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The first time was an accident.

He'd just stopped by to ask her something--late at night, true, but not that late, not considering some of the unsociable hours their motley crew has kept in their adventures. Bodahn had let him in and pointed the way towards the private quarters, and he'd gone there and stopped dead outside the door as he realized what the sounds coming from inside meant. And then he'd fled, stammering to Bodahn on his way out that he'd come back another day because she'd...already gone to sleep.

The second time was perhaps not as much of an accident. He could have run that errand earlier, or the next day entirely, instead of postponing it until nightfall. But he hadn't.

The third time was anything but an accident. He'd escorted her home under the pretense of borrowing a book, and then hidden himself in the house until everyone had gone to bed, and then had blatantly lingered outside her room hoping to hear...something. Which he had.

After that he enlisted Sandal as an ally, to let him in the back door. Sandal makes a surprisingly good conspirator in this case; he's too innocent to guess what Anders is doing, he trusts Anders completely, and he loves having a secret. It doesn't occur to Sandal to think that someone wanting to stand alone outside of a bedroom is a strange thing, because Sandal doesn't know what's strange and what isn't. Anders can only hope that Sandal won't give him away by accident, because Maker only knows how he could explain this.

He's lost count of the nights now. At first it was once in a while, and he could deny what he was doing. Lately it's every night, unless he's too worn out from the day and can only collapse in his clinic in Darktown in an exhausted heap, and even then he's never so exhausted that the sounds of her pleasured cries don't echo in his mind. Sometimes he wonders how there's space for Justice in there anymore, with all that sound; small wonder Justice disapproves. And on the nights when he's not exhausted, and it's amazing how much stamina you can muster when you're obsessed, he goes. He can't help himself.

He's no longer just listening, either. Her bedroom door hangs loose in its frame, leaving a crack large enough to peer in. It's not as much view as he craves but it is a view.

And this time...oh, Maker.

She's staring into the fireplace; she always does now, as though the invisible lover she holds in her mind is in the flames. The first few times it happened he'd just caught her in the bed, tangled in the sheets, and even without being able to see her fully it'd been maddening to hear her, to catch quick glimpses of skin accompanied by those sounds. But lately she's been doing...more. Telling the flames what she wants, and doing what she can to herself as she does so. Teasing. Stripteasing. Fantasizing aloud, in explicit detail, until it's all Anders can do to restrain himself from throwing the door open and flinging her on the bed or the floor or anywhere and doing all the things she's been saying she wants, enacting all the desires that haunt him and tantalize and drive him mad and bring him here every night.

This is wrong. This is so wrong, on so many levels. It's a betrayal of trust, of integrity, it distracts him from his work, it's sick and depraved and every night he swears it'll be the last time. He's swearing it now: this is the last.

But this time...

She's already naked, leaning back against one of the bedposts. He can see her profile, the firelight licking at her curves, and Anders swallows a moan, already knowing this is going to be one of the bad nights. He usually tries, for secrecy's sake, for sanity's sake, to wait until he gets home to take his own pleasure. But he's still only a man, he can only take so much, and sometimes he can't wait.

She's staring into the fire, arms crossed over her chest, rubbing her shoulders. He's mesmerized by her fingers, the long lingering strokes that run from shoulder, down her arm, back up again, then further up to graze her neck. "There," she whispers, closing her eyes and leaning her head back. "Use your teeth. There." Her fingers curl on the spot just where neck meets shoulder, nails digging in to emulate the pain of a bite, and Anders finds himself echoing the action on his own neck.

She lets out a hiss of mixed pain and pleasure as she runs her nails down from that spot to her shoulder, and he can see the white marks that turn red in the wake of her touch as she rakes her own skin. With a gasp she moves her hand to her breast, still scraping the skin. Her head falls back, eyes closed, as she runs just one nail over the tip of an erect nipple. Anders moves his own hand down his chest, emulating her as best he can against his harder, heated body--much too hot, and stifling in these damn clothes. "Don't be gentle," she tells the fire, voice hoarse with arousal.

Maker, who is she talking to? Who does she see in that fire? That's what kills him. Is it just a fantasy, some dream lover she's invented for this purpose? Or is it someone real? Not Isabela, surely...if she wanted Isabela, Isabela would be here. Is it the elf? Or worse, worst, is it that damned sanctimonious choirboy prince, with his chiseled good looks and title and ability to offer not just a normal life but the sort of fairy tale life that every girl must grow up dreaming about...no matter what a prude the prig is Anders has no doubt Hawke could transform him, because surely no man could resist her if she spoke to them like this while doing that...

Because now she's massaging her breasts, mixed motions of pressure and light touches, and Anders finds himself kneading his thighs as he echoes her movements. He can imagine all too well what her breasts would feel like under his hands, soft and supple and heaven, and his leather-covered legs do not compare, and not for the first time he considers just breaking down the door and crossing the few feet between them. But her hands are moving down again and she lets out a small mewl of anticipation, and Anders knows what's coming next. While she runs fingers in torturous circles on her belly and thighs, gradually spiralling in, he undoes the buckle on his belt and frees an empty pouch, brought for this purpose, and places it over the hard length of himself. At no point does he look away from her. How can he, when she's finally moved those clever fingers to the place that's hungering for them, and her body is curling forward and she's calling out in desperate pleasure for more? A whisper of a moan escapes Anders' throat before he can stop it as he wraps his fingers around his shaft and begins to move them, slowly, tantalizingly up and down.

She drops to her knees, and raises her hand. Slowly, so slowly she brings her fingers to her mouth, sucking the taste of herself off of them, delicately licking. Anders rubs a thumb over the tip of his cock and brings the wetness he finds there to his own mouth, again echoing, but knowing that where he tastes like salt and sweat she would be sweet, so sweet..."Please," she whispers to her hand, low and husky but he can hear it. "More. Please. Now."

She turns so she's on her hands and knees--well, hand and knees, because he can see her right hand is feverishly working again, but the rest of her...it's as though she's riding her invisible lover, hips rocking back and forth, breasts swaying, and her eyes are closed and her tongue is clenched between her teeth and the expression on her face is so beautiful and his hand is back on his shaft and squeezing and moving, up and down, back and forth, faster and faster until she finally throws her head back and cries her pleasure aloud and his own eyes close despite himself, despite his not wanting to look away, as the fireworks and blackness and ohmakeryes of his own climax catch him.

He stands there shuddering, trying hard to keep his breathing unnoticeable, trying hard just to keep on his feet. Falling over would be...bad.

Slowly, carefully, Anders recaptures his self-control, removes the pouch and wads it up and hides it in a pocket, redoes his clothes, all in silence. And in shame, because this is the part he hates, the part where cold leeches back into his veins and he sees so clearly how wrong this is, how inexcusable. The part where he could not feel more alone and pathetic.

He looks back into the room, heart aching. She's lying on her back now, splayed in front of the fireplace. He can't see her expression clearly from this position, but she looks...replete, happy. Sated. She lets out a long, relaxed breath and reaches up a hand--that hand--and places it to her lips, then touches the air above her face, as though stroking the face of someone who isn't there. "Anders..."

Anders blinks, then stumbles backwards.

He didn't hear that. He can't have heard that.

He has to get out of here.

As quickly and quietly as he can, he runs down the corridor and for the back door, picking up speed as he goes.

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Hawke smiles to herself. She heard that hoarse gasp, the quick footstep of someone running down the corridor. Anders has many talents, but sneaking isn't one of them. And a good thing too, or this game of theirs might never have gotten started.

Poor Anders. She wonders what his reaction will be when he realizes this is a game both of them are playing.

Still, it's his own fault. Maker knows she's tried everything else to make her intentions clear, and every time he shies off, spouting his rhetoric about her deserving a normal life and a future and someone less dangerous, as though she gives a damn about any of those things, as though they're even possible for someone like her. Three years she's been trying, and the direct approach has gotten her exactly nowhere.

But this...this is placing a bowl of milk out for a stray cat. Sooner or later the kitty's hunger will overcome his fear. And then...Hawke licks her lips in anticipation.

Although...she rather hopes it won't be too soon. She's borrowed a few toys from Isabela, and already knows exactly how to use them in tomorrow night's performance.