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Tool of the Shadow

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Hawke sauntered in through the doors of the hanged man, it smelled of alcohol and looked like shit but she wouldn’t be anywhere else right now. She smiled at some of the other regulars as she headed over the the bar and snaked her hand around the waist of a beautiful Rivaini woman.

“Come here often?” She teased.

“More often than you do, Sweet thing.” The woman said.

“Wow, you must be quite the alcoholic then.” Hawke danced away as the Rivaini swung a hand out to slap her. “Hey, it’s not like I’m wrong!”

“Isabella! Are you two playing nice over there?” A blonde dwarven man called out from his table in the corner.

“Of course not! That would ruin the fun.” Isabella called back, smiling, but it quickly faded as she leaned into Hawke. “You better join him, Hawke, He was not happy with you the last time you disappeared like this.”

“Ugh,” Hawke groaned. “Don’t remind me. I’m just gonna try and distract him with alcohol.”

“Good luck with that, Sweetheart.” With that Hawke obtained two of Corff’s finest and headed over to Varric’s table. The dwarf was bent over a piece of parchment, his quill hastily scratching over its surface as Hawke set down his mug of ale, carefully avoiding the multiple papers strewn about the table.

He was silent for a good two minutes as Hawke settled into her chair and began casually drinking, watching the other patrons in the bar.

“Where were you this time?” He asked, without look.

“You know I can’t answer that, Varric.” He finally glanced up at the mug she brought him.

“You’re just trying to bribe me with ale.”

“Is it working?” There was a moment where Hawkes smirk faltered, then Varric sighed and lifted the mug to his lips.

“Blondie was freaking out, you know.”

“He always does that, and I’m always fine.”

“You are not always fine.” Varric was looking at her now, exasperation and worry filtering through his gaze. “I have seen you come back bloodied and barely alive more than once. Hawke, you know that we’re all here for you, whatever’s going on we can help.”

“I know that Varric, but this isn’t something you can help with.” Varric looked at her, conflict written all over his face, until he just shook his head and went back to writing. “Well you better go tell Blondie that you’re alive, he might have an heart attack if you don’t. Daisy too.”

She nodded, finished her ale, gave a wave of goodbye to Isabella, and headed back out into Kirkwall’s dreary Lowtown. The sun was just beginning to touch the mountains to the west, not that you could see that past Lowtown’s oppressive alleys and walkways. Hawke made her way to the Alienage first, it was a little out of her way, but it would be easier to get to the clinic from that part of town. She approached the alienage just as the sun dipped below the mountains, making the clouds pink and the sky behind it a beautiful orange, illuminating the Vhenadhal in the center of the courtyard. The Vhenadahl was always a beautiful sight, its leaves were healthy and green, small white flowers showering the surrounding flagstones, and the painted stories that covered its trunk were always bright and fresh, unlike the surrounding buildings.

A small fire had been built, illuminating a group of small children and various adults that crowded around Merrill. She was in the middle of a story about the goddess Sylaise, trying to trick the infamous Fen’harel out of the Wolf pelt that gave him his monstrous form.

She stood and animatedly described the fearsome Fen’harel tricking her in turn, the small fire absentmindedly growing bigger at her descriptions. It made for a very good story, Varric would be impressed. Hawke lingered at the edge of the group listening along, it was only when the story reached its end and the sun had fully set that Merrill caught Hawke’s eye and practically startled.

She quickly wrapped up the tale to the children and rushed over to Hawkes side and grappled her into an enthusiastic hug.

“Hawke! I’m so glad you’re back, we were all getting terribly worried you know. A week is an awfully long time to be gone, Fenris and Aveline were practically going to start a search party! And while that would have been very exciting, I’m glad they didn’t have too.”

“Me too, Kitten, me too.” Hawke returned the hug. “Alright, I’m glad I could catch you here but I have to go make sure Anders doesn’t pop a vein.”

“Oh yes, that would be good, he probably needs it.” Hawke turned to head to Darktown, but Merrill halted them with a touch of their arm. “And Hawke?” Hawke turned back to look at Merrill. “I know you can’t talk about it, but... could you atleast try and tell us when you’ll be gone?”

Hawke’s eyes turned sad at the concern on Merrill's face. “For you? I’ll try, but sometimes there just isn’t time.” Merrill nodded until her smile returned and she waved Hawke farwell,

“Don’t get mugged! Anders will be very cross if he has to patch you up again.”

Hawke waved back, “I won’t!” and headed into Darktown.

Lowtown has its good parts, but not Darktown. The only reason you would find yourself in Darktown is if you’re desperate, or looking for Anders, which is usually the same thing. Thankfully the Templars never really patrolled Darktown because they are more likely to end up dead rather than the mages they’re chasing. She lets her aura out to glide over her surroundings, announcing that she's a mage to anyone who knows how to look for it. She takes note of any traps or wards she finds, usually mages or only wealthy crime organizations can afford them, and it’s always good to know where people are.

Hawke eventually found the single lantern that's always in front of the clinic and sighed in relief. The two guards out front nod, acknowledging her presence while she steps inside. It seems to be quiet today, a few people asking questions and some more dotting the various cots spread around the room.

Anders was hunched over his desk, the quill in his hands scrawling across the surface of a yellowing piece of parchment. A young woman carrying a babe was at his side asking him questions, Hawke couldn’t hear them but she presumed he helped with the birth of that child. Hawke smiled, even in the worst of places people survived, and Anders helped them all the while. Anders finished writing and handed the woman the parchment with a gentle smile, Hawke was just close enough to make out her thanks before she departed, babe in hand. Anders eyes slid over the woman to notice Hawke standing there with her warm smile and soft expression.

His eyes widened in shock before narrowing into a fierce glare. “Hawke.” His words were short and clipped, very different from the hushed tones he had shared earlier. “You’re alive, this time.” The accusatory pause was expectedly tense as he washed over her with his magic to make sure no wounds hid under her dark robes and leather armor. After confirming she was alright other than a few scrapes and bruises he let out a breath he hadn't known he'd been holding. His anger shifted to worry as he looked at Hawke, “Where do you even go? I’ve tried everything I can think of, but each time you end up disappearing!

“Anders.”

“No warning. No reason that I’ve found. Maybe you need a leash?!”

“Anders.”

“I just don’t know what to do anymore? I don’t have many friends, Hawke. Losing you is not an option.”

“Anders.”

“It’s just- Where do you go?!” She strode forward to the frazzled mage and scooped him up into a bear hug.

“I’m alright. I’m sorry. I can’t promise that this will stop but I can promise to leave notes when I can... but you know-”

“You can’t tell me, I know.” The stress that had led him through bled away as he sagged in her arms. They stood there together for a while, savoring each others presence. Hawke stepped back, keeping her arms on his shoulders.

“Do you want to walk me home? You could use a real bed,” She ran her thumb over the dark bruises under his eyes. “Also we don’t want me getting jumped in the 5 steps it takes to get to the stairs.” He nodded tiredly.

“I swear I haven't stepped a foot outside since you left. It can keep for a few hours at least.” Hawke’s brows furrowed with the ease he consented to leaving the clinic, usually she has to fight tooth and nail for just a few hours with him, let alone to sleep.

As they climbed the stairs together she couldn’t help the guilt that accompanied each of his footsteps. She cursed the man responsible for these trips under her breath. He did good work but she would prefer not being his tool for the next 6 years.

As they reached the basement the scent of fresh baking bread hit her nose and Hawke immediately started salivating. How long had it been since she had a real meal? She determined it was at least four days. She picked up the pace, her guilt shoved into the back of her mind by the hunger that overtook her.

She followed her nose to the kitchen where she saw Bohdan, an apron slung over his neck and with a thick rag protecting his hand from her real target, a beautiful, fluffy, golden brown loaf of bread being set on the cooling rack. Before he even knew she was there she was reaching for it, startling him as she grabbed at it, only for searing pain to erupt from her palm. She flinched back as she realised what she was doing and how much of an idiot she was to grab a loaf of bread that literally just came out of the oven.

“Ow. Fuck. Shit. Maker, Fu-Ooow.” She shook her hand in pain before blowing on it to cool it down. Anders started cracking up behind her along with Bohdan who was trying very hard not to smile.

“It's nice to see you’ve safely returned, messere.” He suppressed his mirth before continuing. “Would you like some food?”

Hawke made the saddest puppy face she could muster before nodding, “Yes, please.” Bohdan finally cracked and began to laugh as he moved to the cupboard. He grabbed an apple off the counter and tossed it towards her before continuing to rummage, presumably to make real food.

She nimbly caught it with her good hand and quickly began to devour the apple. Anders was finally able to calm himself enough to stand next to her with an unguarded smile as he took her hand.

“Let me take a look at that, you dumbass.” His recent laughter colored his voice and she privately thought that she would do it all over again just to see him smile like that.