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Constantine - magic's quite simple
This fic is probably about a year and a half too late, but hey, hey, look, I've finished something that involved writing actual words! I'm kind of excited about it, even though I have no idea if any of you guys care about Dragon Age fic. Still, maybe I'll dust off my copy of DA:2 and finally do a playthrough where Hawke romances someone else and doesn't feel bad about it.


Title: No Pain, No Fear, No Doubt
Author: cormallen
Fandom, pairing: Dragon Age 2, m!Hawke/Anders
Rating: PG-ish?
Length: ~5000 words
Summary: When Varric tells their story, he says that Hawke has never been afraid. Hawke knows that hasn't been true for years.
A/N: Title from BtVS Once More With Feeling. Thanks for taking a look at it for me, backinblack.

Read on A03, or below the cut.




When Varric tells their story, he says that Hawke has never been afraid. Not a day, an hour, a minute in his life, not when the heavy door of a Deep Roads crypt slammed behind him, not when facing ogres, brigands or the Knight Commander of the Templars. After all, what else would you expect from the man who uses the Arishok's skull as a gravy boat?

Hawke isn't sure if there is a gravy boat in the manor's kitchens any more than he knows what happened to the Arishok's skull, or his body. They probably burned it with the rest of them when the guardsmen were pulling corpses from the wrecked halls of the Viscount's palace. Qunari do not claim their dead, only their swords, and he has denied them that particular one, a mark of victory still stained with his own blood.

"You can't even lift that thing, can you, Champion," uncle Gamlen scoffs, and he's not wrong. The Arishok's sword is a wicked, massive blade he could not ever hope to wield, or even know how to, despite what the stories say, pulled it right out of the horned bastard's hands and chopped his head clean off, he did. He doesn't remember it that way, staggering out of the throne room and down the marble staircase. Drained and desperate, hands bloodied and shaking with exhaustion, the floor littered with qunari, human, elf, limbs bent and twisted like so much upended statuary. He thinks it might have been Aveline right behind him, the tired clang of her armor, or maybe it was Fenris, Merrill somewhere in the corner of his eye. A few remaining guards running up the steps, Is it over? Maker, please, is it over?

He thinks he might have fallen if not for the steady arm wrapped around his back, supporting his throbbing shoulder. "I think it's broken," he'd gritted out. "Fade, that hurts."

"I'll put it back together. Come on, just a few more stairs," Anders had said, hefting more of his weight.

After the battle, he hadn't looked like Justice anymore, just himself, hair plastered to his forehead, as gaunt and wrung out as the rest of them, but Hawke thought he could still feel him - it - there, inside. Hiding just under the skin, ready to explode through the cracks, and it's hardly surprising Varric opted for better dialogue and more than a few embellishments, the ever fearless Champion's apostate lover at his side, a whirl of righteous fury, azure lightning crackling from his fingertips, sparking flecks of it coming to dance in his eyes.

"It is awfully purple, I'll give it that, but it's also perfectly accurate," Isabela shrugs, and pours herself another pint. "He is a ball of anger, complete with a fondness for throwing lightning, and he is always with you. Except, of course, when he isn't. Like now, because he just doesn't appreciate good fun."

"No, the bit about me. Fearless, that's Varric's refrain through and through. You know, Anders always makes me afraid."

"For him? Or of him?" Isabela says thoughtfully. They've been dicing and drinking at the Hanged Man all evening, and Hawke must be deeper in his cups than he thought, because he feels his tongue slurring as he tells her, "aren't those the same thing?"

It's been years, but Hawke still closes his eyes every time they kiss, afraid if he cracks them open just the slightest bit he will see electric blue, hard and unyielding and alien. Anders's lips are chapped and a little cold, sharp chin and the point of his nose digging into Hawke's cheek, and he thinks if his mother were here she would let him have it for not making sure Anders eats enough. For letting him spend too many nights at his shabby, run-down clinic, for lying awake and listening for the snick of a key, the basement door creaking unlatched and then the parlor, the shuffle up the stairs until – finally – he can relax, move over and let Anders into bed. Home, at last, albeit temporarily, but still not safe. Never that.

Anders smells like crisp winter air, lyrium and the strange home brewed potions and salves he puts together by the gallon the way other people – normal people – brew moonshine.

"Moonshine? That's not normal people, that's bootleggers," Anders laughs. "There was this fellow in Amaranthine, Hubert, ran a little rat-trap, hole-in-the-wall den. Best moonshine in Ferelden, swear by the Maker."

Hawke hates his Amaranthine stories. He hates every mention of Vigil's Keep, of the Blackmarsh, of Kristoff and the traitor Arl's son Nathaniel Howe. And the Hero of Ferelden, the Warden Commander, Hawke hates him most of all. If not for him – "I'd be dead if not for him," Anders says, and for a split second, the lightning flashes through his eyes, a burst of blue come and gone. "Saved my life when he invoked the Right of Conscription. Templars were out for blood that time, no more dragging me back to the Circle tower. That dried up bitch Rylock, she still tried to get me to hang. He slit her throat for me – but that was later."

Hawke thinks it makes him hate the Warden Commander all the more. The Right of Conscription, the Joining, maybe those were unavoidable, the only way to wrest an apostate mage from the control of the Chantry, but there was nothing for Anders in the Blackmarsh, no reason for anyone to ever go to that miserable, cursed place.

"It was miserable, you have the right of it there. Nothing good ever comes from a place called the Blackmarsh. Varric suggested Beermarsh, or Flowermarsh, but no, the marsh thing ruins it every time. Being haunted doesn't help, either. We had to make sure the tears in the Veil didn't spread any farther. You can imagine what that was like."

He can imagine it with perfect clarity, the barrier between the Fade and the world breaking apart to let the demons through. Ichor dripping from monstrous talons, the sweet, overpowering stench of lyrium, and there, in the center, the bolt of blue lightning striking into decaying flesh, unseeing eyes opening. Hawke shudders, blinks, trying to shake the vision away. He can't and won't understand what could have made the Warden Commander decide to keep a Fade spirit tied to the dead body of one of his men; Maker help him if Hawke ever meets him, because Hero of Ferelden or not –

"It's not very likely, you meeting him," Anders shrugs, picking at one of his shirt cuffs. "Nobody knows where he is, or if they do, they're not telling. Last they saw him was in the Fereldan Circle tower, funny enough, going through some elvish translations. They say he is looking for Morrigan, daughter of Flemeth, which sounds exactly like the kind of tall tale Varric would feed you with a spoon."

"You don't believe it? You have a spirit traipsing around in your skull, and the Witch of the Wilds is an old wives' tale?"

"Witch of the Wilds. Any apostate who slits her wrists for power could earn the name," Anders says, unconvinced, and moves on to his other sleeve, plucks a long brown thread out of the fraying fabric. Hawke doesn't tell him he's sure it was Flemeth who struck a deal with him on the burning outskirts of Lothering, Flemeth whom he carried all the way to the summit of Sundermount.

"Come on. Stop mutilating your clothes and come to bed," he says instead, and blows out the candle.

Where are you, he thinks when Anders finally falls asleep next to him, bunched up pillow and the patchwork quilt tangled between his legs. The Fade is where they go when they dream, it's been something he's known since he was a child, since before he first put his palms together and conjured up a flame in between. There when you dream and gone when you open your eyes, and he wonders idly if someday that could go for Justice, as well. If maybe one morning Anders will open his eyes and they'll be brown, just brown, and nothing else.

He slides a hand across the blankets, finds a sharp knee and runs his fingers up up up, Anders’s thigh and hip bone, the soft dip of his stomach, before settling over his chest. Anders sighs in his sleep, stretches and curls nearer, trapping Hawke’s hand between them. Hawke lets him keep it even when his fingers start going pins and needles, numb reassurance under the weight.

Anders never asks him for reassurance, never presses up close like this when he is awake or asks, “Tell me you love me; I want to hear it, want you to say it.” He isn’t hesitant – not anymore, not since the first time, and Hawke knows he is loved, in that strange half-secret half-openly obsessive way only Anders knows how to do.

“Justice does not approve of my obsession with you,” Anders tells him instead, nervous fingers clasping together, splitting apart, nail worrying over nail. “You’re a distraction.”

Hawke cannot argue with that, not after he’s taken Anders away from his clinic and his patients, from his clandestine meetings with the Underground, not after he’s been dragging Anders into the Deep Roads for months at a time and nearly burying them all down there.

Anders never did want to go, said he’d had more than enough of the Deep Roads back in Amaranthine, but Bartrand wouldn’t hear of it. A former Grey Warden – no such thing as a former Grey Warden, anyway – what an asset to go along with his maps, and Hawke did his damnedest to sweet-talk him into it, promising payment for his troubles, money enough to set him up with a better place and all the supplies he would need. He’d noticed Anders looking and stared back openly when money seemed to fail to sway him, winked and licked his lips and felt like the biggest ass in Thedas as he did it, but it worked and there they were, three weeks underground and no exit in sight, darkspawn coming from every direction and Carver growing paler and weaker with every step they take.

Hawke thought he would never hurt worse than he did when Carver stumbled and fell and could not get back up, when Carver needed help to even lift his head, when Carver was dying, everything else between them swept away by the black sickness pulsing under his brother’s skin.

“Bethany,” Carver wheezed, “I’m glad she isn’t here to see this,” and Hawke gritted his teeth together until they ached. I’ve failed them both, he thought, watching Carver’s eyes roll back into his skull, and nearly jumped when Anders landed a heavy hand on his shoulder.

Hawke could have kissed him when Anders said there were Grey Wardens camped nearby, when Anders said “hold on” and “we will find them, they are within days’ travel from here, I promise.” Would have done more than kiss him when Anders planted his staff in the dirt in front of Stroud and said Carver didn’t need the Wardens’ pity, that they would be fools not to take him, a young, strong swordsman worthy of recruitment.

Anders hasn't told him the full of it, but from what he has let slip, Hawke knows becoming a Grey Warden is nothing like attaining knighthood or pledging yourself to the Royal Army. It’s more than an oath of loyalty, more than tradition; it is something bloody and dangerous, something that changes a man in ways he'd rather not think of. For days, he dreams of Carver’s face, ashen grey, the taint coursing through protruding twisted veins, before he morphs into Wesley, the same clammy skin and eyes like dying embers, blood gushing darkly forth as Hawke brings the dagger down.

When he wakes, he misses Carver with a sharp, gnawing urgency he didn’t think would ever come, and Anders won’t meet his eyes when he stumbles over a stunted thank you.

***

The Fade is more terrible still than the Deep Roads, full of shifting colors and a stifling silence from which strange faces come and go in an endless stream of lyrium vapor. This is what they invoke every time they draw their power, Hawke thinks, and he wonders how Anders can stand it, always having this floodgate open inside him. But the Anders at his side – not Anders, Vengeance– will not speak to him, and Hawke does not know how he ever took him for Anders at all. He knows they don’t truly look like themselves in the Fade, had it explained to him time and again, knows the staff in his hand and the robes on his back are there because he wills them to be, just as he knows the rest of his spectral flesh is merely a representation, the thing he has conjured up in his mind – but how is it possible that Anders truly envisions himself this way, a gaunt, glowing, hollow-eyed thing?

Anders has told him he’d called the spirit friend before their joining, but Hawke stares at its gauntleted hands, the bones outlined under the twisted metal, and wonders how this thing could ever be friend to anyone. Son of an apostate, brother to an apostate, he has always believed that tales of abominations were more Templar pronouncement than fact, but here in the Fade, he can almost believe them. How can a man of flesh and blood, a man of the world, be friends with a spirit? What can a spirit truly know of humans, even if it does see the world through Anders's eyes?

***

There is a little stone Andraste sitting on his mantel. Mother put it there shortly after they had moved in. “It may be foolish to you, but I’ll sleep better knowing she’s watching over you,” she’d said, smiling shyly, and Hawke hasn’t had the heart to put the little carving somewhere else.

She looks serene, does Andraste, like she cares not that he doesn’t believe in her Maker. He hasn’t for a while, not really; not since Bethany, not since Mother, but sometimes he whispers bits of prayer nevertheless, like he’s hoping that maybe having been so damn good for Kirkwall earns him a few points. Single-handedly fought off an invasion, didn’t he, even Gamlen admits it, so maybe he can get some slack for never visiting a Chantry unless he has business with one of the sisters or Sebastian Vael.

He gives Andraste a bashful look, her grey dress coming down in pebbled folds. “What do I do?” he asks her, plucking her from the shelf. “Help me. Tell me, how do I protect him? How do I keep him safe?”

Anders is muttering in his sleep, gaunt cheek twitching; he needs to shave, and maybe to get his hair cut. Hawke notices it’s thinning a little right above his forehead, but Anders isn’t that much older than him, no more than his father had been older than his mother. I’ve done it now, haven’t I, Mother, he tells her silently, twisting the statuette between his fingers. At least you only ran off with an apostate, not with an apostate notorious for bloody escape attempts long before he got himself a passenger.

“I can’t go on like this,” Anders whispers, half-muffled by the pillow, and Andraste does not respond.

He brings the carving into his mother’s room, and puts it on her bedside table. He hasn’t changed a thing in her room for years, can hardly bear to step through the door often enough, but this – this he can do.

He tries not to wake Anders when he comes back to bed, but the door creaks traitorously as he slips through, and his steps are too loud on the floorboards.

“You have cold feet,” Anders says tonelessly, and Hawke thinks it’s Justice come to lecture him again. It sounds uncomfortably like the Arishok, sword drawn, taking him in through narrowed, alien eyes. “You may be the best these... humans have to offer, serah Hawke. But you lack resolve. You lack faith, you lack conviction,” and he steels himself as he settles into the bed, pulling the quilt back to his side.

"Honestly, your feet are freezing,” Anders grumps. “Have you been – I don't know, standing on a block of ice for the past hour? Why did you think that was a good idea?"

***

Isabela tells him once, over a deck of cards and mugs of dark porter, that if they get out of this alive, she wants him on her next crew.

“You can bring Sparklefingers, too,” she grins before he has a chance to ask.

Hawke knows nothing about sailing beyond that week trapped below the foredeck between Gwaren and Kirkwall harbor, but he pictures it all the same, the proverbial wind in his hair and full sails, sparkling stretch of blue-green all around, the edge of the sun dipping into the waves.

“And what, you’ll just let us come with you out of the goodness of your heart? I don’t know about Anders, but I’m useless with an oar,” he says, topping her off, but Isabela just laughs.

“Sparklefingers is a man of many talents. He’s had a spot reserved since the day we met. And, well, every crew needs a shiftless layabout who just happens to be close, personal friends with the captain.”

The next morning, he’s nursing a hangover in the kitchens, a glass of tepid water on the table in front of him, and wishes nothing other than to be left alone, no crews, no ships, no rescues, no bounties, but Anders sends him out to the Gallows all the same.

“I need some supplies, and I can’t go to the Circle merchants myself. You know that,” Anders says, crumpling a list between his fingers, and Hawke sighs. Of course, he knows. He takes the list and downs the rest of the water, finger-combs his lank hair in front of the hall mirror.

He feels a little better when he goes outside, taking in mouthfuls of fresh, salty air from the harbor. Still, even with the Gallows towers blotting out half the sky, the sun is still too bright over the cobblestone courtyard.

"Herbal tonics and potions, runic protection amulets," the stall vendor calls as Hawke comes by. She sounds like she hasn't a clue what a protection amulet is or what it's good for. She sounds like she learned the call by rote, repeated it over and over until her handlers pronounced it suitable and set her at the counter with her baskets and bottles, hair cut short and leaving her forehead bare. Hawke realizes he's staring, but can't take his eyes off of the darkened, fading mark between her brows, the brand that severs her from everything she ever was or ever could have been. The Tranquil girl stares back, or maybe she's just staring out into space with her huge doe-eyes, brown with flecks of gold, and Hawke wonders what it is she sees when she looks at him.

They didn't care that Karl was someone's son, someone's lover, he remembers, and tries to tamp down the thought that someone is maybe still waiting for this girl to come home – or worse, that someone thought Kirkwall is where she'd be safe.

They’d moved around a lot, and over the years, Hawke’s probably crossed Ferelden five times over, but he’d never seen a place with so many Tranquil up so close. The first year, before Bartrand’s expedition, before Anders – it's baffling to think there ever was a time before Anders – he tried to tell himself it was because he'd never lived so close to a Circle of Magi before, not for any length of time. Of course, all the Circle's Tranquil would need to be out in droves, peddling their wares to pay room and board for the rest.

Ages ago, his father had taken him to a Tranquil-run shop in Denerim, although run had been such an inadequate term. From what he could tell, the man had opened up and locked up, kept the till and never felt compelled to make off with the merchandise despite knowing exactly what it did.

“The ones that get the shops are the lucky ones," his father had said when they left the market square at last. “The rest work lyrium, clean, cook – you don’t think the Templars would abandon their duties for menial labor?”

Hawke reads the list to the girl and she packs it up for him, measures herbs and weighs powders and some sort of foul smelling liquid he thinks might be concentrated extract of rashvine. He counts the money into her waiting hands, warm skin as their fingers brush, and he wonders if she would whimper and recoil if he squeezed his hand over hers, felt the delicate bones grind up against each other. If her eyes would ever show anything other than that damnable calm, that even, honeyed brown.

He wonders what it would feel like, looking at Anders and feeling that calm, but he knows he’d lose more than just the fear. He’d lose the sparks in the pit of his stomach, the soft flutter somewhere deep inside when Anders smiles just so, the way holding his lanky body feels like home, ransacked and falling apart but still his, the only one he has left. He’d lose his magic, too, he thinks belatedly, but maybe that he could live with.

But Anders, what would the Rite of Tranquility do to him? Could it even be done? He’s not just Anders alone, after all. Can you cut a man off from the Fade when he’s got the gateway right inside him, doesn’t need to knock on the doors like everyone else?

He tries to imagine if it would be painful, if Justice – Vengeance – would go quietly or if he would rage, break, crack apart in blue lightning, leave just Anders in his wake. Anders, the man Hawke’s never truly met but wishes he could have known, the demon locked down inside him, held fast by the brand.

"Was there anything else, messere?" the girl says, and Hawke shakes his head no, cheeks suddenly flooded with heat and shame.

When he comes home, Anders is in the library, long legs stretched out over the couch, a book in his hands, a quill absently tucked behind his ear.

“I got everything you asked for,” Hawke says, throwing the bags onto the carved desk, and when Anders looks up from the dog-eared pages, he can’t help himself. He goes down to his knees right there in front of the sofa, undoes the worn buckles of Anders's trousers and takes him in his mouth reverently, sucks him like he's doing penance.

“Was it always really that awful in the Circle?” he asks later, and the way Anders looks at him makes him sorry he opened his mouth.

"I arrived three weeks after my twelfth birthday, with chains on my wrists," Anders says, and Hawke tries to remember himself at twelve, when they had just moved from Highever to Denerim, but didn’t end up staying for very long. Bethany had just started showing ability, ice bursting into bloom in the watering can she’d filled from the rainwater barrel, and three apostates in the family crossed the city right off of the list of suitable places to blend in. He thinks he was upset they had to leave again, but he always knew they were running because Leandra and Malcolm loved them. He’d never looked at his father and mother, or even Carver – and seen confusion or fear in their eyes. Later that month, settling in the Bannorn, he taught Bethany to arrange frost into patterns on the window without breaking the glass and felt like a pretty good big brother instead of a freak.

He was fourteen and they were living in South Reach when father caught him sneaking up into the hayloft with the neighbor’s boy. It was an awkward talk to be sure, one Hawke never cared to have again, but what did it have on Anders figuring out that nobody could know who he liked, not if he wanted to see them again.

He almost wishes he had been there to protect Anders, to be his one friend in the Circle Tower – but they wouldn't have been friends, not with the age difference and with Anders's penchant for escaping, time and time again. Anders didn’t need to tell him how poorly friends did during escape attempts.

“Oh, it sounds perfectly romantic. Night-time meetings, secret stockpiles of supplies, finally hatching your plan. But once you’re outside, well, you quickly realize you have to split up and hope if you’re lucky, the Templars split up too, and maybe one of you won't be caught for a few weeks yet. The first three times I ran, they didn't even have to use my phylactery.”

The Templars still have Anders's phylactery somewhere, in Denerim or Amaranthine. “I don’t know where they’re kept anymore,” he shrugs, “stopped keeping track. It’s pointless to worry about. In fact, I haven’t worried about it since the Warden Commander tried to help me steal it back in Amaranthine, and well, I told you how that turned out. That’s when he killed Rylock for me.”

Anders closes his eyes for a moment, like he’s trying to savor the image. “I wanted to stay and watch her bleed out, but there wasn't time.”

Pointless to worry about? The idea of someone leashing Anders, keeping tabs on him with blood magic – because that is exactly what makes phylacteries, despite all Chantry protests to the contrary – makes Hawke more than worried. He’s frightened and nauseous and angry, fists clenched, nails digging into his palms in little sharp half-moons, until Anders finally caves and explains that he’s fairly sure the darkspawn taint in his blood makes the phylactery useless, the corruption no longer responding to the call of the clean blood in the little vial.

“It’s why they had to get me my own Templar,” he grins, “and having Justice in me mucks it up for them even more. I’m as free as it gets.”

It doesn’t sound like freedom at all to Hawke, but he’s the first to admit he has no meter for this. He has always been free; what does he know of captivity?

***

More than a few times, he considers getting a cat. He doesn’t really like cats much, and his mabari probably wouldn’t have anything positive to say on the subject, either, but when Anders remembers Ser Pounce-a-Lot or the tabby he’d had in the Fereldan tower, Hawke thinks he could probably work something out.

Maybe a cat would make his house feel more like a home to Anders, not just a temporary place where he comes when he is really down, when he needs to put everything aside for a night and have Hawke card easy fingers through his hair.

He draws his hands down Anders's chest, counts the ribs and makes a mental note to feed him a massive breakfast the next morning no matter how much Anders balks and tries to say he has far too many things to do to concentrate on food.

He succeeds in making Anders gulp down two cups of hot tea, and counts it a minor victory when he tries to sneak an apple into his pocket. Surprisingly, Anders takes it.

“I have something to ask you,” Anders says, polishing the apple on the bottom of his sleeve. “I think I’ve figured it out. How – how to separate us.”

His heart pounds.

“Is it dangerous?”

“No magic is without danger,” Anders shrugs, without meeting his eyes. “You of all people should know that. But I believe this will be worth the cost. Even if – “ he trails off, and Hawke closes the distance, lifts his chin up with his hands.

Anders smiles weakly. "Please," he says, and Hawke stares him in the face, searching, desperate for any sign that everything will work out just fine, even though deep down he knows it won't. "Remember all that sewer crawling we did? I've prepared a potion."

Sela petrae doesn’t sound like an ingredient for any potion Hawke’s ever known and his hands are going pins and needles. Fearless, he thinks, that’s Varric’s refrain, through and through.

“Please,” Anders says again, “talk to the Grand Cleric for me. Just for a few minutes. I have to get into the Chantry unnoticed, and she loves you. She’ll give you the time. You know I wouldn’t ask you if –”

“Shut up,” Hawke says, staring into his eyes, mostly brown this morning, a few bright blue flecks coming up to the surface. “Of course, I’ll do it.”


Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
simon_alexander
Jun. 17th, 2012 12:57 pm (UTC)
Damn, that ending is heartbreaking. Anders is such a twisted character. So tragic.

I loved this, the way you were able to express just how Hawke feels about Anders, and how Anders is and always will be dedicated to one thing, no matter the distraction. Awesome job! <3
cormallen
Jun. 19th, 2012 03:28 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad it worked for you.

Anders is... I think I will always be conflicted and torn on my Anders feelings, because... ohhh, Anders.
simon_alexander
Jun. 20th, 2012 01:59 am (UTC)
Ohhh, Anders indeed. ._.
backinblack
Jul. 11th, 2014 04:10 am (UTC)
IRONICALLY I AM PLAYING DA2 FOR THE FIRST TIME WITH AN MHAWKE AND ROMANCING ANDERS LOL
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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Constantine - magic&#39;s quite simple
cormallen
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