Trigger warnings: BDSM, verging on non-con (consent is never explicitly given, only implicitly, and that might even change in the future depending on where this goes) some distortion of reality and mental-issue themes.

Author's notes: 1) Bioware owns everything and I own nothing; further, I make no profit off of this.
2) Explicit sexual content, watch out below.
3) This is a f!mage (I'm trying to stay away from whether it's Amell or Neria) x Cullen, and is designed to explain why she went off to rebuild the wardens and he went to Kirkwall. 4) Yes, I'm British, this means British spelling, and the occasional British curse word or turn of phrase.

Of all the things that she had expected leaving the circle, the innate sense of panic hadn't been one of them.

Looking back, she supposed she should have seen it coming. She'd spent all her life that she could remember under the Templar's thumb. Control was not something she had to worry about, simply because they did it for her. It was a fine line to walk, one that she knew had driven others mad, or complacent.

There were some mages who threw themselves into insanity even as they threw themselves against the rock of their guardians, the walls of the circle, the laws of the land, and they never won.

There were others who gave into hopelessness, depressed beyond all human measure that that control wasn't theirs, who would stop getting up, stop washing, stop learning, stop eating, and eventually, just stop altogether. They tried to shephard the apprentices away from those - the dead eyes in a face that still drew breath gave bad dreams enough to those that were grown, never mind those young enough that every shadow seemed to hold a demon.

But she had enjoyed it. The knowledge that if something wrong happened (because she was a mage, and mages were BAD) there would be someone there to catch her was freeing. And when you learn that there is something inside of you that might cause you to one day lay waste to everything you've ever known, a quick death at the hands of a vigilient guardian doesn't seem so bad. The thought of it even comforted her sometimes at night when she was lying in dorms, listening to the others breathe, wondering if there was about to be a hitch of breath, and then a roar as an abomination came down on them all.

Nothing bad will happen, the Templars will stop it.

And then, suddenly...she was outside. Fucking Jowan. She had felt bad about turning him in - she'd only ever meant to talk to Irving enough to confirm whether he was going to be made Tranquil or not, but the wiley old First Enchanter had tricked it out of her - until that moment, that horrible moment when that look of desperation in Jowan's eye had turned to steel and then there was a knife and blood and oh maker...

That was what happened when you were bad and disobeyed. Bad things happened.

And the outside was worse. Here, suddenly, there were no Templars to catch her. Maker help her, but what if something happened? What IF?

She spent the entire first week trying not to sleep, not to dream, to stay out of the Fade, the sleep deprivation leaving her permanently on the verge of screaming at Duncan, would he even know what to DO if something went wrong? He wasn't a Templar, he was a WARDEN, and they dealt in Darkspawn, not demons, not shades, not abominations, and the one time they spent the night in a village on the way to Ostagar, she'd stayed up all night, jabbing a fork she'd stolen from dinner into her legs to make sure she wouldn't sleep and kill the villagers.

But then when it came time to ride out in the morning, she'd lasted all of ten minutes before slumber claimed her and she'd fallen off her mount and hit her head. And Duncan, normally implacable, gave her a Look and tied her to her horse and told her if she didn't sleep, he'd drug her, and they were away from people so she could stop being so twitchy, and...

...And she didn't remember the rest, because between the sleep deprivation and the concussion, that was about when she stopped caring and let herself go. And by the time she woke up, it was thirty-six hours later and they were nearly there, and her legs ached in ways she'd never felt before or since from being tied into place on a saddle that was just a little too small for her.

But then she met Alistair. And something inside her relaxed, because even if he hadn't taken his vows, he still knew what being a Templar was all about, and knew that she was a mage, and knew what could happen if things went Bad.

And somehow he was the worst and the best Templar she'd ever met. He joked and made her laugh and at times when she thought all was lost, she'd just hear his voice coming out of the darkness making some wry remark and suddenly it didn't all seem so bad and then a solution would spring into her head and it would all be Ok.

And he was the worst because he wouldn't lead. Wouldn't control. Wouldn't order. She didn't know what to do without orders, without control. She'd never been so grateful to anyone as she was to Morrigan when she talked about going to Lothering first, because all she'd wanted to do otherwise was hide under that bed in Flemeth's hut until the world ended and she didn't have to be In Charge anymore.

But then they had Morrigan. And Dog. And Sten and Leiliana, and a bit later, Zevran, and then a bit after that Wynne and finally Oghren, and she found she could really relax, because while she might say what they were doing, she had them for if she ever went out of control. Zevran would be the fastest to catch her, but Morrigan would know if she was getting weak, and Wynne would know if she was breaking the circle rules, and Leiliana would warn her if she was getting cruel, and Sten if she was lying, but Oghren was always there to offer some foul smelling drink and make sure they had something like fun sometimes and Alistair...

...and Alistair would be sweet, and stammering, and there was a rose, and long glances across the campfire and a burning in her chest like she'd never felt before and eventually they were in bed together and it was sweet, and true, and lovely, and good, and everything bright in the world.

And then they saved the world and it all went to hell.

The pain when Alistair had looked her in the eye and told her they couldn't go on was bad. Horrific. She'd stayed the night in Leiliana's bed, as she and Zevran - a pairing she really should have seen coming, the bard and the assassin, talk about cliche - had muttered comforting things at her while she lay between them unable to stop sobbing. A few hours before dawn, there had been a knock on the door, and there had been Morrigan looking guilty, her hair still mussed from completing the ritual with Alistair, and there hadn't been a word between them as she slid onto the bed with the others and between the three of them - so different, so unique, and yet all still so loving - she'd finally been able to grope her way to the knowledge that while this hurt like hell, she'd be ok, she'd survive, eventually.

And then they killed the Archdemon. Or rather, she had - and when she'd gotten back, Morrigan had already been gone, and the absence had kicked like a mule in her gut.

And then, making excuses and sharing secret smiles, Zevran and Leiliana had been out of the door almost before the congratulations ceremony was done, and she was left feeling like she was missing an arm.

And Oghren left, and Sten, and Wynne, until finally it was just her and Alistair and Dog and she felt that it was odd she could still walk without careening into things because the world was so off balance.

And before she knew it, there were mutterings of a queen, and royal wedding, and choosing a bride, and she couldn't stand it.

She knew she couldn't stay when one morning, out of frustration, she'd set fire to the tapestry in her room.

Immediately there had been running footsteps outside in the corridor, and the rush of relief she'd felt had been almost overwhelming. There would be someone who'd come in, and they'd yell, and they'd tell her to do something to make it up, and it would all be better because she wouldn't be In Charge anymore.

But she was sorely disappointed when the man with the thunderous expression who burst through her door took one look at her and turned pale. "Ah...My lady! I mean, Hero! I mean...Enchanter?" he finished slightly lamely. Apparently Killer-Of-Archdemons-and-ex-lover-of-the-king was too much of a mouthful to fit into one title, so they hadn't decided on what she was officially. "I'm so sorry to intrude - may I offer any assistance?"

She stared at him disbelieving. 'I'm burning pieces of your castle,' she wanted to shout. 'With magic. Magic that is technically illegal - and you're offering assistance?'

For one surreal moment she was tempted to tell him she needed three infants, the blood of a virgin and a sharp knife and see what he would do. But the urge passed, barely.

"No, thank you," she replied in her calmest tone of voice, trying for all the world not to look like she was standing in a room with one drapery on fire and the ones either side of it starting to smoulder.

He stared for one more minute, and then bowed and excused himself.

After a couple more minutes when no one else came - not even Alistair, which she couldn't help but feel bereft and abandoned and lonely over - and it was clear no one else was going to come, lest they risk offending the hero of Ferelden, the room had filled with enough smoke that her eyes were watering so, sulkily, she encased that entire wall in ice and started packing.

She was gone before sunrise the next day. On her bed she left his rose. If he couldn't get the message behind that, she...well, she would try her best not to care.