Saving Karl had been a close thing.
When Anders rounded the corner and saw Karl being held down by three Templars with a fourth holding the brand above his forehead and several other standing by to watch, he lost it. His sight had gone first white, then blue, and finally black. It wasn’t until he felt and tasted the blood between his tongue and teeth again (thankfully their blood this time, and not someone else’s) that he was able to come back to himself.
With the last vestiges of Justice’s strength, he tore off Karl’s bindings and sobbed into his robes. He would’ve stayed the rest of the night there until the other mage reminded him that people would be coming soon to investigate and that it would be most unwise to linger.
Anders didn’t dare let go of his hand the entire time they ran through the night and into his Darktown clinic.
When they arrived, Anders thrust Karl inside and closed the door quickly behind him, back slamming against the rough wood. He breathed harshly, closing his eyes as Karl stumbled, turned around and stepped forward, not wanting to see the hand slip through him like he’d stepped into a living nightmare.
Only it didn’t. Karl’s fingers brushed against Anders’ stubble very briefly before he was pulled flush against the other mage. Anders was surprised to find that it was Karl now who’s face was pressed into Anders’ chest, mostly because Anders was so much taller. When had he gotten so damn tall? He shook his head, deciding it didn’t matter.
A few kisses were exchanged that night, but any potential bedroom exploits for the pair of former lovers were set aside in favor of cuddling and body heat and just generally reassuring one another that they were alive.
Things remained that way for a long time, though Anders could not accurately say why. It wasn’t for lack of desire, or because of Justice.
Justice rather liked Karl. Liked him so much that Anders often felt that sometimes the spirit desired to converse with the other mage, and he’d let them. Sometimes he was even privy to their conversations, and he knew that Karl liked Justice, too.
And some nights he’d wake up from a steamy dream about the Karl in the Fade that hadn’t quite run it’s course... but Karl still lay next to him, asleep.
He never had the heart to disturb the man, and the thought of doing so always somehow sent a curl of fear to wind about his heart, as though waking his sleeping friend might dispel the illusion of their life together. Every day they spent here felt like borrowed time, and as much as Anders wanted to spend it in his bed, with Karl, kissing and touching in all the right places...
Anders sighed, nearly moaned when he felt Karl’s lips at the back of his neck as he stirred a pot of simmering elfroot potion mixture.
“What were you thinking of?” Karl purred, his voice low and soft, just like Anders had once liked it. “You seemed very far away there, in your brewing. Normally you are more... intense when you concentrate.”
Anders felt his body respond to the close proximity and heat of the other mage.
Did he want this yet? Was he ready for it? What the hell was he even feeling right now? Anders sighed again, and looked back with a murmured, “Karl...”
As was their usual pattern these days, Karl merely pressed another soft kiss to his neck and pulled away. “It’s alright. I’m sorry to have bothered you.” Anders pulled his stirring stick from the potion and set it aside as he turned around.
“I–You’re not bothering me, Karl,” he tried to stress. “It–It’s just that I... I don’t know.” Anders decided that he needed to try to figure this out, right here, right now. “I want you. I know I do.” He caught Karl’s gaze and licked his lips. “But when things start to... to go as they were, I... I remember how it used to be.”
Karl’s eyes, always so soft to begin with when they looked at Anders, appeared to soften further. “It doesn’t have to be like that now.”
“In my mind, I know that. My body wants one thing though and my heart wants another.” Anders scowled at nothing in particular, grateful that the clinic was empty for once so that he could collect his thoughts. “I wish I knew what... what I could do for you. For us.”
Karl huffed softly and embraced Anders tightly. Gently.
“Anders. If we never had sex again, yet got to spend the rest of our lives together, I would die a happy man. Besides, you still give me the best kisses. They are like the sweetest ambrosia, your kisses.”
Karl angled Anders’ head just a bit so that he could give the tip of his nose a quick peck, and that made Anders giggle.
“You tease,” Anders hummed, smiling as he pressed his forehead to Karl’s. “And that’s so untrue, you know? For you see, it was I who always thought that it was your kisses that were the ambrosia.” Karl chuckled. “Well, we can’t both be right. We shall have to conduct tests.”
Anders bent low and just caught the edge of Karl’s lip between his teeth, worrying at it a little before fully pressing his lips against the other mage’s. They weren’t chaste kisses either, rather they more of the hasty, open mouthed variety that had Anders’ whole body vibrating from the tips of his hair to his toes and he felt safe here.
Safe. What was it about these kisses that he was alright with?
Unfortunately he wasn’t quite able to finish that thought, as one of the doors to the clinic opened up and in walked Hayden Hawke, holding a basket full of embrium, rashvine, and other assorted herbs. Anders and Karl froze, right about the same time poor Hayden realized what they were doing, and when Anders caught sight of Hayden’s face, the poor thing was so flushed and wide-eyed.
“Um, s-sorry, I, ah... I can go if you’re, um... busy.”
Anders felt his own cheeks flush as Karl pulled away, laughing as he approached Hayden and moved to put the young mage at ease. Anders went back to his brewing, his thoughts stewing once more. He did not feel quite as dour as before though, with Karl’s assurances still fresh in his mind.
Whatever issues he was working through would just have to run their course, unless things worsened again, he thought. He had a feeling he would be just fine however, and for some time, he remained content to cuddle and kiss and do little else. Sometimes Karl would hold his hand when they ate together in the quiet clinic, or they’d play footsie beneath Varric’s table during cards, sharing secret smiles with no one the wiser. He never pressed for more.
In the end, it was Anders who made the first move to rekindle their sex life, and it started over something as simple as one rare afternoon they’d both taken off to go outside of the city and pick herbs and wildflowers for the clinic. Anders had been kneeling down, searching a bramble patch for some thistle blooms when he looked up and saw Karl move to get some water.
Seeing the wind gently lifting at Karl’s hair as light caught his eyes and a single drop of water escaped the skin to trickle down his stubble... it summoned a feeling within Anders that caught him off guard. For once, his mind, body, and heart were all in sync, but he waited until they’d gone back to the clinic and put away their spoils to press Karl against the door and practically attack the other man’s lips with his own.
Karl was the one to put a gentle hand on Anders’ chest to ask, briefly, “Do you want this, Anders?” and Anders could only respond by slowly grinding against Karl, drawing gasps from them both.
“Do you?” Anders panted back, and Karl nodded enthusiastically.
Karl leaned forward, about to capture Anders’ lips in what he’d hoped would be an arousing, all-consuming kiss–
–only for the door right next to them to open up and Hayden walked through again. This time however the young mage merely yelped and ran off, shouting, “Uh, sorry, I’ll come back later!” as they did so, which had both Anders and Karl laughing, in tears.
“Someday,” Karl wheezed, “that one is going to learn how to knock.”
Anders chuckled. “Oh, I think they’ll have no trouble remembering that now, but do you think we should lock up a bit early? I was... rather enjoying that. We never did finish those ambrosia tests.”
Karl grinned, and after locking up the clinic doors, the two of them disappeared into their bedroom to spend some quality time together and to fully reacquaint their bodies as they had with their minds, and it was one of the most enjoyable experiences Anders had had in bed with another person in a very long while.
It was an experience that, due to his Grey Warden blood, they might have repeated, several times, over the course of the night.
Anders didn’t mind. It was Karl, and he was safe, but most importantly he was loved, and to Karl, he knew nothing else mattered more.