Fenris and Hawke fought frequently and at great volume. Like all the best arguments, their domestics encompassed a number of personal habits, failings, and accidents related only by a factor of irritation. The spark that ignited the sela petrae was often some complex political or ethical issue—say, Fenris's hatred of all things magical, or Hawke's belief in radical individual freedom, or Fenris's use of Hawke's given name.
"Only my mother calls me that, and I don't see you serving me tea and cookies in bed!" Hawke shouted.
In a retort calculated to be both constructionally clever and deeply wounding to his opponent, Fenris retorted with, "I'll call you whatever I like, Malcolm!"
Hawke was in fact deeply wounded. "Oh? Oh? What kind of a name is Fenris, anyway? Do you even have a last name? Shall I call you Fenris Leto, or Leto Fenris, or perhaps Fenris Broodfather? I'm sorry, I forget you're too important to bother—"
"Coming from the most self-involved man in Kirkwall, I'm flattered!"
"Self-involved? Me? I'm the most giving man—human—most giving being on the face—no, that ever walked the land! I'm practically confessor for the whole Waking Sea, did you hear how I saved that little boy from possession?"
"He was twenty-three and summoned the demon himself. You didn't save him, you extorted him," Fenris said. "And you're as vain as you are stupid, and as stupid as you are—as you are handsome!"
From this litany of vitriol, Hawke, ever the optimist, gleaned one bit of truth. "You think I'm handsome!" he crowed.
Fenris despised an entire chant of things about Hawke: The man was self-centered and greedy, slovenly in dress, careless in deed, and possessed the preservation instinct of a Genlock. He had a sincere word for no one and an insult for all, he had less integrity than forty thieves and was a quicker thief than the Coterie's head; in battle as in life, his preferred method of attack was none at all, as he found it easier to hang back and let his fellows shoulder the work. He was above all a mage, the eldest son of a family seeped in magic from the dawn of the Imperium or before.
(Hawke didn't bother despising an entire chant about anyone; the most he could muster was perhaps a verse of hate. A stanza, maybe. A couplet. The things he disliked about Fenris in particular were that Fenris sometimes refused sex and that he often finished the last of Hawke's special Antivan olives. The olives were very dear to Hawke; he'd talked the merchant into selling him forty for a sovereign, a deal not to be matched throughout the Free Marches. Good olives, Hawke believed, were a delicacy.)
(Bodahn wasn't a man to dislike anyone, but he did wish Messere Hawke and his lover would take their disagreements someone other than the entrance hall. The shouting frightened the dog and excited the boy, and neither would calm until well after dinner.)
Hawke was layers and layers of lies, lies layered layer upon layer to hide a truth that Fenris suspected might no longer exist. At first Fenris had thought the man was simply a scoundrel who, like all scoundrels, was overly fond of the bolstering effect his own voice could have on his load-bearing ego. After seeing the man's temper crack through his shiny exterior when he fought the Arishok, Fenris had wondered if perhaps Hawke was living by a Qunari proverb ("All warfare is based on deception," it went).
Too many years in Hawke's company had taught Fenris that, actually, Hawke lied recreationally. It made it fantastically difficult to judge his true opinion of anything, although Fenris suspected that in addition to having a genuine liking for dishonesty, Hawke preferred to keep everyone around him in a constant state of bemusement.
"You were interested in that text of Tarohne's," Fenris accused. It was late on a Thursday afternoon, before their regular pre-dinner argument and only slightly after their extended afternoon spat. Contrary to the beliefs of their acquaintances, Fenris did not enjoy being constantly at odds with his lover. It wasn't sexy, it didn't turn him on, and it certainly wasn't a source of stress relief. Hawke, however, persisted in being wrong-headed about a great many things. He was the only person who could incite Fenris to shout.
"I destroyed the text," Hawke countered. "Do you see me with the text? There is no more text. Besides, blood magic is so messy."
"Blood mages are probably prone to infection, too," Hawke said. "All those open cuts—I should ask Anders, he seems like the sort of fellow who could expound on the rate of infected wounds among blood mages."
"I suppose I should feel comforted," Fenris said, although he didn't. Hawke might have summarily dismissed blood magic as threatening to his hygiene, but on the rare occasion the man did deign to work magic, he never bothered to do so visibly—no, he'd raise a hand to his forehead and suddenly all their enemies would be staggering about, ramming into walls and each other indiscriminately. Hawke probably found it amusing.
"Do you need comforting?" Hawke said hopefully.
"No," Fenris said.
"Are you sure?"
"Yes," Fenris said.
"Mmm," Hawke said, and his eyes narrowed. "Did you eat the last of my olives again?"
"No," Fenris said. "I'm leaving now. Perhaps your olives can be incited to comfort you."
"They could, if I had any olives left!" Hawke yelled at his back.
Fenris shut the front door of the Amell estate more firmly than was proper. From the courtyard, he heard a very faint, "So I won't see you for dinner, then?"
Damn the man, anyway. Fenris went to the Hanged Man and put his evening meal on Hawke's tab, and three rounds of drinks for the whole tavern besides.
Isabela, who was something of a mutual best friend to the couple, found Fenris's problem endlessly amusing; Sebastian, on the other hand, seemed to think that Fenris and Hawke needed marriage counseling.
"We aren't married," Fenris explained for what felt like the thousandth time.
"The Chantry has spiritual advisors who could help, whatever the...situation. Any believer is welcome to go to the ministry for guidance."
Isabela stopped picking over the table of knives long enough to snort. "And what gave you the impression that Hawke is a believer, exactly? Was it the drinking or the general debauchery?"
"Hawke is a godly man," Sebastian protested, but after that his argument seemed to falter. "He may have his—his vices, but he has assured me that he is a faithful Andrastian."
"Funny, because I once heard him tell the Viscount's son that he followed the Qun—ooh, is this ironbark?" Isabela said. "I think it is! Imagine, ironbark whoring around Lowtown like a common dagger."
"Why are we here?" Sebastian asked.
"We're shopping, isn't it obvious?" Isabela picked up the blade, which to Fenris's eye looked approximately as Dalish as a smoking jacket.
"Then what am I doing here?" Sebastian said, a bit helplessly. Fenris liked Sebastian, but for a man both highly trained and sinfully experienced, there were a remarkable number of situations in which he was utterly useless. Dealing with Isabela was one of them.
"I want your advice," Isabela said.
"Isabela," Fenris warned, recognizing all too well her tone of voice, but Sebastian fell for it like the choirboy he was.
"Advice about what?"
"Wellll," Isabela said, "there's this man I'm trying to seduce, and I haven't made any headway, so I thought a lacy bit of nothing might do the trick. Something that lifts and separates, you know?" And then, in case her tone wasn't lascivious enough, she cupped her breasts and demonstrated.
"Ah," Sebastian said.
"You do know!" Isabela said. "Excellent."
"Ah," Sebastian said again, and fled. Isabela and Fenris watched him go, he with a bored expression and she looking deeply and personally satisfied.
"You shouldn't bait him," Fenris said.
"See, that's what I like about you. You never judge." Isabela flipped the knife she was holding over her shoulder; it landed point-first in the table with a heavy thud, and she sauntered off without bothering to look back, clearly expecting Fenris to follow.
Fenris dodged a trio of urchins, one hand at the hilt of his sword to steady it, and trailed at her heels. "You aren't trying to seduce him, are you?"
"Do you actually care?" Isabela asked. He didn't and she knew it, but their friendship had been established on certain principles, among them Fenris's willingness to play the straight man. "He's going to have to give up those vows of his soon enough, and this way he'll have someone to blame."
"And you benefit..."
"I benefit because I get to be there when that repression breaks," Isabela said, and gave a mock shiver. "Ooho, all those years of celibacy..."
"I'm inclined to think you simply want to add a prince to your set," Fenris said.
"I've already had a princess, and nobility is so much better in matched pairs, don't you think?" Isabela said happily. "You, on the other hand, need more sex. Hawke is perfectly willing, there's no need to be so grumpy all the time."
I am not grumpy, Fenris thought, and instead said, "I need to go."
Isabela shrugged. "Suit yourself, but you can't keep running from your problems. And take your sword off sometime today, your posture is appalling."
A pirate is criticizing my posture, Fenris thought. And it is not.
"I'll see you tomorrow," he said, and made like Sebastian.
"I've been thinking of getting a tattoo," Hawke said that night. He was going through Fenris's collection of wines and quite deliberately setting the bottles down out of order. "Do you think it hurts very much? Anders says they use needles, and I don't like needles."
Fenris stared. "Last year," he said, "I watched as you shoved your first inside your gut and then finished an honor duel with the Arishok while holding your intestines in."
"Well he didn't stab me with a needle," Hawke said indignantly.
"Hn," Fenris replied.
Hawke rotated all the bottles so the labels faced the wall; Fenris didn't know why. He was a most confounding man, if one to whom Fenris owed a great deal; the sex was good, but Fenris didn't have a long enough memory for any real comparison; and Hawke was an apostate who had more than once tried to bring spellcraft into their bedroom, while Fenris would barely allow Hawke into the bedroom for his criminal association with magic.
The sex was really very good, though.
"You think too much," Hawke's voice cut in. "I wonder if I should be teaching you to read. It can only encourage further thinking, and I'm not sure I approve."
"Fortunately, I don't care if you approve," Fenris said. "What are we reading tonight?"
In answer, Hawke produced a sheaf of handwritten parchment. The handwriting was large and dramatic and nothing like Fenris's, which was proving to be small and cramped. Hawke swept aside assorted debris and spread the sheets on the table.
"The Elf and the Ap—Apos—Apostate," Fenris read. For his many obnoxious traits, Hawke was a patient teacher. Perhaps he merely knew better than to make a smart remark about Fenris's burgeoning literacy; one comment and Fenris would be off like an arrow. They both knew it.
"Just some light reading," Hawke said, when Fenris sent him a questioning look. "There are only so many times I can force you through an instructive spellbook."
"The Elf and the Apostate," Fenris read again, this time with confidence. "Once there was an apostate, a flirty—filthy man who cared less about magic than he did about fu—fucking. He was captured by a templar, but as the templar stood over the apostate's p...p...
"...prone body and prepared to ravish him, the apostate was rescued by an incredibly attractive elf with white hair and an en—enormous sword and Hawke."
"Is this story about us?"
"Oh yes," Hawke said, evidently delighted with himself. "Isabela wrote it, said she got tired of coming up with ways to make Aveline and Donnic screw."
Fenris scanned down the page. His eyes caught on a comment—in rich purple ink, unlike the main narrative—that slanted through the margins. It was more difficult to decipher, because it was penned in a downright florid hand, but Fenris persevered.
"Was—did Varric edit it?"
"He usually has first right to Isabela's stories," Hawke said. "I won the latest chapter in the Cullen saga off her before he got his hands on it, though, so we could practice with that if you'd rather."
"And you permit them to..."
"Permit? I suppose—sometimes I give Isabela hints when she's stuck."
"Hints," Fenris said. His register had not quite dropped to a growl. Not quite.
"Hints—you know, just a 'did you try having them screw on a staircase,' that sort of thing. Does the characterization seem off?"
"Do you have"—Fenris paused, almost too angered to find the words—"no respect for me whatsoever? Is this what you make of our relationship?" He flung the pages across the room; the effect wasn't as dramatic as he would have hoped, but the affront on Hawke's face was satisfying all the same. "I'm leaving," he said. "I can't watch you—"
"Do you know how much parchment costs?" Hawke cried, and faced with the sight of the Champion of Kirkwall scrambling around on the floor of a slaver's mansion after his homemade erotica, Fenris had only one response.
He began, unwillingly, to laugh.
"You can't leave anyway, you live here," Hawke added, unaware of the low, nearly silent laughter shaking his lover. "I could leave, if you like, but I was hoping we could act out this part from chapter three—we could even start at the beginning, you could ravish me, or there's a reunion scene where the apostate does unspeakably naughty things to the elf in the back of a chantry—and I brought some delicacies from Antiva over, I thought we could have dinner so long as I don't have to cook—"
"You are a miser," Fenris managed, "and on the whole I preferred the spellbooks. Malcolm—"
Hawke looked up.
"Let's skip dinner," Fenris said.
Hawke thought that was an excellent idea indeed.
"Well done," Hawke said sometime later. "That was one of my better efforts, I felt. You could use a little improvement, though—Anders says gentle asphyxiation would work nicely with that thing you like at the end—"
Fenris glared at the canopy. "Do you bring up Anders deliberately to make me jealous, or are you really that blind?"
"Why," Hawke asked, "is it working?"
Fenris rolled them over and purred, "Try it again and see."