Title: A Sleepless Night (1/2)
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂,
Rating: M (L3 N1 S2 V2 D1)
Warnings: Dick jokes, discussion of past relationships, war in the past tense, dead friends
Notes: Post-Tranquility. Cormac Hawke hasn’t heard from Anders in a few days, and he’s worried. Never mind that he barely knows the guy, that was a shitheap of unfortunate events and every mage’s nightmare. He finds Anders doing a terrible impression of ‘just fine’.
It was a few days after the fiasco at the Chantry. Not the first time Cormac had ever seen Tranquil, but definitely the most jarring. What if it had been his brother? His sister? He’d spoken to Anders right after — right before Anders picked up the whiskey and threw them all out — but hadn’t heard from him, since. This whole thing had been every mage’s nightmares come true. And so, he bought another bottle and set off for Darktown. He barely knew Anders, but… A mage, any mage, didn’t need to lose someone like that.
The clinic was open, surprisingly, and Anders looked like he’d died and forgotten to collapse, magic flickering weakly at his fingertips as he tried to help the man bleeding on the cot under his hands. "Don’t worry, Tom. I’m just a little rough, tonight. Long day, but I’ll fix it. You’re not going to die from it. I just need to finish closing it up."
And then another hand entered his line of vision, dark, a faint green glow along the fingertips. "You look like you could use a little extra. I’m not good, but I think I’m better than you are, right this second."
"Hawke?" Anders looked up, confused and surprised.
"There are five Hawkes. I’m Cormac." Smiling distractedly at Anders, Cormac looked back at their patient, as he tried to focus on healing. He didn’t usually have to do it on quite this scale. "Tom, was it? I’m sorry. It’s going to leave a scar. I’m no good at this shit, but at least it won’t be gaping."
Anders leaned on the edge of the cot, shaking, as he watched Cormac finish the job. He could have done it, himself. It might have killed him, but he could have done it. Still, when someone outed themselves as a mage, to clean up after you… "Thank you, Cormac. What brings you down here?"
Cormac helped Tom off the cot, still apologising about the scar. As the man left, he turned back to Anders. "You lost a friend, in the worst way I can imagine. I got a little concerned. Couldn’t sleep. Here I am." He handed over the whiskey. "It’s not the good stuff, but it’s better than that pisswater from under the bar at the Hanged Man."
"You were worried, so you brought me a bottle of whiskey, in the middle of the night?" Disbelief settled on Anders’s face. Firmly.
"Actually, it’s almost morning. More indigo than black, out there." Cormac rubbed the side of his jaw and looked around the clinic. "You look like shit. Should I have brought more than just whiskey?"
"I don’t—" The next breath was ragged. "—need—" Anders sagged and sat down hard, legs finally betraying him. He pressed a hand over his eyes and leaned his head against the cot behind him. "He was my best friend. I loved him."
"Hey, hey, not the floor." Cormac circled around the cot between them, to crouch beside Anders. "Come on, the floor’s cold, and there’s a cot right behind you. You need a hand?"
"Why?" Anders asked, unmoving.
"Because nobody needs this shit. Not you, not me, not anyone else in Thedas. But, here you are, and here I am, and I’m not going to let you freeze your extremely good-looking ass off, sulking on the floor. You can sulk warmly on a cot. I’ll even get you a blanket — I think I spotted one on my way in."
"You cannot possibly know if my ass is good-looking or not." Anders squinted up at Cormac, between his fingers.
"I am trained in the arts of ass-analysis. The line of the coat tells me you either have a good-looking ass or an amazing tailor, and looking around, my bets are on the ass." Cormac held out an arm and helped Anders onto the cot. "Blanket? Potion? Cup for your whiskey?"
"Potion. Over there. Red one and a blue one." Anders slumped back against the wall behind him, still looking dazed. "It’s not my ass. It’s the coat. I used to have nice shoulders, too. Feathers kind of keep up the illusion."
Cormac brought back the potions, but Anders didn’t look much better for drinking them. "So, none of my business, but… I just helped a guy out of here who looked better than you do, right now. You need a…?"
"I’m fine," Anders protested and his stomach growled loudly. "What day is it? Assuming it’s morning."
"It’s Thursday, now. We went out on Saturday night."
Anders counted. "Four days."
"When’s the last time you slept?" Cormac asked, sitting on the corner of the next cot over.
"Saturday morning. I slept in. Blighted lazy, sometimes…" Anders muttered, dropping the bottle of whiskey next to him on the cot.
"I don’t think it counts as lazy when you go five nights without sleep, in between." Cormac grinned. "Maybe I could see the argument if it was only two or three nights, but five ? Come on."
Anders laughed, despite himself.
"Been eating?" Cormac asked, already knowing the answer.
"I think so. I don’t remember. Who has time?" Anders swung an arm out, in a broad gesture, and smacked it into the wall, behind him.
Cormac laughed and leaned forward. "Hey, Anders? You’re the healer. Listen to yourself. If somebody came to you and said they hadn’t slept in five days and couldn’t remember the last thing they ate, you’d…?"
Anders sighed. "Demand they eat and sleep. Obviously. But, I’m not them. I don’t need— I shouldn’t need—"
"Again, you look like you’ve been chewed up and shit out. Should, shouldn’t, whatever. I’m going to pick up some breakfast, as soon as it’s an hour I can do that. I’ll bring you some, too." Cormac picked through his belt pouch, coins jingling. "I think I can do that. I bet I can get a sack of pears and some dried fish."
"There’s a man on the plaza who sells dumplings and stew. Sometimes he puts out a cabbage salad — it’s cheap. If I give you a few copper, would you get some?" Anders gave up trying to convince himself he didn’t need to eat. He was gluttonous and lazy, and it would bite him in the ass, one day, but maybe he’d at least enjoy it, first.
"If it’s only a few copper, don’t even worry about it. I’ll see if he’s out there." It was still barely daybreak, Cormac remembered, and no one would be selling anything yet. "I… do you want me to go and come back, later? Maybe you should catch a nap?"
"I can’t sleep. Every time I close my eyes, he’s there. I should have come sooner. I should have gotten him out." Anders’s heel jittered, nervously, where it was hooked on the edge of the cot. "We joked about it, you know — Tranquility. We were terrified, sure, but it couldn’t happen to us. We’d been Harrowed. We were safe. There should have been time. It shouldn’t have happened at all. How—? The Chantry forbids this. Exactly this. He should never have been a target, but they were after me. I told him I’d get him out. I promised ."
"He told you when to come. You were right where he told you to be, right when he told you to be there." Cormac rubbed his eye with the heel of his palm and studied the space between them. "Still, if it was my — If it was someone I knew, I’d be right where you are. We still got you out."
"Maybe you shouldn’t have." Anders shook his head.
"And then what? You think they’d have stopped ? Because they wouldn’t have. It would have been proof they could do whatever they wanted, and no one could stop them. We’d all have been just as far up the creek as we are now, but then I’d be the healer, and we’d all be totally fucked. At least, now, we’re only mostly fucked." A sharp laugh darted out of Cormac.
Anders snickered, quietly but hysterically. "You — you really are that bad. You know that, right?"
"Oh, I’m fucking horrible. No talent for it at all." The next sound out of Cormac’s mouth was halfway between a cough and a laugh. "So, please, healer. Let me keep you alive for the good of all of Kirkwall."
"Kirkwall," Anders scoffed. "I’m only still here because I can’t afford to be anywhere else, now. No reason to be here. Less reason with the templars after me. Thought I’d get Karl, and maybe we’d run for Qarinus. Chantry’d never dare, if we even made it across the border. But, now… No reason to be here, no reason to be anywhere else. I know there are reasons. There have to be reasons. I just can’t find them any more." Justice was strangely silent, but Anders was also dangerously exhausted.
"So, stay for me." Cormac shrugged, as if he hadn’t said something utterly ridiculous. "Not forever, but just until you find a decent reason. I’m cute, I’m charming, and I have utterly bullshit healing spells you can borrow when you do shit like this to yourself."
"You make offers like that to every half-dead apostate you find in the sewer?" Anders almost managed something that could pass for humour.
"Nah, just the ones I’m buying breakfast for." Cormac grinned lazily.
"Why are you buying me breakfast?"
"Where were you ?" Cormac invoked the question every Fereldan refugee knew.
"I was in the north, mostly. Trying to stay as far from both Kinloch Hold and the darkspawn horde as I could. Wound up in Amaranthine, in the end, but that was after."
"I was in Lothering."
"Oh, shit." Anders reached out a hand, and Cormac moved to take it, taking a seat beside Anders, instead of across from him.
"That’s why." It was all Cormac needed to say. Anders would be able to fill in the rest. Just about any Fereldan would. Why? Because he remembered what it was like to lose friends to unspeakable horrors, even if they weren’t the same kind.
"You…?" Anders asked, eyes full of the obvious question.
"No one I couldn’t replace. We were lucky." Cormac smiled and reached across Anders for the bottle, opening it with one hand and his teeth, as the two of them slumped, shoulder to shoulder, hands together. "I did get punched in the head by an ogre, though. That’s a lot less fun than it sounds."
"Yes, I know! I’ve met ogres!" Anders squinted and blinked at Cormac, who handed him the whiskey. "How are you still alive?"
"There were just enough of us. That thing came over the ridge, and all I could think of was giving my sister enough time to get a shot off. An ogre is a bad thing. An ogre that’s suddenly on your side against a seemingly endless horde of lesser darkspawn is a very good thing. So, I ate a fist to the face. We had Aveline with us — you haven’t met Aveline, but she’s a scary wall of meat, used to be a soldier — and her husband, Wes, the templar — Don’t make that face at me. He could’ve been a fucking hurlock, and I’d have been glad he was on our side. But, I guess between the two of them, my brother Carver, and the ogre, there was enough front-facing ass-kicking to wipe out the next wave, and then Artie pounded the ogre into paste, before it could notice us again. I don’t know shit. I was face-down in the mud with a broken nose, at the time."
Cormac huffed out a self-conscious laugh. "Probably the only mage you know who charged an ogre, shouting ‘Fight me, Jimmy!'"
"Of all the things I may or may not have yelled at any number of ogres, I assure you ‘Fight me, Jimmy!’ was not on the list, no." Anders eyed Cormac with a whole new level of horror and respect.
"Does it help if I tell you I didn’t mean to survive that?"
"I don’t know if it helps, but at least it makes more sense." Anders rubbed his eye with his wrist and took a drink. "So, these darkspawn… None of them… talked to you or anything, right? Just regular, run of the mill ‘grargh, roar, stabby stabby’?"
Horror dawned on Cormac’s face. "Darkspawn talk ?"
"No. Well, yes, but no." Anders drank more and squeezed Cormac’s hand tighter. "I was in Amaranthine for some terrible things. There was… it called itself ‘the Architect’. It believed itself to be some kind of darkspawn. And, honestly, it was a pretty well-reasoned bastard, all in all. It had been trying to establish a society of intelligent darkspawn — like itself, but uglier — and some shit happened and we crossed paths. So, no? Darkspawn don’t talk, unless they’re special. I swear that all makes much more sense with the parts I’m not supposed to tell you in it."
"I thought you left the Wardens," Cormac prodded.
"In the end, there’s no such fucking thing." Shaking his head, Anders handed back the bottle. "They think I’m dead. Everyone I was with sure is. I just ran. Couldn’t do it any more. Doesn’t change the fact I’m still a Warden, with all the unfortunate side-effects that brings."
"I’ve heard some stories about—"
"Legendary Warden stamina? They’re all true, and I wish they weren’t. It’s really kind of annoying." Anders sighed.
"I wondered about that. You haven’t slept in five nights, probably haven’t eaten in a couple of days, and I walked in on you still using magic. That’s really pretty impressive." Cormac left out the part where being in Lothering had let him experience some of that legendary Warden stamina, firsthand.
"Some of that is Justice. I guess you could say I’m a little closer to the spirit than the average spirit healer." Sitting up, Anders noticed, actually seemed to require effort and thinking. "But, he doesn’t sleep, so sometimes I don’t sleep. There’s not much space between us, any more. Less a him and me than an us. We don’t sleep."
"Spirits may not eat or sleep, but people do. It’s kind of what keeps them people, instead of corpses," Cormac teased, taking a drink. Whiskey before breakfast. Not the day he’d quite meant to have, but he’d take it.
"Enough other ways to make a corpse," Anders muttered.
"No, I just… I keep thinking there’s going to be another letter, full of his politics and his terrible jokes, and then I remember his blood on my hands." Anders squeezed his eyes shut. "I thought it was bad when they locked me up, but I got out, and Karl was still there, just like he’d always been. Heard they moved him to Kirkwall, after everything that happened, so I came here — let him know I was in town — and he finally wanted to come with me. Here, this place — it was too much, even for him. And now he’s dead, and I killed him. I couldn’t save him."
"More than just friends." Cormac guessed.
"What? No. There’s nothing more than friends. Friends are everything." Anders’s eyelashes were damp, but he didn’t open his eyes. "If you mean I was doing him, of course I was doing him. It was a Circle tower. Who wasn’t I doing? But, he was my best friend. Not even two years without him, and now he’s … I can’t get him back from this."
"Come up Sundermount with me, after you sleep. We’ll build him a monument that looks out over Kirkwall, toward the sea." Cormac hadn’t spent much time in the company of apostates he wasn’t related to, and his own had stayed clear of the Circle. If this was what came of Circle mages, he was extremely glad he’d given it a miss. Still, the story reminded him that this could have been him, his brother, his sister. His father had told them enough about the tower mages — like larks in cages, singing to keep from becoming supper. This, though, was beyond anything he had imagined.
"I don’t even know where he was from," Anders admitted. "I don’t know if he knew where he was from."
"I was lazy. They didn’t get me until I was twelve. I remember everything. He didn’t. He was just a kid. Well… you know what I mean." Anders took slow, deep breaths, one after another, focused on Cormac’s hand, warm in his.
"I know. I wasn’t quite ten. My brother was not so fortunate. We’d just moved, too. It hit him right after it hit me, the poor little shit. Dad didn’t know what to do with two of us." Cormac rubbed his thumb over Anders’s knuckles, trying not to think too much about how that all happened so quickly. He’d been so proud, and Artie and their dad had been so scared.
A sharp laugh leapt out of Anders. "Two of you. Andraste’s ass."
"Three of us, in the end. My poor mother." Cormac shook his head.
"I burned down a barn. You?"
"A barn ? Wow. Yeah, nothing as spectacular as you. You should talk to my brother, though. He destroyed a room. Force, if you can believe it." After another drink, Cormac handed back the bottle. "Me, I folded a templar into a platemail brick."
Hysterical laughter shot out of Anders and he dribbled whiskey down his chin, trying not to spit it all over himself. "You what ?"
"Accidentally on purpose… He came for my dad, and I just… I’m an Arcanist, for the love of dogs and dogshit! I hated him so hard he imploded!"
Anders managed to swallow, at long last, wearing almost as much whiskey as he choked down. "I spent seventeen years in the tower, and that is the best one I’ve heard yet. Imploded a templar. That’s… Hah."
"Right? My poor dad. He didn’t sign up for this shit." Cormac laughed. "Well, no, I guess he did. Apostate. Five kids. He had to know that was coming. Mum just tried to pretend it wasn’t happening. She loves us, but dad was more than enough for her, on the magic front."
"I’m seething with envy. You just can’t see it because I can’t feel my face," Anders joked. "Actually, I can’t feel much of anything. Shit."
"Need me to get up and do something? Can’t quite get food yet, I don’t think, but …"
"Why the fuck are you being so nice to me?" The words were out before Anders could think too much about them.
"I could’ve been you. That could have been my sister, my brother. You’re one of the first mages outside my family I’ve spent any time with, at all — we were apolitical and separate, by necessity. The templars were looking for us, so no other apostate would come near Malcolm Hawke or his family. It was a death warrant to be seen with us, I expect. So, here you are, this magical unicorn of a mage willing to be seen in my presence, and the first thing you do is drag me out to rescue your boyfriend from the templars. Yeah, I’m in. That was winding up to be the most fun I’d had in years, until it all went wrong."
"Not my boyfriend," Anders muttered, and then, "Magical unicorn of a mage?"
"Piss off, I’m tired. It made sense in my head."
"I don’t do bridles and I don’t do virgins. If you’re very lucky, though, I might let you stroke my horn."
"Andraste’s infinitely squeezable buttocks, thank the Maker, there’s two of us! My brothers are going to move to Starkhaven in self-defence." Cormac cackled. "That was terrible, by the way."
"Thank you, yes, it was." Anders looked vaguely amused. "And thank you . Really." He squeezed Cormac’s hand and held up the bottle.
"It’s always better to sulk in good company. Or at least in company that doesn’t chew your slippers and shit in your shoes."
"I’m more of a cat person. More of a sleep on your face and puke in your shoes thing, really."
"My little brother has a mabari. Typical Fereldan family that we are, and all. Dog thinks it’s hilarious to start fights between my brothers." Cormac shook his head and laughed.
Anders stretched and groaned. "I need to stop sitting up. This isn’t working at all."
"So, I’ll go get you a blanket, and you can lie down. I’ll see if it’s late enough for anyone to be selling food, yet," Cormac offered, getting to his feet, and trying to let go of Anders’s hand.
"No, I… Stay? Please?" Anders did not look up. His eyes closed, in fact, and he did not look at all. "Because that wasn’t completely pathetic, Anders," he muttered.
"You want me to help you get to sleep? I can try. Ditch that coat, while I get a blanket for you. The feathers don’t look like they’d be too conducive to a good night’s sleep." Cormac squeezed Anders’s hand. "I haven’t slept either, remember? Not as long as you, but… wouldn’t kill me to lose a couple of hours."
"Thank you." Anders still didn’t look up, as Cormac’s hand slipped out of his. "Blankets in the back are cleaner than the ones in the front. Nobody bled on them, today."
Anders tried to remember how to work the fastenings on his coat, as Cormac went to get blankets. His fingers just refused to cooperate, and the way the stitching seemed to flutter and writhe didn’t do him much good, either.
"I can’t…" he muttered, as Cormac’s feet reappeared. There was a sound of cloth falling beside him and then Cormac had knelt in front of him.
"You want me to try?" Cormac offered.
"There’s a slide on the back of the rings," Anders said, instead of yes. "It’s not hard. I just can’t feel my fingertips."
Cormac got it on the first try. "That’s a really nice design. One day, when I have money, I want to meet your tailor."
Anders shrugged out of the coat. "Ask Lirene. It was a gift."
Cormac carefully folded the coat and tucked it under the cot. There were two of them, but it was still Darktown. He unfolded the blankets as Anders stretched out on his side, and then sat back down on the edge of the cot to stroke the healer’s hair. "You want me to sit here and hold your hand? I can do that."
"You can lie down. It’ll be tight, but… I just can’t get warm." Anders looked utterly miserable — cold, tired, and thin.
"First date and I’m already getting in your bed," Cormac joked, carefully climbing over Anders to lie down behind him. He rearranged the blankets to make room for himself under them.
"Not actually my bed. My bed’s in the back. Just can’t walk that far right now." Anders reached back and pulled Cormac’s arm around him. For a moment, he very nearly relaxed. "Thank you," he said again.
"You keep thanking me. I’m lying in a warm bed — or something like a bed, anyway — with an extremely attractive and terribly talented healer in my arms. I should be thanking you, if for no other reason than this beats the piss out of my uncle’s freezing cold floor."
Anders made a small, amused sound — one Cormac felt more than heard. "Extremely attractive?"
"I’m sure you’re better looking when you’ve eaten and slept, but you’re still pretty gorgeous. I’m just saying."
"Saying you want to ride the unicorn?"
Cormac laughed. "I’m never living that down, am I? I’m not saying it’s an active desire, but if the opportunity ever presents itself, I probably wouldn’t turn it down. What? Am I not allowed to just appreciate a good-looking man?"
"It’s been a while," Anders admitted, slowly relaxing a little bit at a time, shoulders pulling forward as he wrapped himself around Cormac’s arm.
"A constant stream of life and death situations doesn’t really lend itself to admirers of your more frivolous qualities. Fortunately, now there’s me." Cormac flexed his arm in a half-hug. "Or unfortunately. I’m really pretty annoying."
"I’ve been told that about myself. We should be annoying, together. We’ll be an unstoppable force for annoyance." Anders paused. "I think I’m really tired."
"I’m sure you’re really tired. Do you need me to shut up?" Cormac asked.
"No! Please. Don’t stop talking." Anders’s hand tightened around Cormac’s wrist. "You talk to me like I’m real. It’s been months of nothing but threats and praise — doglord this, miracle-worker that. But, you’re talking to me like I’m not refugee trash or the beating heart of the Fereldan diaspora. I’m just… some guy. I forgot what that was like."
"No, you’re just some healer , which is pretty badass, but I’ve got some tricks that’ll turn your hair white."
"I’ve got some tricks that’ll turn your pants white," Anders shot back.
"If you cast anything, right now, you will die, so let’s save the exciting magic tricks for after you get some sleep," Cormac reminded him.
"It’s not that bad. I’m the healer. I would know." Anders muttered.
"You’re the healer who forgets to eat and sleep. Excuse me if I don’t take your word for how bad it is, until you do at least one of these things."
"You’re really going to buy me breakfast, later, aren’t you?" Anders sounded like he was finally starting to take Cormac seriously. At least a little.
"I’m hungry. You’re hungry. If I’m going to go get food, it would be a real asshole thing to do, if I only got enough for me." Cormac rubbed the middle of Anders’s chest, idly, until Anders grabbed his hand.
"Not right there. An inch or two in any direction, but not right there. Hurts when I’m tired." Anders loosened his grip. "Sorry."
"You? No. I’m sorry. Andraste’s ass, don’t apologise because I hurt you." Cormac moved his hand down, rubbing the bottom of Anders’s ribs, instead. "Better?"
"Amazing," Anders purred pressing himself closer against Cormac, before he suddenly froze. "Sorry. I don’t— I didn’t mean to—"
"Shh. You’re just like a kitty. I rub your belly and you purr and squirm." Cormac’s voice was warm and reassuring. "I don’t mind. You’re tired. You want me to stop, tell me."
"Like a kitty," Anders huffed. "Like a very randy tomcat, apparently. And I am very, very much too tired for that, so don’t get your hopes up. If that bothers you, you should stop. Otherwise, I don’t think I’ve felt this good in a very long time, so please don’t stop. You spoil me."
"Mmm, you’ve gone from a magical unicorn to a randy tomcat, and all I had to do was rub your belly? Now there’s some magic for the ages." Cormac laughed quietly. "I don’t care. You’re warm and making mostly happy noises, except for the noises where you’re worried I’m going to hate you because your knob’s got a mind of its own. Not even touching your knob. Wouldn’t have noticed. And as the owner of a knob, I’ll remind you they’re all like that, especially if drunk or tired are involved."
There was a lot more going on here, Cormac noticed, than just a man who’d been forced to kill his lover. As if that hadn’t been bad enough. Elves. He’d seen elves react like this, and he’d always just assumed it was a cultural thing — beware of the humans, they’re not like us. But, then, Anders was a mage. ‘They’re not like us’ was a given.
Anders heaved out a sound that was more breath than laugh. "I’m going to regret this later, but right now, I just don’t care."
"What’s to regret? It’s warm. We’ll sleep. And then we’ll eat. Sounds amazing. Haven’t had it this good since we left Lothering. And I’m not going to wake up to one of my brothers tripping over me."
"Ah, the foot in the ass. I don’t miss that from the boat," Anders muttered, tucking his head down against his shoulder.
"Fuck the boat," Cormac grumbled.
Anders sounded like he might say something else, but all that came out was a long, low, contented sound as he finally faded out. Cormac kept talking, for a while, not really expecting to be heard, but just to make sure Anders was really asleep, before he drifted off. This was good. Pity there probably wasn’t room to get used to it.