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Undeserving

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Anders sat on the floor. He hunched his shoulders against a biting draft sweeping in over the spray from the falls he could feel even here, a solid fifteen feet away

We should never have come South, he grumbled inside his mind.

We were too well known in the Free Marches, his mind responded.

Justice.

Anders sighed, raking his fingertips through his greasy hair. Maker, when was the last time he'd had a bath? He leaned his elbow on the chair beside him, his backside going numb against the floor.

Little hurts. Small punishments.

Justice chafed at the bars, at the confines of the cell.

Anders smirked, despite himself. You get used to it.

You never did.

The mage swallowed, scraping his nails along the woodgrain of the chair. Maybe it's time I did. There's nothing left for us out there.

The mages still-

Justice, Anders sighed. We can't save them all.

The spirit seethed in him, emotions pulsing but thoughts silent.

The door rattled open. Heavy boots on the stairs.

Anders didn't stand to greet them. More templars, more mages, more tranquil with their polite questions and clipboards and lists. They've had enough cooperation from me. I won't-

“Anders.”

The blonde scrambled to his feet, threw himself toward the bars. He wrapped his filthy hands around the metal, skin burning with the icy breath of winter beneath his palms.

“Hawke.”

She smiled at him - sad and sorry, but still warm.

He swallowed hard. Maker, but I missed your face.

“I hear they found you in the desert.”

“The Calling, it-”

“I know.” She wrapped her own hand around the bars, wrist an inch above his fingers. He could feel her body heat.

“What are you doing here?” He asked.

“Varric called me. I'm... helping the Inquisition.”

“And-” Anders licked his lips. “And Fenris?”

She dropped her gaze to their hands, almost touching. “He's still in the Free Marches. Or was. Last I heard.”

Hope caught in Anders' lungs like the hitch of a match hissing with searing heat. “So did the two of you...”

“We're still together.” Her voice was final. As clear as it ever had been. A line – crossed once, never again. “He's not going to be happy I left him behind.”

Anders had to laugh at that. “No. No, he will not be.”

That smile again - less sad, less sorry - and she met his eyes.

Warm. Always so warm to me when nothing ever was.

But the moment grew chilled, stretched thin, and she cleared her throat.

“Lavellan is a good woman. She will be kind to you.”

Kindness. It was what Hawke had always given him. Kill them with kindness, wasn't that the phrase? She gave with sincerity, but it still hurt - dug in his ribs like a serrated blade, like the one she didn't use.

“I don't deserve her kindness,” he said. “Or yours.”

Justice snarled deep in his head, not needing words to communicate his displeasure. The spirit never did. Anders' hands shook and he knew if he pulled away from the bars, he would see cracks of ice-white fire licking along his palms.

But Hawke touched him then, her skin soft and gentle as her fingertips brushed his knuckles. “Do you regret it, then?”

Justice got louder.

A mirthless laugh. “That's the question, isn't it?”

Anders stepped away, stuffed his hands under his armpits.

“I don't,” said Hawke. “I don't regret you.”

And the knife twists.

“Maybe you should.” His voice is tight, low, creaking in his throat even as he gets the words past his teeth.

She shakes her head, but he steps back to his corner, settles onto the floor.

I would have dragged you down into the dirt with me, and held you there. Would have clipped your wings, made you a burden to everyone around you. Made you like me.

“Anders.”

He didn't look up. Closed his eyes. Waited.

She sighed.

And then she left.

 

---

 

Hawke and Bethany had been, appropriately, the first to see him.

Or rather, they'd seen the slumped form hauled between two soldiers, bound and chained and stumbling up the hill.

“I do not envy the Inquisitor,” said Hawke, leaning on her elbows on the wall.

Bethany drained her drink, then let the bottle drop to the stone with a clink. “Neither do I.”

“Does she often have prisoners dragged to her fortress?”

“Probably.”

“This is the second I've seen it, and I've only been here a month.”

They watched the group struggle up the hill, afternoon sun glinting off their helms and chains.

It was another hour before they were told who the prisoner was.