Isabela swore that she wasn’t cheating, but looking at the stack of coins she'd amassed, Varric doubted it. It didn't help that the mood around the table was gloomy, especially after two whole weeks of nothing but dud jobs and dead ends.
"Oh, Maker. This better not be another Wounded Coast quest or a spider-filled cave," muttered Anders, upon seeing Hawke walking through the doors of the Hanged Man. To Varric's other side, Fenris was like a pissed off viper, ready to bite someone in the balls. Though, come to think of it, Hawke would probably like that.
"Ah, Fenris! I've been looking for you!"
"Oh? Just him? And don't I get some attention?" purred Isabela, waggling her eyebrows at Hawke and laughing. She paused for a moment, looking at something that Hawke was dragging. "Uh, Hawke? What's that behind you?"
"Oh, this old thing?" Hawke stepped aside to reveal a bound and gagged man who looked absolutely terrified. And who might have soiled his pants at some point during his trip.
"Hawke, what did I tell you about kidnapping people?"
"Relax, Varric! I didn't kidnap him!"
"OK," Varric knew that at this point Hawke wouldn't be able to recognize sarcasm anymore.
"They attacked first. I was just minding my own business, looking through some crates. It was unprovoked. So clearly, it wasn't my fault!"
"That still doesn't explain why you've dragged him down here."
"Oh. Did I mention he's a slaver? I didn't? Well, he is."
"Well that's a relief," Varric muttered, deadpan. And to no one's surprise, Hawke turned to Fenris.
"So, Fenris," he motioned towards the terrified man, "Tevinter slaver. Bound and ready! Are you up for some stress relief?" He asked, practically beaming.
"Hawke!" Barked Aveline, her I'm the Guard Captain, hear me bash your head in look firmly in place, "This man should be in custody!"
"Well, technically, he is in custody, Aveline," Hawke replied, unrepentant.
"The custody of the Guard, Hawke. We don't need more vigilante justice around here, and certainly not if it's some form of strange mating ritual." There was a snort from the table and Aveline immediately glared at Isabela. "Not a word from you, whore."
"Well it's good to know that you're not playing the pot to his kettle, big girl."
Before the situation could escalate into a full blown cat fight—though Hawke looked a little confused when Aveline said "strange mating ritual"—Fenris spoke up.
"Looks like our game has been interrupted," he said to Varric. "I'll be heading back to Hightown."
"But, what about—" But the elf left without a word, giving Hawke a look that clearly stated that he was questioning their esteemed leader's sanity.
Varric shook his head when he saw Hawke visibly wilt as Fenris exited the building. Like a dainty flower. The very same man who had marched them into a cave filled with huge, poisonous spiders and then proceeded to cheerfully dispatch them with his daggers, easy as anything.
"Oh boy," Varric muttered to himself, "this is going to be trouble."
"Hawke," Varric said, with all seriousness, after several days of Hawke bringing different "gifts" that seemed more like a parade of seedy Undercity citizens, bound and gagged for Fenris. "As one of your dearest non-human friends, I have to tell you this," he leaned closer. "Just sleep with him. Please. For my sanity. And possibly everyone else's."
"Seconded," Isabela said, holding up her drink and then downing most of it down in one go.
"What are you talking about?" Hawke's attempt at an innocent look couldn't fool even a blind man.
"I think they mean you need to stop trying to court Fenris and just have sex with him," Merrill said, ever so happily, and almost positively, drunk, "Although I thought it was sweet." She then proceeded to giggle and fall asleep on the table. Yes, definitely drunk.
"I, uh," stammered Hawke, clearly looking for an escape, or possibly something to use to knock them all out. "Courting? Me? No.” When he saw that his words were met by utterly disbelieving glares and because he left his pouch of poisons at home, he finally sighed. "Was I really that obvious?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe a couple of people in Orlais missed it," Varric said, waving his hand.
"Why am I bad at this?" Hawke moaned, looking absolutely miserable. Varric felt sorry for him for about two seconds, but then he remembered that the last "present" Hawke had dragged in had thrown up all over their table. Norah had bitched at him for hours, thanks to Hawke.
"What, wooing?" Asked Anders, half-amused, as if he wasn't too busy thinking, Fenris, really?
"This is why I don't woo," announced Isabela, sitting back down after getting her refill. "Entirely too much effort and it makes idiots out of everyone!"
"And instead you just drop your clothes and look like an idiot all by yourself?"
"Hawke, have you ever done this before?" Varric asked.
"Courting?" Hawke's smug smile was back.
"No," he finally muttered, after an intense staredown with Varric.
"Wait, so you can flirt with anything on two legs—"
"And a lamppost or two when drunk," Anders interjected.
"But you can't even properly court someone?"
"Our family moved a lot. It made relationships very difficult," Hawke explained, though he made a disgusted face at the word 'relationships'. "A tumble in the hay is easy enough, but I don't exactly know how to say, well, you know..."
"’I'd like to get inside your pants and stick around for more?’" Isabela suggested, but then she stopped completely, eyes widening. "Wait, so you do want something more?" She sounded almost horrified.
Hawke winced, nodding his head. "It appears so."
"Oh, this is too funny!" Crowed Isabela, ignoring Hawke's scowl.
"This could be a curse you know," Anders said, calmly. "You’ve been hexed by all of the men and women that you've used and abused. Loved and discarded."
"Oh Maker, please don't tell me that," muttered Hawke, stealing Isabela’s flagon and draining it dry, despite the pirate's protests. "It's not like they didn't know I only wanted a bit of fun."
"Well, you're going at this the wrong way," Varric said, though he was as amused as the other two.
"How do you know so much about courting anyway?"
"Messere, I didn't get to where I am without proper training, you know," Varric said, with an added eyebrow waggle.
"That...somehow, Varric, I don't think I want to know."
"Good. I'm not telling anyhow," Varric said, smug, "but seriously though, have you tried poetry?"
"Poetry? For Fenris?" Anders sounded as if Varric had just told Hawke to strip off all his clothes inside the Chantry, and then ask the Grand Cleric for a hug. Even Isabela cackled at the very idea. Hawke, on the other hand, just looked thoughtful.
When Hawke entered the Hanged Man looking determined, Varric thought that maybe the Qunari were finally in revolt or something equally distressing. He'd even picked up Bianca and got to his feet. Even Anders, who had been sharing one of his escape tales, stood up.
"Varric," Hawke began, voice grim, "I need your help."
"Just tell me where to point Bianca, Hawke." At this, Hawke blinked, face clearing.
"What? Oh, no!" He grinned, sheepish. "No, nothing like that. It's just, well, you're the best storyteller in all of the Free Marches and I could use some advice."
"Uh, well, what do you need?" Varric asked, perplexed.
"I need you to give me your opinion," Hawke said, nervously. "On a poem." And then he shoved a piece of parchment under Varric’s nose. Anders moved closer to read it with him.
Roses are red, violets are blue,
You'd look good naked,
Let's have a screw.
"Is that Antivan poetry?" Anders asked, slowly, eyes wide. "Hawke, are you trying to woo the elf with Antivan poetry? Bad Antivan poetry?"
"Hey! I put all my heart and soul into that!" Hawke protested, looking perfectly offended.
"I think you've put your head into it, all right. And I don't mean the one up there," Varric said, shaking his head in disdain. "Amateurs. You clearly have no flair for this, Hawke."
"Well, Isabela seemed to think it'll work. Short and to the point."
"Hawke, what did I tell you about asking Rivaini for help on this?"
"Good. You’re learning," he stopped, adding, "and we should skip the poetry. I don't think Broody will like it very much."
"But you said—"
"I know what I said. Look, just get him a trinket or something. You're good with treasures, pick out something he'll like."
"Huh. Why didn't I think of that?"
Varric and Anders carefully remained silent. Though love seemed to have rendered Hawke stupid for the moment, they knew the rogue's skills with knives were still top-notch. No need to wake a sleeping lion.
Varric hadn't meant to see how it all went down, honest. He'd been on his way to Darktown to talk to one of his guys about the monthly payment to the Coterie, mainly so that Merrill and Anders would be left alone and to stay away from Hawke's home. He hadn't even made it to the steps leading to Darktown when he spotted Hawke and Fenris.
They might have been inconspicuous if not for the fact that one of them was an elf hefting a sword that was his equal in height, and the other was the new owner of the Amell Manor.
"I've got something for you," Hawke said, there was a touch of something in his voice. Varric put it down to nerves. "I hope you'll like it."
Varric couldn't see what the object was, but he could see how carefully Hawke placed the small cloth pouch into Fenris' palm, making sure not to touch his skin. And well, Varric knew just how smitten Hawke was with Fenris—especially after the awkward attempts at flirting. But until that moment, he hadn't seen the way Hawke's eyes softened when he looked at the elf, or the utterly foolish smile that screamed "stupidly in love".
Varric knew he should give them some semblance of privacy, but he was curious about the gift that had taken Hawke weeks to obtain. He heard a sharp intake of breath from Fenris but what happened next was something that didn't happen in romance novels. Fenris' markings were beginning to glow and he outright glared at Hawke.
"Is this some kind of twisted joke, Hawke?"
"A joke? What?"
"Did you think this would be funny? A gift for the slave?"
"Fenris, I swear, I don't know what you mean," Hawke said, slowly, though he was carefully moving away from the elf. "I just thought you might like it, that's all."
"Like it? Like it?"
Uh-oh. Varric decided to step in before Fenris decided that he wanted to steal Hawke's heart. And not the romantic way, either. The "stick your hand in his chest and pull it out" way.
"There you are!" Varric said, loudly. "Hawke, I've been looking all over for you!" He marched over to where they were, aware that Fenris had stopped glowing though he was still glowering at Hawke. "Some trouble in Darktown with the Coterie."
"I...yes. What's the problem, Varric?" That Hawke managed to sound quite normal despite the tense situation was a miracle. But even in the dim surroundings Varric could see that his hands were shaking. "You need my help to sort this mess out?"
"Definitely. Are you coming, elf?" Varric asked. Fenris' answer was a snarl. And he threw his gift back at Hawke, hitting the rogue in the chest. Hawke managed to catch it, though he fumbled a bit. When Varric was sure Fenris was gone, he turned to look at his friend. "What was that all about?"
"I haven't a clue," Hawke shook his head. "It took me so long to try and find him the right gift. I thought he'd like it." He scratched his head and then continued when Varric raised an eyebrow. "It's an amulet, nothing too fancy and nothing magical. I made extra sure that there's no lyrium involved."
"May I see it?" Hawke handed the pouch to him wordlessly. What Varric saw made him groan. He was torn between feeling sorry for Hawke and wanting to smack him. "Hawke, don't you know what this is?"
"I just told you. It's an amulet."
"It's a Tevinter slave amulet!" Varric exclaimed. "Tevinter magisters use these things to keep track of their slaves. It's like a leash that tells the magister where the slave is."
"Oh, Andraste's sodding arse," Hawke groaned, burying his face in his hands. "No wonder he was so upset."
"You've got some really bad luck with this one, Hawke."
"How am I supposed to know what it's bloody for? The Void-cursed merchant just told me that it boosted strength and defense!" Hawke shook his head, frustrated. "And how do you know what this is anyhow?"
"Fenris showed me one of these when we cleared out the slavers' den a couple years back."
"I'm bloody buggered, aren't I?"
"Pretty much screwed, yeah."
"Ugh. Buy me a drink. I feel the need to be utterly pissed tonight."
"Wouldn't blame you, my friend."
It took a week, but with the combined efforts of Varric, Isabela, Aveline and even—to Hawke and Fenris' shared horror—Merrill, it seemed Fenris finally understood that Hawke hadn't meant to give him a slave amulet. That Hawke had managed to salvage their friendship after his horrendous blunder was a small miracle by itself.
After a number of "coaching" sessions from Varric, which was a fancy way of saying an hour spent with Varric talking at Hawke about what he should and shouldn't say when trying to sweep someone off their feet, his dwarven friend had finally deemed him ready. Which was how Hawke found himself sitting in one of the seats in Fenris' mansion, at a loss for words. He couldn't for the life of him remember a single thing Varric had said during their many, many talks, one-sided as they were. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that during Varric's talks Hawke would find his mind wandering, thinking of other things.
Not one to give up, especially after all the wine that Fenris had generously shared, Hawke found himself some courage to talk about something other than their latest outing.
"So, Fenris, what do you feel about..." Hawke trailed off, floundering for words. Shit. Clearly, he wasn't ready for this. Maybe he could pretend he hadn’t said anything. Fenris was gulping down more wine, and Hawke knew that Fenris would sometimes shut down completely when enjoying his wine.
"About what?" Blast. So much for that.
"Err, feelings?" He had the sudden urge to slam his head repeatedly on the table. Perhaps he could blame it on the wine? But Fenris wouldn't believe it. Not to mention he would think that Hawke had completely lost his mind—not that Fenris hadn't thought of that already, what with Hawke's recent behavior.
"What do I feel about feelings?" Fenris asked, with his best "I’m unimpressed, try harder" voice.
"Yes. That," Hawke said, cringing inwardly. Oh, you complete idiot!
"That does not make any sense, Hawke."
"I, um, all right then," Hawke said, taking a deep breath, "what would you say if someone were to, err, confess. To you." At this the elf turned to look at Hawke with suspicion.
"Someone? You mean you?"
"No! Yes! Err, maybe?"
"I should’ve known," Fenris said, scowling. "I could’ve sworn that it was Anders—"
"Wait, Anders?" What? He thought Fenris hated Anders.
"But then it seemed more Varric's style."
"Varric!" Exclaimed Hawke, aghast.
"Or maybe even Isabela. But you've finally confessed, have you?"
"I," Hawke gulped, because Fenris was clearly unhappy. And he looked like he was about to reach inside Hawke’s chest with his fist. This tableau was beginning to look very familiar indeed.
"Damn it, Hawke, do you know how long it took me to get my trousers off that blasted chandelier?"
"I…beg your pardon?"
"I thought for weeks that Varric did it. But he's a dwarf, he’s not tall enough. Unless he stole a ladder, but where would he find a long enough ladder?"
Hawke groaned silently, burying his face into his palm. "I think we’re talking about different things, Fenris."
"I, wait, what?"
"I didn't…hang your trousers from the chandelier."
"So what were you trying to say then?"
Hawke laughed thinly. "Nothing, Fenris. I'm not making any sense, I'm afraid," he points at the wine bottle. "Drunk."
The courting, it seemed, had reached its lowest point. Varric was trying to ignore it, really he was, but he could only take so much woe. And Hawke was radiating the emotion. It was bad enough that even Norah steered clear of their table, which meant that each time Varric or Isabela wanted a new tankard of ale, they would have to go over to Corff.
“So, Hawke,” Varric said, carefully, “How did it go?”
“As you can see from my cheerful disposition, it went brilliantly,” growled Hawke, glaring daggers at the table.
“Ah, I see the sarcasm is back,” remarked Anders.
“He hates me.”
“Well, that’s not true,” chirped Merrill, causing Hawke to gaze at her with hopeful eyes—like his damn Mabari hound—only to experience crushing defeat at Merrill’s next words. “He usually glows blue and sticks his hand into people he doesn’t like. And he hasn’t done that to you yet, has he?”
“Oh, I’m sure Hawke wants Fenris to stick something in him,” Isabela said, snickering.
“That’s not funny,” Hawke said, glaring once more. “When I tried to give him something nice, I cocked it all up. The one time I finally say something that isn’t completely stupid, he misunderstood.”
“Ah, yes. His trousers,” snickered Isabela. “He couldn’t figure it out, could he?”
Hawke chuckled, despite his current situation. “No, couldn’t decide between the three of you.”
“Well, that’s because we all did it together,” Varric said, grinning. “It was a team effort. Aren’t you proud?”
“I hate you all, really,” he sighed, shaking his head. “Why can’t I have nicer friends?”
“Because all of the nice people don’t want to be friends with you,” Varric said, nodding sagely.
“I really should’ve stayed in Ferelden.”
Anders laughed, incredulous. “What? And be eaten by darkspawn?”
“I’d choose the darkspawn over you lot any day!”
“Aw, c’mon, Hawke. You love us. And you’d miss us if you left.” Hawke didn’t have anything to say to that, so he stole Varric’s drink instead. It was just one of many, many drinks that he had that night.
Hawke was nursing a spectacular hangover, if the bags under his eyes were anything to go by. That and the stench. There were corners in Darktown that smelled better than Hawke. Fenris managed not to wince only by sheer will, but that still didn't stop his eyes from tearing up.
"Fenris?" Hawke blinked. And when his brain had finally established that Fenris was indeed standing at his doorstep and he wasn't hallucinating, Hawke ushered him in. "I'll be right back. Wait for me in the parlor?" Hawke was already running up the stairs, presumably to freshen up.
Fenris wandered over to look at the bookcase, noting a couple of new tomes that Hawke seemed to have purchased recently. He made a mental note to ask about them later. The titles certainly sounded interesting enough.
When Hawke finally came back down, running his fingers through wet hair, Fenris was pleased to note that he smelled much better than before.
"I had a curious thing happen to me last night," he began, before Hawke deigned to ask why he was there. "And I was hoping you could help me."
"Oh? What happened?" Hawke froze. "Is it Danarius? Are you safe?"
"I am fine. Though I daresay my corner of Hightown hadn't expected an incident to occur at such a late hour."
"What incident? What do you mean?"
"Where were you last night?"
"Where was I? Fenris, what's going on?"
"Just answer the question, Hawke."
"I was at the Hanged Man, with the others. We were drinking, as usual."
"Why this line of questioning?"
"Just answer the question, Hawke," Fenris snapped.
"Yes! By the Void, yes!" Hawke shouted, angrily. Fenris could see the vein in his forehead throbbing. But that still didn't make him as much as pause when he delivered the next brutal question.
"Then would you care to explain what exactly was going through that twisted mind of yours when you decided to drunkenly serenade me last night?"
All color seemed to have been leeched from Hawke's face and he looked at Fenris, horrified. "Oh Maker, I thought that was a dream. I could've sworn that was a dream," he moaned, rubbing his face briskly with his hand. "Fenris, Fenris, I'm sorry," he collapsed onto his chair. "I didn't mean to, I've just—" he stopped, laughing. He sounded a little hysterical even to his own ears. "I've been going crazy. And I think Anders is right, someone has hexed me because I can't think straight anymore. I've been rendered incapable of logic and it's killing me."
"I've been doing stupid things and saying stupid things. I don't make sense anymore. I've become a laughing stock and all of the people I've slept with are probably hoping this will go on forever and—"
"GARRET!" That seemed to have done the trick. Fenris sighed, shaking his head, still very much annoyed. "You have to stop."
The way Hawke simply sagged against the chair was an utterly sad sight. He stared at the floor, swallowing. Fenris couldn't help but notice how very much like a kicked Mabari pup he looked. And Fenris was many things, but he wasn't cruel to animals.
And, well, he also maybe liked Hawke a tiny bit.
Staring back at the silent rogue, he corrected himself. No, maybe a lot.
"Let's go back to my home," he said. Very, very slowly, Hawke looked up. Confusion and hope warring in his eyes.
"But you just said..."
"I meant for you to stop this...flirting," Fenris said, grimacing at the term. "Let's...spend more time together. But no gifts, no songs, and especially no poetry!"
"I didn't even give you the poem I wrote!"
"Isabela showed it to me."
"Not your most polished work, Hawke," Fenris said, hiding a smile. The smile Hawke gave was sheepish, but it was a start. "Let's go." He began walking towards the door.
"Alright," Hawke nodded, standing up and looking for his daggers. After all, one couldn't be too careful in Kirkwall at night.
"I do look good naked," this time, Fenris didn't bother hiding the smirk as Hawke choked on a breath.