Blood Between Us

Not by Laura

"The thorn from the bush one has planted, nourished and pruned pricks more deeply and draws more blood." – Maya Angelou

Prologue: Complicit

"Then we will be fugitives together."

Such effortless words to form on the precipice of battle. Promises made with all your heart through the certainty you won't be alive to keep them. It's easy to imagine forgiveness when there's no chance to come to terms with yourself. No room for guilt, no room for second guessing. So far past anything rational and declarations slipped through.

Yet now... days separate her from the champion she had been in that moment and as her thoughts start to settle you begin to consider how wrong she had been. How wrong she still is.

Here, in the darkness of the Deep Roads once more she is full of certainty that Kirkwall will never be her home again. Father, Carver, Mother... all outside of her reach and everything she'd been using to fill those holes has been ripped from her with a single act. She's not sure how many days it's been, only that the party is finally deep enough that stopping for rest had been deemed a good idea. No one really speaks, no light banters tossed between friends, only utilitarian words exchanged as camp is attempted out of everything scavenged from the dead.

Hawke has said little since the flight from Kirkwall. Focus on escape, on getting away... worry about the task at hand and forget about anything else. Getting to safety, protecting her friends, such had been the mantle she has worn since Meredith's defeat. An empty victory, with so many templars already on their way and Hawke hadn't even spared time to consider any other option.

Together, they had fled. With Bethany beside her once more, Aveline and Varric by her side as always... and Merrill, sweet Merrill... Donnic too, not willing to leave his wife for anything. All of them had run from the city, fled into these passages and from the threads of revolution playing above. A makeshift family borne of years of having little else, it makes a sick sort of sense to Hawke that they are still together here, below the world. Refugees once more, forced away from a home being ravaged and thrust into an uncertain future.

If only it were that simple.

Her shoulders are still tense, her entire body on edge because there is another that travels with them. Where once his presence had brought her comfort through her darkest moments, the nearness of Anders across the cavern they are calling camp does nothing for her nerves.

He's going to speak with her soon, she can tell. They've had years together and she knows the weight of his gaze, knows she cannot keep pretending he isn't there. She doesn't want it. Doesn't want to hear his words, doesn't want to talk about it. If she pushes far enough away from Kirkwall, from his actions, will the pained tightness inside of her chest give way? If she ignores it long enough can she pretend things have not changed?

No. Change is not static, it is happening all around her and will spread in waves from Kirkwall to all reaches of Thedas. She has no doubt that this is only the beginning of something so much bigger than any of them and when she closes her eyes she feels the tremors caused by the Chantry's explosion.

Nothing is ever going to be the same, not anymore.

He's looking at her and Hawke swallows, eyes darting down at her hands. Soon, he will come to her. He will think that in sparing him she has condoned his action, his deception. He will talk of the pain and oppression faced by mages as though she hasn't spent her entire life watching it in action. She's seen the other side of the Circle, watched as her father taught Bethany how to know when it was safe to use her gifts. Hawke may not have been born a mage, but she is not so far removed from the life of an apostate as Anders likes to pretend.

She knows that what he did should carry as much weight as how he did it. Rationally, she is aware that her outrage should be spurned by the unnecessary loss of life, the murder of innocents. This act of terrorism was so much more than just fanning the already growing flames of rebellion, so much deeper. Hawke knows that should be why she is torn apart inside...

Has she earned the right to be selfish this time? To close her eyes to the loss of life and focus on the personal betrayal? The lies? Her own unwilling complicity in what happened weighs so heavily on her every breath and he had not trusted her with anything.

Like so many things now, she hasn't got a clue and when she glances at him again she can see the shift, knows he is about to rise and approach her and, Maker, she isn't ready. She will never be ready, not for this and before he gets his chance, she murmurs something to Bethany about looking for more supplies and slips out of the cavern.

He will follow. It is a guarantee and she wishes she could stop thinking about how well she knows him. That is worthless now.

What if he had told her his plans? She wouldn't have allowed it, she knows that with certainty. His cause has always had her support, but not with methods like that. Never. She would've found another way and while she is not foolish enough to think it ever could've been peaceful, anything would have been better than that. The Grand Cleric. The innocents caught in the blast. The damage he had done to all mages who wanted the same freedoms. It should choke her up to think about it but she don't have the strength for that. Not now, not here, not anymore.

She is barely away from the cavern when he comes to her. A question clear on his features but it is obvious his hesitance does not come from regret. He is so familiar and dear and he has healed her wounds in so many ways. The tingle of his magic on her skin after every battle, the pressure of his hand on her back when her heart had been broken by the loss of her mother. The warmth of his mouth or the strength of his arms around her when nothing else had seemed to matter and for a moment she could forget everything that was so broken and just be with someone she loved.

She can't do this, can't bear to let it fall apart entirely, not just yet.

Everything is broken already but that doesn't matter because Hawke kisses him instead. She closes her eyes and presses against him, desperately wishing to go back in time. He understands, of course. Burn him, he's always understood her in ways she can't fathom and his hands start to slide off her armour before she realizes she's worked open his coat.

It's quiet and desperate and she refuses to open her eyes, unable to look at him with the knowledge all she will see in his face is the lie that will forever hang between them. They're on the run and the world is changing and she's smart enough to know Kirkwall's circle is only the beginning... Only the start of something so much bigger and grander in scale than the Champion of Kirkwall could possibly hope to influence.

It's out of her hands now and while she buries her face in Anders shoulder, she feels further from him than she ever has. They are not making love, they are saying goodbye. His hands are rough on her skin, his breath hot against her neck and the sound of their bodies seems almost sickeningly loud to her ears.

This is it.

He will leave, she knows. She should have made him do so back in Kirkwall... Maker, she isn't even sure if she should have let him live. But she did and he is here and if she screws her eyes shut as tightly as she possibly can, maybe this will all go away.

She had never asked for this.

A/N: Thanks to NuitNuit for the beta and gembat for the handhold. This is only a prologue!