I Want to Help
When Mahariel awoke, Anders lay still beside her, his chest rising slowly and falling with the rhythm of his breath. The fine lines that age and worry had begot were smoothed from his face, and he looked more like the boisterous man she met at Vigil's gate nearly a decade ago. His hair was askew, barely clinging still to the bit of rough twine that held it out of his face. He hadn't even taken off his boots.
She sat up, smoothing her shift and stretching, running her fingers through her knotted hair, but not before gently sliding a great length carefully out from underneath the sleeping mage. He didn't stir.
Mahariel rose, bare feet quiet on the floor as she picked up his coat and dusted it off, folding it in half. She meant to lay it over a chair, but she brought the garment to her face instead, breathing in deeply the scent of Anders' skin. He seemed so much older now, and he was quiet. How much of his life had she missed? Too much? Did it matter? He felt the same way she did, even after years. She held the coat to her chest.
"You don't have to miss me yet," his soft voice carried across the room, a silky tenor.
Clutching the coat like a child caught trying on their parent's clothing, she smiled shyly and turned to him. He lay propped up on one elbow, clever brown eyes watching her as she laid the coat down on the table, candles now burned down, the only light from small windows carved just below the room's ceiling.
"Who said I ever have to miss you again?" she offered, walking back to the bed. He sat up and reached out for her hips. She bent over and allowed him to kiss her before she sat down beside him.
"Don't be simple, Mahariel, you won't stay in Kirkwall for the rest of your life." He was blunt, but it was true.
She countered, "And you will?"
"The mages here need me."
"Will they always?"
He frowned, reaching out for her hand. She let him have it and he held it in his lap. "Lyna. You know as well as I do that -"
"That this problem won't be resolved in our lifetimes, Anders. I am not unsympathetic to the plight, you know that. But perhaps," she paused, letting herself get lost for a moment in the contrast of his features, his sharp nose, soft lips, "I am willing to make time for you."
He cupped her cheek and sighed. "I cannot say no to you."
"You did once before."
He shook his head. "I said no to the Wardens. Don't misunderstand my actions."
Mahariel turned her face away, letting his hand fall from her face. She hadn't misunderstood. She'd come to terms with it, to be certain, but Anders' sudden departure had worn at her for a long time. The Warden-Commander had hoped every night for a long time that the mage would be found pacing outside the Keep, ready with a, "I just wanted to see how long it would take you to let me in," but he never did come back.
"Listen. Let's not do this now," he asked gently, and she turned back to him. If he couldn't say no to her, she was even more hopelessly pliant to his wishes, and the lines that he'd developed around his eyes, around his mouth, made his once boyish face serious, his words more weighty. She listened to them and she agreed. They would have plenty of time to talk. She didn't have to force it now.
"I'd like to see your clinic," she requested. "I want to help."