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Accursed Ones

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9:31 Dragon 14 Parvulis Late Afternoon

Vigil's Keep, in the Warden-Commander's Quarters

"You want me to what?" Amell asked.

"Teach me. Blood magic." Anders said again.

"Are you sure?" Amell asked, shifting his grip on the back of his neck to hold his jaw instead. Amell ran his thumb over Anders' cheek; the affection still made Anders a little nervous. "I will, but every time you've used it so far, you didn't have a choice, and you always go to the chapel afterwards..."

"Well, I have a choice now, don't I?" Anders asked. "Look, I've got fourteen-... fifteen years of Circle lies to get over. Until you told me I didn't even know 'nice abomination' was a thing. I've never even heard of the Litany of Adria-"

"Adralla." Amell corrected him.

"Right. Anyway," Anders should do something with his hands, beside keep them on Amell's chest. He held Amell's waist instead, "My point is I watch you do all this crazy, creepy shit and come out fine. I thought it was because you were lucky at first, but now I think it's because you know what you're doing. And I'm tired of being afraid of everything. Nothing scares you, and that's ... pretty unhealthy, honestly, but I think it's because you know you can get out of anything. I'd give anything to be that confident... why are you looking at me like that?"

Amell was grinning the rueful sort of a grin a person wore when they couldn't believe what they were hearing. Anders wasn't sure he'd said anything quite ridiculous enough to warrant such a look.

"This isn't how I pictured this," Amell said.

"Pictured what?" Anders asked.

"You, thinking I'm the confident one." Amell explained.

"Well, why wouldn't I?" Anders asked, "I mean, I know I'm a looker, and I'm hilarious, and all that, but there's a difference between knowing you're awesome and standing up to templars."

"You stand up to templars all the time." Amell said.

"Since when?" Anders laughed. "Did you miss the panic attack I had back there? Here, stop hugging me, let's go sit on the couch or something,"

Amell let go of him, and Anders dragged him over to his couch. Amell sat so close to him their thighs touched, but Anders felt better sitting casually than he did standing and swaying like lovebirds.

"You've been standing up to templars since you first ran from the Circle when you were fifteen." Amell continued, hand on Anders' thigh, "Fifteen. I can't imagine being that brave. When I was fifteen, I was terrified the templars would decide my interest in necromancy meant I was at risk for becoming a maleficar. I spent every night studying to make sure I got the highest marks in my classes just so I'd be too valuable to be made Tranquil."

"I don't think there wasn't anything brave about that," Anders said, "More like stupid. It's a miracle I wasn't made Tranquil, escaping before my Harrowing."

"And then you did it again. And again. And again." Amell said. "It was all anyone talked about. Anders' latest escape attempt, how long he'd be gone this time, how long until he escaped again. I had such a hopeless crush on you, and you're sitting here telling me I'm the brave one."

"Wait. Wait, wait, wait." Anders said. "Back up. You had a crush on me?"

"Um... no?" Amell said.

"How is this the first time I'm hearing about this?" Anders asked.

"I didn't want to creep you out." Amell shrugged.

"But that's what you do. I mean, you're Creepy, right?" Anders grinned. His ego was never going to recover from this. "I can't believe Irving's Star Pupil had a crush on the Repeat Apostate. That is seriously star-crossed. You should have said something! Back at the Circle. I couldn't even remember your name we met."

"I did, actually." Amell said, with a small smile. "I was... I think sixteen? Which would have made you twenty-one? I was chubby and covered in acne, and you were ... something else. I was in the main hall when the templars brought you in from your latest escape attempt. Your jaw was black and purple, your lip was cut, and the templars had you in shackles. They were dragging you, but you had this smirk on your face... Like you knew you were just going to try again, and there was nothing anyone could do to stop you.

"I couldn't decide if I wanted to be you or if I wanted to fuck you. I went and found you in the dining hall, a few days later, and tried to start a conversation. I got maybe a handful of words in when Surana sashayed over, her robe down to here." Amell pinched his doublet between his breasts, "She leaned over you and asked you for 'another healing lesson.' You said 'Nice talking to you, Apple,' and left me there with your tray."

"I did not." Anders said.

"You did." Amell said. "It was traumatizing."

"That's...hilarious," Anders laughed, "No, I'm sorry, that's terrible. I'm an ass. In my defense, I do remember Surana, and she was... really hot. I think she's the only elf I've ever met who didn't end up hating me. I was seriously depressed when she fell for that templar."

"Yes, very sad." Amell said flatly.

"Oh, come on, Apple, don't pout." Anders teased.

"That's not funny." Amell said.

"It's pretty funny." Anders said.

"It wasn't at the time." Amell said. "Jowan saw the whole thing, and thought it was hilarious. He called me 'Apple' for an entire year."

"Well, I won't steal someone else's joke, then." Anders said. "Comedians' Code."

"Technically, he stole it from you." Amell said.

"Are you asking me to call you Apple?" Anders asked.

"No." Amell said.

"Okay, Apple." Anders said.

"Stop." Amell said.

"Never." Anders grinned. "What am I supposed to do if I can't fuck with you?"

"I have an idea," Amell shifted so he was facing him, and ran his hand up Anders' thigh to slip his fingers into his belt, fingertips brushing his hip. "Anders... I don't know how you feel, and I don't expect you to tell me, but I've missed you."

"It's only been a week," Anders tried for a smirk. It had been more than a week, but teasing was easier than admitting he felt the same.

"It was a long week," Amell said; his voice was low, his eyes somewhere between warm and hungry. "I understand if you're not ready to trust me again yet, but-"

Anders slid an arm around Amell's thighs and tugged him into his lap. Amell went willingly, swinging his leg around to straddle him. Maker, Anders had missed that familiar weight. "We're good," Anders promised, massaging Amell's hips with his thumbs and asking himself why his hands worked up instead of down.

"Are you sure?" Amell traced along his brow and down the side of his face, as if he'd somehow forgotten the shape of it. Anders tried not to shiver. "I know what that spell felt like for you. If you need more time to decide how you feel, don't let me rush you."

"I said we're good." Anders walked his hands up Amell's sides, feeling Amell's breath quicken against his palms the longer they spent with their eyes locked. "I know you wouldn't use it for that," and somewhere, deep down, Anders knew Amell would never need to.

Amell ran blunt nails across Anders' brow and brushed a few loose strands of gold back from his eyes, "Can I kiss you?"

"You can do a lot more than that," Anders said, wetting his lips with a few eager flicks of his tongue. Amell tilted Anders' head back with a firm hand on his jaw, and Anders left his eyes open for far too long. Long enough that Amell's eyes flicked back to his when their noses brushed, and Amell pulled back to stare into them.

Whatever was in that stare terrified him. Anders couldn't do it. He grabbed Amell's face in his hands to hold him steady and kissed him hard. His were lips insistent, his teeth demanding, and thought died at the first shared groan that spilled between them. That was how Anders wanted it. Urgent, intense, physical. No feeling. No lingering looks.

Amell surrendered to it. Anders felt it in the rock of his hips, in the hitch in his breath, and the desperate moan that spilled into Anders' mouth. Anders swallowed it, and rocked his hips up to meet him when Amell ground against his lap. Anders stole a hand inside his trousers, squeezing his ass and pulling the two of them closer together. Amell's belt cut into his wrist, but it was worth it to feel the warmth of his skin and the way he tensed beneath his palm.

Amell broke from his lips and leaned back to pull apart Anders' doublet, fingers fumbling over one too many buttons. A hard yank ripped it open and sent them all scattering. The cold air hit Anders' bare chest and his nipples stiffened easily under Amell's exacting touch. "Fuck," Anders swallowed to battle back the eager shake in his voice.

"Buy you a new one," Amell promised, killing the words on Anders' lips in another kiss heavy with hunger. Anders' thrust up into him, and what little friction he could find in the fabric between them. It wasn't enough. It wasn't even close. Static sparked between Anders' fingers, and he swore he hadn't meant to call on the spell, but Amell begged for it, "Yes, fuck, please, Anders."

Anders made it into a current between his hands, and hesitated closing it, "Ready?"

"Yes," Amell rocked back against Anders' hand and forward on his cock. Anders closed his free hand around Amell's thigh, and closed the current. Amell threw his head back and a scream tore from his throat; his back arched, body trembling, and the sight made Anders' cock throb so hard it ached.

Anders cut off the spell, and Amell pitched forward against his chest. Anders freed his hand from Amell's trousers to run it through the his hair and the sudden sheen of sweat on his forehead. "Oh fuck," Amell gasped, "Fuck. Do that again."

"Can you take it again?" Anders asked. Amell shook his head, grinning, and a few damp strands of hair stuck to his forehead. Every breathless pant that spilled from his lips made Anders' hips jerk. Amell moved with him, the grind and rock of their hips a tease of pressure and friction.

Anders had no idea how he managed to keep his hands steady when they undid Amell's belt. The hiss of leather sliding free of cloth tangled together Amell's sharp inhale, and Anders lost the belt over his shoulder. Amell's lips sought his, hot and wet and still tingling with the aftershock of Anders' spell.

"Fuck me," Amell begged. Anders pulled Amell's lip between his teeth, and let a breath of static play between them. It hummed in Anders' teeth, and won a shaky gasp from Amell.

"Ask me nice," Anders said.

Amell leaned back from him and undid Anders' buckle without breaking eye-contact with him. Anders swallowed past a lump in his throat, and ignored the shiver he could feel tingling along his skin, begging for release. Amell tossed his belt aside and climbed off Anders' lap and onto his knees. Anders unlaced his trousers and half stood to push them and his smalls down his legs.

The air was cold, but Amell's mouth was warm and Anders was aching for it. His cock was stiff and leaking down his shaft, throbbing so hard it twitched. Amell kissed the inside of his thigh, strong hands kneading up and down his legs. Amell took hold of Anders' cock and set it to his lips, a slow sweep of his tongue mapping the head of Anders' cock.

Amell moaned around the lick, the heat of his breath mingling with the slick caress of his tongue. Anders fought to keep his hips from bucking, reduced to nothing more than the pulse in his cock, the tightness in his chest, the tension in the pit of his stomach. Amell's lips closed around his shaft with another eager moan, as if he'd never tasted anything better than the sweat and pearly fluid on Anders' skin.

Amell's mouth was hot and wet and every enthusiastic swipe of his tongue sent a shiver of pleasure through Anders. Anders ran his hands through his hair, raven locks slipping like silk through his fingers, and Anders gathered fistfuls of them while Amell worked his cock. His lips were stretched thin around his cock, and every pass was slicker than the last.

Amell sank low on his cock, his tongue smooth and flat and a perfect bed for Anders to fuck his mouth. The slow, deep swallow left Anders gasping, writhing with pleasure at the warm embrace and wet friction. "Fuck," Anders moaned, "Fuck Amell. Use that spell again, fuck the-... with your tongue."

Anders held his breath when he felt the pull of the Fade, and the first low pulse of heat along his cock sent pleasure cascading through him. "Maker yes," Anders gasped. He felt the second pulse in the pit of his stomach, the third in his feet, and then he was trembling, writhing, barely keeping himself from sliding off the couch with the sweat that built beneath him. "Stop-stop-"

Amell stopped, Anders' cock slipping from his mouth and falling heavy between his legs. Spit and drool were painted across his chin and down his neck, and Anders sucked in a sharp breath at the sight. Amell stripped out of his clothes and climbed back into Anders' lap, damp lips against his ear, "Did I ask nice enough?"

Anders inhaled a rickety breath of mana, and let it out in a pulse of creationism that coated his fingers with oil. Anders worked one finger into Amell's tight heat, his breathy moans deliciously loud against Anders' ear. Anders bit Amell's neck, sucking and worrying at the soft skin with his tongue. Amell pulled Anders' hair free of its tie and buried his fingers in it, gasping and jerking his hips back to fuck himself on Anders' hand.

Anders added a second finger, thrusting into him until he was slick and stretched around him. Adding a third made Amell whimper, shameless pleas of 'Anders' 'More' 'Yes' and 'Fuck' spilling together with gasps and moans. Anders dragged his nails down Amell's shoulders, and Amell arched back into the friction. Anders licked the sweat off Amell's chest and pulled his fingers from him.

Amell whined at the loss, and Anders pressed the head of his cock to Amell's worked entrance, and eased into him with a deliberate slowness that left both of them shaking and desperate for more. "Fuck," Anders gasped, tight heat clenched around his cock, pleasure choking him in its intensity, "Amell-you're-fuck-"

Amell grabbed his face in his hands and kissed him, shaking so hard his lips slipped, and his kiss spilled down Anders' jaw. Amell sank down on his cock, and Anders fisted his hands in the couch to keeps his hips from jerking up into that tight heat. The rise and fall of Amell's hips set a rhythm that coiled heat in the pit of Anders' stomach, and left Anders' skin flushed and sweating.

Anders wrapped his arms around Amell, dragging the pads of his fingers down his back, sliding through sweat and over trembling muscle. Amell was so hot he felt feverish, and Anders kissed him eagerly, mouth slipping, teeth catching, trying to keep a hold on him despite how they pulled apart and crashed together in waves. "Fuck, Anders." Amell nearly sobbed, his voice hoarse, his hands tangled messily in Anders' hair.

The air between them crackled, and Anders couldn't tell whose magic it was, but he embraced it when it sent ripples of heat and static cascading over their skin. Amell bit down on his shoulder, muffling screams, and the sharp press of teeth didn't hurt nearly enough. The sensations were overwhelming, pleasure bordering on pain in its intensity, and Anders lost himself to it.

Ecstasy rushed through him, a surge and swell of mind-shattering bliss that left his thighs trembling and his hips jerking. Anders fell apart, broken gasps and blinding heat spilling out of him. He clung to Amell to survive it. His ears were ringing and his were feet numb when he fell down from his high, and Maker, he was too sensitive but Amell wasn't there yet, and every downward drive of his hips made Anders shudder.

Amell already had a hand around his cock, but Anders added his atop it, and Amell pawed at Anders' chest, up his neck, and grabbed his jaw. Amell's thumb slipped into Anders' mouth, and he pulled him forward for a sloppy kiss around it. It pushed Amell over, and Anders held him through his shaking release, and the screams he weathered it with.

Anders chest was sticky and dripping white, his ruined doublet hanging off his shoulders. His trousers were still tangled around his thighs, but he didn't care about any of it. He didn't need clothes, with Amell's warm weight in his lap, draped against his chest. Anders ran his fingers through Amell's damp hair, shivering at the kiss Amell landed on his jaw.

"Again?" Amell offered.

"You're insane," Anders tried for a laugh, but he was too exhausted to manage one.

"I know a spell," Amell explained.

"... seriously?" Anders asked. "Blood magic can really do that?"

"Mhm," Amell said.

"Teach me that," Anders laughed, "Later."

Anders didn't know how he managed a second time, even with the spell. They moved to the bed where the sex was slow and lazy, and there was absolutely no way Anders was capable of moving ever again. He lay atop Amell afterwards, his whole body aching in the best of all possible ways. Even the slightest brush of Amell's fingers made him shiver, and he pinned the man's arms above his head to keep him from running them down his back.

"Thanks," Anders managed.

"For what?" Amell suppressed a laugh, but Anders could feel it thrum in his chest lying on top of him.

"I don't know," Anders said. "That was nice. Thanks."

"You're welcome." Amell said. Anders could hear his heartbeat, with his head on his breast, and it was oddly comforting. Amell fought to free a hand, and trailed his fingers up Anders' wrist to hold onto his forearm. "I missed this."

Anders knew better, but Amell kissed his finger tips, he didn't have it in him to lie. He'd never been good at it anyway. "Yeah."

"Are you going to fall asleep on me?" Amell asked.

"I don't know." Anders said. "Maybe."

"I don't think the sun is even down yet." Amell said.

"Too bad. Not moving." Anders said.

"I need to use the wash," Amell said.

"Don't care," Anders said.

"Anders please," Amell whined.

"Fine." Anders groaned, rolling off him. Amell fled to the washroom. Anders climbed to the edge of the bed and found his ruined tunic on the floor. He kept a change of clothes in Amell's room, unless Amell had thrown them out during the week off. Anders doubted it. Anders dried himself off, and threw the ruined tunic back on the floor.

Amell came out of the washroom, and went straight to his armoire to put on a pair of smalls and trousers over them.

"What?" Anders asked. "Pants? Why pants? Do you really have something to do today?"

"I need to meet with Varel, and Woolsey, and send that letter to Jader." Amell said, getting dressed.

"Right now?" Anders whined.

"I should do it before dinner." Amell said. "But I'll be free after if you want to do anything."

"Like have more sex?" Anders asked.

"Like have more sex. Or we could do a quick lesson in blood magic. Or both." Amell said.

"Both works for me." Anders said.

"I like both, too," Amell grinned over his shoulder at him. He finished dressing and came back to the bed. Amell sat down on the edge of it, and reached out to caress Anders' ankle. "Anders, I know you don't like weighty, but... you understanding about the blood magic, forgiving me for using it on you, wanting to learn it... I've never been with a man willing to do that for me."

"What about a woman?" Anders joked.

It must not have been a funny joke. A shadow passed over Amell's face, and his hand froze on his ankle.

"Wait, have you actually been with a woman before?" Anders asked, sitting up. It was obviously a sore topic, but his curiosity got the better of him. Oghren and Amell had made it sound like Amell treated women like the plague, where sex was concerned.

"I... once. It-... I'm sorry. I can't-talk about this. I have to go see Varel." Amell said, standing quickly and all but bolting from the room.

That was weird. No, it wasn't weird, it was worrying. A reaction like that made Anders think he'd stumbled on some sort of horribly traumatic experience. ... rape, maybe? A templar? Anders felt queasy. No. No reason to jump to conclusions. It could have been anything. Anders pushed it from his mind and got out of bed.

Anders used Amell's wash for a piss and a bath, changed into his spare set of clothes, and dumped his old set in the laundry. He wandered back downstairs to the barracks, and tolerated a bit of jeering from Sigrun who rightly guessed where he'd been and what he'd been doing by the marks on his neck. Anders spent an hour playing dice with her, and then went to check on the infirmary. He did a quick count of the stores, and helped tidy up a bit after his two day absence, and then went to have dinner in the dining hall.

He ate with Nate and Oghren, and resisted the urge to comment on what he knew about Nate's strained relationship with Velanna. Afterwards, he stole a bit of milk from the kitchens for Ser Pounce-a-Lot, and then went to find Amell again. He had to pester three servants before someone pointed him to the war room, where he ran into the Seneschal leaving.

"Warden," The Seneschal said with a nod. "The Commander is still meeting with Mistress Woolsey, within. He shouldn't be much longer."

Anders looked him over again. He wasn't much like Irving, Anders supposed. He had warm brandy-colored eyes, and while his hair was grey, it wasn't shock with white. And he had the build of a warrior, instead of a doddering old fool. More importantly, he'd warned them about the templars.

"Good to know," Anders said. "Hey... so... can I talk to you, actually?"

"Of course," The Seneschal said, confusion wrinkling his brow. "What can I do for you, Warden?"

"Nothing, really, I was just wondering why you warned me. About the templars. When Ah-" Anders caught himself before he said 'Amell', "-the Commander, recruited me you didn't seem too happy about saving the bloodthirsty apostate who murders innocent templars."

"Ah." The Seneschal said, frowning. "True enough, and yet not quite. I still won't claim to know the truth surrounding the templars who brought you here, and I admit I made assumptions when we were introduced, but the moment the Commander recruited you, that no longer mattered.

"I have nothing but the utmost respect for the Order, and for the Commander. Whatever you were, whatever my feelings on your past crimes, you're a Warden, and you've served well. I hope to serve well in turn. I am for you, and the Wardens, and against any who are against you. Does that answer your question, Ser?"

Well damn. That was heavy. Anders really underestimated how far being a Warden could get him.

"Yep." Anders said.

"Take care then, Warden," The Seneschal said, nodding.

Anders thought of asking him his name, but that felt more than a little rude. He'd just ask Amell. Anders took up a spot in the hall, and had to wait a few minutes before Woolsey and Amell left the war room. Woolsey gave him a scolding frown for being so obvious, but Amell grinned, so really, who cared?

"Couldn't wait?" Amell asked.

"I got bored." Anders shrugged. "And it's past dinner. Did you eat?"

"Before the meeting," Amell said. "Ready for a lesson?"

"Is it a sexy lesson?" Anders asked.

"It could be." Amell grinned, leading him back up to his quarters.

Amell locked the door behind him, and changed out of his doublet into a casual beige tunic and brown trousers, and held out a similar banal outfit for Anders. "Here. You don't want to get blood on your nice clothes."

"Creepy." Anders whistled, accepting the change of clothes and changing into it. It fit well enough. Aside from the fact that Amell was taut, lean muscle where Anders was fluff, they were more or less the same size. "So what are we doing?"

"Something simple." Amell said, fetching a pair of towels from his washroom. He laid them out on the floor in the center of his room, fetched his dagger from his weapon stand, and took a seat. Anders sat next to him.

"I know you already know the basics, but it doesn't hurt to cover it again. To tap into your life force, or anyone's life force, you have to draw from the source, at their heart. With time, and practice, you'll be able to use less blood to cast than you do now. I know you already know how to augment your own spells with it, so I won't go over that. There are other abilities, drawing from a sacrifice, from multiple sacrifices, draining the residual life force from the dead and the dying, blood poison, corruption, influence, or outright control.

"Drawing from the Taint, instead of just the blood, you can even realign your connection to the Fade, or sacrifice blood for an enhanced physical state. Speed, dexterity, strength. And you can cast outside the realm of demons, and make it impossible for them to resist you. But that's all advanced, and we can't practice any of the more extreme spells unless we're in the field. What we can practice is persuasion, which I think is what you're most interested in anyway.

"So," Amell tapped the flat of the blade on his wrist, "Horizontal, always, unless you need an extreme amount, which you shouldn't unless you're binding something like an ogre, or a strong demon. Pick a spot you can cover, and try to use just that one spot, or you'll end up looking like me. For persuasion, you want to plant the seed of an idea. It has to be something your target would have done anyway. The more indecisive the target, the easier the spell.

"Mosley was determined to kill us, so the spell didn't take easily, and it manifested in a headache. The Revered Mother was uncertain about you, so she was easily swayed without any physical manifestations of blood magic. Suggestion is different form outright mind control. You don't want to completely dominate a person's will. Draw from your life force, think about what you want the target to do, and weave that idea into the spell. Then you cast.

"Here." Amell handed him the dagger. "You can try with me."

"Wait... really?" Anders asked. "Are you serious?"

"Why wouldn't I be?" Amell asked.

"Because... it's horrible?" Anders guessed.

"It's not mind control, Anders," Amell said. "At worst, you'll give me a headache."

"Are you sure I won't... you know, pop any blood vessels in your brain and accidentally kill you?" Anders asked.

"It doesn't work like that," Amell grinned, "If the spell doesn't take, it doesn't take. Remember how you said I knew what I was doing with blood magic? Trust me."

"If you say so," Anders said, staring at the dragonbone dagger. Anders bet Dumat was probably happy his bones were being used for blood magic, wherever in the Void the old god was. "So... what do should I make you do? Do a little dance? Get naked? Massage my feet?"

"Something I would be willing to do even without the influence of blood magic," Amell said. "So... any of those things work."

"Could you maybe give me something here?" Anders asked. "I really don't want to guess and do something horrible like accidentally mind control you or something."

"I'm considering kissing you to help you calm down, so why don't you try that?" Amell suggested.

"Alright." Anders said. A stolen kiss was fine, he supposed. Anders rolled up his sleeve, and set the dagger to his left arm, above the bend in his elbow. He made a shallow cut, and inhaled sharply at the sting, setting the bloody dagger on the edge of the towel. Resisting the urge to pull from the Fade for his spell, Anders reached for his heartbeat, and focused on the simple suggestion.

It wasn't hard to bring to mind the thought of Amell's lips against his: the soft press of skin against skin, the taste of cider with subtle undercurrents of salt, the heat of their breath mingling. When Anders was sure he had it, he cast the thought on Amell. Almost immediately, Amell leaned forward and kissed him.

Anders had been lost in thought, not quite looking at anything while he formed the spell, but his eyes snapped into focus at the kiss. A crimson haze hung about Amell's face, sliding into his ears, spilling out his nose, sealing shut his eyes. Anders snapped back from him in horror. The haze evaporated, and he lost the spell.

"Maker's breath, are you okay?" Anders sputtered, grabbing Amell's face in his hands. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. Come back. Please wake up."

"I'm fine," Amell said, a dreamy lilt to his voice. He reached out and traced Anders' lips with a dazed expression, proving he was anything but. Anders contemplated slapping him when Amell shook off the spell and his eyes cleared. He blinked at Anders, a look of confusion replacing his old expression. "That was perfect, Anders. Why do you look so upset?"

"You looked-your face-You looked like Rylock. Like a cloud of blood was suffocating you- Andraste's flaming knickers, I thought-" Anders gave up trying to explain and hugged him. The blood on his arm stuck to Amell's back, and suctioned off when Anders moved his hands for a better grip.

Amell stiffened, but returned the hug after a moment's pause. He shifted so he was sitting in Anders' lap, and not leaning awkwardly over his knees. Anders was too concerned to appreciate having him there. "It was your first time, Anders. Of course the spell was going to have a physical manifestation," Amell said kindly, petting his hair. His words weren't comforting.

"Rylock exploded!" Anders said, "Remember? You made her explode. They can investigate her disappearance all they want, because you turned her into a puddle! I'm sorry, okay? It scared me. Just shut up and let me hug you."

Amell shut up. Anders ran his hands over Amell's shoulders, his fingers sticking when they passed over the smear of blood Anders had left on Amell's back. Anders wiped his fingers off on his sleeve as best he could, and cast a quick restorative spell to heal the cut on his arm. Anders turned his face into Amell's hair and inhaled his scent, and felt a little better.

Anders wasn't counting, but he guessed it took around a minute for his heartbeat to slow and his initial panic to fade. Amell was trailing his fingers up and down his back, and leaning against him, almost cuddling. "Sorry," Anders mumbled sheepishly.

"It's fine," Amell kissed his cheek, and Anders felt his lips move against his skin when he spoke. "This is fine."

Anders didn't know if he agreed. For Anders, the tender moment was almost as terrifying as the one that came before it, but... well. It wasn't hurting him. It wasn't like he had any real reason to be afraid. Amell had already proved he'd stand up to templars for him. No one was going to come and tear them apart. No one was going to use this against him.

"So, hey, this is kind of awkward, but it just occurred to me I don't know your name." Anders said.

Amell exhaled hard through his nose; the hot air tickled the hairs on the back of Anders' neck and he shivered. "It's Amell," Amell said.

"I mean your first name." Anders said. "Everyone just calls you Amell, or Commander, or Boss."

"I don't know your last name," Amell countered.

"... you don't know my first name," Anders confessed. Amell sat back in his lap, and frowned at him. "Anders. Anderfels. You never caught on?"

"I... no. I guess not." Amell said, leaning back into the hug. Anders appreciated that. This conversation was easier without eye-contact. "So what's your name?"

"Anders," Anders said unhelpfully. "I was named after my father."

"And his name was Anders, from the Anderfels?" Amell teased.

"No," Anders said, story tumbling out of him. "... I'm from the Anderfels, originally. My parents were farmers, near Tallo. I told you the templars came for me when I was twelve. Well, my magic manifested when I was a lot younger. When I was ten, I lit our barn on fire."

"The whole barn?" Amell repeated. He sounded impressed. He wouldn't be when Anders finished his story.

"The whole thing," Anders agreed. "One of the beams caught fire, and carried the flames straight into the hayloft, and burned the whole thing down. See, most of the other children in the village could tell I was different. They avoided me, so my mother got me a cat. Remember, I told you I had a cat named Princess, when I was younger? She was a calico. Adorable little thing.

"Well," Anders continued, "The other kids in the village saw me playing with her one day, so they took her. I was a twig. Hadn't hit puberty yet. I couldn't stop them, so I just followed them yelling for them to let her go. They took her all the way out to the old bridge and threw her in the river, just because I was different. That damn cat never did anything wrong. Kids, right?

"Anyway, I jumped in after her while all the other kids were just standing up on that bridge, watching and laughing. But I was a great swimmer. Still am, hence the whole swimming to freedom thing five years later. Anyway, I got that cat and ran all the way home with her. Made it back to our barn, and realized she was freezing. We both were. I was a kid; I didn't understand what I was doing. I just knew we needed a fire; we needed to be warm.

"Should have named her Andraste," Anders said ruefully, "I burned that damn cat alive. I tried shaking my hands to make the fire stop pouring out of them, and spread it everywhere. I probably should have died in that barn too, but my father came and dragged me out before it collapsed. But when he realized I did it? From the look on his face, you knew he wished he hadn't pulled me out in the first place.

"My mother tried. Sweetest woman I ever met. I still dream about her sometimes. For two years she hid me, tried to keep me safe, but there were more incidents, more accidents. My father turned me over to the templars when I was twelve. My mother was there, sobbing, begging. The last words I heard my father say were that he never wanted to see me again. So they put me on a boat, and shipped me all the way to Ferelden.

"My common tongue was terrible. I had the worst accent. Took me years to get over it. The other kids all called me Anders, so... there you go. I'm Anders. My father's name... I don't want that name. I hope it dies with him. But that cat... I never meant for that cat to die. Sorry. Seeing you like that... reminded me of the last time I accidentally killed something."

Amell ran his fingers through his hair, and kissed his cheek again. His touch was a lot more soothing than any words of comfort could have been. "Alright," Anders said, giving Amell a gentle push. "Legs are going numb. Get off."

Amell exhaled bemusedly and climbed off him. Anders wiped his bloody dagger off on the towel, and handed it back to him. Amell set it aside. "So... your turn." Anders said.

"My turn?" Amell repeated, "You're going to think I'm copying you."

"Well, what mage doesn't have a sob story?" Anders said, "I want to hear it anyway, if you don't mind."

"I don't mind," Amell promised. Anders stretched out legs, and set his feet in Amell's lap. Without asking, Amell started massaging them. Anders could definitely get used to this.

"Alright," Amell said, "I was seven when I was sent to the Circle, so I didn't learn most of this until later, but I'm from Kirkwall, in the Free Marches. My family was nobility there. My great uncle was in line for the position of Viscount, which is like a teryn, I suppose, until my brother was born. He was a mage, and so was the brother after him. By the time I was born, the family was 'tainted with magic.'

"They were also in debt, and desperate for an heir. I was their last chance for that. One mage child was unlucky, two was disgraceful, but three? Three ruined any family. My mother put all of her hopes on me. She named me after my grandfather, I think to get back in his favor. I don't remember her much, except that her name was Revka, and every night when she put me to bed, she'd say, 'Sleep light, no Fade dreams tonight.' I don't remember my father at all.

"My grandfather I remember. He always used to say the Maker was punishing us. He had my brothers sent to far away Circles, so he wouldn't have to bear the shame of having them nearby. He always used to whip me when he caught me doing... queer things. Braiding my hair, playing with dolls, but when I asked him about my brothers, he hit me so hard it knocked me flat. I remember he said, 'You have no brothers. You have no magic. You're going to be normal. You're going to marry the de Launcet girl, and you're going to save this family.'

"I didn't care about the magic part. Why would I? I was seven. Magic was just something everyone hated. But seven was old enough for me to know I didn't like girls, and I wasn't going to marry one. I already had a 'boyfriend', I guess. Some other noble boy I held hands with whose name I can't remember, but I cared at the time, so I said 'No.' I yelled it, put force behind it, and cast a mind blast that knocked my grandfather flat.

"He walked out of the room without a word, and the next day the templars took me away. The last thing he said to me was, 'You ruined this family.' I know now it was already ruined, but for a long time I thought if I was good enough, if I did everything the templars said, one day I could go home. Then I got old enough to understand how wrong I was, and the sort of person my grandfather was. So I stopped going by his name, but I kept the family name. As a joke, I guess. The last scion of House Amell, the same mage that ruined them."

It was a familiar story, Anders thought. Yet another family torn apart by magic and prejudice. At least no cats had died in Amell's story. "Your brothers. Do you know what Circles they were sent to? What happened to them?"

"Tranquil." Amell said tonelessly. "Both."

"Flames," Anders reached over for Amell's hand and squeezed it. "I'm sorry,"

"I never met them," Amell said. "It's fine."

"It's not fine!" Anders said hotly, "It's not right that they do this to mages. Your brothers may as well be dead, and for what crime? It shouldn't be like this. We shouldn't have these stories. You should remember your father. I should love mine." Anders was preaching to the choir. He took a slow breath and forced himself to stop ranting.

"Do you still think the vote in Cumberland is a bad idea?" Amell asked.

"I don't know," Anders admitted. "Maybe not. Someone should do something. Not me, but someone."

"Some people are doing something." Amell said vaguely.

"Because that's not ominous or anything," Anders frowned at him. "Care to elaborate? Does this have anything to do with that Mage Collective thing you mentioned?"

"It might," Amell said. "Do you really want to know?"

"No." Anders admitted, "It's not for me, but if you're a part of whatever that is, you know, that's grand. Can I ask you something?"

"Anything," Amell promised, lifting one of Anders' legs from his lap to kiss the sole of his foot. It tickled, and took every ounce of Anders' willpower to keep from kicking him in the face.

"Did you really know? About yourself, when you were seven?" Anders asked.

"Is that so strange?" Amell asked.

"I suppose not," Anders said, resisting the urge to ask about that one woman Amell had apparently been with. "I just spent my whole life liking the ladies until I met you. I'm still not even sure I'm into men, honestly, but you're... well. You know. You're alright."

"Thank you, Anders, that means a lot to me." Amell said flatly.

"Don't pout," Anders laughed, "Come on, you're bad at it. It makes you look like a caveman. Come here. I like you. Let Anders kiss it better. What hurts? Mouth? Dick?"

"Mouth," Amell decided, grabbing for him when he came near. Amell fell back and pulled Anders atop him. It wasn't the sort of kiss Anders had intended. Anders had planned on something passionate, but Amell's kiss was lyrium sweet, and lasted so long Anders forgot he cared.