Far Too Powerful and Far Too Strange
The Warden-Commander forced open the clinic door, and was nearly met with Anders' staff, before the mage realized who it was that had barged in so suddenly.
"Tell me who you are," she demanded.
"What in the -"
He dropped his staff and put up his hands, humoring her outburst, "Lyna, I'm..." but he stopped, realizing the implications of her question. He'd never given anyone his real name, not since the Circle had taken him. That wasn't who he was anymore, anyway, was it? He'd just been Anders so long, it was who he'd become. "Anders."
"And what, for Andraste's sake?" he took a step toward her, but she stopped him, putting out her hand firmly.
Her face was fixed, her eyes were cold, her stance almost threatening in her plain grey dress. Her hair hung in her eyes like a funeral veil. "Tell me who you are, Anders." She came within inches of him and waited for his answers.
Anders pursed his lips, almost suspicious of the sudden inquisition, but the words came from his mouth anyway. "I'm... a mage, an apostate," he spat out the word in distaste, "and one of the few who would stand up for himself against the tyranny that threatens to consume this city. And I'm a man who wants nothing more than peace and quiet, piece of mind, and his own freedom." He uttered the words with conviction despite the strangeness of Mahariel's outburst.
"Is that all?"
"Well, I still stand by my previous statement."
"Your..." she furrowed her eyebrows.
"That I want a pretty girl, a decent meal, and the right -"
"To shoot lightning at fools."
He smiled. "Of all the things I've ever said to you, that's the one you remember?"
"Well, that, and one other thing," she confessed, narrowing the inches between them to centimeters.
She slung one arm around his neck and whispered to him, "I love you."
They kissed slowly, tenderly, each relaxing against the other after Mahariel's unusual confrontation, each sensing a little piece of who the other was in themselves.
"What was all this about?" he asked quietly when their lips parted.
"Last night, when I told you everything was alright?"
He nodded, his nose brushing hers.
"I needed to make sure it was."
"Well, what's the verdict, Warden Commander?"
She grinned. "All is as I thought."
Anders formed a lop-sided smile and slowly pulled away from her, realizing only then that everyone in the - blessedly almost empty - clinic had their gazes firmly fixed on elf and mage.
Shaking his head, Anders remarked, "We're quite good at making scenes lately."
"Lately? Give me one example of when we were bad at getting people to stare."
"You always did know how to put things in perspective, Lyna." He led her out of the clinic and into the next best thing to open air: the tall openings in the walls of Darktown that sometimes let in rain and snow, but today only let in wan evening light and a salty breeze. "I just want to be clear about this." The pale orange light reflected in his brown eyes and lit them up like garnets. He put his hands on her face and knelt gently to look Mahariel straight in the eyes, admiring her as he hadn't since before he'd left Amaranthine. Her vallaslin had faded, but the flowing marks still highlighted her features. Anders was well aware of how his own face had changed, and compared to him, she had hardly aged a day. Maybe it was Justice, or maybe he was just getting old. He ran his thumb along her pale cheek. "Are you... with me?"
"Is that what you want, Anders?" It wasn't cloying or demeaning, it wasn't even demanding. It was honest.
"Maker, yes," he sighed. "But our lives have grown so different. You don't know how long you'll be in Kirkwall, and I don't know if I can ask you to follow me into danger, should the atmosphere become dangerous. Well, more dangerous," he confessed.
"Anders, when have you ever known me to flee from danger? Or to do anything except run headlong into it? And no, I don't know how long I'll stay in Kirkwall. It could be weeks. It could be forever." She looked out of of the massive gap in the mine's wall, then back to the mage. "And you are always welcome in Amaranthine, should you need to leave Kirkwall." He opened his mouth to object, but she cut him off. "I'm not asking you to leave. But you have safe haven at the Keep. So I say as long as we are together, I am yours if you will have me. Who knows where life will take us?"
"How can you do that?" he stood tall again, crossing his arms.
"How can you be so laissez-faire about such massive things?"
She tilted her head, expression somewhere between a precocious smile and pain. "Because life is far too powerful and far too strange to fight. I'm not saying I believe in fate, but there's no reason to destroy ourselves over ifs and maybes." She looked down. "It took me a long time to learn that."
Anders hesitated over the question that brewed in his mind, but he had to ask. "Do you still love him?"
She chuckled softly. "Of course I do. But he is dead, and I love you no less. Should we deny ourselves what we both want - have wanted - out of fear? Or grief?"
"You're sure about this? I'm a wanted man."
"You wouldn't be the first." Mahariel touched her arm lightly to his. "Anders, I know who you are, I know what you stand for, I know what you've done. And I'm telling you I'm yours. Don't make me change my mind."
He put his arm around her shoulders. "You are too good."
"I am exactly as good as I need to be." Mahariel's expression grew mischievous. "And sometimes, I can be very, very bad."
"Maker, yes," he repeated, running his tongue over his lips.