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Sugar-Coated Memories

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Hawke was pouring over the stove, sweat dripping from her brow, frantically stirring the pot and watching as the lumps inside the sauce churned in circles with no real end in sight.

Her lip curled and a little growl formed in her throat. Her eyes watered and smoke wafted up from where the pudding spilled over the sides.

The pan clattered across the kitchen floor, splattering pudding in every direction. Hawke held her hand - now red from touching the pan - hissing and doubling forward over the stove. Waves of heat assaulted her cheeks, and as she let out another growl, she moved to the counter next to her and punched the surface of it.

Snuffler padded in, dog nails clacking on the kitchen’s stone floor. He made right for the spilled pudding and began lapping it up, stubby little tail wagging all the while.

Anders poked his head through the kitchen door. “Um … Hawke?” He asked, forcing a stiff smile, “Is everything alright?”

Frown etching wrinkles into her face, Hawke swiveled and glared at the mage, her fist still frozen against the counter top.

Anders held up his hands in surrender, “I’ll take that as a ‘no’, then?”

Hawke took a deep, shuddering inhale. Her shoulders slumped as she ran a hand through her sweat-soaked bangs. “Okay, maybe I need to … chop the fruit up smaller?”

Anders shrugged. She let out a snort of laughter, “You’re not any help.”

“We didn’t have Satinalia Pudding in the circle. The Grey Wardens served it but I didn’t make it. They had me scrub pots.”

She sighed, squeezing her eyes shut. She could clearly picture Leandra in her head, though the woman had been much taller back then. Hawke’s eyes could barely see the surface of the counter top as she watched her mother dice dried figs and apples into tiny little cubes and piled them into a sauce pan. She watched Leandra reach into the cupboard and pulled out a little bottle.

“Ugh, what was in that bottle?” Hawke was interrupted when Snuffler released a booming bark. “Don’t interrupt me!” Hawke snapped while the Mabari raced out of the kitchen and slid as he turned the corner.

There was a knock at the door.

Her shoulders slumped. She took one step towards the door before he placed his hands on her shoulders. “Stay here. I’ll get it.” He said before planting a kiss on her forehead. She forced a smile.

A gust of cold air and a few snowflakes burst into the house when Anders opened the door. He froze solid at the sight before him. “Fenris?”

It was almost comical, seeing the elf with his arms folded, shivering and looking stiff as a board as he lifted one bare foot and scratched at the side of his leg. “I smelled something burning. Is everything alright?” He asked.

Anders blinked, then barked a laugh. “Oh, yes. Everything is fine. Hawke is just having some trouble.”

Her voice echoed against the estate’s walls, “ANDRASTE’S FUCKING ASS CHEEKS!”

“Actually, maybe I should go check on her.” Anders said.

He stepped in, allowing Fenris to follow before he shut the door and jogged towards the kitchen. Snuffler was waiting in the entryway and wagged his tail as padded up to greet Fenris, earning a scratch under his chin. Fenris shook his head, dislodging clumps of snow that flew this way and that. After wiping his feet, he made his way to the kitchen with the dog trotting behind.

Anders had Hawke’s hand cradled in his own, fingertips on one hand glowing blue as he ran his hand over the sizable gash in her thumb.

“Where is Bodahn?” Fenris asked.

“Gave him the week off.” Hawke sighed as she pulled her hand back from Anders’. She took the bloodied knife and tossed it into the wash tub on the counter, then fished through the counter drawer for another one. She produced a small steak knife and turned back to the cutting board.

She hadn’t gotten so much as a full slice into a fig when Fenris came up behind her. In one smooth motion, he reached into a drawer and produced a small paring knife. “Use this one for the figs and you won’t cut yourself.” He said.

She glanced at Fenris sideways, but picked up the knife nonetheless, and made a few more cuts. Anders came up behind her on the other side and picked up the steak knife, running his thumb along the blade. “This is dull as a spoon! Even I know better than that!”

She stabbed the paring knife into the wood cutting board. “If you’re so smart, why don’t you make yourself useful and cut the apples?” She snapped.

Anders frowned, taking a step backwards as he set the knife back on the counter. Hawke sighed and ran her free hand through her hair, cheeks flushed. “Sorry.” She muttered, “I shouldn’t snap at you like that, I just-”

She was cut off when the familiar thump of metal hitting wood reached her ears. She turned to see Fenris deftly chopping an apple slice with a large chef’s knife. Up and down, the knife rocked on its curve until the apple was reduced to familiar little cubes.

Retrieving the pot from where it had been flung before, he scraped the apple pieces inside, and opened the cupboard. After scanning for a few seconds, he asked, “Where is your brandy?”

Anders shrugged, “I’m a whiskey man myself.”

Hawke slapped a hand to her forehead. “Brandy, of course!”

Fenris scoffed, “How did you intend to make Satinalia Pudding without brandy?”

Hawke held up one finger for him to wait and stepped out of the kitchen. Crossing his arms, Anders leaned against the counter. “How do you intend to make Satinalia Pudding at all?” He asked.

Fenris had turned his attention to the figs, cutting them into eights with the paring knife. “Danarius donated his slaves to the Satinalia feast every year. He got to feel charitable, and we got to cook for half of Minrathous.” He popped a piece of fig into his mouth and chewed slowly.

“They made you work on Satinalia?”

Fenris raised an eyebrow, lips curled a little while he glared in response, “Does it surprise you that a slave empire built by slaves would have slaves working on slave tasks?” He looked down at one of the figs he was cutting and rubbed his finger over it. “These are dried. They would be better fresh.” He said.

“Hawke payed through the nose for those. They aren’t exactly a Free Marches specialty.“ Anders stepped aside to allow Fenris to move the pot to the stove and scrape the figs inside.

He added a splash of water from the pitcher on the counter and set to work simmering the fruit. "To answer your question, no. The feast was prepared the night before. We did not work on Satinalia.”

“Well, there’s that at least. We did the same in the circle. No studying, no drills. No pudding either, mind you. But we tried for gifts, with what little we had. Karl gave me a coin one year.” Anders could still feel the weight of the coin if he held his hand out. Round, smooth, fitting perfectly in his palm, “Silly, I know. But there wasn’t any need for money in the circle, so it must have been important to him if he held onto it for so long.” He frowned, corner of his lip twitching a little, “I misplaced it sometime after becoming a Grey Warden. I never told him.”

Fenris was stirring the fruit sauce. “And then he died.”

“Yes.” Anders sighed.

Fenris lifted the spoon from the pan, letting a little bit of sauce drizzle back in, “I imagine he would not have cared. It was something simple that meant a lot to him, so it wasn’t about the coin. It was about sharing a moment with you.”

Anders scoffed a laugh, wiping an eye with his thumb. Hawke stepped inside and slammed a thick glass bottle onto the counter top with a bang. “How’s this?” She asked.

“That will do.” Fenris uncorked the brandy bottle and added a splash to the fruit sauce.

“What next?” She asked.

“Cream together some butter and sugar.”

Anders straightened, turning to Fenris. “Anything I can do?”

“Stir a fire in the hearth if there isn’t one already.”

The three set right to work. Once Hawke had the mixture made, Fenris instructed her on how to add the eggs and fold in the fruit mixture. The had a sizable bowl filled once they were done. It was hulking and heavy enough that they had to both lift it to pour it into little metal cups they had lined up in a baking pan. By the time the bowl was empty, Anders was finally standing up, having gotten the fire going to a full roar. He accepted the pan that Fenris held out for him and set it by the hearth to bake.

Hawke knelt in front of the bubbling pudding mixture, watching it bake while she wiped the sweat from her brow with a rag. “It looks just like Mother used to make!” She said, smile lighting up her face.

In one smooth motion, she stood, swiveled, and hugged Fenris tight. The elf lifted his arms and hesitated, earning a stifled giggle out of Anders. Fenris settled one hand on her head.

“Thank you.” She said before giving him a kiss on the cheek.

By the time the sun was peeking through the windows of the Hawke estate, the pudding was finally done. The cups were left on the counter, forgotten, above where Hawke, Anders, Fenris, and Snuffler had passed out in a puddle of limbs on the floor. A light snore rose from Hawke’s lips. She was content, warm, and wrapped in the arms of her three favorite men. For once, as the sun rose on the first day of Satinalia, she didn’t have a care in the world.