Tale of the Stranger (or How I Met Selena Hawke)

Chapter 9

"Oh fuck."

"You can say that again."

"Oh fuck"

"It's a figure of speech, Garrett. Hand me my blades and we can go find him, okay?"

Hawke passed me my spine sheaths then stood impatiently, running his hands fitfully through his hair. The poor man had been fretting non-stop since Anders had sped out through the door, waiting for me to get myself together to help in the search.

"Okay, handsome," I said, finishing the last buckle, speaking as calmly as my own nerves would allow, "he's probably gone to the clinic, so we'll start there. If not, then we'll pop into the Hanged Man and see what Varric knows."

"Please, Selena, can we just go? I need to...I just...I gotta catch him."

This was a side of Hawke I'd never seen before. He was nervous and flustered, and to be honest, a little scared. It was...kinda cute really. His eyes were overbright and wild, and he'd run his hands through his hair so many times that it was standing up in odd little tufts. He practically flew down the cellar steps out into the fetid air of Darktown as soon as I motioned for him to lead.

The clinic was closed and locked, though I did try out some of the lockpicking skills that Isabela had been teaching me. No Anders. The hearth didn't even look as though it had been lit in days.

We searched through most of Darktown, just in case, but found neither hide nor hair. Not even Tomwise, with his ears to the ground, had heard of Anders in Darktown today.

The Hanged Man, on the other hand, had heard all sorts of things about Anders, seeing as he was busy dancing on a table in the center of the main room.

I admit it, I gaped. A group of minstrels were playing a raucous tune as his boots stomped to the beat. He had a flagon in each hand, spilling as much as he drank. The table was surrounded by a throng of Fereldan partiers, hooting and whistling as he spun. He laughed, but it was brittle and forced. He was not as happy as he seemed, and it was our doing.

I spotted Varric in a corner near the rear stairs, and pulled Garrett towards him. "Varric, how long has this been going on?"

"Hey there, Starlight. The dancing for about an hour or so, but he's been here pretty much all day." Varric smiled lightly and hitched at his belt.

"Starlight?" I asked, tickled at the nickname.

"Night dark hair, sparkling smile. Yeah, Starlight works," he turned his attention back to the prancing mage. "So what happened to make him like this?"

Hawke sighed, finding a chair to slump in, "He walked in on Selena and I...kissing."

"What? Just kissing?"

"Yes, just kissing," I assured him. "But it was a bit of a shock."

"Hey! Look!" A voice cried out from the throng. Anders had spotted us and was making his wobbly way towards us. His cheeks were flushed and his eyes glazed from too much ale, but I could see that he was still hurting. "My friends have arrived! Care to dance with me, Selena?"

I reached out to take his arms as he stumbled forward, spilling ale down both our shirts. I ignored it, smiling at him. "I think, maybe we should just sit and talk, okay Anders?"

His brows drew down and he pulled away. "No! I don't want to talk. I want to be happy. Why can't I be happy for once?"

Hawke stood slowly next to us. "Anders?"

"I just want to be happy," he said, softer than before. "I want to be able to kiss who I want, drink or eat as much as I want. And not have some stupid voice in my head telling me what to do all the time!" The tears began to fall as I wrapped an arm about his shoulders.

Varric motioned for us to move him up to his suite and we shuffled him away from the crowd. He was easily led, now, head down, shoulders lumped. Hawke followed, begining to revert to his usual careless stance when feeling upset. This was not going to be good.

I settled Anders to sit on Varric's bed, while Garrett threw himself into one of the dwarf's low slung chairs. It was a damned good thing he'd invested in those damned cushions like I asked, or Hawke would have a very sore ass before too long.

I rolled my eyes at Hawke's attitude, then knelt before Anders' bowed form, taking his hands in mine, as I pried away the last flagon of ale. "Anders? Talk to me."

He snorted in derision. "Why? It's my own fault. I pushed him away, told him no so many times. Told him I was going to hurt him, to the point that he finally believed me." My eyes flickered to Hawke, but he was watching the fire in Varric's hearth, with his usual mask of insolence. "I just want to feel like everybody else for once."

I moved around to sit next to the mage on the bed, wrapping an arm around his shoulders to pull him into my side. He rested there, temple against my shoulder, my other hand resting upon his in his lap, for some time. The poor man seemed so broken, and it killed me that I was a part of that. Eventually, Garrett turned to look at us, eyes hooded, mouth downturned in a slight grimace.

I motioned for Garrett to join us, but he shook his head no. For all his appearance of calm, I could see the hurt in his eyes and knew he wasn't ready. So instead I cuddled Anders until his head began to fall in sleep, at which point I slid his prone form up across Varric's worn mattress, covering him with a soft wool blanket. How the hell do I fix THIS one?

It took an hour of playing Wicked Grace- at which I admittedly suck- before Garrett finally began to talk to me. It started as simple apologies, for dragging me into the middle of things, for kissing me when he shouldn't have, things that I had to restrain myself from hitting him. The men in my life can so stupid sometimes, I swear.

I discarded a Serpent, then drew another card. "How long has he been fighting how he feels?" I asked.

Hawke scowled at his cards, dropping a Knight and drawing another. "Almost since you...arrived. But I've been panting after him for years now. There's something about him that just does it for me, you know? But I can't get him to get past his whole 'spirit inside' bullshit."

I scooped up the discarded Knight and dumped another crappy Serpent. "So, then, what happened with us this morning?"

Hawke leered suggestively, eyebrows waggling. "I had the opportunity to kiss a beautiful woman, so I took it."

I sighed with a smile, shaking my head slightly. Sometimes dealing with Hawke was like dealing with a hormonal teenager. "I'm serious, Garrett. If you're so fixated on Anders, why did you turn to me?"

The grin slipped from Hawke's lips and his eyes drifted to the pile of cards on the table. "I like you, Selena. Almost as much as I like Anders. And since he keeps rejecting me, I figured maybe you wouldn't." He sighed, a heartfelt, mournful sound. "But you guys are so good with each other, maybe I should just work to get the two of you together."

I started, blinking at him in surprise. This seemed to be coming completely out of left field. I mean, he was so possessive of me when dealing with other men, I was shocked that he'd be talking about pushing me into another's arms.

I dropped a Song card and drew fresh. "My mother and I used to talk about love a lot when I was a kid," I said as I rearranged my array. "She said that there were three types of romantic love out there. There was the love that made you feel safe and secure. There was the love that made you laugh and lifted your heart. And there was the love that sent a pulse of fear through your heart, a thrill to keep the blood pumping. And if you were really lucky, you would find these three types of love, and the four of you would live happily ever after."

Hawke snorted in laughter, dropping his cards over the table. "I think I like your mother! So, you were married...before. Which kind was that guy?"

"At first, he was the second. Over time he became the first. After the accident, he wasn't really any of them."

"Not even the third?"

I looked down at my cards, blinking back sudden tears. "No. The buffer for the fear is knowing, deep down, that your partner wouldn't really hurt you. I just didn't know that, not really. James got scary towards the end."

"Hey," a soft voice called from the bed. The two of us whipped our heads around, to see Anders sitting up, rubbing at his forhead. A faint blue glow let us know that he was using his magic to sober himself up...or Justice was doing it.

I smiled, setting down my cards and moving over towards him. "Hey, to you too. How are you feeling?"

He grinned sheepishly. "Like a complete idiot. Like if there was a Deep Roads entrance nearby, I'd go jump into it right about now."

I leaned in and gave him a soft kiss on the forehead. "Don't be silly. Everybody needs to fall apart every once in a while. There's no shame in that." I stood straighter and clapped my hands together. "Now, you and Garrett are going to stay here and have a long talk. I, on the other hand, am going home for a nap. I've been up since yesterday morning and I'm exhausted!"

Before either could argue, I was out the door and running through the streets of Lowtown. For some reason, tears were streaming down my cheeks as I ran.

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