Just a little something for combination-nc, I hope you feel a little better.
They are young when Anders is first placed in solitary confinement. Both of them unharrowed; Karl on the threshold to adulthood, attempting to grow his first proper beard, and Anders either too young or in some way too fragile to remain unscathed after a week of cramped loneliness.
When they release him, he takes care to walk in the exact middle of the hallways, but the walls are still too close. Not as close as in the cell, of course, but he is haunted by their weight and the feeling that they are constantly moving towards him, little by little, waiting to trap him in an impossibly small space once more.
A week is not considered a large amount of time in most cases, but for this one and for him, it has been much too long, too much time spent wasted on staring at a dark ceiling. And after being deprived of the sounds of daily life for so long, the sudden presence of them causes his ears to ache; the usually so light steps of mages drumming in his head, the sounds of so many templar greaves painful like thunder.
The light, at least, should make him feel more at ease, but it does not. It is too bright and too faint all at once. After a week in the darkness below, his eyes are unaccustomed to light as strong as this, and it stings in his eyes. At the same time it is too dark, because it is not the natural light of the world outside the tower, not the light he wants. Beyond escaping, he his not sure of what he wants, if anything at all. The darkness of solitary has either left some kind of darkness in him, or, as implausible as it sounds, shed light on something that was already there to begin with.
He is not sure of where to go or what to do with himself. The to him so sudden proximity of so many people unnerves and overwhelms him, urging him to find somewhere safe to hide; there are no safe places in the tower, and only one safe person.
He has to find Karl.
He keeps his eyes out for a tall figure with light brown hair, light brown hair with a slightly reddish tinge. At more than a head higher than most, he should be easy to spot, but is nowhere to be found. Not in the hallways, not in the big hall, not in the library, not anywhere. The apprentices’ quarters is the last place he will search; if he had started there and not found Karl, he doubts that he would have been able to leave, the urge to escape from the too much of everything too great. There is not much left to do, now. His legs hurt and his head is spinning from the exertion; either being so still for one week has been enough to weaken him, or he is drained by the anxiety from solitary still clinging to him.
It is only when he finds Karl outside their dormitories that he realises that he does not know what he would have done if he had been unable to find him.
There is no falling into strong arms, because that would be too much touch too soon, and Karl knows. But there is standing close, there is a gentle hand against his jaw, and later, the softest of kisses on his forehead. There is no need to ask how he is feeling when it is so plain for all to see; so Karl asks him if he wants to talk, or to rest. He has been silent for so long that he is unsure whether his voice still works or not. It does, but after a week without hearing even one kind voice, he would much rather listen. Listen to Karl’s voice while resting his head in his lap, having his hair stroked, being allowed a moment of peace, of the comfort that only Karl can give him.
And so, Karl lets him have that. One hand in his hair, carefully stroking it, the other’s fingers interweaving with his own, and the kindest voice he knows telling him the things he wants to hear.
He does not feel good, not yet, but better, and he is not alone anymore.