Prompt Response: Misguided

Anders wandered aimlessly around his clinic, the afternoon's events weighing heavily on his mind. The brief surge of courage that had allowed him to tell Hawke how he felt, to finally kiss that tempting mouth, had abated and left him terrified.

Justice had clamored at him for hours, telling him that they had more important considerations than his libido. As a conscience, the spirit inside him was a harsh taskmaster. As a sympathetic friend it had a good point.

Yet how many hours have I wasted mooning about over her? Anders thought. If she truly desires this surely being with her will help me focus...after. Justice was having none of that rationalization. On most topics it prevailed, the fire of its belief and the plain fact that its very existence was dedicated to right and truth giving it the edge in every argument. Anders sometimes bitterly regretted his decision to give his exiled friend a home within his own body. This was one of those times.

“You've said yourself that I spend too much time thinking about her.” Anders spoke aloud, though Justice could understand him just fine without. When they argued it was easier to separate his thoughts from those of the spirit, to keep his own opinions straight in his mind, if he articulated them. The more time he'd spent with Hawke the more nights he'd spent pacing his clinic, debating with Justice the wisdom of traipsing about Kirkwall at her side when mages needed smuggling and manifestos sat unwritten.

Thankfully, Hawke had dedicated herself to killing bandits, slavers, and blood mages. That usually shut Justice up for a while, leaving him to watch in peace how her rear switched when she ran lightly up the many, many stairs in Kirkwall. He tried to talk to her about what he and Justice both wanted, usually right here in the space he'd made his own over the past three years. But she never took them seriously. From the very first his admissions and thanks had been met with teasing flirtation and his warnings with dismissive smiles.

Was it any wonder that he had finally given in to her? She'd literally been asking for it for years. “She helped us today, saved that girl, killed Templars beside us. She's shown that she accepts us. And Maker's Breath, it's been so long. Just let me get it out of my system or see if she truly wants more.”

Anders could feel Justice's frustration flare. This woman leads you away from our purpose, admirable desire to limit the abuses rife in Kirkwall or no, came its response. Would you or she be satisfied with a simple dalliance?

Anders opened his mouth to speak but Justice continued. No. You would indulge yourself with her at every opportunity. Do you not know that I feel what you do, that I, too, see the pictures you make in your mind at night? I tell you, we cannot afford to dilute our efforts. Mages suffer terribly at the hands of those meant to protect them. Each moment you fritter away with Hawke is another not spent working toward our cause.

I do not object to the time you spend in this room, helping the weak and the lost. But I do curse the hours I must stay idle when you say you must sleep only to wallow in your thoughts of her. She will only draw more of your energy away from where it belongs. I say you will not go!

Though Anders would have liked to respond that Justice could not stop him, the simple fact was that the spirit very much could. With every passing week it grew stronger and there had been more than once instance when he had come to himself to find that he had been removed from a place with no memory of how it had happened.

Last week he'd intended to go to The Hanged Man to enjoy a few drinks, bringing his papers along to work on his manifesto while he did so. He'd hoped that would satisfy the spirit, who hated any loss of control, no matter how minor. Yet as he'd reached for the handle of the door, his mind more on regaling Varric with more tales of his time in Amaranthine than how best to persuade the general populace to support freedom for all mages, his hand had swung away and his feet had marched his body back to the clinic. Justice had laid down its law and Anders had been helpless to oppose him, fight as hard as he might.

But that had been a casual whim, a hope for a little camaraderie. Hawke was far more than a glass of whiskey, more than merely a friend. Thoughts of her distracted him constantly, memories of how her body moved in battle, how she stood up to the scum that preyed on the poor and the weak, the wicked half-smile she wore when she teased him. Anders loved her, more than life itself and nearly as much as the thought of mages being treated like human beings instead of dangerous animals. He hoped that that love, that dedication, would give him the strength to force this issue with Justice because what the spirit had said was true. This was an argument he could not win with words.

Anders could imagine his friend standing, as it once had, in another body, arms crossed, scowling in disapproval. Whenever he pictured Justice it was as Kristoff's corpse, an unlikely friend that could animate the dead body but not preserve it. He could no longer remember what the spirit had looked like when he'd first met it in the Fade. When they'd merged Justice had looked, in passing from the Warden’s body to his own, like nothing more than a slight disturbance of the air.

During arguments like this Anders pictured it standing in Kristoff’s armor with that same, remonstrative expression it had worn so often on the increasingly-unresponsive face. Such mental pictures helped him to remember that he and the spirit inside were separate beings, something it was easy to forget when they agreed or when he was grateful for the spirit's energy and focus.

“You have been my friend and so much more but I am still human. I can’t dedicate all and everything to a single ideal. Were it just desire I could have slaked it elsewhere a hundred times by now. If she will have me, I will be with her. Do not stop me.”

You are obsessed with her
, Justice responded derisively. I know that, as well.

“That’s pretty rich coming from the one who tried to kill a mage today because it could no longer tell the difference between fear and opposition.” Justice’s anger burned through him for a moment but enough remained of the spirit’s dedication to the truth that it was forced to concede the point. Neither of them liked what they had become, despite the small victories that occasionally encouraged both. Anders tried a different tack. “With the clinic under scrutiny wouldn’t it be safer if I spent my time in a Hightown mansion?”

Perhaps it would be no bad thing to sleep from time to time where the Templars cannot reach you, Justice answered wearily, though such hiding behind another’s wealth seems dishonorable.

Anders felt a rush of hope. “Consider it a practicality,” he reassured it, quashing the shame the spirit’s words had also caused. “Then you won’t fight me when I go to her tonight?” he asked.

Justice fetched a huge sigh with Anders’s own lungs. Fine, it said, have your Hawke. But tomorrow we finish the manifesto.

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