“You know what I don’t appreciate?” The glowing blue eyes didn’t so much as blink, but Hawke got the impression that Justice was listening attentively. Or maybe he just wanted to think that. “I don’t appreciate that he lies to protect you. And the fact that you let him seems a little…ironic, all things considered.”
“It surprises me,” Justice rumbled, “that this, of all things, is what you take issue with.”
Hawke frowned. He had plenty he took issue with -- an entire list, as long as every year he’d spent with Anders, falling ever more headlong into what was increasingly looking like a lie. A lie perpetuated by this spirit of Justice. Well, Hawke mused bitterly, he never did claim to be a spirit of Truth. It was just that he’d had a long time to think about it, many cold nights lying on the other side of the fire from Anders, turned away so that he couldn’t see that broken, desolate look in his lover’s eyes through the firelight.
He hadn’t let Anders touch him since they’d left Kirkwall. He couldn’t stand to let the man out of his sight, but his skin crawled at the idea of a caress.
And on those long, lonely nights, with only his bitterness and betrayal to keep him warm, Hawke had gone through everything he’d like to say to Justice if the bastard ever made another appearance. Somehow, this was what topped his list.
“I don’t like not knowing how much of my lover is the man I love, and how much is this -- this -- parasite from the Fade, riding him into death and destruction, driving him to deception.” Hawke spat on the ground, hoping it would rid him of the strangely bitter taste in his mouth.
“He makes his own choices.” Justice sounded disdainful, almost…bored. Somehow, that was what finally snapped him.
“Yes! Except when he doesn’t!” Hawke whirled on the spirit, twin blades out of their sheaths on his back in a moment, held up to the blue-veined throat he’d kissed a thousand times. “He told me that when you merged, you ceased to exist -- that you became him. Only clearly the two of you are separate beings that share space. He blames himself for things, says they weren’t your idea. Everything he thinks is a mistake, he takes the fall. He says you had nothing to do with it or even that you objected. That you…disapproved.”
Hawke snarled, pressing the blades in just enough to be uncomfortable, not enough to injure. Justice would fade, eventually, and Anders would be the one to bear any wounds he’d inflicted. As usual.
“Clearly,” Hawke said, leaning closer, “if you didn’t exist, you couldn’t disapprove.”
Justice curled Anders’ lip in a sneer that made his lover’s handsome features unbearable to look upon. “Your logic is infallible, Champion. But what is your point?”
“My point is that Anders is a good man, a good mage. My point, you freeloading coward, is that you use his body to accomplish your own purposes, and then you leave him to take the fall!” Hawke drew one blade across that precious throat, careful not to break the skin. “And I hate you for that.”
Abruptly, Hawke sheathed both his daggers at his back and stalked away the few feet to the other side of the clearing where they’d stopped to make camp. The kindling he’d gathered lay half-built between them, his flint on the ground beside them. Anders had offered to supply the flame, but Hawke told him no. Flashing magic around for no reason was a great way to get themselves caught, and, as he’d told Anders, “I didn’t spare your life at the Chantry only to let the Templars kill you or have to do it myself to spare you Tranquility. If you were going to die, it would have been then, and it would have been by my hand.”
It was the first time they’d spoken of that awful night since they’d left, and Anders had made a wounded noise before retreating quietly to the other side of camp. It had made Hawke feel bad, but then, everything had made Hawke feel bad lately, so Anders’s hurt could just get in line.
And that was when Justice had shown up.
“Despite what you think,” Justice said now, “I do care for him. He is the vessel I am tied to. I care to preserve him.”
Hawke let out a bitter, mirthless laugh. “Oh yeah. That’s reassuring.”
“I admit that I may not…fully understand the needs and limits of a living host.” Justice shrugged, twisting Anders’s lips in a wry smile. “I may have pushed him too far. I may have…damaged him. But he retained his own will -- as evidenced by his choice to ally himself so closely with you.” Justice crossed Anders’s arms over that broad, beloved chest, and Hawke felt a little sick. “For what it’s worth, you are the only area in which he has defied me. And that is his choice.”
Hawke squatted beside the kindling pile and took up his flint again, striking the stones together and staring too hard at the precious few sparks that floated down to the wood. “Well, what do you know,” he said dryly. “You and I have something in common after all.”
Justice didn’t say anything else, but just when the kindling was starting to catch enough that Hawke dared put more wood onto the fire, he heard a meek, hoarse voice.
“Hawke?” A moment passed. Two. The wood crackled and took flame. “…Garrett?”
Hawke looked up then, his heart tugging at the sight of Anders rubbing a soothing hand over his throat. “Need something, Anders?”
Something flared in Anders’s eyes then, something like hope and fear and want, and Hawke couldn’t bear to look at him but couldn’t seem to look anywhere else.
“No, I…” Anders forced his hand back down by his side and stood stiffly. “I have everything I need.” He turned away then, and despite the now-healthy fire in front of him, Hawke felt a chill of guilt.
He left the fire and stepped up close behind Anders, hesitating for only a moment before he allowed his hands to rest on those familiar shoulders -- their first voluntary contact in a fortnight. The sensation was heady and oddly nostalgic and filled Hawke with a familiar, burning want.
“Anders,” he said softly, and Anders turned his head just enough to show he was listening, not enough to meet Hawke’s eyes. “Please don’t lie to me. About anything.”
Pain flashed across Anders’s face, and then he nodded.
“You can start by answering that last question again.”
Anders turned, and when Hawke’s hands fell away from his shoulders, he caught them in his own. “I…think I might have all I need.” He looked down at their hands and squeezed Hawke’s fingers briefly. “Or at least I do if I haven’t ruined it.”
When he would have pulled away, Hawke linked their fingers and pulled him closer. “It’s not ruined.” He licked his suddenly dry lips. “It’s just a bit…dented, perhaps.”
Anders’s smile was sad, but at least it was a smile. “It must be hard to love a man who shares his body with someone you hate.”
Hawke nodded. “It is.” Anders looked away, and Hawke let go of his hands to cup his face. “But when have you ever known me to take the easy way out?”
This time Anders’s mouth curved in relief and he took a hesitant step closer, then when Hawke didn’t rebuke him, let their bodies fit together in old familiar ways as he leaned into Hawke’s embrace.
“Never, thank the Maker,” Anders whispered, and Hawke let himself hold tight to the one thing in his life he had left to lose, the one thing he couldn’t stand to let go.