May 03-05, 2015

Disclaimer: this turned out to be the easiest alternative. Written for Sylvia. Do not archive without permission.

Complete rubbish

"But it's complete rubbish," she said, leaning forward over the table, one elbow on the pile of books, trying to tuck her hair back behind her ear with her other hand. Didn't really work, because she had a lot of dark, curly hair with a will of its own and rather small ears. "It's just this man and his dog and his garden, and sometimes he writes letters to his wife, and people talk about it as though it's the most amazing writing ever and a, a manual for being human."

Solona felt excited, and annoyed at herself for being excited, and amused at herself for being annoyed, all at the same time. She was having a secret meeting with an older man, and that was a very adult thing to do, and by all accounts quite exciting. On the other hand, she had a deep mistrust of 'all accounts,' particularly when they were supposed to be romantic; she didn't understand why Ser Likes-to-Garden couldn't just go live with his wife instead of writing her yearning letters. On the third hand -- third hand? Really? -- the secret meeting was only in a secluded corner of the library, which wasn't very exciting, and the older man was Anders. Who was, she supposed, reasonably handsome, and could be charming if he put his mind to it, but didn't resemble a storybook knight much.

But that was a good thing, wasn't it? She didn't like storybook knights. Either they didn't feel real at all, or they felt all too real and bad things happened to them, like with Ser Aveline. Who probably felt real because she was real, although Solona had always wondered how a clan of Dalish elves could teach someone to become a proper Orlesian chevalier.

"Mm," Anders said, and Solona tried to remember what she'd been talking about.

"Well, I'm not a man or a dog or a garden," she said. "And of course Neria said-- Anders, are you even listening to me?"

"Really? What an amazing coincidence, because she says that to me all the time, too." He grinned at her.

"I'm not surprised," Solona said, determined not to smile back. He wasn't that charming, and she was very level-headed. Everyone knew that. "Do you even mean to try to catch up on what you've been missing?"

He shrugged, shoulders and eyebrows moving in a way he must have picked up from someone outside the tower -- someone who could make it work better, Solona hoped, because on Anders it just drew attention to how tall and gangly he was. "That depends," he said. "Did I miss any good lectures?"

"You don't care about lectures," Solona said. "You run away instead of going to lectures."

"I care," Anders said. The elaborate shrug had made the collar of his robe wreck his low ponytail, and loose strands were slipping forward to hang about his face. "I just care more about being free. I don't suppose anyone held a class on how to avoid templars in ten easy steps, did they?"

Solona snorted. "Everyone knows step one," she said. "Destroy your phylactery." She very deliberately did not reach out and tug on one of the strands. "We practiced freezing spells all week. Edric filled Jowan's boots with ice because Jowan said something stupid. They're such children."

"And you did everything perfectly," Anders said, "and only froze the things you were supposed to freeze, and everyone praised you." He sounded half-mocking, half-envious. "How can you have all that primal, elemental power and want to do nothing with it but discuss old romances?"

"I don't use magic to discuss romances," she said. "I've told you what we did while you were," she hesitated a moment over the word, "away. Would you like to practice ice spells with me? I know you learned them years ago."

"Fix my hair first?" He looked pleadingly at her, head cocked to one side. "Pretty please? You're so much better at it than I am."

Solona sighed, because Anders knew perfectly well that she couldn't even fix her own hair. She got up from her chair all the same, and stood behind him, pulling the hair tie loose from what remained of his ponytail -- he'd tied it with a grubby piece of ribbon this time, and she dropped it on the table with a fastidious grimace and dug out something cleaner from a pouch at her belt.

Gathering his hair together, she tugged it back and up, and held it with one hand while she wrapped a cord around it with the other. "There," she said, tying the knot as firmly as she could.

"I usually wear it lower," Anders said, trying to pat at the back of his head without undoing her work.

"And it snags on your robe," Solona said. "I'm not doing it over again."

"No, no, it's fine," Anders said hastily. He half-turned in the chair, snatched up one of her hands and raised it to his lips, very much like someone out of a heroic romance. His lips were dry and warm against her skin. "You have all my gratitude, my lady."

Solona snorted again, in a very un-ladylike way. She wasn't affected by having her hand kissed by an older man, who was really nothing but an older boy, still growing into his hands and feet, or so she'd heard Enchanter Wynne say. A kiss on the hand wasn't all that romantic, anyway. And he meant nothing by it. "On second thought, you should probably work more on your healing instead," she said, pulling her hand away and taking a step back. "You'll get more out of that."

"I thought we could do something interesting with ice," Anders said, sounding more forlorn than suggestive, but Solona was already gathering her books up and heading out into the library proper. Anders could find someone else to do interesting things with; he always did. He wasn't at all like a storybook knight, unless the story was something like the Tale of Three Castles, where no one seemed to be interested in anything except what was under Lady Lucinda's dress. Even gardening would have been preferrable, Solona thought.

Anyway, she intended to learn how to do things with ice that would be a lot more useful, in the world outside the tower. She meant to get there without running away, too. Somehow.

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