Hawkquisition Part 4: Warriors Such As
Wherein parenthood is hard
Dust flew, as feet bare and booted pounded across Skyhold’s training circle. Fenris’ onslaught was relentless, but the look on Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast’s face, as well as her stance, said she would not be moved. Fenris had seen Aveline look like that often enough. Nevertheless, Cassandra was a wondrously focused partner to spar with, efficient in her movements as in her words. He was in no mood today to train with the Iron Bull, or another of the Inquisition’s warriors, who would think it necessary to pepper the bout with their taunts and wit. Fenris wanted only the quiet and calm that came with a sword-dance trained to the point of instinct. Cassandra, like-minded, happily obliged.
He feinted left, then swept his greatsword around to bring it up on the right, but the Seeker’s shield was already there and she twisted fluidly out of the way. Though his intent was to spin back around to face her with an overhand swing, Fenris stumbled suddenly when the quiet of the bout was shattered by a panicked cry of “Malcolm!”
He righted himself and turned toward the voice, just in time to nearly trip over his infant son, crawling out into the ring (much faster, Fenris thought, than any child that small ought to be able), eyes alight as he scurried over to his father. Fenris barely had the presence of mind to sheathe his sword before Malcolm reached him, reaching up to cling to the elf’s ankles. Scowling, Fenris detached the child from his leg and hefted him up in his arms, where Malcolm cooed and made a grab for his tantalizingly pointy ear.
Lisbet Hawke was only steps behind their son, fear and fury struggling for control of her face. She was never one to yield to fear: fury won out. “Fenris!” she shouted, loud enough for the whole courtyard to hear, though they were near enough even for whispers now. “Have a care! You could’ve stepped on him!”
The mood that had been growing on him in recent days flared between them like the Seeker’s shield. “Yes, and what was he doing out here in the first place?” Fenris snarled in return. Hawke reached for the child; without thinking, Fenris pulled back, shifting the boy to his hip. “I thought you were watching him in the keep.”
“I was!” Hawke protested, crossing her arms since Malcolm was withheld from them.
“Then how did he --”
“We went to the tavern,” Hawke frowned, “looking for Varric. Something about a children’s book he wants to publish, if the draft goes over well with our convenient little test audience here.” Absently she flicked a stray leaf from Malcolm’s curly hair. “It was quite a sight, actually, Uncle Varric sitting cross-legged on the floor so Mal could climb up in his lap. So then he was reading this book to him and Malcolm was babbling at the pictures. Then Varric turned to ask me something and when we look back, the little scamp’s booking it out the tavern door and across the yard.”
“And you tell me I should be more careful?” Fenris frowned.
Hawke winced. “One second, Fenris! I look away for a second and he’s off to explore Skyhold! What do you want me to do, put up fences everywhere?”
“I…” Fenris glanced down, letting his forehead brush the child’s hair, prompting a chortle from the boy. “No. I just…”
A polite cough interrupted them and both looked up to see Seeker Cassandra Pentaghast, quite possibly wringing her hands as she glanced between them in evident distress at being caught in the middle of such a quarrel. Fenris blinked. “I...apologize, Seeker. We shall have to continue our bout another day.”
She cast anxious glances at them both again before answering, “Of course. I would not...That is, if you and the Champion…” Cassandra backed away. “I should go. This is a private discussion.”
It would be, Fenris thought, were Hawke not so quick to shout and make a scene of it. But immediately he regretted the thought and turned to step out of the sparring ring, shifting Malcolm to his other side.
Hawke looked after him for a moment before following. She fell into step beside him as they walked up the stairs into the keep. Finally she dared to rest a hand lightly on his elbow, glancing at him with brows furrowed. ”What’s wrong, Fenris?”
“It is nothing, Hawke.”
“Of course it is. I know brooding when I see it, dear heart.”
“I do not --”
“Pretend that you do, then. If you were , hypothetically, brooding today, and come to think of it, perhaps not just today but for the past several weeks, just what might be the cause of this ill temper?”
He flashed her a quelling look as they passed through a door and into Skyhold’s little garden. Safe, Fenris thought, here is one place in Skyhold where this child might crawl a bit without falling down stairs or throwing himself into battle on his hands and knees. Even the well is safely covered. So long as he stays away from the plants with thorns.
Hawke, once again her usual patient self now that Malcolm’s immediate danger had passed, reflected Fenris’ silence, staying close to his side till they reached the gazebo. They arranged themselves there face to face, seated on the floor with Malcolm crawling between them, their arms and legs enough of a fence to hold him in for now.
Fenris was avoiding her eyes (but she was content to let that pass as it meant he was keeping his on the busy child). Finally the weight of her patient silence drew out his answer. “I do not know what to do, Hawke.”
She raised an eyebrow. “About…?”
The other eyebrow joined the first as her eyes widened. “Is there a decision concerning him I’m unaware of?”
“No, it’s nothing of that sort. I just...It was not so difficult when he was smaller. Protecting him; seeing to his basic needs -- keeping him warm, fed, safe and clean -- it was clear what to do. Now, everyday he grows bigger, faster, finds a dozen new ways to get himself killed , and I...I do not know how to keep up with this.”
Her lips thinned in the effort to hold back a smile even as she reached to hold their son back from crawling out under her bent knee. “He does seem well on his way to being the death of us both, I’ll grant you that.”
“If something should happen to him…” Fenris shook his head. “It is not just that, Hawke. I can keep him safe no matter how much of a challenge he makes it. But that is the work of a...a bodyguard.” He looked away. “I have been a bodyguard. But I have never been a father.”
“First time for everything?” she leaned forward to take his hand. Malcolm crawled over and reached up to pound on their joined hands with his tiny fist. Fenris smiled at that.
“I know there is more to this than protecting him,” Fenris went on. “But what do I know of...family? You can remember your mother, how she raised you, what she would have done when things go wrong.”
“As they inevitably do.”
He nodded. “But I have no memory of my father.”
“Even now?” she frowned. “I thought your memories...there were some things that have come back to you?”
“In flashes,” he said. “I remember my mother, a little. Varania -- I can recall her more clearly, now, the girl I once knew, ever since I saw her again.” He turns away. “But nothing of a father. I begin to think I never knew him, not even before.”
“And so you have no one to model your own parenting after,” Hawke nodded. “Look, Fenris,” she drew his attention to the child now attempting to somersault over the elf’s thigh and make his escape into the wilds of the garden. Fenris pulled him upright and set him on his lap. Hawke continued, “Does that look like a child who disapproves of your fathering?” Malcolm reached up, eyes drawn as ever to his father’s ears. “He adores you,” Hawke went on. “I mean, he clearly prefers you to Varric, at the least, taking off like that the second our eyes were off him, just to go see you .”
A smile tugged at the corners of Fenris’ mouth now as Malcolm, cooing, leaned in to his side. “I am not sure,” he murmured, “that I can be worthy of such attentions. For now, perhaps, but surely in time --”
“Serah Fenris?” a voice interrupted. They looked up to see a dwarf approaching the gazebo, dressed in the Inquisition uniform with her hair braided up around her head.
“Yes?” Fenris answered, appraising her as his arm around Malcolm tightened.
“Glad I found you, ser. Scout Harding,” the dwarf introduced herself. “His lordship wants to see you in the War Room.”
“Me?” Fenris exchanged a glance with Hawke.
“And the Champion’s welcome too, of course, but the Inquisitor did say to fetch you specifically, ser,” the dwarf nodded.
“Well, this should be interesting,” Hawke grinned.