Annie huddled further in the corner of the storage closet, knees pulled up to her chest as she hid her face with her hands. She peeked out of the crack in the door through spread fingers and felt the tears run down her face, but she didn't make a sound.
She doesn't understand why the Templars are hurting him. She doesn't understand what he did wrong. They'd just been practicing spell wisps. She loved his spell wisps; he could make them all sorts of colors and shapes.
She didn't understand that they only hurt him because they could.
He'd heard them coming, and he'd told her to go hide in the closet and not make a sound. So there she sat, crying silent tears and wincing every time they strike him with metal gauntlets or kick him with metal boots. When they finally leave, she doesn't hear any sounds and it scares her. She runs from the closet to his side and she doesn't understand what the blood means or why his robes are torn. She just knows that he's hurt and she wants to make it all better.
He isn't breathing, but she doesn't know what that means. She puts her hands on his head like he'd showed her and she wills him to heal. She feels the mana in her body draining away but she keeps channeling it, forcing it to mend and repair the wounds she can't see, until finally she collapses. He sucks in a breath at her side and starts coughing and she smiles.
"Annie…?" he wheezes, rolling her over onto her back with gentle hands and she smiles up at him.
"I made it all better," she beams, feeling empty and lightheaded but happy with what she'd done.
He smiles down at her and waits until exhaustion forces her to sleep before he lets his eyes widen and his breathing quicken. He clutches at his chest and feels the heartbeat there. He can see the blood on the ground and the state of his robes and he remembers.
He'd seen the Maker.
Annabelle Amell had just raised the dead.
He keeps his arms around her and she leans into his chest, huddling into the warmth of him, the safety promised in his touch. She'd had her first nightmare and run straight to his dorm, climbing over sleeping apprentices until she found him and huddled up beside him in the bunk.
He'd woken slowly, murmuring something she couldn't hear in a sleepy tone, before his arms went around her and pulled her into him, and she snuggled there, sobbing as quietly as she can. His fingers tangled in her hair and he sat up, pulling her into his lap as he rocked her, whispering comforting words in a quiet voice while healing magic tingled at his fingertips to soothe her fear.
The boy beneath them shifted and stood with a scowl. "Anders, how many times have I told you not to—" he stopped short at the sight of Annie huddled against his chest, trying to disappear. "Oh."
She hears Anders speak, feels the vibration in his chest, and is reminded of her father. What little she can still remember of him.
"Go to sleep, Flora."
Finn doesn't even protest the nickname, just nods and climbs back into bed without another word.
Anders lies back down and Annie curls around him, clinging to him.
"Don't leave me," she begs in a soft whimper. She feels his arms pull her closer and he presses a kiss to her brow.
"Never, Liebes. Go to sleep."
"I made this for you, Andie!" Annie beams as she holds out her fists. Anders looks up at her from the book he'd been reading and his face stretches into a wide grin.
She'd seen him smile at the other apprentices, but no one could make him smile like that except her. She climbs up into his lap—he doesn't let any of the other apprentices in his lap, just her—and when his arms go around her waist to hold her steady she holds up her gift. She smiles wider when his eyes open in surprise and one hand opens to accept the ice rose she'd carved for him.
She'd seen pictures of them in one of Finn's books and thought they were pretty. Anders deserved to see one in person; she knew how much he wanted to be free. She sets the rose in his hand—she'd had Enchanter Wynne enchant it so it wouldn't melt—and beams at him.
"Now you can have a piece of the outside with you always."
He looked back at her and blinked, smiling the warmest smile she'd ever seen from him. "Thanks, Annie. I love it."
Annie nods sagely and snuggles back into him, glancing at the book he had open in front of him. She watches him pocket her present before she points at it. "What's it about?"
Anders scoots their chair closer and leans over the book, running his finger down the lines of text. "It's a book on anatomy," he said in an amused tone of voice, "you wouldn't like it. It's all about body parts and gross things like that."
Annie scrunches her nose and turns away from the book. "Are there… pictures?"
In response, Anders flips back a few pages and shows her one of the diagrams.
"Eww!" she giggles, hiding her face behind her hands and Anders chuckles with her. "Why would you want to read about that?"
Anders smiles down at her. "I have to learn about how the body works so I'll know how to fix it when it breaks."
Annie smiles back, and looks at the picture on the page. "Can you teach me?"
He looks at her a moment before he smiles wider, and nods.
Annie pouted but concentrated, trying to imagine the fire forming at her fingertips and ignoring the shifting Templars posted at the sides of the room. There are always Templars around when the apprentices learn how to use fire.
Anders watched the fire spark at her fingers before fizzling out again and he sighed in mock exasperation. "Come on Annie. I know you can do this."
Annie glanced up at him with hopeful eyes. Anders was the best mage she'd ever met, and at fifteen he was something of a prodigy. "You really think I can do it?"
Anders looks down at her and remembers bleeding out on the floor, the cold embrace of death before a light pulled him back into his body from the Fade, the smiling but tired of face of little Annie claiming she'd made it all better. And she had.
"I know you can," Anders insists, and Annie smiles. He loves it when she smiles; it makes her look like an angel. His little Annie.
Annie focuses again, the intense look of concentration on her face that only children can muster, and the flames burst into life at her fingertips. She squeals in a mixture of surprise and joy and Anders quickly extinguishes the fire before her excitement turned it into something dangerous. He smiles proudly down at her and tousles her hair.
"See? I knew you could do it."
Annie beams up at him and hugs him around the waist. "Thanks Andie."
She never did call him Anders.
Annie watches as Anders presses a cloth to his arm, hissing, and she twists her fingers together in sympathy. She wants to make it all better, but he won't let her see it.
"Andie…?" she asks in a quiet voice. He flashes her a reassuring smile, but she sees through it. She knows him better than that. "Is it… does it hurt?"
Anders winces and presses harder on the cloth. The Templars had drained his mana, she knew that much, but he wouldn't let her see the wound on his arm. "Nah," he insists, "tingles a bit though."
"I can fix it," she insists.
Anders looks down at her with that expression of pride and concern that she'd come to recognize over the years. "It's pretty bad, Annie," he warns. "It's not like the cuts you've healed before."
He doesn't doubt her skill. Annie knows that. She can see it in his eyes. She knows he knows she can heal it, but he won't show it to her. She can't heal blind. "I want to try," she insists, tugging at his sleeve. He sits cross-legged on the ground beside her and grimaces. "Please?"
Anders eyes her and tries one more time to dissuade her from attempting. "Annie, remember those anatomy books we used to look at?" She nods. "This is so much worse than that."
She shudders, but this is Anders. She isn't afraid of what's inside Anders' body. She wants to make him whole, like he had done for her all those times in the past. He must see it in her eyes because his posture slumps in defeat and he peels the cloth away from the bloody mess running down his arm.
A hand flies to cover her mouth as her eyes widen. She can see his bone. She should not be able to see his bone. She knows enough about anatomy to know that is not a good thing. She forces down the nausea and hovers her hands over the wound, ignoring the heat of the blood running down his arm into his robes and she wills him to heal.
The warmth flares beneath her touch and she struggles with it. She knows what the wound looks like, and she knows what it is supposed to look like when it's whole. The hard part is getting from one to the other. She feels his fingers wrap around hers and suddenly his magic is inside her, guiding her mana to the places where he needs it, and she lends him her strength while he fixes what's wrong inside.
When he squeezes her fingers, she opens her eyes and all that's left of the wound is a jagged scar stretching from his elbow to his shoulder. She pouts at the scar; if Anders had been healing it, there wouldn't be a scar. No one can heal quite like Anders can.
He smiles at her expression and pulls her into a hug. "Thank you, Annie. You made it all better."
She smiled back but grumbled her response, "Well, you helped…"
Anders chuckled and pulled them to their feet, rolling his shoulder experimentally. "We make quite a team, don't we Annie?"
She beams up at him and takes his hand as he leads them out of the classroom, ignoring the stares of the other mages at the sight of his bloodied robes and his new scar. He's whole again, and that's all that matters.
Annie sits at the library table, staring at the wall with a far-off smile on her face. Anders had escaped again. She knew he could do it. She spent all her free time in the Chantry wing, praying to the Maker that he can stay free, that the Templars won't catch him. If any of the mages deserve their freedom, it's Anders.
He's brought back a week later, bruised and bloody but grinning like a fool. When the Templars shove him into the library and he stumbles to the floor, Annie is the first one at his side, helping him to his feet and leading him to his favorite chair.
She fusses over his cuts and bruises, and he lets her tend to him even though they both know that Anders could easily heal his own injuries in a heartbeat, and much more effectively. She likes to heal him, and he likes to let her.
"Did you bring me anything?" she asks once he's healed enough to sit without wincing. He grins and pulls out what looks like a seed from the pocket of his robes.
"It's an acorn," he explains when he sees her puzzled expression. "They grow into trees."
She gapes at the tiny thing. Something so small will grow into something so huge? It's hard to imagine. She snatches it and tucks it into her own robes and he chuckles at her enthusiasm. She shares his love of the outside; the only one he can share it with at all.
"Did you meet anyone interesting?" she leans across the table, resting her chin in her hands as she stares at him with a wide smile.
She always asks him these questions.
"I met an apostate," he grins at her gasp of surprise, "I taught him how to heal and he taught me how to use a new type of magic. It's called Force magic."
She hums in excitement. "Will you show me someday?"
He smiles back at her. "Better. I can teach you."
Annie sat in the library, staring blankly at the tome in front of her. Reading was boring. She'd much rather be with Anders learning how to control the new magic he was teaching her, but she hadn't seen him at all today. At eighteen he already had a reputation, but Annie didn't care about that. He was very nice to her, like the big brother she'd never had.
Jowan sat across from her studiously reading about the Chantry-condoned uses of fire spells, while Finn tried to read over his shoulder. Annie closed her book with a sigh and looked over at her newest friend. Jowan was two years older than her, but she was already taking the same classes as him.
"Jowan, have you seen Andie today?"
Jowan blinked and looked over at her. "Who?"
Finn snagged the book on fire spells while Jowan was distracted. "She means Anders."
Jowan looked back down at the empty space where his book used to be before he elbowed Finn with a scowl, but Finn just shrugged him off and continued reading. "Anders? No, I haven't seen him. He's probably in a closet somewhere."
Annie bit her lip. Maybe he'd escaped again. He'd been breaking out every so often, but after that last time… she shuddered. It had taken both her and Enchanter Wynne to heal him enough for him to walk.
"Why're you so worried about him anyway?" Jowan continued while he tried to wrestle the book away from Finn's grasp. "You his girlfriend or something?"
Annie blinked. "He's eighteen, Jowan."
"Never stopped him," Jowan grumbled when he finally snatched the book back and huddled over it protectively, eyeing Finn in case he tried to grab it again. "When he was your age he was always off in empty classrooms 'practicing magic.'"
Annie remembered the blood on the floor, the panic, the terror she'd felt when the Templars left and she couldn't hear Anders breathing. She knew now what it had all meant.
"Whatever," she said instead, grabbing a new book and staring blankly at it as she pretended to read.
She found him in an empty storage room, bleeding from a cut on his arm. He had already healed it, but she could see the bloodied dagger and the stains on his robes. He looked up and met her eye and there was a moment where neither moved nor spoke.
"Jowan," she said in a quiet voice.
"Don't tell the Templars," he begged back, trembling.
Annie looked from the dagger to the blood on his arm. She approached and knelt in front of him, picking up the dagger from where he'd let it fall. She looked back into his eyes and saw the regret there, the guilt, the fear.
And she handed him the dagger.
Something had changed. Anders was a Harrowed mage now, but he still found time to tutor her in an official capacity, and for some reason all her fellow female apprentices were so jealous that Anders was her tutor. She knew he was a great mage, but the amount of scornful looks she got from her classmates was bordering on ridiculous.
"You're really popular, Andie," Annie said one day while she tried to levitate various items around the room. Anders was leaning lazily back in his chair, watching the books floating around her in a circle. "All the girls threw a fit when they found out you were tutoring me."
Anders smirked but remained silent, content to let her rant.
"It's getting pretty ridiculous," Annie continued as she struggled to keep the books from knocking into each other, "I have no idea why they've started glaring at me when I walk by as if I've robbed them of some amazing possibility."
"They're just jealous that you've got me in a room all to yourself," Anders teased.
Annie let the books fall back to the table and sighed. "I've had you in a room all to myself since I was seven, Andie. Why are they just now getting all upset about it?"
Anders paused, looking thoughtful. "You really have no idea, do you?"
Annie just stared blankly at him. Anders smirked and gestured for her to pick up the books again.
"I'll tell you when you're older."
She threw a book at him.
Annie leaned across the table and smiled, assuming her normal questioning posture. Chin on hands, elbows on table, emerald eyes on the amber ones of her best friend.
"Did you bring me anything?"
Anders is stiff from the healing; the Templars had broken his arm, and Annie didn't know enough to fix it right. Senior Enchanter Wynne had had to heal it, and she wasn't as good as Anders, so he was still sore. But he manages to fish around in his pockets and slide something across the table towards her.
She knows what it is the moments she sees it, and breaks out into a wide smile, gathering it up in her hands and inhaling the unfamiliar scent.
"It's a rose," he tells her, although they both know what it is. "Not as pretty as the one you made for me, but I saw it and thought of you."
She smiles at him. "I'm glad you got to see a real one, Andie."
He smiles back. He only ever really smiles for her nowadays. Everyone else just gets the grin or the smirk; they aren't his real smile. Not the smile she knows.
She smells the rose again and giggles before putting in her pocket, resolving to talk to Finn about preserving it later. "Did you meet anyone interesting?"
Anders leans across the table to rest a few inches away, clasping his hands together in front of him. "I met an Arl and saved his life. He gave me this," he reaches into the neck of his robes and pulls out a pendant with an elaborate crest stamped into it. "The symbol of South Reach," he explains.
She fingers the odd emblem and smiles up at Anders. "You made it all the way to South Reach?"
He grins and leans back, tucking the necklace back into his robe. "What can I say? Practice makes perfect."
Annie sits huddled in a corner of the closet, knees pulled to her chest in a pose so reminiscent of her childhood nightmare that she shivers. If Irving hadn't come along when he did… she squeezed her eyes shut tighter and ignored the sound of soft footsteps approaching.
Someone knocked on the closet door. "Annie?"
Her eyes fly open and she scrambles to her feet, throwing herself out the door and latching onto her Anders, sobbing into his shoulder. His arms go around her instinctively and the feeling of being held in the safety of his arms makes her shudder with relief. Anders is here now. She's safe.
"Annie, what's wrong? What happened?" There's panic in his voice and she pulls him tighter against her, not willing to relive it for even a moment.
She feels the magic under his skin spike in reaction to her emotional state, and she's once again reminded just how much raw mana hides beneath his mask of humor and jokes.
His arms tighten around her and when he speaks, his voice is so cold and low that she shudders in response, feeling an odd ache in her chest at the possessiveness of his tone. "Who was it?"
"B—Brutus," she whispers, as if speaking his name would summon him, "He accused me of blood magic, and…"
Anders pulls her flush against him and runs his hands down her back, healing magic soothing her frayed nerves enough so she relaxes her death grip on his robes. But she can feel the tension in him, the energy wanting to unleash itself in a frenzy of flame and lightning.
She feels it too. What would bring another mage to do something like this?
Anders pulls back and looks her in the eye, the anger there not directed at her but chilling nonetheless. "He won't touch you again, Annie."
It's not a threat. It's a stated fact, and she nods her understanding. Anders would take care of it, like he takes care of everything. Her protector. Her Anders.
The next day Brutus was found in his cot with a broken jaw, still jerking and twitching with the errant lightning coursing through him. It took the Enchanters weeks to stabilize him, but he would never touch a girl again. They never caught the mage responsible.
Annie had never noticed how handsome Anders was before. It was… disconcerting to be having thoughts like this about a man as close to her as a brother. She began avoiding him, sticking to the library and spending as much time as possible with the Senior Enchanters, asking them questions she knew the answers to just so she had an excuse to stay after class.
She was walking back to her dorm from the library late at night when Anders cornered her, pinning her to the wall so she couldn't escape, arms on either side of her shoulders.
"You've been avoiding me, Annie," he accused in a hurt voice. Annie let her shoulders slump and nodded miserably. "Why? Did I do something wrong?"
"No, it's just…" she floundered, words for once failing her. She leaned her head back against the wall and stared at his face while he searched hers for answers. "It's just…"
"Annabelle," Anders interrupted her, and she snapped to attention at the sound of her full name. He'd never used it before. "What's wrong?"
Annie just stared helplessly back at him. How was she supposed to explain this? How was she supposed to make him understand that she couldn't stop thinking about him? That the only thing she wanted to do when she saw him was drag him into the nearest closet and beg him to make this ache go away?
It felt so wrong to have thoughts like this about Anders of all people. He'd been her big brother since she was seven, and then all of a sudden he's not a boy anymore. He's a man and she noticed.
"Annie," he asked again in a gentle tone, smiling, "I'm twenty-three years old. I'm a big boy. I can take it. Just tell me what's going on."
Annie took a breath and leaned forward, pressing her lips to his. He made a noise of surprise which she pointedly ignored and wrapped her arms around his neck. She felt his hands on the small of her back and he pulled her minutely closer to him. She gasped in surprise and he deepened the kiss, pressing her back against the wall. Anders was very good at this.
When he finally pulled back, she whimpered in protest and tried to pull him back, making him chuckle.
"My little Annie," he whispered in her ear, breath hot on her neck as she shivered, "is this why you've been avoiding me?" He tsked and she nodded, burying her face in his shoulder as he pressed a kiss to her throat. He smelled like elfroot and lightning and that undefinable something that was just Anders. "There are so many things I could show you, Liebes."
She shuddered as his lips closed over her skittering pulse and she clutched him to her, his chuckle vibrating through his chest into her skin. She pulled back enough to reach his ear and whispered two words.
Annie stared at the campfire unblinkingly, aware that Alistair had sat down beside her. He had been watching her watch the fire for the past five minutes, and she just knew he wanted to ask what she was doing.
She was right.
"What are you doing?" he blurted.
"Focusing," she replied. The fire snapped to the side as her will closed around it until only a circle was left, floating in mid-air. Alistair watched, spellbound, as she raised the globe of fire into the air and let it disperse into nothing. She smiled. "See? Focusing."
"So that's some kind of mage thing?"
Annie turned to look at him out of the corner of her eye. He looked so much like her Anders…
"Well, you can stare at a fire all you like but odds are it isn't going to fly off into the air," Annie pointed out, "So, yes, it's a mage thing."
Alistair snorted and shook his head.
Annie turned back to the wood and reignited it, leaning back as the flames licked at the kindling. "Did you need something, Alistair?"
Alistair shifted in his seat. "Erm. Yes. Well, you see… you were talking in your sleep and I was wondering…" Don't say it. "…not that I mean to pry or anything, but…" Don't say it, Alistair. "…who's Andie?"
He said it.
Annie sighed and dropped her head into her hands. She took a breath and looked back at the fire, smiling fondly. "A mage I used to know, from the Tower. He was like the big brother I never had." She shook her head, still smiling. Oh but Annie… girls don't say their brothers' names in their sleep, now do they? "And I… fell in love with him." It felt strange to admit it aloud, but… it was true. "Last I heard, he was still in solitary from his last escape attempt. He'll be in there for…" she glanced up at the sky while she counted backwards, "…another four months."
Alistair was silent, so Annie slapped her thighs and stood.
"Well I'm beat! I'll see you in the morning, Alistair."
Annie sat alone outside her tent, her treasures spread out on the ground in front of her, and she touched each of them and smiled at the memories associated with them. Tomorrow they would reach Denerim and face the darkspawn horde, and one way or another this Blight would end.
Leliana sat beside her, looking down at her odd assortment of belongings and offering a shoulder of comfort. Alistair had… not been happy about the decision to give him the throne. At some point he had assumed that he loved her, and no matter how gently she turned him down he never seemed to understand.
He wasn't even with them still. Annie glanced across the camp at Loghain, until a week ago her most hated enemy, now her ally. She did not regret the choice to spare him. Riordan had made a good point about needing more Grey Wardens, and Loghain was more than willing to make the sacrifice necessary to kill the Archdemon. Annie wouldn't take that away from him. She still had too much to live for, and she knew what it meant to want to redeem yourself.
They'd spoken about it the previous night. Loghain had requested that he be the one to strike the killing blow, as if he expected her to argue him for it, but she had nodded and said that she would allow him that honor, that distinction.
Now she sat, surveying the most important things she owned with one of her dearest friends at her side. Zevran was hovering somewhere nearby, she was sure, but it was Leliana who she could talk to.
"These are all the things Andie brought back for me when he escaped the Tower," Annie explained with a fond smile at the six items laid out before her. She picked up a small piece of a branch and held it up with an amused smile as Leliana hesitated.
"A… twig?" Leliana asked in a confused yet polite voice.
"I had never seen a tree before," Annie began in a soft voice as she ran her fingers over the worn bark, smoothed from all her handling. "So Andie brought me a piece of one, so that I would know what it was like. It was a way for me to pretend like I'd been there with him, outside, in that whole other world that I hadn't been sure even existed." She explained each of her treasures.
The acorn, and her disbelief that something so small would grow into something so large.
A small pebble that reflected the light into a rainbow of color.
The cocoon from a butterfly. She had been dazed when he explained how caterpillars turned into butterflies, and she hadn't believed him until Finn collaborated his story.
The rose, preserved by magic into a likeness of life even after death. It still smelled faintly of flowers.
And a single gold coin, which Anders had explained to her was called a sovereign. It was old and tarnished, barely recognizable as gold, but it was her first time holding Ferelden's currency and she kept it with her always.
She gathered them up and put them back in her small pouch where she kept them under her robes, next to her heart. "I keep them with me for good luck," she smiled.
Leliana smiled back. "Your Andie seems like a good man."
She tilted her head back and smiled at the sky. "He's from the Anderfels. I always loved it when he would forget to speak the King's Tongue and lapse into Anderfellian. That's what he's named after, you know. Anders." It was the first time she'd ever spoken aloud his real name. "But he'll always be my Andie."
Until death do us part.
Vigil's Keep was overrun, and Annie was not impressed so far with the caliber of these Orlesian Wardens. She and the recruit, Mhairi, fought through the darkspawn swarming the Keep as she tore through them with the practiced ease that came with stopping the Blight.
She'd pushed open the next door and found herself staring at a man's back as he shook fire from his fingers. She knew those fingers and her breath caught in her throat as he turned. Some witty retort died on his lips as his eyes took her in, disbelief and tentative hope written across his face.
"Andie," she whispered, smiling back the tears. She'd thought he was dead after the rebellion and they didn't find him in the dungeons where he was supposed to be.
"Annie," he breathed back, taking a step towards her and closing the gap between them, Mhairi forgotten.
Did she dare hope he was real? She took the final step and threw her arms around him, pulling him tight to her in her desperation and relief at having him in her arms again. He hugged her back and she buried her face in his chest; he was still so much taller than her.
"Did you bring me anything?" she whispered, feeling his answering chuckle in his chest.
"Only my heart, Meine Liebste."
"I thought I already had that," she teased through the tears.
He hugged her tighter, pulling her flush against him. "It's not much, but it's all I have," he murmured in her hair.
"It's all I need, Andie. All I've ever needed."
"Then it's yours."
A/N: Thanks to -sharkgrin-, I've corrected the endearment terms. I don't speak Anderfellian (German *cough cough*), and I'm grateful someone corrected me before I made a fool out of myself xD