“You don't have anything to prove, Carver.”
Garrett's voice was almost a reproach, or close to showing regret, or tainted with annoyance. Carver could never pinpoint exactly what his brother really wanted to say— because everything Garrett said always had double meaning— and he did not care about not getting it once again.
The Templar cleaned some blood off his broadsword with one quick flick of his wrist, spreading tiny droplets of the dark, liquid substance over his companions and himself. Not that they needed more of it, but it felt better than trying to come up with a witty reply to the statement.
“Well, you can let him do his thing, Hawke. I am not complaining about not getting closer to those ugly darkspawns. Or spending arrows on them,” Varric replied.
“Right,” the mage sighed, shaking his head.
Garrett stared at his younger brother for another moment, and then turned his back to a mute Carver, resuming his course on the path that led further down into the Vimmark Mountains and the prison that was home to so many darkspawns. Carver despised the place with a passion now, but initially, he had welcomed the change of pace from Templar life. Heck, it had almost exciting to have been the target of an attack, so when Garrett had actually asked him to join him for this 'expedition'...
Though really, the one thing that had really made up his mind was that Anders would be there.
Or so he thought.
That idiot mage had not even looked at him. Carver was mad. He had waited months, trained hard to push aside the long waits, the longing, the lust... To try and visit as much he could in Darktown... But Anders had done none of the effort, and did not seem to care. That sinking feeling which grew each moment spent in his presence just made him crease his nose and spit with disgust and disappointment.
And then he had said something about the Warden's Calling. The old gods owned Anders, whatever happened between now and then.
He had felt abandoned. He could at least have said something before now. Anything.
And then the fear that it was probably just over was just not ready to take up any space in his mind. Denial was a strong motivator, and was making his rage grow, and those darkspawns just happened to be in the way of a huge broadsword wielded by an angry, very frustrated warrior.
Carver glanced at Anders one more time, but it was useless. The blond man was withdrawn, quiet, obsessed with something, and could not even cast a spell decently. Not that Carver had needed any support in the fights, as Garrett had so blatantly pointed out.
“You just don't get it, do you?” the Templar whispered to them all, and to no one, the words absorbed by the thick, damp air of this forsaken place. He looked around once more, sharp rocks and elongated shadows the only answer to his question.
Carver set his mind on the darkspawns that would inevitably show up again. And again. It just happened to be very convenient right now, and to suit his mood perfectly.
He had lost track of time, the hours of mindless killing almost putting him in the same state as the meditation training he was forced to go through daily at the Gallows. Still, there was this point in everyone where the momentum of the body just slowed down and broke, leaving one completely spent even though the mind would continue. Carver barely had the energy to keep up his scowl, but he did anyways, staring without interest at the tiny fire Garrett had conjured close to their makeshift tents.
“You should go rest first,” the tall mage suggested, a note of worry breaking his usual assurance.
“Not trusting the Templar or something?” Carver muttered as he stood up, still obeying the suggestion as if it were a direct order from his Lieutenant.
“Carver!” Garrett said loudly. The name echoed through the caverns like an endless taunt. “What is wrong with you?!”
“I'm just— ” Doing my duty. You know, protecting mages. You. Him. Stuff like that. “Whatever. G'nite. Or day. Or something...”
Carver turned his back to everyone before they could see the expression he felt burning his features. Especially, he had wanted to avoid Anders's stare. He wished he could explain his feelings but he did not want to speak them up. If there was one thing the Hawke brothers did not do, it was justifying their behavior. Garrett should have known better than to ask this in front of their friends.
Plus, Carver was most certainly not going to talk about exactly what had been bothering him.
Inside his crude tent, it was the same murkiness as outside, except he was not forced to acknowledge the blond mage's presence anymore. He heard Varric and Garrett whisper to each other, probably talking about what was wrong , making up fancy theories for not knowing better. He wondered if Anders was listening to this rubbish at all. Or if he knew why Carver was like this. Probably not. He was as distant as ever, sitting opposite of the campfire, the flames another obstacle among the dozens between them.
The Templar sat down, crossing his legs, not even bothering to take his armor off. Darkspawn could attack anytime. The metal and its engraved symbol was a wall between him and the rest of this awful and dangerous place, but also a cage for this agitation inside that would not calm down. The heat. The pressure. The rampant urges that would not go away, all confined to this tiny space that just happened to be his body. It would be so easy to simply take his gauntlet off though, loosen a piece of his armor and sneak his hand under the robes...
You have been given dominion
Over all that exists. By your will
All things are done.
Yet you do nothing.
Carver had never been a strong believer of Chantry dogma, but over the months spent training and living in close quarters with the more religious kind, learning the Chant of Light and reciting it, he had finally found some sort of comfort in a few verses. There was reassurance in the repetition of things, of words, of rituals, something that his body and mind were now doing effortlessly to deny the feelings that seemed to encompass his inner self every now and then. And then, some of them were uncannily close to what he was going through. To the point he was starting to wonder...
So he clung to those words, holding on to his focus and shoving everything else aside.
Was it so wrong however that one name kept tainting every syllable he uttered under his breath?
When Anders lifted the canvas to enter the tent, it was his turn to be on watch while the others slept. His feelings told him there were no darkspawn close by, so he thought he could cheat a little and check on Carver. Finally.
Simply put, the boy was driving him wild with lust. The taint was driving him insane with the darkness extinguishing everything inside his mind. And Justice was driving him into a corner where he thought he would just lose control of himself.
This was madness. It had to stop. Agreeing to help Hawke had been a mistake, but Carver... He had said Carver would be there. His Templar would be there. His.
Anders was losing the fight with his demons, and it hurt sorely. He could see it all day long, in everyone's face, in the way he lost his footing here and there when no one else noticed, or when he was a few seconds late casting a spell that no one really needed. Meanwhile, Carver was just fury unleashed on these monsters, though not on the ones that kept calling Anders, elusive spectres whispering endlessly the same song that was so scary and alluring.
He stopped. Stood there, immobile, watching Carver's meditative posture against the thin fabric of the tent, highlighted by the flames of a dying fire not weak enough to waste mana to rekindle. Something else needed reviving though, but he had no idea how to proceed.
“It's not my turn yet,” Carver whispered with clear reproach. Anders could feel his glare in the dim light. He knew Carver had not been sleeping at all. “Get out.”
Maker! That wild thing in his voice. The broken syllable in the last word. Anders had to suppress a rumble in his throat and turn it into a whisper of his own.
“Take off your chest piece,” he ordered the Templar.
“Leave me alone .”
“Take. It. Off.”
Before Carver could protest, Anders's knees had dropped to the ground, fingers already on a strap and frantically pulling the pieces apart to loosen that damn metal plate standing between him and something he desperately needed, but could not really describe. Or say out loud.
Carver was clearly annoyed, angry, pushing Anders away like an annoying insect buzzing around. “What the... Stop it!” The mage fell on his back, heavily breathing, his eyes still fixed on the faint sparks of light on the metallic surface. The Templar's whisper should have raised in volume, but it had gone down a notch, wrapping him with an ominous feeling. He had not expected this. But maybe, surely, he had earned it.
“... Off, boy .” Anders's eyes became tiny slits, trying to discern Carver's expression but making nothing of it, the light from the fire making everything else shades of black and dark, his mind filling the empty spaces with images of evil and filling the silences with that haunting call.
“ No. ” The word had been mouthed, but the Templar's signature stance spoke louder that everything else. Anders would have to fight for it then. He did not want to give this up. He could not, if he were to survive this trek in the old Grey Warden compound. So he got back on his knees, approached Carver once more, and resumed his task with the straps he had learned to deal with over time.
Strong hands, stronger than he could remember— though he knew it was him getting weaker— grabbed his wrists and held them firmly in place. There was a faint pulse, his heartbeat or Carver's, and it made Anders's body seemingly move on its own, a rocking boat on the sea and anchored to this one solid spot. Those beautiful hands. That musky smell. A warmth so close and yet kept from him.
They stood like this for a while. Carver finally, tentatively, let go. Anders had closed his eyes already, wishing for the next part not to be a dream. Or actually, a nightmare.
“I... Need it. Now,” he almost begged.
Carver remained still, as if he were not quite here in the present, oblivious of the muted notes of anguish just bared for his ears only. Anders finally realized he was muttering something under his controlled breath. Some words were from that dreaded Canticle of Threnodies, the chant that this very Templar loved to quote so much. The one he always picked to make Anders's heart beat wildly and his thoughts spin into a circle of desires.
In your heart shall burn
An unquenchable flame
All-consuming, and never satisfied.
And it always, always worked. How come Anders had never felt so much meaning behind the Chant of Light before?
From the Fade I crafted you,
And to the Fade you shall return
Each night in dreams
That you may always remember me.
Enticed by the monotonous litany, one hand made its way through the dark to connect with the distinguishable shape of that high cheek bone face and its square jaw. Anders felt the beginning of a stubble there, and his other hand reached once more to undo the straps of the armor, perhaps a little more gently, though no less eagerly. Yet it did not work. It was too difficult, he could not focus, and the anger rising in him was quickly turning into despair.
“To the Void with you,” Carver whispered, not breaking his stance nor his tone. There was the same sadness in his voice, something that made Anders wonder if he had not...
Of course he had. He had messed things up. He had warned him, he had. Carver was just so, so stubborn.
With something akin to reluctance, the Templar pulled his face away from the touch and finished the work the mage was unable to accomplish, putting the heavy metal piece away along with the shoulders. They had barely touched the ground when Anders pounced forward, arms closing around that warmth he was so eager to find again. It smelled like sweat, leather and blood, it was acrid and arousing and it was comforting. The best part was that it calmed down his feverish thoughts, so that he could bring down his guard somehow. There was now someone here to snap him back to reality, and it did not matter that the attention was not returned, because it was... Something, change, a step towards things making a little sense again.
Anders knew he should feel sorry, but right now all he wanted to feel was his face buried close to Carver's neck, and his mind shutting down. He wanted nothing else but this alienated lover to make up the entire space around him, to erase this horrible place that was filled with darkspawn, to quiet that loud voice echoing endlessly within, and to shut up Justice as well, the spirit lingering right under his consciousness and ready to come out when he would be too weak to resist.
Nothing of this could be explained to a Templar. To Carver. He was all blacks and whites, nights and days, sharp borders, clear line of conduct, obedience. There could be blurry moments, grey zones, but Anders always knew what to do and what to think with Carver, even when the boy himself did not know. And he desperately clung to that thing about him.
His body language spoke volumes now. Carver was realizing something. Going back to a certainty. Yes. A large hand reached out and landed on his head, and gently applied a pressure that made his nose and lips sink a little deeper into that nook of soft flesh. The other went on his back, another pressure that was soothing, and then Anders felt small. Warm. Secure.
“Maker, you're... shaking.”
He wanted to whisper something, everything and nothing. How could Carver understand? Did he need to? Was there any faith involved when it came to these words Anders would not utter out loud?
Make it stop. Make it stop. It was all that the mage could utter. And somehow, that rhythmic chant and the hands finally, thankfully, made him lose consciousness.
When Anders woke up, he felt lost for a moment, uncertain why it was so warm around him. Usually his blankets fell off his tiny makeshift bed in the clinic, restless sleep making sure he would wake up in sweat or exposed to the cold of the night. Now should have been no different, except that he just remembered he was in the--
He was now hearing it, a tune softly hummed, so low to keep it to oneself, but close enough to be shared with one other. Then the haunting voices came again, discordant notes that messed up the calming effect, fully bringing Anders back to consciousness. He stirred, muscles stiff from stillness, realizing he had not moved from the position he had snugged himself into when despair had overcome him.
Carver stopped humming. He turned his head away from Anders, to avoid eye contact even though none could be had in this darkness. Anders still clung to his Templar robes, one arm around Carver's back while the other wrapped itself around his neck.
What words could be uttered now? Anders felt like saying something, he always did, empty sentences, angry frustrated ones, lustful urges, grunts… Finding back a little of what he had forgotten, of what he had half-consciously ignored for the past few months, and that fire in his groins, to be so close and to touch his Templar again, he was now thinking maybe--
"Just say it," Carver whispered, a speck of sound that would not even echo in the caverns, held tightly in a leash by its owner.
"What?" Anders's voice was a rasp, throat dry from lack of water.
Carver had put up his defences now, shoving Anders's arm away from him, gently but firmly. The mage still clung to him, refusing to let go, and his fingers clutched tightly at the robes trying to dig into this man's thoughts and pick them apart. The one that irreverently got pushed away found its way back in Carver's lap, searching for something else under there. For clues about what he seemingly had to say.
The gesture prompted an unfriendly hiss, and before he could react, Anders found himself thrown in the Void itself, torn away from the only source of comfort he had by two large hands that could very well crush him for all he knew. Carver was breathing heavily, a mad beat that almost matched the throb just below the mage's temples.
Anders had even missed those fights with Carver. He still had no clue what he had to say though. And so, after an awkward silence, after searching for words, for meaning and finding none, the mage let himself go limp, let the darkness engulf him a little more, wrapped that despair around his shoulders and finally embraced the fact that he had absolutely no control on anything right now.
"Say... what…?" he shuddered, meek from the cold realization, afraid of what he would hear next.
Carver was his usual, inscrutably quiet, his invisible scowl and clenched jaw surely telling something Anders was unable to decipher. When the Templar finally crawled out of the tent, going out for his watch and his duty, making sure he would not inadvertently brush against him, Anders had the vague realization that perhaps he was being treated to the same thing he had subjected Carver to.
Perhaps long, charged silences were worst than speaking up even the simplest truths.