There was a long and venerable tradition of pairing detectives and writers in the pursuit of solving crimes. The way Varric saw it was this: detectives understood the grit, sure — the how of it, so to speak — and possessed the authority to get what they wanted, but crime novelists, well, they knew the why, the motivation and the texture of the thing. That this venerable partnership was a tradition in purely fictional sources had only been a barrier for as long as it took Varric to convince Aveline that he desperately needed to ride along with Hawke.
"No, Varric," Aveline had said approximately four hundred times, not that Varric was counting. "I'm not letting a writer pretend they're a detective. Go to the academy or leave me alone."
"You'll change your mind soon," he usually responded. "Oh, sure, I can see how it sounds like a bad idea, but listen: I'm twice as smart as half of your force, and the attention you'll get from associating with a best-selling author like me… shit, they'll probably double your budget."
"And what will you get out of this arrangement?" Aveline always wanted to know.
"Authenticity," Varric always answered.
They'd done that little song-and-dance for maybe six months before Chief Vallen broke. Hawke had been the one to do the trick, of course; nobody ever saw Hawke coming, not even Aveline, who'd known Hawke since they'd both washed up homeless on the city's shores nearly a decade ago. In a fit of creative desperation, Hawke had closed the books on a serial killer the feds had been pursuing for years and then — this was the crenellation on the castle — she'd convinced Aveline that she absolutely in no way would have ever on threat of death been able to catch the killer without following the procedures outlined in Varric's best known work, Hard in Hightown.
"Listen, Aveline," Hawke had said. "I'm a competent — nay, a decorated — officer. I thought myself experienced, even an expert. But then I read Varric's book, and my eyes were opened. It's really the foundation of an entire new school of criminology, when you think about it. Brilliant stuff. Genius, you might say, and I do." Personally, Varric thought she'd laid it on a little thick, but he appreciated the sentiment all the same.
And Aveline, who was known colloquially as the 'Red Iron' for the gingerness of her hair, stoniness of her face, and reliableness of her propensity to burn holes in her uniform when she tried to press her clothes instead of letting her husband handle the laundry, cracked. "Fine," she'd said. "I can see there's no use separating you two. But if he interferes with a case — "
"Varric?" Hawke had said. "Interfere? Never."
That was how Varric had won his position as official precinct chronicler, although it in no way prepared him for what it was actually like to trail Hawke as she solved cases. Hawke worked on the right side of the law largely as the result of whim — her own, to clarify. She had dabbled in illegal activities herself in her youth, and while she'd never been charged, that was more the result of talent than because she'd abandoned the life. Varric had trouble explaining her to people, but Hawke was good without being particularly ethical.
Her vices comprised a litany. She drank, gambled, swore, loitered, professed dangerously seditious political ideals, indulged in the light barter of black-market goods, turned a blind eye to whichever petty crimes she approved of, and encouraged others to do the same. She was also friends with a number of felons, many of whom she had arrested herself, and moved freely through elements that would have closed like a clam at the advent of other cops. Her position on the force was secured only by her fantastic success rate and, possibly, because Aveline was one of the few people who realized that Hawke hid a heart of gold under an entire armory of barbs and wisecracks.
Varric was also in love with her, of course, but that was hardly worth mentioning.
"So, Detective," he liked to say. "What wrongs are we righting today?"
"Perhaps," Hawke said, "maybe, we could skive off and go to the tavern instead."
"Somehow I don't think that would fly with your chief," Varric pointed out, although they both knew by the end of the day that they'd be deep in their cups at their favorite local bar. "Also, I need a good motivation for a murder. Something really original. That one critic I hate — "
"Pentaghast?" said Hawke.
"That's the one. She called me a 'no-talent hack' in her last review. If she hates me so much, why does she keep buying every book I put out?"
"Maybe she likes no-talent hacks," Hawke suggested. "Or she just wants your attention."
Varric snorted. "Yeah, that's a likely story. Come on, Hawke, give me something really gruesome."
"Well, if you're going to insist, I did hear that Fenris and Isabela came across an interesting cold case the other day — " Hawke would say, and then they'd be off, chasing down leads and subsisting largely on black coffee. It was unexpectedly engaging work, no matter how much Varric liked to groan about the late nights and early mornings, and the sheer creative dash Hawke brought to the job was a wonder to watch. Of course, as an audience Varric was intrinsically biased; he was, after all, in love with the protagonist.
He even liked the stakeouts. Detective work ended up involving a lot of sitting around and waiting; none of that ever made it into his books, since reading about the leads shooting the shit as they sat in a surveillance van for an eight-hour shift didn't exactly lead to dramatic tension, but in practice it did lead to a lot of sexual tension, even if Varric was mostly confident it was imagined and one-sided. On the other hand, even he sometimes had a hard time telling what Hawke was thinking, and they were so thoroughly cut from the same roguish cloth that they might have been one whole piece.
The parts he didn't like were watching Hawke internalize every failure and watching Hawke throw herself into danger like it was the only way she could atone. Hawke was capable in a fight and had more than a few tricks up her sleeve, but he was getting sick of patching her up after the really bad cases. She'd bled on almost every shirt in his wardrobe.
On the worst cases of all, he gave up the pretense of spectating entirely. Not many people knew that Varric was a good shot himself, but he'd kept crooks off Hawke's back more than once; and if on one of those occasions, he'd been moved to reveal himself —
"Varric, you colossal idiot, what were you thinking? You could be killed!"
"What was I thinking? Here's what I was thinking, Detective — that I'm in love with you. How's that for a plot twist?"
"You picked a fine time to tell me!" Hawke snapped, and then she rolled out of cover to return fire.
Well, if he had been moved to reveal himself, that was a story for another day.