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Spirit In The Night

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The children won’t have enough to eat tomorrow. I should have worked harder last week, I ran out of money too fast. What can I do?

Darktown was rather noisy for the spirit, even at night when people usually let their worries go and escaped their problems in dreams. He’d made several stops already but now he crouched by a woman, lying on the floor of her tiny home with a child on each side of her. She was crying softly, trying to keep still and silent so she couldn’t disturb her little ones with her sorrow.

“It will be alright.” Cole said softly to her, her tears stopping as soon as she heard his voice. “You put in as many hours as you could. You always do as much as you can for them. Go to the docks in the morning. There’s a nice fisherman there with a red hat and he’ll give you enough fish for your family if you ask him.”

When she nodded and closed her eyes, he rose to his feet and left her to rest. They’d have food and the kind fisherman who just lost his wife would take comfort in helping them. Neither party would remember that they’d been visited by a spirit, but they would both be a little happier the next day. Cole wished there was more he could do for them, but for one night, at least he had helped.

There was so much pain in Darktown. Many more stops he could make before the night was over. But he was drawn to the healer’s clinic, where the anguish was so fresh and concentrated. He sought the source of despair and found himself beside the Healer of Darktown’s cot - it didn’t matter that the door was locked. When he was needed, he always managed to reach the mortals that were hurting.

He instantly recognized him for what he was - this man was a mage and an occupied one. Not by a demon, thankfully, but a spirit of Justice. He knew Justice may be aware of his presence even though his mage was asleep, but he wasn’t concerned. As he recognized Justice, Justice would recognize him as Compassion and know that he meant no harm.

Even in his sleep, he could hear the mage’s pain. There had been an accident that morning and several people had died. One was just a young boy. The good healer had saved so many, and yet it was all of those he lost that haunted his rest this night.

Cole sat down on the edge of his cot and put a hand on the man’s shoulder. Touching him allowed him to hear what was beneath the surface, beneath the recent tragedy of that day. He’d been in the Circle. He’d been tortured. He’d lost friends to Tranquility. The Wardens had made him get rid of his cat. He used his magic from dawn until dusk to help people, but none of that would matter when the templars finally had their chance to take him and make him Tranquil. There was so much suffering and in such a short lifetime.

He rarely touched mortals so intimately, but he found himself gently shifting the man up into his arms so he could cradle him on his lap. “You’re a good man, you know you are. You couldn’t save them all today, but think of the people you did save. Mothers came home to their children tonight because of you. Husbands are sleeping in the arms of their wives because of you. And the families of the people you couldn’t save are grieving with the knowledge that someone tried. Someone cared and made sure that they died with as much comfort and dignity as they could.”

He knew the mage could hear him, even in his sleep, and he rocked him gently in his lap. “You deserve so much better than you have, Anders. Life has been so unkind to you, yet you dedicate yourself to helping others. Maybe tomorrow you should take a little time to take care of yourself. How long has it been since you had a full meal? How long has it been since you’ve had a warm bath?” He stroked his fingers through the man’s soft hair. “How long has it been since someone has held you like this?”

He wouldn’t remember that anyone had been here to hold him. But the feeling of being cradled this way would linger when he woke. “Get some rest, Theo. You can’t help others if you don’t take care of yourself.” He knew no one called him by anything but Anders or Healer these days, but the more intimate use of his name might help him to remember how important it was to take a day off when he awoke.

After giving his hair one more stroke, he eased him back down onto the cot. There was one more thing that he could do for him and the idea brought a smile to his lips. A quick trip to a nearby meadow was all he needed and in no time at all, he was back at the clinic. He'd collected a mint plant that he knew cats loved and by the time he finished planting little clumps of them around the outside of the clinic, there were already a few stray cats coming around to investigate. By the time the sun rose, they would be lazing around the clinic and Anders would see them as soon as he opened the door for the morning.

When dawn came and Cole had finished visiting the most distraught citizens of Darktown, the spirit finally found a place to rest. He sat down on a rooftop across from the healer’s clinic, a small smile on his lips as he waited for the door to open and the mage to see the cats. Anders wouldn't see him watching and if Justice didn't tell him they were visited by a spirit, he'd have no idea that the words spoken to him in the night were anything more than his own thoughts. That was fine with Cole. He didn't want to be remembered or acknowledged. If he saw the mage smile when he opened the clinic door, it was all the thanks he could want. He would know that he had helped.

Chapter Text

There was heartache at the healer’s clinic and it called to Cole as it often did. He’d been visiting often lately, doing little things to try to help the troubled mage that lived inside and used his every waking moment to help others. He only visited when the man slept, doing what he could to give him more peaceful rest. He knew there was a spirit inhabiting him but by helping Anders only when he was unconscious, he had been unable to interact with his fellow spirit. It was better that way. Though he was sure Justice was at least somewhat aware of him, it would be easier for Anders to stay oblivious to him if they didn’t speak. He had more indirect ways of helping during the daylight hours, primarily by enticing the stray cats of Darktown to live near the clinic. One of the strays was due with a litter any time and he knew the kittens would make the healer very happy.

The suffering that drew him to the clinic for the first time in the daylight was not coming from the healer. There had been a fire in Lowtown and the men who had escaped the building were all in the clinic with varying degrees of burns and hacking coughs from all of the smoke. Of the people who had been working there, five had made it to healer but three had been lost in the blaze. One of those who had died had been little more than a boy.

When Cole stepped into the clinic, he was taken aback by how loud it was. How much pain these men were in, from their own wounds and from their failure to get everyone out alive. Especially the boy. Though they would be able to see him, he hardly got a glance from the people inside waiting their turn to be healed. That was fine with him. He didn’t want to be a distraction, especially not for Anders. He only wanted to help.

---

Even as distracted as he was, Anders saw movement at the door from the corner of his eyes. Surely not someone else? He looked up and was relieved to see that whoever it was, he was not burned. “Take a seat anywhere you can find one - I’ll get to you when I can.” Whatever he needed, it would have to wait. If he could walk himself here, he could wait. He returned to what he was doing, healing the worst of the burns as quickly as he could. He didn’t want any of these men lingering in shock, as it could kill one of them abruptly if he wasn’t careful.

---

“Don’t worry about me. I’m just here to help.” Anders had enough on his plate, he didn’t need to worry about another patient waiting on him. He went to the man sitting closest to the door, the least injured of everyone, and knelt in front of him. “It was too late for you to go back in. You couldn’t have done any more to save them. If you would have gone back one more time for them, you would have died with them. You have a wife and children who would be mourning you right now. There is enough mourning to be done today already…”

---

Compassion...

Anders was too distracted what he was doing to pay mind to his spirit, but he did feel curious about the stranger. A man he’d never seen. He couldn’t afford to be distracted by the curiosity and he tried to shake it off, not realizing that it was coming from Justice. He glanced up at him again, confused to see him speaking to one of the men, but perhaps he knew him and that was why he was here. He forced his eyes back on his work, trying to ignore the strange feeling in his gut. He’d never seen him, so why did he feel familiar?

---

Cole went down the line, spending time talking to each of the men waiting to be healed. Some took more time than others. Especially the man next in line to be healed - he was severely burned but not in shock like the man Anders was working on. “It was an innocent mistake. No one is blaming you for any of this. It could have happened to any of them..” He continued his work on the man who had started the fire and eventually he embraced the burned man as he began to sob.

---

After a while, Anders looked up and saw him hugging one of his patients. “Excuse me - I’m sure you’re concerned about your friends, but please, if you’re not in need of help, leave and talk to them later.” He didn’t want him to get them worked up or to accidently hurt one of them further.

He won’t hurt them.

He frowned. What do you mean?

He’s Compassion.

---

“It’s alright, Anders. I can stay out of your way.” He didn’t want to be a hindrance to him  - as he was working on their emotional wounds, he knew it was even more important right now that the healer tend to their physical ones. He looked up from the man he was holding, seeing Anders at work and realizing with a bit of surprise that it was not the spirit that inhabited him that enabled his healing, but a spirit of Compassion. He couldn’t help but smile a little - how curious that a mortal was so surrounded by spirits. “But the man you’re healing would really like some water. Could I fetch some for him?”

---

Compassion? What did that mean? He didn’t know what he was talking about, but he couldn’t question Justice further. He couldn’t even question how he knew his name. He had to continue what he was doing, but he was getting increasingly anxious about finishing so he could question the man.

It’s alright, I’ll tell you about him when we are done. Justice didn’t think the spirit was going to stay long enough for them to talk to him, though he wanted to himself. He didn’t know why the spirit so frequently came to them while they were sleeping, but he had seen and felt the good it had done the mage. He didn’t know how he felt about it himself, but he’d not come into contact with another spirit in a long time and he wanted greet him, if nothing else.

Anders heard his question and nodded absently. Sometimes the people in his clinic tried to be helpful. In this case, he could use it and he didn’t mind, as long as he was careful. Then a moment later, it struck him that the man he was working on hadn’t spoken. He blinked, but quickly shook the thought. All of the men were undoubtedly thirsty and he would have fetched them water himself if he wasn’t still busy tending to them.

---

When the man he was holding was adequately soothed, Cole rose to his feet again and went to fetch water. They were all thirsty, but none more than the half-conscious man on the table. He moved to the side of the table opposite Anders and used a hand to lift the man’s head, putting the glass of water to his lips. The man roused enough to drink it down greedily, his eyes locked on Cole. “No, the boy didn’t make it. I’m sorry. But you were very brave to try to pull him out.” He said soothingly, answering a question that hadn’t been asked aloud. He looked to Anders then. “You’re easing his pain but he says it’s still so hard to breathe. Can we try propping his head up a little?”

---

Anders stared at him. “...Who are you?” For a moment he stopped everything he was doing, needing to know who this was in his clinic.

A spirit of Compassion.

That’s what he meant? That didn’t make sense. He was an abomination with a compassion spirit? The thought itself was bizarre - why would a compassion spirit ever enter their world? They did plenty of good from within the Fade. Had it got stuck here, like Justice? Spirits rarely ever entered their world and the fact that he was sharing his body with one was a rare thing indeed.

No, he is not a mage. I… don’t understand what he is, but he’s not inside anyone.

---

He looked up from the man on the table briefly. “Call me Cole. Don’t let me distract you from healing these men. I am only here because they needed me. I’m here to help.” Though he hadn’t gotten an answer about propping the man up, he grabbed a nearby towel and folded it, then tucked it beneath the man’s head.

---

Despite his words, Anders continued to stare at him. It took the man coughing for him to draw his attention and he hastened to pick up where he left off. A spirit of Compassion… not in a body. His heart quickened. Was this… his Compassion? Despite having a friendship with the spirit, Anders rarely saw it. The only time he really interacted with the spirit was when he summoned it and even that wasn’t much of anything - to him it seemed no different to any other spell he cast.

The last time he’d seen Compassion was when he’d been locked away in the tower. Whenever he slept and the demons came, sometimes Compassion would stay close and help give him the strength he needed to resist the temptation of their promises.

Would it even be possible for him to be using his magic as he was if his Compassion was in this world? He had known his name, though…

He tried to focus on what he was doing, pulling out a vial of lyrium as he needed it and healing the worst of the injuries. He knew the men were mourning those they had lost, but they had died in the fire and so they hadn’t been brought to him. It wasn’t as hard on him, though he did regret that a boy had died. He regretted that anyone had died, but especially someone so young, and his only comfort was that it hadn’t been due to his own failings.

---

Cole did what little he could to help keep the men comfortable physically or assist Anders. But what he did best was keep them calm and comfortable through the process. By the time their families had come to collect the men, he was helping to clean up. He knew Anders had questions. It would be easy to make him forget him, as he made each of the burn victims forget him before they left. But he knew the spirit in him had to be curious as well and after so many nights visiting him in secret, the least he could do was say hello to him.

---

As soon as they were gone, Anders was back to staring at the spirit. “Uh… Cole, so you’re a spirit?” Obviously, if Justice said so, but there was no need to inform him that his own spirit was talking about him. Though, from what he’d seen, it seemed like Cole was able to hear things he shouldn’t so… maybe it didn’t make a difference at all.

---

“Yes...and no.” He wasn’t only a spirit anymore. It was complicated and he didn’t have a full understanding of it himself. “I don’t usually visit you so directly, but I was needed today. I know you, but no, I am not your Compassion. Though I caught glimpses of it while you worked.”

---

He frowned. “You visit me?” What did that mean? As strange as it was to have his thoughts answered, it wasn’t a strange to him as it would be to someone that didn’t have another being living in their head. The oddest part of it was that he could actually see and speak to him, though he had to admit that there was something disconcerting about having someone who he’d made no such agreement with having access to his thoughts.

He has been coming to visit us at night. He comforts you in your sleep. That’s why you’ve felt better and why you’ve been taking more time for yourself. There was some disapproval that came with the words, but it was less than he would’ve expected. Actually, that had been true in the moment as well - he would’ve expected Justice to at least say something when he’d taken time off over the last few weeks, but he hadn’t.

---

“Yes. When you need me, I help you get your rest.” He knew that may not go over well with Anders. Mortals could find his interventions a bit intrusive, which was why it was usually best to help and then make them forget. “I wanted to greet Justice when I sensed him, but I didn’t think I could do it without waking you. It was better that I let you rest.”

---

He had a lot of experience with spirits and demons, but not so much in this world. As such, it did feel intrusive and he didn’t really like it. Yes, he’d felt better lately, but knowing that someone was coming into his clinic while he was sleeping and making him feel that way unconsciously was uncomfortable. You knew about this? That he’s been doing this? Why hadn’t he told him?

Yes. I didn’t see the need. He wasn’t hurting us and he’s been helping you. If it’s alright, I would like to speak to him.

Anders was at a loss, but he assumed that Cole had heard all of that, so he looked at him expectantly, to see what he wanted.

---

“I’m sorry.” As expected, the mage didn’t like him visiting in his sleep. “I only go to you when you need me. Otherwise I try less invasive ways to make you happy. Have you enjoyed the cats?” He was unaware that Justice was meaning to talk to him, only picking up some of Anders’ thoughts and not the spirit’s.

---

Anders’ mouth fell open. “You’re the one that planted all of the catnip?” He’d really enjoyed all of the cats coming around, though he did worry for them. The denizens of Darktown could be so hungry and sometimes cats went missing. Still, opening his doors and seeing cats sitting around really did make his days better.

---

“Yes.” He brightened just a little. He could tell Anders had enjoyed seeing the cats and having them around had helped keep vermin controlled around the clinic. “I’ve been looking forward to the gray one having her kittens. I think seeing them will make you very happy.” He knew the mage had a soft spot for kittens.

---

He let it sink in. “Why are you so concerned with making me happy?” If this spirit wasn’t his Compassion, why did he care? Okay, obviously he would care, he was Compassion after all, but why had he suddenly… fixated on him? He doubted he was the only one he was seeing and he had said that he’d come to help the men, hadn’t he? Even so, he seemed to be putting in a lot of effort for him.

---

“There is a lot of suffering in Darktown. I think that’s why I was called here. I’ve been helping the people here.” Though he didn’t visit anyone as often as he visited the healer. “I like to visit you because you care a lot more than most people. And the things you’ve been through...they remind me of Cole. I like to make you happy.”

---

It was uncomfortable to hear. He’d had no idea this was happening and he didn’t know this… spirit. “I thought you were Cole?” Had he taken the name from a mortal he’d known? Is that why he didn’t go by his true name? Then again, what was a ‘true name’ to a spirit?

Anders, I know this is strange, but it’s really not all that different from what happens in the Fade. From what your Compassion has done for you there. He’s just acting as he should. I know you have questions, as do I, please, I would like to speak with him.

---

“I am...but I am not. Cole is dead. I was with him when he died and he is part of me now.” It was hard to tell what of his feelings and memories were his own and which were Cole’s sometimes. “I keep his name because I’m no longer just Compassion.”

---

At that, he looked a little horrified. Is that what would happen when he died? Would Justice take over his body and just… continue to live as him?

No, I would never. I would find someone else or return home - besides, he’s not in a body. He must have simply taken his memories of Cole with him when he left his body. Justice knew that he wouldn’t forget Anders, even after he died. He was Anders, so maybe he would carry him with him similarly. Anders…

I know.

“Cole, Justice wishes to speak with you, if that’s alright with you.”

---

He sensed the horror in him and he shook his head. “No, it wasn’t like that. I was never joined with him as you are with your spirit.”  He hadn’t been back to the Fade in so long. He’d been needed here ever since he’d gone to help Cole. “I want to speak with him also. It’s been a long time since I’ve talked to another spirit.”

---

That didn’t make any sense, but maybe since he could hear thoughts, for whatever reason, he had a connection to this ‘Cole’ in the same way Justice had a connection with him… but without actually having joined with him. Whatever it was, he knew he wouldn’t understand it, but it was fascinating. If only he could get over how weird all of this was, he could appreciate this for what it was.

He nodded and shut his eyes, telling Justice that he could take control. Justice did just that, pushing forward and opening their eyes, now glowing brightly. He looked at him curiously. “What are you doing here, Cole?” It felt strange calling him anything other than Compassion, but he knew he had to respect the name he wanted to go by. He wasn’t asking why he was in the clinic or even in Darktown, but why he was here in the mortal world.

---

The curiosity was returned - it was fascinating to see a spirit within a mortal this way. “I don’t know. Something happened when I went to help Cole. It was just like any other mortal I used to go to at first. An angry, terrified mage dying alone. I went to bring him comfort in his final moments and...something changed. I have been in this world ever since, but I can still go unseen by the mortals and I am still called by their suffering. I am always somewhere between this world and the Fade.”

---

He considered that. “Don’t you wish to go home?” Even if he couldn’t, didn’t he want to? If he could find a way home, perhaps he could continue as he had before he’d met Cole. Helping these mortals, but remaining within the realm they belonged in. As Anders had thought, compassion spirits often helped mages and through them, others, so he would be able to continue his work without being stuck here.

---

“Sometimes. I miss home. But sometimes I feel I can help the mortals more on this side. I can hold them, be more...real for them.” The way he sometimes held Anders when he slept to soothe him. “Do you wish to go home, Justice?”

---

The corner of their lips tugged up lightly. “I feel the same. I miss home, but there is much more I can do here. In the Fade, I cannot do much. Mortals do not seek me out often and when they do, it is only to ask for my opinion.” After all, a being of absolute justice had strong opinions of right and wrong. “There is so much injustice in this world. It is where I need to be.”

---

“Then it seems we’ve both made ourselves at home here.” They were where they were needed most. Where they could do the most good. “I’ve been enjoying helping Anders. He’s uncomfortable with my interventions, though. It might be best for him if I make him forget me when this is over.”

---

He looked increasingly curious. “That is something you can do?” As well as hear their thoughts? As well as exist in this world without a body? “How do you have such powers?” Were they simply powers that all compassion spirits had? He wouldn’t know, his own powers differed. “If I could stay here in a body of my own, I would be able to do so much more. It is… difficult to reside in a body that you do not control.”

---

“I would tell you how I do it if I knew how. Keeping my own body here and making people forget me.” He didn’t know how he did these things, he simply did them. “It’s hard to separate myself from Cole sometimes. I can’t imagine how much harder it would be if this was his body and he still inhabited it.”

---

“He has too many needs. Too many whims. I try to comfort him, but it doesn’t help the way it does when you do the same.” He wasn’t particularly good at being comforting, but he tried to sooth him whenever he was overwhelmed. He felt somewhat inadequate, actually, but if anyone was going to be better at comforting another, it would be Compassion. “We could be doing more if it wasn’t for him.”

---

“I exist to comfort. I’m happy to help him.” It wasn’t surprising to him at all that he was better at soothing the mage. Though he imagined why that might be frustrating for Justice. “He does far more than most mortals. Giving him the space to rest and be happy will help.”

---

“He rests every night and he is happy to help, so why does he need more?” Mortals had so many emotions and felt he understood most of them, but he still struggled to know why Anders needed more. He could feel he did, but he didn’t understand why. “The more time he wastes, the more others will suffer. All these mortals act as if Sloth is in the back of their minds - if they would stop thinking of themselves, this world would be better.”

---

“Because they’re not like us. Their time is short and they need some of it for themselves. The misery I hear from them is often linked to their lack of time.” He knew the healer had far less time for himself than most of the mortals who felt they had no time for themselves. “This world would be better if they could be more like us. But then you and I would not be needed.”

---

“Their misery is linked to each other.” If they stopped hurting each other, they would be happier themselves. He sighed, finding this world so very frustrating sometimes. “I want him to be happy,” He cared about Anders above all, but he couldn’t let his feelings for the man cloud his purpose. Just as he felt Anders oughtn’t let his feelings cloud their purpose. “But his happiness isn’t more important anyone else’s.”

---

“Keeping him happy will help him do more for others. I am here to help as well. I don’t know for how long, but this is where I am needed right now.” He shook his head. “If all of the mortals were more like your Anders, this world would not be such a mess.”

---

“I know that he is better than most men.” He had a lot of respect for Anders, even if he got frustrated with him from time to time. “Perhaps you could try comforting him while he is awake. Maybe it will be better for him and then he will be able to take less time away from our work.” A compromise, potentially.

---

“He needs me most at night when his dreams are troubled. But I will try to comfort him while he’s awake.” If he took well to it, perhaps he’d even let him remember. Anders understood spirits better than most, so it may benefit him to remember.

---

“Very well, but I would like him to not take too much time from his work.” He’d let him since it seemed to make him feel better, but he didn’t want this to be a constant occurrence. After a moment, he went on. “When you are going to leave here, will you come speak to me first?”

---

“I won’t encourage him to take too much. I know his work is important.” Though he still felt the mage was overworked. More little breaks like the ones he’d been taking wouldn’t hurt his productivity too much. “I will. Or if I have to leave too urgently, I will return. It’s good for us to speak to one of our own.”

---

He nodded in agreement. “It has been nice speaking to you.” It was a little taste of home that he didn’t often get these days. “I will return control to Anders.” He was in the habit of informing whoever he was with what he was doing, even though it was incredibly obvious when he retreated. The light faded and Anders’ amber eyes returned, disorientated. He blinked and seemed to ground himself after a beat. “Did he say what he needed to?” He must have, if he was back.

---

“He did.” He cocked his head a little, studying him as he got his orientation back. “Did you not hear us? Are you not as aware when he is in control as he is when you are in control?” He had no idea how sharing a body worked for them.

---

“No, I don’t know why, but the only time I maintain awareness is when we are in the Fade.” He glanced behind him to make sure no one had come in and since no one had, he decided to put out the lantern and shut the door. “Are you planning on staying in Darktown?” If so, he wanted to talk to him about him coming into his clinic when it was closed.

---

“Yes. For as long as I am needed here.” He didn’t know how much longer he would be welcome in the clinic, but since he didn’t plan to leave immediately, he chose one of the stools and had a seat. His body didn’t fatigue the way a mortal’s would, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t appreciate getting comfortable.

---

Seeing him behave as a mortal would, even with something as simple as sitting down, made him feel a little more comfortable. “Alright. I think having you here would be helpful to the people of Darktown.” Maker knew they needed some compassion and they didn’t often get it. “I know you were just trying to help me and I appreciate it.” He did mean it. It wasn’t often anyone bothered to help him and when they did, rarely was it selfless. “I would prefer that you don’t come in here when I am sleeping, though. If you want to come in when the clinic is open and help me with my patients, then you can, but I’ll be alright myself.”

---

“You call to me when you sleep sometimes. The templars and the lost patients haunt your dreams, but I can help you chase them away.” He liked to help him sleep, but he wasn’t surprised that the man wanted him to keep his visits only during the waking hours. “But maybe if I can help you when you’re awake, they will trouble your dreams less.”

---

He frowned. “They’re just dreams. There are others that need your help more than I do.” Though he couldn’t deny that he sometimes missed Compassion and didn’t understand why it didn’t come to him anymore. It still answered his summons when he needed to heal, but otherwise, he’d not felt its presence in a long time.

---

“I go where I am needed. Some nights others need me more than you do. Other nights, you need me most.” He didn’t expect Anders to understand that without a mortal body with mortal needs, he could be very productive with his time. Even on nights where he spent a considerable amount of time Anders, he visited others as well. “I understand your pain better than a mortal could. It’s in my nature and even if it wasn’t, you remind me so much of Cole.”

---

“Why don’t you tell me about this Cole?” He was curious about the mage. What had happened to him and how it had made the spirit what he was. He was curious and it would take the focus off of him, which he would like.

---

“You would like to know about Cole?” He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had a reason to speak of the human who had changed him. But perhaps his story would help Anders understand his affinity for him. He crossed one leg over the other, another gesture of comfort that Anders might find refreshingly human. “He was from a very poor family, not unlike most of the people living here in Darktown. He and his sister were both mages and much like your father, his father was without magic and didn’t understand them. He was cruel and abusive, feeling his children were cursed with magic. But unlike your father, he didn’t turn them in. Keeping them under his tyrannical control was enough until one day Cole killed him and went into hiding with his sister. They didn’t last long on their own. She died and he was caught by the templars. Like you, he ended up in solitary confinement. Like you, he spent days in complete isolation, fearing that he had been forgotten and left to rot. But unlike you, he was forgotten. The templars left him in the Spire to die. He called to me, desperate for some company besides the demons before he starved to death and I gave him the comfort I could as he died. His fear and hatred for the templars changed me and my desire to find some way to free him from his fate changed me as well. It made him a part of me and brought me to this world in his likeness.”

---

There was a welling of anger inside of him, but more than anything, he looked shaken. His own emotions overpowered even Justice’s and they were intense enough that his eyes welled. That hit far, far too close to home and had to look away from him. Most people couldn’t imagine what it would be like to go through something like that, but he could. He could imagine it all too well. Though he was fed and kept alive, the templars had not taken good care of him and it had taken him months to recover after his release. To become well enough to escape the final time.

He had no words and he wished that he hadn’t asked.

---

He could feel how upset Anders was and he rose to his feet and went to him. “Let me help.” He’d held him many times in his sleep, but he opened his arms to him now while he was awake. Perhaps he could ease some of his pain and more importantly, his anger.

---

He glanced up to his open arms and he leaned back a little. He hadn’t been comforted in a long time and he wasn’t use to anyone offering. He jaw trembled, hesitant, and but he moved closer to him, reminding himself that this wasn’t some random person. This was a spirit. He wasn’t even corrupted like they were. He felt some resistance from Justice, the spirit refusing to believe it, but he didn’t stop him from going to him.

---

“I am corrupted as well. Cole’s anger has made me imperfect.” He told him gently as he took him into his arms. “But I have worked through it and am closer to what I am meant to be. If I can help you with your anger as well, you and Justice will both be better for it. No one understands your rage the way that I do.”

---

That made sense. Maybe it wasn’t his fault… or maybe he and Cole were simply so alike that they both managed to corrupt the spirits trying to help them. He shut his eyes, trying to get comfortable. It was difficult for him, but after some time, he finally softened in his hold. The tears in his eyes dripped down, but there were no more after that. He wasn’t crying, he was just filled with a lot of sudden sorrow.

---

He stroked his fingers through Anders’ hair as he began to relax in his hold. He rocked him gently, feeling his sorrow and trying to draw it from him. “It’s not your fault. We are made to help mortals, not to become one with them. But it’s alright. You don’t have to let your anger ruin you both. I can help.”

---

Justice continued resist the suggestion that they were corrupt. He knew Anders thought of it that way, but he didn’t. Their anger was justified, as were the actions they against anyone who stood in their way. Please, not now. Anders didn’t want to listen to his justifications right now. He took a deep breath and tried to calm, to push away what he’d learned about Cole and how it could have easily been him.

---

“I could make you forget what happened to Cole. I could make you forget what happened to you. But I think it makes you a better, kinder person that you remember.” He didn’t want to take that from him, not unless he really wanted that. He held him tightly, using his body as much as his magic to soothe him.

---

The longer he was held, the more his emotions settled. “No, I don’t want to forget.” As nice as it would be to forget what had happened to him, for it to be as if it never happened, it was a part of who he was. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d been held and slowly, his arms raised to hold him in return. Not for Cole’s sake, though he doubted it made a difference, but for himself.

---

“I didn’t think you would. But I felt it was kindest to offer it to you anyway.” He did like being held in return. It made him feel that he was helping, but perhaps it was also part of the humanity he’d gained from Cole. He rocked him and murmured softly into his ear. “Why don’t we go sit on your cot together? You must be tired after today.”

---

If he wasn’t already in his arms, he would have turned down the offer, but he was influenced by his magic and he nodded. He pulled back from him and started to the cot, where he was normally held and comforted, he just hadn’t known it.

---

Cole followed him and when they settled on the cot, he pulled him back into his arms. “You deserve much more than this life has given you. You're a good man.” He whispered into his ear, finding it much easier to hold him intimately on the cot.

---

Sometimes he was told that by the people he helped, but he’d never really taken it to heart. This time, however, he did and it meant a lot. Especially knowing that Cole could see a lot more than anyone else could. It seemed only spirits could understand him. Only they could care about him.

He liked to think that Hawke and the rest of them cared, at least a little, but sometimes he wondered. The way they wrote him off and the way they ignored him. The way they got so annoyed by him and wanted him to shut up when he was trying to tell them about what the mages were suffering.

---

“I understand. I've heard the mages. I've suffered with them, died with them. I've heard the templars and I've changed some of them, but have had to kill others. Even if your mortal friends won't listen to you, I will. I've seen what is happening to the mages in ways they could never experience.” Perhaps he should visit them. Perhaps he could help to convince them to help more.

---

He nodded. Some people understood. There were the mages he worked with, at least. They cared about the same cause, but there were few within the Underground that he would consider his friends. He wondered how he’d come to consider Hawke’s party his friends, but not them. Some of them, but not many.

Truthfully, he felt rather alone no matter where he was or who he was with.

---

“While I'm here, I can help you with the Underground as well. You don't need to be alone. Justice is always with you and I can be your friend. Even if I have to leave Darktown, I can always return to visit.” He guided Anders to rest his head on his shoulder, wanting him relaxed.

---

He lowered his head and when that wasn’t enough, pulled his legs up into the cot, curling up and leaning into him. This is not how he’d imagined this day going, but it was something he needed. “Okay,” he murmured, his eyes shutting again. At least for right now, he wasn’t alone.

---

“Is there anything you want to talk about?” He asked gently, pulling the curled up mage into his lap and rocking him. “You don't have to talk. But if you want to, I'm listening.”

---

He didn’t know what to say. Everything that was bothering him, Cole already knew about. He knew everything about him, didn’t he? So what could he say to him that he wouldn’t already know? What could he say that would help? After a while, he stopped thinking about what he should say and just spoke. “I miss Karl.” The last time he’d felt like someone cared about him, truly cared about him, had been when he’d been with Karl. Even though they’d been forced apart and had their feelings had faded into friendship, no one had mattered to him more.

---

“He was good to you, wasn’t he?” He could feel the pain that his death had brought him. Especially having to do it by his own hand. He nuzzled his cheek against him, wanting to offer him just a little extra comfort. “Why don’t you tell me about Karl?” It might be good for him to talk about the man he’d loved.

---

“He used to be my instructor. I thought he was handsome so I would flirt with him in class, just to see how much it would fluster him.” He’d been pulled aside several times, asked to stop, but he only flirted harder when they were alone. Karl had been considerably older than him at the time, but once he’d given in, it hadn’t mattered. “I was young and careless... he wasn’t. He calmed me down and I… I helped him learn to have fun again.”

---

He smiled as he listened and it reflected in his tone when he spoke up again. “It sounds like you were good for each other. I understand fun...a little, anyway. Thanks to Cole. You must have brought a lot of happiness back into his life.”

---

He wished that Justice understood fun. Resentment answered his thought and when he felt hurt follow, he apologized. I’m sorry, Justice… I know you try to understand and let me have fun. “I can’t remember the last time I had fun like that.” Sometimes he had a good time when he was out with the others, but his life had changed so much… Odd as it was, some of his best times had been in the Circle. Not because of the Circle itself, but because of the people he had been surrounded by.

---

“You should have fun. It’s important for you to have fun like that again.” He encouraged him, giving his hair another stroke. “I can’t take too much of your time, I told Justice I would not keep you from your work. But perhaps we could go do something fun some time.” He wasn’t really sure what mortals found fun, other than sex and alcohol, but he knew there was more to it than that and maybe they could figure out something the mage would enjoy.

---

The suggestion brought a burst of a chuckle from him. It was so bizarre. A spirit of Compassion suggesting they go do something fun together. “Maybe I need someone like me. Someone like I use to be to teach me to have fun again.” He knew he’d never find someone like that, though, so he would have to make do with what he had. “We’ll go out sometime,” he agreed. To do what, he didn’t know, but a break would be nice and to have someone to go on a break with would also be nice.

---

“I’d like that.” Anders had laughed, so that was a good sign. Perhaps he’d even made a joke and he didn’t know it. “I might not be great at teaching you to have fun again. But between the two of us, maybe we can figure it out.” If nothing else, maybe Anders would get more laughter out of watching him attempt to do something fun.

---

Though he had been uncomfortable with him when he’d first realized what he was and what he’d been doing, he felt differently now. He didn’t know if he truly felt that way or if it was Cole’s doing, but he felt safe with him. The weight that he often bared was eased and he truly felt like he wasn’t alone, even though he knew so little about him.

---

He could feel the difference in him and it put him at ease as well. He was helping, he was making Anders feel better. Better yet, he was accepting of this and what he was so he wouldn’t have to make Anders forget him. “Is there anything else I can do to make you more comfortable?” He was happy to cradle and hold him as he was, but he wondered if there was something else that might bring him comfort.

---

“I don’t know.” He didn’t know what he needed. He’d spent so long ignoring his needs, he couldn’t put words to them. For now, this was enough. Some part of him thought he didn’t even needed this, but clearly he did or he wouldn’t be reacting the way he was to it.

---

“Tell me about the things you enjoy. Tell me what you would like to do for fun.” Maybe they would be like some of the things Cole had considered fun. But maybe not - he’d found that mortals could have very different ideas of what was an enjoyable way to pass the time.

---

“My idea of fun has changed.” Really, it hadn’t, but he had changed. He’d become less reckless, or at least, he’d come to channel his recklessness in a more positive way. “I use to want to throw myself into a rowdy crowd. To get drunk and dance and find someone to drag some place quiet.” Some part of him still yearned to do those things, but the responsible part of him knew he couldn’t. Even if he wanted to, Justice wouldn’t let him. “Now I… sometimes I read. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I go for a walk.” He still liked to be around people, it just seemed like people didn’t like to be around him as much anymore.

---

“Most people find alcohol and sex fun.” It wasn’t universal, but he’d seen enough of it in the thoughts of mortals. “I assume that is what you mean about finding someone to drag some place quiet. I doubt that simply dragging someone anywhere is something you consider fun.” But he wasn’t an expert on fun, so who knew.

---

His lips quirked. “Yes. I miss sex.” It was what he missed most, really. Not that he’d gone completely without since he’d joined with Justice, but he’d only had sex once since they’d joined together years ago. He really did miss it and even now, just thinking about his yearnings for pleasure and satisfaction was greeted with annoyance, since it was a need that Justice didn’t understand.

---

“Cole liked sex too. Especially with one other mage he was fond of. That one was the most fun to him.” He imagined that was why many mortals were monogamous. It was more fun and also more...meaningful to share such things with someone they had feelings for.

---

“Most of us do.” He sounded amused, but also resigned. He’d never get to really enjoy sex again. “Why don’t you tell me what you like to do for fun.” He doubted he’d even have an answer, but maybe. Maybe he would simply tell him what else Cole has enjoyed.

“I like to make people happy. And I like to hear stories, especially ones with animals. I like animals, making them happy is so much simpler than making people happy.” He stroked his fingers through his hair once more, then let his hand rest on the back of his neck, giving direct contact with his skin. “Those things are fun for me.”

---

“They are.” Animals were so simple. Some food, some warmth, some attention, and they were happy as could be. He supposed if he had all of those things himself, he’d be more content. He took in a deep breath, letting it out on a sigh. “Justice doesn’t really care about animals. They have no sense of right or wrong, they just behave based on their instincts.” It was exactly the sort of thing Justice found frustrating about humans - not only did they intentionally commit wrongs, but they thoughtlessly committed wrongs as well. After a beat, he went on, “He likes the cats, though.” He smiled.

“They don't need a sense of right and wrong. They don't act maliciously the way people do.” He felt that his affinity for animals was his own, but it was hard to tell if it came from Cole. “I like the cats too. Rabbits are one of my favorites.”

---

“Justice says they do harm one another, though.” It was true, but for them it was survival.

Is it not often survival for people as well?

Often it was, but just as often it wasn’t. He could feel Justice’s agreement, knowing that ultimately only people behaved with malicious intent. Animals were innocent, even as they did what they had to to survive, Justice simply had no use for such creatures.

“They do. But not the way that people do. They speak to me the way people do. They suffer like people, but they aren't cruel the way people can be.” He smiled and stroked his thumb over the back of Anders’ neck. “The pregnant cat outside is loud tonight. She's ready to have her babies, but she knows she'll probably have to wait a few more days.”

---

Anders sat back suddenly, startled and needing to see him. “You can understand animals?” Sure, some mages could turn into animals and some mages could even summon animals, but he’d never heard of anyone speaking to or at least understanding animals.

“Of course I can. They need me just as humans do.” Often because of humans, they needed compassion. He gave him the space to sit back and met his gaze, as well as he could with his hat and hair obscuring his eyes, anyway.

---

He took that in. That was incredible… he’d love to be able to do that. He considered all that he could ask and rather than ask any of it, intrigued as he was, he settled on something simpler. “Then why don’t you tell me why rabbits are your favorite?” What was it about them, since he knew them so intimately?

“They are some of the gentlest creatures I know. They don't harm anyone or anything. Besides that, they're very soft and cute.” He wished people were more like rabbits. “But I understand the need for predators. It's part of the reason I brought the cats here. They are fed on the mice and rats around your clinic, which keeps your workspace more sanitary.”

---

He had noticed that. “You’ve been helpful.” Even now, he’d helped, though Anders didn’t think he should ask for any more. “Thank you, Cole, but I think there are others that need you right now.” He thought he’d gotten enough from him and he couldn’t take up any more of his time.

“There are.  I need to help a family find food tonight. And I need to visit the family of the boy who died in the fire today. But I was going to stay with you until you fell asleep tonight if that would help you.” If it would help him sleep peacefully, he could give him comfort while he drifted off.

---

The mention of the family of the boy made him feel guilty. They needed comfort far more than he did. “I’ll be okay,” he assured him, slipping off of his lap and standing, going to gather what food he had in the clinic. He packed it all in a bag and then returned to him. “Here, take this to the hungry family.” As far as the family of the boy… there was nothing he could give them that would help.

“You have not eaten tonight either. Keep your food, Anders. I have a place to send this family. A man who has more food than he can sell and likes to help.” He stood from the man's cot and nodded to the bag. “Have a good meal before you sleep. You need it and I can help the others you so often give your food to.”

---

He frowned a little, looking at the bag in his hand, but nodded. He was hungry. He set the bag down on the cot. “Okay, I’ll see you later.” If he came back, that was.

Tell him that I said goodbye, he cannot hear me.

Couldn’t he? He thought about it and realized that he was right. Cole hadn’t reacted or responded to any Justice’s thoughts or feelings. They’d talked when he’d taken control.

“Justice says goodbye… and that it was nice to meet you.”

He smiled at that. It had been nice meeting another spirit. “Goodnight, Justice. Goodnight, Anders.” Rather than walk out of the clinic, he simply vanished as if he had never been there in the first place. He would be back and when he returned, perhaps he could try to get Anders to have some fun.

Chapter Text

A few days later, Cole returned to the clinic when he was needed. He’d been wanting to visit the mage and spirit again anyway, but Darktown kept him very busy. Day and night there were cries for help to answer. It was fulfilling to be so needed somewhere and he was glad that his duty found him in the clinic once more.

This time it was not a group of men who called to him, but a young girl. Her father had been robbed in the street and was seeing the healer of Darktown to tend to the shallow stab wound he’d gotten in the process. He was relieved himself - he had gotten out of it with his life and they hadn’t laid a hand on his daughter. But the girl was badly shaken and she was weeping into her hands while the man removed his tunic for Anders to look at the wound.

Cole stepped into the clinic and though the girl looked up to him, her father didn’t seem to see him. He nodded to Anders, but went right to the frightened child, kneeling to level himself to her height. “Don’t be afraid. I took care of those bad men. Your father will be just fine, this is my friend Anders and he’ll take very good care of him.”

---

As always, Anders looked up and for a beat, he was surprised to see him. When he saw him approach the girl, however, he realized why he was here. He gave her a sympathetic look, but since the spirit had it handled, he focused on taking care of her father, just like Cole promised.

The wound itself wasn’t bad and he said as much, both for the man’s benefit and the daughter’s, “As far as stab wounds go, this is as harmless as it gets.” Even without him, the man would have been fine with some stitches. “This’ll take just a second.” He hovered his hand over the wound and there was some brief light and warmth that emanated from it and he pulled his hand away.  “Good as new!”

“Your father will find the money they took and a little extra at home.” Cole told the girl as she wiped at her eyes and when Anders announced that her father was good as new, he went on. “I'm sorry those men hurt him, but there are good men like the healer to help.”

The girl smiled and left Cole to go embrace her father once the healing was done. The man put an arm around her in return to give her a brief squeeze before dressing himself again. “Thank you, Healer. Those men took everything I had with me, but I have a little savings at home. I'll come back to pay you, if that's alright…”

---

“No, keep your money.” He didn’t want payment from anyone and especially someone that had been robbed and had a daughter to take care of. “You have more important things to spend it on.” He gave his daughter a smile and then, with a nod, he moved back to give him space to slip off his work table.

“Thank you.” He gave him a smile and when he was put back together, he eased himself down off of the table and lead his daughter from the clinic. The little girl gave Anders and Cole a wave on her way out.

Cole rose to his feet and looked to Anders. “He wants to bring you some food tomorrow since you don't want his money. He also thought you were very handsome.” The man hadn't been bad looking himself, maybe he could nurture that idea.

---

Anders waved in response, watching them go and glad to see that the girl was feeling better. It was funny, as fragile as children's’ emotions were, they had a ridiculous capacity to bounce back.

He looked at Cole when he addressed him and his brows lifted. “...I see.” He wasn’t sure why he thought he ought to know that, but admittedly, it made him perk. He hadn’t felt handsome in a long time and though sometimes he was hit on, it wasn’t often these days.

It was nice to know someone thought he was attractive. He would turn away the food when he brought it, but he would appreciate that the man would enjoy looking at him while he was here.

“How are you?” He hadn’t seen him in a few days and he hadn’t been sure he was still around.

The question caught him off guard. No one ever asked how he was. “I'm doing well. I've had a lot to do here. Not only in Darktown, there is a lot of need in all of Kirkwall.” But Darktown most of all. “I was looking forward to seeing you again when that little girl called me here.”

---

“Have you gone to the Circle?” There was so much good he could do there, especially if he could come and go without being seen. It seemed to hit him as he said it and even Justice’s interest strike him suddenly. He could be invaluable to the Mage Underground, to get information that no one else could possibly hope to get.

He was so caught up in what he realized that he didn’t even register what he had to say next.

“Oh yes. It's...difficult for me to be there, but I can help, so I've been there. I could do so much more if I could get through to the Knight Commander, but she hasn't been willing to listen to me.” He had that problem with templars often. Their fear of what they didn't understand made them far less open to him.

---

He looked at him intently, suddenly all that mattered to him was the Underground and what he could do. Justice had pushed to the front of his mind, not taking over, but definitely there. “You’ll never get through to her, but you could help us…” In a way that went beyond just making people feel better.

“I know I can. I offered to help you with the Underground already.” Cole had expected him to take him up on it at some point. He just hadn't expected such sudden enthusiasm. “I want to help them.”

---

He had, but it hadn’t occurred to them what his help could be. “Then we should go talk to Derric, I’ll introduce you and we can tell him what you are and what you’re capable of and we can figure out how to best utilize your abilities.” He was already grabbing his staff and putting it on, heading for the door.

“Right now? I thought we would take some time for you this evening. You haven't taken time for yourself and it would be good for you.” Even as he said it, he followed. He would do what he wanted.

---

“This is more important.” He knew Cole wanted him to stop pushing himself so hard, but it was hard to step back. If he did, he was putting himself above others and he couldn’t do that when they needed him so badly. Justice was completely brushing off the notion of taking time for themselves, especially now, and pushing him forward. He shut and locked the door behind him and put the lantern out as he passed by it.

“It is important, but you are also important.” He fell into step beside him, knowing there would be no convincing him to take it easy tonight. “I will meet with the Underground tonight and show them what I can do, but tomorrow when you close the clinic I want to do something for you.”

---

Anders glanced at him and gave a curt nod. If there was time, then they could do whatever it was he had in mind, though he did think Cole’s time would be better utilized in the Circle. There was no telling how much could get done if he stayed there and reported back each day.

Please, I have this, Justice. I will make sure we get him to Derric.

He finally recognized how much his thoughts were being influenced.

“I will have the time to do both, Justice. I need no rest and I travel quickly.” He could tell from what he heard from Anders that Justice was pushing him hard. He was also a bit distracted as they walked, hearing the overlapping mental voices of others and listening for anyone who needed him.

---

Anders gave him a fleeting look, before fixing his eyes on their destination. They were almost there and they would probably be there for some time. He imagined that Derric and the others would want to study Cole, if he was willing, and he had to admit that he was curious as well, but Justice gave another push. He was the most curious of them all, but it was not the time.

Chapter Text

As expected, the mages has been stunned and fascinated to meet Cole. After bombarding him with questions and using magic to test him, including one or two questionable spells, they’d settled down and began discussing what he could do for them. Anders had gotten his share of curiosity as well - the mages already found him interesting thanks to Justice and now he’d found a wandering Compassion spirit - but it was only cursory, as Cole had stolen the show.

When all was said and done and Cole had his mission laid out for him - to simply gather what information he could. Things that they wouldn’t know and wouldn’t have access to. A simple mission, but one that would prove his value to their cause. From there, if what he provided was accurate and helpful, they could determine how best to utilize him.

When they left the hideout, they parted ways and Anders thanked him for coming along and agreeing to help them. It was… nice to have someone as invested as he was.

By the next day, Anders had gotten caught up in his work and whatever Cole was up to was in the back of his mind. Still there, but not at the forefront of his thoughts as it had been all night. There was a steady flow of people and he’d been allowed only minimal breaks. He’d managed to scarf down some bread and broth at one point, but otherwise he was working consistently through the morning and into the middle of the afternoon.

It finally slowed down enough that he could clean up somewhat, though he was being careful not to disturb an older woman that was currently sleeping in one of his cots.

During the lull in Anders’ day, the man he'd healed from the mugging the day before came to the clinic. He brought a basket with him with everything he'd been able to throw together - some sliced meats and cheeses as well as some fresh fruits. Not much of any of it, but it was what he could spare. He came without his daughter this time and as he approached the healer, he greeted him with a warm smile. “I can't thank you enough for yesterday. I know it wasn't a big deal, but my little girl was very shaken and having you heal me so quickly really helped her.”

---

When Anders saw who it was and what he had, he couldn’t help smiling. Cole has been right, or at least, the man hadn’t changed his mind about bringing him food. “Oh, no thanks necessary, I’m happy to help.” He gave him more of a look over than he had the previous day. “I do hope she’s feeling better.”

“She is, thank you.” Seeing him smile made his expression warm and he offered him the basket. “Please take this. It isn't much, but I'd like to give you something. I had a little more to spare at home than I thought I did.”

---

He looked at the basket. It looked good and his stomach gave a grumble, but he ignored it. “That’s thoughtful of you and I appreciate it, but you should keep it. I know how hard it can be to get food sometimes and I’d rather you feed your family first.” He always tried to turn down these sorts of gifts, but if the person was insistent, he would take it and simply give it to someone else.

---

“Please…” He continued to hold out the basket, hoping he would change his mind. “My little Willow helped me pack this for you. It would mean a lot to both of us if we could find some way to repay you. There aren’t enough people like you who would help us without asking for anything in return.”

---

He moved closer and took the basket. “Thank you.” Maybe he’d have a little bit of meat and cheese before he gave it away. It’d been a while since he’d had either. He gave him another smile and then went to his desk to set it down. “How’s the wound?” Non-existent, but he always liked to check in, just in case something was still bothering them.

---

“It’s as if it never happened.” He watched him closely, then realized he was staring and glanced away with a sheepish smile. “Everyone around here calls you ‘Healer’, but I’d like to know your name. Would you tell me?”

---

Even if Cole hadn’t told him what the man was thinking, he would’ve noticed that. He looked away, amused and feeling pretty good about himself. “Anders. I tell anyone who asks - they just never do.” He returned to what he’d been doing, but the effort was distracted, glancing at him. He was curious if the basket was all he had in mind and the wondering alone was pleasant, though he could feel Justice’s bemusement.

---

“Anders…” He liked the name, it seemed to suit him. “I’m Milos. I know you’re a very busy man...but I was wondering if maybe I could take you out for a drink some time. Or maybe a walk outside of town.” The second suggestion came to him seemingly out of nowhere, but he got a strange intuition that he might have better luck suggesting that than a drink.

---

That wasn’t a suggestion anyone had ever made before. He knew he couldn’t, but entertaining the thought even briefly was nice. He kind of wanted to, just to feel more like himself, but as with every patient who had tried, he had to turn him down. “That sounds really nice, but I can’t. I’m sorry.” He didn’t offer any explanation and he didn’t think he needed to, he was sure the man would accept the answer and move on.

---

He looked disappointed, but he put on a smile anyway. “I understand. Well, enjoy the basket. And thank you again.” With that, he turned to take his leave, glad that at least his gift had been accepted.

---

He watched him go and when he was gone, his shoulders sank a little. He could feel his loneliness acutely, but he knew the feeling would fade. He just needed to get back to work, so he did just that, throwing himself into cleaning up, just in case another wave of people came rolling through.

---

“You should have said yes. He’s a nice man.” Cole said, suddenly manifested in the clinic and helping with the cleaning. “Just a little lonely, like you are.” He had hoped that his little nudging with the man would help.

---

Anders jumped, his heart shooting into his throat. “Cole!” He could feel it thumping hard, frightened by his sudden appearance in the otherwise quiet clinic. “How long have you been here?!” Long enough to listen to their conversation, clearly, and… had he done something?

---

“Just a few moments.” He could tell he’d frightened him and he moved to put a hand on his arm, trying to use the magic that came naturally with his touch to soothe him. “I’m sorry. I forget to use the door sometimes. That is probably a little startling for you.”

---

He took a deep breath, his eyes going to the woman sleeping on the other side of the room. It seemed she was still out and seeing that, he was able to calm completely. “...Did you have anything to do with that?”

---

“I did help him suggest the walk but only because I know you no longer drink. The rest was him.” He didn’t have it in him to lie about it and say that he’d been completely uninvolved. “He was really hoping you’d give him a chance.”

---

That was actually a little disappointing. The walk had been the most intriguing part of the offer, but that was only because Cole told him what to say. “I’m sure he was. Unfortunately, I can’t give anyone a chance.” He looked at him. “Why are you here? Is something wrong?”

Why isn’t he at the Circle?

---

“I told you I would be back tonight because you need to take time for yourself. You could have spent that time with Milos. Why do you feel you can’t give anyone a chance? You miss having a relationship, it could make you happy.” He withdrew his hand from him now that he was comfortable and got back to work in cleaning.

---

“While true, it’s not quite night yet.” He’d forgotten about that, but even if he had remembered, he wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d gotten too busy to stop by. Justice felt that he ought to be too busy to be here, though Anders could tell that he was always a little happy to see him. “It’s a distraction that I can’t afford and even if I could, I’ve nothing to offer anyone. I’m a mage, an abomination, and I have no time.” He could mean that two different ways - he had no time to spend with someone else and he had no time left in his life. He meant both.

---

“No, but I was on this side of town anyway.” He shook his head. “You have plenty to offer. You’re very good for a mortal. Milos knows you’re a mage, obviously, and a spirit does not make you an abomination. A demon would. You could share your evenings with another and you are likely not at the end of your life. There have not been many Wardens inhabited by spirits, after all.”

---

The wording made him snort. Good for a mortal. He didn’t agree though, he did think he was an abomination, regardless of what Justice was. Especially considering the corruption he’d caused him. Justice didn’t like being called an abomination. He thought it was a word that ought to be reserved for demons only and he really didn’t like it when Anders fixated on the ‘corruption’. He refused to see it as Anders did, but it didn’t feel good to know how much he regretted their joining and how little he thought of them.

Anders had already moved past that part of the conversation and he was looking at him intently. “What are you saying? The taint won’t kill me?” That was impossible, wasn’t it?

---

“I doubt that it will. Not with Justice to fortify your mind. I don’t know much about Wardens with spirits or demons, other than what I’ve heard in Circles, but I haven’t heard of any of them getting their Calling.” He couldn’t be sure. “I can’t make you promises. But I can suggest that you don’t neglect yourself and your happiness as if you expect that your life is already over.”

---

Can I talk to him?

Anders was clearly thinking hard and the spirit snapped him out of his thoughts. He hadn’t realized that he’d looked back at the door, staring at it without seeing. What is it? Is something wrong?

I do not like this intervention. I would like to talk to him.

Anders sighed. “Cole, Justice would like to speak with you.”

---

“He is welcome to speak to me whenever he likes.” He said without looking up from his cleaning. “But if you're hoping to catch up with Milos, you might want to do that first. It's up to you.”

---

That left him stuck, his feet wanting to move, but remaining in place.

We do not have time for this. You do not need to be distracted. You have responsibilities and dividing your time even further will only make things harder for us.

It’s just a walk. A walk that he sometimes went on by himself. What could it hurt?

It may turn into more than a walk.

All the better, wasn’t it?

Cole could hear the conflict, one side of it anyway, and looked up to them. “He has more time to spare, Justice. I am here to help. Mortals need these connections with each other in their lives. Go on, Anders. I will take care of things here while you're gone.”

---

There was a beat in which he remained frozen, then he lurched forward, running toward the door. He wasn’t sure he’d even be able to catch up to him and he couldn’t see him, so he called his name. He knew it might be too late, but on the off chance that he was in earshot, it was worth a try.

Milos was not all that far, having stopped to play with one of the cats outside of the clinic. When he heard his name called, his heart picked up a little. The healer came after him? “Anders?” He called back, turning on his heels to head back toward the clinic.

---

As soon as he heard him, he flushed, and as soon as he saw him, he was thoroughly embarrassed. Still, he approached him. “Uh, hi. I was just wondering if you still wanted to go on that walk sometime.” He hated how hot he felt, but it would have been a lot smoother to simply accept the offer than to run after him.

He smiled brightly, having thought it was more likely that he forgot something at the clinic than Anders actually accepting an invitation. “Sure! When do you want to go? I could meet you at your clinic and we could go from there…”

---

He thought about it. Didn’t Cole want to do something tonight? But then again, he’d said he could have spend that time tonight with Milos. “I’m not busy tonight, if you want.” He shrugged slightly, trying not to put any significance into it.

“Then I'll come back tonight. Willow and my sister can have a girl's night.” A moonlight stroll wasn't what he'd normally suggest to get to know someone, but he was glad he did. There was something more romantic about it than going out for a drink.

---

“Alright, I’ll see you then.” After an awkward pause, he gave him a smile and then turned and headed back to the clinic.

You are happy.

I am.

“See you tonight.” Milos seemed so pleased as he turned and started for home again.

Cole had finished the cleaning and he smiled when Anders returned. “So, how did it go?”

---

“You already know,” answered, though it was nice that he was thoughtful enough to ask. “I suppose we’ll have to do something another time.”

I would like to talk to him still.

Alright, fine, but please… he is right. I need this, even if it’s only for tonight.

Justice could feel it and he wasn’t going to argue, but he still wanted to talk to Cole, so he pushed forward.

“There will be other nights.” He would prefer Anders spend his evening with another mortal. That ultimately had more potential to make him happy than he did. When he saw Justice push forward, he knew the spirit was probably less than pleased with him. “Hello, Justice.”

---

“Hello.” He considered him. “You are encouraging him to splinter his time even further. I know this makes him happy and I want him to be happy, but this will be a distraction.” He didn’t like it and he didn’t like that the solutions were either to let Anders have what he wanted at the expense of others, or take away his happiness.

That wasn’t particularly just either, was it?

“He needs distraction. You'll see, he'll be more productive if he's thriving.” He said gently, knowing that they understood the needs of mortals differently. “I will pick up some of the weight for him. I've collected information in the Circle just today that Bob said it would have taken weeks to get normally. I am here and Anders can have some space for himself.”

---

“What he needs and what I need are different things. I need to become like you are. I need a body of my own. I can free Anders of this burden and he can chase his happiness,” He sounded somewhat derisive about it, as if Anders would give up everything they were working toward if given the chance, “And I can be free to do what needs to be done, instead of forever waiting.”

“Our needs are not important. This is their world.” He moved closer to him. Perhaps Justice needed him as much as Anders did. “He doesn't want to give up on the things you're working on. His emotions are what fed your devotion to this cause. But he needs time for himself as well. He needs both.”

---

He frown at him. “You say that, but you are able to do as you please. You are able to fulfill your purpose - you meet your needs every day. You do not understand what it is like to exist as I do.” He didn’t hate it, but he did feel stifled. “I… I understand that they are different. That they are all of us at once. I know there is value in all that he feels, but there is so much corruption in the world.” Not in them. “There is so much inaction. The inaction is worse than the corruption and if we waste too much time, then we are contributing to it.”

“I don't know what it's like to share a body, no. I can only understand to the degree that Cole's anger changed me.” He moved closer still and touched his arm, hoping to soothe him. “If he goes days on end without doing anything for those that need healing or the mages, then I will agree that he has lost his way. But taking an evening to go on a walk with another man once in a while does not make him part of the problem with this world.”

---

Their jaw tightened. Anders’ anger gave him focus, that was all. He’d seen the plight of the mages through him before, but he hadn’t felt it until they had become one. He looked down at the hand on their arm and his frown deepened. He could feel the magic he was attempting to use on him and he could feel the calming effect, just like when he’d done it to Anders.

He looked troubled, but eventually their head fell. “He is not,” he agreed, knowing that Anders couldn’t be further from the problem… He was the solution and that was why he pushed so hard.

He nodded, glad he had agreed. He put his hands on his shoulders, finding that the contact seemed to be helping. “Of course he is not, but he is not the only solution either. He is doing more than his part in this already and so are you. This is a collective effort and he can't have the weight on his shoulders as if he is the only solution. Neither can you.”

---

Justice could feel the anger in him fading. He thought about Kristoff, when his purpose had been avenging his death and fixing the wrong that he’d done his wife by taking her husband’s body.

Things had been simpler then. He’d spent so much time in Vigil’s Keep, learning what it was to be a mortal on this world. He’d helped the Warden Commander often, had done so much good alongside Anders and the others, but he hadn’t been consumed by it.

He took a deep breath. “Very well. I will try to push him less.” He felt he already had, but he would even further. “I would still like to try to find a way to make a body of my own - will you help me?”

“Thank you.” He was relieved, feeling his fellow spirit calm. “I will try to help make you like I am. I want to help you both.” They both needed him, just in different ways. He hadn't realized it until he'd really understood the spirit’s frustration.

---

“Okay, then we will talk more of this later.” He needed to give control back to Anders, just in case someone came in. With a final look and a nod, he fell back into his place.

Anders felt the hands on him and when he focused, he saw Cole standing right in front of him. “Is everything alright?” He posed the question at both of them.

Yes, I have decided that it will not be bad for you to take the time you need for yourself.

Cole was glad to still be holding onto him - it seemed jarring for Anders to come back and it seemed like a good idea to steady him. “Everything is fine. I should get back to the Circle, there is a changing of the guards soon. I'll come back a little before you normally close, I can help take care of the clinic while you get ready for your night out with Milos.”

---

He was a little more jarred by what Justice had to tell him. “...What did you say to him?” What could he have possibly said to convince him?

He’s made me think.

And I haven’t?

It is different coming from someone that is like me. He understands you better than I do. There was a little bit of insecurity that came with the explanation, Justice feeling a strange surge of possessiveness. He thought he understood Anders better than anyone, maybe just not the complexity of his emotions and how to manage them.

“I told him that a little distraction is good for you. That you will not give up your work.” He looked him over, making sure he was steady before releasing him. “He would like to be more like me. I told him I would try to help.”

---

That was all? He felt a little annoyed by that, but Justice simply reaffirmed what he’d already said. It was different coming from Cole.

“Like you?” What did that mean?

I would like a body of my own.

It took him a moment to process that. You want to leave me?

No, I want to stay with you, but without being tied to you. 

Won’t that kill me?

If I simply leave you, yes, but there might be another way.

“He wants a body without mortal needs like mine. If we could move him safely. I don't know if it is possible, I don't even know if there are others like me.” He wished he understood how this had happened to him, then he could be of more help.

---

Anders didn’t know how to feel about that. He knew it would be better for both of them, but what would it be like to have his body to himself? He could barely remember what it was like to be truly alone and as lonely as he already was…

“Okay, we’ll talk about that later.” He focused on Cole, “You should get going so you’re not late.”

“I should, I don't want to miss it.” He had work to do and he might be needed by someone on the way. “I'll be back soon.” He would take care of the clinic so neither Anders nor Justice had to worry about it while they were out.

---

“See you then.”  He got back to work. Since no one else was there, he started to wash up some empty jars to be used again for his salves, his mind on Milos and the walk they would be taking later.

Chapter Text

Cole returned before Milos, as promised, but he was running later than he'd hoped. It had turned out to be an eventful day. When he got back into the clinic, he was relieved to find Anders alone. He remembered to use the door this time, at least.

“Sorry I'm late. Let me clean up in here, Anders. You can go wash up and get ready for your walk with Milos.”

---

Anders looked up when Cole stepped in. “Alright, if you want.” He could have finished this himself, but the help would be nice. He locked the door to ensure privacy, not wanting anyone walking in while he was naked… especially not Milos. Though maybe that would be a fun way to start the night. He smiled to himself.

He moved to clean out the basin and refill it with fresh water, warming it. Then he stripped down. He was use to bathing in front of others after years in the Circle and the Wardens, so he wasn’t completely shy, but he did prefer not to be seen bare these days.

He didn’t really think that Cole would be paying attention to him, though, so it wasn’t as if it would matter. He began to scrub himself pink, wanting to get as clean as possible with what little water he had.

Cole wasn't watching, busying himself with cleaning up the place. He hummed to himself as he worked, his mood better than it had been in some time. He was doing a lot of good here and beyond the suffering in individuals he was easing, he was helping the mages on a larger scale. But now he was especially happy that Anders would be going on his first date in a very long time.

---

When he finished wiping himself clean, he gave his hair a through scrubbing and then used some heat to help it dry, before pulling it back. All that was left to shave and he did so with the help of a small mirror propped up against the basin.

When he dressed, he looked about the same as usual, but he felt better.

Cole had the clinic clean by the time he was finished and had moved on to organizing his supplies. He looked up to Anders and seeing that he was all put together, he smiled. “Are you excited for an evening out of town?”

---

“It will be nice to get out.” He was excited, but he felt a bit silly saying so, so he was toning down his response. He doubted anything would come of this, but that wasn’t really the point of it for him. Just this alone was enough for him. He glanced at the door, as if that would bring him any sooner.

---

There wasn't much longer to wait. When the knock came at the door, the spirit was relieved. He would have hated for Anders to get ready for this only to have something come up - an emergent patient or Milos not coming. He could feel the mage’s excitement and it could have easily turned to disappointment. But an equally excited man was on the other side of the door and he smiled to himself as he worked.

---

He moved to answer the door, trying not to get ahead of himself. It might not even be him. He unlocked the door and opened and when he saw him standing there, he smiled. “Oh, hello.” As if he hadn’t been expecting him. “I’ll be ready to go in just a moment - I just need to grab my staff.” He didn’t know if Milos was the sort of man to wield a weapon - probably not judging by what had happened to him - but he would feel naked without his staff. He quickly did just that, putting in on his back then returning to the door.

---

Milos was dressed far better than he had been earlier that day, though even his finer clothes looked a bit old and worn. His brows raised at the mention of his staff - he wasn’t planning on taking him anywhere dangerous, but one could never be too careful. He had just gotten a rather painful reminder of that.

When Anders returned to the door, he flashed him a smile. “Let’s get going. I know just where to take you.”

---

“Alright.” He stepped out of the clinic and shut the door behind him. He went ahead and locked it as well, because apparently things like doors mattered little to Cole. When he was done, he looked him over and he couldn’t help but feel a little sheepish.

“You look nice.” Anders, of course, was wearing the same robes he always did. “I would’ve changed, but… I don’t really have anything to change into.” He sounded sheepish and even a little ashamed, but he was brushing it off.

---

“That’s okay. You look great just as you are.” It didn't bother him at all that he didn't change. Or that he had nothing to change into. “I don't exactly have much of a wardrobe either.” He offered his arm to him but he looked a little sheepish as well, unsure if that was too forward.

---

He saw the offer and warmed. It was so strange - he hadn’t felt like this around someone since he was young and didn’t know what he was doing. It’d been so long, he felt like he didn’t know what he was doing any more than he had than. He took his arm and continued forward, “Where are we going then?” Or was he not allowed to know?

---

“It’s a clear night. There’s a little lake nearby and it’s very pretty there when there’s enough moonlight on the water.” He said with a coy little smile. There was no such lake within walking distance.

---

“Sounds lovely.” It did and he was looking forward to seeing it, curious if he already knew of it or not. After a beat, he went on. “So, why don’t you tell me a little about yourself?” All he knew was his name and that he had a daughter and a sister. He often got to know his patients, usually if they were frequent visitors, but he hadn’t ‘gotten to know’ someone in a long time.

---

“There isn’t all that much to know about me. I live just a little outside of Kirkwall. Our family home was there but I wanted to move into the city so when I was young I apprenticed under a blacksmith and eventually became a jeweler. But after my wife died, I had to move back out of town with my little girl, so my sister shares the place with us.” He didn’t like being in the city all that well and it was a relief when they got through the gates and were on the outside of the city. “What about you? Your story is probably far more interesting than mine.”

---

“A jeweler. That is interesting. I cannot imagine creating such fine crafts.” It was such painstaking work, or so he imagined. “I’d like living outside of Kirkwall, I think, but then again, I’d also like living outside of the sewers.” Anything would be an improvement, but it was where he was needed and where he didn’t have to spend coin.

“I don’t know that my story is all that interesting.” Objectively, probably, but as someone who tried to put his past behind him, to look forward, it felt like there wasn’t much to say. “I was taken into the Circle as a boy, I escaped a few times. I eventually escaped for good. I became a Grey Warden. I escaped that. I came to Kirkwall and the clinic just sort of… fell into my lap. It’s what I’ve occupied myself with since.”

---

“I prefer living out of the city. I guess it wasn’t everything I hoped it would be when I was young. And I really liked being a jeweler. I miss it sometimes.” The healer’s supposedly uninteresting history stunned him and he laughed softly under his breath. “A mage who has escaped both the Circle and the Wardens and now spends his days healing people like me. You’re really something, Anders.”

---

“Is there a reason why you couldn’t continue?” Perhaps he didn’t have the things he needed at home, but was there any reason why he couldn’t still work in the city? He felt a little shy. “I don’t know about that. A lot of the people I hang around with are just as interesting, if not more interesting, than I am. All I’ve really done is run away. It’s what I’m best at, I suppose.”

---

“I sold it all trying to save my wife. First my inventory, then my shop, finally my tools. It was years ago, I don’t miss it as sorely as I used to.” He gave his arm a little squeeze. “You’ll be disappointed in me then. I’m dull as a stump compared to your friends.”

---

He looked at him sympathetically. “I’m sorry.” He immediately found himself wondering what he could do to help. He wasn’t sure. He’d have to think about it or ask Cole if he had any ideas. “No, I rather like that you’ve lead a simpler life. It is something I often yearned for when I was younger.” A simple life… that included riches, of course. Now he’d settle for the simple life, but he knew it wasn’t in the cards for him.

“Too much excitement can be rather dull.”

---

“I guess that’s true. At least my simple life is something different.” He had been leading him down the road for a little while and he looked to him with a smile. “I know I asked you to go out on a walk with me, but you don’t mind if we don’t walk the entire way, do you?” He asked, whistling before waiting for an answer.

---

The question surprised him. He glanced around, as if to look for what he was whistling for. A horse? Or horses? “I suppose not, but what is this about?” He was taken aback and curious.

---

The horses and the carriage they pulled could be heard before they came into view. The two white mares stopped in front of Milos and he patted their necks before leading Anders to the passenger side of the carriage. “I thought maybe we’d ride the rest of the way.”

---

His stomach fluttered. “Are these your horses?” He couldn’t remember the last time he’d ridden in a carriage, but he climbed right up into the seat when they reached it. He was thoroughly intrigued and impressed, not having expected him to bother with this much.

---

“They are. It was the family business I left when I moved into the city. But my jeweler days are done and the horses help me make enough to keep my family fed. They also come in handy when I’m trying to impress a date.” He said with a sheepish little smile as he settled into his seat and picked up the reins, getting the horses moving with a click of his tongue.

---

“Oh, so you go on many dates then?” He watched him, more interested in him than anything else, even though there was a lot to see. Ignoring the horses and the carriage entirely, it was a beautiful night and it wasn’t often he got to enjoy the air or the scenery like this.

---

Milos laughed and shook his head. “No, I’m rusty. If you didn’t like the carriage ride or I said something dumb to offend you, I brought emergency chocolates to try to win you over. I’d be a little more confident if I was a man who went on many dates.”

---

He grinned, charmed by his honesty and his effort. “Well then, consider me impressed.” He scooted a little closer to him, letting himself lean ever so lightly into him.

---

He smiled, feeling he must be doing something right. He returned the slight lean, keeping quiet for the time being. The beat of the hooves and the steady roll of the wheels were enough to fill the silence and he was content to enjoy the company of the man beside him.

It would have taken quite awhile to reach the lake on foot, but it was a short and simple ride in the carriage. He parked the carriage on a hilltop that overlooked the water. Fortune had smiled on him and there still wasn’t a cloud in the sky, making the water below glimmer in moonlight. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?”

---

It wasn’t a lake he’d ever be to before, but he thought he might recognize it from a map he’d seen. “Yes, it’s lovely.” It really was and rather liked the view. “Should we get out and walk around it or simply enjoy it from up here?” Either way would be nice.

“We can stay up here if you like. You've probably had a long day already.” Besides, he liked how close they were now. He let his hand brush lightly against Anders’. “It's been nice to get out tonight and spend some time getting to know you a little.”

---

He looked at him and then down and their hands. “Yeah, I haven’t done anything like this in a long time.” He turned his hand over and left it open. “I still hardly know you, though. I’d like to know more.”

“What more would you like to know?” He set his hand in Anders’ and laced their fingers. “I'm an open book. But turnabout is fair play, you have to tell me more about yourself.”

---

He held his hand in return, finding the touch so incredible after having gone so long without even this. “Well, why don’t you tell me about your daughter and I’ll tell you whatever you want to know?”

“You want to know about Willow?” He sounded pleasantly surprised. “She'll  be five next month. She was only two when we had to leave Kirkwall, but I think it’s better for her. She loves the horses and the wide open spaces to run and play. She does like to come into the city with me though. Even after how rattled she was by seeing those men attack me, she said she wasn’t afraid to come with me. She said the bad men were gone now and I don’t have the heart to tell her that Kirkwall has no shortage of bad men. But you helping us and asking nothing in return...it was nice for her to see that there are good men out there too.”

---

“She’s a sweet girl.” Even from what he’d just seen, he liked her. He liked most children. “I always wanted to have children.” Unfortunately, he wouldn’t be having any himself. Even if Cole was right and he wasn’t going to die in the next few years, he knew he wasn’t in a place to have children. The most he could hope for was maybe a relationship… but that was getting ahead of himself when Justice was only just allowing this.

“You seem like you would be a good father.” He had the right temperament, anyway. “I would have loved to have more children. But we only had Willow and I'm lucky to have her.” He studied him, brushing his thumb absently over the back of his hand. “Were you ever married, Anders? Between all of your adventures, it seems like it would be hard to find the time to settle down.”

---

“No, never married.” He didn’t have much experience with relationships at all. “Mostly just flings… some that stuck around longer than others, but only one lasted longer than a few weeks.”

“Really? I would have guessed you to be a long-term relationship sort of man. I know if you were mine, a few weeks wouldn't be enough.” He flushed a little after he said it, a shy smile on his lips.

---

He flushed a little himself, but he looked pleased. “I’d like something like that, it just hasn’t happened for me. Relationships, normal ones anyway, are hard to come by in the Circle. And you’re right - since then I have been busy.”

“I'm glad you could take a little time out for me. I'm sure it's hard to get away from your clinic.” He had heard that it was a very busy place long before he'd ever needed to visit the healer himself. “What do you like to do when you can take an evening off?”

---

“I never really take time for myself, to be honest. When I’m not working in the clinic, I’m off helping my friends with whatever they need.” And working for the Mage Underground, but he didn’t need to know about that right now.

“If I do get free time, though, I might read or write. Sometimes I take a walk, but I suppose that could also count as work since I use the opportunity to collect herbs.”

“I like to read too. I'm not much of a writer, Willow says even the bedtime stories I make up for her are terrible.” He smiled and leaned into him a little more. “Well, no working allowed tonight. You've earned a night off.”

---

He chuckled. “Well, my writing isn’t very interesting, either. It’s more academic than anything.” He could tell stories though. Not as well as Varric, but better than the rest of them. Well, except perhaps Isabela.

“It’s nice to have some time to do nothing. Sometimes I forget what that’s like. Though, I suppose I do go to The Hanged Man to spend time with my friends, on occasion, but I don’t quite fit in with them.” He liked it… but when he couldn’t really indulge like them, it felt like going was an obligation more than anything.

“The Hanged Man? I haven't been there in years. Maybe we can go together sometime.” He found his eyes wandering to his staff, curious after never seeing one up close. “What do you like to write about?”

---

“Maybe.” Probably not, as he didn’t really want any of his friends assuming anything. He shrugged noncommittally. “Oh, like I said. Nothing interesting. Just how mages are treated terribly and how we should abolish Circles.” He cleared his throat and then quickly moved on. “What about you? What do you do for fun?”

---

“That...sounds pretty interesting, actually. I don't know a whole lot about the Circles myself but they scare me. My Willow has an aunt on her mother's side who is a mage. If she ends up with magic...I would never let her end up in a place like that.” He considered the question then and looked back to Anders. “I like to go for walks or go out riding. Sometimes I come out here to fish or just to enjoy the lake. but most of the time I just do whatever my daughter thinks would be fun.”

---

That made both of them feel better. Then again, if he had a problem that he was a mage, he probably wouldn’t have asked him out like this. “I’m sure spending time with her is a lot of fun.” He reached for their held hands with his other one, holding Milos’ between both of his own.

---

“It is. The games she comes up with are so funny. She can take something so mundane and make it an adventure.” He smiled fondly and when he felt Anders’ hand over his, he leaned into him a little more. “But she’s getting to an age where she is wanting to spend some time with my sister separately. It hurt my feelings a little at first, but I understand that Mara is the closest thing she has to a mother and she needs that in her life. But that also gives me the opportunity to take a little time for myself. To sit by the lake with a handsome healer.”

---

“Tired healer is more like it.” Still, it felt good to know what someone found him handsome still. He didn’t really feel handsome these days and so he would take what he could get, especially since Milos was cute himself. “I’ll take ‘handsome’ though. Sounds better.”

---

“Who says you can’t be tired and handsome at the same time?” He chuckled. “Part of my strategy was taking you out after dark so you wouldn’t see how tired I look. But it doesn’t do me much good since you’ve already seen me in the daylight.”

---

He smirked. “I mean, at this point I’ve already seen you without your shirt on. There’s very little you’ve left hidden from me.” There was something he hadn’t seen though and he felt a tightening in his belly even just thinking about it.

---

“That’s true. It was pretty forward of me to undress the first time I met you.” He gave him a sheepish smile. “It seems you have me at a disadvantage, Anders.”

---

“That’s alright. It may well have been a determining factor in my accepting your offer.” It hadn’t been, but he was flirting. He also preferred continuing to pretend that he hadn’t run after him.

---

“Yeah? I’m glad for it then.” He doubted he was being honest, but he was pleased to hear it anyway. “I’m glad you saw me shirtless after a few years working out in the country again. I wasn’t so muscular as a jeweler. In fact, I had money and sedentary work. I was a little chubby at one point.” The idea was funny now that his lifestyle was so different.

---

“Well, you certainly aren’t chubby now.” Far from it. He had looked nice, though at the time he hadn’t really looked at him that way.  He hadn’t put any thought into it at all, actually, and his memory of what he looked like was even foggy.

“Not anymore. Now I’m built like I was back in my teenage years working on the family ranch. Funny that it feels like a lifetime ago, but I promise I’m not all that old.” He wasn’t old at all, but after all that had happened, he felt like it some days.

---

“How old are you?” He wouldn’t mind if he was a bit older or younger than him. He felt old himself, even though he was barely into his thirties. Well, maybe it was a little more than barely now.

---

“I’ll be thirty soon. I don’t imagine you’re far off from my age?” He didn’t look it, anyway. If he was considerably older than him, he wore it well. “Not that age is a big deal for me regardless.”

---

“I’m thirty-three.” So they were pretty close. Most of the people he hung out with were about his age, which was nice. He didn’t think he could keep up with anyone young. He wouldn’t mind someone older, though. Karl would’ve been in his late-forties at this point he felt like he could relate better with someone older anyway.

---

“Good, then neither of us are robbing the cradle.” As much as it didn’t matter to him, it was a relief that they were about the same age, just in case Anders or some of his friends might have balked at a substantial difference. “I wouldn’t know how to entertain someone much younger. A quiet night by the lake is more my speed.”

---

“Me too.” He’d varied his attention between the lake and the man beside him, but now he was just looking at him. He knew that he hadn’t suggested this on his own, but it was still nice that it was something he enjoyed. He felt so warm and his stomach, though mostly settled, was squirming here and there.

---

“I’m glad we’re on the same page then.” They could enjoy something simple together like this. His eyes had been out on the lake and when he found Anders was watching him, he smiled when he met his gaze. He glanced down at his lips, then back up to his eyes. It had been so long since he’d taken anyone out like this and he felt like he didn’t remember exactly how or when to progress these things. But the moment felt right so he followed his gut and leaned in to kiss his lips.

---

He was felt sheepish when he was caught looking, but he kept his eyes on him and as such, saw where Milos’ went. His heart picked up, as did the squirming, and he waited, wanting to see what would happen. When he leaned in, he held his breath and as soon as their lips touched, he leaned in to put his own weight into the kiss as he returned it.

---

He smiled against his lips when it was returned. He let it linger for as long as he dared, then pulled back to meet his gaze. “I did bring those emergency chocolates to make it up to you if it was too soon to kiss you.” He said with a smirk, knowing that since his kiss had been returned, it was most likely welcomed.

---

“Guess we’ll have to share them.” He wouldn’t mind some chocolate, but right now all he really cared about was leaning in to close the distance between them again. He wanted to kiss him some more, knowing that the distaste he felt could be so much worse. He wanted to enjoy this while he could since it might never happen again.

---

His heart fluttered when Anders leaned back in. He returned the kiss and squeezed his hand, closing his eyes as he melted into it. They could enjoy the chocolates on the ride back to Kirkwall together. His lips parted, inviting him to deepen the kiss so he could really get lost in it.

---

Anders slid his tongue into his mouth, his own excitement drowning out whatever it was Justice was feeling. He tasted good and wanted to play with his tongue. So rather than explore, he tried to encourage him to work their tongues together with strokes of his own.

---

His tongue answered him readily, brushing over his to welcome it. His free hand moved up to rest on Anders’ cheek, his thumb brushing over the smooth, freshly-shaved skin. He hadn’t kissed anyone deeply in months and it gave him a thrill he wasn’t expecting.

---

He lifted the hand holding theirs up and rested it against his chest. The kiss was downright passionate on his end, having gone years without kissing anyone like this. It didn’t matter that he barely knew him, just as it wouldn’t really have mattered back then either. The only difference was that it didn’t matter for an entirely different reason.

---

He could feel the excitement in Anders and it fed his own, the kiss quickly growing more heated. It didn’t matter to him either that they didn’t know each other well. They were men that rarely had a free night and they could enjoy it however they wanted. He would get his fill of it while it latest.

---

Anders kept it up, sucking on his lips and his tongue whenever he had an opportunity. Sometimes briefly, sometimes lingering. He pulled his hand away, needing both to touch him, though he refrained from doing more than clutching at his front.

---

Milos made a soft sound against his lips, sucking on his tongue when he caught hold of it. He put his hand on his side, wanting to touch him as well and feeling it was alright since the mages hands were on him. He would have smiled if his mouth wasn’t so busy - he’d been many places in this carriage but it had never seen this much action, as mild as this was.

---

He wished he wasn’t hard. It took so little to work him up and when he broke the kiss, he stayed close to him, trying to catch his breath and gather himself. His body was warm and would need attention before the night was through, but for now, he just needed to calm himself.

---

He had to catch his breath as well, a smile on his lips. “You taste so good…” He murmured to him, his hand stroking absently over his side. He pressed a couple soft kisses to his jaw while they recovered, his own blood starting to heat.

---

“So do you.” As rusty as he thought he was, it hadn’t felt that way when they kissed. Honestly, just being touched at all felt amazing. He’d forgotten what it felt like to have hands on him. He almost needed that more than the kissing. Cole had held him and that had helped, but it was different when it was someone touching him because they wanted to.

---

He let his kisses trail down to his neck, his lips settling over a tender place so he could suck on it lightly. His skin tasted every bit as good as his lips. His fingers wandered, trailing from his sides to his back and down toward his hips.

---

He whimpered, his head tipping to the side. This wasn’t helping him cool down, not at all. It was doing just the opposite and he whispered his name, his own hands sliding up and around his neck, one hand slipping into his hair. His fingers parted his locks and they curled in and held him to his neck.

---

He found a place toward the back of his neck, one that his hair would cover, and ran his tongue over it before sucking harder on his flesh. He used his wandering hands to pull Anders closer, getting their bodies as flush as possible while they were sitting beside each other. He wouldn’t have expected to mark him like this on their first date, but now that he’d had a taste of him, he was hungry for more.

---

The distaste was growing, but Justice wasn’t complaining. He wasn’t saying anything or trying to stop him. It was incredible to not have nagging in the back of his head. He followed the pull, pressing into him and giving his hair a tug while it was curled up in his fingers. He didn’t care at all if he left a mark. It wasn’t like anyone would see it, especially not where he was sucking. His free hand curled into his shirt, much like the hand in his hair, but when he tugged it, he was pulling up, just a little.

---

He felt him tugging up his shirt and it gave him a shiver of excitement. He moved a hand from Anders’ hip find the hand in his shirt, guiding it up further to encourage him. He’d seen him without his shirt before, after all, so it wasn’t unfamiliar territory. He pulled off his neck when his hair was tugged, returning to kissing the base of his jaw until he found a new place he wanted to mark on his neck.

---

He could feel what he wanted and at this point, his heart was pounding and his cock was aching. He was shaking as he drew his arms back so that he could actually pull his shirt up. The night air was warm, but he thought he still might feel cold, so he heated his hands to counter that as he began to touch his skin.

---

The heat of his hands surprised him and he gasped, the sound followed by a husky chuckle. “That feels nice…” An unexpected perk to making out with a mage. It more than made up for the light chill he’d gotten losing his shirt.

---

He smiled. “That’s far from my best trick.” He kissed him again, his fingers exploring the lines of his muscles. He definitely wasn’t chubby. He was warm and his skin was soft, even with a man’s roughness. It felt so good to touch him and as he kissed him, one of his hands withdrew so he could give his own cock a brief squeeze.

---

He returned his kiss hungrily, sighing softly as the heated fingers stroked over his skin. His own hands began to explore with purpose, looking for a way to start getting under his robes. He had no idea where it tied and so it took some searching, but when he found it, he broke the kiss, giving the fastening a little tug. “You still have me at a disadvantage, Anders…”

---

He pulled back a little, looking at him coyly. “Maybe I want to.” He pretended to think about it and then he helped him loosen his robes, parting them and letting them fall to his belt. In the moment, he wasn’t insecure and really, he didn’t realize how skinny he’d gotten. His shoulders were broad and he was lean, but definitely under weight.

The man was thinner than his robes would suggest, but he still looked lovely in the moonlight. He smiled and ran his fingers slowly down his chest. “This body has been on a lot of adventures…”

---

“A few,” he agreed, the touch melting him and making him move in. “I do like adventures.” All kinds of adventures. He just never had time for adventures anymore. The closet he got to an adventure was going out with Hawke.

“This is a pretty tame adventure. But an adventure nonetheless…” He leaned in and started kissing his way along his bare shoulders. His hands coursed lower, feeling his abs and tracing them.

---

It was the most exciting adventure he’d had in a lot time and he was still shaking slightly as the hands drifted down. He slid his own hands around him and began to stroke his back, his fingers trailing along the small of it.

He kissed his way down to his collarbone, sucking lightly on the flesh there. His hands trailed lower still, grazing his waist where his robes were pooled. It was his most exciting adventure in a long time as well, other than his mugging anyway.

---

He let his fingers dip just into his waistline and then they retreated. Sliding back up his back, then gripping, fingers digging in. He made a sound in the back of his throat, soft and needy.

Since Anders’ fingers were getting bold, he let his own go lower. The fingers of one hand grazed over his cock and when he felt how hard he was, it gave his blood a fresh wave of heat. “Anders…”

---

He shuddered and his breathing quickened. “Milos,” he murmured, willing him to touch him. It’d been too long and he needed it. He didn’t care if this spoiled him in his eyes - if he never looked at him the same again after, so be it.

He met his gaze for a beat, then gave him a hard, ravenous kiss. He squeezed his cock through his robes, his heart pounding at just the thought of feeling him without the fabric between them. He really hadn't expected things to get so heated between them so quickly, but he didn't mind it at all.

---

He moaned, his fingers digging harder as he met the fiery kiss. They dragged back down, nails scratching along the way, and he found his ass and squeezed it in response.

He rubbed him eagerly through his robes, delighted by how hard he was and by the size of him. The grip on his ass made him press his body in closer, craving more contact with him. His free hand pulled at Anders, trying to tug the mage into his lap.

---

He could feel what he wanted, but he had to pull up his robes first. Otherwise he couldn’t get into his lap. So he did just that, hiking up them so they were a loop of fabric around his hips, held on only by his belt. He settled on his lap and pressed into him, the only thing covering him being his small clothes.

He got what he wanted and pressed up eagerly against him when he settled into his lap. “I want you…” He murmured, though he didn't have to tell him that. The mage would be able to feel it now that he was on him.

---

Anders didn’t hesitate to rock into him, needing the friction and feeling that he needed it too. “I want you too.” He wanted this so badly. “Do you have oil?” Somehow, he doubted it. He might have been prepared with the carriage and the horses and the chocolates, but he didn’t strike him as someone who would expect this, much less come prepared for it. Still, maybe he was wrong.

---

“Yes…” He looked a bit sheepish, but smiled. “Not that I was anticipating anything this exciting. In the back of the carriage there’s a lubricant for the wheels and bearings. We can use that…”

---

“That’s so far away,” he complained, still rocking into him. He didn’t want to stop and he didn’t want to separate. He didn’t think he would, but he was worried about overthinking this if there was too much space. He continued to kiss him, hands squeezing and rubbing his shoulders.

---

“That’s alright. We’ll move into the back together.” He murmured against his lips, answering the rocking of his hips eagerly. Fortunately the carriage was open and so to get into the extra seating and open space, they only had to crawl over the divider. “It’ll be more comfortable back there anyway.”

---

He hummed, knowing he would have to pull away if they were going to get anywhere, but it took him awhile to do so. Since his robes were only going to get in the way, as soon as he slipped off of him, he undid his belt and let it all fall, leaving him in only his boots and his strained smallclothes.

He climbed into the back of the carriage and then settled down into one of the seats, waiting eagerly for him to get what they needed.

---

Milos made a sound of complaint when Anders' weight and heated hands left him, but he at least enjoyed the view while he undressed further. He stripped off his trousers before following him into the back of the carriage, now entirely bare. He wasted no time opening a compartment beneath one of the back seats and pulling out a large bottle of the oil he'd mentioned. He moved back to Anders, initiating their contact again with a needy kiss.

---

Anders met him and now his entire body was radiating heat. To keep himself and the other warm. He slid his arms around him and pulled him in, trying to bring him over him as he leaned to the side so he could lay back in the seat.

“Anders…” The heat from his body was incredible. It made him ache even more, eager to be inside of him and experience that heat that way. He settled over him on the seat, grinding down into him as he reached down between them to tug at his smallclothes.

---

He groaned, lifting his hips and helping him tug off the last of his clothing.

Must we?  It was a bit late at this point, but Justice couldn’t help himself.

Please, shh. Please, I need this.

There was no response and he was relieved. He hastened to pull down Milos’ in return, his eyes fixing on him as soon as he saw him. He couldn’t resist reaching for him and stroking him firmly.

He rocked needily into his touch - it had been so long since he'd felt a hand that wasn't his own. “You look so good…” He'd love to taste him but there was an urgency to take him. “Do you want me inside you?” He'd be willing to let Anders top him, big as he was, but he was hoping the mage would let him take him.

---

He nodded, squeezing him and opening his legs. “Please.” He needed it and he looked desperate as he waited for him to do what he needed to so could fuck him. It didn’t matter to him how they did this, as long as they did this.

That was the answer he needed. He opened the oil and coated himself in it, settling himself between his thighs. He met his gaze and smiled as he positioned himself, still a little stunned that this was all happening so fast and loving it. He pressed himself in, groaning as he sank deep inside of him and reaching down to squeeze him with his slickened hand.

---

His eyes squeezed shut and he held his breath, the stretch sharp in a way that made Justice’s hackles raise. It’s okay, it’s always like this at first. Not exactly, but it’d been long enough that yeah, it would be like this at first. The spirit remained ruffled, but Anders pushed it aside. The attention to his cock certainly helped with the pain.

He forced his eyes to open again, knowing he was watching him and wanting to watch him in return.

---

“Are you okay?” He asked softly, keeping himself still deep within him. He could feel how tight he was and it wasn’t surprising that it looked like it hurt him. He squeezed his cock again to give him a distraction, watching him closely.

---

“I’m okay,” he assured him. “It’s just been a while for me.” He slid his arms around him and stroked his back. “Fuck me.” He knew the feeling would fade and all that would be left would be how satisfying it was to be filled.

---

He wanted to do just as he asked and he leaned down to kiss him. “It's been a while for me too.” With that, he began to move within him, thrusting steadily though he wanted to take him wildly from the start.

---

He met the kiss, muffling his moans with his mouth. It still hurt, but it was satisfying even then. His touch became even more heated as he ran his hands down to his ass and held it, using his strength to help him sink in deeper each thrust. He whimpered his name, his cock leaking all over himself and his hand.

---

The grip inspired him to push into him harder, reassured that he was adjusting despite the pain of the stretch. He groaned when he felt his cock leak, using the fluid to stroke him smoothly. He felt incredible, especially with the magic heating them both while their bodies were joined.

---

“Yes. Yes, please.” He wasn’t normally so vocal - as far as words went - not unless it was the point of what they were doing, but he was so desperate for it. He needed a pounding. He needed to pound as well, but right now this was perfect. “Please, fuck me. Fuck me. Fuck me.” He repeated this under his breath over and over.

---

His begging was an incredible turn on and he was happy to let him have it. He started to take him with complete abandon, ramming him as hard as he could. He could imagine thinking back on this later, touching himself to the memory of Anders’ voice pleading this way.

---

He continued to mutter mindlessly, hooking his legs around him and moving his hands up, one of them clutching at the back of his neck. He tried to return the kiss as much as possible, but it was hard when he was making so much sound. He didn’t mean to, but Justice hadn’t even allowed him that when he would touch himself, so it felt so good to completely let go and just give into this.

---

He was struggling to maintain the kiss as well as he started to pant. Eventually he had to break it, instead burying his face in Anders’ neck. He was entirely lost in fucking him, the arms and legs clutching him in place making it that much easier to forget that anything existed outside of the mage at this moment.

---

It didn’t take long for it to get to him. He’d been so sorely lacking for so long. When it felt like it was going to hit, though, his pleading changed. “No, no. Not yet. I don’t want to cum yet.” It was too soon. It didn’t want it to be over, even though he needed his release.

---

He felt himself smiling against his neck. “It’s okay...we can go again…” He murmured to him between panting breaths. He knew he couldn’t last much longer either. Not when it had been months since he’d gotten laid. He didn’t slow, needing this release and wanting to push Anders over the edge with him.

---

He continued his soft complaints, but soon they were lost in moans. He lost control of his magic and all that was left was the residual heat as he began to writhe and then cum, his body tightening around him and threatening to stop him mid-thrust.

---

He gasped when he was clenched and it took a lot to push past the grip. He finished moments after him, bucking into him as he spilled, having almost forgotten how good it felt to cum with muscles squeezing around him. “Anders…” He groaned when he stilled, starting to catch his breath.

---

He felt the heat fill him and he tightened his legs around him, keeping his hips in place. “Milos,” he murmured, pulling him back in and kissing him feverishly, even though they both needed to  rest. “Fuck me again.” He’d said they could and it was exactly what he wanted.

---

“You don’t want to switch?” He didn’t sound as if he minded. He would gladly fuck him again if that was what he really wanted. He kissed him back desperately, unable to believe his luck - not only had this gorgeous mage agreed to go out with him tonight, but it had lead to this and he was wanting to go again.

---

He pulled back a little. “Let’s switch,” he agreed, since he was asking and wanted to. Then he could have his fill of both roles tonight and they both could enjoy themselves to the fullest. He eased his legs down from around his hips, trying to push himself up from the awkward way he was laying back.

---

Rather than try to turn over on the seat, when Milos climbed off of him, he simply settled on his back on the other seat. He beckoned Anders over to him, a broad smile on his lips. “Fuck me…” It was his turn to ask for it and he couldn’t wait for Anders to give it to him.

---

He smirked and rather than climb right over him, he eased down to the floor and crawled to him on his knees. He ended up kneeling beside him and he leaned in to press kisses to his belly and his hip bones. They weren’t quite ready for that, but he knew a fun way to fix that. A hand slid in and he cupped his spent cock softly, squeezing it carefully.

---

He groaned softly when he was squeezed, still sensitive but he’d had enough time to recover that the touch wasn’t too much. “You’re amazing…” He watched him with a smirk, admiring the way the moonlight highlighted his features.

---

“I’m already naked, Milos, you don’t have to try so hard,” he teased, putting a flicker of electricity into the touch. He found a spot between his hip bones that he wanted to suck, so he did just that, deciding to leave a mark of his own while he fondled him.

---

He startled a little at the shock, but a groan followed it. “I like you, I can sweet talk if I want.” He argued in amusement, watching him mark him. “Besides, you might leave me more marks to remember you by until I see you again if I’m sweet to you.”

---

He looked up at him, brows lifting a little. “You want to see me again?” He wasn’t sure if he would, but it warmed him to know that he already did. He released his cock so he could start to suckle on the side of it, working his way up to the head of him as he waited for his answer.

---

“Of course I do.” He didn’t want this to be their only night together. He wouldn’t have wanted that even before the night had taken such a heated turn. He was starting to thicken again from his attention and when he started to suck on him, he groaned.

---

“So you’re still going to be sweet to me, even if I already agree to see you again?” He’d like that. As much as he wanted and needed this, it would disappoint him if this was his only appeal now. He closed his mouth around him and began to suck softly, the hand that had been squeezing him now working his balls.

---

“I'll be even sweeter to you if you're already agreeing to see me again.” He was completely hard again by the time he was sucking him, needing little to get him going again. He hadn't been sucked in so long, but then, he hadn't had any of this in so long.

---

He hadn’t sucked a man in a long time and he wanted to indulge in this for a while. He began bobbing his head, his free hand giving himself the touches he needed. He worked some electricity into his tongue, enough that it was a constant flow as he rub his tongue all along him.

---

He closed his eyes, amazed by the way the electricity worked with his tongue. “This is so good...but you’re the one we need to get hard…” He should be the one sucking Anders and he wouldn’t mind the job, as much as he was enjoying himself now.

---

He pulled off of him. “I can’t be that rusty…” Still, he shifted from his knees, showing him that he was surely getting there. He was hard enough to take him, anyway. He reached for the oil and used it to coat his cock, then he finally crawled over him, kissing him and pressing himself against his entrance. Not enough to push in, but enough to have some pressure between them.

---

He chuckled at that and shook his head when the kiss broke. “Not rusty at all. I just didn't know if you were getting hard with me while you worked.” He rocked his hips up into him eager for him though he was mourning his mouth.

---

“Then let me show you.” He pushed into him, letting out a slow breath as his warm walls wrapped around him. He kissed him softly, then again, harder. If it had been a while for him, it might be just as painful, so he held still, wanting to give him time to adjust. A distraction helped, so he took him in hand and began to stroke him.

---

He made a pained sound when he was entered, the sound muffled by his lips. He sucked hard on Anders’ lower lip, both out of hunger for him and also to distract himself from the discomfort. The stroking also provided a wonderful distraction and he began to rock his hips a little to signal him when he was ready for him to move.

---

He needed this too and as soon as he was allowed to, he eagerly took from him. He knew that he needed to work him up to what he’d been getting himself, so he was steady and sure and his thrusts. He kissed him passionately, working his tongue into his mouth. It was his own distraction, so that he wouldn’t get too carried away too quickly.

---

It was still quite a stretch, but the pleasure was beginning to drown out any lingering discomfort. His hips rose to meet his thrusts, wanting to take him as deeply as he could. He greeted his tongue eagerly, moaning into his mouth as he kissed him back desperately.

---

Anders groaned, their sounds mixing as he slowly, but surely strengthened his thrusts. It felt so good to be inside something other than his fist. He was so hot and so tight, it was incredible. The hand working him was secondary to everything else, so caught up in his snapping hips and their meeting tongues, but it was working him all the same.

---

It was almost too much. It had been so good to fuck him, but now being filled by him while he was stroked was almost overwhelming. He writhed beneath him, still so sensitive from cumming but craving so much more from him. “Harder…” He murmured against his lips, wanting even more from the growing thrusts.

---

He gave him what he wanted, letting go and fucking him with abandon. He thrust hard, slamming their hips together roughly, breaking the kiss to pant as he began to exert himself with effort. His hand quickened as well, finally able to focus a little more on that, though all he really cared about was the friction on his cock.

---

He gasped, so pleased to get exactly what he asked for. He met his wild hips, his hands stroking along his sides and admiring the feel of his muscles at work. He was strong despite how thin he was and he was infatuated with him all the more.

---

Anders shut his eyes, losing himself to this in a way that made him want to lose every sense but that of touch. He grunted and groaned, his hips snapping harshly. He had to bury his face in his neck, finding himself in need of as much contact as he could get as the sensations took over and he felt himself rushing to an end.

---

His fingers wandered to his back, for the first time grazing over the scars back there. They only had his attention for a fleeting moment, too caught up in the pounding he was getting. But the only thought he had about them was that it was just more evidence of his adventures. “Don’t stop…”

---

He made a sound. He didn’t want to stop, but he didn’t know that he would be able to carry on much longer. He continued, but he used the same electric touch he had with tongue to try and help him along. He didn’t want to disappoint him and he wanted to make sure he finished before this came to an end.

---

The addition of the magic made him cry out, making everything so much more intense. His hips lost their smooth motion, starting to meet the thrusts more erratically as he lost control. His fingers dug into his back and his body began to arch, only lasting a little longer before he hit his release. He cried out again as he spilled heavily between them, his muscles tightening sharply around him.

---

The digging fingers didn’t help and he was losing control himself, his cock throbbing dangerously. He felt him spill and with a cry of relief, he followed. His hips slowed to a stop and he went still, buried in his neck and trying to catch his breath. It’d been a long time since he’d exerted himself so much, even without the sex.

---

Milos panted with him, his grip on his back easing as he started to recover. He started to stroke the skin of his back as his body relaxed further, basking in the afterglow of another release. “I think we both needed that…”

---

Anders slowly sank down onto him, letting him take his weight. “I did.” He’d needed it more than he could put into words and he was so relieved tears could have stung his eyes, so grateful to the very spirit that had prevented him from having this for so long for finally letting him.

---

“I did too.” He slid his fingers slowly up and down his spine. “I’ve had a really nice night with you, Anders.” Not just the sex, though that was great. Everything about the night had been perfect.

---

The touch helped him relax, though he did pull back enough to look at him. “So did I.” It had been really nice and wouldn’t mind seeing him again, if he wanted to. For this and to just spend some time together.

---

“Do you want to walk around the lake for a little while? Or do I need to start getting you home?” He couldn’t resist leaning up to kiss him before he had the chance to answer.

---

The kiss made him smile. He really was glad that he still wanted to touch him and be sweet, as promised. He considered their options and when he had an idea of his own, he was struck with doubt that it was too spontaneous. Milos was helping him feel young again, though, and there had never been anything wrong with spontaneity then. It helped him come to a decision. “Might as well clean up,” he answered, and without explaining further, he pulled away from him and stood up. Rather than go for his clothes, he stepped off the carriage completely naked and started down the hill, curious if he’d follow.

---

“Anders?” He called when he stepped off of the carriage and when he started down the hill, he laughed. That definitely wasn’t what he had in mind when he mentioned a walk around the lake. He hopped out of the carriage and followed, his horses following a few steps before he instructed them to stay put while he caught up to the mage.

---

Anders could hear him coming after him and he smiled to himself - by the time he reached the shore of the lake they were together. He dipped a foot in the water to test the temperature. Chilly. That was no problem for him, however, he simply amped up the heat he was radiating considerably as he stepped into the water and sink into it.

---

Milos stepped into the water with him, his teeth chattering by the time he was chest deep in the water. “It’s freezing in here!” He knew it wouldn’t be so bad once he had a moment to adjust. But he also noticed that Anders didn’t seem to mind the temperature at all, having to remind himself of the magic he’d been using to warm their bodies in the carriage.

---

“I can help with that.” It was an excuse to stay close to him. He moved to him and slid an arm around him. The water around him was warmed and would certainly feel much nicer than the rest of the water in the lake. “Better?”

---

“Much better.” He settled into him, sliding an arm around him in return. It was so much warmer and his teeth stopped their chattering quickly. “I didn't realize there would be so many perks to going on a date with a mage.”

---

“A lot of people don’t realize how useful we are.” Or they did and they abused the power over them to take what they could from them. “How useful magic is.” He gave him a smile. “You’d be surprised of the things I can do.” Impressed, hopefully.

---

“I'm sure I would be.” He returned his smile and stroked his back absently with the arm around him. “I feel painfully mediocre next to you. I hope you don't get bored.”

---

“I don’t think you’re mediocre.” Magic, for all its wonders, didn’t make a person. As crucial a part of himself it felt, he didn’t think he was better than anyone else that didn’t have it. “There are a lot of things you can do that I can’t. My things are just flashier.”

---

“That's true.” He was warmed by his answer. That he didn't find him dull for his lack of magic or adventure. “I have some flashy skills though. I've heard breaking a wild horse makes for a good show, anyway.”

---

He smirked. He bet it did. He bet he looked rather sexy on a bucking stallion. “I’d like to see that.” He used his free hand to use the water to clean his front.

---

He kissed Anders’ shoulder. “Do you ride? I could take you out to find some wild horses. See if I can catch one and bring it home.”

---

“I know how to, but no, not really.” He’d had to a time or two, but he didn’t really consider it a skill he had. He knew how to not fall off and that was about it. “That sounds like it would be fun, though..” He wasn’t sure when he’d have time for it, but he felt hopeful. He waited to see if Justice would say anything, but he remained quiet.

---

“I can bring a ‘beginner’ horse for you then. One you can ride no matter how rusty you are.” One like the sleepy mares, slow and perfect for pulling the carriage. He began to use the hand to wash his back lazily.

---

Throughout the sex and since, he had been thoroughly distracted, so he hadn’t noticed all the touches to his back. Now he did and he stiffened slightly, but it took but a moment for him to force himself to relax once more. He was obviously aware of what was back there and he hadn’t said anything - no one ever said anything. It was fine.

“So we’ll ride there together and then you’ll ride back on your new wild horse?”

---

“I was thinking I'd bring a horse for each of us. But we could share if you don't mind riding a faster horse with me. We have to ride something that can catch a wild stallion at an open run.” It was a thrill and he couldn't mind doing it with Anders’ arms around his waist.

---

His eyes widened a little, but it did sound rather exhilarating, didn’t it? When was the last time he did something exhilarating? “I’ll have to think about it. I don’t even know if I have time…” Again, Justice said nothing, so maybe he could make time.

---

“Of course. I know you're a busy man. For me it would be like a day at work - if I can find a good wild horse and work with it awhile, I can sell it for good coin.” It was undoubtedly easier for him to get away than it would be for Anders.

---

He nodded and then leaned in to give him a short kiss. “It’s getting late. We should probably head back.” He’d gotten the cum and sweat off of him, so that as enough for him. He started towards the shore, tugging him with, since any space between them meant he would be leaving him behind in cold water.

---

Milos stayed close, not wanting to be left in the cold. He linked their arms together as they walked back to the carriage, a smile on his lips. “I don't suppose you have any nifty spells to dry us off, do you?”

---

He chuckled. “I’m afraid not. The heat helps, but that’s about it.” Unfortunately he didn’t have a spell for every convenience in the world. He was currently radiating heat in an attempt to dry off and keep himself warm.

---

“I'll take it.” The heat was better than nothing. He stayed close to him until he was fairly dry, then climbed into the carriage to pull on his clothes and hand Anders his robes. “I hate to have to take you back, but it is getting late. We both have early mornings tomorrow.”

---

He pulled on his robes, feeling better with the warm fabric on him. It wasn’t just warmth, but protection. “Work never ends,” he agreed, straightening his robes to they sat properly and then sitting down on the passenger side.

---

“So I managed not to totally blow it on this date, but let's enjoy the emergency chocolates.” When he was dressed, he settled into the driver's side and pulled a box from beneath the seat. He handed it to the mage then grabbed the reins, putting the mares in motion by clicking his tongue.

---

He looked rather eagerly at the box. “I can’t remember the last time I had chocolate.” He was speaking to himself as he ripped over the top of the box and began to inspect the contents. For once, he had an excuse to actually eat what he was being given. He pulled out a chocolate and looked it over, then lifted it to his nose to smell it.

---

“Once a week I let Willow pick out a treat in the market in town and sometimes she'll get chocolates. It was her idea that I get an extra box for you for tonight.” He watched him inspect the chocolate, a smile on his lips as he guided the horses back toward Kirkwall.

---

He took a bite of it and made a sound, not all dissimilar to the sounds he’d made when Milos had been laying it into him. “You’ll have to thank her for me.” He popped the rest into his mouth and pulled out one to offer to him. He didn’t want to eat more than Milos did, so he intended on giving him every other one.

---

“I will. The kid has good taste.” He happily accepted the chocolate, biting into it and making a similar sound. “I don't usually have much of a sweet tooth, but they're amazing.”

---

“I like sweet things, but my favorite flavor is savory.” He loved savory foods. He pulled out another chocolate and like the first one, he smelled it before taking a bite. “So… how does your daughter feel about you going on a date?” Apparently well enough to suggest giving him chocolates, but perhaps she was too young to really understand what a date was.

---

“I'll agree with you on that. Savory is probably my favorite too.” The question made him chuckle and he shook his head. “She doesn't really know what dating is. She was happy to have a night with my sister though. She said we can have a boys night and they'll have a girls night while we're out.”

---

“Hopefully their night went a little differently than ours.” It was a joke he said without thinking, but once he realized what he’d said, he flushed. He offered him another chocolate, silencing himself with the rest of his own piece.

---          

Milos laughed and shook his head. “I'm hoping it went much, much differently than ours or I'll have to disown my sister.” He took the chocolate, this time keeping his hands on the reins and leaning to take the bite directly from his fingers.

---

His lips quirked and he held the chocolate still for him to take his bite. He waited until it seemed he was done chewing, then he held up the rest so he could finish it off.

---

He took the rest of the bite, then settled back to enjoy it. Sharing the chocolates with him was a nice way to wind down after all of the action and he looked so content as he watched the road ahead of them. “I hope you can come riding with me some time.”

---

He took one more for himself and one more for Milos and then closed the box, not wanting to pig out. “I hope so too.” He didn’t know when, but eventually. “Since I don’t know where you live, you’ll probably have to come check in with me sometime.”

---

“I will. I’ll be back in town again by the end of the week. I can drop in and see what your schedule is like.” He doubted he’d be able to do anything that soon. Or perhaps he wouldn’t even want to. But he’d like to see him again that soon, even if only to stop and say hello to him.

---

“Sounds good.” He offered him his final chocolate and filled his mouth with his own, popping the entire thing in all at once. The ride back was nice. Peaceful. He was feeling a lot better in overall, not only with the break, but with the release that was, at this point, years in the making.

---

When Anders took the last chocolate in one bite, Milos followed suit. He took the whole thing from Anders, leaning into him lightly as he swallowed it down. Kirkwall came into view all too soon and but this time he drove the carriage right into town. “Now that you’ve already been surprised by the carriage ride, I won’t make you walk back. I’ll drop you off right at your door.”

---

His brows lifted. “Are you sure you want to take them into the sewers?” It would be an event getting them down there and there were a lot of stairs they would have to avoid. He could at least take him to the entrance of the sewers. They could part there and he could finish the walk on his own.

---

“I’ve taken them all over town. I can get you there.” He knew how to navigate with them and though it would be a little more roundabout, he would get him home. “If not, I could at least hitch them and walk you to your door.”

---

“Just have to be careful if you do that - you don’t anyone stealing your horses and your carriage while you’re walking me home.” He didn’t know how likely that would be, but it didn’t seem impossible to him.

---

“People have tried a couple times. But that’s the benefit of taking my old horses into town. They’re so confused and uncooperative with a stranger trying to move them that I get back before the thief gets anywhere with them.” He parked the carriage by the entrance of the sewers, hitching up the horses and patting their necks before moving to the passenger side and offering his hand to help Anders down.

---

Anders definitely didn’t need the help down, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t charmed by it. He took his hand and stepped out of the carriage. “Thank you.” He left the rest of the chocolate on the seat, figuring he could give them to his daughter. He kept hold of his hand as they took the lift down and then started down the long trek to his clinic.

---

He was pleased when Anders kept the contact with him and he was grateful that everything had gone so well. Better than he could have hoped after Anders had come chasing after him from the clinic. He felt that the long walk to the clinic was all too short and when they reached the door, he gave him a warm smile. “I’m glad you came out with me tonight.”

---

He was a little bashful, even with everything that had happened. He wasn’t feeling as bold all of a sudden. “So am I. I had a nice time.” He was glad that after all they’d done, he wasn’t done with him.

---

He nodded and squeezed his hand. “I did too.” He leaned in then, closing the distance between them to give him a sweet and simple kiss. “I’ll come visit when I come back into town.”

---

He returned the kiss. “I look forward to it.” He produced the key and unlocked the door. With a slight wave, he stepped inside and then shut the door behind him. As soon as he was by himself, he grinned widely.

---

The clinic was spotless and the herbs were stocked far more than they had been when Anders had left. Cole was in his private nook and when he heard the door, he stepped out to greet Anders, warmed to see the smile on his face. “You had fun.” It wasn’t a question, he could feel that he’d had a good time.

---

He wasn’t surprised to see him and after locking the door behind him, he moved further inside, towards him. “I did.” He’d had a lot more fun that he’d expected to and finally, he could feel some of Justice’s exasperation that he’d been holding back. He didn’t want to address it, though, not when he was feeling so good.

---

“You don’t need me tonight. I should be going.” He could hit the places in Darktown he was needed most before returning to the Circle. But before he did, he looked piercingly at Anders as if trying to see through him to the spirit inside of the man. “Thank you for allowing this, Justice. He needed this.”

---

He didn’t need him tonight. "Thank you for taking care of the clinic.” It looked really nice and it was nice to not to have to clean up for once. He gave him a little smile and though Justice’s ruffled feelings somehow both grew and deflated, he again was silent.

He’d have to talk to him, but maybe that could happen tomorrow and for now he could just go to sleep.

“See you soon.” He would visit in the next couple days. Even if Anders was happy and didn't need him, his patients might. He vanished, off to where he was needed.

Chapter Text

A couple days later, Cole returned to the clinic. He was needed, this time by an elderly woman visiting Anders with an injured hip. The spirit didn't come empty-handed - his arms were laden with new cloths and fresh linens for the cots. When he walked in, he greeted Anders with a nod and set the linens down on the nearest table then moved to the old woman who was much too thin and frail, her eyes dark from sleepless nights and too much weeping. Cole took her hand in both of his while Anders worked. “Her husband died a few weeks ago. She's lonely. I'm going to give her one of the cats outside when she leaves. She likes them almost as much as you do.”

---

Anders was never surprised to see Cole. He was coming to expect him and though he never knew when he was going to show up, it always seemed appropriate when he did. “That’s a good idea.” He loved the cats, but he would give up their company if it meant they were going to good homes where they would be taken care of and saved from anyone that might get ideas about them.

---

“Don’t worry, there will be plenty left. Especially now that those kittens are born. I’ll show you once she’s finished here.” He would never ask Anders to give up all of the cats he’d gathered for him. But this woman needed one of them. She wasn’t paying them any mind, seeming serene and lost in her own thoughts between the healing magic from Anders and the soothing presence of Cole.

---

He glanced at him. “...Can you sense the kittens?” He was curious. At what point as a person enough of a person or an animal enough of an animal for him to be able… understand them?

---

“I’m starting to pick up on them. When they were first born, I only sensed their mother’s relief that her labor discomfort was over and her little ones survived. Today she’s in a good mood and would let me visit them. I could only sense distress in one of them who has to fight to get enough milk. A little runt would be my guess.” Cole had no doubt that since the mother was content, the kitten was fine. Children were easily distressed over silly things and that was true regardless of species.

---

He couldn’t help but perk to learn what he had. Not only were the kittens born, but Cole could sense them. He finished what he was doing with the woman and offered her his arm. “Let’s take a quick walk around the clinic and see how it feels, okay?”

---

That seemed to get her attention and she looked to Anders. “Alright. It already feels so much better.” She took his arm and eased herself down onto her feet. She seemed a little dizzy and clung to him tighter as she regained her balance.

“You need to eat something when you get home. George would want you to be taking care of yourself. Besides, you’ll need to get your strength back up to take care of your new cat.” Cole said gently, keeping his hold on her other hand to help steady her.

The woman looked confused and a bit dazed. “...New cat?”

“You’ll see. Now do as the Healer says.”

---

He waited until she seemed a little more steady and then took a slow step with her. WIth that accomplished, he took another. He took his time walking her back around to his work table. “What do you think?” His voice was gentle, knowing she was going through a lot. He also kept his arm around hers, knowing the contact probably helped, even subconsciously.

---

When she was sure she could walk without him, she released his arm, giving it a pat with her withered hand. “Much better, sweetheart. I’ll bake some bread for you to share with your patients.” She’d visited before, for various ailments that came with her age, so she knew he wouldn’t accept payment. But if he had even a little of something she made him before giving the rest away, it would make her happy.

---

“That sounds good.” He liked having food to give out. “I look forward to it.” He moved toward the door, intending on seeing her out. “Cole will take you home.” He figured the spirit planned to anyway, since he was helping her take a cat with her, so he didn’t think he’d mind him volunteering him for the task.

---

“Thank you, Healer. I’ll see you soon.” When the door opened, there was a lean black cat sitting outside. It looked up to the woman and meowed, standing and moving in to weave around her leg. Her eyes lit up and she carefully bent to run her fingers through its fur. “What a friendly kitty. You must belong to someone…”

“He doesn’t. He’s not very good at catching mice and he would like a home with you if you would take him in.” Cole said and though the woman looked confused at first, when she straightened up to meet his gaze, she seemed to accept what he had said. She started walking for home, the cat trotting along at her heels. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.” The spirit said to Anders with a smile as he walked after her.

---

Anders watched them go and when he was alone, he started to clean up. There wasn’t much to do, as he’d been taking care of it all day, but he still straightened up what he could and with a rare moment of quiet, he sat down at his desk and pulled his manifesto in - he hadn’t been working on it much as of late.

...I know, Justice.

---

It wasn’t long before Cole returned. He approached the desk, a smile on his lips. “I encouraged her to start cooking meals regularly for you to give out here. She has the coin and the time to spare and it would help her to eat more herself if she had others to cook for.”

---

“That’ll be helpful. I’ve always wanted to expand what the clinic is…” Right now it was a place of healing and, on the rare occasion, shelter, but there was little more he could do with what he had. The only consistent help he had was Lirene, but she was occupied in Lowtown and the most she could do was continue to gather donations for him. She was too busy taking care of those that came to her there.

---

“It’s a nice goal. If she starts cooking for your patients, it might inspire others to do so as well.” Especially if he was around to nurture those thoughts. He nodded toward the linens he brought. “Those were donated from one of your patients. He wanted to do something for you and I thought maybe some new supplies would be helpful.”

---

Anders looked at the pile. “Oh wow… that wasn’t necessary.” He stood up and went over to the pile, looking it over. “We could use them, though…” What he had right now was a bit threadbare. “Who was it?” He wanted to know so he could thank whoever it was.

---

“Lee. I paid him a visit to see if he was doing better and he was.” He stayed near the desk, looking over the manifesto curiously. “I paid Milos a visit too.” Not that he had a wound serious enough that a follow up was needed. He was being a bit nosy.

---

He was surprised, but it was nice to hear. “Good I’m glad.” As he went on, he went a little pink. “Oh, really? Why’s that?” He picked up the linens to put them away. He’d lay them out on the cots as they were needed.

---

“To see how he was doing.” He looked up and when he saw him flush, he smiled. “He’s been thinking of you. He’s anxious to come back into town so he can see you again.”

---

“I see.” It warmed him to hear and he looked away from him. After a moment, he went on. “Justice has been frustrated with me. I think about him a lot too.” As Cole likely already knew. He’d known it would be more than just walk, despite what Anders had said about it, and, of course, he’d been right.

---

“I think Justice will be a little less frustrated when you get reports from Bob. Things are going extremely well for the Underground. And you haven’t been working any less diligently here in the clinic since that night. You have some space in your life now to be distracted by a little happiness.” He said this gently, not wanting to ruffle his fellow spirit.

---

He nodded. “I’m glad. It’s good to hear. I think he would like to be a little more involved, but we are busy with the clinic.” He knew Justice wanted to run the clinic as much as possible, but he was most invested in the Circle. They both were, really, and they never had enough time to do everything they wanted to do for the Underground, between missions with Hawke and keeping the clinic running.

---

“Maybe I could help with that too if you want to work with the Underground. My skills are less sophisticated, but I can do some healing. I could cover the clinic when you want to go to the Gallows.” If that was the compromise Justice was looking for, he’d oblige.

---

That was a thought and Justice liked it too. “That would be helpful, we’d like that.” Of course, Justice thought it would also be good for when they went off with Hawke. The clinic could remain opened and those that needed them wouldn’t be left waiting until they returned.

---

“I would be happy to help.” He wanted both of them to be happy, not just Anders. “Justice, I did some searching around the Circle for any information on others like me. Spirits who walk this realm without a host. Even demons, just to see if it’s possible.” There was distaste in his voice at that. But even demons sometimes had helpful information. “So far I haven’t found any documentation, but I’ll keep looking. I know you could do a lot more if you had separate bodies.”

---          

Anders went still and then after a few moments, they changed and Justice took control. “You are unique enough that the mages wished to study you - it does not surprise me that there is not information.” That didn’t mean they couldn’t find it, though. “If you were to possess a mortal, do you feel you could leave their body safely?” He imagined he didn’t know, but… maybe he had enough of a sense of what he was that he could say.

--

“I don’t know that I could even join with a mortal now if I wished to. I’m not just Compassion anymore. I am also Cole.” He had no wish to merge with anyone and so he hadn’t tried it. But he didn’t know if he could safely join, much less separate.

---

“As I am Anders.” Perhaps it wasn’t quite the same, but it felt like it. They were seperate, but they were also one and he felt that he had Anders inside of him, just as he was inside of Anders. “Yet, I could leave him if I wished. I simply don’t know how to do so while sparing his life.” And he had no desire for any other body, especially not if having one of his own was an option.

---

“I’ll keep searching, but I don’t think you should get your hopes up. It was in Cole’s death that I became this. I know you would not risk Anders in hopes of becoming like me. Just as I would have saved Cole if there was anything I could have done for him after the templars left him that way.” He still regretted that he hadn’t gotten there sooner.

---

“Perhaps if his Calling comes…” If he would die anyway and there was nothing more he could do for him. Then he could do whatever was necessary to procure a body for himself. He was sure Anders would agree at that point. “Otherwise no, I would not end his life.”

---

Cole nodded his agreement. “If that happens, I will be there to help. But until then, I will keep looking for a safe way for you to have your own body.” In the meantime, he would just do what he could to keep them both satisfied.

---

Justice couldn’t help but feel restless, but he knew there was time. He could stay in this world for many lifetimes and he would, he just didn’t like to think that he might accomplish little in that time. So little that he would need another body to continue what he started with Anders. “Very well, thank you for searching.”

He gave him a nod. With that, he pulled back and Anders took over once more, a little disoriented, but not too much. He’d given his permission and it was always a little easier to handle coming back when he knew it was coming.

---

“Let’s go see those kittens before you have another patient.” He said once Anders had a moment to regain himself. There was more he wanted to say about Milos, but he would give Justice a moment to get settled again. He knew it was a frustrating topic for the spirit and he’d just given him bad news about his search.

---

His lips quirked. “Okay, let’s go.” He was rather eager to see the kittens and so he didn’t hesitate, heading to the door. He made sure no one was approaching and since no one was, he shut the door behind them, though he left it unlocked because he knew they wouldn’t be going far.

---

He guided him around the building to where some barrels were obscuring the little family. He pulled a barrel aside to reveal the proud mama nursing six kittens. Sure enough, there was a little runt pushing its way in with the bigger kittens for a meal. Cole smiled, happy to see the little creatures but even more excited to share them with Anders.

---

As soon as he saw them, Anders melted. “Aww, look at the sweet babies.” He crouched down, keeping his distance as he looked over the kittens. “They look so good.” Even the little runt. “Good job, mama.”

---

Cole watched the mother for a long moment, then crouched with him and reached into her little den. He gingerly plucked the plumpest of the kittens from her and picked up the runt with his other hand, setting it in a prime spot to get more milk. While the runt was having his meal, Cole offered the fat kitten to Anders.

---

He didn’t hesitate to take hold of the kitten, bringing it up to his face and pressing a kiss to the top of its head. “Hello, little kitty. Look at you, so beautiful.”

He smiled, warmed to see Anders so happy. “Maybe you could take one of them in when they're old enough to leave her. She doesn't want to live indoors, but she'd like to know her kittens will get enough to eat when they leave her.”

---

He bit his lip. “I don’t know that I can afford to feed a cat.” He liked having them around, but he couldn’t provide for them the way he’d want to. He had to use his coin for the clinic, not cats.

He stroked a finger down the kitten’s back.

“It will be weeks yet before they're ready to leave her. Maybe things will change by then.” He reached to scratch the mother cat's ears and she purred as she leaned into his touch.

---

He hummed, but said nothing further. He’d do what he could for them, just as he did for the cats that already milled about, but he couldn’t take one in as his own, as much as he might want to. “Sweet little baby.”

“You can visit them whenever you like. They're not so frail now and she knows you won't hurt them.” He picked up another kitten that looked finished with its meal and held it gingerly to his chest. “Such darling little kittens.”

---

He was still amazed that he could understand them. “Never. I would never hurt the little babies, would I?” He gave the kitten he was holding another kiss and then held him to his chest, continuing to pet it happily.

__

“Never.” He agreed, nuzzling his cheek into the soft fur of the kitten. Though Anders was preoccupied with the kittens, it seemed as good of a time as any to make his offer. “Milos wants to ask you to spend time with him again. If you like, I could run the clinic for you while you see him.”

---

Anders paused. He felt warm and giddy. The giddiness would’ve had everything to the kittens before that, but now it was almost entirely due to that. “...Maybe.”

Justice?

For a moment he received nothing, but then he felt acceptance. He smiled.

“Yes, that’ll work. If you watch the clinic, I can spend the day with Milos.”

---

“I will. Just let me know when.” He was happy to feel how bright Anders’ mood was. How different it was from when he’d first arrived in Darktown. “I should get back to the Circle.” He reluctantly set his kitten back down against its mother. He wished he could stay and play with the kittens longer, but he had work to do.

---

“Okay, I will.” It just depended on whenever Milos stopped by again. He set the fat kitten down and rose up, putting the barrel back in place so they were safe and protected. “Thank you, Cole.” He appreciated everything he’d done for him. He didn’t know what he could ever do to pay him back.

---

“You’re welcome. I’ll see you soon.” He liked to visit the mage and he would come around even if he wasn’t needed. He vanished then, off to continue his work in the Circle. It was a place he was always needed by someone.

Chapter Text

At the end of the week, Milos was back in town and made his way to the clinic. He'd been looking forward to this visit since the night he'd taken Anders to the lake. He'd been a bit distracted by thoughts of him and he couldn't seem to stop smiling.

When he stepped into the clinic, he wasn't surprised to find the mage was busy. He was sure he was always busy, as skilled as he was and asking nothing in return from his patients. He smiled, happy just to see the man, and moved to take a seat until he would have a chance to talk to him.

---

Anders had been much the same. He thought about Milos a lot, but especially at night when everything was winding down. When he was laying in his cot and touching himself, thinking about what they’d done in the carriage that night. What they might do when they went out riding together.

As it grew later in the week, however, he’d grown more and more concerned that he might not come at all. That he might change his mind. So when he walked in, Anders couldn’t help but smile. He was quick to return to his work, but he continued to peek over at him whenever he had a chance and as soon as he had a free moment, he went to him.

“Hello.”

---

“Hi…” He couldn’t help but feel a little sheepish again, being face to face with him after thinking of him so often for days. “I’ve been looking forward to coming into town so I could see you again…” He wanted him to know, but he said it a little hesitantly, afraid of coming on too strong.

---

He felt a little sheepish as well, but it felt good to know that he hadn’t changed his mind at all. “I’m glad you could make it. I wasn’t sure if you’d change your mind.” He felt bad that he had to come all the way to the clinic and wait around for him, but that he’d made the trek was heartening.

---

“Change my mind? No, of course not.” He laughed softly, finding the thought absurd. “I had a really good time with you. I’ve been thinking about you and when we could do something again.” He knew he was busy and it would be hard for him to get out. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t ask.

---

“When are you free?” Before he could get an answer, a man walked in and with an apologetic smile, he excused himself. It took him about ten minutes to take care of the man, since it was one of his chronic patients that needed frequent check ups and a lot of the herbal remedies that he made, but he returned to him as soon as he could.

---

Milos took a seat again while he waited, having no problem with the interruption. He was visiting during Anders’ working hours, after all. “Willow has lessons in town the day after tomorrow. I know that’s short notice, so maybe we could go riding next week. If your schedule is more open at night I could take you out some night that you’re free instead…”

---

“Riding next week sounds good.” It would give him time to plan everything out with Cole. “...If you want, you could also stop by some night before next week…” Not for date, really, just for… some fun. He didn’t want to wait that long to see him again, so maybe they could do a shorter, simpler get together before then.

---

“My schedule is pretty open today since it’s my day in town. Maybe I could stop by tonight when you close?” He’d like a little time alone with him. “Or the day after tomorrow works too.” Either way he’d get to see him again sooner than the next week.

---

“Sure. Since you’re already here, you might as well.” He couldn’t help but be eager, but he managed to keep it off of his expression at least. “Around the same time as last time will be good.”

---

“I can do that.” He could finish his business, then come back here after dark. He grinned, not doing as well to mask his excitement at the idea. “I better go get my work done so I can get back here on time.” He could leave him knowing he’d be back in just a matter of hours to have some time with him.

---

“Sounds like a plan.” He shifted his weight and then took a step back. “I should get back to work. I have a lot to do and I want to make sure I have everything done by the time you get back.”

---

“Okay, I’ll see you soon.” He was all smiles as he made his way out of the clinic. They could both finish up their work for the day and relax together that night. Though he had a feeling that they’d spend little of that time together really relaxing.

He returned after sunset, eager to get back to his healer without the interruptions of the clinic being open. He’d navigated his way into the sewers in the dark and his destination was in view when he ran into trouble. Or more accurately, trouble came slinking out of an alley and bashed him over the back of the head with a bottle, the breaking glass seeming deafening on the quiet street.

Milos went down hard on his hands and knees, dazed as the three thieves descended on him. One grabbed him by his arms and tugged him back as another started to rummage for his coin purse. Milos’ vision hadn’t quite come back into focus as he tugged an arm free and took a swing at the closest man, crying out in pain and frustration. Two muggings in a week’s time? He’d landed a hit but his arm was captured again quickly and this time the third man moved closer and put a blade to his throat. “Enough of that. Keep still and this will be over faster.” A gruff voice snarled at him.

---

By the time that Milos was having trouble outside, Anders had already finished cleaning up the clinic and he was using the free time he had to work on his manifesto in attempt to appease and thank Justice for his tolerance.

All was quiet and as such, he was very aware of the sounds outside. The breaking bottle was an annoyance - he’d have to clean that up for the kitties - but the cry that followed had him on his feet.

Someone was hurt. Probably the drunk that had dropped the bottle. He hurried out of the clinic and he didn’t have to go far to come across a scene that made his heart rise into his throat.

“Milos…”

Without further hesitation, his hand moved through the air and then downward, placing a glyph at Milos’ feet that threw the men away from him.

“Stay away from him,” he snarled, lighting crackling at his fingertips and then shooting out with a loud crack, striking one and chaining off to the other two. It took a lot of talent to use that spell and avoid hitting Milos, since they were all in the same vicinity.

 

Milos felt a hint of shame for Anders finding him in such a mess, but it was greatly overshadowed by his relief. He stayed low to the ground, not wanting to put himself in the way of the lightning that was frying his attackers. If they survived, he doubted they would be in the mood to make trouble for anyone else anytime soon.

---

So they wouldn’t lash out at Milos in retaliation, he created a ring of flame around him. Far enough from him that it wouldn’t harm him, but he would certainly feel the heat. “Get out of here and if I ever see you around here again, I’ll make sure you regret it.”

The flames startled Milos, but only for a moment. He realized quickly that they were meant to protect him. He could hear the men yelping and running away as quickly as they could. They'd probably never experienced magic like that before and maybe they'd consider a career change now that they'd gotten a taste of it.

---

As soon as they were far enough, Anders let the flames fall and he rushed forward to meet him. “Hey, are you okay?” He knelt down beside him, fretting over him and trying to see if he was wounded.

---

“Yeah...I think my pride hurts a little more than my head.” It would ache from the force of impact for awhile, but really he only had some scrapes from the broken glass and the knife against his throat. He counted himself lucky for that. Milos gave Anders a little smile and started to push himself up to his feet, slowly since he did take a pretty good hit to the head. He felt rattled, but perhaps more by the display of magic than the attack. “Thank you, Anders. I could have been in a lot of trouble if it weren’t for you. You took care of all three of them like it was nothing…”

---

He rose with him. “It was nothing. They were just a bunch of thugs. No real danger.” Not to someone like him. He found where he was bleeding and mended the wounds. “It doesn’t seem like it’s safe for you in the city, is it? Maybe you should stop coming into Darktown.”

---

“I don't normally get mugged this often. I think the thieves are feeling especially bold this week. If I quit coming to Darktown, I won't see you nearly as often.” He looked relieved after the heal, the pain in his head gone as quickly as it had come on. “That's much better.”

---

“Perhaps not, but that is twice you’ve been attacked now. You’ll never see me if they get the best of you.” He leaned in to give his cheek a kiss. “That or perhaps you ought to learn to wield a blade to protect yourself.” He took his hand and started to tug him back to the clinic.

---

The kiss warmed him and he followed along, keeping close to him. “I might have to learn some swordplay. You might not always be here to save me and sweep me off my feet.”

---

He chuckled. “I could teach you. I am rusty, but I know how to wield a sword.” He wasn’t as good as a true warrior, but he’d trained with a sword long enough that he could defend himself with one. “Or if you’d prefer something less deadly, a staff can be a useful weapon.”

---

“Is there anything you can't do?” He asked with a chuckle of his own. “Strong, handsome, skilled with sword and staff, very skilled with magic…”

---

When they arrived at the clinic, he shut them inside and locked the door behind him. “I’ve proven exceedingly bad at saving the world, despite how hard I try.” This was said lightly, but he did feel that way to some extent. Not that he was trying to save the world, but much of his efforts couldn’t create waves the way he wished them to.

---

“At least you try.” He turned to him when they were safely inside and kissed his lips. “You saved me tonight. That's close enough to saving the world to color me impressed.”

---

He smiled and moved closer to him, sliding his arms around him. “As long as you’re not too intimidated by me.”  He didn’t mind being impressive, but he didn’t want him to be frightened of him or of what he could do.

“I just don't want to get on your bad side.” He slid his arms around him in return and stole another kiss. “As long as I stay in your good graces, what is there to be afraid of?”

---

“What indeed.” He left it at that, pulling him in, firm and flush. When he kissed him this time, he held it, intending on taking him right to his cot and relieving him of his clothes.

Chapter Text

It was time to go horseback riding and he could scarcely believe that he was actually going. He was continually grateful to Justice for giving him this time, for working with him to let him have his fun on the side. Part of him knew that he shouldn’t have to be grateful for this, but he also  knew this was difficult for him and he appreciated the effort he was putting in for his sake.

After their night in the clinic, Anders had told Milos he’d meet him outside of the city this time, since he didn’t want him running into more trouble today. Before he left, he’d made sure Cole had everything he needed and that he would be okay - assured as much, he left him to it and was making his way to the gates of Kirkwall to meet his… friend.

Milos was waiting just beyond the gates, sitting on the back of a horse much different than the old white mares that had pulled the carriage. This was a taller, leaner stallion. His coat was many shades of gray, but dark overall, and he had a mean look to him that suggested he'd sooner kick or bite than let himself be touched. Milos looked quite comfortable riding him though and he offered a smile and a hand to help pull Anders up behind him. “Ready?”

---

The horse was impressive and Anders admired him as he approached. “Ready.” He took his hand and climbed up behind him. It would have been much harder if he had his robes, but he’d dressed for the occasion, having borrowed some trousers and a tunic. They felt wrong on him, but he would only be wearing them for today.

As soon as he was seated on the horse, he moved in close and wrapped his arms around Milos’s waist, wasting no time pretending to be modest. 

“It’s been a while for me,” he reminded him.

“We'll start slow.” He was pleased that Anders moved right in behind him and pressed his heels into the horse's sides, starting it at a walk. “You look nice in trousers, but it doesn't suit you as well as your robes do.” They just didn't quite have the adventurous feel that the robes he wore did.

---

“They’re not as fancy.” Not that he’d consider his robes fancy, but they were certainly a lot more decorative, if a lot more worn. “I much prefer robes.”

“They're probably more comfortable. But much more suited to your line of work than mine. Right, Thunder?” He patted the horse's neck and it answer with a huff. What he'd learned to appreciate about robes was that they made for easy access when things got heated between them and the idea made him smirk.

---

“Definitely. I can do just about anything in them, but not this.”  He tightened his arms around him and rested his cheek on his shoulder.

He turned his face enough to kiss the crown of Anders’ head. it was a nice day for a ride and he gradually brought the horse up to a quick, but steady pace. “Have you ever seen wild horses, Anders?”

---

The kiss made him smile. “No, actually. The only horses I’ve ever seen belonged to someone.” It was strange to think they roamed free, even though he knew they had to come from somewhere.

“...Do they like being captured?” No, probably not.

“They're no different from the stray cats by your clinic. They usually don't want to be caught and like their freedom. But once they're caught, they bond with people. And they like the food, shelter, and not being prey animals. Once they're spoiled, they wouldn't leave home even if you tried to turn them loose.” He gave his horse another pat. “Thunder here took a long time to domesticate and he'd still never let a stranger near him. But he and I have a deep bond for all the work we've put in together.”

---

He hummed. He remembered when Justice has once taken issue with him keeping Ser-Pounce-A-Lot, but he understood these things a bit better now. “So who named him Thunder?” It was a name be could get behind. A little silly and a little relatable.

“Willow did. I thought it was very fitting. Both his coat and his disposition are a bit stormy.” He slowed the horse a little as they came to some hills, working to get them a good vantage point to look over the grassy valleys below.

---

“I figured,” he smiled. It sounded like a name a child would use. “I named my cat Ser Pounce-A-Lot.” He missed him and still thought about him from time to time.

---

“Ser-Pounce-A-Lot?” He chuckled softly. “That's a great name for a cat. Can I meet him sometime?” Perhaps he'd favored one of the cats lurking around his clinic.

---

“He’s not my cat anymore. The Wardens made me give him up.” This was said with a note of sadness, but it passed as wistfulness. “I left him with someone at Amaranthine in Ferelden.” Hopefully he was doing well. He had been only a kitten when he’d gotten him, so there was no reason why he shouldn’t still be alive.

---

“Oh...I’m sorry, Anders. Whoever you left him with better still be calling him by his knightly title.” He gave the crown of his head another kiss, a way of apologizing for the sore subject. When the topped the next hill, he brought them to a stop, finding just what he was looking for. Below them was a herd of nearly twenty horses, grazing peacefully in the valley.

---

When they reached the horses, Anders straightened up. “Oh, wow. They’re beautiful.” His eyes fixed on one in particular. “Look at the white and brown one…” He pointed at a horse in particular that was covered equally in patches of white and brown. So much so that it was hard to say which was the base color.

---

“Is that the one you want?” He asked with a little smile. Normally he had a system for choosing which horse to wrangle. But this was his date with Anders. “I’ll catch whichever one you like best.” Or make an ass of himself trying, one of the two.

---

His brows rose. “I get to choose?” He looked out at the different horses. They were all beautiful in their own way, but his eyes went back to the white and brown one. “Yes, I like that one.” He pressed a kiss to his cheek. “I guess I should get off the horse, huh?”

---

“Then that’s the one we’ll take home.” He turned his head enough to steal a kiss from him. “That depends. If you want to watch from up here, you can get off now. Or if you want to come along, you need to hold on really tight. Up to you.”

---

He considered it. “...As fun as it sounds, I think the show will be better up here.” He slipped off the horse and landed on his feet beside him. “Good luck.” He was curious what this would be like and he did think there would be more to see if he kept his distance.

---

Milos reached into the saddle bag, pulling out gloves and a lasso. “Don’t go running off, now. I’ll come back for you with the new horse in tow.” Once his gloves were on, he gave three sharp clicking sounds with his tongue and pressed his heels into Thunder, sending him and his horse down the hill at a quickly ramping speed.

By the time the herd noticed the movement and began to run, Thunder was running much too fast for them to get away and he closed in on the horse Anders had picked in no time. His first toss with the lasso missed, but the second caught the horse around the neck and he drove it away from the group, having Thunder race alongside it until the horse seemed to tire and slow down just a little. He used the rope to bring it to a stop and he hopped off of Thunder, his eyes fixed on the frightened new horse. As he stopped closer to it, it tried to bolt but the gray stallion moved into the way. It stayed as far as it could from Milos, keeping the rope taught as it began to walk circles around him, looking for an escape route. When there was none, it continued to circle, watching the man with wide eyes that were still frightened, but also curious. It moved in just a little closer, the rope finally gaining a little slack. Milos waited, still and patient, and eventually the horse stopped her circling, nervously approaching him and starting to sniff him.

---

He did make for an impressive sight, riding the horse like that, and when he swung the lasso through the air, Anders’ eyes were wide in anticipation. He was surprised he was able to so easily get the loop around the horses’ neck and he watched with fascination as he used nothing more than the rope to keep the horse from running off. It seemed to him it could easily take off and just drag him behind, but it wasn’t.

---

He let her sniff him awhile before he slowly moved a hand up to try to touch her shoulder. She flinched, unsurprisingly, but after a few repetitions, she was still enough to let him touch her. From there, it didn’t take very long to convince her that he wasn’t a threat. At least until he jumped up onto her back. When he did, she took off like a shot, bucking and rearing. This time Thunder didn’t get in her way, taking some time for himself to graze leisurely while Milos rode the new horse.

It took some time and reassurance to settle her down, but eventually she stopped her bucking and allowed him to steer her. He rode her back up the hill to Anders and Thunder followed behind them. “She’s a little fiesty.” Milos said when he reached Anders, grinning and flushed with the exhilaration of the ride.

---

Anders gasped and started to hurry down the hill, picturing him flying off and breaking an arm or a leg, but his steps slowed and came to a stop when he saw that he had it handled. He looked so impressed when he approached him on the horse. “...That was incredible,” he told him, his eyes going to the horse he was riding. “Can I touch her?” Or would that be too dangerous?

---

“Sure you can. Just reach out slowly, she’ll spook easily until she’s been around people for awhile.” He patted the mare’s neck, as if to show it was alright. She still looked nervous, but she didn’t flinch from the touch. Instead, she nickered and Thunder answered with one of his own. “She doesn’t think much of you or me yet. But she likes Thunder, at least.”

---

As told, he reached out slowly and set his hand on her neck. He smiled. “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” She was even more stunning up close. She had bright blue eyes and he stroked her neck slowly as he looked into the one closest to him. “Is she a good horse?” He wasn’t quite sure how to ask the question. He wanted to know if he’d chosen a good one.

---

“I don’t know yet. She’s gorgeous, which is always a good start, and she looks healthy at a glance. I can give her a more thorough examination when we get back. She’s not really broken yet, I’ll keep working with her over the next few weeks and see what she likes to do. If she doesn’t like riding or work, maybe she’d like to be bred. She must be old enough, considering the way she’s flirting with old Thunder over there.” He chuckled and hopped down from her back, keeping hold of the rope around her neck. “I think you picked a good one, Anders.”

---

“That was pretty easy.” It didn’t look easy, or at least, it didn’t seem as easy has Milos had made it look, but they were already done. “I guess there will be no fucking in an open field, huh? Not if we have a wild horse with us.” He gave him a little smirk, still stroking her.

---

“Sure we can. We’ve just got to wear her out first.” He chuckled as he tied the rope to the horn of Thunder’s saddle. “Are you up for a fast ride? We can take them to the stream and give the horses a rest and a drink. If we give them a good run on the way, they’ll be tuckered out and we’ll have some time to ourselves…”

---

“Sounds good to me.” He waited for him to get on Thunder and then offered his hand, asking for help up. He settled right behind him and slid his arms around his waist again. This time, however, as they got started moving, he slid his hand down to his front to begin rubbing him.

---

He made a soft sound when the hand started to rub him. “Hang on tight…” As long as he kept his arms tightly around him, he could have his fun even at full speed. He signaled Thunder to go faster, building speed gradually so Anders could adjust to the change.

---

He held to him tight and even at full speed, he was able to continue what he was doing. He rubbed him firmly, considering trying to kiss his neck, but there was too much movement going on for him to be able to do anything with his lips. It would be easier to simply rest his head on his shoulder again, so he did just that.

---

By the time they reached the stream, he was rock hard. Riding fast always got his blood racing, but it had never gotten it racing in this way before. When he brought them to a stop, he was all but tugging Anders to come down off of Thunder’s back with him. Thunder would keep the new mare in check, right now he just needed Anders on the ground with him.

---

Anders was smirking as he slipped off the horse again, this time pressing against Milos as he found his feet. “Want to try riding a real stallion?” It was a cheesy line, but he’d liked seeing him like that and he liked the idea of him riding him next even more.

---

“I’m always up for a hard ride…” He pulled Anders down with him into the grass, leaving the horses to wander to the water’s edge on their own. He was already tugging off the mage’s borrowed tunic. “Let’s see if I can tame this one…”

---

Since the clothes were already coming off, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a small bottle of oil, holding it in his palm as he helped him get his tunic off and then returned the favor. He kissed him hard, his hands demanding as they shoved his trousers down so he could take hold of his cock and start stroking him.

---

“You planned ahead.” He mumbled against his lips. He’d brought oil as well, but Anders had beaten him to it. He rocked into his grasp, his own hands working to free him in return. “It’s almost as if you were planning to fuck me on this innocent riding date…”

---

“What tipped you off?” He lifted his hips to help him and popped the cork of the bottle to coat his fingers in oil, before resuming stroking him. “Have I finally offended your sensibilities?”

---

“If I didn’t know better, I’d think you like me a little bit…” He groaned as the oil slickened him and raised up on his knees, eager to settle into Anders’ lap. But first, he took him in hand as well, stroking him now that he was exposed. “That wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I’ve been thinking about you late at night...in the dark...in my bed…” He kissed him between phrases, unable to get enough.

---

He smirked. He hadn’t offended them at all, it seemed. “What do you think about?” He’d been doing the same. Thinking about him and touching himself every night. Every night. He let go of him so he could slip in a couple of strokes himself, wanting to slicken his own cock, before returning to him.

---

When Anders was coated in oil, he started to shift onto his lap. “I think about you stroking me just like this. Sometimes using that fun little shock you give me. Or I think about your lips around my cock, sucking me hard. Or about fucking you all night long…”

---

“There are so many ways for me to please your cock,” he agreed, giving it a squeeze, a low current flowing into it from his fingers. A constant sensation. “I like pleasing your cock.” He liked pleasing him, period. He lifted his hips, wanting to be positioned so he could push in, even though he’d asked him to take charge.

---

Milos used his grasp on him to position him, then sank slowly down onto his cock with a groan. His body was still adjusting to these intrusions after so long without and the mage's hand and magic did wonders to distract from what little discomfort there was. “I like pleasing yours too. Especially when it's inside me…”

---

He gave him a heated smile. “I know it feels good.” There was a little bit of cockiness to him, something that he hadn’t experienced in years, but it was pleasant to feel confident about that part of his body again. He began to roll his hips up into him, his eyes trained on Milos’.

---

“It does. You're so big…” He didn't mind the cockiness. It was well earned. He started to ride him to the rhythm that Anders’ hips set and watched him with lusted eyes.

---

Wild stallion that he was supposed to be, Anders was steady and thorough in his thrusts.”What else do you think about? Or is it only that?” He wanted to know about all of his thoughts, especially as they pertained to him.

---

“I think about you in more innocent ways in the daylight hours.” He didn't want him to think he only thought of him in the context of sex, though in the heat of the moment it was hard to think of anything else. “But when I touch myself I always imagine you. Your hands, your mouth, your ass, your cock, your magic. All of it. You make me so hard…”

---

He quickened his stroking briefly to reward him for his words. “I can feel how hard you are.” Hard as a rock, as he’d been since they’d climbed off the horse. “It’s a shame you can’t meet me every night.” He’d love it if they fucked every night so he didn’t have to touch himself. This was so much better than that. “Then you wouldn’t have to imagine me at all.”

---

“I know...think how much better we'd both sleep if we could wear each other out…” He moaned, starting to ride him faster. “Do you ever think of me, Anders?”

---

“Sometimes,” he replied cryptically, for the fun of it. He groaned, snapping his hips up into him harder. “Unfortunately for me, I live in the sewers. You live in the countryside.” They couldn't  be further from each other.  Such meetings had to be planned and they both struggled with time to make such plans.

---

“Maybe you won’t always want to stay in the sewers. A couple nights a week out in the fresh country air might be good for you.” It was fun to think of Anders touching himself, thinking of being inside him just like he was now.

---

He hummed. That did sound nice. The sewers left much to be desired, but he knew it was too soon to be considering such things. He gripped his hip with his free hand, stroking him at the same fast pace he’d rewarded him with before, but maintaining it this time.

---

“What do you think of when you think about me at night?” Since it seemed he wasn’t ready to talk about spending the night, he’d go back to the previous topic. Though the faster stroking broke up his question with a moan.

---

“You pounding me into my cot.” All the while, he stroked his cock. He varied it up, of course, but nothing so frequent as simply wishing he were there. It was the easiest thing to imagine. “Sometimes things that would make you blush, I’m sure.” He had a lot of fantasies, fulfilled and unfulfilled. There was so much to think about.

---

“Oh yeah?” He smirked and started to ride him harder, groaning deeply. “Try me. Tell me about one of them that might make me blush.” He wanted to know what he thought about in those quiet moments before sleep.

---

He just gave him a mysterious smile. As much as he enjoyed his fantasies, he wasn’t keen on sharing them. Not anymore. Better to see what Milos liked and then indulge that way. Justice would prefer it too - some restraint that would hopefully stop them from being so sexual so often. 

---

“Keeping secrets, hmm? I guess you’ll just have to show me someday…” It was disappointing, but he’d have to be patient. Maybe Anders wouldn’t always keep his fantasies to himself.

---

“I have many secrets.” So many. So little he shared about himself. With anyone. There was a time when only Justice knew him completely, but it seemed these days that there was someone else. Cole seemed to know everything… and in spite of everything, Cole seemed to like him for it.

---

He’d lived a crazy life, he didn’t doubt he had secrets. But he didn’t expect him to keep secrets regarding what he wanted to do with him. He didn’t press any further though, focusing instead on riding him faster. He closed his eyes and let his head fall back, wanting to savor the feel of him bucking up hard into him.

---

Since he had nothing further to say, Anders also focused on what they were doing. He groaned and the longer it went on, the more he needed both of his hands. He eventually released him to take hold of his hips, pulling him down onto him so they met with even more force. He was panting and flushed, the color bright in the sunlight, especially on his pale skin that so rarely saw the sun.  At the pace he was going, it didn’t take long for the pleasure to reach a peak and he cried out, filling him up.

---

The strength in Anders’ hands amazed him every time. He knew this man could really hurt him if he wanted to, between being a mage and a Warden, and that gave him some sort of thrill. That he chose to give him only pleasure instead. He started to stroke himself to make up for the loss when he held his hips and it didn’t take long for him to finish after the heat of Anders’ release filled him. He gasped, pumping himself wildly as he spilled over the healer’s body and his riding slowed to a stop.

---

When they were both finished, he slid his hands up and around him, pulling him down into a kiss. “Another dip in the water might be in order.” This water ought to be warmer, though, having had the sun shining on it all morning.

---

“I made a bit of a mess, didn’t I?” He chuckled under his breath and stole another kiss from him. But he made no move to climb out of his lap. “You’re so strong…” He murmured, his tone still low with lust. He wasn’t used to being with someone stronger than him and it was such a turn on.

---

“You should’ve seen me when I was with the Wardens. I actually had muscle then.” He still had muscle, but not nearly as much. Not between his lack of training and lack of food. “They trained us hard.”

---

“I’m sure they did.” He ran his fingers absently over the mage’s arms. “When you hold me like that, I can feel how strong you are. I can tell you could do incredible things if you were called on to really use that strength. It’s so sexy…”

---

He chuckled, sliding his hands back down to his hips and gripping them strong enough to bruise. “That’s usually not what people notice about me.” Usually it was his magic, so it was somewhat strange to have him be so taken with something other than his arcane abilities. He lightened his touch, stroking his fingers up his sides.

---

He didn’t flinch from the painful grip, but he liked the gentle stroking that followed. “Well, the fire and lightning bolts are a little more flashy.” He admitted with a smirk. “But your body turns me on even more.”

---

When his hands wandered back down, it was to heal the damage he’d caused before it had the chance to mark him. “Then perhaps you should spend some more time with it today.” He wasn’t in a hurry and he wouldn’t mind wasting a few hours with him. The sun was warm and the water would be refreshing - what more did they need?

---

“I think I will.” He was in no hurry either. He wasn’t even in a hurry to get down to the stream, though it did sound nice to bathe with him. Instead, he draped his arms around his shoulders, stealing soft, slow kisses from him. He wouldn’t mind having him right here in the grass again before they went down to the water and he started to rock his hips to show him where his thoughts were headed.

Chapter Text

As Anders expected, the water was warm. At least, it was warmed compared to the water on their midnight ride. He still added some heat of his own, but it had otherwise been a luxurious bath together. After they dried off and spent some more time kissing, they went to where the horses had settled and mounted back up. “Dropping me off at the gates?” he asked as he wrapped his arms back around him.

---

“If we get back before dark. If not, I’ll walk with you.” Not that Anders needed any protection. He smiled when the arms came around him and he got Thunder moving, the tethered horse following along. “So...what do you want to name her?”

---

Definitely not. If they got there after dark, he would insist he simply go home. He didn’t want him wandering around after dark. “Name her? Me? No, why don’t you let your daughter choose? She did such a good job with Thunder, didn’t she?” It was a nice thought, but he’d already chosen the horse, he wouldn’t feel right naming her too.

---

“You picked her, she’s your horse.” He told him with a smile. Willow had named plenty of horses and would have the opportunity to name many more. “Of all the things I said I might do with her, selling her was not on the list like it would be for any other wild-caught horse. If one caught your eye, I wanted you to have her and she’s the one you wanted. So what will you name her?”

---

His eyes widened. “My horse?” What was he talking about? He couldn’t have a horse… “I don’t understand, if you’re going to keep the horse, surely it is your horse.” Was suggesting he was going to keep her for him? That was asking too much of him. “Surely you can’t afford to just give away horses, either.”

---

“I can’t. That’s why I’ll put her to work while she’s living with me once I figure out what she likes to do.” It would make up for the cost of her feeding, care, and room in the stables. “But she’ll be yours. When she’s broken, I’ll bring her with me for you to ride when we go out. I’ll bring her to you any time you need to travel and you’d like your mount and if you ever decide to move somewhere with the space for her, you can take her. I caught her for you, Anders.”

---

“Milos…” He looked back at the horse trailing after him. She could be his… and he didn’t even have to take care of her. Milos would take care of her for him. “It’s too much to ask of you…” He wasn’t even sure where this was going. What if they broke up? Not that they were even together, but what if they decided they were done? He supposed Milos would simply keep her.

---

“You didn’t ask though. This was my idea.” He smiled over his shoulder at him. “You’ve saved me twice now. Let me do something for you.” Not that he’d exactly been on the brink of death on either occasion. But Anders had helped him just the same and never asked for anything.

---

He bit his lip and then looked back at the horse again. He thought of over for a while. “I don’t know. I’ll have to think about a name.” He wasn’t sure what he wanted to name her, but if he was going to give her a name, he wanted it to be a good one.

---

“You’ve got time.” She didn’t need a name right away. He looked over at the new horse and smiled. She would be a nice addition to his stable for as long as she lived there. “She needs a pretty name to go with that nice coat.”

---

“She does,” he agreed, his eyes turning back to him. He tightened his hold on him. “Thank you,” he murmured into his ear and, since they weren’t going too quickly, he suckled on his lobe briefly. It was tempting to let his hand fall again, but they’d already whiled away the hours as it was.

---

“You’re welcome. I hope you like her once she’s tamed down.” He thought she’d have a good temperament. She’d been frightened, but not aggressive and it had taken no time at all to earn her trust enough to touch her. The tease to his ear was nice and he moved a hand to stroke his fingers absently over one of the arms around his middle.

---

“I already like her.” She was lovely and the more he thought about it, the more he liked the idea of having her. A horse could be helpful if he needed to make a quick escape or if he needed to help someone else make a quick escape. “I can’t wait to try riding her.”

---

“I don’t think she’ll take too long to break. But I want to be sure she’s ready before I put you on her. I can’t have your first horse bucking you or any shenanigans like that.” He’d hate to see the man get hurt, even if he could mend it quickly.

---

“That would be much appreciated.” He rested his cheek against his shoulder again, but this time shut his eyes. He was tired and he wanted to rest while he had another body to rest against.

---

He chuckled but let silence fall between them, comfortable and content to just be held by him as they rode. When they reached the gates, he pressed a kiss to Anders’ crown. “It’s starting to get dark. Do you think you can get back to your clinic before nightfall or should I walk with you?”

---

“I’ve got it. It’s safer for you to get back home before dark.” He lifted a hand and used it to keep his face turned so he could steal a kiss from over his shoulder. “Feel free to stop by whenever you’re in town - before dark.”

---

“But after dark is when I can have my time alone with you…” He stayed turned enough to press a couple insistent kisses to his lips. “I’ll visit in the daytime when I’m back in town. But I’ll come around again that night so we can have our fun too.”

---

“We’ll talk about it when you visit.” He could at least meet him somewhere. “Goodnight, Milos.” He pulled away from him and hopped from Thunder a final time. With a fleeting look at him, he started towards the gates, smiling to himself and walking with a happiness in his gait that was normally absent.

---

“See you soon.” He’d make sure of it. He could come up with reasons to visit town more often. He smiled as he turned the horses and pressed his heels into Thunder, sending him racing toward home. It had been a great day with his new lover and he couldn't wait to see him again.

---

When Anders returned to the clinic, he wasn’t sure what he would find. It was still early enough in the day that it wasn’t supposed to be closed, but he wasn’t sure how busy it had or hadn’t been. He stepped inside and looked around, finally thinking of something other than the man he’d gone riding with that day.

---

Cole had been busy, but he’d enjoyed the change of pace from spending his days in the Circle. He only had one patient at the time Anders came in, though at some points of the day he’d had a line up. The man on the table had a badly broken leg. He was weeping, but it had little to do with his leg. Cole was using healing magic to numb his pain as he pulled his leg taut, lining up the bones as he mended them. “It wasn’t your fault she left. You tried to listen to her and meet her demands, but they weren’t reasonable. She needs to work on herself before she can be with anyone else. Maybe once she does, she’ll realize how much you love her and come home.” He was saying gently to the man when he heard the mage step in. He looked to him and greeted him with a nod and the man tried to dry his eyes, murmuring a greeting for Anders as well.

---

Anders saw what he was doing and was quick to go to him. “Is he alright?” He used his own magic to see the state of his leg and when saw what had been done and what still needed to be done, he set a hand on Cole’s arm. “Let me take care of this.” He’d been doing a good job, but while he was here, he felt like he ought to do it.

---

“Best to let the master handle it.” He had no qualms with admitting that Anders was the better man for the job while his magic was weakened like this. He stepped aside to let Anders work. “He’s alright. I’ve kept his pain controlled. His wife left him last week, that’s hurting him more than anything.”

---

He gave him a sympathetic look, but didn’t comment. It wasn’t his place to. He simply finished up healing his leg and making sure that his bones were properly aligned when all was said and done. It looked good and he took a step back. “Is there anything else I can help you with?” Maybe he had some other issue that wasn’t as immediate as the broken leg.

---

“No, I’m feeling better now.” The man said as he eased himself off of the table to test his leg. He would have to take it easy, but he would be fine. “Thank you, both of you.” With that, he started out of the clinic.

When the door had closed behind him, Cole began to clean up. “So, how was your day out with Milos? His sorrow was very loud and I couldn’t hear what you were thinking on your way in.” Though he could feel how happy the healer had been.

---

He watched the man go and when he was gone, he turned back to Cole. “It was great. He gave me a horse.” He hesitated, and then moved closer to him to wrap his arms around him. “Thank you for taking care of the clinic for me.” It gave him the free time to go out and really take the day for himself and enjoy his fledgling relationship. Before he could overthink it, he pressed a grateful kiss to his cheek.

---

Cole hadn’t been expecting the hug and the kiss surprised him even more. They were affections he often gave but rarely, if ever, received. He smiled and embraced him in return. “Anytime you like. I want you to have time for a little fun.” And to help the Underground. As he’d promised, he’d watch the clinic for that purpose as well. “I didn’t think he would give you a horse. But it is a good gift idea.” Practical for transportation and a wonderful animal.

---

“He caught one for me,” he explained further, giving his cheek another kiss in the same spot before breaking the embrace. “I know you have a lot to do. You should probably get going.” It would be nice if he stayed, though. After a day with Milos, he was craving continued company and it would be nice to sleep beside someone.

He couldn’t sleep beside Milos, but he could sleep beside Cole. The only problem was that Anders didn’t really need him and that the spirit had many ways to make better use of his time.

---

He studied him for a long moment, then shook his head. “A lot of the people who needed me met me in here today and things are quiet in the Circle. I can stay tonight…” He nodded over to a basket on Anders’ desk. “The older woman you helped brought soup and bread here for your patients today and she left some things for you. I’ll make us some tea when everything is cleaned up.”

---

“It’s alright, Cole, I had a good day.” Tea did sound nice though. He started to clean up, for once their roles switching. The clinic wasn’t in too bad of shape, though, and there wasn’t too much to do.

“I know you did. But you don't want to be alone tonight. I've missed holding you while you sleep.” Since Anders took over the cleaning, he went to the basket to get the tea leaves. There was a little meat pie in the basket that he pulled out as well, wanting to be sure Anders ate it and didn't give it away.

---

He felt a little sheepish, the words a reminder that Cole had slept with him a lot more than he’d been aware of. It was still a little violating, but not as much anymore. He understood him now and knew that he’d only helped him.

“I didn’t know you enjoyed those things.” He knew he enjoyed helping, but he wouldn’t have thought he’d enjoy the act itself.

“I do. It is nice to lay beside someone you like.” He had liked Anders before he'd formally met him. But he liked him even more now. He fetched some water for the tea, using magic to heat it.

---

“It is.” His mind went back to the Circle, when the mages would slip out of their beds and into others. Sometimes for sex - more often just for comfort. He’d cuddled with many mages before he’d escaped for good.

When he finished cleaning, he went to him. “Smells good.”

“It does. I don't eat or drink often. But I like to once in awhile.” He hadn't liked everything he'd tried. Perhaps they were things Cole hadn't liked when he was alive. “Maybe you should invite Milos to sleep with you some night. I'm sure you would prefer his arms around you over mine.” He offered Anders the meat pie while the tea brewed.

---

It was odd. If he didn’t have to eat or drink… what happened when he did? “Maybe.” He didn’t know. It would be nice, but it would also be… more. This was simpler.

---

“Only a suggestion. I’m happy to stay with you.” He nodded toward the meat pie. “Please, have some of this. She made it for you and I promised her I would get it to you. She’ll bring more soup and bread for the others tomorrow.”

---

He looked at the pie, somewhat guiltily, but he did need to eat. He was pretty hungry after the day he’d had, so without fussing, he grabbed it and carried it over to his desk after picking up a fork along the way. He dug into it, still guilty, greedily. It didn’t take him long to get through it, even without anything to wash it down.

---

By the time he’d finished, the tea was done steeping and Cole brought him a cup of it. He poured a second for himself, then moved to take a seat on a stool near the desk. “Maybe I can meet your new horse sometime. I like horses.” He liked most animals, even if they weren’t all very kind.

---

“I have to come up with a name for her.” He wasn’t sure what he’d choose, but then he hadn’t thought about it for all that long, either. “I don’t know that she’s really mine, despite what Milos says. I suppose we’ll see.” He probably wouldn’t consider her his until he was the one taking care of her. As such, he probably would never consider her his.

---

“Do you think he is lying? That he would keep her from you if you asked for her?” He asked with a frown and sipped his tea. He didn’t like to think that he’d encouraged Anders to court a liar. The mage deserved better than that. “If he gave you a horse, she should be yours and you should name her.”

---

“I don’t know. I think he means it, but who knows what will happen between us. It might not go beyond today, for all I know, and if that was the case, I can hardly ask him to keep a horse for me.” He sipped at the tea, finding it warm and refreshing. “Thank you,” he murmured, before taking another sip.

---

“You shouldn’t have to ask him to. If he offered, he must honor it.” He would see to it, if it came to that. “You’re welcome. I like this tea, but it isn’t my favorite. Do you have a favorite flavor?”

---

“Mint, I think. It’s a flavor that’s underutilized.” He’d had a mint sweet once, but otherwise he’d only ever tasted mint in tea. “Otherwise, I think fruit teas are fun.” He wasn’t going to drag things out between him and Milos, if it came to that. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that.

---

“I think fruit teas are my favorites. Cole never had many sweet things, but he liked them and so do I.” He thought for a moment, then tilted his head curiously. “Can Justice enjoy tea through you? Flavor is not something I ever understood or appreciated until I became Cole.”

---

“In some way, I think he does. I think he enjoys many of the things I do, I just think he prefers not to indulge.” Justice had never eaten or drinken for them, so he didn’t know if the experience would be any different, but he imagined not.

---

“Is he okay with me staying with you tonight?” He asked, knowing he already pushed the boundaries of what Justice would tolerate. “I know he would prefer I spend the time working in the Circle. But is he alright with me bringing you comfort just for tonight?”

---

“Justice has been… very tolerant.” Much more tolerant than he knew him to be. He knew it was difficult for him and he knew he disapproved, especially since he’d had such a good day and he didn’t need Cole, but he wasn’t saying anything. He wasn’t complaining. He was staying true to his word to try to allow him to take the time he needed for himself. “If Justice had a body of his own, like he wants, perhaps I would simply sleep with him.”

The suggestion took Justice aback, but warmth followed.

---

“You most likely wouldn’t need me anymore if he could do that.” He finished his tea and set down the cup with a content sigh. “Would you like more tea? Or do you want to get changed and lie down?” He couldn’t imagine Anders going to sleep in those pants.

---

He hadn’t meant it like that and Anders frowned. He wasn’t sure what to say, though, because as much of Cole’s time as he took up, he could do a lot more good elsewhere. “I think that’s enough for me tonight.” He got up and he moved to his nook, where he’d left his clothes draped across his cot. It was quick to change, pulling on only his underrobes for the sake of comfort.

---

He cleaned up after the meal while Anders changed, then moved to join him in the nook. He set aside his cumbersome hat, but otherwise stayed as he was as he moved to the mage, taking his hand and guiding him to sit on the bed beside him. “I didn’t take offense. I would like for Justice to have his own body and for you to be able to draw comfort from him that way.”

---

It was strange to see him without his hat. He did not look… well, but most people he saw day to day didn’t look well. “I don’t think Justice would tolerate it for long.” Justice had felt warm at the suggestion and he seemed a little conflicted now, a little hurt even, but Justice knew he was right. He would gave him some of his time, but not most of it. Not unless they were working together.

---

“Starvation and death do little for a mortal’s appearance. I obscure my face so I don’t frighten the people I mean to help. I can put the hat back on if seeing me makes you uncomfortable.” He didn’t mind, but he’d taken it off because he didn’t think it would bother the healer. After all, he saw plenty of starvation and death, he just didn’t always sleep beside it.

---

“No, that’s alright. I hardly look well myself.” Whatever Milos insisted, he hadn’t seen him in his prime. He’d looked much better then. He still found it strange that he looked like Cole at all, but he supposed that if he was going to take after him, it made sense that he would take after what he’d looked like when he’d seen him.

---

“You are looking better each day. You’ve been sleeping better and perhaps with the woman’s help you will be eating better as well.” His sunken eyes were still obscured by a mess of blonde hair, but they studied him. He thought that the mage did look better since he’d been able to take some of the weight off of his shoulders. He began to lay down, using his hand on Anders to encourage him to do the same.

---

Anders followed his example. It felt a little odd, but he’d wanted this. It would help him to feel close to someone this way, especially someone he knew he could trust. There was little room on the cot and he pulled up his robes to his knees so he could at least tangle their calves a little. A blanket would keep him warm.

---

The lack of space wasn’t an issue for Cole and he wrapped his arms around the mage, holding him to his chest. He tangled their legs further, his hold on him every bit as tender and intimate as a lover’s would be. He kissed Anders’ cheek, wanting him to feel warm and cared for in the quiet moments before sleep.

---

The intimacy of the hold surprised him. He’d only been held like this a handful of times in his life and not in a long time. The last time had been with Karl. Even his lovers since then hadn’t held him like this. Certainly not Milos, though it was hardly his fault when they’d only just started getting physical and hadn’t spent any time together outside of fucking.

He shut his eyes and made a soft sound at the kiss, feeling as cared for as Cole wanted him to.

---

“Sleep well, Anders.” He murmured into his ear. He would see to it that he did. Staying this close to him, he could easily chase away any nightmare that should disturb his rest. “Goodnight, Justice.”

Chapter Text

When Anders roused the next morning, he did so in a way that was not all that different from a babe. Little shifts, slight fusses, soft sounds, but the entire time he stayed close to Cole. In fact, he pressed closer to him, the arm that had wrapped around him in night tightening and his face tucking against the spirit’s chin.

---

The spirit could feel that the man was waking slowly and when he pulled in closely, Cole reciprocated and tightened his hold on him. He stroked his back slowly and gently, no longer worried about staying motionless since he was beginning to rouse on his own. He began to hum for him softly, the soothing song something ancient and forgotten in the world of mortals, wondering if it might help Anders to get a little more rest before the clinic would have to open.

---

It was soothing and not only to Anders. It was a song that Justice recognized and that he’d not heard in more lifetimes than he could number. It took a long time for Anders’ eyes to crack, but when they did, he tucked his face further against him, almost hiding in his neck. This was too pleasant, he didn’t want to wake and face the day, not when laying like this was perfect.

---

Cole smiled to himself. Despite what Anders said, he did need this, whether or not he had a good day. He needed more companionship and someone to hold him in the night. He kissed the top of his head. He wasn’t in any big hurry to make him move.

---

Anders felt the kiss and his lips tugged up slightly. His head tipped up and returned a kiss of his own. So light as to be near non-existence, just beneath his jawline. His lips tugged up a little further and he let out a sigh as he settled into this new position.

---

It wasn’t long before was needed and he knew he couldn’t linger much longer. He tipped his head down and he kissed his lips, as light and chaste as any of his other kisses. “Did you sleep well, Anders?”

---

As soon as he felt the lips on his, even as gentle as it was, he returned it. His eyes opened briefly, bleary, but they closed again. “Cole.” That’s who he was with. Who was holding him. He had slept well. Better than he’d slept in a long time, especially since the attention had been for his conscious mind as well as his subconscious mind.

---

He hadn’t expected his kiss to be returned and it warmed him. “You must have.” He let his face linger close to his and closed his eyes, rather relaxed himself despite knowing he should go. He wasn’t use to connecting with one particular mortal this way.

---

That is enough.

Justice cut through the peace and Anders opened his eyes. He realized how close he was and felt an odd welling of shame. Considering the sudden outburst, Anders assumed it wasn’t his own, but sometimes it was hard to tell their emotions apart and this felt like one of those times.

“Oh. Oh. Sorry, I… sorry.” He pulled back from him, rather baffled.

---

Cole’s eyes opened quickly, the change in emotion startling him. Even with a little distance between them, his arms were around Anders. There wasn’t much space for them to separate on the cot. “Sorry? Why, what happened?”

---

“I shouldn’t have, sorry I was out of it.” Not entirely, but he’d felt so comfortable and content that it’d felt right to return the affection. He shouldn’t have, though, it wasn’t right. He didn’t know exactly why it wasn’t right, but he knew it wasn’t right and it was time for Cole to go.

---

“You have nothing to apologize for. I kissed you because I am fond of you. I did not mean to cross a line I shouldn’t have.” He released him then to climb out of the cot, moving to collect his hat. He knew he had overstayed his welcome.

---

He had. He’d crossed a line that he absolutely shouldn’t have and there would be no more resting together. Anders gripped the pillow he was resting on, the torrent of thoughts hitting him hard. He didn’t understand, but they weren’t his own. There was too much there that didn’t make sense. “Justice, stop it!” he demanded aloud and they eased, but only a little.

---

It seemed it was Justice that he offended. “I’m sorry. I only meant to help. I like being affectionate with you and I thought you liked it too. If you want me to stay away, I will…” It would be a shame, but he would respect his wishes.

---

Anders was hurt.  “I don’t want you to.” Justice, still riled, wrapped a possessive arm around him. Anders felt it, but it confused him as much as everything else. Tears pricked at his eyes. “I don’t understand what’s happening.” Justice had never been this… worked up, not in this way. Sometimes he had in anger, but he would’ve taken over by now if he was that angry. “It was nothing.” But he shouldn’t have.

---

“I didn’t mean for it to be anything. You were happy, I was soothing you. I wanted to help…” He didn’t understand why the two of them were so conflicted on the matter. Why Justice was making Anders hurt over it. But at least Anders didn’t want him to stay away.

---

Anders had been all of those things, Justice had not. He pushed forward and took over, visibly calming, but becoming inscrutable. “Anders is my mortal.” He’d never had reason to be possessive of him before. Demons didn’t dare approach him, not while he was inside, and this was the first spirit they’d come across. “You can help him without being so intimate with him.” Part of the reason he hadn’t liked it because of how good Anders had felt. He wanted him to feel good, but he didn’t like the idea of another spirit influencing him so.

What if he decided he no longer wanted him?

---

“I know he is yours. I made no claim of him and I would never try to take your place. I couldn’t take your place.” He moved closer, hoping he could soothe the spirit now that he’d come forward. “Your relationship with him is so special. You’re his best friend. He loves you in a way he could never love anyone else. I was only giving him affection in a way that he needs and misses and I was helping until you distressed him. It could never threaten what you have with him.”

---

Justice frowned. He knew that Anders loved him, as he loved Anders, but Cole had been… better for him. Better for his happiness, anyway. Human emotions were fickle - what if that changed?

“If he needs that comfort, he should take it from a mortal. From Milos, not from you.” He didn’t like how much Anders had fallen into him. He’d never felt that from him before, not even in the intimate moments with Milos.

“I agree. Maybe he won't need it from me when things progress with Milos. When they start spending their nights together. But right now, this is something he sorely needs and I am the one who can give it to him.” Surely Justice had felt how good it was for Anders to wake in his arms.

---

Justice’s frown deepened. “I do not want things to progress with Milos. They spend plenty of time together.” He was letting him do as he wished, but this need for more was exactly what he’d wanted to avoid.

“I do not like sharing him.” It was better when it was only them and no one else got in the way. At least, it was better for him. Not for Anders.

“I'm sorry, but he needs it. Without a body, you can’t be the one to give him that intimacy. You must decide if you're willing to let him have it or not.” He said this gently, reaching out to put a soothing hand on his arm. “I know this is hard for you and that you are trying to accommodate him.”

---

Even if he had a body, he didn’t know how much ‘intimacy’ he would share with Anders. He didn’t think he would kiss him, but he supposed that he didn’t know. It wasn’t possible, so he’d never thought about it, but he didn’t think he would.

“It shouldn’t be you,” he repeated, though it was hard to argue against. He knew Compassion was only trying to help, he was just worried that it might change. That he might want Anders and that Anders might want him… but if he wanted a body of his own, did it matter?

He didn’t quite recognize this feeling of jealousy in him. It was a foreign feeling, one that he recognized, but couldn’t name when it came from him alone.

“Anders is… too comfortable with you.”

“I thought it was good for him. I will go.” He was asking too much. Justice had allowed much of what he'd asked of him on Anders’ behalf, but asking him to accept that he'd given him this intimacy because it was what he felt he needed was going too far. He would give him space, as much as he didn't want to.

---

“That would be best,” he agreed, deciding that he would remain in control until Cole left. He pushed them up and started to dress them the rest of the way so Anders wouldn’t have to.

He vanished, leaving them be. He would return, but not for at least several days. They needed to work this out between  themselves and his presence would likely only agitate Justice and make matters worse.

---

When Justice gave control back and Anders found himself alone, he was anxious. What did you do?

We agreed that he shouldn’t be doing such things with you.

You scared him off?

No, he left because he agreed with me.

Is he coming back?

There was a hesitation. Justice didn’t know if he was coming back. He didn’t think he’d stay away, but all he’d said was ‘I will go’. The hesitation was enough to upset Anders.

“Maker Justice, do you have to ruin everything good that happens to me?!”

Justice was resentful of that, so he fell into silence and Anders was left to stew in sorrow.

Chapter Text

Milos was happy he’d managed to get back to town before another week passed and the timing was perfect - by the time his sister and Willow were taking the supplies from Kirkwall back home and preparing to have another “girl’s night”, it was growing dark and the clinic would be closing soon.

He picked up dinner for two on his way, choosing a rich marinated beef that he thought would be to Anders’ liking. He thanked his lucky stars that he wasn’t mugged on the way, for a change, and since he arrived while the lantern was still lit, he let himself into the clinic. For once he didn’t see a patient when he walked in and he smiled, eager to see his lover after days apart.

---

With each day that passed and Cole didn’t come back, Anders became more and more depressed. More and more certain that he wasn’t coming back atl all. Anders had come to want his company. He liked spirits and he liked Cole and he liked feeling like there was someone that cared about him. That really cared about him in a way that no one else could.

No one but Justice, of course, but even then it was different. Justice cared about him deeply, but not in the same way Cole did. He knew it wasn’t the spirit’s fault and he could feel Justice’s frustration whenever he compared them, but they were as different as their creeds and he was someone that could desperately use some compassion in his life.

Though Justice didn’t want Cole to be completely gone - they still needed his help, after all - the more despondent Anders became, the gladder that he was. His concerns had clearly had been valid and he didn’t want Anders depending so much on another spirit.

When Milos stepped in, Justice was somewhat frustrated, but when Anders’ reaction was only a flicker of happiness and a small smile, he knew he had to help. Let’s put out the lantern and lock up so you can spend some time with Milos.

Anders wasn’t sure why he was suggesting that - he’d have thought he’d want Milos gone as well.

“I told you not to come around after dark,” he told him lightly.

---

“It’s only just now getting dark. Besides, I came to town prepared.” He raised his tunic enough to reveal a dagger on his belt. “Are you hungry? We’ve never really shared a meal and I picked up something I thought you might like…”

---

He looked at the dagger. “Do you know how to wield that dagger?” He moved to do as Justice suggested, putting out the lantern and locking the door. “I could eat.” He was rather hungry, but he preferred not to seem as starving as he was most of the time.

---

“Kind of. I know which end of it to put into somebody that’s attacking me, at least.” Hopefully he would never need to. He was still standing near the door and when Anders finished locking up, he moved in close and kissed his lips. “I’ve missed you, Anders.”

---

He returned the kiss softly, but he didn’t linger long. “Just be careful with the dagger. It might seem safer to have it, but unless you know what you’re doing with it, it might just make the situation more dangerous.” He would seem more of a threat and whoever was messing with him would have all the more reason to harm him.

---

“I’ll be careful. Maybe I’ll find someone to teach me. You said you know some swordplay but I thought I’d start small with a dagger.” He offered Anders the basket he’d brought their meal in, unsure where he would want to eat it since there wasn’t exactly a dinner table. “...Are you alright? I could come back another night if this is a bad time…” He couldn’t expect Anders to be extremely enthused every time he came to see him, but he seemed a little off this evening.

---

He took the basket from him and carried it over to his desk. “I’m okay, I’ve just had a… long week is all.” He sat down. “I might not be as fun as usual tonight, though, so if you’d rather go, that’s alright.”

---

“No. As long as you want me here, I want to stay.” He pulled up a stool to sit near him, watching him solemnly. “Do you want to talk about your week? I don’t know if I can be much help, but I’m a good listener.”

---

“No, that’s okay. There’s not much to say.” His hands fiddled with the basket. After a beat, he went on abruptly, “Actually, there are probably some things I should tell you. Things that you don’t know about me and that you probably should.” He could feel Justice’s wariness, but it wasn’t anything that wasn’t already known by others, even if he tried to keep it as secret as possible.

---

“Then I’m all ears.” He leaned forward a little, folding his hands on the desk. “I want to know more about you anyway. Tell me anything you want.”

---

His hands slid down into his lap and he clasped them together. “Well, the first thing that you should probably know is that… well, I’m an abomination.” There. One thing off of the list of secrets. The list of reasons why he had no need to be getting involved with someone else.

---

“What...does that mean exactly?” He’d heard of mages being called that if they were possessed by demons. But he didn’t think Anders was the sort of man to make a deal with a demon for power. He had never really been around mages so he didn’t know much about them besides what outsiders said.

---

He wasn’t sure if he didn’t know or if he just didn’t want to believe it. “It means I’m possessed by a spirit. It’s… different from being possessed by a demon.” Only different in so much that he was possessed by a spirit and not a demon, but both he and Justice thought it was a pretty big difference.

---

“That’s a relief. I thought you meant you had a demon. So there’s a spirit...listening to us right now?” He looked around as if he might see it now that he was aware of it. He didn’t know if that meant it was always with Anders or actually inside of the man. He didn’t know much about spirits, but he knew they were good at least.

---

“Yes, he is listening to us.” He was curious what Milos would’ve said if he had been host to a demon. He wouldn’t blame him for wanting nothing to do with him. He wouldn’t want anything to do with himself either, if he had a demon. It was amusing, at least, to see him looking about.

---

His cheeks colored a little. That spirit had seen and heard a lot if it was always listening. “Okay...hello, spirit. I’m sorry I only brought dinner for two. I didn’t know you were here…” He was still looking around for any hint of another presence, speaking to the room more than Anders.

---

Anders couldn’t help but snort and even Justice was amused. “He’s inside me, Milos.” His lips were tugged into a smile. “He eats when I do, so it’s alright.”

---

“Oh…” He gave him a sheepish smile. “So I don’t need to start bringing extra food around. Unless he wants me to.” Were you supposed to bring spirits offerings or something? He had no idea. “...Does he like me? I guess he kind of knows me at this point if he’s always been listening.”

---

It was odd how little he knew and he couldn’t quite tell how he was taking it. He wasn’t running away, so that was something. “Justice… he doesn’t like it when I’m distracted from the things I should be doing… but he’s been understanding about us spending time together.”

---

That wasn’t exactly answering his question, but he got the gist of it. His cheeks colored a little more and he nodded. “...I’m sorry. I don’t mean to be a distraction.” He did, but only in a pleasant way. But it couldn’t possibly be a good thing that the spirit possessing Anders didn’t like him.

---

“It’s okay.” He looked down at his hands. They’d relaxed a little, but now they tightened once more. “He thinks you’re a good man, though.” He was already thinking about what he was going to tell him next, but he didn’t want him to think that Justice disliked him.

---

“I’m glad he thinks so.” It could be worse, at least. He was still absorbing that, but his lover still looked tense so he knew there was more to hear. “Is there something else you want to tell me?”

---

He was quiet for a while. This was harder for him to address, but he needed to. Maybe after he told him, Milos would decide for himself that this was too much and they could just go back to how it was meant to be. “Being a Grey Warden, there’s a taint in my blood.” He didn’t want to explain further than that. He wasn’t supposed to, really, since the source of their powers was a secret the Wardens held close. “After becoming a Warden, few live beyond twenty years and some aren’t even lucky enough to have that. I’ve been a Warden for going on ten years….”

---

That was a lot harder to hear and some of the color that had darkened his cheeks drained away. “...Then I’ll count myself lucky that you’re still here.” He reached out for one of Anders’ hands, taking it gently in his own. He was sure it was hard for the man to talk about something like this and he wanted to give him what comfort he could, even if he was still processing it.

---

He forced himself to loosen his hands when his was taken. “I was told that it is possible that having Justice with me could prevent the taint from taking my life, though. That’s why I decided to go after you.” He was speaking to their hands, wanting him to know that he hadn’t lured him in selfishly.

---

“...Even if it doesn’t work that way, you have every right to pursue happiness. You shouldn’t have to spend your remaining years alone.” He spoke quietly, studying him. “Is there anything else you want to tell me?”

---

Perhaps he was right, or perhaps not. “No, I think that is all for now.” There was a lot he could tell him, but those were the biggest things he’d been keeping from him.

---

He nodded, a little relieved. It was a lot to take in. He gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “I’m glad you felt like you could talk to me about those things. It’s...a lot to think about. But it doesn’t change the way I feel about you.”

---

Anders hadn’t expected him to be so understanding and he wasn’t sure what to say. He’d felt like he had to talk to him about those things. “And how is it you feel about me?”

---

“I don’t know yet. This is all still so new.” He looked down at their joined hands. “But I really like you. I have a great time with you and when I’m not with you, I’m thinking about you. I wake up excited to start my day if I know I’m going to see you and...I feel younger than I have in a long time. Meeting you has really been the best thing to happen to me in awhile.”

---

It was nice to hear and he felt much the same, but everything with Cole had put a damper on, well, everything. “It is new and I think we should take it slow.” The pace they’d been going was good. He didn’t mean that they should stop their intimacy, just that they shouldn’t put more into it than that. Just spending time together.

---

“That’s probably a good idea.” He wouldn’t push to hear what Anders was feeling. He’d already had to share a lot that night. He just stared down at their hands, trying to take in all of it and forgetting all about the meal he’d brought.

---

“The offer still stands. If you would prefer to go, that’s alright. It’s been a long week.” It had been for him and he still didn’t think he was going to be as good of company as he normally was.

---

“I won’t stay long.” He rose from his seat and used his hand on Anders’ to try to tug him to his feet as well. “Come here, Anders…”

---

Anders followed the tug, his eyes raising. “What?” He wasn’t sure what it was he wanted, but he had… some idea.

---

When he had him on his feet, he pulled him into his arms. He hugged him for the first time since they’d started seeing each other, just giving him a lingering embrace. “I’m sorry it’s been a rough week.” Maybe this would help, even a little.

---

It took a beat for him to take it in, but when he did, he wrapped his arms around him in return and let him take his weight. He shut his eyes and let the warmth give him the comfort he’d needed for days. He gave a tiny nod, but said nothing more.

He held him close, staying that way for a long moment before guiding him toward his cot. “Let's sit together for a few minutes. Then I'll get out of your hair for tonight.” He didn't want him to think he meant to take advantage while he was feeling so low.

---

He moved with him and then sat down on the edge of his cot. He still had to clean up, but he could do that after Milos left. “How was your day?” he asked, since he’d already told him about his own. Sort of, anyway.

“My day was fine. I finished my chores on the ranch early and had time to play a long game of hide and seek with Willow before we came into town. Your horse is taming down nicely, she ate oats right out of Willow's hand this morning.” He wrapped his arms around Anders once they were seated, pulling him in to take his weight.

---

Anders leaned into him and, since it was more comfortable than to not, shut his eyes. “That sounds like a good day.” Better than his own. He was glad to hear that the horse was being good as well. “I still haven’t come up with a name for her.

“Maybe you'll know once you spend more time with her.” He closed his eyes as well, resting comfortably against him. “I'll bring her the next time I come to town. We could go for a ride.”

---

“Perhaps.” Something like that would be better planned, but maybe they could go anyway. A late night ride wouldn’t hurt anything - they’d already proven that with their first date. “Even if not, it would be nice to see her.”

---

“I’ll bring her soon.” He would try to come back before long, especially if something was bringing Anders down. Maybe he needed the company, even if he didn’t feel like he was up to spending time with him tonight. “I’ll get going. You can save my dinner and have it tomorrow.” He murmured, turning his head to kiss his cheek.

---

“Okay.” He turned to give him a kiss of his own, soft and light, on his lips. “Thank you.” He’d eat after cleaning up and, if there was no one that needed it more tomorrow, maybe he’d have the other one too.

---

“Do you need a little space? Or is it okay if I come back in a few days?” He asked when the soft kiss had broken. He wanted to come back as soon as he could, but he would put it off if that was what the mage needed.

---

“That’s fine,” he agreed, knowing he could at least look forward to that. Maybe that would make his days better. “I’ll unlock the door for you.” He pulled back from him and stood, though he stayed close to him so they could walk to the door together.

---

When he reached the door, he turned to him, giving him one more soft, simple kiss once it was unlocked. “Goodnight, Anders.” With that, he started out into Darktown. It was fully dark now, but he would move quickly and keep himself out of trouble.

---

He watched him go and when he was gone, he sighed. He could’ve asked him to stay. At least for a while. He was sure Milos wanted to, but he needed a little more time to sulk and hopefully by the time he came back, he would be feeling better about everything. He locked the door behind him and then turned to look at the clinic. It was time to clean up.

Chapter Text

It was a couple days later that Cole made his way back to the clinic. He had missed this place, more importantly he had missed Anders and his patients. He didn’t want to return empty-handed and he carried a small bag with him as he stepped into the clinic. He had expected to sense suffering from a patient, but it was growing late and there were no patients in the clinic. The only suffering and sadness he sensed was from Anders and he felt terrible for it. He closed the door behind him, a frown on his lips. “Anders…”

---

Anders tensed slightly when he stepped in, the sight surprising him. For some reason, he’d really thought he was gone and after a full week had passed without a visit, even Justice had begun to believe he really left. Some of the hurt he’d felt returned, but his expression was hard to read… not that Cole needed to read it. “Cole,” he answered, somewhat cold, but he knew that it wasn’t entirely his fault… Really, it was mostly Justice’s fault, but Cole had agreed and left, so they still shared the blame.

---

“I’m sorry my absence distressed you. In truth, it distressed me as well. I had to leave Kirkwall for a few days to stay away from this place. But I thought it was important to give Justice space and reflect on what we discussed. I made him very jealous and insecure by kissing you that morning.” He didn’t think he needed to tell Anders this. He had probably felt it in the spirit’s thoughts as easily as he’d read them the moment Justice had pushed himself to the surface.

---

Justice wasn’t sure how he felt about this. He was glad that Cole hadn’t been entirely driven away, as he did appreciate him and what he did for them, but he could feel the resentment in Anders - it was a topic they’d both avoided bringing up, but now that was impossible.

“Yes, I’m quite use to Justice’s feelings mattering more than mine.”

...That isn’t fair. Justice was hurt, thinking that he often put his feelings aside for Anders.

---

“He has been generous about giving you the freedoms I’ve insisted you need.” He didn’t want to discount the leniency the spirit had given over one incident. “He just doesn’t feel it’s my place to be intimate with you. I agree that it would be better if it was Milos or another mortal to give that sort of comfort to you. But it was good for you and we both enjoyed it. I don’t think he understands why you enjoyed it the way you did and that is why he feels threatened by me.”

---

Truthfully, he didn’t know why Cole kissed him or why he’d kissed Cole. He wanted to say he’d been out of it, but he hadn’t been. At least, not enough to not know what he was doing. It had just felt so good.

Well, it won’t be happening again, will it? So you can stop.

He didn’t bother saying it aloud since Cole would be able to hear it anyway.

You still are not being fair. I’ve done nothing since I spoke with Cole last - why not simply take comfort with Milos, if you need it?

Anders was silent, but Justice could feel what he wasn’t saying. That he didn’t understand.

---

“I want to spend the night with you again. I know it would be better if it was a mortal, but it helps you and I wouldn't hurt you the way a mortal could. I don't want to upset Justice, but he has eternity to do what he needs to and you do not. I want to give you what makes you thrive.” Companionship. Compassion.

---

Justice’s hackles rose. Anders, I am with you always. You are not as alone as you like to think you are, why is that not enough? I would also not hurt you the way a mortal could. If that was his concern with Milos, why it was different and why he ‘didn’t understand’, then he did understand. To some degree. He wasn’t a mortal though, and he loved and cared about him and they were always together.

It’s not the same. Being in his head wasn’t enough… It was better than being alone, but it still wasn’t enough. He looked at Cole skeptically - if that was how he felt, why would he leave for so long in the first place?

---

“I had to think this over. I want to make both you and Justice happy.” He answered the unspoken question softly. “It would be best if I could get him his own body so he could comfort you instead. But until I find a safe way, it has to be me until you no longer need me.” When he was ready for a mortal lover to give him that intimacy in the quiet hours in his cot. “I think with a little time Justice will see that it does not change your feelings about him and he will benefit from your comfort.”

---

He didn’t know that Justice could even if he had his own body. Again, Justice was hurt, though some part of him knew he was right. He would not want to spend every night holding Anders when he finally had a body of his own that he could work as hard as he wanted. ...That didn’t mean he wouldn’t some nights, though. If it would comfort him.

Anders was still hurt himself, not liking the way he’d simply disappeared on him, but he had come back… so that was what was important. “...I’d like that, but Justice doesn’t want us to.”

---

“I know he doesn't. And I'm sorry that you two are at odds over it. But I think it should be your decision. He has been flexible with you lately, but before I arrived you did things his way for a long time and you were not thriving. I think he needs to let you have this, but I will ultimately leave it up to both of you.” He could only hope that he wouldn't draw the ire of the other spirit by overstepping his boundaries again.

---

Justice was irritated at him for coming back only to put them back where they’d been that day, especially since Anders was responding how he would’ve expected him to. Anders could feel his jealousy and though Justice didn’t like acknowledging it as that, that’s what it was. I’m never going to take another spirit again, Justice. You needn’t worry. I am not replacing you any more than you replaced Compassion. Though even he had to admit that his relationship with Compassion was a lot different than his relationship with either of them.

You prefer him.

I do not. He wasn’t thinking about it, but he wasn’t entirely sure it was true.

---

“I am no threat to you, Justice. He loves you.” Cole tried to contribute after listening to one side of the conversation. But he knew hearing it from him would mean little. He had to feel that assurance from Anders.

---

He is a friend. He just happens to be a spirit… He meant it, but Justice didn’t think he was being honest with himself. If he was just a friend, he wouldn’t want to sleep with him. He didn’t sleep with any of his other friends. He didn’t trust any of them like he trusted Cole. He hadn’t gotten as attached to any of them as he had to Cole and it had everything to do with him being a spirit.

Justice didn’t like it, but he knew that if he pushed too hard, he would only make matters worse. If he could get a body of his own… then none of this would matter and for that, he needed Cole’s help.

Fine, do as you wish with him, but you will not replace me.

I won’t and when you have a body of your own, you won’t have to worry about me anymore.

---

“He will, Anders. He loves you too.” Justice wouldn't leave him just because he had his own body. He finally moved closer, setting his bag on the nearest table and drawing the mage into an embrace.

---

Some of Justice’s lingering emotions made it hard for him to give in. Some of his own emotions made it hard as well, but he shut his eyes and pressed his weight into the spirit. He wasn’t sure what it was he smelled like, but it was nice. He didn’t smell like he seemed he might, which was good for the purposes of their contact.

---

“I might spell of spices tonight. I helped a merchant who specializes in them earlier.” He was also relieved that he didn't smell of death as much as he looked like it. If he did, he would have to mask his scent as well as hide his face to help mortals.

---

Anders gave a small nod and slid his arms around him in return. He still didn’t feel good, but this at least felt nice. It was the comfort he’d been lacking in the passing days. Justice tried to remind him that he could’ve taken it from Milos, but that he’d chosen not to. Not really. Anders didn’t acknowledge him.

---

“I'm sorry. I should not have left you for so long. But I thought it would help Justice.” It hadn't, it seemed he felt no better about things. But he didn't know much about spirits sharing a mortal’s body, so he knew he likely couldn't understand the complexity of their feelings for each other.

---

He might not have minded so much if he hadn’t left while the world was dark for him. He hadn’t even known if he would be back. “It’s okay. I know one day you’re going to be gone completely - I’ll be more prepared for it next time.”

“I would not leave completely without saying goodbye, even if Justice and I are at odds.” He stroked his back slowly. “I have grown attached to you. Even if I am called away for a long time, I will come back to see you.”

---

He could feel that Justice didn’t like what he was hearing, but to his credit, he kept this to himself. It was only his feelings that were flooding over.

He took in a deep breath and let it out in a soft huff. “I have to lock up. We can lay down after I’m done.”

“Go ahead. We can get comfortable and you can tell me about your week if you like.” Obviously it hadn't been very good. But maybe it would help to get it off his chest. He released Anders, then took off his hat to set it near the bag on the table.

---

He closed up and after cleaning up a few small things, he made his way to the nook and started to get ready for bed. He looked tired, but he wasn’t as sad as he’d been each night all week.

He sat on the edge of Anders’ bed after following him to the nook, waiting for him to undress to his underobes and join him. “If you want to talk, I will listen. But if you would rather I just hold you, that is what I'll do.”

---

There wasn’t much to say. It’s been a busy week and apart from Milos stopping in, nothing good has happened. Hawke hadn’t even needed him, so with that and the fact that there were no developments with the Circle for him, he’d been in the clinic day and night for the last week.

When he was ready, he sat down on the cot. “We can just lay down.”

He nodded and slid an arm around him, guiding him to lay down with him. He was quick to settle in close, wrapping him up in his arms and tangling their legs. He had missed the mage in his time away and he used a gentle, steady flow of his magic to soothe him.

---

Anders settled and it wasn’t as comfortable as it had been last time. Simply because he was anticipating this going south. He did feel a lot better, his emotions much less severe, he just needed to relax.

He began to hum to him softly, the same ancient hymn as the last time he spent the night in his bed. He nuzzled his cheek into Anders’ hair, encouraging him to hide his face against his neck. It was a little frustrating that he could shelter him from any pain, except what was brought from Justice. He had no control over that and not even manipulation over Anders’ memory would save him from that because the spirit would still be within. The best he could hope for was that Justice would simply let the man enjoy whatever he could take from this.

---

Anders shut his eyes and as soon as he felt what he wanted, he followed instinctively, pressing his face into his neck. The jealousy heightened, but he could also hear Justice almost… talking to himself. Trying to work out his emotions himself. It wasn’t often he heard something like this, usually only when the spirit was worked up and anxious to find a way to fix a wrong.

He tried to tune it out, listening to the sound of Cole’s humming.

Cole closed his eyes, continuing to hum for him. Only when it was finished did he speak up again. “That song is very old. Would you like a song more familiar to you better?” He knew many songs.

---

“No, I like it.” Maybe because Justice liked it, though Justice wasn’t listening right now. “Are there words to it?” Or was it only a melody?

“Yes, in a long dead language.” The root of a few modern languages he knew of. “Would you like to hear the words? I could sing for you.”

---

That perked his interest. He wasn’t able to pursue much knowledge these days, but he had grown up in a Circle and he did have an academic mind. He nodded into his neck, breathing in his scent and telling himself that this was okay.

“Justice may remember the words as well.” He mused before he began to sing. His voice was soft and pleasant, his hand still absently stroking his back.

---

It was fascinating and listening to words he didn’t recognize was soothing. After long enough, he was able to relax and so was Justice. Finally, this was having the intended effect and the hurt feelings were fading. He wasn’t yet ready to sleep, but he was reaching a state in which he was able to relax and rest.

---

He could feel that Anders was relaxing and when the song was coming to a close, he repeated the last verse and refrain to keep it going a little longer for him. He laid with him in silence for a little while after the song had finished, but his lips turned up a bit when he thought of something that the mage might like. “Those kittens outside have their eyes open now. Maybe we could visit them in the morning before you open the clinic.”

---

He hadn’t wanted to bother the mama or the kittens, so he’d left them be, but he was happy to hear the update. He’d spent a little time with the cats outside this week - the only part of the days that had been pleasant, apart from helping those that needed him, of course. “We can,” he agreed, since he would like to see them again.

---

“The mother will be happy. They’re growing to be strong and she will want to show them off.” Now that they weren’t so tiny and vulnerable, she wasn’t so anxious about them. He pressed a kiss to the crown of Anders’ head, then nestled his cheek back into his hair.

---

Anders tightened his arm around him in response to the affection. “Maybe I can dig up something for her to eat.” Though he said it aloud, it was more to himself than anything. He’d have to look and see what he had, but he’d like to offer her something. She had so many kittens to feed, after all.

---

“We could buy them something. I brought you coin.” He murmured into his hair, his finger trailing slowly up and down his spine. He knew Anders would want to spend the majority of it on the clinic or the Underground. But some could be spared for the cats.

---

That surprised him enough that his eyes opened and he looked up at him. “...Where did you get coin?” He wasn’t good at accepting donations, but he did whenever someone insisted. He was sure Cole would insist, but he had no idea where he might’ve gotten his hands on some coin.

---

“I helped a woman who was being hurt by some very bad men and those men had a lot of money. I left her what she needed when they were dealt with, but I took the rest. It can be put to good use here. Consider it an apology to you and to the Underground for my absence.” He met his gaze curiously, wondering if Anders would have trouble accepting the gift he’d brought.

---

He frowned. He probably should’ve given the woman all of the money, but of course he himself knew the importance of spreading out resources to as many people as possible. “...How much is it?” He could certainly use gold, especially because Hawke hadn’t had any work for him in the last week. He was running low on what he needed and it had come to a point where he was going to have to ask the man for the job if it kept up. Even what Lirene had brought from him in the middle of the week had barely been enough to keep him floating.

---

“I did not count it. I don't know much about mortal currency, but it is a lot more than most people have.” The men's purses had been heavy with coin and their hideout had even more. He had plenty left to bring to Anders even after he'd given a good portion of it to the woman they had hurt.

---

He felt guilty, but there was no reason for it. He would simply supply the clinic with it and then give out the rest to those who needed it. “Okay, thank you.” He wouldn’t keep any of it for himself. Though his personal stash of gold had seen better days. Enough for a quick escape, but nothing more. He use to have a little more saved up, just in case, but he simply had more important things to spend it on.

---

“It is my gift to you, the clinic, and the Underground. You can spend it as you like but I hope you will keep a little for yourself. And one of those kittens if you would like to keep one.” He understood that Anders didn't feel he had the resources to take care of one, but he knew it would make him happy if he could.

---

“I’ll be sure to give some to the Underground.” Maybe he could give them a third of it, use a third on the clinic, and the remaining third could go to anyone who needed it. As far as himself went, he wouldn’t feel right. Perhaps the next time he went on a job, he would simply keep his share for himself. He didn’t respond to the comment about the kitten, but it would be nice.

---

“You get your happiness from helping others. It is rare that a person would get more fulfillment in spending money on others rather than himself. It is perhaps one of my favorite things about you.” He pressed another kiss into his hair.

---

He chuckled and settled back against his neck. “Don’t get me wrong… if things were different, I would like to treat myself.” If the world wasn’t what it was and there weren’t so many that needed help, he would be a little more selfish. He’d be more like he use to be in his youth. He desire for things hadn’t completely faded and hell, he didn’t know how much of this goodness that Cole spoke of was really him. If there was anything good about him, it probably came from Justice, so Cole probably ought to save his admiration and affection for him.

---

“That's alright. Most people still treat only themselves even with the world as it is. I suppose it is what makes mortals so fascinating. You are all so different.” He closed his eyes, tightening his arms around him a little as he settled back in.

---

He hummed and then let out another huff, softer now. He shut his eyes and his thoughts went to when he was young. That was the last time he’d been in a hold this comforting. When his mother would hold him. Sometimes his father too, though his memories of his father were tainted and he tried not to think about him. His father was the entire reason he’d never tried to go back home, not after the first time.

---

“I wish your father had been different. The pain he caused you feels so much like the pain Cole's father caused him.” He started to stroke his back once more. “You both deserved better.”

---

He was long beyond wishing his father had been different. He’d wished that for so long, but wishing hadn’t changed anything. “It’s okay… I learned more in the Circle than I ever could have as an apostate.” It was the only silver lining he could think of.

---

“You did. All that happened to you has made you a far better man than he was.” He let his hand slide higher, stroking his fingers into the mage's hair. He heaved a soft sigh, the old remnants of Cole's hurt and anger weighing on him.

---

He liked to pretend he was past all of that, but if there was anything he could change, it would be to have simply grown up in his village. To have lived a normal life. As much as he’d enjoyed the adventure of his life… he yearned for the simpleness of having a home. He didn’t dwell on it much these days, though, and at least this way he had a purpose.

---

He followed the train of Anders’ thoughts, but kept his own to himself. He had turned out better for his trials and he impacted so many lives. It may have been better for Anders to live a simple life or it may not of been, but as things were now he was helping so many others. It was likely something he and Justice would agree on.

---

With the quiet, his thoughts began to fade and he began to fall under. Much like last time, it was a peaceful sleep and his entire body was limp, but pressed as much into Cole as possible. There wasn't much choice in the cot, but even if they hadn’t had a lack of room, he would still be pressed as close as possible. In his dreams, there were kittens.

---

Anders’ dreams eased his own troubled thoughts. He smiled and held him tightly, using the hand in his hair to keep his head cradled against him. He would wait for him to wake and if he chose to help rouse him again with kisses, he could hope that Justice would take it better this time.

Chapter Text

As with the night, the morning was also much like last time. Anders woke slowly, shifting here and there, adjusting against him. Justice, who had spent all night mulling about the spirit that held them, wasn’t feeling much better, but Anders’ calm did influence his own. He was comforted too and the magic had helped him, even though he was receiving it indirectly.

---

“Good morning.” It was a funny mortal expression to him. How did they know it was a good morning if they were only just waking up? He started to toy with his hair between his fingers, letting him come out of sleep slowly.

---

He hummed, hearing the greeting and recognizing it, but still out of it enough that he didn’t really take it in. He began to crack his eyes slightly, but he wasn’t ready to open them, so as soon as he saw a hint of light, he shut them again. His mind was pleasantly fogged with the restful night’s sleep he’d gotten.

---

He tipped his chin down and kissed his forehead. “I liked your dreams. You should try to dream of kittens more often.”

---

He registered that much, though there was a delay, and he chuckled. “You’re spying on my dreams.” His voice was thick with sleep and he didn’t want to open his eyes still, so he stayed as he was. His worries from the night before hadn’t caught up to him, though he could feel an urging to either remain tucked against his neck or to get up and start the day.

---

“I don't mean to. I can't help but hear them. It is how I can help, people usually don't talk about what really hurts them so I have to be able to hear it anyway.” He knew it was somewhat rude by moral standards, but it couldn't be helped.

---

“You hear a lot you shouldn’t.” He didn’t mind though. After the initial shock of it all, he’d gotten over it. He had nothing to hide. Maybe it would be different for someone else, but after acquiring a being in his mind that knew everything there was to know, there wasn’t anything left to hide. Anything that he be his alone. “It was a good dream.”

---

“Probably so. But your secrets are safe with me.” He massaged his scalp in slow circles with his fingertips. “We can make that dream reality this morning when we visit the kittens.”

---

Finally, he opened his eyes and pulled back a little. Then he remembered last time. What had happened. He looked down at his lips and, because he wanted some agency, he leaned in and kissed him. He could feel his stomach tighten with emotion that was not his own, but he willed it to simply settle.

---

The kiss was surprising, mostly in that Justice had allowed it. That he hadn't taken control to stop his host. Cole was still for a beat, then returned the kiss, keeping it soft and simple.

---

It wasn’t even really that he wanted to kiss him. Last time, it had simply felt so good and right that he’d returned it. Now, he wanted to because it was his choice… and because it felt good. It still felt right. Justice didn’t like it, but he did and he lifted a hand to rest on Cole’s cheek, drawing it out. Soft and simple was nice, but he didn’t want to add short to that list.

---

Cole closed his eyes, relaxing into the kiss since it seemed the mage meant to let it linger. He worked his lips against his slowly and tenderly. It was nice to share this with him, even if it wasn't really his place to do so.

---

The tenderness was what felt good. The way he held and touched him was so intense and he knew there were no ulterior motives behind it. He needed this and he didn’t mind that he getting it from a spirit. Like he’d told Justice - Cole was his friend, no matter what he was.

If anything, it was better that he was a spirit. As stated, he could trust him in a way that he couldn’t trust a mortal.

Like you, he told Justice.

He stroked his cheek and suckled softly on his lower lip.

---

When his lip was sucked, he let his tongue brush against his lip. It was intriguing and he liked the way it felt. Cole had only had little opportunity for such intimacy in life, as short and difficult as his time alive had been. But the memories were pleasant and he drew from them to know what to do.

---

Anders felt the tongue and met it with his own, brushing them together briefly. He slid his arm down and around him, tugging on the back of his shirt, trying to shift, wanting Cole to come over him.

---

Cole didn't know what he wanted at first, but the more he shifted, the more he caught on. He settled over Anders, letting the mage take his weight though he had very little weight at all. He worked his tongue with his, still keeping everything he did very soft and sweet.

---

His stomach was still tight, but the rest of him felt good. Anders slid both arms around him and pulled his knees up, resting his feet flat on the cot so Cole was surrounded by him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, he wondered what he would look like if he were himself. If he were not Cole. Would he feel the same?

He didn’t want to stop and Justice wanted it to stop, but Anders chose himself again, as he had more and more since Cole had come to him.

---

He had to adjust his arms with their new positioning, but it was easy enough to get comfortable. His tongue was getting more exploratory, venturing further into his mouth. It seemed that the mage was able to enjoy this even if Justice was protesting so he had no intention of stopping.

---

Anders made a sound, accepting his tongue in his mouth and even sucking on it. He was pretty good at kissing or at least, he worked well with him. Along with his other wonderings, he was curious if it was because he was using Cole’s memories or if he was able to anticipate what he wanted from his thoughts.

His hands slid down to the bottom of his tunic and they slipped beneath it, feeling his skin. That was far more intimate and he began to touch the bare flesh. It felt strange. Not right, but there was no denying that it was skin.

---

It was perhaps a little of both that had him responding as he was. It was the intuition that drove him to work a hand into Anders’ robe and touched the bare skin of his back. It felt good to be touched, he understood that for himself now rather than just relying on Cole's memory, though he imagined that it was the human part of him that made this intimacy enjoyable.

---

He arched in response, even that simple touch making him yearn for more. He wanted their clothes to fall away so they could lay skin to skin. He wasn’t really wanting more than that, not really, but he did want to be bare. “Cole,” he breathed, finding it so strange that he felt so much like a lover, but wasn’t.

---

He didn’t see any harm in that desire and so he sought the fastenings of his underrobes to start pulling them away. “I’m glad I can make you feel good…” That he could take this comfort from a spirit and that Justice hadn’t ruined it for him as he had before.

---

Anders opened his eyes and looked up at him. He wasn’t attracted to him, but that he was drawn to him. Very drawn to him. He leaned up and brushed their lips together, then grabbed the bottom of his tunic to pull it up and off. Then he helped him with his robes, before trying to push his trousers and his smallclothes down in a single motion.

---

His face hadn’t frightened Anders and he hoped that his body would not either the more it was revealed. It was the body of a young man who had been beaten, abused, and starved to death, after all. But his bones were still covered in flesh, which was not as warm as it should be but flesh that would still hopefully bring him comfort. He helped him with the clothes until they were both bare, listening for his reaction to be sure he still wanted the contact with him.

---

He looked down between them and he paused, staring at him. A hand reached out, touching his side, and tears began to sting in his eyes. How easily this could have been him. It hadn’t been, but it could have. He wished that he looked different and again, he wondered what his true form was, but he wasn’t repulsed. He slid his arm back around him and pulled him down, wanting their bellies flush.

---

“I don’t remember my true form. Probably not all that different from your Compassion. But now I am Cole. I’m relieved that I don’t frighten you…” Though he did, in a way. He’d still gotten an emotional response out of Anders and the old fear that was his punishment in the Circle. He slid a hand along Anders’ side as he settled between his thighs once more.

--

He saw him as his own person, not as the human that had died in his care, so he had a hard time accepting that he really wasn’t all that different than they were. Perhaps because he also had a hard time accepting what a new body would do to Justice - would he still feel like they were one?

“You don’t,” he agreed. It wasn’t his first time seeing something like this… just never to that degree.

---

He sought his lips once more, curious if it would feel different now that they were naked. The warmth from Anders’ skin was nice and he did feel closer to him without the barrier or clothing. He wondered if perhaps his own comforting influence would be stronger on the mage with so much direct contact between them.

---

He returned the kiss deeply, his hands stroking his back. It wasn’t as warm as it was supposed to be, so he provided the heat himself, warming his hands and running his fingers over the ridges of bone in is spine and along his ribs. That felt so much better and he couldn’t get enough of him. The contact was perfect and he wanted as much as he could possibly get.

---

He made a soft sound against his lips. It was nice to get caught up in a kiss with him like this and the heat from his magic was nice. He’d never appreciated warmth quite like this. He let his hands wander as well, touching his back and his sides, letting soothing magic of his own trail his fingertips.

---

He continued to arch, wanting to add to the pressure between their bodies. Nothing else mattered and even the tightness of his stomach seemed to ease, even though Justice was as unhappy as ever. As far as he was concerned, this was way too much. As far as Anders was concerned, it still wasn’t enough, but there was little more he could do to get closer to him.

---

Mimicking what Anders had done before, he moved a hand up to rest on the mage’s cheek while he kissed him, giving his lower lip a firm suck. He gave up exploring with one hand to instead wind his arm around him and hold him tightly when he felt him press harder against his body. His hold was much stronger than the frail-looking frame of his body would suggest.

---

He sighed, sucking Cole’s upper lip since his bottom one was briefly claimed. His hand slid up his spine and he found the nape of his neck, his fingers brushing at the limp locks that hung there. He tipped his head back slightly, wanting his lips to descend lower, though he didn’t want to ask this of him, even if just feeling that way was the same as asking with him.

---

If didn’t matter that he didn’t want to ask him, the desire was heard just the same. He broke the kiss and began to trail his lips lower, kissing along the length of his neck. He felt a bit of heat that he wasn’t familiar with as he thought of a memory Cole had of sucking on...various parts of another mortal’s body, but it was a positive feeling and so he tried it, closing his lips around a tender spot and sucking softly.

---

Anders whimpered, the spot and the sucking exactly what he’d wanted. He shut his eyes, the hand at his nape sliding into his hair and clutching at the back of his head. He wanted him to suck harder. It would feel so good if he sucked so hard on his skin that it ached.

---

He didn’t really understand. Why would he want it to hurt? But he did as he asked, without really asking, sucking hard on the soft flesh of his throat. When he let off of it, he dragged his tongue slowly over the spot, curious of he wanted it to keep aching or if he could heal it for him.

---

Anders whimpered again, though this time the whimper came with his name. One of his legs hooked around the spirit’s and he rocked himself. It wasn’t an attempt at friction between their hips, rather he just felt the need to move and create friction between their bodies.

---

The second time he dragged his tongue over the spot, he healed the mark and the ache he’d caused. If Anders wanted them back, he would give him a new one. He started to rock his body in response, finding that it felt very natural to move with him. “Anders…”

---

He tipped his head back down and he brushed their lips together, his eyes fixed on him. He finally recognized how far this had gone, despite Justice’s agitation all along, when his cock began to stiffen. Yet still, he didn’t want to stop. He wasn’t doing this for the sake of that… that was just a byproduct of this. He couldn’t stop rocking and it had nothing to do with the beginnings of heat in his loins.

---

He wasn't surprised that he was growing hard. That was what tended to happen when bodies worked together this way. His own body hadn't responded in kind, but all of this felt so good and he wondered if it would eventually. He kissed him, sighing softly against his lips.

---

Anders shut his eyes and kissed him deeply. It would be lying to say that in his youth he hadn’t wondered what it might be like to fuck a spirit or even a demon. It was a topic that all of the young mages in the Circle discussed in hushed whispers from time to time. Some even bragged about having done it, though anyone that did was never believed.

This wasn’t the same as that, though, and Anders had no intention of changing anything. This was enough. Just lips and the heat of skin moving together. He moaned under his breath, his hands sliding down and pressing at the small of his back.

---

The rolling of their hips felt better and better the longer it went on. Eventually he realized he had grown hard as well and though he'd somewhat been expecting it, it still felt odd. He broke the kiss to look down between them, fascinated. His body had never done this in all of the time he'd had it.

---

When Cole looked down, so did he. It was almost bizarre to see him in this state, but it wasn’t a surprise. He’d felt it, he just hadn’t thought about it until he saw it. “Is it okay?” He assumed he had experience with this. Perhaps not with a person, but perhaps by himself.

Justice was appalled.

---

“It feels good. It has just...never done that. When it was Cole's it did, of course. But never since it has been mine.” He seemed both amused and intrigued by this development and smiled to Anders.

---

Anders’ brows lifted and then he chuckled, amused. The clinical observation was funny to him, as was his apparent fascination with that bit of his anatomy. Since it seemed he didn’t know what to do with it, Anders reached down and took him in hand, stroking him. “How does that feel?” He was genuinely curious, since apparently this was something he’d never experienced before.

---

He drew in a slow breath, surprised by the potency of the sensation. It was such a simple touch, but now that it was hard, it felt so good. “Incredible. ...I'm starting to understand why mortals do strange things when their blood runs hot like this.”

---

He smiled. If only Justice could understand.

The spirit was not amused. This is going too far. You do not need to be having sex with Cole. This is why you have Milos, is it not?

He wasn’t having sex with Cole though, was he? Maybe… It hadn’t been his intention, not through any of this. Not even when he hardened, but he was so endeared by him and his inexperience. There was oil within reach. What would it hurt? He could just share some closeness with him and show him something and maybe once he experienced it for himself, he could help Justice understand.

---

He didn’t think it would hurt anything. But then, this was new for him so he wasn’t sure what the impact would be. Curious, he reached down to wrap his fingers around Anders, giving him an experimental stroke. “Does it feel as good when I do it for you?”

---

“It feels good,” he confirmed. Maybe not as good, simply because he wasn't use to doing it. He didn’t have the technique down and a single stroke didn’t do much, anyway. “Do you want to?” He knew Cole had heard what he was considering. If he didn’t want to, then they could simply continue kissing, but if he did, then he would grab the oil.

---

“Yes, I want to know more.” This was a fascinating human need that he’d only understood in theory. He wanted to explore it further. He kissed him firmly, a hunger that hadn’t been in his earlier kisses starting to emerge. Still, it was very mild. It was more the novelty of pleasure and the new sensations than actual yearning.

---

Anders nodded, but before he could actually shift, he found himself in a heated kiss. For a brief moment, he flickered in agitation, but he pushed it down. It’s okay. It’s nothing, just closeness. He knew Justice didn’t like that part about it either, but he thought the fact that it wasn’t more than that should mean something.

He kissed him hard, knowing that if Justice wanted to, he could be putting in a lot more effort to make this harder on him. Like he did with many things. Like he use to do with even this, but he’d stopped with Milos and so far, his dissent had been minimal. It’ll be okay. I know you’re trying, just trust me.

---

He could hear Anders assuring his spirit that this was alright. He added a bit of magic into his touches to the mage, hoping that it would help to soothe Justice as well. This would be alright for all of them. He kissed him in a way that he felt was a little needy, which was odd because he so seldom felt that he needed anything.

---

He reached blindly, but when that failed, be broke the kiss long enough to lean over and grab the oil from where it was sitting. He applied some to his fingers and then used it to stroke and coat Cole, his grip firm as he worked his cock thoroughly.

---

He drew a shuddering breath. “That feels...a lot better…” It felt so different with a little oil and he couldn’t help rocking his hips into the stroking hand. “I want to do that for you…” He wanted to make Anders feel just as good so he took the oil to add some to his fingers as well.

---

All of this was new to Cole, so he nodded. “Go ahead.” He was sure he wanted to try everything, so he would let him do whatever he wished. He continued to stroke him, though he was somewhat conscious that he wouldn’t last long, most likely, so he kept his stroking slow.

---

When his fingers were slick, he took Anders in hand again. He began to stroke him, mimicking when he felt the man doing to him. His own hips kept up their needy rocking, unable to believe how good it felt. Why did it feel so good?

---

That definitely felt much better and he sighed, looking down between them to where they were touching each other. This was certainly novel and he was enjoying it as much as Cole was - it was new for both of them.

After a while, he tilted his hips up and pushed his cock down to his entrance. Go ahead

Cole studied him and his thoughts for a moment, making sure he really wanted this before pushing into him. He gasped, releasing his cock to wind his arms tightly around him. Almost tight enough to be painful. His body knew what to do and he began to thrust, his movements slow and curious.

---

The reaction startled him and he laughed, sliding his arms around him in return. The sound faded into a moan as he began to meet his movements. “Is it good?” Obviously it was and he couldn’t help but be endeared, especially by the way he was holding him.

“So good. This makes so much more sense now…” He gave him a series of soft, brief kisses, feeling so affectionate and connected with the mortal who had chosen to share this with him. “Anders…” Instinct told him to thrust faster and harder, Cole would have when he was alive, but he didn't want to right now. This was perfect.

---

What made sense? What was there to make sense of? Justice didn’t understand.

Anders met the kisses and returned his own, stroking his back and enjoying the rocking as much as he had before. It was better now, having him inside, and still his cock was pressed between them and getting friction from the pressure of their hips.

He tipped his head back again, wanting him to suck again. Softly, sweetly, and then hard.

Cole did as he wanted, moving his lips to his neck. He sucked on his flesh softly, taking his time to work up to sucking hard enough to make him ache. His hips seemed to follow along in the change in tone, starting to pump into him harder the longer it went on.

---

He moaned again, deeper. His hands ran all over his back, the touch as intimate as what Cole was giving him. He found his ass and gave it a rub, then a squeeze. Then his hand worked its way back up his spine, wanting to touch all of him.

More than anything, he just wanted this attention. Even going this far with him felt different from what he would do with anyone else.

“Cole,” he murmured, so warm, so heated.

The hands on his skin gave him a shiver despite the warmth in them. It made him break the contact with his neck in surprise, but he smiled and quickly got back to work. He moaned, a hand slipping down between them to stroke Anders’ cock though it took a little while for him to get the rhythm right with his hips.

---

The friction had been perfectly fine, but the hand was even more pleasant. He used a hand to pull his face up, kissing him him deeply. He was breathing heavily and it warmed the air between their faces any time the kiss broke, but he was always quick to reconnect it.

---

He closed his eyes melting into his kisses. His magic was intensifying, but it wasn't intentional. It seemed that most of what he was doing was driven by instinct and emotion - the lack of control was so strange and so...mortal.

---

The hand that had pulled him up slid into his hair and gripped him there. He needed more, but he didn’t feel like he needed it. It felt wonderful as it was and he didn’t want this to be about the sex. It was about how close he felt to him right now and he felt so, so very close to him - it was more intimate at this pace than if they moved for pleasure.

Yet, he did need more. His body needed more and when he felt the magic intensifying, he couldn’t help his moans.

---

He was reading the conflict in Anders and as much as he would also like to keep the same pace, they both needed more. He groaned against his lips, his thrusts growing faster. Just like the arm around Anders, his hips were nearly too hard and if not for his soothing magic, the pounding would likely be painful.

---

He had to break from his mouth, though he kept close enough to catch Cole’s pants and offer his own. He squeezed his eyes shut, meeting him until it was too much. His  legs wrapped around his waist and letting him fuck him as hard as he wanted. He cried out his name, writhing beneath him, his cock throbbing and threatening to unload.

---

He started to buck into him wildly as his need intensified. At this point, he'd be bruising him badly at least if his magic wasn't preventing it. He cried out in equal parts pleasure and surprise as he spilled into Anders, unable to believe how incredible it felt to fill him.

---

As soon as the spirit came, he followed, cumming hard and making a mess of both of them. He tightened his arms around him, holding Cole against him so he couldn’t move, needing him to stay close. He was trembling in the aftermath and as he began to recover, he started pressing soft kisses to his mouth.

---

He eased his hold as he came down from his release, though he kept an arm around him. He returned those soft kisses, opening his eyes once more to study him. “Thank you for showing me how good that is. I knew from Cole’s memory but...experiencing it myself was different.”

---

He looked up at him, meeting his gaze. “Will you stay longer?” He didn’t want him to go right away. That was something that a man might do - take what he wanted and leave - but he wasn’t a man.

---

“I will. I don’t want to leave right now.” He wanted to savor how close he felt to him. “Besides, I promised you we would see the kittens this morning. But I want to lie with you a little longer first.”

---          

He smiled and kissed him again, but it was brief and he laid his head back. He felt really good and he wanted Cole to hold him as he had the nights he’d stayed with him. Wanting that from him, he knew he ought to return the favor, so he began to slowly stroke his fingers against his back. Maybe tonight he’d come back and they could do this again. Even without the sex, he wouldn’t mind doing this again.

---

“I will come back tonight if I am not sorely needed elsewhere.” He kissed his forehead, every bit as tender as he kissed him on the nights he held him. He wasn’t sure if he was supposed to stay inside of him now that they were done, Cole’s memories varied on the topic, but for now it seemed most comfortable and he didn’t want to break their contact. He slid his other arm around Anders, holding him and having no interest in releasing him. “I wonder if I am the first spirit to actually get to experience this first hand.”

---

Justice agreed. Cole couldn’t come as much as Anders might want him to and he couldn’t ask him to come any more than that. He had a job to do and the last thing they needed to do was distract each other. The entire point of Cole was to be there when Anders was distracted by his mortal needs - what was the point if Cole simply became one of those distractions?

He was still jealous.

“You might be,” he agreed, brushing their noses together. “I’ve never heard of a spirit possessing a mage, though I’m sure it’s happened.” Anders didn’t think he was the first… but if they were anything like Justice, then probably not. Then again, maybe if they were another spirit, maybe they wouldn’t mind so much.

“Maybe there is some spirit in the Fade that has had time with a mortal.”

Justice was offended by the suggestion. No noble spirit would stoop to behaving as Desire… Then again, Cole just had. Had he been corrupted by it?

---

“Possible, but unlikely. A demon, perhaps, but not a spirit. I think the only reason I have any interest in sex is because of Cole. Because I am no longer pure.” He hadn’t been since he became like this. He kissed his lips briefly, enjoying the nuzzling and simple affections after such a heated connection between them.

---

“I think you are.” He didn’t think having more to him made him any less pure. Even if some of it was negative… he was as good as any spirit he’d ever met. As good as his Compassion. As good as Justice… Though he had corrupted him. He didn’t think it was the same thing. Cole hadn’t been corrupted like Justice had, but whether that was because Justice was Justice or Anders was Anders, he didn’t know.

Probably the latter, but maybe it was easier to twist justice around than it was to twist compassion around.

Justice didn’t appreciate all this talk of how easily he was corrupted and he resented the idea, as always, that he was anything less than he’d been in his true form. It made him resent Cole even more… that Anders thought he was more ‘pure’ than him.

I would like to speak with him.

Anders shook his head, not realizing it. No, I don’t want you to scare him away again.

---

“I am not. Cole’s anger at the templars, his father, and the world that would allow those things to happen to him...that anger changed me. For a time, I was so hateful that Cole’s influence nearly made me into something I am not. ...The same way your anger and misery was beginning to turn Justice into something that he is not. But I was able to recover and now, even if I am no longer purely Compassion, I am able to serve my purpose better because I understand mortals better. The same way that becoming one with you has surely made Justice better.” And with any luck, continuing to help Anders and make him happy would keep the corruption in Justice from getting any worse.

---

Justice was so agitated, not only by what they’d done and what they were still doing, but what they were talking about. He was not corrupted. Perhaps it had been different for Cole, but they weren’t the same. He’d come to this world in an entirely different way and he lead an entirely different existence to him.

He hated how they made him feel like a villain. He could accept that he had changed since joining with Anders. That he’d gotten fixated on the injustices that the mages suffer. That he had made Anders suffer by fixating on them. But he wasn’t corrupted and he could never be corrupted. Justice and injustice was black and white as ever to him… if not even more so these days.

There was so much grey in the world and sometimes he struggled with that, yet he knew exactly what he had to do. He knew what was right and what was wrong when it came to the mages.

Anders could feel all of this and this time he couldn’t simply push it aside. Justice… I’m sorry, I know you don’t like this, but I needed this. I need him.

Justice would’ve huffed, if he could have. That was only a minor source of his emotions right now. I would like to speak to him. I will not scare him away.

---

“I’m sure that Justice is very upset with me.” He said softly, listening to Anders’ conversation with him. “He did not want me to spend the night with you again, much less any of this. I wish he could experience this with someone. I think it would help him understand why you need this…”

---

Anders frowned, not liking the idea any more than Justice did. He didn’t like the idea of his body being used in that way if he was not in control. He wouldn’t say it, though, and he didn’t really have to. Justice wasn’t interested, but he was curious and that was why he wanted to talk to him.

He took a deep breath and then finally consented. Go ahead. Talk to him. If he scared him away, though, he would be very upset… with both of them.

Permission was granted, but unlike usual, Justice did not take over. ...Can you please untangle yourself from him first?

---

“I mean if he has his own body. Not with yours.” He frowned a little when he heard his thoughts. “He will not scare me away. I know I hurt you by leaving.” He wouldn’t do it again unless the spirit made it impossible for him to stay near Anders.

---

He would have to get up then. He sighed, regretful, and gave him another kiss. “Justice wants some space before he takes over.” He gave him a nudge to get up so he could do the same.

---

That was unsurprising. He got up and began to dress, disappointed that they had to break what had been such an intense connection. Justice had allowed them to do this, the least they could do was make themselves decent before he came forward to give him a piece of his mind.

---

Anders didn’t want to get cum on his robes, so he moved to give himself a wipe with a rag before he dressed, something resigned to him. When he was dressed, he moved to sit on the edge of his exam table, figuring this conversation would be better done in the open than in the nook.

---

Cole hadn't even noticed the mess on him between everything that had happened between them. It made his clothes unpleasantly sticky, but he could clean up later. He followed Anders out of the nook, taking a seat on a stool and waiting for the spirit to join them.

---

When they were settled, Justice took Anders’ place. He radiated unhappiness, but he wasn’t as angry as he could have been. He looked at him quietly and after a time, he spoke up, “The moment you… joined with him, you said you understood it.”

He wanted to know what he was talking about.

He was a little surprised that the spirit wasn't enraged, but it was a relief. He considered his question a long moment, trying to decide how to explain. “I had a basic understanding about the mortal need for sex. That it is hormonally driven need and that it can make them do very strange and irrational things. I knew that it can be as simple as an animal rutting or that it can be an emotional experience, depending on circumstances. But the connection, the fulfillment that comes with sharing that degree of intimacy with someone you care about...I understood it in theory, but it made so much more sense to experience it for myself.”

---

He frowned. He knew that Anders felt all that. He felt his emotions and he basically experienced it with him, much to his displeasure, but he didn’t feel any differently about it.

“I don’t understand. I experience it when he experiences it. I know that it… feels good and that it fulfills his needs, but there is no further “understanding” that I feel.”

It wasn’t a bad experience, but it was one that he would prefer not to have.

“I wish you could experience it the way that he does. It really is wonderful. I don't think it was even something that Cole really experienced. He never had a chance to really get attached to anyone. His memories of sex are pleasant, but not meaningful.” Not like this had been. “Maybe if you have your own body you can see for yourself.”

---

He supposed the only times Anders had sex since they’d joined had been with people he wasn’t attached to. Not until Cole and he had been so worked up the entire time that all the emotion that Anders had experienced had been negative for him.

“There is none I care about like Anders.”

He didn’t think he would want to have sex with anyone. Not even Anders.

“I know they believe they can have sex without Desire’s influence, but I do not believe it. Even if it is only some of it - desire is dangerous.”

His eyes widened and he shook his head. “Desire had no part of what I just shared with him. There was nothing demonic or dangerous there. There wasn't when Cole had sex either, even if his experiences were based on hormonal needs and not emotional ones.”

---

“You said yourself - it often as simple as animals rutting. That is desire. They rut because they are influenced by their desires.” He didn’t trust that Cole wasn’t similarly influenced. “Perhaps desire has simply gotten to you too.”

“It has not.” He frowned deeply, not liking the idea at all. “Just as Anders’ anger is not Rage. He can occasionally get angry without demonic influence just as simply as he can have desire without demonic influence. He is not ruled by them, that is the difference.”

---

He folded his arms and tapped his fingers against one of them. He had a point, but even so… it was a distraction he did not want. “I suppose you feel you are like him. That you are not ruled by such emotions.” Since he considered himself ‘tainted’ by the mortal. He was allowed to bask in such emotions without being changed by them… and yet he said himself that hate had almost taken him over.

---

“Yes. It took me time to learn to deal with human emotion. But I did not let myself become Rage just as I would never let myself become Desire. Mortals need to indulge in their sins and vices sometimes to keep their emotions balanced. The Maker intended it that way. If that wasn't true, he would have only made spirits and demons.” He could have succumbed to hatred easily, but it was a relief that he was still...not really Compassion, but a strange combination of himself and Cole.

---

He looked down. He had complex feelings regarding the Maker, as did all those that dwelt in the Fade. He couldn’t remember what he had been like in the beginning. Before the Maker had cast them away and created the mortals and their realm.

They were then, spirits and demons, the same. They were all curious and jealous of the mortals and they all dealt with it in different ways. He’d chosen justice, modeling himself after all that was righteous and he’d been as such for so long that he didn’t know anything else.

Not until he came here. He’d learned a lot, but the longer he spent inside Anders, the more that he clung to his creed.  

“I am not like you. I am not corrupted…” Yet still, he was also Anders. He believed that. If he was Anders, did that included his flaws?

Of course it did.

He shook his head. “I don’t want to be like them. For all of the good in this world, there is as much bad and you and I do not belong here. It is dangerous for us - we can turn into something we are not. In a way that they cannot.”

“You have gotten close. You have let anger taint your sense of justice and have nearly become Vengeance, as Anders called you. But you have let me help. Your host has been happier and healthier. I know I have frustrated you, but because of your tolerance, you have become more truly you than you have been in a long time.” He said this gently, knowing he struggled with it. “I have been trying to help you both.”

---

He frowned deeply, not wanting to hear that. “No… it is natural to be angered by injustice. Anger can be effective in-“ He stopped short. He wasn’t wrong, of course, but encouraging anger was exactly what Rage would be doing.

Their teeth grinded together.

“It is what Anders and I do together that makes me what I am. It is not the sloth you encourage for the sake of selfish happiness… The only person you’ve helped is him and in doing so, you have allowed others to hurt. The only reason I do what you want is because I do love him.”

“Is that so? The clinic has been open just as much as it had been before I arrived. Anders is still putting his patients first. The mages are safer than they have ever been within the Circle due to my presence there and more and more are escaping the city because of my work with the Underground. I have helped to accomplish Anders’ ambition to make this place start to become a soup kitchen as well as a place of healing.” He folded his arms over his chest. “I have not made him selfish and I have not allowed others to hurt for a single mortal's happiness.”

---

He shook his head. “You speak as if you on intend on staying here. What you say would be true if you never left Kirkwall, but since you intend on leaving some day, there will be no one left to help him. He will have to put in the same amount of work as before, except he will be even more unhappy about it because he will have something to mourn.” He wasn’t denying that he’d done a lot of good for Kirkwall and for them, but a lot of what he’d done was to take weight off of Anders and soon as he left, the weight would be right back on him. Either he would shoulder it or he wouldn’t and others would end up hurt.

---

“The more time I spend here, the less I feel that I will ever have to leave. I go where I am needed. When I met Anders, I assumed my stay would be short here because I would have some people to tend to and then be called elsewhere. But there are so many people here that need me. The more I help Anders, the more I can help all of them.” He would never have a dull day in Kirkwall. “Even if something dire called me away from Kirkwall, I would return when my work was done. There are other Compassion spirits to answer the needs of mortals elsewhere as well.”

---

He studied him. “Is it them or is it him?” Is the reason he really wanted to stay Anders? The jealousy filled him again and it too was an emotion he didn’t want. He didn’t like how affected he’d been by it as of late. It wasn’t an emotion he’d ever experienced himself before this.

---

“It is both. There are many people here that I want to keep helping. But none that I am more fond of than Anders.” He had never been quite so attached to anyone.

---

He was quiet for a while. “It is better for all of us if you stay.” He ought to be glad that he was saying and he was, but it was complicated now. “I will be able to do a lot more, as you are, when I have a body of my own.” He refused to believe that he would not be able to be as Cole was. He looked down. “It was a lot easier for me to be in this world when I was in a dead body.” It had been like having a body of his own, but everything was… dulled. Perhaps because the mind had been dead, but apart from the echo of memories and emotions, it had been only him.

“I did not feel as I do now. I am… conflicted.” It was hard to admit, but he was struggling. With what he was and with what to do with this time he had with Anders.

---

“I miss Cole and I so deeply regret that I could not have found his suffering sooner so that I could have saved him. But if he was still alive and we shared this body, I think it would be difficult to give up my agency over what I do. I cannot sympathize, but I do understand why it is difficult for you.” He frowned deeply. “I want to help you.” He just didn’t know how, exactly.

---

“I just need a body of my own.” He felt like everything would be better. He could be his own person and do whatever he wanted whenever he wanted. He wouldn’t have to worry about the influence Anders had on him… All he would have to worry about was the influence of the emotions he was so wary of.

He didn’t think he would feel those emotions so often if it wasn’t for Anders. Because he was Anders. But unlike Cole, he decided that when he separated from him, that he wouldn’t feel like he was still him.

“I could take better care of both of us.” Then they couldn’t accuse him of being corrupt anymore.

The idea of being corrupted truly bothered him. More than anything else. That’s why his denial was so strong.

“I will keep looking for a way.” It would probably be better for both of them if they could separate. The conflict between them would ease but they could still be close and work together. “I will try take care of both of you until then. And everyone else here.” Even the cats outside.

---

He wasn’t really happy with any of this, but there wasn’t anything else he could do. “...Just remember that he is mine.” After they separated, maybe it wouldn’t matter so much, but right now it mattered a lot. “If he likes you more than me, so be it, but I would like it if you refrained from letting him get any further attached to you.” He was already so invested in him and Justice could just feel that he favored him. He didn’t want it to get to the point they Anders began considering replacing him, try as he did to deny that he ever would.

---

“It is up to him to decide how he feels. How much or how little he is attached to me is out of my hands. But I will remind you that I am no threat. He would never replace you and I have no interest in joining with any mortal.” Not even Anders.

---

“You do, though. If you would come to the clinic less, he wouldn’t become as attached to you.” He shifted uncomfortably. He didn’t want to address what he wasn’t letting himself feel. That it was awful that Anders liked another spirit over him and that he felt more connected to him, despite them sharing a body and mind.

---

“But I would not be able to help as much if I came here less often. Not only Anders, but his patients. It is better for everyone, even you, if I am here. This was only my first night back after being gone for a week and he needed me…” He frowned, still feeling awful for the way Anders had hurt over him.

---

Justice brows furrowed and after a moment, he shook his head. “I wish to speak no longer.” Without waiting for a response, he retreated, and Anders had to grip the edge of the table to stop himself from swaying. He looked around and then his eyes fell on Cole. “Cole…” He was still here, so that was a good sign.

---

Cole was still frowning deeply when Anders returned and he lowered his head a little, his hair obscuring his eyes even more than usual. “...Can we go see the kittens now?” He needed to be going and it might cheer him up a little.

---

Anders watched him warily. “What is it?” He slipped off of the table and went to him, wanting to know what they’d talked about. If Justice had said things he shouldn’t have. He could feel a block - the spirit had put up a wall between them and was staying silent. He was not happy and obviously neither was Cole.

---

When Anders approached, he rose to his feet but kept his eyes down. “He really resents me. He accepts that it is best I stay in Kirkwall and your lives but...I think he’d really prefer that I had never come in the first place. I wish he liked me better, it has been so nice to speak to another spirit after all this time…”

---

His shoulders sank. “I don’t think it’s you.” It was him. If he was what Justice wanted him to be, none of this would be an issue. He closed the distance between them and pulled him into an embrace. “Maybe I should start helping you find a way to seperate us. I think he would be a lot happier if he was on his own.” The wall seemed to thicken.

---

He draped his arms around him in return, eager to accept his embrace. It was strange to be on the receiving end of comfort for a change. “Only if he wants you to do that. You have enough to do as it is. I can take care of that and I have other mages looking.” He tightened his arms around him a little. “...He wants me to come to the clinic less often.”

---

At this point, he kind of wanted to do it himself. Justice was miserable lately and it seemed that they could not find a balance between them. “...Is that what you want?” He stayed as he was, waiting for an answer. He didn’t think so, especially not now, but maybe what Justice wanted was enough for him to create distance between them again.

---

“No.” He didn’t want to come by any less. He had only just returned to Kirkwall and they had shared something so incredible that morning. “I don’t know what to do. I do not want to upset him further. But I do not want to distance myself from you either. ...His request was that I not let you get any more attached to me. Perhaps so long as I don’t come by more often than I had been before, we can still see each other but I can also respect his wishes…”

---

Anders didn’t like that. “I don’t think you have to do that. I think if we spend as much time together as we want, he’ll see for himself that it’s not a big deal.” He wanted to see him more than he had before. He had gotten attached to him and the time apart had just made that all the more clear to him. To Justice too, he was sure.

---

“You know him far better than I do. I do not want to cross him any further, but if you feel that will ultimately help him...then I will come as often as you like.” He wasn’t sure if that was the right thing to do. But he didn’t like the alternative.

---

He nodded, pressing a kiss to his lips. “I’ll try to talk to him.” He’d avoided talking to him lately, upset as he’d been at him, but since Cole wasn’t gone, he didn’t feel as reluctant as he had before. “Let’s go look at the kittens.” Hopefully it would make both of them feel better.

---

The kiss and the suggestion warmed him and he smiled. “That sounds like a good idea.” He gave him a little kiss in return, then broke away from him to grab his hat.

---

Anders took a moment to try to put himself together. He combed through his hair and then retied it. A hand brushed the scruff on his face. He could use a shave. Maybe before he opened the clinic - he didn’t want to look any more scraggly than he was.

He went to the door and unlocked it, stepping out. There was no one here yet, but it wouldn’t be long before someone wandered by. He knew Cole wouldn’t  be far behind, so he went to the barrels and moved the one that would reveal the family.

Cole followed along and he smiled when Anders exposed the kittens. Some of them were napping against their mother, but a few were toddling around on their own, playing and peeking out curiously when the barrel was moved. The mother blinked lazily up at them, then set her head back down to resume dozing with her babies.

---

Anders crouched and reached for one of the kittens that were moving about, pulling it into his arms. “Good morning, pretty widdle kitty.” He pressed a kiss to the top of its head and began to stroke its back.

Cole's mood brightened significantly and he plucked up a kitten, nuzzling his face against it. “You're not a runt anymore. What a big, strong kitty you're growing into…”

---

He looked over at the cat Cole was holding and smiled. “They’re all doing well.” He used a little magic to examine the one he was holding, confirming his words. “They’re so sweet.” He loved babies in all forms, but especially kittens.

“They are. Their mother is doing such a good job…” He picked up a second kitten, cradling them together. “Do you have a favorite, Anders?”

---

Anders knew why he was asking. He looked between them and and after a few beats, he shook his head. “No, of course not. They’re all precious.” What he wouldn’t admit was that his eyes had lingered longest on one that was mostly grey with splashes of white on the face, paws and chest.

---

The mage’s thoughts had answered what his words wouldn’t and Cole smiled, but nodded. “They are all precious. I will find homes for each of them, it is what their mother wishes. She wants them to never know hunger or fear of predators.” He reached out to scratch the mama cat beneath her chin and she purred loudly.

---

“She’s a good mama.” He reached to give her a little stroke of his own and then he plucked up another kitten as he drew his hand back in, wanting to give it equal attention that he’d given the first kitten.

---

“This one does not want to be picked up.” Cole said as he reached for a black kitten nestled against its mother, stopping just short of touching it. It mewed and sniffed at his fingers, then tentatively rubbed its head against them. “He is friendly, but on his own terms.”

---

“Most of them are like that.” From what he knew of cats, anyway. Not that it ever stopped him from picking one up. He just tried not to overdo it. The kittens in his arms seemed happy to be there and he was happy to have them.

---

He gave the kittens tucked into his arm a nuzzle each, then set them back down by the barrels. “I need to be going. I will come back when I can.” He said, glad that they had taken the time to enjoy the kittens together after all that had happened that morning.

---

Anders looked over at him. “Alright.” He looked back down at the kittens and spent a little longer just giving him love, before setting them down and putting the barrel back. “...See you later.” He wasn’t sure if was still going to come tonight, but he supposed it depended on if there was something to keep him away.

---

“How do you know?” Before he could give him a chance to answer, he closed the distance between them and kissed his lips. As soon as he broke it, he vanished. He was long overdue at the Circle and he knew he had a lot of work to catch up on. But he would be happy to do it, especially knowing that he could see the mage again when he was done.

---

Anders remained where he was for a while, just mulling over everything. The parting kiss had warmed him, but he could still feel the lingering emotions that they were struggling with. He went back to the clinic and no one was there yet, but he was running out of time to get everything ready, himself included, so he started in on that.

Can we sit down? The wall had lowered a little and he could feel how solemn Justice was.

Anders paused, then made his way to his desk, sitting down as requested. What is it? He hadn’t expected him to say anything, much less ask him to do anything.

There was no response. Anders waited a minute or so, just trying to sort through everything, to see if he could figure it out that way, but it was hard to tell what he was thinking. Then, out of nowhere, his hand moved on its own. He could see it cracked with light, which was nothing new, but it was bizarre to feel it move without willing it to. It was also odd that the rest of his body remained unlit.

What are you doing?! He was freaked out because Justice had never taken control of him while he was still conscious. Maybe it was simply that he’d never attempted to, but the hand continued to move, lifting and brushing against his own cheek. He could feel it, but it didn’t feel like it was his hand, even though he felt the rasp of his beard through his fingertips.

He didn’t like it, but he realized what Justice was doing. He was giving him affection…  the only way he could. He just sat there while the spirit caressed his cheek and slowly but surely, he began to tear up.

“Justice…”

He could feel how wounded he was, the wall falling and all of his emotions flooding in. The hand fell and the light faded and for a while, they were both quiet.

Perhaps we can keep the clinic closed today and spend some time together.

Justice didn’t even know what that meant, really, but it seemed like what they needed to do.

Anders lifted his other hand up to brush the back of them over his eyes. He nodded. They could do that.

Chapter Text

It was late when Cole returned to the clinic. He wasn’t sure if he would make it while the mage was awake. But if he had already gone to sleep, he would stay with him anyway and hold him through the night. He made his way quietly into the clinic, moving through the door rather than trying to open it since it was likely Anders had it locked at this time of night.

---

Anders was laying in his cot, curled up on his side. It was late enough that he didn’t think Cole was coming and he was sad about that, but Justice had comforted him. After spending the day together, most of the time passed talking or simply resting, which was strange for them, they were both feeling a lot better about things.

It’d been a long time since they’d put in effort to communicate - they didn’t really have to most of time considering that they heard everything the other thought or felt. For the most part, anyway. It was a little one-sided and sometimes Justice could conceal his thoughts in a way that Anders never could.

--

Cole moved through the dark clinic and found Anders resting in his cot. His thoughts were serene and it was hard to tell if he was resting or lightly sleeping, but at least he didn’t seem especially troubled. He eased himself into the cot beside him and carefully pulled the mage into his arms, cradling him to his chest.

---

As soon as he felt movement, Anders’ eyes cracked open and he looked up at him as Cole pulled him in. “Cole,” he murmured, happy to see him. He had come after all. He slid his arm around him and kissed him softly. “I thought you weren’t coming.”

---

“I had a lot of work to do or I would have come sooner.” He returned his kiss, sighing softly. He was seldom weary, but tonight he was and he was grateful to have a bed to rest in. Not to mention someone he liked to share it with.

---

He was glad that he was here at all. He shut his eyes and rested his forehead against his shoulder. He knew that Justice wanted to speak to him again, but he’d assured him that he could wait until morning.

---

“I will talk to you both in the morning. For now, get some sleep. It is late and I could use a little rest myself.” He didn’t sleep, but he could rest his body and let his mind drift. It was refreshing to do so and he would be ready for more work in the morning.

---

Anders hummed, taking the suggestion to heart. It had been an easy day, but it was late and he was tired and now, resting in Cole’s arms, he was comfortable. It didn’t take long for him to fall under and all that was left was the spirits, unable to communicate, but both sharing the night with Anders all the same.

---

Cole closed his eyes and let himself rest. He was attentive enough to ensure Anders’ sleep was untroubled - he would use his magic to soothe him if need be. But otherwise, he let himself relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of the night. When night gave way to the sunrise, he was feeling much better. He wasn’t sure if it would stay that way though, knowing that Justice wanted to speak to him again.

---

When Anders awoke, he felt really good. Two nights in a row spent in someone’s arms was an incredible improvement from the nights spent alone. “Good morning,” he mumbled, tipping his head up and opening his eyes to peer at him sleepily. The hold he was in was still so secure and he felt safe.

---

“Good morning, Anders.” He liked the feelings radiating from Anders. It was everything he’d wanted the man to feel since the very first night he’d found him suffering alone in his cot. He knew he wasn’t going to be able to stay with him like this every night, but as often as he could would be so beneficial for the mage.

---

He smiled and then lowered his head back to his shoulder. He wanted to cuddle and so he settled close to him, intending on staying like this for a time. He was hungry, as he was every morning, but he usually didn’t get around to eating until mid-morning. Yesterday, he’d been able to eat a little more than usual and whenever he did that, he was always hungrier in the following days.

---

Hearing him think of his stomach reminded him of something and he stroked the man’s back absently as he spoke up. “A few more people in town are being inspired by Gladys bringing food to give out at the clinic. I overheard them yesterday when I was visiting the people who needed me. Soon more people will be bringing in supplies to feed the people of Darktown.”

---

“I don’t know why everyone else is better at getting what I need than I am.” He’d been working here for years and though food was dropped off from time to time, no one had put in an effort like that before. “It’s you, of course, you’re suggesting it to them, aren’t you?

“I suggested it to Gladys. The others were inspired by her and wanted to help you and the hungry on their own.” He smiled warmly. “Sometimes mortals surprise me in their good will for each other.”

---

He found that hard to believe, but if that was all it took then he wasn’t going to complain. “I’ll have to set up an area for food if this continues.” It would be good for everyone - the only unfortunate part was that the clinic would smell good all the time and he’d be even hungrier.

“I will not let you go hungry.” There would be plenty of food for all of them, including Anders. “I just hope your clinic does not get too crowded with people coming for food.”

---

He always felt bad taking food from what was donated, even though it was almost always meant for him. “If it does, I may have to find someone to help me.” It would be a lot for him to deal with if the clinic became any more of a hub for activity than it already was.

---

“It is too much for Gladys to do, but some of the others that want to help are young and able. They could stay and help feed the people.” If they didn't offer on their own, he could nudge them in that direction.

---

“That would be nice. If they’re going to bring the food, they can be in charge of the food...” Until it ran out. Then he could focus on what he needed to. He was quiet,  thinking about all that he would have to do. It would be nice if he could get some tables for people to sit at and then perhaps move the cots closer together to make room and section the clinic off. He wasn’t sure how much anyone intended on bringing, but every little bit helped out and he wasn’t expecting feasts.

---

“Perhaps we could expand the size of the clinic.” Maybe one of the neighboring buildings were available. He kissed his brow. “Let me worry about it. You have enough work to do.”

---

It was too late, he was going to be thinking about this all day. “It’s not often people stay all throughout the night. I probably don’t need as many cots as I have. The only time they all get used is when there is a disaster that affects a lot of people, but luckily those are few and far between.”

---

“Perhaps cutting down a little would help. If there is a disaster, you can always improvise places for patients to rest.” He would help if they had to accommodate for an emergency.

---

“I’ll see what I can do today.” If he wasn’t too busy, he could start shifting things around. He sighed, trying to push the thoughts aside for now, knowing that he would be thinking them all day. Right now he just wanted to take this for what it was worth.

---

“I can help tonight if you are too busy.” He wanted Anders to be able to relax while they had the time. Thinking that he may be able to help with that, he slid a hand beneath the collar of his under robes to stroke the bare skin of his shoulder.

---

As soon as the hand began to touch his skin, he pressed closer to him, his own arm tightening around him. He tipped his head up and kissed his chin, then brushed his nose against his. “I’d like that.” Really, he’d just like it if he came.

---

“I will be here if I am not urgently needed elsewhere.” He wanted to be with him as many nights as possible. “Or if Milos is here. I can come to you after he leaves if he visits this evening.” He slid his hand along his skin and kissed his lips after their noses grazed each other.

---

He flushed a little, the idea of having time with Milos and then time with Cole making him sheepish. He was getting a little spoiled, wasn’t he? Justice agreed, but he was a bit more accepting of the possibility than he would’ve been before.

He just really liked the way Cole made him feel when they were close like this and he didn’t want to lose it just because he had Milos courting him.

He returned the kiss and pressed into him insistently.

 —

“You don't have to have just one or the other. It is good for you to be properly courted by a mortal but get your comfort from a spirit as well…” He murmured this against his lips between soft kisses.

---

Anders made a sound, the hand slid down his back to his ass and he pulled his hips in, rocking slowly. They didn’t have to go further than this, but this would feel nice.

He followed the pull, rocking his hips in return. He parted his lips, running his tongue over his lower lip. This was enough for him, but he wouldn't mind their clothes coming off. For now, his hand just dipped a little deeper into his robes.

---

He met his tongue and brushed them together, he breathing deepening as they moved. He shivered from the feel of his fingers and he dipped his own hand beneath his tunic, preemptively warming it for when he made contact.  

“I never notice how cold I am until you warm me.” The words where whispered into the kiss, pressing himself harder against him at the touch. It felt so nice in so many ways.

---

“Your body is strange.” He didn’t mean it in a cruel way - he was simply stating the truth. He had a body, but it was not fully mortal. He wondered if he could die or if he would simply return to as he was if injured. He had seed, he knew that much, so could he sire a child if he wanted? There were so many questions he knew would likely never be answered. “Is it warmer when we’re naked?” It ought to be.

---

“I have been gravely injured, but I was able to mend myself. I don't know if I can die. And yes, I am warmer when we are bare.” He took no offense, having many questions as well about his body and its limits.

---

Then they ought to be bare. He began to tug at his clothing, trying to pull it of from him so they could lay flush with nothing between them. As soon as he freed Cole, he was started to removed his robe, letting it fall aside.

---

Cole helped him to get his clothes off as well. He wasted no time pressing back into him, rolling his hips eagerly against him. “I doubt I could produce young. I am not mortal enough. But I am glad my body functions well enough to have sex with you at least.”

---

Instead of just his hands, he began to warm his entire body, knowing that would feel even better for him. The frankness of what he had to say next made him snort. “You enjoy having sex with me?” Obviously, but what he was asking was more along the lines of if he enjoyed it like Anders did. The way any mortal did and if it was because it was him specifically, or if was just because it was sex.

---

“Yes. You are the only mortal I want to share this with.” He wasn't so attached to any others like him. He was more interested in the the emotional connection than the physical pleasure but both were wonderful.

---

He smiled, then moaned as his cock thickened. Since Cole had spent so much time on his neck last time, he decided to give him the same and broke the kiss to start in on it, brushing his lips and tongue against it.

---

He drew a slow breath, tipping his head back to give him more access. He wanted to know how it would feel for him to suck on it hard as he had for Anders. He began to harden as well, his hips working harder against him as the friction started to get to him.

---

With his neck presented, he began to suck on it, though for a while his sucking was soft. He went from spot to spot and it wasn’t until he felt his pulse under his tongue that he began sucking hard. He would be able to mark him, if Cole could become injured, so it was the least he could do in return.

---

“Anders…” It felt so good. Even when it was hard enough to ache. He ran his fingers slowly along his spine. “That's so good…”

---

When he finished with that spot, he pressed a kiss to it and then moved to a new spot to suck there, just as hard. His hand slid back down to his ass and he squeezed and pulled him in by it, his grinding becoming far more intentional as it began to feel better and better.

---

He moaned softly, eagerly meeting his hips. He slid a hand up into his hair, gripping it as his blood heated more. It was funny to him how quickly he could fall into this. A quiet moment holding him had turned into heat and pleasure so fast.

---

Anders could do this all morning, but he knew as soon as he came, it would have to come to an end. There was too much they had to do. He could at least draw it out and he certainly was, this grinding giving him a lot of satisfaction, but not enough to get him anywhere soon.

---

Remembering what Anders had wanted the morning before, Cole began to shift them on the limited space on the cot. He eased him to his back and settled over Anders, finding it easier to grind into him once he settled between his thighs properly. He could likely do this all morning too, but he would prefer things progress so he could feel that connection with him again.

---

He pulled his legs up as he had the previous day, keeping them open and resting his feet flat on the cot. He looked up at him, meeting his sunken eyes. They were a lovely blue, but he didn’t look at them long, leaning into kiss him and letting his own fall shut. He rocked insistently, his arms wrapped tightly around him, one still on his ass and one around his shoulders.

---

His thoughts warmed him - he didn't know any part of him was lovely. His eyes closed as well and ge melted into the kiss, moaning softly. It was all so wonderful and he knew it only got better from there.

---

He kissed him deeply, sliding his tongue into his mouth. It too wasn’t as warm as it ought to be, but his own tongue was heated to make up for it. He could feel his bones and it was hard not to be concerned, even though he knew there was nothing to be done about it. He was what he was and there was no changing that.

---

The concern warmed him further. No one had ever worried about the state of him. He stroked a hand along his back, sucking lightly on his tongue. He so seldom bothered to taste anything, not needing to eat, but he tasted so sweet.

---

He groaned, really enjoying it when he sucked on his tongue. It felt so good and he wanted to feel good. Like last time, he hadn’t gone into this expecting it, but he wanted him to find his way inside him again. His cock throbbed and he made a needy sound as he began to blindly try to find the oil from wherever he’d set it last.

---

Cole opened his eyes and broke the kiss just long enough to find the oil and reach for it. He poured some onto his fingers and took Anders in hand, stroking him. After a few beats, his curiosity peaked and he opened his hand further to grasp himself as well, stroking them together to see if it was better.

---

When the kiss was broken he opened his eyes, looking up at him and then over to the oil. Cole had it, it seemed, so he looked back to him and then groaned under his breath when he was stroked with the oil. When Cole took both of them in hand, he began rocking his hips into it the stroking, grinding their cocks within his hold.

---

He groaned, rolling his hips into his hand. It was so good to grind into him with oil to slicken them. “Do you like this better than when I stroke you by yourself?”

---

“They both feel good.” He didn’t know if one was better than the other. When he stroked him alone, he could hold him tighter and work him more thoroughly, but there was something nice about being able to rub their cocks together so directly. To know that Cole felt good too.

---          

He got up on his knees a little so he could pull his other hand from under Anders. He wrapped it around their cocks as well, pumping with two hands experimentally. He quickly decided that wasn't very practical and went back to one hand. That was better.

---

Anders looked down between them when he started using both hands. The couldn’t help but chuckle, the sight amusing, but he was glad when he went back to what he was doing. He agreed, that was better. There were all sorts of things they could do together, if he wanted, but all he really wanted was to feel close to him.

---

It seemed he was in the mood for experimenting because he tried squeezing them with his hand, twisting a little, rolling his thumb over different places. It all felt good, but he wanted to know what felt best for both of them. His eyes were fixed on his work, still so fascinated by the sensations.

---

He continued to watch him. Both what he was doing and his expression. He could see how intrigued he was and he found it endearing, so he did nothing to stop him. He just took the sensations for what they were and let him experiment. He’d been like this himself at a time, but that time had long since passed.

---

He smiled and looked up to him. “Yes, I think most mortals have this figured out in their teenage years. Cole had not gotten many chances to try things and feeling this for myself is a lot more intense than drawing on his memories…”

---

“Most, but some have more experience than others.” He would consider himself more experienced than others. He’d had a fair amount of sex in the Circle and in the years following his escape. Having briefly participated in an occupation that was all about sex, he thought it was pretty safe to say that he’d had more sex than most anyone he knew. Except perhaps Isabela.

Strange to think that he’d gone so long without before meeting Cole.

---

“Cole did not have much time between escaping his father and his death, so he did not have as much experience as most mortals. But he had enough sex that I have some things to draw from.” He used his other hand to start kneading Anders’ balls, curious if he would like that as much as Cole had.

He made a sound, enjoying it. “Is this the first time you’ve done something for yourself?” For as long as he’d known him, he had acted solely for the benefit of others. This was his first time seeing him take something for himself. Doing it because he wanted to do it and for no other reason.

---

“Yes. It is only easy to do this for myself because it feels good for you as well.” He was pleasuring both of them, so even now he wasn't doing something only for his own enjoyment. He gave his balls a little squeeze, then let his fingers slide lower to explore the flesh around his entrance.

---

“Then you are more like Justice than you seem.” He watched him closely, his eyes half-lidded and heated. If it was hard for him to do anything for himself, then it seemed he was as tied to his creed and Justice was. Of course, it was Justice he’d had to convince about that. That  they were not so different. And in their discussions yesterday, he thought he had.

---

“Perhaps.” He kissed his lips, then pulled back once more to watch what he was doing. He thought of something else Cole once liked and he stopped his stoking, shifting down the mage's body to lean down and run his tongue over Anders’ cock. The moment the taste of the oil hit him, he pulled back and made a face. Best to try that before the oil next time.

---

Anders watched in surprise and then he laughed at his expression, realizing what it was. The oil did not taste good, but to someone committed to the idea, it wasn’t so bad. “Let me show you,” he murmured, starting to push himself up. They could swap spots and he’d show him what he was curious about.

---

He shifted back to let him sit up. “The oil does not taste very good.” Though it seemed Anders knew that. “I can try it before we use oil the next time we do this…”

---

“You don’t wish to see what it is like?” It was an offer, but if not accepted, they could wait for another time. He could let Cole try and then show him what it was like then.

---

“I do. But not at your expense. I only want you to do it if you don't mind the taste.” It didn't seem to be a problem for Anders, but he wanted to be sure.

---

“I don’t like it, but it doesn’t take long for it to go away.” He slipped off the cot and gestured for him to take his place. He could have him sit, but it was more comfortable to simply lay back and be serviced.

---

He eased himself onto his back as he was told, watching Anders. “...May I touch you while you do this?” He wanted him to feel good too. It would be strange to accept pleasure and not give any in return.

---

“In a moment.” He moved between his legs and since his hand was clean, gave his cock a stroke to help get some of the oil off. He ran his palm against his thigh, then took hold of him again, touching him for a moment, before leaning in and running his tongue up him and closing his lips around the tip of him.

---

He drew in a hissing breath, surprised by the intensity of the pleasure. A shiver rolled down his spine and he slid a hand into his hair. “That is...so different than what we’ve done before…”

---

It was a lot different and he wouldn’t be surprised if he liked it more. He took his time to suck on the head of him, running his tongue over him. He was in no hurry to progress this, so he gave him only occasional bobs, giving him more tongue work than anything else to enjoy.

---

He moaned deeply, unable to believe how good this was. “The only thing better than this is being inside of you. But this…” It was a close second. He want to touch him, to do something for him, and he stroked his fingers through his hair as he worked.

---

He hummed and, knowing he could make it even better for him, he began to take him deeply, sucking hard as he worked himself up to swallowing his cock. He was curious if he still thought being inside him was better and, lucky him, he didn’t even have to pull off to ask.

---

It was so good his legs were beginning to shake. “Being inside of you is still better. I feel more connected with you and that ties into my pleasure. But this is so good…” Almost impossibly good.

---

Then did he want to be inside him? Or did he want to cum like this? He was curious what his cum tasted like. Probably like normal, since his cock tasted as such. Maybe not, though. Maybe it would taste unique.

---

“If I cum this way, can we still have sex later?” He wanted to experience that again, but he also didn’t want to give this up. He wanted to finish this way, especially since Anders was curious about how it would taste. He was curious too.

---

It warmed him that he wanted him again. He pulled off of him, stroking him to fill the space. “We can have as much sex as you want.” He wouldn’t be against fucking him all morning, but Justice definitely didn’t want that. They both had things to do. Anders wanted to have sex with him, but even more, he wanted to cuddle with him when they were both satisfied.

---

“We can do that tonight then. For now, you can finish this and we should have enough time left for me to do something for you.” He would do whatever Anders liked. But he wouldn’t be able to receive pleasure like this and not give him something in return.

---

He nodded. That would work. Since Cole had asked to touch him, he adjusted his positioning. He shifted around so he was straddling his chest and then leaned in to take him into his mouth again, sucking him intently.

----

He was intrigued by the positioning - it wasn’t something Cole had done before. He was glad that the mage was in reach now though and he took him in his hand, stroking him eagerly. This felt so amazing and he wanted to give back to him all that he could. He murmured his name softly, moaning and pressing his hips up a little into his mouth.

---

This was nicer for him too. He liked being touched and it made him all the more eager to use his mouth on him. He hummed and considered using his magic for more than just heat, but maybe later. This was enough for now and he wanted him to enjoy his mouth for what it was.

---

It was more than enough. He moaned and writhed beneath him, working his cock and trying squeezing and twisting in different places to see what the man liked best. He was beginning to throb and he knew it wouldn't take much more for him to finish.

---

Anders was only somewhat distracted by what he was getting, working him hard. He wanted him to cum, wanting to hear the sounds he would make and taste what he had to offer him. He groaned whenever it felt particularly good, showing him what he liked, even though the effort wasn’t necessary. It wasn’t really much of an effort, anyway.

---

The more reactions he got, the more he was able to adjust what he was doing to give Anders the most out of his stroking. He began to lose focus a little as he got closer to his release and before long his hips were rocking up into his mouth and his hand could manage nothing more than simple strokes. “Anders…” It was all the warning he was able to give before he spilled hard into his mouth, gasping as the intensity of the pleasure shocked him once more.

---

As soon as it hit his tongue, he was satisfied to find that it tasted like normal. He tasted like every other man he’d sucked. At least, like most of them. Some tasted worse than others, but they all tasted about the same in the end. The fact that he was about average worked in his favor.

He continued to suck on him, stroking him to make sure he took everything from him. Only when he could taste no more did he pull up and begin to shift. He wanted to turn back around so he could face him.

---

Cole looked a bit dazed in the aftermath. It had felt so good and watching Anders swallow it down had been so satisfying. He released him to let him turn around, finding that his legs were trembling a little even now that it was over. “That was so amazing…”

---

He smirked. “I’m glad you think so.” He lowered down over him, laying on his chest and looking up at him. “I think you could sire a child,” he commented, after having gotten a taste of him. “If you ever decide you’d like to experience this with a woman, you’ll have to be careful.” The thought was amusing to him.

---

“That would be...very strange. I do not have any interest in trying this with a woman, but if that day comes, I will be very careful.” He had no place creating a mortal child. The very idea unnerved him. He wrapped his arms around Anders, wanting to hold him close for a moment before he returned the favor.

---

Anders nodded in agreement. He would have to be. He also thought that would be wrong for him to have a child. It just… wasn’t natural or normal for a spirit to do so. It wasn’t really possible for them to, though, so perhaps that was why it seemed so wrong. Still, it was amusing to think about. He was trying to imagine if his father had been a spirit. What that would be like. To be able to say that his father was Valor or the like.

“Luckily, we are both male and there is no such risk between us.” They could enjoy all of the carnal pleasures and never risk a child.

---

“That is a relief.” As long as he kept his intimacy with only Anders, he wouldn’t have to worry about siring any children. Would they even be entirely mortal if he did? “What would you like for me to do to please you? I’ll do whatever you want…” He was curious if he liked things that Cole was unfamiliar with or if he just wanted to be sucked or stroked.

---

“You can stroke me.” He would like more, but he knew Cole didn’t like the taste of the oil and he wasn’t worried about it. It wouldn’t be long until Milos came to see him and he could lose himself to pleasure. Tonight, if he came and they had sex, as Cole suggested, he could also lose himself to pleasure then. For now, a hand and some kisses would suffice.

---

“That is not what you want. The taste will get better.” Anders had just proven that it was bearable. He started to shift them, wanting to get Anders on his back once more. He would give him what he really wanted.

---

“It is,” he challenged him, pushing him back and pressing a sweet kiss to his cheek. “Sometimes we mortals are alright with having the next best thing.” Not always, but sometimes. Often, even. “If you try to suck me, I can’t kiss you.” He pressed another kiss to his cheek, but closer to the corner of his lips.

---

Cole could sense that he really did want to kiss him during this and he would enjoy that himself as well. “Very well.” He turned his face enough to kiss his lips, then reached down to take him in hand. He’d at least managed to learn to do this with more finesse and he started to stroke him using the little tricks he’d found the mage liked the best.

---

He smiled and met the kiss, sliding his arms around him and cuddling up to him. He wanted to feel relaxed and so he let himself melt into him as he was worked, sighing against his lips.

---

He gave him soft, slow kisses, keeping the pace of his hand relaxed. There was no hurry, their work could wait a little while longer. He used his magic to warm and soothe him, enjoying the feel of him in his hand as he leisurely stroked him.

---

That felt good. There was a reason why he was content with this. Why he didn’t need the sex. With Cole, this was perfect. It wasn’t that more hurt, it didn’t, but this was more than enough. He liked the he held him and the way he touched him, treating him as much of a lover as Milos did.

---

Cole smiled against his lips. It seemed he was doing things well enough and Anders was enjoying this as much as he was. He wondered if he could bring him to orgasm keeping things this slow - from what he knew of sex, the answer was no. But he was going to keep things nice and easy until he felt that the mage needed more from him.

---

Even though part of his argument had about kisses, after a while of this, he pulled away from his lips and rested his temple on his collar, shutting his eyes. He was breathing deeply and when he did make sounds, they were soft. He focused on the feel of him breathing and how that subtle movement was as soothing as everything else.

---

He kissed the top of his head when he rested it against him, then closed his eyes and relaxed. This was rather soothing, though he associated sex with more of a frantic mood. He listened to the soft sounds from him, continuing to tailor his performance to what he seemed to like.

---

After long enough of this, he stopped thinking all together. Almost starting to fall back asleep, though not all the way. Even though nothing was changing, the consistent stroking and the effort to make it satisfying was adding up to something. It was feeling better and better and his cock was throbbing softly.

---

He thought it was almost amusing that Anders could nearly fall asleep during this. Normally he imagined that would be a bad thing, but between them, it was a sign of comfort. He could feel him starting to throb so he started to stroke him faster, but only by a little, wanting things to stay nice and relaxed.

---

That roused him a little. It was enough of a change that he moaned and tucked his face up into his neck, his cock throbbing a little harder as he was given more to feel. Even that little change was enough to make a difference and with that came the need for another little change. And another would undoubtedly follow, needing it faster and faster.

---          

He gave him a little time with that pace and when he felt he needed more, he started to pump him a bit faster. He added a more pronounced twist where he liked it as well. He would give him just a little more at a time until he was ready to cum for him.

---

When it came to a point that the pleasure began to matter more than the bond that were sharing, he began to rock into his hand. He moaned softly, quietly, so much so that no one else would hear if there were anyone else in the clinic. “Cole,” he murmured, his fingers stroking his skin, needing to touch him while he felt so good.

---

This seemed a little more like what he expected from pleasuring him. He’d enjoyed taking this slowly, but this was what he’d ultimately wanted to give him from this. He pressed a kiss to his forehead and began to stroke him vigorously, meaning to finish what he had started now that he needed it.

---

It still took a while of this for it to really get to him, but when it did, he was squirmed and pressed his mouth into him to muffle himself. When he came, it was with moans that slowly faded into panting. He was holding him tightly and letting the pleasure linger, in no hurry to move or change anything.

---

He was relieved when he felt him spill, knowing that he must have done this right and that he was satisfied. He slowed to a stop when it seemed he’d worked all of the seed from him and he draped his arms around him, also unconcerned about the mess. “I liked doing that for you…”

---

He pulled back a little to look up from him. “Yeah?” He liked it too, he just didn’t really know what Cole got out of it. If he just liked the closeness too or if there was more to it than that. Whatever it was, he was glad that he wanted to share this with him. He knew that he could get much of this from Milos, but as they’d established, it was different with Cole.

---

“It would have been too difficult to accept pleasure from you and not give it to you in return.” It wouldn’t have felt right. He met his gaze serenely. “I also felt very close to you while we did this.”

---

He nodded. “I feel close to you too.” He really liked it whenever Cole held him. That was what had started this, after all. Him holding him and making him feel so good that he couldn’t help but want to be closer to him. He reached up and touched his cheek. “What if I called you something else?” Something other than Cole?

---

The suggestion surprised him and his brows raised a little. “...What would you like to call me?” He was quite curious. He had chosen to go by Cole when he felt he was no longer entirely Compassion. But he wasn’t entirely Cole either.

---

“I don’t know. I know you like to go by Cole.” And in so far as that, he wanted to respect that preference, but the more he thought about it, the more it felt wrong. “I spoke with Justice yesterday.” Quite a bit, they’d talked about many things. It had been difficult for both of them, but it had also been helpful for both of them. “Since he is going to try to do what you did and create a body for himself, I wondered what he would be like.” If Justice would look like him or feel like him still.

“I wouldn’t like it if Justice looked like me or… took my name or identity.” It bothered him and he was still dealing with the potential reality that if they did seperate that Justice might look just like him. “I do not see you as the Cole you know. You are Compassion to me… Compassion and perhaps something more.”

Cole could not change his appearance and even if he could, Anders didn’t know if Cole would want to or if it felt right to him that he should look like the mortal he’d… merged with. Either way, he felt like he should at least have a name of his own and even if it was only between them, he’d like to call him something different.

---

He frowned thoughtfully. “...I had never considered that. I had no control over taking his appearance, but perhaps he would not have wanted me to take his name.” Cole had enough suffering without him adding to it, though he knew that the man’s soul was likely more content in death than it had ever been in life and blissfully unaware of the spirit roaming the world of the living in his image. “You should re-name me.”

---

His brows lifted. “Me? No, you should name yourself. If you want to go by Cole, that’s alright. It’s up to you, but between us… I still think you should choose.” He didn’t want to take away from that agency from him. He knew better than most what a name could mean.

---

“Me? I can not name myself. No one names themselves.” Not mortals and not spirits. “Cole’s name does not belong to me. I should not have felt that I had any right to take it.”

---

“That’s not true.” For the most part he was right and hell, he hadn’t even chosen “Anders”, really, but Justice had chosen his own name. When he came to this world, he could have chosen another name, but he’d decided to remain as he was. It wasn’t a groundbreaking decision, but it had been a choice. “I didn’t mean to suggest that Cole would be upset…” It was possible that he would be, but it was also just as possible that he wouldn’t be. “Just that…” In his place, he would have been upset.

---

“What kind of name should I choose?” He frowned, deciding that if it would upset Anders, it likely would have upset Cole too. “I don’t know if I should take another mortal name. I am not mortal, after all…”

---

“You’re more mortal than any spirit I’ve ever met.” Perhaps there were more like Cole, more that they didn’t know about, but as far as he was concerned, he was one of a kind. “You can have whatever name you like. A mortal name or otherwise.” Many people had the same name… they just didn’t choose to have the same name as someone else. “Are there any names you really like?”

---

“I don’t know…” He had never thought about it. “I could try to fashion a name from the place I came from as your second name came to be. But I do not think it works quite as well with the Fade.”

---

He smiled. “Or maybe we can simply create a nickname from your original name.” Compassion. What would be a good nickname for Compassion? He was struggling to think of a way to shorten it. Pash? He wasn’t so sure about that. That sounded a little silly, didn’t it? It wasn’t an easy word to shorten.

---

“If I choose to go by ‘Com’ or ‘Passion’ people may mistake me for a demon.” Had he just made a joke? It felt adequately amusing and he smiled a little. “Perhaps a nickname related to Compassion then, but not necessarily part of the word.”

---

He thought about it for a while. He didn’t know any names that meant compassion or compassionate, but there were words they could play with. Empathy? Benevolence? Clemency? He couldn’t think of anything for the former, but there was Neville, Lance, or even Clemence. He thought the last one was the best one, since it didn’t really butcher the word it came from, but Cole wasn’t Clemency, was he? He was Compassion… so maybe he was taking this in the wrong direction.

---

“This is difficult.” He murmured, considering the names Anders was thinking of. “I don’t mind the name Lance. This is very difficult, I don’t know how you mortals name children, it is hard enough to choose a name for myself.”

---

“Well, we’re usually not trying to derive them from words, first of all.” He wasn’t sure what he’d want to name his children if he had them, but he didn’t think it would be this difficult. “Maybe we’re too focused on that part of you.” If not that part, then what? He just started thinking of names he liked. People he’d met or names he’d read in books, wondering if any of them would work.

---

“That is a good idea. I have met many people with many names, but I seldom stay long enough to have any real connection with them. I would like to hear some names that you’ve liked in people you’ve met or read about.” If Anders had a positive association with the name, it would be good enough for him.

---

He had a lot of names to draw on. Names of his childhood friends, names of mages he met in the Circle, names of people he met during his escapes, names of people he met in the Wardens, even some names of people he met in Kirkwall. He thought of naming him Varric and laughed to himself at the thought of introducing them.

“If you were a woman, this would be simple. Mercy or Grace.” How easy it would be. He supposed there wasn’t any reason those names had to be gendered, but the idea of a male with those sames did seem strange to him.

---

“I like those names. I met a woman named ‘Hope’ once and I thought that was pretty, but it would be very inappropriate to take another spirit’s name.” He smiled to him. “I would like to meet Varric sometime. You think highly of him.”

---

“If you really like them, Mercy is probably better of the two.” If he tilted his head and squinted, it could be a male name. He supposed that for a spirit, it really didn’t matter, though there was no denying that the body he current occupied was male. He also thought of Justice as male because of the way he’d presented himself in the Fade and the corpse he’d unwittingly taken over when he’d come into their world.

“I’m sure Varric would be fascinated by you.” All of his friends would be, but he wasn’t sure it would be a good idea if anyone else knew of him. The mages already did, but that was out of necessity.

Then again, what would it really hurt?

---

“Mercy would be fine if this body was somewhat feminine, but I do not think it works as I am.” He shook his head. “Besides, I am not Mercy. I am Compassion.” They were similar virtues, but not the same. “Is there anyone in your history that I remind you of?”

---

“You are Compassion.” Maybe he ought to just go by his name. Even if he had changed when he met Cole, that didn’t mean he wasn’t still Compassion. He’d just… grown. He thought about his question, though, and it didn’t take long for him to remember a boy he’d met in the Circle. Back when he’d ‘joined’ and everything had been so frightening and overwhelming.

The boy hadn’t introduced himself until after his first escape attempt, when Anders had been found and dragged back, filled with despair, but when he did, he was the first friend he made in the Circle. For a while, he was only one Anders would talk to, though they never grew particularly close. They had been rather different from one another and as Anders grew into his own, he’d made many friends better suited to him, though he never forgot the boy’s kindness. So quiet, so caring…

When it had come time for the boy’s Harrowing, he and Anders hadn’t spoken at length for years. Anders hadn’t even realized it had come and it wasn’t until he’d run into him on one of the staircases weeks after that he saw the sunburst on his forehead and realized what had happened. That he’d chosen Tranquility rather than risk the uncertainty of what would happen in his Harrowing.

He felt shame when he thought of him. He hadn’t thought of him in a long time, but he would never forget the feeling in his stomach when he saw him. When he realized the kind boy that had for a brief time been his only friend was gone.

He knew Cole could hear his thoughts and he spoke up. “...I should’ve been a better friend to him.” Maybe if he’d been there to encourage him, he would have chosen differently and he wouldn’t have given up without even trying.

---

He could feel that he was troubled over this even after all those years and he kissed his brow to comfort him. “You were young. He may have chosen Tranquility no matter what you had done if he was frightened enough.” He could only say for certain if he’d met this boy for himself. “But he was good to you and I would be happy to take his name if you would like that.”

---

There was no way of knowing, but that had never made Anders feel any better. “Noah,” he tested out, looking to him. “It’s up to you. It’s your name and you’ll have to go by it long after I’m gone.” Or he could change it again, he supposed, if he felt the need.

Still, he thought it was too personal a thing to let someone else choose.

He considered it a moment, then nodded. “I have my own name now. Noah.” He would have to get used to it, but he thought a simple change of his name would be an easy adjustment. “Does it suit me?”

---

“I think so. A nice simple name.” Not unlike the name he’d gone by until now. It was a good name and it did make him think of someone who had extolled his virtues. “Better than ‘Pash’,” he snickered.

Better than anything he’d come up with, he thought.

“Much better than Pash.” He was relieved to have a new name now that he knew Cole may not have wanted his name taken when he died. “I wonder if I could change my appearance also. Perhaps Cole would not want me looking like him either.”

---

He bit his lip. “...It is something to consider.” He wasn’t sure how he would, but anything was possible. If Cole could change his appearance, maybe Justice wouldn’t have to take his.“Are you sure you want to change it?” Whatever Cole may have felt, did he want to?

“Yes. It would be better if my appearance wasn't so frightening.” If he didn't look like death, he wouldn't have to hide his face from mortals. “But I don't know how.”

---

He nodded. “Maybe if you find an answer for Justice, you’ll find an answer for that too.” If not, it wasn’t as if he could help it. He pressed a kiss to his lips, understanding why he was considered frightening, but not feeling that way.

“I'm glad I do not frighten you.” He murmured and kissed him in return. He wouldn't have been able to get this close to Anders if he was scared or repulsed by him.

---

“I’ve seen a lot of death. I am use to it. It helps that you are not truly dying.” He just looked it. “It is not fitting for you.” He ought to look alive, considering what he was. He imagined him soft and sweet, plain, but warm. Basically the way Cole- Noah regarded him personified.

“I am able to eat. I wonder if I did that occasionally if I could fill out a little and I would look more alive.” It wasn't very appealing to him, but it might be worth trying.

---

He considered it. “When you eat… your body digests it and all?” It was weird to think that he could, but didn’t have to. If it affected his appearance, it was stranger still. “Maybe that would help.” The degree to which he was and wasn’t alive was hard to comprehend.

---

“Yes. It takes a while, but it does.” All of his systems seemed to work. “But I don't know if I could put on weight. I don't know if this body is alive enough to change that much…”

---

“You could try, if you like. Eating is rather enjoyable.” Not that he really enjoyed eating himself. He did, but he couldn’t remember the last time really had. On the flipside, he did enjoy basically everything he put in his mouth for the simple fact that his body craved it so much that anything was better than nothing.

---

 “I would rather the food goes to mortals who need it. But perhaps if we get a soup kitchen going and there is enough, I will try.” He had tried some things he had liked and he wouldn't mind trying more.

---

He was curious. He’d have to insist he ate whenever he was here. If his appearance improved, then perhaps he wouldn’t have to change if he didn’t want to. Still, he kind of hoped he would try… if only for his own sake. He really, really didn’t want Justice to look like him.

---

“I will try. I simply don't know where to start.” If Anders didn't want Justice looking like him, he would do his best to prevent it. “I want to look the way you want me to. Soft, sweet, warm.”

---

He flushed a little. “It’s not that I want you to look that way, it’s just how I picture you.” His words didn’t quite reflect his thoughts - it was hard to keep anything from him, though, and he knew that C- Noah would read the truth in his thoughts. “Maybe you could keep your eyes. As a tribute to Cole.” They were rather lovely, after all.

---

He smiled at that. “It's alright, I am not offended.” He kissed his lips to prove that he wasn't. “I will try to keep my eyes as they are. For Cole and for you.”

---

He smiled and returned the kiss, holding onto it for a beat. “We should probably get up.” Justice still wanted to talk to him and they had things to do, especially if Noah came back tonight.

---

“You're right. We have delayed our work for long enough.” He untangled himself from Anders and climbed off of the cot. This time he was mindful of the mess on him and he wiped himself off before he began to dress.

---

Anders cleaned himself up as well and then pulled on his clothing. He took his time making himself presentable and when he was ready, he moved out of the nook. Like before, he thought the conversation ought to take place outside of it, though he was trusting that it would go differently this time.

---

Cole, or Noah as he would have to get used to, followed him out of the nook and found a stool to sit down on. He hoped that Anders was right. He didn’t want Justice to dislike him as much as he did and he knew that not much could have changed in a single day.

---

When everyone was settled, Justice moved in. For a moment, he just sat there. There was a lot on his mind and he had to remember everything that he and Anders had talked about. “This is difficult for me.” It wasn’t something he liked admitting and it was hard for him to say it aloud, even though he knew Cole was one of the few that he could say it to.

---

“I know it is. I am sorry.” He really was. He wished this was easier for the spirit and he wished he could alleviate his jealousy. But the best person to do that was Anders and it seemed that he’d spent a lot of time the previous day working on it.

---

There was a long silence, the spirit’s eyes fixed on the floor in front of him. “You have both said that I was corrupted or that I was almost corrupted.” He’d talked to Anders about that a lot yesterday and he’d finally gotten out how he felt on the matter. Anders had provided a lot of input to his thoughts - things that he didn’t want to hear, but that he’d needed to hear. “I do not like to think that I am any less than I was, but if I’ve joined with Anders as you have with Cole, then we are more alike that I have wanted to admit.”

“I am him and that means every part of him.” Even the parts he wanted to ignore.

---

“You are not less than what you were. But you have changed. You and Anders are one, as Cole and I are one.” He said gently, nodding his agreement about the last thing he’d said. “You are every part of him and you must be careful not to let his negative emotions control you. As spirits, we are not naturally equipped to deal with them and we have to learn to do so.”

---

His expression was troubled. “I still do not think I have done anything wrong. I do not see what you see. Just because justice is harsh does not mean it is unfair. If there is anyone I have wronged, it is only Anders. I pushed him so hard… but I do not regret it. I will change it, but I do not regret it.” He looked so uncomfortable, so unlike himself. “I have been treating him as if he is like us, but he is not. I don’t know why I forgot how complex they are - I feel it everyday, I see it everyday, but it is difficult to not want them to live as we do.” While he was in his body, it was difficult to not to want to live as he would want to live on his own.

“It’s hard to accept that the emotions that would poison us are not so dangerous for them.” It could poison them, but it took a lot more of those emotions to corrupt them. Whereas Justice was so adverse to them, he didn’t want to experience them at all.

---

“But you know now why it is important not to push him so hard. I don’t expect you to regret it, I am simply glad that you are changing it.” He understood why he didn’t have any remorse for it - they had gotten a lot done for a lot of people. He didn’t intend to change that, he knew it was important that Anders stay very invested in his clinic and the Circle, just not at the expense of his health and happiness. “They are well-rounded beings. A variety of virtues and vices are what make them thrive.”

---

“Yet they even struggle with the line. They wouldn’t be in such desperate need of us if they were truly as well-rounded as you say.” This was said with some aversion, but he pushed it aside. “I know him so well, but I do not understand him like you do.” He thought he knew him better than Noah did, but Noah connected so simply and so seamlessly with him. “I think I understand him better now…” After having talked to him for so long and having actually listened, without dismissing what he had to say. Much of what Noah had said to him helped him and helped Anders explain himself to him. “I just don’t understand why it is so much more difficult for me than it is for you.” To not only understand him, but accept him as he was.

---

“Understanding mortal needs and emotions is necessary for the comfort compassion brings. It is not so necessary for you to give them justice.” They were different and had different strengths when it came to dealing with mortals. “We help them in different ways.”

---

He frowned. “Yes, well, I also think it has something to do with my lack of body. It would be easier to be understanding if I wasn’t subjected to everything he experiences. Perhaps it would be easier for you to be content, but I am not content. Less so the more I act on his behalf.”

He didn’t blame Anders, it was just unfortunate that what they needed were such opposite things. The only reason it was bearable was that Anders did stand for the same things he did and he spent so much time, of his own choice, doing what Justice would want to be doing anyway.

“And it is difficult to watch you to come in and do everything that I would be want to be doing, but cannot.” He was glad that he was making an impact - he was not so selfish that it had to be him - it just meant it was harder to be idle himself.

“I know you are frustrated and I understand.” He needed his own body. He would be so much happier with the freedom he got to enjoy himself. “I am still looking for a solution for you. I have mages searching for a way to get a body for you as well.”

---

He nodded. He kept his eyes down, obviously thinking. “I am… jealous of you.” Obviously, but he hadn’t admitted it. “I do not like that he prefers you. I do not know why it bothers me so much that he seeks comfort from you and not from me.” Even knowing that he couldn’t give him the comfort he needed, that he wouldn’t give as much as Noah did, even if he could, it still made him jealous.

“It is because of your merging with Anders that you are able to feel this jealousy. Perhaps having your own body will alleviate that or perhaps not, as I still have negative emotions from Cole.” He thought Justice would always be a little more mortal from now on no matter what happened. “I think you will feel better when you have your own body to give him comfort, even if you wouldn't choose to do so very often.”

---

“Perhaps.” Perhaps if he were able to be close to Anders in a physical way, he would feel differently. He just thought that they way they were connected was as close as they could ever be, but for some reason the physical component of touch was so important to the mage. He could still feel how emotional Anders had become when he’d taken control of their hand and touched his cheek. “I know that there is no guarantee that I will be able to be as you are.” Even if he waited until Anders died to try. “If the time comes and there is no solution…” Perhaps he ought to simply return to the Fade.

---

“I wish I could give you that guarantee. But we have time to try to figure it out.” He sighed softly. “I want you to be happy as much as I want Anders to be happy. I will not stop looking for an answer for you.”

---

Justice gave a nod. “That is all I wished to say.” For now. He felt somewhat better getting it off his chest, but most of that relief had come when he’d talked to Anders the day before.

---

“I will just stay long enough to say goodbye to Anders, then we can both get to work.” They had wasted more of the morning than they likely should have and he appreciated Justice being so patient with them. The least he could do was assure him that he would be leaving.

---

He gave him another nod and then pulled back. When Anders came to, he spotted Cole- Noah and studied him briefly, wondering if he would be able to see the effect of their conversation on his expression. Whether it had been good or bad.

It was good, Justice assured him before he could wonder long.

---

“It was a good talk.” He had no idea whether or not Justice would tell him about what they discussed, but it was all he would say on the matter. He rose from his seat and moved to Anders, leaning in to kiss his lips. “I should be going.”

---

With the confirmation on both sides, he nodded. “Okay, I’ll see you later.” He’d mentioned coming back tonight, but if he didn’t show up, that would be alright. As long as he came back the next night. He gave him a little smile.

---

“How do you know?” He nuzzled their noses together briefly before pulling away and vanishing. He would return that night if he had a chance to and he would introduce himself as ‘Noah’ to anyone he met that day. It might be confusing for the Circle mages who already knew him as Cole, but perhaps they would understand the reason for the change. He wasn’t Cole, or at least he wasn’t just Cole. He was his own person and it was time that he took his own name.

Chapter Text

It was growing dark when Milos made his way to the clinic. He was a little nervous after the mood he’d found Anders in the last time he visited, but he hoped that he was having a better week. Even if he was having a bad week, he carried a large box with him that he hoped might raise the mage’s spirits.

He stepped into the clinic and found that he would have to wait his turn this time as there was a teenage boy on Anders’ table. It didn’t look all that serious as the boy was simply cradling an arm, so he just offered the mage a smile and went to sit on a stool and wait for him.

---

Anders looked up and this time when he saw Milos, he was a bit more excited. His mood had much improved and enough time had passed for him to miss him. He could see that Milos was carrying something and he figured it was for him, else why would he be bringing it with him?

Luckily, he had something for him too.

It didn’t take long for him to finish up with the boy and he warned him about staying out of trouble, giving him a brief lecture before he sent him on his way.

“Hello,” he greeted him, leaning into his work table as he waited for him to come close.

---

“Hi…” He rose from his seat and moved to the table, setting his box on it once he reached it. “I hope your week is going a little better?” He inflected his sentiment as a question, though he felt he already knew the answer. The mage looked like he felt better than he had the last time.

---

“It is.” He set his arms on the edge of the table behind him, looking him over. “How’s your week been?” He was speaking casually, but there was a coyness to him.

---

“It’s been fine. I had a breakthrough with your horse. She came to me from out in the field yesterday without me having to call for her for the first time.” He answered simply enough but a smirk was growing on his lips as he picked up on something in Anders’ demeanor.

---

“Oh yeah? I’ll have to see her soon or she’ll think she’s your horse.” Not that he minded that. All the better that she had a connection with the person that actually took care of her. “I still haven’t come up with a name for her.” He hadn’t thought on it much. He’d put more effort in trying to help Noah find a name than he had for her, but that had been a more immediate need.

---

“I rode her into town, she’s in the stables right outside the gates. You can visit her tonight if you want.” He had told him he would bring her, after all. But if Anders just wanted to stay in, that was perfectly fine with him as well.

---

Maybe they’d do that. They could go on a walk and get some fresh air and he could meet his horse. “Before that, I have something for you.” He moved away from him and went to his nook, opening his chest and pulling out a leather roll. He returned to him, somewhat shyly.

---

“Oh yeah? Well, maybe I have a little something for you too…” He watched him curiously, eyeing the roll he’d brought with him from his nook. He smiled, finding the bashful nature of the mage rather endearing. “Let’s see it…”

---

He offered it to him, saying nothing. He’d know once he opened it. It was a jeweler’s kit, filled with tools that, while not new, were in good condition. It wasn’t everything he needed, particularly since he needed a forge to work at if he was actually going to make anything, but it was still a good set.

“You said you sold your tools, so… I got you some more.”

---

As he unrolled the leather casing, his heart skipped a beat. Tools. His own kit after years without. “Anders…” He ran his fingers over them. It was a really nice set and he felt a spark of creativity he hadn’t had in such a long time. He longed to make something and perhaps with his own tools again, he could start. “This...this is so kind of you…”

---

He smiled. It hadn’t been all that hard to get them. He’d just pulled some strings and here they were. “I just wanted to apologize for last week.” That and the fact that he’d given him a horse in return, he felt he’d owed him and ought to show him that he appreciated spending time with him.

---

“You didn’t need to apologize. We all have bad weeks.” He set the tools aside and wrapped his arms around Anders. He kissed him firmly, wanting to show him how grateful he was.

---

He slid his arms around him in return and kissed him, a little harder than necessary. As much as he appreciated the attention from Noah, always wanting him close, there wasn’t all that much passion between them. Not like there was with Milos. “I don’t know if that’s enough for you to make anything, but if you do, I want to see it.”

---

“It’s a good start. When I have enough supplies to make something, I’ll show you.” He kissed him again, hard and eager. He’d missed him and he was craving him.

---

Anders tightened his arms around him and met the kiss just as eagerly. They had plans to see the horse, of course, but right now he wasn’t so worried about that.

---

It took Milos a little while to remember that he’d brought something for him as well. Even after he remembered, it took more time for him to be willing to break the kiss. It was growing a little heated and his hands had begun to roam him - he’d missed this man, especially with the lack of intimacy in their last visit. “Do you want your gift?” He murmured against his lips.

---

He nodded, his mind not at all on the box. He was imagining that his gift was hidden in Milos’ trousers and he would be more than happy to unwrap that particular ‘gift.’ He kissed him harder, his hand falling to squeeze his ass.

---

He made a sound against his lips, pressing closer when his ass was grabbed. The box could wait. He worked his tongue into Anders’ mouth, hungry and wanting to deepen their kiss. His fingers sought the fastenings for his robes, forgetting that the door was still unlocked and perhaps it was a little early to be undressing him.

---

Anders also forgot about the door and as his robes loosened and fell, he used his grip on Milos to turn him towards the table and bend him over it. He squeezed his ass again and then slid his hand around to grope him as he pressed his hips to his ass through his trousers.

---

“Anders…” He moaned to him as he was bent over. He gripped the edge of the table and pressed back into him, wanting more pressure as the mage teased him through his pants. He was thickening quickly, straining against the lacings of his trousers.

---

He leaned over him, pressing his weight to him and rolling his hips into him. “Milos,” he murmured, giving his lobe a nip. He continued to grope him, taking his time loosening his laces so that when he finally reached in to tug him out, it would be a relief.

---

He could feel his fingers working the laces and he sighed when he was freed. Milos loved the weight of Anders over him, so tall and so strong and he shivered in delight beneath him. He wanted him and right now, he didn’t really give a damn if they didn’t have any oil in reach. He just wanted to be taken by him right over this exam table, dry or lubed it didn’t matter.

---

Anders was on a similar wavelength, though he did want lube to help ease him into this. He continued to push his trousers down and when his ass was uncovered, he pressed himself against it, enjoying the feel of warm skin on skin. There was something nice about feeling the life in him.

He pulled away suddenly, intending on walking the few steps it took to get to his nook where the oil was waiting, a bit emptier than what it had been last time they’d used it together.

---

Milos whimpered a little when he moved away, missing the heat and the pressure as soon as he was gone. “Hurry…” He murmured, giving his ass an inviting little shake. He knew what he was going to get and it would definitely make him easier to take since it had been a little while since they’d done this. But that didn’t mean he was any more patient for him to get the oil and get back to him.

---

It didn’t take him long to return and he already had his hand slick when he settled behind him. He stroked his cock and, knowing how badly they both wanted it, he pressed himself in place, pushing in and working himself deep with a few thrusts. He pressed his weight into him again, his hand sliding around to take hold of his cock with his oiled fingers.

---

He cried out when he pressed inside, pushing his hips back into Anders. He needed this. His grip on the table tightened, especially when he took him in hand. “Fuck me…”

---

He gave him what he wanted, fucking him hard. If the work table weren’t so heavy, it would have been sliding forward with each snap of his hips. He stroked him firmly and buried his face into the back of his neck. He smelled good and he couldn’t resist biting down on the skin that peeked out just above the collar of his shirt.

---

He groaned and rocked his hips, meeting his thrusts and getting more out of the hand stroking him. It was fun to be taken right in the middle of his lover’s workspace and he smiled at the idea of Anders fantasizing about fucking him whenever he looked at this table. It all felt so good, even his teeth sinking into his skin giving a little edge of pain to his pleasure.

---

Even like this, he was stunning. A thick head of hair, a firm ass - when he pushed up the back of his shirt, prominent lines on his back. He was so attracted to him and he made it even more enjoyable to lose himself in his body.

He moved a hand down to the hand stroking him, taking hold of his wrist. He wasn't stopping him, simply holding him in the best way he could while he was bent over the table. “Don't stop…”

---

Anders smiled. He wasn’t going to stop. He pushed him harder against the table, pinning him in a way that would be a little bit painful. In a way that might leave marks once he let up.

He groaned and pounded him feverishly, needing to give it to him as hard as he could, as fast as he could. He was already panting with effort, and the longer he fucked him, the harsher his breathing became.

He didn't mind the pain at all - it complemented the harsh fucking quite nicely. He moaned with abandon, begging him to give him more though he was already getting so much from him. It was all so intense and he was throbbing in his grasp. It didn't take much more for him to spill, crying out as his muscles tightened sharply around the mage.

---

As soon as he spilled, Anders groaned and sank his teeth back into him. He bit hard enough to leave a mark and then moved his hands to the table to brace himself as he pounded him for another minute, before finally spilling with a satisfied sigh. He held himself there and leaned in, pressing a kiss to the tooth marks he’d left behind.

---

Milos panted harshly where he was pinned when he felt the heat fill him and he smiled when he felt the kiss soothe the bite he’d been given. He made a soft, content sound once he caught his breath, happy with the man’s weight over him even if it was far less comfortable to stay like this now that his pleasure was ebbing.

---

He eased off of him and shifted to lean into the table beside him. “That sounded good.” He sounded like he’d enjoyed that quite a bit. He reached to stroke a hand along his back and he gave his ass another squeeze, since it was close.

---

When he could move, he eagerly did so, needing to stretch. “It felt amazing…” He turned toward him and moved a hand to his cheek, drawing his face in to kiss him.

---

He met the kiss, sliding his arms around him and pulling him in. His shirt was still in the way, but he supposed it didn’t really matter. They would have to dress anyway. “Good.” He was happy to have pleased him.

---

“I missed you…” It had only been a week since he’d seen him, but he’d missed him. It had been longer since they’d been able to share intimacy like that and it was so good to have it with him again. He smiled and stole another kiss from him.

---

“I missed you too,” he admitted. Not as much as he might have if things hadn’t done the way they had with Noah, but he had still missed him. “We should probably get dressed and get going if we’re going to go see the horse tonight.

---

“We should. Hold that thought.” He grinned and pushed himself upright, tucking himself back into his trousers and moving to collect the previously forgotten box he’d brought along. He brought it to Anders and opened it, revealing the robes he’d had made for them after their first date. They were gray, detailed with speckles of lighter grays that looked almost like stars against the darker fabric and lines of a deeper gray to give the robes a defined, fitted look. The fabric wasn’t fine by any means, but it was well-made and durable despite the cut of the robes looking like they were made for fashion more than function. “I like your robes but you said they were all that you had. I thought maybe one more wouldn’t hurt…”

---

Anders stared at the inside of the box. “Milos… you didn’t have to do that.” He reached to touch the fabric, feeling how soft it was. Not too soft, but not scratchy, either. They looked really good and he pulled them out to unfold them and see them in their entirety. He looked at him and then flushed, looking back at the robes sheepishly.

---

“I wanted to.” He flushed as well, but was happy to see that he liked the gift. He’d requested them to be made after only hours with the mage to try to guess his tastes, so he was relieved that they went over well. At least he thought by the look on his face that they were going over well.

---

Anders didn’t know what to say. He continued to look it over and, after a while, decided he ought to try it on. He started to pull it open and then slip into it. It fit surprisingly well, considering how thin he was. He fastened it up and then took a step back. “I don’t have a mirror, so you’ll have to tell me how I look.”

---

Perhaps that would be his next gift. He moved in closer and straightened the collar on it. “Wow, ...you look great. And I have to say, I did a good job guessing your measurements. But I did apprentice under a blacksmith when I was learning to be a jeweler that did custom fitted pieces for people.”

---

He smiled. “It’s a bit tighter than what I’m use to wearing.” Not that it was a bad thing. It felt kind of nice for it to be fitted to him. He tried to smooth down the fabric, though there was no need. “As long as it looks good.”

---

“It looks great. Showing off your figure a little isn’t such a bad thing…” Yes, he was a little too thin. But he still looked so good to him and the robe was flattering with his broad shoulders and lean figure.

---

He leaned in and kissed him. “Thank you…” He took his hand and tugged him towards the door, though he remembered his key at the last moment moved to grab it from his robes piled on the ground. He grabbed his staff and then walked outside with him, locking up behind them.

---

He let Anders tug him along, a smile on his lips. It would be nice to show off the progress made with the horse he’d caught for him. He didn’t trust her like his other horses to idle near town and not let any strangers approach them, so he’d had to use a little coin to keep her in the stables just outside the gates.

While Milos followed after the stable boy with Anders to fetch the new horse from her stall, he shivered a little from a sudden chill in the air. Noah had seen them near the gates and while he didn’t want to intrude too much on their night, he was curious. He didn’t want to make himself visible to either of them, but he couldn’t resist making himself known to Anders. He thought it most likely that Justice would be able to sense him anyway. He brushed his hand lightly against the hand that wasn’t holding Milos’ and leaned in to whisper in his ear, soft enough that no one else in the stables would hear. “Anders…”

---

Anders jumped, turning to look at him. “Cole.” He realized himself. Not Cole. Noah. What was he doing here? He looked back to Milos, realizing his reaction probably would have alerted him to the situation, unaware as he was that Noah was only presenting himself to him.

---

Milos felt Anders startle and turned to look at him briefly as they walked. “What did you say?” He hadn’t heard him well and over the sound of the horses munching on hay and pacing their stalls around them, he wasn’t sure he’d heard anything at all.

Noah raised a finger to his lips. “You don’t need to speak out loud. Milos doesn’t know I’m here. I want to let you enjoy your night with him, I just wanted to stop by and see you.”

---

“Oh nothing, nevermind.” He gave him a little smile and then glanced back at Noah. He was pleased to see him and he offered him a smile as well. He took his hand since they were close and gave it a squeeze. Are you going to come to the clinic? He wouldn’t be there any time soon, but he would like it if he came by still.

---

“I will try. I still have some work to do tonight. I was happy to see you out in town so I could visit you in case I cannot come tonight.” When they stopped in the stable in front of the new horse, Noah looked it over. “This one must yours. She’s very pretty.” He leaned to kiss the mage’s cheek.

---

He looked at her again. She looked as he remembered, but she was very pretty and his memory didn’t do her justice. He looked back at Noah and his smile widened at the kiss. He felt a little sheepish, being with both at the same time, but it was kind of nice and he gave Milos hand a squeeze as well.

“She looks good.”

---

“She does. Some proper food and grooming and you can really how pretty she is.” Milos smiled and watched as the stable boy opened the stall and lead the horse out. Her eyes were fixed on Noah and she huffed.

“She is disappointed. She doesn’t smell any carrots on Milos. He’s been giving her a lot of treats.” Noah reached out with his free hand to stroke the horse’s nose.

---

The extra input from Noah made him grin. “What a lovely girl…” He moved in a little closer himself, letting go of both of their hands so he could stroke her neck. “I need to come up with a name for you.” He still didn’t know what to call her. He eyed her coat. Patches? That would be a cute name for her.  

---

“We’ll bring her along for our walk. Maybe by the time we’re done you’ll know what to name her.” Milos was offered the lead rope by the stable boy but instead he gestured for it to be given to Anders. “She’s not trained on the lead very well yet. I’ll scold her if she tries to get ahead of you, but she should stay right at your side.”

“This is my friend Anders. He has no carrots tonight, but he will be very kind to you. Be good to him and let him lead you.” Noah told the horse gently, then looked to Anders. “I will let you get back to your night.” He moved in to kiss Anders’ lips, feeling a little sly about being able to do so with Milos right beside them, keeping it short and sweet.

---

Anders took the rope, somewhat nervous, but not really. He’d been around horses enough, though not a wild horse. But he trusted Milos to know what he was talking about.

He was curious if Noah’s words would actually affect anything, but it was reassuring as what Milos had to say. His cheeks tinted a little when he was kissed, since to him it looked like Milos could see everything, but he gave Noah a warm, but sheepish smile.

See you later.

He could already hear his response.

He chuckled softly but said it aloud anyway. “How do you know?” With that, he took his leave. The two mortals could enjoy their night and he would return to his work happily knowing that Anders had Milos for company.

Milos mistook Anders’ blush for fear and he gave his arm a reassuring touch. “She's a little skittish, but she's gentle. I'll take charge if she gives you any trouble.” He started to lead the way out of the stables, watching over his shoulder to see if the filly would walk cooperatively with Anders.

---

Anders started along, giving the lead the lightest of tugs as he followed after Milos. He looked up at her as she walked, and then back to Milos, smiling.

Milos was pleased to see the horse walking obediently at Anders’ side. It seemed she didn't exactly take Noah's word for absolute truth, because as soon as they were outside of the stable, she nosed at Anders’ robes, checking for herself if he had any treats for her.

Milos made a sound in his throat to correct her, though he had to do it a few times before she minded and gave the mage his space. “Sorry, she hasn't learned her manners quite yet.”

---

He chuckled. “I don’t mind.” He thought it was rather cute. “I’ll bring something for you next time.” Maybe. If he had something on hand at the time. He gave her cheek a stroke and then continued on.

“So, what else is new? Besides your work with this pretty girl?”

“I have a mare due to have her foal any day. It's always exciting around the ranch when there's a new baby to fuss over.” It made for a lot more work, but it was fun for him and he looked forward to it. “That's about as thrilling as it gets in my life. Most days are about the same. You've probably had a more eventful week.”

---

“Oh, I suppose you could call it that.” Same days more than others, but everything with Justice and Noah had been rather eventful. “Many of my days are the same too, honestly. The only time it changes is when I’m dragged out of my clinic by my friends.”

He still wasn’t ready to tell him that he was a renegade mage.

“There's nothing wrong with that. I kind of like having predictable days most of the time.” It was a nice night for a walk and now that he was confident that the horse would walk well with Anders, he took the mage's other hand and fell into step beside him.

---

He let there hands swing a little. “Yeah, the consistency is nice.” Were he younger, he might disagree. After growing up in the Circle he had been starved for excitement and adventure when he was young. He was quiet for a few steps, then decided he ought to tell him what was going on, since somewhat involved.

“There’s been some changes around the clinic, though. We’re starting to get more and more food donations, so it looks like it might turn into a soup kitchen of some sort.” To what degree, he didn’t know. He was just taking the changes as they came.

---

“Really?” He didn't know for sure that it was something Anders wanted in his clinic, but it was something Darktown sorely needed. “That's great. Is there anything I could help with? Anything you need?”

---

“Oh no, that’s alright.” He didn’t want to ask anything of Milos, especially anything that would make more work for him. “I’m just taking it as it comes. So far it hasn’t been too busy yet.” Only because they’d only gotten a few ‘big’ donations and word hadn’t quite spread about the excess of food he was giving out.

---

“If it starts being too much for the clinic, maybe the people donating food could get their own space for the soup kitchen. I bet people would donate to a collection to buy a building near yours.” He could see the clinic getting too crowded quickly if people started coming for meals every day.

---

“That would probably be best,” he agreed, though he wasn’t sure about ‘buying’ anything. He didn’t know that any buildings in Darktown were really for sale. They were occupied sometimes and sometimes they weren’t and that was all there seemed to be to it. The only reason why the clinic was his was because he’d found it empty, squated there, and eventually it turned into what it turned to. The exceptions, of course, were where some families lived, but he didn’t think they’d be giving up their homes any time soon. Even for coin. Shelter was better than not and most people in Darktown didn’t have the means for anything better.

“I’ve had some help, so it’s not so bad.”

---

“That's good. I can't get away from the ranch every day, but if it gets to be overwhelming I'll come help when I can.” He didn't know how much help Anders was getting, but he doubted it was enough.

---

“I’ll be okay,” he assured him, squeezing his hand again. He appreciated the offer, but he wasn’t going to take him up on it. Though… it would be nice if he had an excuse to be around. He smiled at him and leaned in to press a kiss to his cheek. “Thank you, though.”

---

“I know you will be.” The mage was smart and resourceful, for what he'd seen of him and his clinic. He smiled at the kiss and squeezed his hand in return. “But I still want to help if I'm needed.”

---

“I’ll let you know.” He knew he wouldn’t need it or if he did, he would get it from someone else. It was nice that he wanted to help him, though. He looked back at the horse and gave her another stroke with the hand holding her lead. “Why don’t you tell me what you’d name her?”

---

“Hmmm...I hadn’t really thought about it since she’s yours.” He looked over to the horse, glad to see that she was still behaving herself. “She has a pretty quiet disposition with people and the herd, so I might have named her something placid. Like Autumn or Whisper. Willow wanted to name her Splash because it looks like someone splashed paint all over her. But she’ll be happy to call her whatever you decide to name this pretty girl.”

---

“That’s a pretty good name.” Still, he was more partial to Patches, if he was going to name her based on her coat. “She sounds like my kind of horse.” It still hadn’t really settled in that she was his. Supposedly. He still wouldn’t be convinced until he was the one taking care of her. If that ever happened.

---

“You picked a good one.” With a little training and polishing, she’d be an excellent horse for a beginner. “I’ll have to bring you out to the ranch some time so you can see how she’s being kept. Besides, it’s hardly fair that I’ve seen your home but you haven’t seen mine.”

---

“You’re going to introduce me to the family?” He assumed he was if Milos was taking him to see where he lived. He was curious of that was part of the point. Or perhaps he was reading too much into it. Either way, it was rather generous of him to call the clinic his home.

---

“If you’re ready to meet them.” He didn’t want to pressure him if he didn’t want to do something like that yet. “There isn’t much family to meet. You’ve already met Willow, at least briefly. My sister is a tough farm girl, but she’s easy enough to get along with.”

---

He gave a shrug. “I don’t think it’s a big deal.” It wasn’t as if they were serious, so meeting them wasn’t really making a statement or anything. “Maybe I’ll take you to meet my friends.” He didn’t exactly have family to introduce him to, so all that left him with was the people he associated with.

---

“I’d like that. I’m sure you’ll see some of my friends at some point too. Mostly farmers, but a couple actually live and work in Kirkwall.” Not many since he’d been out of the jewelry business, but he still visited a few of them. He was glad that Anders had reacted so well to the idea of meeting the family. He knew the mage wanted to take things slow and he didn’t want to do anything that might make him withdraw.

---

“Who knows. Maybe we even have the same friend.” Highly unlikely, but not impossible. It was dark and he thought it would be nice to light their path, but he wasn’t sure how the horse would react. “Think some magic would spook her?” he asked, wanting to get confirmation before he tried.

---

“As long as it isn’t loud, I don’t think so.” A crack like the one Anders’ magic had made when he’d electrocuted the men attacking him would likely send the horse into a frenzy. But something minor probably wouldn’t bother the animal. “Just hold on tightly to that lead until we know for sure. I don’t have any treats to bribe her to come back if she bolts.” He said with a smile, hoping he wasn’t going to have to chase her down on foot.

---

He hesitated, but if would be a good test of what she’d tolerate from him. He drew his hand from Milos’ and held it in front of him, somewhat away from the horse. Flames lit up in his fingers and suddenly he could see everything around them. He kept his hand tight on the lead, waiting to see how she would react.

---

Milos watched closely, curious and a little anxious about the reaction. He’d never seen a horse around a mage, after all. When the flames appeared, the filly startled a little and he was prepared to help grab the lead if it looked like she was about to spook. But after the initial jolt, she fell back into step with Anders. “Good girl.” He praised in relief. With that matter resolved, he couldn’t help but indulge in his curiosity, leaning forward to get a closer look at the flames in the man’s fingers. “...What does that feel like for you?”

---

Anders was pleased and then, when he looked at Milos and saw his curiosity, endeared. “Which part?” If he just meant the fire itself, that was an easy answer. “It’s warm, but that’s about it. Only because I know how to control it - a novice can easily burn themselves if they are not careful when summoning fire.” It would be easy to burn his hands if he didn’t know how to prevent the flames from doing so.

---

“It looks like it should be burning you, but I could see you weren’t in any pain.” He was fascinated and he imagined that many young mages burned themselves by mistake. He moved a hand near Anders’ cautiously, getting close enough to feel the heat coming off of the flames.

---

“I’ve always thought Primal magic was the coolest.” Visually, definitely. It seemed a lot of mages preferred it and strived towards it. Even those without a natural inclination. He wasn’t the most inclined towards it, the exception of lightning. Lightning was as easy as breathing, but it had taken effort to get as good at fire as he was. Some mages handled all of the elements with grace, but of the ones he knew it was only a fair few.

---

“It is pretty cool. But your healing is even more impressive.” He smiled to him, withdrawing his hand. “But I might be biased. You’ve healed me from a knife wound and a likely concussion already.”

---

He chuckled. “Yes. Healing is tricky.” Not as visually impressive… most of the time. Sometimes it could be incredibly visually impressive, depending on the damage. It had never really been tricky for him though. He’d always been good at it. Like with lightning, but even more so. He knew healing was really where he excelled and that was probably why he’d met Compassion so young.

---

“It all looks tricky to me. But you’re the first mage I’ve known personally, so I’m easy to impress.” It was all new and exciting for him. “Willow’s mother used to talk about the things her sister could do with magic. I always wanted to see it for myself and being around you has given me that chance. I didn’t think I’d ever see magic up close unless Willow ended up inheriting it.”

---

Hopefully not, though he refrained from saying so. “If you think this is impressive, then I’ll have to show you a thing or two sometime.” He gave the fire a little more power, the flames growing in his hand, but harmless. If the horse weren’t with them, he might show him now, but then he’d really be risking her bolting.

---

“You will.” He was eager to see what he could really do. And it would be an excuse to see him again. “I want to see what you can really do some day. ...Or some night - I think your magic is even prettier by moonlight.” It made the glow of his healing and his primal magic that much more intense.

---

He chuckled. He really did find him endearing like this. It was sweet to have someone so innocently fascinated in what he could do. To not be scared of him even when he strayed from healing magic. “Maybe we can have a picnic.”

---

“That would be nice. I can put together a pretty good picnic spread.” It wasn't as impressive of a talent as magic, by any means. But he could make the most out of whatever he could grow in his garden. “I'll provide the food, you supply the entertainment.”

---

“Sounds like a date.” He started to slowly walk them in a circle, wanting to head back. He didn’t want to walk for too long, as nice as it was, and if they had enough time to get back then maybe he could… spend a little more time with him.

He smiled, liking the sound of that. It was a beautiful night, but he didn't mind when Anders turned them to start the journey back. He was sure the healer had a long day and he was just grateful that this evening with him had been so much better than the last. “Have you decided what to name your horse now that you've spent a little time with her?”

---

“I don’t know. I don’t think I know her well enough yet.” He looked back at her, considering her. “The only thing I’ve really come up with is ‘Patches’, but I don’t know if the reason keep thinking of it is because I haven’t thought of anything else or if I really like it.”

“That's fine. I'll just keep calling her ‘girl’ until you find something you really like. She's just a filly and horses live a long time so you don't want to settle on something you don't love.” He looked to the horse, pleased to see her still walking obediently though she seemed to be distracted and looking around as much as the lead will allow. “You'll get to know her better if we have treats for her next time. She's learning about the domestication benefits of all the good food available to her now.”

---

“She seems really happy,” he agreed, stroking her neck and smiling to her. He really liked her. He didn’t know her well, but she was sweet and she was pretty. “Food’s a pretty good reason to be happy.”

“It is. Food is the way to her heart, for sure. You'll be her best friend in no time if you've got treats for her.” He watched as the horse seemed to focus a little better with the petting, staying closer to his side and keeping her eyes on the road ahead of her.

---

“Food is the way to most hearts.” He continued to stroke her for a time and then when they got closer to the stable, he let the flame in his hand go out. He didn’t want anyone to see him doing magic, after all. He took Milos’ hand again and just before they got inside, he spoke up. “Do you have to go right away?” There was an invitation somewhere in there.

---

He probably should, they both had to be up early in the morning. But he couldn’t bring himself to say so. He smiled and shook his head. “No, I can stay a while.” He wanted to spend more time with him and if he could squeeze a little more time out of this encounter, all the better.

---

He smiled and continued in with him, letting the stable boy take the horse. He bid her goodbye with a pat and then walked back out with him. He didn’t know how long Milos could stay, but hopefully he could stay long enough for Noah to return. “Back to Darktown.” They could enjoy the rest of their walk through the town and when they were alone inside the clinic, they could enjoy the rest of their time together.

Chapter Text

As much as he would have liked to return to Anders that night, things in the Gallows had taken a bad turn. It had taken the rest of the night and most of the following day for things to settle. When he could get away, he was relieved to head to the clinic and see his favored mage.

He was aching both inside and out. As limited as his healing was in this form, he’d mended the worst of his wounds and they didn’t trouble him as much as the loss and heartache he’d endured since the mission had gone awry. His clothing was torn and stained and it would be important that he got a new outfit quickly so he wouldn’t frighten any mortals he allowed to see him. But it could wait until the next day. What he needed now was Anders.

It was good to see that the lantern was out and but he still didn’t reveal himself right away when he stepped into the clinic. He needed to make sure Anders wasn’t with Milos again. It would be good for the mage if his lover was visiting, but he was selfishly relieved that he was alone. He appeared to Anders then, looking weary but pleased to see him. “Anders…”

---

He’d had a busy day. Finally Hawke had some work for him and he’d spent the entire day out with the promise of more work in a few days. It was late when he returned and he shut himself in the clinic, eager to get some food in him. Food, as it so happened, consisted of some broth, a couple of carrots, and a roll. He’d had a rather large lunch with the team, so he wasn’t that hungry and  he only took enough to keep his stomach from complaining.

He was halfway through his meal when the spirit appeared. For a beat, he looked happy to see him, then his expression changed. He caught himself just before he said the wrong name, climbing to his feet. “Noah, what happened?” He moved to him and started inspecting him.

--

Perhaps he should have tried to get new clothes before seeing Anders, but he hadn’t thought of alarming him. He was used to the mage dealing well with his deathly appearance. “Things did not go well last night. Please, sit down and finish your meal. I want to hear about your time with Milos.”

---

Eating and talking about Milos were the furthest things from his mind at the moment. Seeing him in this state made him anxious, not used to spirits being hurt. “What happened? Is something wrong?” It couldn’t be anything too bad, if he was wanting to talk about something of little importance.

---

“Yes, but it is done and over with for now.” He put his hands on the healer’s shoulders, wanting his influence to wash over him and calm him. “I want to take care of you tonight. I didn’t intend to alarm you with my appearance.”

---

He took a deep breath. He could feel what he was doing and part of him wanted to resist it, concerned as he was. “You have to tell us, though,” he reasoned. He wasn’t the only one that wanted to know what happened. Justice was agitated that something had apparently gone wrong.

---

“We were ambushed trying to get a family out of the city. It should have been safe, I made sure we wouldn't be spotted by the patrols. But we were spotted by an off-duty templar and he alerted the others.” From there, it had been a disaster. “No one from the Underground was captured, but there were injuries. They are mended now. The family was captured and they're in the Circle now. I had to kill one of the templars and I had to spend most of today manipulating the moods in the Circle to make sure the family would not be punished for what I did. I didn't want to kill him. He was not one of the bad ones - he was pressured into his occupation by his family and he was just a frightened young man.” The more he spoke, the more he seemed upset. He was composed, but it was clear that he was struggling with the mortal emotions threatening to overwhelm him.

---

“Noah…” He pulled him in and wrapped his arms around him. It was upsetting to hear it, but this wasn’t the first time something like this had happened. Sometimes they couldn’t get people out and sometimes people were hurt. Usually he didn’t feel bad if a templar was hurt, but Noah understood the templars in a way that he never would. He had more sympathy for them than Anders ever could.

Justice was also upset to hear it, feeling like they could have helped.They could have done something different if they had been there.

---

He embraced Anders in return. It was odd to be comforted and he was quick to start stroking his back, wanting to comfort him instead. It was a much more natural role for him. “It should have been simple. No one was supposed to get hurt.”

---

“I’m sorry,” he murmured to him. They probably should’ve been there… It wasn’t that he didn’t trust Noah, but it’d been a while since he’d gotten involved in the Underground directly. He needed to try to find time for it. Maybe some night they could switch. He could help the Underground with a mission and Noah could watch the clinic. Or maybe they could just shut the clinic down and go together occasionally. “It’s okay. We’ll get the family out of the Circle.”

---

“We had enough help. I don't think you being there would have made a difference so please don't feel responsible. But maybe we could go on a mission together sometime. I would like that.” He kissed his cheek. “We can get the family out together.”

---

“Come on, you’re a mess. Let’s get you cleaned up.” They could talk about this more later, if he was up to it. He walked him over to the basin, wanting to get him washed up and into a new set of clothing. He had some donated clothing he kept on hand for anyone who needed it. It was actually what he’d borrowed his clothing from when he’d gone out riding with Milos on their date.

---

“I came here to take care of you tonight.” He protested, but he followed him along to the basin. He knew he was a mess. He began to strip out of his bloodied clothes, having some cuts and bruises leftover that he couldn't be bothered to heal once he'd mended his bigger wounds and the wounds of the mages.

---

“You’re the one that needs taking care of. Not me.” When they were at the basin, he was quick to replace the water in it with some clean water, warming it and dipping a rag into it. He looked at him and frowned. With the wounds, he looked really bad, but that much he could fix. He began cleaning him up and healing the wounds that were left.

---

It was difficult for him to accept. But it did feel really nice to be washed and healed, even if it didn't seem right. He closed his eyes and relaxed, letting Anders scrub the dried blood from his skin. “I still want to hear about your night with Milos. You looked happy.”

---

“There isn’t much to say. We went on a walk, that’s all.” That wasn’t exactly all and for a brief moment, his mind went to all of the ways they’d indulged in each other, but knowing that Noah could hear all of that, he tried to push it aside. It was hard not to feel sheepish, even if he shouldn’t.

---

He smiled as he got the more complete picture from his thoughts. “It sounds like a really nice night. Did your horse behave for you? She's young and a little unsure, but gentle.”

---

“Yes, she was a good girl.” She’d walked well with him, even when he’d lit the way with fire. It had been a nice night and they had many more planned, though he didn’t know when any of it would happen. After a few beats, he went on. “Now I will worry whenever you don’t show up.” This was obviously the reason he hadn’t shown up last night, so he was going to wonder what was wrong whenever he didn’t stop in.

---          

“You don't need to. Some nights I will have to work late and I don't want you to fret over me.” He would still come here as often as he could though. “I'm just glad Milos occupied much of the night so you did not have to be lonely.”

---

“It’s too late.” He was going to fret, but he would try to keep in mind that it wouldn’t always be like this. That if he didn’t  come, it didn’t necessarily mean anything. “Don’t worry about me being lonely.” If he had to spend a night alone, that was alright. Hell, if he had to spend a few nights alone, that was alright. He was use to it. He wouldn’t like it, but he was use to it and it wasn’t something he wanted Noah worrying about.

He wanted him to come because he wanted to come.

---          

“I do not want you to be lonely. But I also come because I want to. I don't usually do things to make myself feel good...but after last night, I knew that seeing you would make me feel better.” Spending time with this man made him happy and he felt he needed that tonight. “Taking care of you comforts me.”

---

He gave him a smile, somewhat somber all things considered, but it was genuine. When he’d healed all of him, he stroked his side, feeling the extreme dip from the bones of his ribs to his hips. “You’re looking better.” He got up, gave his arm a squeeze, then moved to grab him some fresh clothing. When he returned with it, he offered it him. “It’s not much, but it’ll work for now.”

---

“Thank you.” It would save him the trouble of finding new clothing in the morning. He dressed himself and when he finished, he took Anders by the hand to lead him back to his desk. “Please, finish your supper. I interrupted your meal.”

---

He followed after him, sitting back down at the desk. “You should eat too…” If he was going to start trying to put on some weight and fill out. If that would even work. Anders picked up his bowl of broth and rewarmed it, before continuing to sip at it. He was already thinking about when he’d have time to try and get the family out of the Circle. Undoubtedly the Underground was already planning it, but he wanted to be involved this time.

---

“There is not enough to spare for me. You need it more.” But to appease him, he did tear a bit off of the roll Anders had and popped it into his mouth. Some mortal food really was tasty and bread was rather nice. “We need things to quiet down in the Circle, so the Underground will wait a little while to move. I assured the family that we have not forgotten them and they will be kept safe while they are on the inside.”

---

He nodded. It would be difficult to get them all out at once. That was generally why they only got mages out one at a time and even that was tricky. He sighed, took a bite of carrot, eating absently. “I will make my intent to be more involved again known at the next meeting.” Noah had kind of taken his place, but he didn’t want to sit back as much as he had been, even though it had been good for him to not take so much onto his plate.

---

“I can watch the clinic on days you wish to do things for the Underground. But we should go together on some of the night missions.” During the hours that the clinic was usually closed anyway. He pulled up a stool to the desk and took a seat, folding his arms on his desk and resting his chin on them. It took a lot to make this body weary, but he was looking forward to laying down. In the meantime, he was content to watch Anders serenely.

---

“We’ll figure it out.” It didn’t take long for him to finish what he had, since what he had wasn’t a lot. When he was done, he got up and cleaned up his dishes and then went back to where Noah was sitting. “Want to lay down?” He looked tired, though he knew he didn’t sleep.

---

“Yes.” He had been looking forward to it. To laying with him and to touching him. To maybe even losing himself in him. He rose to his feet and took Anders by the hand once more, guiding him toward his cot. When he reached it, he began to work at the fastenings of his robes, wanting him undressed before they laid down. “These new robes are very nice.”

---

“They are.” He’d basically been wearing them not stop. It had given him time to give his old robes a thorough washing and airing out so that way when he swapped back to them, they would be much cleaner than usual. He let him undressed him, not doing much to help, except shaking off the fabric when it was loose enough.

He sat on the edge of the cot, watching him. ‘Guess I should’ve waited to give you the clothes, huh?”

---

“I wanted to wear them while you finished eating anyway.” He stripped out of his clothing and moved to straddle Anders’ lap, careful about settling his weight on him though his body didn't have much weight at all. He reached up to untie Anders’ hair, running his fingers through it and shaking the locks loose after being bound all day.

---

He was surprised that he straddled him. Just because he’d never straddled him while he was sitting like this. He slid his arms around him and leaned in to press a soft kiss to his lips. The fingers in his hair felt very nice, his scalp always a little sore after wearing it up. It felt good for it to fall and even better for it to be manipulated.

---

He worked his fingers through his hair for awhile, then let them slide down the back of his neck, his fingertips warm with magic. They moved forward when he gave him a kiss in return, cupping his cheeks, then down the front of his neck and across his shoulders. He wanted to touch him everywhere, to caress and soothe him so thoroughly.

---

He hadn’t touched him like this since the first night. Not so… intimately. It made him feel much as it had then and he sank into him, his own hands stroking, though he wasn’t as intentional in his touch. He was too busy taking in the hands on his skin to be anything more than absent.

---

This was just what he wanted. To pamper and relax his mage. He closed his eyes and kissed him again, his hands working their way down his arms. He went so far as to lace their fingers, then rub each of his fingers individually, making sure he touched everything from even the webbing between his fingers, to each fingertip. He was feeling so much better already, soaking in Anders’ positive feelings and letting them drown all of the sorrow he’d taken in from mages and templars alike the night before.

---

He let him do as he wished with his arms and hands, holding still for him. He really liked the attention and though he knew that the spirit needed attention too, he felt so comfortable. His eyes shut and he continued to kiss him softly, feeling so warm while he took such care of him.

---

Noah worked back up his arms, then down the front of his chest, brushing his thumbs over each nipple briefly before working down to his stomach. He explored the area thoroughly, then worked back up his sides. It was working wonders to relax him and he breathed a pleased sigh into his sweet kisses with Anders. This was just what he needed.

---

“Noah,” he murmured, his breathing deepening the longer he touched him. Since his hands were free, he began to touch him again in return, kissing him intently. Still soft, but very intent. He slid a hand up to his shoulders, clutching at them from behind and pressing into him.

---

He worked his hands toward his back and though he knew his sensitivity about it, he was every bit as thorough. His fingers gingerly traced every line of muscle, every ridge of bone, every groove of scar. He knew everything about where they came from and how much pain they had caused Anders but he would not shy away from them. He kissed Anders a little more deliberately during this, wanting to help keep him relaxed even while he touched these sensitive places.

---

He tightened his arms around him. He could feel that he was tracing his scars. The few times anyone had tried that, he’d stopped them in their tracks, but when it was him… it didn’t feel so bad. Even when he was focused on them, it felt okay. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, softening even further.

---

WHen he’d touched all there was to touch, he moved on. He touched his hips and his ass, kneading the muscle there before he worked his hands around to the front of him. He cupped and squeezed him, glad to be on to touching parts that Anders preferred to have caressed after getting through his back.

---

He made a sound, his hips pressing up in response. He kissed him with even more intently, though there was something different to it this time. His cock was interested in the attention and he was already half-hard from the touches elsewhere. He wondered if Noah wanted him like he had the last time they’d done this.

---

“I want you. But I want to do this first.” He murmured against his lips. He gave his cock and balls more attention than he'd given anything else, but he eventually moved on. He eased himself down to kneel on the floor in front of him, giving himself room to stroke his thighs.

---

His breath caught, assuming he knew what he was going to do. It was something he’d wanted to try, after all. He forgot entirely that he was in the middle of touching all of him. It didn’t occur to him that he might simply be getting in a position so that he could make sure he touched his entire body.

---

He massaged his thighs thoroughly, his knees, then down to his calves. He felt his feet needed more detailed attention, as he had with his hands so he worked on them one at a time. He pulled one into his lap, exploring with his fingers from his ankle all the way down to each individual toe.

---

He couldn’t remember the last time he’d had someone massage his feet, but it was so nice. A pleasant surprise. That was, until his finger hit a spoke that tickled him and he squirmed away from him. He smiled sheepishly. “Sorry, I’m a little ticklish.” He still liked it, but now that he’d been tickled, he knew it would be that much harder not to be tickled again.

---

“It's alright. I will skip that spot on the other side.” He moved that foot back to the floor, moving the other to his lap instead. He started over, but tried to avoid the place he'd tickled on the other foot.

---

As expected, while he was expecting it, he had a hard time not being more ticklish, but eventually Noah worked it long enough that the tension faded. He sighed. “Thank you.” He wanted to tell him how much he appreciated the attention. His feet were a bit sore after running around all day, as was the rest of his body, and his hands helped more than he could say.

---

“You're welcome.” When he finished, he set the other foot back down on the floor. He leaned forward then and began pressing kisses to Anders’ cock. He did still want to try this and he was in a great position for it.

---

Again, his breathing hitched, this time not expecting it. At least, not then. He watched him and reached to him with a hand, stroking his fingers through his hair. He wasn’t sure how inexperienced he’d be with this. If what he knew from Cole’s memories would help or if hearing what he was thinking would tell him what to do and what not to do.

---

“Cole did not do this often so it may not be the best you've had.” He warned before running his tongue along the length of him. He rather liked the way the grooves and veins felt beneath his tongue and he was quick to start trying different sorts of licks in different places.

---

He didn’t care if it was or wasn’t the best. “That’s okay.” He was just happy that he wanted to try. He didn’t have to do this. They had other ways to enjoy themselves, so it was nice that he wanted to do this. The licks were good and he knew he didn’t have to make any indication of which ones felt best. He would know. Still, the hand stroking his hair subconsciously became a little more needy with certain strokes of his tongue.

---

He was learning as he went, using Anders’ thoughts and reactions to determine what to do. He wasn't in a hurry to take him into his mouth. For now, he was enjoying experimenting with his tongue and tasting him thoroughly.

---

After a while, he couldn’t help but squirm as he had when tickled. It was good, but he needed more. He was getting too worked up and he needed relief. He whimpered and the hand in his hair pushed slightly, silently showing him what he needed.

---

“Sorry. I was having fun.” He looked up to him with a little smile. He wrapped his lips around the head of him and immediately wondered how he was supposed to get all of it into his mouth. For starters, he went back to licking since he was more familiar with that but eventually he gave him an experimental suck.

---

That was a little better and when he sucked, he approved. Just like that. Sucking and licking at the same time, preferably. He could stroke him too, to make it even better. He wasn’t trying to be demanding, but he couldn’t help but think about what would feel good and what he wished he would do.

---

He wanted to please him and so he tried to do it all. He started to work his tongue over him while he was sucking him and found that it was easier to do both at the same time than he would have expected. Wanting to give him all that he wanted, he took the base of him in hand and began to stroke. It was a little awkward at first, but he found that if he bobbed his head in rhythm with the movement of his hand, it felt more natural. From what remembered of Anders doing this for him, bobbing was the next natural progression anyway.

---

Much, much better. He moaned under his breath, pulling his hand back so he could grip the edge of the cot. He watched him for a time and then his eyes shut. In the back of his mind, he pictured Milos. He’d sucked him like this the previous night, though not all the way to. Only long enough to get him riled and ready.

---

Milos? Interesting that he would be thinking of Milos. He wasn’t sure what to make of that, but it didn’t slow him down. He grew more confident in what he was doing as he got the hang of it, starting to suck suck him harder and take him a little deeper.

---

The better he got at it, the stronger the image of Milos became. He was such a stunning man. Maybe not as stunning as some of the people he ran with, but as an everyday kind of man, he was definitely something. He remembered meeting his eyes and the heat he’d seen in them. His eyes opened, as if encouraged by the thought, and he saw Noah. His thoughts focused. The man he was dating disappeared and there was only the spirit on his knees for him.

---

He followed the disruption of his thoughts when he laid eyes on him and he wondered if it would be a problem for him. If his pleasure would fade when he remembered that it was something more like a walking corpse than the man he found attractive sucking him. He looked up to him curiously but didn’t slow in his work, wanting to give him the best pleasure he could even if his fantasy was ruined.

---

He realized himself and he flushed a little, but put no more significance into it than that. Trying to push it out of his mind completely, pretending his thoughts hadn’t wandered. That was the one nice thing about having a mortal lover - his thoughts could wander wherever and it didn’t matter. It still felt good and he reached for his hair again, giving it a stroke.

---

It seemed he wasn't all that bothered that it was him sucking him and not Milos. He liked the fingers in his hair and he made a soft sound around his cock, slowly taking him in deeper. He didn't know what it would feel or taste like when Anders came and he would have liked to talk to him and ask questions, but unfortunately his mouth was busy and he would have to wait and find out on his own.

---

“That feels good,” he assured him, wanting him to know that he was doing a good job, even if he didn’t have to. He wasn’t sure if he was planning on bringing him to like this, but he supposed he would stop if he wasn’t. For now, he was happy to take what he could get from him.

---

He appreciated that he would tell him so, even if he didn't need to say it aloud. He was taking him deeply enough that he was running out of room to stroke him and so he moved his hand to massage his thigh instead. This was not quite as intimate as simply stroking him had felt when they could cuddle and kiss, but this was enjoyable in its own way - using his mouth to give him more complex pleasure.

---

He groaned under his breath, his hand sliding from his hair to his shoulder. He squeezed it. As much sex as he’d been having lately, it took awhile for it to get to him, but eventually it did and he couldn’t keep himself completely still. He was squirming and his hips were shifting and he could feel it just as it was about it hit. He came with another groan, much louder, deeper, and full of satisfaction.

---

He was prepared enough for him to spill, but he still missed a bit of it and it trickled down his chin. He got most of it though, swallowing it down. It tasted surprisingly pleasant for a bodily fluid. When he was finished, he pulled off and looked up at him with a smile.

---

When the last waves of his climax faded, he looked down and met his gaze. “Thank you,” he murmured to him, seeing the cum that had spilt on his chin and using his thumb to wipe it off. He tugged him up, wanting him to climb back into his lap so he could be close to him again.

---

“You are welcome.” He followed his tug, climbing up to straddle his lap. “I wish I could make myself look like Milos when I do that. I think it would have been better for you.”

---

He flushed again, the color much brighter. “Don’t worry about that,” he assured him, feeling guilty that he was aware he’d thought of someone else. “People think about all kinds of things when they’re being pleasured.” Sometimes they thought about someone else or even something else. He hadn’t meant to, but there was no denying that he was attracted to Milos in a way that he was not attracted to Noah.

---

“Really? I wonder why.” There were so many sensations already, why would their minds wander? He was fascinated. He kissed his lips briefly, then pulled back to look at him again.

---

“Sorry,” he continued, sheepish as could be. “Sometimes I wish you didn’t hear everything I think.” Then again, that was part of the reason he was so fond of him. Noah understood him because he could hear everything. “I don’t do what what I do with you because of attraction, so it doesn’t matter.”

---

“You don't need to be sorry. I also wish I could not hear everything also.” It could get very loud and distracting, especially around a lot of people. “I hope I can change my appearance. I think it will make this better for you.”

---

“Really, it’s okay. It was good.” He didn’t want him to feel like he had to change for him. “I like everything you do.” Especially when he tended to his entire body. He appealed to him in a way that no one ever had before. It was based entirely on the way Noah made him feel.

---

“I'm glad.” He wanted to do what made Anders feel good. He began to stroke his fingers through his hair, much as he had when he first began pampering him. “Is there anything else I can do to take care of you tonight?”

---

He wouldn’t mind just laying with him. They hadn’t had sex again, but after yesterday, the need wasn’t as strong. Especially following a satisfying release. He liked it when he held him closely and tenderly and just touched him. He felt a little embarrassed saying this out loud, so he just let his thoughts do the talking.

---

Noah climbed out of his lap, moving to the cot and pulling Anders down to lay with him. He wrapped him up in his arms and tangled their legs, pressing kisses to his jaw when they were settled. He was tired and it was so good to lay down.

---

He settled right into him, sliding his arms around him and shutting his eyes. Justice was being patient, but he did want to plan more with the Underground. He’d talk to him in the morning about stopping by to see Derric themselves. It had been a while since the last meeting and their only contact had been though Noah, so it would be good to catch up themselves.


Anders wasn’t thinking about it himself, happy and content as could be.

---

He felt so much better, Anders’ happiness soaking into him and warming him thoroughly. He was a bit hard from servicing him, but he wasn't worried about it. Perhaps in the morning they could do more. For now, resting with him was enough.

Chapter Text

The idea of meeting Anders’ friends was both exciting and unnerving. It seemed that they were adventurers too and Milos couldn’t help but feel that he would be painfully dull in comparison. But he knew he didn’t have to impress them, he just had to make sure that they didn’t hate him. Things were going so well and he didn’t want to do anything that would make Anders second guess what they had.

Not that what they had was all that serious yet. They had agreed to take things slow and that was fine with him. They were both busy men with responsibilities and so that helped with keeping things from moving too quickly. Milos cherished the few evenings he could spend with him, including the picnic they’d enjoyed together where Anders had showcased his magic. It had been beautiful and he’d gotten even more of a demonstration once their clothes had come off. Spending time with the man got his heart racing, usually in more ways than one, and he was more assured every time they met up that they were good for each other. Maybe if this went well with his friends, he could try to move their relationship forward a little. He wasn’t in any big rush, but he felt like the time might be right to at least approach him about the next step. Assuming he didn’t completely blow it with his friends, anyway.

He held Anders’ hand on the way up the stairs of the tavern, growing a little more nervous the closer they got to the private room. “Anything I should know before we go in?” He asked, deciding he’d best ask before he said anything that might offend someone in their company.

---

Anders was a little nervous himself. His friends could be a bit much and he didn’t want any of them scaring Milos off. He doubted they would, who knew what would happen. Hopefully they would behave themselves. It felt strange… bringing someone around to ‘meet the family’ so to speak. He couldn’t help but feel sheepish about the whole ordeal, but it would be nice to spend some time with him around others.

When they reached the closed door to Varric’s room, he turned to look at him. “...Just try to have fun. They can be a little rowdy… and watch out for Isabela. She cheats.” He’d told him that they’d be playing cards and to bring a little coin. He’d brought a little coin himself, just to join in so they could both have a little fun with the others.

---

“Good thing I didn’t bring much coin for her to steal then.” He smiled and squeezed his hand. He was glad they were playing cards and having a couple drinks. It would be a good way to break the ice and he wasn’t bad at the game they’d be playing. He waited for Anders to lead the way, able to hear the others through the door when they broke out in laughter.

Isabela was perched on Hawke’s lap, scooping in the coin she’d won from the last hand. “I’m on fire tonight. Too bad we’re not playing strip Wicked Grace. It would be especially fun with Anders’ new arm candy here, we’d all really get to know him…”

---

Hawke smirked and reached past her to pluck up one of her coins. “Whatever, you know you’d start losing on purpose just for an excuse to take off your clothes.” He wouldn’t mind that. He flicked the coin into her pile and slid his arm around her side as he leaned in for his mug so he could take another deep drink of his ale.

The door opened and both Hawke and Varric looked up at the door. Varric was particularly pleased to see him. He was curious about this ‘friend’ of his and he hadn’t seen the mage outside of missions in well over a month. It might even be pushing two months at this point. “Blondie! Come on in, we’ve saved you a couple of seats.” He gestured to one side of the table where two chairs were sitting empty.

Anders looked as sheepish as he felt as he stepped inside and tugged Milos forward to stand beside him. “Hey everyone… This is Milos.” He looked over at the man and then back to them. “Milos, that’s Varric.” He gestured to the dwarf. “Hawke and Isabela.” He gestured to the pair sitting together. “Merrill, Aveline, and Fenris.” He went down the line, until everyone had been introduced.

---

It was a bit of a shock to see them - not one of them looked like an average person he would see on the streets. Some were even in armor. Milos gave them a wave with his free hand, hoping he didn’t look as out of place as he felt. “Hi, everyone. I’m glad to finally meet all of you.”

Fenris was a little relieved at the sight of him. No staff, no robes. He probably wasn’t a mage. Isabela grinned at the pair of them. “You heard the dwarf. Take a seat, boys.”

---

Anders walked him over to the chairs and made an example of sitting down. “So, Milos, do you drink?” Varric asked, looking him over. Hopefully, but he wouldn’t past the mage to find someone as straight-laced as he was.

Aveline was a little curious, having assumed the same as Fenris. That he would be a mage. He didn’t look like a mage, though that didn’t necessarily mean anything. He didn’t look like much of anything, truth be told, though he was a good looking man. She could appreciate that much.


She waited until he answered Varric’s question to ask one of her own. “What is it you do, Milos?” Anders hadn’t told them much of anything and at the time, she hadn’t really cared, but with him there in person, she was a little more interested.

---

“A little, I wouldn’t mind an ale.” He said once he was settled in his seat. A drink might help to ease his nerves a little. He felt all of their eyes on him, but especially Isabela’s as she studied him. He looked to Aveline, relieved for an easy enough question to answer right off the bat. “I have a horse ranch. I break wild horses, breed them, train them for different types of work, sell them. I used to be a jeweler, I’m starting to take it back up as a hobby.” He gave Anders a little smile. He had him to thank for that.

---

“An ale and a tea, coming right up.” Varric would go get the drinks for them and another round for everyone else at the table. He started to get up, but when Milos began to talk about himself, he paused, wanting to know what he had to say. His brows lifted. “A jeweler? Well then, I like him already.” He liked anyone who could appreciate fine jewelry and he really liked anyone who could make it. He sounded interesting enough. He hopped from his seat and started downstairs.

Hawke smirked. “How’d you meet our sweet Anders?” He knew Varric would probably want to hear all about it, nosy as he was, but he was sure he’d ask them himself at some point through the night.

Anders rolled his eyes. “Let’s not.” He didn’t want to be ribbed and he didn’t want Milos to have to suffer through questions. “Why don’t we just play cards? We brought some coin.” He produced his own pouch and poured it out in front of him. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to last through a few rounds, as long as he didn’t try anything drastic.

---

Milos wouldn’t have minded answering, but he smiled when Anders tried to move things along. He produced his coin as well, not much but a fair amount to start with.

“How are we supposed to get to know your new beau if we can’t ask him questions?” Isabela smirked. She also liked jewelers.

---

“She is right, you know. Besides, we can’t play until Varric comes back, so let us ask our questions. We haven’t had someone new in years.” No one in their group had time for relationships and it was almost a little bizarre that Anders, of all of them, was the first one to get one.

“He came to the clinic to be healed and the next day he came back to ask me out.” Short and sweet and to the point.

---

“He made a great first impression.” Milos gave Anders a fond look, a little sheepish. “I’m just glad I worked up the nerve to go back and ask him out.”

“...Are you a mage?” Fenris asked bluntly after a beat, deciding he best ask outright since his appearance didn’t suggest he was, but he knew he likely would be if he was with the healer.

 

“...No, I’m not.” The question was a little jarring and he looked to the elf with a little bewilderment.

“Good.” That was all Fenris cared to know. He wasn’t particularly interested in their blossoming relationship.

---

Hawke rolled his eyes to himself. “Don’t mind him. Why don’t you tell us more about the impression he made on you?” He couldn’t help wanting to give Anders a bit of a hard time and he could tell the healer was flustered. It was funny.

Varric returned then, carrying a handful of drinks and followed by a wench who was carrying the rest of the drinks. They were all plopped on the table and the wench made her way out, shutting the door behind her. “What’d I miss?” he asked as he dropped back into his seat and began to shuffle the cards.

---

“Thank you.” Milos was glad that the drinks arrived so he didn’t have to answer that question. He took a sip of his drink and looked to Varric. “We were just talking about how I met Anders in his clinic when I needed healing and I went back the next day to ask him out.”

“And we were about to talk about what happened after that. I want to hear how long it took Anders to show him a good time.” Isabela smiled and it only grew more wicked when Milos flushed.

---

Anders was similarly flushed. Not only from the question, but from the answer. He’d fucked him within an hour of knowing him. It wasn’t really all that scandalous, but he hadn’t done anything like that in a long time and even if he had, he wouldn’t want to talk about it with them.

“Unfortunately for Isabela, she’ll have to make up her own mind on that end.” He pulled in his tea and sipped at it. “Why don’t I tell you a little about everyone, Milos?” To get the topic off of them.

---

“You’re so mean to me.” Isabela pouted and slid out of Hawke’s lap, moving to perch herself on Anders’ lap instead. “If you’re going to talk about us, why don’t you start with me, Handsome?”

Milos was stunned when Isabela dropped into the healer’s lap. He was so bemused that he couldn’t help but smile. He’d never seen a woman quite like her and it was a bit of a relief that the other two women at the table seemed a little more reserved. “Sure. Why don’t we start with her?”

---

Anders didn’t mind her climbing into his lap most of the time, but this time he was rather aware of Milos. If he hadn’t smiled, he probably would’ve pushed her off of him. Since he didn’t seem upset by it, he decided to let her have her time in his lap. He didn’t doubt that before the night was through, she’d end up in Milos’ lap as well.

“Alright. This is Isabela.” In case he’d already forgotten the names. Likely, considering how many there were. “She’s a pirate, if you couldn’t tell. She doesn’t do much pirating these days, but she used to be a captain with her own ship and crew and everything.” She had been when he met her. “She’s pretty good with a pair of knives, but her real talent is luring people back to her room to uh, plunder their treasure.” A polite way of saying she was a whore, though he carried… few judgements about that. They weren’t really his judgements, but Justice felt strongly enough that it was hard not to seep into his own emotions.

---

Milos could see why she might be good at that. “A pirate? Wow...I can’t say I’ve ever met a pirate before.” He wouldn’t have thought that there were many lady captains either. It seemed like something out of a story book more than anything he’d encountered in real life. “I’m impressed.”

“Likewise.” Isabela rather shamelessly wandered him with her eyes and when he flushed again, she chuckled and draped an arm around Anders’ shoulders. “I like him, Handsome. He’s sweet.”

---

Anders smiled. He was sweet. He slid his arm around her side, much like Hawke had, simply because it was more comfortable to hold her then to not. He gestured to Varric, who was watching the exchange with an amused expression as he shuffled the cards beyond what was necessary. “Varric,” he repeated. “He’s from a noble family in Orzammar that came to the surface.” More like they’d been banished, but he didn’t want to bring up anyone’s drama. He was just talking up his friends, finding Milos’ reactions as amusing as he was sure the rest of them were. “He’s a prominent member of the Merchant’s Guild and a popular author.” He nodded over to the dwarf’s shelf of books.

Varric chuckled. “Maybe I’ll have you write the ‘about the author’ segment in my next book, Blondie.”

---

“Wow…” Milos looked to the books. Maybe he’d read one of them and hadn’t even realized it. “I bet you’ve had a lot of interesting stories to write about.” He didn’t know much about the Merchant’s Guild, but he knew enough that it would make for great drama. He took a sip of his ale and as he feared, he felt incredibly boring compared to everyone else at the table after only hearing a little about two of them.

---

“A fair few,” he replied modestly, tossing the cards across the table as he dealt them out.

“Hawke is our leader.” Anders gestured to the rogue, who certainly looked the part. He was fully decked out in his armor, looking handsome and charming as always. “He’s from Ferelden like me. He and his family escaped the blight that happened there a few years ago.” More than a few years ago at this point, but sometimes it didn’t feel like it had been so long ago. “He came to Kirkwall and ever since then, he’s been making a name for himself. Someday, he’s going to to run this city.” He gave Hawke a little smirk and the rogue lifted his mug.

“Here’s to that.”

Anders was quicker with the rest of them. “Merrill’s a Daelish blood mage from the clan outside Kirkwall. She use to be the Keeper’s First, but... now she’s with us. Aveline’s the Captain of the Guard, so she’s the one you’ll want to talk to about all of the bandits running around Kirkwall.” He was given a stern look at that. “Fenris is an ex-slave from Tevinter. He’s hates all mages, myself included, and has a neat trick where he turns his hand incorporeal and he rips out the hearts of anyone he doesn’t like.” It almost sounded like a compliment.

---

“You definitely hang out with an interesting crowd. I look forward to getting to know all of you better.” Except maybe for the elf who hated Anders and liked ripping hearts out. “But as impressive as all of you are, I have yet to see if any of you are any good at Wicked Grace.”

“That sounds like a challenge.” Isabela purred and reached to sweep her fingers through Milos’ hair, delighted by how flustered he seemed by the simple touch.

---

“Leave him alone, Isabela.” He didn’t mind, but he could see how overwhelmed Milos was. He was thoroughly amused and the chastising didn’t sound all that meant. “Go find another lap to sit on.” He gave her a little push as he pulled in his cards to look at them.

Varric smirked. “If you’ve only ever played with Blondie, I don’t blame you for being skeptical.” He watched as Hawke started in with the betting and threw in his own coin as it came to him.

“We’ve never played cards actually-”

“Yeah, no wonder.”

Anders shot him a look. “We have better things to do in our time together.”

“Better than cards? Surely not,” the dwarf teased.

---

“You’re not that possessive of him already, are you, Handsome?” She teased but got out of his lap when prompted. She plucked up her cards and grabbed her abandoned chair, making herself a new spot on Milos’ other side. Much closer to him than necessary.

“Neither of us have a lot of free time. But I’m sure we would have gotten around to playing cards eventually.” Milos said a little sheepishly, trying to focus on his cards as he looked over his hand and tossed in his coin.

---

“Not possessive, but I do understand personal boundaries far better than you do.” With her moved, he honed in on Milos’ conversation with Varric. Anders doubted it, but that’s why they had this. He added his own coins in. His hand wasn’t bad, but he wouldn’t really know until they turned over cards. When everyone that was in was in, Varric turned over said cards and Anders was somewhat pleased that his hand still wasn’t bad.

“Good luck winning against those two,” Hawke chimed in. Sometimes Fenris won. Sometimes he won. Hell, sometimes even Aveline won, but more often than not, the ones filling their coin purses at the end of the night were Isabela or Varric.

---

“We’ll have to see if luck is in my favor tonight.” Milos had a pretty good hand and when it was time to bet again, he spent a few moments deliberating to try to seem unsure of his hand before tossing more coin in.

“It’s alright if it’s not. You’re a jeweler. You can make me something pretty if you run out of coin.” Isabela chuckled and tossed in more money as well.

---

Anders joined in again, but when the next card was flipped, he bit his lip. His hand wasn’t so good anymore and he folded out of the round. Which was fine by him. He pulled up his tea and sipped at it. Justice was being much quieter than usual and when he asked him why, the spirit didn’t really answer. He just told him to have his fun, which was odd, but appreciated. He could see that he was trying and he felt happy and in turn, Justice felt better.

---

To his delight, Milos won the round. They might all be impressive fighters, but an ordinary man could still beat them in cards once in awhile. He pulled in his winnings, eager for the next round to start.

“Beginner’s luck.” Isabela huffed and moved from her seat, easing into Milos’ lap instead. It would be fun to fluster him, hopefully enough so that she’d win her coin back. She smirked to Anders, then leaned in to whisper in the newcomer’s ear.

Milos was indeed flustered when the woman helped herself to his lap but when she started to whisper to him, he was intrigued. He flushed, but smiled glancing to Anders. She wasn’t wrong. Anders was one of the most stunning men he’d ever seen and he couldn’t blame her for being a little jealous that he’d caught the mage’s eye.

---

Anders grinned when Milos won, pleased to see him do well. Maybe if he kept it up, he could clean them out. He’d like that. It’d put them in their places for once and he’d have a lot of money to take home for his family. Then, of course, Isabela behaved exactly as predicted and he watched skeptically as she began to whisper to him.

Milos was a big boy and if was uncomfortable, he was sure he would say so, so he wasn’t really worried about it. He was curious what she was saying, though, and when Milos looked at him, his curiosity grew. He cocked his head a little - he’d ask him on the way home.

There were other conversations around the table. Milos had lost a little bit of his novelty and Hawke and Varric were currently chatting, after having congratulated him, with Aveline adding input as the dwarf set up the next round of the game.

---

He whispered into Isabela’s ear in return, a little stunned by the way Isabela stroked her fingers down the front of his chest while she listened to him, her touch so confident and intimate. She really was something. It was a relief when the cards were dealt and he had that to focus on again. His hand wasn’t great this time so he was quick to fold. He wasn’t about to let the others win their coin back that easily.

---

“Hey, Isabela, I think Fenris is looking a bit lonely.” It was a suggestion. Go sit in his lap instead. Then he could scoot his chair closer to Milos’ and hold his hand under the table. Again, his hand was pretty good to start, so he joined in the round with everyone but Merrill, who at this point seemed to be looked to be on her last leg.

---

“But I’m just getting your new boy broken in.” She complained playfully, a smirk on her lips. She knew that Milos wasn’t hers to play with, but that was what made him fun. She rather liked his hair and she slid her fingers through it one more time before she did as she was asked and vacated his lap in favor of Fenris’. The elf huffed an annoyed sigh but slid an arm around her anyway once she settled.

---

He scooted in, as planned, and took his hand. He’d warned them that his friends were overwhelming and they were, but none so much as Isabela. With her taken care of, they could enjoy the rest of the game together and maybe if Milos was lucky, they could walk out with more coin than they’d come in with.

---

Milos looked so much more comfortable when it was Anders moving into his space instead of the pirate. He squeezed his hand, giving him a warm look. He was having fun, even if his second hand hadn’t been a winner. The ale made it easier to loosen up around all of these new people but he sipped it slowly, not daring to overdo it and make a fool of himself.

---

Without Justice bugging him the entire time, he did better than normal, but he was still wiped out after about a half-hour of playing. Since there was nothing for him to do, he leaned into Milos to watch him play. Not wanting to get too intimate, but wanting to enjoy the time he had with him.

---

Milos had lost a little of his coin, but after winning another good round, he was ahead again. He leaned into Anders as well and when it seemed the others weren’t paying them much mind, he rested his head on his shoulder. He didn’t want his lover to get bored since he was out so murmured into his ear. “Do you want to head to your place soon?”

---

“If you want to.” He wouldn’t mind staying for as long as the game went on, if Milos wanted to, but if he’d rather take his winnings and spend some time with him, then he wouldn’t mind that either.

---

“I’m having fun, but I’d like a little time alone with you…” They didn’t get to see each other all that often. If they could have a little time together before he had to head home for the night, he’d prefer that.

---

He nodded and then sat back. “It’s getting late.” It wasn’t. They hadn’t been there all that long, but it wasn’t unusual for him to be the first to leave for the night. “We’re going to head off.”

“Aw, so soon?” Varric was genuinely disappointed. “Well, Blondie, be sure to bring Goldie back next time.”

Anders snorted. Goldie? He bet Varric thought himself clever for that one.

“See you guys.” Everyone said their goodbyes and Anders pulled Milos by the hand and tugged him out.

“It was fun. I'll come back another night.” As long as Anders wanted him to, he would be happy to come back and play cards again. He squeezed his hand once they were outside, a smile on his lips. “Thanks for letting me meet your friends. They're definitely a fun crowd. They aren't bad at Wicked Grace either.”

---

“They’re good,” he agreed, “and it was nice to see you keeping up with them.”  He was pleased with his skill, or perhaps luck, with the game. “Sorry about Isabela… she loves to flirt with everyone. …What was it she said to you?” And what had he said back?

“She was...a lot to handle. I've never met a woman quite like her.” He flushed a little at the question, having nearly forgotten about that. “She asked me if I thought you were one of the most stunning men I'd ever seen. And she told me she was jealous that I'd caught your eye and held your attention for as long as I have.” He doubted she was made jealous often, he imagined she was a woman who generally got anything she wanted from anyone. “I told her I was well aware of how gorgeous you are and how lucky I am.”

---

His brows rose. “Jealous? No… Isabela doesn’t get jealous.” What was there to be jealous of? She’d already had him and, sure, she’d wanted to have him again and he hadn’t let her, but she wasn’t one to want to catch anyone’s eye. “She was just hoping to make you blush some more.” He squeezed his hand, pleased with what he had to say about it.

—-

“She succeeded.” Even if she was just giving him a hard time, he knew plenty of people would be jealous. Anders was quite a catch. He raised their joined hands to kiss the back of the mage's.

---

He chuckled. “I’m glad you enjoyed yourself, even if you blushed all night. I think you fit in pretty well with them.” Which was nice. “Better than I do, at least.”

“Oh, I doubt that. You're a powerful mage that's been on wild adventures. I'm a guy who raises horses. I think you fit in with that lot a little better than me.” He swung their hands a little, his mood high after the evening with his friends went so well. “...When we get back to the clinic, can we talk? It's nothing bad.” He added quickly to keep him from worrying. If anything, he hoped it would be a good thing for both of them.

---

He smiled, but didn’t linger on the subject. He didn’t want to get into all the reasons why he didn’t fit in with them. When Milos went on, Anders’ smile faded. The assurance was nice, but it wasn’t often he was ‘asked to talk’ and usually it was nothing good.

“Sure.” He pulled him a little closer and enjoyed the rest of the walk, trying not to think about it. When they arrived at the clinic, he let him in and then locked the door behind them. He turned to him and then moved to lean against a work table. “What did you want to talk about?”

Milos moved to lean into the table beside him, watching him with a smile. “I wanted to tell you that I've been having a really good time with you whenever we're together. The more I get to know you, the more I like you.”

---

He was warmed, but curious. He had a feeling he knew where this was going. “I feel the same.” He liked him a lot. He was really sweet and he enjoyed spending time with him.

“I'm glad.” He'd needed to know if Anders was on the same wavelength and it seemed he was. He met his gaze without wavering, his eyes warm. “I know it's best we take things slow, but I was wondering if you felt ready to take the next step with me. If you want to be my boyfriend officially.”

 

---

He was right and for a long moment, he just looked at him. He had to break the eye contact and he folded his arms over himself, almost protectively. “I like you a lot and I really like spending time with you, I just think that maybe you should reconsider whether you want that with me. I’ve already told you a lot about myself and there is more that you don’t know. My life is… Well, a lot could change very suddenly and I don’t want to drag you or your daughter into all of that.”

Even while they were just dating that remained true, but if they weren’t serious then it wasn’t as much of a danger for him. “You could do better than me with someone who leads a simpler life.”

His heart sank a little. He looked to him earnestly and shook his head. “I understand that. I know anything could happen and that you're never going to have a predictable lifestyle. But my life hasn't had any adventure and I like you enough that I'd like you to be my first adventure. Come what may.”

---

He kept his eyes away from him, thinking. “I don’t know that you fully understand. I also spend a lot of time working with an underground resistance in Kirkwall, freeing mages that get caught up in the Circle. It’s not impossible that I would be caught myself and if they caught me, then I would be Tranquil within the day.”

Maybe not that quickly, but it wouldn’t take long. Not with his history and the way he defied them day in and day out.

He didn't know he did things like that and he needed a moment to take that in. “...You're even more admirable than I knew.” He sighed. “Listen, Anders. I realize that a lot could happen to you. But I could get bucked by a wild horse tomorrow and break my neck. It's just as likely, maybe even more so, than that templars could catch you. But the ‘what if’s’ shouldn't stop us from being happy.”

---

He glanced up at him, but he couldn’t look at him long. He inhaled, but as he prepared to answer, he realized there was one other thing he ought to tell him.

“There is… one other thing.”

Another thing? “Let's hear it then.” He doubted it could change his mind, but he needed to know if there was something else. Another of Anders’ many secrets.

---

He looked a lot more sheepish, color tinting his cheeks. “Well, I told you about Justice, but there’s another spirit that I spend time with. A spirit of Compassion that, uh, basically created a body of his own and exists in our world without a mage.”

His eyes widened. Were spirits all over and he just didn't know about it. “So...he's basically like a person? He's not in you or just here and invisible somewhere?”

---

“Sort of. He’s kind of like both. He’s not fully a spirit or fully a person. He didn’t mean to come into our world, but something happened when he tried to help a mage who was dying and he… merged with him without actually merging with him.”

It was hard to explain. “I don’t know how he did it and neither does he, but we’re hoping he can help Justice create a body for himself as well.”

That was all very confusing, but he nodded as he tried to follow along. “I see. Well, if he's ever around when I visit, I'll be happy to meet him.” It would be like meeting Anders’ friends, he imagined.

---

He hesitated. “It’s just that… I spend a lot of time with him and I’ve grown rather close to him.” He was realizing that he was probably going to have to choose between a relationship with Milos and intimacy with Noah.

He could feel what Justice wanted. He wanted him to choose Milos, as he was a mortal and if he was going to have a close relationship with anyone, it needed to be a mortal like him.

“I don't think that's a bad thing. You seem like the kind of person a spirit of Compassion would want to be close to.” Not that he knew much about spirits, but it was logical to him.

---

He was, but this was rather different. “Yes, well, it’s just... It isn’t what it sounds like, but we are physically close.” It what is what it sounded like, just not in the way Milos might think.

“How? Does he...possess you sometimes? Or is it...more of an intimate thing?” He had no idea what it meant to be physically close to a spirit.

---

“No, he doesn’t possess me.” That wouldn’t be possible without destroying Justice and neither of them were interested in it, even if Justice wasn’t an obstacle. “It’s intimate,” he agreed, the color darkening. “We lay together a lot and sometimes we… well, sometimes we have sex.” He looked up at him, almost afraid to see his reaction and he couldn’t help but quickly go on. “It’s not what it sounds like, though.”

---

His initial reaction was to be angry and he had to look away from him as he processed it. He had been having sex with a spirit with a physical body, but it wasn't what it sounded like. He wasn't sure what to make of that and the more he thought about it, the more he realized that he likely had no idea what it really meant to have sex with a spirit. Besides, what right did he have to be mad? They had never agreed to be exclusive. “...What is it then, if it's not what it sounds like?” He asked when he met his gaze again, looking curious.

---

It was easier when Milos wasn’t looking at him and when his eyes lifted, his own fell. “I don’t do it for the same reasons I would with anyone else. Anyone mortal. I am not attracted to him. At all. If you saw him, you would understand. He appears as a walking corpse.” Not literally, he wasn’t what Justice had been, but he was pretty close.

He didn’t mind his appearance, but he absolutely was not attracted to it. “I don’t do it because I need release, either.” It wasn’t as if he was just roused and needed relief. “Before you, I’d not had sex in two years and before that, four years. I can control myself.”

He didn’t know how to explain, but he knew he to try. “You have to understand, before he came to me, I’d been alone for so, so long. I have my friends but… for most of them I use the word loosely. I had no one but Justice and our joining had not been… good for us. I corrupted him and he- he made me as I am. He was why I worked as much as I did and why I had no time for anything else, even to take care of myself. He was why I was alone.”

It was hard to talk about. “Noah has helped me, has healed us, in ways that no one else could. He cares for me in a way I have never been cared for and if it wasn’t for him… I wouldn’t have gone after you. He was there that night and he told me what I needed to hear to go after you. He has turned my entire life around and he means so much to me and I mean so much to him.”

He could felt it from him and he was getting emotional as he talked about it. “When he comforts me… sometimes we just need to be as close as we can be. It’s entirely emotional. It’s a connection we need.” A connection he wasn’t sure he was willing to give up.

---

He was right, it definitely wasn't what it sounded like. He tried to wrap his mind around it and he couldn't… probably because it wasn't like having sex with another person. This was a spirit and he could tell by the way Anders spoke that this wasn't anything carnal for him, but something deeply important. “...That sounds...beautiful.” Not Noah himself, by the description, but what he was able to do for Anders. “Can I meet him sometime?”

---          

He looked up at him, surprised. Whatever he was expecting, it wasn’t that. “If you like… He might come tonight.” He didn’t know when. It might not be until it was late, long after Milos was gone, but then again, he might be by any moment. “I am not the only one he helps, so sometimes he can not come to me, but he helps me more than he helps anyone else.”

---

“I'm glad he does. It sounds like he's been really good to you. And to me, since he convinced you to go after me that day.” He didn't realize that Noah had given him a nudge in the right direction that day also.

---

He studied him, trying get a read on him. “You’re not angry at me?” He’d looked angry at first, but after explaining it to him, he seemed accepting. He would be expecting him to demand that he stop what he was doing, if not stay away from him entirely. Perhaps he simply hadn’t gotten to that part.

---

“No. I was when you first told me, but...it's a lot different than I thought.” He had a lot to process and he wasn't entirely sure how to feel about all of it. He felt like he was maybe still a bit jealous, but not like he would be if it was another person and not a spirit.

---

“It is.” He just hadn’t expected him to be so understanding of it. Maybe it would be best if Noah came tonight and they were able to meet and talk. Maybe then they could decide whether they wanted to move forward or not.

---

Milos nodded, both his heart and his mind heavy after hearing all of that. “...Is there anything else you want to tell me?” Anything else that he needed to know? He wasn’t sure how much more he could take in right now, but if there was something else, maybe it was best that he just hear it.

---

“No, there’s nothing else.” There was plenty he didn’t know about him, but nothing he felt he needed to tell him. “I understand if it’s too much.” He wouldn’t blame him if he didn’t want to deal with all of this.

---

“It’s not too much. It’s a lot, but not too much.” He leaned in to kiss his cheek. He was glad that Anders had at least told him all of it now, or at least it seemed he had.

---

Anders met his gaze. “Is there anything you want to tell me?” He was trying to lighten the mood a little, but it was a weak effort. His arms were still folded over himself and he didn’t look entirely comfortable.

---

“Yeah…I snore.” He smiled solemnly, but genuinely. He appreciated the effort to lighten the mood. He could use it after all of that. Of all the ways he’d imagined this conversation going when he’d planned to ask Anders to make things official between them, this was the furthest from what he expected.

---

“Oh, well then. Get out.” This too was said lightly. “I don’t know how long you want to stay, but we could sit together for a while, if you want.” Just enjoy each other’s company until he had to go.

---

“Yeah, that sounds nice.” He could just sit with him and try to clear his head a little. He offered his hand to him, wondering if he was ready to release his crossed arms. To relax.

---

He looked at his hand and after a brief hesitation, he took it. That felt better. He wove their fingers together and, after leaning in to give him a kiss on the cheek. He walked him towards the nook, figuring they might as well settle in his cot together.

---

It felt much better for him as well. He followed him along and when they reached the nook, he paused. Near the cot there was a small but plush pillow where a small kitten was curled up. Anders’ favorite of the litter, of course. Beside it was a basket filled with the supplies Noah had gathered - plenty of dried meat, a bottle of milk, feathers and strings for toys. Milos tipped his head a little, surprised by the sight. “When did you get a cat?”

---

Anders’ eyes widened and he stared. His eyes began to well and he was too busy hurrying over to the kitten and sinking down to the floor beside it to answer him. “Oh, oh.” He reached for it and pulled it up into his arms. “Sweet baby.” He pulled it up to his cheek and cradled it there.

---

Milos first interpreted his reaction to mean that something was wrong with the kitten that he hadn’t noticed at a glance and he was fussing over it out of worry. But after studying him a moment, he smiled. “...I take it you just got a cat.”

---

“I wasn’t supposed to, but…” Noah. He couldn’t help his tearing up and his hands were even shaking slightly. “Look at him…” He couldn’t see himself, since he was holding him against his face, but he was so warm and so soft.

---

He moved in closer and crouched beside him, stroking his back when he saw he was shaking. “He’s very cute.” Even cuter when the sleepy little kitten mewed at them.

---

“I love him.” Though he’d held back from getting a cat or a kitten, now that one had been plopped down on him, all of the emotions he’d been holding back were flooding out of him.

---

“Of course you do.” It was hard not to love something that cute. “Why don’t we have him sit with us on the cot?” They could all get comfortable together.

---

He nodded and climbed to his feet clumsily, unwilling to let go of the kitten long enough to brace himself against anything to stand. As soon as he straightened, he sat down on the edge of the cot and tucked the him into the crook of his arm. “Sweet, sweet baby boy.” He stroked his fingers down his back. “Look at everything Noah left for you.” He looked down at the basket with a smile, then back to the kitten.

---

“I had a feeling this might be Noah’s doing.” From what he’d heard about him, he seemed the most likely out of Anders’ ‘friends’ to surprise him with a kitten. He sat down beside him and reached to scratch the kitten’s ears. “Now you have a horse and a kitten to name.”

---

“I think it’ll be pretty easy to name him.” He scratched his cheek with a finger. “I just have to figure out what he’s like.” He smiled down at him, entirely enthralled by the kitten. He hadn’t been this enthusiastic about anything in a long time. Even about the cats outside the clinic. It was different when it was his cat to take care of.

---

“I’m sure you’ll come up with something.” He leaned into him a little, still wanting to just relax with him and enjoy his company. At least the kitten seemed to have lightened the mood more than their weak jokes. “He’s a sweet little boy.”

---

“He is,” he cooed to him. It was nice that he was sleepy so he was content with just laying in his arms. “It’ll be interesting trying to take care of him here, but I don’t think it’ll be too bad.” He’d just have to make sure he didn’t get into anything he wasn’t supposed to.

---

“No, I think he’ll do just fine here.” Hopefully he wouldn’t get underfoot when Anders was trying to work, anyway. He smiled, happy to think about the kitten for a little while instead of all that Anders had told him.

It wasn’t long before Noah arrived, but when he did, he could sense that Milos was there. He’d expected to arrive and feel Anders’ delight over the kitten, but there were two people fawning over the little baby. He hadn’t thought Milos would come in with him after their date. As such, he made himself only visible to Anders as he stepped into the nook, thrilled to see him cradling the kitten. “He looks right at home in your arms.”

---

Anders eyes rose when Noah stepped in. He looked at him with as as much emotion as he’d looked at the cat. It didn’t occur to him that he was the only one that would see him. It didn’t even occur to him that Milos was with him. “Noah…” He was at a loss of what to say, but the emotions he was feeling were radiating from him. He wanted to go to him and kiss him and hug him and hold him.

---

“You don’t have to speak aloud. I can hear you.” Noah reminded him gently, a warm smile on his lips. “As soon as Milos goes home, you can do all of those things. I’ll linger nearby so I’ll be re-”

“Is he here?” Milos had followed Anders’ eyes when he said the name, but he saw nothing at the entrance of the nook. “Noah?”

Noah froze. He’d been talking so he hadn’t heard what Milos was thinking. He was looking right at him but his eyes didn’t seem to quite focus on him. Could the mortal see him? He shouldn’t be able to. He looked down at his own body, as if that was helpful, wondering if something had gone awry with him magic and the mortal could sense him somehow.

---

He realized what he’d done and he looked between them. He could see how startled Noah was and he decided to speak up, “He is.” I told him about you, Anders told him silently. The conversation they’d had went through his mind. He wasn’t actively attempting to get him up to speed, it was just hard not to think about it when it was what had happened just before all of this.

---

Noah looked between them, trying to decide what to do. He knew Milos was jealous, but curious. He wasn’t sensing anger from him, which was a surprise but it seemed that Anders had explained to him that their relationship was different from mortal lust.

“Can he hear me? ...Do you think he’ll come out so I can see him?” Milos looked to Anders, then back toward the entrance to the nook. It was so strange knowing someone was there watching them and it made him break out in gooseflesh as he tried to figure out just where he was. When Noah finally chose to materialize in front of him, he startled and shifted back on the cot a little.

---

To Anders, it looked no different. If it hadn’t been for Milos’ reaction, he wouldn’t have known he’d done anything. He shifted in the cot, turning a little to face the spirit. “Milos, this is Noah. Noah… you know Milos.” He knew everyone he came into contact with, but it still felt appropriate to introduce them.

---

“He does?” Milos asked, then looked to Noah instead. “You do?” His mind was racing.

“I do know you.” Noah moved to stand in front of both of them and tried to keep up with what Milos was thinking. He knew the other wanted to see him better so he removed his hat, peering down at him through the blonde locks hanging in his eyes. “...It’s alright, you can.” He answered an unspoken thought, leaning down and reaching for Milos’ hand to put it on his sunken cheek.

Milos startled, both at being touched by the spirit and also by him seeming to know that he’d wanted to touch him to see if he was really there in a physical sense. “A-Anders…”

---

“It’s alright. He won’t hurt you. He’s gentle.” He was gentle with everyone, but especially him. He looked between them, a little anxious about how Milos was going to handle this.

That assurance made him feel better and he was unaware that Noah's magic was also starting to put him at ease. “He's...cold.” Not frigid, but not as warm as a person should be.

“I'm alright.” He never minded the chill of his body, but it did make him appreciate the way Anders tended to warm him even more. The spirit moved from Milos then to sit on Anders’ other side, reaching to stroke the kitten he cradled.

---

He nodded. “He’d not fully a person. His body isn’t like ours.” The degree to which it was like theirs was still a curiosity to him. Whether or not food would actually help him. He looked over at Noah when he sat down and he gave him a little smile.

“I told you I didn’t want a kitten.” Obviously he’d ignored that and given him what he actually wanted deep down. He leaned into him lightly, still wanting to be close with him, but waiting until Milos left to really express himself.

“Your mouth said one thing, your heart said another.” Noah returned his lean and smiled. “I will bring you anything he needs so you don't have to worry about not being able to take care of him.”

Milos watched them in fascination, leaning into Anders a little as well. “Do spirits always know what we want?”

---

“Thank you.” He touched Noah’s arm briefly.

“Yes and no. Spirits and demons occupying a mage cannot hear our thoughts, but in the Fade they can.” He assumed that since Noah was somewhere in between, that was why he could hear everyone’s thoughts.

Milos nodded, then fell silent. He needed a little time to let that sink in. To let all of this sink in.

Noah nuzzled Anders’ cheek lightly, so happy the kitten had brought him joy. “He was a little unsure that he wanted to live inside, even if it was his mother's wish. But once I gave him his own pillow and a saucer of milk, he decided that being an indoor cat is pretty wonderful.”

---

The affection warmed him, but he was still a little wary of Milos’ reaction. He grinned. “I’ll make sure he’s very happy.” He pulled him up to his face and pressed a kiss to the top of his head. “Tell him I love him.”

“He loves you, little one.” Noah cooed to the kitten and after a beat, he went on. “He's something like your new mother. He will keep you warm and safe and fed like your mother did.”

Milos chuckled nervously, unable to stop himself. This spirit could talk to animals too, it seemed.

---

He grinned harder. He’d always wished animals could understand him and the other way around. With Noah, he had a way to actually communicate with him. It was incredible.

Anders presseda another kiss to the kitten’s head and then he looked at Milos. He could see how nervous he was and he gave him a sympathetic smile. “Are you okay?” He knew this was a lot.

He met Anders’ gaze and nodded, though he was still uneasy. “Yeah. I'm just...sitting with a spirit. Two spirits I guess.” Justice was there too, even if he couldn't see him.

“You have been near me before, you just didn't know. I met you when you came the first time. I was here because your Willow was frightened that you were hurt and she needed me. I knew you were attracted to Anders and I was glad you chose to pursue him.” Noah saw the way Milos flushed at his words and shook his head in response to his thoughts. “Your daughter knew I was there, but she does not remember me. I won't make you forget, you need to be aware of me since you still want to be with Anders.”

---

Anders felt a little shy hearing all this. Shy, but pleased. “So… you still want to be with me?” Even after this? He supposed he wouldn’t still be sitting there if he wasn’t at least considering it. Still, he was waiting for the coin to drop and for him to decide this was too much and leave.  

“Yeah...I'm still taking it all in. But I still really like you. I still want you to be mine.” He was happier than he'd been in a long time. He didn't want to lose him.

---

“You’re okay with everything I’ve said?” He wasn’t going to make demands about what he could and could not do? At least in regards to Noah?

“I think so.” He could see for himself that Noah was not a person. He was cold and he looked like a dead man, yet he had a soothing presence and he had a way of reading people's wants and needs. He could see how Anders would be so drawn to Noah, but that it was very different from the way he might be drawn to someone he'd be in a relationship with. Still, he hadn't really had a chance to sort out how he felt on the matter.

---

He studied him and then looked back at Noah. He hadn’t expected Milos to be so accepting and his heart was beating quickly with the possibility that he could have a real relationship. With someone who cared about him and understood him, even though he had so much going on in his life. So much that would be hard for anyone to handle.

He could have both the man and the spirit to make him happy… because, of course, Noah wouldn’t leave just because he found happiness with a mortal, right?

“I will not leave you.” Noah assured him and rose from the cot. He grabbed the saucer he'd used earlier and a handful of dried meat and brought both to Anders. “He would like these. I do not think he is truly hungry, I think he wants to test whether or not he can really have food whenever he likes.”

---

His eyes dropped to the kitten in his arms and he set him down in his lap, taking the saucer and the meat. He lowered it down in front of him, watching and waiting intently for him to start eating. “It’s all yours,” he murmured to him, giving his butt a light scratch.

---

The kitten looked up to Anders, then to Noah. Convinced that it was alright, he started to dig into the meat offered to him. Noah looked at the pair, cocking his head a little. “I could give you two a little more time alone and come back later if you like.”

“No, that’s okay. I have to go soon anyway.” Milos said softly, but he was still leaning into Anders lightly. It seemed he wasn’t in a big hurry to go anywhere.

---

“Good boy,” he cooed, continuing to stroke him while he ate. Anders looked up at Noah and bit his lip, not really wanting him to go, but understanding that he did probably need time alone with Milos. When Milos answered, however, it seemed he felt differently. He looked back down at the kitten and then gingerly moved him and the saucer to Noah’s lap so he could turn towards the man.

“I know there’s a lot to think about. Let’s not make a decision tonight. You can go home, sleep on it, and next time we see each other, you can tell me how you feel. How does that sound?”

---

“Yeah...we don’t have any reason to rush. We can talk about it in a few days when I come back.” He had so much information to process. He gave him a little smile. “You can tell me whether or not you can accept me for my snoring.” It was another weak attempt to lighten the mood, mostly for himself since the kitten had cheered Anders up already.

---

He took his hand and held it. “I have a lot to think about too.” He leaned in and gave his cheek a kiss. “I’ll walk you to the door.” He hadn’t intended on him leaving so soon, but after all of this, it seemed it was the right time to go. Especially since he’d already said he had to go soon.

---

He nodded and stood, keeping his hand in Anders’ as he started for the door. He didn’t really want to go, but he had too much on his mind to be good company. “It was nice to meet you, Noah.” He paused to say to the spirit left on the bed.

“I don’t think this is the last time we will meet. Perhaps next time will be easier for you.” He knew the mortal was troubled. Perhaps he’d visit him tomorrow, unseen, and make sure he was alright.

---

He tugged him out of the nook and to the door. There, he stopped him and leaned in for a soft kiss. “Thank you for coming tonight… and for everything.” He wanted to say it now, just in case. Just in case he decided against this. Against coming back entirely. It didn’t seem out of the realm of possibility to him, even if Milos was still fond of him.

---

“Thank you for introducing me to your friends. Noah included.” Anders had a lot of intense people in his life and it was important that he get familiar with all of them. He moved a hand up to his cheek, giving him a soft, slow kiss in return. “I’ll be back before the week is out.”

---

He smiled. Hopefully. He gave him another kiss, just as soft as his first, then he stepped back. “You know where to find me.” He opened the door for him and held it, giving him room to walk past him and out.

---

“See you soon.” Milos smiled in return after the kiss and with that, he headed out for the night. The fresh air would be good for him to clear his head a little and though he was confident that he still wanted to be with Anders, he definitely felt like he needed a little space to think over everything he’d learned about him.

---

He watched him go and when he was out of sight, he shut and locked the door. He returned to the nook and stood there, looking at Noah with the kitten. “...Noah.” He moved to him and sat down beside him, wrapping his arms around him and burrowing into his side.

---

Noah wrapped his arms around him in return, cuddling him close while the kitten continued to feast on the dried meat. “He does want to come back.” He assured him gently.

---

He nodded. As long as he came back without demands. He’d already decided that he wasn’t going to give this up, even if Justice thought he ought to. “Will you lay down with me?” He wanted to cuddle with the kitten too, but right now even that was being pushed aside by his need for his comfort.

---

He nodded and broke away from Anders long enough to set the kitten and his dinner on the floor by his pillow. “He was not thinking of putting limitations on you. He was jealous, but he was mostly...overwhelmed.” He returned to him and wrapped him up in his arms as he eased them to lay down.

---

It was good to hear, but he didn’t inquire further. He would wait and let Milos tell him what he was feeling when the time came. If his feelings remained the same, then they could actually consider things. Until then, he didn’t want to dwell on it. He shut his eyes and held tight to him, thinking about what he’d told Milos. About why Noah was so important to him and the emotions he’d felt when confronted with them.

---

“I am sorry I left the kitten here for you tonight. I was not expecting you to have such an emotionally charged evening with Milos.” If he had known Anders would already have so many feelings to work through that evening, he would have chosen another night.

---

“It’s alright. It helped.” It had made him happy, where he had felt so uncertain. Noah always made him happy and, like for Milos, his heart beat quickly. There was such warmth in him and as he cuddled as close as he could to him, the welling emotion broke and there was love seeping in. Making him even warmer.

---

He could feel the growth and change in his emotions and it made his own heart start to quicken. He pulled back enough to look at him, his eyes searching. “Anders…”

---

Anders’ was surprised and he met his gaze, questioning. “What is it?” Just looking at him, the feeling grew. A feeling he hadn’t felt in so long, it was almost exhilarating, though he couldn’t quite recognize it for what it was. All he knew was that his emotions were running high and all he wanted was to be with the spirit.

---

His eyes stung as they welled with tears - a sensation not entirely foreign to him, but still unfamiliar. “Oh, Anders…” He leaned in and kissed him hard. It seemed everyone in the clinic this evening would be overwhelmed in emotion and the idea was amusing to him, but he was far too occupied with this moment to give it more than a moment’s thought.

---

His eyes widened and he pulled back from the kiss, a hand lifting to touch his cheek and hold him in place. “What is it? What’s wrong?” He hadn’t seen him like this and while he was worried about him, the emotions were pushed aside. Still there, but not as prominent.

---

A couple tears rolled down his cheeks, one coursing over the hand Anders had moved to touch him. His tears were cold, just like his body. “Nothing is wrong. I have felt love in so many people so many times. But it has never been for me. It has never been mine.”

---

Anders stared at him. It took a second for it to click, but when it did, he finally recognized the feeling in him. He hadn’t even registered it, not until he’d been told. He took in a slow breath and then focused on him. He hadn’t even had a chance to process it, but as he did just that, the warmth grew again. He nodded.

“I love you.” He was saying it for himself as much as he was for him.

---

“I love you too.” He had loved him for some time. Anders meant so much to him. He kissed him hard, needing the connection with him and an outlet for all he was feeling. Someone loved him and not just anyone, but his favorite mortal loved him.

---

Of course, the response only made him more emotional. He knew that Noah cared for him, but he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been loved. Maybe Karl, but even then, they hadn’t let themselves feel the full extent of their emotions. It was surreal, especially considering that it was a spirit he was finding himself so attached to. He’d been attached to him for a while. Attached enough that he had decided he wouldn’t give him up and yet… this was different from even that.

---

He closed his eyes, melting into the kiss with him. He was so happy and the tears just kept coming. He knew that some mortals cried when they were happy, though he’d always found that strange, but he would never have thought that it could happen to him. Perhaps as a spirit it never would have happened and it was what was left of Cole in him that brought these tears.

---

He could feel the wetness on his hand and he wiped at his cheek absently. He started to roll back, though there wasn’t much room, using his free hand to pull him over him. “Hold me,” he murmured against his lips, even though he was already doing a good job of it. He just didn’t want him to ease up or let go.

---

He settled over top of him, breaking the kiss to look down at him. “I will hold you until morning.” He wasn’t going anywhere and it would take a dire emergency to make him release Anders until it was time to go the next day. “It means a lot that you are not willing to give up what we have.” Even though Milos was a proper lover for him.

---

He didn’t know what to call what they had, but he wanted to hold onto it for as long as he could. “I meant what I told him.” He didn’t know if Noah knew every word, but he’d said it all in honesty, which he was sure he already knew, but it felt important to say it aloud.

Maybe it was selfish to need what Noah offered him so much, but he’d offered him a connection that no one else had and it was different and deeper than what he could get from others.

“I could not give you up either.” Not now. Anders loved him. Even before Anders loved him, it would have been incredibly difficult. He was so drawn to him and as much as the mortal needed him, perhaps he was starting to need Anders too. It was such a strange concept for him - he understood mortals having needs, but he wasn't used to having them himself.

---

His lips quirked. He was glad he felt that way and it made him feel even more certain that Noah cared for him in a way that no one living could. He kissed him, his fingers starting to tug at his clothing.

When he had to pull back to remove his tunic, Anders looked up at him. After a beat, he spoke up.

“Justice is upset,” he informed him, though to his credit, he was handling it better than he might have before.

Noah hesitated, a frown on his lips. “I am sorry. But he still should not feel threatened. You love him more.” Even if he preferred Noah at the moment.

---

“I love both of you.” In different ways, but Noah was right Justice meant a lot to him. Even with all of their issues. He was a part of him and the best part of himself, at that.

“I don’t want either of you to leave me.” It felt more likely that Justice would, though. Between them, Justice was more focused on his work and he knew that he would put his duty ahead of everything.

I will not leave you, either.

“He won't either, Anders. He loves you. He would stay close even if he had his own body.” He pressed a gentle kiss to his lips, then helped him to pull his tunic off.

---

He nodded. He thought everything would be okay. They just needed time for it to prove true. For both him and Justice, at least.

He slid his hands around him, already warm, tugging him down against him even though there was still too much fabric between them.

“I love you.” He felt the need to tell him again. He settled down against him when he was pulled in, pressing kisses to the mage's neck. He was glad Milos had chosen to leave early - he had so much of the night left to enjoy with Anders.

---

Hearing it made him warmer still. “I love you too.”  He shut his eyes and tipped his head back, giving him room to kiss wherever he wanted. His heart was beating so quickly it felt like his chest would burst.

He trailed his fingers to the small of his back and clutched at him there.

“My first love.” He whispered the words against his neck, so enamored with the idea of being loved by him. His kisses grew longer and slower and eventually he found a spot to suck on.

---

He made a sound, his toes curling. It was so nice. Maybe he was his first, but he doubted he would be his last, though it was hard to imagine anyone connecting with him the way he had. Just because it made so much sense for them to connect. He was a mage and a spirit healer… with a spirit of his own. Of course Noah would come to him and stay with him.

“You have a way of drawing spirits to you, it seems.” He had three of them now. He peppered his skin with more kisses finding a new spot by the base of his jaw to suck and mark him.

---

He smiled. “Probably my winning personality.” He chuckled and then sighed, his fingers sliding down to hook into his trousers and push at them.

“That must be it.” He felt him starting to work on his trousers and his fingers moved to the fastenings of his new robes. They were wonderfully simple to find. He wanted them both bare, needing to be close to him and soak in the warmth of his skin.

---

He helped him loosen his robes as soon as his trousers were too low for him to push any further. It took some wiggling to slip his arms out of the sleeves and to push them down, but he figured Noah could take care of his trousers while he took care of his robes. Then they could lay against each other again.

---

When they'd both wrestled their way out of their clothes, he settled over him once more. He made a soft, pleased sound  - he loved the feeling of Anders’ flesh against his own. He kissed his lips, soft and sweet, and savored the feelings and thoughts he could detect in the mage.

---

He hooked a leg around him and wound himself with him with every limb. He was enjoying the simple kisses and he continued with them, smiling they went on and on. His hand slid up to the back of his head and he held him close, not wanting him to put  any distance between their mouths… not unless it was to work it lower again.

---

Noah closed his eyes, letting the simple kisses naturally progress to something deeper and more hungry the more their bodies tangled together. He wanted him, but he was more focused on reading what Anders desired. He would keep things simple if that was all the mage wanted.

---

Anders followed along, finding that he met so perfectly with him. It was as if Noah anticipated him and perhaps it was exactly that. His lips parted, inviting him in. He arched up, wanting the pressure between their bodies. He wanted to feel as loved as he was. If Noah loved him so dearly, he wanted feel it from him.

---

That was a bit of a conundrum for him. How could he make him feel loved? He was new to this and he wasn't sure what to do to fulfill that want. So he simply followed his instincts and when Anders arched into him, he began to rock his hips against him.

---

As soon as he began to move, Anders followed. It seemed he was letting the spirit lead. He couldn’t not get close enough to him. It was as if he wanted their bodies to join as one. This, of course, was not something Justice wanted to hear, but before he could work himself up, Anders quickly quelled him.

Not like that.

---

Noah could put together by the trail of his thoughts how Justice must have interpreted that. If his fellow spirit was upset about it and the mage failed to assuage him, he was sure he would know about it very soon. He knew of only one way to join their bodies safely and he continued to rock his hips, beginning to harden as the friction built.

---

His own cock was thickening and he moaned softly, even that little friction heating him. He broke the kiss to look up at him, needing to look into his eyes. It was the part of him he liked best, after all, and there was something so intimate about that contact. It went beyond even the physical, though he needed both.

---

Though he didn’t know how to show his love, he didn’t realize how much his eyes conveyed in the adoring way he looked at him. He slid his hand down his side, needing to touch him and using magic to make up for the chill of his fingertips.

---

He shivered, meeting his eyes intently. It was so intense and his own flicked back and forth, so close that he could not gaze at both without completely losing focus. His hand lifted and he touched his cheek, just holding it carefully. His movements slowed a little, he was so focused on him.

---

“Anders…” He pulled back just a little, wanting to help him look into his eyes. It seemed that was what he needed right now and his own hips slowed. Maybe he didn’t have to rush getting inside of him, even if that was what his instincts dictated.

---

Anders hand stroked his cheek, refusing to stray from his eyes. Especially since he could see them properly now. “I love you,” he murmured again. He thought about everything he’d done for him and it was hard not to be emotional. Feeling this way wasn’t so daunting, though, not when he trusted him the way he did.

---

“I love you too. I would never break your heart.” He knew mortals could be fickle. But he could feel the trust in Anders and knew he understood that spirits were not so prone to changes of heart. He hadn’t realized that his tears had stopped at some point until a fresh one rolled down his cheek and over Anders’ hand.

---

His eyes finally strayed and went to the tear and the wet spot it left on his hand. “What’s wrong?” he asked, going completely still. He could tell this was causing a lot of emotion out of him as well, he just wasn’t really sure how he was handling it. If it felt differently because of what he was.

---

“Nothing is wrong. I am just so happy. I never thought I would have love and I’m glad the love that I have is your love.” He didn’t know how to handle this sort of rush of emotion. “I am used to dealing with the emotions of others, not my own.”

---

He softened. “Noah.” He leaned in and pressed a kiss to his lips. “I want you.” Maybe it would be good for them to lose themselves a little. Then they could cool down and think about all of this after they wore themselves out with expressing themselves to each other.

---

Noah nodded and after stealing one more kiss from him, he pulled away enough to get the oil. He wanted him too. He began to slicken himself, eager to take him and experience having sex with him now that the man loved him. Would that make this making love? He paused a moment, genuinely curious.

---

He could see how eager he was, so he reached down and began to stroke himself so that he could help heat himself up. He was worked up from what they’d already done, but he wanted to get himself further along. He spread his legs for him, inviting him to take him whenever he was ready.

---

His curiosity got the better of him and he looked to Anders as he positioned himself. “Because you and I love each other, are we still having sex? Or is this making love now? I do not know the difference…” It seemed important and he asked this earnestly.

---

The question surprised him and he couldn’t help but laugh. “It’s still sex. Making love is… a mood. I feel like we’ve already made love.” With how tender he was with him? Yeah, they’d made love. Maybe it just never stayed that way through the entire act. “I suppose is different when you actually love someone, though.” More intense.

---

“We already made love?” That didn’t seem right to him, but he trusted Anders’ word on it. “You will have to show me the difference some time.” He wanted to make love to him tonight. It seemed like the right thing to do if they loved each other. He put a little pressure on his entrance to warn him before he gently pushed inside of him, breathing out a low moan when he was surrounded by the heat inside his body.

---

He chuckled. He felt like they’d done both, but he could show him the difference sometime. He watched him as he pressed in, the sensation reading in his eyes as he let out a soft breath. He slid his hand down to his hip, silently telling him what he needed to do without thinking about it. To go slow and sweet, to savor the connection as they so often did already.

---

Noah began to take him slowly, as amazed as he always was by how good it felt. He was so deeply connected to him and now, Anders loved him. He smiled softly as he looked down to him, unable to believe how lucky he was.

---

He slowed his stroking, matching his pace. His amusement faded and he was content, meeting his gaze. It was a lot to take in, but it felt so wonderful and he didn’t want it to end.  

“Is this making love?” He murmured, leaning down to give him a short, sweet kiss. He didn't let it linger, needing to pull back enough to meet his eyes once more.

---

“You tell me.” He wanted him to reach the conclusion on his own, though his thoughts spoiled any chance of that. It was. “Does it feel like it?” He continued to touch him with his free hand, stroking his skin.

“Yes. This is what making love feels like.” He gave him a warm smile. He groaned when he pressed in especially deep, his hand stroking slowly up his side and eventually sliding into his hair.

---

He met the slow rocking, the movement sensual. He agreed, it was sex he’d not had in so long. Maybe one day he could with Milos, but if not, he could be satisfied with this. This was enough for him.

He wanted to kiss him and he waited for him to respond to that desire.

Noah wanted to gaze into his eyes a little longer, but he did as the mage wanted. He leaned in to kiss him deeply, closing his eyes and moaning against his lips. This was so perfect and he didn't feel any need to rush the slow, deep thrusts of his hips.

---

His own hand moved to find Noah’s - the one not on his hair - and he pulled it in to his cheek. He broke the kiss long enough to turn and kiss it, then he resumed it, his tongue sliding into his mouth.

He welcomed his tongue into his mouth, working his own tongue against it and rubbing his thumb over the back of Anders’ hand. He was so warmed by him, loving the little affection he'd given his hand. Such a simple and clean gesture that made his heart flutter.

---

He hummed, enjoying the smooth feel of his tongue. For a time he lost himself in his mouth, his stroking stopping as he split his attention between that and their rocking. His heart was beating so hard and his entire body was flush with heat and arousal.

---

He was starting to need more as tension began to build in his body and he started to take him just a little faster. The pace was still relaxed and he wanted it to stay that way, but the small difference was enough to renew his moans and make his fingers tighten their grip on his hair.

---

It was much simpler for Noah to feel everything that he was feeling, but he could feel the affection in him in return. He broke the kiss, brushing their noses together and then tipping his head back, holding his breath as the sensation strengthened. He let it out slowly, his hand tightening on Noah’s.

---

“I love you…” It felt so important to keep telling him so. He tightened his grip on him as well and when his head tipped back he took full advantage. His lips found his neck and he began to suckle it hungrily.

---

Rather than respond with words, he moaned. Since they were no long kissing, he reached for his cock again, stroking it faster. He needed it and continued to moan, soft sounds that blended into his breaths. His toes curled again, this time tighter.

---

“Do you want me to do that for you?” He asked before finding a new spot to latch onto. Perhaps he would want to simply stroke himself, but he wanted to offer in case he could make this better for him.

---

He didn’t have to. Then he could focus on touching him. Right now, he liked that better. He could feel how much he was savoring his body. And the man inside his body. The best part of this was the consistency and the longer it went on, the more potent it felt. His thighs trembled and his hand was squeezing firmly with each stroke.

---

He was fine with that. He really liked holding his hand through this and the other hand eased its grip on his hair to sweep gingerly through his locks. He ran his tongue slowly up the side of his neck and pressed a kiss just beneath his ear, needing to give him a little affection before he returned to marking him.

---

When he came close to his ear, he yearned for him to suck on it. It wasn’t something he’d ever done, but he’d also never gotten that close to his ear. Anders wasn’t even entirely aware of the yearning, having plenty else to take in, especially as he felt himself throb as he gradually grew closer.

---

The desire was heard and he was eager to fulfill it. He released his neck to suck on his lobe instead. It stirred a memory of Cole's and knowing how sensitive the flesh was there, he flicked his tongue softly against it while he suckled.

---

“Noah,” he groaned, letting him suck until he couldn’t stand it. He turned his head suddenly and let go of his hand to pull him into a heated kiss, his hand starting to lose control. He was stroking himself urgently, needing the release that had crept up on him.

---

He could feel Anders’ urgency and it fed his own growing needs. He began to thrust into him faster and yet, he remained gentle. Not like some of the other times which required him to use his magic to keep Anders safe. He moaned into the kiss, entirely lost in the heat of his body.

---

The change helped and it wasn’t but a minute until he was cumming with a cry, his entire body tensing. The hand clutching at him dug, unintentionally, and his nails scraped the surface of his skin.

---

 

It didn't take much more to follow him over the edge. He groaned and tucked his face against Anders’ shoulder as he came, his hips erratic as he filled him with his release. He panted softly against his skin, his body stilling once he was entirely spent.

---

“Was that better?“ he asked when he could catch his breath. He was sure that Noah liked all of their sex and enjoyed it just as much, but he could tell that he’d wanted it to mean more this time. In someway it had, but for him the thing that was most pleasant about it was that it hadn’t changed much of anything, he’d always been this sweet to him.

“Yes. It was not the first time we made love, but it was the first time I knew we were making love.” He lifted his face from his shoulders to meet his eyes, his gaze soft and warm. It really hadn't been different, but it was still special to him.

---

He felt a little bit bashful, with it all said and done, but he gave him a small smile. He turned his head to try to look over the edge of the cot, but he couldn’t. “We should cuddle with him.”  

That sounded like a nice way to end the day. Maybe he ought to clean up before he tried to lay with the kitten, though. He didn’t want to make a mess of his fur by mistake.

“We should.” He kissed Anders before he climbed off of him and out of the bed. He grabbed the nearest cloth and used it to wipe himself off, then moved back to the cot and used a clean corner to wipe Anders off. “Your kitten is very full and ready to lay down and get cozy.”

---

“Thank you,” he murmured, pushing himself up and leaning over the edge of the bed to pluck up the kitten so he could lay back with him on his chest.

“I love you too, precious baby.” He looked down at him with a smile and stroked his back.

“He is very happy to be yours.” He said as he settled on his side next to Anders. Though the loud purring of the kitten likely gave that away. He leaned in to kiss the mage's cheek, then gave a kiss to the kitten as well.

---

“Already?” He wouldn’t have expected the kitten to warm up to him that fast. Or at least, not in that way. He didn’t know that cats even had a concept of ownership. Or maybe Noah was just extrapolating and explaining it to him in a way he could understand. He kept an arm tucked beneath his head so he could prop it up as he gave the kitten attention.

---

“He does not understand ownership. But he understands that you will protect and provide for him like his mother did.” Noah explained and stretched before settling against his side again. “He is not very used to being petted, but he likes it. He is used to competing with his siblings for attention, so this is nice for him.”

---

“Well, he can have all of my attention.” He looked over at Noah. “Except when you steal it away, I suppose.” He gave him a smile and then turned his attention back to what he was doing. His eyes shut and he gave the kitten affection by feel alone.

---

“Cats are fickle. He will be glad that you are distracted sometimes. But right now, he is happy to have your attention.” Noah smiled and closed his eyes as well. He was quite comfortable and he looked forward to listening to the mage’s breathing slow as he settled in for sleep.

---

Anders was amused that he was explaining to him the nature of cats. He already knew that well, but the one thing that Noah had over him was that he knew exactly why they were fickle. “I’m sure he’ll get up some time in the night.” He wouldn’t want to lay with them for that long. “Just tell him to stay inside and not to play with anything but his toys.”

---

“When you get down later, stay inside the shelter. Do not go outside, there are predators. Play only with your toys.” He paused a beat, then went on. “The things by your food. The feathers and the things that look like long worms.” With that taken care of, he addressed Anders again, though he spoke the same way he had to the cat so there seemed to be no difference in who he was speaking to. “He will be good. I put a box under the cot for him to do his business in, so he knows where to take care of that already.” He sounded amused, he’d heard mortals use that phrase before regarding their body’s waste and he found it a little funny.

---

“What a good boy.” His hand stroked absently for a time and then it fell still. His breathing slowed and, comfortable and happy as he was, he began to fall asleep with his final thoughts of being of Milos.

Noah listened to his breathing, relaxed in knowing that the mage was content and resting. He opened his eyes when the kitten hopped down from the bed in the night and got some entertainment through the quiet hours by watching him play with his toys. The cat made a bit of a mess, batting the feathers all over the floor, but eventually he tucked himself out. Noah welcomed him back up to the bed, bringing along his favorite feather, and let the kitten settle up near the top of the cot by their heads where it would rest until morning.

Chapter Text

His day in the Gallows had been fairly uneventful and so he’d had time some unorthodox magic. Of course, the mages he worked with were fascinated when he told them about his ambitions to change his body’s appearance since Cole may not have wanted to be copied and they were eager to help him research.

It was more difficult than he would have thought, especially since he wanted to stay far away from any magic like what the demons used as a glamour to fool mortals. Though part of his motive for this was to keep from frightening the mortals he meant to help, he would not deceive their senses the way demons did.

By the time he left the Circle for the day to seek out Anders, he’d made some progress. It was more subtle than he’d like, but it was enough to impress the mages that had been helping him. He still looked just like Cole, which was a disappointment to him. But he looked like a far healthier version of the young man than Noah had ever seen. He was still underweight, but no longer skeletal. He had filled out considerably, even if he was still too thin, and he thought Anders would likely notice even before he took off his clothes. His hair also looked much healthier - thick and shining rather than the dull, limp locks that usually hung around his face. The only change in him that was not like Cole had been in life was his ears, which were now pointed. They were something Noah had wanted to try, needing to test that he could actually change his appearance from Cole’s rather than simply restore it to the man’s look before he’d been starved. They were not true elven ears, but they were definitely pointed and that was enough to convince him that it could be done.

When he made his way into the clinic after dark, he was eager to show off his progress to Anders. However, he didn’t want to distract him if he still had a patient and so he wore his large hat when he stepped inside, which would obscure at least most of the change in him. “Anders…”

---

Anders did not have a patient, but he was currently sitting in his desk chair and playing with his kitten, now dubbed Lord Snowbeard. Snow for short. He had spent as much time with him as he could throughout the day and as it turned late in the evening, he found himself with more and more time. Between the treats and the toys, they were bonding well.

He glanced up when Noah stepped in and then right back down to Snow, letting the toy fall to the ground as he stooped to pick him up and then rose to his feet.

“Let’s go say hi to Noah,” he cooed to him, doting on the kitten and distracted as he walked over to him.

---          

“So your kitten has a name now…” He’d picked up on it from the mage’s mind and smiled as they approached him. He pressed a kiss to Anders’ cheek, then one to the top of the kittens head. “I am glad to see you both.”

---

“He does, do you like it?” He loved it. He knew it was silly, but he could never resist when it came to naming cats. Cats were silly and they deserved no less in their names. And actually, he thought Lord Snowbeard was rather majestic and he certainly looked like he had a magnificent beard with the way the white started at his chin and ran down the front of his chest.

He looked up when kissed and there he paused. It was hard to get a good look at him with his hat on, but while he leaned in to kiss them, he could see his face. His full cheeks and the improved color. He looked down at him, noticing how well he was filling out his clothing, at least compared to before.

“Noah…?”

---

“You noticed…” He knew he would, but perhaps not quite this quickly. He was so pleased and he was smiling when he pulled off his hat to give him a better look. “And yes, I do like his name. It is very regal.”

---

He stared at him. He looked… strange. He wasn’t use to seeing him like this and it was odd. Not bad, but different. His heart began to pick up. “You figured out how to change your appearance?” Justice would be able to choose whatever he wished? He wouldn’t have to look like him if they separated?

---

“Yes. It is easier than I thought it would be, but I do not have it mastered. The important thing is that it is possible, so I can change my appearance from Cole’s. I will teach Justice to do it so he can take whatever appearance he likes when he has his own body.” He hoped that would make both of them happy.

---

“Wow… you look really good.” Still like Cole, but no longer like he was dead. He reached up to touch his cheek, almost expecting it to be warm, but it wasn’t. It was a lot more jarring while when he actually looked like he ought to be warm. “How do you feel?”

---

“I am happy I can do this, but I want to change more. I do not want to look like Cole anymore. That is why I tried these…” He moved the hand on his cheek, guiding it to the points of his ears. “They are not perfect, but it’s more important that they are not Cole’s.”

---

He looked at his ear and his brows lifted slightly. “You’re planning on being an elf?” The thought amused him. He was impressed though… and curious about what he was doing. He wanted to know if it was something that any mage could do or if it was something only he could do as a spirit.

---

“I do not know what I want to be. I was just trying to do something different.” He smiled and shook his head. “No mage has done this successfully. It is considered theoretical magic that scholars have worked on for many years.”

---

He hummed, still curious. “You should try to teach me too.” Maybe when he taught Justice. He’d love to be able to change his appearance. Not that there was anything in particular he wanted to change… but something like that would be incredibly useful. As long as he could go back to his actual appearance with ease.

---

“I will try to teach you. Perhaps if Compassion helped you, you could do it. I do not think mortals can perform the magic on their own.” But even the Tevinter mages aided by demons had failed, from what he had read. “I would want you to be able to change back. I like the way you look. But I know why it would be helpful.”

---

He considered that. Following that train of thought, he frowned.  “...Do you know why Compassion has abandoned me?” He didn’t mean completely abandon, but he’d not seen hint of Compassion in a long time. She continued to aid him in his healing, so she knew she was there, but she’d not come to him in his dreams in a long time. She hadn’t offered him comfort in so long that sometimes he forgot about her completely.

---

“...No, I do not. I think perhaps she is lending her help to others as well and she can only aid you when you are healing. But I wish she would still comfort you in your sleep. At least on the nights that I can’t be here with you.” He might not have ever been drawn to Anders if Compassion had been comforting him.

---

After a moment, he shook his head. “No, plenty of people get by without help.” He had himself for a long time and lately he had received more than his fair share of help. It was a nice change, especially considering that he’d felt like he had no one. “I couldn’t ask for anymore.”

---

“Well, you do not need to ask for more. I’m not going anywhere.” He kissed his lips and put an arm around him, starting to guide him toward the cot so they could sit down together. “And Lord Snowbeard can keep you company when I have to stay somewhere else.”

---

He followed after him, keeping a secure hold on the kitten. When they reached the nook, he set him down onto his pillow and then sat down. “So… what are you thinking? I know you said you don’t know what you want to do, but surely you have some idea.” Whether he wanted to stick somewhat close to Cole or to do something completely different.

---

“It is difficult for me to decide. It makes little difference to me, but mortals respond better to beings they find attractive. It would be nice to no longer have to hide my face because I frighten them. But I understand little about what mortals find attractive.” He sat beside him, looking over Anders. He knew many people found the healer attractive. “What would you want me to look like? If you could dream of me looking like an ideal man, what comes to mind?”

---

His brows rose and then he shook his head. “I can’t choose your appearance for you. You should look how you want to look. What you find attractive.” If that meant what Cole found attractive, then so be it. He wouldn’t feel right trying to make him his ideal man. Besides, everyone had different tastes and what he might find attractive, someone else might not. If his goal was not to scare others, then he simply needed to look alive.

---

“I want you to help me. I want you to think of what attracts you.” Even if he wouldn’t say it, perhaps he would at least think it. “Asking me is like acting Justice what he finds attractive in a mortal. I do not think he understands it any more than I do.”

---

Of course, he had a mental image of him. What he thought he would look like if he hadn’t taken after anyone. A soft, delicate face. A thin body. Not unlike his current features, but he did picture them differently. They came together better. Maybe dark hair to make him different, or maybe the same. The eyes at least had to be the same. Whatever he chose, he would want him to keep that much. Maybe he ought to be an elf, he if was already working on the ears, it would be fitting, wouldn’t it? Elves didn’t really have strong features, except perhaps their distinct noses and eyes. They weren’t so masculine looking as any of the other races.

But then again, there were some feminine looking human men too.

“I don’t know, Noah. It feels… selfish to tell you what I would want.” People don't generally get to choose the appearance of those close to them. They either accepted what was there or they didn’t.

---

“It would be selfish if you were demanding I look a certain way to please you. But I am asking you what you would like. I know it does not matter to you if I am attractive or not, but I would like to be attractive to you.” He kissed his cheek, very grateful that Anders had been willing to be intimate with him even when he had still looked like a corpse.

---

“It doesn’t feel right,” he repeated. He took his hand, looking it over. He couldn’t get over the changes in him. “I am not picky. I’m sure I will be attracted to whatever you choose.” The only reason he wasn’t attracted to him now was of the way he’d looked before. Now, he was… a little more attractive. The truth of it was he didn’t find Cole attractive, even in this healthier state. He cringed a little at the acknowledgement of it, not wanting to offend him and knowing he was attached to the mage that he had been unable to save.

---

“It's alright. You have no control of that.” He couldn't make himself attracted to Cole. But he still thought it would be nice to have Anders find him attractive. He just wanted to be easy on the mage's eyes, but if he could tailor himself to his preferences, that would be even better.

---

Even so, he gave him an apologetic look. “I’m truly not picky,”  he repeated, leaning in to kiss his lips. He didn’t feel like he needed to be attracted to him… but he supposed it would be nice. He shook the thought. “Surprise me. You might be pleasantly surprised by my reaction.” Or perhaps not, but either way, it really didn’t matter.

---

“I will come up with something. It ultimately does not matter. You love me whether you are attracted to me or not.” That was far more important. The idea was still so novel and it warmed him, prompting him to give Anders a kiss of his own.

---

“Want to get ready for bed?” There were still a few things he needed to do before he would be ready, but then they could lay down together, perhaps with Snow, and cuddle until they fell asleep. Or at least until he fell asleep.

---

“Yes. Just tell me what you still need to do and I will help.” He looked forward to settling in with him. He always did, even if much of the night was a little lonely with Anders sound asleep. But there was nowhere he would rather be and he liked being right there to chase away any bad dreams the mage might have before they even began.

---

“You can lock up. I’ll finish cleaning.” There wasn’t much left to do. He’d already done much of it before he’d started playing with Snow. He squeezed his hand and then let go of it to get up. “Did anything happen in the Circle today?” he asked, knowing Justice was anxious for updates.

---

“No, it was a quiet day. That was why I had time to work on something so frivolous.” He said as he rose, moving to go lock up for the night. “We may have an opportunity to get the family out soon. A templar is getting married and some of the guard shifts will be thin in a few weeks because they are attending the wedding. But for now, they are comfortable enough while we wait for our moment.”

---

“We would like to be there as it is planned,” he told him, since Justice was wanting to get more involved again. He started to put things away, relieved that it had been a quiet day. Quiet days were good. It meant his healing wasn’t needing. He couldn’t help but continually glance at him as he worked, still finding the changes so strange. Good, but strange.

---

“I would like you to be there also. I will let you know when we schedule the next meeting to plan this.” The first attempt to get this family out had been such a disaster. It would be nice to have their help when they tried again. “If I master changing my appearance by then, perhaps I can use it to our advantage and serve as a diversion.”

---

“Oh? You think you will change your appearance often?” He’d thought he’d change it once and then be done, but he was interpreting his words as meaning he would change his appearance for the sake of a diversion. Then change it again after.

---

“No. I want an appearance of my own. But if I can use the ability now and then to help the mages, I will be happy to. I do not intend to learn this magic just to use it selfishly.” Though what began this whole endeavor was Anders’ suggestion that Cole may not have wanted his appearance copied.

---

He nodded and then, finishing what he was doing, washed his hands and went back to the nook to see what Lord Snowbeard was doing. “I know I already gave you a treat an hour ago, but one more won’t hurt,” he told him, picking him up and grabbing a little bit of dried meat to offer him in his palm.

---

Noah followed along and smiled when Snow devoured the meat. “He doesn't mind an extra treat at all. I will have to find him more to eat. He would benefit from a more varied diet.” Though the kitten seemed perfectly content with meat and milk.

---

Wouldn’t they all? Still, what Snow ate was more important to him than what he ate himself. “Bring him whatever you like. I’m sure he appreciates it.” He appreciated it himself. The help would make it much easier to take care of him.

---

He was happy to do it. He liked the kittens and he was trying to provide for all of them. But especially Snow since Anders was unable to really provide for him and that was the only reason he hadn't wanted a kitten. “I will bring him some fish tomorrow.”

---

He smiled and when Snow finished up, he gave him a stroke down his back and then let him go so he could go where he wanted. If he wanted to stay with him, all the better. He looked back at Noah and took his hand, this time just holding it. “Ready to lay down?”

---

“Yes.” He raised Anders’ hand and kissed the back of it. “...I stopped by briefly to check on Milos today. He is doing alright after yesterday, but was still a little jealous. I gave him a bit of comfort before I left.” Not that he would remember, but it would help.

---

He was surprised that he would do that, but Anders nodded. “I suppose I would be jealous too.” Even knowing what it was, experiencing it himself, he would be jealous if he knew that Milos was having sex with someone else, especially as they were reaching the point where they were talking about possibly being together. “I don’t think he will accept it, but that’s alright. It would be better for him to find someone more like him.”

---

“He does not want to move on from you. You make him very happy. He just needs more time to think this through.” He hoped he would accept it. He thought the two mortals were good for each other.

---

“There’s a lot for him to consider.” For Anders it was rather simple. There was little about Milos to take issue with. The fact that he had a daughter was really the only thing and Anders had known that about him from the start. He didn’t mind that he had children and if anything, it made him happy to think that he could help him with her. He started to shift down, settling on his side.

---

“He is glad that you don't mind him having Willow.” He settled beside him, laying down to face him. He stroked his fingers through his hair, knowing Anders’ scalp was always a little sore at the end of the day.  

---

“She’s a sweet girl.” As much as he knew of her. He slid his arm around him and scooted in, though since Snow had ended up curled up between their hips, he kept a little space there. He kissed him. “You do look a lot better.” The whole not looking like walking death suited him.

---

“I am glad you think so.” He murmured against his lips. It was an improvement, but he wanted to look even better for him. “I like the ears. I think I will be an elf.”

---

He chuckled. “If you can change your race, I wonder if you can change your gender.” Could he become a woman? That would be really strange. He didn’t think of him as a woman at all. It would take a lot of adjusting to get use to him if he decided he wanted to be a woman.

---

“I probably be could. But I have been regarded as a male for so long that it would be difficult for me.” He smiled and nuzzled their noses. “I think you prefer having sex with me as a male anyway.” He knew Anders liked both, but he knew how much he liked to be filled.

---

He was right, but for some reason hearing him say it so frankly had him a little flustered. “Probably.” He wouldn’t mind it though, especially if he had Milos. One cock was enough for him. Two was just a bonus. “Are you curious what it is like to be with a woman?” Perhaps he would have a preference of his own.

---

“A little. But I wouldn't have any real interest in trying it unless I bonded with a woman the way I have bonded with you.” His thoughts had him curious and he coiled the locks of hair around his fingers. “If you end up with Milos, would you prefer that I was a woman to vary your sex life?”

---

“No.” He didn’t want to influence his decisions at all. Noah really seemed to care what he thought and that was sweet, but he didn’t have sex with him for the same reason he would have sex with someone else. He didn’t need to ‘vary’ his sex life. “I like you as you are.” He didn’t need to change. The fact that he could and therefore Justice could was enough for him.

---

“Then I will remain a male. I think that will be easier for me.” He didn't think he would make a good woman. He had been in the minds of enough of them and he felt he could understand their mannerisms well enough. But it would still take some adjustment and this was simpler.

---

“If that’s what you want.” He leaned in and gave him a kiss and then shut his eyes. He could feel the warmth of the kitten between them. It was pleasant, especially since there wasn’t much heat from Noah himself. He shut his eyes and let out a relaxing breath. “Goodnight, Noah.” It had been a simple day, but he was sleepy and happy.

---

“Goodnight, Anders. Sleep well.” He closed his eyes, ready to rest until Snow woke up in the night to play. For the time being, he would just listen to Anders’ thoughts and see what would carry him off to sleep.

---

For a while, Anders simply thought about Milos, but as he grew drowsier and drowsier, his thoughts began to drift. He started thinking about Noah and what he’d told him. If he was going to be an elf, he already had an idea of what he would look like. Long pointed ears, bright blue eyes. Fair skin, he thought. They would go well with his eyes. Dark hair would make them pop even more, if he had long, thick lashes. Even though he thought of him as plain, he was picturing him as gorgeous. Bare, unmarked skin. Silky smooth without a hint of hair on his body. A thick cock nestled between his legs. The corners of his lips tugged up, then relaxed. The thoughts became more and more fragmented until they faded completely and sleep took him.

---

It was interesting to hear all that Anders fantasized about. It was helpful, since the mage hadn't wanted to say what he would want. He listened closely, making notes about what he would change about himself when he was able. It would be fun to surprise him and show up as the raven haired elf he dreamed of.