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The bandits had come out of nowhere, swarming over the path before and behind them in seemingly endless numbers. Their ambush had been expertly laid--Fenris would grant them that--but they had no idea of what prey they'd trapped. Fenris caught Hawke's wild grin mere moments before the man disappeared, only to reappear a moment later, thrusting a dagger into the back of an unfortunate bandit.

It was the only signal they needed to spring into action. Varric's arrows sang through the air, finding their marks as though guided by the Maker's will, while the air around Anders crackled with the first signs of his favored ice magic. Fenris loosed his sword just in time to parry a blow aimed at his side, his massive blade soon making short work of that bandit.

Calm descended as he flowed toward his next opponent; the nearest thing to peace he'd found was in battle. Instinct, reflex, experience guided his blade, a muted awareness of his comrades in his mind, as though they were marks on a map, ever alert to threats to any of them.

Hawke and Varric were a self-sufficient unit, as ever, the rogues playing off of each other's skills with shameless glee; they wore equally-exuberant expressions as they cut through the bandits surrounding them. Anders, on the other hand, left himself open as only a mage could, his spells slicing through foes threatening Fenris even as others advanced upon the mage himself.

He should let him fall--the world would be better off without the abomination--but Hawke would be put out were Fenris not to do his part in keeping their merry band whole and healthy, and Fenris was only now beginning to learn of how it worked, to be friendly, to have friends. Grimacing as he cut down another bandit, Fenris streaked across the battleground just in time to intercept a blow intended to gut Anders like a rather feathery fish, his blade turning the strike aside even as the lyrium beneath his skin lit. It was instinct, nothing more, that forced his hand into the startled man's chest, his fingers curling with unreasoning death.

Wrenching his hand from the ruined body, Fenris staggered back a step. He hadn't thought, had killed the man without consideration or conscious thought, simply because he'd threatened Anders. It was nothing that he hadn't done before, shielding Hawke or Varric, but they were his friends. Anders was... Anders was certainly no friend of his, embodying all that Fenris hated, constantly testing him, questioning him, poking at him until he thought he'd rather kill the man and damn the consequences than endure one more moment.

When he wrenched his gaze to Anders, he found the mage watching him, his staff still at his side. It was as though they were contained in a bubble, the world outside of them bleeding away; Fenris could vaguely hear Hawke and Varric trading jokes as they began the process of scavenging the fallen bandits for anything useful, but it was as though they were far more distant than the dozen or so meters separating them. His peripheral vision seemed to streak away as his world narrowed to the tawny gaze locked with his, nothing else mattering but those eyes and the buzzing that filled his head.

It was only when Anders inhaled sharply that the spell was broken, and Fenris spun away, nearly gasping for breath as he stared unseeing at the bodies not far from his feet. Maker take him, Anders was going to drive him mad. Friend and foe, he refused to fit neatly into the boxes Fenris had defined. Surely that was the only reason why Fenris was so aware of him, why Fenris could feel the man approaching him.

"Thank you," Anders said softly, and Fenris turned to find Anders's face averted, presenting Fenris with his profile. "You didn't have to do that, but I... thank you."

Fenris dropped his gaze to the hand Anders had curled around his staff, surprised somehow to find the grip white-knuckled; perhaps Anders was as confused as he was, but--no, surely he was simply transposing. "I did," he said at last, awkward with the silence that had spread between them. "Hawke would be upset if I didn't."

"Ah." Anders's smile was a painful thing to see, broken and bitter. "Of course. Hawke." Inhaling deeply, he set his shoulders and tilted his head back to squint at the sun. "We're losing daylight; we'll have to move quickly if we want to make camp." Without looking at Fenris again, he moved to join Hawke and Varric, leaving Fenris helpless to do anything more than stare at his back.