A/N: This has been a while in coming. To my small but kind audience, thank you for your patience. And thank you to Junipper for their kind review. I know it was back in September, but it moved me, and it kicked my butt back in gear about this story. I opened up the next chapter that very day and wrote. And then the most terrible thing happened; I saved over everything I had written. Distraught, angry with myself, and struck with a great lack of motivation, I left it. But that is terrible, and I shouldn't have.
If there is only one thing to be learned from me as a writer, it is certainly that inspiration is a fickle, untamable beast. Do not depend on inspiration and motivation to write, my friends. Depend on self-discipline. If you force yourself to write, the inspiration will come. Not always immediately. But it will come.
Anyway, enough philosophy; here is the next chapter of Because. I expect two (maaaybe 3) more after this - a final chapter and an epilogue.
Because Hesitation is for the Foolish
It took a little while, but he found her. She stood in the corridor, staring at a large portrait hanging on the wall. This was it. He couldn't do this any longer. He'd spent the last full day recovering – they all had. And the entire time, she danced through his mind like flame. And after their – her – close call, he knew that saying something was far less dangerous than not. Better a broken heart from knowing than one from never finding out.
So he stepped towards her.
"I'm glad to see you are feeling better, Commander." She turned from the painting and smiled at him. It was warm and soft, if not still a bit tired around the eyes.
"Anders. It is good to see you better as well." He stood there, taking her in. Apparently it was a few moments too long, because she added, "Is zhere something I can do for you?"
He'd been steeling himself for this.
"Have I ever told you," he took slow, purposeful steps toward her, "that you are alarmingly beautiful?" The hallway of the keep was dim save for the light of a few torches. Usually he found it inconvenient, but for this moment the ambiance couldn't have set a better tone for his intentions.
She turned to face him fully now, her expression sly. "You may 'ave mentioned it – once or twice. Not zee word "alarmingly" specifically, but something of zhat nature, yes."
"Well! Glad to know you were paying attention." Now. Time to turn on the charm full-blast.
"Speaking of which, what would you say if I told you someone in your little entourage has become quite taken with you, my lady?"
Her arms folded across her chest and she pursed her lips, one hand lifting to tap a long finger against her cheek. "I believe my reaction would depend upon which of our companions we are talking about. For example, if it were Oghren I would 'ave to ask whether or not 'e vas drunk. So you see I am afraid you 'ave to be more specific… Anders."
Her gaze pierced into his, and the way she said his name made his blood race. He was no novice at reading expressions, especially on women, and he would bet a large sum that the Commander's look held no small measure of interest – he knew her heart must hold at least a little. So he would play this game with her if that's what she wanted. It was something he knew he was good at. His eyes drifted behind her briefly at the large portrait of Elias Howe and he was struck with an idea. Shrugging his shoulders with an air of defeat, he sighed.
"Touché, my dear woman. All right. You win. If you're going to make me come out and say it I guess there's no helping it." His tone was serious and he took a step closer to her; perhaps in surprise at his forwardness, she took a small step back, putting her almost flat against the wall. Resting his hand on the stone above her, he said,
"Nathaniel Howe has taken a great liking to you."
She seemed to be trying to contain both her shock and her laughter, but she managed to choke out, "Has he now?" in a moderately dignified tone. Suffice to say it was clearly not what she'd been expecting.
His voice an octave lower, he continued; "Oh yes. He's head over heels. He thinks about you all the time… daydreams about kissing along your collarbone..." His gaze traced idly over said collarbone, tragically covered by her garments.
Leonie maintained an enviable air of tranquility as she evenly replied, "He is a very noble gentleman. It is flattering that 'e regards me vith such esteem."
Anders ducked his head closer to hers and continued, quite earnestly; "Oh he regards you all right. He only wishes he could spend more time alone with you. Maybe go somewhere… together."
She gazed up through her eyelashes at him: "Alone?" He'd been hoping for a note of surprise, but her voice held strong and rich, and if it were laced with anything, he'd have to categorize it as excitement. But that worked just as well.
"Well yes. While he finds the presence of our other companions agreeable enough, he would very much like a little more one-on-one time with his favorite Orlesian Commander."
A smile tugged at the corners of her full lips; he knew she had one hell of a coy side to her. "So vhere does Nathaniel desire to take me?"
Well. He could spar with coy.
In a very matter-of-fact tone, he said simply, "He desires to take you against the wall, I believe."
"Anders!" Her cheeks colored slightly at his explicit implications. He smirked and continued.
"And perhaps on top of a dresser. And in the storage room. Just for starters." And this woman of will did not flinch, but merely smiled. Reaching out her right hand, she ran that long, graceful index finger of hers down the stitching on the chest of his robes. "Nathaniel is more of a pervert zhan I thought him to be."
Her mostly-innocent touch sent a shiver down his spine that he didn't bother concealing. "Mm. Yes, well, you can hardly blame him, can you? You are an extraordinary woman."
"Oh he finds me extraordinary now, does he?" Her tone held amusement in it, but here was the crucial part - where he had to convince her that he wasn't joking. And that it wasn't just about taking her, so to speak, but about giving to her – all that he had.
Catching the hand that traced his robes, he replied evenly: "My lady, you are unquestionably the most extraordinary person I have ever known."
She turned her gaze up to his face, asking an unspoken question, and he did nothing but stare back openly, answering any and all questions by allowing his heart to pour into his eyes - reveling in the breach of his third-person form of confession. Hours seemed to pass in the span of a moment before Anders finally turned his gaze back down to her hand. Lifting it to his face, he returned his eyes to hers and held her stare as he placed a slow, solid kiss on the inside of her wrist.
"Mostly though, he wants to take you to… the Crown and Lion perhaps? After a hard day of battling the darkspawn he thought it would be nice to relax and just have a drink with you. Perhaps get dinner, sit and talk and laugh…" She swallowed thickly. The crackling of the torches and the sound of her chest, rising and falling, were the only sounds in the dim hallway.
"Is Nathaniel asking what I think 'e is asking?" Her voice was softer than before and where once there had been joviality in her tone, a soft astonishment lilted instead.
He'd kept her hand near his face and now he held her palm against his cheek and leaned into it, eyes locked with hers. "He hopes you'll say yes."
Her fingers skimmed across his hairline and she smiled so serenely. "I cannot think of anything better after a day of darkspawn-massacring zhan a drink vith Nathaniel."
He closed his eyes in triumph, heart leaping in his chest. Reveling in the touch of her fingertips, he sighed audibly and happily. And then, opening his eyes, he met her gaze and grinned. "Except being taken against the wall, right?"
"Anders!" She withdrew her hand in shock, and her fingers alit on the blush of her own cheeks.
He chuckled and backed away, removing his hand from the wall above her. "Apologies, apologies."
He was pretty sure she'd been expecting him to kiss her, but he wouldn't. Not just yet. He had greater plans for that.
"So perhaps tomorrow… once the darkspawn-slaying quota has been met for the day…"
She leaned forward off of the wall stood upright.
"I believe my plans include going to a local tavern."
"My dear, alone?"
"Vell, I vould not mind some company, Anders." Now she stepped forward, and walked two fingers up the center line of his robes.
"But until then, I do believe I need my rest. So zhis is farewell… for now."
In one fluid movement she stood on her tip toes and, placing the barest tips of her fingers on his face, kissed him gently on the cheek once more. But it was more intimate than the day before, and her full lips pressed more sensuously into the flesh of his cheekbone.
He had the greatest urge to turn into it – to make it a full-blown kiss, but he held back. That could wait for another time. She pulled away and smiled at him mysteriously, saying, "Pass zhat on to Nathanial for me, will you?" and then she turned and walked down the dim corridor.
Among the many great joys that filtered through his mind, the stray one that struck him was how irate the Howe would be if he knew how Anders had seduced their Commander just now.
He almost went and told him.
A/N: Well, if I've not made it clear yet, reviews are incredibly important. They motivate, provide inspiration, and help to make the writer better at the craft they profess to love and attempt. So leave one!
P.S. How AMAZING is Dragon Age: Inquisition?! Holy hell I have funneled an embarrassing amount of my limited time on Earth into playing that game.