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Dragon Age Drabbles

Chapter Text

I loved this city.

I never thought I'd feel that way about it. About any place. A childhood spent moving from place to place taught me not to get attached. Even Lothering never felt quite like home. I always had one foot out the door, in a manner of speaking. And Kirkwall? Oh, Maker, I hated bloody Kirkwall, that first year. I hated the people, I hated the Templars, I hated Gamlen's wretched little hovel.

And I don't know when it happened, exactly, when Kirkwall stopped being a place to live and become home. It probably had more than a little to do with my friends, the insane little family I built for myself. Maybe it was because I stopped putting so much effort into hating all those people, and started helping them instead. Oh, sure, it was for coin at first, but eventually the money didn't matter so much. I just wanted to help.

I wanted to make the city better.

I tried. Maker, I tried so hard to make it better. I fought Templars for Anders and slavers for Fenris, raiders for Isabela and demons for Merrill. I helped Varric and Sebastian find peace after the loss of their families, and helped Aveline find love years after putting her first husband to the knife myself. I did countless little things for countless people. I tried.

It was never enough. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't stop what was coming. I tried to talk Meredith and Orsino down, I tried to get Elthina to do something for once. I tried to stop Anders. But in the end, it wasn't enough. I don't know if anyone could have saved Kirkwall, but I certainly couldn't.

I sided with the mages, my people, and when it was all over we ran. What choice had we? After everything we'd done, we couldn't stay. We couldn't just go back to our lives. Everything we'd built in Kirkwall laid under ashes and dust, blown to pieces with the Chantry, and seven years later I understood the grief in Mother's voice when she'd cried for Lothering. That city had taken so much from me, Maker help me, but I didn't want to leave. I didn't want to go.

But we ran anyway. What I wanted didn't matter, not anymore. We ran, and ran, and ran, and one by one my friends turned to their own paths. The city had kept us together, and without it, we fractured, going to pieces across Thedas. Until at the end I was alone. My friends, my family, were all dead or gone, and I stood alone against the Templars coming to make me pay for what I'd done. For sparing Anders, for starting the revolution, for walking free and proud.

Even now, I don't know what happened. There was so much blood and magic and lyrium. I remember thinking that I wanted to go home, just before I broke my staff, trying to take out as many of the Templars as I could.

I got my wish. I'm home. I am home. The Veil's so weak here. Looking back, it's little wonder that so many mages turned to blood magic-- the demons gather here, hunting easy prey. Or they did. Demons trouble Kirkwall no longer. I won't let them. I won't let a lot of things happen.

I'm within the city, inside the streets and buildings and trees, aware of everything and everyone inside my walls. I'm learning how to manipulate the city, move the stones in just the right way, make it more comfortable. Kirkwall is a vessel, intended for someone else-- something terrible and dark, from what I can tell. But it won't hold its intended occupant now. I've broken the sigils and made this city mine. Made it me. I will protect myself, my people, my home.

Just because I'm dead doesn't mean I stop being the Champion of Kirkwall, after all.

Chapter Text

He wakes up sobbing.

Bad dreams aren't that unusual an occurrence, for a Grey Warden. Bone-chilling, night-sweats, scream-yourself-hoarse nightmares are all part of the package. But this... this wasn't a dream of darkspawn. This was something far, far worse.

In the dream, there were Templars and Wardens, dying around him, dying because he's killing them, but he's trapped in his body, a powerless passenger watching as his hands tear through flesh and bone. There was a ship, and strange, terrible city, a city made brighter by someone he loved more than he knew possible. He was happy, for a time, but he knew it would end in pain and loss and grief. And then there was something horrible, red and dark and wrong, and he was staring up at his love (and he's never felt love like that before, where it physically hurts with how much you love them) and then he was dying. His dream-lover killed him, stabbed him, left him to bleed on a dark cold street, and it was exactly what he deserved.

The next day, Rolan asks if he slept well. He doesn't answer, the first time the ex-Templar has failed to get a rise out of him. Instead he stares out the window, and thinks about Justice's offer, and how his chest still aches.

Anders tells the spirit no. But he goes to Kirkwall anyway.

*

She's been taught to put faith in dreams. Keepers listen to many things for guidance-- the wind, the birds, the trees-- but dreams hold special significance.

In her dream, she stands in the middle of her camp, her entire clan dead. There are others with her, warriors and rogues and mages, people she might call friends. People she cares for, and who care for her. She knows that they have killed the clan. Her hands are stained with the Keeper's blood.

There is a mirror at the edge of camp, and it reflects nothing. She stares at the flat surface, and sees instead a glittering city in the forest, polished wood gleaming in the dappled sunlight, her people walking tall and proud and undying. It shows her the world as it should be.

When she wakes, there are tears on her face. She does not pray to the Creators for guidance. Merrill knows what she must do.

*

He doesn't dream. He's a dwarf, his people sleep like the Stone. They don't dream like humans or elves do.

So he has no explanation for being awake in the middle of the night, images and feelings seared into his mind. It's all a jumble-- caverns and rock wraiths and Bartrand, something to do with his brother, and a strange, dark house filled with sweet music... He rubs his eyes and grabs a journal, scribbling down as much as he can remember. He fills three pages, barely paying attention to what he's writing until he stops and looks down.

SOMETHING TERRIBLE WAITS IN THE DEEP.

He shakes his head at his own melodrama and goes back to sleep. A side-effect of the new wine he tried that night, he tells himself, and goes off to meet with his brother. Bartrand's talking about the end of the Blight and exploring the Deep Roads.

Varric smiles, and asks his brother if he wouldn't rather invest in some new mining operations instead.

*

She stands at the helm of her ship and wonders if she's about to lose it all.

This heist was supposed to be easy money. The buyer was ready and waiting, all she had to do was deliver the relic and collect on one of the biggest paydays of her career. But that dream... her men dying, a frantic swim to shore, her ship cracking apart and sliding beneath the sea... She slides her hands over the helm with the sort of tenderness usually reserved for a lover. This ship is her life. Her freedom. Lovers, sailors, friends, coin, none of those things stay, but the Siren is constant.

She has a bad feeling about this job. She's lived long enough to know when to listen to her gut.

Isabela spins the helm and points her ship north. There's good raiding to be had in Antiva these days.

*

He knows it is one of the more foolish things he's done in his life. He doesn't especially care.

Going somewhere on the whims of a dream, half-remembered images of a city and a house and him. The dream told him his master would not be at the house, but in the dream he had waited, lingered far too long. In his waking hours, he would not wait. He would go to this city, straight to the house, before his master could prepare. Before he could run.

He would kill him, and at last be free.

And if it were only a dream? Well, Kirkwall seemed a fine place to lose oneself in for a time.

Fenris almost smiles as he sees the city's silhouette appear on the horizon. The running would end.

*

Some things change. Some things don't. Some of them flee the city, hoping to avoid the visions; others rush to it and wait to embrace their fate.

Hawke steps off the boat and looks up at the Gallows. Destiny's arrived.

Chapter Text

It's been years since he's seen the Warden-Commander. Hero of Ferelden. They arranged to meet in Rivain, nearly three months after the Chantry. It took some doing for Anders to slip away from Hawke and the others to make the meeting-- they don't want him to be out on his own, for varying reasons.

Anders paces the empty warehouse, hands twitching with impatience. With fear. Seven years and more sins to his name than he wants to admit, but... it's almost over. He will continue the fight, as will Justice, but they'll do so separately. As themselves. Justice wants to be free just as much as Anders. The years they've shared together haven't been easy or pleasant for either of them.

The door opens, and Anders instinctively ducks into the shadows, watching. Amell strides into the room like he owns the place, which is pretty much how he's always entered rooms. “Anders?” he calls.

“I'm here,” he says, stepping into the dim torchlight. “You heard, obviously.”

“Oh, yes,” Amell says, smiling darkly. It should have been him, really. It was his cause more than Anders's, his grand plot, but Justice could barely stand the man. The spirit wouldn't tolerate the thought of merging with a blood mage, and Nathaniel-- the third member of their little conspiracy, the one who came up with the damned merging idea in the first place-- couldn't accept the spirit into his soul. That left Anders.

“I take it you're satisfied, Commander?” They're both angry, Anders and Justice, angry and tired.

Amell nods. “Very. I wish I'd been there to see it-- the bards are saying it was quite a show.”

“Look, much as I love talking about my most recent massacre, could we get this over with?” Anders snaps. “Let's just-- let's just undo this, set Justice free, and then we'll all go our separate ways.” And he knows he'll never be able to make it up to Hawke, but without Justice driving him on to continue the revolution he'll be free to try.

“Undo it?” Amell repeats. “I told you I could probably undo it.”

The bottom drops out of Anders's stomach. “And?” he asks, feeling cold.

Amell shrugs. “The odds were not in your favor,” he replies. “I couldn't find a complete accounting of the ritual to undo it. I tested a few variants, but none of them worked.” He pauses for a moment, then adds, as an afterthought, “Sorry.”

He's in shock. He knows that's what this is, the distant numb feeling in his brain, and that very soon the rage will kick in and he won't be able to stop it. “That's it?” he asks. “I-I-I sacrificed my soul and my sanity and my life for you, for your cause--”

“Your cause, too, mage,” Amell cuts in pointedly.

“No,” Anders hisses. “Not mine. Never mine. I just wanted to be left alone. That was all I ever wanted, and you-- you dragged me into this. You did this to us.”

“You agreed,” Amell replies. “I didn't hold you down and force it on you. You agreed to this, so don't go blaming me--”

“We had no idea what would happen,” Anders says. “You said you could undo it. You told me you could fix it once it was over.”

Amell exhales sharply. “I was wrong,” he says. “Get over it.” He looks the other mage up and down. “You're more effective like this, anyway,” he adds.

He's been trying to fight Justice, lately, trying to keep him from taking control. Now he gladly opens himself to the spirit, letting it take control of his body and magic. “You lied,” Justice snarls through his mouth. “You betrayed our trust. You have done us both a grave injustice.”

Amell's already got an arcane shield up. He knows, just as Justice does, that it won't save him. “Yeah. And what're you gonna do about it? Kill me?”

He flies across the room, faster than he can move when it's just him, and breaks the shield with barely a thought. He grabs Amell by the throat and lifts him off the ground, fingers digging into his neck. “Eventually,” Vengeance promises.

Chapter Text

It had been raining ever since Garrett woke up that morning. Alone, as usual-- Anders was nearly always gone before he woke, off to the clinic to save lives. It was selfish, but sometimes he just wished he could have him all to himself for one morning.

Still, as it was late afternoon, there was nothing to be done about it now. Garrett shifted position on the couch, stretching his legs out in front of him, and flipped a page in his novel. Varric always had such good recommendations.

He heard the front door open and close. Probably Bodhan coming back from errands or something. Garrett didn't look up until something moved in the corner of his eye. He glanced towards the doorway and did a double-take. Anders was standing there, dripping wet from the rain, and grinning like a fool. “Come here,” he said without preamble, holding out his hands.

Garrett blinked. “What are you doing here?”

“Come here,” Anders insisted, making grabbing motions with his hands.

Too confused to do anything but obey, Garrett set his book down and walked over. “Shouldn't you be in the clinic?”

“Slow day,” Anders replied, taking his hands and all but dragging him towards the back hall. “Also, it's raining.”

“Yes, I noticed,” Garrett said. “You're soaked, love.”

“I was outside for a while,” Anders explained dismissively. “I love the rain.”

He smiled and shook his head. That was so... typically Anders, in a weird way. “Where are we going?”

“Garden.” Anders glanced back over his shoulder at him and grinned. “There's something I've always wanted to do, but never had the chance...”

Garrett was vaguely worried now, but curiosity won out, and he followed Anders outside, coming to a stop underneath the small stone ledge outside the door. Anders kept going, walking out into the rain. He turned back to Garrett and rolled his eyes. “Come on!” he said, smiling despite the exasperation in his voice.

With a sigh, he followed. It was a perfect spring day in Kirkwall-- the air was pleasantly warm, and the rain just barely cool. It felt surprisingly nice. Still, it was raining hard enough that Garrett had to run his hands through his hair to push it out of his eyes by the time he reached Anders. “What do you--”

Anders threw his arms around him and kissed him. His hands were cool against his skin, water dripping off his hair and nose, but his lips were warm and soft and bloody perfect... Garrett slid his arm around Anders's waist and pulled him close, his other hand sliding up to cradle the back of his head.

“There,” Anders breathed when they finally parted, looking very pleased with himself. “Never got to kiss someone in the rain before. Now I have.” He beamed at Garrett. “It's just as good as Isabela's trashy novels said it was.”

Garrett laughed and pulled him in for another kiss. They didn't get many moments together like this, but that made the ones they did have all the sweeter.

Chapter Text

They split into pairs, Tallis and Isabela, him and Anders, as they make their way into the castle. Anders hasn't said a word since he came back with the key, and Hawke's starting to get the distinct impression he's annoyed. I told him it wasn't a good idea, he thought, rolling his eyes. But he insisted, said he had to come, had to make sure nothing happened to me--

Anders grabs his arm and yanks him into a dark, shadowy alcove on the side of the hall, all but throwing him into the stone wall. Hawke scowls into the darkness. “Wh--”

Anders claps a hand over his mouth, silencing him, as a pair of guards stroll down the hallway. They both freeze, listening, as the footsteps draw nearer, then slowly, slowly recede. Hawke lets out a sigh and tries to straighten off the wall. The other man is on him, abruptly, pinning him in place with his body. “Now that we have a minute to ourselves,” Anders grinds out, and Hawke can just barely make out the angry flash of his eyes in the darkness, “I think we need to talk.”

Hawke pries Anders's hand away. “About what?”

“Your little stunt back there,” Anders growls. “Explain to me, sweetheart, how you can justify seducing another man for some elven thief, but when your lover asks for one, simple favor--”

Oh. So that's what this is about. “You lied to me,” Hawke replies, voice low. “Breaking into the Chantry--”

Something dark twists Anders's features, and he shoves Hawke into the wall, one hand tangled in the other man's hair. “You trusted her more than you trusted me,” Anders says, his lips at Hawke's ear. Hawke's fingers scratch at the wall as he tries to keep from shivering. “You'll whore yourself out for her but you won't even help me--” His voice cracks at the end, and he jerks Hawke's head back, crushing his mouth to his. Hawke lets out a sound that's embarrassingly close to a squeak, his hands moving from the wall to Anders's body, and he can't seem to decide if he wants to shove the other man away and bring him closer.

Anders makes the decision for him. He yanks Hawke's hands off him and pins them to the wall over his head, fingers gripping his wrists with rarely displayed strength, and shoves a thigh between his legs. “Tell me what you did,” he growls, pulling at Hawke's collar with his free hand. “Tell me how you distracted Lord Cyril enough to get the damn keys.”

“I-I--” His breath catches as Anders bites his neck, probably hard enough to draw blood, and then starts sucking definitely hard enough to bruise. “Fuck, Anders, I didn't-- I just flirted a little--”

“Bullshit,” Anders retorts, his mouth hot against Hawke's skin. “Did you look at him the way you look at me? The way you look when you've been thinking about me all day, and all you want to do is throw me to the bed and take me? Did you?” He grinds his leg up against Hawke; Hawke chokes back a moan, fingers flexing uselessly in the air.

“Anders, I—I didn't-- I just—just led him on a little--”

Anders pushes against him, and fuck, he's half-hard already in these damn pants that don't hide anything, this was a terrible idea. “Did you touch him?” he hisses, then bites Hawke's earlobe for emphasis, or maybe because it's there. “Did you put your hands on him?”

“J-Just to get the key, I didn't--”

That admission seems to break something in Anders. He growls again, the sound drawing a low, involuntary moan out of Hawke, and releases Hawke's hands so he can spin him around and shove him back against the wall. Hawke turns his head so his cheek is pressed against the cool stone, rather than his nose, and tries to look back at Anders. The mage has one hand on the back of Hawke's neck, not tight, but enough to hold him in place. His other hand is undoing the lower buckles on his coat.

“Anders,” Hawke mutters, “flattered as I am by all this attention, I don't think this is the best idea--”

Anders is on him again in an instant, body pressed against him, pinning him to the wall. “Why not, sweetheart,” he spits the endearment like a curse, “don't you want me?”

“Fuck, yes, of course I do, but this is not really the place--”

“Would you rather we went back to the library, then?” Anders asks as he hooks his fingers into the waistband of Hawke's pants and yanks down. The stone's cold on his cock, and Anders is hot against his ass, and he's left gasping, bucking his hips between the two. “Is that more to your liking?”

“Dammit, Anders, I didn't--”

He sputters and chokes a bit when Anders shoves two fingers into his mouth. “Better work 'em good, 'cause that's all you're getting,” the mage whispers hotly into his ear, grinding significantly against Hawke's ass. Hawke moans, sucking and licking at his fingers, letting his eyes fall shut.

Anders yanks his fingers free abruptly. Hawke gasps for breath and shifts position, sliding his legs apart as Anders moves his hand between them. He slides both fingers in without preparation; Hawke scrabbles at the wall and bites his lip to silence his groans. He hears Anders spit into his hand behind him.

“Now tell me the truth,” Anders breathes, his arm rhythmically brushing against Hawke as he strokes himself. “Are you sorry you flirted with someone else?”

Maker, no, not if this is what it gets me-- “Y-Yes,” Hawke mutters.

“Do you want me?”

“Unh, fuck, yes, Anders.” He jerks his hips back towards Anders for emphasis.

Anders pulls his fingers out of him and braces one hand on the wall beside Hawke's head as he slowly eases into him. “Do you trust me?” Hawke whimpers and tries to push back, tries to take more in. Anders shakes his head. “Do you trust me?” he repeats.

“Yes.” Hawke nods.

Slowly, burning right on the razor's edge between pleasure and pain, Anders slides into him, pressing in until his body is flush against Hawke's. “Do you love me?” he whispers, more desperate than angry.

Hawke twists his head around and captures Anders's lips in a rough, sideways kiss. “Always,” he breathes. “Now for Andraste's sake, fuck me before we get caught.”

Anders makes a noise that might be a laugh and complies. He slides one arm around Hawke's waist and wraps his fingers around his cock, stroking him hard and fast, almost in time to his thrusts. Hawke all but shoves his fist in his mouth to muffle himself, his other hand desperately clawing at the wall. Anders bites down on his shoulder when he comes, shuddering against the other man. Hawke grabs Anders's wrist and roughly moves his hand over his cock until he hits the edge and falls, spilling over the mage's hand and onto the wall.

“Oh, fuck,” Anders mutters as he gently disentangles himself from Hawke.

Hawke hisses slightly. “Yeah. My thoughts exactly.”

The other man just shakes his head and fishes a spare bandage out of his belt pouch, cleaning himself off with it before passing it to Hawke. Hawke drops it to the floor once he's done and snickers quietly. “That'll be quite the distraction,” he mutters.

“Shut up,” Anders replies with a smirk.

They cautiously peer out into the hallway-- empty-- and start silently making their way towards the doors, Hawke limping slightly. Someone clears their throat, and both men stop short.

Isabela and Tallis are hidden in another alcove across the way, one with, Hawke realizes as he glances over his shoulder, a more-or-less unobstructed view of where they'd been standing. Isabela is smiling and chewing on her fingertips, and even Tallis looks a bit flushed. “Okay, new teams,” she says. “Isabela, you're with Anders. Hawke, with me.”

“If you insist,” Isabela says, sidling over to Anders, who looks rather abruptly miserable.

“Give us about five minutes and then follow,” Tallis continues. “Come on, Hawke.”

“Not sure he can again, so soon,” Isabela mutters, pulling Anders back into the alcove with her. “Good luck!”

Hawke starts to follow Tallis and looks back at Anders. The mage gives him a half-smile; he grins back and winks, then heads through the door after the elf.

Chapter Text

They're halfway to the safe house when Anders stops dead in the middle of the street. Hawke takes another two steps before noticing and turns back with a sigh. “Anders,” he says quietly, tugging on his lover's hand, “come on, we need to—”

“Shhh.” Anders is staring at an alleyway intently, head cocked to the side. Hawke glances at his mabari, who gives the canine equivalent of a shrug. He's about to speak again when he hears it: a faint, squeaky noise that sounds distinctly like “mew.”

Anders is off and into the alley, leaving Hawke to hurry after him. Dog takes up a guard position by the street-- he's learned well, all these months on the run, going from city to city across the Marches, organizing the resistance. Hawke's not sure it's quite big enough to be called a revolution. Not yet, anyway.

“Anders, what is...” Hawke's question trails off as he comes up beside Anders. The other man is crouched down, holding a pile of loose boards and refuse aside with one arm, his other hand extended towards a trembling, pitiful-looking ball of fur.

“Hold this,” Anders murmurs, tilting his head at the boards, and Hawke can't do anything but obey. He carefully eases the boards aside; Anders leans forward and scoops up the kitten, who squeaks again but doesn't seem to have the strength to fight.

Anders carefully gets to his feet and cradles the kitten against his chest. “It's all right,” he murmurs. “I'm not gonna hurt you...”

Hawke lets the boards fall back to the ground and stands, dusting off his hands. “Let's go, love,” he says. “We need to get off the street.”

“But...” Anders frowns, glancing around. “The mother might be around here somewhere, I don't...”

“It's half-starved,” Hawke says. “If the mother's still alive, she left this one.”

Anders sighs and casts another sweeping look around the alley, but allows Hawke to take his arm and lead him back to the street anyhow. Dog seems anxious, muscles tense as they make their way through the streets, down another narrow alley and finally up two flights of stairs to the abandoned apartment over an equally abandoned store. The local resistance set them up with the place. It'll do, for the next week or so, while they plan their next move.

The apartment is two rooms, largely empty, with just a few chairs and lumpy pallet on the floor. Anders immediately drops into one of the chairs and sets the kitten on his lap, his hands glowing faintly as he checks the small creature for injuries. “She's sick,” he says, more to himself than Hawke. “Poor little thing...”

Hawke sets his pack in a corner and eases Anders's off the other man's shoulder. Anders barely seems to notice. “I'm going to go to the market before everything closes,” Hawke says. “Anything I should get?”

“Bowls,” comes the absent reply. “And milk.”

When he comes back almost an hour later, there's no evidence that Anders has moved at all. The kitten is curled up on his leg, apparently asleep, and Anders is gently stroking her head, smiling. Hawke tries to ease the door closed so as not to disturb either of them, but he almost drops one of his parcels in the process, leading to an awkward and comparatively loud juggling act.

“Oh, you-- sorry, you should have said something,” Anders says, grinning sheepishly. He stands and tucks the sleepy kitten into one of the inner pockets in his robes, then hurries over to take a few of the more precariously balanced packages.

“Will she be okay in there?” Hawke asks as he heads to the table.

Anders nods. “Yeah. I used to do that with Pounce all the time, when he was a kitten.”

They unpack the food and bandages and bowls, with Anders immediately claiming one of the latter and filling it with milk. He pulls the kitten from his pocket and sets her on the table, beaming when she limps over and starts lapping it up.

Dog whines and cocks his head to the side. Hawke rolls his eyes. “She's tiny,” he says. “She's allowed to be on the furniture because she's not going to break it.” The mabari looks offended and stalks off to flop melodramatically onto the pallet.

“Guess it's bedrolls for us again,” Anders comments, idly scratching one finger between the kitten's ears.

“At least we're indoors,” Hawke replies. He nods at the kitten. “Have you named her yet?”

“I-- no.” He shakes his head. “If I name her, I'll get too attached, and... I figured I could give her to someone who lives around here, one of the free mages maybe...”

Hawke sighs. “Or we could keep her.”

Anders looks down at the kitten, whom he can't seem to stop petting, and frowns. “I... I don't know,” he replies. “With the lives we lead, running and fighting and everything, it wouldn't be-- it wouldn't be safe.”

The same answer he'd given every time Hawke had suggested they get a cat. He'd offered when Anders first moved in, and then at every birthday and holiday or sometimes just because, but Anders had always said no. It's too dangerous, by which he meant I'm too dangerous. He'd never said it, but Hawke suspected that was the real story of why Anders didn't have Ser Pounce-a-Lot. If the Wardens had made him give the cat away, he could have reclaimed Pounce when he left Amaranthine and the Wardens behind... but he didn't.

“Anders.” Hawke moves to stand behind him, his arms around Anders's waist and his chin on the other man's shoulder. “We haven't seen Templars in almost a month. You used to take a cat into the blighted Deep Roads. I think that between the two--” Dog sits up and rumbles low in his throat, “--three of us, we can keep her from getting hurt.”

Anders leans back against him and exhales heavily. “Is Princess Stripey Paws too ridiculous?”

“Maker's breath, yes. You can't name her that.”

“At least it's creative.”

“Dog is a perfectly fine name.”

“It's not a name, it's a description. You'd probably tell me to name her Cat. Or Tabby.”

“Tabby's not bad.”

“I am not naming her Tabby,” Anders says, trying to sound exasperated, but he's laughing too much for Hawke to believe it.

Hawke presses a kiss to the side of his neck and releases him, digging around in the pile of food for some bread to make sandwiches. “Please tell me you have other ideas.”

“Serah Fluffykins?”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

Chapter Text

Hawke slams her shield into a darkspawn, tossing it back, and swings her blade across the chest of another. The air is thick with battle cries, the screams of the dying, the darkspawns’ ear-splitting shrieks. The line won’t hold much longer. Where are Loghain’s men, dammit?

A ragged cheer goes up from the soldiers. “The beacon!” one shouts. “The beacon’s lit!”

Finally. She keeps fighting, risking glances at the far side of the field, waiting to see Loghain’s troops march in.

Nothing. It takes a few minutes for her to realize that they’re not coming. Did the darkspawn overwhelm them, or… she falls back, scrambling up onto a fallen pillar, trying to see what’s become of the rest of the army.

They’re retreating. Marching away in neat, orderly rows. She stares in abject horror. They’re abandoning us…

“Hawke!” Varel screams at her. An arrow glances off her shoulder, and she jumps down, landing in the mud beside her captain. “Fall back,” he shouts at her. “The field’s lost!”

“What about the king?” she asks, kicking a darkspawn in the chest and decapitating it.

Varel swings his sword around, wordlessly pointing at the body of an enormous ogre, and the crumpled heap of golden armor at its feet. “No,” she breathes.

“Tell them to fall back,” Varel orders, jaw set grimly. “Fall back!”

She takes up the call, and the other officers echo it across the field. The darkspawn sense their weakness and make a new push, driving the army back against the walls. Within minutes the calls change from fall back to retreat, and the line breaks as the soldiers scatter, running for their lives.

“Carver!” Hawke shouts, looking around frantically for her brother. “Carver!”

It’s sheer, dumb luck that she finds him, standing on a collapsed staircase, swinging his broadsword through any darkspawn who get too close. She runs to him, bashing the creatures out of the way as she goes. “Carver,” she gasps. “We have to go.”

He shakes his head. “I won’t run! Not like them!”

“They’re heading north, Carver!” she shouts, grabbing his arm. “We have to get home before they do!” Her brother goes white, and he nods. She grabs his arm. “Come on.”

They run. Soldiers and darkspawn are dying around them, more of the former than the latter, but they keep running. Neither of them speaks until they’ve cleared the field. Carver turns to look back. “Dammit, Carver, come on,” she snaps.

He just stares. “They left,” he says, shocked. “Why would Loghain…”

“I don’t know,” she says. Then, still stunned, “The king’s dead.”

She expects him to be shocked. But he just looks at her with eyes far older than his eighteen years. “So are the Wardens,” he says. “I saw their captain die.”

She sighs and closes her eyes. “Come on,” she says. “We have to get home. We have to find Mother and Bethany.”

Carver nods, and follows his sister north.

Chapter Text

Anders grabs the man by the shirt and throws him into the wall. “How could you?” he snarls. “I trusted you!”

Samson staggers to his feet, eyes wide with horror. “Wh-what are you!?” he stammers, eyes reflecting unearthly blue light.

He storms towards him, a perfect picture of wrath and vengeance, and seizes him by the collar, hauling him up with a strength he doesn't have. Holding the man a foot off the floor is beyond him, and he'll pay for it tomorrow. But right now... “I trusted you to see them to safety and you betrayed them! You betrayed me!”

“The lyrium-- you don't understand--”

You gave them to the Templars!” He throws him across the room into a pile of crates. The wood splinters, and Samson groans in pain. Anders stares at him, power coiling around his hands. “You promised me you would see them out of the city,” he says, suddenly calm. “And you gave them to the Templars.”

By the time anyone makes it out to investigate the fire, the small warehouse has burned to the ground. The guards recover a charred, broken corpse, but no one's able to identify it, and no one ever reports Samson missing.

It's vengeance, not justice, but it'll have to do.

Chapter Text

This time, when he figures out what Anders is doing, he's furious. This is why mages must be controlled, kept away from others, because they will always hurt, always destroy. He goes to the Templars and leads the search through the Chantry until they find the bomb.

Then he brings them into Darktown, to the clinic, and hands Anders over to them. He watches, impassive and indifferent to the abomination's pleas and screams, as they bring in the brand.

He won't hurt anyone, ever again.

--

The next time, when she figures out what Anders is doing, she's furious. She goes to the priests and helps them evacuate the Chantry. Some dark, twisted piece of her almost cherishes the look of shock on his face when Elthina enters the square after the Chantry's been reduced to rubble.

He's arrested and tried for his crimes, and some small shred of mercy, of kindness for a man she once called a friend, makes her advise death over Tranquility.

For a while, it's hard to sleep with the image of his haunted eyes staring at her, but eventually, the memory fades.

--

The time after that, he's furious again, but not because of what Anders has done, but because he lied. Because after seven years of friendship, three years of love, of sharing a home and a bed, Anders wouldn't trust him with this. He didn't know if he would have stopped him or helped him, but flames, he should have at least told him.

He doesn't interfere, and it's not until they're miles from Kirkwall that he tells Anders he knew. Tells him exactly what his betrayal has done to him. To them. He's angry and heartbroken and lost, and he doesn't stop screaming at him-- can't stop-- until the red haze in his eyes fades enough for him to see Anders, really see him, doubled over and shaking and whispering apologies, over and over and over.

He pulls his lover into his arms and begs him to trust him, because that's all he ever wanted.

--

The next time, she's hurt that he didn't tell her, but she understands why. Anders always tried so hard to protect her, didn't believe that anyone could believe in his cause as deeply as he does.

She loves proving him wrong.

They're outside the Chantry a few days after he placed the bomb, and he's anxious. He doesn't want to be there, doesn't want to be reminded of what he's doing until it's time. She takes his hands and tells him to relax. She's carried so many of his burdens, it's barely a weight at all to take this one, too. He's confused when she tells him that she asked Meredith and Elthina to meet her in the Chantry, then stunned when she speaks the words that trigger the bomb. The Chantry goes to pieces above them, and she smiles up into the red glow.

If he's going to start a war, there's no way she's getting left out.

Chapter Text

They drew him wearing black, Varric notices, when he flips open the Seeker’s book on Hawke’s life. Blondie’s portrait had him in black, like he’d worn at the end, and it hurts to know that that’s the only way his friend will be remembered. Yes, he’d been angry and shocked and disappointed when the Chantry blew, but before that they’d been friends. Varric knew he’d been one of the few people who could put up with Blondie when he got particularly strident and relentless. Even Isabela didn’t have patience for him, after a while.

But he wasn’t always the broken, wrecked husk of a man that destroyed the Chantry and started a war. He’d laughed, once upon a time, laughed and flirted and told jokes and fawned over kittens. He’d poured his heart out to Varric on one of the rare nights he managed to get drunk, telling him how he was in love with Hawke but it would never, ever work, they couldn’t be together, it was too dangerous, he was too dangerous. And Varric agreed, it was dangerous, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.

Even now, looking back, he’s pretty sure he’d have given the same advice. It was worth it to see them happy. To see Blondie happy for a while. There was so little in his life to bring him joy; he’d sacrificed everything else for his cause, and eventually he even fed Hawke’s love to that pyre, but for a while… they’d been happy. They all had, all eight of them, been happy for a time.

He looks up at the Seeker and closes the book. There’s power in stories. Stories are how strangers know each other, how people are remembered, how they’re immortalized. And he loves his friends enough to tell the best damn story he can.

“Let me start from the beginning…”

Chapter Text

It has been years since he's cried-- really cried, sobs that wrack his entire body and tears streaming down his face. Probably not since he got out of solitary, staggering back to his quarters and screaming into the pillows until the shaking stopped. But now Anders is on the floor of his clinic, doubled over, sobbing so hard his stomach hurts.

Dead. They're all dead. Selby managed to get him a letter, her one last contact before she fled the Marches entirely. Everyone in their hideouts, their allies, their friends, their leader-- all dead. Bancroft is dead. The man who organized everything, who came to him and brought him into the cause, who gave him something real to do, a tangible way to help, something more than those blasted manifestos. They saved people. They brought mages out of the Gallows and back into their families' arms, they got them out of Kirkwall and to safety. But however many they rescued, it wasn't enough. There were always more. Always more to be saved.

And now they're gone. All of them. The people who stood by him, who believed in him, who understood him the way Hawke and his friends never could. Dead. Slaughtered by the Templars.

He's alone.

Anders scrubs his hands over his face, wiping away the tears, and hugs his knees to his chest. He's almost thirty-five, far too old to feel this scared, to be acting like this, weeping like a lonely child. But his last hope of helping the mages trapped under Meredith's rule just dropped out from under him. He's free-falling back into darkness, and he's scared, and he's alone.

No. Not alone. He's not alone. He looks at his hands, at the unearthly blue light shining through the skin, and smiles past his tears. He still has someone. And they weren't his last hope, not really. He still has one thing left.

He drags a hand across his eyes and pushes himself to his feet, stumbling across the clinic to his desk. He unlocks the drawer with trembling hands and pulls out a thick leather envelope, stuffed with papers and diagrams, some in his writing, most of it scraps collected from friends and comrades over the years. Little pieces here and there. They never knew what he was really planning. He didn't quite know either, not at first, but as he put the information together... it all became clear. What he could do, if it came to it.

What he must do, now, because there's nothing left.

Anders spreads the papers over his desk and nods. Yes. He can build it. He can... he can do this. He swallows hard as he reaches for a clean sheet of paper and a quill. He'll need to make a list, figure out exactly what he needs.

He couldn't save them, his friends, his comrades, his brothers and sisters in the Underground. But he won't let the cause die with them. He won't let the cause die with him. This will be his last act of defiance against the Chantry, but by the Maker, it will be such an act as to light the world on fire.

Anders smiles and begins to write.

Chapter Text

He is a coward.

He presses a fist to his mouth to muffle his gasps. No one’s bothered to check the wardrobe. They assume it’ll be too heavy to move to barricade the door. Not that it will matter. The Templars would break through it eventually.

They’re breaking through now. He can hear them pounding against the door, the children screaming in terror with every thud of silverite on wood. The door splinters and cracks and slams open. There’s no shouted order. The Templars know what to do.

He can see Rosalyn through the crack in the door, standing in front of the little ones, arms spread wide as she holds up a force field. “They’re children!” she screams, sobbing. “They’re children, you monsters, they’re just children—”

The holy smite hits her, throwing her back. He should go out there. He’s going to die. They are all going to die. There is nowhere to run, nowhere to hide that they won’t find him eventually. Every mage in the tower is on a list, and the Templars will go through the bodies and check them off, one by one, to make sure they didn’t miss anyone.

So he should go out there and die on his feet.

But he can’t move. He jerks his head back as the Templars advance. Tears streak down his face as the children scream and scream and scream…

The screaming stops, eventually. There’s a metallic thud, and the sound of someone retching. “Straighten up,” a hollow voice orders.

“Th-they were kids,” another voice answers, this one clearer, unmuffled by the Templar helm. “J-J-Just kids… my sister’s age…”

“They are not like your sister,” the muffled voice snaps. “They are mages. How many of our brethren died at their hands?”

“Th-they didn’t have anything to do with it,” the clear one replies. “They couldn’t have been blood mages…”

A scoffing sound. “Do you think a demon cares how many years a mage has lived? They are even more vulnerable to possession. Unharrowed, untested, uncontrolled. The Circle is lost and all must be purged.” A scraping sound of metal on metal. “Now straighten up and search the room.”

And that’s it. They will find him, and he will die. He swallows hard. He could give in. Call upon a demon’s power—he’s going to die anyway, what does it matter? But no. He is better than that. He’s going to die, but he’ll die as a mage, as a man, and he will use his own power to take as many of those Templar bastards with him as he can.

It’s some kind of courage, anyway, he tells himself as he gathers his power. Only one shot at this. He has to make it count. Footsteps draw closer as he opens himself up to the Fade, and it’s a wonder the wardrobe doesn’t burst into flames before the Templar pulls the door open. The Templar’s surprised, and that split-second hesitation is all that he needs.

Infernos aren’t supposed to be cast indoors. It’s against the rules. Fine, he thinks, as the Templar screams in pain and swings the sword at his neck. It’s about time he broke some rules.

Chapter Text

Carver finds out from Mother , of all people.

Not that he really wanted Garrett to be the one telling him, because Garrett would have gone out of his way to embarrass him, share details about Anders that he really does not need to know . Mother mentions it casually during her weekly visit to the Gallows. “Your brother's seeing Anders, now,” she says, with a smile that means took them long enough . “He's living at the estate, actually. So much better for him than Darktown.”

And Mother's right. It did take them long enough. Even before he joined the Order, he'd been able to see it, in the too-long glances and sideways smiles and the oh-so-obvious flirting. But he'd assumed that Anders was too wrapped up in his “causes” to make room for anything else in his life. He'd hoped that his brother would have enough sense not to get involved with an abomination.

Wrong on both counts, it would seem.

You don't think that's... dangerous?” Carver asks carefully. “Two apostates in the house?” He can't tell her what's actually dangerous about Anders. He remembers clear as ever the way the man had lost control in the Chantry, blue fire exploding along his skin, his screams of rage as he'd torn through the Templars. People had still talked about them, those Templars who'd died in the Chantry, when Carver joined the Order. They were people, men and women just doing their jobs, trying to protect the city from danger.

And now that danger was living in the house with his mother.

We had three in the house when you were growing up,” Mother points out with a smile. “They're careful. And he makes your brother so happy. I can live with a little risk.”

Of course she can. It's always about what makes Garrett happy. Carver just shakes his head. “There's only so much I can do to protect him,” he says.

I know.” She stands and kisses his cheek, pushing herself up on tiptoe to do it. “And even if he wouldn't thank you for it, I do.” She squeezes his hand and smiles. “Remember to get him something for First Day,” she reminds him as she leaves.

Carver sighs and watches her descend the stairs to the docks and thanks the Maker she didn't tell him to get something for Anders, too.

*

He gets to the estate late on purpose, so that there will be other people between him and his brother. He feels a bit strange out of his armor, but given the number of apostates at the party, he doesn't want to make things more awkward for himself.

Bodhan takes his gifts and his cloak at the door, and he lingers there for a moment, looking around the warm room full of familiar strangers, people he's barely seen in three years. Then Merrill notices him and shrieks his name and bounds over to give him a hug, and the tension eases a bit. Isabela gives him a hug and a kiss on the cheek that somehow still manages to be scandalous, and then Garrett walks over, smile stiff under his beard, and gives him a hug as well. Not because either of them want it, but because Mother's watching and it will make her happy. And if there is nothing else in the world that they can agree on, they both want to give her anything that will make her happy.

Good to see you out of the Gallows,” Garrett says, smile frozen on his face. “How are things in there these days?”

Fine,” Carver replies, because First Day parties are neither the time nor the place to ask one's brother questions about deceased Templars in smuggling tunnels. Alrik was abhorrent, yes, but he should have been dealt with through proper channels, not his brother's idea of vigilante justice.

Carver's gaze slides over to Anders on the last word. The mage is leaning against the wall near the fireplace, idly running his thumb over the handle of the mug in his hands. Anders notices him staring and narrows his eyes, then nods once and looks away, apparently interested in maintaining the peace as much as he is. Carver sighs and goes to get his own mug of spiced cider. Merrill bounds after him, chattering away about life in the alienage, and he relaxes, both of them somehow managing to avoid topics that would upset the other. No small feat for a Templar and a blood mage.

Isabela calls Merrill away, eventually, and Carver's left standing alone near the stairs. He drains his mug and looks around. Mother and Aveline and Aveline's new partner... Dominic, Donovan, something like that, are standing together, chatting and smiling. Isabela and Merrill are standing near the cider, bodies angled to block whatever they're doing, giggling and glancing around furtively. Carver smirks; the cider's always better after someone's spiked it, anyhow. Varric and Fenris are sitting by the fire, talking quietly, and Garrett...

For a moment, he can't find his brother, which is beyond strange. Garrett's always the center of attention, the one in the middle of the room, holding court more than anything. He eventually spots him in the shadows beside the fireplace, leaning against Anders. They have their arms around each other, and Anders has his face buried in Garrett's hair. Garrett says something that makes Anders laugh; they pull back enough to look at each other, and Garrett smiles at Anders the way Father used to smile at Mother.

Carver blinks at them, then looks away, staring into the bottom of his empty mug. So that's what his brother looks like when he's in love, he thinks idly, then makes his way to the cider. He hopes whatever Isabela put in it is good.

Chapter Text

1.

It had only been three nights since that first one, and things were still sort of fragile between them. They were still learning their way around each other, learning how they were together like this, as lovers instead of friends who longed for each other across a clinic or a taproom or a beachside path. Anders still looked a little surprised every time Hawke kissed him, and Hawke looked relieved every time he woke up to see Anders still there.

They were still learning each other in a more literal sense, as well, learning how to touch and kiss and breathe, sometimes, when it seemed all they could do was feel. “Just need more practice,” Hawke said with a grin, undoing the buckles on Anders's coat-- and that was a skill he'd learned fast enough.

“Practice for what?” Anders wondered, and Hawke shushed him as they fell onto the bed in a tangle of limbs. Hawke kissed him, and Anders looked surprised, but a little less so than he had the time before, which was good, in Hawke's opinion. He wanted Anders to take it for granted that he'd kiss him, that he'd always love him and want him and--

“Dear, are you going to the-- oh!” Leandra turned away quickly, a hand half-covering her eyes. “Sorry.”

Hawke groaned and slapped a palm to his forehead, while Anders tried to camouflage himself by turning the same color as the sheets. “Knocking, Mother,” Hawke muttered. “It's called knocking.

“They're also called locks, dear,” she replied, and shut the door behind her.

2.

“Soooo?” Hawke asked.

Anders continued to ignore him, instead concentrating on letting his magic flow through the other man, seeking out the damage and injuries from his ill-advised duel with the arishok. It had been two weeks since that fight, twelve days since Hawke had regained consciousness, and Anders had been very strict about limiting his activities while he was recovering. “You're not fully healed yet,” he said. “But...”

“But?”

Anders ended the spell and opened his eyes. “You're healthy enough for sex,” he pronounced, and Hawke pounced.

“I'm not sure if my cot is going to survive this,” Anders muttered as Hawke bit at his neck.

“Doesn't matter,” Hawke replied against his skin. “You don't sleep down here anymore.”

“You couldn't wait-- oh, Maker, you couldn't wait until we got home?”

Hawke paused for a second to grin, because it was still a new thing, for Anders to call the estate home, and it made him smile to hear it. Then he remembered the task at hand and shook his head. “Two weeks,” he said.

“Twelve days, for you. The two days you were out of it don't count.”

“Yes, they do.”

“They really don't.”

“They--”

Someone pounded on the door. “Serah! There was an accident at the foundry, you must come quickly!”

Anders practically levitated up off the cot, he was moving so fast. Hawke stared at the ceiling in shock. “This is not happening,” he said as Anders darted to the back to grab a supply of poultices and potions. Never mind the fact that one of the many reasons he loved the man was because of things like this-- his selflessness, his willingness to take care of any and all who needed it. “This cannot actually be my life.”

“Sorry, love,” Anders said.

Hawke sighed and grabbed his shirt. “I'll be right behind you,” he said. “And once this is taken care of, we are going home, where coming quickly is strictly forbidden.”

Anders chuckled and dashed out the door.

3.

It had started with cuddling on the couch in front of the fire in the library after a long, tiring day of politics and shouting and Templars. Hawke had opened up the bottle of wine Fenris had given him for Satinalia, “just to take the edge off.”

The bottle was mysteriously empty, now, and they were both tipsy enough to agree that stairs were difficult. It was so much easier to just kick the door shut and roll onto the rug. Anders pinned Hawke's wrists down on either side of his head, grinding his thigh down between Hawke's legs, while the other man gasped and moaned and writhed for him. He captured Hawke's mouth in a biting kiss, humming in pleasure when Hawke arched his back. Everything was warm and a little fuzzy around the edges, and maybe for a night they could just let go.

“Master, I brought you-- oh!” Glass shattered on the floor behind them, and Anders rolled off Hawke to see Orana standing in the doorway, eyes wide, a pair of wineglasses broken on the ground at her feet.

Hawke drew in a deep, steadying breath. “It's all right, Orana,” he said, forestalling the girl's tears, while Anders mentally recited every curse in every language he knew.

4.

“Isabela? Seriously?”

“Shh, don't mind me. I'm very quiet. You won't even know I'm here.”

“How did you even get in?

“Oh, that. You need new locks.”

“Get out.”

5.

Anders didn't even hear the front door close behind them before Hawke shoved him up against the wall and kissed him. “You,” Hawke breathed, “are the most insane,” kiss, “wonderful, lunatic,” another kiss, “amazing man I have ever known.”

Anders breathed out a laugh. “This wasn't quite the response I expected,” he said.

Hawke put his hands on Anders's shoulders and looked him straight in the eyes. “You told off the Knight-Commander of Kirkwall in her office,” he said. “You should be glad I didn't take you right there.”

“You know what? I never thought I'd be happy you didn't try to have sex with me,” Anders said, as Hawke attached himself to his neck, “but I think that was-- nnggh-- for the best.”

“You're wearing too much,” Hawke replied.

Anders smirked and started in on Hawke's armor instead, because it really was unnecessarily complicated, even moreso than his pauldrons and coat. He'd gotten all of two buckles undone before the door creaked open. “Hawke? How'd your-- uh.” Varric fell silent as he peered inside. “I, um. I take it things went well?”

“They were going much better about six seconds ago,” Hawke ground out, and Varric smirked, and Anders sighed and leaned his head back against the wall.

6.

Anders had been drifting lately, drifting away, distant ever since they'd snuck into the Chantry and he'd told Hawke that there were things more important than love. And Hawke had his suspicions about what was going on, but he didn't know what to do with them. He couldn't tell anyone, because none of them knew Anders like he did, loved Anders like he did, and he couldn't trust them not to do something terrible. Even if he also suspected that Anders had already done something terrible himself.

They'd spent the night at the Hanged Man, playing at normal, and somehow Anders had actually let himself get drunk. He wasn't laughing or maudlin; instead, he turned clingy, holding onto Hawke like a lifeline, hands wandering across a body he'd known for three years. When Isabela had pulled out the parchment and Aveline had glared, Hawke collected his lover and half-carried him out to the street. Anders looked up at the skyline of Hightown above them and swore, suddenly, then pulled Hawke into a side alley. Hawke didn't have time to question before Anders crushed their mouths together, and then he didn't want to question, because it had been too long, since before the Chantry and the suspicions roiling in his chest.

He unbuckled Anders's new coat and untucked his new shirt, and he slid his hands across warm, familiar skin and scars. Anders moaned and pressed Hawke back against the wall. “Don't stop, love,” Hawke breathed, hands drifting down to Anders's waistband, then someone swore inventively in Arcanum from the entrance of the alley.

“--have a bloody house, why don't you use it?” Fenris concluded and stormed off into the night.

Hawke grimaced and looked back at Anders, knowing already it was too late. Anders drew back, fixing his clothes, and stared at the ground. “He's right,” Anders murmured. “We should get back.”

+1.

Anders ducked into their tent on the edge of camp and flopped onto the bedroll with a sigh. “I hate camping,” he muttered.

Hawke followed him in and smirked, tying the tent flaps shut behind him. “Should've thought about that before you turned yourself into the Chantry's most wanted,” he replied.

Anders swallowed his reply about how he hadn't thought about it because he hadn't expected to be allowed to live this long. “I mean, the outdoors thing is all right,” he said instead. “Fresh air is sort of nice after all those years in Kirkwall. But at least there we had walls and doors with locks and things.” He gestured at the front of the tent, back towards camp and their companions. “They could come barging in at any second.”

Hawke smirked and pulled him into his arms. “They know better.”

Chapter Text

Mamihlapinatapei  (Yagan, an indigenous language of Tierra del Fuego): The wordless yet meaningful look shared by two people who desire to initiate something, but are both reluctant to start. 

It’s been two days since the tunnels under the Gallows, two days since he lost all control. Two days since Hawke pulled him back from the edge. And yet, life goes on. He still heals his patients, edits his manifesto, plays cards at the Hanged Man.

“Maker’s breath,” Anders mutters. “I fold.”

Beside him, Hawke laughs. “You’ve got the worst luck.”

Anders glances over, takes in the warm, brilliant smile that Hawke only ever seems to give him, and shrugs. “Well, I don’t know about that,” he replies with a smile of his own.

They stare at each other, still smiling, and Anders knows that in any proper tale this is the point when one of them would lean in for a kiss. Then Isabela catcalls at them and Varric coughs delicately, and the moment’s lost. Anders can’t stop stealing glances, though, and he catches Hawke looking back a few times.

He leaves the card game early, but in high spirits, and he picks up a bottle of milk on a whim on the way home. It’d be nice to have a cat around the clinic. Maybe he can lure one in.

*

Yuanfen   (Chinese): A relationship by fate or destiny. This is a complex concept. It draws on principles of predetermination in Chinese culture, which dictate relationships, encounters and affinities, mostly among lovers and friends.

Their paths keep crossing. At first, she’s avoiding him, working jobs for Athenril and hating herself for it. Then, once she’s actually a guard, they find themselves across the table in the mess, across from each other in training, beside each other in the armory. They don’t often do patrols together, but somehow, it doesn’t matter.

Aveline’s the one to save him when their captain betrays them all, and Donnic’s the first one to salute when Bran makes the announcement. Somehow, they keep finding each other, neither one able to pull away for long. And when she realizes what’s happened, that somewhere along the line she’s fallen in love with him, it seems like the most obvious thing in the world.

The trouble is going to be figuring out what to do about it.

*

Cafuné (Brazilian Portuguese): The act of tenderly running your fingers through someone’s hair.

Fenris loves playing with her hair. Deep down, Isabela thinks it’s sweet, but she’ll never tell him. They don’t really talk about this thing between them, whatever it is. It’s fun and it’s easy and it’s a comfort, when things really start sliding sideways, to have a warm arm around her waist and gentle fingers in her hair.

“It always gets so tangled,” Fenris offers one night, an unsought explanation.

Isabela laughs. “Well, I could braid it, if you’d like.”

A few seconds pass in silence before he replies. “No,” he says quietly, sliding his fingers from her scalp to the ends of her hair. “I like it like this.”

*

Retrouvailles  (French):  The happiness of meeting again after a long time. 

Of all the people she’d expected to find outside her door, Isabela was… well, not last, but pretty low on the list. Hawke blinks at the pirate. “You knocked,” she says, which is stupid and idiotic but she can’t think of anything else to say.

“I didn’t want to get arrested for breaking into the Champion’s house,” Isabela replies. She shifts her weight slightly, the only outward sign of her anxiety.

Hawke blinks a few times. Isabela is here. Isabela is back. She laughs, suddenly, and throws her arms around the other woman’s neck. “I missed you,” she says, her face buried in a tunic that smells like sweat and ocean and cheap ale.

Isabela slides her arms around her waist and sighs. “I missed you, too.”

*

Ilunga  (Bantu): A person who is willing to forgive abuse the first time; tolerate it the second time, but never a third time.

The first time had been years ago. Anders had lost control of the spirit, surrendered to the demon in his head, and an innocent girl had died. But Hawke had forgiven him. Anders had made a mistake, a terrible mistake, in letting the spirit in, but there was nothing that could be about it. All Hawke could do was help him fight it. All he could do was love Anders and give him something else to hold onto.

The second time was just a few weeks past, when Anders had asked for help in finding those ingredients for a potion. A potion. It was a lie, and Hawke knew it, but Anders wouldn’t talk. So he helped, and kept asking, hoping that eventually Anders would feel guilty enough to break down and admit what he was up to.

And now Anders was asking for help in breaking into the Chantry. Anders won’t say why, just keeps looking away, his eyes huge and dark and haunted. “Maybe it was a mistake,” he begins, before the spirit seizes control, wearing his skin like a puppet.

Hawke can’t take it anymore. “This isn’t even your plan,” he says. “This—this demon is driving you to it, and I won’t have any part in it.”

“Then go!” the demon snarls. “Get out!”

A few weeks later, when the sky over Kirkwall is red and Anders is a tiny, huddled shape on the ground, Hawke will wonder if he could have stopped it. If he could have saved him. He’ll wonder for the rest of his life.

*

La Douleur Exquise (French): The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have.

His older sister always got everything she wanted. Father’s old coat, even though it was too big for her. Mother’s rings, even though she never wears them. Bethany’s scarf, tied around her arm, a silent memorial to a sister lost.

Merrill.

They come to the Gallows sometimes, the two of them, ostensibly to shop the market, but Carver suspects it’s a silent taunt. His ego isn’t so great that he thinks it’s about him all the time; his sister’s too much like Anders, taking delight in goading the Templars and Knight-Commander. Two apostates brashly walking the Gallows courtyard: she’ll recount the story over drinks and everyone will admire her bravery.

Meanwhile, he has to stand silent guard under a faceless helmet and watch. Watch his sister’s arm around Merrill’s waist, their hair brushing together as she leans down to whisper in Merrill’s ear. Watch the bright smile and shining, adoring gaze that Merrill turns on her. The look that’s never, ever been his, and never will be.

His sister says something, and Merrill’s laughter rings across the courtyard. Carver clenches his hands into fists and stares at the statues, silently willing the two of them to just leave.

*

Koi No Yokan (Japanese): The sense upon first meeting a person that the two of you are going to fall into love. 

Malcolm Hawke is hardly the first mage she’s met. The Viscount has invited plenty of them to his parties over the years, and she’s chatted with a few of them, idle, polite conversation designed specifically to earn her mother’s ire. Of course, in talking with them, Leandra came to the somewhat startling realization that mages were just as much people, with hopes and dreams and clever wit, as anyone else at the party.

So now, wandering over to strike up a conversation was less about enraging the family and more about talking to someone who seemed reasonably interesting. Though given the fight she’d had with Mother before coming to the dance, enraging the family was on the agenda, too. Leandra glances over the small cluster of mages, looking for Ivanna, a woman with a catty sense of humor who gossips like she’d been raised at these sort of parties.

“Good evening, m’lady,” a low, rich voice says from behind her, and Leandra turns to look into a pair of warm, golden eyes. “Looking for someone?”

He’s handsome, to be sure, with a close-trimmed beard and a crooked smirk. “Ivanna,” Leandra replies. “Did she come this time?”

The man shakes his head. “She’s…been ill,” he replies. “Is she family?”

“No. Just a friend.”

He chuckles. “Not many who’d call a mage such,” he says. “Might I ask your name?”

“Leandra Amell,” she says, instinctively holding out her hand.

“Malcolm Hawke.” He takes it and brushes a light kiss to her knuckles, like an Orlesian prince. Leandra smiles at him. It would be a mistake, and she knows it, but this could be… quite something.

*

Ya’aburnee  (Arabic): “You bury me.” It’s a declaration of one’s hope that they’ll die before another person, because of how difficult it would be to live without them.

“It had to be me,” Anders says for the tenth time, wringing his hands together as he tries to explain. He’s never been good with words. “I couldn’t tell you, love, because if they’d blamed you… if they’d killed you, I couldn’t…” It’s horrible and selfish, but he wanted to be the one to go first. Hawke was strong. Hawke had her friends and her sister. They’d keep her alive when he was gone.

But for him to live without her… Anders couldn’t imagine it. He could imagine her death, had done so in many a dark nightmare, but what came after, the waking up without her, that he couldn’t do. He couldn’t imagine it and couldn’t live it. The idea of going through life knowing that he’d never hear her voice, feel her touch, see her smile… unbearable.

Hawke squeezes her eyes shut and leans her forehead against his, her hands gripping the front of his jacket. “Until the day we die,” she murmurs. “I meant that, dammit.” She opens her eyes and looks at him. “You don’t get to leave me alone.”

She feels the same way, Anders realizes a few years late. He wraps a shaking hand around the back of her neck and nods. “Until the day we die,” he agrees, and feels a little less afraid.

*

Forelsket (Norwegian):  The euphoria you experience when you’re first falling in love.

They’re gazing at each other dopily across the table again. Varric sighs. This is the part that’s always hard to explain. The build-up, the tension—sexual or otherwise—the longing, he can do that. He’s a pro at that. He’s had years of first-hand observation, after all. And then the actual moment, that instant when they go from friends to something else, admitting to each other what they’ve known all along, he can do that, too. First kisses are a challenge, but one that he enjoys. First nights… well, he tends to end on a suggestive note and move on to the next scene. Leave the smut to Isabela; figuring out what to do with all those long limbs is just complicated.

But this part? The first few weeks after the declarations of love and all those firsts, when they’re holding hands and skipping through the streets and can’t take their eyes or hands off each other… No one wants to read about it. Varric doesn’t want to write about it, because all the words seem to just fall flat.

The lovers grew closer in those first weeks, he’ll eventually write, and spare his readers the saccharine gazes.

*

Saudade (Portuguese): The feeling of longing for someone that you love and is lost. Another linguist describes it as a “vague and constant desire for something that does not and probably cannot exist.”

Bianca, like everything else in his life, is just a story.

There’s no long-lost love, no woman who left him or died or something. She’s a story. Or, more accurately, she’s a story about a story. Varric lets people believe that there’s a story there, he tells them tales about why he can’t tell it, but in truth? It’s all smoke and mist. Bianca is nothing more than a name he liked.

Sometimes, though, he wishes that there was a story. He wishes that there had been a long-lost lady love, taken from him by cruel fate. Death, perhaps, or an unfeeling family who wished her to marry someone proper. In the latter version, they find each other again, decades later, after her husband is dead and his adventures are over. She’s someone to fall in love with again and grow old beside. Someone to tell stories with him.

Varric is a storyteller—more than that, he’s a damned good storyteller. So good that sometimes, he can convince himself. He remembers what he wrote about his days in Kirkwall better than the days themselves. And sometimes, he believes that he loved someone enough to memorialize her, that someone loved him in return. He believes that he could be that person, instead of just a liar with a crossbow.

Chapter Text

When you get like this, I think it’d be hard for anyone to turn you down.

Anders couldn’t stop playing the scene over in his head. Hawke had helped him face down Alrik. Saved that girl. Saved Anders from himself. And just a few days later, they’d talked, open and honest and Hawke had been flirting, as always, and the words were on Anders’s tongue and he just…

He’d choked. He’d stammered out a line about The Cause and Hawke’s warm golden-brown eyes and easy smile had both dimmed a bit, and then he’d left, and Anders had debated the merits of drowning himself in a bucket. Hawke supported him. Always had. And maybe he always would, if given the chance. Which was never going to happen at this rate.

“Quit brooding,” Isabela said, elbowing him in the side. “Fenris has that well in hand.”

Anders sighed and glanced up the path along the Wounded Coast. Fenris and Hawke were walking side by side, Hawke chattering away and gesturing expressively, obviously trying to raise Fenris’s spirits. Fenris was resisting admirably, his shoulders hunched and his eyes narrowed in a glare as he glanced around. The look was one Anders knew all too well; it was the look of a man waiting to be caught.

A Tevinter magister and one of Danarius’s acolytes, Hadriana, had been dispatched to bring Fenris back to his ex-master. Fenris didn’t want to wait to be attacked, and Hawke had agreed, which was why the four of them were hiking up the coast to caves that had once been holding pens for slavers.

“The caves are at the top of the hill,” Fenris said, gesturing up the path. “Be cautious.”

“Aren’t I always?” Hawke replied with a broad grin as he readied his staff.

Isabela laughed. “Never, sweet thing,” she said. “And that’s what I’ve always liked about you.”

He winked at her, then glanced at Anders, his gaze softening slightly. “Ready?”

Anders managed a faint smile. “Always.”

*

The cave where they’d cornered Hadriana was small and dark and sweltering, the air above the lava vents wavering with heat. Anders swung his staff in a tight arc, catching one of the approaching undead in the chest, and fell back a few steps. A second skeleton charged him, sword raised; Anders shifted his grip on his staff and caught the sword in the notched end, the rusted metal blade snapping with a twist of his wrists. He grinned savagely as Isabela somersaulted up behind the skeleton and buried one of her daggers into its spine. She grinned back and bounded away as it collapsed into a heap of bones.

Hadriana practically screeched in frustration, spinning her staff in blood-slicked hands, as Fenris and Hawke closed in on her. It wouldn’t be long now. Anders had spent enough time fighting with them to recognize when the battle was coming to an end. Barring a sudden appearance by a fellow magister, Hadriana was done for.

The magister hurled Fenris back against the wall with a blast of raw arcane force, and he slumped to the ground, stunned. Anders glanced at him, then at the few remaining skeletons. Isabela kicked one in the skull and gestured at Fenris. “Go! I’ll handle these!”

He didn’t need to be told twice. Anders darted across the room and crouched at the elf’s side. Blood poured from a gash on his temple as Fenris blinked dazedly at the ceiling. It looked worse than it was, but open wounds were always a greater danger around a blood mage. Anders put a hand on Fenris’s shoulder and poured healing energy into him, watching as the wound closed. He vaguely hoped that Hawke would have the sense to just finish off Hadriana and not wait around to give Fenris the killing blow. The sooner she was dead, the better—

Hawke screamed. It was a raw, agonized sound, cut off as he collapsed to the ground, staff rolling out of his limp hands. For a few seconds, Anders couldn’t breathe.

Fenris bolted upright and shoved Anders out of the way. Anders whirled around to see Hadriana sprint towards the cave entrance, Fenris pounding after her. Isabela was crouched over Hawke, her fingers pressed to his throat. Anders stumbled over, hands trembling. Please, Maker, please, don’t be dead, please don’t be dead, I can’t do this without you­—

“He’s alive,” Isabela said, brow furrowed.

Air rushed back into his lungs. “Thank the Maker,” Anders breathed. Isabela withdrew her hands, giving him room to work, and glanced back the way Fenris had gone. “Go after him,” he said. “Make sure he doesn’t get himself killed.”

Isabela nodded and scrambled to her feet. Anders barely noticed as she ran off, his attention focused on Hawke. Other than a few gashes and bruises, Hawke was unharmed; Anders’s magic couldn’t find anything physically wrong with him, certainly nothing that would have caused him to scream like that. He was just unconscious and wouldn’t wake. Anders swallowed hard, rubbing his fingers against his palms. Something felt off: a prickling between his shoulder blades, a vague feeling of unease that he couldn’t shake. Perhaps it was this place; Hadriana had been summoning demons, rending the already paper-thin Veil further.

Anders focused his attention inward, seeking out the remains of Justice for any insight, but other than echoing his disquiet, the spirit offered nothing. He sighed and placed his hand on Hawke’s chest again. He must have missed something.

“—let her escape!” Fenris’s ranting preceded his entrance into the room. “She’s going to come after me again, I know it!”

Isabela sighed, one hand wrapped around her bloody forearm, and shook her head. “She’s as bad off as we are,” she said. “She’ll need to recover. And she doesn’t have a healer.”

Fenris glanced at Anders and scowled. “One who doesn’t seem to be doing his job,” he snapped. “What’s wrong?”

Anders swallowed hard. “I… I don’t know,” he admitted. “Physically, there’s nothing wrong with him. He just—he just won’t wake up.”

Silence fell over the room as the three of them stared at each other. “What does that mean?” Isabela asked.

“It could mean a lot of things,” Anders said. “There’s any number of spells that could leave someone unconscious, and that’s not even factoring in blood magic. I have no idea what she could have done to him.” He curled his hands into fists.

Isabela blew out a sharp breath. “Right,” she said. “Anders, heal my arm. I'll carry Hawke's gear. Can you and Fenris can stay off each other's throats long enough to carry him back to Kirkwall?”

Anders pushed himself to his feet and nodded, gesturing for Isabela to come closer. “He'll probably wake up halfway there,” he said, wishing that he had more confidence in his statement.

“But he won't say anything until we reach the gates,” Isabela predicted with a grin. “I mean, if I came to between the two of you, I wouldn't move and ruin the moment.”

*

Hawke hadn't regained consciousness by the time they reached Kirkwall. Anders was exhausted and close to panic; it had been hours, and there was no change in Hawke's condition.

“Where should we take him?” Isabela asked, breaking the grim silence that had fallen over the group after the first hour.

“My clinic,” Anders said immediately. “I can do a more thorough examination.”

That Isabela didn't even look like she was considering a dirty joke testified to the seriousness of the situation. “Right.” She glanced around and whistled a sharp, three-note tune. Seconds later, a pair of scruffy-looking street urchins bolted towards her. She gave them directions, something about the Hanged Man, and a silver piece each. They took off at a run, and Isabela cocked her head at the steps to Lowtown. “C'mon.”

It was just light enough that they didn't have to worry about gang attacks in Lowtown, and Anders had a reputation for putting vital organs back into place without question, so Darktown's criminal class tended to leave him alone. He shifted Hawke's weight to Fenris as he unlocked the door to the clinic and helped Fenris ease the comatose man onto a cot. Anders crouched down beside him, ignoring Isabela as she dumped Hawke's gear on the floor.

Anders pressed his glowing hands to Hawke's chest and concentrated, letting his magic see for him. “There's nothing wrong with him,” he murmured. It was frustrating and frightening because it was Hawke, and if he never opened his eyes again Anders didn't want to keep living. Not without him.

“Other than the fact that he won't wake up,” Isabela pointed out.

Anders huffed out a frustrated, frantic breath. “I know,” he snapped, rounding on her. “Thank you ever so much--”

“What's going on?” Varric asked from the doorway, Merrill and Aveline in tow.

Isabela arched an eyebrow. “You brought the whole crew?”

“We were waiting for you all to get back,” he replied. “Card game tonight. What happened to Hawke?”

Fenris and Isabela explained the attack in the caverns while Anders continued to fuss over Hawke. There wasn't anything he could do, not really, but it gave him an excuse to touch him, to feel his pulse and heartbeat and breath. Reassurances that he was still alive.

“And you don't know what's wrong with him, Blondie?” Varric asked.

“No.” Anders raked a hand through his hair and sat down on the cot beside Hawke. “He's perfectly fine. He shouldn't be like this.”

“You think it was a spell?” Aveline asked. At Anders's nod, she frowned. “Isn't there some kind of anti-magic spell? Something that would undo it?”

“Dispelling, you mean?” Anders clarified. Aveline shrugged. “Maybe. I've never had much of a knack for it, though.” He glanced at Merrill. “You?”

She bit her lip. “I can do it,” she said. “I think. It won't hurt him if I do it wrong, anyway.”

Fenris snorted. “That is not reassuring.”

Anders stepped out of the blast radius. Merrill stood at the foot of the cot and rubbed her hands together, then bowed her head, lips moving as she recited the spell. There was a thrumming sound and a burst of light around Hawke, then... nothing.

Merrill's shoulders slumped. “I'm sorry,” she whispered, looking close to tears.

“It's not your fault, Daisy,” Varric said immediately. “We didn't know if it would work.”

Aveline sighed. “Now what?”

Anders stared at Hawke, too quiet and still, and chewed on his lower lip. “If-- maybe if someone could get into the Gallows, get information there,” he suggested. “The herbalist might--”

Hawke groaned, and his eyes fluttered open. Anders drew in a shuddering, gasping breath as relief flooded him. “Hawke!” Isabela said in delight. “About time!”

“...driana?” Hawke slurred.

Anders rushed to his side. “She's gone,” he said, crouching down. “We'll have to find her again, after you've--”

“Hadriana.” Hawke's jaw was clenched, his hands in tight fists, and a light sheen of sweat broke out on his forehead. “Where...?”

Anders glanced at the others in confusion. “She's gone, Hawke, we don't know...” Hawke started to sit up. “No, Hawke, you're still hurt--” Anders caught his shoulder and pushed him back down, hands glowing with healing magic.

“Have to... where... is she?” Hawke struggled against him, then fell back against the cot. His skin had gone pale and clammy, and Anders could feel him trembling. He'd seen this before, usually when someone had been run through or shot full of arrows. All symptoms of extreme pain, but Hawke wasn't hurt. Anders could feel the healing magic swirling uselessly just under Hawke's skin. There was nothing to heal. He wasn't injured, so what...?

Hawke snapped upright abruptly, shoving Anders back, and started trying to climb off the cot. “Hawke, stop,” Anders said, grabbing at him. “You're hurt, you need to rest--”

“I have to find her,” Hawke ground out. “I... have to... make it stop...”

He got one foot under him and almost collapsed. Anders hissed between his teeth and gestured at Aveline. “Hold him,” he snapped, then whirled around and ran for his workbench. He yanked open drawers, looking for a set of phials, while Aveline and Hawke struggled behind him. “Fenris, help me out here,” the guard captain ordered, voice raised over Hawke's pained demands and pleas. Anders finally found the vial he wanted and ran back.

Aveline had one knee on Hawke's chest, pinning him down, while Fenris held his arms still. “Make it stop,” Hawke begged, his skin white as a sheet. “Let me... let me go... please...” Merrill made a faint sobbing sound and covered her mouth with her hand; Isabela wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her into a hug.

“Hawke,” Anders said soothingly. “This will help you relax. You just need to drink it.” Hawke turned his head away and strained against Fenris's grip on him.

“Just dose him, Anders,” Aveline said. “If I put any more weight on him he will get hurt.”

Damn it all. “Hold him still.” Anders gritted his teeth and forced himself into clinical detachment as he tipped Hawke's head back and put the potion to his lips, pinching Hawke's nose so he'd be forced to swallow. Hawke struggled and gagged, but most of the potion went down his throat. Anders waited, watching, as the other man slowly went limp, eyelids drooping. “You can let go,” he finally said. Aveline stood up, and Fenris cautiously released his wrists. Hawke shifted around, trying to sit up, but his limbs wouldn't obey. Eventually he gave up, eyes squeezed shut, his head rolling from side to side as he moaned in pain.

Anders sank back onto the cot and pressed the heels of his palms to his forehead. Hawke was in pain, in agony, and there was nothing he could do. He had no idea what was wrong.

“I've seen this before.” Fenris's voice was low and flat, his gaze fixed on Hawke as everyone else turned to look at him. “It's a spell. Blood magic. Some magisters use it to break new slaves. They'd take a slave to a distant part of the city, sometimes even out into the country, then cast the spell and leave. A day later, the slave would wake, in excruciating pain and filled with the desire to find the magister. The pain lessens the closer the slave gets to the caster.”

“Like playing hot and cold,” Isabela said.

Fenris nodded once. “Except with levels of agony. When the slave finally found the magister, the magister would end the spell and end the pain. The slave would be so grateful that they'd... they'd do anything.” He swallowed hard and looked away.

“So how do we cure it?” Aveline asked, arms folded over her chest.

“Bring him to Hadriana,” Fenris replied. Hawke whimpered at the sound of her name.

“That's not an option.” Anders pressed his hands flat against his legs to keep them from shaking.

Fenris's gaze flickered over to him. “I know.”

Silence fell over the room, broken only by Hawke's gasps and half-sobs. “Look, Elf,” Varric finally said, sounding as uncomfortable as Anders had ever heard him, “I hate to ask this, but it could help Hawke. Did Danarius ever...?”

“No.” Fenris shook his head. “I never experienced it personally. But I saw it often enough to know what it is.”

Anders blew out a breath, trying not to cringe at every pained sound Hawke made. His gaze landed on Merrill, and he'd never been so grateful for her idiocy. “Merrill, do you know--”

“No,” she snapped, voice thick with tears. “I don't use my magic to hurt people. Not like this. Never like this.” She dragged the back of her hand across her eyes. “Fenris knows more about it than I do.”

Isabela glared at him over the top of Merrill's head. Anders sighed. “Sorry,” he mumbled.

“Now what?” Aveline asked.

“He should stay here,” Anders said immediately, before anyone else could offer suggestions. He couldn't bear the thought of Hawke being somewhere else, away from him. Not now. “I might be able to help with the pain, if nothing else.”

“And the rest of us should go after Hadriana,” Fenris said. “If she dies--”

“That's... not a good idea,” Merrill cut in. “Blood magic can be tricky. If they're bound together, killing her might be bad for Hawke.”

“Are you saying it might kill him?” Anders asked.

Merrill stared at the floor. “It might. Or he might be stuck like this forever.”

Hawke let out a choked sob and tried to sit up again. Anders instinctively reached out and eased him back against the cot. “We wait, then,” Varric decided. “Elf, you should stay at the Hanged Man with Rivaini and me. You're an easy target up in that mansion of yours.”

Fenris sighed. “Fine.”

Aveline cleared her throat. “Anders, will you be able to handle him on your own? Keep him drugged?”

Anders groaned and scrubbed his hands over his face. “That's not a good idea,” he said. “Using that too often can be damaging.”

“How damaging?” Aveline pressed. “He's going to try to leave--”

“Addiction, loss of appetite, lethargy, and eventual brain damage,” Anders recited. “One dose every now and then is fine. But I can't give him another in good conscience for at least a week.”

“Someone should stay here, then,” Aveline said. “You can't watch him all the time. I assume that even you need to sleep?”

“From time to time,” Anders said. “And... and the rest of my patients aren't just going to go away.” Maker. As if he'd be able to concentrate on anyone else with Hawke like this.

Aveline nodded. “Then we'll make sure someone's here to keep him from running off.”

Anders swallowed hard. “Thank you.”

“Um.” Isabela half-raised a hand. “Should someone tell Leandra?”

Varric shook his head. “She's gone for the next week,” he said. “Visiting friends from Ferelden out in... Ostwick, I think Hawke said?”

“Oh.” Isabela heaved a sigh. “Well. I guess we can go to the Gallows. I'm sure I can charm Sol into looking up a few things.”

“Who's staying first?” Anders asked, staring at Hawke. The man kept shivering and whimpering; Anders couldn't even imagine the amount of pain that could reduce him to this.

Varric shrugged. “I'll stick around for the night,” he said. “Rivaini, keep an eye on Broody?”

“Of course.”

“I can come down in the morning,” Merrill offered quietly. “And I... I could... see if any of my books have anything. Even if it's just about what happens when you kill the mage in a spell like this.”

Varric nodded. “Sounds good.”

Anders forced himself to his feet. “Aveline, Fenris,” he said, catching their attention. “Can you carry him to the back? Probably best to keep him isolated from the other patients.”

“Of course,” Aveline said. Anders watched as she and Fenris eased Hawke to his feet and winced when Hawke sobbed in pain, his head hanging down as he panted for breath. They slowly walked him to the back of the clinic; Anders squeezed his eyes shut when Hawke started begging for them to let him go.

“Are you sure you'll be all right?” Isabela murmured, her hand on his shoulder.

Anders opened his eyes and glanced at her. “I have to be.”

She smiled sadly and nodded, squeezing his shoulder once before letting him go.

*

At Varric’s urging, Anders trudged off to his corner of the clinic to sleep. “You’ve had a long day, Blondie,” Varric had said. “Staying up all night and staring mournfully at him won’t help.”

Anders couldn’t argue with that, much as he wanted to. And the tranquilizing draught he’d given Hawke would keep the other man from moving for several hours yet. Despite that, Anders slept fitfully, jerking awake at every groan of pain to stare at the dark ceiling and fight back waves of helplessness and despair. He was a healer. He was supposed to help people. And he could do nothing for the most important person in his life. Varric’s voice, of all things, eased him back to sleep. He kept talking to Hawke, telling stories, going by the snatches that Anders could make out.

Merrill arrived an hour after sunrise, bearing a basket of fresh-baked bread that made Anders’s mouth water in spite of everything. “Rivaini and Aveline are going over to the Gallows today,” Varric said as he collected Bianca. “Hopefully they’ll find something.”

“Yeah.” Anders rubbed at his temples. “Thanks.”

“Send a runner to let me know if anything changes,” Varric said. He smiled at Merrill, then disappeared out through the door.

Anders and Merrill stared at each other for a few, awkward moments. “I couldn’t find anything,” Merrill finally said. “About spells like this. Sorry.”

Anders heaved a sigh and picked up a roll. “Honestly, I think I’m glad that you don’t own any books talking about this sort of thing,” he said wearily. “Did you see many people waiting outside?”

“There were a few people on the steps. I couldn’t tell if they were drunk or sleeping, though.”

“Probably both,” Anders murmured. “I need to… open the clinic, I guess.” Much as he didn’t want to. “Can you…?”

Merrill nodded. “Of course.” She picked up the basket of bread and hesitated. “Is it okay for him to eat? If he asks for anything?”

“It should be,” he said. If the spell was meant to break slaves, rather than kill them, then eating food shouldn’t be a problem. “Try to get him to drink some water, if you can.”

She nodded again and looked towards the back of the clinic, visibly steeling herself, then all but marched to the cot in the corner. Anders looked at the food in his hand; he had no appetite, but he knew all too well what happened when he tried to spend a day healing after too little sleep and no food. The refugees didn’t react well when their local healer passed out on them. With a sigh, he tore off a chunk of bread and forced it down his throat.

The first hours passed quietly. Hawke seemed to have fallen asleep, though he kept twitching and whimpering, fingers scratching at the canvas cot. Anders forced himself to focus on his patients, much as he wanted to stay at Hawke’s side.

Anders had just escorted a dockworker with a newly healed hand to the door when Merrill yelped. “Hawke—no, no, don’t get--”

He whirled around to see Merrill stumble backwards as Hawke shoved her away. “I have to—have to go,” Hawke slurred, staggering to his feet. “Have to… make it stop…” As Anders ran towards them, Merrill stepped forward and planted her hands on Hawke’s chest. Magic pulsed out from her, rippling the Veil slightly, and Hawke dropped like a sack of bricks.

“What did you do?” Anders demanded and dropped to his knees beside Hawke.

“Put him back to sleep.” Merrill shifted her weight, arms wrapped around her stomach. “It—it seemed better than tripping him or trying to tackle him…”

Anders sighed. “No, that was fine,” he said. “C’mon. Help me get him up.” They manhandled Hawke back onto the cot, while Hawke shivered and moaned. That uneasy, prickling sensation returned, stronger than he’d felt in the cave, and it took a lot of effort to keep from shuddering. Anders scrubbed a hand over his face, staring down at the mostly unconscious man. “Merrill,” Anders said, without taking his eyes off Hawke. “Can you find some rope?”

*

Hawke was still asleep and still bound, wrists and ankles tied together, when Aveline arrived for the night shift. Merrill knelt by Hawke and murmured something, elvhen and trade tongue mixing together in what sounded like a prayer. Then she left, head bowed, without a word to Anders or Aveline.

“Did you find anything at the Gallows?” Anders asked, sinking into his chair.

“Other than Carver’s suspicions? No.” Aveline shook her head. “Luckily, he’s still easily distracted. I never thought I’d be grateful for Isabela’s lack of pants, but…” She shrugged.

Probably for the best that they hadn’t told Carver what was going on. Maker only knew what he’d do if he found out. Anders exhaled and stared at the ground. “You didn’t learn anything?”

“Isabela started to describe it to Sol, but as soon as he realized we were talking about blood magic he told us we had to leave.” Aveline leaned against the desk, armor creaking a bit. “He drew more attention than we did. That’s when Carver came over.”

Somehow, Anders doubted that Solvitius at his most frantic could be more of a disturbance than Aveline or Isabela individually on a normal day. “So we don’t know anything.”

“No.” Aveline glanced back at Hawke and grimaced. “Spells can’t last forever, right?”

Anders shook his head. “Normally, no, when you’re talking about mages using their mana. But with blood magic… she can sit in a cave somewhere and slaughter slave after slave to fuel this.”

“Blighted flames,” Aveline muttered. Anders nodded in mute agreement. Aveline shook her head and straightened up. “Get some rest,” she advised. “I’ll wake you if anything happens.”

Despite her assurance, Anders laid awake, staring at the ceiling, listening to the unfamiliar sounds of other people breathing. He could barely hear Aveline, steady and even, but Hawke’s breath kept hitching and gasping, turning into broken whimpers or moans.

Eventually, Anders must have fallen asleep, because he jolted awake to shouting and the smell of smoke. He was on his feet and halfway through casting an arcane shield around himself before he realized that it wasn’t Templars come to burn the clinic down. Hawke was on his feet, the remains of the rope still smoldering around his wrists and feet, and tried to push past Aveline. “Hawke, stop it,” she ordered.

“Let… me… go!” Hawke threw an arm out and blasted a point-blank wave of arcane force at Aveline. She went flying and slammed into the rock wall of the clinic. Hawke turned towards the door, breathing hard, and his face crumpled when he saw Anders between him and the exit. “No,” he murmured, stumbling forward. “Anders, please, just… just let me… let me go…”

Anders shook his head. “I can’t, Hawke,” he said.

“Then make it stop!” Hawke staggered the last few feet between them and grabbed the front of Anders’s coat. “I—I can’t, Anders, I—it hurts…”

“I’m trying,” Anders whispered. He could feel Hawke shaking, probably with the effort needed to stay upright. “We’re going to fix this, I promise…” He pressed a hand to the side of Hawke’s face and cast a healing spell.

Nothing.

Anders could see it in Hawke’s eyes as he realized what had happened. Hawke choked on a sob and all but threw Anders to the side. Anders caught himself on a support pillar and managed to stay standing. “Hawke, no!”

Before he could move again, Aveline charged in and slammed the pommel of her sword into the back of Hawke’s head. Hawke wavered, then collapsed in an unconscious heap.

Under any other circumstances, the fact that people kept knocking Hawke out cold might have been funny. Anders ran over and knelt down beside him. “What in the Void were you thinking?” he snapped, glowering at Aveline as he ran his fingers over Hawke’s scalp. Justice stirred within him, a feeling almost like cringing away. Anders ignored it.

“That I needed to stop him from running off,” Aveline snapped and sheathed her blade. “I didn’t have time to try anything else.”

Anders sighed and cast a healing spell on Hawke. At least he could do that much. “Are you hurt?” he asked, glancing up at Aveline.

“Just bruised.” She exhaled sharply. “Is it all right to move him?”

“Should be.”

“Good.” Aveline crouched down, preparing to scoop Hawke up in her arms, then paused. “Do you think you can keep an eye on him for an hour or so?” she said. “I have an idea.”

*

“You know,” Isabela commented quietly as soon as Aveline was gone, “it really says something about her that her first thought is manacles.”

Anders rubbed the bridge of his nose. Hawke had finally passed out again, but Anders’s ears were still ringing with the man’s screams and pleas from the night before. The manacles had done the trick, though, and Hawke hadn’t been able to try another escape. “I think it says she’s the captain of the guard,” Anders muttered.

Isabela sighed. “Fair enough.” She sat down in the chair next to Hawke’s bed. “You sure you need me here? I was thinking about taking another run at Sol…”

“Just—just for a while.” Sitting alone with Hawke, watching him suffer and being utterly powerless to help, was killing him by inches.

She studied him for a moment, then nodded. “You got it, sweet thing.”

“Try to get him to drink some water when he wakes up,” Anders said before heading back to the front of the clinic. It had been slow so far, but he knew his luck wouldn’t hold. There’d be a plague or a mine collapse or some other typically Kirkwallian disaster.

Anders had choked down breakfast, a semi-stale roll leftover from Merrill’s visit, and was heading to the door to light the lantern when he heard chains rattling, a sign that Hawke was awake. He paused for a moment, eyes stinging and his stomach twisted into knots. He had to fix this. Somehow. There had to be a way--

Hawke screamed. Anders heard Isabela swear inventively in multiple languages as he bolted to the back. Isabela leaned over Hawke, her hands on his shoulders, putting her full weight into holding him down. Hawke shoved at her with one hand, incoherent babbles and pleas spilling from his lips. His other hand hung limply from the manacle. “He broke his bloody arm trying to get out,” Isabela told him, glancing over her shoulder.

Anders felt his stomach drop to the vicinity of his boots. “Hold him still,” he said.

“Doing my best.”

He knelt down on Hawke’s other side and carefully unlocked the manacle around his broken wrist. Hawke barely seemed to notice when Anders prodded at the injury, and flinched only slightly when the bones slid back into place. Anders had broken a few bones in his time, and he rated it as among the most painful experiences of his life. If Hawke was barely noticing a shattered wrist… “I need to knock him out again,” Anders said as he cast a healing spell on Hawke’s arm.

“I can get Merrill down here,” Isabela said. “Have her cast sleep on him.”

“Let me… need to…” Hawke seemed to have worn himself out; he stopped fighting Isabela and slammed his head against the thin pillow. He blinked blearily at Isabela. “Beth?” he slurred. “Help me… tell ‘em to… to make it stop… please… make it stop…”

Anders squeezed Hawke’s hand and reached out to brush sweat-soaked hair off the other man’s forehead. “Beth?” Isabela repeated. “Who’s that?”

“His sister,” Anders said around the lump in this throat. “She died four years ago.” He drew in a shaky breath and shook his head. “He’s delirious.”

Isabela winced and stood up. “I’ll find Merrill.” She leaned over and squeezed his shoulder. “I’ll be back soon.”

Anders nodded, his attention turning back to Hawke as Isabela walked away. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, holding Hawke’s hand in both of his. “I’m so, so sorry.”

Hawke rolled his head to the side and stared at him through pain-fogged eyes. “Anders?”

“Yeah."

Hawke’s gaze flickered around the room. “Beth’s not…”

“I’m sorry.”

Hawke grimaced and closed his eyes. “Left without me,” he slurred. “She’s s’posed to… help me… she said she’d… she’d make it stop…”

Anders brought Hawke’s hand to his lips, pressing a kiss to his fingers. He didn’t know if Hawke could even feel it.

*

Merrill showed up not long after, and Hawke looked almost relieved when she cast the sleep spell on him. “The others are on their way,” she told Anders as he released Hawke’s hand.

“Others?”

Merrill nodded. The door to the clinic swung open, and the rest of Hawke’s merry band walked in. “We have to go after Hadriana,” Fenris said without preamble.

“It’s too much of a risk, Elf,” Varric replied. “I like Daisy’s idea.”

“More magic isn’t the answer!”

Anders held up his hands. “Okay, stop,” he said. “What’s going on?”

“We have to do something,” Aveline said. “Fenris wants to go after Hadriana, Merrill wants to try talking to Marethari.”

Merrill swallowed hard and nodded. “I—Hawke was going to go with me,” she said. “To ask her for help with—with something else. But I can… to help him. I’ll go see her myself.”

“Do you think she’d know anything?” Anders asked.

Merrill shrugged helplessly. “More than me,” she said. “She might at least know what might happen if Hadriana dies.”

Anders nodded at her. “I like that idea better.”

“You would,” Fenris grumbled.

Anders whirled on him, glowering. “Yes, I would like to know whether or not something is going to get Hawke killed! You’ll have to put your damned revenge second to his life!”

“It’s not revenge, mage, it’s--”

“Shut up!” Aveline shouted. She glared at the room. “Varric, Merrill, and I will go to Sundermount. Isabela, you stay here and make sure no one kills Fenris. Anders--”

“I’ll take care of Hawke.” He nodded gratefully.

“Once we find out if the Keeper knows anything, we’ll figure out what to do next.”

“We should go now,” Merrill said. “If we hurry, we can make it there by nightfall.”

Aveline shrugged. “I told the seneschal I wouldn’t be at the barracks for the next few days,” she said. “Family illness.”

Varric nodded. “Let’s go, then.” He glanced back at Anders and frowned. “Will you be all right?”

“Yeah.” Anders swallowed hard, his hands balled into fists behind his back. “I’ll be fine. The clinic’s slow enough lately, I can leave it closed for a day or two.”

“All right. Well.” Varric sighed. “We’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Be careful.” Anders watched as they trailed out of the clinic and heaved a sigh. Hopefully Hawke would stay asleep for a while. It seemed easier for him.

*

Anders woke up into darkness. He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but Hawke had been quiet for so long, and even with Justice’s nagging worry, he’d drifted off. Hawke shifted on the cot, halfway sitting up; Anders leaned forward and pushed him back down.

“Dammit, Anders,” Hawke muttered, jaw clenched. “I can’t… I can’t do this… please…”

“I’m sorry.” Anders brushed the hair off Hawke’s forehead.

Hawke let out a choked sob. “Anders, please. I-I-I need to… need to find her… need to make it stop, make it stop, please, I can’t, I can’t…”

Anders swallowed hard against the lump in his throat. “We’re going to fix this,” he said, chest aching. “I promise.”

Hawke squeezed his eyes shut, a tear escaping to slide down his temple. “Why won’t you let me go?” he whispered. “Why won’t you…?”

“Because I love you,” Anders said, the words coming out before he thought about them. He drew in a steadying breath. “If I let you go, you’ll die.”

“Might be… might be preferable.” Hawke shuddered, breath catching in his throat, and he clenched his jaw. “Please,” he begged. “Anders, please, please, make it stop, please…”

Anders leaned over Hawke, hands on his arms, holding him down as he tried to stand again. His stomach lurched, almost like nausea, but Anders forced himself to ignore it. “I’m sorry,” he murmured. “I’m sorry, love, I’m so sorry…”

*

Just before sunrise, Hawke finally passed out again, his strength sapped by pain and days without food. Anders wouldn’t let himself sleep, though. His fear that Hawke would escape and the growing, persistent feeling of discomfort kept him awake.

Isabela showed up around noon, Fenris in tow. “The others should be here soon,” she said. “Varric sent me on ahead.” She glanced back at Hawke. “Any change?”

Anders shook his head. “I can’t get him to eat,” he said. “Another few days, and he’s going to start starving. But the spell hasn’t changed.”

“That’s… better than it getting worse, I guess.” Isabela sat down on one of the cots and fiddled with her armguard.

The door opened again, and Anders stood as Merrill and Varric trailed in. “Well?”

“Marethari’s looking into it,” Varric said. “She said she’d get back to us soon.”

“Soon!?” Anders snapped. “We don’t have time for that! He’s in agony, he can’t eat—we have to do something!”

“We should kill Hadriana.” Fenris folded his arms. “Or perhaps let Hawke go to her. We’d find her, force her to end the spell, then slit her throat.”

For once, Anders found himself in at least partial agreement. “I don’t know,” Merrill said. “Marethari got out here quickly for Feynriel. What happens if killing Hadriana does kill Hawke? I-I couldn’t—I can’t risk him like that.”

“I won’t, either,” Isabela said. “There has to be something else.”

Anders frowned at Merrill. Something she’d said felt familiar, or important, like a word on the tip of his tongue… Suddenly, Justice flared up, just a hair underneath complete takeover, and Anders’s eyes went wide. “It’s a demon,” he blurted without thinking. “That’s why it’s felt so strange around him, there’s a demon involved, probably just on the other side of the Veil.”

“He’s possessed?” Fenris demanded.

Anders shook his head. “I don’t—I don’t think so.”

“I haven’t noticed anything strange,” Merrill said.

“You wouldn’t,” Anders said. Merrill glowered at him. “I mean—Justice could sense the demon. That’s what I was feeling. I just didn’t know it. But you mentioned Feynriel and it just…” He trailed off. “I need to go into the Fade.”

Isabela frowned. “Are you sure?” she asked. “Last time you did that you got all… glowy and surly.”

“We don’t have a choice.”

Merrill half-raised a hand. “I could go.”

“I need you to send me into the Fade,” Anders said. “I don’t know the ritual that Marethari used. But I’m betting you do.” Not to mention that he didn’t exactly trust her not to become best friends with the first demon she saw.

She nodded. “I-I know it,” she said. “But we’ll need lyrium. Or, well, blood.”

“I can get the lyrium, Dasiy,” Varric said. “Blondie, what are you going to do?”

He shrugged. “Figure out what the demon’s done to him. I’ll work it out from there.” Justice pulsed with something akin to bloodlust. Anders ignored it, for the moment.

“Right.” Varric nodded. “Let’s clear out—Daisy, you’d better come with me, tell me how much you need. Blondie, do you need help down here?”

Anders shook his head. “He’s still asleep,” he said. “Maker willing, he’ll stay that way until we’re done.”

Varric nodded again and herded the others out, promising to return with lyrium and Merrill in a few hours. Anders shut the door behind them and sat down, staring at his hands. He knew what he wanted to do in the Fade, but Justice… Justice wanted to destroy the demon. Everything else was secondary. Even Hawke’s life.

Mercifully, Hawke stayed unconscious for the next two hours. Anders tried to persuade his spirit that Hawke was more important than killing a demon, that he’d helped them, saved them, supported them. It was hard to tell how much effect his thoughts were having; Justice was a presence, a cluster of emotions, not someone he could actually converse or argue with.

“You sure about this, Blondie?” Varric asked as Merrill carefully prepared the lyrium. Anders couldn’t stop staring at it. Justice was a tingling, joyful presence under his skin, and Anders swore he could hear humming.

“Absolutely.” The prepared lyrium looked familiar, sort of like what they’d had at his Harrowing, and he wondered vaguely if that ritual had been stolen from the elves.

Varric sighed. “Well. Good luck, then.”

“Thanks.”

Merrill held her hands over the lyrium, glowing lines of magic swirling into the pile of lyrium. Abruptly, the bluish dust pulsed white-gold, and Merrill nodded. “Now.”

Anders glanced at Hawke and took a deep breath, then placed his hand on the lyrium. There was a flash of cold, racing across his entire body, then everything went dark.

*

Justice opened his eyes in the Fade.

The landscape had been shaped into rocky cliffs towering high above a narrow, muddy path. The stench of death—of darkspawn—was thick in the air, and corpses lined the path. Behind him was fire. Anders stirred faintly, and Justice felt like he knew this place. Or perhaps he’d heard of it? It was hard to tell. Mortal memories were strange, unreliable things, even moreso in the Fade.

Justice shook his head. It did not matter what this place resembled. He was in the Fade. He had to find the demon. Anders flared up with anger, and Justice sighed. The demon and Hawke.

He followed the path as it wound through the cliffs and ascended up a gradual hill. As the cliffs receded, the corpses became less rotted, more recognizable as people. A man with dark, graying hair and a familiar beard slumped against the stone, then a young woman with a bright red kerchief around her neck. Justice paused when he saw the body of Carver. Hawke’s younger brother was alive—a traitor in the Templars, to be sure, but alive. Not gutted and bloodstained, blank eyes staring at the sky while flies crawled in and out of his open mouth.

Within him, Anders recoiled, and Justice moved on, doing his best to ignore the corpses that lined the path to the top of the hill, even when they became familiar. Varric with his head bashed in, Merrill lying in a pool of her own blood, Isabela with her throat slit—

Justice neared the end of the path and came to a stop. There was a body facedown directly in front of him, and Justice didn’t need to turn it over to know who it was. The brown coat, the feathered jacket, the red-blonde hair… it was the body he saw every time Anders looked in a mirror.

He turned it over anyway. He felt Anders’s panic like a sickness inside of him at the sight of the red brand on the corpse’s forehead. Blood stained the front of his coat, directly over his heart, and a bloody dagger lay on the ground beside him.

Justice looked away from the body, unsettled in a way that made no sense. It was the Fade. It was unreal. This was merely an image conjured to torment a dreamer, not a reflection on reality. The demon was close. He skirted around the corpse and continued towards the end of the path, finally emerging onto a flat plateau.

“I wasn’t expecting a guest,” the desire demon drawled. One hand slid over her chest and across her stomach, while she stroked the fingers of her other hand over the metal rod she held. Flames ringed the plateau as she looked Justice up and down. “I thought he killed you already.” She smiled and jerked on the rod.

Justice slowly turned to look, following the dozens of metal wires to the huddled shape on the ground. It was only because he knew that he had to be in Hawke’s dream that he could identify the man. The wires twisted around his body, some of them cutting in deep enough to slice against bone, others burning white hot, while still others were twisted into sharp points to stab him with every motion. They wrapped around his limbs, his fingers, across his face to pierce his eyes—

Anders screamed within him, burning with rage and grief. Justice turned away from Hawke to look back at the demon. “He is bound to me,” she said, lightly tugging the wires again. “If this bond breaks… he dies.”

The surge of panic nearly overwhelmed him. Justice shook his head, trying to calm Anders, but the mortal was beyond listening. “You lie,” Justice said.

“Oh?” The demon smiled. “Maybe I am. Maybe I’m not. Is it a risk you’re willing to take?”

“Yes.” Justice spread his arms, reaching into the very essence of the Fade. It had been so long since he’d been here, and his powers were so weak. But he was not gone completely. Not yet.

In the realm of mortals, Anders was a mage, and magic was all they had access too. But Justice was a warrior. And the Fade was his world.

Justice brought his arms back in, relishing the feel of a sword in his hand again, the weight of a shield against his side. Inside him, Anders was frantic, panicked, terrified. But Justice knew the ways of the Fade and the ways of demons. Hawke would live.

He was almost certain.

He raised his sword and charged the demon. She chuckled, raising her free hand, summoning energy for a spell. Justice swerved at the last second and slashed the blade through the metal wires. There was a horrible, screeching sound as it sliced through the metal, but the wires snapped. Hawke let out a weak cry and went still.

Anders was fighting to retake control, fury and terror washing over Justice in waves. He clenched his jaw and turned on the demon, raising his shield to block the blast of flame. With a loud cry, he pushed forward, slamming the edge of the shield into her torso and following up with a slash across her chest. The demon shrieked and hurled a fistful of electricity at him. With a groan, Justice shook his head against the pain and pressed forward again, stabbing and slashing around his shield.

The demon dodged to the side and threw her arms forward, a great sphere of rock flying from her hands. It caught Justice square in the chest, and he landed hard on his back. His sword fell from his fingers and vanished. “Now you will die,” the demon snarled, stalking towards him, “and he will go to my mistress, and we will feast upon his blood and soul!” Justice struggled to stand, to move, but his head was spinning and he didn’t have a blade—

The air thrummed with power, and the demon went flying towards the flames. Justice blinked and pushed himself upright, looking around. Hawke was on his knees, one hand stretched out before him, blood dripping to the ground from the open wounds where he’d pulled the wires free. Justice nodded once and scooped at the ground where he knew his sword would be. The demon screamed at him, a wordless challenge, and he charged. A cone of cold poured out from the demon’s hands; Justice raised his shield to block it and swung to the side, instinctively casting a haste spell for a final burst of speed. With a cry, he drove the blade into her throat. The demon gurgled and collapsed, her body fading as it hit the ground.

Justice took a few deep breaths, a human habit more than a necessity, and dropped his weapons. He spun around and ran back towards Hawke, Anders already providing him with the words for the spell that would wake them both. Justice dropped to his knees in front of Hawke and grabbed his shoulder. Hawke stared at him, blood running down his face, and gripped Justice’s arm as the dream began to fade. “Thank you,” Hawke breathed before Justice’s vision went dark.

*

Anders started awake, blinking at the ceiling of the clinic. He was on a cot. And it was dark. What happened… On the cot beside him, Hawke groaned, and everything came rushing back.

“Hawke!” Anders bolted upright, almost tripping over himself as he scrambled off the cot. Hawke was sitting up and rubbing at his eyes. “Are you—are you all right?” Anders dropped to his knees beside the cot, his hands hovering uselessly in the air for a moment before finally settling on Hawke’s shoulders.

Hawke blinked at Anders in mild confusion. Then he gasped, the air and tension going out of him in a rush, and he sagged towards Anders. “It’s over,” he mumbled. “Holy Andraste, it’s over…”

He shivered, and Anders climbed onto the cot with him, instinctively pulling Hawke into his arms. Hawke slumped against his chest and looped an arm around his waist. “I’m sorry,” Anders murmured, gently rubbing a hand up and down Hawke’s back. “I should have… I should have figured it out sooner, I knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t—I’m so sorry, Hawke, so, so sorry.”

“Not your fault,” Hawke replied, voice muffled against Anders’s chest. Anders could feel Hawke’s warm breath through the thin fabric of his shirt and fought back a wholly inappropriate shiver of his own. Hawke leaned back enough to look up at Anders and gave him a crooked half-smile. “Besides, you saved me. You don’t have to apologize after that.”

Anders huffed out a weak laugh and smiled back. “Well, given the number of times you’ve saved me, I figured it was my turn,” he said.

Hawke chuckled faintly, then leaned against Anders’s chest again, seemingly content to stay curled up there for the time being. Anders glanced around the empty clinic; after a moment, he spotted Merrill’s staff in the corner, and the thin crack of light where the front door was ajar. Varric and Merrill were probably waiting outside, then, to give the two of them a moment. Anders snorted and shook his head. Was he really that obvious?

“Did I miss the joke?” Hawke asked.

“No, it’s nothing,” Anders replied. “Do you—do you want to go home?”

Hawke didn’t reply right away. “I guess I have been imposing on your hospitality,” he eventually said into Anders’s chest.

“No, I didn’t mean—I just thought you’d be more comfortable at home,” Anders said quickly.

Hawke grunted and wrapped his other arm around Anders. “Comfortable here.”

Anders swallowed hard. He had no idea how much of the past few days Hawke remembered. But he couldn’t very well ask. “How are you feeling?” he asked instead.

Hawke shrugged. “Tired. Hungry. Kinda sore, which doesn’t make sense.” He shook his head. “It was all in my head, there’s no reason to still feel…”

Anders winced. “You’ll be all right,” he said. The pain would fade quickly, much faster than if he’d actually sustained any wounds. The memories, though… Anders could foresee plenty of cold sweats and sleepless nights in Hawke’s future. The want—the need—to be there for him left an ache in Anders’s chest.

“Of course I will,” Hawke said, tightening his arms around Anders. “I’ve got you.” Anders’s breath caught in his chest, his eyes widening in shock. Hawke didn’t… he couldn’t mean… Hawke drew back and looked at him, then rolled his eyes. “Maker’s blood. I heard you, you idiot,” he said, then pulled Anders down and kissed him.

Anders made a startled sound, then his brain caught up and he leaned into the kiss, wrapping his arms around Hawke’s neck. Hawke all but sighed, his breath warm as he slid one hand back to twist in Anders's hair. Anders drew back first, reluctantly, for want of air. Hawke smirked and nuzzled at his nose; Anders couldn't think of anything to say, so he kissed him again.

“Now we can go home,” Hawke murmured against his lips, neither one of them willing to move away from each other.

“We?”

Hawke smiled. “Yes. I have plans.”

“Conscious for less than ten minutes, and you're already back in charge.” Anders grinned back, feeling downright giddy. Hawke was okay. He was okay and he was kissing him and all of the other terrible things in the world didn't matter right now. “Dare I ask what these plans entail?”

“Dinner. A hot bath.” A familiar, wicked gleam entered Hawke’s eyes. “Wild, passionate sex until neither of us can move.”

Anders blinked. “Are you-- I mean, not that I don't like that plan, because I do, quite a lot, but are you sure you're... you're all right?”

“I'm not hurt, Anders,” Hawke said, leaning their foreheads together.

“That's not what I meant.” Anders met his eyes. He didn’t want Hawke to start pretending everything was fine. Not with him. If there was anywhere that Hawke should feel like it was safe to be not okay, it should be with him…

Hawke looked away and sighed quietly. “I’ll be fine,” he said. Then he smiled and kissed the tip of Anders’s nose. “I've got my heroic savior to take care of me.”

Anders shook his head. “I'm not a hero.”

“You stayed by my side while I was hurt, you protected me from harm, you swooped in and vanquished my tormentors-- definitely a hero.” Hawke beamed at him, stroking his thumb against the side of Anders's neck. “In fact, I should make you carry me across the threshold. That'd be suitably heroic.”

“I carried you back from the Wounded Coast,” Anders said. “Isn’t that enough?”

“I don’t remember that, though.” Hawke leaned in, pressing his face to Anders’s neck, and sighed in contentment. “D’you think we should tell the others that I’m, you know, alive?”

That would be the responsible, friendly thing to do, but Anders was feeling irrationally possessive. “Fenris will probably want to go after Hadriana right away,” he said.

Hawke shuddered at the mere mention of her name, and Anders tightened his arms around him. “It can wait, then,” he mumbled. “Besides, we already have plans.”

“Yes, we do.” Anders leaned down and brushed a soft, gentle kiss to Hawke’s lips. “C’mon. Let’s get you home.”

Chapter Text

We— I’m sorry, we have to what?”

Hawke dropped his pauldrons to the floor. “The engraving says that we must leave behind all worldly possessions.” Gauntlets next. “That means everything. Weapons, potions, armor, clothes…”

Sebastian swallowed hard and looked up at the statue of Andraste looming overhead. Her eyes appeared to be gazing straight at him. Probably just a trick of the light, what with the fire surrounding them. Right?

Hawke shucked off his chest guard and half-turned. “Come on, now, gentlemen,” he prompted with a smirk. “No need to be shy, it’s not like anyone here’s got something you haven’t seen before.”

Anders swallowed hard and started fumbling at the top buckle on his coat. Hawke perked up and turned around to face him. “Oh, good, I’ve been wondering how that worked,” he said, pulling his leather jerkin off over his head. The mage sputtered and almost strangled himself with the chain on his jacket.

Beside him, Fenris glowered and reluctantly unclasped his gauntlets. “Oh, yours too, actually,” Hawke said. “I never understood how that armor worked.”

Sebastian just shifted his weight. Hawke glanced at him and rolled his eyes. “Fine, if you’re not coming—” He walked over and put one hand on Sebastian’s shoulder, balancing on one foot as he undid the laces on his boots.

Anders managed to shrug out of his feathered pauldrons, and a murderous look from Fenris got him to stop gaping at Hawke for all of five seconds. The elf unhooked his chestpiece and carefully set it on the floor.

Ooh, do they go all the way down?” Hawke looked Fenris up and down, tracing the lines of his tattoos in the air. “Interesting.” He turned his attention to Anders and his eyes widened. “Damn, Anders,” he muttered. “Why have you been keeping those covered up?” He gestured vaguely at the mage’s arms. Fenris scowled and shot another glare at Anders.

Given that Hawke’s hands had just dropped to his belt, Anders didn’t notice at all.

Hawke tossed the belt to the floor, roughly on top of the rest of his armor, and hooked his thumbs into his waistband. In one seamless motion, he yanked down, pulling off his pants and smalls. He bent over to get them down to his ankles. Anders whimpered and bit down on his fist; Fenris just tilted his head to the side. Sebastian coughed delicately and averted his gaze.

Hawke turned back around, hands on his hips, beaming. Anders put a hand on the wall to steady himself. “Seriously?” Hawke said, looking at the others. “You know what? Fine. I’ll just go get the relic myself. Wait here.”

…okay,” Anders said faintly as Hawke turned and strolled off through the fire. When he started to bounce up the stairs to the altar, Anders and Fenris turned towards each other, sharing a look of mutual stunned disbelief. Then they remembered that, in the end, only one of them had a chance at getting his hands on that fine, fine ass— Anders glared and turned away, while Fenris sneered silently at him.

Sebastian appeared to be deep in prayer or contemplation, his gaze firmly fixed on the floor.

Got it!” Hawke said, strolling back a few minutes later, the relic in hand. He passed it off to Sebastian and sighed in contentment, arms folded over his chest. “You know, I never realized how freeing this is,” he said. “I ought to do this more often.”

Fenris made a choking, “hnngh” sort of sound. Anders finally gave up the fight and fainted dead away. Hawke glanced at the two of them, then over at Sebastian. “What’s their problem?”

I’m sure I don’t know, Hawke,” the priest replied, eyes closed, “but please, could you put on your pants?”

Chapter Text

The door clicks shut behind him. Anders draws in a steadying breath and reminds himself how to walk forward, how to cross the empty room, how to climb the stairs. It feels surreal, like a dream, but that’s probably because he’s spent so much time living this out in dreams. Imagining this moment, this night, in idle and not-so-idle fantasies. There’s a part of him that still doesn’t think this is real. And another part, a part that isn’t quite him but isn’t quite not-him either, thinks that this is a mistake. A mistake, a distraction, an obsession, a disaster waiting to happen.

But he remembers Garrett’s smile, Garrett’s hands, Garrett’s lips on his, and Anders just can’t find it in him to care.

The door to the bedroom is open, flickering orange firelight spilling out into the hall, and Anders draws in a steadying breath before he steps inside. Garrett’s leaning against the bedpost, staring into the fire, arms folded over his chest. Waiting. Waiting for him, Anders realizes, and the thought makes his heart flutter.

Garrett looks up as Anders closes the bedroom door, and the smile on his face glows brighter than the flames. “You’re here,” he says, turning to face him. “I was starting to worry you wouldn’t come.”

Anders smiles back, tentative, and stops walking at the edge of the rug in front of the hearth. “Justice does not approve of my obsession with you,” he offers dryly. “It is one of the few things on which he and I disagree.”

“Hm.” Garrett moves towards him, still beaming, and takes Anders’s hands in his. “I’m glad you’re here. Going out looking for you would have been frustrating for everyone.”

Anders chuckles, a little distracted by the way Garrett’s thumbs keep rubbing the back of his hands. “I don’t think I could’ve stayed away,” he murmurs. Not willingly, anyway. There were so many things that could have kept him from Garrett. So many things that could still take him. Take them both. He shivers a bit; Garrett steps closer, his smile fading in concern.

“In the Circle, love was… a game, something we played at, but we never… I never…” Anders trails off, heart aching with old regrets and new fears. “It gave the Templars too much power if there was something you couldn’t stand to lose.” Garrett grips his hands tighter as he looks away. “It would kill me to lose you,” Anders whispers. And it would, it would tear him apart. He can imagine it, losing him, has seen it in countless nightmares of death or Tranquility, but he can’t imagine living without him. He can’t imagine waking up in a world without this man.

“You aren’t going to lose me,” Garrett says.

Anders finally raises his eyes from the floor to Garrett’s face, and Garrett looks so damned sincere, like he really does believe that he won’t be taken from Anders’s side. Anders raises one hand to brush against Garrett’s cheek, his fingers glowing with arcane warmth. Garrett smiles again and leans into the touch. “No mage I know has ever dared to fall in love,” Anders murmurs. “This will be the rule I most cherish breaking.”

Garrett’s smiling again when they kiss, lips and breath warm on his mouth. When he draws back, it leaves Anders feeling empty, and he clings to the remaining point of contact in their fingers as Garrett pulls him towards the bed. Garrett climbs up on the bed, going backwards and fumbling because he won't take his eyes off Anders, then lies back and holds out his arms. Anders follows him and falls into them easily, warm where their bodies finally meet. Garrett slides his arms around Anders, and Anders kisses him again, slow and deep and drugging.

Anders finally has to pull back for want of air, and the reality of it all hits him: he's actually here, in Garrett's bed, in Garrett's arms. He's being held, and he can't remember how long it's been since anyone's touched him like this, with care instead of desperation or malice. He ducks his head and buries his face in Garrett's neck, just reveling in it, the way he can feel Garrett's heart pounding just under his.

Garrett doesn't rush him, doesn't ask if something's wrong. He just holds him, idly rubbing a hand up and down Anders's spine, and presses light kisses to his hair. After a few minutes, Garrett slides a hand up to Anders's hair and lightly tugs at the leather band holding it back until it falls free. Anders pushes himself up on one elbow to look down at Garrett, who smiles in delight. “Always wanted to see what you looked like with it down,” he says, raising a hand to slide through the loose strands.

Anders smiles and shakes his head, letting his hair fall in his face. Garrett slides his hand to the back of Anders's head and draws him down for another kiss. One kiss turns into many, some of the urgency and borderline desperation they'd felt in the clinic coming back. Garrett rolls them over, then pushes himself up to his knees. Anders whines in the back of his throat at the absence, and Garrett smiles at him. “I'm not going anywhere, sweetheart.” He unhooks the chain on Anders's jacket, followed swiftly by the buckles on the front of his coat. “Just getting a few things out of the way.”

“You're... surprisingly good at that,” Anders comments. It's not the easiest piece of clothing to get out of, and Garrett’s skill raises a few questions.

“I practiced,” Garrett informs him, a bit smug. Anders raises an eyebrow, and Garrett grins. “This past summer, when you'd come up to the Hanged Man for cards, you always took it off and tossed it on a chair.” He plucks at one of the buckles. “I played with it while you were losing to Isabela and Fenris.”

Anders chuckles. “Quite the optimist, aren't you.”

Garrett shrugs. “I knew we couldn't stay the way we were,” he says. “Just had to wait for the right moment.” He tugs at Anders's coat, a silent demand for removal, and Anders sits up enough to pull off the heavy layers. Garrett tosses them to the floor, then slides down off the bed, kneeling at Anders's feet to unlace his boots. The sight of Garrett on his knees in front of him sends his mind spiraling off in some wonderfully filthy directions. Anders lets out a slow, shaky breath and tries to get himself back under control. It's been a long damn time, close to four years, and if he doesn't concentrate he isn't going to last.

Then Garrett flashes a wicked smirk at him and brushes a kiss to his thigh and Anders knows he's in trouble.

Garrett finishes with the boots and climbs back onto him, straddling Anders's waist and threading his hands through Anders's hair for a kiss. He lowers his head when they part, trailing his lips across Anders's throat and jaw, nipping lightly at his ear. Anders sighs in contentment, his eyes falling shut, and he slides his hands across Garrett's arms and back. Eventually Garrett pulls back and tugs at Anders's shirt. Anders smiles and complies, pulling it off and tossing it in the general direction of his coat.

He almost regrets it a moment later when Garrett's gaze drops to the thick, ugly scar just above his heart. Garrett makes a low, worried noise and starts to slide his arms around Anders, then freezes when his hand brushes against the matching scar on Anders's back. “What happened?” he breathes, eyes wide.

Anders shakes his head and looks away. He can't very well tell the truth, tell Garrett how a Templar ran him through moments before he tore the man's head off and tasted his blood. He shivers at the memory, and Justice flickers within him, regretful and angry and wary.

“Okay,” Garrett murmurs. “It's okay, you don't have to...” He leans down and kisses Anders again, holding Anders's face in his hands.

Anders manages a weak smile when they draw back. “Your turn,” he says with a light tug on Garrett's housecoat.

Garrett grins and immediately undoes the belt, then pulls the robe off and throws it somewhere away. Anders doesn't really care where. All that really matters now is getting his fingers and lips and tongue on every inch of skin he can see. Garrett lets out a breathy noise halfway between a gasp and a laugh and pushes him back onto the bed. They end up on their sides, facing each other, hands and mouths wandering over warm skin.

It's amazing, good and right and wonderful, and so of course it can't last. Memories drift back, unbidden and unwanted, of hiding in supply closets and freezing at the sound of armored boots on stone floors. Memories of laughter and tangled sheets and cold air when the Templars dragged him away. Memories of another man with a beard and kind eyes who was taken from him without even the chance for a kiss good-bye.

Anders shudders, his fingers digging into Garrett's arms, and squeezes his eyes shut in an attempt to block the memories out. Garrett eases him onto his back and leans over him, covering Anders with his body. “It's all right, Anders,” he murmurs, brushing his fingers against Anders's cheek. “You're safe here, love, you're safe...”

He should be elated at the sound of that word coming from Garrett and meant for him. But the fear is creeping in, icy cold through his veins, and he hates himself for it. He finally has something good in his wretched life and he's ruining it. “I—I can't—the Templars--”

“Shh,” Garrett murmurs, gentle, soothing. “No one knows you're here. It's just you and me, just us. This, this right here, this is safe.” He's pressing light kisses to Anders as he speaks, his lips against Anders's jaw and cheeks and chin. “I want—Maker, I'd give you the world if I could. But I can give you this. Here, with me, you'll always be safe and you'll always be loved.”

Anders shakes his head a little, blinking hard. “You don't know that,” he whispers, self-loathing all but strangling him. He's wanted this for so long, spent nights aching with loneliness and need, and he can't just take what's being offered. Garrett frowns, starts to speak, and Anders cuts him off. “You don't. You can't. You don’t—you don’t know what I’ve done. What I could do, what I’m capable of… you might not…”

Garrett leans up on his elbows, his forearms on either side of Anders's head. “So tell me.” Fear spikes through Anders, and he shakes his head again, frantic. Garrett curls one hand around the side of his face, stilling him. “Shhh, shh, Anders, love, it's all right... I know you, you couldn’t have done anything terrible enough to make me change my mind.”

Anders swallows hard and looks away. “W-W-When I-- when Justice and I merged-- the Wardens came with Templars, and they were going to—to take me back, or kill me, I... I lost control. I killed them. Tore them apart.” Regret washes over him, regret and revulsion and old anger, not all of it his own. “I...I wasn't... I--”

Garrett kisses him to silence his stammering explanation. “You were defending yourself,” he whispers when he draws back.

Anders shakes his head. Garrett wasn't there, he didn't see... “This wasn't defense,” he says, pressing himself into the mattress, one hand on Garrett's shoulder, pushing him away. “It was a slaughter. I... I'm not...” Not what he wants, not what he needs, and it was insane to think that he ever could be. Anders blinks away the stinging in his eyes. This isn't his place. He can't have this, not anymore, it's not the life he's meant for...

Garrett pins him to the bed with the full length of his body and takes Anders's hand off his shoulder, lacing their fingers together. “Yes, you are,” he murmurs, lips at Anders's ear. “You're a good man. You’re everything I want.”

Something horribly close to a sob escapes Anders. “No,” he mutters. “I'm not, I'm a blighted disaster, Garrett, I can't---”

Garrett talks over him, quiet and soothing and strong. “No, no no no, Anders, Anders, shh, listen, it’s all right, love, it’s all right...” Garrett strokes his hair, holds him close. “I want this, I want you, I want… all of the ugliness and pain and anger and darkness, all of the beauty and joy and hope and love, everything that’s in you, all of it, I want that. I want you, I want every gorgeous broken piece of you. I love you, Anders, loved you for so long…”

Anders gives up the fight against the tears and stares at the ceiling, quiet, gasping sobs escaping him. It's too much, too much to hold, too much to take in, too much to believe that this is meant for him. And yet there's no room for doubt. Garrett means it, every word, it's plain in his voice and in his body, in the way he holds Anders like something precious. Anders swallows hard and draws in a shuddering breath. “Garrett...”

“Mine,” Garrett whispers. “You're mine now, my heart, my love...”

Anders grabs him and kisses him hard, desperately, trying to communicate everything he feels but doesn't have the words for. “I love you,” he says against Garrett's mouth. “Love you so much.”

Garrett draws back and smiles at him, a secret, delighted smile he's never seen before. Something meant just for him, then, Anders realizes. Something else, something more, as if everything else Garrett has handed him tonight wasn't enough. He feels like he’s finally whole, like something has snapped into place against all those broken pieces and made the ache of them fade.

They don't talk for a while after that, letting their bodies speak for them, heated skin and searching hands and needy moans telling everything they need to know. Anders sees stars as Garrett moves in him, pleading and kissing and clinging until he finally shatters. He keeps his eyes open after, watching as Garrett let himself go, one hand splayed against the side of Garrett's face when he comes. They lie tangled together in a sticky, sweaty pile, neither one willing to move.

“That,” Garrett finally says, his face buried in Anders's neck, “was entirely worth the wait.”

Anders smiles. “I'd say so.”

With a groan, Garrett pulls away, disentangling himself and rolling onto his side. Anders immediately moves to face him, wrapping his arms and legs around the other man. Garrett laughs and kisses him, eyes sparkling with warm and weary joy. “I love you,” he says, brushing their noses together.

“I love you, too,” Anders murmurs. Fear flickers in his chest, and he knows he'll never be rid of it. “I held back from saying it for so long... You should have a normal life, not be tied down to a fugitive with no future.” And perhaps he'll never be free of the fear. But he thinks that now he can bear it if he doesn't have to face it alone. Anders meets Garrett's eyes. “But I don't ever want to lose you.”

“Then stay,” Garrett says, as if it's the simplest thing in the world. He links his fingers through Anders's and presses their hands to his heart.

 “Do you mean that?” Anders asks slowly. He thinks he's right-- he prays he is-- but he can't be too certain. “Would you have me live here, with you? Would you tell the world, the knight-commander, that you love an apostate and you'll stand beside him?”

Garrett's smile is almost blinding as he pulls Anders closer, leaving them with bare inches between their eyes. “I want you right here,” he says, squeezing Anders's hand, “until the day we die.”

It's better than any of his dreams. Because even in those, he never let himself hope for this absolute, total, overwhelming acceptance and love. Anders smiles back, just as brilliant, and kisses Garrett with all the passion he can offer. He knows this might end in heartbreak, tragedy, disaster. But until then, he's going to hold on to what he's been given with everything he can.

Chapter Text

Hawke had a very clear idea of what their first morning together should be like. In his mind, it would be warm and sweet, with lots of gentle caresses and soft smiles and tender embraces.

So far, all he had was warm, due to the dog on his legs, and a smile, although it was less soft and more ‘barely restrained laughter.’

“What?” Anders asked, blinking at him from the nest of pillows and blankets.

Hawke reached out and gingerly prodded at a tuft of red-blonde hair that seemed to be ignoring gravity entirely and sticking straight up. “Does it… always do this?” he asked.

Anders slid one arm out of his nest and patted his head, then made a face. “More or less.”

“It’s just… everywhere.”

Anders rolled his eyes and retreated back into his pile of blankets. “Yours isn’t exactly perfect at this hour either, you know.”

Hawke ran a hand through his hair. “It’s tousled,” he said. “Sexily tousled.”

“Whereas mine is…?”

Hawke considered it for a moment. “Alarming?” Anders made a face at him. Hawke grinned. “I could help you get it to sexily tousled, though,” he offered and rolled over on top of Anders.

Anders put a hand over his mouth as he leaned in for a kiss. “Go get something to drink first,” he said. “Your breath smells like you were kissing the dog last night.”

Hawke kissed Anders’s palm instead. Anders laughed and pushed him away. So maybe not so much with the caresses and embraces— not yet, anyway. But Hawke decided, as he slid out of bed to the sound of Anders’s muffled giggles, it was still rather sweet.

Chapter Text

“So that’s it, then,” Aveline says. “That’s the end.”

Varric chuckles, his gaze still fixed on the horizon where Isabela’s ship has vanished from sight. If he squints hard enough, he can convince himself that it’s still there, still visible, a speck on the horizon. “Not at all, my dear captain,” he says with a smile. “You know Hawke. Do you really think this is the last Thedas has heard of Kirkwall’s Champion?”

Aveline manages a faint laugh. “It’s the end for us, though. No more of your stories.”

“Please,” he says, waving a dismissive hand. “Now I’m not bound by reality. In here--” he taps the side of his head, “I can give them any adventures I want. They can win the revolution or move to Rivain or become pirates or adopt thirty children and raise a little pirate-apostate army…” He can give them any adventures he wants and whatever ending seems best.

Right now, staring at that little speck on the horizon, he’s thinking he’ll go with the happier ones.

“But we won’t know--”

“We’ll hear from them again,” Varric says firmly. “It’s Hawke. Attracted to trouble and adventure like iron to a magnet. Besides, Isabela promised us letters. We’ll know something, someday.”

Aveline looks down at the water lapping against the pier. “I’m still going to miss them,” she says quietly.

Varric sighs. “Me too, Captain. Me too.” He blinks; the speck on the horizon is gone. “C’mon. Hanged Man. First round’s on me.” He takes Aveline’s elbow and turns away from the sea, leading them back into Kirkwall. “You can tell me what you think of my idea for the next adventure.”

Chapter Text

The first time was a spur of the moment sort of thing. Isabela had always been an opportunist, and when she saw a chance to get Anders and Hawke alone together-- well, everyone could see the smoldering looks they'd been shooting each other since the Deep Roads. She was just being helpful.

Not gonna work, Rivaini,” Varric said, leaning against the wall, arms folded, looking obnoxiously smug.

Isabela didn't look up from the keyhole. Hawke was still drinking his way through his grief over the loss of his sibling, and he'd elected to pass out in Isabela's room rather than stagger back up to Hightown. Isabela had casually suggested that Anders check on him. It should have been easy.

They're not even touching,” she hissed. Hawke was sprawled out on her bed, his upper half blocked from view by Anders, who'd perched on the edge of the mattress and left a respectful six inches between them. “They are sharing a bed and they're not even touching. What is wrong with them?”

Unresolved sexual tension,” Varric said. “One of the most powerful forces in the world.”

Isabela snorted. “Nothing fun about that,” she muttered. “And I'm giving them the opportunity to resolve it right now.”

Doesn't work that way.” Varric's footsteps receded, and she could just hear him smirking. “These things have to run their course.”

Isabela huffed out an annoyed breath and glanced over at him. “This isn't one of your stories, Varric,” she said. “There's no readers to string along for eighteen installments so you can turn a profit.”

Varric just chuckled and disappeared back into his suite. A floorboard creaked inside the room, and Isabela barely managed to scramble backwards into a convenient shadow before Anders opened the door and stepped out into the hall. He paused on the threshold, staring back at Hawke, longing writ clear on his face. Then he shut the door and walked back towards Varric's room.

Isabela smacked her palm to her forehead. Clearly, this was going to take some work.

*

Some eighteen months after Isabela had first laid eyes on the pair and assumed that they were fucking like bunnies, she was beginning to despair. She'd locked them into no fewer than three closets of varying size-- Hawke had picked the locks on the first two and Anders had used an arcane bolt to break them out of the third. She'd dragged them out to the Wounded Coast on a day she knew would be rainy and cold in the hopes that they'd have to strip and huddle together for warmth. Anders had used some carefully controlled fire spells to dry them off. She'd “accidentally” handcuffed them together during a card game at Varric's and then even more “accidentally” lost the key. Fenris had gotten annoyed by the clattering chain and broke it in half. She'd even gotten so blatant as to trip Anders so he'd fall into Hawke's arms-- which worked, up to a point, as they did end up holding each other and gazing deeply into each other's eyes, but then they'd both pulled away and avoided making eye contact.

I don't know what to do, Varric,” she declared dramatically, slumped over his table.

Leave them alone, Rivaini,” he replied, shuffling through a stack of parchment. “They'll work it out on their own. Give them time.”

They've had a year and a half!” She sat up and threw her hands in the air. “They're both living like Chantry priests, which I know for a fact is an utter tragedy in Anders's case. That man is entirely too skilled to be celibate for this long.”

Varric grimaced at her over the top of his papers. “Too much information.”

And I'm sure Hawke's a beast in the sack, too,” she continued, blithely ignoring Varric's request. “For both of them to be denying themselves this way is just painful.”

Varric shrugged. “Have some patience.”

I've been patient. I mean, don't get me wrong, I like some edging as much as the next girl--” she smirked as Varric grimaced again, “--but at some point you have to stop playing around and get to the climax.”

The dwarf just sighed and went back to his papers. Isabela rested her chin on her hand, staring off into space, trying to come up with a new plot. Nearly a quarter of an hour passed in near-silence before the door banged open and Merrill bounded in, grinning from ear to ear and covered in a thin layer of frost. “Did you know,” she began, “that the Viscount's kitchen has a whole room full of ice? They use magic to keep the food cold!”

Isabela blinked, then perked up and turned towards the young elf. “Did this room have locking door on it?” she asked. Varric groaned and buried his face in his hands.

*

She wasn't able to arrange for Hawke and Anders to get locked in the Viscount's freezer-- getting Anders into the keep was too difficult even for her to manage. Her alternate attempt of having them wake up next to each other was almost as difficult, if only because Anders was surprisingly heavy under those robes. Still, they'd both been drunk and passed out, and she'd managed to dump Anders into Hawke's bed before hiding herself in an unused wardrobe to watch the fun.

Anders had woken up three hours before sunrise and bolted, Hawke none the wiser. Isabela could have killed them both herself.

By the two year mark, she'd all but given up. “They're hopeless, Varric,” she declared, perched on his table and swinging her legs back and forth. “Absolutely hopeless.”

Now now, Rivaini, it's not like you to give up so quickly.”

Two years!” Isabela twisted around to look at him. “Two years of yearning and longing and smoldering and, I'm certain, more wanking than the whole of the Templar barracks, and they've done nothing. They're no closer to getting in each other's pants than they were the day they met.”

Varric chuckled. “Oh, I wouldn't say that,” he replied. “They'll get there. You'll see.”

Hmph. So you keep saying.”

Some of us have an appreciation for a slow burn,” he said. He tapped his quill against her leg. “Now, if you'd be so kind as to move your ass from atop my next chapter...?”

*

By the third year, she'd been reduced to sighed despondently whenever she caught the two of them staring at each other and mentally willing them to just kiss already. It had almost gone past the point of believability, that'd they'd be so obviously mad about each other without acting on it. People only acted like this in stories, and then only in those stories where the author's livelihood depended on the audience being strung along for serial after serial. Isabela had all but resigned herself to the fact that it wouldn't happen. They'd never get together at this rate, which was a damned shame. They'd be good for each other.

So when she wandered into Varric's suite for their weekly card game to find Hawke and Anders practically sharing a chair, arms twined around each other, wearing matching sappy smiles, her shock was understandable. Isabela blinked several times, rubbed her eyes, blinked again, then pinched herself.

Oh! Hey, Isabela,” Hawke said, waggling the fingers of his free hand at her. His other hand, she noted, was idly toying with Anders's hair.

Hi.” She gestured vaguely at them. “When...?”

Couple days ago,” Hawke said. Anders's smile grew even brighter, and he inched closer to Hawke, all but climbing into the man's lap.

Isabela struggled for words, then shook her head. “About damn time,” she said and headed for her usual chair next to Varric.

The dwarf was the very picture of smug serenity. “I told you so,” he murmured, shuffling the cards.

Isabela just sighed and glanced across the table, where Anders and Hawke were-- Maker have mercy-- rubbing their noses together and cooing at each other. “Shut up and deal.”