He does not know if she knows what he overheard through the crack in the door. All he knows is that ever since the Gauntlet she has been distant from everything, keeping a space between her and the world, and that it could only be because of the Shade.
She had slipped into the room before them all, and held the doors closed. It had taken every ounce of effort not to break the door down himself, but she had shouted at them all to give her a moment. He had seen, through that sliver in the door, some shade talking to her, had heard words like 'blame' and 'sorry' and what might have been the briefest of sobs, but then the door was open again and she was apologising to them all for worrying them, and it never seemed terribly important after that.
Until now, of course.
When Leliana had tearfully approached him to ask what was going on, he decided it was time to pull out all the stops. And so here he was, in Wynne's tent, outlining the rules to his co-conspirator, who was having a hard time keeping a straight face.
"Understand me when I say this, Wynne. You cannot tell anyone. Not a soul, for as long as you live. Do you understand? Not. One. Soul."
"Of course, Alistair," she says, smirking. He stops pacing and stares at her properly.
"I'm deadly serious, Wynne. I have a reputation to keep."
"Now. What do you need from me?" She tries to compose herself before asking him in her most deadpan voice.
He feels ridiculous. Of course he does. But, he reminds himself, it will all be worth it. Or so he hopes. Waiting behind the widest tree he could find nearest the clearing, his ears perk up at the sound of Wynne.
".. just wait here and you'll see what he wants."
"But I have to be on watch in five minutes.."
"It's all taken care of. You just.. just enjoy yourself." And with that Wynne is gone, and he can see his fellow Warden standing in the clearing, looking completely confused.
Taking a deep breath, he steps out into the clearing, a sheepish grin starting to appear on his face. She turns to look at him and freezes, taking stock of his appearance.
"Now, before you say anything, there is a perfectly good reason why I'm wearing this," he begins. She says nothing, preferring to look completely stunned. "Remember when you became a Warden?" Looking up in utter confusion, she raises her eyebrows. "Well, we were sent to light the beacon at the Tower of Ishal. I'm sure you remember that. And I wasn't exactly.. happy, about being out of the fighting. How times change, I suppose.. but that's not important. The thing is.. I said something about.. well, just.. watch." And he takes another deep breath, closes his eyes and remembers the hastily-learnt steps that Leliana taught him.
She is still staring. As he wiggles his hands in a vaguely-entertaining fashion and makes a complete hash out of the Remigold – a dance he has never understood, and probably never will unless someone teaches him the male steps rather than the female steps – he starts to wonder whether this was a good idea. Her look of shock hasn't changed. I mean, he thinks, I know it's a little surprising to see a man, a fellow Grey Warden, wearing a purple and blue dress and dancing rather badly, but would it kill her to smile, at the very least?
And then suddenly she is laughing, howling with laughter so primal and joyful that his heart, previously fraught with tension, almost leaps out of his ribcage. She is clutching her sides, screaming out her approval in raucous peals of merriment, and as he stops his bad dancing to stand, hands on hips, he realises he has never seen such a raw display of emotion in any other individual before. And, he thinks, he really really likes it.
The tears of laughter, inevitably, turn to regular tears, and he holds her close as she sobs out her regret. But that is perfectly fine with him. She needs this, he knows, better than anyone – he still wishes he had experienced this moment for Duncan. But those times are past now, thanks to her – she dragged him through his pain, and he was damned if he was going to abandon her to her own.
Eventually, she raises her head to look at him, and he is struck by how bright her eyes are.
"I aim to please," he says softly, grinning. "Although the dress was all Wynne. And Leliana tried to teach me to dance. As you can see, that did not end.. well." She giggles, rubbing her eyes on her hands.
"It is a very pretty dress," she notes, and his grin widens.
"You DO remember!"
"Of course. The very thought was what kept me going through that damned tower."
"Oh, so my dashing good looks and flawless dance moves sustained you in your hour of need?" he growls, waggling his eyebrows. She chuckles.
"More like your ridiculous steps and your goofy face." He feigns hurt, but she shoves him playfully.
"Hey, don't ruin the dress, I intend to keep this!"
"Oh? And when exactly will you wear it again?"
"Any time you're not smiling." And he is serious. Smile fading, he continues. "Look, whatever happened in that room.. doesn't matter to me. Keep your secrets. But if anything ever causes you to look like all the light has gone from the world, then I'm going to put the dress back on and dance badly. Because I.. I can't bear it. Not that look. Not on you." She strokes his cheek, smiling softly.
"Hey, I have to be good at something, right?" he jokes.
"You are." Pulling herself to her feet, she holds a hand out to haul him up too. "You're the one light in the world that never goes out." He almost falls back to his feet at that, but she pulls him close and kisses him on the cheek, before heading out of the clearing. Stunned slightly, he looks down at his dress and grins like an idiot.
I could get used to this, he thinks.
"I get it, I get it. Just so you know, if the King ever asks me to put on a dress and dance the Remigold, I'm drawing the line. Darkspawn or no."
"I'd like to see that."
"For you, maybe. But it would have to be a very pretty dress."