Fenris couldn't have said what about the man attracted his attention. Perhaps just the look that had momentarily crossed his face once as he'd glanced up, watching Hawke walk past on her way to Varic's suite; a look misery and bleak despair. Fenris knew that that feeling. Had had that very look on his own face, more than once.
He asked Varric about him some days later, after noticing him passed out on the table in the corner.
"Him? Calls himself Alistair. Supposed to be the bastard son of Ferelden's old king."
Fenris frowned. "A bit old for that, isn't he?"
Varric laughed. "No, not a son of King Cailan – the one before, Queen Rowan's son, what's-his-name..."
"King Maric," Hawke supplied. "Which would have made King Cailan his half-brother, if it were true."
"And is it?" Fenris asked, curious.
Hawke shrugged. "No idea. Does it matter? Ferelden has a King already, and a good one."
A week later, on his way home from a late night of cards and drink at the Hanged Man, he all but tripped over the man, lying unconscious in the rain-swept street, his clothing torn and cut. The water swirling away from him across the cobblestones was dark with blood; he'd clearly run afoul of one of the numerous street gangs.
He could have just left him there. He probably should have. But instead he found himself crouching down, checking the man for a pulse. He still lived; injured, but not, on closer examination, lethally so. He considered taking him to Anders' clinic. But they were closer to the Hightown stairs here than to any entrance leading to Darktown, and at this time of night trying to take an injured man to and through Darktown on his own was asking for trouble. Anders was more likely to be at Hawke's estate anyway.
Somehow he got the man to his feet. Alistair was clearly in no condition to walk, however, even if he'd been conscious enough to attempt it. Fenris growled out a curse in Arcanum, then lit up his brands for the extra strength they'd give him. He bent down, putting his shoulder against the man's stomach and folding him over, draping him over his shoulders like a lamb to be carried to market. He grunted with effort when he straightened; the man was big. Not fat, but muscular, and taller than Fenris was.
Climbing the stairs was an effort. He had to stop and rest twice, catching his breath while he held the man balanced upright against the wall. And again after he'd passed the market.
He hesitated when he reached Hawke's door. There were no lights showing; doubtless everyone had gone to bed already. In the end he continued on to his own place; he had poultices, and bandages, and that was what the man most appeared in need of. As well as a place to recover from his injuries. Well, and a bath, food... clothing that wasn't slashed to ribbons. All but the latter he could supply.
He made it the rest of the way to his house without incident, and carried the man upstairs, heaving a sigh of relief once he was finally able to put him down. On his own bed, there not being any other in the building in fit condition for use. Tending his wounds took a while, there was such a lot of them. By the time he was done, the man was dressed in little more than his smallclothes and a great deal of bandages.
Alistair woke as Fenris was sponging clean a lengthy cut that ran across the side of his head, just above his left ear. He looked a little dazed, but Fenris was pleased to see that his eyes responded to light normally; that was always a good sign, with head injuries.
"You're glowing," Alistair said, eyes widening, an edge of awe in his voice.
It was only then that Fenris realized he had not dampened his brands after setting the man down; that he was working by their light. "Yes," he agreed, and let them fade.
"Oh," Alistair said, softly, sounding sad. "They were beautiful."
Fenris bit back his normal sharp response to such statements. "How are you feeling?" he asked instead.
"Sore. Ow. What happened?"
"I don't know. I found you in the street. Injured."
"And didn't just leave me there to bleed to death in peace? Clearly you're not from Kirkwall," the man said.
Fenris' eyebrows rose slightly. A joke? One of the last things he's have expected from the injured man. He snorted, slightly. "Neither are you. Are you hungry?" he asked.
"Maker, yes," the man said fervently. "Always."
That brought a slight smile to Fenris' face. It was such an obviously heartfelt and honest answer. He rose to his feet. "I have some bread, and cheese," he said, and walked over to the fireplace. "I'll toast some for us."
"Thank you," the man said. He watched as Fenris used a tinderbox to start the fire that was laid ready in the ash-filled grate, then got bread and a wax-covered cheese out of a tin-lined pantry box and set to work cutting slices of both. He used a whisk to sweep clean an area of the hearthstone close to the fire, and set bread and cheese there to melt. He crouched down, watching while they cooked.
"You're Fenris, aren't you?" the man asked after a while.
"Yes. And you're Alistair, I've heard."
"That's me," Alistair agreed wearily. "You're one of Hawke's companions, right?"
"Yes. Why? Do you have some interest in her?" Fenris asked, suspiciously, looking over his shoulder toward the other man.
"No," Alistair said, then frowned. "Yes. A little. She reminds me of someone that I used to know."
"Nope, a man, actually. My best friend," he said, and fell silent for a moment, a look of grief crossing his face. "He died."
Silence fell for a moment. Fenris studied Alistair's face, the expression of regret on it. "And you think you're responsible for his death?" he asked.
Alistair snorted, then left his head drop back to the pillow. "I know I am. That cheese is about to burn," he added.
Startled, Fenris looked around and saw that the part of the bread and cheese closest to the fire had begun to brown. He quickly pulled the slices away from the fire, then transferred them to a battered tin plate and took it over to the bed. He sat down on the edge of the bed, putting the plate where both be and Alistair could easily reach it, and lifted a slice, nibbling at it more to keep the man company than because he himself was hungry. Alistair sat up, wincing at the pain his injuries caused him, then began to eat as well, neatly but very quickly, as if he was half-starved.
"How did he die?" Fenris asked, his curiosity getting the better of him.
"Killing the Arch-Demon," Alistair said, voice flat.
"Killing the...!" Fenris almost dropped his bread in his surprise. "The Hero of Ferelden?"
"Yes," Alistair said shortly. He took another large bite of bread and cheese, chewing and swallowing before he continued. "If I'd been there... it might have made a difference. It would have, if he'd had someone other than that snake Loghain with him," Alistair said, bitterly, then continued, voice softening. "If someone had to die... it should have been me. Not him."
"No wonder Hawke reminds you of him," Fenris said thoughtfully. "They're actually cousins of some kind. Hawke's mother is an Amell."
"Huh. Small world," Alistair said, and picked up the last slice of toast and cheese, biting into it as hungrily as he had the first.
Fenris hid a smile. The way the man ate reminded him of Anders – like he had a bottomless pit for a stomach. "I can make more if you'd like," he offered. "The bread needs using up anyway."
"Please," Alistair said, and smiled at him. The smile completely transformed his face, and took years off of his apparent age; he couldn't have been much more then in his mid-twenties, Fenris was startled to realize. "Could I have extra cheese on it, too?" he asked hopefully.
Fenris laughed. "I suppose," he said agreeably. He was, he realized, looking forward to finding out more about his unexpected guest. He didn't think Alistair was making it up about having known the Hero of Ferelden – the grief he had shown when he spoke of him was too raw, his expressions too open and honest, for Fenris to believe it was faked.