"I must lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair." - Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
The next day, after they’ve slept through the sun and the moon and the sun again, after they’ve washed and healed away the last of the Deep Roads, and after he’s eaten his weight in sweetmeats and even sweeter fruit, Garrett finally concedes.
"I think I’m beginning to understand why you hated being with the Wardens."
Anders just sighs, maybe a half-hearted chuckle, a brief respite from his despondent stares into nothing, but he doesn’t bother with moving, still curled up on the freshly-made bed. Garrett sits beside him, toes curling on the carpet and preferring to gaze out at the three-quarter moon.
"You didn't even meet the Broodmothers," Anders says, the shadows on his face betraying the cracks in that piss-poor imitation of a joke, and it’s such a shame, he’d been on a hot streak of good days lately.
The two-day trek should have been hearty enough for them to work the brooding and wallowing about from their systems, or at least from Garrett's system, as it seems to be permanently affixed to Anders like his own personal stormcloud. The rain practically flooded the house the moment they stepped back through the door.
But if Garrett knows himself, bets off on that, he’s shoved his shock and awe and sudden, quavering fear somewhere dark and dank, where no one can reach, not even a Warden whose job it is to roll in the deep, though admittedly this Warden wasn’t particularly good at it.
Garrett toes at the dangling fabric of the canopy. "I just don't trust anyone who would go down to the Deep Roads willingly."
"Not everyone has a choice."
"I’m just saying, statistically, there’s got to be volunteers, and if your organization lets those kinds of people in, then your organization is bollocks."
Anders snorts at that, weakly, but it's there, and when he sits up Garrett dares to dream, but Anders just tugs one of Garrett's shirts lain out after bath over his head--a loophole in that nagging sense of do-gooding that prevents him from actually buying clothes--and sinks back down into despair and the mattress.
Garrett slides to the floor, back against the bed, listening to Anders breathing and the fires crackling.
Neither feels particularly warm.
"I used magic, you know," Anders says, voice soft. "When the Carta tried to jump you outside." That wretched scowl on his face only darkens. "Meredith must know I'm here and who I am - what I am."
Garrett clutches at the fibers of the carpet, and the only breath that can escape him is the lowest of low. "With all the noise you make in bed, love, half of Kirkwall knows you're here." He bangs his head back against the bedframe and tries again.
"It doesn't matter what she knows," Garrett says. "They already have part of my family, they're not getting you, too." He laughs, but it doesn't sound quite right to his ears. "I'm the bloody Champion, yeah? They won't take you."
Anders says nothing for the longest, most torturous moment, and when he finally breaks the horrible silence, he sounds just as lost.
"...Would it be so wrong if they did?"
"What?" Garrett twists around to stare at him. "You can't really believe that."
"I always thought," he murmurs, and he can't meet Garrett's eyes, "that the Chantry's treatment of us was indefensible. So much of what I've written, of what I believe, it's all rooted in this knowledge that the Chantry is oppressive and wrong, that Andraste believed in freedom."
There's no flash of blue, and his voice is shaky.
"But if we..." he shuts his eyes, takes a breath. "If we destroyed the Maker's city, created the bloody darkspawn..."
"Was that even what he said?" Garrett asks. "Corypheus, I mean."
"I thought so, but..." he trails off. "He wasn't around long enough to find out."
"Oh, well," Garrett huffs. "I'll be sure to invite the next ancient Tevinter magister who wants my blood over for tea and cakes. We'll have a fun chat." He turns back to the fire, glaring at it.
"That's not what I meant. I'm..."
"I know," he says, pinching at his nose, sighing, trying to expel that latent nastiness. "But it's not like it matters either way. It doesn't change the fact that you spent your whole childhood locked in a tower. Or that they were stumbling over themselves to do the same to my sister, or to my..."
He can't finish the sentence.
Behind him, Anders swears softly and rustles about, then he slides off the bed and joins him on the floor, slipping an arm around his waist and easing Garrett against his warm shoulder. Garrett goes willingly.
"Andraste's tits, I'm so sorry," Anders says. "How are you doing?"
"A sight better than you, I'd say." The hand at his waist tightens, and Anders is frowning at him. It's sharing time, which is easily his least favorite time, but that earnest look on Anders' face, full of love and concern and for the first time in days not the sting of guilt and self-doubt, he can't resist it, he never can. How far the cynical have fallen.
"I'm bottling it up," Garrett says, "and I don't plan on seeing this side of sober for the next week. Healthy solutions."
Anders' smile is wan. "For once, a stiff drink might not be the worst idea."
Garrett shrugs. "I think Varric needs it, too. He invited me down tomorrow night. Or, technically tonight, I suppose. Maker, we can check 'not sleep properly for a solid month' onto that list." He picks at a loose thread on Anders' trousers. "I can plus-one you, if Justice hasn't decided to be a nagging nanny--"
"Justice does not control me," Anders snaps.
Shit. He made a damn good show of it down there, Garrett wants to snit, but it's not true, and weaving through flames and killing ancient darkspawn and pure weariness have a way of working the anger out. Anders' face crumples anyway.
"I'm sorry, love," he says softly. "You've so much on your mind, and I'm not helping."
Garrett let's himself relax back into Anders' hold. "I dunno," he says, "I'd say we both have a tendency to get the short end of the mage staff."
When the idea hits him, it's molten. Anders is brightening a bit beside him, trying to pull him closer, but Garrett slips from his arms and rises to standing.
"Hold on," he says. "Stay there. I’ve got something for you."
The old spare wardrobe smells when he opens it, and he can practically see the little butterflies fluttering out of its dusty depths. He feels around blindly, his fingers catching on rough, unfinished wood, and when splinters give way to cold metal, he can't stop his shudder.
Garrett withdraws the staff, theoretically dulled from years of disuse yet shimmering in the firelight, no little stave blades to disguise its purpose, or its owner, only unabashed pride, and Anders is staring.
"...What--" he says, and when Garrett blows on its petulant wings, scattering dust in the air, and hands it to him, that's all the eloquence he can manage.
Garrett shrugs again, because anything else would be too much. "It was Father’s," he says, then flops back down beside him on the floor.
Anders turns the polished gold over in his hands, dumbstruck like he can feel the power radiating from it. "You’re giving this... to me?"
"It’s not like I can exactly use it or anything anyway," Garrett says, then frowns. "Might have to give it a good scrub, it's probably drowning in dust and blood magic."
"Love--" Anders starts, but Garrett stops him preemptively.
"I know," he says, fiddling idly with the staff, still cool to the touch and scaled, like a snake. They're both holding it now, and there's probably a joke or three in there somewhere, but he's not got the energy to try. "I... I do. Know that, I mean. It's a shadow, what happened down there, but no one's perfect - except me, obviously." He grins, but it fades into something more sincere. "He was still a great man."
"He must have been," Anders says, "to carry this with the pride it deserves, and..." he tears his eyes away from the staff to gaze at Garrett, that intensity so familiar and missed, "to have raised you."
Garrett's breath catches.
"You remind me of him, sometimes," he says, and makes a face before Anders has the chance to. "Eugh, that might have been creepy."
Anders smiles, soft and a little too sad, setting the staff delicately on the floor. "Well, at least we know I’m not the only one with a few outstanding issues."
Garrett slides his arm around Anders' shoulders, and Anders' smile turns cheeky. "You... do know that staff has a naked lady on top of it, right?"
"Carver used to stare at her like some holy pair of tits. Didn't stop until he finally got to touch a real set."
They both snicker, and Garrett wishes Anders could have met him, they could have teased and taunted him together, instead of mourning his stupid, idiotic loss.
"You're all the family I have left," he says, but that's much too much, so he adds, "Except maybe Aveline. She's like the bossy older sister I never wanted."
"She'd knock your head if she heard that," Anders says, thumbing at the rough calluses of Garrett's hand on his shoulder, lacing their fingers together.
"When does she not want to knock my head, or box my ears, 'Hawke, quit killing bandits in backalleys on my patrol', it never ends." He runs his hand over Anders' thigh. "Can't do this with her, either."
Anders leans into his touch. "I'd pay to see you try it," he says, voice low, and when he leans that few inches forward, Garrett smiles into their kiss. It's slow, fittingly weary, but Anders' body and mouth, pressed against his, there's nothing more he could ask.
He slides his fingers from Anders' shoulders into his loose hair, soft and clean, and mumbles, "Should have told me about your kinky streak, we could invite them over next time." Anders swats at him playfully, and Garrett laughs before pulling him closer, onto his lap and straddling his hips, kissing deep, Anders' tongue familiar in his mouth.
His heavy weight traps Garrett against the bed, so he rolls his hips up, one hand slipping under Anders' shirt and the other clutching his ass, and Anders shudders, then gently bumps foreheads with Garrett.
"I don't know if I have it in me tonight," he says, and his half-grin before Garrett can even crack the joke is how Garrett knows this works.
"You do know that when we're this close, it's not hard to tell when you're lying."
Anders' fingers dance lazily at his shoulders, and his sigh isn't as affected as he's trying to play off. "It's just that I'm completely knackered from everything, and..."
"Never stopped us before. You're in my lap, what am I supposed to do, not take care of you?"
"Garrett, love, I--"
"Let me..." he insists, fingers trembling over the loose laces of Anders’ trousers, curling in the trail of hair on his stomach.
Anders cups his face, thumb scritching at his beard; this close he's silhouetted against the fire, and Garrett knows only what he hopes before Anders kisses him again.
Anders pulls at his hair, tangled, as Garrett slips his hands in Anders' trousers, gripping the meat of his ass, massaging his cock, half-hard but not for long, through the thin fabric of his smalls, and he still marvels at how each breath Anders takes is shallower than the last.
He teases, coaxing him along, unsubtle and uncaring, and it's not until Anders rocks against him with little thrusts of want and groans a desperate, "Garrett, please," that he tugs that last line of cloth down, strokes agonizingly along the underside of his cock.
Garrett can feel Anders' gasp spilling into his own mouth, breathy and needy as he raises his hips to give Garrett room to work, to play. He eases back foreskin and rubs his thumb over the head of Anders' cock, smearing where he's already started to leak, slicking down that familiar, thick shaft.
Anders moans low, his kisses frantic and sloppy over his beard, jaw, throat, as Garrett revels in the feel of the cock in his hand, smooth skin over hard flesh, shifting under his fingers as he strokes. He squeezes Anders' ass, urging his hips forward, into his eager hand, and through the layers of fabric he feels his own dick.
He stops only long enough to cup Anders' balls, roll them in his hand, tease at that smooth spot behind them as Anders breathes hot and heavy over his ear.
Garrett's hand dips where Anders' legs are already spread, stroking against the sensitive skin, a question, and when Anders nods sharply he pushes through the tight muscle and inside. Just the one finger, not thick enough to hurt, but Anders is so warm around it that he's desperately sorry to not be buried balls-deep in him right now.
He works slowly, carefully, coaxing as deep as he can, to the knuckle, while he thumbs Anders' cock in his other hand, and Anders tightens around him, keening and groaning. Garrett curls and flexes his finger, pressing, searching until--
"Ah--!" Anders grinds down, kissing Garrett hard and messy to stifle himself, but that's no good at all, and Garrett hits that spot again and again, until Anders is writhing in his grip.
He doesn't hide his moans now, growing louder and louder, such a wonderful change from how he'd started so quiet two years ago, which is more than fine--Orana's long since learned not to intrude when they're alone, because Garrett rather likes sex, and if right now is any indication Anders seems to have a taste for it, too.
Anders shudders, tosses his head back, torn between thrusting into Garrett's hand and riding the other, and Garrett strokes faster, along the underside of his cock and against those nerves in his tight ass.
"Garrett--" he groans, wound to snapping, and then he grits his teeth, buries his face in Garrett's shoulder, and bites down as he comes hard between them.
It's sticky and warm and always fantastic, and Garrett gently massages him as he rides it out, finally slumping boneless and wordless. Anders is sweaty, heart racing, open-mouthed and lips bruised, and it's as good as it can be.
Garrett slides his arms around him, riding up his shirt and clutching at bare skin as he pulls him into a tight hug, and Anders makes a good attempt at melting into his chest.
"...I love you," Anders manages.
"Always," Garrett says.
And he’s still half-hard in his own smalls, but Anders is sated and heavy in his arms, his slow breath warm against Garrett’s neck.
Garrett’s okay with that.
* * *