There were few pleasures, Hawke thought sourly, to match a week's journey in a carriage crowded against the man who'd fucked you until you couldn't see straight and then promptly leapt out of your bed as though it were full of coals. Varric's knowing eyes on them and damned Tallis smirking didn't help in the least. At least Anders hadn't worked it out, crammed onto his other side and busy brooding, and Merrill was too busy staring out the windows to notice anything happening inside.
He'd thought about leaving Fenris behind—a thought which would have had a good deal more force behind it if he'd properly imagined the experience—but after all, where would that end? Fenris was a prickly bastard at the best of times; he'd made few friends and most of those were Hawke's, first. If he made it plain he didn't want Fenris around anymore, that was as much as leaving him alone, and for that matter painting a target on his back for the next round of Tevinter slave-hunters. And if Hawke meant to put up with seeing Fenris at the Hanged Man for diamondback three nights a week, why not on the battlefield?
Sadly, it hadn't occurred to him that in this case, to reach the battlefield he'd have to spend a week in a sprung coach not wide enough for three big men to sit abreast, even if one of them were an elf. And that he'd end up having to cram in between Fenris and Anders anyway, to keep the coach from becoming a battlefield.
Fenris was lean and quiet in his black leathers, his face in profile against the carriage window remote, his thigh and arm pressed hard and warm and delicious against Hawke's own. He'd barely said three words—well, not since the charming bit of sniping when he'd called Anders an abomination and Anders had called him a snarling dog and Hawke had shoved them both into their respective corners and sat down between them.
Fenris didn't have to say anything. He didn't even have to look. In fact, it was more that he didn't look—the way his eyes fell occasionally to Hawke's hands, or he shifted his weight so their bodies moved against one another, or he breathed.
By the time they drew up to the Duke's castle, Hawke was more than ready to slaughter any number of wyverns. And those wretched little ghasts. And that stuffed yodeler of a baron. For that matter, he thought, wiping his greatsword clean as they went back to the castle with the wyvern head, he'd have gladly taken on a run of darkspawn, at the moment.
Instead, of course, he got a fancy-dress party; and because Varric was an evil little troll of a dwarf, he said blandly, "I guess you're going to have to help him dress, Fenris. Otherwise that manservant cover isn't going to hold up."
"I can dress myself, thank you," Hawke snapped.
"Not in formal Orlesian togs you can't, my friend," Varric said, and damn him, he was right, which Hawke realized about twenty minutes into trying to get the idiotic blouse not to hang off his shoulders like a collection of rags. Very small rags.
"Yes, what?" he said, yanking the door to his suite open at the knock: if he were lucky, perhaps it would be one of the villa maids, and he could press her into service.
He wasn't lucky. Fenris stood there with his face blank as stone. "Varric thought you'd be ready for help by now."
Hawke glared at him: and this was funny, he supposed. There was a small controlled flicker just in the corner of Fenris's mouth—invisible if you didn't know him. If you didn't know that his laugh, when you managed to wring it out of him, started there; if you didn't know that he gasped when you pressed him down and kissed him there, softly. "And you let him send you?"
"Unfortunately," Fenris said dryly, "I do actually know how to do Orlesian lacings."
"And no one else of us does?" Hawke said.
Fenris twitched ever so slightly, the way he did when he wanted to lie, and then remembered he was free and he refused to fear anyone enough to lie to them. "Only Tallis," he said. "And she's dressing herself."
What about that Fenris didn't want him to know, Hawke had no idea. "Oh, damn it all, come and do it then," he said, and stalked back to the mirror.
And realized in dismay, shortly after, that he really needed to think these things through better. Getting the lacings to sit right required sliding a hand beneath the shirt, passing the lacings through and against the skin, out again. That, over and over, and then binding them at the wrists, soft silken straps, and it was impossible not to imagine Fenris—tying them together, instead; binding Hawke's wrists at the small of his back, shoving him down onto the absurdly huge bed that made his own, back in Kirkwall, look like a soldier's cot—
Fenris dropped his wrist, and licked his lips, and Hawke leaned in towards him almost involuntarily. Not far, not far enough to be—explicit, but Fenris flinched away anyway. An equally subtle movement, but more than enough. Hawke swallowed and jerked away, angry at himself. Well, angry at Fenris, mostly. And oh, look, also hard as a dwarven hammer, which the ridiculous pants did very little to conceal.
"Thanks so very much: I'll manage from here," he said, and went around the dressing screen to shove his hand into the trousers and adjust so he wasn't poking out like a jouster. He didn't bother trying not to sound bitter: it wasn't as though he hadn't already made as much of an ass out of himself in Fenris's direction as was mortally possible. On multiple occasions now, even.
"Hawke," Fenris said after a moment, on the other side of the screen.
"Are you enjoying this?" Hawke said. "You've made it more than clear you don't want to be here, so get out."
"It's not that simple," Fenris said, low: it sounded as though he were standing right on the other side, hands on the screen, speaking through it. "Not everything can be solved by—by wanting it so."
Hawke fought off the incredibly strong desire to pick up the screen and shove the whole thing down over Fenris's pointed ears. "Oh, leave off," he said. "I'm not pathetic enough to try and argue you into my bed. Go back to the others, and wait for the signal to regroup outside the walls. And the next time Varric suggests anything that would end in your pawing all over me, tell him no."
Fenris didn't say anything more. After a moment his footsteps padded away to the door, and it closed softly behind him. Hawke waited until the latch clicked to come out and splash cold water from the basin over his face and the back of his neck, staring down at the mazed upside-down reflection in the metal bowl as the water dripped off him.
Not everything had to be complicated. Of course, it wasn't as though Hawke hadn't known Fenris was. If anyone had ever bothered to offer him a choice in the matter a bit more up front, for instance the first night they'd met, he'd never have involved himself with the broody wretch. He'd have told Fenris to go manage his own affairs, and so what if that was as good as handing him over to some black-hearted Tevinter slaver to have all that blazingly angry spirit broken.
Well, all right, no; but at least he wouldn't have dragged Fenris along to the Hanged Man until he started coming on his own, and he wouldn't have gone every other morning for sparring sessions all over the ruined mansion, and he very definitely wouldn't have flirted with Fenris no matter how green his eyes were—in short, Hawke wouldn't have made and handed over, without thinking, without even realizing, a place at his right hand and in his heart that now simply belonged to an annoying wretch who couldn't make up his mind to be happy.
Hawke scowled at the water, and then he wiped his face with an angry swipe of the linen and went down to suffer through the dinner party. He wasn't in the least surprised to be offered ham that tasted of despair: it was shaping up to be that kind of expedition, overall.
"You know, we're supposed to be talking to people, not glaring until they edge away," Tallis said, offering him a platter of ridiculous-looking bonbons, shaped like tiny boxes wrapped up with string. "Cheer up! Maybe someone will try and kill us soon."
"I couldn't be that lucky," Hawke said, taking five at once. "What do these taste of—despondence, oppression, and ennui?"
"Just raspberry and chocolate, I'm pretty sure," Tallis said.
"Don't let anyone take the plate away," he said. "Do you have any leads on that key, yet?"
"I'm waiting for the guard to come back out of—oh, there he is," Tallis said, and flitted off. Hawke had eaten the rest of the bonbons by the time she came back. Also, he'd been pigeonholed by some lunatic comtesse who had a son in the Kirkwall Circle and was demanding to know what he'd heard of the place from Bethany, in between tearful sighs.
"Look, all I know is Bethany hasn't written me to come kill all the templars and get her out yet," Hawke said finally, in desperation, "so it can't be too bad."
The comtesse sniffled. "Oh! My poor Emile! If it should ever come to such a thing!"
"Yes, well, let's hope not," Hawke said. "Oh, look, Tallis; we have to go over there and talk to—that person now, goodbye."
"Having fun?" Tallis said, as he dragged her away around the other side of the fountain.
"No," Hawke said. "And if you're about to tell me you haven't got the key yet—"
"Well," Tallis said, "almost?"
"Is almost enough to get us inside the keep?" Hawke said, glaring at her.
"It is if you can talk the Duke's son into giving it to you?" she said brightly.
Hawke stared at her, and wondered if she had eaten something unfortunate. It didn't seem very unlikely, seeing the spread all around. "What, with a sword? I left mine in my bedroom, but if you want I can go get it—"
"Well," she amended, "where by talk I mean—" She waggled a hand and her eyebrows suggestively.
"Please tell me you've only lost your mind," Hawke said. "We can call this whole thing off, have some more cake, and be back in Kirkwall in—" Another week-long carriage ride, he realized grimly, squashed up against Fenris the entire way.
"Look, I did my best!" Tallis said. "I'm just—not Lord Cyril's type. But he was very interested in knowing all sorts of things about my handsome Fereldan warrior friend—"
Hawke sighed. "You know, not even my rotten uncle ever tried to literally pimp me out." He caught another glass of vino from a passing tray and downed it, and went to go pick the duke's son's pocket.
Which wasn't very hard, since Lord Cyril was more than ready to encourage Hawke to put hands all over his person after only the very briefest of chats, mostly a bunch of leering gabble about Fereldan virility and barbarian muscle. Hawke didn't bother enlightening him about the Amell bloodline; it seemed a pity to spoil his pleasure.
On the very slightly brighter side, though, while Hawke was busy sliding the key into his own pocket and calculating how much longer the kiss needed to last, Cyril groaned into his mouth, and slid his leg directly between Hawke's thighs.
"Oh," Hawke said, waking up to the fact that Cyril might be an insufferable stuffed shirt, but his person was actually quite a nice person—respectable muscle, and his ass was splendid—"Right."
They were in the gateroom of one of the keep's towers, nothing around but stone stairs leading up and a weapons rack, but Hawke wasn't in a mood to let that stand in the way. Cyril made a small rather undignified squeak as Hawke dragged off his belt, and said. "Wait—what are you—?"
Hawke paused and glared at him: not again. He said, dangerously, "I'm taking off your pants, and then I'm going to fuck you, and if you have any objections to that plan, now would be the time."
Cyril didn't object, just stared at him. "But there is no—what are you going to do, just hold me up while you—oh," he said, clutching at Hawke's shoulders.
"Yes, oh," Hawke said, freed his aching cock from the damned trousers with one hand, and hefted Cyril up a bit more.
"Oh!" Cyril said. He swallowed hard, gratifyingly. "Oh. Oh."
He was wonderfully tight. Also, he stared at Hawke with wide, stunned eyes most of the time, mouth a gasp while Hawke fucked him. "You don't do this very often, do you," Hawke said, conversationally, pausing for a little while just to stretch it out.
"N-no," Cyril said, his voice rather faint. "No, I—I prefer—" He choked off as Hawke began to thrust again.
"Really?" Hawke said, doubtfully, after the next pass.
Cyril was clinging on hard enough to make Hawke feel it. He was panting, and his eyes were glazed. "—harder?" he said.
"I suppose it wouldn't do to thank his father for the hospitality," Hawke said, dropping the key in Tallis's hand as he came out of the gate tower. He felt much better. Cyril also had no complaints: at least, he hadn't made any before coming all over himself, and he'd been smiling in his sleep on the rug where Hawke had left him.
Tallis was staring at him in a fascinated sort of way. "What?" Hawke demanded.
"I don't think you need to," she said. "You were a little noisy. A few people might have noticed." There were quite a few sidelong glances being thrown his way, and whispers being concealed behind hands. The Duke, standing over by his pet wyvern, was scowling narrow-eyed in his direction.
"Not my fault," Hawke said: Cyril had started moaning about halfway through. "Anyway, this was your idea!"
"Hm, I could argue that—but I won't!" Tallis amended hastily. "But we do have to adjust the plan a bit. Everyone's going to be watching us the rest of the evening: we have to wait for tomorrow."
"Oh, Andraste's arse," Hawke said in dismay. "Why did I let you talk me into any of this, again?"
"I told you, you're too much a soft touch," Anders said, with a sigh, throwing in his hand. "So, not until tomorrow?"
"Tomorrow," Hawke confirmed. He flung himself into a chair and put his legs up on the table and let his head fall back, grateful to have escaped the aristo sharks at last. As per usual, Fenris was taking the honors of the game; it wasn't one of the random nights where Merrill got distracted, stopped thinking about how to play, and then beat everyone. "Please tell me they've given you some real food and there's some left."
"There behind you," Varric said, without looking away from his own cards, and Hawke spotted the tray—good ordinary stewed beef over grain, nothing fanciful; he poured all of the leftovers gratefully onto a plate and dived in.
"I wouldn't have expected mingling with the flower of Orlesian society to be all that taxing," Anders said. "What have you been doing to work up an appetite?"
"The duke's son, wasn't it?" Merrill said absently, while putting down the absolute worst card she possibly could have. She glanced up at the silence. "Wait. I shouldn't have said that, should I? That was quite rude, Hawke, I'm very sorry."
"How do you even know?" Hawke said, baffled.
"Oh, the girl who brought up the food: her father was Dalish but her mother wouldn't go with him, so—we got to talking a bit, and—" Merrill trailed off.
"The power of gossip outstrips all magery," Anders said, starting to laugh, and abruptly Fenris flung his cards into the middle of the table, shoved his chair back hard enough it fell over with a clatter, and snapped, "I'm finished, do what you like with the winnings," and stalked out of the room.
Anders stopped, mouth open, and then spluttered, "Of all the—what, now we can't say the word in front of him or—"
"No," Hawke said calmly, or at least, as calmly as one could when ready to commit murder. "No, it's not that."
He found Fenris on a balcony off one of the stairwells, leaning on the railing and staring across at the keep, where armed guards patrolled along the routine Tallis had outlined.
"I don't suppose you have some acceptable excuse for that scene, just now?" Hawke said, because wonders might not cease.
"What do you want of me, Hawke?" Fenris spat, over his shoulder, without turning around. "Shall I congratulate you on another conquest? Should I be gratified it took you so long to replace me?"
"Replace—" Hawke forced himself to stop, to close his hands into fists, because the only other choice was to try his best to strangle Fenris and beat his skull in against the floor. He didn't speak until he thought he'd mastered his voice again, and even then it sounded odd in his own ears, echoed. "If you dare—if you dare—" He had to stop again.
Fenris flinched, and his shoulders bowed in a little. "No," he said, low. "You are right, of course. I have no right to object—"
Hawke couldn't bear it. He seized Fenris by the collar and shoved him against the wall, hard: why did they always seem to end up arguing? "Shut up," he said savagely. "It was fifteen minutes with a useless toff with a tight arse, and it was even odds whether I'd fuck him or slap him. Don't you dare compare that to what you threw back in my face."
He stopped, breathed in deep and pushed away from Fenris, feeling suddenly every last hour of the wretched day as though they'd all landed on his shoulders at once. What was the damned point, anyway? If Fenris wanted any of the same things he did, they wouldn't be here tearing at each other in the first place.
"It is all the same to you, I suppose," Hawke said. "In which case, you're damned right. You haven't any right to object. So don't."
He stalked inside and went back to his cavernous suite. There was a note slipped under the door on thick vellum, anonymous: any of the guards can show you to my chamber. Hawke crushed it in his fist and threw it into the chamberpot. He flung open the windows to the night air and sat down facing them, brooding out on the night until the door opened.
Varric wandered up beside his chair and glanced down at him. "Want to talk about it?" he asked, after a moment.
"Not in the least," Hawke said.
Varric nodded and sat down in another chair. "Want a drink?" He held out a flask.
"Varric, you're a friend beyond price," Hawke said. He swigged. And coughed. "Damn," he managed. "What is that?"
"Eau de feu," Varric said, taking a sip himself. "Orlesian liquer."
"I'll have to revise some of my less charitable thoughts about Orlesians," Hawke said, gulping air.
"You can hang on to a few," Varric said. "They drink it out of thimbles, one an hour."
Hawke snorted. "Give it here again." This time he was ready for it: he shook all over like a dog while the heat seared down his throat, but this time it stayed in his belly where it belonged, a warm fog already spreading. A few more like that, and he'd almost be able to forget he'd laid himself bare for a ice-lord of an elf who'd just been too stiff-necked to buy himself a Blooming Rose whore.
Almost. He took another swallow.
"Did I ever tell you about the time I got arrested in Val Royeaux?" Varric said, laying Bianca across his lap and bringing out one of his soft polishing cloths.
Hawke sank deeper into his chair. "This I have to hear," he said, and drank himself down to the sound of Varric's voice spinning out an increasingly improbable tale.
He woke still half-drunk, somewhere in the dark hours of the morning, hand on the dagger he'd put under his pillow. Fenris stood silent and motionless before the door, his hair silver-shining in the moonlight coming through the windows.
"Wonderful," Hawke said. "What do you want?"
Fenris said nothing for a moment, and then grated out, "The right to object."
Hawke laughed, shortly. "Until morning, you mean? No, thanks. I can get another cheap fuck upstairs in Cyril's room, if I like. Not a bad idea, now that I think of it," he added, and rolled himself out of bed, because he was damned if he were staying here for whatever conversation Fenris had planned.
Fenris caught him, hands against his chest, blue gleam chasing the lyrium scars and firing deep in his eyes. "No," Fenris said, and Hawke was still drunk enough to wobble back, stumbling. Fenris came on after him, thrust him back onto the bed.
Hawke shoved a leg between his and levered them over: they fell off the bed and hit the floor heavily. Fenris stared up at him, wild and furious and somehow lost: his hands were on Hawke's thighs, gripping tight, and he could feel them trembling. The room was dark: only the lyrium glow beneath Fenris’s skin casting him like some arcane statue, all the hard angles and bitterness of his face, his mouth incongruously soft, the unexpected power of his body gathered ready for battle, and Hawke cursed himself all over again: this was the last thing he needed.
He hauled himself to his feet with the bedpost. "I'm drunk," he said, stepping over Fenris's legs, "and you're out of your head. Get out of here and go to bed, and we'll go back to pretending it all never happened."
Fenris came up off the ground lithe and coiled with tension. "I cannot." He laughed, a short, bitter noise. "I have forgotten everything that ever mattered to me, and the taste of your lips haunts me worse than all the emptiness."
"My lips are right here, you idiot," Hawke said, "and you could have had them for the asking any time these last six weeks; and yet somehow my bed's been cold all that time, so—"
"Has it?" Fenris said, voice gone low and soft and greedy, taking a step towards him, as though he were pleased to be turning Hawke around in circles.
Hawke glared at him. "Oh, I'm damned if I'm going to have all the annoyance of a jealous lover without any of the fun. I really am going to go have Cyril again."
"Stop speaking of your Orlesian toy!" Fenris said, flaring. "Hawke, if you desire—"
If Fenris tried to have at him again, he was going to punch him in his smirking mouth. "I'm in love with you, you misbegotten whelp of a hornet," Hawke said, wrathfully: he was just about done with this. "Maker only knows why, but I am. I don't want a night's fuck from you and goodbye in the morning."
So then, of course, Fenris flinched as though Hawke had struck him, his mouth downturned. He said, low, "I don't—" He stopped. "Hawke, I am—I am not—I would—"
He stopped again, looking so wretched Hawke sighed and felt his hands unclench, anger sliding out of him half unwilling. "Yes, so I gather." Fenris looked away. "Fenris, you're my shieldbrother, and I love you whether or not you want to share my bed, but I don't intend to dance on a string while you work out whatever's upside down and backwards in your head."
Fenris's head came up and stared at him, eyes liquid in the dark. "Shieldbrother."
He said it like a question. "What?" Hawke said.
"You would name me so," Fenris said.
"I've marched into slaver's halls and blood mage lairs and the blackest pits of the deep roads beside you," Hawke said. "Why would you be surprised? What would you call me?"
"I—" Fenris shook his head, looking away again, the curve of his bowed neck speaking of confusion. "I would call you the sun at the heart of my orbit," he said, low. "I would call you the lodestar of my compass. Hawke, you are—you have given me my life and my freedom, over and over—"
"And you've given me mine," Hawke said, glad the damned room was dark enough to hide his flush; he didn't understand how Fenris could just say things like that. And then run away from them, he reminded himself sternly, because he could feel his resolve crumbling to bits even as they spoke, and that way lay another truly unbearable morning-after conversation and wanting to tear Fenris's head off his neck all over again. "There's no debts between us, Fenris. If there ever were, they've long since been paid."
"You have always been generous beyond my understanding," Fenris said. He barked a harsh laugh. "I ought not complain of your tolerance for the abomination, when I see I have benefitted beyond my own deserts by that same kindness."
"Well, it wouldn't hurt any if you would stop picking fights with Anders at every turn," Hawke said. "Fenris—"
And abruptly Fenris had turned back and crossed the space behind them: he was in Hawke's arms, hands reaching up to cup his face, kissing him urgently. Hawke groaned into his mouth, trying to convince himself to push Fenris away, and then Fenris was tumbling him to the bed.
"If you don't mean this," Hawke said, breaking off, "Fenris, if you don't mean this—" But Fenris was swinging a leg over to sit astride Hawke's hips and stripping away his own armor, gauntlets and bracers a clatter on the floor, reaching to draw his breastplate off, his smooth chest gleaming with the silver tracery of his tattoos, and Hawke clenched his teeth, helpless before him. "Just so we're clear,” he grated out, “I swear to Andraste I'll disembowel you with a rusty knife if you run away in the morning again."
"You are a fool, Hawke," Fenris said, tearing at his shift, "—a fool, to love me so, but I am too selfish to argue with your folly. I am yours, if you want me." He laughed, shortly. "I have been yours a long time already."
And Fenris was kissing him again, hard and savagely, and wrenching the shift up and over Hawke's head, tangling it around his wrists, and it was unbearably good all over again, everything Hawke had given up hoping to get: a lover who could keep up with him in the daylight and hold him down at night; someone careless of his own strength and of Hawke's, too.
"Swear that you are mine," Fenris said above him, eyes gleaming in the dark and devouring: he'd got hold of the dagger and was cutting free Hawke's smallclothes.
Hawke snorted. "Ask me again in the morning," he said, and wrapped his legs around Fenris's waist.