Alistair, Maric, and a meeting that wasn't.
You are seven.
You are seven, and there is a man in the castle you call home.
He is a stranger to you, but there is something about him that seems familiar. When you are far older than you are now, you'll realize that he looks familiar because you look like him. When you look in the mirror, it is his face that stares back at you. Only different, because you are small and everything about you seems red and brown. He is different. His eyes are warm and blue, his smile wide and his laugh boisterous. He wears golden armor and carries a sword and stands diligent. At seven, you think he looks like a knight out of a fairy tale, and you wish to grow up to be just like him.
Later, you learn that the knight in golden armor is King Maric.
Later still, you learn he is your father.
You wonder if you still wish to be just like him when you grow up.
Uncle Eamon has told you stay in the stables, but you are just a boy and you aren't very good at listening. The knight is still there in the castle, and you want to see him. You want to ask him how his armor got to be so shiny, and if he can teach you to use the sword at his belt.
Instead, he finds you.
"Alistair?" He asks in the hallway, and you wonder how it is he knows your name. His eyes seem sad when he looks at you, like he's seeing something other than the boy in overgrown clothes that you know yourself to be.
"That's me." And you grin, because at seven you are all smiles and laughter, unaware of how quickly your life will be changing. At seven, there is no one in your life called Isolde, and the Chantry is where Sunday's are spent, and you don't know yet that sleeping in the stables is a bad thing, that the blood in your veins demands you deserve better.
The man in the golden armor asks you to come closer, and you do, the obedient child that you are. He studies you intently, his hand feathering your red-blonde hair and small shoulders. You want to ask him why he looks so sad when he looks at you, to offer your teddy bear to hug, because that's what you do when you feel sad. But the man is bigger than you and still mostly a stranger, even if he does seem familiar, so you don't.
Instead, he questions you. He wants to know how you spend your time at the castle, what you are learning from the tutors, if you like it here with Eamon. He still seems sad when he talks, but your laughter and youth wear off on him, and you manage to make him smile. You learn that he has not one, but two little boys of his own, but that the second one he doesn't get to see very often, because his second son lives with his Uncle instead. You try to ask why that is, but he doesn't answer, and instead smiles at you and rubs your head, musing up your hair.
You ask him if his second son is happy, living with his uncle, and he tells you that he hopes he is, more than anything.
Now you realize that you are the second son he spoke of, and you wish you could have told him that you were happy, for a time, but that you would have been so much happier if you had a father to guide you.
But you never get a chance to tell him this, because the next year changes everything: you learn that King Maric is your father, Uncle Eamon marries Lady Isolde and become Arl Eamon instead, and you are sent to the Chantry forever. Bitterness becomes everything, colors everything about your life.
By the time you leave the Chantry's walls, King Maric is dead, your half-brother on the throne, and you no longer care about either of them, sod it all. Instead you trust Duncan to guide you, because that's all you've ever really needed: guidance. A father's love would have been nice, but because you've never had it, you've never really missed it.
You are twenty two years old, and you have just defeated the Hero of River Dane in single-handed combat.
The man who would have destroyed everything looks at you with sad and bitter eyes. "Perhaps I was wrong," he tells you, as if he is seeing someone else in your jaw line and beady eyes. "Perhaps there is something of Maric in you after all."
Fuck Maric, you want to say. Maric didn't do shit in your life. Maric provided the sperm to your mother's egg to create you, and that was it. You can't call that sort of man your father, despite the fact that he was.
You feel the gentle hand of the woman you love at your back, and see her nod in approval.
You cut the throat of your father's best friend and wonder why you still feel empty inside.
You are twenty-two years old, and you are in love with a crazy woman.
She just made you King.
A part of your heart that has been hardened by this war thinks that this is for the best, ultimately. Anora, the daughter of a man you hated, cannot be trusted, having betrayed you now three times. The Ferelden throne belongs with the Theirin bloodline, even if you have just recently started thinking of yourself as a Theirin at all.
Another part of you, the part of you that is still seven and scared shitless, thinks this is the stupidest thing you have ever done. These people cannot seriouslybelieve you are fit to be King. Just because Maric was your father does not mean you have any idea what it is you are doing, here on this golden throne. You worry the Orlesians may invade, or the crops may fail, or the Blight may continue on forever, and all anyone will ever think is that stupid Alistair, bastard son of Maric, this is his fault.
Still, this is your duty now, to take care of this great nation your great-grandfather founded. Nobody else is up to the task, and you've watched your love lead a rag-tag group for months now. You think you may even know what you're doing, telling these men to go here and defend this while so-and-so does this, and—oh! Before you forget, whathisname needs to be here at this time. You've convinced yourself to speak in a deep baritone so at least you sound like a King, even if you don't feel or look like one quite yet.
You wonder, for a brief moment, if Maric was ever scared like you are, right now. If Calian ever worried about saying the wrong thing in front of a crowd of people. If Queen Moria, the Rebel Queen and your grandmum, ever found herself shaking in her boots when facing an unstoppable Orlesian army.
You stop, and wonder why you care.
Having sired a bastard of your own, you wonder now just how much alike the two of you might have been.
From the time they put the crown on your head, all you have heard about is your dead father. How alike the two of you are. How much you look like him. How much you sound like him. How neither of you could stand being serious for very long, and how you share the same sense of humor. How, when you smile, it's like Maric has risen again from the Fade. How, when you laugh, it sounds like a dead man returning from the sea.
Everyone addresses you as King Alistair now, even your former companions, and you wonder if that's what changed things. Perhaps it's the fact that you live in the palace now, where your ancestors are revered, that changed your opinion. Or maybe it's the voice of your love, whispering sinfully into your ear about how handsome that golden armor makes you, only for you to remember it was Maric's armor, first.
No matter what the cause, the results are the same:
You've stopped hating him.
You—you aren't sure how or why, but sometime between the end of the Blight and your wedding, you've stopped hating the man who sired you. It wasn't a conscious choice—you didn't wake up one morning and decide to stop hating your father—but it still happened and you aren't sure what to think of it now. The old hatred that seeped in your bones is gone now, replaced with a sense of longing.
King Maric was a great man, after all.
A great man who sired a bastard, but a great man nonetheless.
It's a shame it's taken you twenty-three years to realize that.
You look up at a portrait of a dead man, staring into painted blue eyes almost-similar to your own, and wonder if you deserve to be called his son. You wonder if he was ever curious about you, if he ever cared, if, maybe, had things been different, he would have embraced you as his own.
You wonder if he would have been proud of you, of what you have accomplished. You wonder if he would have wanted you to inherit Calian's throne instead of Anora.
You wonder if he had been any other man, anyone other than the King of Ferelden, if he might have loved you.
A/N: This short little thing was brought on by the fact that I'm reading the Stolen Throne, and Alistair is totally Maric JR. Which I love, of course, and it makes me wish we could have seen the two of them interact at all. I bet it would have been fun.