Title: Real
Author: karebear
Rating: K+
Characters: Anders, 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/Notes: Written for the DAWC unexpected hobby challenge. My hobby is apparently waking up in the middle of the night and pretending Anders is spending the night with me instead of Hawke :-)

She wakes up to hear the sound of a pen scratching across parchment and she almost screams. Instead, she takes a deep breath, and rolls over. On the other side of the bed, Anders is writing, not surprisingly.

"Anders, go to sleep," she begs him.

He shrugs casually. "Not tired."

He's probably not lying. She learned a long time ago that long years of habit have conditioned him to get by on only a few hours at a time. Even when no one's chasing him, even when he doesn't have to be constantly on guard against a beating that isn't coming...

He can and has gone days without sleeping, staying up through the nights to keep watch out in the caverns of Sundermount or in the Deep Roads even if no one asks him to.

"You may not be tired," she accuses. "But I am. And you're keeping me awake."

He smiles. "You're a bad liar, Hawke. I know you. It wouldn't keep you awake if a storm were to tear the roof off this house right now."

She sighs, conceding the point. But she misses his warmth against her body and the relaxed sound of his breathing when he is asleep at her side. It's always easier to get comfortable when he's comfortable too.

"What are you doing, anyway? If you're writing that stupid manifesto again, don't bother. I'm tempted to turn you over to the templars myself just so I don't have to read it again."

His eyes widen, the briefest flash of fear, and guilt gnaws at her. Bad joke. She knows what they'd done to him, it's not something he can laugh about, not now, not ever. Her teasing him with that threat... it's not like when she and Carver were kids.

"Sorry," she mutters.

He reaches out for her, squeezes her hand, gives her a gentle kiss. "S'okay. I'm a big boy. I've gotten through a lot worse than hearing the word. Templar," he repeats carefully. "See, I can say it too. Besides, I know you'd never do it." He lets go of her carefully and returns to his work. "And I'm not writing a manifesto."

Now she's curious. She crawls over closer to him, attempting to get a peek, but he pulls the paper away before she can see it. "Should I be jealous? Love letter to some lucky fling in Lowtown? Some woman whose life you saved and fell passionately in love with at the clinic?"

"I only have eyes for you, Hawke," he says, a little too casually. But she knows he means it, so it doesn't bother her.

"Bad poetry?"

He snorts. "Maker, if anyone can claim a right to bad poetry it's me. You know what my teenage years were like." Actually, he had spent more time than he should have antagonizing his jailers, hurling insults about their looks and their mothers and whatever else he could think of. Sometimes they rhymed.

"What is it then?" she asks again, reaching for the paper even as he snatches it away.

He smiles again. She can be such a little kid sometimes. It's what he loves about her.

"Just wait," he insists. "Let me finish."

He makes a few more careful marks and hands her the paper.

And it's not writing at all. It's a drawing. A sketch of her, eyes closed, relaxed in sleep, hair billowing across the pillow.

And she wants to tell him that watching her sleep is kind of a little bit creepy, but... "Wow," she breathes. "That's really good."

He shrugs. "It's not a big deal."

"No, I'm serious, Anders. Where'd you learn how to do that?"

"It helps me remember," he says simply.

Remember what? Her sleeping? He sees that every night.

"What are you...?" He gives her another kiss, silencing her question. And then he tells her. He always tells her everything, the good things and the bad.

"In the dark, in the cell... I'd keep myself sane by pulling up these... pictures, in my mind. Things I'd seen, places I'd been. If I could draw them, it made them more real."

"And you still do it?"

She doesn't know how he could. Reminding himself of that time, those months all alone... she doesn't resist the urge to reach for him. He lets her, he returns her touch, wraps her up in his arms.

"Hawke, that part of my life was just as real as this part. Forgetting it is... not an option. But I don't draw the Tower dungeons, in case you hadn't noticed. I draw you. Reminding myself what's important. That's what this has always been about."

He takes the drawing, sets it carefully aside. "Come on," he whispers. "Let's go back to bed."