Aveline's wedding day is a day of mixed emotion for Anders.

He and Aveline don't usually get along, for one thing. He respects her dedication and ability; in another world, he might have found her steadfast determination to uphold the law admirable. But in this one, where the law is so frequently used to support a system he finds intolerable, her refusal to see the difference between lawful and right is maddening to him.

Still, associating with Hawke has changed Aveline, there's no denying that. She's not quite as implacable as she used to be, as unbending. She overlooks a few things when they do no real harm. Has to, or she'd be arresting half her friends on a regular basis, Hawke included. Aveline's annoyance over her newfound need for flexibility has gradually yielded to a half-amused, half-frustrated tolerance - At least I can trust you to try and do the right thing. Most of the time - that just makes Hawke grin.

Hawke's changed Anders, too. But for that, he has only gratitude, mixed with an awed astonishment that he can't imagine ever fading.

This day is Aveline's, however, and even Anders will respect that. It's not a time for debating or picking fights or even bickering, beyond the teasing bickering they all seem to do, a by-product of the camaraderie that has formed in this odd-assorted group of friends Hawke has gathered around her. All of them are present for this, along with more guards than Anders has ever seen assembled in one place that wasn't a barracks. The presence of so many people in heavy armor sets him on edge. He can't help that; none of them are Templars, the symbols are different, none of them are searching for him or anyone. There will be no danger offered to mages today by any of these men or women. But the wariness is part of him, and all he can do is try to ignore it.

Fortunately there are distractions. The Amell Estate - Hawke Estate, now - has been decorated up a treat for its debut as a wedding venue. (is it a debut? Were there other weddings here, long ago, Hawke's own grandparents or great-grandparents? He's always painfully aware of the history of the building and the lineage it symbolizes, more so than she is). Anders was present to witness Sandal swinging from the chandelier in an attempt to affix bunting to it, and took great pleasure in telling Hawke about it later, had to be laughingly talked out of re-creating the moment with himself acting the part of Sandal. Flowers and sheafs of wheat were easier to arrange, and arranged they are, artful displays of aesthetic symbolism. He's sure the marigolds are Varric and Isabela's fault, though where they found them he can't imagine.

It's informal, as ceremonies go. Aveline hasn't troubled to keep herself hidden until the last moment, and she's certainly not doing an impression of a blushing, virginal bride, though she does look nervous. It tickles him that there's anything that can put Aveline off her stride, he admits that, if only to himself. But she laughs with her friends, gives as good as she gets from Isabela, exchanges amazed smiles with Donnic from across the room where he stands doing much the same. Neither of them is in uniform for this; they'd considered it, apparently, but been talked out of it by several guard friends who told them in the Maker's name that this of all days was for the man and woman, not the occupations, however definitive those occupations are for them. So they're dressed in finery of green and yellow, simple but colorful. Summer colors, for new life blooming and thriving. Aveline had refused to wear a traditional wedding dress, but she is in a dress. She seems bemused by it, and swears no one will ever see her in one again.

The binding itself is short. The officiant has been well-chosen, one of those who can speak the words of the ritual as though she means them, and not as though they're something she's said a thousand times before. When she calls on Aveline and Donnic to speak their vows, she's smiling with real pleasure, not boredom or indulgence. Donnic looks serious and touched as he makes his vows, Aveline as close to joy as Anders has ever seen her.

He can't not look at Hawke, then.

She's standing for Aveline, just behind the bride, wearing a slim dress of dark blue with white lace along the sleeves and over the bodice, low-cut and showing the contours of her body more clearly than anything she usually wears. With her dark hair and shining eyes she's as bright and untouchable as starlight, and it hurts him to look at her. But when she catches his eye and smiles at him, brilliantly, flushed with the success of the event so far, he's able to smile back, even if it takes some effort.

He can't offer her this. He would if he could, wishes with all his heart that he could. She deserves this, to stand next to someone who will pledge their life and heart to her for all time, someone who can give her everything. She deserves everything, and it kills him that he can't give it to her. He will always be divided in himself, torn between the man's needs and the spirit's. They're one, he and Justice, but what they want isn't always the same.

Hawke catches the pain in his smile - of course she does, she always can see through him, even when he wishes she wouldn't (as she puts it, he can't bluff worth a damn, even when cards are nowhere involved). Her head tilts, and her smile turns quizzical as she raises an eyebrow. Maker, he loves her eyebrows, her expressive face, he can read what she's saying as clearly as if she spoke aloud: What are you thinking about this time, to make you look like that? Knock it off and enjoy the moment, idiot.

That does make his smile genuine, and she grins back at him before returning her attention to the ceremony.

The day passes in a blur of well-wishing and ribald jokes at the couple's expense, as most wedding days do. Fenris gets on surprisingly well with most of the guards, discussing sword techniques; Merrill flits from conversation to conversation asking awkward questions that amuse, comparing wedding rituals from Dalish culture with Free Marches traditions. Sebastian, of course, is entirely at ease, making the rounds of polite conversation with no difficulty.

Anders spends most of his time with Varric and Isabela, a trio of lawlessness in this ocean of authority. They clearly find the entire situation hilarious and their own presence ironic, which makes it easier for him to forget (or at least ignore) both habitual and personal discomfort.

But the pang of remorse is still there under it all. Even hours later, when the guests have left, when Aveline and Donnic are presumably in an inn somewhere on the road to Orlais and enjoying their wedding night. It's still there when it finally becomes Anders and Hawke alone, in the room he still can't quite think of as theirs, and she stands in front of him and asks him to help with her dress, as though she needs any assistance.

It's an invitation, and he takes it, turning her by the shoulders so her back faces him and undoing the single button that holds the collar in place, pulling the fabric aside and bending so his mouth touches her skin with something that's less a kiss and more a gesture of reverence. She lets out a sigh and reaches up an arm, wrapping it around his head as he continues his slow exploration of the column of her neck, then the curve of her jaw when she tilts her head back towards him. He feels a vague need to apologize, but what can he say that he hasn't already said, that wasn't said to her before they ever began this? It didn't deter her then, and Hawke's not one to change her mind once she's set on a course of action.

But she's warm and pliant in his arms, which have slipped from her shoulders to her waist, and if there is regret in her heart there's no sign of it in the way she turns in his embrace and meets his mouth with hers.

Anders finds a measure of reassurance when he's buried deep inside her, when she's clutching at him and calling his name, when he feels her pulse around him and becomes lost in his own haze of pleasure. More than pleasure: triumph, because he can give her this, at least. No one else gives her this, no one else sees her like this, hair mussed and lips swollen from kisses and those beautiful eyes squeezed shut as she loses control. Hawke never loses control, except here; this is the only place she allows herself to surrender, which speaks more eloquently of the trust she's given him than words could.

He finds the rest of his reassurance afterwards as she lies next to him, open and unguarded and half-asleep, stirring as he brushes a stray lock of hair behind her ear. Not the Champion, here; not the long-lost scion of the Amell family returned to Kirkwall, not a Fereldan refugee, not any of the things this city uses to define her. Just herself, with nothing held back or hidden, not from him.

And it occurs to Anders that perhaps that's the real promise in a wedding ceremony. Not offering the future, which is impossible to see, impossible to hold or give. Perhaps it's about offering yourself. He has given her that, as much of himself as he can give; more, he's given her a place to be Hawke, the person and woman and lover, all the parts of her that usually get set aside while she's concentrating on other things, other people, on Kirkwall. Perhaps it's as much as anyone can promise another, to be as fully yourself with them as you can. Not a future no one can see, but now, for as long as they can make it last, with nothing held in reserve.

Anders can promise her that. He can promise himself that.

"What are you thinking?" she murmurs, not very awake.

He smiles, brushes fingers down her cheek. "Only that I love you."

Hawke smiles, doesn't open her eyes or need to. She just reaches for him, knowing he'll be there, knowing he'll be reaching for her as well, and pulls him into another kiss. "I know," she murmurs against his mouth. "I love you, too."

Anders bends his head, resting his forehead against hers, and if now lasts forever, it might be long enough. However long it lasts, he'll cherish every moment of it.