It's been seven years but Anders still bears the grudge against the Warden-Commander. There are many things people have considered Anders and rational has never been one of them. Stubborn? Yes. Nonsensical? Yes. Ridiculous? Yes. Committed? Yes.
It's as he is petitioning the Warden-Commander for another kitten that the messenger arrives. The Warden-Commander doesn't even bother shooing him out of the room as he's handed the scroll, just lets Anders ramble along in his demands, clearly not paying attention. Which Anders promptly points out, much to the appalled dismay of the messenger. "So sorry, Ser High and Mighty Warden-Commander that my asking for recompense is such a boring subject. Someone here did away with Ser Pounce-a-Lot and – "
"Anders, there are more important matters, ones that have happened in the last few days. Perhaps even the last few months. No, wait, definitely within the last few years. It's been seven years. Get over it."
"Get over it?! He was my best friend! If I do not remember him, who will?"
"I think Nathaniel has the scars to remember your damnable cat for the rest of his life."
"He deserved them."
"No one deserves the gashes that Nathaniel received." The Warden-Commander glares at him over the scroll. "Now be a good boy and quiet down while I read."
"Yes, Master Warden Commander, Ser."
"Shut up." The Warden-Commander's voice goes serious and cold then he turns to the messenger. "How far out is he?"
"I said shut up. I meant shut up."
"I'll leave then."
"You'll keep your ass in that seat and you'll keep your mouth shut for once in your life."
Anders has an angry retort on his lips, they actually open until he gets a good look at the expression on the Warden-Commander's face. They've faced a darkspawn horde, the Architect, a Brood Mother and more but Anders has never seen that level of fear on the Warden-Commander's face. His angry retort dies as he slumps back in the chair and lets the Warden-Commander do what he does best.
"How far out?"
"He'll be here on the morrow but he thought it best to inform you right away."
"Seal the Keep." At this, Anders raises an eyebrow, sitting up straight and crossing his arms over his chest.
"Dismissed." The Warden-Commander stands and paces. "When was the last time you were in Kirkwall?"
"Kirkwall? Never. I'd intended to get there the last time I escaped from the Circle but then I heard it's even worse for mages. Plus, I joined this merry band of misfits."
"You've never lived in Kirkwall?"
"Well, now you've died in Kirkwall." The Warden-Commander slams the scroll onto the desk and stalks out of the office, shouting orders as he goes.
"What? How? Huh?" Anders isn't at his most eloquent but he's never been dead before. Well, if the Orlesians are to be believed, he'd had plenty of little deaths but that wasn't dead. As in dead. As in dead no longer breathing dead. He might be a vain prick but he likes living and there's no draw to shucking off his mortal coil. He likes it. It looks good on him.
Curiosity gets the better of him as he approaches the desk and sees a likeness of himself sketched onto a poster. "Well, there's no way that's me because I'm both still living and I would never be caught dead in black feathers." His brain catches up to what he'd just said as he snorts out loud. "Caught dead. Good one, Anders. Too bad Oghren wasn't there to hear that witticism. I'll have to remember it."
Reading the rest of the scroll, his mouth continues to drop open while his eyes widen. He'd supposedly blown up a Chantry. He'd started a war. Mages everywhere are rebelling. Kirkwall is burning and it appears that it's entirely his fault.
Except he'd been right here in Amaranthine the entire time.
Justice: I see that your feline companion remains with you.
Anders: He seems happy enough. Isn't that right, Ser Pounce-a-lot?
Ser Pounce-a-lot: (Meow!)
Justice: To enslave another creature does not seem just.
Anders: He's not a slave! He's a friend. And he's also a cat.
Justice: A cat that lacks freedom.
Anders: Just ignore him, Ser Pouce-a-lot. They don't have pets in the Fade, apparently.
Ser Pounce-a-lot: (Meow!)
"You miss him." Fenris's voice is low, slinking over Hawke's skin and warming him as he stares at the bookcase where Anders had hidden so many copies of his manifesto. It's only been a day, just a day since Hawke had watched the Chantry blow up, had killed Meredith and Orsino. Had killed Anders. Hadn't been able to find his body in the aftermath so he could give Anders some sort of funeral rites.
"He was a good friend to all of us." At Fenris's snort, Hawke reaches a hand out and entwines their fingers. "Admit it, he was a good friend to you, too."
"He was a mage."
For just a moment, annoyance twists inside Hawke, makes him want to yell at Fenris. Hawke's already lost Anders; he can't stand to lose Fenris, too, so he buries it deep.
"As am I. When I die, will you refuse to admit that you care for me because I'm a mage?" Hawke refuses to let go of Fenris's hand as Fenris tugs at it.
"Of course I won't but you are the exception. You must know that." Fenris sits on his lap, facing him with his legs splayed wide and straddling Hawke's hips. "I did not care for him as I care for you. You are unique."
"Admit it. He was a friend." Hawke reaches up and cups Fenris's chin, sliding his hand along Fenris's cheek until his fingertips tease at the hair above Fenris's ear.
"His demon would not allow friendship." Fenris leans in, kissing him, lips light and comforting more than sexual. "You were right to end his torment."
"For a while, after you left me, I…" Hawke can't put his thoughts and feelings into words. Grief and guilt are too fresh for that. The memory of the kiss he'd shared with Anders in the clinic remains vibrantly fresh but he can still feel the knife in his hand as it made contact with Anders, the way that it had felt sinking into Anders's flesh, the way that his hand had felt like a separate being, as if his heart had been screaming at the rest of him, the logical side of him, as he'd killed Anders. That he hadn't even been able to find Anders afterwards so he could prepare the body, give him the rites that would be denied to him elsewise, only adds to that grief and guilt, threatening to swamp him and sour everything around him.
"I know. Before the demon took over, he was a different man. I could see the attraction." Fenris's kiss turns possessive and hungry, sweeping Hawke along for the ride away from the worries that wait just outside his front door. Grinding down on him, Fenris continues his hungry motions, hands holding Hawke's face in place as they ravage one another's mouth.
"Not that I don't appreciate where this is going, because I do, trust me on that," Hawke pauses to thrust up into Fenris, feeling their erections rub against one another, "but where did this come from suddenly?"
"You are a wonder." Fenris shakes his head at Hawke. "I am sorry that you had to kill him but I am glad that he is dead and I'm even more glad that you are still here. I would like to show you just how very glad I am."
"Does this exhibition of glee involve less clothing?" Hawke pointedly ignores Fenris being happy that Anders is gone.
"Perhaps." After standing, Fenris tugs his gloves off. "Is that few enough?"
"You definitely need less."
As Fenris starts to unbuckle his armor, a furious pounding on the front door erupts. In a flash, Fenris has his armor fastened once more, his gloves on, sword out and is sprinting for the door.
"Hawke!" Aveline's voice carries through the thick wood. After Hawke opens the door, Aveline slips in and then slams it shut, barring it quickly. "You have to pack and go."
"I had no idea you disliked me so much." Regardless of his flirtatious tone, Hawke gestures for Fenris to watch the door while he brings Aveline further into the house.
"Knight Commander Cullen is doing his best to keep the Templars under control but some of Meredith's followers formed a mob and are on their way. You have to go before they get here. Hurry, Hawke."
"I'll talk to the crowd, get them to disperse."
"The guards are on their way but you and I both know that this isn't going to be the last time you'll face this threat. Please, Hawke. I can't protect you here for much longer."
"Have you found Anders's body yet?"
"He's gone. There were so many lost, we'll never be able to find him. You know it."
"Just a few more days, Aveline. I owe it to him."
"The things you con me into doing for you. Someday, I will say no." Aveline shakes her head and then heads out the door.
"No, you won't!" he shouts after her.
Fenris secures the door. "She's right, Hawke. We must leave Kirkwall."
"A few more days. He deserves that much."
"For you, not for him." Fenris cups his face once more, pressing their lips together before he heads upstairs to guard Hawke's back as he waits for the mob to approach.
Cullen's men show before the guards and the mob. The mob's much larger than Hawke had expected. Cullen does his best to keep them from entering the estate. Still, he's not about to be protected by Aveline let alone the Templars so he steps out of the house. The mob roars, stepping forward while a few of the Templars shout obscenities and encourage the crowd to try to kill him.
"Stop!" he shouts at the crowd. "I understand your confusion and your fear but this will not help matters. Be calm!"
The crowd quiets a bit though the inciting Templars continue shouting. Cullen wades into the crowd, grabbing at bodies and cuffing heads.
"Too long, Meredith ruled with an iron fist. It is time for a change. Give Knight Commander Cullen time. Give the Captain of the Guard time. Things will never happen instantly. You must be patient."
The guards arrive and the more fearful of the crowd disperse immediately. "Away from here! This will do no good!" Aveline yells from the head of the line of guards. More of the crowd disperses while Cullen and his supporters continue to wrangle Meredith's supporters out of the crowd.
The inciting Templars, eventually, are on the ground, cuffed and silenced. All in all, it takes less than five minutes to get the crowd to disperse. Cullen nods at Hawke and then the Templars take their own back to the Gallows. It seems too easy.
Fenris appears at his side, his metal-clad fingertips brushing the back of Hawke's hand as he steps in front of Hawke.
Taking a deep breath, Hawke lets it go, lets it all go. Aveline is right; his presence will only make this worse. When Fenris turns, Hawke shakes his head, takes another breath, lets it out and then says, "Get the others. We'll leave on the next tide. Talk to Isabela for me? I need time."
Fenris stalks out of the house, leaving Hawke to wander to the library and grab the hidden copy of Anders's manifesto that he'd kept as a lark. He should've known how this would turn out just by the mere fact that Anders had written a manifesto. A manifesto. Sane people didn't write manifestos. Rational people didn't write manifestos. Insane, innocents-killing, Chantry-blowing-up possessed people wrote manifestos. Still, Hawke can't keep himself from tracing Anders's handwriting, the loops and curls on the front and the way that Anders had embellished Hawke's name.
One last look for Anders and he'll stop this need to give Anders his last rites. He'd been a fool to leave Anders there, like a tattered doll in the dust. What Fenris and the rest don't know won't hurt them, he decides, as he heads out of the house and to the site. Sitting on the same crate, he faces the direction that Anders had before Hawke had sunk his blade into Anders's back. He wonders what Anders had seen as he'd lain on the ground, bleeding to death. Anders's bloodstain is still there. Kneeling on the ground, he rests his fingers on the blood stain and whispers, "I'm so sorry that it ended this way, my friend."
He takes one last look around, trying his best to memorize the area because he's never coming back to Kirkwall again. As he pushes off the ground, he startles and then barks out a discouraged, bitter laugh. "Of course the only cat I see in all of Kirkwall is dead, right where Anders died. That's irony for you."
Merrill: You could get another cat, you know. There's one in the Lowtown market with a litter of kittens ready to wean.
Anders: You don't pay attention to templars, Qunari or politics, but you notice kittens?
Merrill: Templars, Qunari, and politics don't meow and attack your feet when you're buying food.
Anders: Are there any tabbies? I'd like a tabby.
Anders waves at Zevran as he walks past, clearly on his way to the Warden-Commander. That's a relationship he'll never understand. The pair of them bicker and flirt and argue and flirt more. Zevran spends more time outside of Amaranthine than he does inside, spends more time outside of the Warden-Commander's presence than he does in it and, yet, the pair of them are fully devoted to one another. Maker knows that Anders had made a play, for both of them, either together or separately, and they'd shot him down. They'd have to be devoted to one another to turn him - oomph.
A fist connects with his face once more as he's thrust back against the stone wall. People are yelling but the pummeling continues. Through the blood dripping into his eye, he sees a man that he's never seen before and then he doesn't see anything else.
When he wakes, he's in the infirmary and the Warden-Commander sits next to his bed. "I hope you killed the darkspawn horde that attacked me. It had to have been an entire brood."
"It was one Warden recruit. One very irate and very punished Warden recruit." The Warden-Commander hands him a glass of water which he gulps down as quickly as he can.
"Surely not just one recruit. My ego won't be able to take it."
"Your ego is going to have to. It was one new recruit who happens to be the brother of the Champion of Kirkwall."
"Kirkwall? But I don't know anyone there." The Warden-Commander raises his eyebrow and Anders wants to set fire to it, just enough to singe all the hair off his face, not that he has much but the eyebrow, at the very least, has to go. "Oh, right. Someone parading about as me blew up the Chantry. Did the Champion of Kirkwall die?"
"No, he killed you."
"That wasn't very nice of him."
"You're taking the news of your death very well."
"Probably has something to do with the fact that I'm still alive."
"A fact that Carver finds hard to believe. It seems that you've been tending the ill in the dark recesses of Kirkwall for years before you lost it and blew up the Chantry. According to Carver, you were possessed."
Anders snorts in disbelief. "Not only am I dead but now I'm a dead Abomination? This is quickly becoming slanderous."
"Remember Justice?" At Anders's nod, the Warden-Commander continues, "Turns out that he found a host, one that looked a lot like you. Knew everything about you, from kissing Karl to your horrible sense of humor and timing."
Anders pales. "Karl?"
"Who was he?"
"You had to remember him from the Circle. Older gentleman?" The Warden-Commander gives him a blank stare. "Helped me escape a few times. Had the previous record for most escape attempts?"
"Yes!" Anders crows with delight and then his grin fades. "But I never told anyone about Karl. Not anyone here."
"You have a twin?"
"No. Always wanted one, though."
"Who knew about Karl?"
"Just Karl and Ser Pounce-a-Lot."
"You told your cat."
The Warden-Commander raises an eyebrow at him, making Anders instantly defensive. "What?"
"Well, yes. He was a very good listener in addition to his amazing fighting skills. We had very long conversations about everything. Those are just a few of the reasons why I've been pointing out what a travesty it is that someone took Ser Pounce-a-Lot."
"No one else?"
"Well, First Enchanter Irving knows about him. Uldred did too but considering he's dead, long before you gave me Ser Pounce-a-Lot, I doubt that it was him that took my cat and/or impersonated me in Kirkwall."
"Alish," Zevran says, interrupting them as he steps out of the shadows. Anders hates when he does that, makes him think that Zevran's just waiting for the opportunity to kill him.
"Yes, love?" The Warden-Commander's face goes soft as he watches Zevran strolls across the room. Anders doesn't quite get it but he still envies it.
"The Keep is secured and the little Hawkeling is waiting for you in your office."
"Come, Anders." The Warden-Commander stands and gestures at Anders, as if he isn't currently resting in a sickbed, recovering from repeated blows to his head given with mail-covered hands.
"A generous offer but I think I'll stay here and recover."
"It wasn't a request." Anders hates that tone, not just because of the real authority behind it but also because of the way that he feels like his father just chastised him for stealing a cookie out of the jar.
"Right, of course it wasn't. I was just confirming that." Anders sits, swings his legs over the edge of the bed and then amazes himself by actually being able to stand up. "Do you think he knows the location of my cat?"
"What?" Anders affects his best innocent tone, going so far as to bat his eyes at the back of the Warden-Commander's head. Zevran chuckles at him and then swings an arm around the Warden-Commander's waist.
Merrill: Ser Pounce-a-lot... who knighted him?
Anders: Is that a serious question?
Merrill: Did he have a little sword, or just his claws? I bet he had a dashing cap with a feather in it!
Anders: Would you stop making fun of my cat?
Merrill: Oh... no hat, then?
Here, alone in his cabin, Hawke starts to come to terms with what's happened. The Anders that he'd killed hadn't been the one that he'd cared for, the one that he'd been friends with. The one that he'd killed had been a monster that had slaughtered countless innocents all while starting a war that's ripping the entire world apart.
The fact that he's going back to Ferelden the way he left – poor and a refugee – doesn't escape him. At least then, he'd had his family with him. This trip, he's not even sure that Carver will be able to shelter them as the group of them gets their bearings. It's not like Carver ever had much affection for any of them, Hawke included. Besides, the Wardens might not want to shelter two Apostates, one of whom is a blood mage, a shifty dwarf and a lyrium-imbued warrior with a temper issue. Add in that Hawke just so happened to have killed another of the Wardens and, well, Hawke figures their chances are infinitesimal at best and nil at worst.
Anders: But have you never studied the types of demons? They break down very clearly into different sins—
Merrill: Spirits differ from each other, just as you and Hawke and Isabela are all human.
Merrill: More or less...
Silly that such an innocuous thing such as walking around a corner could possibly ever change his life. As it is, Hawke is casually walking along the hallway, listening to Merrill and Fenris bicker while Varric interjects random asides while they make their way to the Warden-Commander to offer their services when Hawke runs, quite literally, into the man he'd killed less than a month ago.
"Pardon me. I've a horrible penchant for not looking where I'm going though, honestly, you could probably do with looking, as well," Anders says as he recaptures his balance.
"You…" Hawke breathes out.
"You!" Fenris shouts and shoves Hawke out of the way, pulling his sword and threatening Anders.
"That's a neat trick. However did you do it?" Merrill asks as she catches Hawke before he collapses onto the floor in a reaction to the combination of being shoved and Anders.
Anders who is breathing and living and standing right in front of him.
"Isn't that a bit of an overreaction?" Anders says as he backs away from Fenris. "It's not like I ran into him on purpose. In point of fact, he ran into me so maybe you should point your abnormally large sword at him rather than me. It's just a suggestion, of course, but – "
"Shut your mouth before you find yourself dead. Again." Fenris thrusts the sword closer to Anders's throat and Hawke puts a hand on his shoulder.
"There are answers to be had, I'm certain," Hawke says, attempting to sooth Fenris into leaving Anders alive. Alive.
"He will provide them. Now."
Anders takes another step back and his back hits the stone. Fenris's sword presses into Anders's throat. Hawke steps forward and molds his body against Fenris's back, stretching an arm around Fenris to push the sword away from Anders. "Not now."
"I will beat the answers out of him."
"You can try." A new voice interrupts them. Hawke points his staff as the rest of the party takes different defensive positions.
"A misunderstanding. This man looks like – " Hawke tries to appease the enraged elf in front of him. For a moment, his brain flashes onto the thought that he spends too much of his time appeasing angry elves.
"Anders." The elf glares at him and holds his staff at the ready while men line up behind him, including Zevran, the Crow Assassin that Hawke remembers running into.
"Now, ladies and gentlemen, you, too, Blondie, I'm sure there are explanations that can be provided. Perhaps somewhere we can also get food? A keg of ale? Possibly chairs that don't sway with the sea?" Hawke can feel the tension in Fenris increasing, something Hawke hadn't been sure could happen.
"Please, Fenris, we'll get our answers without risking our lives further. Let Anders go," Hawke whispers into Fenris's ears. Over Fenris's shoulder, Hawke can see the way that Anders searches all the faces, cataloging friend and foe, while trying to figure out a path to get him out of danger.
"For you." Fenris lowers his sword, letting Hawke see the spot of blood on Anders's neck. Fenris leans towards Anders and says, in a low voice, "You cause him any more pain and you will have it revisited on you threefold."
"Considering I barely ran into him, I doubt that your reaction was in keeping with that promise." Anders reaches up and wipes the blood on his neck, making it smear across his throat.
"You know what I'm talking about, mage."
"Not the time or the place," Hawke whispers once more. "Calm, Fenris."
"I would rip your heart out."
"It is a most amazing trick but I do not suggest you use it. Alish is rather protective of Anders and would not be happy. And, well, when he is not happy, I must do what I can to make him thus. You understand, I'm certain." Zevran's tone is charming, he even sketches a bow, but Hawke knows that he won't hesitate to put promise to action.
"We apologize for our actions. It is just that this man resembles a… that is…"
"Yes, I'm aware. Zevran has brought me up to speed as much as he knows. Into my office and we'll work through this just as we must work to protect the Grey Wardens from the encroaching war that seems to have erupted." The elf turns on a heel and marches down the hall.
Anders remains against the wall and Hawke pulls Fenris back. "After you."
"Am I wearing my stupid face? Perhaps I had some stupid sprinkled on my breakfast this morning rather unwittingly. No, serrah, after all of you." Anders bows and gestures down the hall. Hawke's heart twists at the biting wit that he hasn't heard in years. This Anders resembles the Anders he'd first met in the clinic in Darktown, before Justice had taken him over.
"We're not getting those answers standing here in this hallway," Varric says, striding forward after Zevran and the other elf.
"It's nice that you're not dead, Anders," Merrill says quickly, darting a look between Fenris and Anders and then scampering after Varric.
"Um, thanks?" Anders says after her but not taking his eyes off Hawke and Fenris.
Hawke guides Fenris along the hallway, half a step behind Fenris so that, just in case Fenris turns on Anders, Hawke might have enough time to get a barrier of some sort between them.
"You, on that side of the room, if you don't mind or even if you do," the elf says as they walk into the office. "Anders, the other side of the room, please."
"That isn't going to stop me," Fenris says, lyrium tattoos glowing white. "Mages or no."
"Stop it, Fenris!" Hawke shouts, finally losing his temper. "For the Maker's sake! Stop now. I want answers."
Fenris glares at Hawke and slides into a chair.
"I'm Alish, the Warden-Commander of Amaranthine. I've been led to believe you know the others." Alish gestures towards Zevran and Anders.
"Alleyn Hawke. This is Varric, Merrill and Fenris."
"Hawke? You related to Carver?" Anders asks and the question reminds Hawke that he doesn't know this Anders and that he's entered some sort of crazy world where Anders died with his knife in his back in addition to being alive right now.
"He's my brother."
"Interesting fellow. I see the familial resemblance; punch first and ask questions second." Anders's sarcasm has been missed. When Fenris snarls behind him, Hawke raises a hand to silence him.
"Tell me, Messere Hawke, what happened in Kirkwall."
So Hawke does. He tells the Warden-Commander about meeting Anders, losing his brother, the fighting and the stress. He tells the Warden-Commander about Meredith and Orsino, about the kindness of Grand Cleric Elthina, the promise he made to the King Alistair, and about the horror of the Chantry blowing up. He can't bear to look at Anders as he recounts that, can't bear to look at Anders as he tells the Warden-Commander about the death and destruction and the way that he'd fought to bring peace and, in the end, had ended up killing Orsino and Meredith. He even mentions the appreciation he has for Zevran's assistance.
It takes hours to recount what happened. When a glass of ale appears at his hand, he takes it without comment, doesn't even see who places it beside him. Instead, he watches the Warden-Commander to see if he reacts to any of it.
At the end of his recitation, calm and methodical as he so rarely is, Alish merely nods, as if he'd known all of it and Hawke's story matches the one he'd heard previously. "We've prepared rooms for you. Your brother is eager to see you."
"Carver? Eager to see me? I doubt it." The dismissal is clear.
"And how did this one come to live?" Fenris says, ignoring the dismissal.
"This one has a name," Anders says. "But since you'll be incapable of pronouncing it, you can call me 'Anders'."
"I'll call you dead, abomination."
"Whomever was in Kirkwall wasn't me and I certainly didn't agree to become an abomination. I wouldn't do that."
"But you did. You glowed blue and everything. It was a very pretty blue," Merrill says. Hawke had partially forgotten that she was still in the room, she'd been so quiet.
"It was all very dramatic and romantic, really, Blondie. You'd think you'd remember glowing and blowing up the Chantry."
"Except that it wasn't me and I turned Justice down, multiple times, I'll have you know."
"It was you."
"This isn't helping any of us." Hawke interrupts and then looks to Alish. "The rooms would be greatly appreciated. The journey was rough."
"I will show them, love," Zevran says, standing and heading towards the door.
As they walk along, Zevran maneuvers them until Hawke and Zevran are walking further ahead than the rest. "I would control Fenris. Alish is quite attached to Anders for some reason. He will not respond well to Anders dying, especially at your hands once more."
"I will do my best. Fenris is his own man."
"Of course he is but he is also a man in love. Men in love will do many things to keep their loved ones happy."
"Then I'm glad that I turned down your proposition."
"As I knew you would." Zevran winks at him.
Anders: Why do spirits seek out mages? I've always wondered.
Justice: You speak of demons. I am not a demon.
Anders: Aren't demons simply spirits with unique and sparkling personalities?
Justice: They have been perverted by their desires.
Anders: But what do they want from mages?
Justice: Perhaps they wish the same as I: silence.
Anders finds himself thrust against a wall for the third time in as many days. There are bruises on top of his bruises and he finds that he's not willing to passively take it any longer. As Fenris pushes against him, Anders charges his fingers and touches Fenris, sending him flying backwards. Quickly recovering, Fenris charges at him with amazing speed but he gets his staff up in time and then paralyzes him. "I don't appreciate the way that you're trampling on the Warden-Commander's hospitality."
Fenris struggles against the bonds. A smart man would take the opportunity to flee but Anders has never been accused of being smart. Smart-mouthed, yes, but never smart. He continues to speak, "I'm not whoever it was that claimed to be me in Kirkwall. I've never been there and I never wanted to visit. I can't say that I disagree with the end result of what my doppelganger did but I wouldn't have done it that way. So I'm going to kindly ask that you cease attempting to kill me. If you want to speak to me, you can simply ask me to sit with you at a meal. Perhaps play some Diamondback?"
"You weren't good at Diamondback."
"Never have been but I still enjoy it." Fenris breaks through the paralysis and Anders braces but Fenris stays his hand. Pressing his luck, Anders grins and adds, "We could make it strip Diamondback."
"You are hopeless." Fenris shakes his head and walks back towards the rooms that the Kirkwall group were assigned.
"You don't want to see me naked?" Anders calls out behind him and laughs at the gesture Fenris tosses as he stalks away.
"You're playing with fire on that one," Varric says from the shadows. "You're either the bravest mage I've ever met or the stupidest one."
"What about both?"
"Look, Blondie, there're things you should know. You got somewhere we can sit and I can tell you some stories? Maybe over a drink and some diamondback?"
"I'm not stripping for you."
"I've seen plenty of your naked ass as it is, I don't need to see more."
"Not my naked ass."
"One that supposedly looked like yours." Varric starts sauntering towards the common area.
Anders hurries after him. "My ass is lovely. You'd be honored to see it. There have been sonnets written in honor of my ass."
"Whatever helps you sleep at night."
They find a table, off to the side and slightly out of sight of the rest of the sparse inhabitants. The ale appears, Varric pulls the necessary supplies for Diamondback out of his pockets and they start playing. Varric doesn't say anything at first and the silence starts getting to Anders. "So why don't you have a beard?"
"Not every dwarf has a beard." Varric wins the hand and then another is dealt.
"I thought maybe it fell onto your chest." Anders gestures towards where Varric's shirt lays unbuttoned almost to his navel, copious amounts of chest hair jutting out of it proudly. It'd be fascinating if it wasn't appalling and interesting, all at the same time.
"Not the first time I've heard that line. I'm disappointed in you."
"What else should I know other than that my doppelganger has almost as nice an ass as mine?" Anders cocks an eyebrow and grins, trying his best to look innocent.
"Hardest thing Hawke ever did in his life was kill you."
"He killed me? I thought I died in the battle!" The entire conversation seems surreal, that they're sitting there playing Diamondback and talking about the way that he died. He's not at all certain how he feels about the idea that someone that was supposedly his friend had killed him. Not that it was him but still, the point stands.
"You'd just blown up thousands of innocents, the Grand Cleric, started a war and endangered Kirkwall to invasion from Starkhaven."
"You used Hawke to do it all. You knew he loved you and you used it to get what you wanted. You're lucky that all he did was kill you."
"He loved me?" Somehow that makes it both better and worse. Even worse that someone that loved him had killed him but better because someone like Hawke had cared about him. "But he and Fenris…"
"You loved him, in your own way and he loved you. Actually, Hawke was torn between you two. Romance to rival the ages but when he realized that you loved your hatred more than him, well, you see how devoted Fenris is to him."
"So Fenris stole him from me?"
"Fenris didn't steal a thing. He went willingly and you allowed it. I think you knew that you couldn't love him as much as Fenris does."
"Tell me I at least got a kiss out of it."
"You did at that. It was all very romantic. You had a few lines in you. Bet you still do."
"Dammit!" He's lost five hands in a row, probably because of the way that Varric's distracted him.
"Good thing we're not playing strip Diamondback."
"Strip Diamondback? I'm in." Hawke says as he slides onto the bench next to Varric.
"Are we playing strip Diamondback? That will be fun." Merrill slides in next to Anders.
"Do you know how to play?" Anders asks. Merrill strikes him as far too innocent to be able to play the game successfully. He'll be seeing her in her smallclothes all too soon. At least he wouldn't be the first to be naked but it seems wrong to take advantage of Merrill's innocence. Besides, it would be like having his sister strip in front of him. Shuddering at the thought, he almost misses the glances between the three. He gets the feeling he's been set up.
Which is proven all too quickly as he loses his clothes faster than anyone else. Holding the bundle of clothes in front of him, bare ass hanging in the back, he saunters out of the hall with a casual grace that he isn't feeling. Hawke's only lost his shirt, dammit, and bared a mighty fine chest. Merrill's fully clothed and so is Varric. It's embarrassing but that doesn't stop him from holding his head up high as his fellow Wardens call out insults.
"Wait up," Hawke calls out. "I would walk with you."
"Just let me get dressed." He ducks into the first available room and pulls his clothes back on. "There, better."
"I thought the other view was better." Hawke winks at him and Anders wonders, once again, just why Fate hates him. Fate's put a beautiful man in front of him and then given him to another. Anders is no poacher, much as the temptation is there in front of him.
"Yes, well." He's at a loss for words, one of the few times that's ever happened to him.
"So you kissed the other me?" Anders asks as they stroll through the Keep.
"And was the fake me a good kisser?"
"So why didn't you go further? I'm rather charming and I would hope that my doppelganger would be, as well."
"You were writing a manifesto." Hawke says as if that's the answer to everything.
"A manifesto?" Anders gapes. "But I hate writing letters let alone books!"
"It was the largest book in my library. You were quite full of opinions on the treatment of mage-kind. Well, either you or Justice. Perhaps both."
Anders slips into silence, unsure of how to respond to this. Hawke clearly had a deep friendship with the other him and, just as obviously, was still mourning his death. He's unreasonably jealous of the other Anders. The other Anders might've been insane enough to write a manifesto but he'd known Hawke well and, more, had touched lips together, had felt one another intimately. Anders wants to know Hawke just as intimately.
Then Fenris steps out from behind a statue and entwines his fingers with Hawke's. Well, if Hawke wouldn't be with Anders, at least he'd picked an attractive, if deadly and intimidating, replacement.
"Years of escaping from the Circle, I'm certain."
"Yes, we've heard all about that."
"What I don't get is that whomever was impersonating me, why they would do that."
"Who would know everything that Justice had known?"
"There isn't anyone."
"There had to have been someone. Someone that knew intimate details about you and was close enough that Justice could proposition them and convince them."
"Just my cat."
"Your cat." Fenris sneers at him.
"Ser Pounce-a-Lot was a brilliant listener."
"I'm certain he was," Hawke says and it's obvious that he's placating the pair of them and, just as obvious, that he's being sarcastic about doing so. Anders feels himself tumbling out of lust and into caring for the man.
"Well, I doubt it was my cat that impersonated me. I would think you would've noticed the tail, at the least."
"I have seen the evil and twisted things that magic can do. I am not so certain."
"He was a cat." Anders states it as if Fenris had just supposed that the sky and the ground had switched places.
"I do not ever doubt the evil of magic."
"Magic is not evil. People are evil."
"I just got through six years of listening to this debate. I'm not having it start again." Hawke tugs at Fenris towards the interior of the Keep again. Hawke looks to Anders and asks, "Perhaps we could talk later?"
"Of course. I am at your disposal." He only wishes it was for more than conversation.
"Until later, then."