When Anders became aware of his surroundings again, he was aching from head to toe. The silence was alarming and he was scared to open his eyes.
Moments ago, throaty roars, angry hissing and Varric’s shouts had filled the narrow cave; the sound of blades cutting through flesh and muscle. The foul smell was still present and Anders wondered if it came from his surroundings or himself. He knew he was covered in dragon intestines.
He always ended up covered in dragon intestines.
Anders had to learn how to say no to Marian Hawke when it came to hunting dragons. Immediately.
With a groan, he lifted one hand and pushed at the weight on his chest that was currently making it difficult to breathe. “Maker, you’re rather heavy for such a tiny creature,” he rasped. The weight on top of him shifted with a grunt and Anders dared open his eyes. His vision was blurred from the – surprise! – slimy gore covering at least half of his face, but it didn’t take out the anger of the glare that a pair of emerald green eyes offered him. Anders’ own eyes checked over the elf’s body quickly for severe injuries. Before that bundle of hate and muscles had an impact with him and sent them both flying across the cave, the dragon had been using Fenris as a chew toy. Hopefully not literally.
“All limbs still attached?” Anders asked and Fenris’ pupils narrowed. “Hello, earth to Fenris?”
Hawke’s hysterical laughter filled the cave. He could hear Varric join her after a few seconds and Isabel complain about being dirty from head to toe, and that Hawke owed her a few hours in her bath tub. Anders couldn’t see them and since Fenris refused to answer, or move, he glanced around. They were surrounded by boulders – and more dragon intestines covering them – in the semi-dark. Probably one of the corners of the cave. It was a miracle he hadn’t broken every single bone in his body, Anders mused.
“Could you get off me already?” he asked Fenris and roughly pushed at the elf. “You’re much too close for my liking.”
Fenris did indeed move this time, though it wasn’t off him. Instead, the elf moved until he was seated on his hips and Anders groaned when his rather sore back protested. “Maker, did you forget Common? Get off.”
A calloused hand took his chin in a steely grip. Anders was sure he heard his jaw crack and froze, unable to do anything but stare at the elf, whose face was suddenly right above his. Fenris looked angry; he always looked angry. This was it, Anders thought. The perfect opportunity for Fenris to kill him while no one could see them. The elf could simply claim that it was the dragon that had ended Anders’ life and no one would get suspicious.
“Please don’t,” Anders hissed and Fenris looked at him curiously. “Please don’t kill me,” the mage clarified. “You don’t really want to explain to Hawke how –“
Anders had often imagined how Fenris would kill him, given the opportunity. It was not something he should entertain himself with, whenever sleep wouldn’t come at night, he knew that. He’d figured Fenris would reach into his chest and crush his heart; or maybe snap his spine. If considered too uninteresting, maybe he’d slit Anders throat instead and watch him wheeze and bleed to death slowly. Anders had even considered being challenged to a duel, although he supposed it would have been unfair; a mage could attack from the distance and Fenris, powerful and strong as he was, wouldn’t stand a chance against him in a real fight.
Death by Fenris came in the form of something solid and sharp that crashed against his mouth, bruising the sensitive skin of his already chapped lips. It took a ridiculously long moment for the mage to realize that Fenris wasn’t trying to crush his face until it was no longer recognizable. He felt the heat of the elf’s lips, the wetness when Fenris’ tongue ran harshly across his closed mouth and Anders fought the reflex of parting his lips to allow the elf in.
And then Fenris pulled away and Anders gasped loudly when the elf released him from his hold. They were both panting harshly and Fenris looked every bit like the wild animal his former master had named him after.
“What the...” Anders breathed out. Fenris didn’t allow him another moment to understand what just happened; the same hand that had held him in an iron grip slapped him across the face. The mage was too stunned to get angry and when he dared blink, the elf was gone. Hawke was shouting and laughing, jubilant as she always was when she managed to slay yet another beast at least five times her size. A trait of hers that Anders adored and hated in equal amounts.
“What the fuck just happened?” he muttered to himself as he slowly tried to sit up. There was a purring sound he was – sadly – very familiar with and Anders sighed inwardly before looking up. Isabela was grinning at him.
“Well, Sparklefingers...something you two want to tell us?” she drawled.
“I could answer that if I had any clue what the Void just happened,” Anders answered around a pained groan. His back had taken the worst of the blow – or impact. At least he could still feel his legs, so chances that nothing got broken were good.
“It looked like a rather hot kiss from my angle,” Isabela purred, “but he could have also been trying to eat your face off. You tell me.”
Isabela laughed throatily and climbed across the boulder to join Anders and help him sit up. “You alright, though?” she asked, her face serious now. “That was quite the fall. I only saw the two of you fly across the cave before Hawke had the chance to get a good hit in.”
“My back is killing me,” Anders admitted. Sitting up made the pain even worse. He would have loved to immediately soothe away some of it, using magic, but – “Anyone severely injured?” he asked the pirate through gritted teeth.
“Take care of yourself first, Sweetcheeks,” Isabela admonished. “Everyone’s up and running. We’re fine.”
The second impact of the day was Hawke, effortlessly climbing the boulders and joining Anders and Isabela in the narrow space inbetween. Next were her arms around him; Anders was sure she meant to squeeze gently, but that woman was strong and he was hurting practically everywhere.
“Maker, Hawke,” he grunted and winced.
Hawke looked at him critically and Anders felt his cheeks warm. Hawke was a whirlwind; she was also very beautiful and the first person in many years that had actually sparked his interest. But to do something about it was more difficult than one would think.
“Looks like I’ll have to take care of you tonight,” Hawke said with a grin. She shamelessly flirted every chance she got. Anders often saw his younger self in her and mourned the fact that he’d lost this side of himself. “Hot bath and soft bed on offer! And maybe a massage?”
“I’ll be fine,” Anders objected and the next second, he couldn’t believe he was turning Hawke down. He had often hoped for such an opportunity, an ambiguous invitation and he...had just said no. Maybe he’d hit his head?
“You sure?” Hawke asked and she sounded as surprised as Anders felt.
“I just...” Anders scrambled to get to his feet. Isabela handed him his staff and he leaned on it. Hawke’s blue eyes rested their gaze on him and Anders felt like an old man. “I just need to get outta here before I start retching,” he announced with a forced smile and limped to where Varric and Fenris were waiting. Varric lifted an eyebrow at him; Fenris avoided looking into his direction at all. The nasty flesh wound in Fenris’ right leg immediately caught Anders’ attention.
“Heard you had an impact with a dragon chew toy,” Varric said with a chuckle. Fenris visibly bristled. He was trying not to put too much weight on his injured leg, which gave him an even more hunched posture than usual.
“I also got bathed in dragon intestines...again,” Anders said pointedly. Behind them, Hawke cleared her throat.
“Sorry about that,” she chirped.
“Never going dragon hunting with you again.”
“You said that the last time, too,” Varric reminded.
“Well, this time, I mean it.”
“We should leave, before we get into trouble with scavengers,” Fenris muttered. His gaze was still cast at the ground. Anders wished the elf would look up already; he was sure Fenris would be able to read the ‘why’ in his eyes.
“You won’t get far with that leg,” Anders said. “Let me take a look at that.”
“Do not concern yourself with my leg, mage.”
“It really does look bad, Broody,” Varric offered. Fenris merely huffed and stalked off – or rather, limped off. Anders glanced at Hawke, his eyes asking for help, but she merely shrugged and followed the elf.
Soon, it was Isabela, Hawke and Varric leading their group. Anders was last, limping after the limping elf, who was trying his hardest to keep walking fast enough so they wouldn’t end up walking side by side. At least, that appeared to be the case. Anders got lost in thoughts as he stared at the elf’s back and tried to remember if there was anything he’d missed during their ‘situation’ earlier. Had Fenris truly kissed him? Why would he do such a thing? Had he mistaken Anders for someone else? Maybe he’d been confused after their fall. That seemed logical.
“Hey, Fenris,” Anders tried and watched the elf’s shoulders tense. “Can we –“
“No,” Fenris cut him off sharply. And loudly – Hawke glanced back over her shoulder.
“You guys need a break?” she asked.
“No,” Anders and Fenris replied simultaneously. “Fenris, I need –“ Anders tried again but Fenris spun around and glared at him.
“You need to shut up, I agree,” he hissed.
Confusion was slowly turning into anger. What was that elf thinking? Fenris was the one who had kissed him, not the other way round. His lips were bruised and his cheek still stung from the slap that had followed.
“Can you two try and not fight for a day?” Hawke sighed. “Please?”
“I would, if Fenris wasn’t so intent on being a complete ass,” Anders replied. It had the desired effect; Fenris’ hands balled into fists and his steps faltered for a moment.
“Kiss and make up, sweeties,” Isabela chirped and again, Fenris’ steps faltered. Anders knew Fenris was going to fall before the elf actually did, and instead of rushing forward to catch him, Anders stopped walking and waited for the inevitable. Fenris’ breath hitched when he bit back a moan. The pain in his leg had to be close to unbearable by now. The dragon’s fangs had no doubt torn flesh and muscle. Anders had to admit he was surprised Fenris could use that leg at all. He had been bleeding all over the place ever since they’d gotten on their way. If the pain wouldn’t make him pass out soon, blood loss would.
“Shit, Broody,” Varric said compassionately and helped Fenris back to his feet. The elf wordlessly slung an arm around the dwarf’s shoulders and allowed Varric to support him.
“Don’t blame me if you bleed to death,” Anders said. “I offered.”
“I’ve managed without you before, I’ll continue to do so,” Fenris growled back.
“Aaaaaand...he’s fainting,” Varric announced, just before Fenris indeed sunk to his knees. Hawke turned around looked at Anders pointedly.
“What?” the mage asked defensively. “This isn’t my fault!”
Anders wrapped the final layer of cloth around Fenris’ leg, then double-checked if he did a good job. Looking at one tiny elf in a huge bed, the mage did not miss the irony of the fact that Hawke had invited him to stay tonight and now it was Fenris, resting in one of Hawke’s guest rooms.
Fenris hated being a liability. Anders was looking forward to tell him that Hawke had carried him back to the city. He secretly liked Fenris getting flustered and watch his pointy ears turn red with embarrassment.
“How is he?”
Anders glanced across his shoulder and immediately wished he hadn’t. Hawke’s robe couldn’t be more revealing or tempting if it tried and it wasn’t fair. At all. Anders had imagined this moment a dozen times – not that he’d ever tell Marian Hawke about it – and a wounded elf had never played a role in his guilty little fantasies.
“I did what I could without using magic,” Anders replied and returned his attention to Fenris quickly.
“Why not use magic?”
“You and I both know that if I do, he’ll kill me when he wakes up. Won’t matter whether or not I saved his life.”
Hawke chuckled. “He isn’t that bad, Anders.”
“Tell that to him.”
“You know, sometimes I get the impression that you two just love to argue. You do it all the time and at the end of the day, he invites you for card games at his mansion. Which I know for a fact you always attend and that Fenris has yet to make you pay your debts.”
“I’m not the only one he invites,” Anders pointed out. It was true, though. Sometimes, it felt like they argued just for fun. Life would probably be boring if they didn’t.
Hawke sniffled. “He never invites me.”
“Boys only, Hawke. Sorry.”
She smacked him on the back of his head and Anders chuckled. A moment later, she climbed on the bed, got settled right behind him and he found himself in her embrace. “Anything I can do?” she asked quietly. Anders doubted Fenris would wake up anytime soon, or feel disturbed if they spoke normal.
“He should drink a lot when he wakes up. He also should stay in bed until I manage to have another look at his leg. And maybe, you can smack some sense into him so he’ll let me use magic.” She was so warm, Anders mused. Hawke smelled nice, too.
“And you? How’s your back?”
“I...kind of forgot it’s hurting,” he admitted and Hawke chuckled softly. “I’ll be fine after a good night’s sleep. So, do me a favor and don’t show up at my clinic at the crack of dawn again?”
“You want to return to your clinic?”
Perfect opportunity here, Anders told himself and leaned a little more into the embrace.
Of course, Fenris chose that very moment to groan softly and roll to his side. Anders kept an eye on the bandage, while Fenris kept groaning and murmuring. For some reason, the mage found himself staring at the elf’s lips as Fenris continued to murmur. Hawke chuckled softly into his ear and Anders felt a shiver run down his spine.
“He just said your name,” Hawke whispered.
“He said your name. Didn’t you hear?”
“No. You’re kind of distracting.”
“Oh?” Hawke planted a very wet kiss on his cheek. Anders felt bad for not having shaved in a few days; the stubble he was sporting had to feel uncomfortable to her. The kiss itself...
It wasn’t as exciting as Anders had always imagined it to be. A beautiful, amazing woman he’d secretly been aching for in what felt like forever, had just kissed his cheek. Sure, it wasn’t the kind of intimate kiss he’d pictured them share, but Hawke had kissed him. There were no butterflies in his stomach, no quickened pulse. No craving for more. It was simply warm, wet and...
Maker, but he was exhausted. And even though he had washed, Anders still smelled like dragon intestines. Merrill had once claimed that Hawke’s expensive soaps could erase even the worst smells. She had been wrong – or had forgotten there was something like dragon blood and gore.
“I’ll see if Orana made something for a late dinner,” Hawke told Anders. “You must be starving by now.”
He didn’t answer, nor react when she released him and hurried out of the room. Anders felt his eyelids grow heavy and pinched himself in the left wrist. No time to sleep just yet, and not because he was going to spend a very interesting night with a beautiful woman. Fenris would develop a fever soon and Anders had no doubt that the dragon’s foul saliva and teeth would make the wound fester.
“Oftentimes, I understand what you see in Hawke,” Fenris rasped, making the mage jump in surprise. “And just as often, I don’t.”
“You could have told us you’re awake,” Anders said. “How bad is the pain?”
“It was painful, listening to her trying to seduce you. I feel a little better now.”
Was Fenris trying to make conversation? No aggressive growling, no actual insults, no telling him to go to the Void? Anders felt a little disappointed – and worried. Maybe he was already feverish?
“Whether you believe me or not, I feel the same way about her,” Anders answered.
“How bad is it?” Fenris propped himself up on one arm and glanced at his bandaged leg. The cloths were soaked through by blood, ichor and salve, after only a few moments. Anders foresaw a long, sleepless night.
“Well, the leg is still attached, but...”
Fenris glanced at him. His face was flushed, sweaty and his green eyes glassy. The fever was setting in, as expected. Realizing his chance, Anders cleared his throat and tried his best to look and sound nonchalant.
“I am not certain if I can ensure your survival if I don’t use magic. The salves and bandages will do their job, but I doubt they’ll fight the infection in time. So, if you’ll allow me to wiggle my magical fingers...”
Fenris growled in annoyance. That was the elf Anders knew. Sadly, the elf he knew was the same who immediately made him angry and bristle at the obvious rejection. “You don’t get to kiss, then growl at me, Fenris!” he spat.
He’d seen Fenris flustered before. Anders had often enough been the cause and he did so enjoy it. What he hadn’t known was, that elf ears could adapt such a rather impressive shade of red. Fenris chose to break their eye contact and stare at the bedside table instead.
“Do what you must do,” Fenris told him. “But if you try anything, mage...”
“You will not kick me in the face, rip my insides out or break my neck?” Anders asked to clarify.
“I said do what you must do. Obviously, this means you do not have to fear any repression from my side.” Fenris grimaced. “As long as you do not betray what little trust I am putting in you.”
Anders scowled. “I’ve healed you before. Maybe not as intense, but I have, practically during and after each fight. Why would you think I’d do something nasty to you?”
The glare Fenris offered him was bordering on murderous and Anders really tried to keep his mouth shut, but he couldn’t.
“I could just let you die. How would you like that?” he challenged. Fenris gave him a humorless smile.
“I could have killed you in that cave.”
“Yeaaaaah, but instead, you thought kissing me was the better option. Anything you want to tell me, Fenris?”
The elf snarled. Anders wasn’t stupid enough to think that, even though Fenris was wounded and feverish, he wasn’t a threat.
“What’s it gonna be, Fenris? Live or die?” Anders asked and the elf’s nostrils flared.
“Whoa, whoa, boys...” Hawke poked her head into the room and gave them both a stern look. “Maker’s balls, why do you two always have to fight?”
“I don’t kiss and tell,” Anders replied sourly. Fenris’ hands balled into fist and Anders knew the elf was short of losing his cool. For some reason, just mentioning that kiss seemed to make his blood boil; Anders wasn’t sure he’d ever seen Fenris that angry at him before. It seemed he had discovered a new line to cross.
Marian Hawke sighed and Anders felt like a scolded child. The anger in Fenris’ eyes dissipated slightly and the elf looked away.
“Can we concentrate on what’s important here?” Hawke asked. “Fenris is badly wounded and in need of your healing skills, Anders. Alright? I don’t want that blighted elf to die of blood poisoning just because the two of you can’t get along. You two may not be the best of friends, but you’re companions. Try to honor that and start respecting each other?”
“This has nothing to do with respect,” Anders muttered. “I do respect him. I just have doubts I can say the same about him.”
He heard Fenris inhale sharply. The pain was getting worse, but the elf was no less stubborn. On top of that, they had Marian Hawke lecture them. Of all people.
“I was being unreasonable,” Fenris spoke up. He sounded strangely subdued, Anders thought. “And I apologize. I would be...grateful if you’d heal that wound and not let me die of blood poisoning, mage - Anders.”
“There you go,” Hawke chirped.
“I would never let you die, stupid elf,” Anders said. “But I would have knocked you out so I can heal you without interruption.”
Fenris huffed and it could have just be his imagination, but Anders was sure he saw the ghost of a smile on the elf’s lips.