Another little snippet from the life of Eli and Anders. If you haven't read their other stories, they're in the following order: 'The First Sunrise', 'Sink or Swim' and 'Easy as Pie'. Reading and reviewing is more than appreciated!
[insert standard disclaimer here]
From Across the Room
The library was busier that day than it had been for months. Not surprising considering the number of reports, and potion recipes, and final examinations that were coming due in the next few days. Not that it mattered much – even the teachers' pets were condemned to a life within the confines of the Tower's walls. Still, no one ever pretended that it didn't matter. And there were just some classes that weren't worth repeating.
Anders was surprised though – there was barely any available space when he entered the great halls. Books were strewn about on seats. Apprentices leaned up against the enormous stacks of tomes – some severely panicked; others on the verge of passing out from exhaustion. He chuckled to himself, considering that for likely the first time ever, he was not in their position. The good influence of Elirezara had him completing his work early, let alone on time, and he still had three days to study for the examination to be administered for healing spell magic – a subject that he felt himself an expert in due to his natural aptitude for such things.
Speaking of Eli…where was she?
She had to be in the library. She was always in the library. The fact that it was crowded wouldn't give her any less reason to be there. As he scanned the room, he spied a solitary empty seat in a slightly secluded alcove. As luck would have it, there was a small desk in front of it that no one had claimed either. He hurried over, dropped the books he carried on to the desk and flopped down into the chair. Readjusting his long hair to secure it back into its hair tie, he continued to casually glance at those surrounding him. No sign of the elf. He shrugged and leaned forward to pick up one of his books.
"An Introduction to the Art of Wound Care." Riveting stuff.
He sighed and leaned back into the chair again. This seat was far too comfortable for words considering it was in the library, and he soon found the front legs floating above the floor as he pushed himself back and off the ground. The chair precariously balanced on the two back legs as he absentmindedly flipped through the pages in the book, hoping to have a chapter jump out at him.
"Chapter Nine: The Setting of Fractured or Broken Bones." A good enough place to start, if any. "When healing the fractured or broken bones of an individual, it is important to remember to reset the bone into its proper location first. A healed bone set incorrectly can lead to further permanent injury in the patient."
Ugh. That's obvious.
He wondered if Eli had ever had a broken bone. She wasn't one for healing really. She might not have known that she'd need to reset it first. But then again, she wasn't stupid. In fact, she was the complete opposite of stupid. She was quite brilliant in everything she seemed to put her mind to. At least in theory. The carry through on some of the schools of magic wasn't as strong as the thought behind it.
Anders glanced around the room again – still no sign of the elf.
"When healing the fractured or broken bones of..." Wait a minute, I've already read this. Well this isn't very productive. He placed the open book down on his lap and stretched out in his chair. It was then that he saw her.
Elirezara was far across the main section of the library near one of the smaller fireplaces. She was sitting on the floor cross-legged, next to a stack of books that she had likely been collecting over the course of the previous few months. He admired her ambitiousness when it came to books. She read for study and pleasure, but likely she was reviewing necessary information for her classes and their final tests and reports at a time like this.
He rested his elbow on the arm of the chair, laying his head into the palm of his awaiting open hand. He was pleased for such a perfect vantage point to keep an eye on her. She was often picked on when she sat alone, and he had been very protective of her since they shared their first kiss several months prior. One might say overprotective. Actually, she had said it. But he could tell from the look on her face that it was something she appreciated.
Perhaps it wasn't that though – perhaps he had simply grown to appreciate looking at her…watching her. She was maturing into a beautiful woman before his eyes. He found it a little strange…he'd never been attracted to an elf before. Not really. He'd shared passing flings with them, but that was different. And he still really didn't understand what his feelings were for her anyway. Did he want a physical relationship with the girl? Of course he did, even more so now that he was a man. But she was so different than the other girls in the Tower. She was naïve, yet he never wanted to take advantage of her. She was innocent, but not stupid enough to fall for the same old routine. She accepted him for what he was…fully and completely.
He loved her. But what did that even mean?
As he calmed the thoughts that were spinning out of control in his mind, his eyes fell upon her once again. The firelight from the hearth at her side danced upon her long dark hair. The slightly wavy mass was primarily held back behind her long thin ears, yet several tendrils fell in front of them and repeatedly visited her field of vision. She would fuss with the strands, pushing them out of her eyes so she could continue to read. There was something engaging about that simple motion for Anders – as if she felt safer with her hair ready to hide her face from the world, even though it would just be easier to pull it all back behind her ears. Being a mage, he easily understood that feeling. Sometimes one needed to have that sense of security, despite how much easier the alternative would be.
Even at this distance, he could see her small brown eyes focusing on the words in her book. Or was it just his imagination? Perhaps he was just envisioning her eyes from memory. When she smiled her timid smile, her eyes were always veiled. It was difficult to read her. But at her most vulnerable…when she was truly happy…when she was unable to stifle her laughter, that was when her eyes danced. They told stories that could never be told with simple words. Her entire face would transform as an expansive smile would cover it. She had these tiny dimples that would only appear on her cheeks when she laughed that way.
And her laugh…it was infectious. Anders couldn't help but smile at the thought of it. It echoed in his head like music. It would be the saddest thing in the world to never hear her laugh again. But he was getting quite good at giving her good reason to expose that laugh to the world.
He sighed contentedly as he lowered his chair back on to its four legs. He looked at the book on his lap, and decided to return to studying. He flipped it back over.
"When healing the fractured or…" Maker, sod it! This is a boring chapter anyway.
As he flipped through the book further, his eyes drifted back up towards her, until his action of looking through the book was merely a hollow parody of its original intent. She had stretched out her legs in front of her by the time he watched her again. She wasn't tall by any standards, especially human ones, but her legs were incredibly long for an elf. She'd had to wear robes that were too large for her tiny frame just to fit the length until the templars insisted to the Tower staff that she have some specially made. Bulky robes made for good hiding places of weapons and illegal lyrium – they preferred to be able to see any unnatural lumps and bumps from the apprentices' bodies. Or perhaps they were just leering a little too close at their charges. Anders shuddered at the thought, and clenched his fists when he considered what he'd do if he caught a templar looking at Elirezara in that manner.
She shifted uncomfortably on the ground and readjusted herself. She pulled one of her legs up, bending it at the knee and draped her arm across the top of it. His eyes widened when he realized that from his point of view, the position had caused her robes to offer a tantalizing view of the leg that was stretched out before her. And he could also almost see where the thigh of the bent leg became her bottom. Almost. He quickly regained control of himself, closing the mouth that had only slightly fallen agape.
Anders tossed the book he held back on to the desk and leaned forward, burying his head into his crossed arms atop his books.
How did this girl manage to do this? She was beginning to consume his every thought. It made no sense. He was Anders! The Anders who got around. The Anders who had a reputation as a sexy young and talented lover of apprentices, mages and Enchanters alike. Fawning like a pubescent boy over…an elf of all things.
Was that really so bad?
Without lifting his head off of the desk, he pulled on his ponytail with both hands, gripping it in frustration. At this rate, there was no way he was going to have any success with studying. He sat up and sighed loudly. He glanced back over at where Elirezara was sitting, only to discover that she was no longer there. He anxiously allowed his eyes to dart around the room, trying to catch a glimpse of where she had headed. But to no avail.
He sighed again.
"Looking for someone?" asked a voice from behind him.
Jumping a foot out of his seat, he turned to see she was right there, leaning against the stack behind him.
"Eli! What are you doing here?"
"I was just headed back to the dorms, when I noticed you were sitting over here. What are you up to?"
Relieved that she had only just noticed him, he smiled innocently. "Studying." To prove his point, he picked up one of the books from the desk and waved it in front of him.
"Studying?" she said, eyeing him suspiciously. "With closed books?"
"Well," he guffawed, "they were open."
"I see," she said. "Well, it's good to see that you're working hard. I'll see you later."
"Wait!" he said, a little too loudly. "I uh…I." He cleared his throat. "I don't think I've seen those um…robes before. They are…very nice."
She raised an eyebrow. Anders scrunched his face up.
"I mean…the colour. It suits you."
She raised the eyebrow…further.
"I mean…look. I'm trying to pay you a compliment here," Anders said, exasperated.
She smiled. That smile that lit up a room. The one that was often accompanied by the laughter that was music to his ears.
"Thank you Anders," she said, stifling a giggle.
"Why are you laughing at me?" he asked, his face displaying a moderate amount of hurt.
"I am laughing at you because you are the absolute worst liar I have ever met!" she exclaimed.
"I'm not lying," he protested. "What would I be lying about?"
She laughed loudly, turning the heads of several others around them, and prompted a 'shhhh!' from an overseeing templar. She approached him to stand directly in front of him.
"You," she said, pointing a finger directly at his nose, "are lying because you were not studying. You may have been attempting to study. Or at least attempting to study the books you carry. But what you were studying was my hemline!"
His eyes opened wide. His face turned several shades of red. "I was…not!"
"Oh Anders…please," she said. "You are no subtler than a bright rainbow on a grey day. You nearly fell out of your chair when I moved my leg."
"You did that on purpose!" he said.
"Ah ha! I knew it!"
He inwardly groaned. She ensnared him in her trap and he walked right in, delivering the answer she sought. She began to giggle again, and spun around to walk away.
"Hey!" he said, as she did so. He turned to collect his books and hurried after her. "I…I couldn't help it Eli." He turned his voice to drip innocence, hoping she would buy it, but knowing better.
"Couldn't help it?" she said, looking over her shoulder back at him. "Like you can't help catching up so that you may watch me walk from behind?"
His eyes met hers and he realized she was right again. He had been caught staring at her behind as her hips sashayed with purpose. Who had she been taking lessons from?
He caught up to her and walked beside her in silence. When they were out of the library and in the decidedly quieter corridors, he stopped her. She looked up at him, still trying not to giggle.
"I really don't know what's happening here Eli," he admitted.
She shrugged. "I don't either."
"Is it…okay?" he questioned.
"I…yeah, I think so," she said. "It's new for me."
"Me too," he said.
"Really? I'd have thought you've done this hundreds of times."
"Not like this," he said with wide eyes.
"When I told you that I…loved you…I meant it," he said.
"I know," she replied. "I meant it too. You're the only person I feel safe with…the only one that I can trust. I think that's what love means."
He nodded. "I think so too."
"Good. It's settled then."
"What's settled?" he asked.
"What's…happening here. Between us."
"You don't sound convinced, Anders."
He leaned forward and kissed her softly on the cheek. "I'm convinced, Eli."
She smiled and started to head off in the direction of the dorms again. With the pile of books in her arms, she half waved a goodbye at him and he returned the gesture.
He was convinced. Sort of. For now.
After all, what was happening between them was ever changing.
And tomorrow was another day.