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As soon as Alistair steps through the doorway into Elissa and Teagan’s home, he's flooded with warmth and light and laughter. It's a full house, and every room has at least two people mingling or trying to find even just a quiet moment. While he's kicking snow off his boots on the step outside the door, he hears a sharp gasp and then thundering footsteps running across the house.

“Alistair!”

Before he's even closed the door, Elissa slides into the front hall and jumps into his arms. He grins and lifts her up to spin her around while she giggles.

“You said you would be here an hour ago,” she scolded lightly.

“Blame the little monster still in the car,” he grumbles.

She pulls back just enough to kiss his cheek. “You're just a pushover. Why is she still in the car?”

“Helping Anora and Alet carry things in. Maeve insisted that she be the one to do it, while I announced our arrival,” he sighs dramatically.

“Pushover,” she repeats. He pouts.

“Well, you're mean.”

“You love me.”

“Yes, Auntie Lissa,” he teases. She rolls her eyes and swats at his shoulder while he just keeps grinning at her.

“You're lucky you're cute,” she says. She doesn't mean it, and they both know it.

She steps back to let him finish pulling his coat off and then takes it from him to hang in the nearby closet. He tries making some comment on waiting for his partners and his daughter, but Elissa is already dragging him further into the house through the living room.

Elissa’s mabari Baby is curled up in front of the fireplace, which is burning low but steady. Zevran is on one couch, with a girlfriend on each side, Daria Aeducan halfway onto his lap and Leliana curled up under his arm. Daria gives Alistair a weird look, somewhere between boredom and why are you still here , and he rolls his eyes. He has absolutely no idea how she and Elissa are friends, besides her dating two of Elissa’s best friends. He gives a small wave to Zevran and Leliana at least as Elissa pulls him away again.

The kitchen is packed. Morrigan and Lyna are on stools at the counter with Liana Lavellan standing next to Morrigan, all looking through the same book and arguing about history. Lyna has her arm looped around Morrigan’s with their hands linked together while Morrigan talks animatedly with her other hand. Liana’s partner, whose name Alistair doesn’t actually know because when he asks all the man will say is call me Bull , is next to Lyna, occasionally glancing at the book but mostly talking to Sten about Maker knows what politics.

Wynne is cooking alongside the Hawke sisters and Arianna Hawke’s son Alain. Oghren’s wife Felsi is calling out recipes and ingredients while they work from a list on her phone. As chaotic as it looks, everything seems to be getting done, and their cooking means Elissa doesn’t have to try and end up hurting at least herself. Alet walks in and purposely bumps into Alistair as ae passes him with a grin. A small blur rushes past them, slides down the tile floor and disappears into the basement. That would be where the other kids were, then.

Alet pushes past him to hug Elissa before moving onto the dining room next to the kitchen. As if on queue, there’s a string of groans and curses from the dining room not long after ae enters.

“So, what are we gambling this time?” ae asks.

“Our dignity.

“What Curly means is nothing. You joining in?”

“I will take any opportunity to embarrass all of you.”

Alistair looks into the room. Half of the party seems to be crowded around the table; Cullen, Varric, Will Hawke, Isabela, both of Arianna’s boyfriends Anders and Fenris, Samahlen Lavellan, his girlfriend Merrill, Josephine Montilyet, and now Alet. There are multiple games happening; one of Wicked Grace, and one of some other game being played in relative silence besides the occasional slamming on the table.

Elissa nudges him towards the door to the basement. “Go check on the kids? Lydia will be happy to see you, they’re all downstairs.”

“You know, there are easier ways to get rid of me,” he laughs. She rolls her eyes and nudges him again.

Go.

He gets halfway down the stairs before he hears the complete chaos in the enormous basement. Elissa and Teagan’s daughter Lydia is perched on the back of one of the couches alongside one of Liana and Bull’s kids, Cole. Maeve and Kieran are in the actual seats of the couch playing some racing video game while Lydia yells things out at them and laughs when one of them spins out or flies off the track. Her brother Aedan, much more quiet that his sister, is wandering around the room poking through couch cushions and furniture. It takes a moment before Alistair sees the puff of bright red hair that can only belong to Felsi and Oghren’s kid, Lizzy.

Connor is standing near the bottom of the stairs with his boyfriend, Dorian, and Liana and Bull’s other kid, Krem, and Alistair joins them.

“How’s the horde been behaving?” he asks casually. Like he doesn’t know the answer is badly and that being sent to check on the kids is Elissa’s way of punishing him for calling her Auntie Lissa.

“The house is still standing,” Connor answers drily.

“That’s something. Elissa sent me to check on the kids, but I’m beginning to think she wanted me to check if you all were alive down here.”

Dorian laughs. “All it took was putting a video game in front of them to get them quiet. Well, quiet for these monsters you people call children.”

“They’re all here now, right?” Krem asks.

“Uh, I think so.” Alistair does a quick head count. “Looks like all of them, unless there’s been more when I wasn’t looking. Why?”

“Uncle Teagan said they had to wait to go outside until everyone was here,” Connor explains. “Lydia has been begging to go out into the snow since she got up this morning at our place. And all the way here. And every moment she hasn’t been distracted since then.”

“Well, have fun with that.

“Oh no, you are going out with them,” he says in the same flat tone as before. But Alistair can see the little shit trying not to smile. “You’re the fun cousin. Good luck.”

“You’re evil. So is Elissa. This is why she sent me down here. You’re conspiring against me.”

“Better go tell them all to prepare themselves for the stampede.”

Just to be annoying, before Alistair turns back to the stairs, he messes up his baby cousin’s hair. Connor glares at him and shoves him off and Alistair grins as he rushes back up the stairs.

It takes some wandering around the house before he finds his uncle. Anora is settled behind Alet in the dining room, and he feels sorry for everyone Alet is playing against. Their strategy is for one to play while the other distracts and demoralizes, which Alistair knows because they do it to him every time they play any games, even board games with Maeve (they don’t do it to Maeve , of course, but she knows they’re doing it!).

He finally finds Teagan in the lounge off of the dining room, on a couch with Elissa cuddled up up to him. He is currently trying to convince Oghren to drink something disgusting, and Alistair doesn’t want to even know what it is. Sera is sprawled out on the floor beside Dagna, encouraging all of them. Thom is the only responsible adult in the room, but he’s not even trying to stop it from happening.

“Not to interrupt such a mature discussion,” Alistair snarks, “but I was told the kids wanted to go outside, and that I’m being sacrificed to them?”

“I don’t know about sacrifice,” Elissa mumbles.

“You are the fun cousin,” Teagan says, trying to hide that he’s smiling with his drink.

“Funny, Connor said the exact same thing.”

“He’s a smart kid.”

“I’m not wrangling all of them by myself. I’d like to leave here tomorrow with some of my dignity intact.” Maeve is a handful on her own, even at twelve years old. Dealing with another twelve year old, a thirteen year old, and two nine year olds at the same time is asking to be miserable.

Teagan sighs. “Fine. Lydia will just drag me out there anyway. Go get them ready.”

It is surprisingly easy to get all five children in their winter gear. Once Lydia finally realizes Alistair is there, she jumps him, almost tackling him to the ground. Then he says snow and outside, and she sprints up the stairs, followed by Lizzy, Maeve, and Kieran. Aedan lags behind and walks back up with Alistair quietly. When they get to the top of the steps, Aedan reaches out and grabs his hand, squeezing incredibly tightly for a nine year old.

“What’s up?” Alistair asks gently. Aedan shakes his head. “Is it the noise?”

A nod. “It is pretty loud. Think you’ll be okay to get your jacket and boots on?”

No,' Aedan signs.

“Do you still want to go outside?”

Yes.

“Alright. How about I’ll go get your stuff, we’ll put it on downstairs, and then you can cover your ears while we run out?”

Aedan nods. He lets go of Alistair’s hand and Alistair turns to face him while he signs. ‘ Lydia knows where it is.

“Got it. I’ll be right back down.”

When he gets up the stairs and rounds the corner to the front door with the coat closet, Lydia is already decked out in all of her matching bright purple winter gear and digging through the closet to find everyone else’s. Maeve looks at him as he walked up.

“Where’s Aedan?” she asks with a frown so identical to her mother’s it is adorable.

“We’re getting ready downstairs where it’s quieter,” he answers. Maeve nods and bumps Lydia’s shoulder.

“Get Aedan’s stuff out.”

“Um, I think his is as the back, give me a sec.”

She tosses back a jacket, boots, gloves, a hat, and finally a scarf. “There! That’s all his. If he wants a different hat his other one is upstairs in his room.”

“Got it.”

By the time Aedan is ready and they were all outside, Lydia is practically jumping in place, immediately skipping out while pulling Maeve behind her to show all of them the fort she and Aedan had made a couple of days before. Alistair and Teagan stay by the porch; close enough to step in if something goes wrong, but not in the snow.

“They’re not so hard to handle,” Teagan says.

“Lydia nearly hit the ceiling she had so much energy.”

“And now she’ll get it all out long before dinner and we’ll actually get her to sit in one place for more than three minutes at a time.”

Alistair laughs. “Good luck with that. That can be Connor’s job.”

“I promised him no kid-table duty this time, unfortunately.”

“Pushover.”

He slaps Alistair on the back affectionately. “I’m old, I only have the energy to embarrass one nephew at a time, and you were late.”

Right. I love you too.”

He thinks back to the house, full to the brim with friends, or even people he doesn’t even know but he’s connected to. Knowing he can walk back in and there won’t be any awkward silences, no condescending to him, nothing. His big, obnoxious, complicated family.

Looking out at his daughter, cousins, and all of his friends’ children, he knows he wouldn’t trade it for anything.