Fandom: Dragon Age
Pairing: Justice/Anders, mentions of Anders/m!Hawke
Genre: Romance, Angst
Summary: Justice learns about all that is wonderful and terrible outside the Fade. The world is much more complex than he can imagine.
A/N: This was by no means my first fill for kmeme, but I've had very little confidence in the way of posting non-anon for this fandom. Thanks to some very encouraging comments, and probably no small amount of reluctance to be productive irl, I've mustered up the will to post to my journal and communities. Also, unbeta'd and more or less unedited. Enjoy?
Emotions were both fascinating and terrifying for Justice. He didn't understand, at first, how creatures on this side of the Veil withstood the sensory barrage. They could hold anger without being consumed, have faith while retaining skepticism. There was justice for them in shades of grey. He felt all of these things secondhand through Kristoff's memories, examined every piece of the man's life in an attempt to piece together the world he'd been dropped in. Curiosity sparked in him, foreign and relentless.
It worried Justice when he began to feel things like this. He was never meant to do anything but seek dues for those that he saw wronged and that was indeed why he was in this world in the first place. Justice had found peace for the people of the Blackmarsh and now he had the memories of a man slain by a terrible evil. To eradicate the man's murderers—this was the task Justice assigned himself. It was a proper thing to do.
Increasingly, however, it seemed that whatever was proper was never quite correct. There were many factors to consider in this world. There was issue with pragmatism in this world. Darkspawn were not always present and it was impractical to constantly seek them out. In truth, the beasts that had killed the man were already dead. Justice's task was essentially done. There was no reason for him to continue on in this fashion.
Somehow, he found himself giving reason to extend his stay. There were many other injustices around him. His attention should have been turned to them. He should have attempted to find a way back to the Fade, to give Aura a body to mourn, but he felt compelled to stay. He was trapped by his fascination with this world and this strange attachment he began to feel to the people around him. It would have been a lie to say that his companions were not a factor in this—and he loathed this poor reasoning, it was nothing short of incorrect—desire to stay..
They were impressive creatures, his companions, faceted and more complex than any shade or spirit that Justice knew. He learned many things from them that Kristoff's memories could not explain—how to disagree without taking offense to others' convictions, of the desire to protect and the affection that came with friendships. There was a give and take that was customary and natural in companionship that the body he lived in remembered but that he only understood trough observation of the people he had come to know as friends. His preoccupation with those around him, Justice came to realize, was in fact mutual.
And none was so curious as the mage.
Anders prodded as the others did not. He had his own worries—all of them had their own worries, petty and selfish or otherwise—but he spared time to ask Justice of the Fade. Anders provoked thoughts about Justice's existence that the spirit himself had never questioned. Many of these thoughts rankled on his nerves, accompanied by images that the body he inhabited associated with his troubles. The mage asked things that broached on dangerous territory where neither of them should have attempted to travel. Even by the nature of their identities, their association with one another spoke of danger, but Justice found he could no more turn away the inquiries than he could act in this plane without a host.
It was irritating, that a mortal could have that effect on him. Justice was baffled by this weakness. It plagued him throughout the day in all his actions. With so few Wardens, there was very little respite from his interactions with Anders and the mage's own interest and whatever chance for separation there was, Justice never took it. He could find no explanation for the stirring he felt in his core, an expansion of feeling that drove him to speak more freely in response to whatever Anders asked. At times, the swell of emotion came with images of a time when Kristoff and Aura were young, intimate meetings, but whatever this was to mean, Justice did not understand.
There was much in this world to care for, but it was Anders's plight that stirred him. There was injustice in the way mages were treated. This Justice understood clearly. It did not trouble him as much as it should to know what was being done to individuals that had no choice. What troubled him was the realization that there was very immediate danger to the mage himself.
Justice was incensed at the thought that the templars still watched the mage, balked at the thought that Anders could still be subjected to their tyranny. It frightened Justice that Anders wielded a sword in battle with the mastery of a discipline once lost to mages. Justice could not abide by the danger in which Anders lived, and piece by piece Justice began to understand that this was not about Anders being an oppressed mage.
This was about Anders.
There was something about Anders that drew up echoes of feelings that Kristoff had felt for Aura. The mage's presence was a balm to Justice. Anders was a precious thing. He evoked more response in Justice than even the mournful song that hummed within lyrium, and it was frightening. This was a desire without bounds, one that only grew with Anders's attention and presence.
It seemed at first that this was a cause of inhabiting a body that had latent emotions, many memories and thoughts that Justice picked up and projected inexpertly. The solution then, was to the let the body go. It was a more difficult task than he imagined, to say his goodbyes to the Commander and to Anders—they both cared, perhaps too much for a misguided spirit from the Fade—so he did not.
He forced away the bonds that held him to the flesh and drifted, but the traitorous thoughts and the foreign memories followed him. Justice attempted to move far from Amaranthine where temptation was too great, but it was worse now. He had nothing to occupy him in this form. He could not return to the Fade no matter what he attempted to do. Wherever he drifted he was assailed with thoughts of what Anders might be doing or if he was safe. Justice wondered often if Anders would forget him in so short a time.
Surely, this fixation was nothing short of demonic. It could not be natural to worry so much over the thoughts of an individual, nor to think about them so constantly. It only perplexed Justice further, then, when these feelings were accompanied by memories of affection that were not his. Indeed, there was an uncanny similarity between what Justice felt for Anders and what he knew Kristoff felt for Aura, but it did not seem right. Love, as Justice understood the concept, could not possibly be so overwhelming and consumptive. What Justice felt was wholly selfish. The two could not be the same.
Still, he drifted back to Amaranthine, and shadowed Anders steps. Justice longed to be close. He hadn't the right, but he stood the silent sentinel at the mage's back. Justice didn't know if Anders knew of his presence. Certainly, the mage couldn't know of the way Justice worried at each excursion to do Warden's duties, he couldn't have known the discomfort the spirit felt at each too-friendly interaction with others.
It was a ridiculous thing for Justice to do, he knew. There was nothing that could come of scrutiny. He waited anyway for a moment that couldn't possibly come. There was a bitterness to what he felt now, colored with a raw sort of despair. He existed this way for far too long in his knowledge.
Justice was unsure, then, exactly what drove him to reach Anders's mind on that night in which the templar made it clear for the umpteenth time that he had no sympathy for Anders or his kind. It was wrong—Justice knew it was wrong—to suggest granting Anders his power in exchange for giving him space to exist in. Justice only knew of his pining, of all of the desire to keep Anders to himself. Everything, Justice remembered thinking, would right itself if only he could be just that much closer. There was no danger in this. It couldn't be so different from residing in Kristoff's body.
Anders's soul burned so much brighter than Justice expected, but the blame could not be placed entirely on him. The mage's hate was only bolstered by the spirit's desire for preservation. Anything, every threat to what was now Justice's was no obstacle.
The camp burned. Wardens—ones that Justice knew, ones that Anders called friend, and ones that he did not—burned. There was chaos. Corruption, but it was too late to think of that as new. Nothing was simple in this world. Nothing ever worked as Justice thought he had understood. He knew he was no better than a lowly desire demon as he pushed Anders's legs to work, removed them from the dangers that he had seen around the mage. If there was one thing Justice had learned about this side of the Veil, it was that one needed to rejoice in small victories. He had Anders. Surely, it was enough.
But that night, when Anders wrested control from him, he fell to sobbing. "I'm sorry," He said, a broken mantra, and it was Justice that had broken him. The mage blamed himself when he could not possibly know that it was Justice who drove him to act against his companions. True, both of them had acted naively. They did not anticipate the consequences of such a joining, but Justice could not help but feel content. He was sorry, yes, for the doubt that he had stirred in Anders's mind, and this raised no small amount of guilt, but it was too late to regret.
Justice did what he could. He searched Anders's memories and his own for ideas of comfort. They failed, instead making the mage more apologetic, but Justice could only move forward. Anders would not understand. There was so much potential for them now. Together, they could eliminate the threats that haunted the mage. If freedom for the mages came from their efforts, then it would be a gift to Anders. This, Justice took from Kristoff's memories, was customary for affection.
Justice held no doubt that they could make this work, and it was his good humor that convinced Anders that there was no trouble with what they had become. There was no guesswork that had to be done to determine what they needed to do to please Anders. They moved to Kirkwall. They helped the poor and did their best to help the mages. Justice even allowed them to indulge Hawke who reminded Anders at first of the Commander. Justice did not trust him, but his manipulation often frightened Anders, and it took far too long to get back in his good graces.
Anders misunderstood what Justice was attempting to do, but that was okay. The days were routine and tiresome but they were manageable. They had to take little steps. Anders had a difficult time accepting this, but he could come around. Justice would show him. He would take his time. They were in no rush. The fact that Anders was changing meant nothing.
There were feelings appearing that were not there before. Anders began to guard them carefully when it was only the two of them, and it took far too long for Justice to piece together what was happening. He understood that whatever these emotions were, they were inspired by Hawke. It was troubling, but nothing of concern. Anders was with Justice, after all.
Denial only lasted for so long as the man began to visit and request Anders's presence more often. The mage began to act differently, dreamt of things that Justice had never seen. Justice attempted to chase these visions away. They bothered him, filled with a richness the spirit could not match. In the waking world, Hawke only grew closer to Anders and it was with disturbing clarity that Kristoff's memories stirred in Justice again.
A sort of purity rose in Anders's mind, unfiltered emotion. He had irrepressible affection for Hawke, strong, but held with restraint. A worrying undercurrent of fear laced through Anders's thoughts time and time again, and it was disgust that Justice acknowledged that it was fear of himself.
It was never more painful that Anders did not understand Justice's intentions, but it was his own fault for never declaring them to the mage. He tried now, filling their mind with image after image of what he remember of Kristoff's romance. They did little more than unsettle Anders, and still Justice pushed the thoughts at him with every feeling that surfaced in the mage for Hawke.
After one such attempt to sway Anders, the mage growled, rubbing his temples, "Yes, that's I feel about him. What of it?"
It was a step. An acknowledgement. Justice attempted to remind Anders of what they were doing. He tried to project safety and the desire to protect, but his rendering was lacking.
"I know, the mages' plight is important. I'm not arguing that. Hawke feels the same, you know. He understands. He wants to help. Can't you see that? He could do so much," Anders said. His tone softened in a disconcerting manner, mind filling with no small amount of admiration and affection.
Anger rose, hot and quick as Justice railed against the ideas in the space they shared. He rejected the thoughts with the only deterrents he knew and gained nothing from it. Anders rubbed his temples and sighed, weary of him.
"Fine, have it your way. Though, I doubt he'll tire of wanting freedom. He's an apostate. Calm down and we can pen more of the manifesto before I have to sleep."
And for a moment, Justice was sure he won out. Anders's dreams showed him differently. His persistence in seeing Hawke showed Justice different. It was wrong. Terrible. A betrayal of what Justice had worked so long for. Anders could not be swayed from this path, and so Justice turned to violence. He forced them to show disdain for humor that Anders honestly appreciated.
Justice chipped at the emotions. He tried to remove the pieces that troubled Anders and fill them with himself. Force had to be enough. For a time, it was. Anders would keep to his clinic. He conducted their plans in secret. He fell in line with Justice's demands.
Underneath it all, they both knew that this control was tenuous at best. Contact with Hawke, with any of his companions, eroded what Justice had. A tighter grip meant greater fear, but Justice no longer cared. It pained him to be as close as he could possibly get and for everything to be lacking. He was here first. Hawke deserved nothing compared to what Justice had done.
But Anders didn't understand. He never did, and he never would. Justice knew that from the moment Anders blocked him out entirely. No amount of beating on his mind could disrupt the peaceful intimacy that Hawke shared with him. It ached to see what Justice could not attain. He had his moments, a place in Anders's mind, but it wasn't the same.
There was no explanation for this in Kristoff's memories, nor in Anders's. Not even the part of Hawke's mind that Justice could touch yielded answers. For the first time, it seemed a poor idea to help those that did not reside in the Fade. It was a place meant for dreams and ideas, and where the reality of this side was too much to bear.
He would rage, and he would manipulate, and he would feel all that was wonderful and terrible, but at the end of the day, he had proven to be no more than he started out as. An outsider looking in, trying much too hard to reconcile things where he had no place being.