It had taken almost two hours and asking various people, but finally, Fenris had found him.
Anders looked peaceful, kneeling in the high grass and picking herbs and flowers he no doubt needed to make potions. The slightly humid air was heavy with spicy, sweet and tangy scents, mingled with the salt from the sea that a strong breeze carried up to Sundermount.
Moss green eyes rested their gaze on slender hands moving gently as they picked and plugged, like Anders was afraid to hurt the plants. The mage was humming to himself, a tune unfamiliar to the elf. It was almost astounding how different the mage looked in daylight, compared to his otherwise haggard appearace whenever Fenris saw him at his Darktown clinic. Blond hair was shimmering golden in the sun and Fenris understood why Hawke used to have a thing for the mage’s hair. Or a thing for the mage in general, who had been kindly ignoring Hawke’s advances until eventually, the rogue had moved on. Fenris wasn’t sure if entering a relationship with a Dalish blood mage was wiser than courting an abomination.
Or having a romantic interest in mages in general.
Realizing he was staring, Fenris huffed and tore his gaze away from the mage, arms crossing defensively. The sound made Anders aware of his presence and Fenris watch honey-colored eyes slowly lifting their gaze.
“What are you doing here?” Anders asked, surprised.
Fenris growled. “Where is everyone?” he demanded.
“Everyone’s gone. Hawke is not at his estate. I haven’t seen or spoken to him in days. Varric apparently left Kirkwall for business matters. Aveline is drowning in work at the Keep. Even the witch has disappeared!” Fenris fixed a glare on the mage. “Where is everyone?” he repeated.
Anders’ brows furrowed. “Why are you so concerned?”
Fenris snarled and kicked at a small stone close to his right feet.
An amused smile stole its way on Anders’ lips. “The elf is bored,” he teased.
That only added to Fenris’ annoyance, not to mention it made him feel embarrassed how needy he sounded. “It is not like…there is much going on in my life,” he muttered. “Not anymore.”
“Ah.” Anders nodded. “Well, if you are so desperate for some action, Broody, why don’t you go ahead and kill a few slavers? There are always slavers on Sundermount, from what I hear.”
Fenris gave a non-committal grunt in response. What had he been thinking, coming here to seek out the abomination?
“Alas, if what you really need is some company,” Anders went on, “you are welcome to stay and help me.”
“Help you?” Fenris asked, nose wrinkling.
“I am out here to collect herbs and flowers to make you potions,” the mage said pointedly. “Well, not only for you, obviously. Where do you think they come from?” He held up a yellow-colored flower. “I need more of these.”
There had been a time where Fenris would have balked and snarled at the mage for making demands, no matter how friendly they were worded. The years that had passed since had made the two of them more…social with each other, Fenris guessed. Belonging to Hawke’s circle of friends made it inevitable to get to know each other. Fenris, despite his wariness of mages in general, did not turn a blind eye to the things Anders did for the people of Kirkwall on a daily basis, or for his friends. Anders, in return, turned out to be an exceptional listener and, once they had learned to stop snapping and snarling at each other or trying to hurt each other with insults whenever a chance arose, someone who actually didn’t judge the way Fenris behaved or felt. They had reached a comfortable level of agreement that, right now, made Fenris feel relaxed in the mage’s company.
As Fenris waded through the knee-high grass, eyes searching for the yellow flowers the mage wanted, he noticed how peaceful it made him feel. Whenever he wasn’t out with Hawke, played Wicked Grace at the Hanged Man with Varric or invited Donnic over to enjoy a bottle of decent wine and talk, Fenris barely ever left the mansion. He didn’t like crowds; he saw no appeal in wandering across the city, or visit the market to buy things he might like or actually needed. He only ever went out on his own if he absolutely had to, still not used to having the freedom to simply go wherever he wished, whenever he wished. He was good at following orders or being given a task.
But this, Fenris thought to himself, was nice. The grass was soft beneath his bare feet, the ground warmed from the sun. The various smells that had previously attacked his olfactory system were now comforting and he even paused at a particularly sweet-smelling flower to enjoy its scent. The air was fresh and clear, despite the humidity and the breeze was gentle, caressing over his lithe form. Anders, who usually liked to talk a lot, remained silent except for humming the tune from a moment before.
After a moment, Fenris returned to the mage, a bouquet of yellow flowers in his gauntleted hand and awkwardly thrust them at Anders.
“Thank you,” Anders said softly and took the flowers to put them into his pouch. “To answer your earlier question – all I know is that Hawke accompanied Merrill to the Dalish camp. He said they’d be back in a few days. He, uh…asked me for some very special potions and herbs before they took off.”
“Why did he go to the Dalish camp? Is something wrong?” Fenris asked.
“Wrong? No.” Anders gave Fenris a scrutinizing look. “I was actually surprised to see you, seeing as most elves seem to have disappeared from Kirkwall.”
Fenris frowned. “Disappeared?”
“Mating season?” the mage supplied. “Since you are a free man now, with Danarius no longer haunting your sleep, I figured you’d be off finding someone for yourself.” He paused. “Or simply get laid. Both would probably do you good.”
“Excuse me?” Fenris growled and Anders inched away just a little.
“I’m just saying –“
“What is all this mating season nonsense?” Fenris huffed. “I have never heard of such a thing. I can’t remember Merrill leaving Kirkwall for such an occasion during the past few years, either.”
“That’s because she took suppressants,” Anders explained. “You – you never heard of it? For real?”
Was that concern? Fenris eyed the blond man. They could tolerate each other, sometimes even hold a friendly conversation, but Fenris still didn’t appreciate anyone being concerned about him – or showing pity.
“It’s part of your culture…or nature, Fenris,” the mage said. “Elf mating season?”
Green eyes narrowed. “I have never heard of it.”
“Oh.” Anders pursed his lips and Fenris could actually see the mage think, could see realization in those honey-colored eyes. “Of course,” Anders eventually said. “You never mentioned it in all those years I’ve known you. I should have assumed that Danarius may have taken care of that, too.”
“Danarius is dead,” Fenris snarled.
“But you are not.” Anders closed his pouch. “I think I am good for now,” he announced. “Will you accompany me back to Kirkwall or would you like to stay here for a while longer?”
“And do what exactly?”
Anders huffed out an amused laugh at the elf’s annoyed expression and nodded his head. “Come on then, you insufferable ass. Maybe we can get something for dinner on the market?”
“Dinner?” Fenris asked as he followed the mage toward the passage leading back to Kirkwall.
“Assuming you’d like to have company for dinner. I could be wrong, of course. And, well…I am sure I have lots of patients waiting for me at the clinic, anyway? Maybe even a cat? I put out milk before leaving earlier, maybe the Maker finally had mercy and –“
“Shut up, mage,” Fenris grumped and was rewarded with an amused smile.
Fenris’ nose wrinkled in disgust as they exited the passage and marched up the staircase leading to Lowtown, Anders leading the way. He’d lived in this city for years now but Fenris had never been aware that the entire city stank and now just Darktown. It was a little unsettling how heightened his sense of smell was today.
They hadn’t spoken the entire trip back and Fenris had found himself enjoying the comfortable silence. There had been moments where Anders looked like he was going to burst with the need of nervous babbling, as he had never been one to deal well with silence, but he had refrained from giving into the urge. It had given Fenris time to think about what Anders had said about his…culture. Fenris had never actually identified himself with the Dalish elves. Elven slaves in Tevinter hardly had the opportunity to pass on their history and culture to their offspring, having to service their master at every minute of the day. Merrill had attempted to make him familiar with their custodies, but Fenris…
He wasn’t even sure what he identified with. He was born and grew up in Tevinter, so he did see himself as Tevinter, but only as far as that went. He was an elf, yet he did not identify with the elves as a race, least of all the Dalish. The few times he had visited the alienage, he had experienced a distant feeling of kinship and the urge to protect these people from the slavers that would occasionally stroll Kirkwall’s streets in search of elves suitable to be sold on the slave market for a decent price.
Fenris had once told Hawke so, after one too many glasses of wine. Hawke had suggested that Fenris just be…Fenris. Unfortunately, the elf had no idea what that meant, either.
And yet, the mage mentioning this mating season and how he should not be surprised that Danarius had erased that part of his nature, too, it bothered Fenris. There was a feeling of loss and disconnection, stronger than he had ever experienced before. If Varric, right this moment, would have once again pointed out that Fenris was brooding, the elf, for once, wouldn’t have argued with it.
Fenris almost bumped into the mage and glanced up, meeting the blond’s expecting eyes.
“Or do you have enough of my charming company by now?” Anders added with a smirk. Fenris frowned at the mage and the way the other man’s appearance seemed to have changed, now that they were back in Kirkwall. He looked exhausted, worn-out and there were actually circles under his eyes.
Fenris leaned in close in order to find out whether or not it was just the light, and Anders stepped back just a fraction, more muscle memory than actual concern that Fenris would still want to rip his heart out. The elf wanted to make a sarcastic comment on that but instead, he suddenly found himself frozen to the spot, eyes wide.
A scent filled his nostrils, sweet like apples, rich like cinnamon; tinged with the comforting smell of elfroot, Anders’ musk and ozone. Something hot and needy unfurled in Fenris’ stomach and the warmth spread through his entire body like a wildfire, leaving his toes and fingertips tingling. He felt drunken with pleasure.
He wanted more of that scent.
Instinctively, Fenris reached out, grabbing the mage’s shoulders with his gauntleted hands, feeling muscles tense beneath his touch as he pulled Anders closer. With a growl, Fenris nosed along the mage’s neck, feeling and hearing him swallow hard.
“Fenris?” Anders asked, concerned. “What’s the matter?”
Another low growl had the mage’s mouth snap shut, body tensing further. Fenris allowed his eyes to slip closed as he pressed his face into Anders’ neck, lips parting slightly to catch more of this scent, to inhale it and make it his. The mage’s pulse quickened where the elf’s lips ghosted over warm skin.
Moss green eyes snapped open and with a snarl, Fenris jumped back, putting some distance between them. Anders looked at him with a bewildered expression as he lifted one hand to touch the area Fenris had just sniffed on.
“Well…that was…creepy, elf,” Anders informed him. “What did you do that for?”
Fenris’ mouth opened and closed, yet no sound crossed his lips. His mind was still overwhelmed with the scent and the sensations it had caused inside him and the need was a raging beast inside his stomach, demanding more, demanding closer again. Fenris’ hands balled into fists as he fought the urge.
“Another time,” Fenris gritted out as he fixed his gaze on the hard ground. “Dinner, that is.”
“Fine,” Anders said with a shrug. “You alright?”
Instead of answering, Fenris roughly pushed past Anders and marched off, his knees weaking when his nostrils once again filled with the scent of the mage. Ears pinked with embarrassment and the humming of his own blood in his ears drowned out Anders’ half-hearted complaint at being shoved out of the way. Fenris told himself to focus on the way home instead and the sudden need for a glass of very strong wine.
Chapter 2: TWO
The shattering of the bottle woke Fenris from his alcohol-induced slumber. Eyes opened a fraction and the familiar nausea and head spin set in right away. The fingers that had clasped tightly around the neck of the bottle were sticky with wine and he lifted that hand slowly to wipe carelessly at the sheets before it flopped against his side.
Fenris focused on one of the various stains in the ceiling and waiting for the dizziness to subside. The breeze coming in through the broken window made his heated skin prickle and it was only then that he became aware of how warm he felt. Almost feverish. He glanced down at himself, eyeing his lyrium marks curiously. They were glowing faintly, pulsing in tune with his heart beat and the faint throbbing in his skull.
And there was a distinct throbbing in his neither regions.
Fenris was no stranger to arousal. Biology wasn’t something a master could take away from their slaves. Fenris wasn’t sure if there had ever been a time in which we was sexually active, since he still lacked the greater part of his memory, but since he’d been on the run, since he had demanded freedom from slavery, there had been occasions were the sight of an attractive person had indeed caused a stir inside him.
But this was different.
Despite his mild alcohol intoxication, Fenris had never felt more…alive. His skin was vibrating and warm, the blood in his veins hummed. There was a yearning he was unfamiliar with; the need for something he couldn’t put into words.
With a grunt, Fenris reached up to scratch his belly. The next moment, he was jolting up with a surprised yelp. The contact of his fingertips against bare skin where his tunic had been pushed up had only been brief, yet Fenris felt like he’d been struck by lightning. His markings flared up brightly and he groaned at the insistent throbbing of the straining erection confined in his tight-fitting leggings.
He was almost thankful for the protest of his stomach at the sudden movement, even more so when Fenris eventually found himself leaning over his chamber pot to empty his stomach’s contents into it. The heavy wave of nausea distracted from the strange behavior of his body. Fenris was left panting into the pot as soon as his stomach was done cramping and forcing out wine and acid, hands clutching hard enough his knuckles turned white. He thought about how he’d felt restless for a few days now, something not even drinking seemed to help with. The same restlessness that had eventually forced him to go out and find his friends, needing to do something that would hopefully tire him out enough, and feeling disappointed when he found out they all had left Kirkwall for various reasons. The only one he hadn’t actively sought out was Isabela, because he had a good idea what the pirate would suggest and while she was indeed an attractive woman, Fenris never cared to take her up on her advances.
Aveline had barely spared him a minute’s attention as she flitted across Viscount’s Keep, too busy with planning patrols, reading dozens of letters and concerned about two of her Guardsmen who had been attacked only the night before. With Varric gone away on a ‘business trip’ and Hawke nowhere to be found, Fenris had felt almost relieved to her that at least the abomination had been seen and someone could point him to where Anders was.
Fenris leaned up and straightened his back, the last tendrils of nausea dissipating. His skin was still heated and sensitive to touch, when the elf one again attempted to touch it. It sent a pleasant shiver down his spine and elicited a small gasp from him.
“Something is wrong,” he muttered into the silence of the mansion.
With the elves from the local alienage gone or hiding in their homes during mating season, Anders’ clinic was decidedly less busy than he was used to. Apart from a heavily pregnant woman, a child with a festering leg wound and one of Aveline’s Guardsmen seeing him about a wound he’d obtained during sword practice, there had been no other patients and it was almost noon by now. As Anders was busy preparing the herbs and flowers he’d collected to make potions, he pondered about that. If Hawke had been there, Anders knew the rogue would tell him that, over the years, Anders had done such a good job keeping all of Kirkwall healthy, it was thanks to him that the days at the clinic had become quieter now.
Admittedly, Anders didn’t mind not having to exhaust himself on a daily basis anymore. It was just routine, had been routine for years and on quiet days such as today, he wondered if he should suggest another trip to the Bone Pit to Hawke, so he could rouse yet another dragon and bring back dozens of injured miners for him to take care of.
Which was – terrible, coming from a Healer.
With a sigh, Anders turned his attention to the pot of water slowly heating over the fire. The first of many pots today that he’d need to make potions. Courtesy of Lirene and a few of her helpers, who’d made the effort to get him some fresh water. The water in Darktown was something Anders would never drink to begin with, and he certainly wouldn’t use it for potions unless he absolutely had to and a whole lot of magic made sure it was clean.
As he added the first bunch of herbs to the almost boiling water, he listened to a group of children play outside and smiled at the sound of their carefree laughter. There wasn’t a lot to enjoy about Darktown, but children did not require too much except for at least one decent meal a day and health. They still lived in their own world, with their fantasies and wishes for the future. It would change soon enough, unless their family made it out of Kirkwall and to a better place. Anders himself had often thought about returning to Ferelden.
But then he remembered nothing was waiting for him there and there was no saying what they Grey Wardens would do, if they learned about his return and Anders wasn’t too keen on finding out.
Anders gazed thoughtfully into the pot as he stirred the liquid, only to watch his grip on the spoon falter a moment later when Justice made himself known. Distress, was all Anders was able to catch, Justice’s voice distant on his mind, and he frowned. His magic tingled beneath his skin and Anders watched his hand tremble.
Well, there was his explanation.
Slowly, Anders turned and looked at Fenris, who was standing in the doorway. The tone of his voice had already suggested that Fenris was anything but in good spirits today; his looks only confirmed Anders’ suspicion. No armor, merely a tunic and leggings. The elf didn’t even have his sword with him, which surprised Anders more than Fenris’ decision to dress down today.
“You still have that weird look on your face,” Anders said in lieu of of a greeting. “You’re not planning to sniff at me again, are you?”
Fenris shot him a glare at that, but the half-hearted nature of it had Anders somewhat concerned.
“I am sick, mage,” Fenris muttered, leaning against the doorframe heavily. Anders hummed thoughtfully and took in the elf’s sight, noticing the sweaty forehead and the flush in his cheeks. His breathing was heavier than Anders knew it and his general composure suggested that Fenris was either distressed – as Justice had pointed out, sensing the elf – or exhausted.
“Sick how?” Anders asked, potion-making forgotten. “Did you eat something bad again?”
Fenris huffed. “No.”
“Drank too much last night? Alcohol and heat never mix well, you know? In fact, wine is not suitable to keep you hydrated during the summer.”
A sigh. “I did drink last night,” Fenris admitted. “But this isn’t…this feels different.”
Anders nodded at one of the cots, a silent invitation that, as usual, the elf was reluctant to follow. They may have found something of a common ground, but the elf would probably never get over his hate to be touched, although Anders figured it wasn’t just his touch the elf disliked, but being touched in general.
“Come on, Fenris,” Anders said with a sigh. “You obviously came here because you want me to have a look at you.”
It took another moment but eventually, Fenris padded over to the cot and sat on it. Anders threw one final glance at the contents of the pot, decided it would be alright just brewing for a little while and hurried over to the elf.
“I promise, I’ll just look, not touch…unless I have to,” Anders told him as he slowly knelt in front of other man. Fenris watched him curiously, brows furrowing slightly. Anders ignored the look the elf gave him in favor of checking him for anything obvious.
“So, tell me,” Anders prompted as he studied the elf’s features. “What’s wrong?”
“I feel…warm. Feverish, now and then.” Fenris averted his gaze. “I react very sensitive to touch.”
Anders arched an eyebrow.
“More so than usual,” the elf clarified with a snarl. “I can’t even touch my own skin without…”
“It’s…a very strong sensation. I can’t really explain it.”
Anders hummed and leaned in so he could look into Fenris’ eyes. The elf inhaled sharply and pulled back a little.
“You don’t seem to have a fever, though,” Anders mused. “Your cheeks are flushed, but not alarmingly so. No more than I would expect in this weather. Your eyes are not glassy.” He lifted a hand, eyes asking for permission, which Fenris granted with a sharp nod. Slowly, Anders brought that hand to the elf’s forehead, then his left cheek. “Temperature seems normal.”
Fenris stiffened as he inhaled sharply once again. With interest, Anders watched Fenris’ eyes close.
“My…my senses seem heightened,” Fenris said hoarsely. “Especially my sense of smell.”
Anders’ lips pursed. “Elves generally have a much better sense of smell than a human, for example, but if you feel the need to point that out, then…”
Fenris shifted uncomfortably on the cot, his breathing labored once again and Anders frowned at him. “What is it?”
“I can’t…your…your smell…” The elf shook his head.
“My…smell?” Anders huffed. “I only bathed last night, it can’t be that bad, blighted elf.”
Fenris growled low in his throat. “That’s not it…blighted mage.”
Another growl and suddenly, Anders found himself tackled by the elf. Long arms flailed, then his back connected hard with the floor, forcing an “Oof!” out of the mage.
If this stunt made his back hurt, Anders didn’t notice – he was too distracted by Fenris’ weight on top of him and Fenris’ face pressed against his neck once again. The elf was inhaling deeply and Anders fought the urge to laugh nervously at this strange behavior.
“Fenris, get off me,” he said as gently as he could, but that only made Fenris press closer, his nose and lips leaving the soft skin of Anders’ neck to bury into his hair instead.
Anders went very, very still, eyes wide. “Fenris, are you…is that…?” he stuttered and slowly bent one leg, carefully pressing his thigh against the elf’s crotch. “Sweet Maker!” Anders breathed out and Fenris hummed into his hair, thrusting back against the mage’s thigh gently, before freezing on top of him.
“This is…awkward?” Anders commented while slowly stretching out his leg again. “More awkward than what you did yesterday. Congratulations, Fenris, you outdid yourself.”
“I’m sorry…” Fenris murmured into his hair and Anders bit his tongue before he could make another sarcastic comment. “That…that would be another…symptom.”
“Another symptom?” Again, Anders fought the urge to laugh and cursed his anxiety that always seemed to come to the surface in situations he felt unable to handle properly and maturely. “Arousal?”
Fenris relaxed a fraction and nosed Anders’ hair. “Yes,” he admitted quietly. “It’s…it’s your smell.”
“What’s wrong with my smell?”
Anders had never needed one of Hawke’s spontaneous visits more than now.
If the elf had been distressed when he’d come to his clinic, now Fenris was right-out miserable and Anders felt honestly terrible for having pushed the elf off him roughly. His anxiety had made him overreact and now Fenris sat on the cot again, making himself as small as possible while his ears had, by now, turned an almost unhealthy shade of red.
“I’m sorry,” Anders murmured.
“You need not apologize, Anders,” Fenris mumbled. “It was I who made you uncomfortable. I apologize. I am…usually better at…controlling myself.”
“I am not mad at you,” the mage assured. “I just…I was unable to handle the situation properly.”
“You…have never experienced something like this before, correct?” Anders asked gently.
“Does that mean you figured out what’s wrong with me?”
“There’s nothing wrong with you, Fenris.” The mage sighed and lifted his hands to take care of his slightly mussed up hair. “The only other time I saw someone experiencing the same as you do right now, albeit less distressed over it, was when I was still with the Grey Wardens. Did you know the Hero of Ferelden is an elf?”
Fenris grunted non-committally.
“She has a lover, an elf from Antivan. His name is Zevran.” Anders paused. “That is, if they are still lovers.”
At that, Fenris perked a little. “I remember Varric mentioning that name before.”
“During my time with the Grey Wardens, I witnessed the elf mating season for the first time. They were the same, taken with each others’ scent and in a constant state of arousal whenever they were near each other. Zevran told me that the sense of smell plays an important role when an elf chooses their mate. They kind of…imprint?”
Fenris’ eyes widened. “Are you saying I am now…imprinted on you?”
This time, Anders couldn’t hold back the nervous laugh. “I don’t know, Fenris. I am not an elf. I don’t know what elves experience in detail when it’s mating season. The elves we had in the Circle were given suppressants.” He shook his head. “Why now? You said you never experienced this and you obviously never have in the past years. Why this year?”
It dawned on them both as soon as the question was out and Fenris’ gaze hardened. “Danarius…”
“…is dead,” Anders finished. “And whatever control he had over you died with him.”
The elf growled.
“It’s a good thing, isn’t it? It means you are truly free now.”
“And experiencing a mating urge, imprinted on a mage!” Fenris snarled. “How can you possibly fail to see the irony in this?”
“It’s not my fault,” Anders stated soberly. “You…you could go to Sundermount? To the Dalish camp?”
“And do what exactly?”
“I don’t know…” Anders shrugged. “Experience your first mating season the right way? With people of your kin?”
“I will not engage in mindless rutting with strangers.” The mere thought seemed to scandalize the elf. “How long is this gonna last?”
“I can’t tell you that, Fenris.” Anders sighed. “Maker, what a mess.”
Fenris jumped off the cot and straightened his tunic. “Do not worry, mage,” he murmured. “I will make sure not to bother you with this. I shall keep my distance.”
Anders blinked. “What?”
“This makes you as uncomfortable as it makes me. I suppose I will sit this out.” Fenris looked at him, a pained expression on his face and Anders could see Fenris trying really hard not to inhale too deeply so Anders’ scent wouldn’t overwhelm him again.
“Sit it out? How? Lock yourself up in your rotten mansion?” Anders asked.
“That appears to be the plan.”
Before Anders had the chance to object – or suggest Fenris go to the Dalish camp a second time – the elf stormed out of the clinic, desperate to get away from Anders and the mage’s scent that seemed to have a rather strong effect on him.
Only when Anders was sure Fenris was not returning did he lower his head enough to sniff at his coat, wondering what exactly it was that Fenris smelled when he was close to him.
Chapter 3: THREE (*mild nsfw warning*)
It was the scent of apples and cinnamon, tinged with ozone, that alerted Fenris of the mage’s presence before Anders had even reached the staircase. If Fenris wouldn’t feel so strung out, he may have found Anders’ attempt at sneaking into the mansion amusing, as the mage completely lacked any stealth skills, but humor had never been his strong suite and what little humor he possessed had left him.
Curling in on himself, Fenris turned his back toward the door, hands clawing at his pillow. The mage’s scent was overwhelming enough already, but what it did to him bereft him of control.
Fenris listened as Anders ascended the staircase and slowly approached the door. There, the mage stopped walking, leaning against the doorframe which protested with a small creak.
Two days, Fenris thought humorlessly, and already, the mage hadn’t been able to fight that irritating sense of obligation.
“How are you doing?” Anders asked quietly.
“You shouldn’t have come here,” Fenris muttered.
Anders hummed and slowly approached the bed.
“I have met up with Orsino last night,” the mage explained. “I figured if anyone could give me more insight on the elves mating season, it would be him. Alas, he wasn’t able to tell me much more than I told you already, other than this whole…thing possibly putting you into a great deal of distress, if denied. He did voice concern over you suffering so much, though.”
Fenris gritted his teeth so hard his jaw muscles protested
“I really believe it would be best to take you to Sundermount? Which is why I’m here.” Anders sighed. “You don’t have to engage in ‘rutting with complete strangers’, as you put it, but maybe the Dalish Keeper can help you through this?”
“I don’t want anyone to see me this way,” Fenris forced out.
“I do get that,” the mage assured. “I understand. It’s just –“
“No, mage, you don’t,” Fenris snapped. “This is…I don’t…” With a growl, Fenris spun around to face the blond, making him jump a little. Anders’ compassionate gaze was resting on him as he took in Fenris’ sight. In distress, indeed. Anders could tell Fenris had barely slept, if he’d slept at all, body tense as he fought the arousal and the urge to reach out.
“I am…not unfamiliar with arousal. I have experienced it before, I…believe.” Fenris stopped and wrapped his arms around himself, like he was cold.
There was that scrutinizing look on Anders’ face now, the one Fenris hated and feared in equal amounts. He disliked other people trying to figure him out, trying to see something that Fenris was not aware of. Disliked it because Fenris was afraid they would realize there was nothing, that Fenris was nothing.
“Have you never been…sexually active, since you ran from Danarius?” Anders asked. “Is that why this is terrifying you so much?”
“And I have no memory of whether or not there have been any…lovers, before the ritual,” Fenris agreed.
“You don’t know what to do with the urges you have now.”
“I don’t even know how to interprete them.” Fenris huffed. “I’m sure you think this is hilarious.”
“No,” Anders said sincerely.
“Even if I would give in, even if I went to Sundermount, found someone else, I wouldn’t…” Another huff. “I do not wish to embarrass myself further by clumsy, unrewarding actions. I do not wish to be laughed at over my inexperience.”
“You know, sex is…” Anders sighed. “A lot of it is based on instinct.”
“It is easy for you say, you are not as pathetic as I am,” Fenris snarled. “I wouldn’t even know about what is instinct and what knowledge. I was a slave, Anders. Do you honestly believe they’d let us indulge in carnal pleasures? We exist solely to please our masters in every way they desire.”
“You can only learn if you are brave enough to try,” the mage objected gently. “Believe me, my first time was incredibly awkward. It was still perfect because it happened with the right person, but that doesn’t mean we immediately knew what to do, where to touch or where to kiss. You learn these things.”
Fenris glowered at him and Anders sighed deeply.
“We could try with a suppressant?” the blond suggested. “I handed out a few of those last year. Merrill wrote the recipe down for me.”
“Really? You are suggesting a magical potion?” Fenris laughed sadly. “Just get out, mage.”
Anders scowled and Fenris could see he was fighting really hard to not revert to throwing insults at the elf, like he used to in the past. It was amazing, Fenris thought, how well they had learned to handle each other.
Hawke would be pleased with them, right now.
“You seem calmer now,” Anders noticed, the scowl leaving his face slowly. “Do you…feel better with my scent around you?”
“Is this about Orsino remarking that being denied causes greater distress?” Fenris asked darkly but at the same time, he noticed that he indeed felt different, with the mage in the same room. The entire space was filled with the mage’s scent, making his blood boil and his skin tingle worse than before, yet the feeling of abandonment had lessened.
“I do wonder about that,” the mage admitted. “So…do you feel better?”
Fenris shrugged, not wanting to let the other man in on his thoughts. Anders rolled his eyes and worked on taking his coat off, unclasping buckles and shrugging it off his shoulders. He wore a shirt underneath that had seen better days and the sleeves had been cut off, obviously so he wouldn’t get too warm under his coat. Fenris thought it would be easier to simply do away with the coat, but no matter the temperature outside, the mage always wore it like an armor.
“Mage, what are you doing?” Fenris asked, hating the tremble in his voice. It made him curl in on himself some more.
“Maybe this will be enough already?” Anders carefully got on the bed and Fenris growled at him. Too much. Too close. “To help you through this?”
“Help me how?”
Anders arched his neck a little and gestured vaguely. “If you just, you know…sniff at me?”
Fenris stared at him, wide-eyed.
“Maybe my scent will calm your urges enough if I just stay close to you for a little while?”
“You are making fun of me, mage.”
“No, Fenris, I am really not.” Anders gave him a stern look. “Look, I just want to help. You know I can’t stand seeing others in –“
With a growl, Fenris sat up and grabbed him. The elf was surprised to find that this time, Anders indeed voiced no complaint or fought him. Instead, the mage’s hands timidly came to rest on his back as Fenris buried his face into the crook of the other man’s neck and inhaled deeply. Breathed in the scent and kept still, even though his body felt like it was on fire. The touch of Anders’ hands against his back was simultaneously too much and not enough, yet Fenris could not say what more he wanted.
He ignored it in favor of enjoying the scent.
“Better?” Anders asked quietly. “I mean…does it help?”
“Varric is going to be beside himself when he hears about this,” Fenris muttered bitterly and Anders huffed.
“What makes you think I’d tell him about this? Or either of our friends, for that matter?”
“Because you…” Fenris paused. “You…you won’t?”
“This is private, Fenris. Very private. You came to my clinic as a patient because this concerned you and I would be a terrible healer if I wouldn’t keep this confidential.”
Fenris shifted a little, only now realizing he was straddling the mage’s thighs. As Fenris inched a little closer, despite his mind telling his body not to, hands fisting in the mage’s shirt, tugging on it, he could feel Anders tense up once again.
“I am making you uncomfortable,” Fenris murmured.
“I’ll be fine,” Anders assured. “So…does it help?”
The elf thought about that for a moment. His hands loosened their grip on the mage’s shirt even as he nuzzled against him. His lips ghosted over the side of Anders’ neck and he felt a small shiver run through the blond’s body. It was good; not enough, but good, Fenris thought. The nasty feeling of rejection was subsiding, leaving him somewhat content.
“It does,” Fenris admitted. “This, at least, is an urge I can handle and it is easily fulfilled.”
Anders didn’t say anything for a long moment, but Fenris could feel him tense further in his attempt to hold perfectly still and let the elf sniff at him all he wanted. Which Fenris did, now that he was given permission to do so and was content to know that none of this would leave these walls. Anders was a very honest person, who wore his heart on his sleeve as often as he kept to himself and withdrew from people. Fenris knew the mage wouldn’t lie about keeping this confidential and for that he was grateful.
Fenris stretched his body slightly to bury his nose into the mage’s hair instead. Here, the scent seemed to differ and the elf chuckled when he recognized the honey-like fragrance. A shampoo Hawke had once gifted Anders with – for “special occasions”, as he’d told the mage with a wink. It had earned him a scowl, but now and then, Fenris would catch the scent and know Anders did use it.
“You bathed,” he murmured into golden strands.
“We did talk about you being imprinted on me due to my scent,” Anders replied quietly. “I wondered if bathing and using scented soap and shampoo would make a difference.”
“An interesting thought…yet, your unscheduled bath was to no avail.”
Anders huffed indignantly at that, his warm breath puffing against Fenris’ collarbone. It tickled across his skin, making the elf’s flesh crawl in a surprisingly pleasant manner.
With a hum, Fenris took another sniff at Anders’ hair, the scent of honey mixing with the mage’s own that seemed to have him captivated. One hand lifted and almost impatiently tugged on the tie keeping the mage’s hair together and Anders flinched a little.
“May I release your hair from the tie?” Fenris murmured.
“I don’t think anyone ever asked me this politely,” Anders shot back with a snort, but offered no further objection, so Fenris pulled the tie out, enjoying the way soft, blond strands tangled with his fingers.
For his body, it was like a cue. Both hands buried in the mage’s hair, Fenris gave a small moan and pushed against Anders’ solid form. There was resistance and a surprised gasp falling from the mage’s lips. Fenris fought to hold back, but it seemed his body was now working independently from his mind, pressing against Anders until their bodies were aligned, his hips rolling against the mage’s. Anders’ hands gripped the elf’s tunic, though it seemed no honest attempt to stop Fenris. Fenris grunted and rolled his hips again and suddenly, Anders let himself fall back against the bed, pulling the elf along.
Within moments, the elf’s world was reduced to the other man’s scent, the warmth of Anders’ body and the heat coursing through his own that eventually settled in his loins. A broken sound tore free from Fenris’ throat and his world went white for a few seconds before his body slumped against the one beneath him. Fenris listened to his own harsh panting, the heat of arousal now replaced by burning-hot embarrassment.
He scrambled to get off Anders and retreated to the foot of the bed, staring wide-eyed at the mage. Anders was staring at the ceiling instead, a small frown on his face as he seemed to contemplate what just happened.
“I apologize,” Fenris gasped out. “I was…I was alright…I don’t know –“
“Don’t,” Anders said softly. “It’s alright. I did take that into account.” A small, hapless smile formed on his lips.
Fenris shook his head violently. “You shouldn’t have come here,” he repeated, now lamenting. His leggings were uncomfortable against his skin now and he hissed at the sticky wet feeling in his crotch.
“Maybe not,” Anders agreed. “But I also couldn’t fight the urge to help you somehow…”
The elf sighed deeply and slumped.
“Do you…feel better now?” The mage lifted his head and gestured vaguely at him. “It seemed rather sudden and powerful.”
Embarrassment turned into shame and Fenris averted his gaze, disgusted with himself, the mage’s nonchalance and these…urges, now sated but still present.
“Go,” the elf demanded. “Please, just…just leave, Anders.”
Anders slowly moved to get up and Fenris didn’t dare to lift his gaze to read the mage’s features, to find out how he felt about this situation. He seemed remarkably calm, considering Fenris had just lost the fight against those urges inside him and forced himself on the mage.
“The Blooming Rose,” Anders murmured as he picked up his coat and put it back on.
“The brothel?” Fenris snarled, suddenly furious.
“I know you said you do not want to engage with strangers, but more so out of fear to be made fun of or rejected,” Anders said. “Whores tell you what you want to hear. You pay for that as much as you pay for taking pleasure in their bodies.”
Their gazes finally met and Fenris stared wide-eyed at the impassive mage.
“It’s just a suggestion.”
“Get. Out.” Fenris lifted a trembling hand toward the door. “Now.”
Anders gifted him with a scornful look that immediately made the elf feel terrible for his anger. He had no right to be angry – it was Anders, who had every right to be angry at him. The mage had come here to help Fenris and the elf had…
Fenris watched wordlessly at Anders walked out quickly, another apology dying on his lips, crawling down his throat and coming to rest heavily in his stomach.
Chapter 4: FOUR
Fenris gave the door a gentle kick and awkwardly glanced into the room. The look Jethann gave him upon recognizing his visitor was somewhere between amusement and exasperation.
“Truly, I must have angered the Creators, if they send you both to deal with in one day,” Jethann said in greeting. “I have to admit, you were the last person I would have expected to actually come to a brothel and pay for a whore’s services.” He gave Fenris a good look-over. “Neither did I expect you to fancy the company of men.”
Fenris made a face at him. Jethann rolled his eyes and gestured for the other elf to come in; Fenris was reluctant to accept that invitation and considered turning on his heels and leave as fast as his feet had carried him there in the first place. In the end, his shoulders set and with a look of pure determination, Fenris entered Jethann’s room and kicked the door shut.
“So,” Jethann continued as he fumbled with his shirt. “You caught me by surprise, my friend. What would you like?”
“For you to remain dressed would be a good start,” Fenris said dryly.
“You are aware that this kind of activity requires nakes bodies? Or rather, you should be naked unless you want to ruin your clothing. Are you into that? I’ll change into something else.”
“Shut up,” Fenris growled. “That is not what I came here for.”
Jethann sighed. “Yet, you paid for it.”
“I was told whores do exactly what is required from their paying customers,” Fenris shot back.
Jethann chuckled in delight and gave Fenris a nod, hands dropping to his sides. “So, what does my paying customer require then?”
Fenris’ scowl changed into a look of pure desperation that had Jethann lift his eyebrows. “I need advice,” Fenris said. “And if any of this leaves your room, I will end you.”
“The kind of dirty talk I absolutely love,” Jethann remarked dryly, while Fenris took a set on the other elf’s bed. “Alright, fine. I’m all ears.”
Fenris’ lips pursed as he thought about a good way to start and tried to ignore the various smells in Jethann’s room. Sweat, salt, remnants of a sickly sweet perfume on the pillow; elfroot, mingled with the scent of come; leather oil and…
Fenris frowned. Strawberries? How did that even make sense? He gave the bed a disgusted look and figured it had already seen quite some action today and it was only just past noon. The only positive thing about the state of Jethann’s room was, that the terrible smells overcame his senses and managed to make him forget about the scent he craved with every fiber of his being.
“It’s…mating season,” Fenris began, wrinkling his nose.
“Not for me,” Jethann said cheerfully. “Creators forbid my biology would cause issues with my work by having me imprint on someone and offering myself for free. It’s bad for business, really.” He opened the bedside drawer and gingerly pulled out a small flask. “Suppressants, my friend. I can recommend them, if it troubles you.”
“I will assume your customers usually prefer you silent, seeing how much you talk when you’re not busy with something else,” Fenris snarled.
“I will assume your preferences in the bedroom have to do with being insulting and condescending?” Jethann shot back without batting an eyelash. Fenris blushed furiously at the remark and cleared his throat.
“Apologies,” he grunted out and Jethann sighed before sitting down next to him. Fenris noticed – and appreciated – that Jethann made sure to keep a certain distance between them. Was his being uncomfortable so obvious?
“Why are you really here?”
“I do not know who to ask about this.” Again, Fenris cleared his throat. “As you may be aware, I am not an elf from the alienage, or a Dalish.”
“No, you’re a prized Tevinter slave.” Jethann grinned. “People talk, you know? And after that display of violence at the Hanged Man a few months ago, there has been a lot of talk about you, my friend.” He reached up and patted Fenris’ shoulder. “Well done, I say.”
“My master must have done something to me that prevented…you know…” Fenris shrugged off Jethann’s hand and gestured vaguely with his own. “Until this year, I never knew about this…mating season.”
Again, Jethann’s eyebrows shot up. “Are you saying…?”
Jethann whistled. “Alright…I see we are getting to the bottom of the matter at hand here. You killed your master and whatever it was you believe he did to you, it’s gone and now you’re…?” He waggled his eyebrows and earned a scowl from Fenris. “Alright, alright…I’ll try and be serious.”
“What can you tell me about it?”
The red-haired elf laughed. “It would be easier if you told me what it is you want to know?”
Fenris thought about that for a moment. “What exactly…what is mating season? Does it occur every year?”
“We’ll start from scratch then.” Jethann sighed. “My mother told me many believe mating season was a gift from Mythal, All-Mother and goddess of love, who wanted the elven race to embrace motherhood and fertility. That it stems from the time of Elvhenan and the ancient Gods wanted the elven race to grow. The intense arousal we feel during such times was to help overcome our inhibitions or shyness…something like it, at least. People even used to receive their vallaslin during mating season, they got married...” He gave a small frown. “Really, I do think it’s just that, a story. Maybe to explain those rutting urges and sinful behavior that nature bestowed upon us?”
Fenris snorted. “So, what do we do?” he murmured. “We…are constantly aroused? How do we determine whom to mate?”
“Really, Fenris, do I look like someone who is versed in Elven history?” Jethann asked. Fenris’ ears flushed pink at that.
“You are an elf and…obviously more experienced in carnal matters than I am.”
“I am a whore,” Jethann stated soberly. “I was once a slave, like you. I was taught to pleasure. It’s something I am good at.”
Fenris made a face at him.
“Even though I had no say on the matter, I have to say I do not mind the profession, since now I am the one setting the limits and do what I please, not what my master expects of me,” Jethann continued. “And to be honest, my friend? It’s not like there was much else for me to do, once I gained my freedom.”
“There’s always something better than offering your body, working in a brothel,” Fenris objected.
“Is there? I don’t have particularly striking looks. There’s no family I know of that would welcome me with open arms, would I seek it. I could have joined the Dalish, but I do love life in the city.” Jethann grinned. “What I do have are certain skills and a reputation. Both things that enable me to earn money and make a living.”
Fenris gestured around the room. “You enjoy this, then?”
“I do have no other skills and I am afraid I am too old to start acquiring new ones.” The red-head shrugged. “Now, you, on the other hand…”
“What about me?”
“You have striking looks, my friend and there is absolutely no need for you to spend your nights alone. From what I hear, you are a talented warrior and possess a wonderfully dry humor. You make people turn their heads when you stalk across Kirkwall, following the Champion. You are wealthy. You could make a decent living, my friend.” Jethann got off the bed and timidly walked across the room. “I can teach you about pleasure,” he said. “If you want to learn about our origins, though, I’m afraid you are speaking to the wrong elf.”
“Teach me about pleasure.” Fenris’ expression was a mixture of horror and disgust. “I will say it again, I did not come here to have you service me.”
“Fine. Then let’s talk about who you want to ‘service’, then.”
Moss green eyes widened. “Pardon?”
“Seeing as you actually paid some good coin to see me for a friendly chat, I assume there’s a reason for it.” Again, Jethann was grinning and Fenris fought the urge to smack it off the redhead’s face. “Did your newfound mating urge come with a certain someone?”
It could not be said Fenris didn’t, at the very least, try to stop his cheeks from blushing. Alas, willpower was not the solution to everything, a lesson he had soon learned after escaping Danarius. The heat in his cheeks caused more heat to blossom and spread throughout his entire body.
“It was certainly not voluntarily and neither do I plan to…act on it,” Fenris said with disdain.
Jethann was smug now. “So, you…imprinted on someone?”
“I happen to be drawn to a certain someone’s scent.”
“And what’s so bad about that certain someone that you refuse to give in and prefer to wallow in the misery resulting from it?”
With a low growl, Fenris got off the bed and stalked toward the door. “We shall be done here,” he muttered. Jethann rolled his eyes and shrugged.
“Your call, good Ser,” he said. “But if you ever have need for advice on carnal pleasures, feel free to stop by again.”
Fenris flashed him a murderous glare, as one gauntleted hand reached for the doorknob.
“I will offer it freely. No need to pay.” Jethann gave a small bow.
Fenris ripped the door open, stepped out and made it a point to close the door loudly before stalking down the corridor angrily.
He had only reached the top of the stairs leading down to the Rose’s main room when he stopped walking and inhaled deeply. There it was again, the blighted scent that had Fenris almost forget his own name, each time it attacked his senses and his body reacted immediately. Fenris exhaled shakily when his leggings suddenly became uncomfortably tight and he realized he would have to leave the brothel and return to his mansion in this…state. Green eyes quickly scanned the busy room, a frown forming on his face when he spotted the mage talking to Madam Lusine at the bar.
For someone who usually complained about people wanting to hire him whenever he set foot into the Blooming Rose, Anders appeared quite relaxed as he exchanged words with the brothel proprietor. It had to be a pleasant conversation, because the mage was smiling at something Lusine said, her delicate hands gesturing as she spoke.
Fenris snarled. One of his hands shot up to cover his mouth, eyes wide in surprise at the unbidden sound that had escaped his lip. His hand was trembling from the sudden fury he experienced, just watching Anders and Lusine interact. Again, Fenris snarled, only this time because he figured it had to do with whatever else was going on with him right now.
He was, by no means, a possessive person. He had witnessed what possessiveness meant and what levels some people liked to take it to. Though, if Fenris was honest, he did feel a little possessive over the friends he’d made over the past few years. He would claim not minding solitude and being alone, but the truth was, whenever he felt like someone came between him and either of his friends in particular, he’d feel…concerned. Concerned that, in the end, he would not be good enough, whatever that actually meant.
And that same spark of possessiveness, albeit a little stronger than Fenris was used to, made itself known right now. This was ridiculous.
Lusine looked up and caught sight of Fenris. Whatever it was she saw, she smirked and said something to Anders. The mage glanced up and their gazes locked. The expression on Anders’ face was unreadable and it confused Fenris. He would have expected anger. Exasperation. Or annoyance. Instead, Anders seemed a little lost and insecure. He didn’t even break eye contact when Lusine patted his cheek before leaving him at the bar to tend to a seemingly upset guest.
Fenris finally managed to gather his wits and slowly descended the stair case. He could see Anders’ hands twitch and finally, the mage looked away. A feeling of dread took hold of Fenris as he slowly approached the blond and joined him at the bar, all the while deeply inhaling the mage’s scent that seemed to fill the entirety of the room. There was no escaping it but Fenris found he was better at dealing with it.
“What are you doing here?” Anders asked quietly.
“I could ask you the same.”
“You do remember I come here at least once a week to see to the prostitutes, right?” Anders gave a half-smile. It was so short-lived, Fenris almost missed it. “So…did it help?”
Fenris huffed. “Did what help?”
“I can only think of one reason why you’d be here, voluntarily.” Anders shrugged. “Since you hate brothels.”
The elf scowled and looked down at his feet, fighting the urge to shuffle nervously.
“It is not what you think,” he eventually said.
“You don’t owe me an explanation, you know?” Another smile, this time a hapless one that had Fenris’ scowl deepen. “It was actually a rhetorical question, Fenris.” A sigh and Anders slid off the stool he occupied. “Time to return to my clinic.”
“Ma—Anders.” Fenris quickly reached for the mage’s wrist and they both stilled at the contact. Anders’s skin was warm and soft as Fenris curled his fingers around it, mindful of the gauntlet. Honey-colored eyes gazed at his hand curiously.
“You came to my home in order to provide help,” Fenris murmured. “I have reacted poorly, not only by…crossing a line, but sending you away in the manner I have. I wish to apologize. You did not deserve either.”
There was a barely audible sigh as Anders’ shoulders slumped. “Fenris, I told you it’s fine,” he replied in kind. “It’s not like you…did something bad. I have, naturally, taken into account that your arousal may, uhm…crest…in close proximity to me.” He gave a sad laugh. “Ten years ago, I would have, no doubt, reacted differently in that situation. But I am not that man anymore and it seems I also forgot how to respond ‘appropriately’.”
Fenris frowned at the taller man, who offered a slightly amused smile in return.
“I am…not sure what that means,” the elf admitted.
“Ten years ago, I would have ravished you, Fenris. Repeatedly. What’s not delightful about being desired, even though the reason for that is debatable?” The blond gave a one-shouldered shrug, mindful not to break Fenris’ hold on him.
“And what is the reason for you not doing so?”
One blond eyebrow shot up and Fenris immediately regretted asking. “For one, you are in a…uhm…condition? It would be like taking advantage of you and your inability to control your urges. It would be fine for as long as you are affected by them, but what happens when you wake up one morning and it’s over?”
Fenris considered that.
“For two…I assume being locked up in solitary for a year and constantly being told you are a disgusting monster does a number on your confidence.”
Slowly, Fenris released his hold on Anders’ wrist and stared at him wordlessly. For a moment, Anders managed to hold his gaze, then turned around once again, straightening his back. “Let me know if you need anything?” he said, attempting to sound casual. Fenris did not reply, but he did watch Anders leave and noticed the way the mage tried not to run from the place.
His scent lingered for a while, but the loss of contact gnawed on Fenris. He didn’t fight the feeling. He figured if he accepted the way things were, he could get through this more easily.
Lusine walked past him, still wearing that smirk on her lips, and winked at him before disappearing into the crowd that had gathered in the Blooming Rose by now. A hand on his shoulder had Fenris jump, gauntleted hands lifting and ready to fight off whoever was bothering him, but stopped short when he found Jethann next to him. The redhead was smiling and patted the shoulder before leaning in to whisper into Fenris’ ear.
His words gained Jethann three perfectly aligned scratches on his arm. The promise of worse wounds than these assured Jethann would not tell Lusine what it was he said.
Chapter 5: FIVE
Fenris awoke to the sound of his own heavy panting. His back was arched, hands clawing at the mussed bedsheets, thighs trembling. He groaned and forced himself to relax, tired eyes fixing their gaze on the ceiling as he tried to ban the images of his dreams from his mind. Slowly, he relaxed against the mattress, hands loosening their hold on the sheets, muscles sore from the strain. He shivered when the sweat covering his body began to cool off.
A cup was placed against his lips while a hand cupped the back of his head. Fenris flinched in surprise, almost spilling the cup’s contents and gazed up to find honey-colored eyes looking at him calmly.
“How…?” Fenris rasped.
“Aveline came here to check on you and found you tossing and turning,” Anders explained. “She worried you might be terribly sick and made me promise to come here.”
“Aveline?” The cup nudged against his lips gently and Fenris parted his lips. Clean, cool water filled his mouth and poured down his throat, immediately relieving the worst of the heat coursing through your body.
“She said she knew you were at the Keep the other day, wanting to speak with her but she couldn’t make time for you. When you didn’t come back again and wouldn’t show up for days, she got worried,” Anders said while Fenris drank greedily. “She told me you seem to be fighting a fever.”
Fenris grunted and turned his head away from the cup once he had emptied it. Anders pulled away, gently lowering the elf’s head on the pillow again.
“I also had interesting conversations with Orsino and Jethann,” the mage added with a small grin. “I healed Jethann’s arm, by the way.”
“I was trying to find answers,” Fenris admitted. “Or…a solution.”
Anders hummed thoughtfully and retrieved something from his pouch. Curious, Fenris lifted his head to look at the small vial.
“It’s a suppressant,” Anders said. “I cannot say how you will react to it but this…” He gestured at the exhausted elf. “You suffer way too much.”
Fenris looked away, embarrassed.
“I kept wondering why. Of course, you are unfamiliar with such a state of arousal since you never experienced it before but…I think the real reason why you suffer so much is because you keep trying to fight it, instead of accepting it. Arousal and desire, the need for sex, Fenris, is completely normal. But you seem to treat it like yet another blood magic experiment forced upon you.”
He felt Anders take one of his hands, placing the vial into his palm. Fenris slowly curled his fingers around it.
“I am familiar with arousal. Not with such strength, but I cannot claim I have never felt it before,” Fenris muttered. “Desire, though…I have never desired anything, or anyone, in my life before.”
“What about freedom?” Anders asked. “Did you not desire it?”
“Not until I knew I could have it. That it is a possibility.” With a sigh, Fenris forced himself to sit up. His muscles offered a small protest still but at least, he was no longer spread out before the mage like a feast.
Their gazes met and Fenris could see Anders was pondering the answer he’d just been given. Eventually, there was a small nod. “What about passion, then? Touch? Love? Is that not something you find desirable? It is a possibility as well. Something you could have.”
“I don’t know. I have no experience with either.”
Anders huffed. “You said you experience desire.”
“And what you desire right now, does it frighten you? Disgust you? Or do you not care?”
“Why such an interest in what I am feeling?” Fenris growled.
“I am just trying to help. You can choose not to answer.”
Fenris indeed allowed himself to consider the mage’s questions for a moment, while Anders went to get some more water for him. His bedroom stank and it embarrassed Fenris to think that Anders knew exactly what he – and the bed, the entire room – smelled of. The undeniable sticky feeling in his leggings left no room for doubts.
Fenris glanced at the mage from his corner of his eyes as he shuffled toward the bed. Calm, considerate Anders, who made it a point not to embarrass Fenris further and reassuring him that this was…alright. He could have probably imprinted on a worse person, he figured.
“Blergh,” Fenris said at the thought and visibly shook himself.
“What?” Anders asked as he held out the refilled cup for the elf.
“Just had a rather terrible thought,” Fenris said calmly.
“Imagine me imprinted on Sebastian.”
Anders’ first reaction was to stiffen at the mention of the Chantry brother. When his eyes caught the amused glint in Fenris’, a smile slowly began to spread on his lips. A snort, and Anders was chuckling.
“Maker, that would be…” He laughed. “Could you imagine his face?”
“He certainly wouldn’t be as accommodating about it as you are.” Fenris cleared his throat when Anders looked at him, pleasantly surprised about the – well, compliment, the elf supposed. “I…want,” Fenris murmured.
“You want?” Slowly, Anders sat on the bed, regarding him curiously.
“I want,” the elf confirmed with a nod. “I do want. And I have wondered. That my body is forcing me now to…hurry up with it already, that is what has me unsettled.” Fenris sighed. “But then, I’ve been free for years and kept…pushing away the flicker of hope that one day I will, indeed, find myself with a partner. Experience and enjoy intimacy.”
Fenris huffed. “Because just like you, I am usually seen as a monster. A deformed being, a living enchanted weapon whose only purpose has been to intimidate. Not to be seen as an actual person or…desirable.” He chuckled humorlessly. “Maybe this is telling me to stop believing it’s the truth.”
“It is most certainly not the truth.” Anders smiled and Fenris’ ears pinked at the compliment. “But I know how hard it is to see past your own perception of yourself and how difficult it is to believe someone telling you otherwise.”
Another chuckle. “Hawke was right, all these years,” Fenris murmured. “We truly are a band of misfits.”
Anders snorted in amusement. “Probably the reason why we work so well together. Even you and I. It just took us a while.”
They remained silent for a moment; Fenris took an interest in his hands, one still wrapped around the cup the mage had given him, the other holding the vial with the suppressant. Anders, in return, was staring at his boots and Fenris could see the mage wiggle his toes inside them.
“Do you ever feel lonely?” Fenris asked quietly.
“Every day,” Anders murmured. “Especially at night…when all my friends are in their respective homes and the clinic is empty.”
“Then why did you never…you know…” Fenris shrugged lightly. “A lot of people seem to find you very attractive. Hawke, for example, has expressed an interest in you?”
“Because I’m scared, Fenris.” Anders offered the elf a small smile. “And, really, I think I forgot how to properly flirt and…well…” He nodded at the elf’s hand that still held the vial. “Would you like me to stay, make sure you don’t experience any bad side effects after you take it?”
Fenris emptied the cup and put it away, then turned his attention on the small vial. He held it up and looked at it from all sides. Wondering how many of these Anders handed out every year. “It would be appreciated,” he said. “Please tell me you at least let the elves pay you for these?”
Anders chuckled. “Yes. They do pay for these in kind. Sometimes with coin. I also had elves bring me stuff from Sundermount to make potions of, as payment.”
“You…really do a lot for people,” Fenris acknowledged, and not for the time. “No matter their race.”
“Not for Templars, though.”
Fenris huffed in amusement and moved to sit closer to the mage, close enough their arms and legs touched and his skin tingled from the contact, causing his lyrium brands to shimmer. A gentle blue, that had Anders’ eyes wandering over his bare chest, curious.
And Fenris, amazingly enough, for the first time, didn’t mind being looked at. While still Danarius’ slave, he’d often been paraded in front of guests, enduring their stares. Once free, Fenris actually enjoyed keeping his body hidden beneath clothes, not wanting to be stared at again. But Anders wasn’t staring – he was studying him and Fenris knew he wasn’t only looking at the brands, but all of Fenris’ upper body.
That there was no frown, no disgust in the mage’s features, gave him a boost in confidence that he didn’t think he’d ever experience.
“I should go…”
The mage breaking the silence startled Fenris and he looked at, wide-eyed. “What?”
“…to the market,” Anders added, looking startled himself. “You will probably be, ah…quite hungry. I mean, once your body has recovered from, you know…being constantly…when’s the last time you have eaten anything, anyway?”
Anders made to get up and Fenris felt himself move before he even had time to think about. One hand grabbed Anders’ wrist, the other one of the mage’s thighs to push him back down and Anders froze in surprise when Fenris’ actions were accompanied by an almost desperate “No!”
“Fenris?” the mage inquired.
“No,” Fenris repeated, his body still moving. The hand gripping the mage’s thigh was replaced by one of the elf’s knees. He grabbed Anders’ shoulder instead, which had him almost straddle the man’s lap. “Please.”
Anders blinked at him. “Alright?”
“You were…you were…” Fenris fumbled with the words. “…looking at me.”
“I am sor-“
“No,” Fenris interrupted impatiently. “I…I enjoyed that.”
If Fenris had thought the situation at the clinic had been awkward – Anders had even said as much – well, awkward certainly wouldn’t do it justice right now. The dumbfounded look on the mage’s face had him embarrassed worse than he’d been when Fenris had sniffed at him and the confidence he’d felt only a moment ago vanished into thin air. They were staring at each other, eyes wide and mirroring uncertainty and Fenris was aware he was gaping at the mage.
Honey-colored eyes ever so slowly lowered their gaze and Fenris could feel them on his tanned skin as they took in the sight of the lyrium lines on his chin and followed them downward. Down the length of his throat to his chest that was heaving lightly under the close scrunity of the mage’s eyes. Across his sternum, once again following the lyrium’s trail to the swirls around his navel.
Something cool and soft came to rest against his left side, making Fenris’ skin crawl pleasantly and he shivered. Anders’ hand carefully moved up the side of his torso and came to rest on the elf’s shoulder. The mage seemed…entranced and it took him a moment to realize Fenris was staring at him curiously.
Anders pulled his hand away quickly, like he had been burned, eyes wide with yet unspoken apologies.
Fenris was painfully aware of his inexperience, the clumsiness of his attempt to kiss Anders. ‘Kiss’ wasn’t really the way he would describe what he was doing, though – he had seen people kiss and that had been something entirely else - and it was humiliating, he thought, as he stubbornly pressed his lips against Anders’ and then just…remained like this. Humiliation made his cheeks and ears burn hotly; it had only been seconds, but just as quickly as he’d leaned forward to do this, he made to scramble away from the mage just as quickly.
But then Anders’ lips parted slightly and began to slowly move against his and Fenris forgot about running away. Instead, he concentrated on what Anders was doing, the gentle caress of slightly chapped lips against his own and began to mimick it. For a long moment, it was mingling breaths, the hint of a taste just as sweet as the mage’s scent, the kisses chaste and questioning, giving each man the chance to back out and end this. Then Anders tipped his head up, honey-colored eyes slipping closed as their mouths met more firmly.
It was…warm and moist, and surprisingly pleasant, Fenris decided, his hands finally releasing their tight grip on the mage’s wrist and shoulder to cup his face instead and held him in place. Anders hummed in response, his own hands coming to rest on the elf’s hips and he pulled him closer, the same moment his mouth opened just a little more. His tongue, warm and slick, teased over Fenris’ bottom lip. The sensation made the elf’s pointy ears twitch in surprise and he gasped against Anders’ lips, now slightly swollen from the kiss.
The gasp broke the spell of the moment and Fenris made a displeased noise in the back of his throat when Anders pulled away and took a deep, shaky breath.
“Bad idea,” Anders whispered.
“Didn’t feel like one,” Fenris murmured as he licked over his lips, kiss-swollen, wet and tasting of the mage. His body shuddered in Anders’ hold, his senses choosing the moment to return to a heightened state, the sweet, rich scent mingled with what was typically Anders attacking them full force, smell and taste and Fenris was leaning in once again. “Will have to make sure,” he murmured, following when Anders kept pulling back still, intent on keeping somewhat of a distance between them.
Nervous giggling bubbled out of the mage when he ended up being pushed down on the bed, Fenris hovering above him with a somewhat predatory look in his eyes.
“Bad idea,” Anders said once again when their faces were mere inches away from each other, Fenris’ hot breath fanning over his lips and nose.
“If you wish to leave, say the word,” Fenris replied quietly, “and I will release you.”
Anders blinked owlishly at the elf. Fenris, in return, waited patiently. Anders’ body was warm and firm against his where their chests were pressed together, though the buckles pressing into his bare torso were somewhat uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough that Fenris wanted to pull away just yet. He felt the slow rise and fall of the mage’s chest and was suddenly reminded of a situation from a year ago.
The greater part of his memories about that particular night were hazy at best, but what Fenris did remember was being more inebriated than ever. And for Fenris, that did say a lot. He didn’t know who had the brilliant idea of getting severely drunk at the Hanged Man that night and to be honest, it didn’t matter. He’d ended up in a state where walking seemed too much of a hassle and Hawke, equally drunk, had suggested someone accompany Fenris to his home, when the elf had announced he would prefer not to pass out across the table and risk waking up in his own vomit.
Not so surprising had been that Hawke decided Anders should accompany him. The mage never drank, or only very little, and would sit at the table, watching with amusement and shaking his head at his friends. Fenris figured it must have been quite the adventure, steering a rather drunk elf back to Hightown, more carrying than just supporting him. Dragging Fenris up the stairs and cursing his inebriated state had ended in Fenris crashing against the mage and sending them both tumbling down the staircase. Anders’ complaints about having hit his head and Fenris being heavy had only barely managed to sober the elf up a little. He had slurred an apology, probably in Tevene, while Anders had glared at him, healing the back of his skull and bleeding from his nose.
And then they had laughed. The first time they had laughed together, at each other, pointing out how ridiculous they must look, with Anders sprawled on the staircase, his nose bleeding from when the back of Fenris’ head connected with it as he fell and Fenris sprawled on top of him. Once they had managed to calm down, they had remained in that position for a while. Fenris always thought it was interesting that he remembered their moment on the staircase so vividly, while he couldn’t remember how Anders had eventually managed to get him home and into his bed.
When Anders had later told their friends about the incident, Varric had jokingly pointed out that it was the kind of situation two people would usually end with a kiss or making out. Hawke had doubled over laughing, seeing Fenris and Anders wear identical scowls on their faces in response.
The elf blinked and focused on the mage beneath him. He only then became aware of the smile on his lips and Anders awkwardly smiled back at him, unsure what amused the elf so much.
“Apologies, I got lost in thoughts for a moment,” Fenris murmured. “Do you wish to leave?”
Another slow rise and fall of the mage’s chest, followed by a slight heave as Anders sighed.
Chapter 6: SIX (*nsfw*)
This chapter has been giving me grief for many a reason and probably mostly due to my state of health at the moment...which will hopefully dissipate soon D:
My humble apologies and sincerest thanks to HeroMaggie who bravely sat through my bitching, whining and just wanting to quit...who has done three looks at this chapter with me and even contributed a part so I can go ahead and finish this already <3
We are entering the NSFW phase of this story...which will probably stretch across a good amount of chapters. Already freaking out at the prospect haha.
Fenris smelled like the desert, Anders decided. Earthy, dusty, of sand dunes after a rainshower and the incredible heat. Like the Anderfels, possibly, the place he never got to truly know. His parents had left it before when he’d still been little, for reasons he never learned.
Fenris’ kisses tasted like exotic spices from a land far away that Anders would never reach, making him hunger in a way he hadn’t known for a decade. The elf’s hand against the back of his head was a comforting pressure, the skin on the elf’s shoulder impossibly soft as Anders pillowed his head there, breathing and tasting the other man, gasping in-between seemingly never-ending kisses that were broken only briefly whenever the need for air became too great. Fenris turned out to be an excellent kisser and wickedly talented with his tongue. Anders’ world had been reduced to the connection of their lips, their hot breaths mingling, and foreign scents.
A gentle tug at his hair and he felt it spill across the pillow as the tie loosened, slender, calloused fingers burying in golden strands. His lips were swollen and bruised, his jaw ached but Anders couldn’t stop. He inched closer, thinking about how he should never have even started this. Their legs were entangled, one of his arm thrown across Fenris’ torso and held in place by the elf’s other hand. Occasionally, the elf would caress his fingertips up Anders’ bare arm, making him all the more aware of having taken off his feathered coat before curling up against the elf. Too warm to remain in it, despite the sleeveless shirt; courageous enough to shed part of his defenses and allow Fenris, himself, this tentative attempt on intimacy. Fine, golden hair stood to attention each time the elf caressed and each time, Anders would fight the shiver that threatened to run down his spine.
He’d forgotten how consuming intimacy and pleasure could be.
Fenris nipped on his bottom lip and with an appreciative hum, Anders abandoned his train of thoughts and concentrated on the here and now again. On the sound of Fenris’ panting, the heaving of his chest beneath the weight of Anders’ arm. The heat radiating from the elf’s body, the flush spreading from his collarbone to the tip of his pointed ears.
The burning need in those moss green eyes as they focused on him.
Slowly, Anders pulled away a little. “Take a few deep breaths,” he murmured while unwrapping his arm from the elf’s torso so he could cup Fenris’ cheek with his hand. “I know.”
Fenris grunted in response.
“The first time Karl really kissed me, all teeth and tongue and roaming hands, I soiled my smalls.” Anders offered a crooked smile. “I never told Karl about it.”
The elf gave a breathless chuckle and lowered his head on the pillow. “He didn’t notice?”
“I don’t think he did. He was so flustered and nervous when it happened, he broke away immediately when I moaned and ran off.”
This time, Anders managed to get a huffed laugh out of the elf. “Would he have taken…pride in it? Knowing he caused this reaction?”
“Karl?” Anders pursed his lips. “I think he would have apologized instead. I was the wild one in that relationship. Karl was…the constantly worried one thinking everything he does is wrong. At least, at first. He got better.” The mage chuckled.
“He meant a lot to you,” Fenris observed, his breathing slowing a little. Anders could see pearls of sweat on the elf’s forehead. He didn’t think he ever saw Fenris sweat until the elf was taken by mating urges.
“I am…sorry for your loss, Anders.”
The mage frowned at the words, though he didn’t miss the sincerity with which they were spoken. He sighed and inched closer one again. Fenris hand was still tangled in his hair and when Anders moved his hand away from Fenris’ cheek to rest it against the elf’s sternum, Fenris tensed, his thighs squeezing Anders’ leg that was trapped between them.
“Lesson number one,” Anders murmured. “Past lovers, especially dead past lovers, do not make for pillow talk.”
Fenris frowned. “You brought him up.”
“Lesson for you, reminder for me.” The mage smiled; the smile widening when he took in the sight of Fenris’ kiss-swollen lips.
Fenris’ blush deepened and he cleared his throat. “I am…unsure on how to proceed,” he rasped.
“That entirely depends,” Anders said. “What would you…like?”
An annoyed huff. “Mage, I have told you before…”
“Do you pleasure yourself, Fenris?”
For a moment, Anders was positive that Fenris was going to do something painful to him. Moss green eyes widened, pupils constricting as he elf proceeded to stare him down.
“It is…nothing to be ashamed of,” Anders added, glad that he sounded much calmer than he felt. “Everyone does it.” He paused. “I bet Sebastian does it a lot.”
“That’s…a thought I do not wish to pursue,” Fenris said with a snarl, but Anders did see the corners of the elf’s mouth quirk up. The elf averted his gaze. “I have, in the past. Not often.”
Anders hummed thoughtfully. “And what do you imagine, when you touch yourself?”
“Must we really speak of this in great detail?”
“Everyone has fantasies. Most imagine someone touching them. Someone they find attractive. Not always a person they actually know. A dream person.”
Another frown and Anders was barely able to hide the smile. “Would you…like it if I touched you?”
“You have been touching me,” Fenris pointed out, voice wavering.
“Not the way I could have been touching you.” This time, Anders did smile; an encouraging smile as Fenris finally dared to look at him again. “Would you enjoy that? I remember you mentioning it hurts your markings.”
“They were rather sensitive to touch, years ago. It has gotten better.” Fenris removed his hand from Anders’ hair and honey-colored eyes watched it move, shyly caressing over his shoulder before coming to rest at the ties of his shirt. “Would you…let me touch you in return?” Fenris asked.
“Do you want to touch me?” Anders asked.
Fenris in- and exhaled slowly. “Yes.”
Anders finally disentangled himself from Fenris and sat up. His shirt was clinging to his sweaty back and he shifted. Fenris’ gaze rested on him, curious but also nervous. The mage slowly reached for the ties of the shirt, only to pause when Fenris grabbed him by the wrist.
“I think I…would enjoy to do that,” he murmured.
Anders cleared his throat and gave a small nod. “Before you do, though, I feel that I should warn you.”
“Warn me?” The elf’s eyebrows shot up. “Of what?”
“The sight that awaits you is…not very pleasant.” A crooked smile. “There’s a reason I never undressed in front of either of you.”
“Scars,” Fenris stated.
Slowly, Fenris let go of the mage’s wrist and Anders let his hand fall into his lap. His back stiffened as one lyrium-lined hand slowly reached for the ties and tugged on them. The fabrics parted and offered a first glimpse of pale, freckled skin, light chest hair and a slender collarbone. Both of Fenris hands reached for the hem of the shirt and slowly pushed it up, his pulse quickening once again and leaving him breathless. Anders’ arms lifted to assist as soon as Fenris had pushed the shirt up to the blond’s ribcage. The elf paused, momentarily distracted by a thick, dark scar.
Anders felt self-conscious, now that his upper body was bared, long arms coming up so he could hug himself, covering most of the large scar. One Anders knew wasn’t pleasant to look at.
He could see Fenris trying not to stare, though his brows furrowed. Anders wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign, arms tightening around himself.
“I will not ask,” the elf murmured throatily as he reached for the mage’s wrists to pry his arms away from his torso. “But know I do not feel bothered by it.”
The words caused Anders to relax, though the obvious self-consciousness did not dissipate. Fenris slowly reached out and touched the palm of one hand to it. A small shiver ran through Anders’ tall frame as he glanced curiously at the elf’s hand.
“Does it hurt?” Fenris wanted to know.
Anders shook his head. “It’s…mostly dead to touch. Your fingers are surprisingly cool, though.” He extended out a hand and watched Fenris seize up, the closer Anders got to touching him in return.
“No,” Fenris hissed and Anders stilled. “Not…not yet.”
The mage looked genuinely lost. “I thought…?”
Fenris growled and pulled his hand away from the blond’s chest. Immediately, Anders wrapped his arms around himself again, shielding most of his upper body from Fenris’ view.
Eventually, he sighed. “I did say this was a bad idea,” he pointed out.
The elf shook his head and reached out once again, grabbing the mage’s forearms. “I did not mean…to discourage…” A huff. “I got overwhelmed,” he spat out. “I do not wish for us to stop or…for you to leave, Anders.” He tugged gently on the mage’s arms. “Don’t…don’t do this…”
Anders frowned a little but relaxed his arms, allowing Fenris to pull them away from his chest. “Don’t do what?” he asked.
With a hum, Fenris shifted closer, face burying into the crook of Anders’ neck as his arms reached around the other man. Anders shivered when slender hands shyly caressed from the mage’s shoulder blades down to his hips, fingertips discovering more scars. He felt Fenris inhale deeply, his touches becoming more sure.
“Don’t hide yourself from me,” Fenris whispered into his skin and the mage’s breath hitched at the words, his throat tightening with an emotion he couldn’t name.
The elf’s hold on his hips tightened and when he felt soft lips kissing his neck, Anders made a sound akin to a purr. It vibrated in his throat and he felt Fenris’ lips twitch into a smile as he busied himself with the same spot for a moment before feeling brave enough to move, kissing up the side of the mage’s neck to his jaw. Anders’ head tilted to the side and Fenris followed, leaving a moist, hot path across the mage’s cheek before finally finding the other man’s lips. Their kiss was noticeably more passionate than the kisses they had shared before.
“Fenris,” Anders breathed, pleaded, between kisses.
“Touch me,” Fenris whispered.
Anders knew how to touch. As a healer, he touched a lot of people, always making sure to cause as little discomfort as he could. He had touched Fenris before, checking on wounds that he’d bandaged to a time where Fenris still refused to be healed with magic, made sure no ribs were broken if the elf had taken a rather heavy blow or hard fall. One time, Anders even had to set the elf’s right arm after Fenris had dislocated his shoulder in a fight against a group of Tal Vashoth.
But right this moment, it was not a healer’s touch that Anders offered. It was the touch of a man who desired and wanted to pleasure. He was cautious at first, letting one hand trace along the elf’s spine while the other lifted to bury in the shock of white hair, pulling Fenris closer to him, closer into their kiss.
Fenris arched into the touch and the groan escaping his throat was swallowed by Anders’ lips and tongue.
“More?” Anders murmured and Fenris hummed in agreement. “Then I would ask you to lay down.”
Green eyes narrowed a fraction at the request. Anders offered a small smile. “I can also go ahead with you sitting up but it will put a strain to my neck.”
Fenris snorted and slowly lay down. The mage watched as the elf got settled, slowly relaxing against the sheets even when Fenris’ pointed ears flushed quite suddenly. Anders debated asking Fenris for the reason, but instead, he remained silent.
Fenris lifted his head to look at him curiously and Anders realized he’d been staring. Again.
“Just giving you a moment,” the mage said gently in an attempt to cover up his staring. His cheeks were flushed, his honey-colored eyes bright, pupils dilated. The expression on Fenris’ changed to something he couldn’t quite point his finger on.
“I do not need a moment,” Fenris told him in kind and Anders huffed out a laugh and moved. He was careful as he leaned over Fenris, arms braced on either side of the elf’s head. Long blond strands fell forward, framing his slender face, shimmering golden. Fenris almost immediately reached up and buried a hand in it.
Anders leaned down to kiss him again, slow and sweet, like their first kisses had been, but this time, there were small gasps between kisses and Anders’ breathing gradually growing heavier.
He felt Fenris start when he moved his lips to the elf’s chin, tongue gently tracing the lyrium lines. Fenris tipped his head back with a sigh and Anders felt brave enough to venture on, kissing and licking the hollow of the elf’s throat. Slowly lowering his body enough to shift his weight to one arm, Anders brought his free hand to Fenris’ chest, gently caressing over the elf’s right breast the same moment he pressed a kiss to the left. Fenris shivered beneath him and Anders took that as a hint to slow down, as to not overwhelm the man beneath him just yet.
He gradually moved lower, making sure to pay each inch of Fenris’ torso the same amount of attention. The elf squirmed slightly when Anders let his lips ghost over Fenris’ solar plexus before pressing a lingering kiss to it and moving further south.
Another kiss, followed by a playful bite below his navel had Fenris’ hips snap up, the moan escaping Fenris’ mouth obviously taking the elf by surprise. An embarrassed groan followed and one of Fenris’ hands balled into a fist before he shoved it into his mouth, biting down on his knuckles. Anders’ hands slid down to his hips, fingertips teasing along the waistband of the leggings and the elf shuddered.
Another shudder and the mage moved back up.
“Fenris.” Anders grabbed his wrist, carefully pulling the elf’s fist out of his mouth. Fenris in- and exhaled shakily. “Fenris, I stopped,” Anders spoke right into his ear. “It’s alright.”
Green eyes blinked in confusion as they met with honey-colored ones. “Why?” Fenris breathed out.
Anders’ lips pursed. “You were in distress and I –“ Now it was the mage’s turn to blink and Fenris watched the other man’s gaze travel down the length of his body. “…oh.”
“Fool mage,” Fenris groaned and a nervous laugh bubbled out of Anders.
“Maker, I apologize,” Anders said sincerely. “I am…I’m an idiot. It’s been too long, I just…”
“Hush,” Fenris admonished and rolled to his side. A gentle tug freed his wrist from the mage’s grip and he took Anders’ hand instead, bringing it back to the flat plains of his stomach. Anders glanced at their hands for a moment before lifting his gaze back to Fenris’ eyes.
Green eyes locked gaze with his and a smirk pulled at Fenris’ lips as he tipped his head forward, foreheads touching as he drew another shaky breath. Anders felt Fenris slowly guiding his hand down. His fingers twitched when they came into contact with the elf’s leggings, lingering just above the waistband. The skin there was hot and sweat-slick.
“I did ask you to,” Fenris murmured and Anders’ eyes darkened as his fingertips slipped beneath the waistband, where the skin was even hotter and damp from sweat. A heavy, musky scent filled the space between their bodies and Anders groaned with want.
“Touch me,” Fenris pleaded and it was all the encouragement the mage needed.
Anders pulled at the damp leggings, tugging the fabric down as Fenris wiggled his hips. Inch by inch, skin was exposed until Anders could trail his fingers down one bare hip and over to tease down Fenris’ cock. The sharp inhale spurred Anders to wrap his fingers around the length, slowly stroking. Fenris’ hips lifted on their own accord, thrusting into the hand and he groaned.
“Please,” Fenris whispered, his own hand covering Anders, encouraging him to grip tighter, squeeze the pulsing flesh and the mage complied easily. He let Fenris take the lead, slick precome smoothing the slow glide down from the engorged head to the base as they found a rhythm together. As it built gradually, Fenris’ breathing became heavier and Anders felt the elf swell further in his hand. Fingernails dug sharply into the back of Anders’ hand and Fenris’ hips bucked, seeking more friction. It made Anders whimper with need, watching the elf lose control like this, something he hadn’t imagined he’d ever witness.
The mage’s wrist gave a twist and Fenris’ body stiffened, his cock gaining a sudden, interesting thickness, pulsing in Anders’ palm.
“Anders…” Fenris warned breathlessly.
“It’s alright,” Anders told him, his thumb teasing the sensitive head of Fenris’ cock on the next upward stroke. “Let go.”
A sharp inhale and Fenris surged forward, teeth sinking into the soft skin of Anders’ shoulder, barely muffling his shout when he came.
Chapter 7: SEVEN (*nsfw*)
Teeth bit delicately into skin, careful not to cause pain or leave a mark, soothed by soft lips.
His tongue, tracing the scarred lines on the mage’s back, tasting salt, sweat and bitter tears shed many, many years ago, branded into Anders’ skin so they would not be forgotten. It made Fenris’ throat tighten, familiar with the humilation, the pain, the agony as the wounds heal slowly, body fighting fevers and infection. Anders’ back told a story Fenris had not anticipated, yet he wanted to learn every single detail about it.
The taller man’s body was trembling beneath his hands and lips as Fenris followed the curve of the mage’s spine, from his neck to the small of his back, tasting, learning. Anders’ magic thrummed in his veins, the heavy smell of ozone mixing with the scent that had drawn Fenris in first; the scent that overcame his senses whenever Anders was close.
Fenris didn’t fear it anymore. Not with Anders, pliant beneath him, arching into his touches, trembling when he teased. His shaky breaths, small gasps and gentle moans were the most beautiful sounds Fenris had ever heard.
A lingering kiss to the small of his back had Anders lift his hips in response and Fenris dared letting one hand travel further, caressing the curve of the mage’s firm buttocks. Anders shivered and Fenris watched goosebumps breaking out all over the other man’s body, tiny hair standing to attention. Sensitive.
Fenris moved back up, stretching out on top of Anders, their bodies melding. He buried his nose into Anders’ hair and inhaled deeply. The mage gave a soft sigh and arched into the elf’s body. Fenris hummed appreciatively and ran a hand down the other man’s side to a prominent hip bone, where he gripped and squeezed.
“Just so you know,” Anders murmured into the sheets, “if you want to keep doing that all day, I won’t complain.”
Fenris chuckled and moved to press a kiss to the mage’s shoulder. It still wore a perfect imprint of his teeth, the skin angry and red and he realized he’d bitten down hard enough earlier to almost draw blood. Seeing the mage wear his bite mark filled Fenris with a satisfaction he’d never known, nor was he able to explain its nature.
“I am not sure that would be satisfactory?” Fenris mumbled against Anders’ skin.
“That entirely depends on what one needs,” the mage said.
“And what is it you need?”
Anders sighed and relaxed against the messy sheets and Fenris followed, pressing their bodies together. His cheeks flushed when he felt himself stir against Anders’ back. The mage merely smiled and glanced at the elf from the corner of his eye.
“I didn’t even realize needed this until you gave it to me, Fenris,” the mage said as he moved, wiggling and pushing until he managed to roll on his back. The elf hissed when their groins met, slick with sweat and fluid, the mage’s erection rubbing against his own hardening cock, silky and hot.
Slender fingers tangled in his messed-up hair, caressing, playing with snow-white strands. It felt nice and Fenris closed his eyes, leaning into the touch.
Something had changed, the moment he sank his teeth into Anders’ shoulder as he released into the mage’s hand, Fenris realized. A feeling of pride and belonging had taken him, the first time he’d looked at it. Possessiveness, when he’d stopped Anders from healing it without offering an explanation. The mage had relented and allowed Fenris to take over. Fenris learned he liked being in control and he enjoyed Anders giving himself so easily.
Fenris’ eyes snapped open and he reached for the bite mark, palming it gently. Mine. He frowned at his own thought and the hunger it sparked. Gripping the mage’s hip with his other hand, he rolled his hips against him. With a choked moan, Anders tilted his head back and met the gentle thrusts of Fenris’ hips with his own; their lower bodies rubbing against each other in a slow, almost lazy movement. It offered enough friction for Anders to shudder against the elf, who pressed closer, tilting his hips slightly. The next thrust against the mage’s lower body was delivered with more pressure and the blond moaned breathily.
“I’ve been neglecting you,” Fenris murmured, hand squeezing Anders’ hip. “I apologize.”
A choked laugh escaped the mage’s lips, the movements of his hips against Fenris turning more frantic. If Anders’ had meant to respond, it was lost in gasps and moans. Fenris pressed closer, his own hips matching the faster rhythm and Anders’ back arched. So needy and desperate for release by now, his sight made Fenris moan with want.
Strong thighs shook against Fenris’ sides, Anders’ breath hitching when his release, warm and moist, spilled between them. The elf stilled his movements almost immediately, just holding on tight; tight enough Fenris wouldn’t be surprised to find finger-shaped bruises on the mage’s hip bone later. Anders was shuddering in his hold, back arched, head thrown back against the pillows and he watched long, blond eyelashes flutter, slender hands gripping the sheets.
It took a moment but then Anders’ body was relaxing, becoming pliant beneath him once again. Fenris seized the chance to lean down, burying his face into the crook of Anders’ neck, mouthing at the sweaty skin. The mage smelled even more amazing now, a tantalizing mix of sweet and spicy that made Fenris’ toes curl with pleasure.
“You drive me to distraction, mage,” he murmured against the blond’s skin with something suspiciously close to a purr vibrating in his throat. A nervous giggle bubbled its way up the mage’s chest and out of the mage’s mouth, but Anders was arching his neck to give Fenris more access. Warm, willing and sated – Fenris wanted more of this.
“Hate to break the moment but we really should clean up,” Anders said and squirmed.
“That would require moving,” Fenris muttered.
Another nervous laugh. “Yes?”
“I am comfortable, mage.” Fenris gently nipped on the mage’s skin. Anders shivered, hands coming up to caress over the expanse of the elf’s muscular back.
“Are you?” the blond asked curiously. “Comfortable, I mean.”
“I did just say so, did I not?”
Anders huffed. “Fenris…”
With a growl, Fenris parted with the mage’s neck and brought their mouths together instead. The slightest pressure had Anders’ lips part and Fenris tasted, his renewed need urging him to overwhelm his senses once again.
Anders’ kisses became sloppy after a moment and he mumbled “Bath” against Fenris’ lips. Fenris kept down another growl, telling himself he had demanded more than enough of the mage. But when he pulled back, Anders’ eyes had closed, his breath evened out.
Fenris blinked at the sleeping mage in surprise; pink lips kiss swollen and glistening, a beautiful blush in the blond’s cheeks, belying the otherwise relaxed facial features. Blond hair a mess that he figured would be painful to take care of later. His surprise was enough to bring Fenris back to the here and now, realizing that he had no idea what time it was or what time of the day it had been when first Aveline, then Anders had come to check on him. The thick, dark curtains on the window kept daylight out and it was often hard to tell whether it was day or night.
He felt terrible. Surely, the mage had been busy at the clinic when Aveline had come to ask for his help; most certainly, Anders had been busy during the days prior and the mage never slept a lot as it was; if it wasn’t for the clinic berefting him of a restful night, it was the spirit he hosted inside his body, keeping him awake. Despite all this, Anders had come to see him – and he had stayed. Given in, Fenris had to admit. It should be no surprise that even the mage had eventually reached his limits.
Fenris carefully pulled away, not being able to help the need to appreciate the long, lean body in its naked glory as he did so. He itched to ran his hands along the lengths of Anders’ thighs but refrained. Instead, his hands busied themselves by grabbing one of the abandoned blankets and covering the mage’s sleeping form with it.
His legs were trembling as he got off the bed and stood, both from the intensity of his orgasm earlier and renewed arousal. It made Fenris wonder briefly how anyone could enjoy being in this state regularly before realizing that he was in this state for probably the first time in his life. Caused by another, who had touched, teased and pleasured him, things that had equally scared and fascinated Fenris for years. Enjoyed doing so, despite the way he looked, not shying away from his markings.
His pointed ears gave a nervous twitch as he regarded the sleeping mage on his bed and he leaned in to run a hand over Anders’ head, through tousled hair and smiled when the mage gave a certainly satisfied-sounding sigh.
A couple moments later found Fenris with a warm, damp wash cloth cleaning the mage’s body, mindful not to apply too much pressure and possibly wake him. Anders was asleep, but his body certainly noticed the touches and Fenris watched with interest as the mage’s cock hardened a little. Anders drew up his legs, thighs squeezing together accompanied by a soft moan and Fenris groaned under his breath, suddenly caught by the image of those thighs squeezing against his sides instead. While he did not remember if he had ever been with another man or woman before today, Fenris was not in the dark about what they could do and the thought of being inside Anders…
Would the mage enjoy that? Would he let him? Fenris was suddenly at a loss as to what more to expect from the other man. Should he even have expectations? It was unfamiliar enough to have expectations at all, especially after he had stubbornly decided to ‘sit it out’ and not bother the mage with his unexplainable urges. Fenris had spent his time curled up on the bed, wondering how different it would have been, had he found himself drawn – or ‘imprinted’, as Orsino and Jethann had called it – to someone else, a stranger or another of their friends. A few years ago, he would have been enraged, finding himself imprinted on a mage and left with urges he’d never had to deal with before.
But he knew Anders well enough by now, after actually making the effort to build something akin to a friendship with the Healer and Fenris believed Anders was the best option out of all their friends. He was calm, acccomodating even and he could never turn someone down who was in distress. That was not to say Fenris intended to take advantage of Anders’ helpful nature.
He certainly knew how that felt like.
Anders stirred and Fenris held his breath, cursing himself inwardly for getting carried away. Honey-colored eyes opened a fraction and Anders glanced at him, confused and disoriented for a moment.
“I do know you have an impressive stamina,” Anders murmured sleepily, “but you should rest, too.”
Fenris’ fingers twitched at the underlying invitation and he disposed of the washcloth before regarding the mage from beneath white strands of hair.
“With you?” he asked quietly. Anders smiled sleepily in response and rolled to his side before patting the empty spot next to him.
Slowly, Fenris lay down behind him, stretching sore limbs and relaxing muscles. Anders sighed into the pillow and curled up some more, leaving Fenris uncertain and itching to touch as he stared at the mage’s scarred back.
Fenris cleared his throat. “Can I...?”
“Hmm,” hummed Anders in response. The elf figured it was a ‘yes’ and moved closer. It felt right, wrapping his arms around Anders’ taller form and pulling him close, the mage’s back coming to rest against his chest. Anders shuffled and squirmed for a moment and Fenris inhaled sharply when their bodies aligned fully, the soft curve of Anders’ behind pressing against his crotch. The mage finally stilled and within moments, Fenris felt exhaustion taking over. With a soft growl, he buried his face in Anders’ hair, smirking at the honey scent of that ridiculous shampoo Hawke had gifted the other man. The mysterious scent of apple pie added to it, for once calming Fenris rather than arousing him further.
Comfortable, Fenris thought as he let sleep take him.
Chapter 8: Chapter Eight (*nsfw*)
His room lay in complete darkness when Fenris woke up, his own ragged breathing disturbing what had been a rather peaceful, dreamless sleep up until now. His body felt like on fire, the heat radiating from his skin enough to make Anders sweat, too. His chest was still pressed tightly to the mage’s back and Anders’ skin, although damp, felt shockingly cold against Fenris’ own.
If he had thought the urges he had experienced until a few hours ago had been overwhelming, Fenris was only now learning the true meaning of ‘overwhelming’. They were back, much stronger than before, his neither regions throbbing with need so bad he whimpered into Anders’ hair. The short, yet surprisingly sharp nails of his hand resting against Anders’ chest scratching against soft skin, hard enough that Fenris was sure it would leave visible marks for a few hours, caused the mage to jolt awake in his tight embrace. The shift of the blond’s lean frame caused their bodies to rub against one another and Fenris groaned when the friction against his hypersensitive skin sent shockwaves of pleasure toward his crotch.
“Fenris?” Anders asked, sounding genuinely concerned.
“I thought it stopped…or got better at least,” Fenris panted, miserable and apologetic.
It was ridiculous how difficult it was to let go of the mage. Anders twisted in his embrace while Fenris fought against letting go. The sharp scent of fear and anxiety eventually had the elf regain control enough to pull away and curl up while the mage climbed off the bed.
Fenris experienced a mild panic. Afraid that Anders would leave now, leave him alone with this because it had become too much to deal with. The same sense of abandonment Fenris had experienced after deciding to sit this out and not bother the other man now creeping up his spine, pulse quickening. Fenris wanted to beg, to plead with the other man to not leave him, but he felt unable to speak, panting harshly into the pillows.
When he felt magic vibrate in the air, Fenris expected punishment. A magister wouldn’t have hesitated to punish him for acting like a dog in heat, no matter whether Fenris had control over his urges or not. “Please,” he breathed out when he heard Anders snap his fingers, curling in on himself, awaiting the pain and humilation he’d so often experienced in the past.
It didn’t come.
The fireside cast a dim light into Fenris’ room, chasing away the dark. It was oddly comforting, listening to the fire crackling as it grew, offering more light and painting elusive shadows on the walls.
Naked feet padded across the rotting floor. When a slender hand grasped his shoulder, Fenris flinched instinctively.
“Hey,” Anders said gently. “It’s alright.”
Fenris exhaled slowly and told himself to relax. Wary of mages or not, Fenris knew none of his mages – the mages among his companions – would ever cause him pain. He inwardly cursed his ingrained fears and suspicions. He’d gotten better. He knew. Why had he even expected Anders to do something terrible to him?
Fenris stretched out his slender limbs and breathed in and out deeply.
“Well, someone’s eager,” Anders said around a chuckle and Fenris’ already burning cheeks experienced another flush of heat. His cock throbbed against his thigh and the elf groaned. He was so hard…
“It hurts,” he gritted out.
“When was the last time you had a raging erection that caused you agony, mage?”
“Honestly? I can’t remember.”
Fenris sighed. Anders close proximity, while incredibly arousing due to his scent, still present and still as tantalizing as ever, calmed him. “I keep forgetting,” Fenris murmured. “Apologies.”
“You don’t have to apologize, Fenris.”
The bed dipped when Anders climbed back in and Fenris gave an appreciative hum when he felt the mage spoon against him, one hand coming to rest on his hip, the other reaching to play with his hair. Fenris’ thighs trembled with pent-up need and the elf wondered how long he’d be able to last before he snapped.
He honestly didn’t want to find out what he’d do if that happened.
“What do you need?” Anders murmured, placing a chaste kiss on Fenris’ shoulder and the elf shivered. With a low groan, Fenris turned in the embrace so he could look at the mage. Anders’ facial expression still spoke of concern but there was this glint in his honey-colored eyes Fenris was, by now, familiar with. The mage was not completely unaffected by the way they had woken up together either.
It made Fenris hopeful that the mage didn’t leave him now after all. “You.”
Whatever it was Anders had expected to hear, Fenris realized that this short, simple admission hadn’t been it. If the elf were honest with himself, even he wasn’t sure where it had come from. The mage blinked at him in surprise, lips parting to retort something but nothing came.
Fenris own mouth, though, opened again and he felt unable to stop the litany of words spilling across his lips as he inched closer. “I want to crawl under your skin,” he rasped, hand gripping the mage’s thigh and roughly pulling him closer, “I want to taste you all over…bury myself inside you until I don’t know anymore where I end and you begin…”
Anders sputtered, cheeks pinking when Fenris decided to quiet himself, to cover up the embarrasment he felt, by latching lips and teeth on the other man’s neck. Relieved when Anders didn’t resist, instead baring his neck to curious lips and surprisingly sharp, demanding teeth grazing tender skin. Fenris pushed one knee between the mage’s thighs and forced them apart. Sweat-slick and soft skin against skin as he pushed and moved until he could feel the heat of Anders’ groin against his knee, adding just the barest of pressure.
He was stopped by Anders’ hand gripping his upper thigh, fingers digging into sweaty skin and pressing against his lyrium marks. The magic thrumming in Anders’ veins caused Fenris’ markings to flare to life and the elf hissed and pulled away.
Once Fenris managed to focus, he noticed the mage’s harsh panting and the way Anders’ had his eyes squeezed shut. One of the mage’s hands had wrapped loosely around one of his wrists. Magic made his skin pulse where Anders touched it and for a moment, he saw cracks of blue splitting the mage’s skin. Fenris’ entire body tensed, his markings flaring more brightly.
“Don’t,” Anders panted. “He was…he was just concerned.”
The elf frowned. In all those hours they had spent together, the demon had not once shown its face. Fenris had, in fact, forgotten it existed and that Anders was its host. Justice hadn’t been present too often lately and Fenris had now and then wondered if the mage had managed to get rid of it. Him.
The cracks of blue disappeared and Fenris seized the moment to ponder what exactly it had been that made the demon – Fade spirit – concerned for Anders’ well-being.
“S-slow down,” Anders added and swallowed hard as he willed his body to relax. Or the demon inside. Fenris couldn’t tell.
“Know that you can leave at any time,” Fenris grunted out. It surprised Anders enough that his panting came to a sudden halt, as the mage blinked at the ceiling above. When he exhaled, it was slow and calm.
“Do you want me to leave?”
The ridiculous panic from earlier returned and Fenris felt his body seize from the force of it. Meeting Anders’ gaze, Fenris found honey-colored eyes studying him warily. There was fear and something the elf believed to recognize as shame.
“I am well aware of what I am, Fenris,” Anders added quietly as he released his hold on the elf’s wrist. “And I know you hate…it…”
Abomination. A term often thrown at the mage in the heat of yet another argument. While Anders had first fought against being called abomination, the years passed and the exhaustion that hosting a Fade spirit must bring had mellowed the mage. Occasionally, Fenris would find the mage seemingly accepting that this was what he was; no longer having the energy to fight what Fenris had claimed, again and again, to be the truth the mage didn’t want to see.
But then, Fenris knew abominations and more than once, he had fought abominations by Hawke’s side. Anders’ side. He had seen what mages did to themselves because they believed they had no other choice, no other means to protect themselves or find greater powers than they already possessed.
“I apologize,” Fenris said.
Anders’ brows furrowed. “For what?”
“I…see now why your demon believed you were threatened.”
“Justice isn’t…” Anders sighed. He sounded defeated. “Andraste’s tits, I’m not having that conversation again right now.”
And that’s how they remained for a while – lying side by side, listening to each other breathing in and out slowly, the fire crackling and the noises coming up from Kirkwall’s streets. Fenris was staring up into the dark swallowing up the ceiling. Anders’ eyes were closed, one hand still close to Fenris’ on the mattress, the other thrown across his stomach, still sticky with sweat and come.
Fenris felt his own eyelids drop when Anders’ scent enveloped him once again. He wanted to reach out, to touch the mage next to him, He could feel the other man’s warmth, painfully aware of how close Anders’ hand was to his and that, if he extended his fingers just a little, he could touch. His mind was filled with images of the sight of his own tanned skin against pale, freckled one. The soft texture of the mage’s skin and the way it felt beneath his fingertips.
The memory of how well their bodies fit when Fenris thought they really, really shouldn’t.
Would he still feel this way when this was finally over? Would they be able to look each other in the eye, ever again?
Fenris let his head roll to the side and opened his eyes. The mark on the mage’s shoulder was starting to heal, yet he could still see an almost perfect imprint of his teeth, decorating Anders’ shoulder. He knew Anders had latent healing abilities that helped him heal much faster whenever he actually obtained an injure, but it would still be there for another day or two. Fenris felt something swell in his chest, this foreign feeling he’d experienced earlier, when he’d marked the mage.
“You appear rather calm,” Anders murmured. “Is it over?”
Not able to resist, Fenris finally dared to reach out and brought his fingertips to the bite mark, gently tracing its outline. Anders frowned and Fenris watched with interest how that simple touch seemed to make the mage’s skin crawl. He’d gone mostly soft, but the simple touch made Anders’ cock twitch against his stomach.
“Far from,” Fenris admitted when his own still present erection made itself known again and the mage huffed out a laugh before opening his eyes to meet Fenris’ still heated gaze. The elf moved then, slowly, like he was approaching a timid animal. Anders’ eyes followed every movement and didn’t meet Fenris’ again until the elf was leaning over him, their faces so close Anders almost went cross-eyed.
“You are…something else,” Fenris told him, once again fumbling with words.
“Hum,” was all Anders replied to that and Fenris was glad he didn’t ask; the elf wasn’t sure he’d be able to explain what he meant to tell the mage.
But it was true, Fenris thought as he studied Anders’ features – the mage was something else. He was not the kind of monster Fenris had come to know while he’d still been enslaved. He was not an abomination, not in the sense of the word.
Anders was something else. And right now, he was his.
Running his thumb across the bite mark one last time, Fenris let his hand travel down Anders’ arm, fingertip teasing over sensitive skin. Finally reaching the mage’s hand, he entwined their fingers. Anders barely had the chance to raise his eyebrows in a questioning manner before Fenris’ mouth was on his, gentle, yet determined, coaxing his lips apart and licking into his mouth. The soft push of Fenris’ hips against his thigh, letting the mage feel the still present arousal, elicited a soft moan from Anders.
And then the mage was moving beneath him, slow and careful. Fenris felt breathless when those long, lean thighs parted for him, just like he had imagined it, albeit briefly, hours ago. Trapped between them, hot and sweaty against his own heated skin, the elf felt dizzy with desire.
From that moment on, everything seemed to disappear behind a hazy curtain. There was only the feel of pale skin against his, their bodies moving together in a slow, lazy rhythm. There were words, whispered gently, words of praise, reassurance and encouragement, hands that guided him and Fenris followed, comforted by the gentle tone of Anders’ voice and soothed by the mage’s scent.
There was fumbling, a shift in position – and then, there was heat and Fenris was moving, drunken with pleasure once again. Anders was moving with him, hands gripping the elf’s shoulders tightly, controlling the force of his movements for a moment.
It wasn’t until Fenris’ hands came to rest on the mage’s hips, feeling their lower bodies move in unison, Anders gasping softly when Fenris pressed close, that the elf understood. The tight heat surrounding his cock, the slickness and muscles rippling around him, the way Anders’ back arched and his hips thrust back against Fenris, trying to find a rhythm.
Fenris pushed one arm between Anders’ back and the bed and lifted the mage up, pulled him closer. He felt himself slide deeper and Anders’ choked moan was answered by Fenris’ low, feral growl as he thrust into the tightness that was the mage’s body. After a few moments, it became decidedly difficult to keep a firm grip on the blond, his skin slickening with sweat. The elf pressed closer still and put more force into his thrusts, listening to the soft keening noises and the way Anders’ breath hitched with each inward stroke. Slender, calloused hands grabbed the elf’s forearms, short nails digging into his skin. A pulse of magic, no longer under the mage’s control, had Fenris’ markings light up in the semi-dark of the room. He wasn’t sure what effect it exactly had on Anders, but he suddenly tightening around Fenris and the elf’s world went white, a roar torn from his throat that echoed harshly in the silence of the night as his hips gave one final thrust into the tight heat of Anders’ body.
Bliss and satisfaction embraced him and Fenris felt unable to move as his cock gave pulse after strong pulse, his very being pouring into the mage’s body. Sweaty thighs shuddered against his sides and Fenris was only distantly aware of his own loud moans that he couldn’t seem to keep in.
A gentle voice called for him, accompanied by gentle hands cupping his face. Cool fingers against his flushed, burning hot cheeks that only added to the blissful feeling that spread from the tips of his hair to his toes.
Fenris hummed in acknowledgement and gazed at the breathless mage spread out beneath him, pale skin flushed. Only slowly, he felt himself return to the here and now, the dark of the bedroom, the cool night breeze and their scents mixing in a way that was bound to drive him crazy any moment now.
This time, it sounded pained. Moss green eyes blinked and Fenris told himself to focus.
“I need you to pull out,” Anders hissed, yet as soon as Fenris attempted to move, the hissing turned into a yell of “No, Maker, no, don’t move!”
“…I can’t,” Fenris blurted out. Concerned, he glanced to where their bodies were still joined and frowned at the sight of his cock, still hard – still pulsing and filling the mage with his essence, he realized – and much thicker than Fenris remembered it. He felt – stuck.
Anders cursed in a language foreign to Fenris and tried to separate them once again, only to wince and stop immediately. Fenris took in the mage’s side, eyes wide and staring into space, the blond’s breathing fast, laboured. No longer an after-effect of their coupling, the elf realized, as he watched Anders trying to take few calming breaths and failing. The mage was going to panic – and Fenris still couldn’t pull out. Instead, it felt like his cock had thickened further, effectively tieing him to the mage. Fenris would have enjoyed the satisfaction this gave him, if it weren’t for his confusion and Anders’ obvious distress.
“Try and keep still,” Fenris shakily told Anders and for a moment, the mage’s gaze snapped to him, looking at the elf with what could easily be translated as ‘Are you kidding me?’.
Fenris moved his body carefully, gathering the ruined sheets and covers and positioning them beneath the small of Anders’ back. Intent on at least taking the strain out of the mage’s body, Fenris lowered him on the pile he’d just made.
Anders groaned when they finally stilled, his lower body resting almost comfortably on the pile of sheets and otherwise held in place by the tight grip of Fenris’ hands on his hips.
“I do not…this…this has never happened before,” Fenris murmured. Anders only response was a wheeze and the elf could see the mage trying to calm down, to not lose it and possibly do something that would hurt them both.
As he felt the mage gradually calm in his hold, Fenris’ own senses finally returned, his mind searching for the answer as to what was happening to them right now. His cock still hadn’t softened but at least he had stopped spilling inside the mage.
“Maker,” Anders wheezed, hands gripping the piled up sheets in an attempt to calm himself further. “If I didn’t know that was your cock, I’d think someone stuck a –“
Fenris felt a chill run down his spine. “It’s my knot,” he blurted out.
Honey-colored eyes squinted at him. “What?”
“I…am knotting you,” Fenris attempted to explain. “This is…this is an elven thing…something you may not have encountered yet, unless –“
Anders’ head fell back against the pillow with a groan. “Maker help me,” he prayed, voice hoarse.
Chapter 9: NINE (*semi nsfw*)
It was creepy just how perfectly still Fenris could keep if he wanted – or had to.
Anders could very well picture the elf, lurking in the shadows, not moving a single muscle and keeping his breathing shallow; sharp green eyes trained on the crowd, ready to strike if needed. The mage imagined Fenris had done so often, when he’d still been Danarius’ slave and bodyguard. An exotic-looking, dangerous animal, a weapon designed just for the purpose to intimidate.
While his own erratic breathing slowly evened out, Fenris seemed completely unfazed by the uncontrolled movements of the mage’s body. Muscles that twitched, his left leg that shifted in an attempt to get a little more comfortable while his ass was propped up on a pile of blankets. Anders tried to breathe away the feeling of being so incredibly full and his body refusing to adapt. His own fault, he knew, because knowing he couldn’t get away, that they couldn’t separate, still had him in a mild state of panic.
Not his fault, Anders reminded himself as he considered the guilty expression on the elf’s face. Fenris avoided looking at him, pointed ears bright red with shame. If the thought of moving a single muscle, and the discomfort that would most certainly follow, didn’t make Anders immobile with trepidation, he would have reached out in an attempt to comfort the other man.
It wasn’t that he hadn’t known about knotting. Forgotten about it, maybe, since he’d never had the pleasure of bedding a male elf before. He did remember hearing about it. As they remained perfectly motionless on the bed, he even remembered reading about it in a book about anatomy. His nearly never-ending thirst for knowledge that would help him improve his healing skills had led him to one, years ago.
Anders’ hips gave an involuntary twitch. Fenris’ grip on them tightened as Anders’ gasped at the sensation.
The mage’s brows furrowed and he dared to lift his head a little, enough to look down the length of his body. He allowed himself a moment to appreciate how nice his pale skin looked against Fenris’ tanned one. To his surprise, he found his own cock still hard, swollen and looking more than ready to erupt. For some Maker be damned reason, he was still hard and on the verge of coming and the discomfort that was slowly giving way to something he couldn’t quite describe. How his body had managed this despite panicking moments before, Anders would probably never know. Maybe his Warden stamina had something to do with this?
Fenris’ knot throbbed inside him and Anders let his head fall back, a sound similar to a hiccup escaping his lips, followed by a soft sigh. That had felt…pleasant.
“Try not to move,” Fenris muttered. “From what I have learned, the more you squirm, the more my knot will tie until it is done.”
Anders released a shaky breath. His back hurt from the awkward angle it was in, but the rest of his body finally seemed to relax. “How long…how long will we have to stay like this?” he asked.
“I do not know, mage.”
Again, Anders’ brows furrowed. He wondered how long it had been already since they had noticed they couldn’t separate. It had been a little while since the elf had stopped pulsing and spilling inside him, he knew. He was still being slick from Fenris’ come, which he figured made the whole ‘knotting business’ a lot more bearable than it would be otherwise. His cock pulsed at the memory of Fenris coming and coming, so impossibly much and hard and Anders wondered how his brain had managed to make time to be aware of it while the rest of him had tried not to panic too much.
“Can’t you just…you know…” Anders swallowed. His throat was dry. “Phase?” He let his head roll to the side and regarded the elf on top of him.
Fenris’ eyebrows furrowed at the suggestion. His grip on Anders’ hips loosened a little, as if he noticed the mage’s body relaxing against him finally. “I suppose it is worth a try,” the elf eventually agreed. “But be assured it will be unpleasant.”
“More unpleasant than having you stuck inside me for an eternity?”
Even though Fenris wasn’t looking at him, Anders knew there was a rather grim expression on the elf’s face right now.
A few long moments, nothing happened except for Fenris gritting his teeth. His brands flared up weakly befory dying down immediately. Anders frowned and it was Fenris’ turn to look mildly panicked.
Don’t panic. “You can’t phase?” Anders asked, voice shaky.
Fenris shook his head.
The Maker certainly had a strange sense of humor. Now, of all times, Fenris’ abilities were failing him.
“I apologize,” Fenris whispered. He sounded so small and scared, Anders actually forgot about the whole knot issue for a moment. A moment long enough that he pushed himself into a sitting position before wrapping his long arms around the elf’s neck. Fenris gripped him tightly once again and shifted until Anders straddled him.
The blond bit his lip to keep from hissing when the shifting indeed caused the elf’s knot inside him to tie more firmly. The mild sting was followed by a pleasurable throb that was echoed by his own still present erection. Fenris grunted and it sounded far from displeased as well.
“Not your fault,” Anders breathed out as soon as he had sorted out his way too long legs.
“I might have remembered to warn you,” Fenris murmured. “But everything was…hazy, until a few moments ago.”
A smile formed on Anders’ lips. “Hazy?” he asked and the elf huffed before pressing his face into the blond’s shoulder. Anders knew Fenris was blushing just by how hot the elf’s cheek felt against his skin. “A good kind of hazy I should hope?”
“Mage, stop talking,” the elf grumbled and Anders couldn’t help but chuckle at the other man’s obvious embarrassment.
“Did you enjoy it, Fenris?”
“Fasta vass,” Fenris growled, his strong arms wrapping around Anders’ middle. It felt nice, being held this way, Anders thought, especially when lyrium-lined hands began to caress his back, up and down, in a slow rhythm that was soothing. “I did,” the elf eventually admitted.
Anders’ smile widened. “Good.”
It happened suddenly and unexpected. There was a weird sensation inside him when Fenris’ knot went down, releasing his body. The sensation went straight to his cock and Anders was distantly aware of the surprised yelp he let out before he shuddered in the elf’s arms and came so hard his vision went white.
Hazy indeed, he thought, when he felt himself being lowered onto the bed, Fenris’ arms securely around him. A shift of the elf’s lithe body and Anders felt him pull out completely while his own body trembled through the aftershocks.
Fenris murmured his name and one of his hands tangled in Anders’ hair.
“Sweet Maker, have mercy,” Anders mumbled, eyes falling closed as Fenris continued to soothe him with caresses, barely able to make out the words the elf was saying. The last thing he heard was his name, murmured gently.
He was alone when he woke up.
Anders blinked sleepily at the other, empty half of the bed as he pulled the blanket tighter around his naked form and took a deep breath. A sweet, flowery scent filled his nostrils. He had been given a fresh blanket, Anders noticed, as he sniffed on it. It was thicker than the other, keeping him warm in the surprisingly chilly morning breeze.
Once, when he had needed to hide from the Templars, he had spent a few days at Hawke’s estate. Every morning, he’d wake up and just listen to the noises coming in through the open windows. After a few days, he’d been able to tell what time it approximately was just by the sounds he heard.
Right now, there was the familiar chattering of two noble ladies who lived near Hawke’s estate and met up every morning to take a walk together and visit the market. One of them had a high-pitched voice and a slight Orlesian accent; the other was an obvious Free Marcher. The Free Marcher’s husband was a merchant, Anders knew, though he’d never made the effort to remember his name; he owned a ship and often set sails for Rivain or Antiva and had seen Anders for the one or other ‘rash’ once he had returned from his travels – and most definitely always before going home to reunite with his wife. The Orlesian one, he had seen talking to Lady Elegant once or twice, whenever he paid that mysterious woman a visit himself for supplies.
Like highly potent lyrium, for example.
Speaking of lyrium…
Anders sat up and looked around. No sign of the elf. The fire in the fireside had long gone out; Fenris’ clothes were gone while Anders found his own folded poorly and placed on a chair that surely had seen better days. He couldn’t help but smile at the thought of Fenris making the effort. The elf had probably cursed his clothes as he tried to fold them. Considering that he was usually a light sleeper, Anders was surprised he hadn’t noticed Fenris leaving.
Getting off the bed turned out to be a rather…interesting task to undertake. The moment he bend his left leg, there’s was a sting in his backside, followed by throbbing that made Anders inhale sharply and his cheeks flush.
“Ow,” he muttered to himself, although it wasn’t actually painful. Not the throbbing, at least. The throbbing felt more like body was yearning for…
Anders’ cheeks blushed crimson as he recalled the events before he’d fallen asleep. No wonder Fenris had fled as soon as Anders had.
“I’m an idiot,” the mage said softly and sighed. A tiny spark of healing magic soothed his sore backside and he hopped off the bed to get dressed. Anders grimaced when he became aware of the dried fluids between his thighs and decided only his shirt had to do for now until he managed to get cleaned up.
While his shirt was more than bad off, it was long enough to cover the most important body parts. Yet he still felt hesitant as he stepped into the corridor and slowly approached the foyer.
The sound of a sharp blade cutting through the air made Anders pause as soon as he reached the balustrade and risked a look. The air was thick here, the scent of salty sweat, lyrium and a faint trace of soap making Anders wrinkle his nose while his honey-colored eyes rested on Fenris’ swiftly moving body.
There was a determined, bordering on furious expression the elf’s face as he veritably danced across the hall, the sharp blade of his two-hander cutting through invisible opponents. Anders watched strong, well-defined muscles move beneath taut, sweaty skin, the way Fenris’ knuckles went white as he gripped the sword tightly and moved with strength and precision.
It was quite a sight to behold and Anders found he couldn’t take his eyes off the elf’s lithe form. There was an incredible strength in those slender limbs he’d never taken the time to truly appreciate – mostly because Fenris hated being stared at and would have accused Anders of seeing him as some exotic pet or desiring the lyrium in his body. Nothing could be farther from the truth. What the mage admired was the strength and what he was reminded of were the movements, controlled and powerful, of that body against his; the way Fenris’ skin felt beneath his fingertips, the strength of those hands as they gripped him hard enough to leave bruises. The elf probably had, Anders thought. He didn’t remember to check but knew he’d treasure these marks until they faded into nothingness. His neither regions throbbed encouragingly at the sight of so much power in such a small creature and Anders found his hands gripping the balustrade tightly as he bit his lip to keep a soft moan in.
Maker, that blighted elf…
Anders told himself to concentrate and watched Fenris for several more minutes, ignoring his body and the growing heat in the pit of his stomach. Pursing his lips, Anders wondered who Fenris was picturing, as he seemed to grow angrier with each passing second. Maybe he was picturing him, as he chopped him into pieces? Anders would bet his only coin that Fenris had, at the very least, entertained that idea in the past. He felt confident enough that the elf had gotten past that desire by now, but watching him cut through the air like there was no tomorrow…
Anders swallowed, brows furrowed and dared to clear his throat to make the other man aware of his presence. Fenris froze, mid-move and whipped his head around so fast Anders was concerned for the elf’s neck for a second. Moss green eyes widened in surprise as they spotted the mage, the fury in them replaced by an softness unusual for the prickly elf.
Fenris lowered his sword and his gaze, yet his grip on the hilt tightened further.
“Mage,” Fenris mumbled, so quietly that Anders almost didn’t hear him.
Anders opened his mouth to ask if Fenris was alright. Instead out came a meek: “You are not planning to turn me into chopped nug liver, are you?”
Black eyebrows lifted at the question while the elf kept his gaze on the floor. “Don’t be disgusting,” he grunted.
“I’m disgusting? That’s rich, coming from a man who rips out hearts while they are still beating.”
“You think I asked for this?” Fenris snarled, lifting his free hand and balling it into a fist. The lyrium lines glowed faintly and Anders regarded them for a moment before sighing.
“Are you alright?”
Finally, Fenris looked up. Eyes wide, he stared at the mage like he had spontaneously grown a second head and Anders almost felt inclined to reach up and check if that was indeed the case.
“Am I alright?” Fenris asked in that low voice that usually meant trouble – ripping your insides out kinda trouble. Anders took a cautious step back and eyed the elf warily. “You were the one who was terrified of me last night and yet you ask me if I am alright?”
“I wasn’t –“ Anders paused and considered the elf’s words. Fenris was staring at him, unblinking and the mage fought a nervous laugh. “I wasn’t terrified of you,” he finally managed to get out and felt himself calm.
“Oh? So I was only imagining the panic filled eyes and the wheezing, yes?” Fenris asked sarcastically.
“Alright, you listen!” Anders snapped and watched Fenris flinch. “My experiences consist of ‘put it in, get off, pull out, leave’. Alright? I was caught off-guard, just like everything you have done lately caught me off-guard! I knew about the knot but thought, as you said, it’s a blighted elven thing and did not anticipate it would happen if an elf sleeps with a human.” He drew a shaky breath and watched Fenris’ stoic expression slip away. “It was strange, unexpected and I want you to do it again!”
Anders’ mouth snapped shut as Fenris’ eyes grew impossibly wider. “What?”
“What?” Anders echoed, his cheeks going bright red when his brain finally caught up with his mouth. “I mean…I wasn’t…”
“You want me to do it again?” Fenris asked, dumbfounded.
“Did I say that?” the mage replied and there it was again, that damnable nervous laugh that he so often failed to keep in. “Well, not before I took a bath. Because to be honest, I am kind of disgusting right now? I’m sticky and I smell and –“
“And Maker just stop listening to what I am saying!” Anders breathed out. “Or, you know, I could also shut up? I should go. Can I use your bathroom first?”
Fenris’ stance relaxed and honey-colored eyes blinked in disbelief when a fond smile appeared on the elf’s lips. “Mage,” Fenris tried again. There was suppressed laughter in his voice. “You may use the bathroom. It would be impolite to send you on your way like this, especially since I am the one who caused it.”
Anders felt himself calm, arms relaxing against the balustrade that he was still holding on to. “Impolite?”
“I shall wait here until you have cleaned yourself.” Fenris cleared his throat and eyed his two-hander. “I found sword practice is a sufficient distraction.”
“A distraction from what?”
The elf lifted his gaze again and this time, the heat in those moss green depths was of a different nature.
Anders felt his heart skip a beat – his heart was a ridiculous thing – and his body grow warm. “Still?” he murmured.
“Your scent is filling the entire foyer by now,” Fenris replied in kind as he turned his back to the other man. “And it is still pure torture, mage,” he added, voice hoarse.
The mage cleared his throat. “About that…I have meant to ask…”
The elf turned his head enough to glance at Anders from the corner of his eyes. “Ask what?”
“What do I smell like?”
Fenris blinked. “Pardon?”
Anders huffed. “You keep saying that my scent is doing something to you. I imagine I probably smell pretty gross with a touch of ozone, which I know is a scent you hate.” He shrugged. “But now you’re drawn to it. What exactly do I smell like that you find it so, uhm…”
Anders snorted. “Fenris, I am serious.”
“So am I,” Fenris said around a huff. “Your scent reminds me of apple pie. Sweet like apples, rich like cinnamon. Like the pie I often purchase on the market. There’s this woman who makes the most delicious apple pie I have ever tasted. She is not around often, but whenever she is selling her baked goods, the scent of said pie carries all the way from the market into my mansion.” He glanced at the sharp blade of his sword. “It’s the only thing that will surely make me leave the mansion to get a slice or two.”
He did not need to look into a mirror to know that he was probably making the dumbest face in the history of men. Anders was gaping at Fenris, who was blushing and pointedly looking at his feet.
“So…I smell like apple pie,” Anders somehow managed to get out.
“Hm.” Anders’ lips twitched into an amused smile. “I guess it’s of advantage to smell like something really delicious.” Fenris huffed in response and Anders figured he wouldn’t get more out of the elf, whose body was tense and flushed once again, a sight he was familiar with by now. That Fenris had not yet jumped him told Anders the elf’s ‘heat’ must be nearing its end.
Sighing inwardly, he turned to finally make his way for the bathroom. “You will have to get me a slice too, next time she’s on the market,” Anders cheerfully told Fenris. “I’d like to try it.”
Fenris snorted and lifted his sword to continue with his practice. “I shall remember to purchase a slice or two for you next time, mage. You have my promise.”
Anders grinned. “And I know for a fact that you do keep your promises. I am looking forward to it!”
“I kept all but one,” Fenris argued gently. “Now go take a bath, mage. You may smell like apple pie but right now you also reek of salty sweat and sex.”
The blond’s cheeks puffed indignantly as he stalked off to the bathroom, Fenris’ quiet chuckling accompanying him.
Chapter 10: TEN (*safe*)
Following the scent of apple pie and ozone, Fenris found the mage in one of the smaller bathrooms that had usually been reserved for guests for the past – not the master bathroom that Fenris used, which he found to be an interesting decision on the mage’s part. It held nothing more than a few buckets to fill water into, a basin and a water pump connected to the plumbing that the rundown mansion possessed. It was also much colder in here than the master bathroom.
Fenris stopped in the doorway and admired the long expanse of the mage’s back. The other man sat on a stool and scrubbed his face, for now unaware of the elf’s presence and greedy, moss green eyes that once again memorized every little detail. Like the scars he’d touched and kissed, embedded in pale, freckled skin that he remembered felt soft to his touch. The blond hair that almost reached the mage’s shoulders, covering his delicious, long neck that Fenris had so many times refrained from biting.
He wasn’t aware he was staring; it took him even longer to notice that a pair of honey-colored eyes were regarding him curiously, the hint of an amused smile on the mage’s lips. When their eyes met, Fenris’ ears gave a nervous twitch and he cleared his throat.
“And just what are you looking at, Serah?” Anders asked with a smirk and Fenris huffed, crossed his arms and looked every bit like a sulking child, he knew. But it was worth it, because Anders chuckled at the display before turning his back to the elf once again to continue to clean. “I thought you wanted to distract yourself from me.”
“It is rather difficult to do so when the things you keep saying won’t leave me alone,” Fenris grumbled.
Anders snorted and dipped what looked like a pitiful excuse for a wash cloth into the bucket in front of him. He soaked and wrung it before lifting it to his neck. Brushing blond strands aside, Fenris watched the mage scrub his neck and enjoyed the way pearls of water glittered on the other man’s skin.
“Are you not needed in your clinic?” Fenris asked. “You’ve been away for an entire day by now.”
“I’ve been away for longer whenever we went out with Hawke to do Maker knows what,” Anders pointed out. “I always have Lirene watch my clinic during my absence. I told her I might be gone for a few days, when Aveline informed me of your, uh…illness.”
“I am surprised she hasn’t come by yet to check if you did indeed heal instead of kill me.”
Another snort and Anders moved the cloth from his neck to his left shoulder. He scrubbed more carefully there, mindful of the still healing bite mark. Fenris wondered why the mage hadn’t simply healed it yet. He wore more than enough scars already and the elf did not think he’d fancy another, especially since Fenris had forced this one on him.
The mage had not voiced a complaint.
Closing the distance between them, Fenris took the cloth from Anders and soaked it before starting to wash the mage’s back. Anders shivered when the warm water – Fenris had no doubt the mage had used magic to heat it – washed away cooled sweat and soothed his skin.
“Lean forward,” Fenris murmured and Anders followed the gentle demand immediately, long legs stretching out in front of him before his upper body lowered. Leaning crossed arms on his thighs, Anders gave a small sigh of contentment as Fenris moved the cloth up and down his back. Fenris paused upon finding pale marks on the mage’s hips that his finger had left there.
“Are you well?” Fenris asked.
“Do I seem unwell?”
The elf sighed. “You have this terrible habit of answering a question with a question. Are you aware of that?”
It seemed like such an automatic response. One Anders had given way too often in his life it seemed, and it made Fenris pause once again.
“Did I hurt you?” he asked, voice firm and not allowing another avoiding answer.
That did sound sincere, Fenris thought. Dropping the wash cloth into the bucket, he decided to busy his hand with the mage’s hair instead. Anders turned his head just a little, enough to look at Fenris from the corner of his eye as the elf buried his nose in soft, blond strands and inhaled. While the mage’s scent had kept him in a constant state of mild arousal, he found he was no longer losing his mind when he was close to the other man. Fenris wondered if that meant this heat was finally ebbing off.
He also wondered what that meant for the two of them.
“You seem more calm,” Anders said quietly. “I guess that means it’s almost over?”
“And you seem distant,” Fenris countered. “Are you certain you are well?”
Anders sighed heavily. Fenris felt him relax, the mage’s back coming to rest against his thighs. Slowly, Anders leaned up, then back against Fenris’s slender, but solid frame behind him. Head tilting back and coming to rest against the elf’s sternum, Anders looked up to him and Fenris could not resist cupping the mage’s face in his hands.
The blond offered a crooked smile, his shoulders giving a slight shrug. “I am fine. And surprisingly enough, you blighted elf, I enjoy being here. I enjoy being with you. I also very much enjoyed everything we did.”
“For one, it seems it’ll be over soon and we should prepare to sober up, so to speak?” Anders sighed. “And I have a bad habit of…getting too emotional sometimes and I’m trying to not get…attached, I suppose?”
Fenris’ eyebrows shot up. “Attached?”
“This is…was probably my last chance to be with someone intimately.” Another slight shrug and Anders offered one of his ‘you don’t want to know’ smirks that Hawke hated with a passion and Fenris finally understood why. To know there was something behind that smirk, something that was troubling one of your friends and they felt unable to tell you. “It was one of the reasons why I stayed. Selfish, huh?”
“I cannot claim I haven’t been very selfish, Anders,” Fenris grunted out.
The mage chuckled and reached up to cover one of Fenris’ hands with his own. “Have you ever dreamed of a life with someone by your side? Growing old and silly together?”
“Dreamed? No. But over the years and with our friends becoming romantically involved or married, like Aveline, I have been thinking about it.” Fenris lowered his head and pressed a chaste kiss to the mage’s forehead, finding himself slightly taken aback at the look of utter surprise on the mage’s face. “What about you?”
“Once. A long time ago,” Anders admitted quietly.
“Well…” Anders smiled a hapless smile. “Life, I suppose. Being a mage. Eventually joining with a Fade spirit which made it seem impossible to actually allow myself to develop feelings for someone because affection confuses him and he constantly urges me to keep going.”
Fenris hummed. “It did not seem like he’s been trying to urge you on while you have been here.”
“That’s because of the lyrium in your body.”
Fenris’ eyes narrowed in an accusing manner and it was only because of his hold on the mage that Anders didn’t get to flinch away the way he would have otherwise.
“Don’t get me wrong. The lyrium sings. It reminds him of the Fade. When he was still possessing that dead Warden’s body, the Warden Commander gifted him a ring made of lyrium that we found someplace. It calmed him. You are…kind of like that lyrium ring.”
“So, you say I keep him calm?”
A sigh. “Yes.”
Fenris held his gaze for several long moments. Eventually, the mage’s lips pursed and he looked at the elf expectantly. “Are you planning to stay like this for the rest of the day? Because I’m getting cold…”
Fenris felt, knew he should say something but his tongue was once again tied. He should say something nice, maybe a compliment or something to express his gratitude.
The elf frowned. Was it indicated to express gratitude for what had happened between them? Something didn’t feel right about it. That would be like thanking a whore for their services and this wasn’t…
“You don’t have to say anything, you know?”
Moss green eyes locked gaze with honey-brown ones that looked back warmly. There was a lopsided smile on the mage’s lips.
“Mage…Anders, I am…” Fenris tried, but no words would come.
“A grumpy elf that broods too much,” Anders teased before slipping out of Fenris’ hold and reaching for his clothes. Folded more neatly than Fenris had managed, the elf noticed with a smirk. Another thing the mage had not commented on.
The way Anders fumbled with the laces of his shirt told Fenris the mage was anxious once again. Kept his back to the elf as he got dressed, not in a hurry but his hands were shaking lightly.
Say something, Fenris admonished himself and while Anders was fumbling with his shirt, the elf was fumbling for words. They truly were a pair…
“Do you remember what I told you after you took your shirt off?”
Anders froze and Fenris was wondered where those words had come from, all of a sudden.
“I’m surprised you remember,” Anders murmured. “You seemed beside yourself most of the time.”
Indeed, Fenris thought with regret, just like I was caught in some sort of feverish, hazy dream when I took you.
“Do you?” the elf asked and Anders nodded. “What did I say?”
“You asked me not to hide myself from you.” Fenris nodded in confirmation and the mage huffed. “So what, you want me to get naked again?”
“You have seen me at my weakest and not taken advantage of me. You’ve seen me needy, desperate and unable to hold myself back,” Fenris answered. “You have seen me feverish and badly wounded. You have looked at me and not turned away in disgust.” The elf gestured vaguely at his own body. “I do not believe it would be possible to hide anything from you anymore because now you’ve seen me at my lowest.”
Anders looked distraught at the words and slowly shook his head. “I do not –“
“Allow me to offer you the same safety. The same trust,” the elf continued. “Do not hide yourself from me, mage.” He took a step forward, eyes locked with Anders’. “I do know you keep saying you are less and less yourself and the demon inside you is slowly taking over. Hawke told me because he worries about you.”
“And wants to make sure that the day I lose it, you won’t hesitate to end me?” the mage asked tiredly.
“No. He asked me if I know of anything that could help you, since I’ve lived amongst mages for many years. Even if it were blood magic, he would try anything to help you and you know it.” Fenris huffed. “But that is not the point. My point is, that I do not believe that.”
“Oh?” Anders smiled. “And why is that?”
“Because I saw you when we were in bed. A tiny crack in your carefully assembled shell but enough to know that you are still more human than you let yourself believe.” Another step forward and Fenris was able to grab Anders’ shirt in his fist. “And I want to get to know that man.”
“Do you now?” the mage quipped but his playful attitude slipped away as he mustered the expression on the elf’s face.
Fenris didn’t know what it was that Anders saw but it caused an interesting change in the mage’s composure. His features were open, vulnerable and the elf took notice that the mage did not even get anxious, no nervous laughter, no nervous babbling.
“Stop hiding yourself from me,” Fenris demanded once again, gently.
“Alright,” Anders agreed in kind.
Chapter 11: ELEVEN (*mild nsfw*)
Anders could feel the elf’s brief hesitation before two fingers connected with his bare skin, carefully following the scar between his shoulder blades. The palest one, if Anders remembered correctly, his skin tingling from the lyrium embedded in Fenris’ skin.
“Darkspawn,” he murmured into the linen sheets. “One managed to sneak up on me in the Deep Roads and got a lucky hit in before the Warden Commander pulled him off of me. Most of my body felt numb for a moment until I remembered I’m a healer and can do some damage control.”
“Your spine was injured,” Fenris murmured, his warm breath ghosting over his skin, causing a few pleasant shivers. Both hands on the mage’s back now, Anders felt them caress over several scars criss-crossing over his shoulder blades down to his sides. “I certainly know where you obtained these,” the elf said.
“Templars,” Anders supplied anyway. “Apparently, they believed solitary was not enough punishment. No one would hear me scream in the dungeons and the First Enchanter would never learn about these.”
“You did not tell him?”
“I didn’t get the chance. When I finally managed to escape, it was only thanks to abominations and Darkspawn breaking down the Circle Tower.” Anders sighed. “It was either stay and see if I can help, or get out of there as fast as possible. I figured, despite Irving being rather kind and making sure my constant escapes won’t end in my death, I didn’t owe that place anything. So I ran.”
“That was during the last blight, wasn’t it? Deciding to run possibly saved your life,” Fenris pointed out. His right index finger prodded a small scar just above Anders’ right buttock and Anders couldn’t help but smile.
“Nathaniel Howe. Fellow Warden. Teased him too much one night so he decided to shoot an arrow at me. He’s an excellent archer but I still insist he had meant to hit my ass and missed.”
“Something I can relate to,” Fenris remarked dryly and Anders chuckled. The elf was a comfortable weight on his upper thighs, the rough leather of the other man’s leggings rubbing against his skin whenever Fenris shifted on top of him.
Both hands were back against his skin, caressing and massaging gently as they moved up to his neck. Anders was short of relaxing into a puddle beneath the elf’s hands, something that both excited and scared him.
“This one looks newer than the others,” Fenris observed as the traced a thin scar on Anders’ left upper arm.
“I got that one the night I tried to safe Karl. Templar blade.”
“Why did you not –“ Fenris paused. “No. I believe I understand.”
Anders held back a pout when Fenris slowly climbed off him. A gentle pat on his naked behind made him roll on his back. He fought the instinct to cover himself. It was ridiculous, the elf had seen him naked and most definitely aroused. He could help the slight blush when Fenris’ gaze travelled along the length of his body before lifting back up to the huge scar across his chest.
The elf leaned forward and reached out, touching it carefully. “I suppose you already guessed I am most curious about this one.”
Anders huffed out a laugh. “I figured as much. Will you trust me when I say you do not want to know the story behind this one?”
Fenris’ lips quirked into a smile. “How did you survive?”
A frown. “Did you receive that wound the day you and the dem—the spirit joined?”
A small nod and Anders knew Fenris was respecting his wish to not share the story about this particular scar. It wasn’t like Anders remembered much of that night – he mostly remembered the outcome, the things he’d seen as soon as he gained the upper hand of his consciousness suddenly shared with a Fade spirit. What he had seen, what he had realized, it had been terrifying enough that he ran without thinking twice or looking back.
“Sit up,” Fenris ordered gently and with a sigh, Anders obeyed. A slice of cheese was pushed against his lips, then into his mouth when his lips parted for a complaint. With a grunt, Anders chewed and watched Fenris cut more slices of cheese.
“Maker, I wasn’t even aware how hungry I am,” Anders moaned in delight.
“Do you ever?” Fenris asked. “It’s one thing about you I must admit has always fascinated me. You sometimes go days without food and you don’t even seem to notice until someone puts a meal in front of you.”
“When you have to hunger for days, I guess you kind of…learn to ignore your body’s signs. It does in fact get easier with time.” Anders smiled at the elf. “I do notice when my stomach growls. It usually happens when I’m busy. I get hungry, I tell myself food has to wait and before I know it, I’m not hungry anymore.”
“How are you still standing? Even the strongest man would have collapsed by now, you fool,” Fenris growled.
“Ah. Well…Warden stamina. And there’s this Fade spirit inside me that’s pretty much an endless source of energy.”
Fenris threw a slice of cheese at the blond. “Eat.”
Anders laughed when the cheese hit his cheek and caught it before it could end up on the bed. “I am eating!”
“No, you’re talking,” the elf deadpanned. “Eat.”
The mage rolled his eyes and nibbled on the slice of cheese that had just been thrown at him, pleased when Fenris smirked at the sight.
“We could make this a thing,” Anders mumbled. “You throw food at me, I eat it.”
“I am sure it will be a delight to explain to Hawke why I am throwing pieces of food at you.”
Anders swallowed and frowned at the elf. “What. Afraid Hawke might find out you actually like me or something?”
“Pfaugh. Don’t be ridiculous, mage.” Fenris sunk his knife into the cheese once again.
Anders paused, gaze resting on the sharp blade for a moment. Slowly but surely, the Fenris he’d known for years was coming back to the surface. It was noticeable how much calmer the elf was now. No heated looks, no arousal when he’d sat on Anders backside until a moment ago. He’d even gone out a while ago to get them something to eat from Hightown’s market, remarking that he felt incredibly hungry-
It was terrible, the mage thought, how much he was going to miss this. Intent on not voicing such thoughts, he quickly grabbed a piece of bread and stubbornly shoved it into his mouth. All under the watchful gaze of a pair of moss green eyes. The slight drop of Fenris’ ears let Anders know the elf had caught the sudden mood change in him.
“Mage?” Fenris tried gently.
“Don’t,” Anders murmured and drew up his knees, now most definitely hiding most of his naked form from the elf. “Speaking of, I wonder if they have returned already? Although, I guess if they had, they would have shown up here by now, right? Hawke and Merrill, I mean.” A small pause, then the mage continued in a more cheerful tone: “I bet Hawke will be exhausted and dehydrated. I can only imagine what being with an experienced elf, who’s not new to elf mating season, is like. Can you picture someone as tiny and innocent-looking as Merrill turning into –“
“Please stop,” Fenris groaned. “There are things I do not need nor want to picture, Anders.”
“Hum,” the blond replied as he shoved another piece of bread into his mouth.
Fenris’ lips pursed and he grabbed the plate to put it away. Anders felt himself tense; flight was an instinct to him as much as breathing by now and the low sigh Fenris let out didn’t help. “I did not mean –“
“I know,” Anders cut him off with a small smile. “You are simply returning to your regular prickly self. I must admit, I kind of missed it.”
The elf snorted and regarded Anders for a moment. Sure enough, Anders felt his cheeks flush and the elf smirked.
“You get flustered so easily,” Fenris noticed.
“Only around people who have seen me naked,” Anders quipped. “Welcome to the club.”
Fenris hummed in agreement, still smirking. “I have seen much more than just your naked ass, mage.”
“Did you now?” Anders asked gently. “I suppose we did see and learned a lot about each other these past days, didn’t we?”
“Certainly a lot more than I would have ever anticipated,” the elf agreed. “I will not lie and say it does not make me uncomfortable.”
“I already told you no one will ever know. And I keep my promises, as much as you do.”
“Thank you,” Fenris said sincerely. “Which is not to say that I feel shame for what happened.”
“Not anymore, you mean.”
Moss green eyes narrowed at him and Anders noticed how very unimpressed he was by the anger in the elf’s eyes. What was it about Fenris that he didn’t get anxious or nervous around him anymore? Why had the elf’s words, earlier in the bathroom, had such an impact on him?
“I suppose I deserved that one,” Fenris admitted grumpily. “When this first started, I was indeed worried Hawke and the others would hear about my uncontrollable behavior around you.”
“You feared to be humiliated,” Anders agreed with a nod. “By a mage, yet again.”
“After all these years, I know you well enough to know that humiliating me would not have been your intention.”
Anders blinked. “Well, that’s a new one,” he said appreciatively.
Fenris huffed, lips quirking into a smile once again as he regarded the mage from beneath strands of snow-white hair. Anders smiled back and held the gaze for a long moment, fleeting thoughts crossing his mind that he didn’t pay any attention.
“I have a question,” Anders murmured, trying not to blink. Moss green eyes focused on him, sharp like the eyes of a cat. He watched with interest as Fenris’ pupils dilated and suddenly felt like a tiny mouse about to be pounced.
“So ask your question, Anders,” Fenris encouraged.
“Why do I have to be naked while you get to wear your pants?”
Sure enough, the question caught the elf off-guard and Anders grinned widely when Fenris blinked at him.
“I won!” Anders announced. “You blinked first.”
Another blink, followed by a mild scowl. “I was not aware we are having a contest, mage. Not to mention that you cheated, so your alleged victory is null and void.”
The mage in question groaned and Anders rolled his eyes. “Maker, why are you so damned serious all the time, Fen?”
“Did I offend you?”
“Ugh!” Anders exclaimed and reached for their plate. His hand found a piece of bread and before Fenris had the chance to react, it hit the elf in the face.
“Loosen up already!” Anders laughed.
Another scowl was the answer. “Enough of this childish nonsense,” Fenris snarled and put the piece of bread back on the plate.
The blond sighed and shrugged. “Fine. What would please you, master elf? Would you like me to tell a few jokes? Juggle? Dance? I could show you my –“
Anders could not remember the last time he’d found himself flat on his back so fast he didn’t even get the chance to blink. Actually, he wasn’t sure if such a moment had ever occurred in his life before, but here he was. Fenris felt heavy on top of him and Anders had a distinct suspicion that the elf was making himself heavy on purpose.
“Never call me that again,” Fenris demanded, yet his tone was gentle.
“I’m sorry,” Anders murmured. “I was only teasing.”
“I’m aware.” Fenris leaned forward, hands coming to rest on either side of Anders’ head. It made him feel a little trapped, but Fenris’ face so close to his made Anders forget about the slight discomfort of their position. “To answer your original question, you are naked because you left the bathroom wearing only your shirt, which I asked you to take off so you can tell me about your scars,” the elf continued, voice but a murmur. “I do not mind, seeing as you are pleasant to look at.”
Whatever clever retort Anders had on his tongue, it died right there, along with his ability to decide what reaction to the elf’s words was appropriate. All he felt capable of doing was stare and gape, which Fenris requited with a smile.
“You further wished to know why I get to wear my pants while you are naked. I suppose I thought it was polite to remain dressed, since my intention on getting you undressed again was not of a sexual nature, this time. I wished for you to be comfortable while you tell me about your scars.”
Anders cleared his throat. “That…actually makes sense.”
Fenris leaned in further, his nose brushing against Anders’ and the mage was sure his heart may have skipped a beat just then. Despite their close proximity, Fenris suddenly seemed shy, averting his gaze. Anders lifted a hand, letting it caress over the elf’s cheek and his impossibly soft hair.
“If I were to say that…” Fenris murmured, “…I wish to experience it with you again, this time not driven by needs that are beyond my control…would you…?”
“Hypothetically speaking?” Anders asked, lips quirking into a smile.
“Then my hypothetical answer would be telling you to get out of your leggings.”
Anders watched with interest as pointy ears twitched. Elven ears had always fascinated him – they told so much about an elf, sometimes more than their facial expressions. Drooping when they were sad or ashamed, twitching when they were nervous, excited or their interest piqued; flat against the sides of their head when angry. He had also been told they were very sensitive…in a very wicked but good way.
The elf looked up. “Anders?”
Anders’ smile widened. “Please take notice of my decidedly not hypothetical request that you take those leggings off.”
Chapter 12: TWELVE *nsfw*
For as long as Fenris could remember, his body had been nothing more than a weapon. His body knew wounds; it knew pain, agony. It had suffered one of the worst experiments he could imagine. It had fought the poisoning effects of lyrium and survived. It had been trained to become swift, strong, lethal.
Eventually, his body learned the pleasure of a friendly touch. A hug, a pat on the shoulder; a hand, reaching out for him to pull him back on his feet.
For as long as Fenris could remember, the lyrium markings embedded in his skin had made him feel disfigured. Unpleasant to the eyes of others, with the exception of the one man who’d ‘created’ him and had praised his looks and strength many times. That same man would have him parade, showing off what had been done to him to intimidate others. To warn them of the monster that would come for them, should they speak against his master. Once freed from Danarius’ claws, Fenris had taken pleasure in covering most of his body, shielding himself from eyes that would look upon him with disgust.
He’d never known a gentle touch, or eyes that looked upon him like he was the most beautiful, most marvelous creature they had ever seen. Not until now.
Fenris was unprepared for the pleasure a gentle nip on the pointy end of his ears brought. Unaware how ridiculously sensitive the back of his left knee was to touch; hadn’t known how wonderful a single fingertip tracing the outlines of his spine felt, or a palm caressing the curve of his ass, his hips lifting on their own accord to lean into the touch, seeking more of the tingling sensation that spread throughout his body.
Foreplay was kisses, alternating between passionate and sweet and chaste; soft, warm lips, travelling south from his mouth over his chin, along his throat and his sternum. It was fingertips gently tracing the contours of his muscles, along a prominent collarbone or the sharp outlines of his hip bones. Together, they discovered many sensitive spots Fenris never knew he had and the sensations left him trembling beneath the mage.
Foreplay was laughter whenever Anders found a particularly ticklish spot on the other man’s body and Fenris was unable to keep quiet or still, shifting and twitching and marvelling the fact that he had ticklish spots.
Foreplay was a brief moment in which Fenris felt ashamed and exposed in his arousal, his desire, that he wanted to cover himself and turn away from the mage. Anders’ hands soothed away the shame as they took his, the sweet nothings spilling from his lips the insecurity. The mage held his hands, their fingers laced, when those same wonderful, sinful lips ghosted along his throbbing erection and Fenris lost the ability to breathe for a few terrifying long moments. His body tensed, his back arched and his toes curled from the incredible pleasure. He didn’t recognize his own voice as it fervently said the mage’s name, over and over again, one of his hands burying in soft blond hair, needing something to hold on to.
Anders pulled away, sensing the unspoken message of ‘too much’. Fenris wanted to memorize it all; each kiss, every touch, every whispered sweet nothing, each hitch in the mage’s breath whenever Fenris touched him, or how perfect Anders felt in his arms when he pulled him close and held on, their lips locked in a gentle, needy kiss. Fenris wanted to remember this, all of this, for the rest of his life: his conscious decision, as a free man, to be intimate with another, a lover of his choosing.
Soft lips found his right eyelid, kissing it carefully. Fenris’ eyelashes fluttered in response, tickling the mage’s nose which Anders requited with a small laugh. The elf hadn’t even been aware he’d closed his eyes and when he opened them, he found Anders’ face right before his, still so close he could feel the other man’s warm breath dance across the skin of his face, the moisture on his lips.
“You were far away, all of a sudden,” Anders murmured. “Are you alright?”
“Yes,” Fenris replied without hesitation, revelling in the beautiful smile he received in return. Anders’ hair was a mess and Fenris liked that he was the reason for it; his lips were kiss-swollen, also thanks to the elf. The flush that had taken hold of the mage’s body stood in stark contrast to the otherwise pale skin. He’d appear a little sunburned, were it not for the soft panting and the by now impressive erection he was sporting.
Anders took Fenris’ hand. For the first time in many years, Fenris did not balk at magic being used in such close proximity to him; instead, he looked at their joined hands curiously, the feel of slick spreading between their linked fingers.
“I swear this spell was not originally created for this purpose,” Anders said around a chuckle. Fenris figured there was a story behind this, but it would have to wait until later. Too focused on Anders, still guiding his hand, pulling the elf closer against his body, the heat of his skin almost unbearable for the elf. Inexperienced, shy fingers searched, touched and the mage pulled one leg up and carefully draped it over the elf’s side to give Fenris better access.
Two of his fingers slipped inside the blond’s body easily. He was still open enough from their coupling during the early morning hours. Anders exhaled shakily against the elf’s shoulder when Fenris thrust them in gently, withdrew and repeated that motion, again and again. Slow, so he could memorize the tight heat, the still present slickness, the way the mage’s passage rippled around him in pleasure.
The soft, breathy noises Anders made that let Fenris know he was doing alright.
“This is better,” Fenris mumbled, his fingers gaining confidence as they thrust in and out steadily of the other man’s body.
“Better?” Anders gasped out.
“When we were last like this, I was…I was not able to comprehend what was happening. All I felt were sensations without understanding them, just knowing I need more.”
“Ah,” the mage sighed. “The last time, you were acting purely on instinct.”
“And you let me,” Fenris pointed out.
“I saw no reason to stop you.”
The elf huffed out a laugh and pushed his fingers deeper, himself seeing no reason to hurry along with the preparation. Anders’ lips found the hollow of his throat for a kiss. Fenris’ free hand reached for the blond’s hair, giving it a gentle tug that, sure enough, made Anders gasp and roll his hips against him.
“Are you certain?” Fenris asked, suddenly reminded of Anders’ initial reactions to his knot, of the fear that had gripped his heart tightly in its icy cold chest of having gone too far, of having terrified the man enough that, as soon as he opened his eyes, the mage would run from him.
Anders chuckled against his heated skin and lifted his head. Their gazes locked and Fenris couldn’t help but smile at the amused glint in the mage’s honey-colored eyes. “Look at me, elf, and ask me again.”
Fenris huffed, lips twitching into a smirk. “Then we should discuss my…knot.”
“And here I thought that’s what we are currently doing,” the blond quipped.
“Anders,” Fenris groaned, rolling his eyes. “You know what I meant. I don’t want this to become an uncomfortable experience for you again.”
“It won’t, because this time, we will do it right.” Anders inched closer, bringing his lips to Fenris’ for a chaste kiss. “Good memories to keep and treasure,” he murmured. “Maybe teach you a trick or two to try on a future lover?”
Fenris frowned and buried his face into Anders’ hair. Clever hands were caressing over his body, once again soothing away tension and insecurities over how to proceed. The mage’s words were more distracting than his hands. Fenris had not thought about what was going to happen after this, after today.
Comfortable in this surreal world his mansion had turned into, in which nothing but them and pleasure had existed until this morning.
“You’re doing it again,” Anders chided gently and Fenris focused on the here and now, on his fingers still buried inside the mage’s willing body, the soft hands on his chest and impossibly tender lips caressing along his jaw. “Do me a favor?”
Fenris’ crooked his fingers inside the mage and was rewarded with a low moan, most definitely a sound of pleasure. The mage’s leg still lazily thrown across his hip trembled. “What kind of favor?” Fenris murmured.
“Just trust me?”
One of Anders’ hands gently wrapped around his wrist, pulling Fenris’ fingers out. Fenris noticed with embarrassment that his hand was trembling in the mage’s grasp. Anders brought that very same, slick hand to his lips, pressed a gentle kiss to the palm and smiled encouragingly. “Would you prefer the position we were in last time or would you like to try something new?” he asked softly.
“Something…new?” Fenris’ brows furrowed.
“What I have in mind might be more comfortable when you knot me. We won’t know for sure until we tried.”
Anders certainly had a way of not making him feel stupid with his questions. “I wish for you to be comfortable, since I cannot promise I manage to control myself or my knot once inside you and pull out in time,” he murmured.
The blond sighed at that and slowly sat up, one hand motioning for Fenris to roll on his back again. The elf complied easily, excitement and renewed nervousness causing his heart to beat madly in his chest.
“Silly elf,” the mage whispered as he moved to lean over him. “No one said anything about you having to pull out before your knot swells.”
Anders’ magic made his skin tingle, as did the mage’s touch when one of his hands gingerly wrapped around Fenris’ throbbing erection. The blond was a warm weight on his thighs as Anders stroked, the elf’s hips jerking helplessly under his ministrations. Fenris’ hands clawed at the sheets, toes curling in pleasure. The soft panting that filled the room, Fenris realized, was his own and he grabbed Anders’ wrist to stop the mage from stroking him further. The sensations were overwhelming and Fenris feared he would lose himself in them again, as he had the first time.
“Too much,” Fenris murmured and Anders nodded, his hand gripping the base of the of the elf’s cock to steady it. He moved slowly, almost as if he was afraid to spook Fenris, who was watching the mage intently. Even though he knew it was happening, the elf still inhaled sharply when the swollen head of his cock slipped past the tight ring of muscle and inside Anders’ body. Above him, Anders hissed softly as he lowered himself onto the elf and Fenris grabbed Anders’ hand, fingers linking.
“Mage?” he asked, worriedly.
“Still sensitive,” Anders gasped out, a silly grin on his face as his hips performed a first, slow roll. Fenris groaned and thrust up a little. Anders hummed in response, an encouraging sound that made Fenris do it again.
It only took a few thrusts for them to find a rhythm. Fenris’ hands came to rest on the mage’s hips, feeling muscles work as Anders moved against him, their pace slow and unhurried. He felt the mage tremble, both from the effort and arousal, watched himself disappear inside the tight heat over and over again.
It felt incredible.
“Alright?” Anders asked and Fenris’ hands squeezed the other man’s hips in confirmation. He was rewarded with big, gentle hands caressing over his chest, the touches so featherlight that occasionally, Fenris thought he was only imagining them. Clever fingertips found his nipples, teasing them enough that it sent shockwaves of his pleasure straight to his groin, but not too much so the sensation wouldn’t overwhelm him. Anders shifted on top of him, a barely noticeable movement but the effect of it was amazing when Fenris found himself buried even deeper inside the mage than before.
“Maker, fuck me,” Anders breathed out, the roll of his hips gaining pace.
“Deity or not, he better not even think of it or he will familiarize with my fist inside his chest,” Fenris growled and the mage laughed breathlessly on top of him, the movements of his hips faltering in result.
“I’m not worth fighting a deity over, Fenris,” Anders let him know with a smile. “But I appreciate the sentiment.”
With another low growl, Fenris gripped the mage by the back of his neck and pulled him down. Anders grunted in surprise, both arms bracing against the mattress to prevent their faces from crashing together, his body going still on top of Fenris. Honey-colored eyes, now dark with arousal, their color resembling dark, liquid gold, fixed their gaze on the elf, who lifted one hand to brush away strands of gold from the mage’s forehead, his thumb smoothing away the small frown. “I have learned one very important lesson, since coming to Kirkwall,” Fenris murmured. “You are not the judge of your worth to others.”
“Maybe so,” Anders agreed quietly. “But battling a deity is still taking things a little too far, elf.” He smiled and ran his thumb across Fenris’ kiss-swollen lips.
“And yet it is still not your decision,” Fenris pointed out and Anders’ smile widened and lowered his head.
“Shut up, elf,” he chided, letting his lips brush against the elf’s and Fenris scowled, “just feel.”
Anders was moving again, his hips lifting ever so slowly, letting them both feel every inch of Fenris’ cock inside him. The scowl on Fenris’ face melted into pure bliss as he writhed beneath the other man, who lowered himself back down in the same manner. Fenris saw Anders’ arms, still braced against the mattress, tremble and felt the mage’s equally shaky exhale against his lips. Honey-colored eyes slipped closed and the elf felt the mage’s cock, which was resting heavily against his belly, pulse. Slickness gathered just beneath his navel. Whatever had just happened, it must have felt very good to Anders.
Fenris let his hands hesitantly run down the mage’s side until they came to rest on the other man’s hips, feeling him move on top of him. After a few moments, Fenris’ grip tightened and he thrust up. Anders gasped and looked at Fenris, a smirk on his face.
Planting the soles of his feet firmly on the mattress, gaining better leverage that way, Fenris began to thrust up whenever Anders lowered his body. The first attempts at finding a good rhythm were stuttering at best but then Fenris got the idea, concentrating on the mage’s movements to time his own. He felt he had finally managed when Anders shivered on top of him, long fingers clawing at the pillow to either side of the elf’s head.
“Quick learner,” Anders murmured and from that moment on, words were banned from the bedroom, replaced by the gentle slap of skin against skin as they both slowly picked up pace, Fenris’ labored breathing and Anders’ soft gasps and quiet moans. Sheets rustled as they both shifted in an attempt to get closer, deeper. The mage changed the angle of his body and when Fenris thrust into him next, Anders’ cock jumped and leaked precum against the elf’s belly. The moan that left Anders’ lips was decidedly not quiet anymore and Fenris felt pride well up inside him when the mage’s face contorted with pleasure. Had Anders looked the same, the first time? He had seen pleasure on the mage’s face before but this was different, more primal and utterly captivating. Anders’ body began to meet his with more force and Fenris grunted his approval as they rocked together, pace quickening steadily. His hands roamed across the mage’s chest, feeling the rapidly beating heart beneath his fingertips, the fine sheen of sweat covering the mage’s skin, the coarse line of hair leading from Anders’ chest down to his navel. He smelled musk and ozone, both as intoxicating as the scent that had drawn him to the mage in the first place.
Anders was trembling beneath his hands and Fenris’ jaw slackened when he felt the mage tighten around him gradually, the tightness of Anders’ balls against his pelvis. The tell tale signs of his knot about to swell and Fenris wanted to rut against the mage. Instead, he pulled Anders down until their chests were pressed together. Strong hands gripped the mage’s buttocks and forced him to slow down. Anders panted against his lips, a needy sound escaping his lips. Fenris kissed him, felt him melt against his body and his hips still their movement.
This kiss was different. It was deep and carried an intensity their previous kisses did not have. Anders licked into his mouth, caressed over his tongue as long fingers buried themselves into snow-white hair, fingertips gently caressing over his scalp. Fenris’ own hands began to wander, down the mage’s back, tracing scars and the ridges of the mage’s spine. A little too palpable to be healthy, Fenris thought as he nipped on Anders’ bottom lip before pulling away, allowing them both a moment to catch their breath, foreheads pressed together.
Was this was Hawke experienced, with Merrill? Or Aveline with Donnic? Not the act itself, naturally, but this feeling…
Fenris couldn’t describe it. A bond had formed since the moment he’d sunk his teeth into Anders’ skin and he had since been possessively guarding the mage. An instinct as old as time that certainly did not define the man Fenris was, because he knew what possessiveness caused in some and for others. This possessiveness had weakened as soon as what they had taken to call ‘heat’ had been over but what he felt now was different. Maybe it was because he was fully aware this time, because he had a choice that was not based on primal needs and maybe, just maybe, Anders and he had managed to get closer during the past few days, on a level Fenris would have never expected. They had not spoken of the effects this would have on their friendship and yet the thought of Anders being gone by morning, maybe even during the night, was partly ridiculous, partly frightening.
A kiss on his forehead stopped the train of thoughts and Fenris looked up. He was not able to read the look in Anders’ eyes, only seconds before the mage closed them and took his mouth for another kiss. Their bodies started rocking together, slow and unhurried like their kiss. The faster pace before had been good, amazing even but this…Fenris found this was enough as he pushed one hand between their aligned bodies, searching until fingertips came into contact with firm, hot flesh. Anders arched his back, giving Fenris more room as his hand wrapped around the mage’s pulsing cock, learning its texture and enjoying its weight in his palm.
Anders groaned into his mouth when Fenris stroked him, in time with the rocking of their bodies, spreading slick from the engorged head, squeezing at the base and firmly stroking back up. Anders broke their kiss to bury his face into the crook of his neck, panting harshly against his sweaty skin.
The mage’s body clamped down on him. It was sudden and surprising, as much as the sad moan that tore free from Anders’ throat. There was heat and wetness on his belly, dripping down his fingers and Fenris kept stroking as Anders’ tight heat squeezed him into his own orgasm. This time, his world didn’t go white; Fenris was aware of the way his balls tightened painfully, only seconds before he felt his knot swell inside Anders, tieing them once again. A strong pulse in his balls that went directly to his cock and he was releasing inside the mage. They were both trembling and Fenris wrapped his arms around Anders, suddenly taken by the need to hold him close, like the mage would otherwise disappear if he didn’t hold on.
Neither man spoke. Anders relaxed on top of him, one of his hands once again buried in Fenris’ hair, the other resting on his right shoulder. Their panting slowed, just like their erratic heartbeats, their skin cooling. Fenris could not reach for the blanket to cover them, so he kept his arms around the mage in hope it provided a little warmth while they were tied.
Fenris smiled when Anders moved, slow, mindful of the knot inside him, to put his head on the elf’s chest, breathing in and out slowly while his fingers played with Fenris’ hair.
“Does it hurt?” the elf asked quietly.
“No,” Anders murmured. He seemed content, Fenris thought, his eyes still closed, his features relaxed. “But I just realized that I must be crushing you.”
Fenris scoffed. “You may be tall, Anders, but you’re not exactly heavy.”
Anders chuckled softly. “Good to know. How are you?”
The elf hummed and pressed a kiss to the mage’s forehead. “Pleased,” he murmured. “Satisfied. Exhausted. Warm.”
“Talkative?” the blond teased.
“It was…” Again, Fenris was fumbling for words and he cursed himself. He was eloquent and words seldom failed him, unless, it seemed, in intimate situations. “What I meant to say was…”
The elf frowned.
“I told you before, you don’t have to say anything,” Anders reminded.
“Then why ask?”
“So you know I care. But I didn’t expect an actual answer, since I know how difficult it is for you.”
“That’s ridiculous, even for you, mage,” Fenris scoffed. “Are you truly being accomodating or just afraid of my answer, should I find the right words?”
“Both, I suppose,” Anders admitted. “I guess the question I had meant to ask was, if it was what you were looking for. The kind of experience you were hoping to make.”
The words had Fenris taken aback for a long moment, unsure how to interpret and certainly unsure how to answer the mage’s question. It hadn’t been all that long since they had been passionate with each other, in fact the room still stank of sex and Fenris liked it, but now it felt like Anders was distant again.
He thought back to their conversation in the bathroom and sighed softly. “You are not making this solely about me, mage,” he murmured, feeling Anders’ hand tighten in his hair. “I understand why you came here, I understand why you stayed but I believe we have moved past those motives by now.” Fenris gently grasped the mage’s chin and made him tilt his head back, so they could look at each other. The expression on Anders’ face was a mixture of confusion, fear and surprise and Fenris wanted to smooth it away. Replace it something else. “Don’t be cold,” the elf demanded.
“I am not –“ Anders began to protest, but it seemed words failed him, this time around.
“It was beautiful,” Fenris murmured. “It was better than anything I have ever felt, mage, and I am grateful that I had the opportunity to experience it with you.” Finally, Fenris thought, relieved that he had finally been able to say something at least. It seemed Anders had a talent to coax words out of him Fenris would usually never say, not without blushing furiously or expecting scorn from the person it was directed at.
The mage’s face lit up with an honest to the Maker smile that made his honey-colored eyes twinkle. “Good enough that you’d still fight a deity for me?” Anders joked and Fenris pulled him up, humming when their lips met.
“Better,” Fenris replied with a smirk and Anders snorted, pressing his lips more firmly against the elf’s.
“And you call me ridiculous.”
Chapter 13: THIRTEEN (*safe*)
I realize I may have to duck flying objects o.o
It was raining.
No, Anders thought as he listened to the pitter-patter and the drumming on the mansion’s roof, it was pouring. The rainshower was long overdue after too many hot, dry days. Up here in Hightown, the rain even smelled nice. Anders inhaled the scent deeply, a small smile forming on his lips. Flowery, salty and clean. In Darktown, rain usually intensified the terrible smells as it washed the dirt off the streets.
Anders drifted off again and dreamed of the wide plains of Sundermount; the fields of flowers that he visited whenever he was in need of fresh herbs. That he had found this spot was thanks to Hawke, who dragged him along to pretty much any adventure. After years spent in the sewers and regarding the city of Kirkwall with disdain, it was amazing to find beauty, not too far from the city’s gates. Sometimes, Anders would indulge himself and sneak off, spending an entire day or two on that field, bedded in the tall grass and warm sunlight tickling across his skin, while his friends believed him to be busy with the mage underground. It was the only place, apart from his well-guarded clinic, where Anders felt safe.
He sighed contentedly when he felt the warm breeze play with his hair and relaxed against the surprisingly soft and warm ground. Anders wondered if he could just stay out here forever and be done with Kirkwall and its tragedies.
Somewhere, in the back of his mind, Justice seemed content as well, murmuring appreciatively about a song. He was peaceful. Anders hadn’t been aware the spirit enjoyed Sundermount as much as him.
Fingertips ghosted over his forehead, brushing away strands of his hair that tickled his skin. Anders’ nose wrinkled and he opened one eye just a fraction. The semi-dark of Fenris’ bedroom greeted him, the plains of the elf’s chest with lyrium markings glowing faintly. The ‘ground’ turned out to be the elf’s bed, with Anders’ head pillowed on Fenris’ chest, listening to the even breaths and the slow heartbeat just beneath his ear. The enjoyable breeze turned out to be Fenris’ fingers.
Anders had a bit of a problem to decide whether he preferred reality or his dream. Both offered rather…pleasant prospects.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
The blond frowned. Was that…
“There are a few holes in the roof,” Fenris rumbled and Anders flinched in surprise. “Apologies,” the elf added and Anders wasn’t quite sure if he apologized for the condition the roof was in or making him jump.
Anders stretched his legs. His backside was sore and a grin flitted over his features at the pleasurable throb. He sure knew soreness, but it had never been that pleasant. “Should get it fixed,” he murmured sleepily, his arms moving before he was aware of it, wrapping around the elf. Maker, but Fenris was warm…
“What time is it?”
“It appears to be dark outside, so my guess is, it is night, mage,” Fenris muttered.
“Are you saying we slept half the day away?” Anders perked and lifted his head, glancing around curiously.
“That appears to be the case.” The elf’s hand grabbed a fistful of his hair and Anders found himself pulled back down, his cheek smushed against the elf’s firm chest.
“I should go back to my clinic,” Anders mumbled.
“Stop talking, mage,” Fenris replied in kind.
“Maker, you sure a grumpy one when half asleep, aren’t you?”
“Stop. Talking.” Calloused fingers buried deeper into his hair and held on. “Sleep.”
And Anders did stay silent this time, felt Fenris relax before falling asleep again with a small sigh. The hand in his hair lost its grip but remained where it was.
The elf had to be exhausted, Anders figured. The past days had put a great strain on the elf’s body and mind, which was partly Anders’ fault. Fenris was strong and had a lot of stamina, but Anders was still surprised he’d managed to stay on his feet this long. Judging by the state he’d found Fenris in when he’d come here, both times, Anders could barely imagine what Fenris had gone through while he’d been alone.
He made a mental note to speak to Merrill about the effects of mating season on elves, specifically unmated elves. Even if Fenris would now know what to expect – and he had no doubt the elf would make careful preparations for the next year, may it be finding a suitable mate or ask him for suppressants – some basic knowledge couldn’t hurt.
The trivial needs of elves are not our concern, Justice muttered.
“Shut up,” Anders whispered and carefully put one hand on the elf’s chest, feeling the slow rise and fall. Fingertips ghosted over smooth, tanned skin, along silvery swirls of lyrium. He didn’t dare touch them, not while Fenris was asleep and unaware, but he allowed himself to study their texture, once again marvelling at the fact that the elf had survived this. Wondered if he’d ever be this close to the elf again, what morning would bring this time. Anders knew he should have left as soon as the elf’s ‘heat’ was over; as long as Fenris had been in this feral state, it was easier to remember why he was here and why this would be impermanent.
We should leave now, Justice suggested and Anders was surprised at the spirit’s accommodating tone. The elf has moved on to the realms of the Fade and will sleep deeply for a while.
“Think he’ll be alright?” Anders asked.
The elf is peaceful now. You have taken away his distress and fear.
And that was the bottom line of it all, wasn’t it?
Anders carefully freed himself from Fenris’ hold. The elf didn’t stir and the mage smiled. Fenris surely was in for a few more hours of restful, much needed sleep.
He was as quiet as possible as he gathered his clothes and got dressed. The rain had lessened but there was an impressive pool of water in the half of the room Fenris did not use – and Anders now knew why. Occasionally, the one or other board creaked beneath his bare feet as he moved, making him wince and cast a worried glance at the elf’s sleeping form.
At last, Anders grabbed his boots and decided to put them on in the foyer. They would cause too much noise on the ruined floors of the mansion and that would surely wake Fenris, which was what he was trying to prevent. The only item he was unable to find was his hair tie and it would be useless to try and find it in the dark.
Sneaking back to the bed, the mage looked at the elf, smiling fondly at the relaxed, innocent expression on Fenris’ face. He had learned so much about the other man during the past few days; had gotten to know the surprisingly gentle, caring side he hadn’t though the elf possessed. He was sure it had taken Fenris by surprise, too. The passionate lover who still had a lot to learn on how to express his needs and desires.
Anders wished he could learn more about Fenris but the more would be too intimate.
You’re lingering, Justice told him and Anders sighed inwardly.
Slowly, he leaned down, gathering his openly falling hair in one hand so it wouldn’t tickle the elf. He brought his lips close to the elf’s ear. “I know you have troubles seeing it yet, but you are kind-hearted, intelligent and ridiculously beautiful man, Fenris,” he whispered. “Being free comes with many obstacles, but they are worth it, I promise. I know freedom is scary at first and there’s so much to learn about it, but I promise you, you won’t regret one minute of it.”
Fenris gave a small grunt and Anders held his breath. When the elf showed no sign of waking, Anders smiled and continued: “Don’t be afraid. Life has so many beautiful things to offer and so much to discover, you have no idea. I’d hate it if you missed out on anything. So, promise me you’ll find your happiness? Stupid elf.”
The ‘stupid elf’ in question huffed, a scowl crossing his features and Anders suppressed a laugh. He wondered what Fenris was dreaming of. Maybe him? The mage was certainly familiar with that scowl.
“You’ll make someone very happy one day, you know?” Anders mused, keeping his voice low. “You thanked me earlier for…well…being here for you, I guess? Going through this with you. And yet I feel it’s me who should thank you.” Anders paused. He told himself it was just to check if Fenris was indeed still fast asleep, but he knew, deep down, that the true reason was his voice almost breaking at the words. “You…made me feel alive, these past days,” the mage continued. “It’s been a long while since I’ve allowed myself to let anyone get close, for various reasons. The things you’ve said to me, I needed – no. It doesn’t matter.”
It was a chaste kiss he pressed to Fenris’ lips and the elf sighed in response. “Thank you is what I was going to say,” Anders whispered. “Sweet dreams.”
His clinic was empty and tidy.
Anders shrugged off his drenched coat and dropped it on the chair in front of his desk. It didn’t look like Lirene had been treating anyone here during his absence, but she had cleaned up; the fabrics he used as bandages had been washed and rolled up neatly. His small shelf of potions and herbs had been restocked. There was a pile of dry wood next to the small fireside along with a basket from which the smell of freshly baked bread wafted up and made his mouth water.
After checking if the door to the clinic was bolted properly and hopefully keeping unwanted visitors out for the rest of the night, Anders got out of the rest of his clothes and grabbed the basket to snack on its contents as he prepared his way too small bed for the night.
His clothes he threw over one of the cots so they would dry until morning.
As he chewed on a piece of bread, Anders reached under his bed and sighed in relief when his fingers found the sturdy texture of his staff. It was a true pain having to go to Hightown without his staff on his back. Anders was not defenseless without it, but it was a staff designed for his needs and enchanted, enhancing his magic when he used it and it was certainly more comfortable casting a fire spell with the help of his staff than his hands. He hated leaving it behind, but it was that versus being instantly spotted by Templars and locked up.
You had kind words for the elf, Justice acknowledged.
“He deserved them, too. He has become a good friend, Justice.” Anders shook out his poor excuse for a pillow. Just looking at his bed made him miss the comfort of the elf’s.
He has indeed, the spirit agreed and Anders shook himself and continued to prepare the bed.
It was so quiet.
Anders climbed into this bed and wrapped the blanket tightly around his body before curling into a fetal position. The silence in Darktown had never bothered him before, but tonight, he missed the muffled voices and hushed whispers, the sound of heavy boots marching on cobbled streets; the sounds of Hightown market being set up at the crack of dawn and merchants chatting as they set up their wares. The off-key slurred singing of the men having left the nearby pub or returning home from a night out at the Hanged Man. The whispering of the wind as it breezed through Fenris’ mansion.
And he certainly missed the clean air. The mage’s nose wrinkled in disgust when the foul smell of the sewers welcomed him home, buried his face into his pillow, stubbornly closed his eyes and told himself to just go to sleep. His olfactory system wouldn’t care while he slept.
Sleep didn’t come.
Silence in Darktown was usually a good sign. It meant no one was being robbed, abused or dying; it meant no one was sneaking around, looking for something of worth or just someone to give a hard time to, just because they could. Silence meant no Templar patrol was marching through Darktown in search of apostates.
Yet, tonight, this silence rang loudly in Anders’ ears and he clutched his pillow tightly when his old friend anxiety made itself known again, suddenly feeling wide awake. He pictured his favorite field of flowers; Ser Pounce, stealing snacks from the other Wardens; Meredith’s head on a silver plate, imagined what a world would be like in which no mage had to hide anymore. Good thoughts, happy thoughts that usually made him calm. It seemed to work when his eyelids grew heavy.
He didn’t know how long he’d slept, or if he’d actually slept at all, but when Anders returned to the mortal realms, he was shivering and there was an uncomfortable fluttering in his chest that made him feel sick. It was way too warm to be cold, Anders thought, while he searched for the thick wool blanket he only ever used during cold winter nights. His body felt out of control and his head was reeling. Once he had found the blanket, Anders risked a glance into the small mirror he owned and inspected his face. He didn’t look feverish. Tired, yes, although he had looked worse off in the past.
The only thing unusual was the bite mark the elf had left in his skin and that he had forgotten to heal. It was no longer red and angry, but Anders could still see each of the elf’s teeth perfectly. The skin had scarred and shimmered silvern. Curious, the mage touched a finger to it and traced the outlines of the mark for a moment until he felt too cold again to leave any part of his body uncovered and hurried to get back into his bed and under the warm blanket waiting for him there.
Sleep refused to come and Anders was tossing and turning, taking turns between being cold and overheating and the silence around him, the Maker be damned silence, was driving him mad.
“Justice, talk to me,” he quietly pleaded and sat up in his bed.
You are distressed, the spirit observed. Why? There is no threat.
“I can’t stand the silence.” Anders drew his knees to his chest. “I can’t sleep. Fuck, why is it so damn silent around here? Where are those rude, obnoxiously loud, drunk people when you need them?”
You are making no sense, Justice grumbled. This has never bothered you before.
Anders paused at the words. His chest tightened at the flicker of a memory he wished he could ban from his mind forever. “That is…not quite the truth.”
Sunrise found Anders draped over his desk. Three candles, two of them almost burned down completely by now, had kept him company through the final hours of the night. The flames flickered when pale sunlight began to illuminate the dark clinic. It would take until noon until there was actually enough light inside the clinic to work without the help of the fireplace or candles – or magic. Darktown certainly honored its name.
His naked form was still wrapped in both, the thin and the thick blanket. Anders felt neither cold nor warm. Just exhausted, eyes dry and swollen from staring at the top of his desk for hours, willing dark memories away; afraid to fall asleep because he knew what nightmares would await him.
When Anders had joined the Grey Wardens, he’d spent most of his nights sleeping in the dining hall. The voices of his fellow Wardens soothed him as did the fire crackling away. There was always a fire in the dining hall. Oghren and Nathaniel would pig out on food, long after Anders had sated his ridiculously increased appetite and compete in drinking games, so he was never alone. More often than not, they’d be up until sunrise, much to the Warden Commander’s annoyance, ending with Nathaniel sick and Oghren more drunk than he had been at dinner. It was only ever a few hours each night, but it was enough rest for Anders.
If the dining hall was empty after dinner, Anders would instead retreat to the small library just across the foyer. People from all across Ferelden came by day and night to speak to the Warden Commander, so the foyer was busy and there was always noise. He’d curl up in one of the massive armchairs and nap, comforted by the sound of voices, familiar and unfamiliar.
After Justice had been thrown into the mortal world and joined them, for the time being, Anders had also managed to sleep peacefully whenever the spirit trapped in a rotting body kept him company. Even the terrible smell coming from Kristoff’s corpse had made him content.
Because he hadn’t been alone.
Solitary confinement broke the strongest man and mind. While Anders liked to think that he could be off worse, he knew it had left him with scars bigger and deeper than the ones that marked his skin. He’d grown up in a village and later on, he’d always had people around him in the Circle. Finding himself locked up with no social interaction, no one to speak to, nothing but silence, darkness and the sound of his own breathing, had scarred him. He was a chatty guy, or used to be, someone who liked to crack jokes, talk to people and learn more about them. He was someone who needed touch, even if it was nothing more than a pat on the back every odd day. Anders had suffered terribly enough after they had taken Karl away from him –enough that he had managed to escape once again, despite Irving making sure that he was watched around the clock. Karl, the one who always had a tender touch or gentle word for him. But solitary confinement had taken deprivation to a whole new level for him.
Up until he’d gotten caught by the Templars, once again, and taken to Vigil’s Keep, Anders had been alone most of his travels as well, but there had been daylight, moonlight, the sounds of nature or a nearby village that made him feel less lonely. As pathetic as it had been, the real reason Anders had stayed and helped the Warden Commander to regain control over Vigil’s Keep had been the fact that he’d been surrounded by people. People who noticed him, talked to him, even took an interest in his person. Anders had been delirious with joy and would have agreed to anything, as long as he could stay and enjoy it a while longer. It did not take away his fear of darkness or silence, but it had been a start.
When he’d run away from the Wardens, Anders was no longer lonely, because there was Justice and it had been more than enough. The spirit was a constant soothing presence, giving him someone to talk to even though it felt like he was talking to himself. It wasn’t until Anders had met Hawke and the rest of the gang that he realized a Fade spirit sharing his body was not a sufficient replacement for a person he could actually touch or smell.
Or a lover.
Still, Anders had been fine. Darkness hadn’t bothered him in a while anymore and he had actually been able to stand silent nights in Darktown or elsewhere.
But then he had to go and see the elf, because he was the Healer and it was his job, and ended up spending a few nights at Fenris’ mansion, not only sharing beautiful moments that he hadn’t known he’d craved, deep down - but a bed, the pleasure of sleeping in another’s arm and then he’d returned to the clinic.
And realized how lonely he truly felt.
The panic he’d felt rise last night had been of the same kind he’d gone through after about two days in solitary confinement. Since sleep had not been an option, Anders decided he had to make his surroundings comfortable so he wouldn’t lose it. Candles had been important. It was dark in the clinic and Anders needed a source of light, needed it so desperately, that he lit every candle he could find. He also learned he had to buy more candles, which took his mind off the darker thoughts.
He’d even put a kettle over the fire, filled with dirty water. The hissing and bubbling when it boiled provided enough noise to chase away the silence that made his chest feel tight with fear. Justice, who sensed that asking questions about his state of mind and the nature of his fears would only cause Anders’ anxiety to get worse, had retreated to the far back of his mind, letting the mage do what he needed to do: have water bubble, humming tunes, read a book or just stare into flickering flames.
It had helped, eventually, but it had left him exhausted. And Anders still felt lonely. He had been lonely for most of the time between escaping the Circle and meeting Hawke. He had learned to deal with it, even thought it the best option as being an apostate mage brought dangers to others as well. But last night and in the face of sunrise, Anders couldn’t deal. He had even considered sneaking back to Fenris’ mansion, slip back into the elf’s bed and holding himself back from doing exactly that had certainly exhausted him the most.
With a groan, Anders lifted his head, wincing at the tension in his neck. He should wash up, get dressed and eat something, he figured. Return to his regular schedule. It would distract him.
“Pathetic man,” Anders chided himself with a sad smile and Justice’s grumbling sounded suspiciously like agreement.
Chapter 14: FOURTEEN (*safe*)
Warm sunlight tickled over his bare skin, welcoming him back to the mortal realms. There were birds singing outside, welcoming another summer day. Voices and noise filled his ears.
Fenris wrinkled his nose and buried his face deeper into his pillow, not ready yet to wake up. He was warm, sated and more comfortable than he ever remembered being. His bed smelled wonderful, the various scents lulling him back to sleep and he let them, a smile growing on his lips. One hand slowly wandered to the other half of the bed, seeking contact and warm skin. He longed to run his palm over Anders’ thigh, pull the other man close and bury his face into blond hair instead of his pillow. Inhale his scent and lose himself in it.
A warm hand touched his shoulder and shook him gently. Fenris let out a low, displeased growl, brows furrowed as his hand groped around for the mage but coming up empty.
That – was not the mage.
Suddenly wide awake, Fenris bolted up. His forehead crashed into something hard and the impact was requited with a pained shout and a muffled “Andraste’s tits!” With a scowl, Fenris rubbed a hand over his forehead and narrowed his eyes at the intruder, lyrium markings flaring to life.
“Hawke?” Fenris hissed when he finally recognized the other man, who clutched his nose and offered a pitiful expression.
“Good morning to you as well,” Hawke groaned. “Maker, Fenris, but that hurt.”
Fenris gathered the sheets around himself, covering his body up to his chin, suddenly aware of how very naked he was. How had he not heard Hawke enter the mansion? Did that man find a new way to sneak in or had Fenris truly slept that deeply?
“You have returned then,” he stated, while Hawke carefully examined his nose. “Next time, I would appreciate it if you’d inform me of your plans to leave Kirkwall for a few days.”
“I thought Varric told you,” Hawke twanged pitifully.
“Varric has left the city as well, approximately around the same time as Merrill and you did, so no, he did not.”
“You sound concerned.” Hawke managed a pained half-smile, eyes twinkling in amusement. “You going soft, Fenris?”
Fenris snorted and shook his head. “Welcome home, Hawke,” he said fondly as his gaze travelled to the other side of the bed. His brows furrowed when he found it empty. He touched his palm to the sheets and found them cold, which meant Anders must have left a while ago already.
“Aveline told me you fell ill while I was gone?”
Fenris’ cheeks flushed. “Ah – yes. A fever. I feel better now,” he muttered.
“She said she sent Anders to you because she was worried.” Hawke smiled. “I see he was able to help?”
Fenris avoided looking Hawke in the eyes. That man was a silly idiot sometimes, but he had a gift when it came to reading people.
“He was,” the elf confirmed.
“I’m not going to find out you’re hiding his corpse in your basement, right?”
“Don’t be ridiculous!” Fenris huffed and fidgeted beneath his pile of blankets. “Have you seen the mage when you came here, by any chance?”
“Anders? No.” Hawke shrugged. “As far as I know, he’s barely left his clinic the past three days due to an outbreak of the very same fever you must have caught, except to check on you.”
Fenris’ face fell. “There was an outbreak?” he asked.
“According to Lirene, who allegedly has been up day and night to assist Anders, yes. I met her earlier in the market, while speaking to Aveline. That’s how I found out you caught it, too.”
Aveline came here to check on you and found you tossing and turning. She worried you might be terribly sick and made me promise to come here.
Fenris’ gaze travelled across the bedroom, slowly, paying attention to every little thing but found no trace of the mage having been here until last night. His clothes were gone; his room looked tidy and the fire in the fireplace had long died. The floor and furniture in the part of the room he didn’t use were dry, revealing nothing of last night’s rain shower or the fact that the roof of the mansion was leaky.
His leggings he had hastely pulled off the day before had been folded and put on the chair only a few feet from his bed, like Fenris used to do whenever he got ready for bed. The rest of his clothing, his breastplace and gauntlets, rested on top of the folded leggings. His sword within reach, leaning against the bedside table.
“You’re alright, though?” Hawke asked, concerned. Fenris ignored him, suddenly doubting his memories, doubting that everything he was certain had happened had been nothing but hallucinations caused by a rather bad fever.
Had it all just been a dream?
Fenris rolled over and reached for the pillow next to his own. Burying his face into it, Fenris inhaled deeply, filled his nose with the scents the pillow carried. Soap and sweat were the most dominant ones, masking possible other smells. Stubborn, Fenris inhaled again and finally, he caught it – the faint scent of ozone, honey…and apple pie. The frown on his face melted away, lips twitching into a relieved smile when they intensified. Mate, his mind supplied and Fenris relaxed, worries washed away by the comfort the scents gave him.
“Fenris?” Hawke tried again and with a huff, Fenris sat up, pillow held tightly against his chest. Whatever reason Anders had for not being here when the elf woke up, at least Fenris knew he hadn’t just imagined it.
“I heard you the first time,” Fenris muttered. “I assume you are to visit Anders’ clinic next?”
“Well, next is getting something for breakfast because I’m starving,” Hawke replied with a smile, “but yes, it’s on my list of things to do. I will also have to find out where Varric went when he was supposed to inform you of my absence.”
Fenris’ own stomach growled at the mention of breakfast and Hawke chuckled at the mildly embarrassed expression on the elf’s face.
“I’ll wait outside, so you can get dressed?”
Hawke rolled his eyes with a smirk. “By the way, Fenris…what’s that smell in here?”
“Out,” Fenris groused and thankfully, the other man listened. As soon as the door clicked shut, Fenris let out a long sigh, arms tightening around the pillow.
“So, this is it,” the elf murmured. He wondered what Hawke’s reaction would have been if Anders hadn’t stolen away during the night; what their friend would have said, finding them both in Fenris’ bed, holding each other close. Fenris could only imagine the remarks and jokes Hawke could possibly crack and the embarrassment they’d bring. But now, as he faced morning and everything that had happened over the past few days, now that he’d woken up alone, unexpectedly, Fenris came to the realization that the idea of Hawke finding them together, knowing that something had changed in his friendship with the mage didn’t bother him. He couldn’t even remember why the idea as such had scared him in the first place. There was nothing shameful about having a lover; nothing shameful about discovering more about a man he’d known for years, without ever truly knowing him until recently. And certainly, there was nothing shameful about …
Fenris’ thoughts came to a halt there and he frowned at the pillow still clutched to his chest. He had worried about so many things since he’d found himself imprinted on Anders, but he had never once considered the disillusioning ‘morning after’. Truth to be told, Fenris hadn’t thought much about what would happen after, except for wondering if he and Anders would be able to continue their friendship. Anders had said they needed to ‘sober up’ when it became apparent that Fenris’ first experience with the mating season was coming to an end.
They hadn’t made any promises or voiced a romantic interest in one another. They had not spoken about the consequences of the past days and Fenris did not feel like they needed to. As long as Anders had been with him, things had felt alright.
And now the elf sat in his bed, wrapped up in the covers, clutching the mage’s pillow to his chest and felt almost the same as he had before Anders had come see him – abandoned. Just with less intensity, now that he had full control of his senses again.
He was disappointed. Angry, even, at the mage for just leaving like this. Fenris wondered if he had any right to feel this way.
With a low growl, he threw the pillow across the room and fought his way out of the covers so he could get dressed. Once the covers were thrown back, Fenris paused at the sight of a thin leather band that had gotten lost in the messy bed and carefully picked it up. The mage’s hair tie.
Fenris lifted it to his nose. It smelled of the mage’s honey-scented shampoo and Anders, and the elf felt his anger and disappointed vanish for the moment. To Fenris, although he realized that Anders had not deliberately left his hair tie behind, it felt like he’d been given a token – a reminder of something he had believed he couldn’t have. It was not a suitable replacement for the scent of the mage’s hair and he still longed to bury his nose in it once again, but right now, it had to be enough.
It would have to be enough until Fenris found the courage and the words to say to the mage that would explain the way he felt; though it meant Fenris had to understand the way he felt himself, first.
“You look awful.”
Tired, Anders lifted his gaze to find Lirene looking at him imploringly – every bit like the mother hen she sometimes turned into: arms crossed, eyebrows lifted expectantly, waiting for Anders to either lie his way out or spill his guts.
Anders normally found Lirene’s motherly side endearing but today, all it did was annoy him greatly. Everything annoyed him today. He was snappy with the patients, snappy with the Fereldans Lirene had sent to his clinic to help him out; even snappy with Justice, who had voiced that Anders wasn’t quite himself.
“Heard that one today already,” Anders grunted out and returned his attention to his manifesto.
“Did you sleep at all last night?”
“Was there any trouble? Were the Templars sniffing around again?”
“Did you eat?”
Lirene sighed. “I can continue this game for a while, you know? Why don’t you just tell me?”
“Why don’t you just go to the Void and leave me alone?” Anders snapped at her. Lirene’s eyebrows rose a fraction more.
Your behavior toward her is unjust, Justice admonished. She is a friend and means well.
“What, you suddenly an expert on human relationships? Shut up already,” Anders hissed. One hand grabbed the latest page of the manifesto, crumbled it and threw it across the mostly empty clinic.
That was not necessary .
“Shut up! Maker’s breath.”
“I didn’t say anything,” Lirene remarked dryly.
“I wasn’t talking to you!”
Lirene whistled and reached for the rest of the manuscript before it could fall victim to the inexplainable anger inside Anders. Gathering the stack of papers, she put them out of his reach. Anders tried his best not to scowl but he knew he was failing.
“Did the elf give you a hard time again, after you were done helping him?” Lirene continued to implore, her voice gentle and patient.
Anders’ shoulders slumped at the mention of Fenris and the headache he’d suffered since getting up this morning intensified. “Fenris didn’t do anything,” he muttered and his chest tightened, just saying the elf’s name aloud.
“Then what is it? You’re being an asshole and I’m pretty sure that side of you didn’t exist before today.”
The blond huffed out a laugh. “You’d be surprised.” He sighed. “I couldn’t sleep, at first. Then I didn’t want to. I did what I could to prevent a panic attack which pretty much took all night. My head is killing me, my heart is racing and I’m experiencing nausea.”
Lirene chuckled. “The Healer is sick? Is that it?”
“I’m not sick,” Anders argued gently. “Don’t you think I checked? There’s nothing. I don’t know what’s wrong. I suspect I’m feeling the aftermath of my anxiety attack last night.”
Lirene’s face was sympathetic when Anders dared to look at her again. “What happened?”
“Too quiet. Too dark.” Too lonely. Anders shook his head. “I don’t know. It started as soon as I got here and it just…won’t go away.”
“Even now? It’s almost noon, it’s bright outside and there are people in your clinic.” Lirene gestured around. “Some of them need your attention, too, in case you’ve forgotten,” she added teasingly.
Lirene frowned at him and Anders felt all the more miserable. He wished he could figure out what was wrong with him. All he had to go by was Justice mentioning that something was ‘not right’ while Anders had unlocked the clinic earlier. The Fade spirit had not said more than this and it seemed to confuse Justice as much as it did Anders.
“I don’t want to be here,” Anders murmured and Lirene’s eyes widened in surprise. For as long as they had known each other, Anders had only ever been away from the clinic if he absolutely had to – although occasionally, he didn’t have to be but Hawke had begged like a five-year-old until he agreed to come along – since the clinic was a sanctuary to him as much as it was to the people who came here.
“Something is truly wrong with you,” Lirene stated with a frown and Justice, in the far back of his mind where the Fade spirit deemed itself safe from Anders’ inexplainable inner rage and restlessness, hummed in agreement.
It is old and powerful, Justice murmured while Lirene walked off to see to the people waiting for the Healer to have a look at them.
“What do you mean?” Anders replied quietly.
The Fade spirit didn’t answer.
Chapter 15: FIFTEEN (*safe*)
A brief spark of healing magic from his fingertips touching against the silvery mark on his shoulder – one last try, Anders told himself. The mark once again retaliated with something powerful that shook him to the core and Anders winced at the sharp pain before admitting defeat.
He gazed at his own reflection in the mirror, hair slightly tousled, his features tired and his bared shoulder with the mark shimmering as if it was mocking him. His stomach clenched and Anders groaned at the discomfort.
“What in the name of the Maker is this?” Anders murmured, fingertips now carefully rubbing the marked skin. This time, there was no counter reaction as there had been when he’d tried to heal the bite mark and it…refused.
One thing that had changed between a few days ago and now was that mark on his shoulder. The one Fenris had kept him from healing right away, as they lay on the bed, limbs entangled, taken by arousal. The mark that Anders hadn’t healed afterwards either, when he’d had the chance, because he wanted to keep it. A memory that would slowly fade over time, just like Fenris’ need for Anders’ closeness. Something bittersweet to remember during the lonely nights of readjusting and figuring out how to go on.
Apparently, there were things Anders had not considered, mostly because he hadn’t been aware there was something to consider and now he felt terrible and couldn’t get rid of the alleged source of it.
Some memories were better erased. With a sigh, Anders pulled his shirt back up and decided to give it another try later. Once he’d read through a couple books in hope he’d find something helpful.
Someone called his name and it took Anders a moment to recognize the voice. Once he did, he got up from his chair so fast his stomach protested; he ignored it, in favor of rushing into the clinic and grabbing a very surprised red-head, dragging the elf into his private rooms.
“Now, now,” Jethann gasped out as Anders pushed him into his tiny bedroom, “not that I don’t feel honored, or haven’t offered more times than I can count, but today is my free day, Healer.”
“Not what you think,” Anders muttered and pulled the curtain closed behind them, stubbornly ignoring Lirene’s critical look.
Jethann brushed over his shirt and vest and cleared his throat. “Anyway, Madam asked me to…”
Anders unlaced his shirt and bared his shoulder once again. Jethann paused to gape for a second. “Errrr…didn’t you just say…?”
“Jethann,” Anders growled warningly and the elf frowned at him. “Get your mind out of the gutter, blighted elf.” He thrust his naked shoulder at the red-head and Jethann blinked. “What is that?”
Jethann leaned in and inspected the silvery mark on the mage’s shoulder. The corners of his mouth twitched up and Anders could already feel a scowl beginning to form on his face at the obvious amusement of the prostitute. He’d spent the last few hours trying not to get angry at everyone and everything – he could hold out a little longer.
The red-head chuckled and he sounded absolutely delighted. Anders’ hands balled into fists and he counted to ten.
“That is kind of sweet?” Jethann offered.
“Sweet?” Honey-colored eyes narrowed at Jethann, who took a cautious step back. “What is it?”
“That’s a bonding mark. A token to show someone has mated with another.”
Whatever snappy remark Anders had on his tongue died and it was his turn to gape at Jethann, who merely shrugged, a smug grin on his face. “In this case, I suppose someone’s mated with you. I’d ask if you at least returned the favor but…you’re not an elf, so…”
“Mated?” Anders sputtered.
Jethann sighed. “Listen…I’m going to tell you the same thing I told Fenris – I know this sort of thing exists. I know it is based on ancient beliefs, our Creators and very old elven magic but I have no deeper knowledge on the whole elf mating business. I don’t think many elves do, nowadays. Maybe a Dalish Clan Keeper, or their First, not someone like me or any of the elves in the alienage. The recent generations couldn’t be more disconnected from their roots if they tried.”
“That is the reason why Fenris was at the Blooming Rose?” Anders asked, dumbfounded, the blighted mark on his shoulder forgotten for the moment.
“He came to me in hope I have answers, since all the other elves had either locked themselves up or left the city for the mating season.” The red-head shrugged with a smile. “Finding himself imprinted on someone had him confused. And when I saw you two at the bar, his body language told me everything I needed to know about whom he had imprinted on. I made the mistake of telling him he was lucky and had chosen well and ended up getting my arm torn to shreds, so –“
Anders scoffed. “It wasn’t that bad, Jethann. I healed the scratches, I’d know.”
“My, someone’s rather snappy today,” Jethann remarked. “What’s wrong?”
“I was hoping you could tell be, because I suspect that bite mark having something to do with it,” Anders admitted.
Jethann hummed thoughtfully and took another look at it. “You did get it from Fenris, right?”
Anders felt his cheeks grow warm. “Yes.”
“How old is it?”
“Is that important?”
Jethann lifted an eyebrow and Anders scowled. “Three days? Four? I kind of…lost track of time while I was…”
“Ooooh,” Jethann purred. “So, you did help him through this? Ah, I would have paid to watch.”
“Seriously?” Anders groused and Jethann flinched.
“Alright, alright…listen, again, I can’t offer details on this but…from what I have heard, the mating process doesn’t stop with receiving the mark, it begins. I once had a customer whose mate had died years prior to her paying for my services and after we were done, she spent a good hour crying into my pillow and lamenting the death of her mate. I was offering as much comfort as I could, because I felt bad for her and she proceeded to tell me all about that process since I had never heard about it, nor do I particularly care for –“
“Alright, alright! She said the mating process is about the bonding of two souls. It begins with receiving the mark and takes a few days to finish. During that time, the mates should not separate for longer than a few minutes because it apparently causes bad side effects. The souls need to remain side by side until the bonding is done. Something like that.” Jethann made a vague gesture with his hand and shrugged. “She said they made the mistake to part for a few hours because her mate went hunting and it caused her to have panic attacks, nausea and a bunch of other things I didn’t quite get because her voice was muffled by the pillow, most of the time. Personally, I also think she was simply being overdramatic.”
Anders’ face fell at those words. Old and powerful, Justice had said and since refused to answer him, which didn’t help the fact that Anders already felt angry at everything in sight and had been fighting the urge to run from the clinic as fast and far as he could.
“But I’m not an elf,” Anders stated and Jethann huffed.
“Which is the true mystery, isn’t it?” Jethann pursed his lips and studied the mage’s features intently.
Anders scowled in response, but that scowl gave way to surprise – and a tiny bit of panic – when Hawke’s voice suddenly boomed through the clinic, calling for his ‘favorite Healer’.
“Hawke’s back,” Anders stated needlessly and Jethann just gave him a ‘You don’t say’ look in response. “Sorry, what did Lusine send you here for again?”
Jethann huffed out a laugh and retrieved a slip of paper from the pockets of his pants. “Just a few potions?”
They emerged from Anders’ bedroom together and the mage paused his steps when not only Hawke’s wide grin greeted him, but Fenris’ eyes met his. He could see the questions the elf had in those moss green depths that Anders had no answers for. Those same moss green eyes darted over to Jethann, Fenris’ features hardening.
“Got a few minutes for your favorite Champion?” Hawke asked and Anders’ lips twitched into a half-smile.
“You’re back,” the mage greeted and found himself pulled into one of Hawke’s infamous bear hugs. “How did you enjoy the trip to the Dalish Camp?” Anders added teasingly and Hawke barked out a laugh.
“Maker, even killing the High Dragon didn’t exhaust me that much,” Hawke said. “Or, you know…fighting the Arishok?”
“You almost died fighting the Arishok,” Anders remarked dryly. “I can hardly see how that compares to – well, you know.”
“I suppose a Grey Warden wouldn’t, legendary stamina and all. But I’m just a mere mortal.”
Anders rolled his eyes and pulled back. “I dare say some of the tales concerning that legendary Warden stamina are greatly exaggerated.”
Hawke shrugged and glanced across Anders’ shoulder at Jethann. “Been a while since I saw you,” he greeted the red-head.
“You’re most welcome to see me at work whenever you wish,” Jethann retorted and Anders snorted.
“Give me a moment to hand Jethann the potions Lusine is asking for and then I’m all yours?”
“Really? All mine?” Hawke said with a wink and the mage rolled his eyes at him once again.
“If I am not mistaken, you are already with someone. He told you no, so why don’t you just give it up already?” Fenris spoke up. It was impossible to miss the edge in his voice and Anders completely forgot what he had meant to do, just staring at the elf in surprise.
It shouldn’t feel this…good. It shouldn’t make him feel warm and tingly on the inside, Anders thought, as he slowly schooled his expressions back to something that he hoped was neutral. Fenris had never said anything about Hawke’s attempts at winning ‘Anders’ heart’, as Varric had jokingly called it, not until recently although everyone had been aware of the man’s interest in the mage. To hear him say something like this to Hawke now…
It shouldn’t feel this good.
“Wow, really, Fenris?” Hawke said sharply and the anger radiating from his tense body had Anders snap out of it finally.
“I was only pointing out fact. It is not my concern that you still refuse to face it,” Fenris replied, much calmer now.
“I don’t see how this is any of your business, to be perfectly honest?” Hawke’s brows furrowed. “You never lost a word about this before. Why now?”
Fenris didn’t answer.
“That was uncalled for, Fenris,” Anders said gently and Fenris averted his gaze.
“I wish to speak with you,” Fenris murmured and his ears twitched nervously, which earned him a curious glance from Hawke.
“In a moment,” Anders promised before finally looking into getting Jethann the potions he needed.
Jethann was smug as he gathered the various vials in his arms. “Feel better?” he asked quietly while Hawke was chatting with Lirene, Fenris still by his side. The elf continued to look at his feet and Anders sighed inwardly.
“Can we not have this conversation?” Anders asked and nodded at the vials. “Make sure to deliver them safely.”
Jethann left the clinic without another word and – thankfully – suggestive glances at Fenris. As Anders watched the red-head leave the clinic, he had to admit he indeed felt better. His stomach was settling and he no longer had the desire to snarl at everything that moved. It made the next step all the more clear to him as he stepped up to Hawke and Fenris once again.
“Seriously, you gotta take him out. Anders needs some fresh air,” Lirene was just telling Hawke and Anders offered his best puppy eyes.
“I realize I have been an ass, Lirene. I am sorry for snapping at you,” Anders apologized.
“Hum,” Lirene said. “Now that’s the Healer I know.”
“You must have been awful,” Hawke said around a laugh.
“No point in denying that I was,” Anders replied with a shrug. “Did you want something specific when you came here? Because I am really not up for the Bone Pit or something equally terrible today.”
Hawke shook his head. “Just wanted to see how you’re doing. I promised Aveline to stop by later, since she wanted to tell me about a few things going on lately that she doesn’t like.”
“When doesn’t Aveline have something that is concerned about?” Anders groused. “And it always ends up with me having to patch you back together. Must you?”
“Only because I love it when you fuss,” Hawke teased with a broad grin. Next to him, Fenris’ hands balled into fists.
“Don’t do anything stupid this time?” Anders pleaded and Hawke just laughed and patted his shoulders. “Before you leave, though…will Merrill be at your estate tonight?”
Hawke’s lips pursed. “I think so? Right now she’s taking a long bath. She wanted to go to her little hut to grab a book or two, but otherwise, yes? Why? Something the matter?”
“I…” Anders paused and thought about how to word it. He could see Fenris tense some more. “I need her expertise on something…elven.”
“You? Need expertise from Merrill?” Hawke glanced at Fenris, then back to Anders. “I was only gone a for a few days, what in the Void happened with you lot? You require expertise from my blood mage lover, Fenris here acts like a jealous lover…”
Honey-colored and moss green eyes simultaneously widened at the implication. Somewhere in the back, Lirene snickered over Hawke’s remark.
“My words were harsh and indeed, as Anders has pointed out, uncalled for,” Fenris muttered. “I apologize.”
Hawke blinked at the elf and pointed his thumb at him. “Is he okay?”
“Leave him be, Hawke,” Anders said with a sigh and reached out to gently grab Fenris by the arm. “The broody elf and I have something to discuss…in private. Patient’s confidentiality.”
“Right,” Hawke stated, eyeing them both.
“I’ll see you later when I pay Merrill a visit?”
Anders pulled on Fenris’ arm and led the elf back to his private quarters. He could feel Hawke’s questioning gaze on them both and was fairly sure Lirene was making a teasing remark the moment they disappeared behind the curtain.
Fenris stumbled into the narrow room and finally dared looking up again. Anders sighed loudly.
“Maker, Fenris, just…what…” He gestured around helplessly.
“Why did you sneak out during the night?” Fenris asked and Anders was taken aback by the elf’s newfound bluntness.
“Was I to stay in your mansion forever?” Anders blurted out, too surprised to think of a more delicate response.
“It would have certainly been more pleasant waking up in your company than being woken up by Hawke.”
Blighted warm, tingly sensation…
“If I had stayed, Hawke would have caught us in your bed,” Anders pointed out. Fenris lips curled into a snarl, shoulders setting. “Which is what we were trying to avoid.”
Fenris cleared his throat, naked feet shuffling against the clinic’s dusty floor. “About that, mage…I –“
“I need your consent to speak with Merrill,” Anders cut him off. Fenris’ brows furrowed.
For the third time that day, Anders unlaced his shirt and presented his shoulder to Fenris. The elf perked and studied the silvery bitemark with interest. Before Fenris had the chance to touch it, Anders pulled away, which earned him a scowl.
“Did you know that this is a bonding mark?” Anders asked. Fenris’ scowl deepened. “Ah, no, of course not. Anyway, this is doing…it makes me not function properly. Jethann couldn’t tell me much about it but it’s doing something to me and…”
“It needs to go. I am hoping Merrill can remove it.”
Fenris’ face was a mask of pure disbelief and Anders really wished it wouldn’t make his chest tighten. “You bit me and had no idea what you were doing,” Anders continued. “Obviously, this isn’t what either of us wanted and you should give that mark to someone you intend on possibly spending the rest of your life with. Justice called whatever it is ‘old and powerful’, so I assume he was talking about ancient elven magic.”
Anders could see a dozen thoughts crossing Fenris’ mind that moment; the elf’s lips parted but no words came out. The mage found himself both, longing to hear what Fenris wanted to say and hoping Fenris wouldn’t say anything at all. Why did intimacy make things so complicated in the aftermath.
Fenris took a deep breath, shoulders slumping. “So, this is it?”
“It?” Anders asked. “Was there supposed to be something more?”
“If this bonding mark is truly working for some reason, despite me not being an elf, and it sure feels like it does, whatever you feel right now is probably connected to it.”
“Don’t tell me what I am feeling, mage,” Fenris gritted out. “I’ve had enough people telling me what to do or feel for most of my life.”
“I’m not telling you what you feel, Fenris. I am merely pointing out that this might be the reason.”
Fenris shook his head. “You’re doing it again,” he pointed out gently. “Have you not listened to a single word I’ve said, Anders?”
“I’m having good reasons to,” Anders gritted out and his voice cracked. It was almost soothing, feeling Justice’s presence again, fluttering beneath his skin, coursing through his veins.
“So tell me your reasons.”
Anders shook his head. “Merrill will want to know how I got this mark. I will have to tell her if she asks, if it’s of any importance in order to have it removed,” he quickly changed subject.
“I am sure she will not tell Hawke if I ask her to. But I am asking your consent. Otherwise I will simply have to lie at her, which I am good at but it might not be helpful.”
Fenris’ entire body was trembling and the barely contained anger was painfully obvious. Anders was reminded of their early years in Kirkwall, when Fenris consisted of nothing but rage, hate for his former master, distrust of mages in general and suspecting corruption everywhere he looked and his desire for freedom.
Eventually, the elf became the man Anders would sometimes have heated discussions with, fueled by anger, sometimes despair. He didn’t know when or how they had moved past this, but eventually, there were invitations to join card game nights at Fenris’ mansion; arrangements to meet at the lift from Darktown to Hightown, so they could visit the market together before meeting up with Hawke at his estate; coincidentally meeting on Sundermount, or sometimes the Wounded Coast, where Anders would be collecting plants and Fenris just exploring the area, ending with them getting into trouble with slavers or bandits. Anders accompanying Fenris home on behest of Hawke because the elf was too drunk and would get into trouble if he went on his own. Fenris, sometimes lingering for a little while longer in the evenings until Anders locked up the clinic, then leave without a word.
And then there was this man Anders had seen the past few days and in his mind, he was back in the elf’s bed, wrapped up in warm sheets and strong arms, his face buried in the crook of Fenris’ neck; back to where the world had been peaceful and pure. Anders was clinging to it desperately when he knew he shouldn’t. He was craving the tender touches, the kisses and the gentle words, the feeling of being of worth to someone. He wanted to believe in it. Needed to believe it was a possibility.
He had almost laughed earlier, watching Fenris put Hawke into his place about his flirting. There had been a time, once, in which Anders had pictured the exact scene, just with their roles reversed. Indulging in silly daydreams about what Hawke’s reaction would have been, if Anders had told him the true reason for not wanting to start a relationship with that bear of a man.
We cannot have the elf follow us on our path, Justice reminded. Neither can we ask his acceptance for the things that need to be done. There would be no greater injustice, after all this elf had to suffer.
“Oh, now you’re talking to me again?” Anders said humorlessly.
“Has your Fade spirit decided to control the things you do and think, again?” Fenris snarled.
“No, he’s concerned for you, you stupid, blighted elf!” the mage snapped. “As much as I am.”
“I do not need your concern,” Fenris growled, “and neither do I need you to treat me like –“
“I just want to protect you, Fenris.” Anders cupped Fenris’ face in his palms and surprisingly, angry as he was, Fenris let him. “Why won’t you get that into your thick head?”
“Protect me from what? You think I’m incapable of defending myself?” Fenris let his lyrium markings flare to life and for a second, Anders felt drunk. Justice hummed contentedly and they were both reaching out, both leaning in. It was terrifying and yet oddly pleasant and reassuring. Anders and Justice agreed on a lot of things that did not deal with emotions.
Fenris was one thing they agreed and disagreed on to varying degrees and when Anders touched his lips to the elf’s, the Fade spirit was silently content while Anders wished he’d never have to stop doing this. He felt Fenris get on his toes and press his mouth more firmly against his, one gauntleted hand clutching at the shoulder bearing the mark. Anders smiled haplessly into the kiss and pulled away.
“Then protect yourself from me,” he murmured and Fenris frowned. “There will be a day where you will regret this and for that, I apologize,” Anders continued. “You don’t want yourself bonded to a mage, Fenris. You said so often enough. The mark has to go and this…”
“…has to stop,” Fenris finished for him with disdain.
“Yes.” Anders buried the tips of his fingers into Fenris’ hair and caressed. “Do I have your consent to tell Merrill the truth?”
With a grunt, Fenris slapped Anders’ hands away and took a step back. “Do what you deem necessary, mage.”
“Maybe you are right.”
It had been a while since Fenris had been unable to look someone in the eye. Anders hated that the elf felt powerless enough in this situation that Fenris could not look at him.
“You’re still a very good friend to me, Fenris.” Fenris grunted in response. “And I’ll be here if you need anything.”
“Fair enough, mage,” the elf muttered and roughly pushed the curtain aside, his steps hurried as he crossed the clinic. The curtain fell back into place, shielding Anders from Lirene’s questioning glance.
His throat tightened with a sob he refused to let out, stubbornly biting down on his bottom lip. Anders angrily wiped a tear off his cheek. “Stop it, Anders,” he told himself.
I am sorry, Justice murmured.
“Instead of pitying me when it’s too late, why don’t you just prevent it from happening right away?”
I cannot stop you from experiencing mortal emotions and needs, Anders.
“No, but you are excellent at making me stop thinking about them by constantly reminding me that we have more important things do to,” Anders said with a hapless smile, “so just do that next time I am stupid enough to fall in love.”
Chapter 16: SIXTEEN (*safe*)
Sometimes, he strolled.
Unaware of his constantly changing surroundings, his feet carried him away from and to places, across cobbled stone, sand or grass. Once, he’d found himself near the docks long after midnight, watching shady figures and listening to deals being made that would certainly be of interest for Aveline. Another time, his stroll had ended near the Dalish Camp on Sundermount; standing in front of Hawke’s estate for hours, just staring at the entrance door, unsure whether or not to knock, only to be found by Hawke returning from an errand; in the alienage, just watching the elves go about their business and secretly watching Merrill interact with them.
Fenris let his feet carry him away once again, only aware enough of where he was going that he avoided bumping into people crossing his path, ignoring the noble insulting him, calling him disrespectful names that Fenris had heard too often in this city; had learned to no longer get upset over and retaliate by intimidating or actually hurting those who looked down on the elven race.
It wasn’t like he’d known anything different in his life, unless it came to his friends who had shown him respect and valued his opinions and thoughts since the first day. Fenris still marvelled at the fact that Hawke had agreed to help him, that night; hadn’t asked questions and taken Fenris by his word.
Grey cobbled pavement turned into tramped-down sandy road, walled by sordid buildings that threatened to collapse at any given moment; corridors that narrowed, the further he walked. The clear air of Hightown gradually polluted by foundry smoke and foul air emitted by the shafts that led to Darktown.
Lowtown conveyed a feeling of oppression. No matter where in Lowtown one stood, all they could see were the high walls surrounding it or Hightown itself, powerful and uncaring, mocking the people less fortunate and telling them where there place was. Fenris was no noble; he was a former slave living in a borrowed mansion that was slowly falling apart. Yet, to think that he could be living down here, in the alienage, with people of ‘his kin’, as Merrill liked to say, and see nothing but crumbling walls and Hightowns mockery where he longed to see the sky, it terrified Fenris.
He paused his steps as soon as the Hanged Man came into view. His fingers were cramping and Fenris flexed them, realizing that he’d balled his fists the entire time. He looked at his hands curiously, nothing the light tremble, a testimony to the anger he’d felt since leaving the mage’s clinic.
Fenris wished he understood why he was angry. It was no longer about Hawke flirting with Anders. Just seeing them banter this way, an irrational fear had taken hold of him first, one he did not understand other than realizing it was similar to his possessivess over the mage during the strongest phase of the heat. That fear had quickly turned into anger. Anger over what, Fenris couldn’t tell. Did he think it was unjust toward Merrill, that her lover was still flirting with the man he once had had feelings for, indicating that he still might? Did he hate that Anders accepted it so easily?
It no longer mattered, Fenris thought and he felt his stomach clench, just recalling his conversation with the mage. Anders’ blank refusal to listen to him, to allow Fenris to find the words to express himself, as he had done before. Where had that man gone that had shown him so much warmth and patience, when he had still been at Fenris’ mansion? The friend he’d found in the mage over the past years?
Fenris’ ears drooped. Anders had said they needed to ‘sober up’. That he didn’t want to get attached. Was this the mage’s attempt at not getting attached? Fenris had understood at the time. Why was he angry now?
His shoulders slouched as he growled under his breath. No, Fenris thought, he wasn’t angry. He was something else, an unfamiliar emotion. So much to learn still about what it meant to be free. To take responsibility for thoughts, words and actions, and sometimes for feelings, too.
Someone tapped him on the shoulder. Fenris flinched and spun around with a snarl, eyes widening in surprise when equally green depths blinked at him.
“On your way to the Hanged Man, lethallin?” Merrill greeted with a smile. She looked exhausted, which Fenris figured was to be expected. He certainly looked no better off, after the past few days. She smelled like flowers. Merrill always smelled like flowers when she wasn’t smelling of her own blood. Her scent similar to the flower fields on Sundermount, where Fenris had found Anders in his search of at least one companion left in Kirkwall.
“Merrill,” he breathed out, his mind suddenly wiped of things to say. Even to his own ears, he sounded – desperate?
The Dalish elf frowned at him. “You don’t look good. Is something wrong?”
Fenris felt his throat tighten with that unfamiliar emotion. It made his chest hurt and his lips curl up for a snarl. That only seemed to make Merrill even more concerned.
Her nose wrinkled and Fenris frowned when she leaned in and sniffed. “What are you doing?” he asked, irritated.
“That scent,” Merrill murmured and pulled back. “Fenris, did you…?”
That only irritated him more and he pulled away from the Dalish elf. “Did I what?”
“Did you go through a heat?” Bright green eyes blinked at him curiously. “I never noticed that scent on you before. I thought you don’t…well, you never seemed particular…uhm…”
“What scent?” Fenris growled.
“Oh! It’s a very succint scent that male elves carry during mating season?” Merrill’s lips pursed.
Fenris felt his ears flush and burn hotly against the sides of his head. “I wouldn’t know,” he forced out.
“It was your first.” Fenris stubbornly crossed his arms and stared at his feet. “And you were all alone. Oh, lethallin, I am so sorry.”
“Stop treating me like a child, witch,” Fenris grumbled and Merrill smiled understandingly. ‘Witch’ had long but stopped being an insult, much like Fenris no longer called Anders ‘mage’ with disdain. He did it more out of habit, but with fondness these days. Merrill had soon stopped feeling insulted, probably sooner than Fenris had stopped to mean it as an insult. The Dalish elf’s appearance and behavior often suggested that she was a naïve, clueless little thing with no greater understanding for the world around her, but Fenris had soon learned that not to be true. Merrill was wise, with a sharp mind and she had looked past Fenris’ avoiding, grumpy behavior early on.
“You must have been terrifed,” Merrill said thoughtfully.
“I am more terrified now than I was when it happened,” Fenris confessed and his own words surprised him.
“Why are you terrified?”
Fenris grabbed Merrill by the shoulders and gently pushed her against the nearest wall, dodging a drunken man stumbling down the street toward the Hanged Man. Both elves watched him and Merrill’s giggle when the drunkard fell flat on his face, right in front of the tavern, made Fenris’ lips twitch into a half-smile. Merrill’s joyful spirit was a pleasure. Fenris could see why Hawke had lost his heart to her.
“You were lucky,” Fenris murmured. “I know many frown upon romantic relationships between humans and elves, but at least you found yourself mated to the right person, didn’t you?”
Merrill blinked owlishly at him. “Pardon?”
“I mean, when it happened…you were lucky to imprint on the right person…instead of finding yourself drawn to someone who will not have you.” Fenris paused, his chest feeling tight once again. “Even though Hawke is not an elf.”
“What are you talking about?” the Dalish elf asked, confused. “Who you give yourself to is purely a matter of your heart and soul.”
Fenris frowned. “But…during elf mating season…”
“Just how much exactly do you know about it?” Merrill asked curiously.
“There was no one around with deeper knowledge since you were all…gone.”
Merrill hummed thoughtfully. She patted Fenris’ arm and offerend an encouraging smile. “Come with me.”
The alienage looked abandoned. Fenris couldn’t remember ever having seen the place to devoid of life. The foul smell coming up from the Darktown mineshafts was worse here, the air suffocating and Fenris wondered how much longer it would take until the alienage fell victim to yet another chokedamp. It was too risky for the people living here and certainly for Merrill. A fact Fenris figured he should mention to Hawke, next time they spoke.
Merrill’s hut was hot and humid inside. Fenris actually choked on the thick air upon entering and remained by the door while Merrill scurried across the place, opening the two small windows the hut possessed and lighting a few candles. Fenris hadn’t been here often and only ever inside the hut once. Merrill lived in what Fenris figured was a controlled chaos. Artifacts and books scattered everywhere, what meager possessions the Dalish elf had otherwise piling on the small table that served as work space for – well, everything. Potions, reading, making notes, to eat meals at. Fenris was actually surprised to find Merrill owned dishes.
As soon as the inside of the hut was somewhat bearable, Fenris followed Merrill’s invitation to take a seat while she brewed them tea. He fondly remembered Hawke mentioning that some of them tasted terribly bitter, but Hawke would still drink them because it made Merrill happy. The only one who seemed to enjoy Merrill’s teas was Anders. The Dalish elf always had tea with her and whenever they were out, making camp somewhere for the night, she would brew herself a cup and one for her fellow mage, who’d compliment the compound or even make up new ones. Fenris had often watched them and wondered if he and Anders actually had something in common they could talk about up until the early morning hours. He’d tried by asking Anders to tell him something about the Grey Warden order, the Joining and Vigil’s Keep, because Fenris was truly interested in the history of the Grey Wardens and their way of life, if one could call it that.
The answers had been sparse and bordering on hostile. Fenris learned that Anders did not like to talk about his time with the Wardens, as much as he disliked talking about the Circle in detail, even when Fenris had argued that, if the mage wanted the elf to understand him better, he would have to offer more than that.
Fenris understood now.
Merrill finally sat down at the table too and wordlessly handed Fenris a cup. He wrapped his hands around it, the heat of the tea soothing the strain in his fingers. Bright green eyes looked at him expectantly and Fenris knew he was scowling like a petulant child.
He started to talk, about endless fields of flowers that soothed away the grudge he’d held against his friends for disappearing without a warning; the man with golden hair kneeling in tall grass who understood Fenris’ need for company and saw past his annoyance. Fenris spoke of heightened senses and Anders’ scent, the agony of the heat in his body that refused to subside and terrified him; of days spent curled up in his bed, fearing to lose his mind, as he did after Danarius had performed the ritual on him that had given him his markings.
He spoke of the man that came to him, the relief he’d felt over not being alone; the burning need inside him to hold on, to claim and keep what brought him so much peace even when his body and senses no longer obeyed him. A side of Anders he hadn’t known existed and that he wanted to explore, reveal every last secret and keep them sacred, like a treasure he hadn’t known he wanted in his possession until he had it. He told Merrill of the hours just spent in each other’s company, filled with words, laughter or comfortable silences.
Fenris felt his chest tighten further with every word he spoke until his voice didn’t sound like his own anymore, breaking when he told Merrill about his conversation with Anders at the clinic; the refusal that felt like resentment and suddenly Fenris understood that what he’d believed was anger was pain.
It hurt and Fenris longed to know why.
Merrill’s eyes were compassionate. The tea forgotten, slowly cooling as both elves merely held on to their cups. Fenris’ gaze rested on the cooling liquid, its brown-ish color reminding of the color of Anders’ eyes.
“He means to come see you at Hawke’s estate tonight,” Fenris eventually murmured. “So you remove the mark.”
Merrill hummed. “And this is why you say I was lucky to have mated with the right person?”
Fenris humphed. His mouth was dry from talking and the tightness in his chest was alarming. Slowly, he lifted the cup to his mouth and took a tentative sip of Merrill’s tea. Bitter indeed, but not as unpleasant as Hawke made it sound all the time. It eliminated the bitter taste on his tongue.
“Jethann is wrong,” Merrill said quietly. “The roots of elf mating season are indeed to be found within the days of Elvhenan, a time way before the fall of Arlathan. When magic was as natural to our folk as the air they breathed.”
Fenris fought a scowl. The last thing he needed was another lesson in elven history, no matter how much he had – secretly – enjoyed Merrill telling them in the past.
“Our history, as you know, was lost in great parts after the fall of Arlathan. The truth is, even the Eldest do no longer know all the secrets. To us, the mating season is a time of celebration. A time of fertility and love. A biological occurance that will have our senses heightened and causes an urge to mate, with a partner of our choosing. It lowers your inhibitions. That, indeed, helps if two mates are only just finding one another.” Merrill’s smile was an amused one and Fenris felt his ears pink at the memory of his ‘lowered inhibitions’. “And yes, ancient elven magic is involved but none of these facts decide who your mate will be. Alas, some also just indulge in the physical side of mating season and part ways once it is over.”
He lost the fight against the scowl. “But…Jethann insinuated…”
“Jethann also truthfully told you it’s only what he’s heard.” Merrill reached across the table and covered Fenris’ hands with her own. It was comforting. Her hands were cool and soft.
“The myth about imprinting on someone…many experience it like that, yes. A romantic idea, I think? But a scent can only be comfortable, something you crave with every fiber of your being, if it belongs to a person you found yourself attracted to in the first place. It’s something that comes with affection and growing feelings. I love Hawke’s scent because I love him. His scent is comforting, it’s home to me.”
“And yet, Anders’ scent was never of any importance to me before.”
Merrill snorted. “Now, that’s not true, Fenris. Remember the first time all of us went to the Bone Pit? We made camp afterwards, because none of us were able to walk another step and Garrett was injured, too. You and Anders were bickering about whose fault it was that the High Dragon got a lucky hit at Garrett.”
Fenris huffed. “I remember.”
“Anders got so annoyed he threw his coat at you just to make you shut up and instead of getting upset, you asked him why he smelled of elfroot so strongly.”
“I also told him he stinks of magic.”
“And yet, you remembered his scent. When the Templars were searching Anders’ clinic a couple weeks later, you found Anders curled up in his hideout, dozing, just because you followed his scent.” Merrill’s thumbs rubbed soothing circles against the back of his hands. “Had you explored this further, you would have found that Anders has always smelled like apple pie and that you greatly enjoy his scent because it reminds you of something you enjoy, like that pie you buy at the market all the time.”
“If you say so,” Fenris grunted out.
“All our scents are familiar to you. We just don’t pay attention to it, you know? But that is what happens when you are close to others, in whichever way.” She pulled her hands away and sighed. “Your heightened senses merely made you become aware of what’s always been present, Fenris. It never made you attracted to him, not in the sense you were made to believe.”
“Have you considered that maybe, you have been attracted to Anders before all this happened?”
“Attracted to the mage?” Fenris scoffed and immediately felt guilty when Merrill offered a chiding look.
“You two have become close,” Merrill pointed out. “You didn’t just get along. You became friends. You looked after each other. You spent time together when you were not helping Hawke.”
“I am not denying that the mage and I have become friends, however impossible it appeared at first,” Fenris admitted.
“And why is the idea of being attracted to him so far-fetched?”
Fenris pondered the question as he took another sip of the tea. It was luke warm at best by now and more bitter than on the first sip.
“I suppose…it is not,” he eventually murmured. “I can’t deny attraction, if all I desire right now is to touch him again.”
The look in Merrill’s eyes was knowing, though Fenris did not know what it was that Merrill saw and Fenris couldn’t. Too distracted by his face heating up as a reaction to his confession concerning the mage. He had thought it, but never said it out loud. Saying things aloud made them reality, just like a magic spell would unfold and run its course. It was dangerous.
“That alone should tell you it has nothing to do with ancient elven magic.”
“And the mark?” Fenris asked.
“Oh. Well…” Merrill’s lips pursed. “The mark does indeed form a spiritual bond between two individuals and it does have to do with ancient elven magic. Jethann was not too far off when he told Anders as much. I have never heard of anyone being negatively affected by it, though.”
“Anders said it was doing something to him. I overheard Lirene say to Hawke that he has been in a foul mood ever since he woke up and apparently had a rough night before.”
Merrill shrugged with a smile. “I dare say whatever went wrong that night is the real reason for his foul mood. The spiritual bond is something beautiful that grows and manifests gradually over time. I am actually surprised that Anders mentioned sensing something at all, since he’s human. It may have to do with him being a mage…or possessed by a Fade spirit.”
Fenris hummed in agreement and peered into his empty mug.
“So! Do you want my expert opinion on this matter?” Merrill suddenly spoke up cheerfully, chin resting on her folded hands as she looked at him expectantly. “If Anders means to ask for my expertise, it would be only fair to offer you the same, since it involves you both.”
Fenris huffed out a laugh and put his empty cup away, giving Merrill his full attention. He felt better, he noticed. Maybe that was what Hawke had meant by easing oneself by speaking to a friend. Fenris decided to try it more often, from now on. “I have to admit I’m curious.”
“Very well.” Merrill’s smile widened. “I believe that what happened between you and Anders was merely natural progression from something that’s been there before. I believe that, at some point, your friendship became mutual attraction, but you are not the easiest men when it comes to emotions. Your lowered inhibitions due to the onset of the heat merely paved the way. Maybe you were both not aware that you desire each other, maybe you were afraid of it and pushed the thought aside.” Merrill shrugged. “I can’t read your minds and Creators know I don’t want to.”
Fenris frowned at her.
“I believe you shared something beautiful and fulfilling in those days and what happened now is the result of miscommunication and lack of knowledge regarding elven biology. He hurt your feelings, Fenris, and you have every right to be upset over it. You just don’t know what to do about it because…”
“…I have never been in such a situation before,” Fenris finished quietly, his attention drifting away from Merrill as he got lost in his own thoughts, searching for answers in his memories.
Had he thought the mage attractive before? Naturally. Fenris was neither blind nor ignorant and he was convinced half of Kirkwall was aware of the attractive blond man living in the sewers. Fenris had never denied Anders was attractive, in his own, quirky, bordering on raggedy looks but he had never considered he might be attracted to him.
No. That wasn’t true.
For the first time in a very long while, Fenris allowed himself to let his guard down completely, to stop ignoring the things on his mind. He absent-mindedly registered Merrill pouring hot tea into his cup, and immediately reached for it as soon as it was full.
He thought back to the day where Hawke had told him he may have developed feelings for Anders and was going to gather his courage and tell him so. Fenris had offered encouraging words, because friends did such a thing. On the inside, he had seethed and back then, he hadn’t known why. Had felt guilt over the relief when Hawke had informed him of Anders’ declination, while offering them both comfort as much as he was able to. The relief as confusing as the intial irritation.
He thought back to every single smile Anders had offered him and the way each smile had warmed Fenris’ heart. It was a certain smile that Anders only ever seemed to reserve for him, a smile no one else received. Watching Hawke still flirt with Anders on occasion would leave a sour taste in his mouth, as it had a mere hour or two ago – Fenris wasn’t sure how much time had passed since he’d left the clinic in Darktown.
Jealousy. That was the word, the emotion behind it. Fenris had heard of jealousy, seen jealous people say or do sometimes terrible things. Jealousy wasn’t something Fenris was familiar with; someone who never had anything or anyone to call their own, who had spend their lives being an object rather than a person with a free will didn’t know jealousy. But Fenris had been a free man and he had learned to have opinions, to voice them and have them accepted; he had learned that he could treat himself to things he needed and things he indulged in and that it was alright to spend coin on these things. Fenris actually enjoyed working for coin, too. But he had also learned to appreciate things a little too much and begun to jealously guard things that were most important to him. First, his friendship to Hawke, during his first years in Kirkwall, always afraid someone could come between them. Fenris had needed that man. Later, that jealousy and fear of possible abandonment was expanded by all his friends, as soon as he learned he needed all of them. Imagining a life without them proved difficult nowadays.
He had jealously guarded Anders’ special smiles, the times they would meet up, just the two of them, to talk and share a meal; the late nights during which he had accompanied Anders home or at least until they reached the lift to Darktown.
He’d held Anders’ body in his arms, warm and soft, pale skin covered in countless adorable freckles and faded scars, and known he didn’t want anyone else to see the mage this way. A memory jealously guarded as much as other, delicate details he had not told Merrill about. They were his and not for sharing.
Fenris sipped on his tea, letting the past days’ events replay on his mind.
Anders was his. Fenris had at least thought as much, hadn’t he?
And that kiss in Anders’ clinic earlier…
Fenris snarled and put the cup down, rising from the chair. “I suppose you planned to return to Hightown once you retrieved what you need?” he asked. “I will accompany you.”
“Yes,” Merrill confirmed with a nod and a smile. “Is that determination on your face, Fenris?”
“I do have a lot to think about,” Fenris agreed. “Thank you for…listening to me.”
“Anytime, lethallin. Thank you for trusting me with this.” That woman truly wore her heart on her sleeve, Fenris thought and it was impossible not to return the warm smile.
They tidied the little hut and Fenris grabbed one of Merrill’s bags, filled with three of her seemingly countless books. He wondered if she had truly read every single one.
“What do you want me to tell Anders, should he really come to see me tonight?” Merrill asked while she locked the poor excuse of a door. Fenris squinted at the sun high above their heads and Hightown glittering like a massive magical bird perching on Lowtown. The sun was losing strength, which meant summer’s end was approaching.
“Whatever you wish,” Fenris said.
“And the bonding mark?” Merrill was smirking. It actually made her look a little devious – a new side of Merrill he hadn’t known until now.
“If Anders wishes to have it removed, remove it.” Fenris took a deep breath. “I cannot force him to keep a scar on his body he doesn’t want. The mage has enough scars already that he has never asked for.” He paused when Merrill frowned, realizing he had given away one of the secrets he had so jealously guarded. Anders’ scars. Fenris was the only one who had seen them so far, was the only one who knew about them. “To be fair, I probably wouldn’t have given him that mark, had I known what my bite would cause,” Fenris added more quietly and a little embarrassed. “It is something that should be given with…confidence. And willingly received by A—the other.”
With a giggle, Merrill linked arms with him. “Are you aware you are making puppy eyes right now, Fenris? That’s what they are called, right? Hawke always calls them puppy eyes.”
“There are no puppy eyes,” Fenris retorted gruffly, letting Merrill pull him along.
“You’re in love,” the Dalish elf sing-sang and Fenris felt a comfortable flutter in his belly.
Chapter 17: SEVENTEEN (*safe*)
Anders never showed up to speak to Merrill.
Receiving the news gave Fenris hope that maybe, Anders had changed his mind or at least decided to think about it again. And yet, Hawke’s worried expression was concerning enough that he, Hawke and Merrill got on their way to Darktown. Fenris was carrying a small basket, about which Hawke teased him gently. They had found Fenris in Hightown market. The scent wafting from the basket had Fenris growl appreciatively in remembrance, but it soon stopped easing his mind.
Even from the distance, they could see something was wrong. The door to Anders’ clinic stood wide open, but the lantern wasn’t lit. Hawke’s face darkened at the sight of Athenril and a handful of her man, who had gathered in front of the clinic along with Darktown residents Fenris could remember seeing before.
“Not good,” Hawke muttered under his breath and his sped up his steps.
Athenril’s expression was calm when they reached her, while Hawke’s face slowly morphed into a mask of fury.
“What is going on here?” he demanded to know. Fenris didn’t wait to hear the smuggler’s response, just roughly pushed his way through the small crowd and stumbled into the clinic.
It was utter chaos. Not the kind of chaos Fenris expected from a raid, though. There were empty vials and dirty cloths everywhere, piles of vomit and blood stains. A body, motionless, on one of the cots. Fenris slowly approached the cot and glanced at the man. He was dead, eyes glazed over; dried foam on his lips and chin. The foul smell in the clinic was familiar but did not emit from the corpse. Fenris snarled and continued his search, pushed aside the curtain to Anders’ private room. The bed had been used. Fenris stepped closer and touched a hand to the cool, messed up sheets. Inhaled the mage’s familiar, warm scent and his gut clenched with worry.
“Another chokedamp,” he heard Hawke’s voice say. “Apparently one of the mineshafts literally exploded during the night. Whoever was still able to walk came here in hope of help.”
“Creators!” Merrill gasped as she stepped into the clinic as well.
“Many died last night,” Athenril’s stoically calm voice was heard. “People have been taking their dead back to Lowtown.”
“And what about him?” Fenris asked, nodding his head at the dead man on the cot.
“He had no one.” Athenril gave him a pitiful look.
“And why are you here?” Hawke addressed her. “Hoping to find something of worth while the Healer is not in his clinic?”
Athenril scoffed. “I am no fool, Hawke. I know your friend hands out everything he owns. Searching this place would be a waste of my time and I don’t dare touch his books.” Her features softened. “Two of my men were killed last night, too. I thought it my duty to keep an eye on the clinic while the Healer is gone, to make sure no one raids it.”
“Where is he?” Fenris snarled at the smuggler.
“No one knows,” Athenril replied calmly. “Apparently, after the worst was over, he simply left.”
“Left?” Hawke’s brows furrowed.
“Just walked right out of the clinic and hasn’t been seen in hours,” Athenril clarified dryly.
Hawke’s lips pursed. Fenris’ hands clutched the handle of the small basket tightly. That wasn’t good.
“Well, he certainly does hate it when he loses patients…” Hawke murmured.
“I’ll find him,” Fenris announced and spun around, angrily stalking toward the door. He ignored Hawke calling after him to wait, once again pushed his way through the crowd and got on his way to the lift leading to Lowtown.
The narrow alleys were surprisingly devoid of citizens. Usually, they’d gather here, eyeing bypassers curiously and in hope to make coin by begging or stealing. They were clever enough to leave Fenris alone. No one wanted to deal with an angry, lyrium covered elf that carried a broadsword around like it weighed nothing. That and they had the greatest respect for the Champion of Kirkwall and his companions. It was one of the reasons why Anders never had to worry about getting attacked, not to mention that probably every citizen of Darktown had been his patient at least once.
Tomwise never failed to be present. Fenris wondered if that elf ever slept. He waved at Fenris with a small grin and Fenris scowled in response, pausing his steps.
“Have you seen Anders?” he asked.
“A while ago,” Tomwise confirmed with a nod while inspecting some herbs he had on his small table.
“Where did he go?”
Tomwise pointed at the lift. “Mumbled something about needing fresh air. He looked pretty out of it. I suggest checking Hightown.”
Fenris rolled his eyes but thanked Tomwise and steadily marched on.
He could not imagine finding Anders in Hightown. The mage only ever went there if he absolutely had to, too uncomfortable with the Templars regularly patrolling Hightown’s streets. Fenris was also sure that if Anders had fled to Hightown, he would have come to Hawke’s estate – or maybe Fenris’ mansion. Two places where he was relatively safe.
Hightown suspected nothing of the tragedies that must have taken place in Lowtown and Darktown last night. Nobles were strolling the streets, the marketplace more busy than it had been when Fenris had gone out to make his purchases. The scent of apple pie had woken him from his light slumber during the early morning hours, reminding him of the mage and a promise made. Fenris frowned at the small basket in his hands, suddenly insecure about his plans. He shook himself then and decided it didn’t matter right now. He had a mage to find.
Asking any of the merchants would be useless. If Anders had indeed left hours ago, it must have been at the crack of dawn, long before Hubert or Korval even opened their stalls. Both of them were usually very attentive, remembering whom they had seen during the day and whom not. Handy, whenever they were looking for someone. Fenris set his hopes on the Guardsmen instead only to be disappointed.
Maybe Anders hadn’t gone all the way to Hightown? Maybe the mage had gone to Lowtown instead, to see to the people who had fallen victim to the chokedamp?
Fenris shook his head. Athenril would have known if Anders were in Lowtown.
Fenris stopped his mindless search and instead trusted on his intuition. He left the marketplace and strolled toward the red light district. Apart from two drunkards who had fallen asleep in the middle of the street, the red light district looked abandoned. There was no business to be found here in the early morning hours, a time Madam Lusine usually used to clean the Blooming Rose, restock on beverages and food and air the establishment thoroughly, while the prostitutes got their much needed rest. Fenris was not surprised to find her sweep glass shards together. Broken wine bottles were a regular occurance.
The staircase leading to the passage toward Sundermount lay just across the brothel and Fenris approached it with steady steps, instinctively knowing he was on the right path. Lusine glanced curiously at him and Fenris felt his cheeks heat. That woman wouldn’t let him live down the fact that he had paid to see Jethann for a long time. He would have to brace himself for the respective commentary from his friends soon enough.
Or maybe he could pay Lusine for her silence over the matter.
Trusting his intuition paid off. The narrow rocky passage leading to Sundermount confirmed that the mage had indeed been here. The air in the tunnel was generally well-conserved, the breezes from the mountains never quite managing to clear it. They had often found someone they were looking for thanks to this tunnel. A sweaty thug using the passage was usually found quickly thanks to his terrible smell that didn’t even need an elf’s sensitive nose to follow.
This time, the air carried the scent of ozone with a hint of apple and cinnamon and that scent was most definitely not the one coming from the basket he still carried. Anders’ scent was a tad sweeter than the pie’s and it made Fenris groan with need. A need he was unable to put into words. He just needed.
The air on Sundermount was cooler than in Kirkwall and noticeably more salty. And fishy. Fenris wrinkled his nose in disgust. Dark clouds were gathering at the horizon, promising another rainshower to come. Knee-high grass blades swayed gently in the breeze, tickling his legs as Fenris slowly waded through it.
Magic generally smelled like ozone, at least to Fenris. Merrill’s smelled thinned out, like the air on a cold winter day, paired with the metallic scent of blood; strong, if she had recently used blood magic. Anders’ magic smelled like summer rain, warm and comforting – Fenris had actually once believed it was deceiving, supposed to lure innocents in and give them the impression he was harmless. So much about magic in general had been deceiving in Fenris eyes, until he’d learned to see the differences between good and bad.
He finally found the mage, in the exact same spot he’d found him in before he’d gone through his first mating season; except this time, the mage wasn’t kneeling and picking plants. He was lying on the ground, curled into a fetal position; his head was pillowed on his feathered coat, eyes closed. A peaceful image, had it not been for the distress on the mage’s face and the dried tear tracks on his pale cheeks.
Fenris closed the distance between them. Cracks of blue split the mage’s skin. Anders’ eyes opened a fraction and pools of Fade light greeted him. The elf snarled, but didn’t back off.
“Elf,” Justice greeted him, his unwordly voice thundering across Sundermount’s plains.
“Demon,” Fenris growled in response, bracing himself for another outburst of rage. Instead, to Fenris’ surprise, Anders – it – smirked and glowing blue eyes changed back to honey-colored ones.
“Don’t call him that, Fenris,” Anders murmured. He sounded hoarse and Fenris cursed inwardly for not bringing water with him.
“It seems to amuse him by now,” Fenris stated. The mage huffed out a weak laugh and curled in on himself again. Fenris took that as an invitation to join the mage on the ground and sat, cross-legged, putting the basket aside for the moment. Anders eyed it with mild interest, then looked up to Fenris.
“I’ve heard about the chokedamp,” Fenris murmured.
“I heard the explosion. It made Darktown shake, can you believe that?” Anders stretched his long limbs and rolled to his back. “It woke me up. I thought I had only dreamed it but then the screams started.”
“Didn’t you want to meet with Merrill?”
The mage glanced sharply at him. He was tired. Upset. The last time he had seen Anders like this had been after Hawke’s duel with the Arishok. Low on mana already before the fight, Anders sat by Hawke’s bed three nights and four days; every bit of mana restored, he’d immediately poured into Hawke’s broken body, again and again and again.
Fenris imagined last night was no different.
“I fell asleep at my desk.”
Fenris’ lips twitched into a smile. “So what happened?”
“Within moments, people were banging on my door…Lowtown as well as Darktown residents. So many already short of breath when they came to me. And children, Fenris. So many children.” Anders’ face was a mask of pain. “The ones who had been the least injured had come to me in their state of panic, fearing to suffocate. I could help them…but then, those who were more dead than alive came in…”
“And expected you to do miracles.”
“It’s what they expect from a mage,” Anders pointed out with a hapless smile. “And I have performed the one or other miracle before, at least in their eyes. I have a reputation, I guess.”
“You usually don’t make miracles happen while low or out of mana, though.”
“Well, those are the minor details no one ever remembers to mention.”
Fenris smiled fondly. “Mage…”
“And still, so many died.” All humor was gone now. “Some collapsed right in front of my clinic. Others barely made it to one of the cots. Too many too close to death for me to help them. It was awful.” Anders ran a hand through his hair. It was not tied back and tousled. He hadn’t even had time to sort his hair, Fenris noticed. “Children died in my clinic today, Fenris.”
“It’s not your fault, Anders.”
“My clinic was a veritable graveyard. And more kept coming in, only to turn back around when they saw the corpses piling inside my clinic.” Anders’ voice was wavering and Fenris saw his hands tremble. “Just because those high-born, ignorant assholes in Hightown won’t take care of the entire city. Why won’t they close those damn mineshafts? Make sure people no longer suffocate in their sleep? Lowtown is Kirkwall’s industrial center, it brings money in, why won’t they just…” Once again, cracks of blue split the mage’s skin open.
“It was not your fault,” Fenris said again, louder this time. Anders gasped in a breath and Justice retreated immediately.
“I got so upset…we got so upset,” Anders continued, “I just…had to get away before he…I…we…do something we’ll regret later.”
“Why not come to Hawke? Or me? You always let us know when something is going on.”
Another flash of Fade blue in Anders’ eyes and Fenris understood. He hadn’t wanted to endanger them, with both, the mage and the spirit inside him too upset to think clearly. It was similar to the day they found out about Alrik and his “Tranquil solution”. That alone had had Anders seething, but when the mage girl Alrik was threatening had called Anders – or rather, Justice – a demon, he had almost ended up killing her. Out of rage, not because of reasons. If Anders couldn’t stop at his own kin, the people he wanted to free, to protect, there was no saying if he would when facing his friends.
“Besides, Hawke would have done something reckless if I had told him,” Anders spoke up again. “And you…well…I figured you were in no mood to face me, after our conversation in the clinic yesterday.”
“Didn’t you say I am still a very good friend?” Fenris argued. “You come to friends when you need help, don’t you?”
A humorless laugh escaped the mage; Fenris could taste the anxiety in it. Indeed, the man who had trusted him with his secrets seemed to have vanished. It was painful and frightening.
“Or maybe I was scared to face you,” the mage admitted quietly.
“You were the one sending me away and telling me it’s over, whatever it was, and you are scared of facing me?”
“It’s not that simple, Fenris.”
“I suppose it isn’t.”
Anders attempted a smile and slowly sat up. Fenris chuckled at the sight of grass blades stuck in blond, mussed-up hair that Anders began to pluck with a frown.
“What’s in that basket?” the mage asked and Fenris took the distraction for what it was. For now, at least.
“I had been on my way to your clinic this morning, when I met Hawke and learned you never showed up last night. He got worried, so we went together.”
Anders’ frown deepened. “Is my clinic still intact?”
Fenris reached for the basket and placed it on his lap. “Believe it or not, Athenril kept an eye on it until we got there. I assume Hawke has taken over by now.” He carefully pulled away the linen cloth. The scent coming from inside the basket made his mouth water and Anders hummed appreciatively.
“Is that…?” The mage peeked into the basket.
“The apple pie I told you about. The woman who sells it was back this morning.”
“Maker, it does smell good,” Anders admitted with a small groan. “And you had planned to…come to the clinic?”
“You did make me promise,” Fenris reminded. Anders seemed shy all of a sudden and it made Fenris curious. Shy certainly wasn’t something he’d ever call the mage.
Anders moaned around the first bite of cake and Fenris couldn’t suppress a chuckle at the look of pure delight on the mage’s face. Finally something they had in common – it was obvious Anders enjoyed the pie as much as Fenris. It was also obvious he was hungry, the way he devoured the cake.
“It’s really good,” Anders eventually let him know between bites. “You didn’t lie.”
“I do not have a habit of lying, mage,” Fenris replied and gave the blond a meaningful look. The obviousness with which Anders ignored it had his stomach twist with a pang of anger.
“So…this is what I smelled like, then?” Anders asked quietly. “While you were…”
“Hum. I smelled delicious.” Anders grinned and Fenris rolled his eyes, a fond smile tugging at his own lips.
“You still do, mage. You always have.”
The grin disappeared, a pained expression on the mage’s face now. “Don’t say that.”
“Would you like to know Merrill’s expert opinion on the matter?”
Honey-colored eyes blinked. “What?” Anders asked, confused.
“I met her yesterday while I was…taking a walk.” Fenris stared at what was left of his slice of apple pie. “We had the opportunity to talk.”
The elf figured it was a now or never situation for them. If he had learned one thing about Anders, it was that the mage would escape, figuratively or literally, if given the chance. So Fenris began to speak, repeating what he had learned from his conversation with Merrill. Anders’ face mirrored the whirlwind of emotions he went through while he patiently listened to elf. He didn’t interrupt once; he didn’t make to get up and leave and he didn’t laugh that nervous laugh Fenris had eventually managed to stop from happening, while they had been together at his mansion.
The wind picked up around them, the air now carrying the scent of rain. The grass was whispering around them and the words died on Fenris’ lips and tongue when Anders suddenly moved. Not away from him, but toward him, his head coming to rest on Fenris’ thigh, ridiculously long arms wrapping around the elf’s middle. Tightening their hold when Fenris’ hand buried in the mage’s hair and caressed gently, like he’d wanted to do ever since the mage had stolen away during the night.
Fenris realized he might have picked the wrong time to confront Anders, when the mage’s eyes slipped closed, his body growing heavy against him. The other man was exhausted after the events of the previous day and night, and Fenris had only exhausted him further.
Slowly, he leaned forward and brought his lips close to the mage’s ear. “It’s going to rain soon, Anders,” he murmured.
“I know,” Anders replied in kind, but didn’t move.
Anders had always loved being outside, no matter the season or weather. He’d grown up being outside a lot, helping his father with the farm or going hunting. He enjoyed warm sunlight on his skin as much as the soothing rain, or trying to catch snowflakes with his tongue. He loved the powerful storms in fall, the howling of the wind as he lay curled up in his bed.
He had longed for all of it while locked up in a tower. He had cried when he finally felt rain on his skin again.
Anders wasn’t crying this time, but the rain pouring down on him felt liberating. It was warm, washing away sweat, dirt and dark memories. Now and then, raindrops would cling to his lashes, making them flutter. His head was bedded comfortably in Fenris’ lap; the elf caressing his damp hair that had started to curl, wrapping around slender, calloused fingers. Fenris’ other hand held his, their fingers entwined, resting right next to Anders’ head on the elf’s right thigh. The constant bend of his arm was beginning to put a strain to it, but Anders didn’t want to let go. The lyrium lines on the elf’s hand were warm and throbbed against his skin; his own magic pulsed gently in response and Justice felt content. It was an odd sensation and Anders embraced it.
He’d dozed off briefly; the rain hitting the face of his skin as well as the terrified screams and sounds of people dying that haunted his dreams woke him up after only a few minutes. Anders had reached out then, needing something to ground himself and Fenris had simply taken his hand and held it.
Thunder was rolling in the distance, underlining the sound of the rain splattering against the metal of Fenris’ armor. Anders knew he should get up; not force the elf to keep still for his sake while they got soaked to the bones. He should return to his clinic, make sure nothing had been removed or destroyed during his absence, yet the mere thought of going there made his chest tighten. He trusted that Hawke kept an eye on it.
Fenris’ hand left his hair and smoothed over his brows and forehead instead. Anders blinked his eyes open and gazed up. Snow-white hair clung to the elf’s head and face, water dripping off the tips of his hair and chin and landing on Anders’ face. Moss green eyes were attentive as they gazed down at the mage. There was concern written across the elf’s features and Anders wanted to soothe it away with kisses.
“Is it possible,” Fenris murmured suddenly, “that Merrill is, indeed, right?”
Anders let his eyes slip closed, relaxing beneath the elf’s hand still caressing over his forehead and hair. “About you and me?” he asked.
Anders sighed softly and reached for the ties of his shirt with his free hand. He felt Fenris’ curious gaze on him when he managed to loosen the ties enough that he could tug down his shirt, uncovering his left shoulder and revealing the huge scar on his chest that Fenris had wondered about before. His skin was clammy and Anders shuddered when warm rain met with it. If they stayed out here for too long, Anders had no doubt they’d be sick as dogs tomorrow.
The hand entwined with the elf’s tightened its hold.
“I received this scar the day I merged with Justice,” Anders began quietly; soft-spoken as if he was talking to a scared child. “A Templar had infiltrated the Warden order. He, along with a few new recruits and I, we were out to scout the area. We had reports of Darkspawn sighting, which was unusual, since the blight was long over.”
“A Templar?” Fenris asked, curiously.
“Justice and I, we merged at the worst time imaginable.” Anders smiled haplessly. “He had called for me, in the Fade, while I slept. Told me it was time. I had not taken into account that it could happen right under Rolan’s nose but it did. When I came to, they were surrounding me. Rolan was so smug. Told me the Wardens had agreed they could not harbor an abomination. They believed me possessed by a demon, because, you know, that’s all we mages ever do: getting possessed every other day.”
Fenris hummed. “Can you truly hold it against him, mage? That he believed a demon took possession of your body? It is not like this has never happened before.”
“I passed my Harrowing, Fenris,” Anders stated. “I withstood temptation and believe me, there is plenty of tempting offers. By Chantry law, that means I am safe. We can defend ourselves against the corruption of a demon.”
“The past years have shown that to not be completely true,” the elf argued. “You didn’t withstand when Justice called for you. You may believe it is different, for he is not a demon but a Fade spirit, but the basic principle is the same.”
Anders took a deep, calming breath, neither agreeing nor disagreeing with the elf’s words. “I may not hold it against them, that they believed so,” he murmured. “I hold against them that they did not let me try and explain. I was out of my senses, disoriented and couldn’t even react accordingly. I hold it against Rolan, that he only joined the Wardens so the Chantry could continue to keep an eye on me. Maker knows how he even survived the joining ritual, when better people did not.”
“You lost a friend?”
“I barely knew her, but she certainly had a far better character than Rolan.”
“So what happened?”
“I killed them all and ran. That’s the short version of what happened and the only thing I remember clearly. I wasn’t…” Anders’ lips pursed. “Justice took over.”
Fenris frowned and reached out, touching his fingers to the thick scar. “This should have killed you.”
“It should have. I have no recollection of why it didn’t. I suppose my latent healing abilities and Justice are to thank for it.” Anders glanced at the scar and the clammy fingers caressing over it. Only a hand’s width or two away from Fenris’ hand, the bonding mark shimmered in the pale daylight.
“Why tell me now?” Fenris asked. “You said you didn’t want to talk about it.”
“I am trying to make you understand, Fenris,” Anders murmured. “I am trying to make you understand why I left, and why I hurt you.” With regret, Anders finally let go of the elf’s hand and slowly sat up. It was only right to speak to the other man to face, to allow him to leave if he saw need.
Moss green eyes had narrowed at him and the scowl on Fenris’ face told Anders the elf knew this wasn’t going to be a pleasant conversation. So many things to say, so many explanations to give. Anders’ mind was a chaos as he tried to decide how to begin. Justice whispered demands at him, to be honest, to be upfront. It would probably put an end to this, whatever it was, within moments. Anders wished he hadn’t let go of Fenris’ hand just yet.
“You are shaking,” Fenris observed and the tone of his voice suggested that he knew, as well as Anders, that it was not from being soaking wet. A flutter in his chest was the only warning he got before he felt it tighten painfully, his hands trembling from the force. He really didn’t need another panic attack right now.
Tell him, Justice ordered and strangely enough, Anders’ mouth opened on command.
“I may or may not have been in love with you for the greater part of two years now.”
Fenris gaped, eyes wide and round like plates. It was an interesting look on him, Anders had to admit, and he tried his best not to laugh at the elf.
“Merrill knows,” Anders added, the trembling in his hands slowly ceasing. “At least, I believe she does, since she often dropped a remark here and there when you couldn’t hear her. I said no to Hawke because of you. That is not to say I ever expected us to become more than friends, because you are you and I am me, but pretending to reciprocate his feelings while having you dance around me all the time would have been terrible.”
The elf’s mouth snapped shut and Anders watched him swallow. The shaking of his body was ceasing now as well and his chest stopped feeling tight. Liberating. He took a deep breath and huffed out a nervous laugh. “Maker, it felt good to finally say that,” he murmured.
“If that is the truth,” Fenris spoke up, his rich, deep voice a little wobbly, “then why…”
“I am not done yet, Fenris,” Anders interrupted gently and the elf quieted with a small nod. “That being said, Justice said to be upfront with you. You deserve the truth and I need you to face it as well.”
“I am a mage. I harbor a Fade spirit inside me. Some may call me an abomination, and they may be correct. Fact is, I am me. I am Justice. We have merged and there is no way to make this undone. We are very passionate about the plight of mages. We will continue to fight for their freedom. That is not going to change, not if I can help it. I don’t want to spend our time together arguing about the things I do and believe in. I will not apologize for my beliefs either. This is who I am – a mage whose spirit has merged with a spirit of Justice.”
Fenris growled and made a face at him.
“I wish I could be the man I was at your mansion,” Anders murmured regretfully. “It felt like just crossing the threshold to your home locked out everything negative and freed us both of our pasts and shielded us from a future that may not be pleasant for at least one of us.”
“You are that man,” Fenris insisted. “You just see need to hide that side of you.”
“It’s a very vulnerable side of me,” the mage agreed. “One I had thought lost for a very long time. I realize coming to you when you were…it was a mistake.”
“Then why did you come to me in the first place?” Bitter disappointment was written across the elf’s features.
“Very selfish reasons, elf.” Anders smiled haplessly. “First and foremost, though, I worried about you and wanted to make sure you are going to be alright. It’s what you do when you care deeply for someone.”
Fenris thought about it for a moment and Anders seized the chance to collect himself even with the rain continuing to pour down on them. A not so small part of him wished they had never left the elf’s mansion. Locking out the rest of the world, it had been safe and content there. A magical place.
“You said this is possibly your last chance to be with someone,” Fenris spoke.
“It was my only chance to be with you,” Anders clarified. “Which…wasn’t something I particularly wanted to reveal that moment, so I chose to be a little…abstract? And I realize this makes me sound like one selfish bastard and that I have done what I said I wouldn’t do…”
Fenris hummed, thoughtful once again. “You did what you always do, mage. Look after a friend’s well-being.”
It was Fenris’ turn to offer a hapless smile. “And was it…did I answer your expectations?”
Anders stared at the elf; the grim expression hadn’t quite left Fenris’ features yet and the mage realized they had reached a very sensitive point of their conversation. The confidence Fenris had shown up until yesterday had vanished, leaving behind a brittle, insecure man. Just looking at the elf was so painful that Anders’ throat tightened and hot tears prickled in his eyes, blurring his vision.
“I had no expectations,” Anders somehow managed to force out. His voice sounded strange; choked from the tears he refused to let spill. It made Fenris look at him, bitterness slowly replaced by worry. “Just being with you, in whichever way, was all I wanted. I could have sat by your bed, day and night, until it is over and I still would have been happy. What instead happened was…more than I could have hoped for. It was perfect. Perfect enough that I never wanted to leave.”
“Then why did you?”
“Because I was afraid of what that morning would bring if I stayed. Because I knew I couldn’t stay if I wanted you safe.”
Fenris frowned at him and slowly leaned in. His thumb touched against Anders’ cheek and the mage inhaled sharply.
“Mage…are you crying?” the elf asked, puzzled.
Anders simply wiped a hand across his face angrily, like he had done in his clinic just yesterday.
“Why do you keep talking like you’re going to die soon?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Of course,” Fenris scoffed.
“Maker, Fenris, I…” Anders drew in a shaky breath. “I am running out of options, peaceful options, to make the Chantry, everyone, see that mages aren’t monsters. I keep writing to the Grand Cleric. I have sent a copy of my manifesto to the Divine a few weeks ago. Nothing is changing and it’s tiring and upsetting to see people of my kin still being hunted down and locked away. Made Tranquil. Sometimes, simply executed. I can’t sit back and watch this any longer.”
“What are you planning?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“Venhendis, mage,” Fenris spat angrily and jumped to his feet. He paced the wet ground while Anders fumbled to sort his shirt. His feathered coat looked ruined. It would be useless to put it back on and he could be glad if it was still presentable once it had dried.
“Is your cause more important than the things you want for yourself?” Fenris snapped at him while Anders wrung his coat as best as possible. “Is it really worth losing your life over?”
Anders slowly shook his head. “I know you don’t understand, Fenris. I am not expecting you to either, especially since you’ve suffered at the hand of a mage.” The elf’s nostrils flared in barely contained fury. “Twice,” Anders added as an afterthought. “But you need to understand that I do not want anyone I care for associated with what I may have to do, if there is nothing else left to do.” He looked up to the elf. “You need to understand that I love you and I don’t want you in any danger because of me.”
The elf was looking oddly at him, seemingly lost for words, as he had been earlier when Anders had voiced his feelings. It was only now that Anders realized Fenris was shivering violently, and so was he. He could feel the chill in his bones despite the rain being warm.
Fenris had meant to see him at his clinic; he’d bought some of his favorite apple pie, as Anders had made him promise, so they could enjoy it together. Maybe talk civilly. Awkwardly exchange glances that speak of the days now past that they would both keep in their memories until the day they died. It had not been Fenris’ intention to search for him because Anders hadn’t been able to handle what was going on at his clinic; neither had he meant to offer comfort to ease his distress and catch his death sitting in the pouring rain because Anders hadn’t found the energy to get up and return to the city.
“I am sorry,” Anders said with remorse. “I am so, so sorry.”
Fenris had held his hand the entire way back to Kirkwall. Anders wasn’t sure if the elf truly had need for contact or if he did because exhaustion had Anders disoriented now and then, slowing his steps, requesting a short break, and Fenris had to pull him along.
They’d run into Hawke as soon as they left the passage and stumbled into Hightown’s red light district. Hawke had followed suggestions from Tomwise and market people to find out where Anders and Fenris had run off to, hours ago. If he was confused that Fenris stubbornly held onto the mage’s hand, he didn’t say it; just led them to his estate, insisting they would get some rest in a proper bed for a few hours.
Anders had since thanked the Maker for Garrett Hawke a few times. One, for owning one of the largest bathtubs Anders had ever seen. It was perfect for men of his or Hawke’s height. Two, for dwarven plumbing and hot, hot water that he let soak into his skin until the chill was gone completely. Three, because Hawke’s estate had Orana and Orana was cooking; the entire place smelled amazing and Anders’ stomach growled in anticipation. A hearty meal was just what he needed right now.
Four, because Hawke’s estate had an impressive library in which he could hide from the elf, who hadn’t spoken a single word since they had left Sundermount. Hawke had a thing for books and was proud of his collection and the library’s interior. It was warm and inviting; there was always a fire crackling and Bodahn would regularly ask if someone wanted some tea or maybe something to snack on. If Hawke didn’t get comfortable in one of the massive armchairs and read for hours, he’d play chess or Diamondback with the dwarf, sometimes Merrill and Anders heard rumors of Hawke trying to teach Orana card games, too.
Some of the books belonged to Anders; when the clinic became less of a safe place, he’d moved his most valuable books to Hawke’s estate. Hawke had put them all in one shelf, easy to find if Anders needed them.
Today, it were Merrill’s books that caught Anders’ interest while he hid from his friends. It had to be the ones she had brought back from the alienage yesterday; piled up on a small table, Anders picked up the one on top and flipped through it. He could hear Hawke and Fenris talk, their voices carrying up from the foyer, muffled by the closed door. He did not hear the exact words spoken, but he could hear the concern in Hawke’s voice and the subdued tone in which Fenris replied.
Anders had learned enough of the Elven language to get by. He did not consider himself fluent and he had never told Merrill he understood most of the things she said, when she thought no one did. He soon realized the book told about Arlathan and their Old Gods and his interest was awakened.
It didn’t take long until Anders found the chapter about mating season. There was an illustration on the page before the chapter began, showing two elves holding each other close. The male one looked like he was scenting the female elf; the female elf was sporting a mark where neck met shoulder. It was illustrated in a way that one’s attention was immediately drawn to it. Anders studied it for a long moment before focusing on the text. He realized he wouldn’t be able to understand the text completely; some words he knew, others he could guess. A paragraph here and there remained a mystery. Studying ancient languages had been one of the very few perks of being locked up in the Circle Tower; now Anders wished he had paid better attention to the apprentice who had volunteered to teach those who were interested in the Elven language.
Anders got settled in one of the armchairs. His body was sore, both from exhausting himself last night and getting soaked to the bones. The bath had done the trick, but he knew he was going to feel the events of the past day for at least another day or two.
And only the Maker knew how long he would need to recover from the emotional strain. Anders wasn’t capable when it came to dealing with emotions; at least not anymore, ever since he’d been taken away to the Circle because his father was scared of him. The emotional suffering a child went through when their own parents abandoned them…
You do not need to add to your distress, Justice admonished and Anders banned the dark thoughts from his mind.
“I seem to have a history of being abandoned, don’t I?” Anders mused quietly.
I have not abandoned you, the spirit reminded. I won’t abandon you.
“Only because you can’t, seeing as we can’t be separated until the day we die.”
Justice was disgruntled and Anders chose to ignore the spirit in favor of the book in his lap.
Anders ended up so engrossed in the text and its revelations, he didn’t hear the door to the library open. He eventually noticed a shadow towering over him; Anders looked up and flinched when he found Fenris’ face only inches away from his own, moss green eyes regarding him with an intense sobriety.
“There’s stew,” Fenris informed him bluntly. “Hawke has called for you several times. Did you not hear him?”
Anders closed the book, never breaking eye contact with the elf. His tongue felt heavy with words he believed he should say but his lips refused to spill. They wouldn’t matter anyway, the mage figured. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. “No. I didn’t hear him.”
“What’s with that book?” Fenris asked.
“One of Merrill’s...about Elvish lores and myths. It looked interesting.”
Fenris grabbed the book and flipped through the pages with mild interest. “You can read Elvish?”
“No. But the illustrations are pretty?” Occasionally, Anders was amazed how easy it was for him to lie.
The elf huffed and shook his head. “You should come downstairs and eat. A hearty meal will do you good.”
“And if I don’t? You gonna throw bowls of stew at me?” Anders asked tiredly. He was hungry, so very hungry – but exhaustion also killed his appetite for anything much. Fenris’ close proximity made him wish the ground would open up and swallow him.
“Don’t tempt me, mage,” Fenris warned. He sounded playful. Indeed, the corners of the elf’s mouth twitched upward. It made Anders feel a little better.
“I am sorry,” he said. Again. Anders didn’t know how many times he had apologized since they had left Sundermount. He didn’t know if he’d ever get done apologizing.
“I know,” Fenris murmured. “And I truly do not understand why you are so passionate when it comes to your kin and their rights. I realize it is so because I never tried to understand. And while I have, indeed, suffered at Danarius’ hand, it would be a great…injustice to insist I suffered at yours, as well.”
Anders blinked. “Did you…did you just…?” He felt and heard the Fade Spirit being disgruntled once again, though his faint complaints carried a hint of…was that humor? “…make a pun about Justice?” Since when did the Fade spirit actually understand sarcasm?
“I’ll be sure to expect retaliation,” Fenris replied with a half-smile. Anders found his chin gently grasped by the elf and allowed him to pull his face up, forcing the mage to tilt his head back. “Is he there?” Fenris asked, serious once again.
“He is always there, Fenris,” Anders answered truthfully. “We are one. I told you.”
“And yet I sometimes catch you arguing with him.”
“Well, we do occasionally have a difference of opinion, but our arguments are usually based on interpersonal matters that a Fade spirit doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand why sometimes, I have to lie in order to not hurt someone’s feelings or discourage them. He sees attraction as a form of possession and believes it wrong, because he doesn’t understand why a person’s mind would be constantly filled with thoughts, desires, daydreams, about another. Justice’s world is black and white, Fenris. He approves of things just and fair, and fights what he considers injustices. I am the one adding the greys to his world and it often confuses him, just like I, occasionally, am unable to see anything but black or white. Sometimes, we both struggle for balance and it’s exhausting.” Anders took a deep breath. “I’m babbling. My point is, he is always there.”
Fenris hummed. “Then I have a question for you both, I suppose,” he muttered. “Do you truly believe you ran out of peaceful options to find a solution for your cause? Have you honestly tried everything yet?”
Anders frowned at the elf. Justice was pushing to get closer to the surface of their shared mind, taking an interest in Fenris’ words. Anders’ lips parted before he could stop it. “And just what are you suggesting, elf?” Moss green eyes widened at them and Anders winced when cracks of blue split his skin. He wondered if that would ever stop being unpleasant.
It was a strange sensation, Anders thought, as he and Fenris looked at each other. He had never been this clear in his mind whenever Justice took over. He couldn’t recall if they ever had both been present at the same time, in equal amounts, before. Anders didn’t think so.
“Speak,” Justice prompted.
Fenris nodded at them. “In all those years I have known you, you fought alone. You have not once asked for help from an outsider. Have you considered the options available through friends and companions?”
Justice’s frown added to Anders’, brows furrowing further.
“You are friends with the Champion of Kirkwall,” Fenris continued. “A man of influence and with a healthy amount of power within the city, who will no doubt be willing to aid your cause as long as you make reasonable, peaceful demands. You are friends with a meddling dwarf who has connections and can surely convince the one or other to make sure you may get listened to. And even though I know Anders isn’t exactly fond of him, we have a Chantry brother in our midst who has a strong connection to the local Grand Cleric. Sebastian is a man of reason. I have no doubt that if you present your cause to him, again, reasonably and peaceful, he may be willing to mediate between you and the Grand Cleric and offer his support.”
“Fenris,” Anders sighed, regaining control of his mouth for a moment. “The reason we are doing this alone is because we do not want anyone endangered.”
“Anders and I agreed it would be unjust,” Justice added.
“It is no secret that Hawke, all of us, see you as a friend and companion. Neither is it a secret that you have done good things for the people in Kirkwall,” Fenris argued. “Even if you refuse us, should the day come that you do something very stupid, it will be on our heads, too. Regardless of whether we knew of your plans or not. People assume. It’s something people do.”
Anders hadn’t thought he’d live to witness this – Fenris arguing with Justice, the demon he despised for as long as they had known each other. Even more surprising was that Justice was listening, considering.
“Whatever it is you think you have to do,” Fenris spoke up once again, “whatever it is, demon, that you will put Anders through that will possibly cost him his life, surely it can wait another day. Even another week, month or year. You have not exhausted all possibilities yet.”
They were smirking. No, Anders thought, Justice was smirking and he himself was unable to control his facial muscles.
“I see now why Anders is fond of you,” Justice said.
“He is my mate, he better be,” Fenris snarled. “And if you are indeed one, as he keeps insisting, that involuntarily goes for you, too. It means I won’t just let you do as you please.”
If he actually had control of his facial muscles – which he still did not – Anders knew he would be gaping. Justice seemed equally taken aback and pondered the substance of Fenris’ words.
The Fade spirit withdrew so suddenly it actually made Anders’ head throb. The mage winced and rubbed his forehead. “Ow.”
“Maker, what were you thinking, Fenris?” Anders murmured, pinching the bridge of his nose. “What if he had gotten angry?”
“I have done a lot of thinking while you were resting and hiding from me,” Fenris muttered. “About the things you’ve said.”
“Did you come to a conclusion?” Anders asked. “Because I…I just want this…”
“You’re an idiot,” the elf snarled at him, “and you are the one who requires protection. Not me. Not our friends. You.” Fenris’ hand tightened its grip on his chin and Anders made a face at the discomfort. “And if you truly feel that way about me, you will not push me away.”
“Because I’m your mate?”
Fenris sighed and let go of him. The elf looked as exhausted as Anders felt. “Because you are my mate,” Fenris agreed. “And that I gave you that mark on your shoulder unwitting of its meaning doesn’t make it any less true.”
Anders let the words sink in, wash over him like wave and clear his mind from worry and distress, until all he felt was calmness and a growing confidence in the man before him, himself and the possibilities he had, in fact, not yet considered, when it came to fighting for the mages and their rights. He dared peeking at a future that had, until today, been nothing more than daydreams he had entertained himself with when things around him became dire.
Their gazes locked and the hopeful expression on Fenris’ face made Anders smile.
“I suppose I will have to learn to get better at…words,” the elf murmured.
“We can both learn to get better at a lot of things, together,” Anders suggested gently and watched the elf’s ears perk.
“How about you make having regular meals one of the first things you need to get better at?” Fenris extended a hand and Anders took it without hesitation, fingertips caressing the palm and lyrium lines. “There’s stew waiting for you, mage.”
Anders huffed out a laugh and got to his feet. Stew was only one of many things waiting for him, it seemed.
Chapter 19: NINETEEN (*nsfw*)
Anders watched Lirene fold the last blanket. Her cheeks were flushed from the heat, strands of hair clinging to her sweaty forehead. Even though Darktown saw the least sunlight, it had become unbearable hot in his clinic and it was only noon. He had offered to relieve some of her discomfort, but Lirene had just waved him off and told him to save mana for his patients.
It was strange, seeing his clinic empty at this time of the day. Between sunrise and about an hour ago, Anders had been more busy than expected, many residents having trouble dealing with the summer heat. It hadn’t rained in two weeks; the air was so thick Anders thought he could cut a knife through it. It barely cooled off during the nights. Many had complained about nausea and headaches; the result of dehydration. Without proper plumbing and access to fresh water from the mountains, Darktown residents could only rely on the water the rain brought and that was slowly becoming a problem. What little fresh water Anders could find within Darktown, he used to clean wounds.
His personal water supply came in the form of bottles that Bodahn continued to bring down from Hightown, at Hawke’s behest.
Anders reached for a cloth on his desk and wiped the sweat off his face and bare arms. His new shirt was comfortable and the fabric cool, but it didn’t keep the rest of his body from reacting strongly to the weather.
“All done,” Lirene announced and walked up to him. An amused smile grazed her lips when she looked at his shoulder. Anders eyed the silvery mark decorating his freckled skin and smiled as well.
“It’s strange, closing the clinic this early,” Anders murmured.
“Even if you kept it open, there is not much you can do when all people need is water.” Lirene shrugged and patted his shoulder, her gaze wandering over to the clinic’s door. Another smile, a slightly smug one this time. “My cue to leave,” she said around a chuckle and winked at the mage.
Fenris strolled into the clinic. He had dressed down as well, to Anders’ relief, carrying a bag across his shoulder that looked heavy. The sight of the elf, all tanned skin and muscular, in his skin-tight leggigs and sleeveless shirt made Anders want to purr with appreciation.
Fenris nodded at Lirene when she slipped out through the door, extinguishing the latern while Fenris locked up.
“So,” Anders said, “will you tell me now what’s so urgent that you had Bodahn ask me to close the clinic early?”
The elf hummed, lips twitching into a smile. “You get three guesses, mage,” he murmured while he approached the taller man. He dropped the bag on one of the empty cots and stepped up to Anders, gaze lingering on his collarbone and slowly travelling up to his face.
“Only three? I’m terrible at guessing games.”
Another hum and Fenris leaned in, pressing his face into the mage’s sweaty neck. Anders felt the elf’s lips part as Fenris breathed in deeply, scenting him. The heat radiating from the elf’s slender form was worse than the summer’s and Anders’ breath hitched in surprise when Fenris’ lips sucked on the skin of his neck with a soft growl.
Anders’ gaze slowly lowered to the elf’s crotch, blinking when he saw the very prominent bulge there. “You have the worst timing,” Anders felt compelled to point out, voice wavering in anticipation. Had it really been a year already? It had to be, because it was summer, the heat worse than the one they had suffered through last year and the elf in front of him looked – positively eager.
“I’m aware.” Fenris reluctantly pulled away and gestured at the bag. “Wine and water. Food that should last us for at least three days. And worry not, I believe it is going to rain soon.”
“You…you wanna do this here?” Anders glanced around doubtfully. His clinic did, in no way, compare to the comfort the elf’s mansion offered.
“Trust me when I say that the heat is worse in Hightown. The sun is slowly melting away the roof of my mansion.”
Anders snorted and lowered his head, catching Fenris’ lips with his own. The hunger in Fenris’ kiss turned his knees to jello within seconds and he was glad when strong hands gripped his hips tightly and steadied him.
Fenris’ hands had often steadied him in the past, in many ways. Anders loved the elf’s hands.
Anders certainly loved his elf.
Fenris broke their kiss to gently mouth the bonding mark on the mage’s shoulder. The scarred skin tingled in response and Anders chuckled. Even though the ancient Elven magic would never have its full effect for them both, Anders could feel something radiate from it, whenever Fenris touched it.
“Do I still smell like apple pie?” Anders asked. “Or is it different this year?”
Adept hands began to work on the mage’s shirt. “Very delicious apple pie,” Fenris confirmed as he unlaced and tugged on the fabric, slowly revealing more skin. Despite feeling close to over-heating, Anders shivered.
“I thought you said you may want to try suppressants this year?” Anders breathed out while the shirt was gently pushed off over his shoulders. Fenris’ hands were back on his hips, slowly guiding him back to his private room and the bed that, in no way, offered enough space for them.
Judging by the elf’s heated gaze, Anders figured they would have to make do.
“I realized that I have fond memories of being in heat,” Fenris explained, keeping his voice low. They stumbled through the curtains and Anders was pleased to find that the darkness in the room had kept it much cooler than the rest of the clinic.
“Fond memories?” Anders asked doubtfully and with a hint of amusement.
“Hush,” Fenris growled and the mage obeyed.
It had been a tumultuous year; a year of small successes and great disappointments that had Anders despair whenever Fenris wasn’t looking. The situation between mages and Templars had become dire, despite their best efforts to find a solution. Even if Fenris could not see, Anders knew at least Hawke was aware that war was upon them and they did not have the powers to stop it.
It had been a year of growing and learning. They had argued. They had, in fact, argued a lot, especially during the first few weeks of giving their relationship, their bond, a try. It wasn’t like either of them had any actual experience what being in a relationship meant. Anders had soon learned that what he’d once had with Karl could never compare to what he was experiencing with Fenris. It was sad, considering they were both grown men, Anders nearing his forties faster than he liked, and they only now learned what love meant, what commitment meant and that it required work. It required acceptance, the ability to not give up after an argument. It meant to talk about feelings, needs and desires; that it sometimes was necessary to shelve your own needs and tend to those of your partner.
The first few weeks, Anders was sure they wouldn’t make it, that this wouldn’t work out and that it was his fault. One night, he cried himself to sleep, curled up against the elf and cursing himself for thinking he could make this work; the next morning, he woke up and all the worries, self-doubts and fears were gone and everything looked a lot brighter. Like he had cried that impossible weight on his chest and shoulders off, once and for all.
Then Fenris began to remember. Bits and pieces of his past returned, triggered when they were intimate, or sometimes while he slept. Dreams that made no sense to him until Fenris realized that the dreams were memories long forgotten, assumedly erased by Danarius. Most were painful and resulted in the elf being bitter and aggressive for hours, sometimes drinking himself into a stupor and ignoring Anders. Anders endured it all, because it meant Fenris was reclaiming something that was his. Danarius hadn’t taken everything from the elf. One night, Fenris had come to him, cheeks and ears as red as the apple Anders had been snacking on, to inform the mage that it seemed he had, indeed, been Fenris’ first lover. The elf’s embarrassment had made Anders laugh cheerfully and whole-heartedly – before he proceeded to choke on a piece of apple. Fenris commented that it served him right.
The elf had been rather shy, especially when it came to initiating any sort of intimacy between them – kisses included. His confidence seemed to have vanished as soon as the heat was over.
Unnecessary, Anders thought when the wet heat of Fenris’ mouth descended upon his growing erection. The elf was an incredibly skilled lover. Curious, eager to learn and most certainly imaginative. Anders hadn’t even been aware he’d lost his pants or that he’d lay down on his bed, spread out before Fenris and by now as eager as his lover.
“Sweet Maker,” Anders sighed and his hips lifted while the elf coaxed him to full hardness, his tongue teasing thick veins and ridges, teeth grazing the spot just behind the engorged head, the right mixture of sweet pain and pleasure that Anders enjoyed. Fenris snorted around his cock and the vibration had Anders laugh, toes curling from the odd sensation. Fenris pulled away and pressed open-mouthed kisses to the inside of Anders’ left thigh instead.
“What did I say about calling the Maker’s name in bed?” he admonished playfully and bit into soft flesh. Anders merely laughed harder; the laughter soon turning into breathy moans when Fenris’ mouth slowly worked its way up the mage’s body, finding all the sensitive spots Anders hadn’t known he possessed until the elf found them.
And ‘abused’ them in the best way possible.
“Andraste curse you,” Anders whined when Fenris’ lips caressed over his.
“I dare her to try,” the elf murmured. Anders reached out, running his hands over the elf’s body greedily. Skin hot like a furnace, obviously aroused, lyrium markings glowing faintly. Fenris had the ability to always look beautiful and sometimes, Anders really wanted to hate the elf for it. No stubble to maintain, the elf’s messy hair after waking up adorable and not a catastrophe, like Anders’ own hair sometimes was. No body hair that clung uncomfortably to his skin when sweaty, though the elf seemed to have a fascination for the mage’s. Just like this very moment, with Fenris gently scratching over the light patch of hair on his chest, tugging in the process.
“I should have gotten cleaned up first,” Anders murmured apologetically. He was sure he smelled like an ogre after working so hard the first few hours of morning.
“And just what exactly would that help, since I plan to get you sweaty and dirty again shortly?” Fenris asked, eyebrows lifted in mild amusement.
“I must be reeking.”
“You smell amazing, mage…also like vomit, but still good enough for me,” Fenris assured with a low growl and gently bit into Anders’ lower lip. His body was moving slowly, straddling the mage and Anders hissed in pleasure when he felt the elf’s cock brush against his.
“You say the most romantic things,” Anders teased and Fenris huffed out a laugh.
“Would it suffice your need for romance if I told you to fuck me?” the elf asked with an amused smile.
“Err, well…you’re getting better?” Anders sat up and wrapped his arms around Fenris’ lithe form, feeling him shift until he was seated comfortably in his lap. The shivers he felt course through the elf’s body were from arousal and Anders pressed gentle kisses to Fenris’ shoulders and neck in an attempt to calm him down. It was just like a year ago, when Fenris had been overwhelmed, terrified, by the needs he experienced and the things Anders’ closeness did to him.
Indeed, Fenris was panting harshly against his shoulder, fighting for control. Anders figured it would take another year or two until Fenris would be able to keep a clear head despite the incredible need to rut.
After a moment, Fenris exhaled shakily and Anders could feel the elf relax a fraction in his embrace. “May I try again?” the elf rumbled.
Anders smiled against the elf’s skin. “Please do.”
Fenris huffed. “Would it suffice your need for romance if I…asked you to make love to me?”
The mage chuckled, feeling giddy when he brought their mouths together. “It certainly would,” he murmured against Fenris’ lips. “I love you.”
“And I love you,” Fenris muttered, pointy ears giving a nervous twitch, which just made Anders more giddy.
“I have one condition, though.”
Fenris’ eyebrows lifted. “Do tell.”
With a grin, Anders tapped two fingertips against the spot where his neck met his left shoulder.
“You have a very beautiful neck?” Fenris offered, confused.
“I want another,” Anders told him. “Right there.”
“Another…?” Moss green eyes blinked. “Why?”
“It was illustrated in that book I read. Remember, Merrill’s book on Elvish lores?” Anders’ grin morphed into a gentle smile. “Besides, there’s two of us, so we need two marks.”
Fenris rolled his eyes, though his lips twitched into a smile. “I will pretend I didn’t hear you say that.”
“Ah, but Justice might be disgruntled over you ignoring I said that.”
“Since when does the demon care about not having its own bonding mark?” Fenris’ eyebrows rose higher.
“Alright, fine,” Anders laughed. “It was a joke. I just really want one there and…I kind of like it when you bite me?”
“I’ve noticed,” Fenris remarked dryly and shifted in Anders’ lap. Anders’ eyes rolled back at the delicious friction and he moaned gently. “How about we make a deal?” the elf suggested.
“You making deals with mages?” Anders smirked. “Have I truly corrupted you this much by now?”
Fenris rolled his eyes and huffed. “You want something I can give you, and only I. You happen to have something I want. I suppose trading one for the other is fair.”
Anders hummed. “Very well, elf. What is it that you want?”
With a smirk, Fenris reached between them and took hold of Anders, his grip tight enough that it bordered on painful and made the mage yelp. “This inside of me,” Fenris murmured and Anders moaned helplessly when the hand began to stroke.
“Not playing fair,” he gasped out.
“Are you saying you do not desire –“
“I do. Stupid…elf…Maker…fuck…”
Fenris chuckled. “That is indeed what I came here for. Well…among other things.”
This playful side of the elf was another thing Anders had come to love. Fenris was usually controlled, had a witty, dry humor on occasion but otherwise kept to himself. Once he had overcome his renewed insecurities after the heat had ended, and found Anders responding positively to the elf’s playfulness and teasing, Fenris had found his confidence. It was a side only Anders got to see, much like there were sides of him only Fenris got to see and they both jealously guarded those privileges. They had both learned that good things did not last if one didn’t protect them with all their might.
Sunset brought the much needed slump and the rain Fenris had predicted. Thick, black clouds covered Kirkwall’s evening skies, the strong rain flooding the streets; the roll of thunder strong enough that they could feel its vibrations in Darktown.
Sunset found them both sated for the moment. Anders, lying on his belly, face buried into his pillow, dozing on and off; Fenris on top of him, his hands and lips paying attention to each and every scar on the mage’s back, soothing away dark thoughts and long-forgotten pain. Their bodies still joined through the elf’s knot, which had soon begun to give Anders a sense of belonging. Being unable to separate from Fenris after making love had Anders calm down instead of panic, by now. The knot was always accompanied by strong arms and warm hands making him feel secure and very often, Anders found himself craving these moments; actively seducing Fenris in his desperate need to feel it once again.
Fenris had never once turned him down, instinctively knowing what his lover, his mate, needed. Anders knew he would never be able to repay the elf for all that he gave him and continued to give.
The elf nuzzled his neck, chaste kisses bringing Anders back to the here and now once again. “We could travel,” Fenris murmured, a hint of uncertainty in his voice. “I have been thinking about it a lot.”
“Travel to where?” Anders replied in kind.
“Anywhere but Ferelden and Tevinter, I suppose.”
The mage chuckled softly. “Have you tired of Kirkwall?”
“No. Tevinter was never home to me, as slaves do not have a home in the sense of the word. Kirkwall has been more of a home to me than any other place in this world.”
“What about Seheron? The Fog Warriors?” Anders asked.
“I do not have the right to call it such, after what I did,” Fenris reminded and Anders hummed in agreement. “But there are many places I have heard of, or read about since I’ve mastered reading. So much to see. And nothing keeps us here.”
Anders glanced at Fenris from the corners of his eyes, a pleading look. Fenris visibly bit back a sigh. “Mage, do you truly believe you can make a change, the longer you stay?”
“I will, at the very least, try. It’s true that nothing keeps me here but the one thing and I am not done with it, yet.”
Fenris hummed and pressed a kiss to the back of Anders’ neck. He had learned better than to argue with Anders about his continued fight for the mages in Kirkwall and beyond; it wasn’t like Anders did this to satisfy his ego. And he used to have a rather huge ego, if he were honest. He did it for himself; for men like Karl, who had also tried, peacefully, to make a change - and lost his life in the process.
“I won’t hold you back if you want to leave,” Anders added gently. “I’d love to travel, too, you know? There are so many places I haven’t seen yet, either.”
“But it is not an option until it is done,” Fenris clarified.
Fenris’ knot went down, which both men requited with a gentle moan. Anders knew they would maybe sleep for an hour or two, until arousal took hold of Fenris’ body once again. For the next few days, sleep would be limited, but Anders looked forward to it. It had been a year. A beautiful year, against all odds and despite the terrible things he had continued to face and Anders cherished that he and Justice agreed to give this time, to allow it to grow. The Fade spirit had turned out to be quite fond of the elf, always calm and content in Fenris’ presence. Protective of him. Anders had been told Fenris and Justice had had some interesting conversations while he was asleep. Neither would reveal what they’d talked about.
“But who knows…looking at the current situation in Kirkwall, we may need to leave soon, anyway,” Anders said thoughtfully.
Fenris shifted on top of him, his lips finding the fresh mark next to the mage’s neck. It was sore and stung, unlike the first one Anders had received. It also felt different. He wondered if the first one hadn’t been done ‘right’, whatever that meant. It felt good, the sting, the knowledge that Fenris had marked him once again. Anders knew he’d wear it with pride, now that the second mark was in a spot less hidden than the one on his shoulder.
“An interesting thought,” Fenris murmured and he sounded suspicious.
“You should get a map…start planning…” Anders smiled widely. The prospect of travelling across Thedas with Fenris was a beautiful one. He could see them, wandering abandoned roads and paths, climbing to mountain tops, enjoying the wilderness.
Eventually finding a place to settle. Anders wished he could think about growing old with the elf, but it was unsure how much time was left for him, with the taint coursing through his veins.
“I shall,” Fenris promised and leaned in further to capture Anders’ lips with his own.
Chapter 20: TWENTY (Epilogue)
Here it is, the final chapter. I had wanted this finished and now I kinda don't want it to be finished o.O
Anyway, since I realize that the beginning of the chapter might make the one or other worried OR could be triggery - I have *not* added a character death warning to this one because...there is none. But I feel I should warn and wave my hand at the just updated tags. The beginning may sound like this is going to end terribly but...trust me? :3
As it is, we have reached the end and I must say I was extremely surprised at how popular this one became. I had loads of fun writing it, even though it gave me headaches now and then and it was an absolute joy to have you all read and follow this along with me :) So, thanks a lot for all the lovely comments and encouragement and I sure hope this isn't...disappointing to anyone. °u°
A term Fenris had come in touch with through Sebastian Vael first, who strongly believed that sometimes, only faith and praising the Maker and his blessed wife Andraste could deliver someone from the darkness in their life. Sometimes, only death could deliver someone from agony or madness. Sometimes, vengeance equaled deliverance.
Fenris remembered jokingly asking Sebastian if he believed Darkspawn could be delivered as well, if they found Andraste. Sebastian had countered that soulless vessels lusting for blood and flesh, obeying only the archdemon, would never be able to find peace and deliverance in the chants.
Demons had no need for salvation.
“There can be no peace,” Anders had said. Loud, clear and without doubt in his voice. When had the mage slipped the safety of Fenris’ grasp? When had Fenris failed to see that, even after all the time spent to try and make a difference, together, Anders had not strayed from the path that inevitably ended in self-destruction and sacrifice?
Even in the sparse light the fire provided, Fenris could see the ashen color of the mage’s face. For hours, the elf had done nothing but stare at Anders’ lifeless form on the ground, waiting for a sign, anything, that would assure him the mage was still alive.
Fenris’ throat was still raw from breathing in hot air, smoke and choking down bitter tears; his ears still rung, terrified screams echoing in his mind. Whenever he closed his eyes, he relived the moment of the explosion. The ground shook beneath his bare feet as the Chantry collapsed, again and again and again, fire and smoke darkening the early evening sky.
His hands remembered the feel of blood, flesh and bone, the slow beat of Anders’ heart safely cradled in his palm. The expression on the mage’s face, a mixture of betrayal, relief and sorrow.
Having to act fast, bereft of even a second to consider the options, had not allowed Fenris to think about what happened until now. The starless night sky above them was suffocating, a foreshadowing of things Fenris had no doubt were to come.
It had only taken moments after the Chantry explosion, that Anders realized the dimensions of his deed. The mage was not a murderer, not someone who sacrificed innocent lives if he could prevent it. Neither was Justice. The realization on their face at the sound of terrified screams and crying children, Sebastian’s angry shouts, told Fenris that rage and despair had brought them this far. It had given Fenris a feeling of failure and he found it mirrored in Hawke’s features.
He had seen the moment Justice retreated, paralyzed and doubting in the face of tragedy; Anders’ body had slumped and he stumbled toward a crate to sit down, his trembling legs refusing to support his weight any longer. He had listened, head lowered, to Hawke’s questions and Sebastian’s threats and not defended himself. The same man who had so passionately fought for the rights of his kin, tirelessly and at any given opportunity, could not face the people close to him when the time of relevation and judgment came. He had not argued when Sebastian had called him the cruelest names and demanded that Hawke ended Anders’ ‘pitiful life’ for the sake of those who had no part in this.
Fenris wondered if that was what Anders had wanted. Die a martyr.
If he did, Fenris refused to let him.
The argument between Hawke and Sebastian had escalated quickly; Fenris had paid them no attention, kneeling before the mage, holding his wrists in a tight grip and demanding answers, trying to understand. Anders’ fingers had played with his old hair tie, wrapped around Fenris’ wrist. A token he’d held dear since finding it in his bed, so long ago. It had worn thin and torn a couple times during the past year, and Fenris had continued to tie the torn ends together. Insisting he would ask Anders for a new one when the time came and the moment was right.
The moment Hawke had refused to kill Anders for something that he strongly believed was not entirely to blame on the mage alone, but the system who had nurtured the hate inside him for years, Sebastian had reached for his bow. The moment Sebastian had reached for his bow, Fenris’ body was moving on its own accord, ears filled with the mage’s whispered apologies and declarations of love. Hands had phased into the mage’s chest and Anders stopped breathing, eyes wide and demanding answers. He had only been able to feel the agonizing pain, Fenris knew. Not the way one of Fenris’ hands cradled the mage’s rapidly beating heart protectively, while the other stopped Vael’s arrow just a breath away from the pumping muscle, when it penetrated the mage’s body through his back.
It was not a question of whether or not he agreed with what Anders had done, nor a question of whether or not Fenris believed that mages had to be freed.
It was a question of loyalty. Love. Anders was his mate, their hearts and souls bonded, and Fenris would be damned if he did not protect the mage with all his might. Especially from someone who, in Fenris’ opinion, had no right to condemn Anders.
Anders’ body had gone into shock; the light left his honey-colored eyes as they stared right into Fenris’ moss green ones. But the elf had seen it, the flicker of Fade light in those amber orbs. “You saved him once,” Fenris had murmured, keeping his voice low, “you will save him now. Dare let him die, demon, and I will come for you, no matter how long it takes or how far I have to go to find you.” He had actually felt Justice within Anders’ body; the inexhaustible source of Fade energy that had so often served the mage well, in his bloodstream, his flesh, one, yet not one. Justice had not answered with words, but the strong pulse that momentarily made the mage’s heart beat a little stronger, made him suck in a sharp breath, had been confirmation enough for Fenris.
Then Merrill had turned her head and looked at him; next to her, Hawke was wrestling Sebastian, keeping him away from Anders’ body, only held upright by Fenris. The Dalish elf mouthed only one word: Go. Fenris had moved fast, pushing the arrow out of Anders’ lifeless form and lifting the much taller man over his shoulder. Merrill created a magical barrier, one Fenris was certain would last long enough for them to get a good head start and he ran. He needed not worry about Merrill – Hawke would protect her with his life, much like Fenris protected Anders’ with his.
Just outside the city, Justice had taken over Anders’ body, moving him stiffly and shakily, constantly supported and urged on by Fenris. Spiritual being or not, even with all his powers, Justice still had to rely on his host’s body and it was weak, Anders was bleeding and Fenris had to get him away, far far away.
Fenris couldn’t remember how long they had walked, until Anders – Justice – had collapsed on the ground, or where exactly they were. No one had followed them until now and they were as safe as they could be, at least for the night. His elven ears recognized plain fields and high-reaching shadows in the distance. They were out in the open, easy to spot and yet something told him that at least tonight, they didn’t need to worry.
Exhaustion took hold of Fenris’ body and he crawled over to Anders, curling up against the mage’s side. Anders was breathing but it was so shallow, that Fenris was only able to hear it thanks to his sharp elven ears. He didn’t dare move the mage, although Fenris really wanted to just hold him in his arms. Anders was still wounded.
“Justice,” Fenris murmured into the blond’s ear, “why has he not woken up yet?”
The Fade spirit disappointed by not answering and it took everything for Fenris to not grab the mage’s body and shake it to catch Justice’s attention. “I trust you,” he told the silent Fade spirit tiredly. “I trust you.”
Fenris woke to slender hands caressing over his face. He was awake in an instant, grabbing those searching hands tightly, eyes snapping open. Anders’ face was still ashen, but he was alive, conscious and breathing. Honey-colored eyes spoke of sorrow and pain, of exhaustion and fear.
“Fenris,” Anders rasped. He swallowed hard. His throat had to be dry and painful after so many hours without use and water.
“Was it worth it?” Fenris asked. “Was it worth destroying everything we had?”
A sad smile grazed Anders’ bloodless lips. “And what was it that we had? Every time I came to Hightown, I had to lurk in the shadows, out of the Templars’ sight, so they won’t spot me and drag me to the Gallows before I made it to the safety of your mansion. Every time I opened my clinic, I had to fear they’d come for me and have me executed or made Tranquil before word reaches you that I was arrested. Worries over you suffering the same fate as I for housing and supporting an apostate stole my sleep at night.” A trembling had grasped Fenris’ chin. “Meredith herself has more than once eyed your mansion and was no longer kept at distance by the rumors of it being haunted. It was a matter of time.”
Fenris snarled at the mage. “And when did you plan on telling me that this is how you feel? What you were worried about? We could have left, Anders. We could have left Kirkwall behind and found a place safe for both of us.”
“I told you before, I can’t just leave my people behind while they are still suffering,” Anders shot back angrily. “We couldn’t. Something had to happen. The time for talking was over. Was it worth possibly losing my life for this? Yes. Because the Chantry won’t forget this. What happened will attract the attention not only of the Divine but those who will demand answers as to why and how this could have possibly happened. The mages locked up in the Gallows and the Tower will speak up.” The anger, the fire in the mage’s eyes, vanished. “Was it worth losing you? No.”
“I am here, aren’t I?” Fenris asked, feeling his anger subside at the mage’s honest words. “Sebastian almost killed you,” he added quietly.
“As did you,” Anders pointed out.
“I stopped the arrow from piercing your heart, you fool,” Fenris barked and Anders let go of his chin, face falling. “Had I wanted your death, it would have not been by my own hand. You are my mate. The mere idea of killing you is physically painful.”
“That was why you…?” Anders shuddered at the memory of Fenris’ hands inside his chest. It made Fenris sick just thinking of it, too.
“I had no time to react, other than in the way I did,” Fenris murmured apologetically. “I know it was unpleasant and I feared I caused too much damage and ended up killing you after all.”
“To be honest, I’ve expected you would,” the mage murmured, absently rubbing his free hand across his chest.
Fenris sighed and slowly sat up, his back sore from sleeping on the hard, unforgiving ground and protesting against the movement. Calloused hands gently reached for the mage’s pale face. He felt Anders lean into the touch and knew the blond had expected everything but kindness after all that happened.
“Have you healed yourself?” Fenris asked.
“When you wake up and feel like your insides are on fire, it’s the first thing you do, trust me,” Anders replied tiredly.
Fenris snorted and watched an amused smile blossom on the mage’s face. A tired one and it made him look like he was grimacing, but Fenris was familiar with that particular smile.
“Where are we?” Anders asked and looked around. Daylight had revealed wasteland. There was nothing apart from the odd, lonely tree. The ground hard, having dried out under the merciless sun of the summer they had just bid goodbye.
“I do not know, but we are as far away from Kirkwall as we managed,” Fenris replied truthfully. If Fenris had to guess, they were probably in an unfamiliar part of the Vimmarks. He could spot a thick forest at the Horizon and tried to remember the map of Thedas he’d borrowed from Varric, not too long ago, to do as Anders had said – plan a route for them to travel.
“Well…how did we get here?” Anders asked, looking around curiously. Fenris couldn’t help but smile at the mess the mage’s hair was. It looked like a bird’s nest. Fitting, the elf thought, glancing at the dusty feather pauldrons.
“I carried you out of the city. Justice took over for a while but then you collapsed. I was too exhausted to carry you further away and no one had followed us. It was safe enough for the time being.”
“You carried me?” Anders asked and gave Fenris a dubious look.
“Like a damsel in distress,” Fenris muttered.
Anders laughed. His laughter carried across the wasteland, bright and clear like spring water, disturbing a pair of birds that had been resting in one of the nearby trees. Fenris watched them fly off, chirping into the cool morning air. Soon, the laughter gave way to heavy sobs and Fenris braced himself for the mage’s anger. Not directed at him; never directed at him.
“Was it worth it, Fenris?” Anders shouted at him, gesturing around wildly. “I never wanted this for you, you stupid idiot! You could still be in Kirkwall, help Hawke rebuild the city and forget I ever existed! This is what I wanted to protect you from.”
“And what would that be?” Fenris asked calmly.
“Being on the run again. Having to hide from those who will come after me and demand my head. Having no place to call your own, no home worth speaking of. When they find me, your life is forfeit as well. Was it worth it, Fenris? Was I worth this? Is this what you wanted?” There was a fire in Anders’ eyes Fenris had seen before. He would never understand how someone who put the need of others before his own, a man so gentle and full of love for him, could have so much self-loathing bottled up inside. Was this was the Circles did to mages? Did it make them want to fight for the right to decide their own fate, yet the poison they’d been fed for years made them hate themselves as much as so many feared and hated them? Or was it Anders himself, whose heart and soul had taken too much damage under the hand of the Chantry?
“How did you do it?”
Anders breathed in shakily. “What?”
“The Chantry,” Fenris clarified. “How did you do it?”
“Seriously?” Anders snapped. “Why does that even matter?”
“How?” Fenris snarled.
He watched the mage slump and take a couple deep breaths to calm down. Fenris gave him all the time he needed. It wasn’t that he truly needed to know – he did, in fact, not want to know, as it would make no difference, but it helped Anders focus on something else than his ingrained self-hate and anger.
“I found a text about a magical explosive powder. It consists of specific ingredients. You prime it with a certain spell and later set it off with another. It gives you time to get away safely. Distance doesn’t truly matter. I could have blown up the blighted place from fucking Denerim. I snuck into the Chantry while Sebastian and Hawke were talking to Elthina, three days ago and positioned it in the basement. It was a well-hidden place and it’s not like someone’s down there often.”
A thought crossed Fenris’ mind and he pinched the bridge of his nose, already knowing the answer to his next question: “Please tell me you are not talking about the ingredients you made Hawke and me help you find?”
Anders didn’t answer and when Fenris looked up, he was taken aback by the sight of the mage. He looked like a lost little boy, expecting to be hit any moment. How had he gone from being enraged to terrified so fast?
“Venhendis,” Fenris swore under his breath and pinched the bridge of his nose again.
“When you helped me collect the things I need, I wasn’t sure yet if I’d use the explosive,” Anders whispered. “I just…I figured I better be prepared.”
It was tragic and hilarious at the same time, Fenris thought, and yet it – simply didn’t matter.
“I bet now you regret saving my life,” Anders said humorlessly.
“You’re a fool,” Fenris told him. “Unfortunately, you are my fool, Anders. I chose a complete fool as my mate and I am the only one to blame for that.” The mage averted his gaze and Fenris sighed. “But I have told you before, you are not the judge of your worth to others. Am I angry with you? Venhendis, you better believe I am.”
“And yet,” Fenris continued, “while I do despise what you did and how many innocent lives it cost…I do not feel like I can judge you. There are…too many things I do not know, Anders, and many things that you continue to keep a secret about your time in the Circle. All I can do is see the scars, the ones on your body and the ones in your soul and guess.”
Fenris wasn’t angry about what Anders did, not in particular. He was angry the mage hadn’t trusted him with the things that continued to steal his sleep, the still present dangers Fenris hadn’t known about. He was angry for putting their lives at stake, his own, the lives of their companions and possibly starting a war unlike anything Thedas had seen to date.
He wouldn’t tell Anders he’d seen the mages rebel and fight for their freedom, while carrying the blond’s lifeless form away from the City of Chains. Not now, at least, and not for a while. Encouraging Anders in his current unstable state would later have fatal consequences Fenris could not yet foresee. He was less worried about the mage and more about Justice finding justification in their deed and demand they continued until there was nothing left to fight.
Now wasn’t the time. For now, it was enough.
“There weren’t supposed to be that many people,” Anders said brokenly. “I had planned to do it at a time where only few or no people were inside the church or in the area surrounding it.”
“Then why did you change your mind?”
“I heard whispers of Meredith beseeching the Divine to grant the right of annulment. The rumors were confirmed when I overheard Sebastian only last night, saying Meredith had approached Elthina about the matter. And when the situation threatened to become very dangerous for my fellow mages, I knew I couldn’t wait.” Anders shook his head, eyes closing. “We never meant to kill so many…”
“Why not go to Hawke? Why not tell me?” Fenris demanded to know. “What will it take to get it into your thick skull that you didn’t have to do this alone?”
“And just what exactly do you think Hawke would have done?” Anders snapped. “Fall upon the Gallows and demand Meredith’s head on a silver plate? And you? I know you love me, Fenris, but I do not see you reach for your sword, ready to defend the lives of the mages in Kirkwall.” He sighed. “And after all that was done to you, to ask you to defend the kind of people you distrust, just…no.”
Fenris considered the mage’s words while he watched the blond wrap his long arms around himself and lower his head, fixing his gaze on the dusty ground.
“If it had been people of my kin in danger of losing their lives…” Fenris began.
“I would have defended them with all my might.” There was a hapless smile on the mage’s lips. “But then, I was never enslaved, abused or bereaved of my life by elves. It’s not the same.”
“I suppose it isn’t,” Fenris agreed, voice but a murmur. They had never spoken in great detail about the matter. Anders had told Fenris, or Hawke, what they needed to know, but ever since they had become lovers, he had never lost a word about mage plight in private. It was like they had silently agreed that it was not something their relationship had need of and Fenris had often valued the fact that Anders would not speak of it or continue to try and convince him of his cause.
Fenris realized it had been a mistake. He only ever had half of who Anders was because the mage had kept the other part of himself out of their home and bedroom. Fenris had spoken to Justice about slavery and life in Tevinter; things he didn’t want to upset Anders with, but the Fade spirit had taken great interest in. Naturally, for it was an injustice and something both, Justice and Fenris, agreed had to change.
It was as much of an injustice that Fenris had never listened to Anders, or Justice, about their cause. He didn’t know if it would have made a difference if Fenris had listened, but the thought left a sour taste in his mouth.
“Where to now?” Fenris asked quietly, his voice rough with emotion.
“It would seem we need to find a new, safe place to call our own, since you just blew up the last one.”
Anders snorted and bit back another laugh, keeping his head lowered still when Fenris slowly crawled over to him. He reached out and grabbed the mage by his shoulders, and Anders melted into the elf’s embrace, clung to Fenris’ lithe form and breathed in shakily.
“Where to?” Fenris repeated. “If we stroll around aimlessly, we will either starve or get killed. We have no food, no weapons. All I got on me are few coin in my purse. It’s not like I had time to pack.”
Another shaky inhale. Fenris figured his poor attempt at sarcasm was not welcome right now.
“You’re coming with me?” Anders asked quietly.
“There’s nothing keeping me in Kirkwall, mage,” Fenris replied in kind. “Not anymore.”
“About what? The only thing that kept me there is right here with me, you thick-headed nug,” Fenris growled and he felt Anders’ warm breath puff against his neck when the mage chuckled. “Where to, Anders?”
“North,” Anders decided, burying his face against the elf’s neck. Dry lips caressed over warm skin. Not an apology, Fenris knew – it was gratitude. “We’re heading north.”
Fenris hummed his assent and buried his nose into Anders’ hair. It was dirty and slightly matted, but the unmistakable scent he’d sought was still there, calming his nerves and making him feel that, maybe, things were going to be alright.
“North it is.”