Note: Mature content in this one. Very mature. Sadly, this will be the end of their adventure, unless there are strong feelings. Maybe I could start a new story following their lives in Orlais...
* * *
"Did it… Did it work?"
"I don't know, Anders. Ask me again in thirty years."
"I don't feel any different, but maybe it's like herpes, you know - nothing, nothing, then BAM – hellfire and itching all over."
Tavia stared at him. "You're covered in Andraste's ashes and talking about herpes?"
"And hang on, how do you know about herpes?"
"Darling, everybody knows about herpes." Her eyebrows flew up. "Only in the hypothetical, of course. Don't look at me like that. Just because I'm a cultured man of the world…"
Anders wasn't going to win this one, that much was abundantly clear. He had sort of screwed himself by bringing up the herpes thing. They were standing on the battlements of Vigils Keep. In an hour they would depart for Orlais with Leliana and her drooling, love-struck puppy, previously known as Nathaniel Howe. They'd waited for a still day, of course, to use the ashes, not risking them flying all over the place. The sky was suitably blue and placid. He had expected some kind of blazing white light to envelope them or angels to start singing. But the whole affair was tragically anticlimactic.
"You can inspect me all over, dearest. If that makes you feel better," he said.
Tavia smiled and looked like she was about to lean over and kiss him when she began to shake. She clutched her stomach, surprised, and fell to her knees before crying out and vomiting a gooey red and black mess onto the stones. Anders pointed, and laughed, and then felt his own stomach twist painfully.
He fell beside her, retching up the same rainbow-colored hodgepodge of bile.
"I guess that answers that," Tavia muttered, sitting up. Anders gaped at her.
"T-Tavia… Your eyes…"
They were white, opaque. Terrifying. Then they were clearing, crystalline blue again. Anders sighed with relief, knowing perfectly well that his eyes were probably doing the same creepy thing. Tavia stood, helping Anders to his feet. Silently, they stared down at their twin piles of… goop. So that was that. In one way and back out the other. He did feel slightly different, but he knew the real changes would be apparent later. No more bad dreams, no more shoving food down his gullet like a starved barbarian…
"Wouldn't it be hilarious if a boulder fell out of the sky and smashed us to pieces? Like the cosmos just couldn't let us win or something?"
"Yes, Anders. That would be bloody hysterical."
He squeezed her hand. He had interrupted her thoughts. Anders raised her hand to his lips and kissed it. He had been waiting for this moment for days. The road back to Vigils Keep was not only stormy and dangerous, but totally unromantic. They spent the nights just trying to keep the tent staked to the ground or taking turns with the watch to avoid being ambushed by bandits. There was no time for love-making and besides, Anders decided it would be better to wait until they were cleansed of the taint. It seemed fitting that one chapter should close behind them before they made the next giant step…
"Could I ask you something?" he whispered, taking her by the waist. He turned her toward the flourishing grounds below, the Darkspawn bile forgotten. He wasn't interested in staring at his own vomit.
"No, you cannot give Oghren's ashes to Pounce."
"But the dwarf doesn't even want them."
Tavia giggled, butting her head against his chest gently. Funny, Pounce-a-lot did the same thing, but usually only when he was hungry and wanted Anders to fetch him mackerel. Tavia probably didn't want mackerel. He chalked it up to her funny way of showing love. Anders kissed her hand again, brushing her knuckles over the short stubble of his cheek.
"Let's try this again: Can I ask you something?"
"I, um…" Oh Maker, how did he always get himself into these situations? He was too impetuous, too excitable, but he didn't care. He always did what felt right and so far it hadn't steered him wrong. Do it or don't, she's staring at you, wanker. Anders cupped her face in his hands. He kissed her nose, bringing her face to his lips like a cool drink of water.
"I thought maybe you'd… um, like to be my pretty, average wife, with a nice, normal house and a few perfectly mediocre children." That was a funny feeling. Was his stomach actually trying to tap dance? "When we get to Orlais… I mean."
"Anders, are you… proposing?"
"Something like that."
"But we haven't even had sex! What if I'm terrible in bed?"
"I highly doubt that." He dropped his hands. Oh boy, he had warned himself this might happen. There was always that chance she could say no. What then? Did a man just sort of sidle shadily away with his tail between his legs? Right, see you later then, if you need me I'll be out back sticking my head in a hole...
"I… I think I'd like that. I've always wanted a totally middling husband. A so-so house wouldn't be so bad, either." She smiled. Teeth. Lots of teeth. That was a big, happy smile. Anders grabbed her shoulders and kissed her, hard, relieved and overcome and… surprisingly not afraid. Wasn't marriage supposed to be petrifying? Shouldn't he be experiencing a strong urge to run in the opposite direction? Maybe this was growing up, or maybe it was love, or a subtle combination of the two. At any rate, Anders didn't much care. He couldn't imagine working up the desire to ask anyone else to stay with him forever.
Tavia took his hand and led him to the door leading down into the castle proper. Anders could feel his face burning. She was blushing, too. He was six years old again, giving his first crush a half-dead dandelion he had kept hostage in his pocket for two days.
"Do you really want children?" she asked quietly.
"We better get started then."
* * *
There was really no reason to be nervous. He was force to remind himself of this for the umpteenth time. He was the experienced one in the relationship; she had only had sex with one stupid little block-headed virgin. Anders was fairly sure a Templar's knowledge of female anatomy couldn't cover the back of a matchbook. Alistair was a blunt instrument, so surely Anders, a honed stiletto, would serve her better. It was his first time with an elf. Elf women were much smaller than human females… But it's not like she was some wilting, delicate flower. It's not like he would hurt her, right?
So then why was he sweating? And why had a pesky colony of butterflies suddenly taken up jittery residence in his stomach?
Ridiculous, empty platitudes like: just do what feels right and follow your heart, swam through his head. None of it made him feel better. Maker, even Nathaniel and Leliana were glowing like fireflies as they oozed around the grounds together, hand in hand. If Nathaniel could do it, then there were no excuses left for Anders. They were only a day out from Vigils Keep, spending the night in a quaint inn west of a tiny coastal village. It sat on a windswept, rocky beach with a breathtaking view down to the sea. It would take weeks to reach Orlais, but Anders didn't plan on actually waiting until they arrived there to bed Tavia.
Scenic, quiet, private… The perfect bloody place.
Even Ser Pounce-a-lot, lolling in a crescent-shaped sunbeam, eyed him with contempt. Coward, the cat seemed to say, chicken.
"Right, because you're such a lady's man," he muttered.
"Anders? Who are you talking to?"
Deep breath. He coughed. Not that deep.
The door to their room clicked open. Tavia stepped inside, looking a little sun-burned and pink with exercise. A fresh, grassy gust from outside followed her in. Somebody had tucked a daisy behind Tavia's ear. He hoped it was Leliana, because he really wasn't in the mood to break Nathaniel's wrists. She closed the door, taking the daisy from behind her ear and spinning it between her fingers. She was still dressed in her riding clothes, a form-fitting gray tunic and leather breeches with patches on the knees.
Maker, what a perfect creature.
"I wish we could stay here," she said wistfully, going to the window. The waves crashed on the rocks below. "But Leliana promises me Orlais is like a dream."
"She says that about everything," Anders replied.
Tavia turned and looked at him, her hands still braced against the window. He followed the curve of her neck over her shoulders, down her back to the roundness of her backside. If those breeches were any tighter they'd be sewn into her skin.
Now or never. Helpfully, Pounce flopped off the window ledge and disappeared into the washroom, giving Anders a mocking tail-flick and one last glance as he disappeared around the doorframe, as if to say, I'm skipping a nap in the sun for this, so don't screw it up, master.
Aye, aye, kitty.
Anders glided over to the window, leaning over Tavia to kiss the end of her pointed ear. Her body was still delightfully warm from being kissed by the sun.
"Do you know what's strange?" he asked, sliding one hand around her waist. His fingers splayed over her flat stomach. She inhaled sharply, surprised. Pleasantly so, he hoped. "After the Joining I felt horny all the sodding time. I thought maybe that would go away after we used the ashes."
"But I'm afraid it's only gotten worse." His hand drifted down into the warm juncture between her thighs. He cupped her there and squeezed. She shuddered against him, letting out a long, aching sigh. Anders licked the edge of her ear, enjoying the tiny moans that coincided with his tongue's progress.
"I'm going to undress you, slowly. And then we're going to make up for lost time."
His fingers expertly unlaced her breeches, his other hand making small circles on her lower back. Tavia was trying to press against him, but Anders wouldn't let her. It was too much fun to have her writhing like that, desperate for him. The flap of her breeches came free and Anders slid his hand inside, laughing huskily into her ear when he found she was wearing nothing underneath.
"How improper, Commander." His fingers teased her, stroking up and down until he felt her hips try to follow his motions. Anders slipped one finger inside of her. "Oh," he whispered, biting down on her ear, "And wet, too. I had no idea the scenery here was so… exciting."
"Please, what? You'll have to be more specific."
Tavia turned to kiss him and then her head fell back against his shoulder as he pushed another finger inside of her.
"Bed," she whispered, "Now."
"As you wish, Commander."
Anders withdrew altogether, turning and walking backward toward the bed. He beckoned her with a crooked finger. Tavia followed, already working on the laces of her tunic. Anders chuckled at her enthusiasm.
"Anxious, are we?"
"Be silent, mage. Your tongue could be put to better use."
Anders smirked. So, she had desires of her own, did she? Splendid. He waited just in front of the bed, guarding it. Tavia frowned, scoffed, and then realized his intentions. She began to unlace his robe, and when it was loose, she yanked it down around his shoulder. Anders gave in, helping, and shimmied the robe over his hips. He stepped out of it, kicking it to the side.
Anders meant to throw her onto the bed, but stopped when he saw her wide-eyed expression.
"Andraste's blood, Anders. Your body."
She kissed his chest, her fingers sweeping over him, tangling in his springy chest hair. She went lower, her tongue outlining the finer details of his abdomen. Anders smiled, exalting in the way she worshipped him. He cradled her head gently in his hands. The tip of her tongue slid into his navel, lingered, and then went lower, traveling across the tops of his thighs. He grabbed her by the hair and pulled until she stood. Anders kissed her, squeezing the back of her neck.
He turned, pushing her roughly onto the bed. It didn't take much to pull her breeches free. Two hard tugs and they were off. Anders tossed them away. He didn't hesitate, grabbing her by the knees and pushing her legs open. He stood between her thighs and waited until her eyes were locked firmly on his. He held her by the waist, smiling as her eyes traveled up and down his body. Tavia might have glanced at him when he was in the tub, but by the way she looked at him now…
Anders lowered himself onto the bed, taking his time, letting her feel his weight. Tavia gasped beneath him and began yanking at the bottom hem of her own shirt. Anders helped, pulling it smoothly over her head and discarding it somewhere over his shoulder. The insubstantial band around her breasts wasn't a match for his hands. It tore cleanly in half, leaving her completely exposed to him.
Tavia was clawing at his shoulders, trying to pull him down onto her.
"Wait," he said quietly, brushing his thumb over her bee-stung lips, "Let me look at you."
Now that he had her prone and naked, he wasn't going to rush blindly forward. Months of agonizing over her, dreaming of her, healing her and protecting her in battle… It had all led to this moment. Anders took his time, taking in every detail of her. There was a little mole just an inch below her right breast. He kissed it. Tavia blushed charmingly, trembling slightly as she waited for him to be ready. Her body committed to memory, Anders sucked and nibbled her into a frenzy. When she was in danger of ripping the flesh clean off his back with her nails, he drove inside of her.
Her heat was intoxicating, her enthusiasm a deliciously welcome surprise. Anders had never cultivated an appreciation for her hips, but that was changing. What shocked him the most was how intensely he wanted to please her. In the past, he was always focused on his pleasure, his satisfaction. But now he was learning how gratifying it was to carefully guide a woman through the twisting canyon that led to climax. He paid close attention to her sighs and gasps. He slowed down when he felt her spinning out of control and held back, tickled by her plaintive demands for more. If he listened, she told him everything he needed to know. When he himself could no longer hang on, he increased his speed and, like magic, she began chanting his name in a throaty, worshipful litany that made his heart all but explode.
This was music. This was heaven.
Anders finished inside of her, half-delirious with pleasure. He scooped her into his arms and nestled her against his chest and waited for her to stop panting. Her forefinger drew spirals around his nipple as she calmed her breathing. Anders could no longer tell where he stopped and she began.
"Well," Anders growled, trailing his fingertips up and down her slick back, "That bears repeating."
She kissed a line across his collarbone.
"So I meet the mage's lofty standards?"
"And then some. I didn't hurt you, did I?"
Tavia laughed. "You can heal me up later before round two…"
"And rounds three and four," he finished for her. She snuggled down into his chest. Apparently that suggestion pleased her. How many men were as lucky as he? Anders would never need to use that silly blanket again. Or, he thought, an intriguing idea bubbling to the surface, they could sleep beneath it together and report their findings in the morning. So many options, so many possibilities and all the time in the world to explore them. Explore her.
Anders groaned. He was already stirring for round two. She would feel it any second, though judging by her enthusiastic performance the first time, she probably wouldn't mind. Oh goodness, she was squirming against him. She had definitely noticed.
"I had no idea mages possessed such stamina," she purred, licking the sweat from his neck. Maker, she was ready, too. Just the thought of being inside her again made his blood ignite. Anders squeezed her backside, still trying to adjust to the knowledge that this was only the first languid afternoon of many. And if they kept up this pace… Maker, there probably would be children.
"Do you think they'll be mages?"
He had spoken his thoughts aloud without meaning to. Tavia blinked up at him, his intent dawning on her a moment later.
"Battlemages, if the pattern holds."
Anders wrapped his arms around her and squeezed possessively. "I won't let them go to the tower, Tavia."
"And you think I would?"
She stroked his face, scooting up on his chest to bring her eyes level with his. He felt suddenly choked, fussing over children he didn't even have yet.
"Your phylactery is gone, Anders." Tavia nuzzled her nose against his cheek. "They won't find us, and even if they do, I won't let myself get sloppy. Leliana's an excellent sparring partner."
Anders nodded, slightly mollified by her words and by the compounded memories of her dispatching Darkspawn like it was no more difficult or dangerous than snapping her fingers. He glanced at her out of the corner of his eye and dropped his hand down to rest over her stomach.
"You're right. We can handle anything. But no swords when the, um, thing happens."
"It's called a baby, Anders, not a thing."
"D'you think they'll have little pointed ears?" He smiled dreamily. His handsome mug with pointy ears? Now that would be a force to be reckoned with.
"Half-elves," she replied, trying out the phrase with a similarly goofy smile. "And terrible troublemakers if they're anything like their parents."
"I'll teach them," Anders said resolutely, kissing her. "If they show any talent with magic, Tavia, I'll teach them to use it."
"And if they can't use magic?"
Anders chuckled and rolled her onto her back. He wanted to make love again before all the sentimentality gave him a sugar headache. "Then I'll love them just the same."
Tavia's body rose to meet his. Anders sighed into her kiss. Truly, this was the life – a pretty girl, a decent meal on the horizon, and something even better to look forward to…
The right to tutor his children in the subtle art of shooting lightning at fools.