Beta Read:A huge thank you to the awesome Cariel for beta reading this for me! =D You freaking rock my socks! Also to Thessi for ensuring the characters are accurate to canon.
Author's Notes: This tale contains spoilers so for those of you who are still getting through DA2 you might want to hold out on reading this tale.
Warnings: DA2 ending *SPOILERS!* Het!relationship, mild dark themes
When they left Kirkwall, Hawke never demanded answers about what happened that night in the Gallows, nor did she breathe a word of the Chantry's demise. She had never been one to mince words. If there was a difference of opinion, Anders was the first to know. In fact, she rarely spoke. When she did, her words were always carefully chosen, filled with indifference or feigned ignorance, as though nothing had ever changed between them.
Anders couldn't say if her silence was a blessing or a curse For a time, he played along. It was easier to pretend that everything was as it used to be. Hawke never turned him away, nor did she ever treat him differently than before. Essentially, it was exactly as it used to be. Only the weight in her eyes and the weariness in her step acted as the silent reminders that ate at his heart and mind until he could pretend no longer.
One night, as they kept watch over their encampment, he asked, "Do you have any regrets?"
Hawke contemplated his words as her amber eyes studied the fire before them before looking up at the stars. The sky was clear but there was no moon in sight.
The silence between them was heavy, interrupted only by Varric's soft snores from his tent nearby and the gentle rustle of the wind in the trees. Hawke's sister, Bethany, was also asleep in her tent, along with Merrill and Hawke's oversized pup. They were all that was left of Hawke's once rag-tag, yet tightknit group. Fenris had remained long enough to ensure Meredith's demise and then he was gone, most likely joining in on Sebastian's crusade against all mages. Isabela had promised to return once she had finished some personal business. Neither Hawke nor Anders bothered to ask the pirate what that meant; some things were best left unknown. Aveline, of course, remained in Kirkwall to help with the clean-up which came as no surprise to Anders.
"Any man, or woman for that matter, who claims to have no regrets is either a fool or a liar," Hawke answered drawing his thoughts back to the present.
Anders had anticipated her attempt to dodge his question and might have welcomed under different circumstances. "Am I one of those regrets?"
Her startled expression should not have caught him off guard. In the past, Hawke had always been easy to read; now it was difficult to decipher what was on her mind, much less in her heart. Such open expression of emotion was a rare sight for her indeed.
The warrior gave no response. It was not necessary. In her eyes, the mage saw the answer and he breathed a soft sigh as a little of the weight on his shoulders lifted.
"And what of me? Am I one of your regrets? Or does it end with Justice?" Hawke asked. Her voice was even, her expression stoic. Only her eyes gave her away.
This time Anders was the one who looked away. "I have no regrets about what I did to the Chantry," he truthfully answered. She was not the only one who knew how to dodge awkward truths. "I regret the price so many innocent mages have paid because of my hesitancy and inaction. I should have done it sooner. I should not have faltered," he confessed before adding, "I should have told you from the start my intentions—"
"Instead of lying and then blackmailing me into helping you finish it off," she quietly concluded.
Honesty was a trait Hawke openly admired. She once admitted that truth, like a jewel, was rare and when in the right hands, highly valued. Everything about their relationship had been created by brutal honesty; what the truth did not destroy only made stronger. It was not the first time deception had threatened to drive them apart, nor was he the first to use it.
"I regret the deception and the blackmail, but at the time I felt it was necessary." He paused knowing he had come too far to back down now. "Just as I'm certain you felt it was necessary to keep your history with the Templars a secret from me." Anders felt her shift uncomfortably but he did not pay the gesture any mind.
"I should like to think that was different," she said in defence.
"Is it really?" he challenged.
The warrior contemplated his words, her expression tired, but thoughtful. The silence that settled between them felt heavy, but not nearly as much as it had that fateful night. "I am ashamed of what I was. That is why I remained silent," she admitted. "You, by contrast, feared I would stand between you and your goal, that I would betray you to the Templars."
"That is not entirely true," Anders quickly replied. "I also feared that you would support my decision. That you and your sister would end up paying the price for my actions."
Poking at the fire with a stick that rested by his boots, the young mage furrowed his brow as he sought the right words that could possibly express the truth of their situation. "You have every right to be angry. In fact, I would have been surprised if you weren't. I rather we argue about it openly, instead of ignoring it and hoping it goes away because it won't. I'm tired of pretending like nothing has changed between us, when everything has changed! If you have a problem with me, then tell me! I'm a grown man. I think I can handle it. Anything is better than the two of us going mad while attempting to figure out what's on the other's mind."
"I never spoke of that night at the Gallows because I felt it was not my place to force you into a corner or put you up against a wall. I knew you would discuss it when you were ready to and that was enough for me," Hawke explained as she rose to her feet and began to poke at the dying fire with one of the twigs that littered the camp. Tossing it into the fire, she turned to face him.
The fire cast shadows against her features. Even without the moonlight, Anders could make out her troubled features.
"I may not support what you did to the Chantry, but I understand why you did it. There's no denying that Grand Cleric Elthina's neutrality had caused more damage than good. Besides, it's not the guilty that troubles me, rather the innocents you took with them. Had those orphans or widows who used to live within those walls been sensitive to magic, would you have still have blown up the Chantry? Is the fact these people weren't mages the reason you feel no remorse in snuffing out their lives? Are we, those do not wear the robes or carry the staff, disposable in your eyes now?" Almost as soon as the words escaped her lips, Hawke winced, her expression immediately growing apologetic.
Her words were sharp as any double edge sword and in that instant he was reminded of the Templar she used to be. Torn between insult and hurt Anders was, momentarily, at a loss of words. Deep down, he knew he could not entirely deny her accusations. Justice had difficulty deciphering those who deserved judgment and who deserved to be spared. The nameless young mage who fell to his rage was proof of that. Nevertheless, he was no cold-blooded killer, despite what she might think. Nor had he ever held such thoughts towards those who were not gifted with sensitivity to magic.
"I'm sorry…I shouldn't have—" she apologized before falling silent. The damage had already been done.
"Sorry for what? Being honest?" Anders retorted in hurt tones. "Had there been a way to spare the innocent I would not have hesitated, surely you know me better than that! There were just too many, too little time, and the risk was too great. I'm not proud of that, but I did what was necessary to end the standoff. If it meant mages and their children would live in a free world, I would do it again."
Hawke's expression softened as she retook her seat by his side. She understood all too well the difficult decision he had been forced to make. With the truth finally out in the open, the tension began to lift between them. "If you're expecting judgment from me, Anders, then you're going to be disappointed. What right do I have to judge you when I, too, have so much blood on my hands? I'm just—disappointed that you didn't trust me. I used to believe that there were no walls left between us. I suppose I was wrong."
A hint of a sad smile crept on his lips. Even after all they had endured Hawke's romantic idealism still lingered.
Absently, Anders cast a spell into the fire causing it to twist and turn, taking on strange, yet beautiful shapes. It was about so much more than mere issues of trust, yet how could he hope to explain that to her? As if reading his thoughts the warrior spoke. "Will I always remain a Templar in your eyes?" Her expression was stoic, but the hurt was there lying just out of reach between the lines of her words.
"And will I always remain a mage, an abomination, to you?" he asked.
It always came back to titles, past decisions and past mistakes, a circle without end. Hawke's sigh of frustration mirrored his own thoughts. Nevertheless, the warmth of her fingers slipping into his hand held hope.
"I can no more change who I was back then than you can change who you are now Anders.
"You were honest with me about everything long before we ever got involved and for that I was grateful. I'm sorry I did not give you the same respect. I was a coward and I am also sorry that," she quietly said.
Apologies could never erase the damage done, but the sincerity of her words and her support of the mage's plight in recent years held a weight of its own.
"I swore I would remain by your side through thick and thin I meant it," he replied.
His words were softer than he would have liked but Hawke simply gave a small smile and in her eyes, Anders saw all he needed to see. With a hint of a smile on his lips, the young mage gave her hand a squeeze before turning his attentions back to the fire.
Their problems would not resolve over night; nothing ever did. Whatever the uncertainty, one thing was certain: they would face the storm together. It was in this truth that he finally found peace.