“There are two tragedies in life. One is to lose your heart's desire. The other is to gain it.” ― George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
Fenris thought he’d moved past his feelings for Hawke years ago. He’d walked out on Hawke, scared of the feelings and memories spending that one night with the man had evoked. He couldn't blame anyone but himself for Hawke turning to Anders after that. Anders had helped fill the void and mend the heart that Fenris had broken.
For years Fenris pushed away his thoughts and feelings for Hawke, knowing he could never have him back, not in that way. He’d done too much damage and Hawke had fallen too deep for Anders for it to matter anyway.
Since fleeing Kirkwall, the only feeling for Hawke he allowed himself to feel was betrayal. Betrayal for not heeding his warnings about Anders. Betrayal for sparing Anders life, despite the atrocity he had wrought. Betrayal for daring to fall in love with not only someone else, but with the very man he now hated more than anything.
However, despite all that, and perhaps even because of it, when the letter from Varric came, Fenris collapsed onto the ground and let out a long, tormented wail.
I hate to have to write this. Damn, this is probably the hardest thing I’ll ever have to write.
Hawke is dead.
He sacrificed himself in order to save the Inquisitor and some Warden named Alistair when they were trapped in the Fade. It was his way for atoning for not having put down Corypheus permanently years ago.
Hope you’re taking care of yourself, write back if you need anything.
Hawke was dead?! How could Hawke be dead? The Champion of Kirkwall … the man who single-handedly took out the Arishok!? No … no … no!
Fenris felt his heart shatter into pieces, tears streaming down his face, his body wracked with sobs. Despite everything. Despite being the one to leave and break Hawke’s heart. Despite the fact that Hawke had spared that blasted mage … Fenris had still loved that crazy, foolish man.
Fenris took a deep shuddering breath. The mage … Anders. Where had he been? Why hadn’t he been there to help Hawke? Why hadn’t he also been sacrificed to the Fade? Was he still cowering somewhere safe? The last time Fenris had seen Hawke and Anders, they had been inseparable.
The Inquisition. Hawke must have not wanted to risk Anders being arrested and left him in hiding. Although, why had Hawke come out of hiding to aid them? Just because of Corypheus? That seemed like a foolish risk … and of course, Hawke was known for taking foolish risks.
However, now that Hawke was gone, Anders was left unprotected. Right then and there Fenris resolved to hunt down Anders. Fenris would see to it that Anders got exactly what he deserved.
Anders spent days sobbing over the news about Hawke. He couldn’t eat, he couldn’t sleep and Justice was unrelenting about some misguided idea of avenging Hawke’s death. That somehow an injustice had been done to let him sacrifice himself for the Inquisition. Having lived with a Fade spirit within him all these years hadn't been easy, and Justice had driven him to do things he would never have even thought to do on his own.
However, Anders mostly ignored Justice these days, having learned how to block out the Spirit’s thoughts over the years, especially after they blew up the Kirkwall Chantry. For Anders, that had been the last straw. Now all he wanted to do was rid himself of this Spirit that was trapped inside him.
Anders knew he’d been living on borrowed time. He had fully expected to die after blowing up the Chantry in Kirkwall and when he didn’t … he didn’t know what to do with himself. If it hadn't been for Hawke, he would have had no purpose or direction. Living for Hawke became his purpose. Whatever Justice wanted was irrelevant.
They had been on the run for months, always on the move, never staying in one place too long. Then the first letter from Varric came, asking Hawke to come to Skyhold. Corypheus had returned and Hawke had to make it right. Anders begged and pleaded Hawke not to go, but in the end resigned himself to waiting at their latest hideaway for him. Hawke promised he’d be back soon. He promised!
Now Hawke was gone. He wasn’t ever going to come back. Anders had lost his only purpose for living.
It wasn’t until he’d completely cried himself out that he had the courage to re-read the letter from Varric, and contemplated its contents again. Hawke had been physically in the Fade? How was that even possible? Perhaps he was still alive? A sudden swell of hope blossomed in the mage’s bosom, and he set to work.
Anders immediately took out every lyrium potion he had and downed one, and began to cast the spell needed to get himself into the Fade through dreams. He wasn't a Somniari, so he had to rely on other ways into the Fade. If Hawke still lived, he was determined to find him, or die trying. This was Anders’ new purpose.
Anders spent weeks searching the Fade, only to come out long enough to try and eat something and perhaps catch some real sleep when he felt his mortal body falter. Over time, between his dwindling supply of lyrium he required to recast the spell, and Anders’ obsession with finding Hawke, drove him to spend longer and longer periods in the Fade, barely allowing himself to come out long enough to drink water. He was allowing himself to waste away in his quest to find the man he loved.
Finally, Anders was down to a single vial of refined lyrium. Once he was out, he wouldn't be able to return to the Fade again. Anders resigned himself that this time … he would remain in the Fade. He would keep searching, even after his body had withered and died in the real world. He would never stop searching.
Anders unstoppered the vial and drank it, summoning his Fade spell for the final time, and said goodbye to the world around him. Perhaps for the final time.
It was in this state that Fenris finally found him, several days later.