Dusk, and Anders paces outside of Fenris’ mansion. Every now and then he pauses, turns to face the door, ready to knock. Then he shakes his head, continues pacing. It’s been a week since Fenris came back to his rooms with him. A week in which Anders hasn’t seen Fenris at all. Granted, he hasn’t seen any of the rest of them either. He’s been sticking to Darktown—much as he dislikes it—and his clinic, trying to distance himself from…recent events. Hawke, especially. Fenris, less so.
Maker, Hawke was a mistake. He had been kind about it, mostly (the teasing had rankled some), and let Anders down as gently as Anders imagines Hawke capable of. It had still crushed him. He’d felt silly and stupid and hopeless, and at the back of his mind had been Fenris, enigmatic and judging, and Anders didn’t know why.
He didn’t know why he’d avoided Fenris after, why he’d avoided people he thought of as friends. But they were Hawke’s friends, too; he’s the one capable of inspiring loyalty, not Anders.
Anders sighs and paces, the package under his arm beginning to be a nuisance. It’s only Fenris’ gauntlets, left under Anders’ bed after Fenris took off, which Anders supposes he deserves, all things considered, but doesn’t understand. He’d thought they’d had a mutually enjoyable—and beneficial—time. Apparently, he’d thought wrong.
He’d waited for Fenris to come retrieve them. Had thought—stupidly—that Fenris might even return that night, moments later, to stumble over an explanation and retrieve his things. Anders had waited for him. Had stripped naked and cleaned Fenris off his skin, soothed sore muscles with herbs and heat. He wanted relief, not oblivion; remembrance, not regret. He’d changed his smallclothes and the linens on his bed, set the gauntlets on his desk. He’d waited, and hoped—ridiculous—and pressed his fingers to the bruise at his hip. That week, he threw himself into his work, all aspects of it, and told himself he wasn’t on edge waiting to hear Fenris’ voice. Or Hawke’s. He’d have taken either—for every different reasons—though both had kept him up at night tossing in his bed until he’d given in to certain impulses that left him feeling…
For a moment, he thinks the Templars have found him, at last, or that they know something about the underground resistance. His heart leaps, body ready for fight or flight, and he nearly drops the package before he realizes the voice is a familiar one. He turns to find Fenris approaching from the direction of the Viscount’s Keep. There’s a scowl on his face, and he looks, well. Anders could always appreciate the figure he cut, lithe and slim. Without the gauntlets, though, he looks…somehow less. Nude, almost, which is idiotic. Anders has seen him shirtless, has touched his bare skin. Has sucked his cock.
Fenris sighs heavily, and Anders almost thinks he sees him roll his eyes. It’s hard to tell, though; the court is dim and Fenris’ hair obscures his face.
“What are you doing here, mage?” he asks, brushing past him to reach his door. He pulls out a key Anders doesn’t know how he obtained, but he suspects Varric is behind it.
“You were perfectly capable of using my name before, elf,” he says, frowning. The moniker stings when it didn’t before. He’d thought—hoped—they were past that if nothing else. “Or has your memory become that bad.”
There’s a beat—the quiet before the storm, Anders will later think—before Fenris turns on him, snarling, the lyrium glowing. He’s on Anders in a blink, and Anders is too surprised to do anything but think this is it as Fenris slams him into the wall.
The breath knocked out of him, Anders drops the gauntlets. They make a dull thud in their wrappings as they hit the ground and Anders can’t help but hope, stupidly, that they’re not scratched as Fenris holds him against the cold stone, his forearm against Anders’ throat, a hand fisted in his robes. He’s breathing heavy, his face twisted, mouth snarling. His eyes on Anders’ are hard, but when they drop from Anders’ eyes to his mouth, Anders feels something change in the air between them, Fenris leaning in fractionally to—
He wilts, and the glowing stops as his shoulders slump. His face remains murderous, but he steps back, lets Anders go.
“What do you want, Anders?”
Swallowing hard, Anders drops to one knee to retrieve the package. He straightens, shifting it in front of him. “I believe these are yours.”
Looking from him to the package and back, Fenris nods, turns back to his door. “You’ve come all this way,” he says. “You may as well come in.”
“You’re not inviting me to my doom, are you?” Anders asks, stepping forward, trying to lighten the mood. He’d thought they’d reach some unspoken level of tolerance, but really, given his record these days, he had probably been wrong about that, too. His heart is certainly racing fast enough to prove it.
“I’m not sure,” Fenris says after a moment. It sounds, strangely, like the truth. “That probably depends on you.”
“I promise to be good,” Anders says, tamping down the disappointment that flares in his chest. He’d have thought he’d be used to all manner of rejection at this point; he isn’t.
Fenris hums, a considering sound Anders can practically feel vibrating in the air. This is a bad idea. He should hand Fenris his gauntlets and leave, go back to Darktown where at leas the cats like him. He’ll always have them. And Justice.
He follows Fenris into the mansion instead, lets the door close behind him.
Inside, nothing’s changed since they originally helped Fenris clear the building. Fenris has lived here for years like this. Anders’ chest aches, but at least he’s not the only one living in…less than ideal circumstances.
“So,” he says, at a loss. He sets the package down on a nearby chair. “I heard an elf smuggled a whole litter of kittens from the market this week. Think it was Merrill?”
Fenris stares at him, a look of disbelief on his face. “What are you talking about?”
“Kittens?” Anders shrugs. “Baby cats? I was trying to…make conversation.”
“Make conversation?” Fenris laughs, but it isn’t like before. Or rather, it is, way before. Before Anders lost what little sense he had left to his name. Before he’d discovered what that voice was like when it wasn’t spitting invectives, what those hands were like when they weren’t inflicting pain.
“Make conversation,” Fenris repeats, moving deeper into the room. “When have we ever done that?”
Anders feels his face turn red, clenches his fists against the anger that rises. “I thought, perhaps, it wouldn’t hurt to—”
Fenris snorts. “Wouldn’t hurt to what? Try something new? Put yourself out there? We’ve seen how well that’s worked for you lately.”
“Well, I don’t know,” Anders spits, feeling as though he’s been struck. “I could barely keep my feet under me after. I couldn’t walk a straight line the next day. I still have the bruises to prove it. All things considered, I think that’s doing just fine.”
Fenris’ face does something complicated, like he’s not sure how to respond, what to do with Anders. It looks painful, whatever it is. Anders sighs.
“Listen,” he says, uncurling his fists, flexing his fingers. “I didn’t…come here to fight. You forgot your gauntlets and when you didn’t come back for them, I thought—” he shrugs “—I thought you might need them. So there. There you go.” He turns to leave. Figures he still has time to visit some stalls before they close for the night. He’s been doing a lot of inventory this past week; he could restock.
Fenris’ voice stops him in his tracks.
“I meant to retrieve them, and I—Aveline noticed they were missing tonight. I was going to retrieve them tomorrow.”
Anders would give his weight in coin to know how Fenris had been going to end his aborted sentence. “Oh?” he says instead, slowly turning around. Fenris is in the middle of the room; Anders doesn’t think he’s ever seen him look so small before. “You saw Aveline?”
“Yes.” Fenris nods. “We play cards sometimes. Her husband joins. I was just returning when…” He gestures at Anders.
Silence falls between them. Anders wants to say something, but he has no idea what. And it really wasn’t long ago he wanted Fenris quiet. Maker, how things have changed.
He huffs a laugh, and Fenris squints at him.
“You were right.”
Fenris frowns. “I often am. What about?”
“It really is better when we don’t speak. At least then we stop trying to maim one another.”
The corner of Fenris’ mouth quirks, and Anders can’t help but smile at that, at the way Fenris’ shoulders have relaxed minutely. Shifting, Fenris uses his toes to scratch the back of his calf. His balance is perfect, but it’s odd watching him now and realizing just how…fidgety he is—something Anders has vaguely noticed before—when lately he’s seemed so intimidatingly still.
Both feet on the ground, he looks up at Anders. Bites his lip. “Would you—I have wine, if you’d like?”
Anders laughs, which earns him a glare as well as folded arms. “Thank you, but no. You didn’t even want me to come in, and we’ve only just stopped shouting,” he says, hands raised in placation. “So while I appreciate the offer—and I’m sure the wine is very good—I think perhaps it may be best if we quit while we’re ahead?”
Fenris’ shoulders relax again and he nods, takes two steps forward. “I think you’re right,” he says. “Perhaps so.”
“I can be sometimes,” he says. There are moments when he almost feels young again, the burden on his shoulders a little lighter; this is one of them. “Another time?”
He waits a moment for Fenris to nod, and when he does, Anders nods in return, opening the door and heading back into the evening light.
He wasn’t sure it was possible, but his life has become even more strange.
It gets even stranger around midday the following day. He’s closing up the clinic to eat when someone clears their throat behind him.
“If it isn’t urgent, I’ll be back in an hour. If it is urgent, I’ll—”
Fenris is standing there, looking awkward and out of place. He’s wearing his gauntlets again, for which Anders is grateful. It’s strange seeing him without them, realizing there’s warm flesh and fragile bone underneath. Fenris has claws without them, but it’s easier to remember when they’re visible.
“If it is urgent?
“I—Fenris, hello, I—What?” He feels ridiculously flustered, more than he should be. He flushes.
Fenris gestures at the closed doors. “If the matter is urgent, what will you do?”
Reaching up, Anders scratches the back of his neck. “Well, I—I don’t—is it urgent?”
Fenris shrugs, a smooth movement of muscle and bone Anders can’t help but admire the elegance of. “If you are busy,” he says, “it can wait.”
“Not busy,” Anders says. He doesn’t know what to do with his hands. “”Hungry. I was going to the market for food if you’d like to, uh, join me?” His heart almost stops when Fenris accepts with a nod. “Really? I mean, excellent.” He starts forward through the streets of Darktown. At his side, Fenris is silent. Out of the corner of his eye, Anders can’t help but admire the way he moves, sleek and efficient. Like a cat. When they pause for a group of children to pass by, though, Anders catches him fidgeting again. It is, Maker help him, endearing.
“Why’d you come?” he asks once they’re moving again.
It isn’t rudeness, it’s just Fenris.
“To the clinic?”
Anders glances at him. His hand is at the back of his head and—is that a blush?
“I had fabricated a reason to come see you.”
Anders huffs a laugh. “You don’t need to do that. We’re—” Except they’re not friends. They can barely tolerate each other. “Uh. Why?”
Fenris is quiet long enough Anders begins to think he won’t answer, but then he says, “I wanted to see you.”
“Oh.” He doesn’t know what to say to that. After last night, he figured they’d both go back to ignoring each other until Hawke intervened. He certainly hadn’t thought Fenris would purposefully seek him out. Not after they’d worked this physical thing out of their systems. “What was your excuse?”
“I was going to tell you I had a thing.”
“On my foot.”
“On your foot.”
“You were going to tell me you had a thing on your foot.”
Fenris sighs. “It was not my best plan, I admit.”
Something inside of Anders wants to crow at that admission. Instead, he turns away, watches a couple as they pass to hide the amusement and pleasure on his face.
“I see,” he says. “Well. Were you indeed in possession of a thing on your foot, you would have come to the right place. But as I am assuming you’re not, was there a reason you wanted to see me?”
“I wanted to thank you,” Fenris says. “For returning my things. And…apologize for my behavior.”
Anders shrugs, waving him off. “I startled you. Like you said, it’s not like we’re friends.”
They’re near Lowtown now, and Anders can practically smell the open air. He’s gone a few steps before he realizes Fenris has stopped. Anders doesn’t know why, but he’s frowning at the ground.
“Did you step in something? There’s not really any place sa—”
“I did not mean that.” Fenris looks up at him, eyes very green through the fall of his hair.
Anders tilts his head. “Didn’t you?” He waves his hands between them. “I mean, you weren’t wrong. We don’t make conversation and we’re really not…friends.”
Fenris is watching him, frowning. Anders’ heart picks up pace.
“But we’re not…we’re not not friends, either.”
“Maker,” Anders sighs, “you can say that again.”
Fenris chuckles slightly, the frown lifting. Strangely, Anders feels as though he’s won something. He smiles back, and when he turns to enter Lowtown, Fenris is behind him again.
Anders has always enjoyed the moment when he steps from Darktown into Lowtown. As much as he despises the rats—and some of the people—and the smell, he feels lighter in Lowtown. Freer. Like he can move and breathe. He knows he should be more careful, but being friends with Hawke has made him reckless again, the way he was before he came to Kirkwall. A lifetime ago. Guilt creeps in little by little; too many people depend on him for him to get himself in trouble.
Walking through the streets, he tilts his head back, face to blue sky, and breathes deep. Catches Fenris looking at him. He shrugs.
“It smells better than Darktown,” he says. “Sometimes it reminds me a little too much of the Circle.”
“In Ferelden? Why?”
He pauses, wandering how much to tell Fenris, how much he already knows. On the one hand, it’s personal, more personal than anything else they’ve spoken of. On the other hand, he’s had Fenris’ tongue in his ass. He shrugs, figures in for a copper.
“They weren’t my biggest supporters in the Circle,” he says. “I mean, I guess I can’t blame them, I did try to escape a lot. The last time—before it stuck, I mean—they imprisoned me for a year. It was…” He sighs. “You don’t think about how important the sky is until you can’t see it anymore.”
Fenris has stopped again. This time Anders can feel him staring.
“I can still feel when you do that, you know,” Anders says. He doesn’t turn around, though, instead keeps his eyes on the perfect blue of the sky.
“I am trying to make you out.”
Anders laughs. “What’s to make out? Small town boy is taken from his home in handcuffs by Templars when he’s twelve because his father is afraid of him. Is locked up in a tower. Only friend is a cat. What else can there be?”
He throws up a hand. “Other than ‘the abomination.’”
Fenris’ fingers are tight around his wrist, the skin dry and warm. Anders feels it like a brand.
“You discredit yourself,” Fenris says. “As I discredited you. I will—I am perhaps willing to admit not all mages are bad.”
“Oh?” He pulls his hand away and rubs at his wrist, trying to forget the feel of those fingers. He feels…weirdly complimented and stung. Hates Fenris a little for both. “How generous of y—”
“Some are particularly annoying, though.” He doesn’t wink, but, Maker, there’s something there that gives Anders pause.
He rolls his eyes. “Maker, you’re—” He’s not sure how to finish that thought, if he even wants to. Not that long ago, really, he’d have said terrible and meant it, just as Fenris would have said annoying in an entirely different tone. Now, though, his skin buzzes and it isn’t with magic and it isn’t with hate. It isn’t even with Hawke. It’s with Fenris. Fenris.
Anders clears his throat. “Food,” he says. “We should get food. I only have an hour and then I should, you know. The clinic.”
Nodding, Fenris says, “Of course.”
They enter the market, find a stall with food. As they eat—standing—Anders takes the opportunity to do some watching of his own, stealing glances between bites. Fenris fidgets, weight shifting, head turning, picking at his tunic. He fiddles, and Anders wonders if it isn’t actually a habit of necessity picked up on the run, if it was learned before that, another vestige of Fenris’ slavery.
Maybe something Fenris always was, long before he was anything else.
He realizes how strange it is to see Fenris still now, how unique his sudden focus on the mountain had been. It was unsettling having that intense focus on him, unsettling and intoxicating. At the time, it had made Anders feel like he’d been dunked in a cold stream, his head both clear and muddled. Every time he catches Fenris staring at him, it’s the stream all over again.
Watching Fenris out of the corner of his eye, he lets himself admire the lines of his body, his deceptively slim shoulders and hips (Anders has felt the power in both), the shock of white hair (surprisingly soft). He remembers the first time he’d seen him descending into the Alienage, blood on his hand. Anders had been immediately intrigued—how could he not?—and had he been at least a year younger…well. Much had changed. But Anders had been unable to deny the way Fenris drew his eye, all smooth, efficient movement when he had a purpose, the lyrium bright on his skin. His voice—Anders had, for about a week, dreamt of that voice in the way he’d dreamt of Hawke’s hands.
He’d been grateful, for a time, that Fenris so clearly disliked him. And then he’d been annoyed.
Then he’d stopped caring.
The elf—he was always the elf after one of their arguments—was wrong, if he’d only open his eyes, he’d see the plight of the mages wasn’t far removed from his own, especially in Kirkwall. If he would just shut up and—
Fenris is watching him openly. There is juice on his fingers, at the corner of his mouth, and Anders honestly doesn’t know any more if he wants to help clean Fenris up or if he wants to dirty him further. Isn’t sure there’s any real difference there safe for the urge to see Fenris’ lip split, the taste of blood mingling with the taste of fruit.
Anders swallows hard, his palms itching. He should go. He should go and get to work and leave Fenris here with his anti-mage sentiment. He’s never going to listen to Anders, never going to show the mages his support. It’s the magisters’ fault, and Anders can understand that they are horrible, but Fenris won’t listen, won’t hear that the mages in Kirkwall and Ferelden and anywhere outside of Tevinter…they’re slaves, too. He is the opposition. Not like the Templars, not like the Circle, but the opposition nonetheless, and—
He pauses, takes a breath to calm himself. Knows Fenris is watching.
“I’m glad I was able to return your gauntlets,” he says, nodding at Fenris’ hands. “Wouldn’t want you looking any less intimidating. And now that you’ve thanks me and I’ve thanked you for the company, I have work to do. I’ll, uh, I’ll see you.”
Turning, he leaves, lets his longer legs put distance Fenris could easily cross between them. He needs space and quiet, needs to calm the angry hum inn his blood. Fenris doesn’t care what happens to him, would celebrate, Anders is sure, if all mages were made Tranquil. He’d only…he’d only initiated what he had on the mountain because Anders—in his weakness—had started something. Had only gone home with him because he felt…he felt…Anders has no idea. Fenris had previously had no qualms about telling Anders exactly how little regard he had for him, and now here he was thanking Anders. Fucking him. Kissing him.
Distracting him from important work, just like Hawke.
Anders shakes his head as he makes his way back into Darktown. Fenris is not Hawke, and Anders doesn’t—he isn’t—Maker. He does not have feelings for him; he isn’t that foolish.
But Fenris is a distraction, and Anders has no room for those.