Varric’s letter found him in a waterside dive bar in Wycome. Fenris had long since accepted that the dwarf’s correspondence could locate him no matter where he traveled or what names he gave; there were relatively few heavily-armed, lyrium-enhanced elves in the world, he supposed. He took the letter up to the windowless closet he had rented for the week, and lit a candle so that he could take his time reading it. He didn’t think it was noticeable, at this point, how long it took him to make it through a page (especially not in a tavern full of drunken longshoremen) but the habits of privacy remained, even after all these years.
The letter offered a job: escort one woman, an elf named ‘Ellana,’ from Skyhold to Qarinus. ‘She’s not the talkiest, and she doesn’t speak Tevene, so I thought you’d be perfect for the job,’ Varric wrote. Inquisition business, Varric added. Fenris had recently heard that there no longer was an Inquisition, and anyway it wasn’t the sort of thing he did these days, in Hawke’s absence, so he almost started a reply to say that he wouldn’t do it. But when he looked at the date he was supposed to meet this elf in the Frostbacks, and calculated his travel time, he realized he didn’t have time to get a reply letter to Kirkwall. So he cursed, scrawled back his acceptance at the bottom of the letter, and sealed it to return to Varric. In any event, Varric had paid him upfront and he was running low on coin.
Fenris thought about his new charge during his voyage across the Waking Sea and along the Fereldan coastline. He supposed that she must be a former member of the Inquisition, seeking new employment now that the order was disbanded. Varric had always had a soft spot for hard cases, he knew, and he wondered whether this assignment was meant as charity for him or the woman.
Qarinus was an odd choice of destination, though. Nearly every country in Thedas was more welcoming to elves than Tevinter, especially in light of the reforms advanced by King Alistair and Empress Celene. Fenris idly wondered whether anyone would challenge his own manumission. His lyrium tattoos and the giant red steel greatsword he carried discouraged most slavers’ inquiries, but he supposed that legally he had never been freed. When Hawke killed Danarius in a magical duel, she had become his new master, by the laws of the Imperium. Of course, he’d never told her that. They hadn’t done much talking at all, by those days, and he couldn’t bear the thought of her pity if she found out that she still had to complete some kind of paperwork to free him. Now that Hawke was considered dead these past three years, he supposed that he now belonged, in a very technical sense of the word, to one Warden-Lieutenant Carver Hawke, location unknown. In any event, the Tevinters were welcome to take up Fenris’ ownership with him, the prat.
Fenris studied the route he planned to take and figured that their chances of making it to Qarinus without any challenge were minimal, but if they used heavily-traveled roads and kept to settled areas, they would be relatively safe during the journey.
Skyhold, he thought upon arrival, was likely the least populous area he would visit. Varric had described the Inquisition’s former base vividly in his letters, but Fenris found the gates open and unmanned upon his arrival. There were still a half-dozen horses (and one majestic grey hart) in the stable where Fenris left his own mount and saddlebags, but that suggestion of a remaining population did not manifest any actual people as Fenris walked through the large courtyard. The fortress was in excellent repair, just…empty.
After he walked up several flights of steps to a second courtyard, he could see signs that the place was being closed up. All of the windows of what appeared to have been a tavern were shuttered, and there were boards nailed across the door. The only unlocked doors he could find were the open ones to what looked like the main hall.
The inches-thick oak slab opened easily at his touch, admitting him, with a swirl of dry oak leaves, to a long room with echoing ceilings. Inside, there were torches lit, and a fire in the fireplace, and one dwarf packing furniture in crates of clean straw.
The man glanced at him, but did not cease his work when Fenris entered. It seemed he was expected.
“I’m looking for Ellana,” Fenris informed him, when the man did not even raise a hand in greeting.
That finally got the man to stop and stand up straight. He rubbed his hands along his lower back.
“Ellana, huh?” the dwarf asked him, raising an eyebrow in surprise. “She’s down in the Undercroft.” He hooked a thumb towards a door in the back of the room.
Fenris thanked him and passed the long rows of empty chairs and tables, then what must have been something like a throne (now covered with a canvas dustcloth) and took the exit the man had indicated.
Down the stairs over a roaring waterfall, he found one elf and another dwarf examining an intricate set of dragonscale armor with what appeared to be silverite buckles.
His first thought was that this elf didn’t need any escort- she was nearly as tall as him, with muscular shoulders and legs wrapped tightly by her fur-trimmed tunic and leggings- but then he noticed that her left sleeve was pinned up below her elbow. Ah. A war veteran, then. His opinion of this mission of Varric’s softened a bit.
She turned her head to study him as he approached, and he returned the favor in kind. Her features were unremarkable; she had sandy blond hair shaved back on one side of her head and a multitude of freckles on her fair skin. An archer, then, before she’d lost the hand. She’d no doubt shaved the side of her head so as not to catch on her bowstring. Other than the obvious disability, she seemed in good health. Her best feature was probably her large dark eyes, which examined him dispassionately.
“You must be Fenris,” she said abruptly, extending her remaining hand. He took it and shook firmly, noting the callouses on her first three fingers, which confirmed his hypothesis of her profession.
“Yes,” he said. “You are Ellana?”
“Yes,” she agreed.
The dwarf next to her giggled.
Fenris looked at her in confusion.
“That is your name, isn’t it?” he clarified.
The elven woman shrugged. “Most people called me by my clan-name. Or my old position. Varric called me ‘Lightning Bug.’ But Ellana is what my parents named me.”
Fenris frowned. “Clan-name?” Her accent was vaguely Marcher. “Are you Dalish?”
She nodded in confirmation.
“Clan Lavellan,” she said.
Hadn’t he heard that…
“You’re the Inquisitor,” he accused her.
She gave him a sad smile. “Not anymore.”
* * *
It didn’t take Ellana very long to finish packing her things. She’d been anticipating Fenris’ arrival for the past week or so, and Dagna and Gatsi had volunteered to see to the remaining packing and shipment of the former Inquisition’s things. Cassandra was taking most of them. The Chantry was strapped for funds, and Cassandra was without any personal wealth, so the finer trappings of the organization were a help in outfitting the personal residence of the Divine Victoria.
With Dagna’s assistance, she dressed in the last set of armor the dwarf would ever make for her and grabbed her bow. She headed out for the stables.
She couldn’t help but stop in the rotunda for a final time. She gazed at the panels she’d studied for endless hours, looking for some clue she’d missed, some secret message…
But they were as opaque as they’d ever been, and the final panel remained uncompleted, nagging her as unfinished business. Not for the first time, she wished she could toss a bucket of red paint across the lot of it. “Redecorate with something more restful,” as Vivienne had suggested. “Perhaps a faux bois.”
But she’d never been able to bring herself to touch it, the only gift he’d ever given her (aside from a bare face and a missing hand, a less romantic side of her hissed).
Now she left it without a backwards glance, and walked the many stone steps to where Harding had saddled Assan, her horse. Ellana wished she could take the big hart, Vallas, but she appreciated the need to travel incognito.
She wasn’t sure what Solas could see from her dreams, but one of his agents was bound to note a one-armed elven woman travelling to Tevinter on a giant hart. Varric had suggested that traveling with Fenris would be a good way to avoid attention.
Although her initial impression of the man was that he’d never escape attention, it made a perverse kind of sense now that she thought about it. Every eye would be on the handsome, white-haired elf with the lyrium tattoos. If she wore gloves and a prosthesis, and kept her mouth shut, nobody was likely to notice the drab female elf in his wake. Nobody would expect a man who looked like that to travel alone.
Fenris was waiting with his own horse. It occurred to her that he’d just arrived after a long journey, and the polite thing to do would be to offer him the minimal hospitality Skyhold provided and leave the next morning. But having bid farewell to Dagna, Gatsi, and all the memories these walls held, Ellana was eager to put it to her back. So she said little to him as she mounted Assan and led Fenris out the fortress.
Time to start walking the Din’anshiral, she thought.
* * *
Ellana was as taciturn as Varric had promised. Had he been asked, Fenris would have claimed this was his preference as well. Her silence was certainly better than the incessant prattling of the blood mage, or the ranting of the abomination, but after a while he found himself tempted to speak. It wasn’t as though her silence were hostile, anyway- not the way things had been between him and Hawke for the last few years before they all left Kirkwall- just…contained. Ellana Lavellan was a closed book.
In all other aspects she was an unobjectionable traveling companion. Even without her left hand, she took care of her own horse and did her share of the cooking, using a hook-like appendage that buckled onto her left arm. She’d given him a look that was almost…shy the first time she’d put it on. But he hadn’t said anything, and she’d appeared satisfied with that.
The route out of the Frostbacks took almost three days, during which time they kept their armor on, day and night. Bandits were hardly a risk up in the mountains, but the wildlife was both large and aggressive, according to Ellana. She even told a story about the new Divine and a bear that made him suspect that she was concealing a sense of humor behind her opaque shell.
Eventually, they emerged from the mountains at the edge of the Dales. Here, just beyond the outskirts of civilization, a thick stream ran away from the mountains and towards their next destination on the Waking Sea.
Ellana sighed when she saw it, and ran her hand through her hair.
“Do you mind helping me with my buckles?” she said, gesturing to the catches on her armor at the back of her neck.
Fenris eyed the stream skeptically.
“That’s pure snowmelt,” he told her. “It’ll be as cold as ice.”
“I’m Dalish,” she told him scornfully. “I don’t care. I just can’t stand being filthy.”
Fenris frowned at the implication that he didn’t mind his own travel dirt, but moved over to assist her in undoing the buckles behind her neck.
“Thanks,” she told him gratefully. “Dagna made them so that I can get out by myself, but it just takes forever.”
He hadn’t taken more than a few steps away before she shucked her tunic after her armor and started wiggling out of her leggings as well.
He shouldn’t have been surprised. The women who followed Hawke around hadn’t had a great deal of bodily modesty, and every trip to the Wounded Coast had tended to end with the lot of them stripping and plunging into the sea to wash off Tal-Vashoth entrails or whatever else they’d gotten into.
But that had been then, and he hadn’t had eyes for any woman but Hawke. And now….
Ellana’s body was shapely and taut, and she had long muscular legs that swelled into a high, firm….
“You’re staring,” she said over her shoulder as she daintily stepped into the stream, suppressing a shiver. That movement did…interesting things to her breasts.
“You don’t have vallaslin,” he said, to cover himself.
“Not anymore,” she agreed, beginning to splash herself with the cold water, before sitting down on a flat rock in the center of the stream to let the current wash her clean.
“Would you tell me how you lost them?” he asked, still watching her. She hadn’t made any move to cover herself, after all, and he was still a man, however he’d lived his life to the contrary.
She looked sidelong at him. “I guess that didn’t make it into Varric’s book? I’ll tell you if you’ll tell me how you got yours.”
He supposed that hadn’t made it into Varric’s other book.
“I didn’t read it,” he confessed. “I’m not a big reader.”
She bent her back to let the water wash her hair. She had to be completely unconscious of the position that left her in.
“My clan only owned about three books before they sent me to the Conclave,” she said, eyes still closed. “But the Tale of the Champion was one of them. I thought I’d read it when I got home.”
“And why can’t you?” he asked curiously. The last he’d heard, Clan Lavellan was settled in Wycome, and the Keeper was even running the city council. There probably wasn’t a Dalish clan in all of Thedas that had such a favorable position.
Her mouth twisted a bit. “I made too many enemies. It wouldn’t be safe for them.”
He tilted his head. “That can’t be all. You also have allies. You could protect them.”
She looked down at her knees.
“No,” she admitted. “I think that…I don’t know if I could ever be home again. Anywhere. It’s easier to keep moving.”
He could identify with that feeling.
She shook her head. “Anyway, are you coming in? The water’s fine.”
After watching her bathe for the last ten minutes, he was definitely feeling heated in a few places under his armor, but that was better than taking it off and showing her exactly where it was affecting him.
“Your lips are turning blue,” he pointed out. “I’ll pass.”
“Your loss,” she said, smiling up at him.
* * *
After that day, she was more relaxed around him, and she found herself able to talk a bit about her time with the Inquisition. He didn’t talk about his own life, but he did his best to keep the conversation up anyway. He did talk about some of his adventures with Varric back in Kirkwall. But it was strange that he barely mentioned Hawke, and never by name.
When they stopped in towns, they took only one room at each inn, since it would have contradicted their cover to do otherwise. She caught him watching her sometimes, but he never followed that look with any word or action.
And did you want him to? she asked herself. Varric found you a cover story and a bodyguard. It wasn’t like you asked him to find you a new lover. Especially not when your last one was still literally stalking your dreams and threatening to destroy the world.
When they reached Lydes, he left her alone in the room for the afternoon while he went out and she wrote letters. When he returned, he had two thick books wrapped in brown paper: the Tale of the Champion and All this Shit is Weird.
She couldn’t help herself but laugh.
“Well,” he explained, a bit sheepishly, in his lovely gravel-over-silk voice, “we can’t let every friendless dowager we meet know more of each other than we do.”
She gave him a skeptical look, and his green eyes sparkled a bit in response.
“I was curious!” he finally admitted.
* * *
The Tale of the Champion, when she had time to read snatches of it, was illuminating. Fenris figured prominently in the first half of the book, especially for accompanying the Champion into the Deep Roads, but disappeared almost entirely after Hawke fought her duel with the Arishok. There was a hint in there about Hawke taking up with the apostate Grey Warden Anders and “spurning all others who would have loved her,” but Ellana suspected there was more to the story that Varric either hadn’t known or hadn’t wanted to put down. She finally finished the book on their voyage across the Waking Sea to Cumberland.
Fenris had been described as a kind of mage-hating zealot who brooded ominously in the corner and resisted all efforts at socialization. That wasn’t the man Ellana saw; he was reserved, certainly, but no more than she was, and she doubted whether someone who’d stood with Hawke (a famous apostate) against Knight-Commander Meredith could have been that biased against mages. The other two mages Varric described were after all responsible for the destruction of the Kirkwall Chantry and Clan Sabrae, respectively. Ellana didn’t think she would have cared for them, either.
And he was thoughtful; he never complained, he helped her with small tasks her missing hand made difficult, and he never pried into the subjects Varric must have left vague (since Ellana knew that her spymaster had done a firm pre-publication edit of the work).
She liked him. Was that such a surprise? Here she was, alone for days at a time with a handsome elf, and he was kind to her.
What a sap you are, Ellana Lavellan, she told herself. You do not need to break your heart on another sad, emotionally unavailable elf with a tragic backstory. Even if you are privy to the pertinent details of this tragic backstory this time.
So she did her best to keep her distance.
* * *
The trip had been uneventful until they passed the outskirts of Cumberland. Fenris had done no more than caress the hilt of his greatsword in response to assessing looks from the kind of opportunist thugs who lingered near ever settlement of size. Ellana’s bow remained unstrung by her pack, though Fenris could not contemplate how she was even able to draw it one-handed. This night in Nevarra, they made camp in a kind of roadside lean-to next to a small spring. It had likely been visited by generations of travelers, because there was already a stone-lined space for a fire-pit, and a kind of staircase built down into the spring.
Ellana freshened up after dinner (Fenris trying not to watch her any more than necessary), and then he took a turn. He liked to be clean; he just wasn’t willing to freeze his balls off to do it.
He was toweling his hair off, still not strapped back into his armor, when he saw the movement in the bushes.
By long experience, he did not startle or give any sign that he knew they were being observed.
It was a man’s figure, crouched next to a tree some ten yards from the camp. Not a fellow traveler.
“We’re being watched,” he breathed in her direction, still pretending to dry his hair.
He let his steps remain loose and casual as he wandered nearer and nearer to the pack where his sword rested.
Ellana too, he saw, was well-used to this kind of subterfuge. She hadn’t moved from her spot by the fire, but she was now looking well away from it, letting her eyes adjust to the evening gloom. She was buckling on a kind of prosthesis with two flaring ends that he had not seen her use before.
“Can you see if we have any of that dried fruit leather left?” she asked him. He was momentarily confused, until he caught her meaning. Can you see anyone, she was asking.
“We have two sacks,” he told her. He could see two figures now, one a few feet back from the other.
“I’m ready to make dinner,” she said to him. She was ready to fight.
The moment he touched his sword, the game was over. Without making a sound, he snatched up his greatsword and activated his lyrium markings. Letting his markings deflect all branches in his way, he sprinted towards the two figures. As soon as they saw him, they both started running. Away.
They led him on a merry chase- nearly ten minutes. The forest was growing dark, and they seemed to know where each hole and hollow was, but Fenris stumbled and tripped over branches and stones.
He heard the soft whistle of an arrow pass him by.
One of the figures stumbled, rolling forward. The other stopped and grabbed at the first.
He reached them, sword over his head.
Two terrified faces looked up at him.
“Please messere!” the first pleaded. “We didn’t do nothing! We wouldn’ta done nothing!”
Fenris lowered his sword and looked them over.
Peasants, barely more than boys. They had the thick muddy boots and homespun shirts of farmers. One had a large knife strapped to his belt, the other a crude wooden club. From the bits of jewelry they wore, he suspected they’d been robbing travelers.
But they were skinny. Hungry looking. It had been a bad winter. The war had prevented the import of much grain from Orlais.
He thought about it a moment. Then he let his lyrium markings go silent.
He stripped them of their weapons first. Then he let the markings on his hand alone sing.
He thrust his hand into the second man’s chest, and ran his fingers along his fluttering heart. The man gasped, his chest spasming.
“Go home,” Fenris whispered. “If I ever hear you’ve taken to banditry again, I’ll be back for you.” That was an idle threat- he was moving on- but it seemed effective. A dark stain soaked the front of the man’s trousers.
They babbled and promised and slobbered, and when he was satisfied with their sincerity, Fenris turned on his heel and tried to find his way back to Ellana and the camp.
It took a long time; he hadn’t been paying especial attention to where he was going. It was true dark before he found their campfire. Both mounts were still hobbled and their packs were there, but Ellana was nowhere to be seen.
He heard a breath behind him and whirled. Ellana stepped out of the woods, her bow drawn and extended. The bow was at least four feet long, and had to have a nearly hundred-pound draw, but Ellana had an arrow nocked behind her ear. The flanged prosthetic let her draw the bow. When she recognized him, she let the arrow droop.
“Did you get them both?” she asked quietly.
“They were poorly-suited to banditry,” Fenris said, waving a hand. “I let them go. They won’t bother us again.”
“What?” she cried, tensing back up. “You let them go? We have to find them!”
She would have rushed off into the woods after them, but Fenris grabbed her by the arm.
“Why?” he asked her, confused. “What are you afraid of?”
“Were they humans or elves?” she asked him, fiercely.
“What?” the question made no sense. Both could be bandits.
“Humans or elves!” she insisted.
“Humans, both of them,” he told her.
“Are you certain?” she said, leaning closer to him. Her face was frantic, dark eyes wide with fear.
“Yes, I’m not likely to mistake the two, am I?” he asked, slightly annoyed now.
With that, most of the tension ran out of her like water.
She turned away from him and wiped a forearm across her forehead. Her breath rushed out of her in a sigh.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to act so- “ She shook her head. “I’m sorry,” she repeated.
“What are you afraid of?” he asked her.
“It’s just that- the entire point of this trip is to get me into Tevinter without being recognized, or followed, or-“ she shook her head again. “Varric didn’t tell you?”
“I guess he thought you would,” Fenris said, taking her bow from her trembling grip. He placed it on top of her back and rummaged through his own pack for his flask.
She accepted it gratefully, and tossed back a mouthful of his Starkhaven whiskey like a champion. He took it back and followed suit, waiting for her to elaborate.
“Did you finish the book?” she asked him. He nodded.
“The mage whose orb created the Breach…the one who figured out how to cross between the Fade and the waking world….that’s Solas. He’s also called Fen’Harel. And he wants to destroy the Veil.”
“Ah,” he said, trying to wrap his mind around that. Ellana sat down at the edge of the firepit and drew her shoulders in around herself.
“I think he visits me in my dreams, sometimes,” she whispered. “And just last night…” she shuddered again, and held out her good hand for the flask. He passed it back. She surely needed it more than him.
“You think he’s trying to find you?” Fenris asked, coming to sit next to her. She nodded.
“Varric said the two of you were…together,” he said, thinking about the book. There hadn’t been much detail. Varric had described her as a cipher; the dwarf hadn’t known her very well, he thought.
“I guess,” she said, shrugging her shoulders.
“And now?” he prodded.
She grimaced, face twisting.
“The last time I saw him, he told me he was planning to kill most of the people I know,” she said slowly. “Then he kissed me.” Her shoulders hunched even further. “And then he took my hand.”
Her shoulders shook a bit. He didn’t think she was crying, but she’d had a scare.
He was sitting to her left. He helped her unbuckle the prosthesis she’d used to draw her bow, and stored it back in her pack. Then he let his fingers run tentatively down her shoulder afterwards. She turned to look at him, surprised.
She sucked in a breath when he leaned forward to kiss her. He moved slowly- she had time to turn away, if she’d wanted to- but she held perfectly still as he brushed his lips against hers. He enjoyed the satin feel of her mouth, and her warm breath on his skin, so he turned his head a bit and let his tongue sweep out against her lips. She opened just a bit, so he took his time, pressing gentler kisses around the corners of her mouth, before sweeping his tongue into her mouth. She was sweet, and he could tell she hadn’t done much more of this than he had, but she eventually pulled back and studied him.
“What part of that,” she said quietly. “Was at all attractive to you?”
He frowned at her, not really understanding himself. “I just thought you looked sad. And I-“
“I don’t need your pity, Fenris,” she snapped at him. “And I’m not sad. I’m furious.”
With that, she stood, grabbed her pack, and pitched out her bedroll for the night. She didn’t speak to him again that evening.
* * *
She wouldn’t have blamed him if he’d been distant the next day. But the next day, and over the next week as they traveled through the Nevarran countryside, he was as considerate a traveling companion as he’d ever been. If he was quieter and more suspicious when they traveled through towns, it was only good that he now understood the stakes.
“Why Qarinus?” he asked one day as they stowed their belongings in the small village’s only inn.
“Solas doesn’t know anyone in Tevinter,” she said. “But I do.”
He studied her face. “You intend to oppose him,” he said.
She blinked at that. “Well, of course I do,” she said. “This is my world. All my friends live here. My clan.”
“The same clan that sent you alone to the Conclave? The friends who left you alone in Skyhold?” he said. She shrugged helplessly. She’d always worked alone. She was a hunter. That was what she did.
“What he does is not your responsibility,” he said, green eyes intent on hers.
“I know that,” she responded.
“Then why you?” he demanded.
She shrugged again. “Because I can,” she told him. It was that simple. That was why she’d gone to the Conclave: she traded regularly with human villages, and she knew their ways. That was why she’d stayed after the Breach: she had the Mark, and she could close the rifts. That was why she was leading the effort against Solas: she knew him best, and he might hesitate to kill her, at least a bit.
He gave her a sharp look. “You sound like Hawke,” he muttered.
She flinched at that. He’d never brought it up, but she knew Varric’s book told of how she’d left Hawke in the Fade to fight the Nightmare demon.
He saw her expression, and his own softened. “I just meant it's not easy to be the hero of the story," he said gently.
“It’s fine, Fenris,” she told him, suddenly exhausted. Being the hero meant nobody saw you, knew you, touched you. “I’m going to sleep in the bed, if that’s ok with you.”
They traded each night, and it was technically his turn, but this room had a large, padded window seat as well as the bed, so she didn’t feel too guilty.
She hadn’t been sleeping well since…well. She was afraid to dream, and found herself waking up, choking for air, several times a night. Perhaps Solas would never hurt her, Ellana Lavellan. But if she gave up their plans, and he hurt her friends through her- that would hurt. And she would never recover from that hurt.
But that night she had a more prosaic nightmare. No distant, watching wolf, no. It was a simple dream of her time in Redcliffe’s alternate future, of a sky rent green and demons falling through the air. A fear demon’s mandibles clicked, and its many arms reached for her.
But before she could gasp herself awake, she felt hands shaking her. She twitched her eyes open and looked up into Fenris’ concerned face, his white hair shining in the moonlight.
As soon as he saw that she was awake, he released both of her arms, and sat back on his heels.
“You were shaking,” he said, apologetically.
“Thank you,” she whispered. “Thank you for waking me up.”
He hesitated a moment, then tentatively pressed his hand against the mattress next to her.
“I could stay,” he offered.
“Do you want to?” she asked quietly.
Instead of answering, he leaned back forward, as though he were going to lie down next to her.
But before he could, she propped herself up on bad elbow, tugged him by his bare shoulder down on top of her, and lifted her chin up to kiss him.
He came with her, pressing his palms to the mattress on either side of her head. Careful of his weight, he shifted his hips over hers, and aligned their bodies.
His mouth was still gentle and tentative when it slid over her own. She decided she liked the taste of him, though, and opened her mouth to take him in. He obligingly swept his tongue into her mouth, and she savored the contrast in textures between his soft lips and the hard edges of his hips, which were starting to push down against her own.
She experimentally kissed the corners of his mouth, then the side of his jaw, then the edges of his ears. When she did that last, he made an encouraging sound, like the rumbling purr of a large cat. So she did it again, running her lower lip along his ear from lobe to tip, and he rewarded her with a firmer press of his hips. She parted her thighs, and he sank in between them. The next time she ran her lips against his earlobe- adding a graze of teeth this time- he shuddered and rocked his hard, clothed cock against her, triggering a shudder of pleasure.
He pushed back on stiff arms and looked down on her in the darkness. Although neither of them had hardly moved, they were both breathing as heavily as if they’d run a long distance.
“What do you want from me?” Fenris rumbled, handsome face still uncertain.
Ellana knew what she wanted. She knew that moments like this were fleeting and far too few in her life. She knew that she was broken, physically and mentally. And she knew that he was kind, and beautiful, and an utterly unexpected gift.
“Everything,” she gasped. “I want everything.”
Fenris’ expression shifted, becoming darker, more intent.
He kneeled and helped her shuck her nightshift and smallclothes, then began peeling off the leather leggings she’d never seen him out of.
She told herself she was a bad person for wondering how far down the lyrium tattoos ran.
He looked over at her while pushing the trousers down over his hips, his expression unexpectedly vulnerable.
She blinked and tried to give him a reassuring smile as she processed the sudden idea that he might not have much more experience with this than she did.
She rolled closer to him and traced her fingertips along his side, careful not to touch the lyrium tattoos.
“Do they hurt?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, coming to lie next to her so that his body pressed alongside hers from navel to foot. “But you touching me doesn’t.”
He kissed her again, lips warm and gentle on hers, and brushed his fingertips along her collarbones. Just the tips of his fingers traced her shoulders, the valley between her breasts, the peaks of her nipples, the dip of her stomach, the line of her hips.
She closed her eyes and smiled, arching her back a bit.
Fenris took that as an invitation to take a stiff nipple into his mouth, making her gasp. She stroked her hand through his hair, savoring the thick silky texture of it.
He continued moving his way down her body, running his tongue along the underside of her breasts, her navel, then the crease of her thigh. He gently ran his thumbs between her legs, and she obediently parted for him.
The Dalish were an earthy people; she thought she knew most of what went on between a man and a woman. But this act had remained a mystery to her, and when Fenris unexpectedly told her, “I haven’t done this, you’ll have to say if I do something you don’t like,” she had to admit she was equally in the dark.
“Ah,” he said, the side of his mouth quirking up. “Perhaps hot and cold, then?”
She laughed. “Hot,” she told him.
“I haven’t begun yet,” he said, cheek pressed against her inner thigh.
“I know,” she said, suppressing a giggle. “I just wanted to say I’m happy you’re there at all.”
He smiled up at her through his thick dark lashes, then leaned forward and gave a long, slow lick all the way up her core.
“Hot,” she sighed.
She said it again when he dragged the tip of his tongue through her folds. Then again when he spread her with his thumbs and pressed his mouth against her. And again when he traced small circles around her clit. And again when he slipped one long, lyrium-traced finger inside her, then a second, then a third. By the time he sucked gently on her nub, she couldn’t speak anymore, but she thought he had the idea.
She came with her hand caught in his hair, hips bucking hard against his fingers, and his name on her lips. Thank the Creators for that- she’d worried.
She liked the shy, proud smile he gave her when he rubbed his face against his bare, brown shoulder. She also liked the jut of his cock against her leg, and the noise he made when she reached down and brushed the tip of it with her thumb. He let her explore the textures of him for just a moment- silk at the head, heat along the shaft, a small tuft of black hair at the base- then pressed his face into her shoulder, nipping slightly.
“Will you help hold me up?” she asked him then, slipping a leg over his body.
“As long as I can,” he said honestly.
He held her hips as she fit him against her core. Ellana wrapped her hand around the base of his cock and experimentally let the tip of him brush through her wet folds. The sensitivity from her orgasm was fading, and she liked the pressure against her body. Fenris hissed, closing his eyes and leaning back on the bed, but his hands were steady on her body.
She notched him against her and let her weight carry her forward. Just a bit. Then she stopped. His eyes flew open.
“Ellana…” he said urgently. She shook her head, pressing her eyelids shut. “Shhh,” she told him.
Letting out another deep breath, she slid forward another inch. Then another. She was wet, and as relaxed as she could be, but this stung a little.
Finally he was fully seated in her. His lips were parted a bit, and his abdominal muscles were flexed rigidly, but his eyes were soft when he looked up at her.
She shifted her weight from side to side, exploring the feeling of fullness. Fenris’ hands clenched on her hips.
“You feel so good,” he whispered.
She leaned forward, and the slip of his cock inside her was even better. She nipped his lower lip. “So you do,” she whispered back.
He rolled his hips against her once, twice, then found a slow rhythm he liked.
“Good,” she said again, then closed her eyes to focus on the new sensations flowing through her. She found that she could brace herself against the headboard behind him, and that if she leaned forward, he could reach her breasts with his hands and his lips.
Eventually, the thrusts of his hips came faster and faster. She felt no pain, only the pleasure of fullness and friction. He brought his hand back between them, and pressed his thumb against her clit so that it stroked her with every movement.
His breath was coming faster too. She pushed herself down against him and ground in small circles, and that was enough to set her body to spasming for the second time that night. The scorch of wet heat through her body a moment later let her know he’d found his own release as a result.
Ellana disentangled her body from Fenris’, and rolled again to her back. Fenris came with her and tucked her head underneath his own, arranging her on top of his shoulder.
For a few moments they simply let their breathing return to normal and the blood in their bodies return to its typical locations.
“That was only…that was only my second time with a woman,” Fenris admitted after a few moments of companionable silence.
Ellana’s eyebrows lifted at that announcement, but she suspected that he didn’t really want to discuss what other woman or possibly men there had been.
“But you had never- was there nobody else?” he finally asked.
“I was related, somehow, to most of my clan,” she told him. “And after the Conclave…”
She frowned, thinking of how to sum up her last relationship to the naked man in her bed.
“He said he didn’t want to lie with me under false pretenses,” she eventually explained. “I suppose, under the circumstances, I should thank him.”
“Yes,” said Fenris, kissing her forehead. “But he’s still an asshole.”
He pulled her further into his embrace. He slept with his face in her hair and his legs tangled in hers.
Ellana slept like a rock that night, and every night thereafter.
She saw the wolf only once more, as his long grey back walked slowly into a grove of dark trees. Then never again.
* * *
They reached Qarinus several weeks later. Fenris had not been best pleased to discover that their destination was a seaside palace currently housing not just one but two Tevinter magisters, but he was forced to admit that of all the rumors he’d heard of Houses Tilani and Pavus, cruelty and blood magic were not among them.
It was also hard to hate Dorian and Maevaris personally. They’d given him and Ellana the best chamber in the place, where the sea breezes soothed her daily nausea.
The one-eyed Qunari’s apple-cheeked lieutenant presented them with half a dozen pairs of tiny knit socks.
“Krem figured we’d need to be responsible for buying the kid socks, since neither of you ever figured out shoes,” the Iron Bull told him, clapping him on the back.
Fenris started counting on his fingers, and didn’t stop until Bull had gotten him so drunk that they fuzzed all together.
He staggered back to Ellana’s bedchamber, and she stroked his hair while he wept into the still-flat plane of her belly, and held her hand so tightly his fingers ached. She understood.
The next morning, he wrote to Varric, telling the dwarf that his charge had safely arrived in Tevinter, he personally found the climate to his liking, and he didn’t expect to require additional work for the foreseeable future.
After a moment, he added ‘Thanks.’ He posted it to Kirkwall, then went back to bed with his family.