Characters: Anders & Hawke
Summary: Post Dissent, Anders wants to run away, but ends up making a different decision altogether
He can hear her voice. Even through everything, the rage, the pain, the injustice, he can hear her. "She's the reason you're fighting Anders!" it's high and urgent and all he wants is to kill but something stops him, the figure crouched in front of him isn't a Templar, and he was going to…
"Maker, no!" he breathes, sinking to the ground and clutching at his head. "I almost…" he looks up into Saoirse's face, which is not afraid…
…how can she not be afraid…
Just concerned. "If you hadn't been here… I need to get away from here…"
He ran. Faster than he'd run in years. By the time he got to darktown he was gasping for breath, sweating even though it was the middle of winter. He ignored the patients waiting at the closed door of his clinic, even as the back of his brain catalogued them to be certain none were urgent, none required immediate attention, and shut the door on them for the first time since he'd lit the lantern four years ago. He barrelled into a cot, curling in on himself and gripping his head with both hands.
How could you do this? How can you be so far removed from the man… the spirit you were? Am I that much of a fiend, that far removed from everything that is human? Have I corrupted you so much…
There was no answer. Of course there was no answer. Justice was him, he was Justice and he couldn't ask himself why…
It's me, it's all me and I'll never control it and I'll kill the people I love and WHY WAS SHE NOT AFRAID…?
He needed to get out. Out of Kirkwall. Away from her before he hurt her - before he killed someone else he was trying to save. He could… he could go to his Calling - fight the darkspawn until they killed him and hope Justice didn't stay trapped in his walking corpse… something roiled and fought against that thought so vehemently that he nearly retched. Not dead, then. Alive. There were other cities that needed healers… but what if…
Maker I can't be near any people…what if I have a delusion of a patient as a templar? What if I have a patient who IS a templar?
One thing was certain. He had to get away from her. No matter what else, if this caused him to hurt Hawke he wouldn't be able to live with himself, no matter how disgusting the thought of taking his own life was to him now.
He dragged the big wooden chest that held Spellfury out from under his cot and into the main clinic, throwing it open and sorting through what he would need.
"Throwing everything out won't make you feel better," her voice was soft and sardonic, from the doorway. He almost laughed. Of course she'd followed him.
"Should I feel better?" he said, stopping and turning, standing up slowly. His hands were shaking and his heart was thumping painfully against his chest.
"You could wallow is self pity for the rest of your life if you prefer. Personally I think that might get boring after a while."
Maker's Breath, that smirk, how can she be joking! "It's all gone wrong. Justice and I. We're just a monster." He shook his head, seeing again the terrified face of the girl. One moment more, one moment and he would have plunged his staff through her chest.
And for what? A paranoid delusion… she'd been a victim and he would have slaughtered her.
She folded her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow at him. "So you're just giving up?"
"You saw what happened. If you hadn't been there I would have…"
"You were out of control," she said bluntly. He winced, looking back down at his hands. "But even then…" he looked up to see her eyes soften. "Even then you heard what I was saying, Anders. You controlled yourself. She's alive. She's free of the circle and the Templars. Thanks to you."
"But I almost…."
"Almost being the operative word here, Anders. You stopped yourself."
"No. You stopped me."
She sighed and looked away. "From what you told me, even that wouldn't have been possible not long ago. Can we focus on the positives here? Because otherwise we may as well just… jump off a cliff or something."
"There are positives? Forgive me if I'm having trouble locating them."
She crossed the distance between them in one stride and grabbed his chin, pulling his face close to her. He froze, terrified if he moved he'd somehow alert Justice and she'd be seen as a threat.
"I will not let you lose yourself, Anders. That's a promise."
"I lost… we lost ourselves four years ago, Saoirse," he said softly. "The person… people you're trying to save don't exist any more."
"I don't give a shit who you were Anders. I care who you are now. And that person is still here and that person is worth a lot more than the crap you're putting him through." Her strong fingers shook his chin, then let it go and trailed her thumb across his lips, so slowly and gently that he could barely believe it was happening. Instinct was telling him to open his mouth, take the finger in it and suck, brush that lock of bright hair away from her neck and cup it, pull her forward…
… they would kiss and it would be gentle, and slow and it would wash away the fear and the uncertainty and he would be allowed to just feel and taste and touch… the images unfolded in his mind the way they had been doing with alarming regularity since she laid down her challenge but he had almost killed and she was a dangerous distraction and he had to get away…
He couldn't pull back. It was taking all of his willpower to stop himself from kissing her. "Did you… uh… find anything on Ser Alrik? Or was the tranquil solution another one of my paranoid delusions?"
She looked pained. "It existed. But it was Alrik's. No one else's." She dropped her hand and reached into one of the many pouches on her belt, taking out a letter and handing it to him. He took it, somewhat desperately, and scanned the words.
"The Grand Cleric… rejected…the Divine… rejected…" Justice stirred. It was not what he'd expected. Not what either of them had expected. That they still had this much humanity in them… that they were capable of seeing mages as more than a problem to be dealt with... "Perhaps the Grand Cleric is more reasonable than I thought." He tapped the paper against his lips, desire forgotten as his mind ticked over. He could talk to her. He could reason with her… If he could get his thoughts in order and make some sort of argument that would convince…
Saoirse was still standing there, watching him. Her pained expression had turned wistful and he felt a momentary rush of guilt, that the game they were playing had paled into insignificance at her news and the old Anders mourned at the lost opportunity.
She was a distraction.
She was not afraid.
She was a symbol of how mages could be free and he was a dangerous abomination.
Something cracked. A decision was made without any conscious thought. Somewhere between I need to get away from here and she's the one bright light in this Maker-forsaken place his mind had asked the question. Please. Can I have this one thing for myself?
The answer, when it came, was so clear it startled him. He thought he could even hear the voice of his old friend, a hint of disapproval, coloured with fond exasperation nonetheless.
"Tha..Thank you," he managed to choke out, and it was a thank you not just to her. "You've given me a lot to think about."
She smiled then, a little quirk of her lips that he ached to kiss, and glanced down at his trunk. "Not leaving then?"
He frowned. "I could have killed her," he said softly. "But you weren't afraid. Why weren't you afraid?"
"I knew you wouldn't."
She stepped forward again and laid her hand on his cheek, gently this time. "You're not that person, Anders." He blinked as she stood on her tiptoes to lay a kiss on the other cheek, her other hand resting on his chest. His arm came around her waist and he could have acted on his decision, right there and then, could have… but it wasn't the right time, not with the letter in his hand. Justice was cowed and guilty and afraid and his relenting permission could be withdrawn at any moment… he had to be certain this was something he was allowed…
Instead he let himself breathe in her scent and closed his eyes, before stepping back. "I have patients," he said, his voice husky.
"You do. I could deal with them if you like?"
"No. No I should get back to it. You go. I'll see you soon." She cocked an eyebrow at him. "I promise. Soon. Just… give me a couple of days. To think?"
She smirked then. "Think?"
He rolled his eyes. "Yes. It's that thing you do with your brain. Remember?"
She laughed, then reached up and tweaked his nose. "I'm coming back to check on you. And I'll have Varric watch you too. If you try to leave I'm going to hunt you and I will find you. Even without a sodding phylactery."
He grinned at her. She watched him for a moment, her eyes searching his. He tried not to give himself away, tried to keep the distance between them that he'd worked so long to keep, but he suspected he wasn't succeeding when he saw the heat of a blush touch her cheek and a slight smile touch her lips. "Goodbye, Saoirse," he said softly, and she turned and left.