Fenris_icon.gif Anders_icon.gif

Scene Title Stories We Tell Ourselves
Synopsis Following directly from Not Today, Fenris and Anders trudge home for a much-deserved rest. And they get there. Eventually. Sort of.
Location Lowtown, Lowtown Inn
Date Justinian 3, 9:31 Dragon
Watch For Questions answered, tempers flared… awkward attempts to navigate being a person
Logger Anders

Fenris isn't amused, Anders isn't amused. No one is happy and everyone is exhausted; sounds about right for the end of a Kirkwall Debacle. He leads them around back of the building and scrapes the bottom of his body's strength to facilitate the change that makes him harmless in the eyes of… well, everyone. There is a reason no one else could go this way - Fenris had already been trusted with this secret, but Anders is not so foolish as to add seventy-six more people to that list. Regardless of whether Fenris rides or walks, Anders' gait is slow and weary. He may not have been in the ring all night, but his own worry hadn't let him rest either. Only when they are safely outside of Qunari territory does he maneuver them to a conveniently empty dead end alley and let go of the transformation, leaning against a shabby wall for support while he catches his breath.

Fenris cannot bring himself to ride, to even consider it. No, he just walks alongside Anders, quiet and contemplative. Watching Anders catch his breath, Fenris' brow knits. "I would carry you again, but I doubt you want any more of this on you." He says, indicating the blood. It's really… For a runaway slave, his discomfort with being dirty was something, almost snobbish, really.

Anders is quick to hold a hand out like he might actually have to physically prevent himself from being lifted. "No. Maker, no, I'm fine." Realizing that his current position is not strengthening his argument, he straightens and pushes off from the wall. "I just needed a minute, is all." But despite his exhaustion, Anders can't help the stupidly fond little smile that comes with Fenris' latest display of finicky cleanliness. It's… surprisingly endearing. "I can go, now."

Nodding, Fenris moves from the alley at a pace that is easy to keep up with. Not just because Anders is tired, either, Fenris has his own exhaustion to contend with. Back toward the Inn of Quilts he leads. It's more comfortable. There is easy bathing. The innkeeper has stopped asking him questions. It's really a good spot. He'll pout when he has to move, probably. "Thank you." Fenris eventually says, suddenly.

There are several places along their path where Anders finds himself nodding off while walking. He'd like to say it's been a long time since he was this tired - oh wait, that's right, it was only a week ago. It leaves him in an interesting state of mind where he is here but not here and the silence can't touch him. The gratitude startles him, but not because there is any expectation of ill manners. "Of course," he answers back, like he can't imagine having done anything less. "I'm not going to sit back and let you die. I couldn't." Who would?

"I didn't plan on dying." Fenris says, "But that would have been… A lot more unpleasant and a lot more difficult." And he likely would have just gotten himself out. After being caught for quite awhile. Not a good time, he didn't relish the thought in the slightest. Eventually, it's back to the Inn. Fenris just hands Anders the key to the room. He's not even stopping there before heading to bathing. The water will have to be changed so many times.

"What percentage of people dying do you really think is planned?" Even worn down, there is a smart-ass in Anders that sometimes does not know when to keep its mouth shut. Still. He accepts the key with a nod of understanding. Being clean was sometimes the salvation of ones sanity. He walks in the room and leans his spear agaisnt an outer wall. It will need to be cleaned and tended to later, but for now a moment at the small washbasin in the room will set him to rights. So that by the time Fenris returns from his bath, there is a warm fire in the fireplace and Anders is stretched out on the floor in front of it like a cat napping in the heat.

That passing comment just gets a roll of Fenris' eyes, but it is mostly lighthearted. After getting himself clean, it is all of a towel that Fenris returns in. His armor is deposited unceremoniously inside the room. He's scrubbed it the best he can. It's not great. Blinking, it takes him a moment to find where Anders has gone off to.

Anders doesn't shift until the sound of another person walking in the room make him stir - and even then, it's the sluggish movements of someone for whom moving at all has become a phenomenal affair. Even so, when he looks up from his floor-sprawl to see damp Fenris in a towel, his face breaks out into a soft, crooked smile. "Feel better?"

"Significantly." Fenris says, moving to cross the room, he rustles through a drawer to acquire another pair of pants. They're all the same basic idea, but he does actually own multiple pairs. Shocking, really. That done, he comes to sit down beside Anders. He takes a deep breath, and shudders a little. That dark shape in his mind hasn't left him yet. Staring into the fire in the hearth, his mind goes elsewhere a moment, elsewhen, too, though when he comes back to himself, surely he won't be able to remember either.

Anders watches him move around the room, watches him settle on the floor next to him, watches his mind drift somewhere far away from the here and now. He sighs - there are questions he'd very much like some answers to, but now is not the time - and turns to settle himself so that his head rests on Fenris' thigh like an actual pillow. Now is very much not the time for those kinds of topics, but that doesn't mean he cannot still want to be close.

Sometimes, Fenris was thick as a stone wall when it came to social graces. More often than he lets on, however, he is keenly aware of those around him. At least, when it comes to anything in relation to him. He can tell there are questions unasked, and that knowledge pulls him from his wandering thought. That, and the bright hum of Anders' nearness. His arm goes gently over the mage's shoulders. "If you have questions, ask them." Fenris finally says after a long, quiet moment there upon the floor. He's not one for just letting it lie, as it were.

There are several questions vying for prominence on the tip of Anders' tongue. The arm around his shoulders settles an anxious tension he hadn't even realized he'd been carrying and Anders soon after finds himself rubbing his cheek against Fenris' thigh.

"Those are the kind of people you've been running from, aren't they?"

And though it's phrased like a question Anders knows just how much it is not.

"Will you run now?"

"Those… Sort of." Fenris says. "They were scavengers, not hunting hounds." There was a difference between opportunistic slavers who had heard the call Danarius had put out to retrieve Fenris and what he actually ran from. The brutal efficiency of the hunters Danarius actually selected himself to come after his lost investment. He shakes his head, taking a deep breath. "No, I will not."

Just a little more tension eases out from Anders' - little by little - with that answer. He listens with only a sliver of caution left in him. "I'm glad," he says in a quiet sort of voice, stifling a yawn. "I like it here right now." Spoken like its the most obvious thing in the world. "I would have been sad to see it go."

"I see the quilts have grown on you." Fenris says with a smirk. Oh Fenris, way to to entirely miss the point. His other hand comes to lace into Anders' hair, pulling the tie loose and petting the mage slowly. It's something to keep his hands busy, and it seems to sooth Anders, and Fenris would be lying if he said it didn't calm him as well.

Anders snorts a quiet laugh, the amusement probably more felt in the momentary shaking of the shoulders under Fenris' arm than actually heard. "They're shocking at first," he admits, a crooked smirk of his own quirking his mouth into a mischievous expression. "Even a little off-putting. But it's part of their charm." The hand in his hair pulls a heavy, shuddering breath from him before he melts. "And they're quite warm when you get under them." Subtle, Anders is not, but at least he pays lip-service to Fenris' deflection. He understands that much at least. For a while, though, he is silent, purring under Fenris' hands and nuzzling into the warmth of the thigh beneath his cheek. When he does speak again, it's slightly hazy around the edges, softened by comfort given and received. "Adie said you had a reputation with the Qunari." Fenris had said he could ask his questions. "What does that mean?"

Fenris laughs a little. "Part of why I chose this place. I did not figure people would assume I would hole up in the be-quilted inn of Lowtown." Fenris says, smirking at Anders' lack of subtlety. He lets the silence linger, petting Anders, staring into the fire. It's pleasant, and warm, and the hum of contact keeps his mind from drifting to places he doesn't want to examine too closely. Eyes focusing again, he looks down at Anders with his next question, and nods. "The Lyrium Ghost of Seheron." He says, almost rolling his eyes with it, "Danarius took me out to fight against the Qunari there. I was… Something of a menace for them."

"Aren't you something of a menace for everyone?" Anders asks back, twisting his neck enough to grin up at Fenris with an expression that is entirely too fond to be even remotely serious. He shifts a little so that he can lie on his back with his head still in his lover's lap, reaching one hand up to run gentle fingertips over the back of the hand on his shoulder. It takes him another moment of silence to speak again, reluctant to bring up foul memories but determined to know for certain as much as he could - since apparently he's very firmly decided on 'this one must stay safe'. "Danarius was your - " No, that's not right. It's impossible to think of this man as anything but wild, independent, obnoxiously self-reliant. "He is the one who laced the lyrium into your skin?"

That manages a barked laugh from Fenris, and a smirk shot down at Anders. "I can be, that is most certain." He says. Fenris shivers slightly at Anders' touch to his hand. Yes, he will definitely never grow accustomed to this harmony of theirs. With that next question, though, his expression turns serious once more. "You may call him what he is." He says, "Danarius was my Master. And yes, he is who made the investment in, and applied, these marks to my skin."

Anders thoroughly enjoys that laugh - he always does - and his grin widens at the appearance of Fenris' smirk. It feels like being in cahoots; it feels like belonging. It's warm and solid, like an anchor that feels freeing rather than choking. That shiver, though, is misinterpreted and Anders jerks his hand away with an apology on his lips - remembering the damage he'd felt earlier and the pain that had returned. But he can't even get that out before Fenris' next words bring out the kind of rough and feral snarl that Anders had no idea he could produce. "If I am to call him what he is," he spits, vicious with a kind of fury that is - for the first time today - entirely his own, "then I would call him a sick and evil-minded sheep." Geeze, Anders, don't hold back or anything; tell us how you really feel there, buddy. "Nobody gets a free pass to own another person, no matter what their excuse. It's… it's vile."

As Anders pulls his hand away, Fenris blinks. Then, he reaches to take the mage's hand in his own, pulling it back gently to where it was. The snarl from the mage is surprising. He hadn't been expecting that kind of venom, but he does not seem to think it unfitting. "That is certainly a way of putting it. Though I think sheep might be too passive for the moniker to be quite fitting." He says, continuing to pet Anders' hair.

"Sheep aren't passive," Anders argues, the heat taken from his tone by Fenris' continued petting until he sounds only sullen. "They simply lack any real creativity." The blood magic lacing Fenris' markings is something he still finds personally offensive in a way that is purely instinct. Blood Mages and Spirit Healers almost never mix well. He falls silent, then, seemingly content to stare at the nonsense patterns his fingertips trace over the back of Fenris' hand. "I was afraid I'd hurt you," he explains softly - belatedly.

Fenris doesn't argue the point about sheep. Rams were occasionally a giant pain in the ass, after all. The elf is generally fairly content to let the quiet linger, let Anders return to his gentle tracing of nonsense against his hand. He shakes his head when Anders speaks, however. "No." He says, "Your touch still does not hurt." Despite the creeping agony that is returning. It's not the white hot constant throbbing with every beat of his heart that it had been when they first met, but it's certainly uncomfortable.

Anders contemplates this statement, chewing it around and turning it over and over in his head. It mixes with other pieces of information and he spends long minutes trying to work things out for himself. He can understand certain things, but even as he stills his fingers and turns to press a simple kiss against the base of Fenris' thumb, he still can't grasp the entirety; it's too far beyond him. "Why won't you let me help?" It's a quiet, soft-spoken question, one that sounds a little bit helpless despite best efforts to keep it neutral.

There are just certain things in this world that can't really be described. Fenris' relationship with pain, and thus with touch, is sort of one of them. Or perhaps he simply doesn't try. He sighs when Anders asks that question, he had known it was coming, but it doesn't make it any easier to face. "I can't get used to you making it stop…" Fenris says, looking away and back to the fire, unable to look at Anders when he has that helpless edge to his voice, "If I get accustomed to that… And then you… Or I… I can't afford to do that."

"And what if the sky turns to fire and your nose falls off?" Anders lifts his gaze to Fenris' (perspectively upside-down) face and smiles as he asks it, but there's kindness in it, not mockery - kindness and something that looks very much like understanding. "You could die tomorrow. I could die tomorrow. Maybe we live to see 70 and spend the next fifty years bickering over terrible quilts. Maybe you slip on a banana peel and break your neck before you make it to bed tonight. Maybe Maura brings the clinic down around my ears tomorrow. Maybe next week I wake up with my Calling." Which isn't nearly as funny as the rest of it, but it's still possible. "There are mages in Rivain who say they know how to divine the future. I'm not one of them. I've got no idea what's going to happen, so I've learned to take my happiness where I can find it. And besides," he adds, squeezing the hand on his shoulder and smiling lopsided up at the grumpy elf. "I'm not the only Spirit Healer in Thedas. Not even the best one. If Wynne were here she'd probably know how to solve the problem for good. Or else she'd just scold the magic into doing what she wanted. That woman wields guilt better than the Grand Cleric." But he's sidetracking a little. "My /point/ is that I'm not the only one who can help you, but I'm here now and I want very much to take the pain away. Will you at least consider it?"

For all that Anders is kind, for all that he has provided levity and understanding, and options, Fenris does not look remotely amused. No smile, not even the ghost of one, as he continues to stare into the fire. He shakes his head again, sighing, his breath heavy as any chains he could think of wearing. "No, Anders." Fenris says, "I am sure there are others who could help. I cannot rely on them being where I would need them. Or on their being willing to help. There are times…" He falters a little, "There are times I spend whole weeks out in the wilderness, completely alone. Because I must. I could not risk searching out some healer then, that may or may not be available, because I was no longer accustomed to the pain that my marks bring on." There's a shudder then, because thinking about it makes it more keen, "Beyond that, I need it. It focuses me, it drives me."

Anders sighs, but doesn't argue. He stares into that selfsame fire, still holding Fenris' hand and rubbing his thumb in slow circles over the skin as long as he is permitted. "You're wrong about needing it," he says finally. "You may be right about the rest of it, but you don't need this pain. You don't deserve it either. I don't know which one you think it is really, but neither of them are true. I won't convince you of it tonight, but I thought you should know all the same." And there's a quiet earnestness to it that makes it plainly evident that, whatever the other considerations, Anders wholeheartedly believes what he's saying.

And provided he's still got that hand, he turns it on its side and presses a single lingering kiss to the calloused palm.

"Come to bed, Fen. We can deal with Maura in the morning."

As Anders speaks, Fenris grows more and more tense, his hand stilling upon the mage's hair. He knows Anders means well, he really does. It doesn't stop the rage that coils in his chest. He doesn't pull away immediately, but after that kiss, Fenris slowly draws his hand away. He swallows hard, and shakes his head.

"You may sleep, if you wish." He says, voice cold. Something in all of that has turned Fenris to pure ice, and it's hard to pinpoint exactly what that thing is.

The combination of the mounting tension and the ice in Fenris' tone - the pulling away - it all… it all hurts in a sharp way that Anders should have been prepared for, but isn't. He's never prepared for the effect this maddening man has on him. It's acute enough to steal his breath for a moment, heart thumping painfully against his ribs, and that is enough to bring out a side of Anders that is entirely about self-preservation.

"Nope," he responds, a tense and tight kind of lightness to his tone. It's brash and grating and not even a little bit genuine, but he wields it with the ease of much practice. He even pops the damn 'p'. "I think that's my cue to go, actually." He rolls to his feet in a single motion that manages to look carefree despite his obvious stiffness. "Get some rest, yeah? I'll send Maura by tomorrow with some poultices and draughts for the next job."

Fenris has been doing this so, so long on his own. This running, this fighting, this suffering, borne on his shoulders alone until to very recently. That inherent safety of relying on no one but himself calls to him. Between that call, that coiling serpent of rage brought on a moment before, the ghosts of his past haunting the edges of his mind, and the bristling pain rekindling in his bones, Fenris is… Not in a good mood. There's no reach for the mage as he rolls away. Just a huff at the grating brightness, a narrowing of his eyes, saying he knows full well that Anders is putting it on. With how thick it is, surely the mage can't expect that to be believable.

"Fine." Fenris snaps, with a very small shake in his shoulders. He shakes his head, "And don't bother Maura with the trouble."

No, Anders doesn't expect it to be believable. Fenris has seen too far in for it to work anymore; on anyone else, it would be fine, but not here. He knows - the way that those narrowing eyes and shaking shoulders make him falter for a full three heartbeats says that he knows… he just doesn't know how else to cope.

"Fine," he snaps back, squeezing his hands over and over to keep the tremors at bay. "I won't."

It'll only mean he brings them himself, has a nice chat with the lovely (slightly insane) quilt lady downstairs and leave them. The funny thing is that even as he grabs his spear, readies himself to leave and then actually makes for the door - even as he works himself up from hurt to angry…

He's angrily organizing in his head; what vials will make the most complete kit, the numbers and dosages that will do the best work on a job he isn't on and even how to get them here.

Real vicious, Anders. Scary as a rain-soaked kitten, you are.

Those three heartbeats are enough for Fenris' fiery anger to turn more toward brooding. He sighs, pulling himself to standing. "No, wait…" He says, shaking his head. He's reeling from the fear of the day, he's hazy and tired, angry at the world, but the fact that his pain is still just a shadow of what it had been, and that knowledge is enough of a reminder of the fact that he likes Anders, for Fenris to find some sense after that little display of anger. "Anders… I…" He stammers, not sure how to even sort the words in the correct order, "Stay."

There is a part of Anders listing a litany of unflattering labels for the kind of people that stop the instant they're told to wait. Nevertheless, he absolutely did, though it takes him a few deep breaths before he can turn around. When he does, it's with a wariness he's never worn around Fenris - even when he should have.

There's a softness in Anders, a tenderness that should have long ago been toughened up. He's developed his own methods of coping, but underneath that are places that are squishy and vulnerable. Maybe it's not fair to expose them to Fenris when he never asked for them, but it happened before Anders had any idea what was going on. There's an unmistakable spark of hope in honey-colored eyes, a yearning in his open expression to give in and return to that place where nothing hurts, but…

"Tell me what I did wrong."

It's not a loud or harsh demand - nor is it forcibly bright. It's quiet and just a little bit shaky. One thing the Circles had always been good about was elucidating the sin for which one was about to be punished. And, perhaps because they were both a result of that culture, his relationship with Karl had been the same.

"If I know what I've done," he continues, though there is something… uncomfortably - eerily - by rote in his recitation. "I can make an informed decision about whether or not I repeat the behavior."

Ah, that look… It makes Fenris ashamed of himself. Then again, that's not exactly a feeling that is uncommon to the elf. He takes a deep breath, that tone, that rote recital, makes him uncomfortable. He knows that sort of tone. That tone where you've learned the best way to respond to a mistake, not because it is natural, but because the punishment that follows hurts less. It makes him wince, hearing it from Anders. Shaking his head, he takes a step, slow and easy to avoid, toward the mage.

"It's not important." Fenris says, "I…" He stumbles on this again, "I apologize," What that REALLY that hard, Fenris? "I just… I do need it. I don't expect you to understand, but I do."

Anders tracks that step forward, but he doesn't retreat to match it. Instead, he cants his head to one side as Fenris answers, listening and processing that response. There is a part of Anders that wants so badly to say no, that he is wrong - to show him the phenomenal strength that comes just from himself. He knows it exists; he's seen it in everything the warrior has done while abandoned by his pain. It is evident in his face - where everything is always evident - that he doesn't understand, that he doesn't believe it… that Fenris could hang the bloody moon and he wouldn't be surprised.

"I'm sorry." The words are out of his mouth before he's ready for them to be. They come out all in a rush and are followed by a flush and a frown that gives away their impulsive nature. "I don't understand and I'm tired enough to not think before I talk and I heal, Fen, it's what I do and I really fucking like you so my instinct is to make you feel good, not leave you in pain and just - " He manages to cut himself off there, pressing the heels of his palms to his eyes and pressing against the closed lids. "I'm not good at this part." No, shit. "I'm just not."

"I know." Fenris says, keeping vague what it is that he apparently knows. He takes another step, and another, closing what distance is still there between them, his hand coming to rest upon Anders' shoulder. "I… I would try to explain… Because I don't think what I mean when I say that I need it is what you hear, but we're both exhausted, and… You're right, we should go to bed." All these things that aren't normally things Fenris offers up easily.

And there is something in Anders - worn out and worn down as he is - that recognizes this. He doesn't back up when Fenris comes forward and the hand on his shoulder is reciprocated almost instantly with one laid against the small of Fen's back. "Okay," he agrees, using his other hand to once more lean the spear against the wall and then to rest against the side of Fenris' neck, comforted by the hum of skin-on-skin contact. "Okay."

Fenris shifts to wrap his arms around Anders, and lifts him. It's not a long walk to the bed, but he's not really going to expect it of the mage at the moment. Setting him down, he pulls down blankets, slides into bed, and sighs. "It is not that I need it for… My talents. I need it as a reminder. I need it… Because it's the… Only thing that gives me the pieces of me that I know are actually me." Fenris admits quietly once they've settled down to bed, breaking just a little.

Having strong arms wind around his middle and lift him physically off the ground startles an undignified squeak out of Anders, but it's not exactly the first time Fenris has decided that he can't get somewhere under his own steam and even as the (only slightly hysterical) laughter bubbles up out of his throat, Anders is pretty damn sure that it'll happen again at some point. It's not exactly a long trip and at the end of it he is more than happy to kick his boots off. He hesitates briefly at his shirt, fingers fiddling with the hem of it before he shakes himself and practically rips it off so he can chicken out. Down to only his pants, Anders stretches and turns, crawling into bed and wriggling under the edge of the turned-down blankets. Away from both the fire and his anger now, he chills quickly and reaches down to tug the quilts over them both. He'd expected explanations to come… much later. Fenris' quiet confession stills him entirely. There's something… something familiar about the sentiment (if not the precise wording) and for a little while Anders is silent, worrying at his lower lip as he tries to remember why he would have heard such seemingly ridiculous logic before.

When it hits him, it does so full force and his eyes widen almost comically. "The Litany…" he breathes. "Fuck." It's a single word that precedes a string of hissed expletives that is a little bit impressive for a sheltered Circle mage. The next time he looks at Fenris, it's with a tight, pained expression - as though the idea of Fenris needing such reminders hurts him, too. He reaches out then, wanting to pull the elf close enough to hold if he's permitted - at least for a moment. "I hate blood magic," he finally murmurs, "but it's not the only way to get inside someone's head like that. I'm - I'm sorry."

"The what?" Fenris says, blinking. He might be from Tevinter, but well… The Litany of Adralla's not exactly approved reading for anyone in Tevinter, much less illiterate experimental slaves. There is only a small hesitation before he allows Anders to pull him close, resting his head against the mage's chest, taking a deep breath. It had been more difficult to tell before, but now in Anders' arms, Fenris is trembling. Just small tremors under his skin, mostly around his shoulders, but it's there. The familiarity of the cage, the arena, talking about this, it's all catching up with him.

Anders can feel that trembling and wraps both arms around his body, palms smoothing over warm skin in broad, soothing circles. He bends his head to press a kiss into Fenris' hair and leaves his face there, breathing in the scent of the inn's soap as well as the indefinable smell that had come to be so familiar so quickly. "Adralla of Vyrantium," he begins, "was a mage who dedicated her entire life to finding ways to thwart and protect from blood magic." His voice is low and warm, the cadence of a storyteller rather than a simple recitation of facts. "As you can imagine, this was not such a popular field of study in Tevinter." He likes Thedosian history, okay? "She found defenses against every form of mind control, against the Somniari - even ways to stop the summoning of demons." It had been one of his favorite stories as a young mage trapped in the Circle - that there were good mages in Tevinter, where they could be free. "There were several attempts on her life and she fled to Ferelden's Circle, where all of her original writings are kept." It's a branch of study - or at least a bit of history - that he can see Fenris finding interesting as well. "I've a copy of her writings and teaching techniques with my other books at the clinic. I can get them for you tomorrow, if you'd like?"

Between Anders holding him and the gentle cadence of his voice, the trembling settles some. His breathing turns deep and even, and he listens. There's a small twitch at the base of his ear, perking just slightly, a sign of intent listening. That offer, however, makes him pause. He shakes his head. "No. That…" Fenris sighs, "That won't be necessary. I can appreciate the thought, however." The statement comes with a very faint blushing to the edge of his ears. Even if he could read, he doubted that reading the research of a mage would make all that much sense to him. It wasn't as though he were a mage, and it was often just completely baffling to him. Not being in Anders' mind, however, he doesn't quite understand how it connects. "I also… I do not see how it is relevant. Interesting, yes, but it was not… Blood magic that… At least, I do not believe it was…" He's still so insufferably vague.

"Are you certain?" Anders clarifies softly. "Her teaching manuals are… well, disgustingly technical, I'll grant you, but her journal is just a damn good read." She'd had to make a lot of questionable life choices to learn all she did, after all. "Almost got mauled by a Warden's griffon over her lunch at one point." Which had been highly entertaining to him, at least - and he'd seen that perk of interest. Fenris' next question sobers him, however, and his arms tighten just a little bit in a subconscious attempt at protection - though fucked if he knows what good it's supposed to do.

"There was a man I met once, when I was running from the Circle. He wore the most appalling bracer I'd ever seen - it dulled barbs that would dig down into his skin the entire time he wore it. When I asked him about it, he'd been… surprisingly honest." And though his hatred and mistrust of all things Templar has never been a secret, Anders does not sound like he takes any joy in the story he tells this time. "He'd been a Templar once, but it can often be a… lonely life. A Desire demon had offered him everything he'd ever wanted; had used kind touches and honey words alternated with this… sick disappointment to get exactly what she'd wanted from him. She'd turned everything around on him until he couldn't remember what had been his idea and what hadn't been. When she was eventually slain and he was freed, he'd thought it was over, but there were scars in him as well as on him. He said the pain in his arm was real. It was his pain and if he could still feel it, he knew he was still himself, not hers anymore." Which is similar enough to what Fenris had been trying to say that it had tripped the memory. "That's what made me think of the Litany, because you don't have to be a mage to use it." And it occurs to him that it wouldn't be a bad set of techniques to teach Fenris at some point purely for that reason. "But it's not just blood magic that gets inside you like that."

"Anders…" Fenris sighs, the blush in his ears increasing, but it's not the pleased sort of blush that has come in Anders' presence before, "How much value do you a think a slave that can read has?" It is the only explanation he is going to give on that particular topic. Good read, disgustingly technical, it really didn't matter. None of it would do him any good as the situation currently stood. He nods, however, and Anders' story comes to a close. That makes the pieces fit, though perhaps a little uncomfortably. "Danarius had a fresh slate to work with…" Fenris says, offering explanation he hadn't been entirely expecting to give, and he's obviously a little surprised with himself as words continue to tumble from his lips, "Whatever - However - He put these marks into my skin… All I remember is the pain, I do not know how it was achieved. That pain took everything else too. He could mold me to be whatever he deemed fit, I had no memory to tell him otherwise."



That… explains more than it doesn't, actually, and leaves Anders' face redder than Fenris' ears to boot. Right. Well. Glossing over that one for the moment because there is absolutely nothing Anders could say that would not sound trite or worse. And it's a concern that almost entirely slips his mind when confronted with his lover's next confession. His hands don't stop moving even while Fenris talks, trying their futile best to soothe and reassure and comfort the kind of suffering that cannot be driven away so easily by such paltry offerings. "That's…" He has no words for the way this stirs the primal parts of him - wanting to fight an threat that isn't immediately present. "How did you escape that kind of hold?"

There's a moment where it looks like Fenris isn't going to answer that question. This whole day has just been a series of event dredging up memories he doesn't often choose to stare straight in the face. But the speaking, somehow, it soothes the fear of that beast of memory lurking at the corners of his mind, the thing he can't identify, and is thus terrifying for its mystery. The not knowing, it haunted him in a way the pain and the hatred never could. And while Anders' attempts at comfort cannot scare off such wolves as the problems Fenris now presents, he is appreciative of the effort none the less, it is nice, and at the very least easing to the muscles in his back, which have started their gradual winding to tautness with the return of his pain.

"Ultimately, Danarius did it to himself." Fenris says, swallowing hard, breaking the silence that made it feel as if that answer would never come, "He wanted a wolf. Little Wolf, he named me for it." There's a tremble there, but it's more like a shiver of anger, "He wanted me fierce. If he'd known better, he might have made a hound. As it stood, he could only ever tame me, not break me. Which I think was the goal…" The speaking eases the fear of the mystery, but it's not an easy telling, "I was more intimidating that way. I was more of a conversation piece if I was… Wild. It gave me a foothold to hate him." His eyes close, but only for a moment, opening near immediately after. What he sees when he closes his eyes isn't something he wants to relive. "He took me to Seheron. To fight the Qunari, to earn… Prestige for himself. My victories were his glory. But he misjudged an encounter, and he left me, thinking me dead." Fenris huffs, sounding distinctly lupine, "He was wrong. And when he heard that he was wrong, and came to retrieve me…" His voice falls away entirely then, his breath stopping a moment, eyes glossing, though he soon shakes himself free of it, "That's when I ran."

Anders listens.

He listens and he pets and he soothes and he cradles, warm and safe against his chest. But most of all he remembers. He knows the sound of a story that is not easily told. These are important pieces of the puzzle that this wild warrior represents; pieces of someone he's come to… care for. He wants to understand; he will not forget. "The Lyrium Ghost," he replies, understanding dawning on him at last. "It is a wonder then that the Arishok did not demand your head - forget letting you walk away with me." Though there is a dawning suspicion growing in the back of his mind about that, he's not quite ready to take it out and face it. Instead, his question is simple. "How long has he been chasing you?"

"There are very few things that the Qunari respect in the bas." Fenris says, his voice a little stronger when speaking of general facts and not about the details of his own life, "Strength, true strength that they cannot deny and can quantify in their own loses, is one of them. Though I do not discount that perhaps there is some want of converting me one day." A potential resource is something to be facilitated after all, and the Qunari were nothing if not exceptional at determining potential resources. Eventually, though, explaining the Qunari runs thin with its ability to distract him.

"Three years." Fenris says. It feels like so much longer, and as though Seheron was but yesterday, all at once.

"What does kadan mean, do you know?" It's an entirely random inquiry, he knows, but it's something Anders has picked at for a while now and here's someone who might actually know. Not like it's a common word or anything.

Maker, three years. Anders can… identify with that, in a weird way. Most of his life has been spent running from something. "How long can you - " Andraste there is no casual way to ask this " - usually stay in one place?"

Fenris may not be able to read, but he was actually fairly decent with languages. And the Fog Warriors had picked up Qunlat a long time ago. His months had taught him more than just fighting tactics. "It has two meanings. Literally, it is 'where the heart lies,'" He explains, and of course Fenris knows this word, with his penchant for heart-ripping, "But it's… I'm surprised you've heard it, to be honest. More often it used as a term of address for someone you care about, friends, colleagues, the like. It is also the word for the center of the chest."

The second question is a little more difficult to answer. "That depends. I try for not more than a week or two, usually. There are some times I don't get through a single night. Other places, I've managed a month here or there."

"There was a Warden at Amaranthine named Oghren." The one he'd almost mistaken Fenris for that first night. "He traveled with the - " It was so much easier to refer to her by her title, to take that distance and not acknowledge the fact that someone he'd (reluctantly) considered a friend was now dead. But he owed her more respect than that. " - with a friend of mine for a while before I met him. There was a hornless Qunari with them. He called her that a lot, I guess. Neither of us knew what it had meant." It had been weird enough for Oghren to bring up drunk one night and had been niggling at Anders ever since. "I suppose it's nice to know she never lost her irritating knack for making friends everywhere."

But none of those time frames are very long at all; it's a reality that makes Anders swallow around a suddenly dry throat. There are many things one could say to the expiration date on their happiness, he supposes, that are prosaic or profound. All he's got is a single, "Good to know." But he's no prophet. And then, "Adie and I could probably get you down into Ferelden through the Deep Roads when you're ready." Part of him cannot believe the offer is even out of his mouth - he hates the Deep Roads. But there it is. "Or over into Orlais. It'd be much harder to track you that way. Might buy some more time."

At that explanation, Fenris nods. That makes sense as to why he would have heard it. "Hornless Qunari, hm?" He says, almost idly, "That is interesting." But he lets the topic pass. He looks at Anders a little confused for a moment. Understanding dawns, and he shakes his head just a touch. "I do not intend on leaving Kirkwall." He says, "I am tired of running."

Fenris' confusion is mirrored on Anders' face when that denial is put forward. It takes him a moment to process it and when he grasps what he's been told there is a flash of intense relief across his face before he can shove that back down into somewhere less blatantly inappropriate. Nuzzling into Fenris' hair, he breathes him in and sighs. "You know we won't let you fight alone when it comes to that, right? Not Maura, not Taril, not Adie, not - not me." Especially not him - even if none of the others could fight. "Probably even that blasted Templar would do it." Anders will eventually get to a place where even the mention of Cenn isn't enough to stir up memories he wishes would die… but it is not this day. "Nobody down here stomachs slavery very well." There, that's enough names around his own to keep it from being singled out as the primary part of the statement, right?

Fenris takes a deep breath. "I do not…" Fenris pauses, considering, turning over this idea in his mind, "I do not want to put more people in danger for the sake of my own exhaustion." People may not take well to slavery down here, but he… He can't really face down the prospect of more kindness. More kindness that he could end up repaying precisely how he did the last bout of kindness he was given.

Fuck it. There are times to be circumspect and gentle with the concept of care that had so frightened Fenris the night before. Then there are times like this morning when that shit has to be thrown out the window for his own personal safety (and Anders' personal stress levels). This is one of the latter times. "It won't be. It'll be me putting people in danger for the sake of their sanity. I am really bad at sitting home to play the delicate mageflower while other things try to kill you. I don't know if you noticed… it was a really subtle failure."

"You should really work on that." Fenris says, but he's comfortable enough curled against Anders' chest that there's no real bite behind it, "Caring so much about someone like me is just going to get you killed." There's a sadness with that second bit, though, that cuts deep. It twists in his chest, settling down where his rage had coiled earlier, heavy and sharp and rattling.

"Fen," Anders begins, nuzzling down against one temple affectionately. "The night you first met me, what was I doing?"

That nickname that Anders has taken to, it soothes his soul in a way he can't really place. So near his name that he can identify with it without twitching, but lacking the diminutive suffix that marks his name as Danarius' title for him. It fits, and feels… Right, somehow. He takes a deep breath as Anders nuzzles into him. "Alright, fine…" He says. What good was trying to argue 'danger' to a Warden, anyway? There's another small tremor under Fenris' skin, brought on when the peace the nuzzle brought on lead him to close his eyes a moment. There are still things waiting in the darkness of his mind he doesn't want to face.

Fenris' acceptance makes Anders' entire face light up with the most ridiculous grin. He can feel the brush of skin against his lips as they tug into their new arrangement and shivers with tactile delight. He can also feel Fen's tremors and pulls the quilt up higher over his shoulders. If it's the chill in the air, that should help. If it's not, well… When Anders leans back enough to dip his head and kiss his lover soundly on the mouth, it's certainly distracting to him. "I'm here," he murmurs against Fenris' lips, which is a foolish thing to say, of course he's here, but it feels like potentially a way he can soothe all the same. "You're alright."

That kiss takes him by surprise, but he doesn't refuse it, not by a long shot. His hand comes up to cup Anders's jaw gently, and the breath he takes as Anders speaks is a little more stable. It has been a long, long time since he had let someone tell him that he was anything remotely resembling safe. "I really hate cages." He says then, little more than a whisper. What an understatement that is.

Oh, Fen…

"I can imagine," Anders answers gently, turning to nuzzle into the hand against his jaw. "I'm sorry we weren't there sooner." And that thought brings his own shudder to bear, remembering how broken and unnaturally still he'd looked - how small and lifeless there in the bottom of that cage. He will not repeat the mistake next time.

"It is not your fault." Fenris says, in that same quiet tone. He hated cages, but that really had not been the worst of it. "I… Had not been expecting what they put before me. They don't normally…" He tries to find the words, "Play games with me. Not like that, anyway." He shifts slightly, settling slightly more against Anders, his hand moving from jaw, down the mage's neck, and running over his shoulder softly. "If I had known they were going to…" He sighs, "I should have just let you come with me."

Anders melts into those extended touches, arcing and leaning into the hand against his skin. It's entirely pleasant, but the mention of just one word makes him go still, makes his arms tighten reflexively, as though he could use them to shield Fenris from the world. His voice, when he speaks, gets unnaturally low.

"A game?" If he could get to those bastard now he'd kill them with his bare hands. "What kind of a game?"

Maker, the talkative children had been so prompt in telling Anders about what he had missed while unconscious, but they had missed this detail? Fenris turns into that hold, letting Anders hold him tighter if it might offer him solace. For him, it matters little, he was already as held as he had any need of being. Sighing, he settles into telling yet another tale this night that is less than pleasant. "They… I assume you noticed how the warehouse was set up like an arena?" Fenris says, "They gave me a choice. I could go with them, or I could fight my way to them, through demons conjured with the sacrifice of the others." That would explain the less than one hundred number that had been present when Adeline and Anders had arrived.

Realizing his own grip, Anders jerks just a little, that tight hold easing instantly. "Sorry," he mutters absently. His reflex action seems to be 'protect' even when there's no real danger; he needs to work on that.

But listening to the whole sordid summation like that… it's enough to make Anders loosen his top arm and roll to his back with it bent up over his head.


He closes his eyes and counts backwards from ten, praying that the bile raised by even knowing will settle before he opens his mouth again.

"I don't like cells," he starts, in the same way Fenris had spoken his distaste for cages. "I still don't believe I deserve to be locked in a prison my entire life for just being born." It's a preface that may seem out of place before the slightly shaking breath that allows him to finish. "But Maker, I am really starting to hate everything about Tevinter."

Fenris doesn't mind the protection, strangely. When there actually was a threat to fight, it wouldn't be what he wanted or needed. But here, when it was just the monsters of his own mind, the ghosts of his past, that he could do nothing to battle away, he could accept that protection without chafing under it. At least, he could today. He does not hold Anders from turning onto his back, but he does instinctively move to stay near him, head resting now in the crook of the mage's shoulder.

"The place is vile." Fenris says then, sounding very, very sure of this, "Mages dream of it here… I've heard the musing… But it is not what they think it is. It is not some place where they would know freedom either. Not truly." The bitterness is obvious, though it is tempered by exhaustion and the warmth of being against Anders' chest. "There is only one class of people in Tevinter that are free, and they are vicious, manipulative, and cruel." Yes, he's speaking in generalities, and he does not seem to care one tick.

When Fenris follows him, Anders wraps that arm around his shoulders, hand rubbing up and down his bicep with a kind of absent-minded affection that comes perhaps easier than it should.

"I used to dream about it," he admits quietly. "When I was first brought to the Circle as a child. I had an imaginary friend that was a great big striped cat like they had in Tevinter and he could chase all the Templars away." He laughs a little at himself - at the foolish dreams of children. "I didn't really know anything about it. I just knew that I couldn't stand it locked up like that."

Well, that sounds awfully familiar. Fenris smiles faintly at the thought of Anders with an imaginary friend, but he manages not to laugh. "I do not think you would be any happier there." He says eventually, "The first ten years alone would likely be problematic." Things that aren't widely known about the Imperium, at least not to Southern mages who dream of running off the land where magic is 'appreciated.' If only more of them knew.

Anders sighs. "Probably not, no." But that knowledge doesn't stop him from sounding wistful. It's not a grand thing he wants, not riches or rank or power. Just freedom to go and live his life without anybody's interference.

"If things weren't so terrible here, that might dissuade more of us." But that's an old argument - worn into the way he shapes the words - and he is too tired to fight. "Do you think you can sleep yet?"

If only it were that simple. If only anything were that simple. Fenris doesn't really have the will to fight about it either. And, frankly, maybe Anders was right. Maybe they wanted out and away just as badly as any slave did. Thinking the place they dreamed of was a terrible option, and thinking the world ought to be protected from magic, it didn't necessarily mean he could begrudge them the want in and of itself. Perhaps Thedas simply without a place that was not torture for someone. It wasn't a terribly comforting thought.

"Likely not, no." Fenris says, "But I doubt I will. Do not stay awake for my sake."

Anders doesn't answer that directly, content to lay there in silence with the heat of Fenris' body pressed against his side. Notably, perhaps, his breathing doesn't slide into the deep rhythm of sleep, though it does change when he finally means to speak again. "Have you ever heard the story of Garahel and Crookytail?" Despite the even tone of the question, he can't help grinning. Crookytail always sounded too much like what he'd name a cat.

Fenris does seem to settle some. It's not sleep, and he's right, it probably won't be, but he can at least contemplate quietly without it making him panic now. That's improvement. There's a faint smile at that question. "No, I have not." He says. Well, perhaps he had, once before, but he could not remember those days now.

There is one thing that Anders adores to a point of secrecy - one of those hidden things too fragile for the open air - and it is a story. Any story - all stories. Far-off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, a prince in disguise… ever since he'd been a child, they'd always enthralled him. And then, in that awful, terrible year, they'd physically sustained him. And perhaps because of this, Anders is actually a gifted storyteller, his excitement for what he conveys bleeding into the actual telling until it's almost a contagious thing. And maybe it starts out hesitant and faltering - such personal things always do - but Anders really likes stories and Anders really likes Fenris and maybe neither one of them can sleep, but laying there tangled up in each other isn't so bad and really… Garahel's unique brand of ridiculousness makes for a great story to tell.

There is something soothing to being told a story. There is something additionally comforting about a story told by someone who loves stories, and who is trying to be relaxing. Fenris listens, his ears giving a perking twitch a few times throughout, his interest obvious. There is gentle laughter, tired smiles, and amusement he hasn't really known before. It is warm and it is pleasant and it is safe, and by the end of it, Fenris is even willing to ask if there are other stories that Anders knows.

Anders does, in fact, know a lot of stories. They're different stories, too - some that he chose for himself and others that he read until they were practically memorized, since it was not often Cenn could bring him more… or really had much of a selection in the types of books that he could bring. Fenris' request is enough to soften Anders for a moment into a boneless mass of exquisitely happy mage. The arm around Fenris squeezes once - because that seems like the way to convey affection and joy - but then he settles in to tell another. And another. And another. So long as they both remain awake, he will gladly tell any story Fenris asks for - even if he doesn't know enough of such things yet to ask for them by name.

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