Hawke closed her eyes, and in her exhaustion leaned back as Fenris paced the small room. They'd taken up residence at Gamlens shack after discovering that both the estate and the mansion were all but destroyed. Thankfully Bodahn, Sandal, and Orana had safely left Kirkwall; all three were heading to Orlais to begin a new life. Hawke had spent the day helping them prepare for their journey using some of the not-insignificant amount of money left in her vaults to purchase their supplies. She'd wanted to replace what they'd lost and help them reach their destination with minimal danger. Hawke had watched them depart with a pang of longing; part of her had wanted to grab Fenris and hop on the ship with them, sailing far away from this wretched city. Would they never escape the insanity that seemed to haunt them? As she continued to hear Fenris pace however, she knew there would be a very different future in store for them.
"I'm not sure these old floorboards can take much more of your stomping," Hawke pointed out teasingly. They would embark on their own journey tomorrow; leave Kirkwall to find Danarius. A mission they had taken on once before.
The mission that had led to Arielle.
Fenris abruptly stopped pacing and placed his hands on the small desk in the corner. He wanted to leave, wanted to finally be on the road and finish what they had started, but there was a knot of apprehension in his stomach. Seeing Danarius again was one thing; telling Danarius his other daughter was dead? Quite another. Did he deserve to know? Would he even care? What would happen this time, and would they repeat their mistakes a second time? "Hawke," he called to her, wanting her, needing her to reassure him. "Did we do the right thing?"
Hawke opened her eyes, leaned forward and shot a curious glance at his back. "Which thing are you referring to?"
Fenris turned to face her, but kept his distance. "If we hadn't taken her..." he couldn't finish the sentence. Though it had been over a month since her passing, whenever he tried to talk about Arielle his voice would fail him as the lump in his throat grew.
Hawke got off the bed and walked towards him, taking both of his hands in hers. "Don't go there, Fenris," she told him. "First, we had no choice. Danarius used blood magic to lead Isabela to Arielle, remember? Second, if we had somehow resisted, she would've been condemned to the same life you once endured. Or worse, been stolen by the Wardens from Danarius and used for their twisted experiments." She leaned forward, and gently pressed her forehead to his. "We saved her. She lived and she loved," Hawke whispered. "Take comfort in that."
Fenris remained silent, frozen by her words. How does one take comfort in the death of someone who was not an enemy? Although his sister had told him his parents were dead, and he had a vague recollection of living through his father's passing, Fenris had never truly experienced losing someone close to him. He'd watched Hawke endure the grief of losing Bethany, Leandra, and recently both Aveline and Arielle. The death of Hawke's family had nearly broken her, but she had found a new strength within herself. The thought of Arielle dead on the cold stone of the Gallows…was he supposed to fall apart? Be stronger? Forget the past that he had fought for years to remember? "I can't, Hawke," he finally said, choking on the words. "I can't."
Hawke gently kissed his forehead. He closed his eyes and breathed in her scent as she wrapped her arms around him. Her lips lingered for a long moment before she pulled away. He opened his eyes and looked into hers, searching for an answer to his inner turmoil.
"For years before her own ritual she hated herself for not being able to save you," Hawke reminded him. "In providing Arielle's freedom, we also allowed her the opportunity to do things differently. She found love again, and she was able to free him from the chains that bound him." She took his hand and walked over to the bed, settling down with him beside her. "Sebastian would probably say something about the Maker correcting some cosmic wrong, I don't know."
"I can not help but feel responsible," Fenris admitted, interlacing his fingers with hers.
Hawke sighed as she gently rubbed his knuckles. "Do you remember what you told me after my mother died? When I said the very same?"
Fenris thought for a moment. "That if you were seeking forgiveness, I was not the one to give it to you."
"I could say the same to you," Hawke told him. "But now I understand it wasn't forgiveness I was looking for. It was answers, to all of those 'what if' questions we ask ourselves in times like these. You can't focus on what could've happened, or how things should've or would've been." She turned to look at him, fierce determination in her eyes to make him understand. "The question I can answer is who is truly responsible. No matter how you look at this Fenris, from every angle, every perspective, every 'what if' in the book, it all leads to one man."
Fenris' grip on her hand tightened slightly. "Danarius."
Hawke nodded. "If comfort doesn't work for you, then focus on revenge. Perhaps that is where you will find your strength."
Fenris disagreed. "My strength comes from you Hawke," he told her, his eyes matching the determination in hers. "In revenge I will find closure."
She smiled as he brushed the hair away from her face. "For you and for Arielle," Hawke promised him. "It will be done."
~*~ ._.~`~._.*~*~*._.~`~._. ~*~
He didn't care much about the gray stoned walls that surrounded him. The tattered blanket remained on the mattress in the corner untouched, even though there was a chill in the air. A small white mouse was nibbling on his dinner tray consuming more than he had. His robes were still dirty from the battle, declining several offers for new ones. The long beard on his face no longer itched from growth and his hair had taken on a life of its own. One could mistake him for a homeless drunkard, if he weren't locked in the Gallows dungeon.
Thirty-three days he'd spent in this room. Thirty-three days of solitude. Thirty-three days to be alone with his thoughts, his emotions, his pain, his grief. Thirty-three days without her.
Anders slept as much as he could. He had hoped, begun praying to the Maker he had cast aside so long ago, that he would find her within his dreams. Too much left unsaid, too soon was she ripped from his life. And though she thought it was a gift she was giving him, this freedom from Justice, it was just as much a curse. Had Justice remained, he wouldn't have let Anders fall into this void of nothing. There would be a cause, a purpose, a meaning to it all. Someone else to take over for a little while and help him focus. Thirty-three days without him.
Hawke had been the first to come. Assured him she was working with Cullen on his release. He didn't remember much from that visit. Something about her funeral, what they had planned to do with her body. The island she had said. Arielle would lie on a pyre on their island and her body torched and burned. Why was he such a coward? He should've married her that day. Run away with her and never looked back. Would Justice have allowed that?
Sebastian came by next, though by this time the days were starting to blend together. She's in a better place he had said. No longer in pain, free from Danarius and the past he had bestowed upon her. Anders didn't bother to look at the prince as he spoke. What did he know? He was in love with something he couldn't see, couldn't touch. It's not like the Maker or Andraste were going to die and he'd have to mourn them.
The Maker sent Isabela, surely. The bottle of whiskey she had smuggled in, Maker knows where she hid it, was exactly what he needed by that point. Anders didn't bother to share as he drank the entire bottle, little food in his stomach to tolerate such a quantity. It wasn't until he started talking to an imaginary Arielle that Isabela snuck out, leaving him to have his private discussion with her ghost. He curled up on the floor beside her as she stroked his hair and assured him everything would be all right; they'd see each other again.
Varric dropped in every other day, even after Anders continued to ignore him. Prattling on about this rumor or that trade deal, shuffling cards and dealing Anders into a game he wasn't playing. At some point Varric had even told him the true story behind Bianca's name. Anders didn't hear any of it; or if he did, it wasn't acknowledged.
Fenris visited daily, and it was always the same; he would settle down on the ground in front of the cell, back towards Anders, leaning against the bars without a word. Both men grieving for the same woman in their own way, their own time, but coming together daily. Fenris had no words of comfort for the mage, for he knew there were no words that would comfort him. But he had a promise to keep; he would do so whether Anders would allow it or not. The only time they spoke was on day fifteen, when Anders asked Fenris if he lit the pyre for Arielle. "I did," was Fenris' response. "I'm glad it was you," Anders replied.
Merrill went back to her clan; at least that's what Hawke had said. She begged the Keeper for forgiveness, swore off blood magic forever after witnessing what Orsino had done. Welcomed with open arms by the Keeper, and in seeing that some of the clan started to forgive her too. The past was no longer important to her. Having a future, and being with those she had grown up with and loved, that's what she wanted now. The outcast gets the best ending, how fitting Anders thought.
Hawke and Varric told him that there was a memorial service for Aveline. The guards that weren't killed in the explosion had attended, as well as the templars and Hawke's companions. Even Merrill made it before she left, though the two never got along. She was finally reunited with her husband Hawke had said. Was that a comforting thought to her he wondered? Out of all her companions, Hawke knew Aveline the longest, but seemed indifferent when speaking about her. Perhaps her grief was still buried deep at losing another she considered family. Aveline was the last from Lothering to come to Kirkwall with Hawke. The last reminder of home.
The mouse tucked himself under Anders robe; this was his usual resting place after a full meal and Anders never bothered to discourage it. He had been staring at the same spot on the wall for the last few hours, tears long dry days ago that led to a calming numbness within. He didn't even bother to turn when Cullen approached the cell and opened the door, Hawke behind him. "I apologize for the delay in your release," Cullen was saying. "You are free to go."
It wasn't until Hawke knelt in front of him, obstructing his view of the spot he was enthralled with, that Anders blinked his eyes and realized she was there. "Anders?" she said his name softly, much like Arielle used to when he got that far away look in his eye. "Come on, let's get you out of here."
She stood and extended her hand to him. He glanced at Cullen who was holding the cell door open, and then back at Hawke. Clearing his throat, unsure if his voice would work after all this time, he questioned the two of them. "Why?" It was a whisper, but it was there.
"Alistair came through," Hawke informed him. "Cullen has agreed to keep his name out of the official reports, stating simply that your alibi checked out." She offered him both of her hands now. "You are free Anders."
Free. What did that even mean? Varric said he was free: free of the taint, free of Justice. Now he's free again…to do what? He was a man with no purpose. No taint to lead him for the Wardens. No spirit to guide him through the plight of mages. No love to keep his heart beating. Free to die? It was all he felt he wanted to do these days.
He took her hands and she helped him stand. A squeak at his feet reminded him of his only companion, and Hawke bent down to scoop up the mouse. "Friend of yours?"
He shrugged as she offered him the mouse. Anders placed the critter in his pocket. No reason he couldn't be free as well. Anders followed Hawke out of the dungeon and up the stairs to the courtyard. He covered his eyes when the bright light of the sun hit his face. Hawke waited patiently while he adjusted to the new surroundings, eventually lowering his arm and blinking until he could see.
Hawke kept her hand on his back as they walked through the courtyard. He knew it was there to comfort him as they approached the spot where Arielle had died. The mouse wiggled its way out of his pocket and ran down his leg, running in a circle around the courtyard before taking off into a hole in the wall. Hawke laughed at the creature. "Guess he just wanted out of the dungeons too."
Anders didn't answer and didn't linger; he walked towards the boat landing without looking back. He knew if he did so, he might never recover. "Hawke," he began, unsure of what was going to happen next.
She knew what was on his mind, and she answered his unspoken questions. "Do you have any plans for the next, say, several months?"
He raised an eyebrow at her question. He had plans, thirty-four days ago. Now he didn't even have a home to return to. The clinic was never his home, but it was his, destroyed along with all of Darktown from what little of Varric's ramblings he had heard. Hawke no longer had a home either he remembered. Why was he just realizing this now? What had she been doing? "No," Anders answered her question. "I don't."
"You do now," Hawke said as she winked at him. "Isabela's all ready to go, and the others are waiting for us at the docks. We thought we'd pay Danarius and the Wardens a little visit," she explained. "I don't know about you, but I need some answers."
Anders considered his options, all one of them. "We are leaving now?" he asked.
Hawke nodded, stepping into the small craft at the landing. Anders followed, settling in beside her as they got underway. "I don't see much point in waiting," Hawke told him. "Unless there's something you need to do before we leave?"
Anders looked out across the water at the island he and Arielle spent their last night together. It was now also where her ashes were, scattered along the beach from the wind no doubt. "No," he replied softly. "There's nothing left for me here."
Hawke placed her hand on his knee. "Do you remember what you told me when Bethany died?" Hawke asked him.
Anders felt his anger build within him. Bethany's death could've been prevented if it weren't for the Wardens. If Justice were still with him, he'd no doubt be making an appearance right about now. His jaw tightened, and his teeth were clenched when he replied. "I said revenge was not the answer," he told her, though he never did believe that.
"I can't say the same," Hawke told him. "I want Stroud for refusing to help my sister. I want Danarius for what he did to Fenris and Arielle. I want Janeka for her assistance to Orsino, and while we're at it I'll take on every other Warden who gets in my way." She looked at Anders and grinned. "Are you in?"
Anders didn't answer. He didn't have to. For the first time in thirty-three days he smiled, and that was all the confirmation Hawke needed.
~*~ ._.~`~._.*~*~*._.~`~._. ~*~
It was a homecoming for one, while the other was just discovering the wonders of this new place. There was no wind, no night or day, no weather or nature to speak of. Yet there was a ground to walk on and a sky to look upon, though everything seemed a bit faded or distorted. Instead of a sun or moon to stare up at there was only an ominous black city, unreachable in the distance. It took some getting used to; the way things moved, how to manipulate surroundings, the concept of not sleeping or even being tired. Anything was possible, yet everything was limited. One didn't need to learn it all in a day; there was more than a lifetime to study.
They sat together watching now, as they often did, the scene that played out before them. Discovering this was possible was the highlight so far, something that could occupy most of their time in a timeless void.
"Do you think he'll be alright?" she had asked.
"We can only wait and see," he replied.
And so they continued to do so, from beyond the Veil in the Fade. They were even with their own war as far as each other were concerned; she had brought him back and he had trapped her within. They now remained together, protecting each other from the unknown, as they helplessly watched over the one person they both loved in the mortal realm below.
3/27/2012 - 10/27/2012
Final Authors Note: I'll be thanking alot of people (and sometimes more than once!), so if you're heard enough from me, skip down and leave a final review (pretty please!). If I screw up any names or Maker forbid miss someone please let me know and I will fix it asap - there's a lot of ya ;)
Creative thanks to those that have influenced or written scenes for this story (in alphabetical order): AndAgain, Csorciere, EkoCentric, Erana, Eve Hawke, Jaden Anderson, Liso66, Marina Boccuzzi, MorbidxxPassion, NoMadKa, Wintryone.
Support thanks to those that have reviewed (in alphabetical order): 15stitches, Acid lynx rain, Amina Noir, AndAgain, Ankhaa, Brijane, Chankeybee, Csorciere, EkoCentric, Ellethe, Erana, Etaine M, Eve Hawke, Eyelash of the Twilight, GlysMari, Gogogeisha, Greenleaf1075, Jaden Anderson, KohanaHitachiin, KS45, LifeandFire25, Liso66, LoVeAmOnGhAtE, Lucien Grey, Lvinlrn714, Marina Boccuzzi, Monkey D. Lyna, MorbidxxPassion, NoMadKa, Nihlus Oken, Of Quirky Excellence, Ohsynapse, Olivegbg, Orlanna, Pint-sized She-Bear, ScarletSecrets1234, Silverrun, Skogsdraken, Wintryone, Wishfulhamadryad, and all random guest reviewers (even the bad ones!).
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Alert thanks to those that have this story on their alerts (chronologically from first to last): Of Quirky Excellence, ShadowerQ, ohsynapse, Phalanx213, Kathryn Taylor, Jaden Anderson, Eyelash of the Twilight, Monkey D. Lyna, ScarletSecrets1234, AIK2, importchic, Loecy, A-Dream's-Nightmare, Ghale, Jem Jemz, shom, MyAshestoAshes, manderlinaa, Vixen's Shadow, LadyAliera, jrules, brookeellen4, gogogeisha, ranara, xXsereiXx, AndAgain, Gu Jihwa, Eve Hawke, acid lynx rain, Erana, csorciere, karu0792, lvinlrn714, Marina Boccuzzi, NobodysAngel38, lilachsh, AgentOfCookies, Chankeybee, zsinjapropos, bejahunter, zeengy, Camillia Vincent, EkoCentric, Ryoko Metallium, Wishfulhamadryad, Laurelin Vanyar, RoseyChickadee, maddening, Arriad, BabyInf3rno, GlysMari, Eviza, brijane, Kimbabalu, NoMadKa, CynderJenn, Amina Noir, Ankhaa, KS45, LoVeAmOnGhAtE, Etaine M, Pint-sized She-Bear, wintryone, Murdelizer, Lucien Grey.
Other thanks to everyone else, anyone I have missed, and all those that may find this story after today. Thank you, sincerely, for everything...Sequel anyone?
Review! It's over! Last chance! I beg you!