Anders slumped in the chair, his chin half hidden by the collar of his coat, hands dangling loosely off the chair arms, fingers curling and uncurling slightly, like leaves in a breeze.
His eyelids drooped low, legs sprawled out before him on one side of the fire from Varric, his hoarse voice finally gone silent, letting the low hum of the tavern sounds make their way in softly, below the crack and shush of burning wood and the seashore sound of wind beating at the building walls.
Varric sat forward, rubbing the tiredness from under his eyes with the knuckle of his first finger, resting his forearms on his thighs, blowing out a long sigh.
“I’ve always imagined—” Anders’ voice raspy and quiet with weariness and overuse, “that living wasn’t an act of sheer indefatigable will for other people. I’ve envied that, thought how nice it must be to simply exist.” He fell silent, tipping his head back, closing his eyes.
Varric blew out a low sigh, his throat aching and tight, elbows resting on his thighs, scraping the floor with the toe of his boot. “I don’t know. You’ve got to have moments where you simply breathe, Blondie.” He sighed again, and sat back himself, folding his fingers together, resting them on the buckle of his belt.
Anders opened an eye at him, a shadowed flash in the lantern light, and closed it again. “Sometimes. Sometimes I wake up just before dawn, and in that dark it seems as though everything has already vanished, and there’s nothing to hold on to, and no need left to hold on.”
Varric watched him, half firelight and half in shade, his rumpled coat looking like a pair of broken wings, hair askew, three day beard, bone weary but too tired to sleep. “So you come here, even though you know you can’t drink, and talk yourself to sleep in my chair, even though you know you’ll wake up as wrinkled and stiff as old washing.”
He got up and poked at the embers in the hearth, stirring them, adding another piece of wood, busying himself with pouring a drink. Anders sat very still, he might have been asleep, except for the tremble and twitch of his long fingers.
“I come here,” almost a whisper now, blurring softly into the other sounds, “Because you’ll listen to me talk and then I know that I’m still myself, and that if I should fall asleep, when I wake up there’s someone’s breath in the dark.”
Varric snorted and settled back in his chair. “That’s what a lover is for.”
“Too close.” Anders made a weary gesture of dismissal, lifting and half dropping his hand, “no, another kind of breathing. The kind that isn’t for me. Just nearby. Makes me miss Ser-Pounce-A-Lot”
“You’re comparing me to a cat?” Varric snorted again, grinning at Anders as he raised his brows without opening his eyes.
He lifted and dropped his hand again. “I’m comparing you to my dearest friend.”