[NOTE: This chapter is NSFW and not for those under the age of 18. You've been warned.]
Bodahn never once expressed shock or concern when I came home coated in filth and blood as I did that afternoon. I suppose his experience traveling with the Hero of Ferelden had trained him to expect such behavior from women. He and Sandal did wonders with the things that dried to impenetrable crusts in the joints of my armor, as well. I’ve missed them sorely since they decided to leave for Orlais. I have offal from three fights ago still crunching in the articulations of my gauntlets.
Normally I’d have sunk into the bath and taken my time cleaning every last inch of myself but I was nearly frantic with worry. I didn’t even sit, just scrubbed down and splashed water over myself to remove the soap. Looking down after I stepped out of the tub I saw that had been a fortunate choice. Flakes and chunks of sewer goo floated on the surface and the smell could have felled a Qunari.
I threw on some casual clothes, a skirt and bloused shirt. My mother had managed to have the Amell family crest put on the back of half of my wardrobe, something I usually forgot when I was out of my armor. I’d been reminded about it embarrassingly often when drinking at The Hanged Man, one of the many reasons we mostly ended up lounging around Varric’s rooms casually intertwined, rather than down in the common rooms with the usual Lowtown crowd.
The Hanged Man was where I headed. Thankfully, Varric sat at the table in those rooms, chatting with Aveline. I quickly explained the situation and both of them agreed to follow me to the clinic. Aveline may not have much love for Anders but she’d spent the same four years working and playing with him that I had and that counted for a lot with her. Varric was one of the few that seemed to like our haunted mage as much as I did.
By the time we’d dashed across and down into Darktown the sun had begun to set. “Dwarves aren’t meant for running,” Varric gasped as we rounded the corner to find the doors still shut tight. I banged again, getting no answer, and gestured impatiently for him to get them open. Seconds later a click signaled his success and I shoved the rough wood out of my way.
To my relief I saw Anders sorting through his things, setting some aside and throwing others back into a chest. He was murmuring to himself and ignoring us entirely. “Keep,” he muttered, “toss, keep, garbage, garbage.” After a few moments he made up his mind that we weren’t going to go away without talking to him. He stood, moving as though he’d aged twenty years since I’d last seen him a few hours before. We could see that his eyes were swollen with tears. Tendrils of hair stuck to his forehead and straggled down his neck and I wanted desperately to calm him while I brushed it smooth again. He’d bathed haphazardly and changed into clean robes, at least.
“You had us worried, Blondie,” Varric said, trying to keep his voice casual. “Are you all right?”
For a moment I thought Anders burst into tears anew. Aveline stepped forward and clapped him on the back, about as affectionate as she got without a few whiskeys under her belt, and Anders summoned a wan smile.
“Can I speak to Hawke in private?” he asked, his voice hoarse.
Varric and Aveline stepped out into the alcove just outside of Anders’s little clinic to take advantage of the openings that overlooked the harbor and breathe some fresh air. How he managed to heal people in the filth of Darktown I might never understand but the Templars did avoid the place so I supposed it had its good points. As they left Anders stood and thanked me almost formally for helping him.
I gave him the papers I’d found on Ser Alrik. “It looks like Meredith and Elthina both turned him down,” I said, “but I’m more than happy to have stopped him and those other bastards from hurting anyone else. You don’t have to thank me.”
“I do,” he disagreed insistently, clutching the papers to his chest for a moment. “Most people wouldn’t even have listened much less agreed help me.” He left the chest through which he’d been digging and paced to the other side of the room, contemplating the letters. “You saw what happened. I almost…”
“No,” I interrupted him. “Justice almost; you stopped him.” The mournful look in his eyes eased a bit and his downturned mouth relaxed. But he continued his agitated wandering on the far end of the room, his attention jerking from place to place.
“I don’t know if that’s true anymore.”
“You’re a dear friend, Anders, even if you are crazy,” I replied with a grin to cover my concern over his agitation. “I’m happy to help you where I can.” He gave me his most charming half-smile, his eyes on me in that appraising way that always made me nervous, as though he were looking for something I was hiding even from myself. Surely Justice doesn’t possess mind-reading powers, I assured myself, though what I thought the spirit would find I have no idea.
I tossed off a little joke, trying to lighten the mood with the sort of banter we used to enjoy. “It’s too bad we weren’t friends in the Ferelden Circle.”
Anders stood for a moment as if shocked then stalked across his little clinic, his brows lowered. I’d never seen him like that when the topic wasn’t mages or oppression and I took a half-step back. He wasn’t glowing, though. His anger seemed all Anders and not about justice for once.
“Three years,” he said as he came at me, his voice low, urgent. “For three years I have followed you, watched you flourish, allowed you to tease me, lain awake at night aching for you. I have held back because I couldn’t live with hurting you. You saw what happened back there; I’m losing control.” I opened my mouth to protest again but he kept going. “This is nothing like Kinloch Hold. Do you think you know what it was like in that prison? You have no idea. Shall I tell you how it was there, between ‘friends’?” He flicked a hand to the right and the doors to the clinic slammed closed.
By then he was nearly pressed against me, searching my face. What had started as an angry speech had turned into something sad and longing. His soulful eyes stared down at me, showing a loneliness I hadn’t realized was so large. “Anders,” I began. Then he kissed me.
Holy Maker, did he kiss me. Anders poured the entire three years’ worth of desire and frustration into it and I was swept away. I drowned in his need, every thought in my head sucked under by the flood of it. Heat flared within me, born of no magic beyond simple desire, and I clung to him as he devoured my mouth. We were both panting within moments. His hands slid up my ribs then around and down to pull my hips tightly against his. I wrapped my fingers in his hair, allowing him full access without breaking our connection, in just as big as hurry as he was.
“In the Circle we teased and tempted each other plenty,” he said between nips at my neck and nibbles under my jaw, “until we couldn’t stand it anymore.” He tugged open my shirt and explored what lay beneath. I closed my eyes to the squalor in which we stood and arched myself into his hands. “But we knew that the Templars were always watching.”
By then Anders had backed me up against the table on which he examined his patients. I felt him press hard against me and another flare lit deep in my belly. He bent his head, pulling at my flesh through the band of fabric still in place and drawing whimpers of desire from me. I squirmed where he held me trapped, wanting him inside, and his muffled groan rumbled into my chest.
His fingers moved between my thighs, probing through my smallclothes, and I ground against his hand until he pulled them down to my knees. The clever digits resumed their exploration as he rose to kiss me again. They found me more than ready and we moaned into each other’s mouths. Suddenly he spun me by the hips and bent me over the exam table, flinging the skirts of his robe over me and granting my unspoken wish in what seemed a single, practiced movement. Yet his voice continued much as before.
“We never knew when a door would open, when we’d be interrupted or, worse, forced to finish,” he said, our bodies moving as if to illustrate his words. I became aware of the fact that Aveline and Varric were just outside the clinic’s door and that they were likely hearing the murmur of that voice, as well, as though nothing unusual were happening. “And if we were unable to continue we might have to watch while someone else did.”
I bit back my cries as Anders pressed himself deeper, both of us driving together as our ardor mounted. “We learned to continue talking calmly…” He paused, a tortured sound coming from his throat. “…to keep quiet and steal our passion where we could.”
I couldn’t concentrate on what he was saying. My body screamed for release, my fingers clenched on the other side of the table that held me in place as Anders filled me, lifting my hips to plunge as deeply as possible. He swallowed his moans while I muffled my cries in the cook of my arm. “Love was secret and fast and hidden,” he continued, his voice strained and desperate as I contracted around him. “We could never have anything deeper, never cling to something we couldn’t stand to lose because lose it we would.” He fell silent for a moment, the only sound our panting for breath.
“I could never dare to fall in love before,” he said with a trembling voice. A warning bell rang somewhere in my head as the sense of his words filtered through my desire but my body ignored it. His fingers stroked the delicate skin of my hips and slid down the insides of my thighs, lifting, spreading. The added sensation fueled the building fire. Our bodies came together with such force that the sound must be audible from outside the doors but I no longer cared.
Anders exploded inside me with a strangled cry and I fought to contain a scream when my pleasure answered his. We stayed for a long minute, locked together as the waves tumbled us, then he withdrew, his robes sliding over my exposed backside and down into place as though nothing had happened.
Had it not been for the cooling damp spots on the front under my open shirt and the throb of fading pleasure the suddenness of the whole encounter would have seemed nothing more than a vivid fantasy. I rose, pushing my skirt back down my hips, and turned to see Anders, the sweat on his brow the only sign that he had done anything untoward. Then he stepped forward and kissed me again, tenderly this time, cupping my cheek in his hand. “And that’s how it was in the Circle of Ferelden.”