Anders was poking desultorily at his bowl of stew when Aveline joined them at the Hanged Man later that afternoon. He didn't really feel hungry, but when Fenris had dragged him there earlier, Varric had taken one look at him and then slid his lunch over in front of the apostate and ordered him to eat, and he hated to waste Varric's generosity. The pointed look Fenris gave him over the rim of his wine glass made him sigh, but he dutifully ladled up a spoonful of stew and began to eat without much enthusiasm.
“Varric, Fenris – Anders,” Aveline greeted them as she stripped her gauntlets off. “I was hoping to find Hawke here; he and Bethany weren't at his uncle's house.”
“I'm sure he'll show up soon, Red; we've our postponed game of Wicked Grace to look forward to later after all, and he never misses that.” Varric sat back in his chair and gestured to her to take a seat. “Join us, if you're not on duty?”
Aveline slapped the palm of her hand absently with her glove. “Well... technically my shift finished half an hour ago....” she said slowly.
“Excellent! What'll you have – wine or beer?” said Varric as he rose to his feet, ever the genial host.
Aveline pondered. There was still paperwork waiting for her back at the office, but that would mean a long walk back to Hightown to the office then traipsing all the way back again for the game afterwards. She took a seat opposite Anders. “Beer, please,” she decided.
Varric bowed towards her and headed off to order more drinks as Aveline glanced across the table at Anders, who was still slowly making his way through the bowl of stew, his own glass of wine still untouched.
“Anders, you're looking....” Her voice trailed off as he paused and glanced at her, the eyebrow over his good eye quirking upwards as though daring her to say he looked well. His face was gaunt, dark shadows beneath his eyes.
“... better than last time I saw you,” she finished a little lamely. He shrugged, then glanced sidelong at Fenris before returning his attention to the stew.
Aveline followed his glance to Fenris and frowned slightly. “Has something happened?” she asked as Varric returned and slid a tankard of beer in front of her; she absently nodded thanks.
“Seems Blondie is still a mage after all – in a manner of speaking,” said Varric.
“In a manner of speaking?” she echoed, glancing again at Anders.
The mage kept his gaze on the bowl of stew. “It appears there's something blocking my magic,” he said slowly.
“Is there a way to unblock it?” asked Aveline. Anders lifted his head and turned to stare pointedly at Fenris. Aveline glanced at the elf with a small frown.
“Fenris?” she guessed. “What does Fenris have to do with this?”
Fenris cleared his throat and looked discomfited. “It appears that if I light my brands whilst in contact with Anders, he can use his magic.”
“Beautiful, isn't it, Red? Blondie's a mage – but only when he holds Broody's hand!”
“Varric, if you turn this into one of your stories, I swear I will -” began Fenris heatedly as his face darkened; Varric leaned back and lifted his hands peaceably.
“Wouldn't dream of it, Broody! I wouldn't tell Isabela just yet though if I were you.”
Fenris grunted and tapped a gauntleted finger restlessly upon the wooden surface of the table as he glanced back at Anders.
“So lyrium unlocks Anders' magic?” guessed Aveline before taking a pull on her beer. She set the tankard down again. “Have you tried drinking lyrium?”
Anders straightened up and slapped a hand down triumphantly as he turned and stared at Fenris with an expression of vindication. Varric groaned and hid his face with one hand.
“No. Absolutely not,” replied Fenris without looking at Anders, his attention instead upon his wine. Anders threw his hand up with a noise of frustration and stared at the ceiling.
“They've been arguing this for the past hour, Red,” explained Varric as he reached for his own tankard. “Blondie wants to try it. Broody says no.”
“Wait – since when did Anders ever do what Fenris said?” blinked Aveline.
Anders suddenly developed an interest in his bowl of stew again as Fenris studiously ignored everyone in favour of the bottom of his wine glass, the tips of his ears blushing red.
“Did I miss something?” asked Aveline as Varric grinned. He directed a pointed glance at Fenris then Anders, then wiggled his eyebrows. “No!” exclaimed Aveline, torn somewhere between scandalised and fascinated. “I don't believe it!” She laughed.
“Thank you so much, Aveline; I do so enjoy people laughing at my love-life,” muttered Anders as he poked his stew. “It's rare enough that I even have one, after all.”
“It is not -” began Fenris, then broke off when Anders merely looked at him from behind his hair. “Very well, it is a – a – yes, we are, but -”
Aveline laughed as the normally-taciturn elf uncharacteristically began stammering as he blushed further.
“It is no laughing matter!” shouted Fenris as he leapt to his feet, spilling his glass of wine.
“What's no laughing matter?” asked Hawke as he paused in the doorway. “What's all this shouting? I swear half the bar downstairs can hear you, Fenris.”
Fenris glowered at him then abruptly whirled to leave. Without looking up, Anders reached out and laid a hand on Fenris' wrist lightly.
“Fen. Please,” he said quietly.
The white-haired elf stared down at the pale hand resting upon his wrist. He said nothing, but covered Anders' hand with his own then turned and sat down again, slipping one arm around Anders' waist.
Hawke stared at them both for a minute as Bethany peered over his shoulder then punched her brother lightly in the arm. “Not a word, Garrett,” she warned him.
“I didn't -” he began to protest as she squeezed past him; she shot him a warning glare and he sighed. “Fine.”
Bethany slipped into the seat on the other side of Anders and gave his shoulder a pat. His lips quirked in a small smile as Fenris' hand around his waist gave a slight squeeze; he sighed, and leaned in against Fenris' side. He pushed the bowl of stew away with an apologetic glance at Varric before reaching for the glass of wine.
Hawke shrugged and dropped into the seat next to Aveline. “I understand you've been looking for me Aveline?” he asked, changing the subject.
“Yes, it's about those lyrium smugglers,” replied Aveline. “We've been stepping up patrols in Darktown but without much success. I need your help again, Hawke.”
“Business as usual then?” shrugged Hawke.
“Afraid so. I need to come with you on this one; I've lost four good men to those butchers in the past three days,” she replied.
“Ah. Now it's personal?” guessed Hawke.
“Something like that,” she agreed. “Will you help me?”
Hawke glanced across the table. “Varric, Fenris, Anders – you in again?”
“Sure thing, Hawke,” agreed Varric with a nod. Fenris grunted assent; Anders looked first startled then pleased to be included.
“Of course, Hawke,” he replied.
“Good, that's settled,” said Aveline. “We'll go down tomorrow night. I'll meet you outside Anders' clinic just before sundown.”
Talk turned to other things; as the sun went down, the cards came out, and they played cards until late in the night, all talk of lyrium forgotten for the moment.
Their patrol ran into trouble right from the outset. The smugglers seemed to have been expecting them; they ran right into an ambush almost immediately. Their only warning was the snap of a bowstring then Aveline cried out as a crossbow bolt buried itself in her shoulder, punching through her guard armour.
Varric returned fire as Fenris lit up and leapt into battle, a vivid streak of silver-white light wielding a deadly blade as Anders hurled one of his ice blast capsules at the nearest smugglers before turning to bring his staff up, parrying a sword blow that would have taken his head off. Hawke buried a dagger in the smuggler's back and the man dropped; Anders nodded thanks briefly as he turned to deal with Aveline's wound whilst Bethany threw up a shield around them both, the two rogues and the elven warrior taking care of the remaining smugglers swiftly. Aveline had dropped to her knees, clutching the bolt with one hand.
“Hold on, don't move,” Anders shouted above the sounds of the smugglers dying. “Bethany, lyrium.”
Bethany pulled a vial from her pouch and handed it to him reflexively then did a double-take, staring at him wide-eyed even as Fenris cut down the last slaver and cried, “No!”
“No?” echoed Hawke, panting, as he wiped sweat from his brow and glanced back. He stared at Anders with the vial of lyrium in his hand, then at Fenris. “What's going on?”
“Blondie's still a mage, Hawke, but his magic's blocked,” said Varric as he slung Bianca over his shoulder and walked over to Anders and Aveline. “He figured maybe drinking lyrium might unlock it.”
“And I say no,” Fenris growled from behind gritted teeth. “I will not allow it!”
“What? Fenris, what the hell's gotten into you – if drinking lyrium means he can heal Aveline...!”
“I say he shall not! I won't let him risk poisoning himself on a mere chance!” snarled the elf, placing himself between Hawke and the others. As Hawke pushed forward, Fenris swung his fist. There was an audible crack as Hawke's head snapped back, and then Fenris and Hawke glared at each other. Blood was slowly seeping through the cut in Hawke's lip; the rogue wiped it away slowly, his eyes never leaving those of the elf.
“And I say he can damned well make his own choices, and if Anders thinks lyrium will help then who the hell are you to stop him?” he growled. “Damn it, Fenris, Aveline's hurt! We need Anders' magic!”
“Now, now, let's all calm down here,” said Varric in a placating tone. The dwarf wasn't quite foolish enough to step between the two men, but he glanced between them as he lifted his hands and gestured for them to back down. “Broody, we've only got Blondie's best interests here, same as you. We already know he's still a mage, so what's the worst that could happen? Lyrium's not going to poison him. At worst it'll do nothing. Where's the harm in trying?”
Fenris switched his glare to the dwarf, but Varric didn't back down under the implicit threat in the elf's eyes. After a moment, Fenris threw up his hands and turned away with a curse.
Hawke turned back to Anders, who knelt stiffly beside Aveline as if frozen, his eyes on Fenris; he still held the unopened vial of lyrium in one hand. Fenris pushed past the rogue to drop to his knees before Anders.
“Please, mi amatus,” he said quietly. “Do not do this. Use my powers instead. Draw upon my lyrium. Don't risk yourself.” He held a hand out towards Anders.
Anders shook his head. “I can't – not knowing how it hurts you,” he replied softly. “Please. Let me try this.”
“Must you do this?” pleaded Fenris. Anders nodded. Fenris stared into Anders' good eye; after a long, tense silence, he slowly nodded. “Do what you must,” he said gently.
Anders breathed a silent sigh of relief. “It may do nothing at all,” he shrugged as he uncorked the vial. After a moment's hesitation, he knocked back the contents and swallowed.
At first, he felt nothing. The lyrium was a tingling sweetness upon his tongue and lips; a coolness in his throat, sinking down into his stomach.
Then it was as though light blossomed inside; first a tingle, then a rush of energy that raced through his blood - a warmth that rose up his throat and spread down his arms to his hands. A glow spreading inside that filled him. It was as though he had seen the world only in shades of grey before but now saw colour; everything vivid, bright, filled with life. He felt alive again, the power flowing through him; he heard the whisper of spirits around them and he couldn't restrain the relieved grin that spread across his face.
As he glanced at Bethany, he could tell from her delighted answering grin that he didn't have to say a word; she knew.
“I hate to disturb you, Anders, but – my shoulder...?” prompted Aveline, her face drawn with pain.
“Hawke, I need someone to draw the bolt out whilst I heal,” said Anders as cool blue healing energies pooled in his upturned palms, the power answering his will readily. Hawke nodded and took a firm hold of the shaft of the bolt as Varric braced Aveline; Anders began channelling healing magic into Aveline as the bolt was withdrawn from her shoulder, the healer skilfully blocking off the pain as he worked to draw torn muscle and flesh back together along the path of the bolt, rebuilding the joint and regrowing skin until not even a scar was left to mar the lightly-freckled skin.
Aveline gave a sigh of relief as she rotated her shoulder to check her range of movement. “Good as ever; thank you, Anders,” she smiled. Hawke helped her to her feet as Fenris helped Anders up.
“How do you feel?” asked Fenris, studying Anders' face carefully. “No dizziness? Nausea? Anything?”
“I'm alright – a little tired, but then that's normal after healing,” replied Anders. “I feel fine. No, better than fine – I feel great!” He grinned.
“It worked!” exclaimed Bethany. “Oh Anders, I'm so happy for you!” She giggled and hugged him on impulse; laughing, Anders lifted her up and swung her around in a circle as she let out a surprised squeal. He set her down then grinned at Fenris as he released her.
“Oh, don't look so jealous, love,” he grinned; and then without thinking, he reached out to Fenris, his fingers sliding into the soft white hair as he bent to claim the elf's lips in a kiss. Fenris began to return it but they both froze then sprang apart when the others began to whoop and cheer.
“Don't mind us, Blondie!” laughed Varric. Anders stared around at them, blushing, as Fenris glowered.
“Oh, you sillies – we're glad for you!” smiled Bethany.
“Oh, that's alright then,” grinned Anders as he bent to kiss Fenris once more.
The elf's grumpy “Hrmph!” was swallowed up by their kiss.