"I seem to recall you saying something a while ago…" Fenris trailed off as his claw-tipped fingers traced over an amulet. Hawke was up ahead, talking to the merchant – Anders clenched his eyes tight and begged the Maker for self-restraint.
"Shut up." He snapped, tearing his eyes from Fenris' hands. The slave was toying with a miniature Templar shield. Anders felt as paranoid as the Knight Commander, but he was sure the elf was just doing it to twist the metaphorical knife.
With a grin as smug as any elf's, Fenris angled past him, awkwardly slipping between him and the merchandise. Anders had no choice but to look him in his lyrium-carved face. "'I can control it.' Wasn't that what you said?"
Anders felt Justice riling at the comment but he stepped back. Hawke was looking at them now, her impossibly blue eyes narrowed in a warning. "So help me…" he snarled through clenched teeth, his own fingers curling into claws. Justice wanted the slave dead, but Justice was not really someone he wanted to bring into this. Not here. Not in the middle of the Lowtown market. "You have no idea what this is like."
"Do I have to babysit the both of you to stop this foolishness?" Hawke snapped, striding up to them, her raven-dark hair sweeping back from her face. "I need you both outfitted. That's the only reason we're here. I don't expect you to kiss and make up, but hold your tongues. Both of you."
Anders hated her every word, but did as he was asked. He took a certain pleasure in seeing the elf still mindlessly following orders, too, despite his claims to freedom. Taking a deep breath, he placed Hawke between him and Fenris. For the life of him he couldn't figure out why he still followed her.
He watched her for a while as she flirted with the slave, and a burning rose in his throat. He decided it was disgust, that a mage like Hawke would fall for a brainwashed beast like Fenris. That she could turn so wholly away from everything within her, from her father's legacy… he had to leave.
"Hawke. I'm needed at the clinic. Are we done here?" he snapped. She parted her lips to answer, but he'd already turned on his heel. It probably wasn't safe for him to be outside for too long, anyway. I'll leave her to her 'Little Wolf'.
Varric was a constant shit-stirrer, Anders decided the moment he'd set foot in the Hanged Man. At their usual table was Carver, Fenris and Aveline – he couldn't believe his eyes. Why in the name of the Maker had he been invited to this? Heaving a sigh, he strode over to the table and sat between Varric and Aveline, despite there being hardly any room.
"Who let the abomination out of its cage?" Fenris snarled as soon as he caught the mage's eye, and Anders felt his fingertips flicker with fire for just a moment. He swallowed hard. Why did Justice always slip from his grasp when he was needed to prove his strength?
"Alright, Elf. Calm down, we're here to play cards, not rip each other's hearts out," Varric chuckled as he handed out the tankards of ale, sparing a second to glance apologetically at Anders. "And because I'm paying for drinks, I'll play the House tonight."
Anders ignored everyone but Varric for the most part. Wicked Grace meant watching your opponents twice as often as you watched the cards – and the moments he wasn't watching, were the moments he was angrily eyeing Carver's Templar shield.
"Stop your fretting, mage," Carver hissed as he threw down his last hand of cards in frustration. "Hawke already made me promise not to mention you to the Order. Although, I'm pretty sure they know about you anyway."
Furrowing his brow, Anders bent closer to Carver. "Really?"
"Well, you're hardly discreet about -"
"No, I mean Hawke. She… asked you to keep quiet about me?" He glanced back at Fenris to make sure the elf was occupied. It was no secret that Hawke and the slave were involved. It made him sick to think about it, but this…
Carver nodded. "Yes. She and I may have our differences, but blood is blood. When she calls in a favour, I can't deny her."
Anders nodded slowly and took a deep pull of his ale. This was surprising. The Hawke he knew was violently (and ironically) against apostates. Mind suddenly fumbling all over the game, the mage folded, tossed his cards at Varric and took his leave from the table. He found the bar shortly after.
Hawke. Her name was red and angular in his mind. She'd had him bound up in knots from the day they'd met. Even now he wasn't sure if he hated her, or pitied her ignorance. But still, he followed her. Still, he was ready to lend her aid whenever she called for it – even if it meant travelling with Fenris. He called for another drink and sat at the bar, the lukewarm whisky beginning to ease the storm of spikes and angles in his brain.
Third drink in, and the rest of the players dispersed – Aveline back to the barracks, Merril to her blasted demon mirror, Carver to the Gallows and Varric to his wine and women, no doubt. But Fenris stayed. As the elf approached the bar, Anders/Justice found themselves on their feet, and tingling with a power that Anders prayed was not bright blue.
"Sit down, Anders." Fenris sighed, waving a condescending hand at the mage/spirit. Justice begged to slay this elf that was everything they stood against, but Anders pressed him back and took a seat beside the slave. His expression must have been vague, because Fenris arched a dark eyebrow. "We need to talk."
Pulling himself back to the present was not easy. Justice was bound away deep inside for now, but it took a lot of effort to keep him there. "What?" he prompted.
"I need a favour."
"A favour? From a mage? Are you sure?" Anders retorted dryly, eyebrow arching to match his curled lip.
Fenris slammed his drink down and whirled on the mage. "For the love of the Maker, will you shut up about your cursed magic? This is hard enough without being reminded of what you are." He snarled. "Tell me. Do you love her?"
Anders felt Justice sneak a tendril of spirit into his brain. He couldn't lie to the elf's face. Could he? With an enormous wrench of will, he banished Justice into himself. "Hawke? The mage who hates mages? Who stands against everything I sought to achieve? The very woman who would have sent me to the Circle four years ago if she didn't need me?" he tried a callous laugh but it was weak and bitter, and betrayed him. "No. I don't love her." I would die for her. But to love her would be… insane.
"She would never turn you over and you know that." Fenris replied wearily.
Shaking his head, Anders shut his eyes. "And that is the problem. She thinks that she, or I, or Merril, stand above the other mages. That we deserve freedom, but they are dangerous, animals to be caged and corralled…" But I do love her. And I know I could change her mind.
Fenris stared at the head of his ale for a moment before answering. "Then tell me you won't leave her side. Make me that promise, Anders, and I'll keep my mouth shut about all your failings."
Raising his eyes to pray once more for temperance, Anders slowly nodded. "I'll make you that promise then, Fenris. Besides, our fates are bound. I need her as much as she needs me. I couldn't leave if I wanted to." He spat the words, the storm in his mind threatening to explode as he recalled her words, her order to remain in Kirkwall, even after he'd killed that poor girl.
"Thank you." The gentleness of the words, from Fenris' lips to his ears, bought him back to the present. "That is all I needed to hear." The elf downed his ale and got to his feet, leaving the tavern without one more word.
He could hear the creak of her leather boots just as he was signing his name. Good timing, he decided. With a dark smile he got to his feet. It had been three days since she'd intervened at the Lowtown markets, two since his puzzling conversation at the Hanged Man – long enough, he thought as he blew on the still-damp ink, to collate his thoughts. This evening would be the telling.
"Anders," Hawke paused as she approached him, and her eyes were wet with tears. "You wanted to see me?" her voice cracked even as she spoke, and suddenly it fell into place. He caught her and pulled her into a gentle embrace, and she clung to him like a child. "He's gone," was all she could say, over and over through her tears. While Justice revelled in this small victory, Anders could think of nothing but finding Fenris and wringing his neck.
As her sobs subsided into shaking breaths, she pulled away from him. "I'm sorry. That… won't happen again." She cleared her throat. "This is about you, not me – you send me a note…?"
Flipping his chair about, he offered it to Hawke and took a seat atop an old crate. "I did, but we don't have to talk about that now. I didn't realise that you two…" he trailed off, unsure of where to lead the conversation. Hawke shook her head.
"No, it's fine. I'm sorry I wept all over you." She smiled, a subtle curve of her lips that sent a tingle through his body. Leaning back in the wooden chair, she prompted him to go on.
"I… I've been trying to write down my arguments. To convince someone like you that the circle is abusive and unjust." He began cautiously, but when she did not roll her eyes as he'd expected, he realised that this was not as much of a lost cause as he'd imagined. "You're a mage! How can you not see? Mage's gifts are granted by the Maker. How can any man call himself a Templar and set himself above us?"
Hawke pursed her lips thoughtfully. "I should stop you there, Anders." Her voice was soft, softer than he'd ever heard it, and his brown eyes quickly sought out hers. "I… we haven't worked together for a while now, you and I, and there's a reason for that. I've been helping the Knight Commander."
At the mention of the woman, Anders got to his feet in rage. Hawke rose to her own as well, the velvet of her trews hissing as she crossed the space between them. "Wait, Anders. Let me finish." She laid her hands on his forearm, bidding him sit once more. To his surprise, she sat beside him. "All I can think about now that mother is gone is how disappointed my father would be in me. He fled the Circle here. He raised us to be good mages – and Bethany would have been the very best, had she not been stolen from us. But mages belong in the Circle. If I could, I would go there myself."
He twisted to face her, eyes boring into hers. He could not read her, and he could not understand what she was trying to say. Her words were like lies, assaulting his ears and his heart… oh, but his heart. It was pounding louder than it had ever beaten. "I swear, I don't know whether to kiss you or kill you. You're everything I hate. A Mage who turns on her own kind to… to serve the Templars!"
"Anders," Hawke tried to interrupt, but he silenced her with a fiery glare.
"But I can't stop thinking about you. For three years you've haunted my sleep. I wake aching for you. It is madness. This can only end in ruin."
Hawke opened her mouth to argue, but Anders did not let her speak. He stole her lips with his, one passionate, maddened kiss that tore out her soul. Her slight gasp when he released her bought him a tremor of satisfaction.
"Anders… Maker, if you'd have let me finish…" she smiled, the corners of her mouth twitching. "Mages belong in the Circle, but not this Circle. Meredith is mad. I cannot help her any longer. My beliefs are different to yours, but in this, in Kirkwall, we are united."
He stared. This… was not at all what he'd expected. "I must be dreaming," he whispered, a true smile taking his lips for the first time. "You know that if you do not side with Meredith you must side against her? After – when it all comes to a head, there can be no compromise,"
Hawke nodded her head slowly. "I have thought this through. Maker, I wish I could have realised this sooner. I have hurt you so much, and deceived myself. You are right about one thing, though,"
"Just the one?" He smirked, sliding a hand over hers.
"This can only end in ruin." She sealed their doom with a kiss.