Sebastian heard it first—from a pair of helplessly giggling sisters, no less, their heads bent close over the sheets of paper, frantically shushing each other between spurts of laughter.
"What, pray tell, is so amusing?" Sebastian asked, already smiling, and the two stopped laughing immediately.
"N-nothing, Brother Sebastian," Sister Amelia stammered.
"Just—ah—some orphans got into the pew books," Sister Cora added, her lips trembling dangerously.
He eyed the pair of them and held out his hand. “Let me see,” he said, kind but firm.
The two exchanged a glance. Cora shrugged. Amelia held out the papers, blushing fiercely. As soon as the sheaf was in his hands, they both darted off, holding in snickers.
He shook his head. The pair were young, teenagers still. It was not their fault they had yet to learn how to conduct themselves.
He seated himself in the nearest pew, shifting to make himself comfortable, and squinted down at the first page.
Her skin glowed like porcelain in the candlelight. She writhed, fingers buried between her thighs, and released a hoarse moan from crimson lips. For a hazy moment, her eyes blinked open, shooting a coy glance at the shadows where the Prince of Starkhaven sat quietly, his breath baited.
Sebastian dropped the pages as if they’d burned him. “Isabela,” he cursed.
Hawke’s companions weren’t the most savory sort, for the most part. They didn’t care a fig for the whispers that now followed them through Kirkwall. Fenris appeared not to notice at all. Merrill existed in a perpetual state of mad giggling. Anders was often pink in the face. Varric preened, touching his crossbow decidedly more than was necessary.
It was Sebastian and Aveline who really struggled. Well, and her mother, but Hawke had gone a long while doing things her mother disapproved of. She was used to the disappointed glances by now.
The next time Hawke visited Aveline’s office alone, the pair of them were waiting. Sebastian forcibly sat her in the lone, spindly chair in front of Aveline’s desk, and then the two of them hovered over her, interrogators with anxious lines in their faces.
"You have to stop her," Aveline said, arms folded across her breastplate. If Hawke wasn’t mistaken, her friend was actually hunched into her armor, as though bracing herself for a blow.
"Why me?" Hawke asked, startled.
"You’re the only one who’s actually sleeping with her, Hawke,” Aveline insisted.
"Do you have a cold?" Hawke said, frowning. "You sound miserable."
"We are miserable,” Sebastian replied. “This looks bad for all of us, Hawke. Every respectable person in Kirkwall thinks we’re little more than whores.” He turned a little red, but his tongue didn’t trip over the word.
Hawke laughed. “Oh, stop, you’re exaggerating. As soon as something more titillating comes up, they’ll forget all about us. I could spread rumors about that awful man next door, if you think it would help. Different mistress every week.”
"No," Aveline ground out. "Just make her stop, Hawke."
"If you think I have any extra influence with her just because we’ve shared a bed, you’re mad," Hawke said flatly. "Do you know how many people Isabela sleeps with?”
"Not as many as you, apparently," Aveline chimed, and thrust a stack of papers at her. "Do some reading, Hawke. She has you in bed with every one of us—sometimes more than one at the same time—but never with her."
Irked, Hawke glanced down at the pages. The first one was about her supposed tryst with Varric. She giggled at the use Isabela had put Bianca to.
"You’re mad," she replied, still scanning the words with a growing sense of delight. "I mean, I haven’t read all of them, but surely she couldn’t pass up the temptation to write what actually happened.”
The door of Aveline’s office banged open. Aveline pointed. “Get out,” she said wearily.
Hawke went, nose deep in the papers, chuckling all the way home.
Midnight found Hawke at her desk, turning the last page.
Unless they’d neglected to find one of Isabela’s stories, Aveline had been right. There were more than two dozen pieces of friend-fiction on these papers, and none of them featured Hawke and Isabela so much as looking at one another.
"I am the talk of Hightown," Hawke said, disgruntled at last, "for two dozen trysts I didn’t participate in. How is that fair?” she asked her mabari, who slobbered helpfully on her foot. “I would have at least liked to participate in my own social death.”
"I did you a favor," announced a voice from outside the window.
Hawke glanced up, unperturbed by this. Isabela had a habit of only coming in through the window.
"Did you?" she asked, leaning up to unlock it. Isabela swung through, scattering papers in the breeze she kicked up, and landed heavily in Hawke’s lap. "Because as far as I can tell, my mother and I are now worse social lepers than we were before, and here I am, hot and bothered by a lot of fun activities I never got to participate in.”
Isabela smirked. “I can take care of that,” she replied, cupping Hawke’s cheek. “Remember how your mother was so insistent that you meet every eligible man in Hightown?”
Hawke frowned while Isabela nibbled her ear. “None of them have called for a week,” she said slowly.
"Exactly," Isabela murmured. Goosebumps erupted down Hawke’s neck.
"You are my favorite pirate," Hawke declared, getting unsteadily to her feet with Isabela still wrapped around her.
"Mmm," Isabela agreed, her eyes dancing.
Hawke hesitated, on the verge of asking why Isabela hadn’t written about them, but tossed the pirate to her bed instead. She could ask later, she decided, covering Isabela’s body with her own. Perhaps much later.