword her lover gave her for saving his life. She scooped up the bottle off her desk and marched over to it. Steadying her finger, she plunged it against the point.

"What are you doing?" Alistair hissed, watching Reiss dribble a drop of blood into the bottle. It swirled with her scarlet life before fading back to crystal clear.

She held the bottle tight, her eyes hunting over it. "Blue and it's empty," she recited the mantra from what felt another lifetime ago. Alistair's fingers landed on her shoulders, kneading into the robe's neck as he must have felt her anxiety. "Red and..."

Reiss thought it'd take time, it had before, enough for her to unstick her tongue and voice the fear nibbling in her ear, but like flipping a switch the entire potion bottle turned bright red. Her fingers began to shake, the ruby liquid sloshing back and forth before she tucked it tight to her chest.

Holy shit.

"Red and...?" Alistair prompted. "Are you okay? What's wrong?"

"I," Reiss swallowed her fears and turned to find him. He looked panic stricken, the same fear on his face he wore when he thought she'd been lost to the darkspawn. Gently she placed her fingers to his face and sighed, "Red and there's a baby. I'm pregnant."

"You..." his eyes darted down first to the bottle declaring for all to see, then to her queasy but flat stomach. "You're, there's a...but how...? Oh shit!" he groaned, "oh shit, shit, shit! I didn't think that it would. I mean, it's been years, and years ,and..." He gulped, sweat percolating on his brow as the pair of them absorbed the news.

Pregnant.

A baby.

They were going to have a baby together.

One half elf to one half king.

"Reiss," his face was blank, his fingers curling over her cheeks as he lifted her eyes to his. "What are you thinking? Feeling?"

"I hadn't considered," she blinked, listening deep within herself. There was fear cloaked in trepidation. She'd never had a baby before. What would happen to her body, her life? But... A smile skirted around her lips, her eyes closing in a few soft tears. "I'm happy," she admitted.

"Oh thank the Maker," a great smile enveloped Alistair's face, his fingers tugging that nearly white hair skyward. "I mean, I'm ecstatic. A baby! Another! To think..." he bent over, his face skirting near her stomach to whisper, "there's one growing inside of there. And with you."

Alistair staggered up to cup her cheeks, pressing a sweet kiss to her lips, "A child with the woman I love is, well, it's beyond anything I ever dreamed of. To tickle those tiny toes and have big green eyes staring up at me while I try to craftily change a nappy without getting pissed on." He laughed in obvious joy at the thought.

"The child could have your eyes," Reiss mused, her heart opening up to the possibility. A baby tucked inside of her at this very moment, getting bigger and stronger with her every breath. Her hand wrapped tighter around her stomach. She never really paused to think that being with Alistair meant there were no children on her horizon. It was enough to be with him, but a part of her on occasion regretted the loss with a small pang. 

And now...

He curled his hand around the back of hers, the pair of them clinging to this miracle of Andraste herself. "I love you," Alistair whispered.

"I love you too," Reiss smiled, trying to shake off another round of queasiness rising in her gullet. Damn, she'd have to stop blaming Lunet for it. 

A baby. Maker, no matter how many times she thought it, it still sounded impossible. Inside of her.

"What do we do? What do I do?" she mused to herself.

"For now," Alistair scooped her up into his arms as effortlessly as their first year together. She giggled, nuzzling tight to his neck, "we head upstairs and celebrate. Later, we'll argue and foot stomp over whether junior should attend a prestigious charter school in the Free Marches or be trained by the Avvar in strategic loincloth placement." It was silly, she had so much to plan but...there was a good nine months left to go. He was right, for now they had something magnificent to celebrate.

Alistair carried her up a handful of stairs, when he suddenly paused, and blanched white. "And first thing tomorrow I send a missive to Lanny. She'll want to know about this unexpected side effect."















CHAPTER TWO

And Baby Makes...


A bracing wind whipped away the sweat clinging to Cullen's brow. Alas, little could be done to the rest percolating across his back as he finished tacking up the last of the wet sheets still steaming from the boiling cauldron. They'd had help for laundry, but then the ditzy boy ran off and got married. He gave it a month before the kid returned tail between his legs and eyes casting back out of fear of a vengeful in-law. 

Sounds of boots drawing up the path pulled Cullen's attention away from the lines of soggy bed linens to a man stepping proudly up the road. The sun's shadows cast his form in the dark, but Cullen would recognize that proud gait of a templar anywhere. Sliding away from his work, the ex-Knight Captain wiped off his hands against the towel knotted to his belt. 

"Commander," the voice broke through the air.

Cullen glanced up to find him saluting, as he always did every trip out to the abbey. "Ser Barris," he smiled, reaching over and grasping the man's hand for a generous shake. "You know you need not call me that."

"You're due your respect, Ser, as are many sequestered here."

He rarely stayed long, but Cullen enjoyed the man's biannual visits. Barris was what one wanted in a templar, loyal but not blindly, kind but always aware, and he never talked back. Maker, after a week and a half with the squire rejects Lana hired off of Teagan, Cullen was grateful for a man who knew when to hold his tongue. 

Cullen glanced back to the abbey cells, his eyes making quick note of the various colored swatches outside doors. This many years after the collapse of the order they didn't get any fresh cases, but a few were here permanently. Counting three from the left he spotted a green sign hanging off the knob. "Good timing, Ser Barris," he smiled, leading with his arm. The Knight waited until his superior took command, despite knowing exactly where he wished to go. "He is having a good day."

"Excellent, I'd hope the spring's thaw would do wonders for his constitution," Barris said, trailing behind the watchman of the refuge. A few of the harried help nodded at Cullen in deference, but they were all too busy with their work to properly salute. "How are you?"

"As well as can be expected. Winter did a number, as it always seems to in these parts of Ferelden. You're from further north, right?"

"Yes, my family at least. It feels as if I haven't been back in an age," he stared out towards the horizon with a world weary exhaustion Cullen knew far too well. Barris seemed to shake himself from it and smile, "And how is the Lady of the abbey?"

Cullen chuckled at that. "Lana's well. She's off doing something with potions at the moment, but I'm certain she'll be delighted to talk with you over dinner."

They paused outside the door to his friend's room, the Knight collapsing his hands behind him. "I shall look forward to it. She is a woman with a sharp mind."

"And a sharper tongue," Cullen sighed, rolling back and forth on his heels. "Feel free to head in, you know the drill."

"Thank you, Commander," Barris nodded before pausing. "Oh, I nearly forgot. My path crossed with a messenger bringing this note addressed to the Lady..." He passed over a folded sheet of vellum. Cullen's gut sank before he even caught the familiar seal of the Theirin family. 

"Wonderful," he murmured, pocketing it to give to his wife later.

"Unwelcome news?"

"More unwelcome sender," Cullen groaned. They'd been writing near on constant, a lot of it on Lana's side as she prodded her friend and duplicate test subject to keep her informed at all costs. No doubt the King suffered a bout of heartburn and thought it imperative to inform her. On the plus side, at least he didn't arrive here with a retinue to tell her.

"Forgive me for impeding you. Please, head on in," Cullen stepped back, giving Barris enough room to prop open the door. The sound drew the attentions of a silver haired man who'd been perched upon the bed knitting a scarf that had surpassed twelve feet. 

"Do you remember me, Derrik?" Barris asked, the door shutting before Cullen could overhear the answer. 

He glanced down at the remaining sheets waiting to be strung up like bandits, but perhaps he should deliver this letter to Lana. Where was his wife, anyway? He prodded first into her potions room, where he'd last seen her this morning, but it sat empty and mostly clean. The kitchen staff only shrugged, no one having seen her since morning. She couldn't have gone off to pick herbs, nearly nothing had sprouted out of the ground and Honor was fast asleep in her kennel. Even with a muzzle of snow, she always followed Lana to protect her.

Cullen's question grew to concern as he began to peek his head into every room. Maker's sake, there weren't that many in the abbey. This shouldn't be so difficult. It wasn't until he debated if it was worth it to signal the Arl and see if Lana wandered off to the near hunting lodge that he thought to check their room. A slight tremor grew in his hand, the fear of losing her beating its fists upon his heart, as he grabbed onto the doorknob.

Thanks to a fresh oiling, the door opened smoothly to reveal a mass of curls perched over the back of a chair. Breath filled his body as the head whipped back and forth, Lana's hand reaching forward to match a quill jabbing into a book. She was fine, and working. Why was he even worried? She was always working.

Swallowing down the concern in his voice, Cullen slid into the room and tried to silently close the door. The tug of wind caused her candle's flame to dance forward, Lana whipping her head towards him. He smiled, "You're never going to guess who's back. It's..."

Lana rose to her feet quickly. Shuffling towards him without a cane, she grabbed onto Cullen's hand and placed it against her lower stomach. "Feel," she commanded. 

"All right," he cupped tighter against the blue dress clinging to her soft belly. "I..." Cullen shook his head, "I'm not certain what I'm looking for." He thought it a strange game, certain she was about to laugh, until looking up into her eyes. Her face was stricken, nearly pale as ash, the bottom lip trembling.

"Not with your hand," she sneered, "with your mind."

"With my...what?" He was fully lost now, fearing this was all some prank but Lana looked spooked beyond measure.

"Please," she begged, a sliver of a tear welling up in her eye. Moved to action, Cullen tried to steady himself deeper inside to the abandoned templar skills. He had no idea what he was looking for, or supposed to be feeling. There was Lana, his wife, his reason for getting up in the morning. Her warm body pressed tight to his drew up memories to him of when it was her bare skin instead of the thick linen. He'd skirted his fingers to her stomach before dawn to hold her tight to him. Cullen thought he'd been quiet, but no, she woke and cuddled deeper to his body, entertained with his failed subtlety. Her laugh had rumbled up through his palm because she was so full of life. 

Life.

His eyes flew open, Cullen's tongue falling slack as he mouthed the word again, "Life?" Barely more than a flutter of a butterfly's wings, this other life beat through her own, from inside her. "Lana..." he swallowed, "what is this? What's inside of you? Are you okay? Is there some, are you infested with a parasite?"

She cupped his cheeks with her hands, tugging him to her forehead. "In a manner of speaking..." More of her weight fell against his body, Cullen wrapping an arm around her waist while the other remained tight to her abdomen as if he could banish whatever was festering inside of her. 

"Cullen, I...Maker's sake, I can't believe I'm about to say this." Lana gulped, the glistening tears dribbling off her cheek. "I still don't believe it, even after..."

"What? Please, tell me," he begged, the tremors beginning again.

"I'm pregnant," she said, lifting one shoulder in a shrug.

"You, you're...it's not a dangerous creature inside of you?" He clung to the other probable eventuality because that idea, that fact of a...was even more unimaginable than anything else to befall her.

"No, at least not until it's had a good thirteen years or so to grow," she chuckled once, but it was a solemn and uncertain laugh.

"What? How?" he stumbled through any word that he hoped would explain this impossibility, but none would suffice.

Lana brushed her fingers against his forehead, "I was checking potions, the validity and strength of the health ones. Simple. Distillation had been a bit...never mind. In order to do it, I had to dip into the fade, measure my life force such as it is. And that's when I felt it. Something."

She turned from him to swipe an arm across an array of bottles and scribbled notes. "I ran every test I could think of, cast every spell, even performed a few old wives tales because I was running out of ideas. And every single one came up the same."

"Pregnant?" Cullen swallowed hard, what felt like a thousand nails sliding down his throat. This was the exact possibility that was never supposed to happen in their lives. He'd accepted it, embraced it, almost reveled in it, and now... 

"Maker's breath," he swooped up his wife, all but snuggling her in his arms, "are you, how are you feeling?"

"Confused, and more confused," she gasped, her hands curling up to cling to his back. "I didn't think, never suspected that removing the taint would. That many years I'd assumed there'd be deleterious effects upon my..." She pressed her face tight to his chest while Cullen parted her curls, "This wasn't supposed to happen."

A single laugh broke through his chest, his wife lifting away to stare into his eyes. He cupped her cheek and in a soft voice said, "Lana, the blight wasn't supposed to happen. Kirkwall wasn't supposed to happen. Maker knows Corypheus wasn't supposed to."

"We've survived a lot of the unexpected," she said, a smile flitting with her lush lips.

"Very much so."

"Cullen, I..." her eyes darted down, "I want to be happy, I think. Excited, but I'm scared. The very potion that allowed this is in its infantile stages, tested on a few blighted animals and then two humans. What if...?"

Her shoulders began to quiver, her lips falling slack as she sucked in a breath. He read her fears because the same scrawled upon his heart. "If," pressing her tight to his chest, he began to rock back and forth with her body in his arms, "if it doesn't take, then it's not meant to be. I will love you no matter what."

A smile lifted a moment and she pressed her face against his chest, responding in kind. Chuckling, she raised her head, "That explains why I've been so moody lately. Silliest little thing just sends my mind flailing."

Maker's breath, a child? He was nearing his forties with every breath and they were going to have a baby. A little, fragile baby raised in this abbey full of sick, dying, and mind-addled Templars. Deep inside of Cullen the panic began, jerking its finger at every way this would fail, but he wouldn't let it catch. Lana needed him to be her rock.

She was trying to dab up her tears, shaking her head. "I never considered, I mean, I know how to deliver babies. I can feel when there's a breach, or if the child is in distress. But carrying one...what do I do? Is there something I should eat? Drink?"

"Food, you'll probably want food. I doubt any will blink an eye at your appetite returning to what it once was," he smiled, somehow being the calm one. She was filling with another soul growing inside of her, not him. Ever since he plucked her out of the Fade, Cullen felt as if Lana was another part of him, but perhaps for the first time he realized how foreign she truly was. A child becoming one half of her and one half of him, tucked away inside of her womb. It was terrifying and awe inspiring as well.

"There are books, probably. I should order some from Val Royeaux to read and..." Lana's eyes began to hunt around the room, searching for no doubt a quill or catalog.

"Lana," he cupped her cheeks, softly focusing her upon him, "we'll get it. You'll use your beautiful mind to no doubt prepare for any eventuality that could possibly occur."

"Me?" she scoffed, "says the man who approaches spring cleaning like he's leading an army through the mountains." The woman he loved returned, her panic ebbing away as she blinked her bottomless eyes up at him.

Cullen sighed, well aware of his faults. "I can get in contact with Mia. She's carried a few children, and I suspect will be a calming influence for us both."

"Wait," Lana's hand caught his as if afraid he was about to do just that. "We should wait a few months, until we're sure that...it could be lost, or washed away." Pain lanced through her eyes; she was scared to grow attached to the life inside of her for fear that the taint that once filled her veins would wipe it away.

Right. Cullen dipped down and scooped his wife into his arms. She gasped in surprise as he led her to their shared bed and placed her gently onto it. "What are you doing?"

"You're going to need your rest," he said.

"Maker's breath, it's not as if the baby's going to come popping out right this second," she chastised him.

It was meant as a joke, but the image caught in Cullen's throat. A child, his child...there could be a boy or girl of his blood in this world. Shaking off the enormity of the concept, he sat down onto the bed and twisted to roll his eyes right into hers. 

Their noses bounced against each another, Cullen's hawk-like beak jabbing into her round one. Lana smiled at it, but the question was still there. What was he doing? Wrapping an arm over her side, he whispered to her beautiful brown eyes, "Let's lay here, together, just...talking. Worrying, fretting, laughing, I don't know. Being together..."

Her lips lifted in a quick smile, which she pressed against his mouth. Those pillowy lips softened, the warmth and taste of her overwhelming him. "Okay, together," she breathed against his cheek.

"Always," Cullen responded. He moved to snuggle her tight against him, when the memory struck. Rolling his eyes, his fingers pried out the short missive from the King, "I nearly forgot, you received a message."

She ran her fingers over it, seeming uninterested in the outside world for now, but then her eyes caught the seal and Lana sat up. Cracking it, she devoured quickly what looked like only a few sentences. Cullen followed, an arm wrapping around her shoulder as he asked, "What's the man want now?"

"He wrote to inform me that Reiss is with child," she said, the letter thudding to her lap. Lana twisted her head to him as she finished, "And that we should take precautions just in case."

"I wonder if that man has ever managed to accomplish anything properly?" Cullen sneered.

"Well, if she's really knocked up, there's at least once thing we know of," Lana laughed, earning a glare from her husband. She was quick to kiss it away, those soft fingers combing through his stubble as she guided him back to the bed with her. "I guess, no matter what happens, we're in this together. All four of us."

Not one but two babies, both with the potential to be tainted. And out of them, the only one with any experience in this matter was Alistair. The Maker has a real sense of humor sometimes.















CHAPTER THREE

If He Asks


12 weeks along...


Blade flying through the air, Reiss threw up her arm just in time to deflect it against her bracer. "So much for you innocence, Cedric," she hissed at the human she all but fished out of the sewers. Bedraggled and scrawnier than most elves, he was nothing but bones and skin...and, sadly, a few knives pressed into his palms she failed to take into account.

He shrieked, the first knife's blade sailing harmlessly by, but the second she had no easy way to block. Reiss tried to scurry back out of the culvert when she pressed tight to the wall. The knife's edge zipped back and forth through the air like a mad fly until slicing through her coat and sticking deep into her upper arm. Hissing in pain, she glanced over to find blood pooling across the not as well oiled hide of her signature coat.

"Fine, you want to do this the hard way," she sneered, drawing the sword off her belt. Cedric was little more than a two copper thug in Denerim, one she'd rather not cut down if only for the sake of whoever had to clean up the body. But something must have spooked him good. Was he worried about selling out a bigger boss?

Rolling her shoulders back into an instant soldier stance, Reiss' blade met first against one dagger, then the second. Striking hard enough to bend back Cedric's wrist, the dagger scattered to the shit filled swamp running below their feet. Even the bastard on his last leg wasn't stupid enough to go fishing for it. Still, he stared down in surprise before flipping his grip on the one remaining dagger. Good for going high, but it wasn't going to save him.

Reiss' foot lashed out, the steel tip of her boots crunching into a knee. With no fat or muscle to get in the way, the bone all but shattered from her force, Cedric plummeting down. Smoothly, Reiss slid in behind him, her blade drawing tight to the ropey neck. The man trembled, terrified of how easily she could snuff him out. 

"Nice try," she mocked when a woosh of the stench of shit and urine collapsed off of Cedric's stringy hair. It kicked right into her tender stomach all but causing spots to burst in her eyes, but she hung on. "Now," Reiss coughed, trying to squelch her queasiness, "we're gonna do this again. Who paid you to slip the black lotus under Miss Simon's door?"

Cedric mouthed a few words, no doubt coming off whatever he snorted to go into a blood rage -- as if that gave any fighting advantage for a street bully to take on a soldier. She tipped her ear closer, the blade glittering by the haunting lantern lights put out by the forgotten souls surviving in the sewers, when a clattering of boots echoed down the culvert. 

Her head snapped up to find another two of Cedric's group standing at the entrance. One carried a flail, most likely to do more damage to himself than anyone he attacked, and the other was clutching a crossbow. The criminal in her fingers began to chuckle, as if he had anyway out of this. Sadly, the arrival of his pals did change things, but not for his betterment.

"I'd hoped to avoid bloodshed this evening," Reiss groaned, not in the mood to blot out all the stains. The other two hopped back and forth, as twitchy as Cedric. 

"Give 'em to us and we'll let you go, knife-ear," the taller one brayed.

With her face shadowed below her hat, giving her an even more demonic look, Reiss' attentions shifted from one man to the other making certain they were watching. "No deal," she snarled and drew the blade clean across Cedric's throat. Blood spurted through the air, a professional knowing how to scissor the artery to exsanguinate the body fast. Reiss kept a tight hold to the dead man's corpse in the off chance crossbow remembered he had it, but she needn't bother.

Faces stained white with terror, both men beat a hasty retreat. Loyalty that could be purchased only lasted when there wasn't a fear of death in the air. Hurling Cedric to the ground, Reiss whistled through the air and sheathed her blade. She made it a few feet out of the sewer to find one man cowering in the corner while Muse bared his teeth and snarled. The other was flat out on the ground, both dwarven twins digging into the criminal's spine while cuffing him.

"Boss," Jorel called while his brother finished cinching up the restraints. "What do you want done with 'em?"

"Take 'em to the guard house for now. They'll have to sober up before anyone's getting a word out," Reiss instructed. 

"P...p-please, call off your war hound," the second man whimpered from behind his hands. She whistled again, drawing Muse off from the man. Like stepping on a trap, the snarling beast transformed into the lovable goof that often rolled in dead fish he found behind the agency. Jorel was quick to cuff the second assailant, but he needn't have bothered. After that scare, the man seemed incapable of standing due to his trembling legs.

"Not bad," Lunet said while stepping out of the shadows. She had a giant longbow slung over her shoulders in the event something went wrong. "You're gonna have that shit eating grin for a week, ain't ya?" 

Reiss sighed, but not too deeply at the insubordination. One, because it came from perhaps her dearest friend, and two, Lunet had the same grin. They'd been pursuing these shits for weeks and it'd be nice to put a pin in it all. Turning to look over her shoulder, pain seized up her arm and Reiss cupped the wound still weeping blood.

"Maker's taint, you got stabbed?" Lunet reached over as if she could see the damage through her coat and large tunic. 

"It's nothing, a scratch. Still, better get it cleaned up," she sighed. "Men," Reiss ordered, "take care of those two, and get paperwork from the guardhouse upon their release. No way we're letting Fettain take credit for our work. Detective Lunet and I will be back at the agency."

"Yes, Ser," both saluted before hauling up the men.

Reiss leaned down to the agency's pet mabari, "Stick with 'em Muse. They may need backup."

Muse woofed once and gave chase while Reiss and Lunet turned back to walk to their business. It didn't take long to find their sign teetering in the wind. The damn lock stuck, often leaving the door wedged slightly open, but no one even this close to the alienage was stupid enough to try and break in. You don't want to go robbing from people who are known for solving robberies. Reiss yanked off her hat, placing it upon the hook beside the door, then unfurled her coat.

"I think it stopped bleeding," she mused to herself, inspecting the jagged wound that shrieked pain across her brain when touching it. Refraining from that would probably be wise then. Lunet didn't say anything, only twisted a chair around and patted the seat.

"Let me take a look," she sighed, digging out their kit from a bottom drawer. A pair of bottles holding medicinal grade alcohol answered in kind but she left them behind.

As Reiss settled down, she began to roll up the tunic that billowed across her tiny form. No one said much about their boss suddenly wearing larger shirts from out of nowhere. She was glad not to have anyone pressing questions, but also disappointed. Their job was to notice things off from the norm and draw conclusions. Maybe they needed to have more training.

"Ah!" Reiss hissed, pain searing across her arm as Lunet drew back a cloth that stung. "That hurts!"

"No shit, getting stabbed'll do that," she mused, her dark eyes little more than pupils in the low light of the agency. Lunet unraveled a string of catgut and began to thread the needle. "I can stitch it up, but maybe you should get it looked at proper. By one o' them college mages."

"It's a little cut, Lune. I don't think it'll kill me," Reiss sighed, tipping her head back and trying to not jump every time the needle bit into her flesh.

"This ain't little. Paper cuts are little. It's pretty deep into the meat, Rat."

"So?" She wasn't leaving a trail of blood in her wake, nor about to pass out in a back alley. "We've cleaned up far worse off each other over the years."

"Maybe, but you weren't carrying an extra passenger at the time, neither."

Reiss blinked, her hand cupping against the stomach that finally calmed down. It'd been nearly six weeks of constant churning as if she couldn't escape from a ship. Most of her crew learned that when the boss said to get out of the way, you best dive for the sidelines. 

"Just because there's a...I'm not exactly made out of egg shells, Lunet. I can handle myself just fine."

"Uh huh," her friend grunted, the sutures far tighter than they ever used as it wasted precious catgut, "and what if the knife hadn't been for your arm? What if it nicked through your belly instead?"

"Impossible," Reiss dismissed the thought, "Cedric's hands weren't capable of reaching far enough over to..." At her friend's look, Reiss paused. "What?"

Lunet slunk back into her chair, the bloody needle still poised in her fingers. "If it were just you full of some dockworker's brat, I wouldn't say nothing. Shit, I'd expect you to be out there walking the beat at eight months popped and counting." They both remembered the expectations of oncoming mothers in the watch. You either sucked it up, or you were replaced. 

"Reiss, this ain't nothing. This is the King's," Lunet gestured to her womb as if a fabled jewel was jammed inside instead of a tiny fetus.

It wasn't the best conversation Reiss had ever had with Lunet when she told her, but it wasn't the worst either. Lunet at least got on with Alistair, to some extent, but she could read all the concerns in her friend's face. Unwed mother, squirreling away near an alienage, an elf filling with a human-blooded child. None of that would play well to the community. Perhaps it was Reiss' admitting she knew shit wouldn't be easy but stubbornly going ahead anyway that eased Lunet's fears. She'd been sworn to secrecy, nearly no one else made aware until Reiss felt it was time and there was less a chance of losing this miraculous surprise. After the first three months passed, she started to think she was really waiting until there was no more denying it.

"Plenty of women are walking around Denerim right now pregnant, and they're fine," Reiss said, shaking her head. She never thought she'd have to explain this to Lunet. 

"And how many of them are about to birth a kid with royal blood? I mean, do you know how many he's been sniffing around since you went up the duff?" She tacked on, earning a sneer from Reiss.

"Lune..."

"Wha'? Men are fickle, so I hear," Lunet tied off the suture and snipped it free. She'd on occasion make light about the idea of Alistair being romantically involved with anything that moved, if only because the idea was so preposterous. Normally, Reiss would laugh along, but there was clearly something else weighing on her mind.

"Okay, what's going on?" Reiss asked, reaching over with her sutured up arm to grip onto Lunet's cold fingers.

"You ain't obvious now, so it's a fun little secret, but... Shit, Rat, have you thought about what'll come once you're waddling around with a bulging gut?"

"I'll take a few months off, that's a given," Reiss said.

"Right, then you'll have a baby. Kinda loud, demanding, known to keep people up at all hours. You really think you're gonna be able to head right back in to work once it slithers out from between your legs?"

Reiss shuddered, "You make birth sound so appealing. Maybe it'll take awhile to adjust, but..."

"Maybe? Rye, that's someone with a claim to riches and lands beyond any of our wild dreams squatting inside you. Don't tell me you're so deluded to think you can just pop back in here as if nothing's changed after it's emerged into the world."

"Lune..." Reiss scooted forward, trying to catch her friend's for once wandering eye.

"And for all the crap I give him, ain't no way the King's gonna let you drag your little baby down to this shit hole. He'll want you both perfumed and pillowed up at the palace. Safe like," she jerked her chin at the red and oozing wound, "where no bastard's daggers can hurt you."

"Look, I can't claim to see into the future. This whole thing is new and I'm making it up as I go, but Maker's sake...this is my life, Lunet. This agency, all of you. I've been building it for nearly three years, that's far longer than the baby. I'm not going to give it up just because there's a child in my life too. It can stretch to fit, we'll find a way."

Lunet stared at her hands, seeming in disbelief, but her lips lifted in a half smile, "Is that a promise?"

"For as little as my name is worth," Reiss admitted. She'd been so busy worried about her stomach not upending itself with every step she never stopped to think what this baby would mean to everyone else around her.

"Good enough, I suppose," Lunet chuckled. Then her eyes wandered over to the cut that was about to bruise terribly. "Gonna tell the King about that?"

Reiss drew her fingers softly against the sutures and sighed. Rolling her sleeve back down to hide it, she admitted, "Only if he asks."















CHAPTER FOUR

A Little Rain


14 weeks along...


Don't even think about it!

Alistair glared at a dark cloud that went and gathered a good ten of its buddies together to crash what had been a very nice picnic he planned hard for. An elegant spread of cheeses once tucked inside the basket were now being slowly digested by the pair of them. He even snuck out the really good blanket off his bed, which -- considering the mess of grass stains and bugs -- may have not been such a wise idea. Ah, that's what washings were for.

Perched back on her elbows, this impossible woman stared down across the lonely hills. She'd wandered up them back when the sun was still able to hustle out the imposing clouds. Thanks to this gorgeous late-spring day, Reiss abandoned her fancy Solver coat and hat for little more than an old tunic that he swore was clinging tighter to certain parts of her anatomy he shouldn't speak of in polite company. Speaking of them in impolite company would cause Alistair to giggle like a gibbering nug and probably drool a little.

Reiss wiped a hand across her forehead and gazed over at him. "Tell me again, for the official record when Karelle or anyone else comes looking for you, why are we out here?"

Smiling, Alistair tipped back on his side to slide closer to her. He draped a hand down over her stomach -- still flat but give it time. "Because," he cupped his fingers up and down imagining them bulging with the baby inside of her. Catching her flash of verdant eyes, he melted, "I wanted to celebrate with you."

"That's..." Reiss began before Alistair caught her lips in a kiss. She tasted of the nutty brown cheese he snuck out that supposedly paired best with whatever wine was in your glass. As he pulled back, she hobbled herself onto one elbow to part her fingers down through his hair. "That's all we've been doing every time I see you."

"No, there's been other stuff. We, uh, we talked about...um," he blinked, his mind tumbling off a cliff. There had to have been more. Her casework, or whatever Lunet was up to, but somehow that all kept rolling back into baby things. How was she handling walking the streets while their little nub with limbs grew? What did Lunet think of it? Was she already on the line for babysitting? 

Reiss roughed up the grey scruff along his jaw and she tugged him closer, "I know you're excited." As the kiss faded, Alistair let his forehead brush against hers. Skin so warm it drew him tighter, the very joy of spring radiating off of her. Reiss seemed to be wearing pregnancy well once the sickness part wound down. There was a glisten in her eyes, and whenever he caught her rubbing her stomach the apples of her cheeks would light up. She was excited too, even if she had to be the more practical one.

"Ooh, I know," Alistair scurried to the edge of the blanket and hefted up one of her boots. "I'll rub your feet."

"Why?" she lifted an eyebrow, but didn't stop him from unlacing her shoes to place to the side.

Digging in with the pads of his hand, Alistair shrugged, "That's what the father does, right? Rub feet, fetch weird foods in the middle of the night, and pass out little celebratory bottles of wine."

"You damn well better do more than..." Reiss' sentence trailed off as he pressed both thumbs hard against the ball of her foot. A groan and then a, "dear Maker" erupted instead, Alistair unable to shake the smile. "Okay, that's good. Keep doing that."


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