Author's Notes: Filling two prompts for the da_tentparty Fill-A-Thon

Also inspired by a discussion on peopleofthedas about how Alistair is three beers away from hopping borders.

Special thanks to scarylady for the grammar beta and darkrose for cheerleading.

The sound of laughter woke him. Duncan's laughter, loud and unexpectedly full of merriment.

Alistair opened his bleary eyes to find himself lying face-down on the rough planks of a trestle table. His bum had gone numb from the hard wood of the bench upon which he sat, and there was a rather undignified puddle of drool beneath the spot where he had been lying.

Far down the table to his left, Grigor was muttering something in drunken slurs into his tankard, swaying where he sat but still upright. Around him, the rest of the Denerim Wardens slumped upon tables and benches, some snoring riotously, others lolling about, semi-conscious.

And upon the stone of the massive staircase to the sleeping quarters of the Grey Warden compound, Duncan huddled, his guffaws muffled only by the tapestry lining the wall against which he leaned, his dark eyes shining with tears of mirth.

Alistair found himself grinning in foolish pleasure at the sight.

"Hullo, Duncan!" Grigor waved a floppy, beckoning hand, ale dribbling from his bushy red beard. "Care ta join ush fer a drink?"

Quickly, Alistair straightened and slid down the bench to make room for Duncan, swiping surreptitiously at the puddle of drool. But Duncan merely shook his head and wiped his eyes. "I only came to see why things had suddenly fallen so quiet in the hall after supper," he said with another chuckle. "I'm too old to welcome the sort of hangover these fellows will be suffering come morning."

"Huh!" Grigor snorted disdainfully. "An' here I wash, hopin' fer some conte... compre... competisshon!"

"I think you've humbled enough of our brethren for the night," Duncan said consolingly, patting Grigor on the shoulder. Then he lifted his gaze to Alistair and raised an amused brow. "And what of you, Alistair? Won second place, did you?"

Alistair blushed as Grigor snickered. "Three! Three and he was shnorin' like a wee babe. Maker's ballsh, lasht time three put me under the table, didn't even have hair 'pon m' chin."

Duncan's eyes crinkled in a teasing smile, his teeth startlingly white against his dark skin and beard. "Three, Alistair?"

His cheeks heated even further. "They, uh, didn't really teach us to drink in the Chantry," he mumbled, taking a swig of the warm ale left in his tankard. It tasted like stale horse piss after so many hours, but it was better than the taste in his mouth he'd awoken with. Truthfully, he didn't really feel all that drunk. He'd drank the three tankards in quick succession, then begun to feel very, very sleepy. The muscles in his neck had abandoned him until his only option had been to lay down his head. His dreams had been disturbing since his Joining. Duncan assured him he would get used to it, but in the meantime, he was rather short on rest.

Duncan nodded, his smile turning indulgent. It both warmed Alistair and made him feel defensive, for reasons he couldn't define. That had been happening a lot, lately. Duncan's warmth and fondness for him was a joy after so many years surrounded by ascetic priests and templars, but that paternalistic streak he evidenced made Alistair uncomfortable. It didn't make sense, he thought, frowning. On one hand, he craved Duncan's affection and on the other, it troubled him.

"Come on, lad," Duncan urged, pulling on Alistair's arm to help him up from the bench. "Let's get you to your bed before you pass out again."

Muttering with embarrassment, Alistair rose at Duncan's beckoning tug. The idea that he had to be helped to bed like a child was more humiliating than the fact that it had only taken three beers to knock him out. He brusquely jerked his arm out of Duncan's grasp almost as soon as he was on his feet, then felt guilty at Duncan's startled look of consternation.

"I'm not that drunk," he mumbled, walking slowly toward the stone staircase until he was sure of his balance. It wasn't bad. He really wasn't that drunk. And now he didn't feel all that sleepy either.

He heard Duncan chuckle again as he followed Alistair up the stairs. "Remind me to have a word with Grigor about including my squire in his drinking contests," Duncan said, gesturing to the unconscious lad. "The older I get, the harder it is to manage without him."

"I can help you," Alistair blurted, his irritation fleeing as quickly as it had come in the face of an opportunity to render any service, no matter how small, for Duncan. He knew the other Wardens laughed at him for his obvious hero worship, but they hadn't been rescued from the maw of the Chantry, and lyrium addiction, as he had. They didn't understand. The ones who had been in bad situations until Duncan recruited them—and there were at least a few whose pasts were utterly unknown to Alistair—did. They didn't laugh.

Duncan jerked as Alistair looked back over his shoulder. "Er, no, that's all right, Alistair. I'll manage."

"Oh, come on, Duncan. I told you, I'm not that drunk. Mainly I was just tired, but now I've had a good nap, right?"

Duncan looked as though he were casting about for a reason to refuse the offer, then finally gave a slow nod. "Of course. Thank you."

And so they made their way to Duncan's chamber, rather than the large barracks lined with bunks where most of the newer Grey Wardens slept. There was a hierarchy, despite the lack of rank observed amongst the Grey Wardens. Those with the most seniority got the few bedchambers in the keep. Those without slept in the barracks, until someone occupying one of the bedchambers failed to return from an expedition. Then someone got to move out of the barracks.

Alistair was content to sleep in the barracks for a good, long while. Forever, he hoped. He dreaded the idea that someday, it might be Duncan's bedchamber that turned up empty. He knew it could happen, of course. But he still didn't like to imagine it happening anytime soon.

Duncan's chambers were much like the man himself; austere and yet not altogether tidy. As befitted his rank as the Warden-Commander of Ferelden, he occupied the master suite of the Denerim manor house that served as the Grey Warden compound. Despite the available space, he possessed little by way of material possessions. Scrolls of correspondence littered the desk in no discernible order, and a few tomes were strewn about. That the bed was neatly made was no doubt due to the efforts of the small staff of servants the Grey Wardens kept, rather than any sort of fastidiousness on Duncan's part.

The only things Duncan kept truly meticulous were his armor and weapons. His squire saw to that, but it was on Duncan's insistence. They were polished each day and oiled to prevent rust, then neatly arrayed on armor stands and weapon racks. Alistair wondered if he would be expected to polish Duncan's gear, or if it would wait until morning when Duncan's hungover squire got around to it.

One of the servants had stoked the fire in the hearth of Duncan's chambers, warding off the autumn chill. Alistair found himself strangely tense, and Duncan even more silent than was his usual wont, once the door closed. Suddenly things were awkward as Duncan removed vambraces and gloves, and Alistair couldn't put his finger on why. He felt nervous and clumsy, though he supposed it could just be the ale. But Duncan's cautious, reserved silence wasn't helping matters any, especially when coupled with that chary look in his eyes.

Drawing a deep breath, Alistair reached for the buckle of Duncan's baldric, the one that strapped the scabbard of his longsword upon his back. His fingers fumbled, struggling to pull the worn leather loose from the steel buckle. The frayed edges of the leather strap were a strange contrast to the shiny steel of the buckle, and Alistair supposed the belt had been repaired at some point and the buckle replaced. Obviously it had seen a great deal of use.

His fingers slipped. He reached and grasped again, pulling at the leather strap.

"Sorry," he muttered. "I'm not used to doing this for anyone else. When they assigned us chores at the monastery, it was usually cleaning pots or scrubbing floors, not assisting the knights with their armor. But then, a lot of things here at the Warden compound are different than they were at the monastery." He was babbling, Alistair knew, and yet he seemed unable to stop. "There, we were under strict orders to keep our beds neatly made, our clothing carefully and precisely folded in our trunks. It was about discipline, they told us. We put the practice armor on before training each day and then took it off; it disappeared and came back cleaned and ready to be used the next day. Here, the only rule is that we have to take care of our armor and weapons. I don't think I've made my own bunk in weeks."

A quick puff of breath told Alistair that he'd amused Duncan, though his mentor said nothing. Like an idiot, he continued to babble, his mind screaming at him to shut up even as his mouth ran on. "Of course, the armor is different here, too. Seems rather cheap that the Chantry didn't at least let me take a set with me, after all the years of training I did there. Instead, here I am wearing rusty, second-hand armor. Not that I'm complaining!" he added quickly. "I'm just glad to be here and not... there. And I don't mind taking care of it, even if it is rusty. Seems a shame tithes are so scarce we can't afford anything better. You'd think people would be more willing to support the Grey Wardens, wouldn't you?"

Finally, the baldric came loose. The way it slid down Duncan's chest made Alistair's gut tighten, a strange fluttering feeling within his chest. He swallowed hard, only now realizing he had an arm around Duncan, reaching behind him to catch the scabbard of his sword so it didn't fall to the floor. Maker's breath, they were practically face to face!

Alistair withdrew quickly, taking the scabbard with him and carefully hanging it from the weapons rack. Then it was back to unbuckle more belts. At least two crisscrossed Duncan's waist. One supported the scabbard of a short sword, the other Duncan's dagger and belt pouch. If Alistair had thought his fingers clumsy before, it was nothing compared to now as he fumbled and plucked at the buckles. The first came loose, and Alistair blushed as he once again reached behind Duncan to unwind it from his waist, his cheek nearly pressed to Duncan's breastplate as Alistair reached blindly behind him. The short sword joined the sword on the weapons' rack.

The last belt was more difficult, for it had actually been wound twice about his waist, requiring Alistair to reach around him again. Alistair untied the belt pouch suspended at Duncan's hip, placing it upon the desk, and hung up the dagger. That left the wide leather wrap, or girdle, that Duncan wore to keep the belts from rubbing and fraying against the metal edges of his cuirass. It was laced up the back like a lady's stomacher, and for a moment, Alistair envisioned himself with his arms around Duncan again, pressed against him and fumbling blindly for the laces. Then he shook himself and stepped behind Duncan to unlace him instead.

Of course, that meant reaching around Duncan from behind to unwrap the girdle, and that seemed just as awkwardly intimate, in its own way. Of its own volition, Alistair's mind drifted to the myriad ways in which he could mistakenly end up groping Duncan if he wasn't careful. He blushed even harder. That third tankard of ale had definitely been a mistake, if these thoughts were the result.

Or maybe it was just the armor. Maybe that was why they didn't have the initiates help the templars with their armor. Maybe the Chantry feared it would subvert the edict of chastity laid upon the templars and initiates.

Alistair's face was nearly in the crook of Duncan's neck as he reached around him to unwrap the girdle, and that was when the scent of Duncan struck him. Leather and steel and clean, honest sweat. Something pungent that had been used to wash his hair, perhaps. He drew a long, deep breath before he could stop himself, then quickly stepped away before he did something truly asinine, like nuzzle Duncan.

Andraste's mercy, where were these thoughts coming from?

He hung the leather girdle upon the armor stand, casting a furtive glance over his shoulder to find Duncan's dark eyes intent upon him. Something hot and dangerous was lurking within that gaze, and Alistair quickly looked away. He found himself praying to the Maker that Duncan wouldn't realize just what was going through Alistair's mind.

And what was going through his mind, anyway? Alistair really didn't know, except that it was far too similar to the feelings he'd found himself experiencing whenever the Revered Mother preached about chastity and the temptations of the flesh. Too like the tight, surging feeling he had experienced some nights in his dreams when he was younger, before he awoke to find himself in wet, sticky braies.

Removing the spaulders and rerebraces was safer than the belts, at least, giving Alistair a moment to compose himself as he carefully and efficiently removed them from the ties on the quilted wool arming jacket Duncan wore beneath his cuirass. The cuirass itself was almost as simple, the buckles at the shoulders providing Alistair with a bit more distance.

And that was it, surely. Alistair was sure Duncan could manage his own bases and leg armor, now that the most difficult pieces were gone. He should go now, Alistair thought, even as he found himself reaching for the ties of the long, light leather bases that hung from Duncan's waist like a robe. The dun-colored calfskin slithered downward, heavy and supple. It reminded Alistair of watching Duncan fight, of the way the bases swirled around him as he moved with deadly grace and precision.

Maker! Alistair closed his eyes and shuddered, his back to Duncan as he hung the bases upon the armor stand. Tension and awareness were being replaced by the unmistakable pressure of arousal, his rod stiffening within his breeches. Unlike Duncan, he wasn't wearing any armor, only his clothing. If he wasn't careful, Duncan was going to notice. When he turned around, he knelt quickly to unbuckle Duncan's cuisses, hoping to disguise his obvious erection that way. But that put his hands upon Duncan's thighs and his face at the level of...

The cuisses slipped from his hands and fell to the floor with a resounding metallic clash as Alistair's hands began to shake.

Sweet Andraste, what was happening to him?

Quickly Alistair set aside the cuisses and turned his attention to the poleyns at Duncan's knees, then the greaves, and the sabatons covering his boots. He kept his eyes on the floor, refusing to look up at Duncan, fearing what his expression would give away. Duncan was left only in his padded arming jacket and woolen breeches over his thin linen underclothing.

That was enough. Surely, that was enough. He needed to retreat now, Alistair thought with something akin to panic. Run away and hide before he gave himself away. But... no. Duncan still wore his fine chainmail war skirt. If Alistair ran away now and left the job undone, surely it would arouse Duncan's suspicions...

Maker preserve him. Alistair's hands went to the ties securing the war skirt, and he found himself back where he started, with his arms around Duncan's waist, in too-close proximity. Helplessly, despairing, his eyes sought Duncan's. He fell into that dark, fathomless gaze, drowned in it.

With a ragged groan, Alistair rose, surging up, and pressed his lips to Duncan's.

What was he doing? What was he doing? Alistair's befuddled mind flailed about in a desperate attempt to make some sense of what was happening. It too a moment, a moment in which Duncan stood still and unresponsive, his lips closed to Alistair's awkward, inexperienced kiss.

Alistair jerked away, cursing himself. "I'm sorry!" he stammered, recoiling in horror at his own stupidity. He couldn't meet Duncan's eyes. "Duncan, I'm—"

"You're... just drunk, Alistair," Duncan said carefully. "Go sleep it off, lad. No harm done."

Alistair lifted his eyes and met Duncan's kindly look, overwhelmed by a surge of adoration for him. Just like that, he was offered a way of escape. He could pretend he was drunk, and they would never mention it again. They could behave as though it never happened.

So why did the thought of accepting the escape being offered fill him with the same sort of indignation that Duncan's paternalism had been sparking lately? Why did everything within him scream out to reject it?

It was ridiculous, Alistair thought, his shoulders hunching in defeat as he withdrew from Duncan, prepared to beat a retreat before he was ordered to go. He needed to take the out and run away from this new idiocy he'd concocted. Instead, he muttered obstinately, "I'm not drunk."


"I'm not."

"Alistair." Something hard in Duncan's voice made him look up again. That kind, indulgent expression was gone, and Duncan's face was stern, guarded. Just this side of angry, his dark eyes burning with something Alistair couldn't name.

"If you're not drunk, this becomes something else entirely."

Alistair closed his eyes and shuddered, his heart racing with fear and uncertainty even as something deep within him pulsed, yes.

"This isn't what you want, Alistair," Duncan said, shaking his head. On the mantle, one of the servants had left a flagon of wine to warm, and he poured himself a generous draught and quaffed it quickly. "Find a nice girl, someone as young and sweet and innocent as you are. Someone who can give you... more than I can."

"How do you know what I want?" Alistair surprised himself with his own bitterness, his body tense, his hands clenched into fists at his sides. "All my life, my decisions have been made for me. I'm not even really sure what this is, and maybe I don't even know what I want, either. But I'd like the chance to decide for myself."

Duncan gave him a look that was full of sorrow and affection.

"I'm dying, Alistair."

They were like a punch to the gut, those three words. He nearly doubled over. "What?"

"I have perhaps another six months, a year at most," Duncan continued implacably. "I told you before your Joining that being a Grey Warden comes at a high price. It's time for me to pay that price."

Alistair listened as Duncan told him the truth about what Duncan was becoming, what Alistair would someday become himself if he reached that age. The tainted blood he had taken into his body was slowly corrupting him, corrupting them both, until one day he would become like the darkspawn himself, unless he sought his own death before such a thing happened.

Rage so intense he thought he might scream with it welled up within him. This, then, was another decision that had been made for him. Duncan. Duncan, who had rescued him from a fate he hadn't wanted, had betrayed him, had denied him a choice in the matter, keeping him in ignorance until it was too late. He wanted to roar in his fury. He wanted to hit something, wanted to hit Duncan. The utter injustice of it galled him.

But it was Duncan sitting there, his eyes at once distant and regretful. He couldn't let Duncan see him throw a tantrum like a spoiled child. Not Duncan, who had done so much for him, who even now was so kind to him. Not Duncan, who was dying of the same affliction, and so much sooner than Alistair himself.

With effort, he swallowed his rage.

"I'm dying," Alistair said hollowly, testing the words.


"You're dying."

"Yes. But Alistair... it's not about how you die. It's how you've lived that matters. I won't say I don't have regrets, but I've spent my life doing something worthy, something important. It's been worth the price."

Alistair swallowed mutely, wondering if he'd be able to say the same in thirty years. Would he have regrets? And if so, what would they be?

"Go get some rest," Duncan said, filling the silence that had fallen as Alistair stared at the embroidered rug lining the stone floor. "We'll talk more about this in the morning."

With that, Alistair remembered why he was lingering in Duncan's chambers to begin with. All the conflicted arousal came rushing back. But once again, Duncan was kindly offering him a way out. He could walk away and forget the... other business. Whatever that had been.

He could walk away.

Why wasn't he walking? His feet were leaden, refusing to move toward the door as they ought. Even after what Duncan had revealed, even with all the anger and confusion bubbling under the surface, all he could think about were those tense, charged moments when he had removed Duncan's armor. That mad instant when he'd kissed him.


He practically flinched at the force of the surge within him, once again pulsing the word yes to every extremity of his body and one notable extremity in particular. Duncan's voice was low, husky. Alistair could sense that his reserve was nearly at its end, even if he really didn't know what that end would entail. He had no idea what he was doing, except that he knew he stood upon a precipice. Unwilling to step back, too terrified to step forward, he hovered in between, filled with fear and yearning.

Duncan turned from him, pouring another goblet of wine. "Alistair, I cannot stay with you. I'm dying. I don't want that to be any harder on you than it has to be. I'm not a honorable or chivalrous man and my control is not endless. I've had... very few moments of gallantry or nobility in my life, and you're making it very difficult to do so now. Go. Let me shield you from this, as much as I can."

He went.

Forward. Not back.

This. This decision. This choice. To seize short-term joy though it meant greater pain in the end. This, at least, was his call to make.

Alistair realized he had to be at least a little drunk, or he'd never have had the courage. He'd have been mired in doubt and fear until he fled. Three beers. That was what it took to finally give him the guts to claim something for himself.

Forward, Alistair walked, until he stood directly behind Duncan, who stared resolutely into the fire. He could tell by the tension in his shoulders that Duncan was aware that he was right there.

With a hand that shook uncontrollably with nerves, Alistair touched Duncan's shoulder.

"It's about how you've lived. Right?"

Duncan's head snapped about to look at him, his dark eyes blazing with a need so fierce that Alistair quailed, even as his body began chanting another chorus of yes, yes, yes.

He pressed himself to Duncan again. Slowly, this time. Deliberately. Not in a frightened, boyish rush as he'd done earlier. Instinct drove him onward, parted his lips slightly, softened them the instant before they touched Duncan's. And then Duncan's hands were seizing his face, grasping his hair, rough and urgent. Duncan's lips were responding to his, grasping and sucking. Duncan's tongue thrust against his and Alistair groaned aloud with the pleasure and rightness of it, opening further to let Duncan take from him what he didn't quite know how to give just yet.

His fingers plunged into Duncan's hair as well, pulling it loose from its queue as he seized the back of Duncan's skull and held onto him like a drowning man clings to a piece of driftwood in a flood. His body was alive, throbbing, singing, every nerve urging him on, urging more. He yielded to Duncan's need, to that plundering tongue and those unrelenting lips that tasted of wine and something he'd never be able to describe, something that was simply Duncan.

How long they stood there by the hearth learning each other by kiss alone, Alistair couldn't say. Long enough for his lips to be swollen and throbbing, for his face to be chafed by Duncan's beard. It felt like an eternity, and yet it could never possibly be long enough. He wanted it never to end, even as his body moved restlessly against Duncan's, seeking greater contact. As he moved, the pressure against his groin increased, and he nearly found himself paralyzed again by doubt and uncertainty as he realized it was Duncan's erection he was feeling against his own.

He was doing this. Dear Maker, he was doing this.

Duncan allowed him no time to think, no time to question, no time to doubt. He moved his mouth away from Alistair's and sucked hard upon Alistair's neck, grasping Alistair's hair hard enough to hurt in a way that didn't seem nearly as unpleasant as pain should have been. Alistair gasped an invocation to the Maker as Duncan's teeth bit lightly at the throbbing pulse in his throat, and his head fell back, exposing himself more completely to Duncan's lips and teeth.

Alistair moved again, writhing, moaning in frustrated pleasure. It was marvelous, but it wasn't enough. He wanted... Maker, he didn't even know what he wanted, but there had to be more. He was familiar enough with the mechanics of it all, at least between males and females—his years sleeping in the stables of Redcliffe and the late-night raunchy jokes of the older boys in the initiates barracks at the monastery had been good for that, if not much more. But none of that limited education could have prepared him for the need he was feeling, the restless yearning to push forward into the unknown.

Duncan's hands lifted his linen shirt, slid up the skin of his back. Sweet Andraste, yes. That was what he needed. Duncan's touch on his skin, or to touch Duncan's skin. Alistair drew away, let Duncan jerk his shirt up over his head, and then his skin was bare to the warmth of the fire and the chill of the room. The heat of Duncan's hands and face was unbelievable as he moved down and pressed kisses to Alistair's chest.

"Please," Alistair muttered urgently as Duncan's beard rubbed against his nipple. He didn't even know what he was begging for, but the word was laden with a lifetime of longing. "Please..."

Things started to go terribly wrong the moment Duncan's hand drifted down to the laces of Alistair's breeches. They weren't even half undone when the pressure, the anticipation, the friction of the cloth, the brushes of Duncan's hand against his achingly hard cock, overwhelmed him. He spilt himself in his braies as though he were still a youth in the bunks at the monastery waking from dreams he could neither remember nor understand.

Alistair flushed crimson, humiliated and miserable, all the shame he recalled from those experiences rushing back to him on the heels of that quick, unsatisfactory surge of pleasure. Too mortified even to stammer an apology, his panicked eyes sought Duncan's, only to find Duncan wearing a small smile that managed to look both pleased and predatory.

Then he understood; that wasn't the end.

It wasn't even a start.

Fear assailed him. He didn't know how to do this, didn't know what was expected, didn't know how to please anyone. He stood there frozen in doubt, neither helping nor resisting as Duncan stripped his breeches and soggy braies down his thighs. But then there was—Holy Andraste, Duncan's mouth! His beard on Alistair's thighs, his tongue, stroking Alistair's balls. He licked up along the crease of Alistair's groin, cleaning him of the traces of his release. His hand was there as well, squeezing, kneading, stroking, cupping Alistair's softened cock, which didn't look to remain soft for long at this rate.

Duncan's hands came around his hips, Duncan's fingers dug into the muscles of Alistair's backside, pulling his hips forward, and he took Alistair's cock into the indescribable heat of his mouth.

"Sweet Bride of the Maker!" Alistair groaned, his hands falling upon Duncan's shoulders, grasping helplessly as his knees threatened to buckle. Duncan drew away long enough to guide Alistair down onto the rug there before the fire, but he didn't give Alistair an opportunity to think too hard about the fact that now he was on his back on the floor, naked and exposed. Instead, Duncan licked and nipped his way back down the planes of Alistair's stomach and took Alistair into his mouth again. Alistair cried out, his hips pushing upward without volition.

By the time Duncan stopped, Alistair was once again rock-hard and quivering. Whatever release he'd had before, it was nothing compared to the surging pressure he felt now in his balls and deep in his gut, promising an eruption of such magnitude it was frightening, for he wasn't certain he could endure it when it came, even as he yearned for it. He began pleading with Duncan, babbling incoherently, begging him to stop, to continue, to grant him mercy, to dear-Maker-I-don't-think-I-can-take-it-anymore.

And so Duncan granted him a reprieve. Alistair lay there panting and shaking, drugged insensible by pure need as Duncan began to remove his own clothing, stripping himself of the arming jacket and breeches Alistair had neglected earlier. There was a violent jerkiness to his movements as he worked the togs and laces that spoke of sorely-strained patience.

He flung his padded arming jacket away, and whipped his linen undershirt over his head, consigning it to the darkness outside the glow of the fireplace. Duncan's dark skin was golden-bronze in the firelight, streaked with silvery scars and speckled with dark whorls of hair. His muscles flexed and rippled as he leaned over and took Alistair's hand in his.

"Here," he rasped, his voice rough and demanding as he wrapped both his own fingers and Alistair's around Alistair's shaft, sliding them up and down before pulling his own hand away. "Let me watch you."

Self-consciousness warred with desire, making Alistair's first strokes awkward and restrained as Duncan stared at him, unmoving. Alistair wished Duncan would do something, continue undressing, anything to take the attention from himself as he moved his hand halfheartedly up and down his shaft. This wasn't something he'd ever done much. It had gone without saying that it would have been frowned upon at the monastery, and none of the other boys had liked Alistair well enough to preserve his secret if they overheard him doing it in his bunk at night. Most would have exposed him out of spite.

Then his hand came to the end of his cock, his palm cupping the rounded, bulbous crown. His skin slid over the tip as the slick droplet that had gathered there eased the friction and... oh, Andraste's mercy, that was good. Again, his buttocks flexed, pushing his hips up, thrusting mindlessly against his own hand.

Alistair's eyes snapped shut for an instant, then opened again to seek out Duncan's. There was nothing kind or gentle on Duncan's face, in that moment as he watched Alistair. All that was there was need, desire, hot and desperate. His jaw was clenched, his teeth bared in a feral snarl. His eyes were fierce and his hands curled into fists at his sides. Suddenly Alistair understood what Duncan meant when he claimed he was not an honorable or gallant man. In that moment, Alistair wasn't certain Duncan would have let him back out even if he'd wanted to do so.

But backing out was the farthest thing from Alistair's mind. He was doing this. He would see it through. Deliberately, he repeated that stroke, curling his palm over his glans, gathering the moisture to aid him. He let his hips push him harder into his palm, then slowly settled onto the rug to stroke himself more leisurely. He let his eyes drift shut and gave himself over to feeling, let Duncan's intent gaze goad him on rather than inhibiting him. It felt good. Maker, did it feel good! Good to just surrender to the pleasure and stop being afraid or ashamed of it. It felt like he was finding something important he didn't even know he had lost.

A rustling sound told him Duncan had resumed undressing, and he opened his eyes, just a slit, to watch. Riding the pleasure of the strokes of his own hand upon his cock, he watched as Duncan kicked off his boots and unlaced breeches. His eyes widened as Duncan pushed his braies down his hips and kicked them away, his erection jutting out from his body as though demanding attention. Thick and dark, it sprung from the nest of hair at his groin and Duncan's calloused hand stroked it, slowly, casually. He let Alistair watch him as he'd watched Alistair, let Alistair get used to the idea of its presence. Slowly, he drew back the hood of skin from the head, unveiling it, hard and glistening. Alistair's heart hammered in his chest with fear and anticipation.

Duncan sank down onto one knee, his other leg angled off to the side. "Come here," he commanded in a hoarse whisper. Compelled, Alistair rose up on his knees before Duncan. Gingerly, he moved closer, shying from the direct touch of his bare flesh against Duncan's, until Duncan gave an impatient tug, jerking Alistair closer into a kiss that left no room for uncertainty. Hesitation was forgotten as Alistair moved into that kiss, pressing against Duncan's skin. Duncan's fingers glided down Alistair's back, cupping his buttocks and grinding his erection against Alistair.

Timidly, Alistair brought his hand up, pulling it back as though burned when it first brushed Duncan's length. Duncan gasped a quick denial at his withdrawal and, emboldened, Alistair reached for him again, taking Duncan into his hand and stroking Duncan the same way he had his own cock moments before. The way Duncan twitched and thrust with each stroke told Alistair he was doing well, that Duncan was experiencing the same pleasure he had. Elated, he rested his forehead against Duncan's for a moment, smiling to himself as he familiarized himself with Duncan's reactions.

He was pleasing Duncan, he thought almost giddily. It felt good. It felt right. Slick moisture coated his palm and fingers as his hand glided back up to the head of Duncan's cock and for an instant, Alistair had an impulse that he was too shy to carry out, to lick it from his fingers and taste Duncan. Instead, he stroked downward again, his fingers sliding along that rigid hardness while Duncan claimed Alistair's mouth in another demanding kiss.

Duncan's hands moved up Alistair's back again, kneading, sliding along skin damp with sweat. He pulled his mouth from Alistair's, his head falling back, his throat bobbing convulsively as he pushed on Alistair's shoulders, urging him down. "Alistair. Please."

Alistair closed his eyes, drew a deep, nervous breath... and moved down. He was certain he was making a muddle of it, but he tried to emulate what Duncan had done for him, kissing his way down the hard, rippling muscles of Duncan's chest and stomach. His progress was clumsy and unskilled, but it didn't seem to matter as Duncan threaded his fingers through Alistair's hair.

The scent of musk surrounded him the lower he went, rich and not at all unpleasant. Duncan's skin was saltier here, as though begging to be licked. Alistair forced himself to ignore the voice in his head that fretted that he was going to do something wrong, something that would get him ridiculed, and let his tongue stroke the skin of Duncan's lower belly, just above the coarse, dark hair of his groin.

Down further, he went, until he was on his hands and knees before Duncan. He felt the brush of Duncan's rod, sheathed in indescribably soft skin, against his face. Drawing another deep breath, he let himself be guided to it, parting his lips to receive it like a supplicant.

Duncan uttered a guttural curse, and Alistair could feel a tremor building in his body, in the hands that held and guided Alistair's head. He felt Duncan's control slipping with each unconscious push of his hips, with the way his hand clenched and unclenched in Alistair's hair, or the way his fingers dug into the muscles of Alistair's shoulder. Finally, Duncan moved away, lay down upon the rug and guided Alistair between his thighs to resume his attentions.

Alistair used his tongue as Duncan had done for him, licking up and down the length of Duncan's shaft. He used his lips, stroking as he had with his hand. Duncan gave another curse, a deep, urgent groan. Sounds of pleasure, yes, but also of frustration. Finally, Duncan's hand grasped Alistair's face, not entirely gently, and urged him to look up.

"Suck it, Alistair. Now," Duncan rasped, and pushed Alistair down again.

If Alistair thought Duncan had been losing control before, he hadn't realized, hadn't known just how very much Duncan was holding in check out of consideration for his fears and uncertainties. Now, that was over. At the mercy of Duncan's insistent hands, he took Duncan into his mouth again and hollowed his cheeks, sucking. Duncan responded with an almost pained moan and thrust. He grasped Alistair's head and would not allow him to retreat, and thrust into his mouth. Only when Alistair tensed and began to struggle did Duncan release him, giving him a chance to gasp a ragged breath before seizing him again.

It should have been frightening. It should have felt strange and wrong, but instead it felt very, very right. Better than fumbling his awkward way through trying to give Duncan pleasure was to have Duncan guide him, control him, showing him what to do. Even when Duncan nudged his throat and made him gag and cough, it felt liberating. Alistair's cock throbbed, agonizingly rigid, leaking viscous drops of fluid from the tip. But it went ignored as Duncan took his pleasure from Alistair, finally releasing a strangled cry and a thick rush of salty, bitter fluid that overflowed Alistair's mouth and drizzled down his chin before he even thought to swallow.

A bit stunned, Alistair recoiled slightly, licking the corners of his mouth and finding the taste pleasant and strange. Duncan lay before him, panting harshly as though he'd just waged a great battle. Alistair sat back on his haunches, his cock still aching and ignored, feeling slightly envious. Whatever he had experienced with his precipitous release earlier was clearly nothing to what Duncan had enjoyed. On one hand, it was thrilling that he had done that for Duncan, but on the other, he remembered that terrifying feeling of being overwhelmed with pleasure earlier. Suddenly he didn't want to retreat from it. He wanted to pursue it.

"Thank you, Alistair," Duncan sighed when he had caught his breath. "Thank you."

Kneeling there, Alistair nodded, uncertain what came next. But then Duncan was rising, coaxing Alistair to lie back down. Duncan kissed him, deeply, laying his body upon Alistair's. He licked the remnants of his own release from the stubble on Alistair's chin. Unable to stop himself, Alistair pushed his erection against Duncan's belly, the pressure in his balls unbearable, the hardness of his cock agonizing.

As he'd done earlier, Duncan moved down Alistair's body, but this time there was no tender coaxing, no gentle reassurance. When Alistair lifted his hands to touch Duncan's shoulders, Duncan captured them and pinned them at Alistair's sides, dipping his head to claim Alistair's cock with his mouth. Refusing to release Alistair's hands, he greedily swallowed it down, sucking hard, pumping fast. Uncontrollably, Alistair pushed with his hips, greeting the bobbing of Duncan's head.

He groaned as the pressure mounted, terrifying and tantalizing all at once. Just when it seemed it was nearing the peak, Duncan pulled away. Alistair stumbled back from that shining brink, practically ready to weep with the loss of what had been building within him.

"Please!" He moaned, gasping. "Duncan! Please, don't stop!"

Duncan gave him another predatory look, full of wolfish satisfaction. He released Alistair's hands and pushed Alistair's knees up and apart, spreading Alistair open before him. "Keep them up, here," he instructed, pressing them firmly to Alistair's chest.

Half-incoherent with need, Alistair nodded eagerly. Anything so long as it meant Duncan's mouth would return. Which it did, his tongue caressing Alistair's balls before taking his cock deep into his mouth again. Slowly, Duncan sucked, taking his time despite the mounting sense of urgency. Duncan's hand gently kneaded and squeezed his sac as Alistair writhed and pleaded for more. More pressure, more suction, more anything so long as it brought him back to that precipice.

And then Duncan's finger, wet with saliva, began to prod.

"Oh!" Alistair froze, the final piece of the mystery to what they were doing fitting into place. His body tensed as he struggled to make sense of his combined revulsion and fascination. "Oh."

"Not tonight," Duncan said soothingly. "Maybe someday. Relax."

He tried, but it was difficult. Confused and uncertain, he stared at the dusty, rough-hewn beams of the ceiling of the bedchamber, as Duncan's mouth came back down over his cock and his finger slipped in. Alistair gasped, the sensation of having Duncan's finger inside him startlingly pleasant, not at all what he had expected. The heat and suction of Duncan's mouth worked to soothe his nervousness, enticing him to become pliant, to surrender to the experience.

Helplessly, he did, the tension in his body fleeing. Duncan's satisfied sound vibrated pleasantly against Alistair's cock and then his finger brushed something that wrenched a shout from Alistair's throat.

"Oh, dear Maker!"

"Yes, Alistair. Yes," Duncan murmured briefly before engulfing Alistair's cock in the heat of his mouth once more. Duncan's free hand pushed on the back of Alistair's thighs, holding him open even when he would have jumped and squirmed and struggled. Duncan sucked on him hard, his head moving rapidly up and down. His finger touched that spot again, more firmly, and heat sizzled along every nerve in his body, until he felt surely his skin would erupt in flames.

And still Duncan drove him onward, sucking harder, moving faster, igniting one torrent of electric sensation after another just by virtue of that simple finger inside him. Alistair shouted until he was hoarse, practically sobbing with the need for release, thrusting against Duncan's mouth without restraint, without any sense of self-consciousness or embarrassment. He gave himself over completely, until finally, finally the world dissolved in molten heat, and the roaring thunder of his own pulse in his ears, as his release surged into Duncan's mouth.

It would remain a mystery how he made it to the bed, for he was certain his limbs would never support him again. Surely there was more to be said, things that needed to be examined and considered and explained. But none of that seemed to matter as Alistair drifted off into an untroubled slumber, content for now to trust in Duncan's implicit promise that there were more nights to come.

The next day, one of the Grey Warden expeditions returned to the compound, bringing word of a large darkspawn incursion massing south of the Korcari Wilds.