Broken Hallelujah

You Never Have to Ask

"How did you get this?" he breathed, the dusty air in the cramped back room swirling around them with every exhale.

"Lots of people owe me favors, Anders," Mahariel said, shame in her voice. "This is the first one I've ever cashed in."

He looked at her good and long, running the backs of his fingers over her check, then pressing his palm to the same skin before bringing both hands to the thin slip of parchment.

"This... You're sure about this?"

"You were sure, Anders. That's all I need." She cleared her throat. "I couldn't get the materials. I fear I may have already turned too many heads."

Anders shook his head. "No, no," he didn't take his eyes off of the paper. "I couldn't ask any more of you than this."

"You never have to ask." She swallowed and grabbed his hand. "You know this means... This means I have to go."

Biting his lip, Anders closed his eyes in recognition. "I know."

"I just... I have to ask. How much of this is you... and how much -"

He stopped her with two fingers to her lips. "This is all me, Lyna. You asked me who I was. This is who I am." He looked down at the dirt. "I've lied to a lot of people. In the past I even lied to you. But no more. No more lies, not to you, not ever."

"Alright, Anders." Her eyes were fixed on the parchment in his hands. "Memorise it," she instructed.

Anders ran his eyes over the paper one last time, certain it was already burned into his mind. He held up the slip for her to see, and it burst into flame, burning away to nothing. Mahariel nodded. His hands now free, he reached out and pulled her close. She pressed her hands against his chest and tugged his jacket against her face, breathing in deeply.

"I'll miss the way you smell," she mused.

Anders laughed quietly and pulled away from her only long enough to strip off his jacket, folding it and putting it into her lap. "Take it. It doesn't suit me anymore, anyway." Stroking her soft, dark hair, he asked, "When are you leaving?" There was fear in his voice, a fear he hadn't known before. It was a fear of loss, of becoming lonely after having felt safe for all too short a time.

"As soon as my things are packed. I arranged for my transport to wait for me at the dock once I knew when I'd be returning to Kirkwall."

Almost bashfully, he asked, "Do we... you... have time..."

She sighed. "I shouldn't."

But she could never say no to him.

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