Back to Amantis verendum: Contents
Tobias sits at his writing desk, frowning at the half-crumpled piece of paper. From the look of it, he imagines Anders screwed it up, then smoothed it out before tucking it into the book. He must have been debating whether to leave it there for Tobias to find… or perhaps he just forgot about it.
That seems unlikely, but then this is Anders, and it’s hard to tell. Tobias traces the spidery black shapes of the words with the tips of his fingers, and the writing is so much like Anders himself, full of the dichotomies of strong, hard angles, and the reaching idealisms of long, sketchy lines.
He’s not sure whether it is truly a poem, or simply thoughts set to the fragments of words. Maybe they are the same thing, maybe not. Either way, Tobias reads it over and over again, and his frown grows deeper.
we are the wave, you and I,
pulling on an empty tide.
your breath breaks across me,
the grey water ripples,
and black gulls scream above us.
under full skies we teem,
blood and salt, sand and mud,
and there are things we do
that cannot be forgiven.
I meet you in the even light,
and hide my heart
in broken spaces,
but there is no shelter
from an unending storm.
He doesn’t know whether he finds it beautiful or terrifying. It is about them… probably. It may not be. The paper is undated—and Tobias is very aware that he is not Anders’ first love. He struggles with that occasionally, and perhaps in a rather immature, self-indulgent sort of way. He wishes he didn’t, but he can’t help it, because he has never had anyone this close to him before.
There was never the opportunity, back in Ferelden. For most of Tobias’ life, his family was either moving around, or so centred on itself that he rarely had the chance to have more than fleeting contact with anyone outside it. Besides, Lothering was a small farming community—not even the great trade outpost it had been in years past. It wasn’t exactly overburdened with potential lovers.
There were a few boys with whom Tobias skirted the shores of erotic discovery… one of whom he thought he loved, but who shrank from him, horrified, when he found out about the mage thing. Tobias, frightened the templars would come for him (although they never did, and Cal simply took to pretending he didn’t exist, instead of reporting him) never pushed his luck again. Then, of course, Malcolm died, and life got harder… and then there was the Blight.
Anders, obviously, grew up in the Circle. For all he hears about how awful it was, Tobias rather envies the idea of proximity. All those other people who are like you. Not being a minority, not being alone… and Anders wasn’t alone. He had Karl. Tobias has heard quite a bit about those years, in small dribs, drabs, and snippets, because—when he can do it calmly, without letting the anger, guilt, and regret that those memories engender take over—talking about it seems to help Anders.
He loved Karl. Loved him the giddy, intense, desperate way that first love fills a person up, and it’s obvious from the way he talks that Karl loved him just as much. Anyone would, Tobias supposes, and the mental picture he has of Anders at sixteen—all elbows, knees, and rebellion—makes his heart ache a little.
He wishes he’d known him then… known him sometime before the Grey Wardens, and Justice, and the cares that weigh so heavily on him now. He wishes he’d been that first love, Tobias supposes, and he acknowledges that he is jealous of Karl, and jealous of all those unnamed lovers who came later. He doesn’t like that some of them were women, either, though he couldn’t possibly tell Anders that. Anders would think him narrow-minded, because he just doesn’t see those kinds of distinctions.
Tobias has never been interested in the fairer sex. He can perform, but it is a perfunctory act, like the grim, breathless rutting he shared with Isabela, down in the Deep Roads when they both thought they were going to die. Generally speaking, women’s bodies hold no allure or mystique that enthrals him, and while some of them are very nice people, he doesn’t see the attraction of wanting to share a bed, much less a life with one.
Anders, however, has been known to wax lyrical about breasts, and the delights of sweetness and curves, and it makes Tobias restless and uneasy… although he knows it shouldn’t. He should be secure in Anders’ love, because he has pledged it completely and, anyway, it’s highly unlikely that anyone else could give him what Tobias does. They have been through enough together that Anders trusts him—trusts him with his secrets, with his beliefs, and with his struggles. That is the part of his burden Tobias gladly shoulders. He can’t change what has already been done but, when Justice is prowling and rattling at the bars, he can talk Anders down. He can calm him the way no one else can, and that means a lot.
So, this thing—this poem, this cry from the depths—it seems it is about them, or it at least might be, if it is about anyone at all. It was in the book that Anders gave him, and Tobias doesn’t know what to make of that. Had it been there all along, or has it been slipped in recently? It’s difficult to tell.
Either way, he thinks it is beautiful. More beautiful than terrifying, probably, yet it is beauty that is sharp-edged and ruthless, and he wounds himself on its blade. Is this what Anders really thinks? How he feels when they are together? There is a sense of hopelessness about that which frightens Tobias… like a breath of apology, secreted behind the words.
He chews his lip thoughtfully, and slides the paper back between the leaves of the tome. It is late enough to be early in the morning. His eyes ache, his head hurts, and he wishes he’d stayed in bed.
He crosses his too-big-bed-chamber, crawls under the covers, and lets the orb of light he conjured wink out. The moon has grown thin, its light weakening, and Tobias supposes he will lay here and watch it turn to dawn, but at some point he closes his eyes and, when he opens them again, a much brighter light is streaming through the gap in his curtains.
He blinks, and winces, and wonders why he can’t remember having any dreams.