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So this was Kirkwall. It wasn’t a bad place, really. Sure, the templars were looking at him funny, but that wasn’t really abnormal. He had been deemed a fugitive for the longest time, and only had heard rumors of a fellow warden in the vicinity.

“Oh come on Hawke, surely we could spend a few sovereigns to celebrate!” A familiar voice caught his ear , and the archer turned his head to scan the market of Lowtown.

“I’m sure a few sovereigns would turn into ten,” came the gruff reply.

“Well I don’t recall asking you. What was it that Varric called you? Broody?”

“I do not brood.” He could almost see the glare behind those words, and he stifled a chuckle.

“Keep telling yourself that! Maybe you’ll believe it someday!”

“Alright, enough you two. Let’s just find a place to give him a bath.” Ah, the voice of reason. He didn’t have to see who the ‘him’ of the statement was as he heard bark that sounded of a protest. His time with the Warden commander had let him to eventually meet a mabari, and he knew, better than anyone, how much the dogs hated baths.

Making his way over toward the voices, he had to chuckle at the muddy, blood-spattered animal that was bouncing around the three companions. They were an odd group, that was sure. An elf with a sword almost as large as he was tall, a rogue with two wicked looking blades spattered on his back, and a mage. The very mage he had been looking for. An amused smile quirked his lips and he moved toward them.

“Anders!” Whatever the man had been saying died mid-sentence as he looked for the person that had called for him.

“By the Maker…I thought you’d never leave Ferelden!” He was enveloped in a warm hug, and his own smile faded a little. He felt thinner than he remembered, and even all the padding couldn’t hide it.

“And you obviously developed a hatred of food. Or am I wrong?”

“Anders?” The one that had been called Hawke, the human, questioned him curiously. “Do we get an introduction, or do we get to play guessing games?”

“Games.. Oh! No, of course not! This is Nathaniel Howe.” He grinned a little and then gestured to the two men he had been with. “This is Fenris and Eorwyn Hawke…and that’s Aether.”

His disgust for dogs still came through. “It is my pleasure, I assure you.”

“Likewise,” the one called Hawke returned, then he made an irritated sound as the dog jumped up on him and knocked him back a few steps. It was rather obvious what they had been doing, and what they were planning to do.

“I think I saw the public baths just down there,” he offered helpfully, gesturing with a hand. “I’ll even help give him one if you’d like.”

“And just why would you do that?” Oh the broody one. And defensive, apparently. Then again, with those steel feathers, why wouldn’t he be?

“I happen to like mabari, even when they are dirty.” That gained him Aether’s attention as the hound easily bounced around on his hind feet to start giving him slobbery kisses. Rather than shoving him off, he laughed, and missed the shrug the one called Hawke gave to his companions.
“The more hands the better.” With that, he grabbed the braided leather collar and dragged the dog off him, then away toward the baths that Nathaniel had pointed out.

Rubbing a hand over his face, he grinned to Anders. “Ser Pounce is having a grand time in Amaranthine, by the way… last time I saw him, Kauja was carting him around like a king on his back.”

“Oh really? So he tamed a mabari himself?” The delight in Anders’ voice was something else to make him smile, and he nodded.

“It seems so.” Following the other two was natural almost, much like the days later on when Zevran had come back and made the Warden commander happy by giving him back his sword. The teasing that had come from that had been ridiculous, and when the two of them disappeared one night and hadn’t returned, he wasn’t at all surprised. That had been about the time he had left, himself. He’d wandered a bit, then found his way to Kirkwall.

Bringing his mind back to the present, he slipped around Anders and helped give the Mabari a shove to get him into a tub of water. The splash drenched them all, except for Anders, who was standing back, and both of the Fereldans at the tub laughed while the elf just scowled. He mostly helped to hold onto him after that, letting the other two briskly scrub him clean of all of the mess he’d somehow gotten into.

“You could help, Anders,” growled the deep voice to his left, and a glance told him that Anders was staying well and clear of the dirt and grime.

“Now Fenris, you should know that it’s very hard to keep feathers looking neat if they get wet.”

“Then take off the ridiculous jacket!”

“It would get stolen!”

The banter caused him to laugh, reminding him of a time back at Vigil’s keep with the Warden Commander and Velanna. He was sure Anders could see the similarities there as well.

Thankfully, it seemed like this Hawke fellow was used to washing the mabari, and it went quicker than bathing Kauja ever did.

“You know… back when we were traipsing around after the darkspawn--”

“You mean trying to avoid them, don’t you?”

“We didn’t avoid them, Anders.” He shook his head a little. “Anyway, as I was saying, we used to use warpaint on the hounds.”

“Warpaint…come to think of it, I’ve seen that in the market down here…Lirene’s.” The one called Hawke looked as if he was considering it and he smiled faintly. “Maybe I’ll go get some.”

“Yes…let’s make him look a little more fearsome. Why not.” The disgust in Anders voice made the mabari whine and Nathaniel had to chuckle. It seemed that Aether had understood that and hopped out of the tub, dripping wet, to go next to the mage. “Oh no, don’t you da--” And he did. Shook so hard that the water flew from his short fur and all over Anders and his pauldrons.

A snort of laughter came from the other two, and he could see that Hawke was just outright trying to not laugh, while Fenris had his head turned away to hide that he was.

“I. Hate. Your. Dog.”
“Aww, don’t be mean Anders. He loves you! Don’t you Aether??” Just the few words had the other rogue down on the ground and ruffling up the now damp fur and he heard a soft whine as a response. “Come on then.”

The eternal energy of the dual wielder was a little bit unnerving and he shook his head as the man jogged off with both dog and elf keeping up. “Shall we then?”

“Does it have anything to do with me being covered in more dog slobber??”

“Probably not.”

“Fine…” The grudging tone was still amusing, and by the time they had caught up (since Anders was trudging his feet), the two were leaving the shop with a few basic designs on parchment and a foreboding tub of the paint that was needed. They didn’t have to travel down very many stairs before they found an empty space with just a few cargo crates in it.

“Alright, Fenris, you make sure to hold him still. Anders, you’re good with paints, right? You can show me how to do this.” He gave orders like he was born to it, and Nathaniel was amused as he moved to hold onto the Mabari’s collar with Fenris on the other side. It was slightly amusing as the elf raised a brow at him and he shrugged, feeling right at home with the ragtag group.

“I guess…” Anders had muttered in response, grudgingly taking one of the two brushes offered. He shifted a little to the side to let the mage work next to him, somehow understanding without words that he and the elf would get along as he and Velanna once had, which meant not at all. “Just imitate what I do..it should look the same on both sides.”

An eager nod from Hawke signified the start of it. They started at the haunches and worked their way up, and by the time they’d gotten to the hound’s withers, he had started to shift, then shook very hard. Hawke’s hand yanked the brush back in time, but Anders wasn’t quite quick enough, and the black, fast drying paint smeared over an un-gauntleted, white-lined hand. For a moment, everyone froze, then the warrior snatched the brush to return the favor, attempting to smack it over his far cheek.

This time Anders was quick enough and the mage was heard laughing as it caught Nathaniel instead, leaving a large streak over his nose. As he raised his head to look at the elf, whose eyes had gone comically wide. Silently, he removed one hand from the dog’s collar to dip his fingers in the pain, and then white lines were joined by thick black ones across his face in return.

Somehow though, he was still not the target of Fenris’s attack. Rather than using his hand, he used the brush again and raised up so he could drag it from Anders hairline to his chin. The laughter disappeared finally as Anders sputtered.

Then the only sound was Hawke’s laughter and the three of them shared a look, then at once, went for the rogue. The only smart one in all of it was Aether, who moved out of the way before his design could be ruined further. The black ink was soon painted over all of them as they messed around like little children. He’d almost forgotten what it was like to laugh about something so ridiculous and when the paint was gone, he was actually saddened, just a tiny bit.

Looking around at the crew, he had to laugh. Hawke’s entire face was smeared, from forehead to chin, and it looked like someone had grabbed the canister and poured some of it down the neck of his jerkin. Anders’ blond hair was streaked with the paint, and his feathers seemed just a bit darker, no doubt from someone going after them with the brush. Fenris, on the other hand, looked like someone had taken it upon them to ruffle up his hair while their hands were coated with the stuff. Previously white hair was black again, and some of it still dripped down the sides of his face. He was sure his own face was marred by the paint, and wiping the back of his hand across his cheek did nothing but spread more.

In the end, they ended up being more painted than the mabari, who was currently trying to lick the paint out of his coat. But he couldn’t bring himself to care. The day had been enjoyable, even if it meant he needed another very hot bath.