questionablewit: (z Anders - kiss)
[personal profile] questionablewit
[[Backthreading nsfw romantic history post for [livejournal.com profile] birdhousesoul. Set not long after they hook up, before All That Remains]]



Hawke falls back on the bed, sweat sticking her hair to her forehead, skin flushed. It's the middle of the night, but the fire in the fireplace still burns enough to cast more light than shadows on her skin, and on the skin of the man next to her. "That was amazing." Still breathing hard, she smiles brilliantly at him, then decides that's not enough and rolls towards him for another kiss. She can't seem to stop kissing him now that she's finally able to. Not that she's tried hard to resist the urge for the past...week, maybe two weeks? It seems longer, and not long enough. "Andraste's flaming pyre, Anders, where'd you learn to do all this?"
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Date: 2011-12-27 10:11 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
Anders is not averse to being kissed. The past few days have put paid to the entire notion that Justice precludes an active sex life. No, love life, and that notion may have taken longer to dispel than the other, the idea that no mage should dare to fall in love.

He gives a good-natured groan. "Everyone knows where I learned to do all this. Isabela's already told you more than I ever knew she knew about my sordid history, I'd wager." Rolling onto his side to face Hawke, he yields to a less colorful temptation, allowing himself to tuck a stray wisp of hair behind her ear. How many times in the past three years has he longed to do that, something so simple? "I ought to ask the same question of you. You're far too good at, mm, a few things I could list, but I'm too much a gentleman to name them all. And I know you turned down Jethann, so I can't credit him for it."

Date: 2011-12-27 10:35 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
"From books." Anders' skepticism is plain. "I've been reading Varric's serials too, you know. I can't recall one where the hero's girl learns how to avoid scraping sensitive areas with her teeth. Varric's women always know what they're doing, except for the ingenues, and even they take to it like ducks to water. Like Ser Quackers to a bath." He cards through the soft short hair at the base of her skull, runs light fingertips down the back of her neck. "Like you, really, which tells me you're no blushing ingenue, love, since real life doesn't work like Hard in Hightown. Confess, now, you've spent at least the past year in intensive training for some sexual triathlon where only the most beautiful rogues can compete."

Date: 2011-12-27 11:10 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
He thinks about it. "Fifteen maybe, depending on what counts. What achievement lifts a person from the ranks of ingenues, blushing or not? You start early, in the Circle, because there's nothing much else to do unless you really love books to a degree that's unhealthy. So, earlier than fifteen, for that, but does it really count if you're just sort of messing about with people just as inexperienced as you are? Making it all up as you go along? I wouldn't say I'd really even been properly kissed until ... oh, until Karl, and I'd done a lot more than kiss by then, just not properly."

It's still difficult to think of Karl, it will never not be difficult, and the banter loses its effervescence for a moment, Anders closing his eyes. Kissing Hawke's forehead, soft and chaste, nothing like the kissing that's been going on in this bed or the kissing Anders has just been recollecting. It would kill me to lose you. She promised he wouldn't lose her, and he's clinging to that promise.

He sighs. He lets the pain go. There's too much happiness washing over it, drowning it out, too much happiness even to allow room for guilt. "Now, you, I expect you reinvented kissing, not a false move or a single misstep. Graceful in everything," his hands move again, caressing her back, petting her the way he would pet a sleepy cat.

Date: 2011-12-28 01:30 am (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
He chuckles at that, quietly, and stops petting her, lifts a hand to her face. Runs his thumb across her lips. "Our first kiss was not even close to proper. I ought to be ashamed of myself, attacking you like some starving thing. I hope I've made up for it, somewhat, since."

Date: 2011-12-28 11:01 am (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
It is a difficult subject, and also Anders needs a moment to string together this request with its likely catalyst, to get why Hawke is asking him about Karl. He's a little blurry with exertion and the general intoxication of new relationship energy love. He could have gone on happily enumerating the third, fourth, and fifth times he ever kissed Hawke, and so forth, possibly with reenactments.

Right, he's just mentioned kissing Karl, and. That's why. "Er, that doesn't bother you, does it? That I've been with ...?" The line doesn't quite come out the way it might if Hawke were also a man. "Yes, he was. Important. Essential. I talk a lot of rubbish about Kinloch Hold — it's all true, mind, but it's not nearly as much fun as I like to make it sound, everyone kissing everyone. It's only a distraction, and a way to kill time, or curry favor. It's not enough. To have someone who cared for me made all the difference in the world." Cared for, not loved.

It isn't easy, no, but he will talk about it, with her, because he loves her, he's allowed himself to love her, and because Karl deserves to be remembered.

"He was a healer, like me. Far more patient than I've ever been." Even in the calmest, most focused act of healing, there's an anger that fuels Anders' work, a refusal to accept damage and disease as inevitable, a rage against mortality and the depredations of violence. It makes him burn the brighter, goads a faster flow of mana; it's useful and wasteful at once. Karl never had that problem. "And generous, and kind, and a true friend even when I didn't deserve one, which ... was most of the time. He was just able to accept so much, all the indignities Circle life could throw his way, and he'd rise above it as though it weren't even happening. We found ways to make it bearable. For me, it was just pretending, though, a temporary respite from the truth of what the Circle was. For him, it really was bearable. He tried to help me with that. Didn't work, but bless him for trying."

Date: 2011-12-28 03:04 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
"Another woman, hm?" He's a little surprised; not too surprised, as it's not uncommon in Thedas and certainly nothing remarkable within a Circle, the issue is more that he's never seen any inclination of Hawke's in that direction. Flirting with Isabela doesn't count, since flirting with Isabela is basically an exercise in sport and wordplay, as much for the spectators as for Isabela's partner. Belatedly, it occurs to Anders that he's never seen such inclination because that would require his being present to see it, and that with him there, Hawke's inclination toward him would take precedence. He still can't really believe that he wasn't the only one of them who spent three years aching for the other, but he's accepted it on an abstract level, at least, as fact, because otherwise he'd be calling her a liar, and that's the last thing he'd ever think of her. Humorous exaggeration, maybe; lies, never.

"Tell me it was Isabela, and I'm afraid I'll need to have words with her, just to be on the safe side. I've waited years for this and it's my turn now; I'm not inclined to share." He pulls her closer with the arm that isn't tucked under the huge down pillow he'll never think of as his. "You're warm," he notes, appreciatively. "Why are we on top of the covers, instead of under them, again?" Changing that would require some wriggling about and some rearrangement, and he's quite comfortable where he is, thanks. He'll just have to cozy up for more warmth. A terrible fate.

"You can ask, but only because you're you. I told Bethany a very, very little, when you all were still living with Gamlen, when it seemed she might be considering turning herself in to the Circle. I wanted her to understand what she'd be losing. I think that to some Blight refugees, the Circle wouldn't sound all bad, compared to what they'd been through getting here. You're sheltered, you're clothed, you're fed, there are Templars around who could fight off any darkspawn or, I don't know, bogeymen. Never mind that the selfsame Templars will happily throw you at demons," and there's a little snarl in Anders' voice now, and he forces it back, instructs himself to behave. Karl shouldn't be remembered this way, he should be remembered for himself, for the good things about him, not for the fact he lived his life under constant Templar oppression.

Bethany, that's where he left off. Yes. "The pressures were obvious even to me, very much on the outside of things, and I thought that if I didn't say anything, Bethany might turn herself in just to give you one less mouth to feed, with Gamlen pressuring your mother about money, and the two of you fresh out of bloody indentured servitude, and I had to be very clear with her what she'd stand to lose if she did this. I didn't talk much about Karl. A little more about Senior Enchanter Wynne, and what everyone knew, that she'd had a son who was taken away. All children born to Circle mages are taken away in infancy, you know. Other people I knew, things that had happened to them, Templars taking a fancy to them — I didn't go into very much detail, even so. I had ways of getting around those kinds of problems, for myself, and I told her what they were, too." That advice essentially amounted to You can't rape the willing. And a little bit of Do you really want to become me? Because it's not as much fun as I let on. Bethany was innocent, and sweet, and she might have a farmgirl's earthy sense of humor at times but she wasn't cut out for Circle politics. Anders is not sorry she became a Grey Warden, if the choice was between that and eventual Circle confinement.

None of this answers the question Hawke actually asked. "You want to know how ... things happened. Between me and Karl. I take it you're not asking about the mechanics of the act. Is it that you want to know about the specific occasion? Or how it all began? Or how it is that a dissolute rake like me would seek out some serious graybeard? I'll tell you right now, that was premature gray you saw, and it wasn't gray back then to begin with."

Date: 2011-12-28 03:53 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
Anders laughs. "I won't deny I did some chasing. Not of Karl, though. He was a captive audience, you see: my tutor. If you're thinking I cribbed this out of Varric's stories, I promise I'm not. It all seemed very logical to me, only it took some time to construct an argument he would entertain. The sweetest man you could ever hope to meet, but give him a pot of red ink and a report to use it on, and he was an absolute terror."

A pause. He traces the line of Hawke's shoulder, his finger an imaginary pen, her skin the parchment. Idly he draws little glyphs on her shoulder blade. "He knew that it wouldn't be doing me any favors to go easy when the stakes were low. Even when he was being stern, he was really being kind. And I'd seen so little of that, in anyone, for ages," Anders admits, and there is not a lump forming in his throat, and he does not have to swallow hard. "I knew one way to show my gratitude. This will sound dreadful, but I was horrified when he was horrified. I assumed it was the done thing, you see. Everyone talks about their favorite and least favorite of the apprentices and enchanters; everyone claims they've gotten by with something perhaps they really haven't, or that they've earned some special grace, so they can feel special, for a while. And I knew the way he looked at me, and I thought I knew what that meant. Imagine my consternation when Karl Thekla very gently picked my hand up off his knee and deposited it upon the desk. The maneuvering I had to do even to be sitting on his side of the desk, to make that move ..."

Is she going to laugh? Anders has to laugh at his younger self, a little. "Well, then he'd just made it a challenge. I could have let it go, before that. Not after."

Date: 2011-12-28 05:14 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
"A man of principle, indeed. He kept on resisting up until he wasn't my tutor anymore. Can you have any idea how long that took?" Anders is amused despite himself, remembering. It's Hawke who does this for him, lets him see what's good amid so much that could be painful. "It wasn't as though I could tally the days on a chart, or count down how many left, because he didn't tell me he'd be all right with it when he wasn't my tutor anymore. He should have done; I'd have worked even harder. I've always been gifted," he says this as a fact rather than a boast, "and I had two strengths, healing and elemental magic. My natural inclination might even have been more strongly toward the latter." Burning down the barn, that was an accident, best not to allow that memory in to taint the rest. Fire and lightning and ice, the sheer delight of releasing those forces, letting everything burn, sizzle, crack ... "It was Karl's work that made a healer out of me. I was very good at it, and he was a good tutor, so soon enough I was advancing to the higher levels. I may have been holding back a little bit, not wanting to let those lessons go, but I couldn't do that for too long. He'd be terribly disappointed in both of us if I didn't perform well."

Anders has disappointed Karl too many times, for too many reasons, for there to be anything much funny in that, the double entendre notwithstanding.

"So eventually we were working together. He wasn't that much older, little more than a handful of years; the way you saw him, the Gallows had changed him, aged him beyond his time. They had no right —" Anders' hand clenches into a fist behind Hawke's back. He's silent for a moment.

He doesn't know whether he can finish this story without ruining something, casting some shadow across the evening that can't be dispelled. It's the middle of the night, he's not inclined to pull on his pants and head back to Darktown, and if he tried, Hawke would probably point out very sensibly that this is the hour for roving gangs with silly names to be waylaying solitary travelers. Anders forces his hand flat, lets it rest in the curve where Hawke's back dips in and yields to the outward swell of her (amazing, incredible) hip. Soaks in the warmth of her skin.

"Anyhow. There was one time, we were making some salves that turned out to be rather convenient, and I asked Karl, is it strange for you, to be working beside me when I used to study under you? And he said, I wouldn't call it strange, it's how the Circle works; you'll be teaching soon enough yourself, and then your students get older. I hadn't gotten that much older, mind. He was deflecting, and I wasn't about to let him get away with that. I took his wrist, and I said, You've done me a disservice. You haven't taught me everything you could. The look on his face, I don't think I'll ever forget it — as though I'd burned him." The barn burning, but it was an accident, an accident, no one was supposed to get hurt.

No one was ever supposed to get hurt.

"I'd really gotten to him. No more evasion. He said it straight out, more honest than anyone in the Circle had ever been. I can't love you, he said. It costs too much. I should have taught you that." Perhaps it does sound too much like Varric's stories. The Circle mages do a lot of reading. Karl might have planned out what to say in this eventuality, Anders has no idea. All he knows is that it happened, in this way, and no other. "Well, what was I going to say to that? I was never as kind as Karl, otherwise I'd have let him go. I said to him, Who said anything about love? And then I kissed him, very smug, probably smirking, I was so damned proud of myself. For about thirty seconds. Then I was the one being kissed, and I couldn't be smug in the slightest."

Date: 2011-12-28 06:45 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
That parallel has not escaped Anders, either, and he chuckles. "Turned the tables on me, to start with. Then I was on the table; hard to say whose victory that was. Neither of us, I think, after all was said and done. We couldn't afford to develop any obvious attachment, and we couldn't hide anything for very long, so the best expedient was for me to continue what I was already inclined to do." Chasing people, being chased, typical Circle games. "That made him only one of many, safer for him and for me, though he never asked it of me and I never spelled it out to make him hear. I think he knew anyhow, or else he didn't want to let himself care enough to object.

"The only time he ever said a word, I'd gotten involved with this apprentice transferred in from Orlais, she'd been a troublemaker where she was, fairly strong Resolutionist sympathies. Karl and I didn't see eye to eye, politically, and I thought that was the problem, or else that he didn't like my being with a woman, someone he couldn't match or best." They had a tacit understanding: No matter how many lovers I take, you're the one I want most, better than anyone else. Not love. Preferential treatment. "That was the one time he had to speak up. As pretty as you are, he said, you ought to know it isn't you she wants. I thought that was comical, really, coming from Karl; he had less interest in the Circle's romantic intrigues than anyone else I knew." Which was part of why Anders had to be the one to play the field, to confuse the trail.

Anders clears his throat. "This is something I did tell Bethany. Resolutionists, you know, want mages to be free of the Circle completely. They're the main faction supporting the mage underground. And one of the principles they have is, the more mages there are, the harder it will be to ignore their plight or suppress them. The more mage children are born, the more power we'll have to fight for what should be ours. I can't say Karl was right in what he thought or feared, but he could have been. In essence, he decided what she wanted was to ... carry my talents over to the next generation. Posterity, and all that, in a literal sense. It's ridiculous this should ever have come up, but it's the one time he ever asked me to stop seeing someone else. I did cool things off a bit with her, to keep him from worrying too much — he was a world-class champion at worrying. But I got to know other Resolutionists through her, and I wasn't in the Tower for much longer after that. Not as a permanent resident. Being in the cells doesn't count."

Date: 2011-12-28 07:40 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
"He considered the Circle the lesser of many evils. He'd been surrendered so young, it was the only life he knew; looking back, I can't blame him for failure to understand why I couldn't be content with that life. At the time I was ... not as sympathetic. There were harsh words. He may have felt I was using our apothecary and herbalist work to cover for other activities, though he didn't accuse me outright and I couldn't have denied it if he had. What disappointed him the most, I think, was that I never quite managed to stay gone once I'd left again. Some of the letters he wrote me from Kirkwall, later on, I got the impression that he thought I was being recaptured deliberately, to put me back inside the Circle walls so I could do more damage. He never asked at the time, I suppose because he didn't want to know. That way, he couldn't tell anyone anything that would hurt me."

Anders kisses Hawke's forehead, again. The same place where the Tranquil brand would go, he thinks, despite himself, and shudders. Part of the justification for allowing himself to be with her, to love her, to let her love him: she's not a mage, she will never be subjected to that.

"When they put me in solitary confinement, that was the end for Karl and I. It saved us from all kinds of unpleasant discussions we'd otherwise have needed to inflict on one another, I suspect. I hated being alone, thought it was the cruellest sentence they could have imposed, and Karl thought they were doing me a favor, going lightly on me. They don't want to make an example of you, you idiot. They just want you to stop giving people stupid ideas. That's what he claimed to believe, anyhow, the one chance we did get to talk before they locked me up for a year. It wasn't as bad as you might think, hardly the stuff of martyrdom — there was Mr. Wiggums the cat on that floor, and I wasn't being starved, and I had books, and I knew half the guards already so there were chats every now and then, sometimes shouting matches if it was a guard I didn't like. But it was like torture to me, all the same. If it took becoming a Grey Warden to keep from ever going through that again, by the Maker a Grey Warden was what I'd be. I didn't plan on becoming a Grey Warden, of course. But I don't regret it. Or the same, for Bethany," he tells Hawke firmly. He knows there's hard feelings there, will always wonder whether Bethany blames him for the hardships of her new life, too.
Edited Date: 2011-12-28 07:43 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-12-28 08:18 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
And now perhaps she sees why, when she joked she'd lock him up to keep the Templars off him, he didn't take the opportunity to flirt.

He lets her kiss him, unsure why that is her response to hearing all of what she's just heard, most of which hasn't cast Anders in a very good light. He likes being kissed, so he's not going to object. His arm is trapped under the pillow and he'd like to return her embrace, so he rolls them both a quarter-turn, pulling her atop him, careless of the weight, and twines his arms about her waist. She did reinvent kissing, he thinks, after all, whether she'll admit it or not. It's certainly different to kiss Hawke than to kiss anyone else.

So, of course, he has to tell her that, which means he has to break off kissing her. "You did some kind of arcane research in Lothering, I'm sure of it, just to develop unique kissing abilities. An elven courtesan sprang out of concealment in a haystack and taught you everything she knew. That's got to be it."

Date: 2011-12-28 09:08 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
"I can't quite quantify it yet. I haven't kissed you enough to capture all the little details. All I can say is that I've done more than my fair share of kissing, and nothing comes close to what you do." He stops short of saying anything about enchantment, because no reminder of Sandal should ever be spoken in this bed. "Out with it, now, I've unburdened myself of practically my entire life story. The least you can do is regale me with tales of pastoral amours. And you kissing women, pastoral or not." He can hate the idea and really like it, all at once.
Edited Date: 2011-12-28 09:09 pm (UTC)

Date: 2011-12-28 11:39 pm (UTC)
birdhousesoul: (Default)
From: [personal profile] birdhousesoul
"Ah. I know your weakness. You like a man who's kind to animals." He finds it more difficult to imagine a young Marian than she might think, and it's mostly that he has a hard time filling in the setting around her. He's seen the landscapes and the rural accoutrements, he knows Ferelden backwater towns and fields, but the life itself eludes him. Forever getting into trouble, and forever curious about things. Just rambling about, as a child, with no supervision, no one to reel her in if she seemed likely to veer outside their control. No one to give chase if she ran ... and why would she run? She had a home. She had people she loved.

"I'm picturing the farm boy. He's nowhere near as dashing as I am."
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