Title: Believing
Author: karebear
Rating: T
Characters: Sebastian, (female mage) Hawke
Standard Disclaimer (Dragon Age): I don't own these characters or the world they inhabit. Bioware built the sandbox. I just play in it.
Summary: Sebastian and Hawke talk it out, post "Faith" quest
Notes: Finally shelled out the $7 for the Exiled Prince DLC. Somehow my firebrand apostate Hawke made it to max friendship with Sebastian with almost zero drama, partially, I think, because a lot of important conversations weren't had. Well, it's easy enough to remedy that...

The title comes from Merrill's party banter with Anders, which oddly enough perfectly sums up the situation with Sebastian & Hawke:

"What are we talking about?"
"Believing. You do, I can tell. In freedom, in mages, in good spirits and bad Templars. With more fire than the sun."
"And your point is?"
"I miss it sometimes, things being certain."
"Some things are certain."
"Not anymore."


The encounter with the Divine's "black hand" (and the death of nearly a dozen mages, even if they had attacked first) has left them both shaken. Sebastian drags her to the Chantry, because he finds some kind of comfort here even if she doesn't.

And of course they have to tell the Grand Cleric something. But she still won't pick a side, she still doesn't see... And after Elthina has declared that she will stand between Kirkwall and whatever comes, she disappears the way she always does, leaving Hawke alone with him.

Figures.

"The Divine is a hair's breadth away from declaring an Exalted March on Kirkwall!" Sebastian shouts, as though she hadn't heard the same things he had. But his pacing slows soon enough, and his voice softens.

"Please, Hawke. You must do what you can to help me calm the situation. What good could come from saving the city from the Qunari only to see it fall to this mage rebellion?"

"It's your Chantry that's putting Kirkwall in danger in the first place!" she spits.

They play this game, the two of them. He's the righteous one, the priest, or close enough. She's the rebel who isn't supposed to give a damn... except that sometimes she is absolutely sick of always being the bad one.

Why isn't she used to it by now?

That's what mages are for, isn't it? The cursed, the demon-blooded... they're only whipping boys for all of Thedas to blame for every fucking thing that goes wrong in anyone's life.

"You only care now because mages aren't the only ones being threatened anymore! I'm an apostate, Sebastian! Just because you seem to forget that whenever it helps you pretend you can still be a good little choir boy and my friend doesn't mean it goes away. What do you think happens if I turn my back on my own to "help" Kirkwall? Does the Divine let me go live a life of quiet retirement somewhere, with more gold than I know what to do with?"

"Meredith did."

Her eyes narrow dangerously, but he doesn't miss the way her breathing catches, the way she immediately drops his gaze and finds a floor tile to stare at instead.

"Is that what you think?" she whispers.

And she's quiet for so long that he almost reaches out to put a hand on her shoulder, although they don't touch, not ever.

Because of a lot of things: his vows and her relationship with Anders and the way any unexpected contact with her usually ends in violence, a result of a lifetime spent looking over her shoulder, never being able to trust anyone.

The moment ends before it can even begin.

She looks up, not at him, not yet, but not at the floor tiles either.

She's focused on one of Andraste's boots now, but her voice is strong and steady. "The only reason Meredith didn't run her sword through me as soon as she finished with that Qunari mage was that it was playable odds the Arishok would do it for her, and I made a convenient shield. Did all the dirty work for her, and she still claims the city. And now... I may not be locked in the Gallows, but don't think for a moment she'd let me have any real freedom. Sebastian, I do whatever she asks me to. I've killed runaway mages at her command."

"Blood mages..."

"That's not the point. If I step out of line, even a little bit... she won't go for me first. She knows who Anders is and she knows what he is to me. She'll take him in a heartbeat, and use him to get to me. She'll "make an example" of him; her words, not mine, and you heard them. I know you don't like Anders and I know you don't trust him, but even you must agree that he does not deserve what the Templars will do to him."

His mouth opens and closes as he tries to say something, maybe to agree with her or maybe just to defend himself, she has no idea, because she holds up a hand to stop him before he can get in a single word.

"I know, you think it's selfish to only worry about me and him, so fine, I'll think bigger: the only reason she hasn't taken Orsino out of play is that it's about the only issue where your best friend the Grand Cleric has even made an effort to talk her down. She holds the entire Circle hostage against my good behavior. She knows I watch what happens there and she knows I care enough to trade myself for the innocents no one else will even bother thinking about. You think "Champion" is a reward? This is what it means. And you want me to help her stay in power?"

"I don't..."

"You don't want unnecessary bloodshed, I know. But innocents have been suffering more than you know, for longer than you can imagine. Everything you've done since I met you has been about getting revenge for your family's murder. I watched the Templars slaughter my father when I was fifteen, and people called them heroes for doing it! They'd have killed me too if I'd let them, if I hadn't hid and run to warn my little sister instead of fighting for him the way I wanted to. That's when I left Lothering, you know. It had nothing to do with the Blight or Ostagar. I never wanted to go back there at all, I just sort of stumbled into it, because of the war. Lothering wasn't my home, Sebastian. The people there would have turned on me as easily as anyone else."

She collapses into one of the pews, the one all the way in the back, in a shadowed corner.

Even here, especially here, she hides.

"You keep asking me what you should do, whether you should go be a prince... I don't honestly care about Starkhaven, Sebastian. But I care about this. And, if you really want to protect people, you can do it by standing with me."

She finally stops, to breathe, to think, but now, Maker help him, he can't think of anything to say.

Her eyes flicker toward his, for just a moment, but somehow he manages to hold her gaze.

She talks to him, tells him things she won't tell anyone else, not even Anders, and he isn't sure why, but he's glad he can give that to her. Someone who'll listen, without judging.

Like a priest hearing confession.

Appropriate.

"I don't..." she stops, starts again. "I won't say I need you."

No, of course not.

Apostates don't need anyone. She doesn't need anyone, at least not that she'll ever admit out loud.

"But I think," she continues, "If you weren't here... I'd miss having somebody by my side who's so sure they know what the right thing is all the time."

"I'm not sure of anything, Hawke," he admits.

Because trust goes both ways, and he owes it to her to match her honesty and vulnerability with his own. "As you've so often pointed out, I can't even make my own single most important decision. But I have faith that the Maker guides our steps in life."

Now it's his turn to stop her from interrupting, because he can tell she's ready to spit out once again just where he can stick his Maker, but he begs her to just listen for a moment, and she does.

"I have faith in the Maker," he repeats. "And I have faith in you. I've seen what you do for the people of Kirkwall. That's why I'm asking you for help. I need you with me to protect this city. This city, not Starkhaven, standing against the Chantry if they declare war without cause. And against Meredith too, if that's what it takes. That's my decision. We fight for the things worth fighting for."