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It’s not enough that the world will end, it has to be in the worst possible way conceived—an explosion to make a point and Anders is a desperate, desperate man. He’ll deal with the hatred, the way that the others will look at him as if the looks of disgust weren’t already apparent. They all will turn on him anyway: him, the abomination. The one who blew up the Chantry in a martyrdom that will be sung from mages’ lips for the rest of days.

(or so he hopes)

Instead, he is engulfed in heat. Fire rages behind them. There are screams in the distance, blood-curdling and desperate, and Anders does not feel a thing. Not even the smugness in Justice’s (his) actions makes the numbness disappear. The wood beneath him is hard, unforgiving like the judgement he can feel in everyone’s eyes.

He probably should say something—nothing to say is the consensus from Justice, and there is nothing to say to remedy anything he’s done—about the looks he’s getting from his friends. Were they friends, or enemies now? He can’t, however, and his silence is a testament to how willing he is to die.

(it was a long, long time coming)

Hawke is behind him, perhaps with a dagger in hand and ready to plunge it into his spine, and Anders does not falter in the way he hangs his head, propped with his hands in almost-prayer. He knows logically that no prayers he sends to the Maker will ever give him peace, and he is content to know only that.

He doesn’t expect the quiet forgiveness in how Hawke’s fingers tip-toe up his shoulder, hesitant and concerned wrapped up with a small frown. Anders knows this because he looks to the side, through sweat damp hair that has fallen from the red, red (red like the blood of innocents drenching his hands) ribbon Hawke had given him. It feels like ages since that time, since the warmth of a fire against his back and the warmth of Hawke’s chest against his front; and Anders is, for the moment—scared.

The forgiveness bleeds from his fingertips, and he can still feel the glances of the others watching; the subtle movement of hands itching for their own blades, for them to slice through him and rectify this atrocity, and Anders is on edge. Hawke’s touch does not waver, does not cease, and Anders lifts his head for the first time in a long while to meet his gaze. There is a steel to the amber eyes, a hardness that Anders has not seen before, yet.

Yet there is a softness—weakness, comes Justice, and Anders hushes him with a push to the back of his mind where regrets and unwanted feelings stay—that tempers the apostate, and Hawke’s lips are a thin line as he gauges him. Studies. Anders waits for the dagger to pierce his heart, and he stands slowly.

“I am not asking for forgiveness, I know I do not deserve such a thing,” Lips dry and cracked, Anders gives Hawke a look that he hopes is enough to convey his determination.

It’s the look of surprise in Hawke’s eyes that has Anders’ determination waver, and he feels the fingertips slow their movement down. Then he’s being pulled into warm arms that leave him winded, and Anders knows that he is going to die. He was rather fond of the notion of the knife in his back, and not seeing Hawke’s face as he plunges it into him; but this.

This is a change of pace.

Anders’ shoulders are tense, even though all he wants is to melt into the arms holding him upright, and the blond mage’s lungs ache with how he holds his breath. Waiting. There should be a dagger in his back. The pain of a blade for all those lives he cut short, except. There isn’t.

Instead there is forgiveness in the arms of the man holding him, and he thinks maybe, just maybe—

(“you do want forgiveness though,” hawke’s voice is a near whisper and sharper than any knife anders could imagine, and he inhales a gasping sob that leaves his bones rattled. “and i will give it to you.”)

He does.

He does want forgiveness.

The others all melt away behind him, and nothing but Hawke and himself exist in this moment. His breath hitches again on a sob, bones rattling and aching as Hawke holds him. Anders does not know forgiveness, or he might have known it long ago—when he was pardoned once, twice, thrice for running from the Circle. He thinks he might have lost that when he was caged alone in the tower for a year.

It is a bitter taste that burns ash into his tongue, and Hawke’s own brand of forgiveness hurts.

“I cannot ask for forgiveness,” Anders starts, voice choked by the sobs he has yet to allow pass his lips, “I alone have to bear this.”

Hawke hums, fingers tip-toe up his spine where blades should be but are not, and then there are fingers through his hair. Sweat damp and dirty strands tangle between the spaces of Hawke’s fingers, but they don’t tug—instead they untangle the knots and Anders feels his heart waver all over again.

“Then you will help set things right,” Hawke starts, voice firm and there are protests from the audience watching them, “Help us, Anders.”

then you will help set things right

A chance at forgiveness, though he does not deserve it, and Anders looks up at Hawke through blurry eyes—when did he start tearing up? he doesn’t remember, and he can feel Justice’s disapproval from the back of his mind—at the small, hopeful (pleading) smile on Hawke’s face. He nods, minutely, and he can hear scorn and concern for Hawke's decision from the others; but no one dares make a move.

This is his attempt to atone.