Credit to Terry Pratchett for the two songs in this short.
"I think she's had enough," Anders tries to hold Isabela back from the bar, but the pirate swats his hand away.
"Bugger off, Justice. She's had a rough week, a couple of drinks won't kill her. We're celebrating here."
Anders doesn't mention that he thinks there isn't much to celebrate. That word has finally reached them of Carver surviving the Joining makes guilt and relief wash through him in equal measure. At least the boy isn't a mage - they're not going to slap a Templar guard on him.
"You should have another too," Isabela says then. He sighs. "Gah, Anders, it's your body not his. Overrule him."
"It's our body now Isabela."
"You always did like threesomes."
"Please. You're hurting my ears."
"You're no fun any more," she shoves some drinks into his hands and pushes him back towards the table, where Saoirse and Varric seem to be singing a song while Merrill looks on in bemusement.
"It's the one about the hedgehog again," Merrill says to him. He tries to be nice to her, but it's difficult sometimes, with Justice raging in him that she is vulnerable to demons. "I can never understand why it's so fascinating to delve into the…" she blushes.. "habits of wood creatures."
"Just be thankful they're not doing A Mage's Staff has a Knob on the End," Anders says, wishing now that he had taken up the offer of a drink.
"Your staff is quite knobby, Anders," Merrill says. "Why would you want to sing a song about it though?"
He laughs. If he can convince himself to forget about the blood magic thing, Merrill is hilarious. The man he used to be would have spent a lot of time trying to seduce her.
The man he is now, however, can barely tear his eyes away from Saoirse. Her cheeks are flushed, her lips parted in a smile that hurts his heart to see. The months after they'd brought Carver to the wardens had eaten away at her. She'd lost nearly all of her humour, a lot of her weight. Dark circles had appeared under her eyes and she'd been aggressive and careless with her power. On more than one occasion he'd shown up at the mansion in hightown to find her gone with no word, and Leandra had begged him to look for her. He'd always find her, usually here, in Varric's company, or Isabela's, and she would be manic, trying so hard to pretend it hadn't happened, that she didn't blame herself.
This was different. She was giddy with relief, and he was happy for her, but worried for Carver, big, ignorant thickhead that he was. And for her, when she found out (as she would have to if she ever saw him again) exactly how much of her brother had died in the Joining.
He sits at the table and has a partially successful time enjoying himself for a while. He is anxious, though. He has to go out again tomorrow - four more mages to take through the sewers, and he knows there are at least two patients in the clinic he can't hope to save - stupid Fereldens and their stupid pride, if they'd come to him earlier… and seeing her so bright and happy should make him feel better but instead it's making him wish and want…
"Blondie," Varric's voice is high and urgent and cuts through the revelry like a knife. He knows that tone, and leaps to his feet, grabbing Saoirse's arm as he does so.
"Anders, wha?" she looks at him blearily as he pulls her to her feet and hustles her towards the stairs at the back. "This is sudden!"
Isabela has cornered Merrill at the bar, although much to his chagrin the elf girl is probably safe. She was right when she said the Templars ignored her as one elf among many. And she doesn't drink. Saoirse, however, is leaking power and the Templars who have just come in will feel it any second unless he can…
He pushes her into the wall and casts dispel on her as subtly as he can, draining away her mana and suppressing it, even though it makes him feel over full, as though he's had too many lyrium potions. The world gets a little brighter and he feels lightheaded and part of him loves it. Maker it's been too long since he's done anything approaching fun like that - the last time would have been with Oghren before Roland turned up, when they thought the new Commander was a stick in the mud who would never….
Saoirse is giggling. "Why do you have me pressed up against the wall of the Hanged Man, Anders?" she says, her eyes coy as she looks up at him. "I thought we talked about this…"
He groans and closes his eyes. Of course she would… "Templars," he hisses. She giggles. Giggles. "Maker damn it, Saoirse, don't make it difficult…"
She giggles again and he feels it like a shot to his groin. He remembers when he loved making girls giggle. He remembers when heloved making men giggle. He's remembering far too much. She's taller than most of the girls he's been with, her eyes are level with his lips and it's far, far too easy for her to reach his neck and she does so, breathing into it in a way that is incredibly erotic and his hands clench at her arms even as he struggles desperately against the urge to crush her to him and kiss her senseless.
This behaviour, at least, is not likely to attract Templars. It's the best possible cover, really, given how repressed most of them are. But it's dangerous. So, so dangerous for him to be this close to her, breathing in her scent, feeling the heat of her breath and the press of her body against his too thin coat. She is kissing him now, her arms have wound around his neck and her lips are busy. He can feel the tip of her nose scraping over the skin just behind his ear and it is the best kind of torture.
"Saoirse, please stop," he gasps out.
"Have to keep up the cover," she whispers.
"You'll regret this."
"Is that a threat?"
He gently pushes her head back away from him and she lets it fall against the wall, smirking at him, but in her eyes is a combination of hurt and lust and compassion that makes his gut twist.
"Is he so against it?" she asks softly.
"It's not him," he says, reaching up and tucking a lock of hair behind her ear without thinking and it's such an affectionate gesture that he wants to snatch his hand back because he can see the light in her eyes as he does it and he would do anything to see that light again, and again, and every day until the day he dies and he can't.
If he could show her, now, what he did, if she could see the corpses, watch as he tore them to pieces with his hands and teeth, then she would run. The closer he gets to her, the more likely she will see it. He needs to leave, get out of Kirkwall, go somewhere where he can be….
No. I have a duty. He clenches his eyes shut.
"I can take care of myself, Anders," she is saying. "I'm not helpless. I know what it means to have power and not be able to use it."
"You don't know what I've done," he whispers, and feels a hand on his shoulder. Varric.
"They're gone, Blondie," the dwarf says, and Anders steps back from her, equal parts relief and longing washing through him. She is pouting. It doesn't help.
"I have to get back to the clinic," he says. Varric raises an eyebrow at him. "Have another drink for me. Make sure she doesn't set the place on fire."
He can feel her eyes on him all the way to the exit. Outside, he has to lean his head against the wall in the cool air for a good minute before he can gather the will to walk back to darktown.