A/N: This work will be predominantly 3rd person. The first chapter, however, is Hawke's internal monologue.
It has occurred to me that I might not actually be a very good person. Yes, I have done good things. I have done more than my share of good things, to be honest. I've slain demons, vanquished blood mages, and even bashed in the Arishok's skull. Throughout Kirkwall, I am widely recognized as a hero. I've got them all fooled, I guess. Even Varric seems to have cast me as the selfless hero. I play the part well, I suppose. If you do enough good, then people begin to suspect you of actually being a decent human being. That's pretty naïve of them, really.
Everything I have done, no matter how benevolent it may have seemed, has been for my own benefit. When I first came to Kirkwall, I would have had to be a fool not to recognize the threat that all the templars posed to my well-being. And, if I had missed it, then my pain-in-the-ass brother would have done everything in his power to remind me just what an inconvenience my Maker-given magic has been to the entire family. And it is an inconvenience. A year spent with that bitch smuggler and then all the ages we had to spend breathing in the piss-poor scent of Lowtown. But while Carver was busy complaining, I was busy working to change our lot in life. That's just what I do. Above all, I wanted to ensure my freedom. Freedom can be bought and sold just like anything else. Get enough money, enough power, enough fear… and you're finally free to live the sort of life that you deserve.
I'm a brave person. I'm a strong person. I'm proactive and clever and more than a little bit revolutionary. But I'm not good. I am only very good at pretending to be good.
When Danarius came to the Hanged Man, being good would have served absolutely no conceivable purpose. I'm no fool. I may be a lot of things, but I am in no way talented enough to take down a magister. My father told me of Tevinter when I was young. I dreamed of being a magister. I have lived my life in awe of their power and their freedom. Of course, I kept that to myself whenever I was around Fenris. What possible purpose could it have served to tell him how fervently I had once hoped to flee to Tevinter with Bethany in tow? All that would have done was earn his ire and, I am sure, a very annoying lecture. Of course, it would have delighted Anders.
Danarius wasn't exactly what I expected a Tevinter magister to be. For one thing, he wasn't very attractive. Not that I strictly expected all magisters to provide me with fresh masturbatory material, but I expected him to at least have mastered the art of cultivating stylish facial hair. Instead, I was faced with a middle-aged man with a scraggly beard and a general lack of eroticism. This is not to say that he was without a certain strange sensuality. I couldn't fail to notice the way he looked at Fenris. The way Fenris reacted to Danarius' lingering stare. The way Danarius' words—the subtle implications—elicited such a violent reaction from his former slave. That's what's been weighing on me more than anything else.
Anders doesn't understand it. In all fairness, I haven't really made a concerted effort to explain myself to him. In the Hanged Man, he wasn't at all put off by the fact that I was handing over Fenris. Fenris: a man who served beside us all these years, loyally fighting at my side. A man who asked for my help. A man who trusted me with his life, his family, and his freedom. And I betrayed that trust. Anders didn't care and, to be honest, I didn't think I would care either. I never thought that it would come to this.
The nightmares come almost every night now. It's odd not to be featured in my own dreams; I've gotten so used to thinking and dreaming only of myself. Now it's just Fenris. Fenris as he was described in Danarius' last letter: docile, submissive, servile. I'm shocked that my unconscious mind has been able to conjure that vision because, when I am awake, that sort of Fenris is utterly unimaginable. Still, in sleep I see him curled at Danarius' feet like a damn dog. I see them both stripped bare and Fenris' dark skin alive with the subtle glow of those twisting lyrium markings. I see Danarius extend his hand, gently petting Fenris' head. And Fenris presses gently into Danarius' palm, eyes closing, and a slight sigh escaping from his throat. The lad is quite skilled, isn't he? In flashes it comes to me, quick and torturous. Fenris wrapping his lips around Danarius' hardening length; Fenris bent over the edge of a bed, taken roughly with no care given to preparing him; Fenris crying out in mingling pain and pleasure.
I don't know why it bothers me. I can't ask anyone. No one has mentioned it to me and, from what I gather, that means no one wants to talk about it. Not even Varric, ever the talker, has said a damned word. Are they scared of me now? Are they scared of what I might be capable of doing to them? Because I'm a little scared of myself.
I might not be a very good person. I am selfish. I am conceited. I am egotistical, excessively violent, and I am a willful, gleeful murderer. But I've never felt like a monster before. I have done so many things that would horrify a lesser person. Why does this bother me? Why this time? Why this man? I can't ask anyone. I don't want to talk about it. I don't want their scorn and I don't want their pity. But I can't keep living like this. I can't stand feeling this way.
I remembered something the other day when I woke. Though Anders had pulled me close to him in the night and though his body was warm and pleasant, I still found myself shivering. I pressed closer to his body, trying my best to enjoy his proximity and his gentle, sweet breath falling across the nape of my neck. But, as I closed my eyes, I was taken back to an afternoon on the Wounded Coast. A lovely place, really, when the air isn't tainted with the scent of burnt Qunari flesh. Poor Ketojan.
It's Anders' voice that I hear first in my suddenly surging memory. "Did you ever think about killing yourself?"
"I could ask you the same thing." Even though it's only in my foolish mind, I still feel that odd, rushing, acidic clenching in the pit of my stomach. Is it guilt? It feels vaguely reminiscent of what I felt when Bethany died. What is that?
"I'm serious. To get out of slavery, to escape Danarius… don't tell me you never thought about it?"
"I did not. To kill oneself is a sin in the eyes of the Maker." Always such certainty in his voice. How does he speak now that he is a slave once more? Does he speak at all?
"You… believe that?" Anders: my dear, sweet skeptic.
"I try to. Some things are worse than slavery."
"Some things are worse than death."
And then I couldn't stand lying in that bed a moment longer. Carefully, I extricated myself from Anders' arms. He groaned slightly in protest, but I believe that he continued to sleep relatively soundly. I couldn't help envying him.
I've been thinking about that thread of a memory that, through some odd quirk of my brain, has been preserved to torture me. I've been thinking about it and I think I'm beginning to understand why I feel at all terrible about this whole business with Fenris. I've doomed him. If it were me—if the templars took me and confined me to the tower—I would kill myself. According to Anders, that's the most common form of death in the Circle. Yes, I fear the Maker. But, to my mind, being robbed of freedom, being robbed of liberty and the right to live and breathe free… that would be worse than death. Fenris won't even have that escape. I have doomed him to a life with Danarius. I have condemned him to a lifetime of slavery and suffering. He'll grow old on a leash wearing a Saarebas collar. His skin will sag, lyrium markings wrinkling along with his aged flesh. And then, when he is of no use, his body will be torn apart and the lyrium will be harvested. I have done this to him. And I feel guilty. And I can't change it. I can't fix it. And I can't live with it.
Which, I suppose, is how I came to be in this position. Still, there are worse ways to die, I think. The air out here on the Wounded Coast is cool and it smells of the ocean. As I close my eyes, feeling the wind against my exposed skin, I feel light and free and better than I have felt in months. Even as my toes curl over the edge, I am not afraid. I almost look forward to falling; I've never flown before. It should be interesting. Maybe I'm not such a bad person after all. Maybe not too self-involved. Maybe not so beyond redemption. I have sinned and I will pay for what I have done with my life.
…And while my bloated corpse swells with seawater and the fish begin to peel away my skin with eager mouths, Fenris will sit, docile and still, at Danarius' feet. He'll live on while I find the release of death.
No. This is wrong. This is all wrong. I can't do this. Maker, why am I here? It's too far to fall, the slightest gust of wind could push me over, what am I thinking? A few steps back and I am out of harm's way, though my heart is beating now and, for whatever reason, I am afraid for my life. Funny that I should fear for something that, just moments ago, I was willing to cast away.
But I know now what I have to do. I can't wallow any longer and I can't die. I have to repair what I've done.
I have to save Fenris.