Nathaniel was doing his best to keep morale up, but wasn't meeting with much success. Conflicting reports had come in in the last few hours—that Amaranthine had been burned to the ground; that Amaranthine had been saved but the Warden-Commander was dead; that the Commander had gone chasing after the Mother in an attempt to stop the carnage once and for all. Regardless of the truth, there was one report that could not be refuted—there was a large horde of darkspawn approaching Vigil's Keep. By their distance and the speed at which they were traveling, they would be at the Keep by daybreak, and if the Commander was still alive, he surely would not be back in time to aid them. They were on their own, for better or worse.

The absence of Cousland was a huge blow; many of the soldiers had relied on the Warden-Commander's rallying spirit for months, and without his presence, several were slipping into despair. The Wardens and soldiers were horribly outnumbered, and the chances of any of them surviving to see tomorrow's sunset were extremely slim.

It wasn't something that Nathaniel would admit to anyone, but for the first time since becoming a Warden he feeling a little despair himself. His own death wasn't what was bothering him—he was not afraid of dying—but the idea of failing Cousland, of losing people under his command, was unthinkable.

Still, he did his duty to the best of his ability. He assigned everyone to posts that best fit their strengths—the archers on the battlements, swordsmen at the gates, and so forth. Everyone was commanded to get at least a few hours rest with a few men standing lookout. Nathaniel didn't even make an attempt at sleep, he was too keyed up.

He roamed the Keep instead—offering supportive words to the men on the battlements, checking the food stores and calculating how he would need to ration their supplies if the gate actually managed to hold and they found themselves in a weeks-long siege. Eventually he ran out of things to keep him occupied and took to pacing up and down the hallways.

Which was where Anders found him around midnight: pacing outside the library.

"Keep that up and you're going to wear a groove into the floor," Anders said with a smile.

Nathaniel stopped and leaned against the wall. "That's the least of my worries right now."

"It's not that bad," Anders replied. "Just a few hundred darkspawn. Piece of cake." He winked at Nathaniel.

Nathaniel scowled at him. "A few hundred darkspawn preparing to attack a Keep that is ill-equipped for a siege." He shook his head. "At least most of the repairs have been made, and the walls have been fortified—but we don't have nearly enough men, especially not ones experienced with fighting darkspawn."

He pinched his brow. "If we had more Wardens I'd feel a bit more confident, but we don't. And even if we did . . . you saw how they tore through those Orlesian Wardens that were stationed here."

Anders shook his head. "That was different. They weren't expecting an attack—we are."

"We don't stand a chance, Anders."

Anders leaned against the wall next to Nathaniel and let out a slow breath. "I know," he said quietly. "But we can't exactly give up."

"I'm not," Nathaniel said vehemently. "I'm just being realistic."

They stood there together for some time in silence. "Well." Anders finally said, pushing off from the wall. "We're as prepared as we're going to get, so there's nothing for us to do until they attack—which won't be until morning. You need something to keep you busy, take your mind off of things."

Nathaniel looked at him warily. "Such as?"

Anders stepped close until he was inches from Nathaniel and placed his hands on the wall on either side of Nathaniel's shoulders. "Do you really have to ask?" he said lowly.

Nathaniel turned his head away, unable to meet Anders' stare. "How many times must I turn you down before you take the hint? I'm not one for casual trysts."

"I think the real question, Nathaniel, is how many times must I proposition you before you finally give in?" Anders tilted his head so that he could look into Nathaniel's eyes. "By this time tomorrow we could be dead, and—"

Nathaniel's brow furrowed. "I thought we weren't supposed to think about that."

"—we could be dead," Anders continued, "and you'd have missed out on something I know you've been wanting to do since we first met." He ignored Nathaniel's token protest and leaned in to brush their lips together briefly. Nathaniel flinched in surprise, but Anders had drawn back before Nathaniel could stop the kiss. "We could have this one night together," Anders continued, "with no strings attached . . . because there won't be anything to attach them to."

Nathaniel let out a sigh. "What if we both survive? What then?"

"Then I give you full permission to forget tonight ever happened," Anders said reasonably.

Nathaniel frowned. "Just like that?"

Anders nodded. "Just like that. It doesn't always have to be complicated."

Nathaniel put his hand on Anders' chest and pushed him back a little, gently but firmly. "It's not about being complicated, Anders. It's about . . ." he took a breath, trying to find a way to word it without revealing too much. "it's about being more than just another notch on your bedpost."

"Not much chance of that—there's no bedpost here," Anders joked. His expression turned slightly more serious as he moved in close again. "You are a handsome man, Nathaniel. And sexy, and extremely desirable. You have no idea how long I've wanted you." The mage was close now, close enough for Nathaniel to feel Anders' warm breath against his own lips.

Nathaniel's hand was still on Anders' chest, but he was no longer trying to push the other man away. "I don't think . . ."

"Stop thinking," Anders murmured. "Just do." He reached up and ran his fingers through Nathaniel's hair.

Whether it was the words or Anders' touch, Nathaniel didn't know, but he found his resolve breaking. He turned his head and kissed Anders, crashing their lips together in a messy, searing kiss.

Nathaniel instinctively tried to take control of the kiss, but Anders was having none of it. The mage's kiss was both hungry and insistent, and his mouth tasted faintly of wild honey. It was intoxicating; but not so much that Nathaniel forgot where they were.

He drew away from Anders a little, breaking the kiss. "Not here," he said breathlessly. "Someone could catch us."

Anders grinned. "That's part of the fun. Besides, do you really want to stop this and go looking for somewhere more appropriate?"

Nathaniel gasped as Anders nipped at his neck. He gripped Anders' hair. "Don't you dare stop," he growled.

Anders chuckled. "Yes, ser." He tilted his head up and kissed Nathaniel again forcefully.

The more Anders kissed him, the more desperate and needy Nathaniel became. All of the fears and doubts and worries that were pent up inside of him were pouring out, like a dam unleashed. He needed Anders' touch, his warmth. Truth be told, Nathaniel had wanted this for ages, but had been hesitant to try for it. Now he had Anders in his arms—or rather, Anders had Nathaniel in his arms, for they were firmly wrapped around Nathaniel's torso now—and he reveled in it.

Both of Nathaniel's hands were gripping Anders' robes tightly now, pulling the mage closer. At some point they had both started grinding against each other, their hips thrusting against each other frantically. Anders reached down between Nathaniel's legs and rubbed at the front of his breeches, causing him to groan with pleasure.

Anders chuckled quietly. "Someone's definitely going to catch us if you keep making noises like that."

"Don't care," Nathaniel panted. And he didn't, not anymore. The pleasure was too great for him to care about anything but what Anders was doing to him. It would take a whole battalion of darkspawn to get Nathaniel to stop now.

Anders' deft fingers found the laces on the breeches Nathaniel was wearing under his leather skirt and loosened them enough to get his hand inside; his fingers brushed tantalizingly over Nathaniel's length, and Nathaniel had to actually bit his lip to keep from letting out an unmanly whimper.

With his free hand, Anders reached into a pocket in his robes and pulled out a small jar of healing balm.

In other circumstances Nathaniel might have made some sort of dry remake about Anders always being prepared, but at the moment he was much too grateful that Anders actually had something on hand for them to use.

"Turn around," Anders murmured into Nathaniel's ear. Nathaniel reluctantly loosed his hold on Anders' robes and twisted around to face the wall, his hands placed firmly on the cool stone. He felt Anders tugging on his smallclothes, pulling them partway down his legs before lifting up the flaps of Nathaniel's leather skirt.

There were a few moments of rustling behind him before Nathaniel finally felt a slicked finger teasing at his entrance. He exhaled a sigh and canted his hips backwards in invitation. Anders leaned in closer and nipped playfully at Nathaniel's neck as he slipped his finger inside.

Nathaniel clenched his muscle around Anders' finger, welcoming the intrusion. A satisfied smile played on Nathaniel's lips as he heard Anders hiss quietly in surprise. "For someone who's wanted me for ages, you're certainly taking your time about it."

Anders chuckled. "Is that a challenge?"

Nathaniel responded by clenching his arse again. It got him what he wanted: as soon as he relaxed, Anders pressed a second finger inside and pumped them in and out quickly.

There was a protest ready on Nathaniel's lips when Anders finally withdrew his fingers, but it died quickly when he felt the blunt tip of Anders' cock nudging against his entrance. Anders must have been preparing himself with his free hand, coating his length with salve to ease its passage. Both men groaned almost in unison as Anders started to push inside.

As Anders continued to thrust in, Nathaniel reached back with one hand to grip Anders' hip, urging him on. Anders had barely seated himself fully inside of Nathaniel before he began drawing back again slowly.

"Hurry up," Nathaniel growled between shallow breaths.

"Maker's flaming arse, you're impatient," Anders exclaimed lowly, amusement evident in his voice. His voice dropped to a low purr. "I'll give you fast if you want it." With that, he snapped his hips, thrusting into Nathaniel hard and pulling a choked cry from the rogue.

No more going slow, no drawing it out any further; Anders pummeled into Nathaniel at a frantic pace. Nathaniel took every bit of it, rocking his hips back in time with Anders' thrusts.

Anders reached around to grasp Nathaniel's cock, letting his thrusts guide his hand up and down the shaft. Anders' fingers were still slicked from the balm that Anders had used to stretch Nathaniel, so the movements were smooth.

Nathaniel moaned when Anders rubbed his thumb over the tip, his fingers squeezing just the slightest bit. "More," he rasped throatily. "Maker's breath, Anders, give me more."

Anders complied, slamming hard into Nathaniel, right against his sweet spot. Nathaniel couldn't stop the loud cry of pleasure that was ripped from him as he came hard, his seed spilling over Anders' hand. Anders followed almost immediately after, biting Nathaniel's shoulder to keep from making any noise.

Completely spent, Anders slumped against Nathaniel, his arms wrapping around the archer's waist, and his face nuzzling against Nathaniel's neck.

Nathaniel rested against the wall, taking Anders' weight easily. He turned his head and kissed Anders' brow lightly. It was a small, intimate gesture, and when Anders picked his head up to look at Nathaniel, he looked mildly surprised. Nathaniel covered for it by leaning in and biting at Anders' lip, tugging it between his teeth before kissing Anders deeply.

Anders seemed to relax, much more comfortable with this kind of contact. Nathaniel reminded himself that this was just a tryst for Anders, nothing more. Nathaniel knew that it really was him who Anders wanted, and not just a warm body, but it didn't change the fact that for Anders this had been about lust and attraction, not about romance or . . . something more.

After the kiss ended, Anders finally drew away, rearranging his robes. Nathaniel pulled his breeches back up his legs and re-laced them. He stood a bit awkwardly, unsure of what came next. If they'd been in a proper bed, Nathaniel would pulled Anders into his arms, cuddled with him a bit; maybe even drifted off to sleep with Anders' head resting on Nathaniel's chest.

They weren't in a bed, though. They were standing in an empty hallway, and though Nathaniel pulled Anders into a hug, it didn't quite feel the same. Especially when Anders hugged him back quickly before drawing away, chuckling a little.

"Definitely worth the wait," Anders said with a grin.

Nathaniel forced himself to return the smile. "Absolutely." And it had been. It had added a little more weight to his already heavy burden—the idea that no matter what happened, this first time with Anders was almost definitely the last—but it was worth it.

Anders opened his mouth to say something else, but the sounds of shouting on the stairs cut him off.

i"They're coming!"/i a voice shouted, one of the soldiers. "The darkspawn are advancing!"

Nathaniel let out a deep sigh. "I misjudged their speed."

"Or they got impatient," Anders said, trying for a joke.

Impulsively, Nathaniel grabbed Anders and pulled him in for another tight hug, ignoring the mage's look of surprise. He kissed Anders deeply—a long, lingering kiss, full of all the things that Nathaniel would not and could not say. He didn't stop until he ran out of breath, and when he pulled away he was pleased to see Anders' eyes darkened with lust.

"I should get to the battlements," Nathaniel said reluctantly.

Anders smiled at him warmly. "Don't worry; this'll be a piece of cake." There was a hint of worry etched on Anders' face, though, and Nathaniel was sure that it echoed his own expression.

Nathaniel reached up as if to touch Anders' face, but thought better of it. He dropped his hand to Anders' shoulder instead and squeezed it lightly. "Good luck, Anders."

Turning, he headed for the stairs, body already tensing again in preparation for the fight ahead. He resisted the temptation to turn and look back at Anders one last time. His lips curved into a tiny smile as he felt a rejuvenation spell lightly touch him: a final gift from the mage.