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there are some secrets I will take to my grave

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Kirkwall is burning.

Anders’ head spins as he runs through the tunnel connecting his clinic to Hightown, his lungs aching and heaving. Adrenaline and panic course through his veins, overriding his bone-deep exhaustion, pushing him to go faster . His hands tremble, a side effect of taking too many lyrium potions in a desperate attempt to save as many refugees injured by the Qunari invasion as possible.

His heart slams hard enough against his ribcage that it feels as if it may bruise. As Anders sprints through the passage, he cannot think of anything but Fenris - Fenris, who is facing down a karataam at Hawke’s side; Fenris, who could be dead or dying right this second, without Anders there.

Fenris, who Anders didn’t get to kiss goodbye as he left the mansion that evening.

Anders could lose him tonight, and he prays to anyone who might be listening that he gets to Hightown before anything happens. The thought of being too late to save another person he cares about (and he does care about Fenris, has cared for longer than he’s willing to admit) makes his stomach lurch and bile sear its way up his throat. He swallows it back down and wills his stiff legs to keep moving.

When he gets to the Keep, he manages to duck into the throne room while Hawke is arguing with the Arishok, and Fenris is there - alive and whole and more bloody beautiful than anything Anders has ever seen, and Anders is so relieved he could burst into tears. Gratifyingly, Fenris looks almost as glad to see Anders.

Anders moves to stand at his side, as close as he can in front of all their friends. “Are you alright, love?” he whispers, and he doesn’t even bother trying to hold back that he just called Fenris love, because he does love him, and he can’t pretend otherwise - not now. Not anymore.

“I will live, mage.”

Anders leans a little closer, letting his fingertips brush against Fenris’ warm palm. He wishes he could twine their fingers together properly, he wants to clutch Fenris’ hand so tight it hurts, but in front of everyone, this tiny physical reminder that Fenris is okay will have to do.

He doesn’t have time to yearn for much longer than that - Isabela returns, carrying with her a massive, very important looking tome that Anders will have to ask Fenris about later, and Hawke is agreeing to a duel with the Arishok. The anxiety that had lifted from Anders’ chest at the sight of Fenris unhurt returns with a vengeance - Hawke’s a bloody mage, for Andraste’s sake. Anders doesn’t know if she can win this.

He watches on in horror, grabbing Fenris’ wrist when the Arishok shoves both his weapons through Hawke’s belly and lifts. Hawke grabs the Arishok’s face with both hands and jams her thumbs into his eye sockets, searing the skin of his cheeks underneath her palms. Anders flinches at the Arishok’s horrid wail and the stench of charred flesh, and then Hawke is dropped to the ground as the Arishok falls. She pushes herself to her feet in time for Meredith to declare her Kirkwall’s new Champion - then Anders is rushing to her side as she topples over again.

Anders’ hands shake violently as he unstoppers his last vial of lyrium and chugs it, calling magic to his fingertips as he presses them to the holes in Hawke’s belly, desperately trying to coax her skin back together with the last dregs of his mana. Justice pushes forward to lend his aid, heedless of the crowd of nobles still watching, but it’s not going to be enough. 

Anders feels a warm hand slide into his own. He looks up and Fenris is beside him, his gauntlets off. He grips Anders’ hand tight, and Anders is about to ask what he’s doing when Fenris lights up his markings. The Fade surges from him, and Anders swallows thickly. He knows what Fenris is suggesting.

“Are you sure?” he croaks. Fenris nods.

Anders closes his eyes and draws on the power within Fenris’ lyrium, feeling the Fade flow through him, through Justice, into the magic pouring from their hands. He hears Fenris hiss in pain, and the urge to stop is almost overwhelming - he doesn’t want to hurt Fenris, not now, not ever - but he pushes it away.

He can’t heal Hawke’s wounds completely, but by the time he collapses against Fenris’ side, he’s done enough that she will live. In his wobbly peripheral vision, he sees Varric, Isabela and Merrill crowding around Hawke, and he vaguely registers that he hasn’t let go of Fenris’ hand. He probably should, he thinks. They’re not exactly alone.

He doesn’t let go. He squeezes tighter, and Fenris squeezes back.

They haul Hawke back to her mansion, leaving her in Merrill’s care. Nobody bats an eyelid when Fenris offers to escort Anders home. As soon as Hawke’s door closes behind them, he takes Anders’ hand as they walk across Hightown.

Fenris’ mansion is eerily quiet after the sheer chaos of the past few hours. Grey early morning light filters in through the collapsed ceiling as they enter, still holding hands. When Fenris moves to let go, it sends a cold spike of fear through Anders’ chest, and he doesn’t let him. Frowning, Fenris looks down at their joined hands, then back up at Anders.

“Anders?”

They’re home, alive and safe - but they were lucky, Anders realises. They could have both died. With the lives they lead, they could both be dead tomorrow, or the day after that.

He should know, Justice murmurs in Anders’ mind.

Anders takes a deep breath, his heart in his throat.

“I have to tell you something,” he says."I'm … Fenris, I love you."

He tries very hard not to panic as Fenris' eyes widen, his mouth forming a perfect "o" as he stares at Anders. 

"You don't have to say it back," Anders mutters. "I just … I could've lost you today, and I couldn't bear the thought of that happening and you never knowing. So. I love you. Do with that what you will."

For a moment, he doesn’t breathe, Fenris still looking up at him with his eyes blown wide and his brows lost underneath his fringe. Another moment passes, then another, and Fenris doesn’t say anything, doesn’t even move, and Anders knows he’s fucked up. His stomach twists painfully, and he lets go of Fenris' hand to take a step back.

A hand darts out to grab his arm. Fenris has closed his mouth, and his brow has lowered. He’s wearing an expression not unlike the one he sports when he is about to dive into battle, determination etched into the lines of his face. Anders watches the muscles in his throat move as he swallows.

“Anders,” Fenris says quietly, his eyes meeting Anders’ own. “I love you too.”

“You … you do?”

“Yes. I do.”

“Oh, thank the Maker,” Anders breathes, and he lunges forward to crash their lips together, burying his fingers in Fenris’ filthy hair. Fenris’ arms wrap around Anders’ waist, clutching the back of his coat tight enough that Anders can feel the tips of his gauntlets poking holes through the fabric. He can’t find it within himself to mind - Fenris’ lips are soft and warm and slightly chapped, and his body is solid and real and perfect against Anders’ own, and Anders never, ever wants to let him go again.

"I love you," he whispers in between kisses. "I love you, I love you, I love you, fuck -"

He can feel Fenris grinning against his lips every time they touch, and Anders has never felt so damn good before. Every kiss tastes like sunlight, every one of Fenris' breathless little chuckles floods him with warmth, every I know, I love you too that Fenris utters feels like absolution.

He doesn't know how long they stand there, lost in the slide of lips and shared breath. When they break apart, Anders cups Fenris' face in both hands, and presses one last kiss to the tip of his nose.

"I love you," he says again, his voice hoarse. "I'm sorry I took so long to say it."

Fenris smiles up at him, cheeks smeared with blood and dirt, and he's so bloody stunning Anders thinks he might cry.

"I love you too, Anders," Fenris murmurs. "I love you too."