‘He was just a man,’ Varric said, ‘but sometimes, as you and I both know, that’s all it takes to change the world we live in.’
‘So which one of us are you talking about now?’ Anders asked. ‘Hawke, or me?’
Varric bowed his head with a low chuckle, knowing how it looked when the fire played over his face. Given all the brooding elves and devious pirates and over-reacting choir boys they’d known in their time, Varric figured he had leave to—every once in a while—be his own brand of melodramatic.
At least for the sake of the narrative.
And he knew what any bard worth his gilded tongue did: that the best time to tell a story was after dark on a cold day—because you couldn’t get warm if you started out that way already. The same principles applied to weaving a good tale, finding a spot crosswise and working your way to its opposite corners without cutting any. Take, for example, two lonely people, nothing at all alike, with everything to learn and most of it to lose. They had to start out not knowing what love even was in order to fall right into it.
‘You pick,’ Varric said. ‘These days, I’m open more to interpretation, anyway.’
Anders snuggled deeper into his pauldrons, tucking his chin under the collar. ‘Keep going. I always like the next part best.’
‘Well, if my audience demands it…’ Varric rested a hand on his chest, not over the infamous hair, but the heart beneath. If he was telling the truth—as he did on rare occasions, anniversaries and birthdays—he liked the next part best, too. ‘Who am I to say no?’
‘He was just a man,’ Anders said.
‘He was just a man,’ Varric repeated. ‘But when he looked up at Anders’s face, it seemed as though he might be something more. The answer to a question he’d never thought to ask; the warm arms he couldn’t trust enough to stay. He was a hard jaw, a strong profile, a bad joke or two, a serious expression on a tired face, but he was looking at the mage head-on, and Anders saw something right in front of him he hadn’t ever seen before, not even from far away. His heart had always known that ache, but now? Now, it had a name.’