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Kirkwall Public Library

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I can’t believe it! First day of work at my new job and I’m already running late. It’s my first day of work at Kirkwall Public Library after getting my degree in Library and Information Science four years ago.The library is in an annex right outside the Viscount’s Keep, and even though I left a half hour early and live ten minutes away, I’m late. I’ve been looking for a professional job for forever it seems and I’ve finally managed to acquire a position. I had been in a very long term relationship with William, a man from Lothering and it had ended badly. He suddenly woke up one day and decided that he no longer wanted to be with me, and he didn’t love me anymore, despite being with me for ten years. He took the house we were living in together and I took our mabari, Tiberius.

I made a clean break with him and moved to Kirkwall with my mother, brother and sister. I floundered for a few years taking administrative jobs with my sister Bethany, while my brother Carver, who had military training, managed to get some private security work at estates up in Hightown. Now that I have the job at the library, my plan is to move my family from the two bedroom dumpy apartment I shared with mother and Bethany, up to Hightown and reclaim my family’s estate. My mother used to be part of the nobility before she married my father, Malcolm, a good-looking starving artist. He used to create the most amazing sculptures, but was thrown into debtor’s prison when I was a teenager, and we could never get the money together to get him out. My parents were very happy together but Mother’s parents, the Amells, disowned her when they found out about her marriage to my father.

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I am starting as a librarian in the Youth Services Department at KPL, or Vael Memorial Library as it is officially called, and I am so excited! I love working with babies all the way to teens, and am excited to share my love of reading and libraries. Plus I get to be at the big library at the Viscount’s Keep. My new supervisor, Anders, is waiting for me as I walk in the door and he greets me warmly, extending his hand to shake mine and smiles at me. He is very tall, over six feet, and dresses like a professor in khaki pants and a green button down shirt, a light brown corduroy jacket with elbow patches and brown loafers. His hair is strawberry blonde and he has half of it pulled back. He has the most amazing amber honey-colored eyes. I try my best not to stare blankly at him.

“Welcome to KPL, Julia! We’re so excited for you to be working here. I’m going to give you a quick tour of the building and then you can read over the staff manual when you get back to your new desk,” Anders says cheerfully, shaking my hand. I already like him, though it helps that he is easy on the eyes, and eagerly follow him around the facility.

“On the first floor near the entrance, we have an art gallery, a large auditorium for events, the guards station and welcome desk and checkout area…”

Anders trails off as I shout excitedly, “Aveline!” when I see one of my best friends sitting at the Security Desk. She came to Kirkwall with my family two years ago on the boat, after her husband Wesley had died on the trip there. She was forced to sell their car to pay for a ticket. I blush remembering I’m supposed to be on a tour with my new boss.

“Hi Hawke. I had heard that you got a job here. Welcome to the library!” she replied smiling affectionately at me.

Anders smirks after seeing my excited reaction and continues the introduction. “I’m glad you know someone here. Aveline, as you probably know, is the Head of Security for the library. And I’ve seen from your application that your brother Carver works as a Security Guard as well.”

“Yes, he does. He is very proud of the job here,” I respond.

“Further back on the right we have the DVDs, adult audiobooks, fiction, sci-fi, romance and mystery sections. On the left side we have the Children’s Area, where you will primarily be based. Let’s walk back there so you can get a look at it,” Anders explains.

We walk up to a small desk with two chairs and two computers, a small display for brochures, and a telephone. At the desk was the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen. He is an elf with short white hair, olive colored skin and I can just see the beginnings of tattoos peaking out of his shirt. He is wearing a long sleeved black shirt with the sleeves rolled up, with a white button-down vest on top of that, and black pants. Black Italian leather shoes and black square glasses complete the ensemble. “This is Fenris, and he is usually at the Teen Desk, but I needed him down here today.”

I do end up staring blankly at him for a few moments before remembering myself and sticking my hand out in greeting. “Hi-my-name-is-Julia-but-everyone-calls-me-Hawke,” I say in one long breath, my nervousness very evident, as my entire face breaks out in a blush.

He raises his eyebrows at me, but says nothing as he shakes my hand, his brilliant green eyes staring straight into my sapphire blue ones. It feels like he has looked into my soul. A jolt goes through my body as soon as our hands touch, and the blush spreads down to my chest.

Anders chuckles and responds “Fenris doesn’t talk much unless he’s on the reference desk, but he does give excellent book recommendations on pretty much any topic.”

Fenris gives an enigmatic half-smile, and thanks Anders for his compliment.

“We have another desk for Teens that you will help staff on the third floor. The second floor is adult computers, magazines, and the Archive. You, of course, know the Archivist, as she is your sister Bethany,” Anders states as we continue walking around the building.

“The third floor is the adult nonfiction on the right side and a Teen Room on the left,” he continues. We walk up to the desk and a busty woman with a low cut white top and incredibly tight navy blue pencil skirt with black stilettos. “This is Isabela, one of our Adult Services Librarians’ who sometimes helps us out in Teen,” says Anders.

“Bet you can’t guess why the teenage boys love me,” replies Isabela with a wink, reaching over to shake my hand, her breasts pressing together obscenely as her tops drops lower by a couple of inches.

Anders guffaws and points back towards the elevators we came up on. “We’ll go back downstairs to your office in Childrens’, so you can get settled in.”

We head to a small room off the Baby section where the board books are located, and inside are three desks. Mine is the one in the corner. It already has a “Welcome Julia!” sign on the top of the shelves over my desk. Anders goes back to his desk and I settle down in my chair and grab a copy of the staff manual to look over all of the City of Kirkwall’s rules and regulations.

Chapter Text

“I can’t believe I acted like that in front of him,” I moan loudly to my sister, sitting on the end of my bed, as I bury my face in my pillows. “I just got so distracted by...all of that!” I say exasperated.

Bethany giggles and scoots over to rub my back. “It’s okay Julia, he’s that way with everyone. Even I’ve tried to talk to him and he’s completely shut me down. Maybe you could try to ask him for a book recommendation for teens?”

I sit up and say “Oh yeah, I could totally do that. Thanks for the suggestion Bethany!”

“Well, I’m going to go. I have a date...with Sebastian Vael tonight,” she replies with a wink.

“You sly fox!” I shout, throwing my pillow at her. “When did that happen? And why is this the first time I’m hearing about it.”

“Well, a girl’s gotta have some secrets and besides, you have a big mouth!” she adds, ducking to the side to avoid the pillow. “It’s kind of a secret, as he’s the library’s main donor.” Bethany smirks, walking towards the door.

“Ok, fine don’t tell me!” I say, crossing my arms with a giant pout on my face. “But I demand details afterwards.”

------------------

Aveline had talked to me earlier when I got off work about meeting her at the Hanged Man bar down the street from our apartment, and I had jumped at the chance to get out of the house. She wanted to celebrate my first day at the library and introduce me to some more library people. I had never been there before. I must say that I was a little intimidated by the run-down dive bar, the clientele even more sketchy than the people who lived in our high-rise apartment building. I go to the bar and order a hard cider.

Aveline waves me over to a table in the back, and I grab the bottle and head over to them. Carver is already there and I nod and grunt in his general direction. We don’t have the best relationship, but as long as we stay out of each other’s way, we can usually tolerate each other. There are already a few people sitting at the table with them.

She points to the dwarf on her left. “Hawke, this is Varric. He’s our Jack of All Trades at the Library. He’s in charge of PR, Marketing, and Training. He also helps out in Adult Services when needed,” Aveline informs me.

“Oh my goodness, I know who you are!” I exclaim loudly, “You’re Varric Tethras, the famous author!”

“Why yes, yes I am. Glad to see you recognize my brilliant talent when you see it,” Varric says smoothly, leaning over to shake my hand.

Aveline makes a disgusted noise in the back of her throat before continuing: “Don’t get him started Hawke, or he will never stop talking about himself.” She points to a diminutive mousey-haired elven woman to her right. “And this is Merrill. She’s one of the our two Circulation workers and you can usually find her at the Welcome Desk. You probably saw her when you first walked in today.”

“Oh yeah, I do remember you now,” I reply.

Merrill smiles and responds “I do sometimes blend into the background. We’ll have plenty of time get to know each other in the future. I just moved here with my Dalish family from the Brecilian Forest in Ferelden.”

“I’m from Lothering in Ferelden originally. The Forest isn’t too far away,” I tell her with a smile. “Aveline, who’s the guy in the corner?”

“Hawke, this is Donnic, another one of the Library’s Security Guards,” Aveline says with a slight blush, her eyes pleading with me not to say anything to him.

 “ Interesting,” I think to myself, “ I will definitely be asking more about him later.”

He nods in my direction, giving me a warm smile and standing up to shake my hand. “I’ve been working with Aveline from the beginning and she always has a level head on her shoulders no matter how many drunks we have to toss outside because they’ve passed out on the fourth floor,” he says grinning.

Aveline blushes and tries to play off his comment. “Oh it’s nothing Donnic, just part of the job.”

I take a sip of my cider and try desperately not to laugh at her. She may be a kick ass security guard, but she becomes a total mess when it comes to men. Though I will admit that few have caught her eye since she lost her husband Wesley on the way to Kirkwall.

“So how was your first day, Hawke?” Varric asks as I sit down next to him.

“It was a good. Lots of rules and regulations to remember. It will take me forever to remember everyone’s name and I wasn’t even introduced to everyone,” I reply.

Everyone at the table raises their mugs to someone coming in the door, and I turn back to see Isabela coming in. She announces to the room, after going to get a mug of ale: “Ah, the Hanged Man. Sometimes you want to be where everybody knows your name.” Seeing me at the table she follows with a smirk, “And hello gorgeous, didn’t know you would be hanging out with us too, or I would’ve worn something flashier.” She is still wearing the low-cut tunic top from earlier, with a wide belt, but somewhere along the way seems to have lost the skirt. I do my best not to stare, as I get the feeling that will only encourage her. She sits down next to Donnic. I can see the steam coming out of Aveline’s ears from over here, and try my best not to giggle at her frustration.

Isabela starts talking to Varric about the latest customer service training and arguing that she doesn’t need to take it because she already gets along so well with all the customers.

“That may be so, Rivaini, but everyone has to take it, even me, and you know how much everyone likes me. The orders come straight from the Library Director, and I know better than to question anything Meredith asks us to do,” Varric comments with his eyebrows raised. He pauses for a second before adding: “Enough sad faces, how about a game of Wicked Grace?”

Right as Varric is dealing out the cards, someone calls out “Room for one more?” and I turn to see my new boss Anders coming to sit down next to me. “Oh hi Julia, I didn’t know you’d be here. Did you have a good first day? No one gave you any trouble I hope,” he asks me with a grin which extended all the way up to his gorgeous eyes.

I’m pretty sure I was staring blankly at him for a few minutes, before Isabela leaned over to pound on the table, “Earth to Julia, are you there?” and laughs.

My face immediately colors and I quickly respond, “Yes...sorry. It was a little overwhelming but I’m sure I’ll get the hang of it. The only one who seemed not to like me was Fenris.”

“Oh yes, him,” Anders responds sardonically. “Don’t worry about him, he’s a right grumpy bastard to everyone. Don’t take it personally.”

“Is there a reason why? I’m not trying to pry into his personal business,” I ask curiously.

“It has something to do with the library he transferred from in Tevinter and his former supervisor. You’d have to ask him the rest,” Anders replies shortly, as if he doesn’t have the time to waste on telling me the truth. Curiouser and curiouser, I think to myself taking another drink of my cider.

Chapter Text

I do my best not to get drunk in front of my new boss and manage to make it home in one piece. I’m a bit horrified to think what Anders must think of me, but I resolve to be positive. No sense in getting in a tizzy over things out of my control. A week goes by as I got used to the day to day running of the department, and I feel like I’m finally starting to get the hang of it. The following Monday proves to be an even greater adventure. I had managed to get to work without issue for the past week, and I am currently sitting at my desk enjoying a cup of lavender green tea. I am inhaling the relaxing fumes, mind blissfully empty, when I am approached by Varric.

“C’mon Hawke, we get to do some team building today!” Varric says cheerfully, grabbing my arm and pulling me away from my desk.

“Let me just check my email!” I protest, but he shakes his head no.

“No time, we’re starting in the auditorium with Adult Services in five minutes. We usually do these twice a year. Anders and Fenris are already there, and the library will be shut down for the day,” Varric replies, leading me to the room.

Anders waves me over as I come in. Fenris stands apart from everyone in his all black attire looking detached, like this whole circus is beneath him. I wave at Bethany and Isabela, walking towards them until I suddenly stop frozen like a deer in the headlights. What is with this place? I ask myself. Is every guy here a model or something?!?

Bethany has a half-smile on her face as she says loudly, gesturing to the man on her right: “Julia, this Cullen. He’s the head of Adult Services and the Assistant Library Director.”

I snap out of my trance and extend my hand to him. The warmest dark honey-colored eyes look back at me with a smile on his face, as he takes my hand in his. He’s wearing freshly creased black pants and a tailored black jacket that nips in at the waist, a white button-down shirt and a dark green skinny tie. He looks like he was poured into his suit. “Glad to have you working with us. I look forward to getting to know you more in the future,” he practically purrs. It’s all I can do not to turn three shades of red and sink the floor in a puddle, something which I am picturing myself doing at that very moment.

“Alright people! Let’s get started!” Varric announces grandly, clapping his hands to get everyone’s attention. “Today is our bi-annual Team Building Day!” A collective groan echoes around the room. “No more of that if you please. C’mon people, it’s not like I’m asking you to slay dragons or anything complicated,” he responds exasperated. “We will be starting with Back to Back Drawing, so everyone partner up.”

I don’t know who to partner up with and stand for a minute frozen in place and looking around the room. Bethany pairs up with Cullen. Isabela grabs Fenris, who mutters “Venhedis!” mostly under his breath. Only Anders and I are left, so he tells me to sit on the floor with my back against his. I comply, although the thought of being this close to him is making me super nervous. I’ve never been good around confident attractive men and ever since my first day, I’ve been hesitant to be alone with him. Oh well, I think to myself, in for a penny, in for a pound. His back is warm and he smells spicy, like fresh ginger with undertones of the astringent smell of elfroot. He had told me that he has a small garden, so he must grow those two in it. The smell reminds me of my father. I settle onto his back, breathing deeply and sighing. 

“Are you alright back there?” Anders suddenly asks me, and I can hear the smile in his question, even if I can’t see his face.

“Yes, just getting settled,” I respond laughing.

Varric hands me a piece of paper with an octagon on it. “Now do not show your partner your shape or tell them what it is, but try to visually describe and see if they come out with same image. I try my best to describe the sides without actually telling him the number, but at the end it doesn’t quite turn out right, but we both laugh about it. I’ve noticed that Anders’ eyes crinkle around the edges when his smile is particularly big and that makes me grin like an idiot.

------

“So I know this next exercise is technically a drinking game, but I figure we are all adults here and I already got permission from Cullen to do this, so here we go,” announces Varric as we start our next trust exercise. “We will be playing Two Truths and a Lie, where we have to tell two true statements about ourselves and one lie and our partner has to guess which one is false. And please change your partners.”

This time Anders and Bethany teamed up, while Isabela grabbed Cullen, and so Fenris and I were left. He looks me up and down before motioning me over to him. The room had three round tables, so we headed over to the closest empty one.

“Do you want to go first or should I?” Fenris enquires, leaning across the table towards me.

Do Not Panic, Do Not Panic! I say to myself in my head as I try to get a grip on my facial expressions and not get embarrassed for the upteenth time today. “Um, I’ll go first,” I half-mumble, trying to desperately come up with something to say. “I have a twin brother and sister. I am currently married with a kid. And I am enjoy baking in my spare time,” I say in a rush.

“The lie is the baking,” he responds nonchalantly.

“False! I am not currently married or in a relationship,” I reply a little too loudly. Bethany catches my eye from across the room and giggles, while all the other men in the room raise an eyebrow. This immediately makes my whole face break out in a blush.

Fenris smirks but says nothing. “I suppose it is my turn then, hmm,” he proceeds. “I am from Tevinter, I ballroom dance in my spare time and I hate everyone.”

I will admit I waffled a bit on this answer, but timidly responded, “I don’t think you hate everyone, I think it’s more to protect yourself.”

Fenris stares right at me for a moment, still not saying anything, then nonchalantly assents “Yes, you are correct.” He lowers his eyes and quietly asks “How did you know?”

“Well I tend to push people away too, especially after my last relationship ended, so I know how you are feeling,” I say emphatically.

He doesn’t say anything, but his eyes narrow at me like he’s trying to decide whether or not he believes me. Finally his shoulders relax and I feel like he sees me in a new light. I allow myself to show him a slight smile, and he gives me one in return.  

Uproarious laughter erupts from the other table, the one with Isabella and Cullen. No doubt she’s told him some salacious lie from her past. I don’t know her all that well, but she seems like the kind of person to have all kinds of unbelievable sexual conquest stories. I look over and see Cullen blushing, so whatever it was, it must’ve been a good one.

-----

Varric clears his throat and loudly announces, “Alright everyone, that’s quite enough of that. You can share more secrets and lies at the Hanged Man after work. Let’s move on to our next activity, the Willow in the Wind.”  

Another series of groans break out across the room, and a few people exclaim “Not again!”. Apparently this particular exercise is done every team building day.

“Settle down, everyone. You guys know the drill. Partner up again, and form two lines. One person will be the catcher on the outside line and the “Willow” will be on the inside line, with your back to your partner. When you feel comfortable, fall backwards,” explains Varric.

Isabela makes a beeline for me before I can ask Bethany, who I was pretty desperate to talk to at that point, with everything that has happened so far. “Alright sweet thing, it’s time for you and I to get friendly,” she drawls, before leaning in close to me and whispering into my ear, “Just what was going on between you and Fen?” I blush in response, but say nothing. “Suit yourself, I’ll get it out of you sooner or later,” she teases.

Anders decides to pair up with Cullen and says “We supervisors have to stick together,” to which Cullen just rolls his eyes. He is apparently used to Anders’ antics.

So that leaves Bethany and Fenris. He looks over at me, like he wishes we were paired together again, but doesn’t say anything. “Let’s go,” he mumbles to Bethany as they go to stand two down from me.

I am on the outside and Isabella is on the inside. She falls back towards me during the one second my head is turned to see where Fenris has gone and I have to struggle to grab her back and arms, and in the process, my hand grazes her right breast. “If you wanted to play with me, all you had to do is ask,” she says turning her head to look at me and winks. I groan in frustration and release her quickly.

“Alright everyone, instead of switching places with your partner, I want the outer line to move down two spaces,” Varric explains loudly to the group.

I suddenly realize that it means that I will be catching Fenris. My eyes widen, my mouth is suddenly as dry a desert and I don’t know where to look. He doesn’t say anything as I shuffle sideways to stand behind him. He mutters under his breath, “Ok I’m going to count to three and then you can catch me.” I dumbly nod my head, and he continues quietly saying “One...Two... Three” and falls backwards.

I catch him, staggering a bit because although he is compact, he is mostly muscle.  He definitely works out as I can feel the definition in his back, shoulders, and chest just by holding him like this. He turns his head to look at me and I am glued to the spot as his stunning green eyes look into mine. We stay like this for a few moments until he remarks, “You know, you can let go of me now.”

I mumble “of course,” and hastily push him up and it’s all I can do not to turn completely red, for I’m guessing the twentieth time today, while doing so. He smirks, but quickly schools his face back into his mask of casual indifference.

“Alright everyone. Fun time is over. You can go home now,” says Varric, shooing us out the door of the auditorium. “Relax and try not to think about things too much,” he says pointedly, looking right at me.

Chapter Text

I had to talk to Bethany as soon as we got home before she dashed off for another date with Sebastian, and she just laughed and laughed at me. “Julia, you have got to calm down,” Bethany advises, chuckling before putting her arms out to grab my shoulders as I stood in front of her in our bedroom. “I doubt Cullen even noticed anything, he’s usually lost in his own world dealing with Meredith, the Library Director. She is a handful and a half, I can tell you. Training days are one of the few times he gets to mix among the little people. As for Anders, he’s your supervisor. He will keep things professional.” She lets go of my shoulders and crosses her arms in front of her chest, raising her right eyebrow at me. “The only one you really have to worry about is Fenris. He is so unpredictable.”

“He’s the one I’m really worried about, Bethany!” I say morosely, sitting down on the bed with a heavy sigh.

“Oh, I see what this is about,” she shrieks jumping over to me, bouncing on her toes, and waving her finger at me. “You like him, admit it Julia!”

I turn bright red and turn away, trying to hide my face. “I do not! Leave me alone Bethany. This is the last time I confide in you.”

She giggles and kneels down in front of me, turning my body towards hers. “Look at me Julia. I know this is hard with everything that happened with William, but you deserve happiness. You are worthy of it, it has been three years since that scoundrel left you and we all left Lothering. You haven’t been interested in anyone during that time.” She pauses, taking my hands in hers. “Just be careful with Fenris. I have heard some stories about him and they weren’t pleasant,” she replies sincerely.

“I haven’t even made up my mind yet if I really like him or if it is just a passing infatuation,” I say finally meeting her eyes.

“Ooh, so does that mean there’s someone else in the picture too?” she teases.

“Aaargh, I’m not telling you!” I snap, making her let go of my hands, and get up to move towards our bedroom door. “Go and have a perfectly lovely date with the mysterious Sebastian. At some point you need to bring him home to meet Mother. She’s already been asking after him.”

Her eyes light up and she leans in conspiratorially, lowering her voice so only I can hear. “Oh Julia, he is wonderful! Our first date was so magical and he was a perfect gentleman. It turns out he is the exiled Prince of Starkhaven after his parents were murdered this past year.” She pauses and timidly asks me “Please don’t spread that around, it’s supposed to be a secret.”

“I can keep secrets. I mean we have had a lot of practice with the way we grew up with father always in and out of debtor’s prison, and being chased by the Templars when he wasn’t in jail,” I assured her, drawing her into a tight hug.

“I know. This is just all so new and exciting. Tonight he is taking me to Le Belle Aubergine , that swanky new Orlesian restaurant that just opened up that no one can get into,” she whispered resting her head on my shoulder.

“Well I’m glad you think he is worthy of my baby sister. He better not misbehave or I’ll break his kneecaps,” I threaten.

“Julia!” Bethany replies in alarm, drawing back from me and slapping my arm. “Behave yourself.”

I laugh and promise to be good.

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I come into work the next day praying to Blessed Andraste and the Maker and whoever else will listen that no one remembers how shy and embarrassed I acted during the training yesterday. I decide to play it off by finally asking Fenris for teen book recommendations. I head up to the third floor where I know Fenris is setting up for the day. His back is turned to me when I come in the door, then he turns to the book cart and grabs a few more books off the cart. He bends down to put them on the lowest shelf and I stare at the way his pants stretch perfectly across his toned bottom. I’m that way for about two minutes, before Isabela comes up behind and gooses me, making me squeal rather loudly.

“Well if you wanted to touch, I don’t think he’d mind,” she says with a lecherous grin on her face.

Fenris narrows his eyes, looking at us over the top of his glasses, and drily asks, “Did you need something Hawke? You’ve obviously been standing there the longest.” He looks at Isabela and sneers, “You can go away Isabela and mind your own business.”

“Tata, my lovelies. I will see you later,” Isabella taunts.

I stutter for a moment and then manage to mumble, “I wanted to know if you had any recommendations for teen books...that I should read...to keep up to date with what’s popular.”

He gives me an amused look, then turns back to the shelf, handing me three books. “I would personally recommend these three. First there’s An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir, a sci fi/fantasy romance set in an alternative Roman Empire. Second is Cinder by Marissa Meyers, a revamped fairy tale about Cinderella set in a futuristic land. The third is Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, a tongue-in-cheek version of our favorite boy wizard but this time starring two gay boys.”

“Thanks Fenris!” I say happily, genuinely surprised that he took my request seriously.

He looks at me quizzically and studies me for a few seconds before continuing, “What teen books have you read that you like?”

“Ooh I’ve read extensively but I was curious what books you’ve perused as Bethany said you were as big a bibliophile as I am,” I tell him honestly. “I love Laini Taylor for her gorgeous descriptions, Jonathan Stroud for his creepy middle grade novels, Rick Riordan for his fantastic mythological adventures - and yes I’ve read them all - and Cassandra Clare because that woman can write kisses like nobody’s business,” I gush, blushing a bit at that last revelation.

Fenris’ eyes widen and he guffaws loudly. I have never seen or heard of this reaction from him, so I startle a bit when I hear it. “That’s the best thing I’ve heard all day!” he says chuckling quieter to himself this time. “It seems there is more to you than meets the eye, Hawke,” he continues, looking me over from head to toe before returning to look in my eyes.

I immediately blush from my face down to my chest, but give him a small smile. I mumble “I just wanted to get to know you better Fenris.”

Now it is his turn to be shocked, as if he’s never entertained the notion that someone would want to do this. Maybe no one has, I think aloud to myself. “Sure...anytime you want to know something, just ask,” he says, and I feel like I can see a faint blush breaking out on his face but there is no way I’m leaning closer to find out.

I hesitate for a second, then out of the blue ask him all in a rush, “Do you want to go out with me for a drink at the Hanged Man tonight?”

He opens his mouth to say something, then pauses closing it. “Yes,” he says with some finality.

Chapter Text

I am at home after work, in my bedroom, ripping apart my closet and trying desperately to keep it together. I just asked a guy out. And not just any guy, but Fenris! I scream inside my head. What was I thinking?! I feel like this must have been a moment of total insanity, where I’ve completely lost my common sense. This is so unlike me , I think a bit more quietly to myself. But... maybe that’s a good thing ... I need to speak to Bethany, she’ll know what to do.

I lay back on the bed, a million thoughts running through my head. After about five minutes, I hear Bethany come up  and I shoot out of bed and say her name loudly and in a rush, “Bethany! I have got to talk to you. I went and asked Fenris out tonight, and he said yes, and now I don’t know what to do or what to wear!” I am out of breath by the time I finish speaking.

“Maker’s Breath Julia, calm down!” she exclaims, chuckling at my discomfort. “Tell me exactly what happened and I’ll do my best to help.” So I recount how I followed her advice about asking Fenris about books and how one thing led to another and suddenly I was asking him out. “Well then, I can definitely help you out. What kind of image do you want to present to him? Casual, Brazen Hussy, or Cute?”

I’ll say one thing for my sister, she’s nothing if not precise and efficient. Must be an archivist thing. “Cute, I don’t want to be too casual and I’m not ready for the I’m-a-wanton-whore look yet. I’ll leave that to Isabela.” I reply, sarcasm lacing my tone.

“Touche, big sis! Ok then…” She pauses, momentarily looking through our closet. “I would go with your little black dress. It’s lovely and cuts just above the knee, will go with pretty much anything, and on a side note, you would match with Fenris because he always wears black,” she says with a smirk.

“Good point,” I reply, bowing my head to her superior knowledge. My sister is not a loose woman by any means but she has always been popular with the boys. She definitely got my mother’s more traditional good looks, while I was more what most guys would call cute, or at least that was the reaction I had gotten in the past. Where Bethany has wavy luxurious slightly-longer-than-shoulder-length sable-colored hair, mine is in a short messy pixie cut. She is slim and willowy like our mother, wears makeup and is almost always in a dress or skirt. I have always been a little on the curvy side like our grandmother (or so Mother likes to say), and I prefer to wear dress slacks and next to no makeup. I just never saw the point of making such a fuss about how you look. People will either like you or they won’t and no amount of makeup will change that.

However, since my breakup with William, I have been trying out some new things like wearing more dresses and skirts. So letting Bethany dress me up is another way of being open to new possibilities. I put on the black dress and add a single black pearl necklace on a gold chain that I had found after I got my first paycheck from my new library job. It is not something I needed, especially as we live in tenement housing, but it was the first thing I have wanted in a really long time. It was something just for me. And that is kind of how I feel about this date. Bethany is right, I haven’t wanted to date anyone really since William, the betrayal was so complete it kind of put me off men. Sure, I dated casually here and there, mostly just to keep busy and keep myself distracted, but this is the first time I have felt like it actually meant something.

 

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I sigh out loud and wonder if Fenris is worrying this much about the date. I highly doubt it, I think to myself. I make up my mind not to worry about it and stroll down the street to the Hanged Man. I’m about to walk in the door when I realize I forgot to give him a time to meet. “For the love of Andraste, I’m a fool,” I groan, smacking my head with my hand.

Varric is sitting at one of the tables right in front of me and hears me cursing. Laughing, he stands up to help me. “What seems to be the problem, Hawke? Anything I can help with?”

I turn bright red and try to respond quietly, “I arranged a date with Fenris but forgot to give him the time and I have no idea where he lives.”

Of course, Varric starts laughing even louder than before. I didn’t think it was possible to get any redder, but I have proved myself wrong yet again.

After about five minutes, Varric finally stops laughing and looks at me, smiling. “Maker’s Balls, Hawke. What are you asking out Broody for anyways? No wait, I don’t want to know. But yes, I do know where to find him. I’ll send one of my assistants after him. Should I tell him 7pm? That would give you enough time to get a little liquid courage inside of you. What will you have?”

“Thank you Varric. I could use a drink,” I reply, heading over to his table. “And I’ll take a cider.”

He orders one from Corff, the barman, and brings it over himself. “For you, my lady,” he jokes, bowing low and proffering me the bottle.

Thank you, kind sir,” I chime back at him, hitting the neck of my cider bottle to the top of his beer glass. I take a long sip, relax back into the chair, and let out a loud sigh. Varric and I are soon joined by Isabela, Merrill, and Aveline. We go to find a bigger table to sit at, and not a moment too soon, as my own supervisor, Anders, also suddenly makes an appearance.

“Anders! I wasn’t expecting you here tonight. Must be your bi-monthly visit,” Varric chortles, raising his arm in greeting.

Anders had been in meetings all day so I hadn’t seen him at work. He looked well put together despite obviously being exhausted. He was wearing blue pinstripe dress pants, a white button down shirt with the first two buttons undone, black suspenders, and a black fedora with a blue striped ribbon running around the base and an amber-colored feather stuck in the back (which I noticed matched his eyes).

Anders rants, “I’ve just come from a manager’s meeting with Meredith, Cullen and Alistair. That woman is a tyrant! She has never been sympathetic to Youth Services, always gives money to Adult Services. How am I supposed to do programming and outreach with no money? Do you know she’s never even been to a storytime?!”

“Calm down Blondie, let me get you a drink,” says Varric soothingly, pulling up a chair next to me.

Anders takes off his fedora and sets it on the table, gratefully accepting the beer Norah has brought him and takes a long pull from it. It was hard not to stare at him in that outfit, especially the way the pants cling to his thighs and the open shirt with just a bit of light blonde hair peeking out.

“See something you like?” Anders teasingly asks, leaning towards me.

I immediately break out in a blush from the top of my head to my chest. “Yes, I mean no, I mean...Blessed Andraste, help me!” I reply, the last part coming out in a squeak.

Anders laughs loudly at me, and then says “We’ll talk about more of that later. Why don’t we move somewhere a bit more private?” He holds out his hand to me and I look up at him, and take it, blushing a bit as I do so.  

Before he can lead me away to another table, Isabela grabs my right arm and leans in to whisper, “Ask him about his magic fingers.” I could feel the embarrassment from my face after that comment.

------

He leads me away from from Varric and the others, and we end up sitting two tables away. Once we sit back down again, he continues, “I was wondering, now that I finally got you alone for a few minutes outside of work, how do you like our fair city of Kirkwall?”

“Well, I’ve lived here about a year and I like it well enough. It’s definitely better than Lothering, but then pretty much anything is better than there,” I answered, feeling myself return to my normal coloring. I took another sip of my cider, finishing the bottle and signalling the waitress Norah to bring me another one.

Anders leans towards me, brushing the side of my arm in an attempt to grab some free popcorn that Norah had brought by earlier, which was in the center of the table. He grabbed a handful and put them into his mouth. The hairs on my arm immediately stand up and I try to calm my breath. He touched me, albeit accidentally, I thought to myself. I wonder what those magic fingers could do. The thought popped in my head before I could stop it, and I blushed again, hand going to my mouth, though I hadn’t said anything out loud.

Breathing calmly was even harder to do as I watched his tongue come out of his mouth to grab a bit of popcorn that had escaped to one side, and I briefly had an image of him using his tongue somewhere on me. I closed my eyes and breathed through my nose. I had to shake my head a couple of times to clear that image out of it. Thankfully, he seemed not to have noticed.

“You know I grew up in Ferelden too,” he continues our conversation, pausing to take a swig of his beer. “Outside of Redcliffe, in an orphanage next to Lake Calenhad. Well it wasn’t an orphanage as much as it was a home for juvenile delinquents,” he confides, looking at me as if he is expecting me to make a comment.

“I can’t picture you as a thug,” I reply a bit confused, “Especially considering you ended up the head of the Youth Services department in a large prestigious public library.”

He roars with laughter, and then leans in to touch my arm and whisper in my ear, “Oh you don’t know half of the things I used to get up to…”

I immediately turn bright red at the unsaid implications, and stutter “B-But you seem like such a nice guy now.”

“I am a nice guy, if you take the time to get to know me,” he affirms, backing up and winking at me. “And I would very much like to get to know you, Ms. Hawke,” which of course makes me start blushing again.

This is naturally the moment that Fenris finally arrives for our date. He looks from me to Anders and I can see the annoyance on his face, at what he supposes is Anders’ intended intrusion on our date.

“I’m not sure what you’re doing here, but we are off the clock now. We don’t need your supervision anymore,” Fenris says gruffly, tossing his head towards the door in the understanding that Anders should leave now.

Anders grabs his fedora that he had taken off earlier and set on the table, and places it on his head. “I will be off then. I will see you both bright and early tomorrow morning. Goodnight Hawke,” he declares, nodding in my direction, and completely ignoring Fenris.

Anders starts walking towards the door and I barely have time to acknowledge what Fenis is wearing tonight, a relaxed version of his daytime attire - tight black jeans, a black t-shirt, and sandals, before he starts right in on me.

“Well I see it didn’t take long for you to move on to someone else,” Fenris comments loudly as soon as Anders leaves.

“I have done nothing of the sort. We were just talking,” I respond, not sure that I like his tone.

“We hadn’t even had our date before you throw yourself at another man, and him of all people,” Fenris tells me in disgust. I guess it did look a little bit bad the way I was blushing when he walked in but he is totally blowing things out of proportion.

“I’ve had enough of guys being hostile to me. If that’s how you want to be, fine be that way by yourself, I’m leaving!” I say gathering up my purse and jacket, and yell out to Anders who is about to walk out the door, “Anders, could you walk me home? I just live around the corner but it’s dark out.”

“It would be my honor,” he replies, holding out his elbow for me to hold on to. Anders turns around and smirks at Fenris, who is positively fuming at this turn of events.

Chapter Text

I know I shouldn’t have gone with Anders, but I needed to get out of there and he was already on his way out, so at the time it seemed logical.

We walk in silence for the few minutes it takes to get back to my street, before I let go of his arm, turn towards him and blurt out, “I’m sorry for getting you involved in that mess back there. I just needed to get out of that entire situation.” I end up stopping a few steps away from my apartment door.

He looks as if he wants to say something about what happened earlier but doesn’t. Instead he leans over and gently presses his lips against mine, pulling back to look in my eyes and then quietly extols, “I just wanted to tell you how beautiful you looked tonight. Goodnight again Hawke.” He smiles and then walks away.

I am stunned, but not as stunned as my mother, who had chosen that moment to open the front door. “Julia, who was that?” she queries, giving me a pointed look.

It takes a few more minutes for me to gather my thoughts coherently enough to speak. “That’s...that’s Anders, Mother,” I answer and walk upstairs to my room, closing the door and collapsing on my bed.

 

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Meanwhile, back at the Hanged Man…

“Broody, calm down my friend! This is all a huge misunderstanding,” Varric explains, patting him on the back and inviting him up to his personal suite. “Let me get you a bottle or two of wine and I’ll tell you all that I know.”

Fenris reluctantly agrees, climbing the stairs and sitting down at Varric’s personal table. He gratefully accepts his bottle of wine, making a loud sigh before taking a large sip of it.

“Look kid, I was here when she got here and she was devastated that she forgot to tell you the time of her date, so I sent one of my helpers to find you. Then Anders came in and started flirting with her and the poor girl didn’t know how to handle him. Honestly, she was just waiting for you and talking with him to be polite. He is her boss after all, it’s not like she’d be rude. I’m not sure she has a rude bone in her body,” Varric explains

“She wasn’t exactly telling him no either, I know what I saw dwarf,” Fenris replies vehemently.

“Broody I saw the way you two were talking during training day and I’ve noticed the looks you give each other when you think nobody's watching. I don’t know too much about what happened in Tevinter with your former supervisor given how tight lipped as Cullen has been, but I know it must’ve been a bad business. You jumped to conclusions and you know it. Why don’t you let bygones be bygones and apologize to her? Maybe ask her out on a proper date,” says Varric.

Fenris takes a big couple of sips of his wine and finishes the first bottle, slamming it down on the table before letting out another long sigh. “You’re right,” he concedes, “And thanks for the wine.”

 

-------

 

The next morning is Saturday and it’s all hands on deck, as it is a weekend day and the library is always jammed packed on Saturday mornings. I have a family storytime first thing at ten a.m. and I am excited and nervous as this is my first storytime at KPL. I love doing storytime and doing all the character voices, singing the songs and doing the fingerplays with the children and their parents. The whole time I am prepping before storytime all I can think about is that kiss from Anders last night. Does he like me? Did he just want to kiss me because it seemed like the right thing to do to shut me up? Does he want a relationship? Does he just want sex? The thoughts are racing through my head. I am so out of of practice with this whole dating scene that I don’t know the rules anymore. And I know there has to be some serious rules about dating your boss. I mean I guess we could keep it on the down-low but I am getting way ahead of myself here. I guess the main question is, Does he even like me like that?

I need to focus on my storytime, I can think about this after work. Thankfully we are all busy covering desks so I don’t see Anders or Fenris for the first couple of hours. I am exhausted but happy when storytime has finished, and I have about half an hour to clean up and get ready for being on the reference desk. It only takes me about ten minutes to clean up the storytime room, and I quickly make my way back to my desk. If I hurry, I can make a cup of lavender green tea before I have to be out on the floor. Thankfully there is no one else in the workroom. I don’t want to have any awkward confrontations with any of my other work colleagues because of what happened last night.

As I’m putting the hot water from the water cooler into my cup and placing my tea bag inside to steep, I feel someone tap my shoulder and I turn around to see Fenris. He is wearing an outfit similar to last night: black jeans, a long-sleeved dark green henley shirt, and some all black Pumas.

I try hard not to stare at the way the shirt conforms to his chest or the way his tattoos peek out of the sleeves and front of his shirt. I never used to like tattoos, it’s only in the last few years that I’ve found them wildly attractive. His are so fluid, and from what I’ve glimpsed on the rare times he pushes his shirt sleeves to his elbows, they follow the line of his body as well.

Yep there was an image I did not need in my head. Thanks so much for that brain. I think to myself. “Did you need something Fenris?” I enquire warily.

“Yes Hawke, I wanted to give you these and apologize for my behavior last night,” he pulls a bouquet of white roses from behind his back and presents them to me. “I misjudged you and jumped to a stupid conclusion without really hearing your side of the story. Please forgive me.”

I take them and inhale deeply, getting a slightly sweet smell from the blossoms. My mother, who used to be a noble lady, had taught me about the language of flowers since I was little. So I knew that white flowers, especially roses, symbolized forgiveness and a new start. I smile at him and say, “I accept your apology, though it will take a bit more than flowers for me to forgive you.”

“Well then, let me take you out to a little wine bar I know in Hightown at 5:30 after work, and I will make it up to you. We can have the date we were meant to have originally,” he begs, with a hopeful expression on his face.

“That should do just fine,” I reply.

“Great. We can walk there after work. It’s not too far from here,” he says, giving me one of his inscrutable half-smiles.

I put the flowers in a vase I found in the workroom kitchen, and try my best not to smile like a complete idiot as I take the desk over from Isabela.

“What’s got you in such a good mood then?” asks Isabela as we trade off.

“Nothing, just having a much better day than I was five minutes ago,” I reply enigmatically.

Chapter Text

I’m feeling as high as a kite all day until about ten minutes before we close when I realize that I’m wearing jeans and a red button-down shirt, which, while comfy, is not what I want to be wearing on a first date with an unbelievably attractive elf. I call up to Isabela on the third floor adult nonfiction desk and ask “Do you have anything that would fit me, here at the library, that I could borrow? I have a date tonight.”

“Of course sweet thing, let me go back to my office and I will call you right back,” she purrs, and I can hear her put the phone down, call out to Carver who must be guarding that floor and asks if he can watch the desk for a few minutes. He begrudgingly agrees, and about five minutes later, she gets back on. “I have a royal blue tank top that would really make your eyes pop if you would like to borrow that, but only if you tell me who your date is with,” she demands.

Blast and damnation woman! I think to myself before mumbling, “Fine, it’s with Fenris.”

“I knew you were all about that tortured elf. I guess he must be the reason for those roses I glimpsed on your desk earlier, hmm?” she replies with a smirk. “I can help you with a little bit of makeup too if you wish.”

“Sure why not?” I respond. “I’ve got to go do my final sweep of the children’s area and check the bathrooms. I’ll talk to you in five minutes once we’re closed.” I finish up my closing routine and tell Aveline that I need to use the bathroom before I can leave.

I head to the staff bathrooms and meet Isabela there and we change tops. It’s a good thing I always wear a plunging neckline bra with everything. She pulls out her makeup bag and gives me some foundation, mascara and lipstick.

“There, that should be enough. Now don’t do anything I wouldn’t do sweet thing, or rather do, it’s more fun that way,” she remarks, smirking once again.

“Isabela, I don’t need to get laid...or rather I do, but I don’t plan on doing it tonight,” I answer, getting redder the longer I talk. “Maker’s Breath woman, do you ever stop thinking about sex?”

“Not if I can help it,” she responds, laughing loudly.

We are interrupted by a banging on the door. “Julia, you’re holding everyone up. What are you two doing in there?” comes the gruff voice of Carver.

“Nothing!” I say as Isabela simultaneously replies “Wouldn’t you like to know, darling?”

We open the door to Carver’s face turning red, as he stammers and tries to come up with a comeback. “We’re coming, keep your pants on Carver,” I say passing right by him.

“Or rather take them off and have some fun with me,” says Isabela, running her hand from his right shoulder all the way down his stomach to his left hip. She winks at him as she rounds the corner to head to the front of the library with me.

 

------

 

I run into Bethany on the way out and ask “Can you please tell Mother I will be home a little late? I have a date tonight.”

She leans in and looks over towards Anders and Fenris, and whispers, “With whom may I ask?”

Obviously her and Mother have been talking. “Fenris, and I’ll tell you about it all later.”

She raises her eyebrows and responds, “I’ll hold you to that big sister,” and heads towards Lowtown with Carver.

 

-----------

 

Thankfully, the wine bar is literally down the street, up some stairs and overlooking the market. It is run by this shifty-eyed Orlesian, Ghyslain de Carrac. I have heard rumors that his first wife, Ninette, died under some very mysterious circumstances.

The owner brings us a couple bottles of wine and two glasses, nodding at Fenris. Once he shuffles off again, I tell Fenris about what I’ve heard about Ghyslain, and he says, “I know, but it has a decent view of the marketplace and it is the only place in town that serves my favorite Tevinter wine, Aggregio Pavali.” He has opened the top two buttons on his shirt and pushed up the sleeves. He notices me staring at them. “You’re curious about them, aren’t you?” he says warily.

“Yes, I’ve never seen any like that. May I touch them?” I ask, genuinely curious. He nods, and pulls up his sleeve further. I run my fingertip lightly along one of the lines that that runs from the tips of his fingers all the way up to his elbow and probably up to his shoulder. He shudders a bit but doesn’t move besides that. “Did they hurt to get done? It must have taken hours if not days,” I comment.

“Yes, they did but they don’t hurt as much now,” he answers, rather shortly, pulling his shirt sleeve down and looking down at the ground. “Look Hawke, I’m sorry again for what  happened last night. I...I haven’t been in any kind of relationship in a long time and my last one wasn’t exactly healthy,” he admits still not looking at me.

“I can understand that. My last real relationship was a couple years ago, and we didn’t end on the best of terms either,” I reply, wishing he would look at me while we talked.

“Oh, how long were you together?” he queries, finally looking me in the eyes.

“Ten years before he basically gave up on me and us. We’d had a house together and everything...Blessed Andraste, I’m sorry for dumping this all on you. It is horribly depressing stuff and definitely not first date talking points,” I say apologizing.

He gives me one of his rare half-smiles, “It’s ok, I asked. To make it even, I’ll tell you a little about mine. We were together for a couple years, and it was completely accidental, at least on my part. He was my supervisor at a prestigious archive to the Old Gods in Minrathous, the capital city of the Tevinter Imperium. He was very charismatic and completely drew me in before I had realized it, and by that point he had completely taken over my life. He’s also the reason I have problems trusting people and their motives towards me.” He took a long sip of his wine, finishing his glass and pouring another full one.

“Well I can understand that, more than you know,” I reply, looking at him and truly smiling, and he actually looks me in the eye. “Well then let’s toast: To new beginnings!” I say raising my glass up and he clinks the rim of my glass to his and repeats “To new beginnings!”

After a few moments of silence while we sit back and enjoy the very good wine, I finally speak up. I ask him, “How did you end up going into library work and why teens? I mean most people shy away from them like darkspawn?”

Fenris chuckles and puts his glass down, tenting his fingers in front of him. “Well, to be perfectly honest, I started reading rather late. I always had trouble reading, turns out I had mild dyslexia. I could read the letters but had difficulty sounding out words and always got headaches when I tried to read. Despite this, once I learned how to read properly, I couldn’t stop, headaches be damned! It was my escape in Tevinter, where I was considered a second-class citizen simply for being an elf. People are a bit more tolerant in the Free Marches, but not by much.”

He picked up his wine glass, and took another long sip, as if getting a second wind, and continued amusedly, “As for why I enjoy working with teens, they are a little bit like me. They are the group no one wants to deal with, so it made sense--in my mind at least--to focus on them. Plus I enjoy reading the literature.” He points at me with his free hand, and asks, “What about you? How did you end up working in libraries and with children?”

I took a small sip of my wine, finishing the glass, and Fenris poured me another one. “Well, I started reading at a very young age, and I have always been a bit of a loner, so a lot of times books were my only companion. I got along with the other children, but we were always on the run from the law because of my father skipping out on the money he owed to so many people across Ferelden. So being able to travel light was essential. All I needed were books and I picked those up second-hand whenever I had pocket money babysitting other people’s children. I got a lot of experience taking care of the twins, Bethany and Carver, as they were a few years younger than me. We were in Lothering the longest of any other town, and I started volunteering at the Chantry’s library when I wasn’t in school, and it was there that I decided to work with children in libraries. So I went to school, got my degrees and some more experience working in libraries, and here I am,” I replied, a smile breaking out on my face.

Fenris gives me one of rare half-smiles, and responds, “And I am glad that you are here.”

Chapter Text

I couldn’t stop myself from smiling like an idiot the rest of the night and the next morning, even after Bethany cornered me after I got back from the wine bar and made me tell her everything from the last two nights. I was still smiling when I got to work the next morning, until Fenris and Anders came in.

The workroom is a long rectangle with Anders’ office taking up the bottom third of the space, then my desk on the wall facing Anders’ door and Fenris’ desk catercorner to mine. A table and chairs with a small couch, the water cooler and a small kitchenette complete the room. Fenris, as usual, does not say anything but I can sense him watching me out of the corner of my eye. I do smile at that and go back to checking my email. Anders suddenly approaches my desk and asks me, “Do you have any outreach experience?”

“Yes, I did a little during my internship, but I don’t have experience with a really big group,” I reply.

“Well,” he enthusiastically says, “You are going to get some today. I need you to help me this afternoon with Outreach at an event at one of the elementary schools. As you know, this time of year is our big push to get kids their own library cards. The school is having a curriculum night and want us to set up a booth, have an activity for the kids and hand out library cards. I need you to plan the activity, nothing too crazy, just something simple.”

“Can do, but won’t we need help covering the desks?” I enquire, cocking my head to the side.

“Yes, I’ve already handled that. Isabela and Varric will be assisting us on the desks with Fenris,” Anders answers, nodding in Fenris’ direction.

Fenris briefly raises his head at the mention of his name, and looks right at us, me especially. I smile and blush a little. He says, “Yes, which suits me just fine. I hate outreach.”

“Which is precisely why you are being left behind,” retorts Anders sternly, then softens. “Besides no one but you and Isabela can handle the teens.” Turning to me he says, “I will pack up the supplies and then leave you to coming up with an idea for the activity.”

Anders grabs one of hard plastic cubes on wheels and puts in a tablecloth, box of library cards and paper application forms, pamphlets on the library, and some pens. He puts the portable banner next to the cube. I go to my computer and manage to find some bookmarks with the word “Read!” on them and go grab a couple big boxes of crayons, and print off and cut out the bookmarks. I put everything in the cube, right before I head out for my two hours on the desk.

 

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Right at 5 o’clock, he walks out to my desk from his office, places his hands on the side of my desk and leans in. I am totally lost in thought staring at my computer screen and writing up storytime outlines and don’t hear him come up. So when he leans over and whispers “Let’s go!”, I about jump out of my skin. He laughs and says, “C’mon we can walk. It’s in Lowtown near the Foundry. I know a shortcut through Darktown, underneath the Viscount’s Keep.” I must have a twinge of fear in my eyes at the mention of Darktown, so he puts his hand on my shoulder and says “Don’t worry, I’ll protect you.”

I smile and tell him “I can take care of myself,” and follow behind him. He is carrying the portable banner and I am pulling the rolling cube behind me. We walk next door to the Viscount’s Keep and take the elevator down to the bottom of the building. “Follow me and stay close.”

And of course the first set of stairs I go down, I trip down the stairs, my arms flying out to protect my body. My left ankle goes to the left after my right knee slams into the ground at the bottom of the stairs. “Maker’s Balls! That really hurt!” I say cursing, as I try to pick myself back up again, wiping the bits of gravel off my reddened hands, and leaning over to inspect the damage to my ankle and knee.

Before I can do anything, Anders immediately kneels down beside me, and says “I studied to be a doctor for a few years before I went into library work. May I take a look at it to make sure everything is alright?” I extend my leg to him, as he pulls up my right pants leg to inspect my knee, his hands brush up my calves. Shivers break out on my arms, and I think to myself as I watch him work, This is not the time to have those kind of thoughts . He gently pulls my pants leg to the top of my knee and we can already see a large bruise forming all over my entire kneecap and below it. “That is going to hurt a lot more later. Just put an ice pack on it and the swelling should go down,” he comments, gently unrolling my pants leg, his fingers trailing down my calf more definitely this time.

I turn more on my right side so he can look at my left ankle, and even shifting it slightly, makes me gasp out in pain. “Oww!” I exclaim, biting my lip.

“Let me help you Hawke,” Anders begs, his whisky-colored eyes turned up to look right at me. We end up staring at each other for a few minutes, before I slowly nod my head in agreement, pulling my left pants leg up. “Can I remove your sandal, so I can get a better look at it?” he enquires, and I again nod my head. It is swollen up to about twice its normal size. “You have sprained your ankle, and will definitely need to do I.C.E. when you get home.  By that I mean put an ice pack on it, a compress and elevate your ankle - a pillow under it should do the trick - and most importantly rest. In the meantime, give me the cube and I’ll put the banner in it. My house is not too far from here. We can stop there and get a compress at least so you can walk on it without too much pain. I will help you up and you can lean on me so you don’t put too much weight on your ankle.”

I try not to think about the fact that my supervisor has just casually asked me to his house. Anders helps me to my feet and I try my best not to put weight on my left foot but I inevitably do, and wince at the pain. He grabs onto my right arm and pulls me closer, so that my arm is wrapped around his and pushed against his side, so I can lean on him while we walk. Even this little bit of contact is making me giddy.

“See I am a nice guy, it’s not just for show at work,” he states smiling, grabbing the cube and pulling it behind him. After about another 15 minutes, we walk up to an apartment with an electric lantern outside a door.

“What’s with the lantern?” I enquire, gesturing towards it.

“I run a free clinic on the weekends for the locals, just basic general medicine. This leads them to it,” he responds, giving me a full-wattage smile and I can tell he is proud of that fact. “Of course, it is a bit of a local secret as I don’t actually have a medical license.”

“Well that explains why you always smell of rosemary and elfroot,” I counter, grinning back at him.

Anders leans closer to my right ear and lowers his voice, saying “Oh, so you’ve noticed how I smell?”

It is literally all I could do not to moan out loud with him doing that right in my ear. I can feel a shiver run down my spine, and I know I am blushing even without looking.

He is still hovering near my ear when he says, in the same husky tone of voice, “Blushing again Ms. Hawke?” which of course makes me blush even harder. I turn my head away from him and now I can feel his hot breath on my neck and I break out in goosebumps. I have to take a second to close my eyes and breathe deeply.

He pulls out his keys and opens the door, moving his head and body away from mine and turning on the lights. “It’s not much but it’s home,” he tells me, helping me inside. “I got a good deal on it because of the location, so I was able to make the second room into a study/examining room.” He has a low leather three-seater couch with a tall standing lamp on the left side of the room and an overstuffed leather chair in the corner. A decent sized TV and entertainment system is right next to the kitchen island on the opposite side of the room, with some bar stools under the counter and a small kitchen behind that. A little way from the front door, off the right side of the living room, is the Master Bedroom and I can glimpse a king-sized bed, bedside table and lamp from the living room.

 

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He leads me into the second room, past the kitchen. He leans over me to turn the light on and I discover floor to ceiling bookcase covering every square inch of wall spaces. A chaise lounge is off to the left side and a couple of leather armchairs with ottomans are across from it on the right side.

“That’s a lot of books!” I comment, marveling at his collection.

He chuckles as he leans me over so I can sit on the chaise lounge. “Well I have been collecting for about ten years, before I came to Kirkwall. There are all my medical study books, in addition to my own personal collection of fiction and non-fiction, and first edition childrens’ books.”

Anders leaves the room for a couple of minutes. I scan over the shelves and can see a first edition of Dorothy and the Wizard of Oz on display on one of the bookcases, as well as first editions of Beatrix Potter, J.R.R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit, Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth and J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye. There are also comic book copies of Alan Moore’s The Watchmen and From Hell, the Preacher series by Garth Ennis, Persepolis I & II by Marjane Sartrapi, and part of the Fables series by Bill Willingham. I just knew he would have an intriguing and diverse collection, and am glad to know we have similar taste in books.

He comes back with a pillow, an ankle wrap, and two ice packs. “Put your feet up on the lounge and I will help get your ankle wrapped tight and both your knee and ankle iced and elevated.” He completes those activities and then stands up, reaching into his pocket for his cell phone, “I’m going to go call Cullen and tell him that we will have to cancel today’s outreach due to your injury and that I’ve sent you home to rest. You can just rest here for a bit, and I can walk you home afterwards with some crutches I keep stashed here. I have some sick days accrued so I’ll go ahead and use one, and stay here to take care of you,” Anders informs me.

“I feel like I’m being a terrible burden. I’m so clumsy. ” I say to him, turning my face away from him, and feeling really embarrassed.

“Hawke, look at me.” I turn towards him again, at his request. “You’re really not. I enjoy taking care of you and you are very much worth my time and attention,” he replies earnestly, looking right at me with those beautiful amber eyes of his. I can feel the slightest blush creeping up my neck, not from embarrassment but from arousal. We keep staring at each other for a few minutes not saying anything, but you could cut the sexual tension of the room with a knife.

Suddenly he announces, “I will go get you a glass of water and a blanket. It can get a bit chilly in this room. Do you need anything else?”

“Could I read your copy of Fables Vol. 7: Arabian Nights and Days ? I can see a copy of it, right over there. I love a good fairy-tale retelling and Bill Willingham is one of the best!” I answer, smiling up at him.

“Sure no problem. You have good taste, he is one of my favorites as well as he is such an excellent storyteller,” Anders says as he hands me his copy. “I’ll be restocking my salves and ointments in the kitchen. Holler if you need anything.”

Chapter Text

It felt like nearly five minutes after Anders left that I completely fell asleep. I guess I must’ve been running on adrenaline up to that point, and it had finally run out. I was so comfortable on his couch with the blanket wrapped around me, reading Fables, that I must’ve just drifted off to sleep. Oh Maker, please tell me I didn’t snore! I pleaded silently. “Anders? What time is it?” I ask him out loud, groggily rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.

“It’s about 7 o’clock,” he responds, sticking his head in from the other room.

I shoot up to a sitting position. “Maker’s Breath, my family will be wondering where in Andraste’s name I’ve been hiding! Blast and damnation, I accidentally left my phone at work! Could I borrow yours?” I explain in a panic.

Anders laughs and pulls his out of his pocket, and hands it to me. “Sure Hawke, whatever you need.” For a brief moment, I had an image of me intertwined with his, hands and mouths everywhere and blushed, before I snapped out of it. He arches his eyebrow at me, and enquires, “What was that for, I wonder?” which of course makes me blush even more. Damn! Hot library men getting me all flustered again , I think to myself.

I quickly dial Bethany’s number and she picks up after the third ring. “Are you at home? I had a nasty tumble on the way to an outreach event this afternoon and Anders patched me up and took me back to his place,” I exclaim.

There is a short pause, and then Bethany says, “Did he now?...I just wanted to hear you say it older sister,” the amusement obvious in her voice. “Cullen told me earlier at work and I’ve already told mother, so don’t worry. But you will be talking more about this when you get home, deal?”

“Bethany! Ugh, ok it’s a deal,” I respond exasperated, the blush reappearing. I wished the earth would swallow me up so I wouldn’t having this conversation with my sister about my boss, whose apartment I was currently and who was standing right in front of me, especially with me blushing for the zillionth time that night.

I ended the call and handed Anders back his phone, looking up at him to see his eyebrows raised in question and an amused smile on his face. “So what deal where you making with your sister?”

He asks with a smug look on his face.

The blush, which spread from my face all the way down to the tops of my breasts, returns at full force with that comment. I let out a big sigh, lower my eyes, and tell him, “I told her about my accident and that I was at your house, and she already knew about our kiss a few nights ago, so know she wants to know exactly what happened between us today. And she was teasing me about it.”

There is a moment’s hesitation before he kneels down to me, putting both hands around my face. I can feel the callouses on his large hands, though that is the farthest thing from my mind as he looks right into my eyes and says quietly, “Well then, let’s give her something to talk about then,” and leans in to give another kiss on the lips. He runs his tongue along my lips, begging for entrance and I oblige, deepening the kiss and I reach up to run my fingers through the hair at the back of his neck.

After losing myself in that kiss for about five minutes, until I suddenly pull away. I breathe in and out trying desperately to  calm myself, as I wasn’t breathing properly during our kiss, and then I exclaim, “Wait a minute! As much as I am seriously enjoying that kiss, and I REALLY  am, I need to know your intentions. Are you even interested in me?”

He looks thoughtful for a minute and strokes my cheek with his thumb. “I would’ve thought that was obvious with my first kiss,” he replies with a half smirk on his face.  

I shake my head in the negative and respond, “I wasn’t sure if that was because you were trying to make me stop talking, or you liked me, or you were hoping for something more than just kissing or what. I’m sorry but it’s been awhile since I’ve dated and I don’t know all the rules I’m supposed to follow nowadays, plus I’m a bit old-fashioned. So please tell me what you want.”

He breaks out in a full grin, moving his hands from my face lightly down my neck to my shoulders, just the lightest of touches that instantly makes my skin break out in goosebumps. He leans in to my right ear and says, “I want you Julia,” and my breath catches in my throat because that’s the first time he’s used my name outside of my first day of work. “I like you and I want to get to know you more, if you’ll let me. And I definitely want to continue this,” he continues in a gravelly voice, as his left hand stays on my shoulder but his right moves down the side of my body to my waist.

I can feel the goosebumps break out again, and this time I can’t help the moan that escapes me. It’s been so long since I’ve had any kind of contact like that from a guy. Anders pulls me closer to him and kisses me again, his lips just lightly brushing mine. His torso is in contact with mine and I can feel my nipples harden at the contact, even with clothes on, and I’m sure he can too. He immediately deepens the kiss, his tongue delving into my mouth and caressing my tongue. I moan into the kiss and my torso breaks out into a pale pink flush as I get more aroused. We continue kissing for another ten minutes, then I look up at him and smile, saying “If you don’t let me go home, my mother is going to think you’ve kidnapped me.”

“Alright then, let me go get the crutches and I’ll help walk you home. Don’t forget to keep your ankle wrapped and elevated when you go to sleep tonight. We can continue this another time,” he continues with a smirk. “In fact, since tomorrow is Friday, how about we come back here and watch a movie and get some take-out after work? That way, you don’t have to walk too far,” Anders replies.

“A cozy night in sounds perfect,” I say. It takes me a couple tries, with a bit of wincing at the pain in my ankle, to get off the chaise lounge but I finally make it and we head out to Darktown. Anders knows a shortcut to the Hanged Man and we make it there in about ten minutes, and from there it’s just a short walk down the alley to the apartment. I turn to face him in front of my door, and tell him “Thank you for taking care of me. I look forward to our date tomorrow.”

He leans down and grabs the back of my head, tilting my head up to look at him. He kisses me lightly on the lips, and then whispers in my ear, “I am too, it’s all I will be thinking of at work tomorrow.” The goosebumps instantly break out of my arms and it’s all I can do to keep in control.

Chapter Text

The next morning my ankle is still a little swollen but it doesn’t hurt as bad as the night before, so I just take a couple ibuprofens and hope for the best. Limping my way to the bathroom, I get cornered by Bethany. “You have to tell me what’s happened Julia! I feel like I have spoke to you for days,” she exclaims.

“Aargh Bethany! Let me pee first and then you can give me the twenty questions,” I say as I hobble to the bathroom, trying to shut the door with one of my crutches whilst leaning precariously on the other one. I manage to make it to the toilet just in time before I make a giant mess on the floor, wash my hands and stumble back to the door again to open it for her. “Alright, let’s do it in here so we have a little privacy,” I mumble. She agrees and closes the door behind her and I go to sit on the edge of the tub to take the weight off my feet.

“Well two days ago, I had my date with Fenris. He took me to a wine bar in Hightown and we just talked and drank. It was nice to get out of the office and the prying eyes of Isabela and the other library staff, and just get to know each other. We talked a bit about our past relationships and why we got into library work. His intelligence, honesty and openness completely drew me in and I am very attracted to him, but I know it will be very slow-going before he completely trusts me,” I explain to her frankly.

“It’s obvious you like him,” Bethany tells me smirking, “But does he return the favor? Looks like we will have to wait and see. Now, I want to hear about last night. Do tell me everything because I covered with Mother for you!”

“Okay okay, keep your shirt on, Beth! Yesterday Anders asked me to help him with a school outreach event in Lowtown and said he knew a shortcut through Darktown. Five minutes into the shortcut, I tripped and fell down some stairs and bruised my right knee and sprained my left ankle,” I explain, blushing at my clumsiness again, as I pull up my sleep pants to show her the bruise and my swollen ankle.

“Maker’s Balls Julia! Thank goodness you weren’t by yourself. You could’ve been attacked by Maker knows what down there,” Bethany proclaims, looking really worried for me.

“I know, Beth. I was so so grateful that Anders had some previous medical training and he took such good care of me,” I reply sighing a bit at the end. Then I narrow my eyes, and say “Then you called and he wanted to know what we were talking about. And I told him, and he says we ‘should give them something to talk about,’ and then we made out like teenagers.”

“Oh my goodness, Julia! I totally wasn’t expecting that to happen,” Bethany tells me jumping up and down. “Wait, are you excited about this too?”

“I really like him too Beth, but I still have feelings for Fenris, so I’m not one hundred percent sure how to feel. But at least now I know that he actually likes me and wants to get to know me.e’s invited me out for a movie tonight, though I’m not sure how much of the movie I will actually get to watch,” I say blushing but smiling.

“You minx. How on earth did you get two gorgeous men falling all over themselves to date you?” Bethany declares grinning.

“I have no idea, really it makes no sense, but I like having choices,” I announce with a smile on my face. Bethany guffaws. “Now get out of the bathroom so I can take a shower and get ready for work. I’ll keep you posted.”

She leaves, and I unwrap my leg so I can take a shower, and get dressed, carefully re-wrapping my ace bandages before  I call for a cab and head to work.

 

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Thankfully Anders was out of the office for most of the day. Like I told Bethany earlier, I’m still not really sure how I feel about him, but I knew that the sexual tension and animosity was going to be high if both him and Fenris were in the office at the same time. Luckily Anders put me on the Children’s Desk most of the day and had Varric come down to help me out, showing parents and their children to the correct aisle. By the end of the day, we had been so busy that I didn’t even think about my hurt ankle. I was, however, thinking about my date with Anders. I had waved to him about an hour ago, when he came back from his supervisor meeting, but hadn’t seen him since. Varric helps me lock everything up, even going so far as to check the bathrooms to make sure no one had snuck in when I was tidying up around the desk.

 

Anders meets me outside, and I tell him “I need to go home and get changed first, but could you pick me up in half an hour?” and he nods his agreement.

 

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Bethany’s newly minted boyfriend, Sebastian, had sent a car to pick her up and take her home, so I hitched a ride with her back to our apartment. I took a quick shower and got into a low cut knee-length crimson red dress. Despite my bum ankle and very bruised kneecap, I still want to look cute for this date. I wear a little bit of eye makeup to make baby blues pop and even a little lipstick. I don’t normally dress up this much for work, but I feel like this is something special.

The doorbell rings at precisely 5:45pm and I open the door to Anders with a bouquet of gardenias and pale pink roses extended in his right hand.

“For me?” I ask speechless, raising the flowers to my nose. I know from studying flower meanings that pink roses and gardenias both symbolize joy and admiration, and I smile thinking about that. “I have always loved the smell of gardenias, reminds me of growing up in the South of Ferelden. So bonus points to you, good sir,” I comment. He laughs, and I tell him to come in for a second while I find a vase to put them in.

I take the time to check him out standing by the door, now that I am able to look at him and not the flowers. He is wearing skinny grey jeans, a light blue t-shirt that is hugging his toned abdomen in all the right places and covered with a comfy green sweater and wearing black military-style boots. He is usually more tailored with his work outfits, but I am digging this comfy look as well.

The vase is soon filled with water and the flowers are put inside, and the vase is placed on the table in the kitchen. He looks to me, giving me a slow once over from top to bottom,  “You look lovely in red, and it accents all your loveliest features.”

“Oh yeah? You mean my poor injured legs?” I say jokingly.

“No my dear, your lovely curves,” he replies looking totally serious as he comes closer to rest his hands on my waist as pulls me towards him and gives me a deep kiss that leaves me breathless.

Once again, he has managed to render me speechless in the space of five minutes.  I quickly recover and shake my head to clear my thoughts, explaining,“Let’s get out of here. My ankle is feeling better now after using the crutches all day, so maybe I can just lean on you?”

“You can lean on me as much as you need, Julia, for anything your heart desires. Your carriage awaits,” and we get into the waiting cab.

Thankfully it is only a short 5 minute drive back to his Darktown apartment from my house, but he is careful to help me out of the car and into the house. Once there,he brandishes two DVDs and exclaims, “Ok my lovely lady, you have two choices. First choice is Wonder Woman and second choice is Murder Maps , the true crime TV series. And then I will order us some take-out from that new Antivan place that just opened up, and we should be set.”

“I’m going to go with Wonder Woman because after feeling powerless with this injury, I need a bad-ass female to watch, but you’ll have to order for me because I’ve never had Antivan food,” I say, heading over to the couch, “But for now, I want to sit down.” I sink down onto his leather couch and tilt my head to look at him, “Assuming that’s okay with you?” I enquire.

“Of course, where are my manners? I should’ve offered you a seat first. Would you care for a glass of wine? I’m afraid I’m rubbish at picking it out, but I do like a nice dry red, so I picked the one from Antiva because it seemed fitting since we will be eating the food soon,” he explains, going to the kitchen to grab some glasses. “I don’t have any proper wine glass, so these tumblers will have to do,” he says coming back into the room.

“They’ll be just fine, stop fussing. Anyways, it’s not about the glasses but the person I’m sharing the wine with that matters,” I comment as he hands me my glass, and I beam up at him.

He grins down at me, and agrees, chinking my glass with his and saying “Cheers, luv” and clinks my glass. I smile back up at him and return the toast, taking a sip. He goes back into the kitchen to grab his phone and calls the restaurant, and calls out that it will be here in an hour. We settle down on the couch together and he puts his arm across the back of the couch behind me.

About a half hour in, I start to feel cold and scoot in a bit to share body warmth, as I can feel it radiating off him. I can smell the rosemary and elfroot on him as I snuggle in closer to him. His arm comes closer around my shoulders, his fingers tracing lines down my arms and giving me goose bumps. I bite my lip and try unsuccessfully to moan quietly to myself, and he suddenly wraps his other arm around my waist, the movie completely forgotten, as he lowers his head and kisses me. “I’ve been wanting to do that again since we left your house but I didn’t want to push you,” he confides, pupils larger and mostly black, as he strokes my cheeks.

I hesitate a moment, before turning more towards him and running a hand down the front of his t-shirt and then move it over to his waist and lean in for another kiss. I can feel the hand not wrapped around me, moving down from my face to my waist, and he deepens the kiss and I arch my body towards his. His hands slip under my shirt and I tense my body, pulling away.

“I’m...I’m not sure I’m quite ready for that just yet. I will probably need a few more getting-to-know-you sessions first. I’m sorry,” I say my head bowed.

“Don’t, really, I am more than happy to wait. Just us being together alone is nice,” he affirms, tilting my head up to look at him, and giving me a soft smile.

“Thank you for understanding,” I say and snuggle back against him.

Shortly thereafter, there is a knock on the door which startles both of us apart. I immediately start blushing and Anders chuckles, “Let me get that,” and gets up from the couch.

He pays the delivery guy and comes back with a couple bags full of food. “I haven’t had a lot of Antivan food, but I liked this dish called Seafood Paella, so I got us an order to share. I also got us an order of melted chocolate and churros for dessert.”

We dig in and the food is so delicious, and unlike anything I’ve ever had before. The main dish had squid, shrimp, mussels and clams along with rice and veggies. I love the brilliant saffron yellow and the taste of the expensive spice. After we finish the main dish, he pulled out the churros which were still warm and dusted in cinnamon and sugar. “Mmm, these are so good!” I exclaim. “We are definitely getting these again.”

He smiles at me and pulls me closer to him, and I lay my head on his shoulder, content in just being together.

Chapter Text

I have very much enjoyed our date, but things got pretty busy at work the next couple of weeks and before I knew it, it was time for the annual Free Marches Library Conference. This year’s conference was to be in Starkhaven and I was more than a little excited about it. First because I had always had a fascination with the accent--not to mention those kilts--having dated a guy in college who was from there. His brogue was to die for, sadly his austere outlook towards life and anything fun made me leave him for someone with more zest for life. I have never been to a library conference before, and to add to the tension, I was presenting a paper I had written.

Since Fenris had been to a couple of conventions when he was working at the Archives in Tevinter, Meredith our library director, asked him to accompany me. Anders would not say anything out loud, but I could tell he was not pleased with the arrangement. It was obvious in the way Meredith ran the library that she had come from a military background; she had a very authoritarian leadership style and demanded everyone follow her lead and no questions asked. Cullen, the head of Adult Services as well as the Assistant Manager of the library, proved to be skilled at handling his boss. He had a meeting with Anders and managed to calm him down before he said something inappropriate to Meredith. Of course, I wasn’t supposed to know about that little meeting, but I overheard Isabella talking about it with Fenris upstairs at the Teen Desk when she was helping out there during a particularly busy afternoon the week before.

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Starkhaven was only about four hours from Kirkwall by car, but since neither Fenris or I had one, we had to take the bus. Thankfully being the middle of the week, the bus was relatively empty and so we each got our seats without seatmates right across from each other. He plugged into his headphones pretty much right away, blocking any chance to talk that I might’ve had. I had brought along my latest fantasy series book and we were both in our own little worlds on the trip up.

We finally arrived at the hotel and go up to the check-in desk. I tell the customer service representative at the front desk, “We’re the delegation from the Kirkwall Public Library. There should be two rooms for us.” I am a bit exhausted as we had a full day of work before the trip.

“Hmm, well let’s see.” She scans down the screen with her eyes looking for the reservation before she finally continues, “Let’s see...We have two guests, a Ms. Julia Hawke and a Mr. Fenris from Kirkwall, but there is only one room,” she retorts, finally looks thoroughly annoyed with us for disturbing her quiet.

“There must be some mistake. We clearly asked for two rooms when we made the reservation,” I reply, looking a bit frantic.

“I’m sorry Ma’am, but we are completely booked for the conference. There are no more rooms available. You will have to make do or find somewhere else to stay,” she says frowning.

This is, of course, not an option as the library had paid for the room. According to things I had heard from Anders, Meredith is notoriously cheap when it comes to any extracurricular activities, and funding two junior librarians was definitely low on her priority list. Sighing loudly, I grabbed my luggage and we headed up the elevator to the fifth floor, room 510.

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I use the keycard to open the door, praying to the Maker that it would at least have two beds. Apparently he didn’t hear that particular wish, because right in the back of the room was one queen-sized bed. I immediately blushed at the implication that I would have to share a bed with a guy I, let’s face it, had a major crush on.

He also colored, but calmly asked me “Which side would you prefer?”

“I’ll...I’ll take the left side. I’m going to go use the bathroom,” I said, opening my suitcase and grabbing my pajamas. Thankfully they weren’t the skimpy ones I usually wear, just a black tank top and kitten-covered pajama pants. I washed my face and took a moment to breath deeply to calm myself. You can do this, I say to myself, trying to give myself a pep talk.

Fenris is reading a book on the right side of the bed, on top of the covers, when I come back in the room. He has changed into a fitted sleeveless shirt and track pants. I can see the tattoos on his arms and muscle definition on his arms and the outline of them under his shirt. Deep breath, I tell myself taking my own advice. He looks up over his glasses and explains, “I’ve ordered us two bottles of Aggregio Pavali and a dozen small meat pies as I thought you might be hungry. I figured we might need it after this kerfuffle.”

I smile at him and gush out a response in a rush, betraying my nervousness: “Thank you, that was thoughtful. And yes, I will need a drink after a day like today. It’s a nice bonus that it’s a wine we both like.” I feel like that came out too rushed and excited but I don’t care. Despite the crazy situation, if I was going to be stuck in a room with someone, I’m glad it’s him. At least we shouldn’t run out of things to talk about.

Fenris puts down his book on the side table next to the bed and asks me ever so casually, “So I know we have been swamped at work, but how have you been doing? I feel like we haven’t talked since our date.”

I blush and state, “I’m sorry for that, things have been crazy with work. I promise I haven’t been avoiding you. I was hoping we could talk again soon and tonight seems as good a time as any, given our circumstances.”

I am interrupted by a knock on the door. “I’ll get it,” says Fenris getting up from the bed and rushing to the door. It’s odd, he seems as nervous as I am, and I’ve never seen him react like that before. A unintentional smile creeps onto my face at the thought. He comes back with a tray containing two bottles of wine and two glasses, a plate with a dozen small meat pies, and some napkins. “Finally we eat!” he exclaims.

We both settle on the bed and tuck in, feeling suddenly famished. He pours us a couple of glasses, which we use to wash down the pies. After we had been eating for a few minutes, he pauses and turns to ask me the question I had been dreading, “I’ve noticed you and Anders growing closer lately. Are you dating him?”

I stop mid-chew and pause, not wanting to ruin any chance I might have with Fenris. I swallow the bite and take a gulp of wine before answering, “We are seeing each other outside of work and getting-to-know each other, but we are not dating yet.”

He takes a gulp of his wine, and continues “So it’s not exclusive then? I don’t know what it is about him, but something just rubs me the wrong way.”

I am feeling a little defensive after his comment and judgment of my situation, but I laugh it off  and say, “Yeah, I have noticed that. I’m leaving my options open after my last dating disaster.” After seeing the annoyed look he gives me, I amend my last statement by adding, “Maker’s Breath, not you! I really enjoyed our date. No, I meant my long-term ex-boyfriend.” His face softens and he looks almost pleased with a half-smile on his face.

We sit in a companionable silence, eating the pies and sipping our wine. I am watching Fenris out of the corner of my eye as he is drinking large gulps of his wine, as though he is gathering his courage to say something, but he remains silently focusing on his food and drink. Eventually we finish and there is an uneasy silence, which I interrupt by saying, “Well okay then, I’m going to go to sleep, goodnight!” and turn out the lamp on my side of the bed. I face the opposite way  from him and I can feel my face heating up, but I attempt to shut my eyes and not think about the incredibly sexy elf sitting literally a foot away from me.

After about five minutes, he finishes his wineglass and turns his light off, facing away from me as he lays on his side. Eventually I am able to stop being so rigid and relax enough to go to sleep. I sleep like the dead after all the craziness that has happened today and wake up looking into white hair.

Chapter Text

I groggily realize that I’m snuggling up against Fenris with my head buried into the back of his neck. He smells like bergamot, sweat, and the full-bodied dry smell of the Aggregio Pavali. I’ll admit that I’m reluctant to move from his warm body to what I’m sure is now the cold side of the bed. He has not woken up yet--or at least is not moving--so I try to stealthily back up so we’re not touching anymore.

I get out of bed as quickly and quietly as I can and glance at the clock on the table next to the bed. It’s only 7:00 am, and the alarm was set for 8, so I turn it off and head to the bathroom with my change of clothes for the day. I am presenting my paper today at 10:00 am and don’t want to be late. Also I’m a little mortified that I shifted in the night and ended up with my arms around Fenris.

I take off my pajamas and take a moment to look at myself in the mirror. I notice that I could use a haircut as my hair is starting to curl around my ears a bit. Keeping it short is so much easier than trying to do something with longer hair that just ends up in a ponytail. I then take a look at my body. I will admit I got a little heavier after my breakup from William but not out of control. Walking to work and around Kirkwall helps to keep me fit, and with the exception of occasional wine drinking, I don’t have a whole lot of vices. My breasts are a “bit more than a handful” according to a past boyfriend, and my curves have always worked in my favor for the most part. My nipples are hard but I’m not sure if that is from the air conditioning in the bathroom or a remnant of sleeping next to Fenris. I shiver a little thinking about that, and try to calm myself down. Taking a shower will keep my mind off things, I think to myself, and step inside the tub, pulling the curtain across the rod.

But instead of keeping me focused, it makes things worse. I feel hypersensitive, and what starts off as a simple shower, quickly turns into way for me to secretly get off. The water from the showerhead runs down and off my body and even with this simple touching, I feel myself get aroused. I unconsciously begin touching my clit, which I haven’t done in weeks. I sit down on the edge of the tub and lean back, spreading my legs, the water still coming down on me. I start circling my clit with the fingers of my right hand, while my left reaches up to play with my left breast and nipple, instantly making it hard again.

I am so worked up at this point, it does not take me long to imagine a fantasy between Fenris and myself, though I know I have to keep it down as he is still asleep in the other room. I picture myself taking a shower alone, when all of a sudden Fenris opens the door and joins me. He immediately pushes me up against the wall and starts making out with me, his hands coming down my body to cup my breasts and play idly with the nipples. I deepen the kiss as his hands wander lower, and he sticks two fingers into me, circling my clit with his thumb. I can feel him thrusting them in and out quickly. I gasp at the sudden intrusion, and immediately feel myself getting wet, both in the fantasy and as I’m playing with myself right now. I moan out loud, unable to stop myself, and continue playing with my clit. Next I imagine him using the wetness from his fingers to rub on his cock, which even without touching him looks as hard as stone. He turns me around, caressing my wide hips and bottom, and bends my back over. “You are so beautiful,” he say in his low gravelly voice and I shiver all over at the declaration and the way he is touching me. He gives a low growl as he sticks two of his fingers inside of me again, feeling how wet I am for him, before he shoves his hard cock inside.  In no time at all, I am cumming hard all over my fingers in real life, unsuccessfully biting back another moan.

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I get up on shaky legs and continue with the rest of my shower, slowly gaining back my breath. Having finally gotten around to washing myself, I step out of the shower, wrapping a towel around my body. I open the door a crack, to let out some of the steam from the bath, but also to check to see if Fenris is awake. His back is still to the door, and he seems to be on the phone talking to someone. I don’t think he heard me, so I let out a small sigh of relief and shut the door. I dress in my favorite royal purple suit jacket, with a white lace camisole underneath and  a matching pencil skirt, and black heels. I normally hate wearing heels but I figure I should put my big girl shoes on for this presentation. I put on some mascara, foundation and lipstick. Finally pleased with my appearance, I step out of the bathroom with my dirty clothes in hand and head over to my suitcase.

Fenris is already up and dressed in the black dress pants, black vest and white long-sleeved shirt I saw him in on the first day of work. I try hard not to blush as I think back to my earlier fantasy version of him joining me in the shower.

“Do you want to go downstairs for some breakfast?” Fenris enquires, tilting his head in a curious bird-like gesture.

“Sure...I mean yes,” I respond, stumbling over my words a bit as I follow him out of the room and downstairs.

Chapter Text

I wasn’t sure how things were going to progress after we ended up not only in the same hotel room, but the same bed as well. Stupid cheap administration, I thought to myself. I’ve only ever seen Hawke in semi-professional clothes, so it was interesting to see her in something so casual as pajamas. The tank top did nothing to hide her curves, and emphasized her tiny waist and large breasts, pushing them up for my visual enjoyment. The kitten pajama pants seemed like the sort of thing she would wear.

I try my best to stay on my side of the bed and not touch her. I’m pretty sure I woke up a few minutes before Hawke, as I could feel her snuggled up against my back with her arm across my middle, which was not helping my morning wood any. It had, in fact, made it even harder, to the point where it was almost painful. I couldn’t adjust it without waking her up, so I just lay there staring at the wall. Thankfully I have the blanket pulled over me, so it wasn’t completely obvious. I am trying to think of something to will it to go down, so it will not be so apparent when I stand up. I think of Anders or Merrill naked, and shuddered slightly but continued to think of other things. My former supervisor Danarius, weeding the teen collection at work, but seriously nothing is working. Suddenly she woke up and realized that she is curled around me, and hastily but quietly sits up and moves back over to her side. I stay still, pretending to still be asleep, not wanting to startle her. I could hear her rustling around in her suitcase and to pull out her clothes for the presentation. She heads to the bathroom and closes the door.

I turned over on my back and sprawled out on the bed, with my hands on my head. Did she mean to snuggle me or was it an unconscious move in her sleep? I think to myself. I like her, think she is a smart and beautiful woman and am interested in getting to know her more. However, I have been waffling back and forth as to whether I am ready for an actual relationship. The whole experience with Danarius makes me not eager to repeat something like it anytime soon, even though I know she would be completely different. I hear the shower being turned on and I let go of a breath that I didn’t realize I was holding. I had taken a shower last night before I went to bed, so I go over to my suitcase and unpack the clothes I am going to wear today.

As I’m taking off my sleep shirt and unbuttoning my white dress shirt, I hear a small moan coming from the bathroom and I freeze, my cock instantly going half hard. Kaffas! Could she...Could she be playing with herself in there? I wonder, straining to hear more.  No other sound comes from the bathroom, so I shrug it off and continue dressing, putting the vest on top of my dress shirt. I take off my sleep pants and put on my black dress slacks. As I am zipping them up, I hear another higher pitch moan from Hawke. My cock instantly hardens again, and I adjust myself, so it isn’t so uncomfortable. Fasta Vass, woman, you’re killing me with those noises! I think to myself, blushing and desperately trying not to touch myself more in case she suddenly comes out of there.

The shower is still running, so I pack up my pajamas  and make the bed to have something to do with my hands. I hear her opening the door and pick up the telephone to ask the front desk about breakfast. I turn around and she looks gorgeous in that purple suit, which seems to bring out the blue of her eyes in her flawless skin even more. I head into the bathroom with some of my hair product to see how I can tame the mess I’m sure my morning hair is in. Thankfully it isn’t too bad, and I manage to get it into shape after a few minutes. I head out, cool as a cucumber, and ask her if she wants to go to breakfast. She stutters and answers in the affirmative and we head downstairs.

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After eating a short breakfast, we head to the ballroom where the Library Association is holding the presentations for the day. There are not too many people here at the moment as it is still an hour before it officially starts, so we go next door to another ballroom to the information booths and see if we can hear an author talk.

One of Hawke’s favorite authors, Lianni Taylor, is doing a book talk about her latest companion book to The Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, the Night of Cake and Puppets. Hawke walks in completely surprised and exclaims squealing, “Blessed Andraste! I had no idea she would be here!”. Even I am caught up in her enthusiasm and give her a half-smile. “I’ve read all her books, Fenris, and she is queen of angel and demon books,” she continues enthusiastically.

I personally think her books are a bit repetitive and overly sentimental, but I’ll keep that little nugget to myself. It was already full when we got there, so it was standing room only, so we find a place along the back wall to stand to hear the author. We are packed in like the refugees in Darktown and I am a little bit behind her. I am close enough to smell the  cardamom and cinnamon-like scents from her shampoo. She is positively vibrating with excitement, and cheers whenever Ms. Taylor mentions Daughter of Smoke and Bone, but then she suddenly stills and looks back at me in panic.

“Fenris, I gotta pee! I’ll be right back!” she whispers, blushing a bit in embarrassment as she turns to lean in close to my ear. The closeness of her lips next to my ear makes me shiver, but she doesn’t notice it in her hurry to exit the room. The bathrooms were, of course, way back by the reception desk, so she will miss the end of the author talk. As the author wraps up her speech, an assistant comes up to the microphone to announce that Ms. Taylor will be autographing her books, and they will be for sale on a small table on the side. After a moment’s hesitation, I push off the wall and head over to the table to buy a copy of her newest book to get it signed for Hawke. After waiting in line for about ten minutes, I finally make it to the front of the line and Hawke rejoins me.

“I thought you didn’t like her,” Hawke leans in to whisper in my ear.

“It’s not for me, it’s for you,” I retort, handing over the copy to Ms. Taylor and asking her to make it out ‘Julia Hawke’.

“Is this her?” the author enquires.

“Yes, she is one of your biggest fans,” I explain gesturing back at her, and indicating that she should step forward and talk to Ms. Taylor.

“I loved the other new book that came out in May, Strange the Dreamer. Your description of Sarai and her kisses with Lazlo are magical. I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book,” Hawke gushes loudly, smiling but also blushing.

“I'm glad to hear that. I have been working on the second book whenever I have a free moment between conferences,” Ms. Taylor responds cheerfully, smiling coyly before writing something in her book and closes it, handing it to Hawke.

Hawke opens it and squeaks, immediately turning red in the face, and turning away from the table. Ms. Taylor laughs out loud and continues signing the book she has in her hands currently from the people standing in line behind us.

“Now I’m super curious Hawke, what did she write?” I enquire, leaning closer to try to sneak a peek.

Hawke immediately turns red again and shakes her hand in the negative. “Wait a minute, what time is it?” she asks a little panicky.

“It’s fifteen till ten,” I respond, pulling out my pocket watch and flipping it open. I know it’s a bit old-fashioned to use one, but I’ve always appreciated the craftsmanship that goes into making one and it was one of the first things I bought when I moved to Kirkwall. “We should head over to the presentation ballroom,” I add as she nods in response and tries to take a deep breath. “Just breathe, Hawke, you’ve got this.”

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She nods her head again and we head up to the front of the room. She hands me her book before heading up to the stage with her portfolio holding her paper, and I go to take a seat on the front row. After fifteen minutes, the head of the Free Marches Library Association stands up to start the proceedings. 

“Welcome to this year’s conference! My name is Vivienne de Fer and I have been proud to call myself the president of the Library Association for the last ten years. I am looking forward to many more years of service,” Vivienne announces to the audience, which cheered loudly at the last comment. Her accent is Orlesian as she spent many years there as the Empress’ Director of Libraries and Archives at the Royal Orlesian Palaces. “Every year, thousands of Marchers turn to libraries for books and other resources. These patrons have a right to read and access information free from government intrusion or censorship,” she declares, and more clapping and shouts of ‘Here, here!’ can be heard. Once the crowd quiets down, she continues, “These are basic civil liberties that every Marcher should have and ones that I intend to uphold during my tenure as president. I also want to be able to give our young librarians a chance to flourish in the profession, and one way we do that is by presenting papers at our annual conference. So without further ado, here is our first presenter, Miss...Julia Hawke,” she finishes, looking up from her notes.


The room breaks out in loud applause, and Julia, her face slightly embarrassed at all the attention, comes forward to the podium. She gives her Powerpoint presentation on The Benefits of Teaching Art History to Children , and got a standing ovation at the end of it. She studied Art History during her undergraduate career so I know how passionate she is about the subject matter and sharing it with children and their parents. She ends up sitting up at the side of the stage to hear the other presenters and while they are speaking, I look down and see Hawke’s copy of Night of Cake & Puppets on the chair next to me. I pick it up and open the front cover, curious about why she was being so secretive earlier. Ms. Taylor had written, “Julia, Keep a hold of that one, he’s a keeper. Best wishes, Laini Taylor.” I blush a little at the implication of what she means, but am secretly pleased. I close the book and look over to where Hawke is sitting on the stage, and she looks so lovely. She turns her head suddenly and our eyes meet, and each of us smile a shy smile.