“At your service,” he said, bowing just the tiniest bit. I regularly pestered him with queries about the Grey Wardens, his Templar training, and about a dozen other things. He was patient and self-derogatory, sometimes sarcastic and a little silly but always willing to talk. But the brewing tension between us had me curious and I’d decided to just come out and ask him.
I tried to phrase it delicately. “So, if you were a Templar have you never…” The phrase dangled limply while I searched for a tactful term.
“Never…? Never what?” he answered, narrowing his eyes a bit at me. “Never tripped the light fantastic?”
“You know what I mean,” I said, blushing madly. Such conversations within the clan were straightforward but with a human? I found myself tongue-tied.
“I’m not sure I do, really,” he said, his solemn tone shaded with amusement. “Have I never seen a basilisk? Ate jellied ham? Have I never l-l-l-licked a lamppost in winter?”
He drew the ell sound out, the tip of his tongue showing between his teeth. An urge seized me to grab his head and tease it out of his mouth. Creators! How could he sound so innocent and so sexy at the same time? He had to know he was driving me mad. He’d staged endearingly-awkward conversations with Wynne and Leliana within my hearing but never approached me directly. It was a steady campaign of teasing and sweetness and, Fen'Harel knew, it was working.
“Alistair!” I refused to say it bluntly. The frustration must have shown in my voice because he relented.
“I myself have never had the pleasure,” he drawled, waggling his eyebrows at me. “Not that I haven't thought about it, of course. ” He ducked his head, suddenly shy. “I just never…you know.”
“Had the opportunity?” I finished for him. It was his turn to color as he nodded. Could it really be that he was this sheltered, into his twenty-fifth year? What sort of religion insisted that their initiates be kept so long without the perfectly natural release every person needed from time to time? It isn’t healthy, I thought, though if it created this blend of charming bashfulness and flirtation they could fell any opposition by luring them into bed within three weeks. I smiled a little at the vision of legions of adorable Templars seducing noblewomen in droves while an army waltzed in behind them.
“What about you?” Alistair asked timidly, bringing me back to the conversation. “Have you ever licked a lamppost in winter?” A wicked impulse came to me.
“I’d like to lick Teagan’s lamppost, I can tell you that much.”
Alistair recoiled a little, his teasing expression dropping away in surprise. “Ew! That’s my uncle you’re talking about. Don’t tell me that!”
“A-ha!” I exclaimed. “I thought you said you didn’t know who your father was.”
I kept my tone light hoping it would carry the idea that I had only been trying to force the admission he'd been holding so tightly. Had there been time Teagan could certainly have charmed me right out of my armor but I was hardly pining for him, not with his nephew offering unending temptation wherever I went.
Alistair burst out laughing. “Oh, you are a sly one!” he said, shaking his head. “How long have you known?”
“Since I found you arguing with that soldier five minutes after I met your brother,” I said. “Though the way Teagan and Eamon talked betrayed that you were far more than some charity case they’d taken in. Did you ever consider that Duncan kept you away from King Cailan, that you weren’t invited to the strategy meetings at Ostagar, because no one would miss the resemblance if you stood so near him?”
He stared at me, mouth slightly open, and I grinned in return. “In heavy plate and an open helmet only your eyes and the color difference in this little patch would have told you apart.” I cupped his chin and pressed that silly tuft just beneath his lower lip with my thumb.
“Why didn’t you say anything?” he asked. I reluctantly released him. It was hardly the time to haul him down for his first kiss, in the midst of a discussion on the lineage of Ferelden royalty. He’d been pretending for months to be nothing more than a man rescued by the Grey Wardens from an unhappy life in the Chantry. I’d been just as happy to let him but things were coming to a head. Arl Eamon was pushing him toward the throne, bastardy be damned.
“It didn’t matter. It still doesn’t, to me. But others are going to care and I’d hate to have you stammering awkwardly when someone comes out and says it in front of me.” He frowned a little, considering. “They will, Alistair. It’s going to come up sometime.”
He sighed. “Can’t we just go back to talking about lampposts?” he said. “You don’t really want to…with Teagan, do you?” He blushed again but his eyes pled with me to deny it.
I smiled. “No, Alistair. There aren’t any other lampposts for me.”