Pint for my friend here

A response to a challenge: Anders (no Justice) and Alistair meet in a pub somewhere, post-Awakening. The image of Anders with a pint is just too strong for me to resist - one worth drawing, that. If you like this, I recommend karebear's Blood Brothers as an excellent side order; it's a wonderfully different take on the Alistair/Anders meeting.

A pub, somewhere in Amaranthine. Not the best he's ever been in, either - the paint is peeling, and the locals glare at him as he enters the room. Despite that, he tells himself that it's not all bad, and keeps on walking towards the bar.

The two men sense each other's taint at the same time, and each look around in sudden haste to find its source. They each know that it's not darkspawn; the thrum in their blood is different, one of companionship rather than hostility.

The man sitting at the bar has... a ponytail? And... Yes, that's definitely an earring, and definitely a mage wearing it. A grinning mage. "You the new one, then?"

Alistair knows immediately what he means. "Nope. Actually, at the moment, I'm the oldest Grey Warden in Ferelden. Weird..."

The man's face brightens in recognition. "Oh, you. You know, from what Morgana says, for a Chantry-raised boy, you aren't half bad..."

Alistair tries not to redden, and - somewhat - succeeds. "You do mean that in a mage-y way, right?" He begins to mumble, a rather terrible nervous habit. "Oh, please tell me you mean that in a mage-y way..."

The blond - well, the other blond - raises an eyebrow, grin growing even wider... and more dangerous. "There are other ways of meaning that? Well, can't say I'd blame you. There's a rather nice view from where I'm standing - which is usually behind her." He sighs, taking another sip - Men don't sip, Alistair thinks sourly, who has suddenly begun to like this mage a lot less - of his pint.

"I'd..." He clears his throat in slight embarrassment. "I'd be inclined to agree," he says, his tone suddenly a lot shorter, and the panic gone. "And yes, there are other ways of meaning that, if Morgana's involved."

The eyebrow is raised anew, and there's a wolfish hint to the other man's grin. "Ooh, touchy, are we? I wouldn't worry - looking, not touching. She's an old friend. From the Tower, actually." Alistair wonders if it's him or if there's something slightly broken behind the other man's smile as he stares into his drink and adds quietly, "Good times," and something in him rings in sympathy as he sees himself reflected. Then the cockiness is back. "Well, except for the lack of decent ale. It seems we may have got off to... not the best start." He holds out a hand. "You may call me Anders. You'd be Alistair, I assume?" Before Alistair can reply, this "Anders" gestures to the barmaid, with a call of, "Pint for my friend here."

Said pint is slammed unceremoniously on the bar in front of Alistair, making him jump, and as Anders counts out a few coins, passing them to the surly - pretty, but really surly - woman behind the bar, he prays to the Maker and Andraste both that the ale is the watered-down stuff - he still really can't hold his drink; it's not like he has a lot anyway, what with Morgana's "no drinking on duty" policy, which somehow manages to make him relieved and incredibly depressed all at the same time.

"She said she was bringing her second down to the Keep," the mage adds. "Though, from how excited she was, our earlier conversation and the... rather interesting rumours going round the Wardens, I'd imagine that you're not just her second, are you?" He cocks his head. "That armour must get in the way. And tents - " He winces with an intake of breath, trying not to laugh at the fact that the other man is now staring determinedly into his drink, as if Anders will disappear if he just pretends hard enough he isn't there. He pats him on the shoulder in a way that would be reassuring if it wasn't so... Evil, Alistair thinks. "Nice try, Chantry-boy."

Alistair is now definitely beginning to think that the rumours about what goes on in the Tower may have basis in fact.

He turns at the sound of a stern voice from behind them. "Anders, exactly how much have you had?" Saved by the Howe - Howe ironic. Alistair knows he is drunk, because that thought actually manages to provoke a laugh from him.

Alistair had thought the man was fairly sober, but... "Aww, Nate, you're no fun," Anders says, laughing and wobbling slightly as he stands. He is caught by this "Nate", who says, disapprovingly, "My name is Nathaniel."

Even in his arms, Anders looks at him ponderously for a moment, then says, "Andraste's knickers - I thought it was an act, but you actually are a boring arse, aren't you?"

"Anders, stop it." The voice Alistair's been waiting to hear for months floats over from the doorway. "And stop tormenting Alistair. He's too nice for you anyway." She's obviously trying not to laugh, though, and Alistair says in half-mock outrage, "You're agreeing with him? Oh, this is just great..." He notices that he, too, is not as steady on his feet as he'd like - maybe that ale wasn't as watered-down as he'd thought.

"Why are all the men in my life ridiculous?" she asks, shaking her head, then quickly correcting, "Except you, obviously, Nathaniel."

"Thank you, Commander," is the wry and ever-so-slightly-grumpy reply.

As they walk to the Keep, Morgana tells him quietly, "Sorry about Anders. And yes, he is always like that. You'd like him, though, I think - reminds me a lot of you sometimes."

Alistair looks at her in horror for a moment, before admitting, "Oh, I don't know. He seemed like a decent sort of fellow to me."

There's a moment of silence before he can't help himself.

"An earring, though? Seriously?"