“There you are.”
Cailan jerked upright in surprise and stared at the brown-haired head of the older boy. “Fergus! I…”
Fergus just laughed and shook his head before he clambered on up the ladder into the stable loft. As he collapsed into the loose hay nearby, he said, “You’ve put your uncle into fits today, just so you know.”
“Well you certainly can’t be talking about Teagan. He doesn’t have fits.”
“Of course not, Teagan’s sensible.” Fergus then folded his arms casually behind his head as he drawled, “He is worried about where you disappeared to though.”
Cailan frowned before asking, “Anyone else know you’re here?”
“Not a soul. Unlike some people, I know what day it is.”
At that the young boy froze then he forced each limb to uncoil, shaking his head as he sank back into the hay. Turning his head to look at Fergus, Cailan said quietly, “I miss him.”
“I know,” replied the older in a quiet voice that was full of knowing. Out of anyone in Redcliffe, Fergus knew exactly what he was going through because he’d been through it himself years previous when he’d left Highever. “Did you send him a gift?”
Anger flared through Cailan and he gritted his teeth as he growled, “So Uncle Eamon didn’t say why I disappeared.”
“He merely said you’d gotten upset.”
“Of course I got upset!” he exploded, sitting up and whirling to face Fergus. “I asked one of the men down in the village – Toric, the stoneworker – to make something I knew Alistair would like and I gave it to Uncle Eamon to give to the next courier a week ago. Come to find out he didn’t even send it because he looked at it and thought it was foolish. How is it foolish to send my little brother a birthday present, Fergus!”
Fergus sighed and sat up as well, hay clinging to his hair and shoulders. Leaning forward to rest his arms on his knees, he said, “That was wrong of him. Why didn’t you go to Teagan about it?”
“Because I was furious!” Cailan tossed his hands helplessly in the hay, sending it flying around them.
The older boy just sat sedately through the small tantrum, blinking dark eyes at him. After a moment or so under the gaze, Cailan slumped back into the hay with his hands over his face. “I’m acting like a child,” he groaned into them.
“Which you are,” pointed out Fergus.
“And I’m sixteen, which makes us both still children.”
Cailan rolled his eyes behind his hands before dropping them into the hay beside him. “You know what I mean, Fergus! We’re supposed to be proper.”
“Oh, I’m well aware of what we’ve been taught, Cailan. However, it’s just the two of us here at the moment so I think you’re in your right to be as childish as you want.”
He snorted before nodding respectfully at the older boy, who just smiled serenely. Cailan then sighed before climbing to his feet, brushing hay from his clothes and picking it out of his hair. “Where’s Uncle Teagan?”
Fergus just smiled as he too rose with the same motions, replying, “I left him waiting outside the stables.”
“You said you were alone.”
“Which was not a lie.”
Cailan shook his head, saying, “Alright, alright, I’ll give you that one, Fergus. And thanks.”
Fergus just smiled in response before climbing down the ladder, waiting at the bottom as the younger boy clambered down. As they exited the stable and Cailan caught sight of his younger uncle, he ducked his head, feeling suddenly ashamed of his earlier behavior. Teagan only looked relieved, however, not angry and clasped his shoulders warmly.
“I told Eamon you’d be found in one piece,” he said with a smile. He then ducked his own head, trying to catch his nephew’s eyes, as he asked, “Now, would you care to explain why you left in a huff and went to hide in the stable all day?”
Cailan sighed then lifted his head just enough to meet his uncle’s blue eyes with his own. Scuffing one foot in the dirt, he mumbled, “He didn’t keep his word. To send something. A gift.”
Fergus stiffled a laugh and the young boy glared at him out of the corner of his eyes before sighing, “For Alistair.”
Teagan frowned then realization seemed to dawn as he said, “Oh! Today is…oh, lad. You should’ve come to me in the first place.”
“Well I know that now.”
“Whining,” said Fergus in a sing-song voice and Cailan promptly swatted at the other boy. That made the Cousland heir laugh before he bowed and asked Teagan, “Shall I go find someone to ride to Denerim?”
“Hunt down Marcus,” answered the man. “He’ll probably be down in the tavern now with the rest of the men. Just tell him I need to see him up in the castle in my study.” As Fergus nodded sharply and jogged off, Teagan shifted and wrapped an arm around Cailan’s shoulders. “Now, my lad, we’re going to go see my brother.”
Cailan jerked his head up fully and stared before breathing, “I’m in trouble.”
“For shirking your daily duties only,” chimed Teagan. His expression darkened as he looked ahead of them and added, “I myself am going to have a very in depth conversation with my brother during which I am going to get that gift of yours back. After that, we are going to send Marcus to Denerim with it because, late or not, there is likely a worried little boy in the Palace wondering if his brother remembers him.”
That had been one of his own exact thoughts, right down to Alistair thinking he’d been forgotten, and Cailan shuddered before leaning heavily against his uncle. Teagan didn’t seem to mind at all and hummed under his breath as they made their way up from the stable to the the castle. As they approached the doors, he straightened himself up and took a deep breath.
Turning to look at his uncle, Cailan asked, “Is it wrong that I like you more than Uncle Eamon?”
There was a sadness in the older man’s eyes and Teagan’s smile was a little weary as he replied, “You aren’t the first, lad. Nor will you probably be the last. He’s still your uncle, though.”
Teagan just smiled in response and Cailan returned it before squaring his shoulders as they entered the castle. It wasn’t going to be a pretty conversation but whatever happened, it happened. All that mattered, to his mind, was that Alistair was going to get his gift.