And so we come to the end! Thank you so much everyone who's been reading and reviewing. Special thanks to Amhran Comrac for her continuing feedback, ScaryLady for her invaluable (and extremely discreet) grammatical pointers and the ladies on the Anders thread Cave_Fatuam, Avilia, Sarah and every other regular who has listened to me bitching about things that were giving me trouble. Big thanks to Galagraphia and her amazing pencils - her sketches of Anders especially inspire me to write more and more and more. My regular reviewers here - Piceron, Eva Galana, Naomis, Zute and so many others who have been so lovely as to comment on this story. And also thanks to all of you who read and lurked - I didn't get a chance to say you're ace to your face, but you are! (This is beginning to feel like an oscars speech). In any case, I'm done with Neria and Anders for a little while, and it makes me sad.
My new fic, Blood Wound will take Fractures' update slot. THANK YOU EVERYONE!
The Grand Divine stepped down over the fiasco. Neria and Anders - and the other mage wardens - had a party that night. Anders danced with her in the grand hall under the twin griffons and hoped like anything it was the last time they'd ever have to set foot in the stupid country. As he spun her around the dance floor, her dark eyes flashing and her dress flaring, he thought he must be the luckiest man alive.
It seems strange to be writing to you - I always thought it wouldn't matter to me, what you thought of me, but it seems I was wrong. You don't get to my age without being able to admit that you were wrong about something. It's a shame I didn't realise how much I cared until it was really too late to do anything about it.
The trip back to Ferelden was swift and uneventful. Marcus and Varo stuck close to Neria - the elf seemed keen to take the joining once they reached the Vigil - he would make a valuable warden and Alistair had promised to send a bitch to the keep so they could start their own kennel. He was a good man, Anders felt, and Neria seemed to take comfort in his presence.
Joscelyn was the most self-assured woman I ever met - in or out of the Tower. She was beautiful, too, but I am certain you know this. I was not a young man when we met, and I was arrogant. I believed she loved me and would come with me to the Tower. I was never more surprised when she laughed in my face at the suggestion. I was more surprised when she threatened to kill me should I tell anyone of her power.
Needless to say, I did neither. Instead I left her there, not knowing at that stage that she was pregnant, and truly, not caring either way.
They stopped only briefly in Amaranthine, Neria not wanting to waste any time. She checked in with Bess - the giant queen spider seemed - as far as he could tell - happy to see her - before they set out with Cullen - now Knight Commander Cullen, and First Enchanter Torrin back to the Tower. Torrin was coldly formal with both Neria and Anders and Anders felt no reason to alter his impression of the man from his Tower days as a fussy old busybody - but he wasn't a cruel man, and he was capable. The Tower would need that capability in the months to come.
When you were born she wrote to me, without telling me where she was. She didn't fail to mention she was married to another man, or that she had no desire to ever see me again, but she did tell me your name and ask that I watch over you should you ever have the misfortune (her phrasing, not mine) to be sent to the Tower. I did look for her, and for you, but I know now that you were traveling Ferelden and almost impossible to track. She was always more clever than I.
Once they reached the Tower they had to invoke the right of conscription. Torrin was enraged - frothing at the mouth angry with them both for keeping the true purpose of their trip from him, but Cullen - Cullen simply smiled. Anders regretted, slightly, that he never got the chance to know the man better than he had, but it was difficult to talk to someone who continually looked at Neria the way Cullen did.
Before they'd left the Tower, Cullen had allowed him into Irving's study, where the brass key he'd been given fitted the lock of a small, ancient chest. Its contents were varying degrees of useful and interesting - with one small woodcut of a young woman, holding a baby in her arms, that Anders ran a finger over in wonder. It had been made with magic, he knew, although he'd never seen his mother do anything else of the like. The detail was so intricate and lifelike that he almost felt he could smell her scent.
The woodcut now sat in a pocket of his robes, close to his heart.
They were three, then, on the trip back, although their companion's presence made things a little awkward and Neria was as tense as a strung bowstring the entire trip.
I stopped you from being made tranquil twice. I apologise, profusely, for the year you spent in solitary confinement, but truly your only other option was death. If I had been able, I would have helped you escape earlier than I did, but not even Greagior could bend the rules that much for me. He knew about you, you see. There wasn't much that Greagior did not know, before.
Back at the Vigil, Anders and Neria worked solidly for nearly a month on a method to reverse the ritual. When finally they were satisfied enough to try it, Neria was almost frantic with nerves. If they failed, Jowan would almost certainly be killed. If they succeeded, he would have to go through the joining almost immediately. It had been quite some work, keeping his presence at the Vigil a secret. It would not do for King Alistair to find out their plans - the former Templar had always been firm in his opinion of malificarum.
She begged him to administer the treatment and the joining at once - should it succeed. He and Sigrun agreed - there was no point in returning Jowan to her unless he survived both processes.
I've given Neria the means to reverse the Rite of Tranquility. You will have to help her - her healing was never as good as yours. I am sorry, for so many things. I hope in some way this letter, the chest I have left for you, and my gift to her can go a small way towards making up for what I have cost you.
"I just have to drink darkspawn blood, then?"
Anders nodded at the dark haired mage as Sigrun finished mixing the concoction. "I imagine with what you've already gone through that won't be too much trouble."
Jowan grinned. "You wouldn't be wrong," he said. "You know - I never knew you in the Tower. Except by reputation... you don't really strike me as Neria's type."
Anders shrugged. "People change," he said.
"You, or her?"
"Just live through this and you'll find out."
Sigrun handed Jowan the goblet and the man eyed the liquid inside, before gulping it down.
Sigrun, Nate, Felix, Marcus and Oghren all came to their quarters after to celebrate.
"And then she told me she would never ever go near another man again. So you can imagine what I said to that..."
"Something you really shouldn't be saying in front of my current.. ah.."
Anders watched the two dark heads close together, the palpable aura of happiness that surrounded his lover making his own insides warm with more than the generous amount of alcohol already buzzing through his system. He stroked the ginger fur of the cat on his lap and let his head rest back against his chair, his eyes drifting closed, the pleasant hum of his friends' voices soothing him towards sleep.