AN: Back to my old habits! A kmeme fill. Original prompt: One day, while in Hawke estate, [Anders] accidentally stumbles upon the happy couple having some frenzied, passionate sex. He's in a position that he can't leave without being noticed, so he reluctantly decides to wait it out, watching the happy duo with all the disgust a poor rejected man can have. He keeps mentally criticizing Fenris about how he's taking her in an animalistic way and there's no way he has any kind of honorable intentions toward her when Fenris starts speaking in Arcanum in the heat of passion, which Hawke can't understand but Anders, being the bamf! scholar he is can understand very clearly. What Fenris says is pretty much vows of eternal devotion and since he knows Hawke can't understand, he is swoon-worthily romantic, resulting is a thoroughly disillusioned Anders.
When Anders finally leaves he is completely dejected, since he knows for certain now that Fenris won't be leaving Hawke anytime soon (read: never).
What's that—angsty Hawke/Fenris with a side of Anders whump? Oh yeah, I got this. (I love you, Anders. Really.) Any Latin you recognize has almost certainly been butchered by me; my apologies to both linguaphiles and the Latin language.
Edit 11/10/12: The wonderful, patient, and superlative plotbunnyprey has been generous enough to give me the correct Latin in place of my mangled attempts at the language. Thank you so much for your help!
White Blank Page
Can you lie next to her and give her your heart,
your heart as well as your body?
And can you lie next to her and confess your love,
your love as well as your folly?
Oh, tell me, now, where was my fault
in loving you with my whole heart?
—White Blank Page, Mumford & Sons
He's not here to leave a manifesto.
Oh, Anders knows that's what everyone thinks he is, manifestos and Justice and some really underrated feathered pauldrons, but sometimes they tend to forget that he's a man first and a healer second, and if he's here to make sure Hawke's shoulder is closing cleanly and he just happens to lose bits of his latest draft in every third book in her library, it's an accident any man can make while visiting a friend, right?
Worries thus assuaged, Anders knocks hard on the door one-two-three, as if he is any man visiting a friend in the evening who is very much not looking over his shoulder for the glint of starlight on steel—but on the third knock the door swings inward, silent and unlocked and apparently not even closed all the way, and Anders's heart drops into his stomach like a stone. He can imagine very few reasons for Hawke to be so careless with her safety, fewer still with the safety of her household.
He pokes his head into the shadows. "Hawke?"
There is no answer save the flat, dead echo of his own voice. Anders sidles a half-step into her dark and empty foyer, tucking the loose pages of his manifesto into his coat and lighting a little white mage-wisp that dances above his palm. "Hawke," he says again, louder, and when there is still no response he pushes the door wide open and strides inside, trying to tamp down the fluttering wings of worry in his chest. "Bodahn? Orana? …Sandal?"
Nothing. Nothing but him and his too-loud footsteps and his awkwardly rustling feathers as he makes his way further into her house. A floorboard creaks ominously and Anders curses under his breath—really, Hawke?—but before the house can fall into true melodrama with shades bursting forth from the flagstones and howling winds rising to nip at his ears, Anders lifts his eyes to see light at last. Torchlight, specifically, flickering on the second floor with a warm and hearty glow that seems somewhat out of place in the unrelenting eeriness of Hawke's mansion at night. Anders moves towards it like a moth, almost stumbling twice in his haste to get up the stairs; the light is coming from Hawke's room like a damned beacon, and Anders barely remembers to knock before throwing the door open to see—
—absolutely nothing. The room is as void of living beings as the rest of the house.
Anders deflates with an audible sigh and steps into the room, running a hand through his hair in a vain effort to maintain what is left of his composure. There is a tray on the floor by the fire with the remains of a meal; the smell of spiced chicken still lingers in the room, as if Hawke had been there only a moment before, and Justice stirs uncomfortably in the back of his head.
Something is wrong, Justice offers, and Anders barely represses a snort.
"Impressive insight," he mutters, stepping over to Hawke's desk. Perhaps there is some note, some letter left there that might tell him where she has gone—but beside the pair of squat white candles there is only a single, half-folded sheet of paper, one word written on it in a cramped and unfamiliar hand: Tonight.
Anders tosses the note back to the desk. Hawke had mentioned nothing when he'd checked on her this morning, said no word against his plan to return this evening to change her bandaged shoulder; Justice voices another voiceless complaint, and Anders spins on his heel and heads for the door. Varric will know, surely—and even if he doesn't, he'll know where to start, and that's more than Anders has right now—but even as his fingers close around the carved brass handle, a sound from the other side of the door stops him in his tracks.
Voices. Hawke's voice, laughing and indistinct and coming closer.
"…wouldn't have had to get another bottle if you weren't such a snob—and don't you look at me like that, you know you are. This has been in my family's cellar for four generations, and if you don't like it then you'll just have to bring your own next time."
There's a pause and a low, rumbling laugh, and Anders's fist clenches involuntarily at his side.
The pieces fall into place like coffin-nails, hammering home the realization with all the mercy of a faceless templar. He turns as if in a dream and sees the room through a clearer lens: an empty plate—but two forks and two knives, two wineglasses on the mantle with the barest blush of wine left in the shining crystal—and the unfamiliar handwriting of the note on Hawke's desk, cramped not from carelessness but from fingers unused to holding a pen. Fenris is here, with Hawke, for Hawke, and Anders is nothing but an uninvited, unwelcome fool. He slumps against the door, listening in a mixture of fury and bitterness as their voices climb the stairs.
"You imply I would turn away anything that is not Agreggio."
"Wouldn't you?" Fenris does not answer, but he must have made some kind of face because a moment later Hawke snorts. "At least wait until we're done with this one before you throw it at the wall."
Fenris laughs again—and that is a sound Anders has never expected to hear without someone dying immediately afterwards—and then that thought leads to another, and Anders realizes he is standing in Hawke's bedroom in the middle of the night and in the middle of their tryst, and he realizes too that to control his mind and his mouth at the moment would be impossible. He can't think straight through the anger and the sudden embarrassment and the blind hurt of hearing that bastard elf teasing Hawke so easily; the room fades blue for a moment and he hears Justice say Be calm, Anders, but that is no longer a possibility, and the one clear and driving thought that breaks through the hot-tinged haze is get away.
He cannot go out through the door; even if he thought he could face Hawke now he doesn't think he could bear Fenris's smug smile without striking him. The windows are out too, high as they are above the street, and with the sudden clarity of desperation he realizes that other than be found here by the two people he could not wish to see less at the moment, he has no choice but to hide.
What are you doing? Justice asks in alarm, but Anders ignores him. There are few easy places within sight: a folding screen in one corner, a narrow nook between Hawke's desk and the wall—and her enormous wardrobe by the fireplace, one door cracked open as if in quiet invitation. He doesn't think, doesn't hesitate even with Justice's objections ringing in the back of his head, and a moment later he has shoved himself into the wardrobe and pulled the door almost closed behind him.
This is wrong! Justice nearly shouts, shocked and appalled, but the deed is done and the decision made, and Anders sinks to a sitting position inside the wardrobe to press his feet against the opposite wall. The armoire is almost empty, conveniently, with only a handful of gowns and a winter cloak hanging above him and a few pairs of shoes resting at his hip that he has never seen Hawke wear. It is not pitch-dark either—the walls from his chin up are made of intricate carved latticework set over a black fabric screen, thick enough for him to see out but not to be seen himself, and Anders finds himself grateful for at least that small mercy. He shifts his weight and the manifesto crinkles a bit against his chest; Anders sucks in a breath, easing down into a more comfortable position, and glances towards the door. He is committed, now; no explanation will suffice if he is discovered here, even with Hawke's too-generous forgiveness, and so now there is nothing to do but wait.
Shut up, he tells Justice, and the door to Hawke's bedroom opens.
Hawke enters first, looking back over her shoulder as she lifts a dusty bottle of wine in explanation. She is in the soft red robe Anders has seen her wear around her estate before, her feet bare, and for a moment his throat closes in a surge of wild emotion at the strangely intimate sight. "—served at my grandparents' wedding, according to Mother. She stole a bottle for herself when she ran away with Father, too. Traditional wedding gift for the Amell family, I suppose."
Fenris follows her in and closes the door behind him. His face is indistinct through the screen, but Anders can still see the curling smile under the shock of white hair as he crosses to the mantle and retrieves the empty wineglasses. His armor is gone and his gauntlets too, and for an instant when he reaches the fireplace Anders can actual feel the rumble of his voice in his chest. "You are so willing to break tradition?"
Hawke flaps a hand at him as she pours the wine. "Do you see a ring on this finger?"
Fenris smirks and Anders just about breaks his jaw for how hard he is clenching his teeth. He does not understand how easy it is for Hawke to joke about this—she must know as well as he does that the elf is as inconstant as a breeze, capricious and unstable and coming as he pleases to take and take and take until he is sated and she is left empty and wanting again. Anders has seen it before, after all, has watched for three years of unwilling silence as Hawke pulled her brittle porcelain smile over the cracked and bleeding wreck the elf had made of her heart. Three years—three years of watching, of waiting in helpless hope for Hawke to turn her head back towards him, to take his outstretched hand and stop tearing herself apart over a man who neither noticed nor cared.
Anders cannot even remember the first time he'd realized he loved her; he simply knows that he does, wholly and without reservation. He has little to offer her save that—but Fenris has nothing more himself, and Anders knows he at least would not have left her to suffer while he sat alone in a decrepit, stolen manor. He would have loved her; he would have tried to make her happy; he had hoped that would be enough.
But he'd been wrong. Three years he'd stood behind her in silent support, taking nothing, asking nothing, and in one afternoon of betrayal and death he'd lost her again anyway.
She was never yours to lose, Justice murmurs, and Anders bites the inside of his cheek hard enough that he tastes blood.
"You like it?" Hawke's voice is soft in the silent room, but her grin is bright enough that Anders's heart lifts despite himself.
"Yes," says Fenris, low and pleased, and before Anders realizes what he is doing the elf has crossed the room to kiss her. The sight of it nearly takes his breath away in fury—how dare he claim her so easily after everything he has done to her, after everything she has suffered because of him?—but Hawke voices no objection as she winds her free arm around Fenris's neck to pull him closer. He murmurs something and Hawke laughs against his mouth, and then he draws back long enough to pluck her glass from her hand and set both hers and his on the tray by the fire. The wine shivers a moment with the movement, catching the light like fingers of red flame, and Anders thinks he is going to be sick.
Then Fenris backs Hawke against one of the mahogany posts of her bed and kisses her again, and Anders knows he will be.
"Pushy," Hawke says at last, and then, "You do like that wine."
"It tastes better on you."
"Pushy and a flatterer."
Then they kiss for a long time, and Anders leans his head back against the wall of the wardrobe, trying desperately to ignore both their noises and Justice's unwavering disapproval. He closes his eyes in defense—and that is a mistake, because Hawke lets out a sudden, fluting gasp, and in his mind's eye it is not Fenris there but him, Anders, with his mouth at Hawke's neck and his fingers in her hair and her hands sliding smooth and sure under his robes until he can almost feel the gentle coolness of her skin against his chest, can almost taste the wine-sweet tang of her lips—
"Fenris," Hawke breathes, and Anders's eyes snap open.
You deceive yourself, Justice says, quiet and confused. To what end?
To no end at all, Anders thinks, and watches as Hawke undoes the clasps of Fenris's jerkin with practiced ease. The elf does not help, watching her face instead as she pushes the leather away with both hands, and then in a flicker of firelight his chest is laid bare to the room and somewhere in the back of Anders's head, Justice stiffens like an iron poker. He has seen Fenris's tattoos before, of course, and healed them too, the elegant twining lines marred with blood and split by blades too quick to evade; he has seen them shining with blue-white rage until Fenris has gone ephemeral with the power of it; he has seen them flat and dead and thin with exhaustion at the end of a too-long battle, but Anders has never seen them like this.
The lines nearly gleam under Hawke's hands, tracing down his chest and stomach and arms like unfurling vines, thick with power and the wild, sweet song of lyrium. He can feel Justice shifting in his head, fascinated and discomfited and just edging into the confused, embarrassed desire of a spirit not accustomed to the sensation. So that's what it takes to get you to be quiet, Anders thinks uncharitably. Justice says nothing.
"You're staring," Fenris says, and for one heart-stopping moment Anders thinks they've been discovered—and then he realizes there is no anger in the voice and no fist around his heart, and he tries to pull his breathing back to normal as Fenris leans closer to Hawke.
She shrugs one shoulder, grinning. "You're easy to look at."
"And who is the flatterer now?"
"Me," Hawke says with unabashed amusement, touching her thumb to one of the lines that curls over Fenris's chin. "Doesn't make it not true."
"Hmm," says Fenris as he lifts her hand higher to press his lips to her palm.
Hawke watches him with half-lidded eyes, an opaque smile curving her lips, and then she slides her hand from his mouth to the back of his neck. "You're stalling."
Fenris lets out a puff of air that would have sounded embarrassed coming from anyone else, and says, "This fascination of yours is—unhealthy."
"I happen to value unusual talents."
"Unusual by whose standards? In Minrathous—"
"We are not in Minrathous, my darling elf," Hawke says, and even though her voice is teasing Anders can hear the sincerity in the endearment. "And you didn't seem to mind last time, either. So—?"
Fenris drops his head against Hawke's neck, and for a moment they are nothing but a blur of white hair and dark, of tanned shoulders and pale hands and a thousand things he can never touch. Then Fenris says into her shoulder, "Pertinax es," and Anders forgets his bitterness in his surprise.
Arcanum. He knows that language, recognizes those words—it takes him a minute to sift through a decade of disuse, but after a few seconds the memories of half-dreamt lessons and Circle libraries and ancient Tevinter tomes come flooding back. Pertinax es—you are impossible.
"Don't say that," Hawke says, thumping Fenris gently on the shoulder. "Say nice things."
"Bella res," grumbles Fenris as he straightens. "How do you know I am not?"
She quirks an eyebrow. "I can tell."
"Perinde mentiris ac canem." That one takes Anders a little longer, but when he works it out he grits his teeth to keep silent. You lie like a dog.
Hawke seems less put out. "Nice things, Fenris."
He kisses her instead, pressing her back into the scarlet hangings that drape the bedpost behind her as if he means to crush the breath from her chest. Hawke's head thumps against the wood behind the velvet and Anders clenches a fist in impotent fury, but before he can string two thoughts together besides kill the elf, Fenris has drawn back again.
"Tu," he says, softly, "pulchra es."
Hawke smiles. "What does that mean?"
Fenris shakes his head and Anders barely represses a snort. You are beautiful—he rolls his eyes, torn between derision and jealousy. What he wouldn't give to be there in Fenris's place, to have the freedom to say that to Hawke with his own mouth—but of all the compliments in the world Fenris could have paid to Hawke, he is not surprised that the elf chose first the simplest, the most generic thing a man could say to a woman and expected it to be enough. Typical and uninspired—he almost feels sorry for Hawke. That is not ours to judge, Justice protests. Anders ignores him.
But Fenris, it seems, is not finished, and when Hawke starts to speak he silences her with his mouth. "Nimis loqueris," he says against her lips, smirking, and adds, "et iocus pessimi tui. Sed…"
Hawke hums a question, her hands stroking down Fenris's bare back in long, smooth strokes, unaware of the insult Fenris has just given her. Not that he is wrong, Anders is forced to admit; he has borne the brunt of Hawke's regrettable wit more than once, her awkward enthusiasm for comedy doing little justice to the art—but of all things to say to a lover—
"Sed," Fenris continues, dropping his mouth to the skin below her ear, "eos diligo."
"Hmm," says Hawke as she wraps her arms around his shoulders and tips her head back. "I like the sound of that."
Fenris laughs and Anders scowls, reversing his opinion on the compliment—or lack thereof. Fenris would treasure her jokes, humorless bastard, if only because so few of them come at his expense. It's nothing but another symptom of a sickness he is not allowed to heal, and all because Hawke knows that her oh-so-devoted lover would flee like a coward at the first injury to his dignity. Pathetic. Intolerable.
Hawke's hands slide over his shoulders and down his stomach and Fenris jerks, letting out a curse more surprised than angry; Anders can't quite see where her hands have gone, his view blocked by an intricate carving of an iris, but when her arms flex and Fenris curses again, Anders finds that he has a relatively good idea. His stomach turns over in distaste—he does not wish to see this, to hear Fenris gasp and choke at a touch he does not deserve, to think of Hawke being the one to cause it—but before either he or Justice can do something exceptionally foolish Fenris unknowingly saves them both, grasping both Hawke's wrists in one hand and pinning them above her head.
"Destite," he says, his voice rough, and then, "Slow yourself, woman."
Hawke arches against his hold, irking the physician inside Anders—she should not be straining that shoulder and she knows it—but after a moment she yields, going pliant in his grip like Anders has never seen her before. "As you wish," she nearly purrs, and all the muscles of Fenris's back ripple in a shudder.
"Pertinax es," he says again, his fingers twitching around her wrist—and then Hawke gasps as his leg works between her thighs. Fenris catches her face in her other hand, swallowing her breath in a coarse and biting kiss that makes Anders's hackles rise. The elf is less a man than a beast, here, with his mouth crushed against her mouth and his leg between her legs, hard and selfish and animal and Anders cannot understand why Hawke allows this—unless, he realizes, she knows that any objection, even here, would be enough to chase Fenris away again and leave her alone and lost and wanting, just like the first time.
You pity her, Justice thinks in surprise.
No, Anders answers, slowly; it is not pity, not really, that he feels—it is more sorrow than sympathy, more frustration than simple compassion that Hawke should have been forced into a cage so confining for the sake of her feelings. If only—if only—but wishes are luxuries not afforded him, not anymore, so instead he says nothing and watches as Fenris touches Hawke with all the careful delicacy of a cudgel.
His head drops to her throat and Hawke's fingers flex helplessly above her head; "Yes—there," she says, her breath coming short, and Anders looks away as her eyes close and her mouth falls open. Anders is no blushing virgin—more than a decade in Ferelden's Circle had seen to that—but this is Hawke, not some senior enchanter with her robes rucked up around her legs, and even here with Fenris Anders has too much respect for her to intrude on something so private.
"Tell me," Hawke says then, her head tipped back and her eyes still closed, "a secret."
"A secret," Fenris repeats, his teeth still on her collarbone, and Hawke nods.
"Something you've never told anyone. Even me."
Fenris pauses at that, straightening until he is looking down into her face again. His eyes narrow in a sudden gleam of green sparks, his gaze hot enough that Anders can feel it even through wood and screen, but Hawke faces it without flinching, and after a moment Fenris leans his head forward until his mouth just brushes her ear, as if he cannot bear to meet her eyes as he speaks. Above them, Hawke's fingers curl between his to hold his hand in both of hers.
"Cum tecum," he says, his ears tingeing pink, "salvus fio."
When I am with you, Anders works out, I am safe. He has no response to that, no acerbic condemnation to offer; he himself feels the same way, as if Hawke's presence alone is enough to keep his ghosts at bay, the light of her smile warmer and more welcoming than any hearth could ever be. To have this in common with Fenris of all people—it both surprises and unsettles him, and for the first time this evening he feels as though there is something he might be missing between the two of them.
Hawke kisses him and says, "Another."
"Avara," Fenris grumbles; he pauses, thinking, and then says more haltingly than the first, "Non vivebam priusquam…"
"Non vivebam priusquam te sciui," he finishes, and buries his face in her hair. I did not live before I met you. Anders blinks, silenced again.
"Me paenitet abeuntis." I regret leaving you.
"Another," Hawke breathes and Fenris laughs, and in a whirl of black hair and pale red cloth he has toppled her over onto her bed. He settles between her legs like he belongs there, his chest pressed full to hers, and braces his elbows on either side of her head.
He kisses her twice, long and searching kisses that draw on something deeper than Anders can see, and says, "Si tu quaeris, usque ad Minrathous laetus eam."
If you go—no, Anders thinks, trying to remember rules of grammar he'd never learned well to begin with—If you asked, I would go gladly to Minrathous.
"I heard Minrathous in that one."
"Yes. One more."
"For the moment, you mean."
She leans up to kiss him, her robe sliding off one shoulder to reveal the bone-white bandage beneath it. "For the moment. One more, Fenris."
Fenris looks down at her with something else in his eyes besides lust, something deep-seated and quiet and strong like the swifter waters of a silent river, and Anders finds himself holding his breath. "Ego tuum sum," Fenris says at last, and there is neither hesitation nor doubt in his voice.
I am yours.
Hawke's face is glowing, her eyes bright enough to light the room on their own. "That sounded true."
"It was," Fenris says, and dips his mouth again to hers.
Anders slumps against the wardrobe wall, pinching his nose with one hand to ward off a sudden headache. He suddenly feels tired, exhausted as if he has carried a heavy weight on his back too long, bent and aching like a tree beaten too hard by a storm. Something in his heart is hurting, sharp, and bright, and he presses his face into his knees to shut out the sight of Fenris and Hawke entwined on her bed. He should not have come here—should never have stayed once he realized—but he has always been too quick to try the unknown path, too eager for caution, too much a slave of hope to surrender so easily to the obvious inevitability. Seven escapes from the Circle and another from the Wardens—and never has he felt so trapped.
Do not grieve, says Justice gently. She will be happy.
I wanted her to be happy with me, Anders thinks, as if it makes a difference.
Justice subsides, though Anders knows the spirit still does not understand—love is the provenance of mortals, after all, and heartache with it, and though he knows that time will scar even this wound over, at the moment he feels as torn and raw as a rabbit run to ground, left to bleed his quick-beating heart into the earth until he is empty. He's lost her to the elf all over again—and he'd never had her in the first place.
There's a sudden gasp and a breathless laugh from the bed, and Anders looks up without meaning to to see one tanned hand sliding up the inside of Hawke's pale thigh. Fenris chuckles, his other arm still braced above her head, and as Hawke slips her hands down the rippling lyrium of his back and under his waistband Anders nearly recoils into the wall in his shock. This is not something he should see—not something he wants to see, not anymore, not with another man and certainly not with Fenris—and even as Fenris's hips buck hard into hers Anders is already retreating into his head, pushing Justice aside in his frantic need to be anywhere but here.
"Fenris," Hawke says, her voice low and intimate, and Anders thinks that if the Maker had even an ounce of mercy he would strike him dead here and now.
But there are neither bolts of lightning or swelling seas to swallow him—he should have known better than to expect such favor—and Anders is left instead an unwilling witness to the private reunion unfolding between two people separated too long. Fenris's hand moves higher between her legs and Hawke arches up into his touch, her toes curling into her crimson quilts; his mouth moves over hers and then to her neck and lower, tugging her robe down her shoulders with his teeth.
"Tuus," Fenris rasps. "Nunc. Semper. Dum me demixeris."
"Fenris," Hawke says again, gasping, and Anders squeezes his eyes shut as if that might block out the world entirely. Yours. Now. Forever. Until you send me away.
Justice shifts. You do not wish to see this.
That is such an understatement, Anders thinks, and the bitterness in his voice surprises even him.
Then let me spare you. Let me take your eyes.
Take everything, Anders tells him, and flees to the Fade with Fenris's name ringing in his ears.
The fire has burnt low by the time Justice recedes, pulling back like an evening tide until the world washes over Anders again. The waves buffet him with color and sound, crisp and clear and too vivid for the pale, shifting shadows of the Fade, but after a moment they resolve themselves into the sharp-edged shapes of desk and door, into the rich crimson hangings of Hawke's bed, and into Hawke herself, fully-dressed in her armor save her boots, sitting on the edge of her rumpled comforter with one of the forgotten wineglasses in her hand. She drains the glass as Anders blinks the last of the Fade-shadows from his eyes and sets the emptied glass on her nightstand, then stands and stretches both arms over her head with a quiet, satisfied smile.
A somewhat belated thought occurs to Anders. You didn't glow, did you?
Justice makes a noise that might have been a snort. I was not angry. I was judicious.
Wonderful, Anders thinks, and presses the heels of his hands into his eyes.
The door opens and Fenris enters, holding Hawke's missing boots in one hand. He too is fully dressed again in armor and gauntlets, though the top several clasps of his jerkin are undone, and he hands the boots to Hawke before moving to lean against Anders's wardrobe. Anders falls very, very still.
"They were in your foyer," Fenris says, his brow furrowed. "Did you know the door was standing open?"
"The front door?"
"Nope." Hawke sits again on the edge of the bed, pulling on one boot and latching it into place. "Was anything missing?"
"Not that I could see."
"Hmm. Maybe I forgot to lock the—oh. Shit. Shit, Fenris!"
Hawke is frozen in dismay, her leg crossed over her knee and her other boot dangling off the toe. "Fenris! I told Anders to come by tonight to look at my shoulder! Oh, damn, I completely forgot—I can't believe I did that. Every time the household has the day off I lose my head like a nitwit. What time is it—after nine? Probably too late for him to come now, especially with that walk from Darktown. Shit."
Fenris pushes off the wardrobe to touch her shoulder, Anders's bandage hidden by her tunic and armor. "How bad is the injury?"
"Not bad. Just a scratch, really. Bled a lot, but no real damage."
"Bad enough that you still require healing."
She bats away his hand and pulls on her other boot. "Don't fret. I'm all right. Maybe he'll be at The Hanged Man with the others."
"I do not fret," Fenris mutters, but he backs away to let her rise on her own. "You should be more careful, Hawke."
"You know me. I live life on the edge."
"The edge of what—disaster?"
"Or something," Hawke says, grinning, and leans up to drop a light kiss on Fenris's mouth. "Come on, we're already late."
She starts to pull away but he catches her first, one hand sliding into her hair to hold her in place. This kiss lasts longer than the first, though it holds little of the heat Anders has seen between them tonight; instead it is softer, and quiet, and gentle in a way he did not know Fenris could be, and when it is over Hawke sighs and drops her head to his chest. "Do you mind?" he asks, and smiles.
"You know I don't." Hawke smiles too, then straightens and does up the last few clasps of his jerkin. "Come on. Let's go see if Anders is with the others."
Fenris nods, brushing the back of his hand over her cheek with surprising tenderness, and as they turn towards the door Hawke tucks her hand into his elbow. Anders thinks for a moment that she will say something—and if she tells Fenris that she loves him he will break into a thousand pieces, right here—but instead she only rests her head on his shoulder in easy affection. Fenris's head turns towards hers as they pass through the door, a small smile curving his lips—and that is the last Anders sees of them before they vanish together into the darkness.
He stays there a moment more, listening to their footsteps tapping down the stairs; then the front door opens and closes again, and over the house at last settles that peculiar silence of complete and total solitude.
He is alone.
Anders has no idea how long he has been hidden in the wardrobe, but his shoulders are stiff and aching when he lifts his hand to push open the carved and thick-screened doors that hide him. His back is stiff too, and his legs cramping from his self-imposed captivity; by the time he makes his unsteady way to his feet every muscle in his body is protesting, sore both from his careful stillness and the less-controlled crush of his misery. Justice rests quiet and compliant in the back of his head, neither pushing nor demanding as Anders moves like an old man to the hearth and its dying fire. The wardrobe looks so much smaller from the outside than he expects, considering how much time he has spent inside it, but he does not dwell on that a moment longer than he has to, turning instead to Hawke's desk with the folded note from Fenris still lying atop it.
He slides his hand into his robe in a numb, mechanical motion, and with a crinkle of paper pulls out the forgotten packet that is his manifesto. It seems less important than he remembers, certainly less imperative—but he drops it on the desk all the same in a dead thump. He is so tired.
That is not discreet, Justice protests, and Anders lets out a bitter, brittle laugh.
"I honestly could not give one tin shit about that right now. Sorry."
Justice says nothing, though Anders can sense his storm-heavy disapproval. It is far too late, though, and far too little to make a difference, and even the threat of a sulking spirit is not enough to make Anders pretend to care right now about his manifesto. The pages might as well have been blank for how much they mean at this moment.
Then Anders turns back to the quiet, still room, to the wardrobe that had been both shelter and prison, to the bed where Hawke had, without knowing, taken his every hope in both hands and gently crumbled them into dust.
"I love you," he says helplessly, his voice falling flat and without an echo; when it dies away it leaves the room as silent as before, as empty as before, and in the silence he realizes that its passing has left him empty too. There is a quiet hollow in his chest, as if a cool fist has reached into his heart and pulled out the last threads of warmth that he'd had there to leave him nothing but the cold and somber fire of Justice in their place.
Enough, Justice says without rancor, and then, We should go.
"Yes," says Anders into the silence, lifting his head and squaring his shoulders as if that might ease the thumping void behind his ribs, and he turns and moves towards the door without stumbling. The fire lets out one last placid series of pops as a branch breaks in the hearth, throwing a long and shivering shadow before his feet like a black-inked map to guide him from this place that belongs only to Hawke and Fenris. Her room is too warm, too bright, too glad—but that warmth is not for him, has never been for him, and now—it never will be.
He leaves the light behind him, and Anders does not look back.