Title: The Spirit of Meow (3/4)
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Fenris ♂, M!Hawke ♂, Anders ♂
Rating: T (L2 N2 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Expletives, transformation, nudity
Notes: Ok, so this goes one more… Why does nothing I intend to be three chapters ever stop at three? This is so fucking dysfunctional, I don’t even…
Fenris woke before dawn, to the burn of magic racing along the lyrium in his skin, lancing through him, cracking against itself and his bones. His eyes shot open to find the cat aglow on his chest, the radiant blue lighting the room.
"What…?" he choked out, debating reaching for his sword.
The light grew larger, longer, heavier, if such a thing could be imagined, until it seemed to be a man sketched in radiant rays, with an orange cat where his heart should be.
"Demon cat-magister!" Fenris sputtered, knocking the sword over, as he reached for it. Cat-magister? Really? he chided himself.
The thing was heavy, but he was strong. He could throw it off, easily, but this was still his friend, Bun. He had a certain reluctance to harm the little light in his life. The light that was becoming increasingly literal and bright. He would see it for what it was, first, and then he would decide if he had to kill it.
Stories of elven gods disguising themselves as animals danced through his head, as the light became too bright to see through, and the pressure on his body increased. Was that why this cat was so important? Was it one of the gods, hiding out in the world of men? That, frankly, was a terrifying thought, and one that raised a lot of questions for his faith.
As the light bled out, slowly dimming, the pressure resolved itself into a very tall bipedal shape — a human or an elf — with its head tucked under Fenris’s chin. He raised one shoulder, to suggest it move off him.
"Fuck off. ‘M sleeping," it muttered, settling onto him more solidly.
… That voice. He knew that voice. That was Anders.
"Get off me, abomination!" Fenris roared, sitting up and shoving Anders off himself.
"We’ve been over this," Anders grumbled, licking the back of his hand and rubbing his face. "I’m not—"
And then it dawned on him, one hand slapping over the scar on his chest and the other reaching down to cover his junk. Those weren’t cat sounds. He wasn’t a cat.
Fenris stared in horror at the naked mage at the foot of his bed. Anders stared back, frozen in terror.
"You lied to me!" Fenris roared, furious at this turn of events.
"I was a cat at the time!" Anders protested. "Blame Hawke, not me!"
"I trusted you. I thought you were my friend."
"I am your friend, Fenris." Anders curled in on himself, scars on his shoulders standing out in relief against the firelight, as his hair fell forward. "I couldn’t laugh with you. I couldn’t tell you that you weren’t alone. I was a cat, at the time. All I could do was purr and rub my face on you."
"You took the only thing I could count on to make me happy away from me, mage." The glow started in Fenris’s hands.
"I’m still right here!" Anders protested. "I am exactly where you left me."
"You’re not Bun. Or, rather, you are Bun, because Bun was never real. You showed me something, you made me think I could have it, and then you took it away from me. And that’s what I get for trusting mages. You and Hawke both."
"I got turned into a fucking cat!" Anders shouted. "I just spent seven weeks licking my own ass! I am not responsible for any of this shit, unless it’s the shit in the box under the bed!"
Fenris’s eyes snapped up, and he grew deadly still, watching the abomination’s face. Distress. Terror. Shame. Serves him right.
Anders quieted. "I know why Hawke brought me here. I heard him say it over and over. You were the only one he could trust to look after me, until I was safe again. And, yes, Martigan really is a shithead, in case you were wondering. If it wasn’t for the damned dog, I’d have stayed with Hawke."
His shoulders stiffened and curled forward, and Fenris could still see that bit of Bun left in the mage. The cat’s ears would have been flattened back, ratty fur fluffed in all directions. Ratty because of the scars, Fenris realised. The scars hadn’t left him when he changed.
"I wish he’d told you. I couldn’t figure out how." Anders sighed. "And now I’m stuck here until he brings me clothes, aren’t I."
Fenris held out his hand, without thinking, rubbing his thumb over the side of one knuckle, as he clicked his tongue. Anders stretched forward and rubbed his face against the hand, eyes still wary, back still tense. Fenris looked away, closed his eyes.
"Come back to bed, cat. I miss you." His fingertips ached as he rubbed behind Anders’s ear. Pain shot across his palm. This was all wrong. This wasn’t supposed to work like this. He’d been lied to and cheated, again, by mages, but this mage, who had been his cat, looked so broken and small. Perhaps they’d both been cheated, this time.
He would punch Hawke, in the morning, Fenris decided. It was Hawke’s fault for giving him a fake cat that was only a slight improvement over a demon. It was Hawke’s fault for not being there when the abomination changed back. Actually, that’s your fault, he reminded himself, but swept that thought away. Hawke would never have even asked, if Fenris hadn’t given him the idea.
Anders had curled up as tightly as he could, tipping his head to give Fenris room to scratch his neck. His breathing was irregular, but soundless, and he shivered in the night air. The fire helped, but the broken windows and holes in the roof didn’t.
"Just get under the blankets, before you freeze, Bun. You don’t have fur any more," Fenris sighed. "I’d give you something to wear, but you’re a damned giant."
Anders chuffed, quietly, and got under the blankets, curling up against Fenris’s side. Fenris wrapped an arm around him, stroking his shoulder, rubbing his cheek, but still wouldn’t look.
"You told me stories," Anders whispers. "And you fed me. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so well for so long, in my life."
"Neither have I." Fenris sounded faintly amused. "Hawke did say he was bribing me with food, to take you."
"I hope my coat still fits…" Anders muttered.
"Fasta vass, mage, your coat had better fit. You are not wearing my bedsheets across Hightown."
A delicate silence hung between them, until the image became too much to bear. Anders snorted against Fenris’s shoulder, and Fenris choked until a full-voiced laugh bubbled out of the depths of his chest.
"Venhedis." Fenris dragged a hand down his face, still chuckling. "I cannot cope with this shit."
"You, ser, did not spend seven weeks licking your own ass, speaking of coping with shit," Anders teased.
"And then you licked me." Fenris managed to look annoyed, even with his eyes closed.
"Well, yes. It’s not like I had a different tongue to use. And I would have licked you, anyway. You were nice to me." Anders rubbed his cheek against Fenris’s shoulder.
"Is that all it takes?" Fenris’s eyebrows raised, from the bridge of his nose, and Anders braced himself for the punchline. He knew how that expression worked, by now. "Hawke’s a lucky man."
"Hawke’s going to be a lucky man if I don’t set his ass on fire," Anders snarled.
"I’ll race you to the door," Fenris offered, darkly.
"Let’s not. You know he won’t take you not responding as an answer. He’ll let himself in, after a few minutes, like he did last week."
"And then what? He’ll find us up here, and…?" Fenris looked confused.
"He’ll find us up here, curled up in your bed, together, and he will ask himself what he did to deserve this." Anders smiled that dangerously unpleasant smile he saved for moments like these. "And I’m sure we’ll be happy to tell him."
"And then he can get you some clothes."
"I miss being dressed," Anders sighed, curling up a little closer against Fenris. "It was warm."
Fenris made a small sound of amusement, scratching the back of Anders’s head for a moment, before he tried to untangle himself and get up. "Stay put. This house is not safe for cats."
Anders smiled sadly and burrowed into the blankets, as Fenris went to stoke the fire. Less useful, with the holes in the roof, but still better than nothing. On his way back to bed, Fenris picked up the old, moth-eaten blanket from where it sat on top of a chest and tossed it onto the bed. He brushed the ash off his feet before climbing back into his own warm spot.
"I’m going to regret asking, but how did you end up as a cat?" Fenris finally asked, closing his eyes again, before scratching under Anders’s chin.
"Hawke was trying to help me. We were doing fine. But, I swear to the Maker’s own heart, if that man ever offers to translate something from Old Tevene, just punch him."
"Tevinter magic. I should have known. You mages are all the same," Fenris groused, taking his hand back and moving away.
"We were trying to get Justice out of me. I saw a reference in an old codex to an even older text, and we managed to track a copy of it to the library in the Gallows. I just wanted to be free. I wanted to drink and laugh again. I wanted to give my friend his own life back, untainted. I made a mistake, Fenris. We made a mistake. I wanted to believe it could be undone. I just wanted to make things right."
"So, you studied forbidden magic," Fenris spat.
"Actually, I didn’t. It’s not forbidden. It’s just not practised any more, because most of the reasons you’d need to use it are forbidden. Which is stupid, because if someone is practising forbidden magic, someone needs to be able to clean up after it." Anders shook his head, twitched, and looked even more tired. "I don’t have a tail any more. I keep trying to move it, and it isn’t there."
"Fool mage." Fenris ignored how his hand crept out from his side, until it wrapped around the abomination’s fingers. "Don’t think that gets you out of telling the rest of the tale."
"Of course not. Why would that ever work on you?" Anders deadpanned, drily. "We got the book. We even got it out of the tower. The gist of it was that a spirit without a host could survive outside the Fade, for a time, in the form of an animal. I knew we could get him back into the Fade. Feynriel — you remember Feynriel —was going to help us do it. All we had to do was get him out. Get him untangled from me."
"The only way I have ever heard to separate a demon from its host is to kill the host," Fenris pointed out.
Anders was willing to let the jab pass, this once. "See? Because that’s the way they want it. There’s another way. There’s a few other ways, but I could only find one we’d both survive. I don’t want to kill him, I just don’t want to be him. I just… Tevene and Old Tevene are not the same language. They’re similar, but they’re not the same, and the Rivaini influence on Modern Tevene is … There are some words that are spelt the same, but they don’t mean the same thing. Part of it, we couldn’t be sure of part of it, but he swore to me there was no other way to read that word. Some of those words don’t exist any more. Some of those things are legends." Anders curled his arm, resting his wrist against the side of his nose, blocking his face. "We did our best to interpret it. We tried so hard. I wanted to believe we could do it, and then I was fuzzy, half a stone, and had ears and a tail."
"Fool mage." This time, it sounded almost affectionate. Exasperated, but affectionate.
"I fought Hawke, when he said he was bringing me here. It’s why he wrapped me in a towel. Said he couldn’t risk me and Martigan hurting each other. You know that drooling beast can use a doorknob?" There was that flex and shiver, again; the one that would have made him fluff in annoyance, had he still the fur for it.
Fenris felt it happen and reached out to stroke his shoulder and rub behind his ear. Suddenly, he grabbed Anders by the ear and twisted, sharply. "You pissed on me."
"Ow! You called me a sloth demon! It was that or claw your face, and I really didn’t want to actually hurt you."
"It would take more than cat claws to actually hurt me."
"Still, you would have taken it as an attack. I wanted to show you I was displeased, not show you I was suicidal."
"You choose words so carefully, mage. Were you suicidal?"
Anders moved his hand off his face and just stared. "Look at me, Fenris."
Fenris made no move to open his eyes, but he coughed, and the corner of his mouth tipped up. "Point."
"Seven days, he told me. Read it straight out of the book. Except that word isn’t days, used like that. He missed the mark after the number."
Fenris couldn’t read, but he was somewhat familiar with some common Tevene shorthand symbols — street, river, week — even if he’d never had reason to consider the age or history of them. "Seven sets of seven. Seven weeks."
"And the point for this round goes to the illiterate elf who could read the document better without even seeing it, than the multi-lingual mage who’d been studying it for weeks." Anders sounded frustrated and exhausted.
"So, what happened to your —" demon "— to Justice?" Fenris asked, moving back toward the mage. For warmth, he told himself. "If he was supposed to have become a cat, but you both changed…"
"I think we hurt him. We definitely hurt me. But, we’re… a little less entwined, I guess. His thoughts are clearer — more clearly his. I still screwed up, again. Almost got us both killed." Anders sighed and curled up around Fenris’s arm. "I do wonder if I can adapt that into some more normal shapeshifting spell. I know it’s possible to do it, but I’ve never met anyone who could — the Warden-Commander, back in Amaranthine, knew a Chasind sorceress, though. Apparently, she could turn into a bereskarn. I just want to be a cat. It wouldn’t matter if the Templars used blood magic to track me — they do that, you know — because they’d never be able to recognise me, if they saw me at all."
"You’d still be marked, but the mark would be without meaning." Fenris could see the appeal of that, if not the appeal of being a cat. "Templars use blood magic?"
"Missed that little bit of hypocrisy, did you? Most people do. They’re trained to fear and hate magic; forcibly addicted to lyrium, which makes anyone a little crazy, to give them unnatural powers; and then given enchanted vials of our blood, to use against us. The blood is a part of the whole, and with the right kinds of blood magic, it can be just as good as the whole. We’re just lucky more Templars aren’t taught the more dangerous uses, and very few Enchanters are willing to even admit those can be arranged." Anders started to shake, both hands kneading at Fenris’s ribs.
"That’s disgusting. Even if you are a mage." An uncomfortable thought occurred to Fenris about how he might have more in common with Templars than he’d thought. Unnatural powers from the forced application of lyrium? Check. Ingrained hatred of all things magic? Check.
He’d seen that Templar cast-out down by the docks. Seen the way the man looked at him, specifically, to the exclusion of everyone else, but had always figured it was that he was an elf. Or that the tattoos made him look almost as dangerous as he was. But, it wasn’t that, was it? The man could sense the lyrium in him. And as an elf… All the more reason to stay clear of both sides of that fight. He didn’t want to be used like that, again, and definitely not against his own cat.
He stroked Anders’s hair, scratched between his shoulders, and slowly pulled the mage closer to him. "It’s strange listening to you tell stories, now. I wondered what you would tell me, if you could talk. I’d have wondered less, if I knew you were you. But, your voice is almost pleasing, when you’re not using it to complain about your oppression."
"I’ll tell you right off it was never your voice I had a problem with," Anders admitted, chewing on Fenris’s shoulder. "Just your loathing."
"Everything is wrong with this situation. I should hate you more than I already do." Fenris flicked Anders in the nose, and the chewing stopped. "But, you are my cat."
"If Elthina’s right — if an Exalted March is coming — let’s run off to Antiva. You can become a legendary assassin, and I’ll be your cat. No one has to know the truth. You’ll be the blue light of death, blessed to seemingly eternal life and scarless skin by the magical healing of meow. I’ll cook. You kill things. If they find us, they’ll wish they’d never started looking."
"Let us not go to Antiva City. I’ve heard it smells just as bad as Kirkwall." Fenris tucked a knee between Anders’s thighs, getting as much of himself as close to the warm, solid body beside him as possible, still petting and cuddling. "And what about Hawke?"
Anders slung his leg over Fenris’s hip. "What about Hawke? Hawke’s a grown-ass noble with a family history of apostacy. I’m sure he can handle himself."
"Still pissed, I see. Remind me never to mistranslate for you," Fenris drawled.
"Better to be pissed off than pissed on," Anders muttered.
"I can attest to that."
"I’m not sorry. You called me a sloth demon."
"You were warm, fuzzy, comfortable, and possessed!"
"Still most of those things. Probably less comfortable, though."
"Much. You don’t fit under my arm, or between the crook of my knee and my chest. You had to go and turn back into a giant." Fenris shifted against the pillow, his hand curling into a fist against Anders’s spine, as he settled his arm.
"Mmm. I know that move. Back to sleep?" Anders mumbled, rubbing his cheek on Fenris’s shoulder.
"Hawke’s going to be here in a few hours. I want to make sure I’m properly awake when that happens."
"Thanks. For everything."