This, Fenris thought grimly as another slaver fell to his blade, was a battle he may not win.
The ambush was cleverly planned. Someone (and Fenris would find out who, oh he would find out) fed them clues to lead them here. Someone fed Aveline’s guards tidbits that ended up as reports on her desk. Someone whispered clues to the informants that reached Varric’s ears. Someone wrote gossip that ended up in Hawke’s hands. Isabela heard the news on the docks and in the taverns. Someone whispered something to someone, and those little whispers reached Sebastian in the Chantry. Merrill heard the gossip in the Alienage. Anders was fearfully told these rumors by his many patients. And Fenris? Fenris heard it all because Fenris had to keep his ears to the ground. It was a matter of survival, and news of slavers troubled him. Danarius, it was Danarius, it had to be Danarius!
So when Hawke put together a party to take care of that group of slavers camping out on the coastline and harassing the (ha) “good people of Kirkwall,” Fenris leaped at the chance to tear out throats and get to the bottom of these rumors. He joined Hawke and Isabela on their trek, and reluctantly admitted that yes, they would probably need support from (ugh) the Mage. So before they left Hawke fetched Anders. He eagerly joined their party, happy to also remove the root cause of several nasty injuries sustained by his patients in the last fortnight. Fenris told himself that it was necessary to have a well balanced party to take on an unknown force, and as much as they didn’t get along, Anders was a skilled Mage and an excellent asset in battle. So they all trekked out to the coastline to root out this mysterious band of slavers.
How easily they were all taken in!
Fenris twisted to avoid a cut from a wicked looking dagger, then slammed the man into the sand with his shoulder before cutting his throat. Ambush. The group of slavers were, in fact, slavers, but they were also looking for a particular prize. The Champion of Kirkwall was a precious commodity. There was a mountain of coin to be gained with his capture. Or, perhaps, his death. Add in a woman wanted for piracy, an apostate and rogue Gray Warden, and a runaway slave, and, well… everyone in Hawke’s company had some enemies. There was plenty of coin to be made off of their capture, and plenty to lose should they fail. Their enemies here were clever and desperate. They would take no chances. It was, Fenris thought grimly, a terrible situation.
“Remember, if we kill them we keep their stuff,” Isabela called out over the chaos. Her blaise tone was clearly forced, and Fenris tried to remain calm as he noticed how sluggish Isabela was. Her normally swift, precise cuts were slow, exhaustion clearly winning. Hawke was fairing no better. He could only absorb so many blows to his massive frame before he fell, and there seemed to be no end to their opponents who were storming the beach. Fenris cut down another man, then another. Precision is what will keep you alive when all else fails, he heard his trainer’s voice in his mind, but he was flagging. And the Mage? Well, Fenris could not find him in the chaos, though he could hear his taunting well enough.
“Go suck on a fireball!” Anders jeered, and a rush of heat whizzed by Fenris, blasting a man who was sneaking up behind him. The slaver fell to the ground lifeless, and Anders returned to the melee, tossing out spells like party favors, his staff a blur of motion around his tall, narrow frame.
Well. Anders seemed to be doing well, then. That made one of them. Strange, that, Fenris thought as he returned to his methodical dance across the blood-soaked sands. Mages were usually so… fragile. Delicate. Prone to being horribly maimed in battle. There was a reason bodyguards like himself were in such high demand in Tevinter. Yet somehow Anders was able to hold his own- perhaps it was part of being a Gray Warden. Fenris had never truly believed the scraggly man was a Warden, but here, on this beach? Fenris could see Anders as the Warden he claimed to be.
Anders’s incredible endurance (and, Fenris reluctantly admitted, his healing spells) seemed to bolster their spirits, and Hawke, Isabela, and Fenris rallied together and were fighting back. They were winning, gaining ground across the beach and taking out the rest of the band. Perhaps they could win this, Fenris thought as he made headway further along the beach, spreading out away from Hawke and Isabela. They could win this battle, discover who was behind it, and destroy them. Perhaps-
Fenris’s thoughts were interrupted when the solid weight of a claymore’s blade slammed into his side. A sickening cracking sound accompanied the blow, and all Fenris could feel was pain pain pain as he fell to his knees in the sand. He couldn’t breathe. Why couldn’t he breathe?! Fasta Vass he couldn’t breathe how could he fight if he couldn’t breathe? In his panicked haze he realized that the wielder of the claymore, a stocky human with a scar across his cheek and bright red hair, was grinning down at him. Those gray eyes were as cold as a dead fish.
“Pretty feisty thing, aren’t you?” the man commented, “Hefty bounty, too. Ain’t gotten head worth as much coin as yours in- well, that fancy robe ain’t looking for just your head.” And when the man leered down at him Fenris knew what this was. A trap of Danarius’s, and it was all his fault. His companions were dragged into this battle because of him. They nearly died because of him, and now he was injured, unable to move because pain, and they would die. And Danarius would have him, and then?
Well, Fenris would rather be dead.
“He’s gonna have to pay extra, with all this trouble you caused,” the man continued gleefully as Fenris tried to take a breath so he could tear the man’s spine from his back, “Kill off some of my best men, and for what? You got captured just the same, like they always do. Best come quiet like now, and I might let your frie-”
That was the moment when a fist slammed into the man’s jaw. The slaver crumpled to the wet sand like a sack of wet concrete, red hair spread across the brown dirt like rivers of blood. Fenris gaped at the unconscious body before him, then looked up at his savior.
“No one is going with you, scum,” Anders hissed, his brown eyes alight with something akin to fury. “Not now, not ever.”
Fenris stared up at Anders, his pain temporarily forgotten as he was filled with wonder. Anders punched a slaver to protect him. Anders, who looked like a summer breeze could knock him over, punched a man in the jaw and the man stayed down. Anders! Anders, the Mage who didn’t even like him, used his fists to protect him.
Fenris felt rather fluttery, like a swooning maiden in one of those tawdry romances Fenris found in Hawke’s library.
“You alright down there?” Anders asked as he crouched down next to Fenris. “Andraste’s Knickerweasels, he got you good.”
“I wasn’t paying attention,” Fenris hissed as Anders pressed his hand against Fenris’s side. His touch was gentle, but kaffas, it hurt! Anders clicked his tongue and removed his hand, but he started to fiddle with the straps on Fenris’s breastplate.
“Broken. Which you probably knew,” Anders remarked. “Hawke, take care of this asshole, will you? I need to heal Fenris.” Anders immediately returned to removing Fenris’s armor, confident that Hawke would follow his orders. That was… well, in this very moment Anders seemed less like the apostate Mage who lived in the sewers and more like a Gray Warden. He was the sort of man people followed, the sort of man people trusted.
He was also the sort of man who could knock a man unconscious with a single blow to the jaw.
That… that was incredibly attractive, for some reason.
Fenris had to think about this.
“Look, I can use some potions to numb the pain for a bit, Fenris, but if you don’t want to be out of commission for the next few months you’ll have to suck it up and accept some magical healing,” Anders said firmly, and his tone made Fenris’s stomach feel like it was doing acrobatic flips and tumbles.
“Lucky for you, it’s a clean break. Easy to heal,” Anders cheerfully explained as he eased Fenris’s shirt off his body. “You’ll be back to your normally acerbic self in a few days. So, healing?”
“Yes,” Fenris croaked. “Just- get it over with.” He held his breath as the icy feeling of Anders’s magic swept over him, knitting the broken bone together, sewing up the cuts on his skin, melting away the bruises until they were barely noticeable. Everything still hurt, but it hurt less than it had mere minutes before. Fenris pulled his shirt back on as Anders stood up, brushed the sand off his jacket, and leaned down to pick up Fenris’s sword. He shrugged when Fenris stared at him.
“You need to take it easy. I’ll carry your sword and armor back to camp,” Anders explained, and then he was gone, briskly walking down the beach with Fenris’s breastplate and sword. Those were heavy. Anders wasn’t supposed to- how could he- what was this? A Mage thing? In Fenris’s experience, Mages could barely hold their own weapons, never mind use their fists, but perhaps Southern Mages were different.
Perhaps Anders was different. Fenris gingerly picked himself off the ground, wincing at the twinge in his side as he moved. But he slowly made his way down the beach, following Anders to the camp while Isabela and Hawke moved behind him. He appreciated that the two did not attempt to draw him into their conversation, which was some debate over the proclivity for bandit gangs to carry ragged smallclothes in a variety of patterns and hues. Fenris had no desire to join in on their debate.
Fenris had a lot to think about.
Fenris thought about what he now dubbed “The Anders Conundrum” for nearly a week before he saw the Mage again.
To be fair, Fenris did not make it a habit to drop in on Anders often, and he had a good deal to think about. A week was, in fact, a rather short period of time considering how many thoughts and feelings Fenris suddenly found himself mired in. It was easy to understand that, on an intellectual level, Anders was an attractive man. He had a sharp sort of face that suggested a bit of vulpine trickery and feline arrogance. He had a clever tongue, always ready to drop a snide comment or particularly cutting remark. And there was the fact that Anders could be what some would deem aggressively generous. He cared about people, even people he didn’t like. How many times had he healed Fenris, even as he (loudly) complained about “dainty elves who thought they were made of iron” to anyone who could hear him? Fenris has long ago lost count. The point was, to some people, Anders was an attractive man. And Fenris intellectually understood why people found Anders desirable, even if he normally did not.
Normally did not. Ahh, and there lay the crux of Fenris’s dilemma. For Anders was now attractive in his eyes. Desirable. Someone who drew his attention. And Fenris did not know why!
Lies. All lies. Fenris knew what made him take a second look, what made him wash in cold water every morning, what made him lie in bed awake at night, burning with shame and desire.
The Mage was… well, Fenris found his show of strength on the Wounded Coast impressive. One punch! And the man went down! Fenris was an idiot to be so easily charmed by one show of strength and bravado, but he could not deny that the act made him feel as fluttery as a swooning, girlish maiden in an epic romance. Anders protected him. He defended his honor. With violence.
Of course it was all perfectly normal. Anders would have done it for anyone, Fenris was certain of that much. It was not in the man’s character to abandon his allies, even if they despised each other. But now Fenris had to admit that he had never truly hated Anders. Vishante Kaffas, he invited the man to play card games in the mansion! Their ‘hatred’ had long simmered away into something more akin to mutual grudging respect and camaraderie. Sometimes, when all was quiet and calm, and Anders hadn’t been particularly annoying, Fenris might reluctantly confess that Anders was handy to have around. Spirit Healers weren’t common, and a Spirit Healer with combat experience was incredibly rare.
Learning that said Spirit Healer could throw a punch, however, threw Fenris’s world off-balance.
There was nothing else he could do. He had to see The Mage again. So when he strained a muscle in his back while performing his usual morning exercises, Fenris washed up, got dressed, and made his way to Lowtown and Anders’s clinic. He clung to the dirty stone walls of buildings, keeping away from the teeming crowds of people on the streets until he found himself at Anders’s door. The lantern was lit. The flames flickered, barely visible behind the grimy glass and iron, but it was still there. Fenris hesitated at the door. Sore muscles were hardly a good enough reason to visit a healer. What was he doing this for anyways? What was he going to gain from intruding into the Mage’s space?
Answers, Fenris reminded himself. He would see the Mage in this disgusting hovel, using magic, lording over the people here, and this spat of bizarre attraction would die instantly. He would see the Mage as a Magister again and it would all be done. Finished with. Yes. Good plan.
Fenris opened the clinic’s heavy wooden door and slipped inside.
It was cool inside, faint sunlight streaming into the room from windows cut into the stone walls high above them. And it was crowded. Kaffas, it was crowded! It seemed like the front room was a sort of waiting area, where patients sat on a variety of wooden benches (all mismatched, Fenris noted). A stout human woman stood at the curtain separating this waiting room from the clinic proper, and she cleared her throat.
“Miriam, you’re up next, I’ll watch the boys while the healer sees to you,” she announced, and a heavily pregnant woman surrounded by a herd of messy haired children. The woman looked utterly exhausted, and she toddled past the curtain. Fenris’s ears twitched when he heard Anders’s voice over the din in the waiting room.
“Miriam, good to see you, I hear the boys got over their colds,” Anders said, and the rest of the conversation (and the response) was lost in the background noise. Fenris leaned against the stone and plaster wall and waited for the crowd to thin. He had nothing better to do, after all, and perhaps seeing Anders hawking quack cures and waving his magic about would rid Fenris of this troublesome interest.
But it didn’t. Of course it didn’t. Throughout the morning and into the early afternoon, Fenris found himself impressed by Anders’s organized method of dealing with and seeing to patients in a timely manner. Patients were jotted down in a notebook by the woman at the front, and then told to sit at the bench. Those with less pressing concerns could wait, while others who seemed in dire need were ushered into the back. Those with appointments came in at their scheduled hour and were seen to. It was a steady stream of patients until lunch, when Anders finally exited the back room.
“Lirene, you can take an hour for lunch, I can hold down the fort well enough,” Anders said, and Fenris felt that strange fluttering sensation in his stomach again. Anders had pulled his hair back into a stubby tail at the base of his neck, and the loose hair clung to his skin and around his sharp jawline like damp grass clung to one’s skin. And he had rolled up his shirt-sleeves. And his forearms were… they were toned. Strong. He looked confident and certain of himself and incredibly competent.
Fenris did so like it when men were certain and competent- wait, no, this was the exact opposite of his purpose here!
“That elf of your friend has been here all morning,” Lirene informed Anders, shooting Fenris a dirty, accusatory glare. Fenris ignored it. Lirene was hardly the first human to treat him like he was gutter trash. At least she had the good manners to not call him a dirty knife ear or spit when he walked by.
“Fenris was here? When- oh, hello, Fenris,” Anders said with mild surprise. “Injuries? Complaints? Your ribs should be back to rights, but if you have any pain I can take a look,”
“My ribs are fine,” Fenris muttered. “My back is the problem. Feels strained.”
“Well, pop into the back, I’ll have a look,” Anders replied. “Lirene, go have lunch, I’ll be fine.”
“And leave you alone with- well, fine, Healer, if you insist,” Lirene said when Anders raised one thin eyebrow. “But if you have any problems with him you just call for Morton, y’hear?”
“Yes, yes, I know, but Fenris is as harmless as a fly,” Anders stated firmly. “I can more than handle him.” Lirene looked like she didn’t believe it for a minute, but she bustled out of the clinic. Anders sighed and ran his hand through his hair.
“Sorry about that,” Anders murmured. “She’s not all bad, really, but still-”
“I am accustomed to it,” Fenris replied, and Anders rolled his eyes. There was a flash of blue in the amber-brown iris, a faint crack of light along the skin, and when he spoke there was a little rumble behind each word.
“You should not be. It is not right,” Anders stated with the echo of Justice ringing behind his sentiment. And then the rumble and the blue light was gone, and Anders was simply Anders the Mage again.
“Anyways. Back muscles. Come inside,” Anders said, and he ushered Fenris into the back room of the clinic. Fenris took the customary seat on the elevated cot while Anders rifled through a shelf full of thin notebooks. Records, he once explained when Fenris asked what those notebooks were for. Apparently it was easier to treat a person when you knew their history.
Fenris often wondered how much harder it was for Anders to see to his injuries when Fenris knew nothing of his past.
“I’m surprised you haven’t come in before with this ailment,” Anders remarked as he flipped through his notebook. “What with you lugging that sword around. If you’d remove your tunic?”
“Excuse me?” Fenris asked, but he was already undoing the clasps of his tunic. It was hard to disregard Anders’s orders when he was being a healer. What was odd, though, was that he never truly barked orders unless it was a dire situation. If Fenris had said no, he was certain Anders would respect his request.
“I need to see the strained area, Fenris. How painful is it, on a scale of one to ten- one is a mild pinch, ten a stab in the gut,” Anders replied promptly, and he set the notebook down on a desk made of brick and wood planks. The planks wobbled as he set weight on them.
“A…. four, perhaps?” Fenris answered, watching as Anders washed his hands in a basin of slightly steaming water. Those were nice hands. Strong hands, with calloused fingers and palms and neatly cut fingernails. But they were also capable of incredible softness and care. Fenris had experienced that care plenty of times in Hawke’s company.
Fasta vass, he had made a mistake coming here!
“Right,” Anders murmured as he approached. “I’m going to touch your back and apply light pressure, tell me as soon as the touch is painful.”
And that was how the rest of Fenris’s visit to the clinic went: Anders gently poked and prodded at Fenris’s back, stopping to take notes in his notebook whenever Fenris told him that something hurt or felt sore. Anders prescribed rest and mild stretching, and to press an icy compress against the area to reduce swelling and pain. When it was all done, Anders sent him off with a bundle of herbs for tea wrapped up in clean linen and waxed paper and scheduled for Fenris to come in in two weeks to check up on him.
That night, as Fenris sipped on the tea Anders provided and tried to relax, he thought back on the way Anders’s strong hands and firm touch felt on his back. There was strength behind those hands, certainly, but there was also restraint, and that was a trait Fenris admired greatly. Restraint and self-control were sometimes harder to develop than pure strength on its own. But as Fenris drank the bitter tea in front of the fire, he had to acknowledge that his journey to Anders’s clinic had, ultimately, not yielded the results he desired.
Anders was still attractive.
Damn the man.
“So let me get this straight,” Hawke said dryly. “You want to get Anders a desk.”
They were sitting in Hawke’s study, a lavish little room off the foyer of Hawke’s mansion. It was more of a library than a study, Fenris noted, for the dark red brocade wallpaper was mostly hidden by the shelves that towered above them. Hawke was always a collector of things. He, in a magpie-like fashion, gathered the different books he found on their adventures and displayed them here. Fenris had no idea where Hawke kept the torn small-clothes he found, but Fenris had no desire to know where he kept those.
“I said that Anders requires a new desk,” Fenris explained. “The makeshift one in his clinic serves him poorly.” The splintered planks of wood that made up Anders’s desk rattled whenever anyone stepped near the blasted thing, spilling ink over the uneven surface of the desk and causing Anders to curse as he desperately tried to soak up the ink with rags. Alleviating Anders of such a minor problem was no great chore. A happier healer meant for better group dynamics. In fact, Fenris was doing them all a great service by bringing this problem to Hawke’s attention. He certainly wasn’t doing it out of any respect or love for Anders.
Of course not.
So why did Fenris feel so bashful? This gesture meant nothing. It was a rational decision in which Fenris weighed the practicality of having a happy healer over the cost of lugging a heavy desk down Kirkwall’s many steps to said healer’s clinic. He was being reasonable! Hawke, however, seemed to take Fenris’s observation in a completely unintended way. The way his mouth widened into an unabashedly smug grin made Fenris wince.
“Yes, so you said. You want to get Anders a new desk,” Hawke repeated. “So what am I supposed to do about it?”
“I found an acceptable one in the- my- mansion,” Fenris said reluctantly, “but it is heavy. I had thought that you could direct me to some men I could hire to carry it-”
“I’ll do it,” Hawke interrupted. “Not missing this one for the world.” Hawke stood up from his chair and grinned like a delighted boy who had been offered a sweet.
“What are we waiting for?” Hawke asked in his booming voice. “Lead on, Fenris!”
The problem with the desk Fenris selected was that it was rather large. And heavy. Enormous, truly. Lifting it would give two qunari adults some pause, never mind one human and one elf. Carrying the desk down to Lowtown was a struggle, even when Fenris drew upon the power of his lyrium brands.
“Tell me,” Hawke puffed out as they rested in one of the narrow side alleys, “why it had to be this desk?”
“It has drawers and cubbies for his writing supplies,” Fenris said shortly. “Anders can keep his inks and pen tips organized properly.” Anders was a stickler for organization and tidiness in his workspace. It was an excellent choice, and there was a little dark thrill that ran through Fenris when he imagined Danarius’s Magister friend learning where his desk ended up- serving an apostate Mage with no breeding, no lineage, no wealth to his name. How barbaric! The visions of Magister’s screaming in revulsion danced temptingly in his head.
“It also has false bottoms in the drawers,” Fenris added as he picked up his end of the desk and resumed carrying it down the winding stairs into Lowtown. “Anders may hide his papers in them should the clinic be searched.”
“Aww,” Hawke cooed, even though it sounded slightly strained. “You do care!”
“Shut up, Hawke,” Fenris retorted, and they continued their arduous trip down the stairs and narrow streets of Kirkwall’s lower districts until, panting and sweating, they reached their destination. Hawke opened the clinic door with a slam and stood, larger than life, in the doorway.
“Anders! Delivery for you!” Hawke bellowed, and Anders lifted the curtain, looking rather cross. His hair clung damply to his forehead and neck, and he frowned at Hawke.
“Hawke, Wednesday is Potion Day, you know that,” Anders scolded. “I am not adventuring today when I’m brewing, whatever you need can wait-”
“Not on an adventure, Fenris recruited me to get this present down to you,” Hawke announced, and he stepped outside to finish bringing the desk into Anders’s clinic. He set his end down with a terrible thud in the middle of the waiting room.
“Now, if that’s done with, I’m going to go get a drink,” Hawke announced. “Enjoy the new desk, Anders! See you Friday for Wicked Grace, Anders, Fenris?”
“Yes, thank you for your help, Hawke,” Fenris said, and Hawke waggled his eyebrows up and down before hurrying out of the clinic and firmly shutting the door behind him.
“Fasta Vass, he could have helped me carry it into your examination room,” Fenris grumbled as Anders stared at the desk. And stared. And stared some more.
“You brought me a present,” Anders said slowly, his eyes wide in what Fenris hoped was surprised pleasure. No, not hoped, of course not, why would he care if Anders appreciated his efforts? Mages never appreciated anything- kaffas, why was he even thinking about this?
“Hawke helped,” Fenris said, his voice firm. Anders rolled his eyes.
“Hawke said it was your idea, Fenris,” Anders retorted, and he circled around the desk. “Did you hide nasty surprises in here? Scorpions? Snakes? Spiders?” He rapped his knuckles against the polished wooden surface sharply.
“Kaffas, you have a morbid mind,” Fenris muttered. “It was taking up space. You needed a new desk.”
“So you carried it down from HIghtown to my clinic because ‘it was taking up space,’” Anders stated, and the disbelief in his voice made Fenris blush. He looked down at his feet, his toes curling into the hard-packed earth.
“It might as well have an owner who will appreciate it,” Fenris finally said. “I do not like waste.”
“Oh, can it, Fenris,” Anders laughed. “Under all that prickly armor you’re a softy, aren’t you?” Before Fenris could protest or glower or even defend himself against this teasing (what did one do when they were teased? How was he supposed to act? What do?), Anders smiled fondly at him. At him!
“Thank you, Fenris. I appreciate the gift,” Anders said, his voice and face soft, and the flush in Fenris’s face only grew. He felt the heat on the back of his neck and to the tips of his ears now. And before Fenris could offer to help Anders move the desk, Anders curled his fingers under the thin ledge and tugged.
The desk easily slid across the earthen floor, and Anders smoothly dragged the enormous desk into the back room, humming happily to himself. Fenris’s knees felt a little weak. He was no weakling. He was strong. Capable. And carrying that desk was a two man job. Unless, of course, you were Anders, who seemed to be able to do anything with ease.
“Hey, Fenris? Mind helping me with the old desk? Might make another bench out of it,” Anders called out, and Fenris ducked into examination room. Anders beamed proudly at his new desk, which gleamed in the firelight. Something in a cauldron bubbled over the fire, and it smelled- Fenris sniffed the air cautiously. It smelled of peppermint and- chamomile?
“I thought you were busy brewing potions,” Fenris said as he cautiously approached Anders.
“Sure,” was Anders’s breezy reply, “but a lot of potion brewing is letting things simmer for a while.” He hastily moved bottles of ink and masses of papers to the top of a crate, then lifted a board from the old desk and stacked it against the wall. Fenris silently joined in dismantling the old, makeshift desk, handing Anders boards and bricks and secretly delighting when the muscles in Anders’s forearms strained slightly.
Now he was lusting over the man’s forearms. Fasta Vass! Would this ever end?
“It’s probably an antique. The desk, I mean. Not that I know much about furniture,” Anders remarked. “Nathaniel would have known, stuffy nobles seem to know everything about decor.”
“Nathaniel?” Fenris questioned.
“Another Warden. Nathaniel Howe. A bit stuffy, prickly, put up his defenses, but a good, solid chap once you got to know him,” Anders remarked, and then smiled. “A little like you, Fenris, but maybe less haughty.”
“Yes, haughty! You’re probably the most aristocratic person I’ve met, and I’ve known royalty,” Anders laughed. “Everything gone? The bricks, I mean.”
“Yes,” Fenris said, and he watched as Anders tugged the desk into place and smiled at his handiwork.
“Perfect. Thank you, again. It’s a lovely gift. Very practical,” Anders remarked, and even with the teasing smile on his face the words were sincere. Fenris tapped against one of the drawers in the desk, the second one down on the left side.
“This has a false bottom. I thought you could use it,” Fenris took a deep breath, and muttered the next words, “for your manifesto.” Before Anders could say anything he turned on his heel and stalked out of Anders’s clinic.
“I knew you had a soft spot for my work!” Anders called out before Fenris slammed the clinic door closed behind him. Despite his show of irritation, Fenris couldn’t help but smile as he made his way back to Hightown.
Today was a good day.
A big shout out to the Fenders Love discord chat for work shopping some buff!Anders ideas with me. I would have never thought of half of these without everyone's help. Thank you!
Also, a happy Pi Day to those who celebrate Pi Day!
The summer air was hot and sticky in Kirkwall, and it was driving Fenris mad. In Minrathous the air was drier, and on Seheron the ocean breeze brought sweet relief from the oppressive humidity. But Kirkwall’s looming buildings and crowded streets seemed to soak up the moisture and sun, baking the citizens in wet heat and foul stench. Fenris found himself lying shirtless on the terracotta tiles of his kitchen floor to soak up a little coolness into his skin. What the others did to find comfort that summer, Fenris could only guess. They all found their own ways to combat the heat. But it seemed to have finally gotten to be too much for Hawke, who gathered them all in the Hanged Man for an impromptu meeting.
“We’re going to the Wounded Coast. All of us,” Hawke announced to the table at large.
“All?” Fenris asked, because Hawke never required more than three companions on his usual outings. Something about group dynamics and party balance and ease of mobility. What could Hawke possibly have planned that would require all of them to be present?
“All. Next Friday, coming back Sunday. We need a break from the heat before we go insane,” Hawke explained as he grabbed a fistful of Varric’s rough draft and fanned himself with them. Varric rolled his eyes and snatched the papers back.
“Hands off the novel, Hawke,” Varric grumbled before adjusting his spectacles and scratching out a line or two in his manuscript.
“But anyways. Next Friday, meet up at the mansion, get out of the city, have two days away from the city,” Hawke continued breezily. “It’ll be good for us!”
“That… is a rather good idea, Hawke,” Aveline grudgingly admitted. “I’m shocked.”
“Sunshine, a nice breeze, cool water, sand under our feet,” Isabela purred out. “Sounds like a dream come true.”
“I… suppose a short reprieve is in order,” Sebastian murmured thoughtfully.
“How delightful!” Merrill exclaimed. “Won’t that be lovely?”
“It’ll get my mind off this damned story, that’s for sure,” Varric stated.
“Fenris?” Hawke was looking at him expectantly, his eyes bright and almost… puppy-like. If it wasn’t so hot, Fenris would have ignored him. But Aveline was right. This was one of Hawke’s better ideas. Who wouldn’t take advantage of a cool breeze and relief from the oppressive heat? Fenris sighed.
“As long as we are prepared for the journey, I am in agreement,” Fenris replied, remembering the last time he went on a short trip with Hawke to the Wounded Coast. And when he thought of that, he thought of Anders, and when he thought of Anders…
“So, Anders?” Hawke asked. Fenris looked down the table to Anders, who was silent for the entire conversation. He was frowning, his thin brows furrowed into a sharp V shape. His expression was a little grim, and Fenris could almost hear Anders’s frantic thoughts. If he were to hazard a guess, Anders was probably calculating how much time he could spare from his clinic and responsibilities. He was probably also conducting a debate with his spirit, Justice, over taking time away from healing.
“There are no plagues or dreadful diseases that cannot wait three days, Mage,” Fenris remarked casually, all too aware of everyone’s eyes on him when he spoke. “And your guard, the Ferelden woman-”
“Lirene,” Anders interrupted mildly.
“Yes, her, she has said you should rest,” Fenris continued. “You do your patients no good if you run yourself ragged.”
“How very thoughtful, I always knew you cared under all that disdainful bluster,” Anders teased, and the wrinkles in his forehead smoothed out as he smiled at Fenris.
He looked rather nice when he smiled, Fenris thought absently. The years seemed to melt away with his grin, and there was that strange fluttering feeling in his stomach again. Fenris didn’t dislike the feeling. It felt unusual and a little uncomfortable, but it was so… so liberating, to be able to feel without fear. Anders’s strength made him feel a little weak at the knees, but his smile felt like the sun on Fenris’s skin after a long winter. It felt good, to make the man smile. Strange. Fenris was unaccustomed to bringing smiles to faces, but it was a pleasant change of pace.
“Is… is Fenris smiling?” Merrill whispered, breaking Fenris out of his musings. He scowled reflexively and returned his attention to the sour wine in his pewter goblet. The drink was truly awful, and he grimaced as he drank from his cup.
“Ah, and now he’s stopped,” Isabella cooed. “What a shame.”
“Anders, speak!” Hawke ordered. “Make Fenris smile again!”
“Woof,” Anders said dryly, and Fenris nearly choked on the wine in his mouth as the rest of the table burst into laughter and descended into cheerful conversation of their anticipated break from Kirkwall’s terrible heat. And while Fenris did not look down the table for the rest of the evening, he felt Anders’s eyes on him.
And Fenris rather liked it.
“So,” Varric said as they set up camp on the sandy shoreline. “Getting close to Blondie, eh?”
“I gave him a desk,” Fenris retorted as he stuck a tent pole deep into the sand. “One that would have rotted away in the mansion otherwise.”
“Saw it. Nice desk. Mahogany. Fancy drawers to hide all your secret shit in,” Varric replied. “Pretty thoughtful hand-me-down, Fenris.”
“It was nothing,” Fenris muttered. It was nothing. He saw a need, he fixed the problem. It didn’t mean anything more or anything less. Anders was… well, perhaps not a friend, but a companion, and they were on friendlier terms. As much as it pained Fenris to admit it, Anders did good work in Kirkwall. He did the unglamorous, hard, painful, unrewarding work that so many ignored, and Fenris… well, he admired Anders’s tenacity.
“Anders doesn’t think so,” Isabela interrupted as she dumped a pile of driftwood to the sand. “Was all starry eyed when he told me about it. ‘Look at what Fenris did!’ ‘This will be so useful!’ ‘I can store all my research notes in here!’ It’s hardly the most exciting seduction gift, but you’ve wormed your way under his robes, Fenris.”
Fenris opened his mouth to protest, to say that it was not a gift, that he was not trying to seduce Anders, that he was not doing anything but assisting a companion in his good deeds, but then- well, he closed his mouth and glowered at the tent poles in his hands. Truth be told, Fenris liked Anders. He admired Anders’s strength, his fortitude, his sense of right and wrong, his conviction. Fenris longed for that confidence, that assurance, in his own life. What was it like to be so certain, so sure?
Also, Fenris couldn’t deny that Anders’s physical strength, his power and control, was incredibly attractive.
“So he approves of it,” Fenris murmured, and he couldn’t help but feel that thrill of delight run down his spine. Anders liked his gift! Fenris had made a good decision, had observed, had found something that Anders appreciated and used! It was such a small act in the grand scheme of things, but Fenris did not give gifts. He did not know how. Or, he previously didn’t know how the task was accomplished. But he was successful. He had done something right!
“Oh, Fen,” Isabela sighed, and she sounded so fond it brought a flush to Fenris’s cheeks. “You are a sap.”
“Hardly,” Fenris grumbled, and he returned to the task at hand. Once he set up the tent and checked the poles and ropes, Fenris walked down the sand towards the waves and the bright blue waters of the sea. He dug his toes into the warm sand and let himself enjoy the sunshine on his face and the cool breeze on his body. Slowly, cautiously, he waded into the water up to his knees, the cold water lapping at his bare skin. The tide tugged at Fenris’s calves. The current was surprisingly strong, and Fenris dug his heels into the sand to stay in place. He watched the water, watched the waves lap against the shore, watched the sea foam float on the surface, watched as a pale form shot through the water, cut through the relentless current like a blade, and-
It was Anders.
And he looked glorious, all ivory and gold, gleaming in the sun and water, droplets of water falling from his form like ropes of diamonds as he shot out of the water and stood, waist deep, in the warm water. And then he smiled and it was beautiful and fasta vass, Fenris was well and truly fucked. His eyes greedily traced the rivulets of water that run down his chest, his stomach, the dips and divots of muscle and skin, kaffas it was as if Anders was made of muscle and bone!
Fenris almost wanted to wrap him in a blanket and feed him, but Anders was not the sort who needed coddling. It might even insult him, powerful Gray Warden Mage that he was. So Fenris quickly averted his eyes away from Anders’s body, from his face, from anything related to Anders at all. But his eyes kept drifting back to Anders. He simply couldn’t look away.
“Planning to jump in, or are you going to pose dramatically and brood?” Anders teased, and his smile was infectious.
“Not all of us want to splash about like a child,” Fenris replied flippantly, and Anders’s grin widened.
“Don’t want to ruin your fancy hair?” Anders laughed, and he began to wade out of the water, his leggings clinging to his legs. Muscular legs, Fenris noted. Thin, but well defined. As Anders passed him on the beach he threw an arm over Fenris’s shoulders. His damp skin was oddly comfortable, and Fenris leaned into Anders’s form. Just a small lean, barely noticeable, Fenris told himself, but he still leaned, and he wondered if Anders noticed.
Part of Fenris hoped he did.
That night, after they ate a meal of roasted fish (caught by Sebastian) and drank from a bottle of rum (supplied by Isabela), they all departed to their various tents. Fenris had planned on sharing with Isabela, and Anders with Merrill, but Isabela casually looped her arm through Merrill’s and cheerfully waved them off.
“You boys play nice, now!” she called out as she crossed the sand, leaving Anders and Fenris behind in the dying firelight. They were alone for the moment, as Hawke was busy fetching some more driftwood to see to the fire.
Fenris was paralyzed by indecision. A tent. With Anders. To sleep. It was a disaster! An utter disaster! He knew what Isabela intended, the minx! Her sly wink and smirk spoke volumes. She was certain that he and Anders would- would bed each other. But that was- well, Fenris would not say no, should Anders be amenable, but he knew he would want more. Daring to want more was dangerous, and Fenris was made cautious by circumstance. Besides, Fenris thought glumly, Anders was only being friendly. He would not welcome Fenris’s romantic advances.
Not that Fenris planned to make any romantic advances. At all. Lust, after all, was hardly romantic. Fenris may enjoy Anders’s company, his conversation, the dichotomy of his strength and softness- but it wasn’t romantic. Of course not! Anders was merely attractive, available, and… safe. Of course Fenris lusted after him. But he would not press or pursue. They would simply sleep. Yes. Simply sleep next to each other in the small tent. All night.
Fasta vass, this would be a trial.
“Well, might as well get some sleep,” Anders remarked. “If you don’t mind.”
“It’s fine,” Fenris muttered, trying to calm the swell of panic in his breast. It was just one night. He only had to share the tent for one night, possibly two. They had done that before. It would be fine. He ducked into the tent and curled up into his bedroll, back turned towards Anders. He screwed his eyes shut and tried to fall asleep. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out slowly. Controlled. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Between the monotonous breathing exercise and the dull roar of the ocean waves, Fenris fell into a dreamless sleep with Anders beside him.
When Fenris woke up, he was warm. There was a solid, heavy, warm weight over his waist and at his back. Solid. Warm. Safe. It smelled like lemon soap and sweat and the salty sea, and it was comforting and wonderful. Fenris turned over, still half asleep, seeking that warmth like a cat sought a sunbeam. He lazily slitted his eyes open to look up at the source of the warmth and comfort and good.
Anders was still asleep, golden hair streaked with red and silver, his face slack with sleep. His chest rose and fell, and Fenris felt it against his own. He felt Anders’s heart beating- slow, steady, strong. This was who Anders was when he slept, a softer version of the man. It was like comparing the sun to the moon.
Fenris felt his heart stutter as Anders’s brow wrinkled, and he almost breathed a sigh of relief when Anders curled his hand around Fenris’s waist and pulled him closer, into the warmth and strength and comfort that was Anders. If Fenris was a noble man, a better man, he would push Anders away. But Fenris was not noble. He was not strong like Anders. He curled into that warmth and basked in what he knew he could never have.
Thank you for reading!
Realizing that he was enamored with Anders was not as horrific as Fenris thought it might be. The sun still rose and set every day. The moon went through its phases every night. Kirkwall was still Kirkwall, and despite the chaos within its walls stood high and strong. His feelings for Anders had not changed the world, it only felt that way.
There were changes, however subtle they were. Fenris found his way to Anders’s clinic often, despite telling himself to stay away. Infatuation with a Mage could never end well, and infatuation with Anders was certain to end in disaster. He was orbiting ever closer to the fire, too distracted by the beautiful light and color of the flames to notice the heat until it was too late. Only a fool leaped into the flames in the hope of experiencing pleasant warmth and not searing heat.
But it was well established that Fenris was a foolish man. So he made his way to Anders’s clinic, sometimes armed with blankets from the mansion, other times bearing gifts of food and wine. He went to Anders’s clinic, and he stayed, silently watching over Anders and the work he did. Silently, like a guard. Like a dog who replaced one master with another.
“Anders is no Danarius,” Fenris muttered before violently slamming the wicker lid of a picnic basket full of food shut. Anders was too skinny, despite his immense strength and seemingly endless stamina. No one could run on sarcasm and spite forever. Anders needed food, and Fenris was going to shove these cold cuts of chicken, goat cheese, and olives down Anders’s throat if he had to. The thought somewhat lightened his spirits. Fenris would have never dreamed of such violence towards Danarius, which was something like proof that Anders had no power over him.
Cheered by the thought of tying Anders to a chair to make him eat a meal for once, Fenris almost skipped down the road to Darktown and Anders’s clinic. Almost. Skipping was rather undignified, after all, but there was a bit of a bounce to his step as he took the narrow steps two at a time until he reached the clinic and the lit lantern. Fenris nudged the door open with his shoulder and slipped into the dark doorway.
It was nice and cool inside the clinic, which made sense. The weather outside was still unbearably humid, and as it wasn’t Potion Day the fire in the hearth was burning low. No one was in the waiting area, and Lirene was gone for lunch. Over the crackle of flames and the dull sounds of the street outside, Fenris heard the tell-tale scratching sound of a quill over parchment. That damned manifesto, Fenris thought as he approached the back room and carefully knocked on a bookshelf to alert Anders to his presence. Even during his lunch break, Anders never rested.
“Come in,” Anders called out, and there was the sound of a drawer shutting. Fenris ducked under the curtain and entered the back room.
“Fenris? What are- are you hurt?” Anders asked as he stood from his desk. He looked tired, Fenris observed, and a little strained. The circles under his eyes stood out like plum colored bruises against Anders’s pale skin, and his golden-red hair hung in scraggly, limp strands around his face. But his smile was warm and generous, and Fenris found himself stepping further into the clinic and Ander’s orbit.
“No, I-” Fenris cleared his throat, “I thought you could use something to eat. There’s nothing here to consume, unless you’re planning to eat a book.” Fenris fell back to sarcasm and pointed remarks, because that smile was alarmingly disarming. Stupid handsome Anders with his stupid, handsome smile.
“You brought me lunch?” Anders chuckled as he took the basket from Fenris’s hands. His warm hands skimmed against Fenris’s, and the places their skin met crackled with energy.
“You need to eat,” Fenris muttered, and Anders’s sharp bark of laughter filled the clinic.
“I certainly do. Come, we can share and talk. How’s your back?” Anders asked as he unpacked the basket. Fenris took a seat on a wooden stool and, with the fire at his back and Anders’s presence before him, relaxed and basked in this scene of domesticity.
They broke bread together and ate. Anders talked through the short meal, and Fenris listened, occasionally offering input or his own stories. Anders’s medical supplies were running low, and he would have to make a trip to the foothills of Sundermount to gather herbs. Fenris suggested that they make a short trip up the mountain the next time Merrill went to visit her clan. He then told Anders of Aveline’s latest attempt to force him into maintaining an ounce of respectability and fixing up the mansion.
“She’s got point,” Anders remarked through a mouthful of chicken. “Place is full of dust and mold and I don’t want to think of the sort of vermin running through those walls.”
“Then don’t,” Fenris retorted, and he popped another olive into his mouth. Anders’s chuckle and smile made his heart beat faster, but Fenris managed to smile back instead of sighing like a lovesick fool. He could manage this, Fenris told himself. He could manage his feelings for Anders. He was managing them, and they could maintain a… a positive and productive friendship. Fenris didn’t need anything more than that. He opened his mouth to say something, to add that he was considering Aveline’s suggestions but had no idea where to begin with repairing a house and building a life, but his thoughts were interrupted when the clinic door slammed open and a man’s voice boomed through the clinic.
“Healer! Healer, you’re needed, Morton’s got a- bloody Andraste’s Balls, he’s bleedin’ everywhere, Healer-”
“Duty calls,” Anders muttered, and in an instant he was gone, striding through the curtained area with the easy command of a man who knew what he was doing. Fenris peered through the curtain and winced at the crowd of rough looking men, dwarves, and elves carried a giant of a man through the door. They struggled as they forced the man’s hulking frame down onto a bench, which made horrible creaking, popping sounds as he settled into the seat.
So this was the infamous Morton that Lirene threatened to sic on Fenris should Fenris dare threaten “the good Healer.” He looked like the sort of unfriendly fellow one didn't want to run into in a dark alley, but if he had such a diverse group of friends (there was even a Qunari woman who ducked into the clinic with the crowd), Morton had to be someone special. Fenris stepped into the waiting room, watching as Anders parted the crowd and approached Morton. Morton lifted his shaggy head, his straw-like hair covered in reddish-brown paint. No, not paint, Fenris realized as the scent of copper filled the air. Blood.
“Eh, healer, ain’t no trouble, Jus’ a scratch,” Morton grumbled, and Anders shook his head.
“Mighty big scratch, Morton. Who was it this time?”
“Templar bastard,” Morton coughed, and he spat on the floor. “Beggin’ your pardon, of course, but it was the nasty one- bald, cold as a fish and would sell his own mother to make that bitch Knight Commander happy-”
“Alrik,” Fenris supplied helpfully. It was a good estimation of that particular Templar’s demeanor. Something about his icy eyes and eager desire to frighten people made Fenris uncomfortable. The way he carried himself reminded him of… of Hadriana. May she rot. Regardless, Alrik was one of the few Templars that Fenris knew could not be trusted. Anyone who relished in causing so much pain could never be trusted to wield even a modicum of power.
“That’s the one,” another man, the one who called out for Anders, said. A scowl darkened his rough face.
“Said nasty things ‘bout my sister,” an elvhen boy, who couldn’t have been older than sixteen summers, piped up. “Tried riling me up, make me say something so he could have a fight, and Morton said he’d take care of it-”
“Damn well did,” Morton announced proudly. “Should see the state of ‘em, Healer, ain’t gonna walk so proud and mighty into Ferelden ground again!” Morton chuckled and spat again, and Fenris saw the spittle was tinged red with blood.
“Damn, Morton, the man did a number on you,” Anders muttered as he slipped his arm under Morton’s arms and hoisted him upwards without any assistance “You’ve got internal bleeding.”
“”Ain’t a problem, that’s where the blood’s supposed to be!” Morton announced. “Cheers, lads! Drinks on me!” And while the crowd of men in the clinic waiting room roared with approval, Anders escorted the gigantic Morton into the back room of the clinic.
“Fenris, I hate to impose, but I’m… I’m going to need some help,” Anders said evenly. “Could you boil some water for me, then grab some bandages off the top shelf? They’re in a wicker basket.”
Fenris automatically set to the tasks, already familiar with Anders’s routine and process. Anders’s obsession with organization and practicality were a boon in this incident, for Fenris was able to locate everything Anders requested and required as Anders took Morton’s shirt off and examined him. Anders’s strength was evident (Morton was a giant, taller than Hawke, certainly heavier), but it was his intelligence, his professional demeanor, the way he easily took charge and knew what to do- that was admirable. That was the strength Fenris longed to have. What was it like, to just know what to do? Fenris watched as Anders worked, combining magic and mundane in his healing. It was like watching an artist, Fenris thought. Healing was Anders’s art, and he was a master.
What was Fenris a master of? The thought struck Fenris with the force of a blow. Nothing. He was a master of nothing, sighing over a man who had infinitely more experience and understanding than him. He was like a stray dog longing for scraps, an urchin searching for copper coins in the gutter, like an insect flying ever closer to an open flame.
He was a fool. So, when Anders was occupied with getting a sleepy and healed Morton onto a cot, Fenris left. Fenris made his way back to his mansion, climbed down the damp stairs into his cellar, and brought up a load of wine bottles. He camped out in front of the fireplace in the ruined parlor with his hoard of wine, popped a cork open, and began to drink.
This was who he was, Fenris thought bitterly. He was nothing more than some transient vagrant, hiding in the ruins of a home that belonged to his enemies because he didn’t know where else to go. He had no skills. He had nothing, and here he was pining over a man who didn’t need or even want him. He drank until the bottle was empty and the fire was nothing but embers. Fenris drank to dull the maelstrom of feelings. Fenris drank to forget, and he fell asleep.
“-ris? Fenris?” the voice was soft and sweet in his ears, and Fenris rolled over to hear it better.
“Oh, Maker’s Balls, Fenris, did you drink all of these?” the voice asked, drifting in and out. Warm, strong arms wrapped around him, pulling him off the cold, hard floor and into the air. Fenris tried to open his eyes, but the light and way the walls were moving was unsettling. He shut his eyes and groaned, and the strong arms around him, holding up, carrying him, tightened.
“Come on, into bed with you,” the voice said, so fond and gentle that it made Fenris ache. “I’ll take care of you.”
With that promise ringing in his ears, Fenris fell asleep.
-blows the dust off- Wooo! Took me longer than I intended to get this chapter written, but this story is almost done!
Fenris woke up with a headache. Headache was perhaps too mild a term, because it felt like a herd of horses were stampeding around the room and in his head. Dust motes glimmered in the sunlight, which was entirely too bright and painful to behold. Fenris rolled over and buried his face in his pillow to shut out the light.
“Morning,” a voice cheerfully said. “Closer to noon, really, but we all have our indulgences, don’t we?”
“Anders,” Fenris mumbled, and rolled over onto his back. He pondered on how he made it to his bed when his last clear thought was firmly planting himself in his chair, bottle in hand. Slowly, fuzzy memories knit themselves together. There was a voice, a gentle reprimand, firm, strong arms lifting him up, hands tucking him under covers, fingers brushing his hair out of his sweaty brow...
“You shouldn’t drink so much,” Anders replied, and there was that hand again, cool and calloused against his forehead. “You’re not invincible, Fenris, your body can’t take the sustained abuse.”
“Generous of you to care,” Fenris retorted, “I’m fine. Leave.” The sharp words didn’t seem to have the desired effect of driving Anders off, much to Fenris’s consternation. Anders merely clicked his tongue and brushed Fenris’s hair off his face. It felt… nice. The touch was like drinking cool water on a hot day.
“I’m going to draw a curtain over the window, might make your head hurt less,” Anders explained. “Then I want you to try and open your eyes and sit up.” The mattress underneath Fenris shifted as Anders stood up, and Fenris heard Anders shuffling around the room. The hazy red glow of sunlight piercing through his eyelids fell to blissfully soothing darkness. Fenris heard Anders approach, and he cracked his eyes open and turned his head. His head still hurt, but it wasn’t the sharp jab of pain he felt when he first woke up, and seeing Anders was oddly reassuring.
“Better? Try to sit up, Fenris,” Anders murmured. Fenris felt Anders’s arm- strong, steady- wind around his shoulders and support him as he strained against covers and his own feverish, weak limbs to sit up in bed.
“You don’t have to stay,” Fenris grumbled as he tried to push Anders away (and the man was as solid as rock, fasta vass this was humiliating). “You can go, it’s-”
“You’re so hungover you can’t get out of bed,” Anders retorted with the sort of finality that killed Fenris’s protests before they could leave his mouth. He let Anders fluff his ragged pillows and tuck the blanket around him. He let Anders fuss over him, then watched him flit around the room through slitted eyes. Was that a broom he picked up? What was Anders doing? Fenris watched Anders sweep the dust and dirt on the floor into a neat pile near the doorway.
“If I could get you down to the clinic, to somewhere more sanitary, I would, but that might make your headache worse,” Anders continued. “The air in Darktown is disgusting, but it would be a sight better than this. As soon as you’re up on your feet, Fenris, we’re cleaning this. You aren’t living in this dump one day more than you have to.”
“Is that an order?” Fenris asked, and he was gratified to see Anders flinch.
“Poor choice of words, sorry. Healer’s request, really,” Anders amended. “But if you want to get over that splitting headache and generally feel better, you should listen to my advice.”
Anders set the broom down and approached the bed. There was that strange little smile on his face again, that soft, gentle look that he gave everyone but Fenris. At least, Anders never turned that fond expression on him before. It made Fenris ache with longing, even though shame burned through him as well. He didn’t want Anders’s pity, not for anything.
“I am fine. You can leave,” Fenris announced.
“Fenris,” Anders said softly.
“I don’t need your help, and I don’t need your pity,” Fenris muttered, and he tried to push the blankets off so he could stumble out of bed and drag Anders out of his home. But, damn the man, Anders had tucked him in so securely that Fenris couldn’t wriggle out of his blanket cocoon no matter how hard he struggled.
“Oh, stop lashing out! I’m going to take care of you, because I- you’re my friend, Fenris!” Anders exclaimed, and he sat down at the edge of Fenris’s bed with a huff. “I help my friends. And as soon as you can throw me out of your house, then I’ll go.” Anders smugly crossed his arms over his chest, looked down his long nose at Fenris, and smirked, looking as arrogantly pleased as one of his darling cats.
“Ass,” Fenris grumbled. “I doubt I could throw you out of my home even if I wasn’t half-drunk.” Hadn’t Anders shown him, over and over again, that his strength was not to be underestimated?
“Awww, you do care,” Anders crooned, and Fenris only rolled his eyes. Anders was fussing over him again, touching his forehead with cool hands, scanning the room, clicking his tongue, sighing- it would be maddening, had it come from anyone else, but it was Anders. Fenris settled into the pillows and surrendered to Anders’s onslaught.
“So,” Fenris said after a few minutes of Anders’s fussing and his own half-hearted attempts at batting Anders away, “you were the one who carried me upstairs?”
“Yes. You’re heavier than you look, even out of your armor,” Anders remarked. “But I managed. Stayed the night to make sure you were alright.”
“Nice of you,” Fenris replied.
“Incredibly considerate, I mean.”
“That’s me, considerate to a fault.”
“But why?” Fenris asked. “You have your clinic to take care of, don’t you?”
“Lirene’s in charge right now. I was worried about you. One moment I was treating Morton, the next you were gone and I couldn’t figure out where you went, and when I finally got up to Hightown you looked half-dead in that chair, haven’t seen someone that drunk since Oghren downed an entire keg of Nevarran Ale...” Anders’s voice trailed off.
Worry. First there was the fond smile and gentle nagging, the fussing and scolding, but now there was worry? Fenris couldn’t help the little rise of hope in his heart- you didn’t worry over someone you hated, after all. You didn’t smile at people you despised. You certainly didn’t try to nurse your enemies back to health. And Anders was still touching him, as if he feared that Fenris would fall apart without his touch.
Fenris was by no means an optimist, but he was not a fool. There was something there, between him and Anders, and if he wanted to know what it was… well. Someone had to take a leap. Fenris cautiously reached up to his forehead and curled his hand over Anders’s.
“You always manage to surprise me, Anders,” Fenris murmured.
“I’m going to take that as a compliment,” Anders said quickly. “Unexpected, since it’s you, but not unwelcome.”
“You’re a skilled healer. Powerful. When you punched that bandit on the Wounded Coast, I was… impressed,” Fenris admitted. Slow. He would slowly warm Anders up to the topic, then confess his… admiration? Regard? Fenris had no concrete plans, but he could improvise.
“The Warden Commander made sure we knew some hand-to-hand combat. I think he was hit one too many times with a Templar shout back at Kinloch, moment he got out he learned how to throw punches, then taught all us Mages how to do it too,” Anders replied absently. “Keeps us fighting, even if we’ve lost our access to magic or if we’ve been disarmed.”
That explained Anders’s surprisingly powerful right hook. A little thrill rippled through Fenris’s body at the thought of perhaps training with Anders, trading tips, showing each other different takedowns and styles and perhaps it would lead to more intimate touching…
“Then I visited your clinic. The level of organization was remarkable,” Fenris continued.
“Of course,” Anders said, and he sounded a little puzzled. “I was trained by some of the best healers in Thedas, Fenris, and I worked through the Blight and a civil war. Healing through that chaos is a sort of baptism by fire, you learn to be organized or you lose your patients.”
That explained his organizational skills, his process, the way Anders easily took charge when people were hurt- which was extremely attractive. At least, Fenris found it attractive. A man who knew his mind and knew what to do and when to do it was very appealing.
“And you’re incredibly strong,” Fenris added. “In ways that continue to confound me.” Fenris thought of the desk that was too heavy for him to move, but Anders dragged it to its proper place without any trouble. There were the ocean currents that were too rough for most to swim in, but Anders cut through it like a fish. Then there was the giant Morton who needed a crowd of men to carry him into the clinic, but Anders easily helped him into the back room.
“The more I learn of you, Anders, and the more I see, the more things I find to admire,” Fenris confessed.
“Fenris… are you-“
“I’m only making observations, Anders,” Fenris said. “Nothing more, nothing less.”
“I think you have a kink for competency,” Anders teased, but his smile and the gentle gleam in his eyes dulled the sharp edges around the comment. Not teasing, Fenris realized. This was flirting!
“Perhaps. Mages in Tevinter certainly weren’t so diversely talented,” Fenris retorted, and Anders snorted. There was a grin on his face, however, so perhaps it was a laugh?
“Good to know I rank higher in your estimation than Magisters, Fenris. Much more comfortable knowing my place in the world,” Anders said with a laugh. “But if you’re interested in learning some more of my talents...” He leaned forward, his golden brown eyes half-lidded, his expression soft and open. Fenris pushed himself away from the pillows, towards Anders, and pressed his lips against Anders’s.
Anders’s kiss was like coming home. It soothed longing. It embraced and held on and warmed Fenris to his core. Everything in that moment was right. It was perfect. When Anders pulled away, Fenris found himself chasing down Anders’s lips and kissing him until they were both breathless.
“Maybe I should kiss you more often,” Anders murmured once he pulled away. “Might get you to take your bedrest seriously.”
“I doubt we would get much rest,” Fenris pointed out, and Anders’s grin was something that Fenris was going to treasure for many days to come. It wasn’t the self-satisfied smirk he usually saw, or the shy, tired upward turn of his mouth that usually graced his face. Anders’s smile was one of utter delight, and the sight brought a small smile to Fenris’s face as well.
“A joke, Fenris? Perhaps I’m rubbing off on you,” Anders confided with no small amount of pride.
“Perhaps,” Fenris replied. “Perhaps a very little.” He reached up, cupped Anders’s jaw in his hand, and led him back into another kiss.
“Wait. Let me try and summarize what you two just said,” Hawke stated, running his hands through his thick black hair. “Fenris found Anders so physically strong and impressive that you’re now… together? And now you’re asking Varric to employ a crew to fix up Fenris’s mansion. And do some improvements in the clinic. So you two can go back and forth and play house. Together.”
“A little cruder than I said, but accurate enough,” Fenris begrudgingly admitted. Anders laughed and looped his arm around Fenris’s shoulders before pressing a kiss to his cheek.
“Oh, we’ve had plenty of interesting discussions since then. Fenris is utterly baffled by the idea that I’m not that special among Circle Mages. We’ve all got some measure of muscle, you know,” Anders explained cheerfully. “I used to carry benches and tables across the Templar training grounds back in Kinloch, just a little reminder that I was stronger than I looked, y’know?”
“I’ve heard stranger things,” Varric shrugged. He pulled his gold rimmed spectacles from his breast pocket and set them on the end of his nose, then picked up the pencil on the table in front of him and set the tip against the thick parchment of his notebook.
“So, when Anders first punched that bandit on the coast, did you swoon or sigh?” Varric asked, and even as Fenris rolled his eyes he couldn’t hold back the smile that spread across his face.
The whole time I was writing this, I kept on thinking of how funny it would be for Fenris to realize that every Mage in Southern Thedas was ripped, and how he'd just surreptitiously stare at every Circle Mage, trying to figure out if they're as absolutely shredded as Anders.
And now buff!Mages are part of my Thedas headcanon.