Fenris shivers and runs a hand through his salt-white hair, brushing away the snowflakes caught in the strands. Then he inhales deeply, straightens his shoulders, and knocks on the door.
The door opens, and Sebastian Vael ushers him inside with an enthusiastic smile. “Fenris! It’s so good to see you!” says Sebastian affably as he takes Fenris’s leather jacket.
Fenris smiles in return at his best friend and inclines his head in greeting to both his hosts, Sebastian and his wife Lorena Hawke-Vael. “Thank you for inviting me,” Fenris says and presents them with a bottle of wine.
Sebastian makes an admiring sound at the label. “You have the best taste in wine, my friend, thank you.”
“Ah. Wine. Thanks,” grinds out Lorena through gritted teeth.
Beside each other the two look like night and day. Sebastian is impeccably dressed, as always, in an immaculate white suit with a pewter-colored tie, his brilliant blue eyes and smile both bright, and his demeanor is genial, cordial, and gracious. Hawke, on the other hand, appears stiff and tense in her brown pantsuit, and the smile plastered across her face is strained, matching the weariness in her piercing grey eyes.
Fenris feels as uncomfortable as Lorena in a social gathering such as this, but Sebastian is his dearest friend, and, well, Fenris couldn’t miss this. He just couldn’t.
“Please enjoy our Christmas party,” Sebastian says warmly.
“Holiday party,” Hawke interjects sharply. “It’s more inclusive.”
“Yes, dear. Please enjoy our holiday party, Fenris,” amends Sebastian smoothly, and then he excuses himself to attend to another guest.
Fenris turns to Lorena, who flinches at the sound of loud laughter from a cluster of guests nearby and takes a deep breath to steel herself.
“Hawke, you know he won’t mind if you briefly leave the party to have a little time alone,” Fenris tells her softly.
Lorena scowls. “Of course he won’t mind. He’s always understanding. But this is his party, and he deserves to have a good time, so I should be here for him.” She sighs. “I can just hear my mother scolding me for being a terrible hostess. Nothing at this party would meet her standards, especially not me. But then again, I never did.”
Fenris scans the room, taking in the sparkling lights, the blue and silver decorations, and the array of guests. He sees familiar faces dotted here and there: Hawke’s younger brother Carver, their mutual friend Aveline and her husband Wesley, Hawke’s coworker Varric, and a few others.
“She was always wrong about you, and she’d be quite wrong about this, as well. I happen to think it’s a lovely party,” he says, still casting his green eyes about the room.
“She’s over the corner.”
Fenris freeze, his cheeks reddening and his expression like that of a child caught with his hand in a cookie jar. “I— I wasn’t looking for—“
Hawke gives him an unconvinced look.
Fenris relents. “I was hoping she’d be here tonight.”
“You and Isabela have been spending a lot more time together lately,” remarks Lorena in a painfully fake casual manner.
His blush deepens, and a tiny smile graces his lips. “We have,” he admits. “I don’t really know what we are. I don’t know the term for us, but being with her — spending time with her, I mean — it’s thrilling and exciting.”
“Ugh, don’t make me talk about feelings,” mutters Hawke with a grimace. “Seb’s the one who’s good at that... You do have feelings for her, then?”
A soft chuckle escapes Fenris. “I do. I have never felt this way before.”
And it’s true. He can feel his heartbeat quicken and cliched butterflies in his stomach just thinking about her.
Lorena gestures with his her head to the far side of the room. “Go talk to her over there, then. I’m going to take your suggestion and sneak away to the kitchen for a bit, with this,” says Hawke, pointing to the bottle of wine Fenris brought.
Fenris’s smile widens. “Why do you think I brought it?”
Lorena gives him a grateful look before leaving.
Fenris turns and resumes scanning the party until he finds Isabela. Once his eyes lock upon her, everyone and everything else fades into the background.
She stands out, as beautiful as a goddess. Her metallic gold minidress perfectly hugs her curves, and more gold shines on her ears, on her labret, around her neck, and dusted across her cheeks. She’s bright and alluring and animated as she converses and laughs with the people around her. It’s fitting, for she is the liveliest person Fenris knows, and being with her makes Fenris feel more alive than he ever has before.
Isabela seems to him like a brilliant, shining candle flame at this party, and he is drawn to her like a moth to her flame.
Trying not to seem too eager, Fenris makes his way over to her slowly and casually, greeting other friends along the way, and he soon becomes aware that she’s watching his approach with a sly smile.
“Hello, sweet thing,” she calls out to him and salutes him with the glass of brandy in her hand. The scent of amber oil wafts over him.
“Enjoying the party?” Fenris asks coyly, clinking his glass of wine against hers.
“It’s a lot better now that you’re here,” she says, her golden eyes glimmering beneath long dark lashes. She rests her head against Fenris’s shoulder, her dark curls spilling over his arm.
Their conversation that evening is frivolous. They could talk about anything, and Fenris would be transfixed by her, by her charm, by her bewitching laugh, by her quick wit, by her wicked sense of humor, by everything about her.
They meander a bit as they talk throughout the evening. Isabela gets herself another brandy and Fenris another glass of wine, and hours feel like minutes and minutes feel like hours all at the same time. Then they come to where Hawke first directed Fenris, and he pauses, glancing upward. His lips curve into a wicked smile.
“That look on your face is giving me ideas,” says Isabela with a smile, and then she looks up and snorts. “Mistletoe? Really? Have you been leading me around all night with naughty intentions?”
“Perhaps. Are you opposed to my naughty intentions?” teases Fenris.
There’s a softness to Isabela’s smile now. “Not at all,” she says. “It’s just... Are we really going to be one of those boring couples who follow traditions and kiss under the mistletoe?”
Fenris crooks a finger under her chin and tilts her face up toward him. “Nothing with you could ever be boring.”
Then he brings his lips to hers and kisses her, opening his mouth for her as she deepens the kiss, wrapping her arms around his neck and pulling him closer to her, while his own hands go to her waist. Isabela tastes like brandy and candy apple-flavored lip gloss. She tastes like excitement. Kissing her is like drinking champagne: heady and vivacious, making his insides tingle and his head feel light; and like champagne he drinks in her kiss eagerly and delightedly.
Isabela pulls away for a moment to say, “I think we ought to stay here the rest of the party.”
“I have no objections to that,” replies Fenris smoothly before kissing her again.
Across the room, Lorena Hawke-Vael nudges her husband. “It took them long enough,” She grumbles. “I was starting to think you hadn’t put up enough mistletoe.” Sebastian smiles and wraps an arm around her waist.