Fenris turns the ring around and around on his finger. A ring of powerful protection; she'd given it to him. The gesture had meant something back then. It reminds him of how she chose him first.

Aryana.

She is a living reminder of his failings.

He fears that she has moved on. He has seen a connection between her and the apostate: little intimacies in their exchanged glances, words and gestures that have made him the outsider.

A bottle of Aggregio Pavali has loosened his reticence to talk, and so he has come back to the courtyard of her house, back to where it all started.

It had been the evening after he killed Hadriana: his demons had been too much for him and he'd felt like tearing his own skin from his bones. All he could think of was to go to her, the one good thing in his cocktail of emotions.

But everything inside of him was so tightly wound that he had floundered in confusion. When she'd touched him unexpectedly he'd been overwhelmed by a raw rush of power, an instinctive defense mechanism, born of all those times he had been touched against his will. A white light crackled behind his eyes and before he'd known it, he had her pinned against the wall. Every sinew tense and strained, he'd held her there, fingers tangled in her hair, his face mere inches from her own.

Wide-eyed, she'd gasped, and he'd taken a step back, face flushed with shame. When he'd lifted his gaze to meet hers, she'd reached out to him, her eyes filled with longing. She'd kissed him, her lips coaxing him to let go of his anger, let go of his control. His body had responded with a shockwave of desire. He'd pressed his body against hers; kissing her neck and lips with an intensity that was almost brutal.

It was burnt into his memory. It had felt like the beginning of something, but nothing he'd ever felt before.

Every night for the last year it has replayed in his mind, consuming him with an endless ache. It wears him down, but he embraces it.

There is a chink of light through the half-covered window, it offers a view to another world, a world he'd lived in for a fleeting moment. He can hear a light buzz of chatter, and her voice as she laughs. Her beautiful voice that had whispered his name in the darkness. Her beautiful voice that had pleaded with him not to leave. She had never laughed with him.

The apostate is with her. She says something but Fenris cannot hear the words. She walks to the place where Anders is sitting, and she touches his collar, running her fingers lightly along his neck. Anders smiles and looks down shyly for a moment, then brings his gaze up to meet hers, abject adoration written all over his face. He stands, brushing the hair from her face with such tenderness that it hurts to watch. Then he kisses her, cradling the back of her head in his hands.

Fenris swallows a scream. His stomach contracts in a spasm of almost unendurable pain.

He knows how it feels to kiss her, to embrace the rolling waves of rapture, caressing her tongue with his own. He'd had her first. She was his, she was his. When he closes his eyes he can almost feel her hands upon him, running over his exposed skin, brushing lightly over his lyrium tattoos. The sensation had been exquisite: his nerve endings had sung, suspended on the brink between pleasure and pain.

Pleasure and pain, he hardly knows where one ends and the other begins, they have been intertwined for as long as he can remember. Fenris feels his head spin and he slumps against the wall.

The light goes out inside and still Anders does not emerge.

Fenris thinks of the moment that he failed her, of the tightness in his chest, the overwhelming panic and confusion. He remembers how she looked at him as he walked away. He falls to his knees in the dirt, dry sobs of despair catching in his throat.

He thinks about ending it, of how easy it would be to let their enemies take him down. Who would ever know that it had been deliberate? But deep down he knows he cannot do it, cannot leave her. She's shown him to be capable of a feeling he thought he'd never have and he can't give up the feeble shred of hope that he might get her back.

His liberator has enslaved him.