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(Almost) Always

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There was a knock on the door.

“The clinic is closed,” Anders growled without sparing the door a glance.

He was currently very busy, thank you, or at least the gorgeous blond on his knees was, and Maker, but it had been too long.

A pause, and then the knocking turned into a pound.

“Andraste’s flaming knickers,” Anders groaned, half in frustration, half in rapture as what’s-his-name did something truly innovative and possibly illegal with his tongue. Another, more insistent bang. If a knock could sound indignant, this was it. There were words too this time, but he was too far gone to care. “No!” he shouted at the door. “I don’t care if you’re bleeding, hurting, or dying! I don’t care if the Maker himself has infected all of Kirkwall with the Blight! Come back in the morning!”

The word “morning” came out a touch breathier than he would have liked, but, oh, now there were hands with that mouth, and he was going to get splinters the way he was gripping the desk.

Oh, Maker, but he was –!

If he could just –!

The door slammed open.

No, that wasn’t right. The door shattered, and judging from the screech his new blond friend made as he scrambled away, he’d been the one to get splinters after all.

Cursing, Anders fumbled to cover himself. The silhouette in the doorframe was familiar but distinctly un-Templar-shaped, so he didn’t drop a fireball on his head. Yet.

“Get out,” a gravelly voice snarled, and what’s-his-name was out the door in an instant, cheeks flushed and hair tousled.

“I’m sorry about…” Anders called out, but he trailed off when the man didn’t even bother to glance back, “…all this.”

Fenris stalked over, looming over him with his arms crossed, his expression dark.

“Your timing is awful,” Anders sulked, straightening so that he was glaring down at Fenris instead of up.

“Yours is worse,” Fenris rejoined, his tone harsh enough to give Anders pause.

“What do you mean?”

The elf swallowed and looked away. “We found Hawke’s mother,” he said. “I… was sent to retrieve you.”

“Does she need healing?” Anders asked, all business now as he snatched up his staff. He checked his pockets, gathered a few potions.

“No.”

Anders stilled and waited for Fenris to elaborate, but he didn’t. The elf merely looked at him— through him—and marched out the door. Anders winced at the damage (he wondered how Fenris managed to avoid getting splinters with bare feet) and followed, curious but hesitant to ask. Fenris always looked like he was ready to murder someone, but right now he looked like he wanted to. Anders was not keen on being that someone.

Couldn’t doom have struck later? Five minutes, that all he would have asked for.

“I hope you plan to pay for that door,” he muttered.

Fenris didn’t look at him, his jaw clenched.

 

 

Subdued.

It was the only word that could describe the room’s mood. If he were here, Hawke would tell Fenris he was wrong, that there were plenty of ways to describe their dour gathering. Hawke was ever full of words, glib ones, and Fenris had no doubt that the man could fill the room and Fenris’ head with more jocular synonyms.

But Hawke wasn’t here. They were here for Hawke.

That was a first for Fenris: offering support of the emotional rather than tactical kind. He felt awkward and ham-fisted in this, his concern for his friend making his skin itch. He shifted, scratching one foot with the other, fighting not to fidget the way Merrill did across the room, bouncing her staff on the rug.

The others were still enough to gather dust. Isabela and Varric sat hip-to-hip on the settee, drinks dangling from their fingertips, while Aveline stood by the doorway, fully armored and looking the part of a Kirkwall guard.

Five heads turned at the sound of footsteps. Anders appeared, looking ten years older than when he’d arrived, his shoulders slumped and expression grim. He nodded to Merrill, who darted up the stairs to Hawke’s suite.

Seeing Anders in the doorway, Fenris did not think about how he’d looked when he’d found him. He didn’t picture Anders’ lips parted around a gasp, didn’t think of the way his hair fell free of its tie or in wild strands around flushed cheeks. He didn’t think of his voice as—

“How is he?” Varric asked, and Fenris shook himself, clamping down on the rush of heat.

“Physically?” Anders sighed. “Fine. But he’s still in shock.” He brushed a stray lock of hair behind his ear and shook his head. “I hate seeing him like this.”

The mage looked back up the stairway with an expression of aching longing that set Fenris’ teeth on edge. The man proclaimed to love Hawke, yet he’d been… been irrumating another man not an hour before.

It was unfair.

To… to Hawke. Even if he lived with Merrill now and only flirted with Anders out of habit. He doubted the man even knew Anders was so love-sick over him, or at least he hoped so. Much as he couldn’t stand the mage, some things were cruel even by his standards.

“I still can’t believe someone would do that,” Anders murmured, shuddering. Varric had filled him in, complete with gruesome details, and the mage had looked green in the face as he’d listened. Fenris took cruel pleasure in knowing that the discussion would have killed whatever lingering arousal the mage had felt.

Served him right.

“I can’t believe a mage would do that,” he added.

Fenris snapped to attention at that. “I can,” he growled, and Anders finally looked at him.

“Don’t,” Anders said, face strained. He held up a hand, palm out. “I know, but just… don’t.”

“Don’t what?” Fenris growled, stalking closer. He was boiling over with anger, with hurt without an outlet, and here was Anders, making his mage-loving self a target. “Don’t mention that this is what the Templars fear? That this is why you mages need to be watched? That you’re all capable of horrendous deeds and incomparably dangerous?”

“And you’re not?”

There was hurt under Anders’ indignation, and Fenris stiffened, remembering a late-night conversation they’d had by a campfire months ago. “Of course I am!” he conceded. “But I’m a weapon, not a mage! I can’t summon tempests or… or raise the dead!”

“No, you can just crush a man’s heart with your bare hand! But you shouldn’t be enslaved for that any more than we should!” Anders had stepped forward too, and now they were glaring into each other’s faces, close enough that they were breathing the same air. Anders’ cheeks were flushed again, his eyes dark, but with anger this time. “And how dare you put me in the same category as that monster? How dare you put Hawke in that category?”

Fenris bristled at the mention of Hawke, a black swell of… something choking him from the inside. “Hawke is the exception that does not invalidate the rule!” he shouted. “You speak of enslavement, of pain and abuse, but you don’t know the meaning of the word!”

This close, Fenris could see every variation of color in Anders’ gold eyes, could smell the salt of his skin.

“Now, now, children,” Varric intervened, his teasing tone and smile strained. “Play nice. You’re shouting fit enough to wake the neighbors, and Hawke doesn’t need this right now.” The dwarf pressed a hand to Fenris’ chest, nudging him back. The elf stepped back obligingly, but his eyes never left Anders’. Neither so much as blinked.

“Spoilsport,” Isabela pouted. She’d leaned forward in her chair to better watch the proceedings.

“Meredith will have heard what happened by now,” Aveline said, drawing everyone’s attention. She sighed, pressing fingertips to her forehead. “Whether or not you agree with Fenris, Anders, she does. The Templars will be on high alert, and you know what Hawke’s been saying about this Ser Alrik. You need to be careful.”

Anders scoffed. “When are they not on ‘high alert’ when it comes to apostates?” He shook his head. “I’m going back to my clinic.”

He brushed past Fenris on the way out, and the elf reached out, grabbing him by the bicep before he could think better of it. “Aveline is right, mage,” he said, careful to keep his voice neutral. “You should be careful.”

Anders tore his arm away. “Keep your threats, dog!”

“What? I wasn’t –!”

The door slammed shut behind Anders.

“Smooth,” Varric muttered. Fenris glared at him and stormed off to raid Hawke’s wine cellar.