prompt : promise
"Where, oh where, is my ickle apostate?" Líadan called out, hands poised on her hips as she glanced around the densely forested area around Vigil's Keep. It would be like him to run out and hide, wouldn't it? Or was she just not looking hard enough?
To her right, she heard the rustling of leaves, and her cheeks twitched into a tiny smile when she saw him half-stumble from between the bushes. "Please don't call me that," he laughed, smoothing his hand over his hair to make sure he hadn't gotten anything stuck in it. When his fingers grazed over a leave poking out of his ponytail, he plucked it out and shook it away. "It's embarrassing for everyone involved."
She snorted, hurrying over towards him. In one swift, ducking movement, she narrowly avoided the arm he swung open for a hug, nudging past him in the direction he game. He rolled his eyes and watched as she trampled over the underbrush without so much as a care otherwise.
"Where's my lunch? Cook said you'd taken it out into the forest." Glancing over her shoulder, her brows shot up. "Oghren thought you might be 'feeding it to the sodding bunnies.'"
Sighing, Anders took a long step over a fallen log, his robes hitched up around his shins. "Bunnies aren't much for that salty mutton you like so much," he replied, his strides quickening to catch up with her. She moved through the trees like a golem, having not a care for what she stepped on or pushed aside or what got into her braids. She'd have a forest of her own stuck in there by the time they got to the clearing. "They like vegetables."
He could hear Lía make a quiet disgusted noise up ahead, and he rolled his eyes. "No, of course not."
"So..." Anders' strides stopped when Lía paused, turning around in the very middle of the rather small path. Gray eyes narrowed at him, she pursed her lips a little, clearly stumped. "Where exactly am I going?"
"Oh? I thought you knew. You were leading."
Reaching out, Líadan grabbed his arm and moved him ahead of her, sneaking a little kiss on his pierced earlobe before nudging him farther out in front. "You're being cheeky, and I'm half-starved. Is this a wise decision? I'll let you think on that as you lead me in the direction of lunch," she said, giving him a pat on his ass.
In the end, he decided it was better to just bring her to where he'd set everything up, hoping that no animals had come along and stolen everything for fear of the reprisal.
When they arrived at their destination, they discovered that the meal remained intact. Anders even shot a look up to the sky in thanks to the Maker after watching Lía go to her knees near the unfolded satchel and grab for the first thing she saw. "Did you really doubt me? Really? After all this time?"
Líadan gave a little huff around the hunk of bread she was eating. Her cheeks puffed out a little as she chewed, her eyes glued to him as he went around to sit opposite her. "Of course not," she said once she'd swallowed, breaking off another piece just after, pointing it at him, "I know you." She pointed to herself. "And I know you know better than to jerk me around when it comes to food. Especially after I've spent all morning kicking Garevel around the sparring ring."
"Cook really outdid herself with this bread," she muttered to herself, popping the piece into her mouth as she grabbed for some of the mutton, oblivious to Anders' interjection. "It's almost as good as the stuff I used to help Nan bake."
The dried meat was halfway to her mouth when she stopped talking, her eyes moving up to his. She stared at him for a long while before removing her dagger from her hip and slicing off a piece. "Hm?"
"I brought you here for a reason, you know," he chuckled, lifting a hand to rub at the back of his neck before grabbing for a roll to busy himself with. "It wasn't a whim. My whims don't include holding your precious food hostage. I'm not dim."
"I'm... Hah, well."
Lía chewed thoughtfully, her shoulders slouching. When she spoke, her voice held none of its usual dryness, replaced instead by genuine curiosity bordering upon concern. This was mirrored in the slight bunching of her brows. "Well, what? What is it?"
"I'm leaving." The words came rushing out, and his free hand smacked into his forehead, rubbing at the now-wrinkled skin as he grimaced. He'd wanted to tell her for weeks now, wanted to let her down easily, and then he went and spilled it out like it was nothing, when it'd truly been one of the more difficult decisions that he'd ever made.
He lifted his hand away from his face to see her reaction, watching her as she carefully sheathed her dagger and replaced the rest of the meat to where it'd been sitting before. "What d'you mean by that?" she asked, words weighing heavy on her tongue.
"Not permanently," Anders added as quickly as he could, "I didn't mean that I'm leaving for good. I just... I got word that my phylactery –"
"Let me go with you, then. I have enough clout to get it for you."
He shook his head, eyes falling before he could see her mouth open again. "I need to do this alone. I don't want to bring you into even more trouble. Your reputation's all nice and clean again; you don't need everyone to think I have you under my thumb."
"You say that like it's not the truth," Líadan muttered, her lips barely managing a twist of a smile. "Where is it?"
"Anders." Lía scrambled to her feet just as his name left her throat, moving over to his side and grabbing for his face. "No. No, not Kirkwall. Do you have any idea how many templars...?"
He nodded, hands reaching up to rest on her wrists. His brows slid upward on his forehead as he tilted his chin down. "Yeah... I wasn't too happy about it when I heard, either. I'd rather not sashay into a city practically run by them, but it's the last thing binding me to the Circle. It's all they have on me."
Leaning forward, Lía brushed her lips over his forehead. She lingered there, shutting her eyes. "So you really won't let me help you?"
"It's dangerous –"
"That's why I want to help you," she murmured, "You know that."
"And it's why I don't want you to."
Taking a shuddering breath, Lía shook her head. "You're bloody stubborn, you know that, right? They're not going to hunt you down. You're a Warden now." Pressing another kiss to the skin just beneath his hairline, she sighed. "Even if they did try to hunt you down, they wouldn't get to you."
"It's... not about that," she heard him whisper as he shifted a little, bringing himself back enough to look directly into her face. "I've spent years trying to get away from the Circle. Even now that I'm here, it doesn't feel real. I won't actually be free of them until I know – for certain – that they can't... change their minds and come after me anyway."
Lía nodded, swallowing thickly. "Since you won't be dissuaded..."
"I know," she said fiercely, her voice catching in her throat. "Let me finish." He passed his tongue over his lips before giving a little nod. "Since you won't be dissuaded, you have to promise me that you'll come back."
Anders' brows knitted above his nose. "Do you really think I'd just... leave?"
"Not really," Lía admitted with a wet chuckle, "but I want to hear you say that you're going to come back." Her thumbs smoothed over the stubble that covered his jaw, her eyes softening as she watched a small smile curve at the corner of his mouth. "That way, if something happens, I can be angry with you as opposed to horribly depressed."
"Oh, so this is all about you. I should've known."
"Stuff it," she drawled, choking a little on her tears, "Tell me you're coming back."
"I can't tell you that if you've forced me into silence."
When Lía's gaze turned into a glare, flicking up to meet his eyes with surprising, if only teasing, heat, Anders laughed, more than thankful for their inability to remain serious for any stretch of time. "Fine, fine. I'm coming back."