Participants:

Fenris_icon.gif Anders_icon.gif

Scene Title There's A Dog In Your Heart
Synopsis After a chance meeting involving a Hurlock Alpha, there is a lot of soul bearing and fade-touched bonding.
Location Outside Kirkwall
Date 26 Bloomingtide 9:31 Dragon
Watch For Darkspawn fight, angst, angst, angst. Glowy elf! Healing magic!
Logger Fenris

A man needed to eat, and his training made work as a mercenary simple enough. Nevertheless, he had never really come relish it, not properly. Unless it was slavers, that was a distinct exception. This most recent job has him outside Kirkwall, off in the wilds. The job done, Fenris takes his time heading back to the city. Night has fallen, and as he walks, he turns his face up toward the sky. Ponders the stars, loping through the countryside, wondering, perhaps what it would feel like to be up there with them. Stars didn't move, they stayed their course, the same dance every year. And yet still, they had a sense of freedom to them.

Stars are nice - though admittedly Anders' enjoyment of them is not nearly so poetic not introspective - stars mean open sky and that this is a darkness which has a proscribed expiration date. In short, stars mean the sun is coming and after two weeks in the Deep Roads, there isn't anything he wants to see more. First, however, he has to live that long. Normally not such a tall order, it gets more complicated when a couple of Genlocks and a Hurlock Alpha seem to be taking personal offense at how badly Anders wants to be rid of their hospitality. The Genlocks were easy enough, but even in the mouth of the Roads entrance, the Alpha is making him regret (for the 53974th time) having to ditch his staff during that little escapade in Ostwick. The taint rolling off the monster makes him vaguely nauseated, but at least it hasn't talked yet.

Thank the Maker for small mercies, right?

The sound of footsteps behind him (and possibly somewhere off to his left) are worrisome, but since Haha Hurlock here has decided to take another run at the Warden armed only with a skinny melee stave, he doesn't really have the time to look behind him. "Stay back," he warns… whoever, peripherally aware that said order probably carries a bit less weight than it would if he weren't liberally sprayed with blood and streaked with bits of the Roads. "If his blood so much as gets in your eye it could kill you." Okay so maybe not immediately, but he's a little more concerned with ducking the giant rusty sword with the creepy green magic swirlies (and adding a little Force magic to the tip of his wooden polearm where it impacts Darkspawn kidneys) than he is with being exact and explicit about the nature of the taint.

Well, so much for his quiet reverie with the stars. Green eyes moving away from the sky, Fenris does not actually stop moving. No, perhaps foolishly, he approaches the voice that call out to him. There's a twitch at the edge of his mouth, it pulls at his jaw, making one of his ears twitch just slightly as he searches for the source. It doesn't take him too long. It's pretty hard to miss a man fighting a Darkspawn that looks that ferocious for terribly long. He didn't even know there /was/ a Deep Roads entrance here. Cursing under his breath in Tevene, his blade rings as he pulls it from his back. Yes, yes, taint bad. Greatswords, though, best thing about them is their reach, really. And one man against a beast like /that/, Grey Warden or no… (A lot of assumptions being made there, but some guy emerges from the Deep Roads in front of him and starts giving him warning about Darkspawn, what's he supposed to think?) It doesn't seem like fantastic odds. While he's not exactly the /giving/ sort, as it were, he's also not heartless. So sooner than Anders may have expected, or perhaps despite what he may have expected at all, he's joined by a pale haired elf wielding a blade near the same size as himself.

"I suppose I will have to endeavor for that to not happen." Fenris quips, voice deeper than many expect from a frame that /some people/ might dare describe as lanky. Not that there is much time for quips, there are bigger problems. Bigger, nastier, reeking problems. Hopefully this guy didn't always have such ill mannered travelling companions.

The ring of a greatsword is one of those distinctive sounds that aren't replicated by much across the universe. It reminds him of Oghren and much as he may deny it later, right now he'd kiss the dwarf for being just exactly where he was most needed. For once.

The voice that quips - dry as pale none dust - in return is most assuredly Not Oghren. First of all, it doesn't come with rotten beer breath (which you CAN smell over the Darkspawn reek; they tested that) and second, all the vowels and consonants are in the right places. It's distracting enough that Anders just HAS to look. It's the opening Rosebud here has been waiting for; his sword isn't sharp enough to cut clean, but there's enough strength in his arm to snap it in two anyway.

Given the kind of life Anders has had, it's a wonder he doesn't snap on a regular basis; given the kind of day he's had, having his one remaining polearm broken is just absolutely the last straw. Flipping his grip on the two halves (just like Nate showed him) so that the pointy ends both face down, he lets out a very Done With Today "Fuck you!" And with the full force of his elbow joints and physics behind him, stabs those two pointy ends right at beady Darkspawn eyes.

Welp, at least there's points for enthusiastic creativity, right? And who knows? Maybe he'll get lucky and the pretty boy will actually know what to do with that ridiculous sword. Either way, this day is about to be over.

Well, it was better that it was the polearm and not, say, Anders's actual arm, that is snapped in two by the Hurlock. There's a very small wince as the polearm snaps from Fenris. even a small smirk as Anders screams obscenity at the beast, but otherwise he's focused. Because yes, the pretty boy does know what he's doing with that ridiculous sword.

The distinctly-not-Oghren interloper closes distance as Anders moves to blind the Darkspawn. Swinging at the creature's side, he darts in and steps out quickly, employing training from the Fog Warriors to not remain with the Hurlock's reach. While he's been stupid enough to step in and help this man he does not know, he's not stupid enough to stand there and stare a Darkspawn right in the hopefully-soon-to-be-plucked-out eyes.

Looking back on the last thirty seconds of his life, Anders isn't actually entirely certain how he thought this would go down. In any case, he certainly looks surprised when both bits of stick hit home - disgusted as eye jelly flings back to hit him in the cheek - and morbidly fascinated as pulling back on said sticks results in actual Hurlock Eye Kebabs. It's a fairly rapid progression (given that there's not exactly a lot of time to spare just now) but complete and distinctive all the same.

The Hurlock - seemingly as surprised as Anders by this turn of events - is pulled from its stupor by the stinging agony of both now-missing eyes and the brutally precise wound ripped into its side. Blind and furious and bleeding, the Hurlock Alpha has had enough; possessing almost as much grace as a drunken dwarf, it screams unholy murder and stumble-runs comically back toward the hole it came from.

"Not exactly brave souls, are they?"

The quip is a breathless one - and the only thing to come out of Anders' mouth before he drops to sit right where he'd stood, squinting up at his timely assistance-offering elf while trying to catch his breath.

"That is an impractically large sword."

Oh good, now we're stating the obvious. Wonderful, Anders. Masterfully done.

Somehow, that wasn't as bad as he was prepared for. The Hurlock retreats, and Fenris blinks a little. He didn't know exactly what he had been expecting, but it wasn't that. Then again, he doesn't precisely have a lot of experience with fighting Darkspawn. Clearing his throat, he steps back as the creature flees. Bending to the ground, he moves to clean his blade, and then thinks better of it. Pulling from a pouch at his hips a scrap of fabric, he cleans the sword that way instead.

"No, it seems they are not." Fenris says simply, his dryness masking well his surprise at that fact. Cleaning complete, he steps far enough toward the entrance to toss the fabric down where it will be forgotten, and won't do damage to the unsuspecting grass he'd been about clean his sword upon.

"Impractical?" He asks, raising a brow as he places his blade where it belongs upon his back. "I have never found it to be so."

Anders is silent a moment, too caught up watching the strange elf bend to clean the sword then stop himself then fish out some fabric to wipe the sword down and dispose of it in the mess of the Deep Roads entrance.

All to avoid tainting a patch of grass.

This time when Anders tilts his head back to squint-state up at him, it's with the beginnings of a smile that's half friendly and half 'hey we're not dead'.

"Have you ever considered the possibility that you might simply be an impractical person?"

Grass mattered too. Let's be honest, the elf doesn't wear /shoes/, he's gonna care about the grass.

"I find that unlikely." Fenris answers, a touch more warm than anything he's said yet. There's a twitch at the corner of his mouth that could be start of a smile as he looks down at the man sat before him. "What I do find impractical, however, is you settling down at the mouth of the Deep Roads. There are a hundred better places."

None the less, Fenris himself doesn't move to leave. No, he just looks down, around a few times, ever watchful. His foot scuffs the ground as he relaxes some, his shoulders returning to his normal lupine slouch.

"Oh, I know I'm an impractical person," Anders answers. "I made peace with that particular fact long ago." Not a whole lot else, mind, but at least he's come to terms with that much of reality. But all the same, he's not cruel. "Got an early warning system," he explains, lifting one dirty hand to tap temple with index finger. "Part of the Wonderful Warden Package, you see. They recruit with it - postings up in all the major cities; 'Stay One Step Ahead' underneath a little illustration of a Genlock dressed like a tax collector. False advertising, if you ask me. Genlocks can't count. If anyone was going to be asking for money, it'd be those bastards like our friend."

Friend, yes, the eyeless Darkspawn that tried to kill them both. Friendly.

It's not so scary if you convince someone else it's funny, right?

"I'm Anders, by the way." Because manners may be neglected but never entirely forgotten. "Thank you." They are the first two earnest words to leave his mouth. "Normally I would be quite offended, you understand," he continues, back to the more playful, less serious tone, "but in this case I can't say I'm not glad to have been utterly ignored."

Right, he'd forgotten that detail. There's a nod of acknowledgement, but little else. The joke just gets an odd look from the elf. Humor is a reasonable coping mechanism, but it's never really been one he's used all that much himself. Looking the man over, he takes a deep breath. Probably just a long day. Besides, what Grey Warden goes through the Deep Roads alone? There's a look over Fenris's shoulder at the thought of who, surely, must have been with Anders at some point, and was no longer.

"Fenris." He gets in return for the greeting. Well, he was doing better than his little escapade at The Hanged Man last last night. He'd managed introductions. Perhaps hitting things just put him in a better mood than weak ale did. That shouldn't be news. Turning back to look at Anders, and then around, still watchful like a scouting wolf, there's another odd look. "You do not often take things seriously, do you?"

Anders follows Fenris' gaze, staring back into the empty darkness and seeing a lot more ghosts than he'd like to. It's uncomfortable. It makes something a little like grief flash across his face and that just looks wrong.

"I've found it makes people feel better to think I don't," he answers succinctly, with the kind of blunt honesty that only ever comes easy with strangers you never think to meet again. "So by all means, use whatever story makes you happy. You won't hurt my feelings any." If that is meant to be a joke, it's not a great attempt.

Still.

"Fenris, huh?" And there's a split second where it almost looks like Anders doesn't buy it, but it turns a little more thoughtful after a moment. "There's an old tribal god in the Anderfels named Fenrir. Enormous wolf, very similar to the Dalish stories about their Fen'Harel." He stretches one arm out to an uncomfortable-looking angle, trying to pop the joints. "There are worse things to be named for."

An entire country, for one, but that's his own fault.

The disarming honesty makes Fenris pause and blink. Well then. He's familiar with that sort of game, though from a very different angle, and that familiar makes him shift a little uncomfortably. Then again, the elf is rarely still in general. Watchful eyes and constantly shifting his weight so he's prepared to move if need be, the whole thing is strangely lupine and more than a little paranoid.

The doubt Anders shows for a moment makes his nose crinkle. The expression turns to a frown at the explanation of wolf gods. A weird sort of hazy glowing starts about the edges of the marks inked into his flesh. Anger always does that, and he's done enough fighting today that the trigger for it is touchy. "Yes. I imagine there are."

Anger is an easy enough emotion to read, and Anders already has both hands up in a non-threatening gesture mouth open on an apology of some variety - when the glowing kicks in.

It's a weird combination of sensation for Anders. There is a part of him (and he has his own suspicions about which part) that is soothed by the active lyrium, comfort and yearning in equal measure. Homesickness and a taste of home.

Great. So Justice likes the glowy elf. Wonderful.

The magic in his blood sings with the presence of pure Fade so close, but as his brain processes what that has to be (lyrium) how much of it there is (probably a metric fucktonne) where exactly it is (just under Fenris' skin) and several methods by which it could have gotten there, his too-expressive face is a slowly-dawning mask of horror.

"Andraste's flaming knickerweasels…"

At this point, Fenris sometimes forgets that he starts to glow. To be honest, it's no different for him than any other moment of at least mild agony. Thus, it isn't until Anders shuts up and starts outright staring that he realizes. Oh yes, it's lyrium. A whole hell of a lot of lyrium. An uncomfortable, unpleasant, unreasonable amount of lyrium. That he never wanted, and the little huff he gives makes that much evident, at least, as the glowing fades away. He can, after all, control it to some extent, and now that he knows he's doing it, he stills it. It seems to pain him, however, and he shifts. Shifts and then begins to walk away.

Anders, in the great tradition of the Ferelden Warden Heroes, stares like an idiot while Fenris dims and shifts and starts to walk away. It's three whole steps before he manages to pull himself together and scramble not even a little gracefully to his feet.

"Hey, wait - wait! Stop. Please. You went out of your way to risk your life helping a total stranger and I was rude." He doesn't reach out to touch, nor does he block the path (any path) to an exit but he does keep taking.

"I'm sorry, I am." Cue a moment of awkward silence. "I am also, occasionally, a colossal idiot."

Strangely, it does actually get him to pause, and look back over his shoulder to Anders. A little twitch in his jaw that travels up into his ear. It's a small indication of interest, easy to miss by someone who doesn't know him well. But it's the beginning of creeping out from his little metaphorical corner, like a dog trained to cower. While he lopes like a wolf, the will to turn back around, to stop, to let Anders apologize takes an emotional risk that he eases himself into slowly.

"So it seems." Fenris answers, dry as you like. But the second little twitch at his jaw, perking his ears a bit more, is a small sign of warming, perhaps easier to catch the second time.

Anders kind of sort of holds his breath for a moment - for once just smart enough to be quiet for a minute. It's a moment of grace for which he is rewarded and his whole dirt-covered face breaks out in a ridiculous, slightly lopsided grin. "I make up for it in other ways," he promises, but then his face goes very serious again.

"I just - look, I don't want to pry. Your business is your business. Just… those - those markings are lyrium, aren't they?" It's phrased like a question, but there's enough concern in the tone that it seems likely he already at least suspects.

The look on Fenris's face says he's not entirely sure that is true. Perhaps he could have been baited into asking what those other ways were, but the seriousness overtakes Anders, and it is sufficiently distracting.

Why is it that people always preface prying by saying they don't wish to? Fenris sighs, shifting uncomfortably again. "Yes." He answers, indulging that much, though the gruffness in his voice and the tightness that winds once more through his shoulder says this isn't much a topic he likes to explain in great detail. There's a small half step backward, as well, as though he still has a desire to leave. Or at least, part of him does. Half a man who wants to run, and half a kicked puppy finally being lured away from his corner by the promise of a soft hand.

That gruff response - combined with body language Anders has seen on every cat he's ever known at least once - is enough to tell Anders he's on shaky ground. So, in a moment of either genius or idiocy, he decides to treat the incident exactly like that.

Well. Sort of.

He also takes a step back, arms held out to his sides with palms open to show he isn't readying a strike, shoulders slightly rounded forward and chin tucked ever so slightly.

"Okay. I won't insult you by asking if that hurt. Even I'm not that big an idiot." And it's evident that this isn't an area up for discussion. "I just have one question and then I swear I won't mention them again, okay?"

That, he considers for a good long moment. After all, he didn't owe this man anything at all. And yet, here he was, already indulging one question, showing interest. Internally, he kicks himself for the foolishness. Should have just kept walking. When would he learn? Really, he ought to shrug him off, off to ignore the request for a question but, damnit, though he would never, not until the day he died, say it aloud, the elf was lonely. Deeply, and painfully lonely, and this might just be the longest conversation with someone who didn't want to hire his blade in… Fenris couldn't even say how long.

"Fine. Ask your question." Fenris finally says, giving Anders a look that clearly says he really /only/ gets the one.

And Anders can respect that. He already has exactly the only question he needs to ask.

"Did you choose them?"

Somehow… SOME FUCKING HOW /that/ was not even on Fenris's hypothetical list of questions Anders could have chosen to ask him. The surprise is evident on his face, a very different expression than anything he's worn thus far. It melts into something softer soon after, confused but strangely eased. He could lie, and his first instinct is to do so, or to brush it off, turn around and walk away. But the hopeful puppy creeping from his dark corner wins out once more.

"No." A simple answer, spoken with every bit of weight that ought to come along with it. One syllable, and it weighs a thousand pounds upon his shoulders. For all that his mind is a creeping pup, his stance remains distance, his tone, while heavy, gruff.

Anders nods, slow and measured. Somehow - though he feels like he should be - he's not really all that surprised by that answer.

"I didn't think so." And while he takes a long, deep breath and then releases it on a sigh - because an eruption of temper just now would be a Bad Thing, no matter how much his stomach turns - Anders is not idle.

"I was mostly right, earlier. The words share a root, but Fenris isn't Dalish or Ander. It's Tevene. And judging by the markings I can see, you're walking around with at least ten thousand sovereigns worth of lyrium in your skin. There isn't a very long list of people who can both afford that much lyrium and figure out some way to engrave it in skin."

Anders is not an empty uniform or a stuffed shirt or a hapless clown - though he is very good at being all of them (at the same time if he needs to). He's always been too smart for his own good - and right now he looks like he wishes really hard he could be wrong.

"Which means at this point the only thing I can, in good conscience, do is invoke the Rite of Conscription."

Not that he had the first clue about doing a Joining or even really planned to try, but the Rite can be invoked all the same.

The creeping pup retreats, swiftly, into his safe, dark corner. Those perks cease, his ears dropping a fraction, as far into the realm of pinning back that an elf can manage. There's a low, deep growl that rumbles from inside Fenris's chest, and he takes another step backward.

"I think that would be a very foolish idea." He says, practically through gritted teeth, hand beginning to travel toward the hilt of his blade. He had not gone through the blood, sweat, and tears that had lead him here, all in the name of freedom, just to be conscripted by the Grey Wardens. No, no he did not, and the anger that darkens his features makes that quite obvious. The glowing starts anew, brighter this time.

Okay, Anders, maybe next time try explanations first instead of forgetting just how much the general population does not know about the Grey Wardens.

"Whoa, whoa hang on a second there." His arms go a little further out from his sides but he isn't taking any more steps back. "If you don't want to be a Warden you don't have to be a Warden. Honestly, with that much lyrium under your skin you being a Warden is probably not the best idea. But Conscription trumps any other claim. A king can't deny his own son if the Wardens invoke the Rite."

He pauses there, taking a deep and steadying breath (because that lit up active lyrium is distracting, damn it) before moving on, careful to keep his voice steady, calm.

"I'm going into Kirkwall. There are other Wardens there - good people. If you come with me as a Warden Conscript, you'll be safe until we can figure out a way to get you further from Tevinter than this."

Because he may have only come out of the Deep Roads twenty minutes ago, but he didn't come by way of the turnip truck.

"Look," he sighs, pushing a dirty hand back through dirty, tangled hair. "I won't force you to come." He laughs then, a little self-deprecatingly. "I'm in exactly no position to try even if I wanted to. But it's an offer. No one trumps the Wardens." And as the next thought occurs to him it comes with a small smile. "And I bet Adeline would kiss you right on the mouth if you gave her an excuse to tell an actual Magister to get stuffed."

Such is the price that is paid for the Wardens' secrecy. A necessary thing, but it did make for some tense conversation with jumpy elves. The glowing fades some, but does not disappear completely this time. He doesn't have the energy to silence it fully again. The anger and fear won't go back into the box he shoves them into. They want their time out and about. Though, his hand does fall away from its reaching. The look on his face is, however, distinctly unimpressed.

"No." Fenris says, with much the same weight as the last time he said this word. "I did not fight my way here just to go hide behind your Rite and your claim." What good would that do? Trading his freedom away just to be free from Danarius. Besides, knowing his madness, Fenris wouldn't even be surprised if Danarius still came for him /anyway./

"Your friend will have to go without the satisfaction." Fenris says simply. And with that, he's turning away again, shaking just a bit. To most, it would likely go unnoticed, but Anders is a healer, and such details can be obvious. Perhaps conveniently, however, it does appear that the elf is moving toward Kirkwall as well, even if he has turned down the unorthodox invitation.

"It's not hiding," Anders counters, though the heavy sigh that goes with it says he's already sure it'll fall on deaf ears. "It's making friends - leveling the playing field a little bit." It's not a bad argument, but it's not one he's going to push, either. "Okay." He'd said it was up to Fenris and he'll honor that, but the shaking brings new lines of concern to his face.

"Okay. Would you mind non-Conscripting company, then? It looks like you're going the same direction I have to."

And he's worried about that shaking now.

It does, in fact, fall on deaf ears. He has no intention on joining the Wardens, or even on making a show of considering it, and he does not care what the argument could be. He had managed to evade capture thus far, and he only doubted his ability to continue to do so slightly. There's a glare shot at Anders at that next question, though a moment later he heaves a sigh.

"Fine." He answers. The shaking continues, mild though it is. To most, it could seem like anger, or the come down from adrenaline. Truthfully, though, it's pain. The way his muscles pull in, and not flex outward as though preparing to be angry, it's blatant for what it is with enough training.

Perhaps, in a time before Sidona, before Amaranthine, that glare would have been enough to send Anders running for the hills. Now, though, Anders is halfway numb to glares after Sidona and halfway pretty sure he deserves them after Amaranthine. So he says "Thank you," because he is not a heathen and falls into step with ease and - perhaps more surprisingly - silence.

He studies the elf as they walk, measuring the frequencies and patterns of the tremors and comparing them with notes inside his head. He doesn't have a prayer of doing it without being noticed - Anders is the least surreptitious person on the planet - so he doesn't even try.

Mostly, however, he fights a war with himself.

It's pain. It's obviously pain. And he may not have a proper staff, but healing comes so easy, comes so natural… He could do something. Maybe not fix it - at least not on the first try and not without some serious research - but he knows he could at least help. And that, right there, is the core of his nature. He can help. He wants to help. Had it been anyone else but the jumpy elf with the big sword and one of the few legitimate reasons to be afraid of magic, he would have offered even before they even started to walk.

"You're hurting." Good job, Anders. Way to state the obvious. "I - " the pain is causing him visible distress, but there's a purely selfish part of him that doesn't want to see that angry, fearful accusation again.

"Fully recognizing that I am apparently the worst kind of idiot, I can help, if you'll let me."

The idiot that walks into trouble anyone could see coming a mile off, all because he can't stomach a walk in silence when someone's in pain.

"I swear, you can - I don't know, behead me or whatever it is you do with the impractical sword if I make any wrong moves, but I can help the pain."

While the long moments of silence allow him to relax some, falling into his natural loping stride, his shoulders dropping again. There's part of him that isn't entirely unconvinced this isn't some sort of trap, and thus he continues his vigilant watching of the countryside that surrounds them. But he does also takes moments to glance up to the stars again. The night still had a few hours, and for that much, at least, he was thankful. The shaking continues, because his mind alone cannot quell the pain, but it is arguable that Fenris doesn't even realize that he's shaking. It seems to come in waves, around the edges of his armor, where there is movement of metal or fabric upon flesh. It might explain his skin tight clothing choices, and the option for exposed skin, for the air was more gentle than the brush of fabric.

What he is /not/ thankful for, however, is when Anders decides to open his damn mouth again. Fenris sighs, closes his eyes. "Kaffas…" He mutters, shaking his head, "You're a mage on top of all of this?" It's rhetorical. It seems he hadn't noticed the magic earlier, or it had been subtle enough to miss. "No. I am fine."

That is a lie, bold faced and brash, and he doesn't seem to care. There's practically a hiss behind it. Not many people react as viscerally to the offer of help, to their pain being taken away, but there's a flash of something behind his eyes as they open again, a panic he can't rein in quickly enough to go unnoticed.

And that panic hits Anders physically, like he's been punched in the stomach. He knows that kind of fear; he knows it intimately well. It stares him in the face each day he has to spend in silence, alone.

That… Anders doesn't like the way he feels guilty. He only wanted to help.

"I'm afraid of the dark." Hello, non-sequitur. "Well, the dark and small spaces." If he wasn't going to be allowed to help the pain - and neither of them were buying that shit about it being fine - he could at least distract from it. "I know, I know. Who's ever heard of a Warden afraid of the dark? But I am. Start feeling like I can't breathe and all." And since he's apparently gone and made his current walking companion feel more vulnerable, perhaps it's time he take some of his own advice and level the playing field a bit.

"I ran away a lot. I didn't do well with being locked up, so I ran away a lot. The Knight Commander got sick of it. The idea was to make the Circle seem less like a prison by comparison, I think, but the year in solitary confinement kind of backfired on them. Couldn't stomach anything enclosed for the longest time. Still don't always like it. Could have been much worse, I know, but it's damn inconvenient."

Well that's putting it mildly.

How in the world did this man, this man he had never met, have the uncanny ability to just show up and trample through all of his problems? It was a finely tended garden, closely guarded, and generally kept away from onlooker, the field in which his pains bloomed. And yet here was this man, this Warden, this /Mage/ no less, just, walking in and finding the garden door unlocked and ajar. Had he left it that way? Or could this man simply pick locks?

Nevertheless, the non-sequitur is met with Fenris's brow knitting in confusion. What in the world did he care what this Mage was afraid of? Looking at Anders sideways, the elf listens, but does not speak, wearing his same, unamused frown. The panic has faded from his eyes, for now, but the pulsing from the glow that still lingers says it's probably not actually died. The rate of his heartbeat, quick and shallow, like a rabbit's, though you wouldn't know it by looking at him. The lyrium gives him away, though. It has this nasty habit of doing that.

"Perhaps if you had stayed behind the walls that kept the world safe from you to begin with, you would not have had that problem, mage." Fenris says, sounding bitter now. Yes, Anders was only trying to help. Fenris, though, is notoriously prickly, and mages only ever make that fact worse.

Hearing the old party line just one more time in an entire lifetime's worth shouldn't bother Anders. At this point it should be like that glare where he could shake it off like water off a duck's back.

But it's not.

It doesn't.

He can't.

It hurts and it makes him sound sullen, but it does not silence him. "My magic's a tool, just like your impractical sword. I can choose to relieve your pain, to set you on fire, or to do neither. Crispy lyrium does not smell nice and you're apparently set on lying about your pain, so I do neither."

He shrugs and scuffs his feet along the ground as he walks, like it doesn't matter. Except it does. It does and it's so stupidly, painfully obvious, just like pretty much everything else showing across Anders' face for anyone paying enough attention.

"There are evil men with magic, sure, but there are evil men with swords too. I don't see anyone lining up to lock away a boy playing with a wooden practice sword just on the off-chance that he might turn out to be evil."

At that, Fenris barks a laugh. It's bitter and unpleasant, but it's a laugh. "Those two things are not remotely comparable." He says, shaking his head. There's an odd sort of satisfaction at Anders's pain, but it fades quickly, like a fire that sparks but then dies. A glimmer of the warmth you seek, but in the end you're still left cold. Cold and shaking. It's then he realizes that he's shaking, crossing his arms to try and cut down on how obvious it is. There's a moment where his expression softens, like he's about to let up. Like he /wants/ to. His jaw sets, however, and he doubles down. "Magic spoils all it touches, in the end. A blade does not. A blade is just a blade, magic… That is something else. Call it a tool all you like, but it is a vast oversimplification." All of that bitterness, all of that pain, it's pain in his tone, despite his dryness. Perhaps it's something about the thoughts that do it, maybe it is just the nature of itself, but the retraction of his muscles grows worse, the pain growing. It's likely psychological, but its so far internalized it's managed to fester so long that it can now intensify his physical suffering. Or maybe the pain of his body was simply easier to handle for his mind.

"That Hurlock's blade spoiled my polearm pretty well," Anders grumbles, rolling his shoulders and opening his mouth to explain why Fenris' definitions were the oversimplification, but being stopped short by the visible signs of distress intensifying.

It takes the wind right out of his sails. There is something magical about a good, hearty, informed argument - he loves them when they can be found; there is nothing satisfying at all about making an argument to someone who is clearly too busy suffering to even listen.

Again, he opens his mouth - this time to once again state the obvious and point out that it's getting worse - but once more stops himself, though this time it's only for a moment, only for a slight change in approach.

"Would you please let me ease some of it? It doesn't hurt."

"A broken polearm is nothing compared to…" Fenris starts to argue back, but he doesn't have the focus, or the will. He just wants to be home, but it's a long walk back to Kirkwall. He just wants to drink, drink until he can't feel. His problems had learned to swim a long time ago, but, thankfully, his pain hadn't, and he could still drown it with enough wine. Instead, here he was, wandering the countryside with a /mage./ A mage who could not just leave well enough alone.

"I /know/ it doesn't, you twit." Fenris snaps, shooting him a withering look. This isn't a glare, something sharper, a threat, a wolf raising its hackles. There's that flash of panic again, though this one is quelled faster than the first. Already a relatively irritable guy, the pain isn't helping that problem.

"Then what are you afraid of?" Anders snaps back in a knee-jerk defensive maneuver that makes him heave a heavy, tired sigh and draw a hand down his face.

"I'm sorry." He doesn't usually rise to a patient's vitriol - and there have been plenty of old weather uncles cursing him up a storm while he saw to this ailment or that. "If I promise to stop talking and not say another word until we reach Kirkwall, will you let me do something about it? I can lower the swelling, cool the fever, cushion the joints - you can keep your damn pain if you want to and still be more comfortable than you are now."

That knee-jerk snap gets a growl from Fenris. Oh, Maker, where to start? His lip curls into a snarl, but he looks away from Anders. The apology rolls off a hard set shoulder. That third offer, it sinks deep, it crawls under his skin and it settles there, building a nice little home for itself. It twists in his stomach, and for a moment, on top of the pain it looks as though Fenris might be sick. He swallows hard, forcing it down like a bitter pill. He /wants/ it. It's obvious, there, a moment, as he turns his face away. The little tremble in his shoulders, the sigh through his nose. He's about to acquiesce when a fire rages in his chest and the elf takes a deep breath.

"No." Fenris says then through gritted teeth, "And… Please…" His first moment of true politeness since this line of conversation began, "Just drop it." But the anger is gone from his voice, replaced by a sorrowful defeat and a hint of desperation that clings around his edges. He wants it, but he can't.

He won't.

Not again, never again.

No, this pain would stand vigil, a constant reminder to why he /couldn't/ run back. And the offer of mitigating some other discomfort, at this point, if he gave in to that, his will would shatter. Then where would he be?

There's something about the defeated slump to Fenris that feels… wrong. It makes something in the pit of Anders' stomach twist uncomfortably, tainted by the familiar bitterness of helplessness in the face of suffering. It leaves him with a hard pill of his own to swallow, but he won't - he can't - do it without permission.

"Okay, Fenris," he sighs, reaching one arm up and back to press and rub at right tendons in his own neck. "Okay."

It was bad enough that Danarius was almost literally etched into his skin with indelible marks. Now, he's staring in the face that scars he's left on his mind, on his heart, and the want to simply take a knife and see if he can't just dig the damn things out himself grows. Rightly, he's never tried. Almost certainly, it would kill him, and pained as he was, Fenris still wasn't interested in dying. Right now, though, looking at precisely what kind of influence his old Master still had on him, he could have peeled his own skin free from his flesh if he thought it might help. Perhaps luckily, however, he doesn't believe it would.

For long minutes, Fenris just walks. No more words, nothing to say. Slowly, the glowing fades some, so it is little more than a glimmer about the edges of the marks. One who didn't know they were glowing earlier might miss it entirely. But left alone with his own thoughts, it let him twist with the fact that he had no option of winning, not really. Either he bore the pain, and Danarius was ever on his mind, and Danarius's memory kept him in pain, or he let it be eased and… Well, likely, turned into something of a useless mess, at least for awhile.

At least, in that second option, he might get to sleep without screaming.

It's likely been ten minutes, at least, when Fenris finally speaks again. "Fine." He says, "But not until we're back in Kirkwall." He doesn't know what he'll actually be capable of once the pain that keeps him moving is eased.

Had he known to, Anders would be forever grateful for Fenris' restraint in the skin-peeling arena. That was not something which would have been pleasant for anyone.

It's been years since Anders could say he liked a particular silence, but for the first time in weeks - partly from the fact that he was out of the Deep Roads but mostly because even in the silence he can hear (he can feel, thanks to the remaining glimmer around those markings) that he is not entirely alone - the extended stretch of silence does not inspire any urge to make sure he's still real.

And for all that he is unequivocally the human embodiment of cat, there is enough of Ferelden in Anders to be a puppy every once in a while. Like being told he could actually help; it lights up his entire face and it's possible he might have just bounced a little bit.

Maybe.

"Absolutely. You're the boss on this."

It's probably been a really long time since Fenris had made someone's day. But that hint of a bounce, that bounce that Fenris /definitely/ saw, though needless to say Anders would surely deny until his dying breath, it lightens his heart some. There's even the faintest hint of a smile. It lasts a few moment, Fenris not realizing it is there before he forces his expression back to dour with a clearing of his throat.

"And after you have a bath," Fenris says, his voice dry as ever, but there's something to it… "I don't much want you touching me in the state you're in now." Is he joking? That might be joking.

That hint of a smile feels like victory, but Anders is distracted by the additional demand. The groan that inspires is 5000% his inner hedonist and is perhaps just a bit indecent.

"A bath," he breathes, with all due drama. "Maker, a bath." He even pretends to swoon. Because a bath just sounds that good - and maybe a little because he is utterly and irreparably ridiculous. "I've forgotten what clean feels like."

So obviously that's not going to be a problem, joke or not.

Small time skip!

The room wasn't much, but it was suitable enough, at least for Fenris. An inn in Lowtown, something that /isn't/ The Hanged Man. Quieter, out of the way. Almost homey, the keepers being a married couple, the wife obviously having a penchant for quilting, with what covers each of the beds. Though there is only one bed in here. A bath had been drawn, a simple service, offered for extra coin. And Fenris had moved to wait in his room for Anders to return, you know, /not/ covered in dirt and Maker knows what else from the Deep Roads.

So. Many. Quilts.

"This is Wynne haunting me somehow, I just know it," Anders mutters - though the complaint is entirely good-natured. "Payback for all those grey hairs she swears were my fault."

He'd saved one set of clean clothes for the day he got out of that Void-forsaken place and clean enough to feel like a human again; Anders is very glad indeed that he did.

It's just plain brown trousers and a much-patched plain white shirt - usually only the bottom-most layer of his kit - but as he squeezes the last of the dripping water from hair that dangles down just past his shoulder, Anders feels better than he has in… well, probably longer than he should admit, if he wants to keep any shred of his dignity.

"Better?" he asks with a cheeky grin as soon as he spies Fenris. "Told you there was a person under all that gunk."

Always quilts, it needed to be quilts. Besides, most of the inns Fenris ends up settling in these days had at least one female proprietor. He had found, through trial and error, they were marginally less inclined to sell him out when the hunters came knocking. At least, they held out a little longer. Usually. Sat upon the bed, Fenris was staring out the window, all that can be seen being a swathe of lightening sky. The sun was starting to rise, turning the edges of the horizon purple. Figures. Who needs sleep anyhow?

Looking over as Anders enters, he seems legitimately a little surprised. Whatever he was expecting under all the dirt, it apparently wasn't this. "Maker," He mutters, "You're blonde." You couldn't tell for the filth before.

That surprise is enough to pull a bright little laugh out of Anders, mood much better now that he was clean and had a clear job to do (at least for the moment).

"I make up for it in other ways," he repeats his line from earlier, adding a touch of pretend affront with a theatrical gasp. "You didn't believe me! Ah, I am wounded to my core."

There's a small, lingering look over to Anders. The joke doesn't get comment, but it does earn a small smirk from Fenris. Though the smirk makes him realize his lingering gaze, and he turns his eyes back to the window. Other ways, indeed. Clearing his throat, Fenris leans to take up the bottle of wine he's retrieved while Anders was bathing. It's already half empty, and as he tips it back, grows a little more so.

Anders - in one of the classic Moments of Bad Luck that seem to so define his life - misses that lingering gaze entirely; a few drops of water had convinced him he wasn't quite dry and so he bent to rub the smaller towel through his hair as vigorously as a shaking dog.

When he straightens again, the towel is slung over one shoulder and his gaze goes immediately to Fenris, then the wine bottle and then back again - this time immeasurably softer.

"That's only going to make your head hurt later," he chides without heat, a healer's habit more than anything.

"Alright, where do you want me?"

"Not drinking it makes my head hurt worse." Fenris sends back, seeming completely serious. Seems he's been self medicating for a long time. It wasn't untrue, either, though whether that was true alcoholism or just another symptom of his general pain was anyone's guess. Though, the heat that was coming for him outside of the city has faded as well, and there's no vitriol in his statement. Just his own, naturally gruff matter of fact nature.

Fenris shrugs. "I do not pretend to know how your magic works. Wherever it will work." He answers, though there is still a shying at this point. He's agreed to this, but he is obviously uneasy. The wine is making it easier, but only marginally, and he pulls once more from the bottle, hoping it might have more courage to offer him.

One thing Anders has plenty of experience with is skittish patients. Granted, most of that experience is with patients of the four-legged variety, but STILL.

Step One: Explain every step before taking it.

"The first thing I have to do is purely exploratory. I need to find the root of the problem and make sure there's not some lingering magic that will interfere or hurt you worse."

He gives that a minute to sink in - or for Fenris to take another drink if he wants to - and then steps carefully closer, though he does not yet begin.

"May I?"

Well, it seems the tactic is effective enough. Fenris looks up at him with a look that /could/ be read as somewhere between angry and thankful. In truth, it's fear, but whether that is easy to read or not is up for debate. It softens after a moment, however, and he nods. There's something oddly soothing to that question, that reassurance of consent, that he doesn't know how to voice, or process.

"Yes." Spoken so much quieter than anything before this point. So much softer.

Anders will take the angry-thankful hybrid. In his experience, that's close enough to fear to respect, anyway.

When permission is given, the first thing he does is to reinforce the nigh-constant passive Panacaea. He will not cause more pain. Only then does he teach out, slow and steady, to rest one hand on Fenris' brow and the other on the side of his neck. The skin-on-skin makes it easier - almost effortless - to slip through and let his will guide the exploration of his magic.

Even with the permission given, Fenris closes his eyes as Anders begins. Trying to steady his breathing, he focuses on it intently. Though, Fenris has long learned what an approaching hand feels like upon the air. There's a flinch, he can't stop the flinch. It's obvious, it's visceral, it's fearful. It comes with a curl of his flip, and a look that would likely herald a growl.

Except the growl does not come.

Because the pain does not come. There's a gasp instead, a sharp intake of breath through his nose, for something about this mage's touch is /different./ His flesh isn't rejecting his presence, and Fenris's eyes shoot open, looking up to Anders, looking more confused than anything. Whether or not he can tell, though, with the focus needed for his magic, Fenris doesn't know. There's a warmth spreading through his skin, a sort of humming harmony he hadn't been expecting, and the marks glow again. It isn't the same sort of numbing he has known before in his life, though, and he does not know how to handle it.

Of course Anders sees the flinch - how could he miss it coming from this close? - and it unfurls something hot and protective deep in his gut. Soothing nonsense sounds roll low in his throat, but he does not pause until that gasp.

"What's wrong?" he asks immediately, magic going still and simply pulsing in time with and a resonating harmony to the power running through the elf's body, without a job to do, it finds the path of least resistance within the bounds of what it had been created to do.

It may take on an edge of 'safe' 'calm' 'warm', but that's what happens when it's minder is too busy worrying about possible pain to stop extraneous wishes filtering through parts of that harmonic power.

Fenris literally had no memories whatsoever of someone's touch bringing anything other than either agony or a heavy numbness. Sure, he'd learned to how feel /beyond/ the pain by this point. Even he couldn't have lived this long with no contact from anyone, but this… This was something else entirely. This is, just touch, touch that doesn't make his very flesh scream and reject. It may still be in that ever present war with itself, but Anders's hand upon him doesn't sear.

"How…?" Fenris asks, though in that same softer tone from before. Possibly even more relaxed then that, the pulses of comfort being something he doesn't expect, and can't really account for. None the less, his heart is pounding. Though he's physically melted near immediately, his muscles letting go of knots Fenris probably didn't even know they had, his heart pounds in his chest. Anders would likely be able to feel it upon his shoulder.

"Shhh," Anders soothes, thumb brushing absently along the line of jaw beneath it. "You're okay, it's okay. Take a slow, deep breath for me. Please?" He can feel tightness and tension and there is some sort of enchantment wrapped around the lyrium that makes him feel vaguely sick to his stomach, but most of it will be an easy fix.

"You have a lot of tension, Fenris. When you're strung so tight there's pain everywhere so I can't pinpoint deeper problems. I'm going to ease those first, alright? You'll feel warm and sometimes like you're stretching, but it won't hurt."

He gives the elf a minute, taking deep breaths himself in order to stay above the way this harmony makes him want to melt a little, too.

"May I?"

Yes, that was the terrible thing of it all. Outside of the horrific pain of his own body rejecting itself, he is perfectly physically healthy. In very good shape, even. He couldn't afford to be anything less than that, he would have died already, surely. There's a shiver as Anders brushes the line of his jaw, but it's not unpleasant. Just a precise feeling that Fenris hasn't had opportunity to feel without the addition of blinding pain atop it. It's intoxicating. Taking the breath that he is asked for, he nods slightly, though not enough of a movement to move away from either of Anders's hands.

There's that asking again, and Fenris quells another small shiver. Though, with Anders looking at the inner workings of his body, that repression is likely fairly obvious. "Yes." He answers, sounding more sure than the last time. This was not at all what he was expecting, and he's completely disarmed.

That Fenris' second 'yes' is surer makes Anders break out into an innocently pleased little smile. He is as good as his word, using gentle heat to ease immediate tension and then another wash to reduce inflammation and finally what feels like a deep, relieving stretch as the core muscle fibers are restored and the tension scar tissue softened. He repeats the process over and over at each and every one of the problem spots he can find. He doesn't rush this; there is no need to rush.

Only when he can find no more tortioned muscle does he stop, listening again to these new - more precise - sources of pain.

"I think… I suppose it's not out of the question, though definitely unexpected. It looks like your body's own defense against illness is attacking the lyrium markings. That's the primary source of all that swelling. I can heal the damage, but I don't have a way to stop it coming back for good without making you vulnerable to all kinds of nasty bugs. I'm sorry, Fenris. I can manage the symptoms if you'll let me do this again once a month or so, but that's all I can do."

Well, he likely could have told him that. Taking another breath, he'll take what he can get, the tension eased away. Eventually, he just shakes his head.

"No. I do not think that would be a good idea." Fenris answers, giving Anders something almost like an apologetic look. He did not think coming here would be some sure for this problem. Truth be told, he hadn't been sure if Anders would be able to help at all, and this has been… Well, he wouldn't think worth it yet but it's certainly been something.

Anders let loose his breath on a soft sigh, the set to his shoulders deflating ever so slightly - though to his credit that is the only sign he shows that he is disappointed. The verbal response is a soft-spoken "As you wish," and he makes one final adjustment. "May I at least reverse what has been done so far?"

It wouldn't be a painless forever, but it would buy him a week or two of almost total relief.

Here it is, the thing he's agreed to let him come do in the first place. And yet this answer gives him pause. Part of him really hadn't believed it would ever actually get to this point. Anders wouldn't be able to help, or the pain would be enough to make Fenris change his mind, or… Something. There's a shiver that has has nothing to do with the pleasant warmth, the singing in his flesh, that he still has no idea how Anders manages to instill.

"Fine." He says, nonetheless, though there is rather more trepidation this time than the other two.

This aware of the body he's been healing, Anders is more aware of the fear than perhaps Fenris would like.

"Thank you," he responds quietly, appreciative of the trust being experimentally extended to overcome that kind of fear. "This might fizz a little."

This is also what is going to drain Anders the most; the first efforts had been simple alterations to encourage the body to do what he wanted. This was restoration on a deep scale. Taking another deep breath, Anders reached into the (much deeper lately) well of power he could draw from, using it to breathe new, energetic life into bone and muscle and tendon; arteries and neural pathways; everywhere that had been ravaged by the war going on inside a body that never asked for any of it.

He is exactingly precise, extra careful - there shouldn't be too much of any one thing at any given time.

He is determined this will be gentle.

When he is finally done, more than fifteen minutes have gone by and there is a fine sheen of sweat over Anders' skin. But as he gently disengages the last stray tendrils of his magic from the lyrium ley lines that call to it, he can feel proud that now the inside of Fenris matches his age on the outside - clean as a whistle and supple to boot.

It seems what experiences Fenris has with magic are, unsurprisingly, unpleasant ones. The magic begins and while he tries to keep himself still and at ease, he has a difficult time of it. There's a flinch even, though he doesn't know /exactly/ what he's even flinching away from. But there's no discomfort, just a sort of honeybee sweet buzzing, spreading from the points of contact. Slowly, the fear subsides, as Fenris is distracted by this new sensation. Closing his eyes, he focuses on it, on this hum growing inside his whole body, how it harmonizes with the song in the lyrium lines that twist over him, his brand, his cage that he could never fully fly free of. Because that was the cruel reality of all of it. No matter how far he ran, no matter how many careful healers he found, what life he built, cage bars were quite literally burned into his flesh, a reminder in every possible way. A method of control Danarius never, ever needed to see him again to be sure of the effectiveness of. For Fenris would still shy from anyone's touch, would still grow irritable as war raged in his veins, would still wake at night with emotions sharp enough to sting his eyes, though no memories of the dreams that brought them on. They assured all of this and more, his very being, his construction, the lack of who he was, whatever he was in whatever time there was before. All there was now was Fenris, Danarius's Little Wolf.

It's as the humming starts to fade, that Anders's work comes to close that the fear actually picks up again. The pain, with its absence, it leaves a gaping cavern in his mind, in his chest, in his whole existence. A hole he was so used to meaning one thing, and one thing alone. Despite himself, Fenris begins to tremble the less pain he is in. And while, from the outside, perhaps it would just be the come down from extended shock, Anders would know better. Terror, pure and hot, panic building in his heart, but a wanting he can't ignore, and a shame that settled around his heart like a vice. This deep in his being, as Anders would have to be to do such precise, careful work, it's hard not to get mixed up in someone's emotions. And that harmony between their skin, where his hand meets his shoulder, palm against his face, it's a link that rings with truth that Fenris would never likely choose to give up.

It's almost overwhelming, this rush of white hot terror and want and shame and panic and hopelessness and fear - so much fear.

Once upon a time, when 'Anders' was still a word that had no meaning, this man had been a boy happiest when surrounded by a pack he both drew warmth from and also protected and shielded as best as little boys can from those small troubles of childhood.

It's a drive which has taken a severe beating in the intervening years - in the creation of Anders - but as he learns when Fenris' panic rises to critical levels - it is not one that they managed to beat out of him.

"Hush, now, hush."

Nonsense words don't need to mean anything, they are only sounds to susurrate reassurance when words would only get in the way. Entrenched deep enough to be affected by Fenris' emotions, Anders opens up some of his own. Let Fenris feel the visceral protectiveness arising from that bone-deep fear. Let him feel the calm his panic can beat against. Let him feel the warmth that Anders tried very hard to stamp entirely out when he was much younger even than this.

Let him see; Anders is ready.

"Easy, Fen," he vocalizes, something beyond the maelstrom of emotion to focus on (the shortening of his name is accidental, but it seems to stick). "Nobody here but you and me. Just you and me. You can breathe. It's okay."

There's that puppy again, creeping out for want of nothing more than a soft hand. Attention starved and wounded, something that lives in the heart of his being quietly. Drowned out so often by the anger and the pain and the noise of his want of vengeance, of bloodshed, of flight. Today, though, now, all of that has been stripped away. It's gone, left in tatters in the corner of some room of his soul. It would mend itself in time, be slipped back over metaphorical shoulders as his actual armor, not the blackened metal about his torso. For now, though, it was no good to him.

The smallest, quietest whimper that perhaps the world has ever heard comes from the elf. He folds in on himself, some, bereft of much that keeps him moving, going, sitting upright. That and truly, deeply exhausted in a way he can't quite describe. But the steady assurance from Anders does seem to ease him a bit. Eventually, green eyes open and refocus on the room he is actually in, and who he is actually with. He shudders, most of the sharp crest of emotion falling away, though all of it still sits brewing, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

It's the first real glimpse of that 'puppy' that Anders gets to have. It makes him smile like an idiot for no reason other than existing. As those crisis emotions begin to fall off, Anders shifts his hands until they're each on one side of Fenris' face. He watches as those eyes refocus and offers a slightly smaller smile, still embedded fairly deeply as a solid, reassuring buffer against the rest of the world.

"You need rest. Real rest." It's a simple truth, but one that sounds oddly profound. "Do you think you can sleep? I can watch the building until you wake again."

There's a moment, then, that Fenris lets himself fall into that comfort. The other shoe hasn't dropped. And if there was one thing he was conditioned with, it was immediate responses to stimuli. Danarius was never a man to waste time. Thus, he eases, and even subtly moves into Anders's touch. He doesn't quite realize he's doing it, but there's a nuzzle to one palm, brief and paired with a sigh, his eyes closing again. It morphs quickly into a nod.

"I can sleep. You need not stay." He says simply, and it seems as though he has every intention of just falling asleep right there the minute Anders leaves, in armor and all.

"I do a lot of things I don't need to do," Anders answers easily, finally relaxing when Fenris allows himself some of the comfort he needs. It's the point where he's pretty sure everything will be okay. "I'm an impractical person, remember?"

It's why he does the really stupid thing and rubs a thumb over Fenris' cheek when he nuzzles into Anders' palm. He's ridiculous and impractical and a host of other things he won't at all admit to. Like affection-starved. Or lonely.

"You won't sleep very well in all these spikes," he comments, still reluctant to pull away in either respect. "May I help you get the biggest pieces out of the way so you don't slice your own throat open in your sleep?"

There's a very faint laugh, though it is cut short by the touch to his face. And with all of the prickly bits shredded and tossed aside, he doesn't even protest. No, his eyes simply open once more, searching to meet Anders's gaze, holding it a moment. There's that want again, climbing up his mind like a trellis. It's different this time, though, and doesn't have the unpleasant travelling companion of fear.

"I sleep in it freq-" Fenris starts, but with a small sigh, he just nods instead. He was just being contrary at that point. He didn't have the want, or the energy, to insist that Anders not bother sticking around, and if he was going to have someone making sure he wasn't stabbed in his sleep, he really didn't need to sleep in the armor. Though, the practice would account for a lot of the muscle damage Anders had to see to.

Fueled by Anders's own stupid idea, Fenris has his own. Turning his head slightly into his hand, there is the whisper of a kiss placed to Anders's palm. Both attention starved, both tired, both lonely. What really did anyone expect to happen in that sort of scenario?

The ghost of a kiss pressed into Anders' palm completely derails all train of thought. It makes his stomach flip and his heart rate pick up to a very pleasant canter - all of which are probably painfully apparent since he hadn't bothered to pull himself away from the resonance. It makes him want - but there are stupid ideas and then there are stupid ideas.

Bending at the waist, he presses his lips to Fenris' temple and slowly inhales the scent of his hair.

"Sometime in the next few days you're going to remember that I am terribly annoying and a deadly blight on all of Thedas who should be locked up for the public good and that you neither trust me nor like me." It's not venom in his voice, it's not even censure - it sounds too indulgent, too affectionate. "If you can look me in the eye when you remember all the reasons why not, we'll talk. Not now. I'm not - that would be wrong of me." And perhaps it was him being an even bigger idiot than usual, but the idea of anything with someone in this kind of vulnerable state made him well and truly ill.

"Now come on," he nudged gently, beginning the proces of carefully extracting himself fully. "Tell me how I'm supposed to get these unnecessarily complicated things undone so you don't end up ruining these lovely quilts before they can traumatize future generations."
Conditioning is an insidious and terrible thing. And while, yes, the loneliness that is quite evident definitely is a solid motivation for the choices Fenris was making, Anders's decision there most certainly the most sound. There isn't even a moment of disappointment. No, just an oddly contented sigh, an easing of the last tension he had left. If he could offer himself on a silver platter as easily as that, and Anders was going to turn it down, it has the last knots of worry slip free of his mind. A test, conditioning, a want, all wrapped up in one ghost of a kiss.

Anders extracting the last of the bond, though, does make him frown slightly. There's no real protest, no attempt to stop it, but he'd never known a warmth like that, and the intoxicating property… Well, honestly, that probably had its own dangerous implications. None the less, he takes a deep breath, and even laughs quietly at the joke at the quilt's expense. Rather than explain the closures of his armor with words, he tilts his head to reach one of them that is simple for him to get to. Slowly, he opens the closure, so much slower than he needs to, to show Anders how they work.

Fenris isn't the only one to have mixed feelings about the loss of that intimate connection. Without that background hum, Anders can't help feeling a little like something's missing. Watching the (frankly a bit ridiculous) process for the armor is a good enough distraction. For now at least.

As is trying to replicate it. Anders fails horribly twice before finally finding the subtle 'click' he's feeling for with every clasp. Once he gets it, the rest of the spike-riddled pieces come off with little fanfare, set aside while Anders chivies Fenris up to the proper end of the bed and actually under one of the horrid quilts.

"Sleep, now. I'll be here when you wake up."

Curled up in the armchair by the window, to be precise. It's respectful of personal space and provides an optimal angle for the door, should he need to intervene in an actual attack. Prime real estate. Really.

Strangely patient with Anders, he doesn't fuss at all about the two failed attempts with the closures. No, he just waits. And eventually it is all slipped off. With the armor gone, he's pliable, easy to encourage into the bed. His eyes grow heavy quickly, though he does give Anders a somewhat mournful look as he settles so far away. It was the better decision, truthfully, but the closeness called to him with a siren song he couldn't quite figure out. He's about to say something, but Anders would never get to hear it. For before the syllables jump his lips, they are interrupted by a yawn. A yawn that leads to Fenris shifting slightly, and falling suddenly, and deeply asleep. A deep, dark, black sleep. The sleep of someone who hasn't gotten to properly in years.


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