It all happened so fast.
Looking back, Fenris would think, I must have been out of my mind. But no, he hadn’t been out of his mind, he had been sharply focused, so much so that when Sebastian lashed out at Anders, there was no time for even a heartbeat before Fenris punched the would-be prince in the mouth and sprawled him on his backside.
Sebastian, his lower lip torn and bleeding, looked up at Fenris in disbelief. Everything was so strange now. Fenris couldn’t even count how many times he had sat with Sebastian in the Chantry, discussing everything from mages to geography with the man, finding a kinship with him that he couldn’t put into words. Those discussions had never gotten heated, they had always been pleasant, sometimes even funny, and maybe Sebastian had sat a little close to Fenris and maybe sometimes he had reached out and tucked a little strand of hair behind Fenris’ ear but those things had never amounted to much.
It was the mage that had been everything. Fenris’ poison and cure, his sword and shield, his bane and his blessing. It was the mage that Fenris had gone to, night after night, when Kirkwall was asleep. It was the mage, that horrendous monster, who sat there while Sebastian wiped the blood from his mouth and struggled to his feet. Fenris certainly didn’t blame Sebastian for his rage. It was Anders he blamed; but still, he stood between the two. He stood between the two men who had loved him in two such different, startling ways, and he told Sebastian, “No.”
“No?” Sebastian asked. The pretty blue eyes Fenris had always admired were bloodshot and terrible. Even still, Fenris met them.
“No,” Fenris repeated. “I understand, Sebastian. I understand how you feel—“
“You could never understand,” Sebastian snapped, “That monster just killed Maker only knows how many innocent people. He killed the Grand Cleric. He would have killed me.”
“Anders will pay for what he has done,” Fenris said, “But not by your hands. You told me that the Maker has a reason for all of this pain we go through. You told me that he has a plan for us all.”
“I knew nothing,” Sebastian said. His voice dropped to a whisper, terribly raw. “Stand aside, Fenris. Or I swear to the Maker you will share his fate.”
Fenris knew Sebastian was a man of his word. If not for Hawke, Sebastian most likely would have attacked him. The last thing Fenris wanted to do was harm the man; looking at the wreckage of the Chantry, Fenris knew Sebastian had enough pain to deal with for one lifetime.
“Enough,” Hawke said. His voice cut through the clamor like a gunshot. People scrambling around stopped to look at him. Of course they would, he was their Champion, their savior, and yet he had been unable to stop the destruction of the Chantry.
You harbor a viper in your midst, Fenris remembered telling Hawke, and how right he had been. Still, he had certainly done little to calm the fire he had known was burning inside of Anders. All Fenris had done was go to him and kiss him and lie with him for a while. He had thought, foolishly, that that would be enough.
“Go,” Hawke said, staring at Sebastian.
“You protect that abomination from his deserved punishment,” Sebastian said, “I swear to you, Hawke---“
“Swear to whomever you like,” Hawke interrupted, “Go.”
Sebastian caught Fenris’ eyes before he turned away. There was just enough hurt and bitterness in them to make Fenris’ heart ache.
“Shut up, Anders,” Fenris said.
“You all should never have---“
“You heard the man,” Hawke said, “Do shut up, Anders.”
“Oh, my,” Isabela sighed, “I knew there was a reason I stuck around with you, Hawke. You get into so many fabulous adventures. So, what do you think? Sebastian will ride back in here in half a year with all of Starkhaven’s military? Ooh, I’ve heard they have a spectacular cavalry. Imagine it, Hawke, all those young, strapping cavalrymen---“
“I’m not in the mood, Isabela,” Hawke said, though the corners of his lips twitched with a smile. He looked at his motley crew and sighed. He should have spent more time building up an entourage instead of attending boring cotillions in Orlais, but hindsight was always twenty-twenty.
“I need you all to help defend the city,” Hawke said.
“Same shit, different day,” Varric said, stroking Bianca’s trigger. “Where to, O Champion of Kirkwall?”
“Varric, you and Aveline head into Lowtown and try to evacuate as many people as you can.”
“Hawke, I do not take your orders,” Aveline cut in.
“You do tonight,” Hawke said. He looked to Aveline, pleadingly. She rolled her eyes and generally huffed about it, but she left with Varric willingly enough.
“Aye aye,” Isabela said.
“I haven’t even told you what I need,” Hawke said.
“Aww, sweet thing,” Isabela said, “You always did take forever to tell me what you wanted.”
“Maker, just… take Merrill with you to the docks. You know that little slice of Heaven better than any of us.”
“Can I aye aye now?” Isabela asked.
“Make it quick,” Hawke said.
“Aye aye,” Isabela chuckled, tipping Hawke a salute and slinging her arm over Merrill’s thin shoulders. She led Merrill out away from the smoking hole where the Chantry had, only an hour earlier, stood proudly. Merrill looked back at it, and something about the way she looked hurt Hawke to his bones. She looked like a child, faced with some terrible and inevitable truth.
No, not you, Hawke wanted to tell her, You’ve never been a monster.
But Merrill was gone.
It was only he, Anders, and Fenris, standing in front of the charred remains of the Chantry. Meredith was marching towards the Gallows, and Orsino would most likely meet her there. The two of them were well past the point of discussion, though Hawke imagined Orsino would make some kind of attempt to placate the woman.
“You shouldn’t have,” Anders was saying. Hawke intended to reprimand him, to beat him over the head if he wouldn’t just shut up about how they shouldn't have spared him.
Fenris beat him to it.
“No, we shouldn’t have,” Fenris bit, “We should have let Meredith have your head on her blade. We should have let Sebastian tear the flesh from your bones. We should have let you wait here for all the people of Kirkwall to come and properly punish you for the Hell you have unleashed upon them. But we did and it is over.”
“You’ll shut your fool mouth before I shut it for you,” Fenris growled. Hawke kept his back to the men. He heard Anders gasp when Fenris kissed him, likely a little more roughly than he was used to. “Get yourself together and let’s go,” Fenris said, “We’ve a long night ahead of us now, thanks to you.”
Everyone knows the story, or at least the part of the story that matters. Hawke and his band of merry misfits saved the day. Perhaps that’s an overestimation of a group of people placing a thin bandage on a gaping, hemorrhaging wound, but the people of Kirkwall and the surrounding city-states considered what they achieved a kind of salvation.
As many stories do, this story had everyone drifting down their separate roads.
Hawke and Isabela took to the seas, their roguish hearts crying out for open water (or perhaps just crying out for freedom from Kirkwall’s turmoil).
Merrill continued to live in the Alienage, working dutifully to change the lot of the city elves. She smiled more than she ever had before.
Aveline became Knight Captain when Cullen retired from his post. She and Donnic had a child, a girl, who had her mother’s ginger hair.
Varric thrilled patrons of the Hanged Man with tales of the Champion and his companions; one tale was so bold as to claim that Hawke had wrestled Meredith with his bare hands while the Gallows shook around them.
Anders and Fenris travelled together, always careful of the Templars, always looking over their shoulders. For a time, they strayed from Kirkwall, but they returned, a cry in their own hearts for the city that had brought them together, for the city they had left bleeding and dying. Fenris would tell Anders, I should kill you for what you’ve done, but he never would do more than stare icily at Anders before melting a little and kissing him.
Most stories would end here, with the Champion and his companions finding some measure of peace and happiness.
But this is where the true story begins.
Fenris would never say anything, but the way he sat Anders down when he returned from Dark Town said enough. He took the mage’s hands and looked at his callused palms, brushing his thumbs from the base of Anders’ fingers to the hollows of his wrists. You’re working too hard, that touch explained, You’re killing yourself with this redemption of yours.
His mansion was large enough for both of them, though Fenris rarely saw Anders outside of Dark Town these days. He was obsessed with doing good; an admirable goal to be sure, but one that Fenris could see was wearing him down to the bone.
He shook his head, pressed a small kiss to Anders’ rough palm, and stood up from him.
Since they had returned to Kirkwall, Fenris couldn’t help but think of all they had done in the city; of all they had done to the city. He thought of Sebastian, of how he had looked that last night he had seen him, all raw, wet eyes and bleeding lips, and he shivered. It had been more than a year since the incident (a phrasing of Fenris’ choosing), yet he had heard nothing from the prince. He had yet to see Starkhaven’s flag on the horizon, a harbinger of war. He had not received any missives about Starkhaven planning retaliation against Kirkwall for the mage rebellion.
“It’s a miracle the Divine hasn’t marched on us,” Anders said. After so long together, it seemed he could read his lover’s mind. “She was considering an Exalted March even before I--- before the incident.”
Fenris stood with his arms crossed over his narrow chest, looking down on the Hightown gardens from his window. Everything looked so peaceful. Fenris knew that was an illusion. There was a war going on out there, just beyond his comfortable home, and it was a war that he knew would only end with exactly what Anders feared.
Anders pressed himself to Fenris’ back, wrapping his arms around his waist. There was always something comforting when Anders was in one of his affectionate moods (which, recently, had sharply declined). He was large and warm, solid, though somewhat soft around the midsection. Fenris enjoyed Anders’ weight against him, and the gentle way he kissed across his jaw, though the most he would ever allow himself to do was hum and tip his face so there was more skin for Anders’ mouth.
“You’re worried she’ll come,” Anders said. “So am I. If she does… There’ll be no safe place for me. I won’t allow the Divine to turn Kirkwall into a pile of rubble. If that happens, if she comes, I’ll… I’ll just have to hand myself over to her and hope that she spares Kirkwall.”
“No,” Fenris said.
“No,” Fenris repeated.
“Why would you want to protect me?” Anders asked. His arms dropped from Fenris’ waist and he stepped back from him. “After all I’ve done, why?”
A good question, Fenris thought. But no, it was a terrible question; it was a question that didn’t even deserve an answer. If Anders didn’t know why by now, he would never know. Fenris kept his back to the mage. He would be damned if Anders would see his lips trembling. “Because you are mine to punish,” Fenris said, “I’ve told you that. If anyone gets to make you pay for all of this, it is me.”
No, that wasn’t it. Anders knew it as surely as Fenris did.
That wasn’t it at all.
“Let me get this straight,” Varric said, “You want to… what now?”
“I want to send a message to Sebastian,” Fenris said. They were seated in Varric’s room at the Hanged Man. It was early in the afternoon, but the place was still packed full. Fenris guessed that the troubles in the city were driving normally moderate drinkers to throw caution (and their livers) to the wind.
“And you came to me, because…?”
“Because I know you have quite a few contacts all over the Free Marches. I need to get in touch with Sebastian. I need to know what, if anything, he is planning. He promised that Anders would be punished, and I know that he fully intends to keep that promise.”
“Oh, my broody friend,” Varric said, sighing and shaking his head. “What you’re doing is about the same as poking a sleeping dragon with a stick.”
“I understand that,” Fenris said.
Varric shrugged and called someone over. He whispered something to the other man before sending him on his way. After that, they didn’t speak of Fenris’ request again. Varric asked after Anders and Fenris was feeling too exhausted to come up with a decent lie.
“He is running himself ragged, trying to make up for something that can never be made up for.”
“Give Blondie a break,” Varric said, “He had, well, not good intentions, but they weren’t… awful intentions. At least not from the start. They were semi-good intentions.”
“You are not making any sense,” Fenris said, “Anders knew precisely what he was doing, and he cared very little for anyone other than himself.”
“Yet you still stayed with him,” Varric reminded.
“I should be going,” Fenris said.
Fenris received a message a few weeks after his visit with Varric. He read Sebastian’s reply with ice spreading through his veins. Strange, he could have sworn he had been standing when he’d opened the envelope, yet when he looked up after reading the message he was sitting on the floor with his back against the wall.
The message was brief, only a few short sentences:
I will see you soon, Fenris. I would suggest you make the most of your time with your precious Anders. These will be your last days together.
King of Starkhaven
He had to warn Anders, and as quickly as possible. With any luck, it would be a few weeks before Sebastian arrived in Kirkwall; that was plenty of time to gather their meager possessions, inform Aveline of Starkhaven’s impending invasion, and flee to safer lands. Perhaps they would take a ship to Fereldan. Fenris doubted Sebastian wanted war with the Southern Kingdoms, not while Alistair was sitting on the throne. An oafish man he might have been, but Alistair was a seasoned warrior and he was not to be trifled with, not even when all of Starkhaven’s might rode behind Sebastian.
When Fenris found Anders in Dark Town and explained the situation, all of his plans of escape and dreams of crossing the ocean to Fereldan went up in smoke. Anders shook his head gravely, placing his hand on Fenris’ shoulder. “I will not run. Let him come for me.”
“You have lost your mind,” Fenris whispered. “This is not a game, mage. This is your life. Sebastian will not rest until you’re dead.”
“Yes, I know,” Anders said, “ I’ve been thinking about my work here, about how desperately I am trying to redeem myself, to make amends for what I did. There is no redemption in this life, Fenris. There can only be an end to all of this with my death.”
“If you think that I will stand aside and allow you to make a martyr of yourself, you are insane,” Fenris said. “I want your bags packed this evening. We will set sail at dawn and--- Do not shake your head at me, mage. You’ll do as I say.”
Anders smiled tiredly and moved his hand to cup Fenris’ face. Everything about him was tired, his smile, his eyes, his touch. He was exhausted of living. He was exhausted of fighting a constant battle with himself and the perverted spirit within him. Vengeance had not made himself known for some time, but Fenris could sense him there, always just beneath the surface, so terribly entwined with Anders that there was no telling them apart.
“You always told me that I was an abomination. You were right, Fenris. So this… This is the only way it can end for me.”
All those times Fenris had called him a monster, all those times he had said that Anders deserved nothing less than extermination for being what he was, all those times Fenris had looked at Anders when he was suffering and he had done nothing but silently watch; he regretted every moment he had wasted, every moment he could have told the mage, stop this, I love you, please don’t.
He had said nothing. He had offered Anders nothing, even when the mage had given himself to him, even when he had come to him with his heart ripped out and pinned to his sleeve.
There were so many people Fenris could have blamed. He could have blamed Danarius for making him afraid to trust someone else, he could have blamed every Magister in Tevinter for making him into such a beast who hated every mage with a dark intensity, no matter who they were or what they did. He could have blamed his sister for not staying with him, for not giving him some kind of tenderness and guidance that he so desperately needed. He could have blamed Hawke for getting him tangled up in the whole affair in the first place, or perhaps Isabela who, after seeing how Fenris watched Anders, had remarked, “Well, big boy, he’s not going to lay out an invitation.”
Fenris blamed himself.
He was the one who had turned from Anders. He was the one who had made himself deaf to his pleas for help and blind to his suffering. He was the one who had told him, over and over again, that he was less than nothing, that the only mercy for him could be a quick death. He was the one who had held his body in the middle of the night and felt the way Anders trembled and listened to the quiet, shameful way he cried against him, and said nothing.
I’ll say it now, Fenris thought, Stop this. I love you. Please don’t.
Fenris threw up his hands. “If you want so badly to rush and see your Maker, so be it,” he said.
He could feel Anders’ eyes on him as he left. Those same mournful, begging eyes he had been ignoring. Well, he had tried. If the fool mage wanted to die so badly, who was Fenris to try and stop him? The man had been a thorn in his side from the moment he had laid eyes on him.
Go back to him and tell him the truth, a little voice whispered from the back of Fenris’ head, Go back there and be good to him.
Fenris kept walking.