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Always in the Thick of Things

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Prior to Marian Hawke stumbling into his life, it took quite a lot to surprise Varric Tethras. And yet there he stood, once again, watching in astonished horror as the sickly green of the fade ripped open the sky. He counted himself lucky that he hadn’t been inside the temple when it exploded and pitied the poor bastard that had apparently fallen out of a rift into the waiting arms of the chantry.

It was on the account of said poor bastard that Varric was out in the demon-riddled valley, headed for the one place he didn’t want to be alongside the snootiest elf he’d ever met.

“C’mon, Chuckles, you’re the one that volunteered our services at the breach,” Varric said over his shoulder, not bothering to turn around. “There’s too many demons to stop every time we kill one.”

Solas merely grunted, and his robes rustled as he stood. “I wouldn’t expect a child of the stone to understand.”

“I understand plenty, but we need to get to the rift before Cassandra does or she’ll skin us both alive. Then where will your pet project be?”

Sighing, Solas pushed past Varric. “Dead, most likely. The rift is just over this rise.”

Finally, thought Varric, then stopped short as the green fade glow came into view. “Shit, that’s a lot of demons.” He chuckled as Solas side-eyed him. “Not to worry, Bianca’s got this.”

Swinging his crossbow off his shoulder, Varric slid down the gravelly slope, already methodically firing bolts at the swarming horde. As he often did he lost himself to the rhythm of battle, world narrowing to Bianca and any figures deemed a threat. He barely noticed when two figures jumped down into the fray, sword and staff twirling against the demon forces.

Firing one last bolt into the disintegrating corpse of a demon, Varric looked towards the rift where Solas and Cassandra stood with another far more familiar figure. He shook his head to clear his sight, surely he was imagining things. Hawke was safely away, hiding out in Kirkwall or tramping across the blight wastes of Ferelden…

Solas yanked the figure’s hand towards the rift and it snapped shut, leaving behind a deafening silence. She let out a grunt of pain and then the unmistakable voice of Marian Hawke crossed the still courtyard.

“What did you do?”

Later, for all his formidable storyteller memory, Varric couldn’t remember any of that hurried conversation. It was like he was in battle once again, all that existed was Hawke and her deceptively calm smile.

Finally, Solas’s voice broke through Varric’s thoughts. “It seems you hold the key to our salvation.”

“Good to know!” Varric let his mouth say whatever came to mind, think about it too hard and he might start panicking. “Here I thought we’d be ass-deep in demons forever.”

At his voice, Hawke spun around, eyes wide. “Varric?” Her voice wavered as she took in the sight of him. “I thought you were in the temple.”

“I wasn’t… but apparently you were, look at the pair we make.” Varric grinned at her and she stumbled forward to wrap him in a hug. He hugged her back with his free arm, turning to whisper in her ear. “I haven’t said anything to Cassandra and you shouldn’t either. We can talk when we get back from the breach.”

Hawke drew back with a sharp nod and a shuddering breath. “Trouble follows us wherever we go it seems.” She stood up, brushing dust off her knees as she stared up at the mountain.

“Follows you, Hawke. I’m just along for the ride.”

Cassandra was staring at them with a suspicious gleam in her eyes. “Now that this lovely reunion is over, we still have a breach to close.” She turned on her heel and started for the mountain path. “We cannot do it without you, champion, please hurry.”

Varric’s eyes narrowed. “She knew you were the one who fell out of the fade and she didn’t tell me?”

“She didn’t tell me she still had you in her clutches either.” Hawke shrugged. “Can’t do anything about it now. But… she seemed amused that it was me. What have you been telling the woman, Varric?”

“The truth.” When Hawke snorted in disbelief, rolling her eyes at Varric over her shoulder, he laughed. “Everything is true, from a certain point of view.”

“Keep telling yourself that. I’ve got a feeling we’re about to march right into a whole lot of impossible.”

——

Hawke, as usual, was right. Maker, what a nightmare this was turning out to be. Between building the might of the Inquisition and being hailed as the “Herald of Andraste”, Hawke had barely exchanged two words with Varric since that first awful day.

“I’m going to have to tie that woman down to get her to rest,” Varric grumbled into his ale. Across the table The Iron Bull snorted with laughter, coughing when the ale he was drinking went up his nose.

“Careful, she might actually like that.” The qunari scrubbed at his nose with the back of his hand as Varric shot him a glare.

“We aren’t…” Varric started to protest but Bull shook his head.

After a quick look around the room he leaned down closer to Varric. “I’m not Ben-Hassrath for nothing, Ser Tethras-Hawke. The Champion of Kirkwall has been of interest to to us for a long time, so did you really think a something like a wedding would escape us?” He took in the suddenly wary look in Varric’s eyes and sighed, leaning back but keeping his voice low. “I’m not telling you this to threaten you, so you can keep Bianca away from my balls. Quite frankly Hawke did us all a favor, but you didn’t hear that from me. I figured you could use an ally who knows what’s really going on so you and your lady wife can have some time to yourselves.”

With a grunt Varric lowered the crossbow he held under the table, “Just as long as no one else finds out...”

Bull shrugged, “I’m not sure why you’re keeping it such a secret, but it’s safe with me.”

“Thanks, Tiny,” said Varric, draining the last of his ale and pushing away from the table. “I’m gonna go see if I can catch Hawke before she gets waylaid by Ruffles and a stack of paperwork.”

The Iron Bull’s laughter followed him out of the inn.

——

True to his word, Iron Bull started running interference. Varric still lived in a Maker-damned tent in the ball-freezing cold of Haven, but at least he could rest easy that he wouldn’t get caught sneaking back from Hawke’s chambers in the wee hours of the morning. Bless her insistence that the Herald of Andraste deserved a room to herself.

Speaking of… Varric knocked on the heavy wooden door before letting himself into the warm room beyond. “Hawke, you in here?”

Utter silence greeted him and he pushed farther into the room with a frown. “Marian?”

There was a rustling sound and then Hawke literally dropped from the ceiling right in front of Varric, who barely managed to stifle a terrified scream. “Andraste’s tits, woman! What were you doing up there?”

Hawke scowled, “Hiding from my advisers. I swear Josie can smell idle hands from a hundred paces.”

Chuckling, Varric pulled Hawke across the room to the bed, pulling her down next to him. She curled up against his side, resting her head on his chest. They lay quietly for a few minutes, the only sound in the room the crackling of the fire and the distant sound of the Inquisition at night.

“Do you think I’m doing the right thing?” Hawke eventually mumbled into his chest hair. “Raising an army, marching on the breach, hiding our marriage… I feel like any of the choices I’ve made lately are going to come crashing down on our heads.”

“You didn’t make any of those choices alone,” said Varric, curling an arm around her shoulders and threading his fingers through her hair. “You’ve got good people beside you every step of the way. We’ll have your back tomorrow at the breach.” He thought for a moment. “Plus, I’m pretty sure I’m the one that said we should hide our marriage. Easier for you to escape since I thought the Seeker was gonna make you tranquil after that stunt Blondie pulled.”

Hawke lifted her head a fraction, “That was your idea. I’d forgotten in all this chaos.” She grinned, and it was the terrifying, slightly feral grin that spelled fun for Varric and trouble for everyone else. “What do you say we keep pretending and see how long it takes everyone to find out?”

Varric burst out laughing, pulling Hawke over so she lay splayed out across his chest. “Serves them right for sticking their noses in our business, love. Though I should tell you, The Iron Bull already knows, which is why we’ve had such peaceful nights these past few weeks.”

“I was wondering about that… how did he…” Hawke started.

“Ben-Hassrath” said Varric with a shrug. “I’d be worried that the Qunari are keeping an eye on you but Bull assured me that there are no hard feelings.”

Hawke snorted, “I could have told you that. Leliana and I sat down with Bull right after he got here and made sure he wouldn’t be a threat… given my history with his people.” She wiggled a bit until she was sitting upright, straddling her husband’s hips. “We should let him in on our fiendish plans, he’d probably gladly help out. Bull seems the type to love a good prank.”

“He does,” said Varric, sliding his hands up from Hawke’s knees to curl around her hips. “But I’d rather not talk about him with you sitting in my lap.”

Hawke’s answering grin was wicked. “I do suppose we should enjoy this peace while it lasts.” She leaned down and pressed a hungry kiss to Varric’s lips. “After all, I’d rather face certain death well-fucked.”

“Damnit, Hawke. If you die we can’t prank anyone.” Varric whispered fiercely in his wife’s ear. “I refuse to be a widower without announcing our marriage.”

Hawke didn’t respond, just hummed and leaned in for another kiss.

——

Certain death didn’t even begin to cover the nightmarish reality of their next several days.

By the time they reached Skyhold, it was evident that their plan to hide their marriage wouldn’t last. Panicked and shell-shocked, they sought each other out as soon as the army tumbled through the gates of the fortress. Between Hawke’s position in the army and Varric’s bright red shirt, it wasn’t difficult.

Hawke, never one for noble decorum, fell to her knees in front of Varric, pulling him into a tight hug. He returned the hug, not caring who saw the tears streaking his face.

“I’m going to find that bastard and shove him so far down the hole he crawled from that even the deepest dwelling darkspawn will never dig him up,” growled Hawke as she leaned back and stared into Varric’s face. Her hands tightened on his shoulders and he swore he saw literal fire flick across her eyes.

Varric had a million quips ready on the tip of his tongue, but he swallowed them and reached up to grasp Hawke’s hand in his own. “Me too, Marian. Maker… I thought I’d lost you. And then in camp we were separated and I didn’t know if you were hurt or running or…”

“This is a terrible idea,” interrupted Hawke. “We’re both miserable.” Varric blinked in confusion and Hawke sighed, a fond smile crossing her tired face. “Fuck our prank, Varric. I’m just glad we’re alive.”

She gently slid her fingers up to cup his face, leaning in to kiss him in a slow, lingering, almost possessive way that left him feeling slightly dizzy from both the kiss and lack of oxygen. Varric chuckled, low in his chest and leaned his forehead against Hawke’s.

“Yeah, that prank had crap timing. Next time we decide to pretend we aren’t married, let’s pick a week without rotting assholes rising from their graves.”

At that moment a disgusted noise reached their ears and they looked up to see Cassandra and Leliana standing on the stairs above them. Cassandra had a scowl plastered across her face, but her ginger companion had an uncharacteristic grin as she turned to her friend. “I called it, cough it up.”

With another disgusted noise Cassandra slapped a small pouch into Leliana’s waiting hand and stormed off up the steps.

“What?” she said when Varric and Hawke stared at her. “The Iron Bull isn’t the only spy, you know.”

The pair couldn’t help but break into helpless laughter, the sound carrying out into the courtyard and beyond, a sound of welcome relief in the long-empty fortress. Leliana smiled and headed towards the barracks to collect the rest of her winnings.

Sometimes reading Iron Bull’s mail paid off.