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The Opposite of Two

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It shouldn't have surprised Greagoir that he would come back to the tower now, of all times. If there was one thing the young mage standing before him had always excelled at, it was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

They spoke. At an acceptable distance. And if Greagoir's memory hadn't been so sharp, he could almost pretend that Tannusen Surana was just the same as any other Circle Mage, minus his conscription and subsequent freedom from the Chantry's leash. He could almost pretend that this was any other Grey Warden, like Duncan and those he had dealt with before him.

Almost, but not quite. There had been too many years of the boy's intense awkwardness in his presence, after that one ill-fated attempt to crawl back into Greagoir's bed. He remembered far too vividly the taste of the mage's trembling lips, the whispered admission that it had been his first kiss... the young mage crying out beneath him when he came, almost sobbing with relief and wonder.

He remembered the reports filing in after his rejection, of the trysts and flings Tannusen engaged in through-out the tower, never settling on a partner but instead having sex with anyone who would have him, like a starving man begging for table scraps. Many reports had involved a templar having to all but rescue the boy from his own trysts, and more than one had involved taking him to a senior enchanter to be healed, his own mana already depleted.

Irving, of course, had been content to let the boy do much of whatever he wished... including what sometimes felt like half of the tower's population. The one time Greagoir had confronted Tannusen about it, the young man had simply smiled his strange little smile and asked if Greagoir might like to tame him himself. Mages weren't strictly forbidden to have... relations with one another, even if Tannusen pushed the boundaries of the acceptable with his over-active appetites, and his studies never seemed to falter, and so Greagoir had simply peeled the young man off of himself and left.

He'd hoped that the boy's eventual Harrowing would straighten him out somewhat, having had no doubt that his Harrowing would end favorably, at least, and probably quickly as well. Even years before his Harrowing, Tannusen Surana had already been becoming a force to be reckoned with, even if he'd invariably chosen to waste most of his ambition on the pleasures of the flesh.

...Almost to the point of a challenge against Greagoir's own sensibilities, if the knight allowed himself to think that it was about him at all. An egotistical notion at best, he knew, but...

Greagoir shoved these thoughts out of his mind. Not only were they inconvenient in general, but now was hardly the time or place for them, even less-so than usual. And the mage standing before him now was civil and polite, making eye-contact but not staring intensely, standing apart from his companions and acting for all the world like any other Grey Warden. It was a... welcome change.

And then, the young mage stated that he would go into the tower and clear the demons from it. "I assure you, an abomination is a force to be reckoned with, and you will face more than one," Greagoir sounded incredulous even to his own ears, but with good reason. Tannusen was gifted, yes, but he and his little band of mismatched followers hardly made the small army that would be needed to safely purge the tower.

"And so are darkspawn," the mage smiled very faintly at him, "I have confidence in my abilities."

"Ahh, that arrogance hangs about you like some fell cloud, doesn't it?" Greagoir scoffed lightly. And so the conversation went, the Knight-Commander offering the aid of his templars against the darkspawn if the foolish young mage somehow succeeded in clearing the tower. He warned that there would be no turning back, hoping that the mage had the sense to realize how serious this was.

But when had that ever worked, with Tannusen?

"I don't have the time to wait for your right of annulment to arrive, let alone for your men to reclaim the tower," the young man informed him, his customary purr warming the cold words. "So it seems that there is little choice. Besides," the mage tipped his head forward a little, a tiny smile twitching at his lips -- and there was that intense stare again, from beneath his lowered eyelids, "this way I get to protect you for once, Greagoir."

And then he walked past the Knight-Commander, his little band of strangers following silently in his wake. They strode on through the heavy double-doors another templar pulled open for them as Greagoir turned to watch, his brow slightly furrowed. And then the young mage and his party vanished behind closing steel doors without so much as a glance back, and the bolt was thrown.

Greagoir turned back to his own duties, wondering grimly if this would be the last he would see of Tannusen Surana. At least, until it came time to clear out the bodies.

But he was in the Maker's hands now, whatever his fate.

- - - - -

Hours passed, and hours more, and Greagoir eventually gave up on the slim chance of a resolution. Irving's voice on the other side of the barricaded doors was a shock, if a welcomed one, and the doors were swung open after a quick glance into the hall beyond. The battered group of humans and elves and lone Qunari giant emerged, Cullen and Wynne's familiar and unexpected faces among them.

Greagoir's attention first went to Irving, of course. The man had been his co-worker since he'd been appointed to the tower decades ago, and the state of any surviving mages would be best determined by the First Enchanter. Still, the templar couldn't help but glance at the group of singed, blood-spattered fighters and mages, and sought out one mage in particular.

Tannusen Surana looked... a little different than Greagoir was used to seeing. Grim, tense, a thin line of fresh blood smeared across his cheek from his mouth, half of his face a bruised mess. But he walked without assistance, his staff slung across his back like a proper weapon, and when vivid blue eyes caught Greagoir's staring, they seemed much... colder than usual.

So, this was a Grey Warden fresh from battle. And judging by the absolute silence of the tower behind him, physical and arcane alike, most of the dried blood caking his dark robes was probably not his own.

It was a sight any templar could... respect, if nothing else, and Greagoir returned his attention to the matter at hand as Cullen spoke up. The boy was obviously traumatized by his experiences, and likely suffering from lyrium withdrawals as well judging by the crazed look in his eyes, and so Greagoir was lenient when Cullen's demands edged into insubordination. Lenient, but stern.

The abominations were slain, and he had no doubt that Tannusen had killed every single blood mage he'd encountered on the way up to the harrowing chamber. The tower was reclaimed; the crisis was over.

Greagoir turned his attention to issuing orders to his remaining men while the Warden spoke with Irving, and by the time he was finished discussing how to cart the dead across the lake for burning, Tannusen Surana and his group had departed.

It was probably just as well.

- - - - -

It was weeks later that Tannusen found himself back on the little row-boat, crossing Lake Calenhad once more. By himself, this time, save for the man who owned the boat, a combination of a lantern and Tannusen's always-moving Spell Wisp lighting the way across the dark waters.

He didn't chat with Kester, beyond small listening noises while the man rambled on about all the clean-up that had been going on at the tower, and how the stench of burning bodies was only now finally leaving the bit of shore the templars had chosen as their pyre site, far away from the docks. But eventually the human fell silent, rowing them the rest of the way across the lake, and Tannusen was left to his thoughts.

Tannusen stopped the templars at the doors from sending one of their number to alert Irving, citing that the elderly mage had just returned from assisting with Connor and would need his rest at this hour. He wasn't here to deal with the First Enchanter, anyway. They could tell Greagoir if they liked, but since he was headed to the Knight-Commander's office himself, they would have to jog ahead of him.

Weary, the templars just shrugged, and let him do as he pleased.

And so Tannusen ghosted through the familiar, darkened halls of the tower alone. He climbed stairs that would normally be guarded, without challenge, entered the fourth floor -- the templar floor -- without encountering another living soul, and approached Greagoir's office. There was light under the door, the leak dim and flickering, but there. As expected, the Knight-Commander was up late with his duties.

Tannusen raised his hand to knock, and hesitated.

Why was he here? Why was he doing this? He should be at the dockside inn with the others, resting up to leave at the crack of dawn, not... not...

But he could die tomorrow, for all he knew. And even if he'd stayed at the inn, he wouldn't be resting, precisely... and as lovely as Zevran's company was, he had... something he wanted to do here, before it was too late.

"Come in, mage," Greagoir's voice on the other side of the door was tired; a touch exasperated. Tannusen blinked out of his thoughts, and lowered his hand, still poised for a knock he hadn't delivered. He pushed open the door, and stepped in.

Knight-Commander Greagoir was seated at his desk, the surface of which was covered liberally in papers, and he gave Tannusen a stern look as the mage closed the door behind himself. Tannusen smiled. "How did you...?" he followed the templar's glance upward at his Spell Wisp, and chuckled. "Ah."

"Is there something I can help you with, Grey Warden?" Greagoir set the documents in his hand aside, and Tannusen approached. He stepped around the man's desk, and watched as the templar turned in his chair to look up at him, brow furrowing.

The furrow only grew deeper as Tannusen knelt down gracefully on the floor at Greagoir's feet. "I promise," Tannusen murmured, setting the side of his head on Greagoir's knee, the soft maroon cloth of his armor padding a little against the chainmail and underlying plate, "that I am not trying to do anything inappropriate, Knight-Commander."

This time. That he'd ever behaved so desperately left a bad taste in his mouth, and such behavior in his past embarrassed him now that he was older, and far more experienced, and... thoroughly resigned to his fate, as far as Greagoir was concerned. The man was a Knight of the Church. There was no changing what he was, and it was that very dedication to his duty that had, in so many ways...

A gauntlet settled, very hesitantly, onto Tannusen's head. Greagoir's discomfort was obvious, but the man was clearly... trying, at least. In his own way. The man was a soldier, not a priest, and was utterly unused to being treated in such an oddly-reverent manner. It had to be unsettling. Particularly when the one doing it had tried to undo his armor before, had tried to slip beneath cloth and chainmail skirts...

"...It was Uldred," Tannusen sighed, finally.

"I get the feeling you are not talking about the recent army of abominations," Greagoir said, slowly.

Tannusen shook his head, feeling the slight pinch at his scalp of long hair catching in armored joints. Greagoir didn't move his hand, not to take it away or otherwise, and Tannu shut his eyes. "Uldred was my Master," he explained quietly, "the blood mage you protected me from. He still had my puppet strings, he just couldn't chance playing with them when I might remember. Well," Tannusen curled his fingers into the deep maroon cloth of Greagoir's armor. "I'm starting to, now that he's dead. I'm starting to remember it all."

The templar cleared his throat, and Tannusen heard him take a breath -- undoubtedly to say something awkward and uncomfortable -- and so he raised a hand to set on top of the gauntlet on his head, silencing the older man before he could begin.

"I don't want you to say anything, or do anything," the mage murmured, "except listen. I just... I could die tomorrow, for all I know," he straightened, lifting his head from Greagoir's knee, tugging his hand down off his head to examine it as though he hadn't stared at a hundred gauntlets just like it before. Perhaps because he'd often pretended they were Greagoir's, and the idea that he wasn't pretending now was fascinating, in a way. "I may never get another chance to say any of it."

"Go on, then," Greagoir prompted, letting Tannusen keep his armored hand. For now.

"First of all," Tannu traced his fingers over the interlocked plates, staring at the gauntlet instead of looking up at the templar's face. "If you still wish me punished for Jowan's escape... you needn't worry. I'm a Grey Warden, now, and--"

"Yes, a terrible price," the Knight-Commander snorted his disdain.

"...I am a Grey Warden now," Tannusen repeated slowly, and added, "which means that even if I don't die of a darkspawn spear through my head, and even if I don't get eaten by a dragon, I am going to live a nightmare-tortured thirty years or so and then go completely mad, and die from the taint," he chanced a glance upwards, now, and saw that Greagoir was staring down at him. "It's a Grey Warden secret, but I don't care," Tannusen added with quiet earnestness, "I didn't want to go. I would have let you do anything, Greagoir. Anything. Because it was you."

He would have preferred to have the templar do as he wished with him; had, in fact, forced Duncan to formally conscript him in order to pull him away from whatever fate the Chantry would have meted out. "I... I see," Greagoir cleared his throat, and Tannusen looked down at the gauntlet in his hands again.

"The ritual we're put through, to become Wardens... it kills many immediately. The rest, it kills slowly," he said softly. "So you shouldn't worry about me not paying. Unless something terrible happens to you, you'll outlive me anyway. This way I'm at least doing something useful, don't you think?" Tannusen couldn't tell if the slight squeeze of armored fingers in his hands was a product of his imagination or not. It hardly mattered. He lowered his head, resting his cheek against the back of Greagoir's armored hand. The metal was smooth and warm, the heat from within having permeated the steel.

It was almost like a real touch. He closed his eyes.

"You had more you wished to tell me," Greagoir's voice nearly startled him. Not gentle, never gentle, but... quieter, as though he was trying anyway.

Tannusen seriously considered backing out now; telling the knight that he'd changed his mind -- he knew Greagoir wouldn't argue, wouldn't press. He could take his leave while his pride was only bruised, and not yet bleeding. But he knew it would haunt him if he did so, and so he simply nodded against the older man's gauntlet, keeping his eyes closed. If he didn't tell him now, he never would.

"I worshiped my Master," he said quietly, "with all my heart and soul. I loved him. I had no choice." Even now, he couldn't call that man by name in such a context. The word would not form in his mind; on his lips. Until the day Tannusen died, that man would undoubtedly always be 'Master'. "I never..." the mage had to stop for a moment.

It was too much.

He shouldn't be saying any of this.

Tannusen balked at very few things anymore, but this was... this was too much. He released the Knight-Commander's gauntlet, and leaned back onto his heels to stand, "I shouldn't--" he stood, quickly.

He couldn't have been any more surprised when an armored hand encircled his wrist, Greagoir frowning lightly up at him. A tug pulled him back down, and the templar touched the back of his head, guiding him to use the top of the man's knee as a pillow again. No, not quite the knee. Almost his thigh. His lap.

Tannusen let out a shuddering breath, his eyes just a bit wide.

"Go on," Greagoir stated, stiffly formal. "Your insecurities do you no favors, Warden. Continue."

"I..." the mage swallowed a lump in his throat, and briefly turned his face down into that soft maroon cloth, the underlying chain-mail; the hard armor beneath. Somewhere under all those layers... he took a deep breath, muffled by the cloth, steeling himself. Still, he almost stalled again, almost couldn't bear to put the words out there.

"You were the first to care," he said quietly, "the only one. You were my first kiss, my first... I'd never even been taken in a bed before," Tannusen whispered, "never came without pain... he used to control that, too. Blood magic can control one's entire body, keeping me from release without his supervision was child's play for my Master. His control of me was absolute. He had me touch myself, every night, squeeze out little drops..."

Greagoir cleared his throat, shifting a tiny bit beneath Tannusen's head.

"It was torture. Penance. Worship." Tannusen murmured softly, "When you helped me... it was the first time I didn't hate myself for... it was... I'm sorry. I shouldn't be telling you this."

"Tell me whatever you wish," the knight sounded understandably uncomfortable, but he said it anyway.

"I..." he hesitated again; slowly steeled himself once more. "I felt so warm, so safe under you," Tannusen continued, so quietly his ever-present purr was lost, and he wondered if Greagoir could even hear him at all. "I fell in love with you, Greagoir. I-I didn't know it at first," he continued quickly, "I thought it was just infatuation, and... and I think understandably so, but... but it's been years and I still want nothing more than..."

He shook his head against Greagoir's leg, interrupting the man before he could say anything. "I'm not asking you to do anything. At all. Ever. I would... I could give you such pleasure, Greagoir. I could make your eyes roll back and your toes curl and every inch of you feel so alive, just with my mouth... I could do that, it isn't boasting when it's true," his throat was dry, and Tannusen swallowed.

"...But I know better. I know your vows mean the world to you. I know you only touched me that one time out of duty. And I know... I know it doesn't matter. Because if you weren't so dutiful, and honor-bound, and dedicated to your cause, you would never have helped me," the mage whispered, "so I just wanted to apologize, I guess. And explain myself. But mostly apologize."

"Why are you apologizing?" Greagoir cleared his throat yet again, obviously trying. "There is nothing wrong with love itself... however misguided."

"I'm sorry," Tannusen shuddered, a suspicious dampness forming on maroon cloth beneath his eyes. "I'm so sorry."

"Stop that," Greagoir huffed, and a hand -- a bare hand -- slid through Tannusen's hair. The blond looked up, startled, and held his breath as the templar produced a cloth from his desk drawer and wiped the tears from his face with gruff care. "Enough of that nonsense."

"Greagoir," Tannusen whispered, staring up at him. "I have two requests to make of you."

The Knight-Commander's brow furrowed as he set the damp cloth aside, and he stared back at Tannu for a moment as though trying to gauge whether he wanted to hear his requests or not. "...Then make them," he finally sighed.

"If I survive the Blight," Tannusen murmured, fingers worrying at the hem of Greagoir's maroon skirt, "if I stop the Blight and live, will you make me tranquil?"

Greagoir's eyes widened, and his face paled. Tannu had never seen such a reaction from the templar before, and he lowered his gaze. "Please. I want... I don't want my heart. Please, Greagoir."

"The risks in doing that to a Harrowed mage..." the knight began to argue--

"I don't care," Tannusen whispered. "Please."

The templar was silent, and so the mage added, "...I'm not your charge anymore, Greagoir, you needn't protect me from my own stupid decisions. I'm not a circle mage. Tranquil me, and I'll go to Weisshaupt Fortress, and... I don't know. Learn to mend armor for the other Wardens. Scrub floors. Something. If I stop the Blight and live, which is unlikely," Tannusen tightened his fingers in the deep maroon cloth, "at least say you'll consider it..."

"I will agree to consider it if that time comes," Greagoir finally conceded.

"Thank you," Tannusen set the side of his head on Greagoir's lap again, shutting his eyes. He wondered what being made tranquil would do to a Grey Warden. Would he still hear the darkspawn? Would he go mad faster? Except... how could he be infected by their rage if he no longer cared about anything at all? Unless being cut off from the Fade would leave him only open to the darkspawn's influence...

All the more reason to go to Weisshaupt and put himself into the custody of the other Wardens. Surrounded by Grey Wardens, they would put him down if he began to... change. No fuss, no argument, just a fast sword through the neck.

He shuddered. It was still better than living with a heart like his own, always latching onto the wrong people and tormenting him with it endlessly -- even beyond their death. Tannusen didn't particularly want to die, but he definitely didn't want to feel anymore. He'd had enough. His Master's death resonated in the back of his mind, leaving him feeling... cold, and his long-held fixation on Greagoir was hardly any better, unrequited as it was and would always be.

The mage was practical enough to accept this. But it would just be better for him to never care at all, about anything or anyone... missing his Master despite the things that he'd done to him was damning enough by itself.

"You said you had two requests," Greagoir prompted, several long moments of silence later.

Tannusen hesitated again, and then pulled back to look up at the older man again, a hand settling where his head had been on Greagoir's thigh. "...Yes. May I... may I kiss you?"

With anyone else, he would have taken a great deal more satisfaction in seeing the faint widening of eyes, the slight lean-back in the chair... but with Greagoir, Tannusen held perfectly still for a moment and then nodded to himself. His traitorous heart clenched. "I understand," he murmured. "I--"

"Go ahead."

Tannusen stared up at him for a moment, waiting for the templar to change his mind. Greagoir merely stared back down at him and held very still, and so the mage rose, putting his hands on the arms of the older man's chair to lean down and in... a pause... but still no protest. Just that steady, calm stare.

He leaned in closer yet, and took that small part of what he wanted, closing his eyes and pretending for a moment, as he nudged pliant lips apart and tasted, that this was all that mattered; all he really desired. Tannusen slid one hand into that soft steel-grey hair and took his time, registering Greagoir's surprised noise with a twinge of satisfaction -- he'd become quite a bit better at this than the first time, and when he finally drew back, the templar's eyes were slightly glazed and his face held actual color.

...Tannusen could seduce him. Having done so to so many men -- and women -- in the years since Greagoir's intervention, he recognized the signs easily. If he leaned back in, kissed him again, touched his throat; ears; devoured his senses... undid the cloth and chain skirts and knelt between his armored thighs...

But he wouldn't do that to Greagoir, and his oaths, and his sense of honor. Tannusen hadn't lied when he'd said that was much of what he loved about the other man, and so he would let one noble thing go un-tarnished by his foolishness; he owed Greagoir at least that much. But if it had been mere lust, the templar would have been his right now, right here in his own office... perhaps even on his own desk. It was a bittersweet final confirmation of his own feelings.

"Thank you," he murmured softly, pulling slowly away, "for everything."

His heart ached as he left, closing the door behind himself. The kiss had been a poor idea, perhaps, but...

But...

He brooded distractedly on his way back down various empty halls and flights of stairs, eventually making it back down to the bottom floor of the tower, sliding his calm mask back into place before stepping into the entry hall with its witnessing templars. He'd have to talk one of them into lending him a boat to cross back over the lake with, or to row him themselves--

Zevran's smile was the last thing he expected to see in this place, and he paused at the sight of the Antivan chatting quietly with one of the helmet-covered templars. The smile Zevran gave him from across the wide entry area seemed oddly... predatory, scraping hard over the mage's raw nerves.

"I brought Kester's boat," Zevran said cheerfully as he came into range, leaving the templar and their secretive chat behind, "in case you wished to come back over to the inn tonight."

"Good," Tannusen's usual purr hid his thoughts just as much as his easy smile did, "let's go, then."