"I've never actually been to Omega before," Anders says, looking around, eyes lingering on the drunk passed out, hopefully passed out, against the wall. "It's... loud."

It is definitely that. Music from the nearby clubs thunders through walls lined with flickering ads, and smoke chokes the air from where the ventilation's either dead or dying. Hawke keeps moving, because that's the game.

"It's worse than I imagined it," he continues, mostly to himself. "Everyone has a price here."

Aveline's mouth tightens, but Hawke just glances at him. "Apparently yours is twenty-thousand credits."

"It's not for me," Anders says. "If I could keep everything running free, I would. We had a settlement on Eden Prime for a while, we ran on donations, but the Alliance..."

Lucky for Anders, then, with that geth attack a year back. "Why not just go somewhere habitable?" Hawke asks. "Has to be better than your current digs."

"Then we'd still need funds to move everyone." Anders stops and fixes him with what could be a glare if it tried harder, but really it just sinks back into that indomitable pout. "You promised you'd help." He winces suddenly, then gasps and grabs at his temples. He stumbles forward and Aveline only barely catches him.

"Anders!" Hawke shouts, and that only makes him wince again as Aveline rights him against the wall. He holds up a hand pleadingly, eyes squinted shut.

"Hawke..." Aveline says. Hawke shakes his head, because he knows exactly what she's about to suggest, and no words in all the galaxial languages can express how wrong that makes him feel. "He's too weak to fight back," she argues. "We can book passage on a ship without all this errand running."

"And what, we just leave him here? On Omega."

"We take him into custody. He's obviously ex-Alliance, and he's a terrorist."

"And all those people back on Zanethu just rot, then." He walks past her, patting her on the shoulder before helping Anders off the wall. "I'll let you be the one to pass on the good news. My command, my rules."

She rolls her eyes, but brooks no protest, thank the Maker for small favors. "Think with your brain, Hawke."

"Aveline," he says with his best Sunday grin, acutely aware of Anders' weight against him, "what else could I possibly be thinking with?"

"Hawke," Anders murmurs, then gestures with the tilt of his head toward a man and his batarian friend sauntering toward them - maybe Blue Suns by the look of them, or maybe just thugs playing at it.

Hawke's hand is on his pistol before they take another step. "The welcoming committee's here!" he calls over the mechanical whir of Aveline's unholstering shotgun. "You shouldn't have; it's not even my birthday."

The batarian peers at him but doesn't miss a beat. "Three well-armored, out-of-place humans. We gotta think you're looking for trouble."

"Three's a bit generous isn't it?" Hawke claps an arm around Anders' shoulder. "Our friend here's basically a glorified tin can. You can practically see the bits of string."

"Your friend doesn't look so good," the batarian says, and it sounds nothing like concern. A few bystanders have stopped to stare.

Aveline steps between them. "We don't want any trouble, but we're not afraid to give it."

"Honey," the human says, and Hawke internally grimaces, "that's just too fuckin' bad."

Anders stands to his full height, and the air suddenly feels like it's been sucked out of the room as that blue glow envelops him, leaking from his eyes and fists. The odds must not look as good as they had a moment ago, because the human sets his jaw and the batarian does whatever irritated batarians do, tilts his head to the right or something, and slinks away.

Anders slumps immediately.

"They'll be back," Aveline sighs, "or someone will replace them. Our chances are better if we get inside a club."

The club's not much better. The bouncers may have thrown the first set to bother them out, but the flashing red lights and shove of bodies watching the asari flesh show probably aren't an improvement over drunks in an alleyway.

"I'm gonna get him somewhere safe!" Hawke yells over the deafening music. "Try to find the contact he mentioned. Keep your pockets tight!" Aveline nods, winces at a screeching bit of treble, and pushes away through the crowd.

Hawke scans the club, finds what he's looking for just past the bar. "Look drunk," Hawke whispers, and Anders doesn't move, still leaning heavily on Hawke, face scrunched in pain as he shields his eyes and plugs an ear. "Good."

They cross quickly to where a turian in a club uniform is standing by a hallway.

"What's the quietest, darkest spot you have?" Hawke asks him, sliding his hand down and around Anders' armored waist. "My friend and I are gonna have some fun."

The turian nods to a set of rooms down a hall just to their right. "It's pay by the minute. Try to keep it clean, you humans make a mess."

The room is dark, at least, and when the door slides shut behind them and Anders collapses onto a chair that's suspiciously large, the music softens to a muffled bass. Hawke follows suit, oozing onto a cheap couch, letting the sudden quiet and the relative safety wash over him.

They just breathe.

"You know that's probably not been washed in ages," Anders says eventually, voice soft and shaky but still startling as he breaks the silence.

Hawke shrugs. "I can always wash my hair."

Anders chuckles. "That's disgusting - were you raised by wolves?"

"Mars, actually. The accent and all." Hawke crosses his legs and makes no move to be less gross. "I get called bumpkin a lot."

They're both quiet for another moment, and finally Anders uncurls from his pained little ball.

"When I was a child, we lived in Singapore," he says quietly, "but my parents moved to Old England after the second eezo exposure. I don't really remember my first home." The noise out of his mouth is like ugly derision. "Or my second. I was sixteen when they dragged me away to BAaT training and stuck this L2 in my head."

Hawke figures he should probably be tired of this by now, Aveline definitely is, but...

"These migraines," he asks, "Medi-gel doesn't help?"

"No. Caffeine does. The implant affects the pain neurons in the trigeminal nucleus, among other things, and there's not much that medi-gel anesthetics can do."

Anders may not have seen the look on his face, but he hears the questioning silence in the air.

"I'm a doctor," he explains, then scowls beneath his hands. "Well, almost. The hospital wouldn't hire an L2 for residency. I joined the Alliance and tried to work as a field medic, but they wanted my bloody biotics more than my medicine." His voice is angry, full of vengeance, but at least the pain is probably fading. "It was the same for everyone else, no matter the implant. Go military or go hungry."

"Are you to get my sympathy so we don't drag you back to Earth?"

Anders pauses then smiles, coy as anything but with the hint of sadness that seems like it's always on his face, and he cracks open his brown eyes just enough to peer up at Hawke. "Is it working?"

Hawke considers him, his fury and his kindness and his eyes, and says, "Wasn't necessary." Then he laughs - mindful to keep it low and rumbling. "Don't flatter yourself, it's not all about you." Hawke pushes himself off the disgusting sofa, boots scraping on the ground. "My sister's an L3. I don't want her to join the military, it's too dangerous, but I'm not sure what choice she has."

Anders meets his eyes.

"That's what we're trying to change."

Hawke's radio buzzes.

"A man named Varric, right?" Aveline says. "I found him on level four, he's got work for us."