“That’ll never work,” mutters Varric, peering at the grimoire over the feathers of one shoulder. “For one thing, it doesn’t take piercings into account.”
Anders stops writing. The dwarf strolls away, resuming his seat at the opposite end of the table. There is a satisfied grumble under all that chest-hair. It’s supposed to be a laugh. But it will always sound like a challenge to those who know him.
“Have a lot of experience writing dirty spells, do you?” His scowl is lost on Varric. So, Anders closes the grimoire, wiping ink in a familiar pattern on his thigh.
"Blondie, it’s like you never listen to a thing I say.” Varric shakes his head, quill scratching on paper. He pushes the spectacles down to peer at the mage over them. “All words are dirty spells. All of mine, anyway.”
“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I think you’re full of shit.” Anders smiles across the table, reaching for the dregs of whiskey in his glass. “If what you’ve been doing all these years is your version of flirting . . .well, maybe I’ll take my dirty advice from Isabela.”
“Where do you think she gets it?” When Anders only rolls his eyes, so very see-what-I-mean?, Varric puts his quill down and yanks the specs from his nose.
“Remember that day Isabela wore her hair up?” The dwarf rises, moving by stealthy strides around the table.
Anders nods, the empty glass rotates between the four points of two fingers and two thumbs. He remembers her hair, so odd and high and tight, and the curve of neck meeting shoulder. And how Hawke had peeked at it all day, especially when others were looking as well.
“That was my idea.” He says. And Anders tries not to mark the way Varric’s constant pride in himself, the timbre of it rough as this new edge to his voice, makes hot little circles in his groin. Varric moves behind him. “She was looking for a way to surprise Isabela. And, that level of skill, that’s the kind of thing you can’t teach. Unless you’re me.”
A hand, warm and hard, settles on his shoulder.
“So, I suggested the hair. Because nothing feels like the wind on your neck all day, you know?” Varric’s thumb slides across the back of his neck, almost as if the word itself were rubbing the skin there. “Nothing except breath, of course. Which was the whole point, and you can’t tell me that’s not high class flirting.”
He doesn’t move, much. Though parts of Anders wake, because they always will, he just sits still, getting warmer under one broad palm while the other suddenly pushes away his hair. Less like a strong wind and more like what it is; fingers on his scalp, breaking apart the gathered heat, exposing with blunt nails and a firm grip. He thinks obliquely of exposure, of building a blind need, and doesn’t stop the tug of the fantasy when it comes. The catch of fabric on his nose as his shirt whips upward, sharing some grunted haste in which Anders can’t tell any longer who’s chest is more golden, or which brand of loneliness trumps the delicacy of eyes trapped behind linen. Breath caught against the shirt, against the chest, hugging his heart. How he hopes, and allows it to be the worst kind of exposure. A short sigh slips from him. Varric continues, and Anders can swear that the dwarf is suppressing a chuckle, if he suppresses nothing else.
“See, Rivaini spent the whole day feeling like something was there, but not there. Until they were alone, and all that wind on skin . . .well. Let’s just say it was a rewarding exercise all around.” The voice on Anders’s neck is helpful, instructive in its illustration, but the breath is decidedly torturous. And the lips, where he knows they must be at the upsweep of hair and neck, make a point to stay . . .just away. Just far enough that Anders leans toward them, eyes closed, Varric’s voice burning more pleasantly than the whiskey in his throat. “Hawke’s got a wicked sense of timing. She gets that from me, too.”
Without warning, Varric releases the bunched hair. Anders opens his eyes, blinking over his feathers at the quirk of a heavy, dwarven brow.
“That’s it?” It sounds more like a whine than he’d like, and he watches Varric stride to the door. Dirty spells and cleanish words that somehow aren’t. Maker’s cock, Anders stares at his grimoire. Big shoulders shrug as Varric stares into the corridor.
“What were you expecting? Lightning? I’m a serial tease, Blondie, I deal in subtle acts of devastating sensuality. Readers pay good coin to see that kind of thing stretched out across an entire series.” Says Varric over his shoulder, voice pitched well clear of annoyance and into something Anders might have recognized if he’d been less. . .distracted.
“I’ll say it again. You’re. . .” The pout crawling over his lips is confused. Anders hates his own face immediately, pressing his cheeks hard into his palms as he unfocuses on the lines of ink beyond his nose.
“Full of shit. I know, Blondie.” Varric closes the door against the Hanged Man’s muted raucousness downstairs. When the latch grinds softly, Anders looks at Varric like a Mabari who’s been shown a card trick. The dwarf leans for a moment, heavy and suddenly dark against the door, before drawing thick fingers over his jaw, thick voice hitting Anders just at the faded prickle of skin at his neck. “Show me a spell?”