Character/Pairings: Anders, f!Hawke
Summary: After a year spent in solitary confinement, Anders is not at all happy in dark or small places. Problem is, he isn't about to let his friends go into the Deep Roads without a Warden.
A/N: Written for the kmeme prompt: So Anders is claustrophobic due to his year in solitary, etc. LI-to-be Hawke drags him into the Deep Roads. Cue panic attack, and Anders trying to fight through it because he's the healer, dammit, and he's supposed to take care of everyone else.
It is all right – well, not all right, but not as bad as it could be – when the torches are burning. As long as there is some light he is fine.
No, not fine, but not terrible, not as bad as it could be, and he certainly isn't thinking about it. Not at all.
Except that the tunnels down into the deep road are very, very small, with rubble strewn everywhere, and it is small and cramped and it's far, far too close to that small room they had placed him in back in the Circle. It doesn't matter that the Deep Roads smell nothing like the Circle or that there are other people around – something that had not happened when he was in solitary, not at all – but it is dark and cramped and he is panicking.
It starts with a sort of catch in his chest, and that he can ignore, at least for a little bit. If he can keep breathing then, maybe, it will be all right. He's been able to do this before, when he was with the Wardens, been able to go into the Deep Roads with very little trouble. Well, not no trouble. Some trouble.
But he had been able to hide it from them all then, and he will do it again. He's not going to let Hawke go into the Deep Roads without him, not going to let her face the darkspawn all alone. He can do this. He can absolutely do this.
One of the torches goes out.
His breath catches and his heart jumps, to loud, to hard, too fast, and he tries to draw in a ragged breath.
There's not enough air.
There's cursing from up ahead of him and the torch sparks back into life.
“Sorry about that,” he hears Hawke say, and he runs a hand over his face, hoping that he doesn't look too panicked. The little bit of light helps, but not much.
They had better get to the brighter portions of the Deep Roads soon. Very soon.
He steps forward, closer to the light.
He can do this. He can absolutely do this.
And if he keeps repeating that to himself, maybe it will be true.
Hawke is looking at him oddly, almost as though she is confused. He drags a hand through his hair, mussing it further.
“Anders?” she says, holding the torch out toward him until he steps into its glow. “Are you all right?”
“Of course,” he says with a smile that is probably far too strained. Her eyebrows draw together and he doesn't think that he has convinced her at all. “I'm fine, Hawke. Really.”
“You're not very good at lying,” she tells him. It's a little better standing there beside the torch, but not very, and the panic that wells up within his chest is not abating. “Come on, tell me what's wrong.”
“I...don't like the Deep Roads,” he says, trying to keep his voice as level as possible. Her looks grows even more skeptical. “They're...full of darkspawn and death. And darkspawn. Did I already say that?”
“Very not fun, those darkspawn,” he prattles, because talking helped a bit last time. He thinks that he might have talked quite a bit the last time he was in the Deep Roads. He seems to recall Nathaniel telling him to shut up several times. “They tend to have pointy swords and go after squishy mages first.”
“You're babbling,” she says, pausing in step to try to get a closer look at him. They're falling behind the rest of the party, the light from their torches moving away.
“And you're stopping. Come on.” He touches a hand to the her back, trying to get her to start walking again. He can sees the walls here, dimly outlined by the light. “We're falling behind.”
He tries to draw in a breath that stops halfway through.
“Anders, you're acting very...odd,” she says, but she starts walking again, urged along by his touch. “Are you sure you're all right? Because I don't think you are.”
“I'll be fine.”
“Which means you aren't all right.”
She needs to stop stalling. His fingers press on the small of her back and his heart races in his chest and he tries to breathe.
“Can we keep walking?” he says, and there's a far too breathy catch in his voice. “Please?”
She's looking at him with her brows drawn together and he's trying not to panic. Something which he is failing at rather spectacularly now. His skin has flushed hot, than cold, leaving him feeling sick.
She steps forward.
He's going to be all right. He can do this. He can do this. He can do this.
It doesn't matter what he thinks or tries to think, because his heart is racing far too fast. He focuses on putting one foot before the next.
Hawke slips her hand into his and he grasps it tighter than he should.
“It's not just the Deep Roads, is it,” she says after several moments. “It's something else.”
He's silent, trying to breathe. It's not working so well. It's not working well at all, actually.
“I'm not going to pry,” she says, not letting his hand drop from hers. “I know there are lots of things you don't like talking about. But if...if there's anything I can do...”
He inhales, not enough air getting into his lungs. “I don't do...do well in the dark,” he says. “Or in...spaces...like this.”
Her fingers tighten around his. “Why didn't you tell me?” she asks him, voice soft. “You didn't have to come with me.”
“I'm a...I'm a Warden,” he says, another wave of heat rolling over him, leaving way for the cold chill of sweat on his forehead when the warmth has passed. “Wardens go into the...into the Deep Roads. Fight darkspawn and all that.”
“But you're not a Warden anymore.”
Of course she's going to pry, even if she says she won't. Concentrating on her voice doesn't help much, but it's something to focus on that's not the darkness around him and the walls of the caverns that seem far too close.
“Doesn't go away,” he says, touching a finger to the side of his head. “Warden senses.”
“That's not what I meant. You're...you don't have to be here. Where you don't want to be.”
He glances at her, sees how she's not looking at him. Her fingers wiggle in his grasp and he relaxes his grip so that he's not in danger of cutting off her circulation.
“I wasn't going to let someone I...someone who is a friend go down here without a Warden,” he tells her, voice still terribly unsteady. He's not at all sure when this is going to get better. He needs to calm down, to breathe properly.
“You came down here for me?” she says in a very small voice. He doesn't say anything. “You did, you came down here because I asked you to. And you didn't really want to, but...Anders, I'm so sorry.”
“You have nothing to be sorry about.” There's a cold sweat all over him, and he needs to keep walking or he'll just sit down and feel sick and panicked. Panic. Panicking.
“Yes, yes, I do.” She tightens her grip on him now, thumb running over the back of his hand almost of its own accord. “I shouldn't have asked you. I should have known that you didn't want to come down here.”
“No, it's not. We could turn back. Get you back to the surface.”
That is a stupid idea and he tells her as much. They are already several days into the Deep Roads; turning back now would hold everything up. This whole expedition, the thing that has been her goal for so long. He can't make her give this up just because he can't deal with being down here. He's a Warden and a healer – he has to be able to do this.
“I'll be all right,” he says, and she looks at him like she doesn't believe him for one second.
“I'll be fine.” He breathes, and the panic fades just a bit. Talking kind of helps. Being distracted kind of helps. Hawke kind of helps.
“Just tell me if you need anything,” she says. “Anything. If I can make this better...”
“Well, holding you my hand is nice,” he says with as much humor his nearly shot nerves can handle. It's worth it to see her smile.
He'll just have to try to keep things together for the next several weeks. He can definitely do that.
And he's not at all lying to himself.