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The Colours of Love, Part 4

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As they sailed towards Highever’s port, Isabela and Fenris finally exited the cabin. Anders watched quietly from where he stood with Bethany and Keran. They were waiting to board the skiff that would take them in, the Captain having refused to go any further out of his way. Given the way he had been watching them, Anders was just glad that he hadn’t decided to turn them all over to the Templars.

As they boarded the skiff, Anders tried to ignore the way that Fenris kept behind Isabela, tried not to frown or sigh. He didn’t want to make things worse, and a Fenris who was acting like a scared slave again didn’t need a mage cross with him, or looking disapproving. Anders had checked on Bethany earlier, who was somehow completely fine, even the scarring removed from her forehead. She had thanked him a little too enthusiastically, hugging him tightly enough that his ribs ached and crying on his shoulder. Since then, she and Keran had surprisingly been inseparable, chattering constantly to one another. At least it made the atmosphere in the skiff a little lighter.

Isabela was sitting close to Fenris in the stern, while Anders, Bethany and Keran took the prow. Two sailors had been assigned to row them to the docks, and they were currently grumbling and sweating as they pulled on the oars. With Isabela and Fenris not speaking, and Bethany and Keran not shutting up, Anders felt a frisson of loneliness. He peered over the side. The shallowing water was a clear aquamarine, and he watched as small fish flickered in and out of sight.

The gentle bump of the boat against the dock surprised him, and he tipped to the side, grateful for Keran’s quick hand on his elbow that kept him from embarrassing himself completely. Grabbing their packs, the five disembarked, Fenris still distancing himself from Anders by Isabela’s side.

The buildings along the Highever docks were shabby for the most part, the streets the colour of dusky terracotta. Anders led the way, Bethany and Keran behind him and Fenris and Isabela bringing up the rear. He wasn’t sure when he had become the leader of the exhibition, but he’d been here before, and knew which direction to head to for Vigil’s Keep. A night in town would be nice though, a chance to relax, sort things out with Fenris – he hoped – maybe have a drink. Justice still wasn’t talking, and Anders decided to make the most of it.

He paid for three rooms at a small inn, the Ragged Mermaid. The sign was as ragged as the name, timber half-rotted barely hung to it’s hooks and the painted mermaid was faded, her breasts not even half-covered by a bikini top that looked like it had crocheted by an insane grandmother with one hand. It was cheap though, and that counted for something. The others went upstairs while Anders haggled for food and drinks and a tub of water for each room.

Upstairs, Keran had taken one room for himself, and Bethany and Isabela were hovering near the door of the next, Isabela obviously unsure whether Fenris wanted to room with Anders or not…but if not, he probably wouldn’t want to share with her either. Anders sighed, divided up the food and drinks and walked into the single empty room. They would figure it out between them. He waited to see what would happen.

The orange-brown dust of the road had coated his boots past the ankles in their short walk to the inn, and he dragged them off with another sigh, and wriggled his toes in relief. Still looking down at them, he saw when Fenris’ bare toes entered his field of vision. He looked up with a hopeful smile on his face. Fenris was staring at their feet, avoiding Anders’ eyes. Anders smile dropped, and he carefully raised a hand towards Fenris, watching for signs of anger or discomfort. Nothing showed on Fenris’ face as he softly gripped his hand, gauntlet digging into his palm uncomfortably. “Fenris?” he asked quietly.

Fenris looked at him, finally. It was the first time all day that their eyes had met, and he watched as Fenris’ eyebrows drew down into a familiar frown. He seemed more confused than angry though, and Anders felt a little hope flutter in his chest. “You…he…healed Bethany,” Fenris finally said, his eyes darting away from Anders again as he spoke.

“So it seems,” Anders replied cautiously. Fenris fidgeted, lifting his feet up one at a time, and then placing them down again carefully. Anders frowned, the lyrium was obviously bothering him badly today, he hadn’t seen the elf do that for some time. “Are you alright? I’m so sorry that Justice hurt you, Fen. He won’t talk to me…I’m not even sure what happened, to be honest. Just what Isabela told me.”

“Why did you send her to get me?” Fenris asked suddenly, a scowl twisting his features. “What did I do wrong?” His eyes skipped away again, as Anders gaped at him.

“Wrong? You…you didn’t do anything wrong, Fenris. Why would you even think so? I don’t understand…” Anders trailed off as Fenris grabbed his hand back and began to pace the small room, moving with the feline grace that Anders loved so much.

“You…I…” Fenris couldn’t seem to find the words he needed, and Anders, for once, held his tongue. “I put you into bed, and lay down beside you… and then…and then Isabela came to get me, and you haven’t spoken to me all day. What did I do to upset you?” Fenris turned towards him again, and Anders made a shocked noise at the anguished look on his face. He swept to his feet, and threw his arms around Fenris, burying his face in soft silvery hair.

“Love, you didn’t do anything! I thought that you didn’t want to speak to me! Didn’t Isabela say anything to you?” Damn that woman, he thought, a little unfairly. Fenris had pressed his face into Anders shirt, and was gripping it with both hands. His voice was muffled as he replied.

“No. I thought you were angry with me…”

“No, love. I was trying to, to help…” Anders felt as though he were wading upstream trying to explain. “You were…you had a nightmare. I tried to wake you, and you called me” he swallowed, “you called me domne. You thought I was your master, and I…I didn’t want to make things worse, so I left. I didn’t know what Justice had done to you.” He tightened his arms around Fenris’ waist, and pressed a kiss to the top of his head.

Fenris made a grumbling noise, and turned his face up to Anders. So close, it was hard not to just kiss him. Anders searched his face, anxious that he understand. “This shirt is not as ccomfortable as your feathers, mage,” he said, and startled Anders into a laugh. As he chuckled, Fenris started again. “I remember the nightmare…it was…what Justice did was very painful. Danarius used to use my brands that way when he wanted to impress. I was not permitted to make a sound. Perhaps…I screamed when Justice pulled on the lyrium…it probably triggered that fear from back then.” Anders struggled against showing the pity he felt on his face. Fenris didn’t accept pity from anyone. Pity was a useless emotion. With Fenris watching him so carefully though, he wasn’t sure what expressions flitted across his face. All he knew was that Fenris reached up, after a moment, and took Anders face in his hands, gauntlets carefully angled to avoid his skin, and pulled him into a kiss. Anders smiled into the kiss, feeling Fenris’ weight shift as he stood on his toes, then slipped back down, yanking Anders’ hair to drag him down too. Well…good. It seemed that things were going to be OK between them after all.

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The rest of the trip to the Vigil was uneventful. Fenris and Anders took the lead, Isabela bringing up the rear. Bethany and Keran walked together in the middle, their hands brushing against one another’s occasionally. Isabela was the only one who noticed. She’d already made notes to pass on to Varric as soon as they got back. She frowned a little at the thought. Would Anders and Fenris be safe if they returned to Kirkwall? Hawke had been so… odd. Isabela had known him for years now, and he had never seemed the type to betray a friend… she couldn’t fit the image of him turning in Anders and assaulting Fenris into anything that she knew of him. Bethany still hadn’t been told all of the details, but Isabela thought that she should know. Just to be on the safe side. If Hawke had lost his mind completely then none of them could trust him anymore. It was something to discuss later with Anders and Fenris, right now she was having fun watching Bethany and Keran dance around the hand-holding that they obviously wanted to do.

Isabela stooped to pick up a pebble and threw it at the back of Keran’s head. She still hadn’t forgive him for losing it when Bethany returned to herself, although she wasn’t sure that Bethany would even remember. It hid the back of his head and bounced off and she got a frown in return. She laughed at the boy, nobody could out-frown Fenris, Keran couldn’t intimidate a fly. Bethany came bouncing back towards her, looking so happy that Isabela couldn’t help but grab her by the waist and swing her around in the air, causing a delighted squeal that did have Fenris frowning at her. She gave him a cheeky wave over Bethany’s shoulder and whispered in her ear. “You sure Keran is the one you want? I’m always up for a quick tumble, you know sweetling.” Bethany giggled and blushed.

“He’s…he’s nice, for a Templar,” Bethany whispered back, ignoring the suspicious looks that Fenris and Keran were now shooting them.

“Not a Templar anymore, Sunshine. He’s going to join up with the Wardens, remember?” Bethany frowned then, the delight leaving her face in one swift motion that had Isabela wishing that she’d held her tongue. “You could stay with him, you know. Anders was a mage with the Wardens, and as far as I know they don’t force anyone to take the Joining,” Isabela’s eyes wandered to Anders. He seemed better today. Yesterday the atmostphere between Fenris and he had been chilly, but this morning they’d been more relaxed with each other than Isabela had ever seen.

“Hmmm,” Bethany hummed non-commitally. Her eyes trailed over Keran, and Isabela bit back a giggle. He did cut a pretty fine figure in his leathers, and Bethany deserved some happiness after what she’d been through.

“You just let me know if he ever hurts you, sweet thing. Isabela will teach him a lesson or two.” She smacked Bethany on the butt and sent her skipping ahead to Keran. She would watch him. Isabela watched out for all of her friends, but especially the women. Nobody needed to be messed about with, and she’d always had a soft spot for Hawke’s little sister.

Fenris and Anders had been inseparable all morning. Anders was still struggling with the fact that he was free again, that Fenris remembered him and wanted him, even after what Justice had done. Justice had…well, not apologised exactly, but he’d finally come out of hiding late last night and admitted that what he had done to Fenris was unjust. Fenris had been understandably prickly to him, only relaxing when Anders shushed Justice back to where he belonged, far away from the man Anders loved.

Anders had been touching Fenris all day, and Fenris allowed it, with only the barest of grumbles. In truth he was as glad as Anders that things had settled between them. He hadn’t told Anders what had happened with Hawke. In fact, now that he thought about it, Anders didn’t yet know that Hawke was the one who had turned him in. He turned to frown at Isabela and Bethany when he heard squealing, and put the thought to the back of his mind. Now wasn’t the right time. He wondered for a moment if a part of his nightmare the night before had been the memory of Hawke groping him, holding him against the wall and saying all of those filthy things. It had reminded him, not only of Danarius, but even more so of Hadriana. She had always immobilised him when she had him to herself, always taken such delight in telling him what she was going to do to him, building up the anxiety for him, and her anticipation at the same time.

Anders felt Fenris stiffen next to him, and squeezed his hand. “Everything alright love?” he asked. Fenris seemed lost in thought, and Anders slowed. “Hey, you ok?” Fenris shrugged, loosening his spine and muscles with what looked like an effort.

“It is nothing. I would speak to you later, now is not the time, mage.” Anders nodded, giving Fenris a worried look. Now really wasn’t the time. Evening was falling, and the Vigil was still a good hours walk away. He called everyone to a halt, and asked whether they should continue. Isabela handed around apples from her backpack, and Keran shared out the water skins the captain had sold to them. It had been a long, weary day of walking, but nobody wanted to make a cold camp without proper equipment or rations, so they decided to continue.

The Vigil loomed ahead as the moon rose, bathing its stones with a pale glow. Fenris was ill at ease. He knew that Anders had fled the Wardens – that was enough reason to keep alert. Anders seemed to be holding himself back from chattering, a sure sign of nerves from his mage. In a rare public show of affection, Fenris dragged him down for a kiss, managing to get a smile before letting go. They walked through the gates, with no more than cursory glances from the guards, and Anders led the way inside.

Hawke woke up. It felt like he was waking from a nightmare, a bad one. Maker, the things he had done! Molesting Fenris, turning in Anders…and in the dream he had dreamed again. A dream inside a dream. A dream of blood and terror and a woman’s crazed laughter. He shuddered, shifting to get comfortable on his bed. The sun was shining in through the windows already, but he felt so drowsy still, like his body was exhausted as well as his mind. He opened his eyes, hoping that Bodahn had perhaps left some coffee on the bedside table, but instead of coffee he saw Varric. Varric and Bianca… and Bianca looked decidedly unfriendly this morning.

“Wha…,” Hawke looked at Varric, bleary eyed and unsure what was going on. Varric looked…relaxed, he guessed, but that didn’t change the fact that Bianca’s business end was pointed very firmly towards Hawke’s head.

“Morning, Hawke,” said Varric, for all the world as though nothing were wrong. “How are you feeling this fine Kirkwall day? Up for a little hunting?”

“Varric, why are you pointing Bianca at me?” Good, Hawke thought to himself with a self-satisfied smile. He was pretty sure that was an entire sentence, and that it had made sense, although his head still felt like it was stuffed with cotton wool. He blinked. Varric hadn’t lowered Bianca yet, it was disconcerting.

“Well, that depends entirely on you Hawke. Now, Daisy tells me that you should be fine, but you know us dwarves can’t feel magic. So I’m asking you again – how are you feeling?” Hawke frowned, unsure what was going on.

“Can this wait until after coffee? Did we drink too much last night, because frankly I feel like shit. Nightmares – you would’t believe the stupid nightmares I had. Anders…I handed him over to the Templars, and fuck! I really fucked up with Fenris. Lucky it was just a dream, I guess.” Feeling a little more confident now, Hawke went to stand, pushing his legs over the side of the bed, and searching the room for his clothes. He was more than a little surprised when Varric nudged him back with Bianca, not letting him stand.

“What the fuck, Varric? I’ve just woken up. Damn, I don’t owe you that much Wicked Grace money, do I?” Hawke glared, and Varric narrowed his eyes before sighing and lowering Bianca – finally! He ran a hand through his hair and stepped back to let Hawke up.

“We have a bit to talk about Hawke. And yeah, let’s get some coffee first. Just…think about those nightmares, OK. Might be something else you ‘dreamed’ that we need to know about. And if there is, I want to be prepared.” Varric left the room, leaving Hawke looking after him curious and confused.

Well…it was later. They had been assigned rooms, and Anders had left the Warden Commander’s office looking grim and refusing to talk about what had been said. Isabela and Bethany were sharing a room, Keran had been sent to a pallet in the barracks, and Fenris and Anders were currently waiting for the women to join them in the room that they had been assigned. Anders, for once, was the one pacing, Fenris a silent presence sitting on the side of the bed, watching him.

When the knock came, Anders leapt as though terrified, and tried to hide it behind a rush to open the door. Isabela swanned in in her usual way, settling herself next to Fenris before crossing one boot clad leg over the other and snuggling into his shoulder. He bore it silently, used to Isabela’s ways. Bethany seemed much more quiet and restrained than normal, and Fenris cocked an eyebrow at Isabela in question, but she just patted him on the knee and shook her head.

Anders had taken one look at Bethany and calmed down. Fenris liked that about him. Anders was willing to put aside his own anxieties to tend to anyone else. He liked it, but it drove him crazy too. The mage had needs like everyone else and…and…he hesitated at the need to blame Justice for everything – Justice and he not being on the best of terms at the moment, and bit his tongue, watching as Anders got Bethany settled into a chair, then sat down beside Fenris on the bed.

“Ok,” said Anders, a little too brightly. “We’re all here, and it seems we all have something to say, so…who’s going first?” He looked around the small room. Isabela had moved, curling up on the floor near Bethany, and Bethany was biting her lip as though concentrating hard.

“I want to stay here,” she blurted out. Isabela grinned like the cat who got the cream, Fenris raised an eyebrow, Anders gaped. “I want to stay with Keran. I…I like him. And, I don’t think I can face Mother or Garrett right now. I need some time to feel like myself again.” She ended in a rush of words, and then paused, looking nervously at her friends.

“Well…OK. Getting yourself together is a great idea. I’m sure Hawke will want to come visit though. Maybe you can send a letter home with us? I don’t really want to explain that one alone!” Anders laughed. Fenris and Isabela looked at one another and winced a little. Anders, worked up as he was, didn’t miss it. “What?” he demanded, looking from one to the other. Bethany watched wide-eyed as Isabela and Fenris looked from one to the other, seeming to come up with an unspoken agreement.

Fenris cleared his throat. “About Hawke,” he began. He looked sideways at Anders. “You ah, might need a warning to keep Justice under control for this. I will not deal with him losing control of himself again, understood?” he said, firmly. Anders swallowed, and sent a few soothing thoughts back to Justice, who of course had perked up at the words. He reminded Justice that he was in time-out for now and had to behave.

“I’m sure he’ll behave, love. It’s just Hawke, right? What’s he done now, signed up to buy another doomed mine or something?” he tried to chuckle at his own joke but it fell flat in the silence. Fenris took Anders hand and held it, tightly enough that Anders was grateful he had removed his gauntlets.

“Hawke was the one who tipped the Templars off when they took you,” Fenris said, wincing at the baldness of the statement as he said it. He was nothing if not honest though, and Anders would be hurt no matter how he said it. Anders had gone still, light splintering across his skin, and it crackled like static along Fenris’ lyrium lines.

“No….” it was still Anders, voice, although he sounded hoarse and shocked now. “No, I can’t, I won’t believe that. Hawke wouldn’t do that to me.” Anders was shaking his head, gripping Fenris’ hand so tightly that his knuckles had gone white. Fenris smoothed his thumb over pale, freckled knuckles.

“I am very sure that Hawke has not been himself, Anders. He…tried to take advantage of me. It was…particularly unpleasant. Then he turned you in.” Fenris paused, watching as Anders opened his eyes and covered his mouth with a hand, his skin had stopped glowing now, but he looked as though he were about to vomit. Fenris coughed, trying to cover the shame and revulsion he still felt at the thought of Hawke trying to take advantage of him.

“He…there were things he said…the way he acted. I hadn’t thought of it before, but my nightmare aboard ship reminded me. He was acting very much like Hadriana used to. Is it possible that he was acting under her influence?” Fenris asked quietly, but still loud enough for them all to hear. Bethany looked as sick as Anders did, and Isabela was stroking back her hair soothingly. Fenris was feeling almost hopeful. If Hawke had been under Hadriana’s control, perhaps their friend hadn’t betrayed them completely.

Anders stood, agitation in very line of his body as he paced the room, clearly involved in a conversation with Justice. Fenris, indeed all of them, had gotten used to the way his attention turned inwards when he spoke to Justice, the not-quite-there look in his eyes. After a minute or two he stopped, looking at Fenris.

“I can’t believe that you’re telling me this only now, Fen…What…Yes, it’s possible. You know yourself that blood mages can make thralls. Hawke must have bled somewhere that she was able to get a hold of his blood. That’s the only explanation I can think of. Which means that she must be in Kirkwall. Even with a thrall, the mage has to be close to keep up any kind of control.” Fenris nodded, he knew all of this, knew the feeling of being under control by a blood mage personally, and shuddered, both at the memory and the thought that that bitch had been controlling Hawke.

“Then I think we need to get back to Kirkwall, and make sure that everyone’s still alright. Maker knows we left in a rush, and Hawke – if he’s still under Hadriana’s control then Merrill in particular is vulnerable.” Anders tore at his hair tie, dragging his hair loose, and combing at it with his fingers until Fenris grabbed a wrist and pulled him back down onto the bed.

“Keran’s been through that too,” Bethany piped up finally. “We saved him from a blood mage, remember? Maybe he can help…we could come back and…”

“No kitten. You stay here with your man. Both of you are safer here, and we can’t have Meredith getting word that one of her Tranquil has been de-tranquilised,” Isabela grinned at her made up word. There was no word for it though…the whole thing was a miracle. Bethany nodded slowly. Isabela was right. She yawned, and leaned into Isabela’s hand that was still resting on her hair.

“Come on kitten, let’s go to bed, it’s been a long day.” Isabela got to her feet and chivvied Bethany along with her. ‘You boys alright?” she said before closing the door. Fenris gave her a curt nod, and they were finally alone. The mages hair was tangled and messy, his topaz eyes sad as he looked up at Fenris. Fenris stepped up to him, blowing out the candle near the bed and laying them down. In the darkness, his skin was the colour of smooth chocolate, broken by shimmering lines of lyrium blue. The elf peering in through the small window watched with interest as lyrium patterned hands moved in the moonlight, stroking Anders hair until they both fell asleep.

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Anders woke as the first dawn light began to shine in the window. He was warmer than he expected. He remembered the morning chill in the Vigil until the sun began warming the stones, turning, he found the cause of his warmth. The wolf was curled beside him, fur soft against his side, and generating heat under the blankets. He sighed. There had been a lot of stress for all of them lately – actually he was just surprised that this happened sooner. If it kept happening, Anders wasn’t sure how long they would be able to hide it. He got up, careful not to disturb Fenris, and made sure that the door was locked. With a contented smile, he changed to his cat form and curled up again next to his wolf, black fur blending with cream.

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Hawke was in shock. Since Varric and Merrill had told him what he had done, he hadn’t been able to lose the feeling that the ground was shifting under his feet. He’d thought them dreams, the things that he had done. Bad dreams, but dreams all the same.

The other dreams he’d had, about the blood, and the woman, and the feeling that he wasn’t really there – they had been what had troubled him over the past few months. And now he knew why. He could scarcely believe it, but Merrill had assured him that he’d been under the influence of a blood mage. It scared him.

Garrett Hawke hadn’t felt frightened of himself since he was a boy and scared he might hurt his younger siblings if he wrestled with them. He had broken down when Varric told him the truth…bawled the way he had when he found Bethany had been made Tranquil. It wasn’t in him to hold onto strong emotions, he felt them, let them out, and it was over. But this fear wasn’t letting him go.

He was staying at home, avoiding his mother, and for the last two days he’d begged Merrill to stay at his mansion with him, hoping that she could protect him while he slept. He felt pathetic. He felt ashamed. He was finding it an unpleasant change from feeling good that he helped people.

Marcus Cousland was having an excellent morning. Or at least he was trying to convince himself that he was. Zevran sat, legs neatly crossed on the end of their bed, sipping a cup of hot tea and looking as effortlessly sexy as usual. Marcus on the other hand was pacing, running his hands through already mussed hair and cursing the return of a certain two Grey Wardens. Well…not that they had returned, but the way they had returned. They had all thought Anders dead! And then, without prior contact, and barely any explanation here was Anders, at their doorstep with a recruit in tow, a pirate, an ex-slave, a runaway was-Tranquil-but-isn’t anymore-and-no-I-can’t really-explain mage, and Justice. Justice who was now apparently a permanent part of Anders’ psyche. Their talk last night had not gone well.

Marcus grabbed a cup of tea for himself, and cursed when the hot liquid splashed across his hand. Zevran gave him a lazy smile and beckoned him over, standing on the bed, to push Marcus down to the floor and begin untangling then braiding his shoulder-length brown hair. The unruly curls were no match for the elf’s clever fingers. “So, carissimi, you would like to hear the updates I have for you, no? Before you pull out any more of your pretty, innocent hair,” Zev leaned over to grin at him before sliding to the floor to take his hands.

“What have you found out, sneaky elf?” Marcus grumbled.

“Oh, the slave is sleeping with Anders, the mage girl wants to stay with her recruit – ah, young love – and Isabela, she would be happy to make tonight more interesting for both of us…if you like.” Marcus scowled at Zevran, who kissed his knuckles and laughed at him. “Or not,” he said easily. “But only tonight. They will be leaving very soon I would imagine. It seems that a friend of theirs has been a very bad man. Under the influence of a nasty little Magister’s apprentice.”

“How the hell do you collect this info so quickly…no don’t tell me. I know your methods, and I don’t need to know all of your hiding places.” Marcus went to run his hands through his hair again and stopped when they encountered the neat braids that his lover had made. He scowled at his tea again, and tossed it back.

“What makes Anders think I’m letting him go again?”

“Ah, it would be cruel to keep him here, would it not carissimi? And my carissimi is not a cruel man, unless he needs to be,” Zev stood gracefully and pulled on his kilt and jerkin, taking time to carefully pull on his leather boots and lace them with neat and nimble fingers. He twirled a small dagger around in one hand before making it disappear somewhere and Marcus watched with appreciation.

“So, what? I just let him go again? It sets a bad example…and Nathaniel is going to want his head – twice. Once for himself and once for Justice,” Marcus stood and pulled Zevran into a lazy hug, leaning down to capture his lovers lips with his own. Zevran arched against him, pressing close and letting those slender hands dance along his spine. Mmm…too distracting. Letting him go with a little growl, Marcus held him at arms distance, hardening himself against his lover’s adorable pout.

“Alright then, let’s go. We’ll send them on their way, but I’m keeping an eye on Anders from now on…and on Kirkwall – never hurts to have too much information, right?” Marcus gave a feral grin, and Zev smirked.

“Ah, carissimi, you would have made an excellent Crow,” Zevran laughed and led the way. And if he kept a few secrets of his own, secrets that related to a cat and a wolf, it was just old habit.

Chapter Text

By the time Anders and Fenris appeared in the dining hall it was getting on towards midday, and the day was promising to be unseasonably warm. The room was deserted…mostly. Zevran sat on the end of one the tables, one leg neatly crossed over the other, and trimming his fingernails with a dagger.

“Ah, good morning my friends,” he said, with a grin. Fenris scowled at him. He didn’t trust anyone he didn’t know. Anders took his hand, and Zevran smirked at them.

“Zevran, it’s good to see you, my friend,” said Anders, inclining his head. Fenris nodded shortly, frown still on his face. Zevran eyed him knowingly, but said nothing. He hopped off the table, beckoning the other two with a finger and leading the way out into the courtyard. Three horses waited, packed with their things, reins held by Marcus, who was chatting idly with Isabela. Anders raised his eyebrows in surprise.

“Shipping us out already Marcus? I thought…,” he didn’t get to finish.

“You thought what? That I would want you to stay when you have a friend in trouble back in Kirkwall? I know your plans, and I’ve simply expedited the issue for you. There will be conditions to this, however,” Marcus grinned.

“Zev. Of course, I forgot there were no secrets with you around,” Anders said with a roll of his eyes. Zevran sketched a bow and grinned. Fenris said not a word, but his grip on Anders’ hand was too tight, and Anders wriggled his fingers trying to get the circulation going.

“What conditions, Commander?” asked Anders, stressing the title. Marcus looked them up and down, then handed Anders a bag of food.

“I haven’t decided yet. Call it a favour you owe me. And you do owe me, Anders,” he said, voice hardening. Anders lips thinned, and he ended the conversation with a brief nod, mounting his horse and watching as Fenris and Isabela did the same. Without another word, the three rode towards Highever. It wasn’t until they were out of sight that Marcus nodded to Zevran, who whistled for his own horse and left at an amble down the same road.

 

The blood dripping from the tips of Merrill’s fingers shone like rubies in the sun, and Hawke swallowed a feeling of nausea. Her choice of magic had never bothered him before, but now, remembering the dreams of blood and horror that he’d had, knowing that he’d betrayed friends while a thrall – suddenly it made him feel ill.

He had a sudden revelation about how Fenris must feel about Merrill. Knowing that Fenris called her ‘witch’ but would never turn her in, was never deliberately antagonistic towards her, he had a sense of the inner strength Fenris had. It made him even sorrier for what had been done through him. He swallowed the sense of guilt and tried to harden it into a determination to get the mage who’d toyed with him, and kept following Merrill, Varric bringing up the rear.

The Wounded Coast was hot, sunny, sandy. For today though it seemed that bandits and tal-vashoth had taken the day off. Hawke took a breath, smelling the coppery scent of Merrill’s blood that was showing them the way, the salty air blowing in from the ocean, the tang of his own sweat. He wiped a hand across his face, feeling the little blisters that told of a bad sunburn coming on. Varric trudged up next to him, and he turned to look at his friend.

“Doing all right there, Hawke?” asked Varric and he nodded on a sigh.

“OK, I guess. I’m still not handling this whole thing very well…we had better find this asshole,” grunted Hawke. “Maybe we should have brought Aveline along too,” he stole a look at Varric out of the corner of his eye. The dwarf was frowning.

“She’s always so busy these days, after we discovered the corruption in the ranks. She’s going to love being Guard Captain though. That girl needs duty like a cat needs fish,” Varric chuckled and Hawke felt his mood lift a little.

“Yeah,” he said. “I’m glad she’s found her feet – for a refugee from Ferelden she’s certainly done well for herself.”

“You haven’t done too badly yourself, Hawke,” Varric said, tossing him a glance. Hawke nodded and shrugged, and they both continued after Merrill, following the ruby red drips on the sand.

The trip from the Vigil back to Highever was quicker on horse than coming in on foot had been, and they had already found a ship before night fell. The moon was bright, casting a silvery light on the dark sapphire waters of the bay. It had looked so different under broad daylight, so much softer, more welcoming. Isabela was in good spirits, making teasing comments about Zevran, and laughing at Fenris’ scowls and broody silences.

Anders meanwhile had other things on his mind. How much had Zevran seen? He had known all of their plans, it was no stretch of the imagination to think he had seen them both in their animal forms. Marcus of course had known already, he was the one who had taught Anders in the first place. But Fenris…he worried always about Fenris’ vulnerability to Danarius, to slavers…he didn’t want to think that Zevran could have something to hold over Fenris. Zevran loved Marcus, but his dedication to the man’s safety sometimes stretched into questionable activities. He decided in the end that nothing could be done about it now, and tried to shrug off his black mood. They would be back in Kirkwall by tomorrow morning. Then they would confront Hawke. Everything else could wait until then.

Chapter Text

They disembarked at the Kirkwall docks, and Isabela grumbled about being back on land again. Before they had had time to go far, Aveline and another guard had intercepted them. “Anders, Fenris! You’re back!”

“Oh, no sweet welcome for me Captain Man-Hands?” Isabela laughed and then began flirting with the cute blonde dwarf Aveline had as her partner for the day. Fenris huffed and turned his attention back to Aveline.

“I’m glad you’re back and….wait, is Bethany not with you?” Aveline asked, her straight red brows furrowing as her lips thinned.

“Ah..that is…rather a long story,” Anders said, and Fenris looked down, wriggling his toes in the dirt and shifting from foot to foot as Anders explained. Aveline was both grim and pleased, her face seeming to be having difficulty finding the right expression in answer to the news that Bethany was no longer Tranquil, but had decided to stay behind.

“Hawke’s not going to like that,” she said eventually, and Fenris scowled.

“Where is Hawke?” he growled through clenched teeth. “We need to talk.” Anders flinched a little and Fenris took his hand carefully, squeezing it gently.

“Actually I saw them pass the barracks this morning. He was with Varric and Merrill…” she didn’t get time to finish before Anders was interrupting in a panic.

“With Merrill? Aveline, she’s not safe from him! Where did they go?” Isabela had turned to listen to the argument by this time, and crossed her arms under her breasts as she listened with a wary eye. Aveline could only offer that they had been headed in the direction of the Wounded Coast and then Fenris was leading Anders away by the hand.

“We should move on…swiftly,” he said, and Isabela gave a sharp nod, following. Aveline stared after them for a moment, hoping that all would be well, and then turned back to her rounds. If she seemed to have a shorter temper than usual, her partner didn’t dare to say a word.

 

Fenris was in such a hurry to catch up to Hawke that he drove them hard, and soon they were weaving their way along the Coast’s winding paths, eyes flicking everywhere looking for some sign of where the others were. Isabela seemed as driven as Fenris, she had always had a soft spot for Merrill, her ‘kitten’, and she was determined that Hawke wouldn’t hurt her too. Anders, long-legged as he was, was hard put to keep up with the pace they set.

After a few false trails it was Isabela who noticed the drips of blood on the ground, evenly spaced. She pointed them out to Anders and he knelt cautiously, hand over a splash of crimson. He used a trickle of healing energy to ascertain that it was Merrill’s blood, and the trio stood grimly, their path now clear. If anything Fenris and Isabela were moving faster now, the warrior and the rogue seeming to have endless wells of energy. Anders cast Regenerate on himself. He was still not recovered properly from all that he had been through recently, and needed the extra energy to make sure he would be at his best.

“There!” it was Fenris’ keen elven sight that caught a glimpse of Varric’s duster coat just as it disappeared into a cave up ahead. They hurried forward, into the cave.

Inside they followed the paths, occasionally catching sight of Varric as his short dwarven legs hurried him behind Hawke and Merrill. They could hear fighting at some points, came across a debris of dead bodies and blood – not all of them made by their friends. The signs of blood magic and sacrifice were unmistakeable to Fenris and he wrinkled his nose, scowling his displeasure as he told Anders and Isabela to be on guard. This carnage had Hadriana’s signature all over it – it looked like Fenris’ hunch had been correct.

Faster they went, and Anders was beginning to flag again, but dared not cast Regenerate, or any other spells – he would need his mana for what lay ahead he knew, and he watched Fenris’ face become grimmer and grimmer. Suddenly they burst into an open space and almost straight into Hawke, Merrill and Varric. The three were speaking to an elven girl, a girl Fenris recognised. She hadn’t been much more than a child when he left Danarius for good, but he knew her pale hair, slender arms and wide eyes as well as he knew Merill’s surprised face. There was the tail end of a sentence…”meet me at my mansion in Hightown” and then Fenris was surging forward with a cry of fury.

He grabbed Hawke by the breastplate of his armour and dragged him off balance. “I didn’t know that you were in the market for a slave now!” he growled, and Hawke’s face went white. He wasn’t even trying to keep his legs underneath him, swaying helplessly in Fenris’ grip. Anders’ hands were shaking – Hawke had done terrible things…but apparently under this Hadriana’s influence – Fenris wasn’t going to kill him surely. Fenris’ face was dreadful to look upon though, his teeth bared, eyes furious, ears laid back upon his skull. When Fenris opened his hand, Hawke fell to his knees before him and Fenris looked down upon him with disgust.

“Now, now, Fenris…I know what you think, but it’s not like that,” Varric’s voice was soothing and calm, and Anders silently thanked the Maker that the peace-making dwarf was there. “Hawke was just offering the girl a job, is all. We’ve discovered a few things, since you left. Merrill can probably explain better than I can…” he drifted off, shocked into silence, as they all had been, by the sound of Garrett Hawke sobbing at Fenris’ feet.

“Orana,” Fenris said softly, and the elven girl raised her head in surprise. “Do you remember me?” The girl began to shake her head, then a sliver of recognition showed in her eyes.

“You…you were Master’s favourite,” she whispered, her voice awed and scared. Fenris closed his eyes for a moment at her words, as though they caused him physical pain. Anders heart ached in his chest, and Isabela laid a hand on his arm as they watched the scene play out.

“Yes. My name is Fenris. I knew you as a child, your father…” he didn’t finish before Orana interrupted.

“Mistress killed him! I don’t understand why! Mistress always loved his soup – everything was fine before!”

“It wasn’t. You just didn’t know better,” Fenris said, in a tone that brooked no argument. He had turned his head away when he closed his eyes, now he faced her again. “You may come and stay with me, if you wish. I will teach you what you need to know, now that you are free.” At his words Orana’s eyes opened wider, her skin paling when he said that she was to be free. Before she could protest, Anders stepped forward, knowing how this conversation must be hurting his lover. He offered the girl his hand, and she took it nervously.

“My name is Anders. I live with Fenris. Perhaps you could wait outside with Merrill, and we can take you home once we are finished here?” Orana nodded uncertainly and Merrill stepped up to the task – for once with no questions. They could hear her pattering away on her small feet, Orana in tow as she chattered about Kirkwall. All this time, Garrett had stayed by Fenris’ feet, though now the noises that had been coming from his crumpled frame had stopped. Nobody seemed sure what to do, or how to help the group past the uncomfortable impasse, and Anders stepped forward again – grief was something he’d dealt with many times – others’ and his own. Crouching down by Hawke he offered the man a handkerchief, and an arm around his shoulders. When Garrett leaned into his touch he whispered in the man’s ear. “We can talk later – let’s finish what you started here first.” Garrett nodded, and the pair stood.

“We should move on,” Fenris said, and Anders smiled at him. Isabela flipped a dagger idly between her hands.

“If we kill them, we get to keep their stuff!” she said, cheerful as ever, and suddenly a hint of their usual camaraderie was there, not quite back, still a little broken, but the team moved on as one.

When they did catch up with Hadriana, it was almost a disappointment, Anders thought. He had imagined her as larger than life, somehow, what with the effect that she’d had upon Fenris. He reminded himself that Fenris had been a slave – body and mind a possession of this woman’s mentor, and that she had tortured him daily. The thought helped when she was cowering in a corner begging for Fenris to let her live.

It was a strange moment, when she offered information in return for her life and Anders was almost struck with the urge to giggle. If Fenris hadn’t offered her his word, he would have – as it was he stared in disbelief. Fenris surely wouldn’t let her live! It was unthinkable. After what she had done to them – to Fenris, and through Hawke to the rest of them – Anders would cut her down himself! He listened though, as Fenris received information that he was sure the elf would need time to process – a sister, how interesting and wonderful! Anders was pleased, and unsurprised when Fenris turned away from her, glanced at Hawke and said “She’s all yours.”

Anders couldn’t take his eyes off his lover, walking tall and proud and untarnished away from this dreadful reunion – his white hair spotless, the lyrium lines delineating his handsome features. Anders kissed him and closed his eyes to the bloody mess that Hawke was making of Hadriana’s sable hair.