Chapter 1: Grubscrew #1: Malcolm Hawke/Leandra Amell
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“Malcolm, what is this?”
“It’s… Try it on.” He pulled his lyrium goggles up, and winked at her.
Leandra eyed the contraption suspiciously. Malcolm knew she always felt like a complete numpty when it came to his inventions. He was giving her that lewd look now, trying to coerce her into accepting the gift. As well as trying to forget that she was nobility. Logically unattainable. A mystical faerie from the Fade, if nothing else, defying all of Kirkwall’s rigid standards by just being with him now.
“What does it do?” she cringed her nose a little, but the small dimple in her cheek was just enough to signify some sort of agreement. Her fingertips came close to the faintly glowing aether enclosed within the crystal case, shy to brush against the tiny gears built on its circular frame.
“Would you let me?”
Blast, she was beautiful.
So much was standing between them. A genealogy unworthy of the City of Chains’ grandeur. A diploma in contraptology barely worth a look from a curious aristocrat. Hands forever dirty with oil and dirt. He was an ersatz Freeman dressed up with only his skills and his heart.
The way Leandra smiled as her roguish lover slipped the ring on her finger made none of it matter.
Because she stood there, pupils widening, and could only utter her Yes when she finally heard the music within her, Malcolm’s feelings forever captured within the gently spinning, shiny cogs.
based on combination-nc's prompt The way she smiled as he slipped the ring on her finger made none of it matter and this ring.
Chapter 2: Sprocket #1: Karl Thekla/Anders
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Karl tried to not think of them as goodbye kisses, though he could not help but let his lips linger against Anders’ for longer than usual, could not resist the temptation to deepen the kisses instead of breaking them. His fingers found his, entwining together without a conscious decision to, limbs tangled with limbs, body against body and too many feelings between them.
Their first time together so many years ago had been special, somehow. It was only fitting that what could possibly be their last turned so as well. Karl had not planned for it to be, had not even planned for it to happen at all, but Anders was Anders; impulsive and with that brassiness that Karl had never quite learned to resist. He would have to eventually, but left it for later. Now was a time for tongues to meet, for hands to encourage arousal, for fingers to prepare and entice.
In many ways it reminded him of that First Time; unplanned but suddenly all but impossible to resist, with more feelings involved than was strictly healthy. But other things were different. So many years later there was no excited shyness, no nervous fumbling with clasps, no hesitation for how it should play out. Their bodies knew each other by now, in a way more intimate than they ever allowed their hearts to be.
This was a time to be inside the other and to hold on, to trade pleasure for pleasure and share moans of them.
An arched back, a name called out. Then a rest, too short, in familiar, warm arms. Not quite like lovers would, because that was not what they were. More like friends with overlapped boundaries and many shared tastes.
A worry had been gnawing at Karl as of late. It was possible, likely that they would not be able to share things for much longer. That was not his largest worry, but certainly something that he would miss. Not the occasional physical act as much as the spark in his eyes, and that intense desire for change .
It was for that drive and that spirit, and the trust Karl had in it, that he mentioned his ring and suggested that Anders pierce his ear for it. He removed Tryster from his little finger; the characters carved on its inside glowing slightly in the light it so rarely saw. He activated a hidden mechanism to pull it apart and eject a sharp point from one end, revealing the possibility to turn it into an earring.
“It will look nice with that hideous feathery coat of yours,” he explained; true or not, a reason was needed. “This trinket is a bit too flashy for me, to be honest.”
Anders hesitated, biting his lip, shoulders tensing.
“Not as a token of affection,” Karl ensured. It was much more than that, more than he would be able to explain now. Affection was not the greatest danger on his road.
At that, Anders relaxed and nodded, sitting up to tie his hair back as Karl readied the needle. “Careful Steamy, no maiming!”
“If anything, calling me that will tempt me to prick you somewhere else,” Karl murmured. But it was quick and thanks to a sprinkle of his healing magic, a wonder so few these days had witnessed, almost completely painless.
The gold looked good on him, the secret lyrium blue patterns on the inside catching the bedroom’s low light. It suited him in more ways than one, but Karl settled for a lone, simple it behooves you , and Anders rewarded him with a brilliant smile. Always so weak for compliments, that one. And for staying in bed longer than necessary. Karl cleaned up, got dressed and left him there, waving dismissively as Anders’ called him Steamy once more to tease.
He exited the worn-down shack; one of many that the members of the Underground occupied, spread out for safety, with a slight worry eating at his heart for how Anders would fare when his mentor would be gone. He was still here for the moment, but things had gotten riskier lately; he felt watched, followed, at almost constant unease. But he still had a few things to deal with before they caught him. He hurried through the hackneyed streets, heart beating louder than the quiet steps of the unfortunate and the calls from the bold; a part of the music of Darktown.
a1879 prompted Anders calling Karl Steamy, the threat to stick the needle somewhere else, and a mention of Darktown’s music. Yes, we are teaming up for a prologue!
Chapter 3: Grubscrew #2: Varric Tethras and Bethany Hawke
“What is this?”
“Why, my precious briefcase of course.”
“I meant, Ser, what is this?” Bethany pointed at the oddly shaped tube sitting amidst vials filled with dark liquids. Right next to a fancy book. These items did not seem to have a purpose being packed together, but they did belong to Varric Tethras, and that made the noblewoman incredibly curious for some reason.
“Glass pipe,” the dwarf replied with a wink. He was wrapped in this mystique of the Merchant Guild, an aura that said he knew the simple, straightforward answer would elicit more questions. Varric also seemed to be enjoying himself immensely right now, though he was a gentleman proper and kept any hint of gloating completely hidden.
Bethany bit her tongue and tried to think of another query that could elucidate this little mystery.
“I have never seen that cover. Is it something you are working on?”
“Yes, indeed. Thoughts. Adventures. The usual. A scriptorian should never be without his tools.”
“You seem to have forgotten a quill then,” Bethany pointed out, eyebrows furrowed. Varric was a strange character indeed, as Garrett had pointed out to her.
“Oh, none is required usually. I have a good memory.”
The noblewoman sighed, wondering if she was now part of a game someone else was playing. “I am perplexed. What is in those vials then, if not ink?”
“I thought I had answered the question, Sunshine.” An affable smile graced Varric’s features, and he distractedly dusted off his waistcoat. “Thoughts. Adventures.”