Darktown is almost pleasant in the late afternoon, light slanting golden in over the water, the sound of gulls calling. There’s a slight breeze, and on it Fenris can smell salt and fish and—he wrinkles his nose. Almost pleasant indeed.
He paces near Anders’ clinic, counting his steps so they’re even, measured. He’s far enough away he won’t dissuade anyone from going in, but near enough he can watch the comings and goings.
In the past weeks, he’s seen Anders a handful of times, usually when they’re around Hawke and the others, though twice when they weren’t. In a group they were fine, falling back into their old ways (though the venom from Anders sometimes…), but on their own? It was awkward, stilted. As though Anders was trying to shut him out, an event that previously Fenris would have celebrated. Now, though…
Fenris sighs, turns on his heel.
When he first met Anders—and Hawke and Varric and Aveline—he hadn’t realized what he was, though it had become apparent in Hightown. He’d hated him at the first spell, been ready to slit his throat the first time he felt his magic creep across his skin and sink into his bones. It was only after, when he was left with a faint vibration through his limbs, that he’d realized the magic was about as benign as it could be.
He’d been willing, at that point, almost willing to accept Anders.
And then he’d learned he was an…abomination.
Even now, he remembers the way the news hit him. The anger and sense of…inevitability. Of course he would fall in with mages, that was just his luck. Of course they’d make deals with demons. Spirits. Whatever Anders thought he’d opened himself to. Not to mention Merrill…
Bethany, Bethany’s the only sane one in the lot.
Fenris paces, kicks at a loose stone.
He’d hated Anders. Wanted nothing to do with him. Couldn’t deny he was a skilled fighter—a former Grey Warden, and oh, wasn’t he curious about that—and healer. But the demon, the demon.
He insisted that they were one and the same, that there weren’t two voices in his head, two occupants in his body. That he had control, and they were in agreement. Fenris hadn’t been there in the Chantry when they’d found Anders’ friend Tranquil, but he’d heard stories from Varric, others from Hawke. Hawke’s gave credit to Varric’s, made them more believable. Anders’ control sounded…arguable.
And still, Fenris had let Anders get close enough to kiss him, had not killed him for it. And then, the real issue throwing Fenris off, he’d propositioned Anders twice.
Now here he is outside of Anders’ clinic trying to decide if he wants to talk to him or not. Unsure if he’d want to do more than talk.
Maker, he really has lost his senses.
He spins on his heel. Merrill’s standing behind him, having just come out of the clinic. In her hands is a small blue bottle. The color reminds him of a different, larger bottle and he flushes.
“Merrill, uh. Are you all right?” he asks, trying to be polite for Hawke’s sake. She may not be someone he’ll ever be able to trust, but Hawke likes her, trusts her, and that carries a certain amount of weight.
“Of course I am, why wouldn’t I—? “ She remembers the bottle in her hand. “Oh, right! I had a thorn in my foot.”
Fenris frowns. “And you had to come here?”
“It became infected. My healing is adequate, but Anders’ is much better. He has such a soft touch.”
The tips of Fenris’ ears burn. ‘Soft’ is not the word he would have used for Anders’ touch, though he remembers clearly the large, calloused palms and the way his mouth would turn gentle.
He startles. “Yes?”
Merrill’s closer now, her face concerned. “I was asking if you’re all right, or if you’re just visiting Anders on a—how would Isabela say it?—a social call? Have you been able to put aside your differences and become friends? You’ve fought less lately.”
“I—We—hmm.” He shakes his head. “Has Anders seemed different to you lately?”
Merrill frowns, tilting her head to consider. “Yes,” she says, “he has. It’s the spirit, I think, Justice.”
Something in Fenris’ chest tightens. “What do you mean?”
Merrill’s frown deepens. “Anders believes they are one and the same, and to an extent I believe that may be true. But Justice is demanding. I think he may be working Anders harder than he would like.”
“Then he should refuse to—”
“Or notice,” Merrill says. She half-smiles at Fenris. “I’m glad the two of you are talking. I think you both need it.”
“I—” He closes his mouth and nods. What is there to say.
Merrill’s smile falls. “Especially Anders. I am worried about him, Fenris. I don’t—” She shakes her head. “The deals I have made in the past, I’ve known full well what the risks were. What I was getting myself into. I don’t believe Anders did. Or does. He thought he was helping a friend. But I look in his eyes sometimes now and I’m not sure who’s looking back.”
Ice runs in Fenris’ veins.
“Do you know what I mean? Not often, but sometimes…” She shrugs. “He needs friends—other friends than Justice—now more than ever. I wish he wouldn’t work so hard.”
Fenris nods, considering. His heart beats rapidly, palms sweating. If Anders is wrong about Justice—and, for once, Fenris has to agree with Merrill—what danger is he in? What danger are all of them in?
“I hope your foot feels better, Merrill,” he says, and she smiles at him, her eyes large and sad, too knowing for how naïve she sounds.
“Thank you, Fenris,” she says. “Dareth shiral.”
He watches Merrill leave, torn between leaving himself or seeing Anders, meeting his eyes and wondering who—or what—is looking back. Could it be that it hasn’t been Anders at all? That the first kiss, desperate and clumsy, had been something else?
Fenris’ skin crawls at the thought. He feels sick. As much as he and Anders aren’t friends, something had happened between them that night in Anders’ room. Something that had shaken Fenris to his core, bringing memories briefly back, memories he’d thought gone forever. The experience had been…overwhelming, and Fenris had found he needed clear air and the stars above, had needed space to breath and stretch and remind himself of what was real, what was now. Who he was, above all else.
The thought of sharing that experience with a mage would have once been unbearable, laughable even. He can only hope now it was the mage who was with him.
He breathes deep and wrinkles his nose; the breeze has changed. How Anders can bear living down here, he’ll never know.
Entering the clinic, Fenris doesn’t see Anders at first. He does notice the number of people, however, several young, many old. There’s a woman who appears to be pregnant speaking with another he believes must be one of Anders’ volunteers. Standing near the entrance, he watches as they go about their business, listening with politely concerned faces. It’s admirable, what Anders has done here for these people. Even Fenris can admit that.
Anders appears a moment later, coming from one of his back rooms. He’s smiling, his face open, and Fenris can’t help but think of the way he smiled at Fenris after, laughter in his throat. It makes him look younger, lighter; Fenris is unendingly curious about the Anders Isabela once knew. Was he at all like this? Would he have disliked him on the spot?
Probably. A mage is a mage, after all, but a mage possessed?
The pregnant woman has Anders’ hands in both of hers, Anders’ own hands wrapped around some kind of bottle. She’s thanking him, it seems, and he’s—Fenris squints—he’s blushing. The look on his face is a mixture of embarrassment and kindness and Fenris will never stop wondering how he fell into this group of people with so much capacity for good or evil.
Aveline, no doubt, would tell him to mind the gray areas.
The woman turns to leave, bottle in hand, and Fenris watches Anders’ eyes follow her to the door. Catches the exact moment he notices Fenris standing there. His flush darkens, and he goes completely still.
He looks like prey, and something about that makes Fenris’ skin hum. He shrugs it off, blames it on the magic that’s thick in the air. How no one has found this place and turned Anders in, he’ll never know. He suspects, however, it might be Varric’s doing these days, as well as Anders’ fellow Fereldens.
“Anders,” he says with a nod once he’s crossed the room. He feels out of place here among Anders patients. He deals in destruction, not healing. Slices flesh and breaks bones, doesn’t knit them back together. This is truly Anders’ domain, though Fenris has seen him destroy plenty.
Hard to believe now, the way he sways at Fenris’ approach, eyes darting around the room as though looking for escape. There are circles under his eyes, obvious now Fenris is closer, dark smudges that make him look haunted. Frowning, he wonders how true that is.
“Fenris,” Anders says, gaze finally settling. “Hello, I wasn’t expecting—what are you doing here?”
Why prevaricate? Or, as Varric would say, beat about the bush?
“I came to talk,” he says. He glances at the volunteer who’s still hovering nearby, watching him with open curiosity. “Privately.”
“Privately? Is everything—oh, all right.”
Anders splutters as Fenris takes his arm, but goes easily enough as Fenris steers him through the door he knows leads to his room.
“You can let me go, you know,” he says, once the door swings shut behind them. “It’s not as though I’m going to run.”
“Isn’t it?” Fenris asks, his look pointed.
Anders rolls his eyes, but the flush remains heightened. He pulls his arm away and moves to stand near his desk. “Well?”
Fenris is struck, suddenly, by memories of the last time he was in this room, Anders near his desk. The smell of sex is gone, but the rest is the same, the bed and books and papers, the bottles and boxes. Anders himself, somehow defiant and uncertain at the same time.
He could crowd into Anders here, take his mouth and taste him again, bend him over his desk and hear him. These are not things he should want, and yet…
“You have a habit of running away. The Circle, the Wardens—”
Anders points at him. “You ran away from Danarius.”
“And me.” He deflates a little at that. “Perhaps we are more alike than we think.”
“Hmm,” Fenris hums, closing the distance between them. “Perhaps.”
Anders sighs, reaches up to rub at a temple. “What is it, Fenris?”
Anders is tired, definitely. He looks small even in his ridiculous coat, his shoulders sagging. His cheekbones are more pronounced and his lips are chapped, his hair lank. Now that they’re alone, he looks like he hasn’t slept in a week.
No wonder Merrill is worried.
He blinks, meets Anders’ eyes. They’re tired, but the golden-brown—and the expression behind them—is familiar, the same eyes Fenris first met, the same that looked at him in anger and pity, in desperation. In need. He has to believe that—
“You’re doing that thing where you watch me again. It’s really unnerving.”
Fenris blinks, swallows. Takes a step back. “I’ll endeavor not to look at you so much.”
Anders breathes a laugh. “Well, I don’t know if you have to go that far.” He smiles, a half-smile that tilts his expression. Fenris shouldn’t find him charming. He doesn’t.
“You said you wanted to speak to me in private?”
Fenris nods, his brain scrambling. He should have thought this through. “I—”
Behind him, the door swings open with a clatter that makes them both jump, the cacophony followed by Hawke’s voice and, Fenris can only assume, Hawke himself.
“There you two are!” he says. “Sorry about the entrance. I had to be sure you two weren’t killing each other.”
Fenris keeps his eyes on Anders, has only seen him with Hawke when they’re busy, people to kill and loot to grab. He’s frowning at Hawke, at both of them. If he were one of his beloved cats, his hackles would be up.
“What is this?” he asks. “Babysit the mage day? I’m fine.”
Hawke looks between them, confusion plain on his face. “What?”
“First Merrill, then Fenris, now you. Who’s next, Isabela?”
Fenris clears his throat. “Merrill was injure—”
“Yes, I know,” Anders says, folding his arms. “She had a thing. On her foot.” He raises both eyebrows, his face smug, and Fenris feels heat rise in his own.
“Honestly,” Hawke says, “now I’m wondering if you’re both okay. What’s going on?”
Opening his mouth to respond, Fenris gets as far as taking a breath before Anders beats him to it.
“Nothing,” he says. “Fenris missed my winning smile, but he’s leaving now. And so are you, Hawke. I have work to do.”
Hawke splutters. “But we haven’t gotten a chance to really talk in—”
“Because I have work to do. The clinic’s been especially busy lately, and unlike some people who can go gallivanting off whenever they like, this is my responsibility.”
Hawke huffs. “Excuse me, I have—”
“Out,” Anders says. “Both of you. I have things to do and people to attend to enough without the two of you gawking.”
Hawke splutters some more, and Fenris has to turn to hide the smirk tugging at his lips. It’s not often that Hawke’s told no. Even more rare for Anders to be the one telling him. For himself, he’s torn between relief and frustration. He and Anders aren’t done—not even close—but he hadn’t been prepared, had foolishly approached him without a plan of attack. He’s at least assured himself of…well. Something. He knows what he saw in the market and what he sees now. He can return later for the rest.
He lets Anders push him out ahead of Hawke. Pauses only to give Anders a look he knows Anders finds significant by the way he bites his lip, averts his eyes. He leaves with Hawke on his heels.
“What was that?” Hawke asks, once they’re outside.
Fenris shrugs. “He’s a busy man, apparently, who has no time for—”
“For who, Fenris? His friends? I may be narcissistic and self-absorbed, but I know the two of you aren’t friends. Maker knows I’ve had to listen to the two of you provoke each other often enough. Plus,” Hawke says, “I know you followed him that night at the Hanged Man.”
Fenris’ stomach drops. “Oh? I didn’t know you followed me.”
“I didn’t have to. You didn’t exactly hide it—you left right after him!”
“And? You’re not my keeper, Hawke.”
“No, Fenris, I’m not. Nor would I ever presume to be. But I am, I thought, your friends—Anders’ as well—and something is going on.”
Not sure how to respond, he sighs. Is it meant to be a secret? Is he ashamed, consorting with a mage? An abomination? Is Anders, consorting with an elf and former slave? They’re questions he can’t answer, not even for himself.
Instead, he turns to Hawke. “I could say the same for the two of you, often together and now often apart.”
Hawke snorts. “I’m sure that’s not a real inquiry, Fenris. You’re smart, and you were there at the Hanged Man. You know what happened.”
It’s partly true; he can guess. Anders wears his heart on his sleeve most of the time. The way he watched Hawke spoke volumes.
Now, he barely looks at him.
Hawke sighs. “I didn’t mean to…lead him on. I don’t mean to lead anyone on. And I’m sorry to have hurt him, I am, not only because he’s a good healer in the heat of the moment. He’s a good man, despite the…let’s call them poor life choices. I hope one day you’ll be able to see that, too.”
Fenris coughs, clears his throat. “I—well. I may have found I was capable of re-evaluating some of my previous opinions when you asked us to travel through the Vimmarks for you.”
“Oh?” Hawke’s face lights up. “Is that so? I have to admit, I was hoping the two of you would be able to work some things out if left to it.”
“Don’t get smug about it. We have a long way to go.”
They part not long after that, Hawke going his own way—something about Varric and seeing a dwarf about his pants—as Fenris takes his time wandering through Lowtown. The movement helps him think, though he would perhaps prefer the quiet of the mansion. He walks, and thinks about Anders and Justice, about Merrill’s worry, about Anders and Hawke. About Anders and himself. He doesn’t know if he’ll ever be completely sure about the events leading up to that initial kiss, but he knows how Anders looked at him then, how he’d looked at him before. How he looks at him now. Something had been different when he’d left Fenris at the market so abruptly, something had been off.
It makes sense, he thinks, if Justice is closer to the surface.
And the rest? The rest must be Anders; Fenris has to believe that. He needs to believe it, which is—he twitches, cracks his neck—ridiculous, utterly ridiculous. He doesn’t care, he shouldn’t. Anders is everything he hates, and yet…
He shakes himself, narrowly avoiding being run over by a cart.
The rest must be Anders himself. Justice can have no possible use for a mage-hating elf. Fenris would bet coin he does not own that Justice made Anders run. Not the first time; definitely the last.
He can’t leave at that, leave Anders for the night and not speak with him. Merrill is right to be concerned, and Anders must know, must face what’s happening if he truly is unaware.
Hawke? Well. He’d made his choices, as Anders had made his. And Fenris had made his own. Life went on. Anders’ broken heart would heal, or it wouldn’t, and he and Fenris would continue with their tentative truce and one day, perhaps, he’d stop being so infuriating.
Fenris waits until the sun has set and he knows the clinic to be closed before he returns to Darktown. The lamp outside the clinic is out, the doors shut, but Fenris knows Anders is there; where else would he be?
Not hesitating this time, raps on the door and waits. He’s ready, questions prepared. Anders won’t get away with deflecting, he—
Anders opens the door and Fenris’ breath catches. He looks…he looks….
Hair loose about his face, skin flushed from the heat escaping the open door, coat gone, he looks younger, smaller. Breakable. Heartbreaking, if Fenris had a heart.
Anders’ eyes—tired and dark—lock on him briefly before sweeping past him. “Fenris,” he says, “what are you doing here?”
“I was hoping we could speak.” He feels foolish now, in the face of Anders’ dishevelment. This man is no demon. But he could be harboring one, a voice at the back of his head whispers.
Anders narrows his eyes. “Again? You must really be hard up for companionship if you’re coming to me twice in one day.”
Sighing, Anders brushes his hair back over his head with one hand. “Of course, come in.”
The room is as hot as the heat escaping had suggested, hot and humid. In the corner back near Anders’ room, he notices a pot steaming over the fire that burns there throughout the day, a brass tub nearby on a rug that’s been dragged out of who knows where. Items laid out on a table that’s been pushed close.
“Am I interrupting?” he asks, turning to watch as Anders relocks the door.
Shrugging, Anders says, “Not in a way that will hurt anything. I caught a glance of myself in some polished silver when I ran to Hightown for some herbs, so I brought in water for a bath. I was just heating it.”
Fenris nods at the fire. “Wouldn’t heating it with magic be faster?”
“I don’t have to use magic for everything.”
And he doesn’t; Fenris is very aware of this. He doesn’t use magic for everything in the clinic, or for comfort, or food, or—
“The magisters use magic for everything.”
“Oh, for Maker’s sake,” he says, throwing up his hands. “I know you can be incredibly dense, Fenris, but even you must have noticed by now that I am not a magister.”
“No.” And I appreciate that now more than I can say. “But you are—”
“Are what? A mage? An abomination? Tell me something I don’t know.”
“Merrill’s worried about you.”
The words bring Anders up short and he stops in the middle of the room, mouth open. “I—what?”
“Merrill is concerned about you and the…spirit,” Fenris says.
Anders rolls his eyes, crossing his arms. “Merrill should mind her own business.”
“Her own business? Anders, you’ve made this all of ours!”
“She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”
Fenris scoffs. “She’s a blood mage. I think she knows exactly what she’s talking about.”
Anders turns angry red, his lips pressed together in a thin line. Caught, it seems.
“She’s not the only one concerned,” Fenris continues. He lowers his voice, hoping it will make Anders listen. “I need you to tell me the truth, Anders. Is Justice too strong?”
He waits, breath held and heart racing, watching emotions play across Anders’ face. Anger and disbelief and frustration, agony. Despair. Finally, confusion.
“I—I don’t—no,” he says, deflating. “I’m just very busy. And he can be—there are rumors, and he can be—” Anders shakes his head as though to clear it. “Demanding. It’s very warm in here, isn’t it?”
Fenris frowns, but lets it go. “The water for your bath is probably ready.”
Anders nods, distracted, moving toward the prepared area. “I don’t use magic for everything, Fenris, you know. I’m not like them.”
“No,” Fenris says, “you’re not.” It’s both acknowledgment and apology. He turns away, toward the door, Anders and his fire behind him. “I don’t want to fight with you.”
“We don’t have to fight,” Anders says, his hushed voice carrying to where Fenris pauses near the door. He turns to look, and Anders is standing there, his eyes squeezed shut. “You don’t have to go?” He cracks one eye open, looks bashful and apologetic. Fenris watches him. He watches Fenris.
“Your water,” Fenris says. “You should bathe.”
Anders opens both eyes and nods. He crosses to the pot and the bath, lifts a bucket sitting nearby and begins moving water from one to the other, steam rising around him as he does. Once it reaches an acceptable level, he sets the bucket down and sits on a nearby chair, bending to unbuckle and remove his boots. As he does, Fenris disarms himself, propping his sword against one of the cots. His gauntlets follow. When he’s done, he looks up to find Anders’ eyes on him, golden and ark and compelling. He closes the distance between them, drawn by those eyes, that face. This man he used to hate, and should still, but cannot—for whatever reason—anymore.
“What are you doing?” Anders asks, and isn’t that the question of the year? What is Fenris doing?
“Making myself comfortable.” Ad maybe that holds more truth than he fully realizes. He’s been trying ever since he escaped, ever since he met Hawke, to make himself comfortable. One day, he has to hope he’ll find a way.
“Oh?” Anders blinks up at him, the light from the fire playing across the plains of his face. Fenris is amazed by the sudden desire to reach out, to touch. To feel the coarse grain of Anders’ stubble beneath the palm of his hand the warmth of this lips.
He flexes his fingers, tells Anders, “Stand.”
Anders does without question. They’re more of a height with his boots off—not that there’s a great difference normally. Surprisingly, he finds he…likes Anders’ slightly larger frame, the width of his shoulders, the—
Fenris wrinkles his nose. “You smell.”
Anders laughs, a full-bodied laugh that throws his head back and bares his throat. His face when he lowers it radiates something like happiness.
“Hence the bath,” he says, reaching for the hem of his tunic.
“Occasionally, your plans make sense.” He stops Anders’ hands with his own, their fingers tangling, stepping close to pull it up and over Anders’ head. He steps back and turns to drape it over the same cot with his sword and gauntlets, feels Anders’ eyes on him.
He turns back, Anders’ eyes never leaving him as he closes the distance between them again. It’s Fenris who breaks the eye contact, eyes slipping over Anders’ chest and abdomen—noting the definite sign of ribs this time—to the pale gingery hair that leads from his navel past the waistband of his breeches. It’s coarse under Fenris’ fingers, Anders’ skin smooth and hot beneath as Fenris begins work on the fastenings of the breeches.
Anders lets him, his body still even as Fenris feels him tense against his fingers. Anders’ breath catches as the last bit of lace is loosened, and Fenris glances up at him. Feels pride well at the way Anders’ eyes have gone heavy-lidded, the way he sucks his bottom lip between his teeth.
“There,” Fenris says, and his own voice surprises him, rougher and deeper than usual.
Bottom lip released—and oh how Fenris would like to bite it himself—Anders quirks a smile and steps back, hands rising to his hips. He tucks his thumbs in his waistband, hooking his smallclothes as well, and, not looking away, pushes them down his legs, steps out of them. Straightens. He stands and faces Fenris, limbs naked, body bared, his cock heavy between his thighs. He stands, and Fenris thinks, This is Anders. Not the abomination, not the mage, the man.
Ducking his head, hair falling across his face, Anders turns to the bath and lifts a leg to step in, giving Fenris the perfect view of the rounded muscle of his ass. Slowly, he lowers himself into the steaming water, hissing softly as he settles.
Fenris hovers, watching as Anders’ eyes slip shut in pain and pleasure, as his head lolls back against the brass. Sweat collects on his forehead and upper-lip, pools in the indent of his collar bones. Fenris licks his lips and flexes his fingers, wanting to touch, to taste. In the confines of his leggings, his own cock is half-hard. The blood in his veins feels slow, thick, and time itself seems to have contracted around them. He wonders if this is a spell of Anders’, if such a thing exists. How tempting that magic would be, to slow down all the good moments and speed through all the bad.
He grabs a nearby chair and drags it closer, sits as Anders’ eyes move behind his eyelids. What is he thinking? What is Justice doing? Fenris can reach through flesh and bone, but he cannot divine thought.
Anders sighs, water lapping gently at the sides of the bath. He opens his eyes and stretches for the lump of soap among the laid out toiletries, dipping it into the water and wetting it before working it into a lather. Fenris sits and watches what must be a practiced routine, Anders lifting one leg, then the other, one arm, then the other. In the dim light of the closed clinic, his skin glistens.
When he is finished, he squeezes his eyes shut, the expression somehow comical, like a child, and sinks his head beneath the water’s surface, knees rising like islands from the deep. It is endearing, Maker help him.
Anders resurfaces with a gasp, hair wet, and before he can lift his hand to wash it, Fenris is beside him, their fingers tangling once again as he takes the soap.
Anders doesn’t startle, only blinks water out of his eyes and looks at Fenris as though he’s been expecting this, as though he knew if he waited long enough, Fenris would make the next move. His eyelashes are sharp, dark points, his eyes unfathomable behind them. His hair is burnished against his skull, darker than usual, more copper than gold. He is beautiful, and Fenris is mad.
Fenris takes the soap from him, and Anders lets him, his hand slipping back under the now opaque water. Sorry he can’t see more, Fenris watches rivulets run down Anders’ chest, pathways made through the sparse hair there, catching at a nipple. His mouth waters and he wonders, momentarily, about simply joining Anders, folding limbs together until he’s small enough to fit with him in the confines of the bath, the spaces Anders has left open. Press his mouth to each nipple until they’re hard, pebbling beneath his tongue. Press his hands to Anders’ skin until Anders is panting against him, body straining.
Instead, he takes the soap and moves to kneel behind Anders and the bath. Leaning forward, he wets his hands, re-wets the soap, smirks at the way Anders shudders at the proximity, Fenris’ breath on his ear, his neck, his shoulder. He could lean in that much closer, press his mouth to the curve of muscle, taste clean skin and soap and Anders underneath. It’s not something he’d ever thought he’d become familiar with, not something he thought he’d crave, but he does. Maker, he does.
He leans back, ignoring Anders’ soft sigh, held breath released, and works the soap into a lather before carefully, gently touching his hands to Anders’ head. Anders’ breath catches and his shoulders stiffen, but as he begins—slowly—to work the soap through Anders’ hair, as he begins to massage his scalp with the tips of his fingers, Anders’ shoulders loosen. He adds a hint of nail and Anders groans.
Fenris presses his cock to the back of the tub, biting his lip.
Beneath his hands, Anders bows his head, sinks lower in the water. He sighs as Fenris’ hands wander to rub at the tension in his neck, the finely muscled curves of his shoulders. He whines when Fenris takes his hands away.
“Rinse,” Fenris says, and nothing more. His pulse is too fast for anything more. Now is not the time for words, but action.
Anders does, hair floating about him. He slides back up, slicking his hair back with his hands. He looks at Fenris over his shoulder, and Fenris does his best to keep his expression blank, to let the next move be Anders’.
He isn’t disappointed.
Reaching behind him, Anders’ hand finds the nape of Fenris’ neck as he leans in, dampening the hair there, twisting his own body to meet Fenris, his mouth hot and wet and open.
Though the angle is awkward, the kiss is not. It burns Fenris up from the inside out and he groans, pushing into it, pressing forward against the brass. Anders’ hand is large on his neck, large and firm, and Fenris has had that hand on him before, had both of them. He’s not one to crave touch, to want or welcome it, but Anders’ hands he could get used to, he thinks, just as he could get used to this flame within that Anders ignited and then—somehow—transmuted from anger and hate into…
His lungs ache, and he pulls away with a gasp. Anders is breathing hard against him, eyes dark and mouth red, and Fenris’ blood boils, his skin sings. He wonders if the memories will come back, fleeting glimpses, this time, or if it was one and done, forever locked away.
He leans forward and rests his forehead against Anders’, their breaths mingling between them. Anders’ hand, grounding, does not move.
“What are we doing?” Anders asks, his voice hushed. Does he mean right now? In general? Fenris doesn’t know. He doesn’t know what goes on in Anders’ head, though his heart is transparent.
“Do you care?”
A pause, the world gone still, then Anders breathes, “No,” shakes his head against him. “No.”
Such a small word, and so much power behind it. Fenris gives in, presses forward to fit their mouths together again. Anders’ stubble on his chin prickles, and his hand is firm, but his lips are soft, his tongue hot. He is pliant, smelling of soap and clean skin. He groans against Fenris, and the sound lights him up.
Fenris pulls away, ducks out from under Anders’ grasp to slip around the side of the bath to face Anders. His knees ache against the rub, but Fenris has felt worse, this is nothing. Leaning against the tub, he reaches out with his left hand, hovers over the water and Anders’ nearest knee.
Anders is still, his breath held as though he is waiting for Fenris to strike.
Anders trembles when he touches him, knee gently shaking—almost unnoticeable—beneath his palm. As he moves his hand up and over Anders’ knee to his thigh, as it disappears beneath the tepid water, he looks up. Watches Anders bite his lip, a moan aborted.
Fenris takes his time, enjoys the feel of muscle under his hand, the differing sensations of skin and hair and water, the gentle lap of it against his wrist, his forearm. His fingers brush Anders’ cock, hard and curving upward below the surface of the bath, and Anders grips the rim, his bottom lip freed.
“Fenris,” he gasps, “I—”
Fenris shifts, moves closer, wraps his hand gently around Anders’ shaft and pulls upward, the movement disturbing the water’s surface.
Around the rim of the tub, Anders’ grip tightens and he groans, a long, low, decadent sound that makes Fenris wonder about Anders and the things that make him happy, the things that make him sad. The things that make him. They’ve established that they do not talk, that words between them become weapons, each of them stepping on the others’ toes as they jockey for position. Fenris is tempted, now, Anders’ face so relaxed, so open as he shifts against Fenris’ grip, his hips twitching. He wants to know the young man Isabela knew, to understand the change, wants to know how Anders continues to cultivate compassion when he’s been shown so little of it. To know if Anders wonders similarly about himself. He wants, and it is terrifying, but he will not run from it yet.
Beneath the water, he strokes Anders, his fingers tightening gradually. Outside of the bath, he presses the palm of his free hand against his own cock, bites his lip.
Anders catches it, asks, breathless, “Are you hard?”
When Fenris nods, he moans, head thrown back against the brass, knees rising and hips pushing as he slips closer. “Fenris.”
Fenris’ cheeks flush. He quirks an eyebrow. “Anders.”
He huffs a laugh, muscles contracting. “Maker,” he breathes, “you’ll be the death of me.”
Not in the way anyone would have thought, Fenris thinks. The words don’t need to be spoken. They both know. This is not who they were, but it is who they are, who they are letting themselves be.
The water laps at Fenris’ wrist, rhythmic, almost as hypnotizing as Anders’ eyes on his own. He has not looked away, not once, and Fenris isn’t sure what it means, if he’s daring himself or Fenris to look away first.
It won’t be Fenris; he won’t let it. Anders has gotten under his skin.
Tightening his grip on Anders’ cock, he pauses in his stroking to thumb at the head, gratified when Anders jerks. He quickens his strokes, listens to the pace of Anders’ breathing, uses it as a guide until Anders’ eyelids become heavy, his gaze glassy. He reaches for Fenris before he comes, hand extended so his fingers brush Fenris’ cheek, his hair. Fenris turns into it with a sigh, presses lips to palm and refuses to look away as Anders comes.
He is beautiful, and Fenris is mad.