A/N: I wrote this a while ago after my first time playing through DA2 with my custom rogue female Marian. Varric and Isabela (casually romanced) were the closest friends my Hawke had and both were there, so I imagined this is how it would have gone. And Anders was there, too, but I envisioned him as more of an observer to the scene of tragedy and attempted comfort. I don't own Dragon Age or any of its characters, I make no profits, etc.

...

A page of scrawled handwriting tucked into a copy of Anders' manifesto...

When I shut my eyes it is as if I still stand in the squalor of the undercity. There are many rank odors in Darktown, more than I can hope to name. Beneath the dockside warehouse it is worse than the familiar stink of piss and brine. It is the cloying sweet of dead flesh, rotting and yet still alive. It is the milk stink of a crazed mage whose sweat pours freely from his labors and who hasn't bathed in a few days too many. To this we add the stench of burnt hair and the fresh shit of spilt bowels.

My body tingles in the wake of magic now spent, discharged, rebuilding. My mana pools are taxed and the potions left are few. I hope I won't need to fight anymore.

For what seems like an age, I hear nothing and see little. My view is of the dirt- and blood-stained floor and the crumpled corpse of the mage who died impaled on Hawke's curved blade. There is so much blood and not all of it is his. Some is ours—Isabela has a wound and I know I ought to heal it for her when strength and mana return. Most of the blood is from the poor women who were his victims.

I will never be like this murderer. Will I? Do my friends really know how close I walk to the edge of something large and crazy that would overtake me if it could?

Sound returns slowly, like mist lifting. For a long time, all is hazy and then, through the buzz of quiet, breaks a sound like the cry of trapped game that resolves itself into a human cry. A woman's cry.

Hawke.

I am back among my friends. Was it a stun spell or merely exhaustion that took me from their company?

It has been ages since I've heard a woman cry as Hawke does now, clutching to her breast the corpse that wears her mother's face. I have never before heard the word 'no' filled with the raw power of a daughter's shattered heart.

She is sobbing, moaning, screaming and it is a terrible thing, as bad as the cries of a person torn apart by mabari—a thing I am horrified to say I know too well.

Isabela goes to her. She still clutches her own wounded arm, but pays it no mind as she stoops to place a hand on Hawke's trembling shoulder. Hawke shrugs her off in a move that seems filled with malice, though I doubt it is intended against Isabela. They are friends, if no longer more.

"We have to come away from this," Isabela says.

The reply is harsher than the Hawke I recognize. "You know nothing of this nor what we have to do." Her voice drops to a whisper as she presses her lips to the torn forehead of the body she cradles. "No, mother, no. Please, Maker, not her. Not her." Turning sharply back to Isabela, Hawke says, "I will kill him." And her voice is all certainty and the cold cruelty of stone.

"You have done," Isabela says.

Hawke turns her wrathful eyes on me. "Then bring him alive again, fool of a mage, and let me kill him the better this time. I will seem him burned alive."

I am speechless. These are things I can't and will not do. Blood magic. Is that really what she wants of me?

But her attention has moved away as quickly as it turned in my direction. Isabela has tried to touch her again.

"Get off of me or I'll deepen that wound." Hawke is on her feet and reaching for her blade.

And then the dwarf is there before her, shaking his head at her slightest move for a weapon. And of all the things I thought I'd never see, he is helping her gently to her knees to match his own height the better and he holds her. Just holds her in the midst of all this blood and death.

The malice drains away and her rigid muscles relax. She sobs against him for a long time. Her anger flares again and she lashes out, punching and striking him. Amidst her sobs I hear the wet slap of her hand against that awful patch of his bare, hairy chest. He flinches, but doesn't move to stop her. Dwarves are very solid. Perhaps it's best to rail against one of them.

She exhausts herself. Her head drops to press against his neck and she cries. Big wet tears.

Varric is impassive. Watching. Perhaps just being in the moment. There is a terrible power in the horror of a living nightmare. The woman Varric holds is not our Hawke, but a primal Hawke, a woman imbued with the ancient spirit of loss and vengeance.

She is beautiful this way. And the man who holds her is perhaps something more than I thought he was.

Hawke's ragged, not-quite-forced laughter breaks the spell.

"I'd better get off you," she says, as if suddenly self-conscious. "I'm slobbering all over Bianca."

Varric's voice is gentle and low, almost a whisper for Hawke's ears alone, but I am close enough to hear. "She says she doesn't mind your slobber."

He looks her in the eyes a long moment and if there is more between them than friendship, I can't yet tell for sure. But I have the sudden empty feeling that Hawke is not for me.