Part 2: A Night By The Fire

I woke up just past the dawn, stretching muscles pleasantly sore from our excursions the previous night.  Looking across the fire I saw Fenris packing up our bags, the only thing left were the blankets I was lying on.

I lay there for a few moments watching him.  His movements were so swift and sure, one of the things I loved most about him was his quiet confidence that has slowly built up over the years.

The fact that he was hot as hell didn’t hurt things either.

I remember when we first met there was so much anger and bitterness in him; he wasn’t so much confidant as aggressive, facing everything with a sword in hand.

I like to think it was all me, but it wasn’t.  I helped a lot by breaking all of his expectations, but I don’t think Fenris would be the man he his today if he didn’t want it on some level.

Fenris finally felt my gaze on him and looked up.  “Good morning,” he said. “I would have woken you but you looked so peaceful.”

Rolling onto my side and propping my head up on my hand and smiled at him.  “Still sweet and sentimental I see.”

Picking up a small rabbit bone leftover from last night’s dinner, he tossed it at me and it bounced off my forehead.

“Oi!”I cried, picking the bone up and tossing it back.  He caught it in mid air and grinned back at me.

I loved the easy familiarity we had achieved over the years, the way we could laugh and play together despite our pasts.  At least when we were alone.  When we were around people he switched back to the old Fenris; aggressive, sharp, dark and broody.  It was an old habit to protect himself I think, one hard to break.  Not that I can blame him for it.  Everyone does it on some level.  I’m just glad he felt that he could be himself around me.

Ten years ago I never would have thought that we would be here.  It’s been a long road for us, but I’m glad we made it together.

I finally sat up, the blanket falling away from me and I caught the look in Fenris’ eyes when he saw me.

“I know that look,” I said as I stood up and started getting dressed.  “And while I would love to indulge you if we don’t leave now we’ll never get there by nightfall.”

“Are you ready for this?” he asked as I strapped my daggers to my waist.

“I’m as ready as anyone is when they’re facing down a horde of darkspawn,” I answered dryly.

He passed my pack and I slung it over my shoulder.  “You’ll let me do the talking when we get there right?” I asked.

Fenris nodded.  “I have nothing to say that would help matters anyway.”

I kissed his cheek.  “Thank you, love.”  I scanned the landscape.  “Now where’s that mutt of mine gotten to?”

****

It was a just before sunset when we spotted the ruins on the top of a hill.  Fenris and I had been walking since after breakfast.  My gut clenched in fear and anticipation.  Soon I would come face to face with the man who was my friend, my comrade, my betrayer, and if things had turned out differently, my lover too.  Hopefully I would get the answers I was looking for, hopefully I could walk away from this without blood being spilled, but one way or another before the sun set this would be over.

Fenris saw my trepidation and squeezed my shoulder briefly.  I looked at him and smiled, but his wall was coming up already.  He was bringing back all he once was when we first met to stand beside me when I faced Anders.

I felt something cold and damp on my hand, and looked down to see Áedán looking up at me with worried eyes.  “It’ll be alright boy,” I whispered.  “You got my back right?”  Áedán huffed and nuzzled my hand again.

I turned from them both and walked towards the ruins.

All that was left of the once mighty tower was a ring stones from the first floor, no more than the height of three men at its tallest point on the far side of the circle.  The sad remains of windows gaped in the growing dusk, no sign of life coming from within.  I approached it warily, watching for any movement.  I stepped up to the gap in the circle that was a door once upon a time, and looked inside.  Aside from a pile of blankets and packs along one side, the ruins were empty save for a cold fire pit in the centre.

I turned to Fenris.  “Looks like he’s out for the night.  We’ll have to wait here until he comes back.”

“You won’t have to wait for long,” The familiar voice came from behind us.  We whirled to face the speaker and saw him step out from behind an ancient oak tree.

Marked as a mage by his robes, I could see Anders hasn’t changed in the two years since we parted.  He still wore

his strawberry blonde hair shoulder length and tied back from his face with a leather thong.  He wore the same black robes, and carried his staff -a staff I had given him- on his back.  He looked tired and sad, but determined.

“I knew you would come for me one day,” he said as he walked towards us.  His eyes darted between the three of us and I could see his hands twitch ever so slightly, reading himself should he need to go on the defensive.  But the three of us stood still and let him come to us.

Anders stopped a few yards away, and waited.

“Glad to you you’ve added fortune telling to your repertoire Anders,” I said.

Anders smiled at me, but it was harder than I remembered.

“I said I knew you would come for me, but I never said I knew why.  You spared my life…Hawke,” I noted the pause before he said my name.  I think he was as nervous as I was. “You let me go.  I knew I would see you again but I never thought….” his voice trailed off as his eyes moved to Fenris.

“You arrogant-” Fenris growled, tensing to move forward. I put out my hand to stop him.  He looked at me, eyes flashing blue fire, but subsided.  I turned back to Anders.

“Why did you come back Hawke?” Anders asked me.

“I let you live because despite what you did I needed you alive to fight,” I answered coldly.  “I let you leave because I wasn’t sure if I should kill you or not.”

“And now you’re here to make that decision,” he said flatly.  I nodded.

“You said you were willing to die, let me kill you if that was what I thought was best,” I started.  “Do you still stand by that?”

Anders nodded.  “I know what I did was wrong, but I felt it needed to be done.  And I will still gladly die for what I did, because look at what has happened!” He gestured around the empty, darkening landscape.

“The mages have rebelled against the Circle!  Templars have rebelled against the Chantry!  Finally, mages are on their way to freedom-”

“But at what cost?” I cried at him.  “You blew up the Kirkwall Chantry to start this!  You killed hundreds of innocent people with that explosion, and how many more have died in the battles since then?  Battles that could have been avoided if you hadn’t walked over the ledge!”

Anders snorted and stalked angrily a few paces away from us.  “I knew you wouldn’t understand,” he said.  “Despite your sympathy to our plight you never understood.  You left me, when I thought I had finally found someone who accepted me despite what I am, for him!”

Anders gestured angrily a Fenris, and I stared at him incredulously.

“You did that because you were jealous?”

“No! I did it because I felt it need to be done,” he paused and continued more quietly.  “But I also felt like I had nothing else to lose.”

Glancing to Fenris, he nodded at me and I walked forward to stand beside Anders.

“I didn’t leave you for Fenris, Anders,” I said.  “I saw where your path was leading you, and I knew I couldn’t follow.  Fenris was there for me afterwards, yes, but he wasn’t the reason I left.”  I put my hand gently on his shoulder and turned him so he faced me.

“You were the reason why I left, Anders.  Only you.”

“You loved me,” he whispered brokenly.

I shook my head.  “I think I could have loved you, if you hadn’t walked your path.  I know now that if we had made it, I would have hated you in the end.  No matter what Anders, it wouldn’t have worked between us, and it is all on you.”

Anders sighed and looked over at Fenris, standing in the gathering dark with Áedán.  “He’s a bloody arrogant, bigoted hypocrite, but he is a good man,” he looked away.  “I think better than I could have been.”

We stood there for a moment, my mind whirling with indecision.  Finally I asked the question I should have asked when I first saw him.

“What do you want me to do Anders?”

He shook his head.  “I’ve been asking myself that since you let me walk away, and I have no good answer.”  He looked at me.  “I know what I did was wrong, I killed a lot of people, hurt countless more.  By every right you should have killed me on the steps of the Chantry that day.  I was prepared to die for what I did then, and I am prepared to die now.  But I don’t want to.”

“I think you’d have to be five kinds of sadist if you wanted to die,” I said with a smile.  Anders chuckled weakly.

“Still the beautiful, charming rogue you were all those years ago eh Hawke?”

“You know me,” I replied dryly.

Anders looked at me.  I saw shadows in his eyes and I knew what he did was haunting him more than he would ever let me know.

“You have nightmares,” I stated bluntly.  Anders said nothing.  Quickly, before I could change my mind, I hugged him.  Surprised, it took him a minute before he hugged me back, and I broke away as quickly as I started.  I saw the question in his eyes and headed him off before he could voice it.

“For what we were, what we could have been, and everything we’ve been through together.”  His eyes cleared in understanding.  “But I can’t let you go on your merry way.  You’ve said to me twice now that you know what you did was wrong; you need to pay for what you did.  You betrayed me and used me; I want to punish you for that too.  And,” I hesitated for a moment, collecting my thoughts.

“And I think you’ve suffered enough.”  This time it was relief and gratitude that I saw in his face as he nodded his head.

“I understand Tanis,” He said, using my name for the first time.  “For what it’s worth, I’m sorry.  And…thank you.”

I gave him a curt nod and walked back to Fenris, giving Anders a few more moments of life.  I felt calm, more at peace with myself and the world than I had for a long time.  I understood why Fenris made his offer, but I couldn’t let him do this.  He had seen and heard everything, and was readying his sword for the blow but a touch from my hand stopped him.

“Thank you for your offer love,” I said, “But this is something I need to do myself.”

“Are you sure?” he asked.  I nodded.

“It’s not about vengeance for me anymore.  It’s about justice for those people and mercy for him.  Or pity.” I muttered under my breathe.  “Still haven’t decided on that one yet.”

I could feel Fenris’ eyes on me as I walked back to Anders.  I saw him look beyond me to Fenris and incline his head to him.  Then he focused on me, and on the dagger in my hand.

“Will Justice interfere?” I asked him.

Justice was a spirit of the Fade that Anders had met on his travels as a Grey Warden with the Hero of Fereldan, who just so happens to be Queen now as well.  I met her once, a few years ago, just before everything went to hell in Kirkwall.  King Alistair had come for a visit and spoke with me, afterwards his wife, Queen Lurianna, paid me a visit.  They could smell the winds of change in Kirkwall, having been through something similar in Fereldan with the Blight that forced me from my home.  She spent the evening with myself and my companions, taking our measure to see if we were up to the task of defending the city again after the attempted Qunari invasion.

Queen Lurianna was a good woman, strong, proud, and practical.  We bonded in the short time we spent together, and she left us content that she was leaving the city in good hands.  Sometimes I worried that I failed her.

Apparently Anders and company got trapped in the Fade, and when they got out, Justice came with them and was trapped in turn in the body of a Grey Warden who had died nearby.  When the body had decayed beyond usefulness, Anders offered himself to play host to the spirit, thinking it would be better than having Justice die a true death.

Things…didn’t work out very well.  Their spirits melded until they were one being, but sometimes Justice made himself known in his new form, the form that Anders’ anger at the plight of mages had turned him into: a spirit of Vengeance.

Anders always did deny it, but I think it was largely Justice-turned-Vengeance that made him destroy the Chantry.

Anders shook his head at my question.  “I’ve gotten better at controlling him,” he said.  “Besides I think he agrees with this.”

Justice or Vengeance, I thought to myself.  I think both would be in accord with this.

“Take my things, use what you can and sell the rest.  I won’t need them anymore.”  I didn’t reply to that, I couldn’t.  I could only reassure him in his final moments.

“It’ll be quick, I promise.”

Anders turned from me, facing the last sliver of sun as it set beyond the horizon.  He had set his staff down beneath the oak tree.  I came up from behind him and wrapped my arm across his chest just under his collarbone.  As I slammed my dagger into his kidney and twisted, I heard him whisper his last words before I brought my dagger up again to slit his throat.

“I love you.”

Part 4: Moving On

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