They had met once before. Hawke remembers it well but she isn’t sure Josephine will. In fact, she’s sure she won’t. The party was pretty boring and the introduction quick and unmemorable. Hawke had only been invited because she was Hero of Ferelden’s cousin, a woman she has never even met and because between her mother and the money, the Hawkes had finally noble status.
Not that Hawke cared but it did mean she got to meet Josephine Montilyet while in Orlais and that was worth the pain that was the expedition.
Well, almost. Losing Bethany to the Circle was not something she wants to repeat.
Still, she has met Josephine before and she could never forget her. She was warm and welcoming, more so than anyone else at the party, genuine too, and absolutely stunning. Her skin shone and her eyes sparkled and she may be a little bias but she was the best dressed at the damn party. Hawke was looking okay, in a decent lavender shirt and dusky pink waistcoat of all things and Josephine was like a damn goddess.
She remembers it all very clearly, even though it was years ago and she is sure Josephine won’t remember it the same way.
Except. as Josephine walks towards her through the crowd of nobles that mill around the main hall when she arrives there is a definite look of recognition on her face.
“Serah Hawke,” she cries, walking up to her with open arms and Hawke is convinced she’s going to embrace her as if they were old friends. When she doesn’t she’s disappointed but still enjoys the feel of Josephine’s hands on her arms for a moment, squeezing her biceps before shaking her hand. “Welcome to Skyhold,” she continues. “It is good to see you again.”
“You two have met?” Varric asks.
“Just once,” she says.
“And too long ago,” Josephine cuts in, smiling still and Hawke is transfixed but she can see Varric's grin out of the corner of her eye. “At a party in Montsimmard, some terribly boring thing I had to attend as the ambassador.”
“It was pretty dull,” Hawke says,
“And our meeting too brief,” Josephine continues, “but we can rectify that now, yes, come into my office and have tea with me and we can organise some suitable quarters and anything else you might need. Had I known you were coming I would have a room ready for you.”
She looks at Varric who shrugs.
“Hey, don’t look at me, she just turned up.”
“After you wrote to me!” Hawke protests, but she smiles at her friend and he chuckles.
“Never mind,” Josephine says, “let us get you sorted.”
“Oh, I...it’s really not necessary,” she says but Josephine is already linking their arms together and pulling her through the main hall. She glances back at Varric who is laughing now and she mouths a swearword at him before concentrating on where she is walking in case she walks into a wall or another noble are causes a diplomatic incident Josephine has to clean up.
They separate at the door to her office, and Hawke follows Josephine inside and sits when urged. She watches as the ambassador takes the kettle from the fire, the water already hot it seems, and pours it into a delicate teapot, flanked by matching cups and a little bowl of sugar.
“Now, I have a nice set of rooms up on the balcony overlooking the garden that I think would suit you nicely,” she says.
“I really don’t need more than one room. Just a bed.”
“But you’re a noble, the Champion of Kirkwall.”
“You’ve read Varric’s book haven't you?” she asks with a groan. “I’m really not very noble-like. Or much of a Champion. I’m not that Hawke.”
Josephine frowns, blushing red over her bronze skin and blushed cheeks.
“Oh, yes, I suppose everything I know about has come from Varric in one way or another,” she says. “I apologise, I had forgotten we barely know each other.”
“No, no,” Hawke says, and she takes the teapot and pours them both some tea. “It’s just, Varric exaggerates and talks me up and really I just need a target and a soft bed.”
Josephine smiles and takes a seat on the sofa, adding sugar and milk to her tea and offering Hawke the same. She shakes her head and takes a sip of the scalding liquid.
“I arrange both,” she says, “and perhaps I could get to know the real you.”
“I’d like that,” she says.
“Now, one thing you must tell me is how you really managed to get away from the Blight,” she says. “Seeing as Varric obviously made up the story about the Witch of the Wilds and the dragon.
“That bit is actually true,” she says.
Josephine gasps and over their tea, Hawke recounts her family’s escape from the Ferelden and the Blight for what must be the hundredth time.
Josephine's genuine interest and attention make it feel like the first time though.
She can’t sleep.
The Inquisitor is in Exalted Plains, dealing with the Orlesians and taken Varric with her. And Dorian whose confidence and drinking reminds her of Isabela. The wardens can wait, Evelyn had said, and that’s fine, Hawke understands but she feels bad for Stroud. The wardens are looking for him, though they’re not close, and she is keen to find out what is going on.
Plus Skyhold is new, and she always struggles with new places, new people. It’s why she’s latched onto Varric and Josephine. She couldn’t quite bring herself to seek out Cullen, but she hopes to make more friends. New friends.
In the meantime, she’s wandering around the fortress past midnight.
She notes the light coming from beneath the door heading towards the War Room, a sconce or two lit when she pushes the heavy door open and walks in. Josephine is at her desk, still working, candle dangerously close to burning out.
“Serah Hawke,” she says, “good evening.”
“It’s past midnight Lady Montilyet,” she replies, smiling. “Are you still working?”
“I’m afraid so. I knew I would not be able to sleep until I have finished this stack of correspondence. It would weight too heavily on my mind.”
Hawke nods, watching her write, the scratch of the quill a little grating.
“Not sleepy,” is all she offers, but does add. “Do you want some tea?”
“Oh, that would be lovely, but I’m afraid the kettle is empty.”
“No problem,” she says, smiling then, “there were a few warming over the fire in the kitchen. Probably for the other insomniacs.”
“Skyhold does seem to be rather busy at night.”
“I’ll be right back.”
She runs to the kitchen, tries to run back but it’s a little harder holding a kettle of hot water. She doesn’t spill much, a splash or two that mostly miss. She had a little red patch in her right hand but forgets about it when she sees Josephine has already laid out the tea things and is sitting on the sofa.
Hawke pours the water in the pot, smiling brightly knowing she probably looks a little goofy. Josephine is serene as she does so and watches as Hawke places the kettle by the fire.
“I hope you don’t mind, I made Camomile tea, something a little more soothing to help us sleep.”
“Now, what is really causing you to wander the fortress at night?” Josephine asks and Hawke frowns.
There is no real truth, no big confession.
“Just lots of little things,” she tries. “I miss my sister.”
And my mother, and bother, and life.
Josephine reaches out and pats her thigh.
“When did you see her last?”
“Before I came to Skyhold. She and Isabela dropped me off on the Storm Coast,” she says. “Do you have siblings.”
“I am the eldest of five,” Josephine says, puffed with pride and Hawke smiles despite her sudden sadness. “I have three brothers, all accomplished in various ways, though the youngest is still at university and a sister who is a talented artist.”
“Hmmm,” there is a tone Hawke can’t quite figure out to the noise. “She is good but spends much of her time socialising. She says it's for inspiration but the bills for her tutor come regardless.”
Hawke laughs then.
“But you love her.”
“Yes. And I miss her, all of them, terribly. At least Yvette is in Orlais, she is closer than my brother and parents.”
“When did you seem them last?”
Josephine has to think about it, Hawke watches as she mulls it over, pouring the tea until she can remember.
“I am...unsure,” she says softly. Hawke pours them both tea then reaches out to take Josephine’s hand. “It has been a number of years since I saw my brothers, longer since I saw my parents. You must think me terrible that I can’t remember.”
“No!” Hawke says, squeezing her hand. “Not at all. You’re far away and memories fade. Just cause you can’t remember doesn’t mean you love them any less.”
“I remember the occasions, just not when they were,” Josephine says.
“That’s all that matters.”
Hawke lets got of her hand then, very conscious of it, and picking up the little teacup to take a sip. The tea is a little odd, she was never a huge fan of chamomile but Josephine picked it and, well, if it helps her sleep, or even just relax then she’ll drink it gladly.
They talk for a little while about their families, though Hawke mostly just listens to Josephine tell stories about her siblings and the things they got up to as children. Her own childhood was very different, though she has a couple of stories of her own. She concentrates on the ones about Bethany, not willing to talk about Carver or her parents just yet.
“Oh my, how long have we been talking?” Josephine says when she goes to pour more tea but finds the post empty of everything but dregs.
“A while,” Hawke says, smiling. “I could listen to you for hours,” she adds blushing.
“You are too kind Serah Hawke,” she says and Hawke laughs.
“You can call me Marian you know. Or Merry.”
“My...” she hesitates. “My father’s nickname for me.”
“I like it,” Josephine says and she stands. Hawke jumps to her feet. “And you must call me Josephine, please. Or Josie.”
“I will,” Hawke says. “Good night Josie.”
“Good night Merry.”
They do the same a few nights later, Hawke finding Josephine still at her desk while she herself is wandering around in the moon and candlelight. They have tea, something with lavender and elf root with a bit of honey that is actually nice and talk again. About Skyhold, the wardens, the end of the world.
Hawke mostly listens. Josephine has a lot to say and while she does have questions that Hawke is mostly willing to answer, it’s a nice change of pace to not have to answer a barrage of questions. To talk about Kirkwall and being the Champion and her part in what feels like the end of the world.
The pattern repeats until Hawke skips asking if Josephine wants tea and simply fetches a kettle of water on her way to her office and they work their way through Josephine’s teas and their various stories.
“You really let me talk too much,” Josephine says, pouring the last of the apple tea into their cups. The set is always the same, a delicate blue and white that feels so small in Hawke’s hands.
“Your stories are interesting and your accent is beautiful,” she says.
Josephine blushes, and Hawke entertains the idea of kissing her on the hand, the cheek.
She feels her own cheeks flush a little but the other woman doesn’t comment on it.
“I know it is hard for you to share your own stories,” she says quietly and Hawke looks up from her tea, “but I hope you can trust me to tell me more of them,” then ever softer, so much so that Hawke thinks she’s imagined it. “Even the sad ones.”
She could cry, but it’s been too long and instead, she nods and drains her cup.
“Thank you, Josie,” she manages.
She doesn't reply and nods back. She takes a sip of her tea, makes a face and sets it aside.
“Apple tea is lovely but once it’s tepid I find it most unpalatable.”
She hadn’t even noticed, still considering Josephine’s words, her offer. It’s not like she doesn’t have people to talk to. Varric will always listen, and she writes to Bethany and they’ve worked through a lot of the past few years. Even Isabela will sit down and listen to her lament if you buy her a drink or three.
New people, new people push, pry, pull information out of her.
Josephine is offering to listen but not forcing the conversation.
She’s just not used to it.
“We should get some sleep,” she says, standing slowly and Josephine follows her lead.
“Yes, we’re up even later than we usually are.”
“I don’t mind, but then I can sleep in if I want.”
“Do you ever sleep in?” Josephine asks.
Hawke shakes her head.
“No, not since I got here. Maybe when I settle in a bit more.”
Josephine doesn’t comment on the fact that she’s been here three weeks now and Hawke is grateful for that. So grateful that she forgets that she was only contemplating kissing Josephine and leans forward and places a soft kiss to her cheek.
Josie gasps, blushes but smiles and Hawke tries her best not to panic.
“N-night Merry,” she replies. Hawke gives her a smile before ducking out the room.
She doesn’t get a chance to follow up on the kiss on the cheek and instead seeks her out early one morning before most people have even risen. Josephine is in her office though, at her desk, as if she had never left.
Hawke often wonders, worries, that person Josephine sleeps even less than she does herself. Which would be pretty impressive, she thinks.
Still, she doesn’t really have time to question it or question Josephine about it. She’s already running late, wearing her new leathers that Isabela convinced her to buy in Antiva that almost feel right and her bow is strapped to her back. She just needs to pick up a quiver of arrows and then she’s set.
“Merry,” Josephine says, smiling, “a little early for tea,” she added.
“A little early for work too,” she says.
“I do not disagree with you,” Josephine sighs. “But I do have a lot to get done today. Perhaps we can have tea later as usual.”
“Oh, I hadn’t come for tea,” Hawke says, frowning, “I’m going to Crestwood and I’ve come to say goodbye.”
“My friend is hiding out there and the other wardens are getting close,” she says. “I had a letter from him this morning and I’m going out there and Inquisitor is going to meet me there,” she explains. “I’m sure you’ll talk more about it at the war room meeting.”
Josephine stands, pushing her chair aside so she can reach her shelves. She rustles around with some items there, and Hawke can hear tins being opened and closed until she turns back with a small wooden box in her hands.
“You will be careful won’t you?”
“I’ll be fine,” Hawke says, beaming at her. “I’m going to avoid as many people as possible.”
“Good,” she nods, satisfied and hands the box to her. “This is Antivan Spice tea,” she tells her. “Crestwood is very damp and dull in places, it will stave off the cold.”
“You can and will,” Josephine says, pushing the box more firmly into her grasp. “You will need it.”
“Thank you, Josie.”
Hawke leans forward and kisses her on the cheek again, the box of tea pressed between them for the mere second before she steps back.
“I’ll write to you and keep you updated,” she says, enjoying the blush on Josephine’s cheeks and not expecting the way Josephine presses her lips to hers briefly.
“I look forward to it.”
With that, she had to go, cheek tingling slightly and smiling all the way to the stables where a horse and supplies were waiting and ready to go.
A lot of Crestwood is as dull and damp as Josephine said, though once she got past the lake and flooding, it brightened considerably though Hawke still felt cold and wet as she sat in the cave with Stroud and waited for the Inquisitor to turn up.
He was on edge, and not interested in talking for a change and she had passed several Grey Wardens on the way through the region, all of them asking after another warden. She had mostly gone undetected by them, only speaking to one who she told she was a hunter and that he was the first Grey Warden she had seen since the Blight.
He didn’t seem to really care about her, but she was careful as she left, going the wrong way, leaving a false trail, all those little things her father taught them as kids to avoid Templars worked with Wardens too.
So she doesn’t blame Stroud for his unusual surly mood, though she’s not a fan of the pacing, it’s really not that big a cave. The fire is nice and tea is more soothing than she expected. It warms her from the inside out and she’s immensely grateful for it.
She falls into a trance watching Stroud and considers Josephine as she sips the tea. The woman is gorgeous, and as Champion of Kirkwall, they’re well matched now. She could court a noblewoman like Josephine, she’s sure of it. How is the question but at least she knows Josephine would be receptive. She treasures the warm feeling of her lips on hers, however fleeting it was.
She manages, in between Stroud pacing and grumbling about the Inquisitor taking so long, to write Josephine a letter to thank her. It’s the least she can do after all and if she just happens to reference some feelings she may have that’s neither here nor there.
She ties it to the raven that has been following her since she left Skyhold and instructs it to return there.
She receives a letter as she and Stroud are packing up to head to the Western Approach. She’s not looking forward to it, whatever is happening, it’s going to become very clear and Hawke can feel those old apprehensions again. She can feel that it’s bigger than just the wardens, knows it’s all connected and the panic cannot be dulled by Josephine’s letter.
No matter how sweet her words.
And they are sweet, it seems everything Josephine has wanted to say has come out of her quill, written in ink and easier to express that way. She cares for Hawke, is definitely attracted to her, wants more from her.
She sends another little sachet of the spice tea and Hawke drinks it the night before they leave the area. Hawke could cry herself to sleep that night, the spice of the tea buzzing around her body as she considers how much she adores Josephine and how long it will be before she sees her. They will go straight to the Western Approach, to face whatever they find there and she has a feeling she may never actually see the woman again.
In the low light of the sunrise, she scribbles another letter to Josephine, and in no uncertain terms tells her she is falling for her because that is the truth of the matter. She is, perhaps has, fallen in love with this woman over tea and candlelight.
She also asks for a refreshing tea for the dry heat and sand of the desert knowing the Antivan will pick the perfect blend.
Hawke receives her next letter as they cross the border. The Inquisitor has returned to Skyhold and filled Josephine in and it is full of concern and care for her. It improves her mood, and even Stroud seems to feel a little better about her good mood. There is a single sachet of tea, a fruit blend and a promise that more has been sent to Griffon Wing keep for her to collect, along with some other supplies.
Hawke takes a little more time with her next letter, writing it as the sunsets and the fire builds.
She’s not going to tell her she loves her, because she’s really not sure and she really should leave that for in person. Plus she can’t tell if it’s just the mortal terror or if she actually loves the woman.
It’s certainly something close.
But the fact that Corypheus lives has been on her mind since Varric wrote to her since Stroud got in touch and she’s been ignoring it, ignoring him, the creature of her nightmares that has poisoned the dreams about her father.
She hasn’t slept much since the meeting between Stroud and the Inquisitor.
She tells Josephine about the nightmares, nothing graphic tells her about her fears, admits to her that maybe she let Corypheus out into the world, that she has brought about its
Tells her she wishes she was there, to drink tea with her and be held by her because that’s what she needs right not more than anything in the world.
She crumples it and throws it at the fire, it misses and she leaves it there. Come morning she straightens it out and sends it off with Leliana’s raven and a trinket she picked up on coming through the mountains. Nothing spectacular, just a heart carved from some wood she found in the dirt and cleaned up.
She knows Josephine will love it.
Josephine is also skirting around telling Hawke she loves her.
The letter is perfect and Hawke suspects it not the first draft. Not the second or third. There are no mistakes, not even an errant ink spot and it makes her laugh.
She is comforting, offers comfort when she comes home.
Doesn’t even realise what she’s offering.
Hawke can’t remember what home feels like but she’d like to find out with Josephine, thinks it may be Josephine herself. She’s not sure if that is just because she actually wants to be with her, or because she’s just fed up of travelling with a surly Orlesian warden who’s being hunted by his own people.
Okay, so he may have a right to be surly.
They spent a night at Griffon Wing though, and she collected everything Josephine sent for her along with the new letter that could be telling Hawke exactly how Josephine feels but could just be a mirage in the desert. It feels like a care package, tea and sweets and tiny cakes that somehow are still fresh. Plus a rune – a damn good one – that she had put into her bow before they leave for the ritual tower.
Hawke isn’t looking forward to this, not that she really would, but she knows it’s going to be much worse than any of them realise. She can feel it and she hates that she’s right.
The ritual has already begun when they arrive, not long before the Inquisitor, and she’s glad to see Varric is with her. She takes comfort in her old friend, he was with her when they faced Corypheus the first time, he knows what she’s thinking, what she’s feeling.
So when she hesitates in shooting the possessed wardens, after the Corypheus' Tevinter lackey does a runner, Varric jabs her with the sharp end of one of Bianca’s bolts. It’s enough to jolt her out of whatever hole she was falling into and she takes down two wardens without delay, adding to the those already cut down by the Inquisitor and the demons that disintegrate as she shoots arrows through them, the rune send sparks of lightning through them.
The flash of the anchor, the bright green light is distracting again but the danger isn’t as great and she is mesmerised for a moment.
When all is said and done, she runs, runs out of what’s left of the tower and down the steps to throw up.
Nothing comes but she dry heaves for a little bit until she feels Varric’s hand on her back, and hears Stroud and the Inquisitor talking. She manages to straighten up and give her friend a weak smile. They talk about Adamant Fortress and Hawke is stricken because she so terribly badly wants to go back to Skyhold and see Josephine but she knows, she knows she has to help fix this.
Hawke’s already packing up her stuff before the Inquisitor tells them she’ll meet them there.
She scrawls a note to Josephine, promising her a longer letter once they’re on the road, telling her little of what actually happened and asking for a tea that will settle her stomach.
Hawke only has nightmares from the moment they walk about from the ritual tower, all the way to Adamant. The fortress is busy, much busier than either she or Stroud expected and even the tea Josephine sent, along with a caravan of supplies and another – long – letter does not help the sick feeling that she carries all the way from the Western Approach.
Her letters to Josephine are not as long, the two of them didn’t stop much, didn't sleep much, on their way to Adamant. And even if they had, she doesn’t know what to say, how to put into words the fears and horrors she is suffering right now.
That she has caused.
They don’t talk about it. Not Corypheus or the wardens. They don’t talk much at all and she doesn’t mind, they’ve never been close but it’s dangerous to be left alone with her thoughts too much and she wants to keep walking past Adamant and scale the mountains to Josephine and just sleep until this is all over.
Instead she and Stroud camp out in the small cave system hidden away from the wardens and demons. They take turns keeping watch, sending word back to the Inquisition and it is only now Hawke gets the chance to write to Josephine.
Except she doesn’t know what to say.
She asks for more tea, something soothing but nothing that will send her to sleep.
She makes promises she isn’t sure she can keep.
That she will return, that they will be together, that everything will be alright.
She will be alright.
The last one is definitely a life, she can’t remember the last time she felt alright. Perhaps when her father was still alive, though she can’t be sure it was such a long time ago. Has she ever been alright? She’s not sure, but it’s not something she can discuss with Stroud and not something for a letter to Josephine.
She signs it, love Merry and hopes Josephine understands what she’s not able to tell her just yet.
The soothing tea does not come in time.
The Inquisitor beats Josephine's next care package and as much as she wanted to tell them to wait, just wait, for one last letter from her, Hawke is pretty sure they can’t delay saving the world (or at least stopping the Wardens) because she is in love and desperate to see if Josephine feels the same.
Or for tea.
Not that she thinks tea is going to help.
She looks down, but Varric isn’t there, his voice beside her but above her. She looks up to find him standing upside down above her.
There is an ale, called Dragon’s Piss. It’s stupidly strong, almost medicinal, something Anders gave patients who were dying.
That’s what she thinks she needs right now.
“This is not good.”
It’s too quiet. The battle was a loud roaring clusterfuck of demons and Wardens – some of whom are redeemable. A damn archdemon and then the world fell beneath her feet.
Varric swears again and then he and Stroud walk down to stand either side of her somehow.
The Inquisitor forges ahead, Cassandra by her side, and all Hawke can really do is follow. All Hawke has ever really done is follow. She’s not a leader, she told Josephine that once. She will follow, and she will lead, but she is not the natural leader Adaar is. The Inquisitor took to the role with difficulty but did it well.
Hawke couldn’t keep Kirkwall from imploding. Couldn’t even keep her family alive.
All she could really do is help clean up.
So she follows the Inquisitor though the fade and tries to ignore the taunts of fear, the Nightmare demon that she hears whispering around her. Does so quite well, putting arrow after arrow into everything that moves that isn’t human.
And almost one into Dorian, but he was standing in front of her target at the time. He laughs it off, pulling it out of the rock she hit instead of him and hands it back to her.
“We’re even now for that bolt of lightning that singed your hair,” he says.
She smiles, for the first time in weeks without a letter or a cup of tea, consciously patting at the regrowing hair on the side of her head. Shame she’ll never get out of here and see if it grows back weird or not like Sera seems to think.
Mostly she’s just glad Josephine isn’t here.
And she’s fine. Fine.
“Did you think you mattered Hawke?” The Nightmare taunts her. “Did you think anything you did mattered?”
Hawke laughs because no, not she didn’t. Still doesn’t.
“You couldn't even save your city. How could you expect to strike down a God?”
She’s not convinced Corypheus is a God, but she’ll give the Nightmare that. Though really, it’s the other way around. She couldn’t bring down Corypheus, it’s no wonder she couldn’t save Kirkwall.
“Josephine is going to die, just like your family, and everyone you ever cared about.”
Everyone is staring at her, her feelings laid bare in front of everyone and she manages to rein in the panic that the demon’s words might be true long enough to speak.
“Of course a fear demon would know where to hurt us most,” she says, “we must ignore it.”
The last bit it for her own benefit as much as the others and it continues, picking out each of them, and exposing them. Hawke doesn’t listen, isn’t listening, she just keeps her eyes out for more fearlings and wraiths to take down.
Until they reach the graveyard.
It’s small, a scattering of headstones and she doesn’t think anything of it at first. It’s the fade and they may be following the Divine through while picking up bits of the Inquisitor's memories. A graveyard is normal. So she almost ignores it, walks past it with everyone else but she spots her name.
The cold that goes through is painful, she shudders but she can’t turn away, and Hawke goes over to take a closer look.
All the headstones are marked with the names of the Inquisitor's inner circle and words, fears. Their greatest fears? She isn’t sure. She seeks out Josephine's, avoiding her own for the moment. It’s a little ostentatious, something she would hate though perhaps the point. Beneath her name is the word destitution and Hawke understands immediately.
They’ve spoken of it in the night, over jasmine tea, how her family is actually in debt, close to the edge. How she is trying so hard to set it right, set her family up for the future.
How she is up so late every night because she is working hard to keep her family going and the Inquisition.
How tea with Hawke has become the highlight of every day.
She smiles. She won’t see Josephine destitute. Not now, now ever.
The whispers in the fade remind her of her own headstone and she moves forward to find it, a
tiny little thing hidden in the shadows and she’s surprised she even saw her name.
Underneath it, it simply says, loneliness.
Just a chuckle at first, until she’s hysterical, dropping to her knees and bent over crying with laughter long enough that eventually she’s just crying and Varric and Dorian have to drag her to her feet. They ignore their own headstones, drag her away from hers, from the graveyard and toward the weird sea that seems to have appeared, water lapping at the shore as if it were any regular beach.
“Not as strong as I used to be,” she says quietly, pretending she was ever strong.
Varric simply nods but doesn’t comment. He doesn’t have to really. Dorian squeezes her shoulder and he too is silent.
They continue on but the whispers are harder to ignore now. It’s harder for Hawke to forget about Josephine, that she might not get out of here alive, if at all.
The Nightmare demon itself is huge, taking up the entire horizon, blacking out the sky such as it is. She misses what happens, so consumed is she by the horror in front of them but soon the Divine is gone, saying something about Leliana. Then only a smaller demon is there, and once the distraction is gone she finds herself firing arrows at anything and everything that moves.
It’s all panic, and she knows she’s not hitting her best marks and her father would be upset to see her talent completely engulfed by her fear – especially when it’s exactly what the damn demon intended.
But he’s dead, and so is Carver and her mother and Bethany could be, Bethany could be and she wouldn’t even know and she manages to get an arrow right between the demon’s eyes.
“Good shot,” Varric yells, a bolt following the same path for good measure.
The aspect goes down but the horror returns, the Nightmare in all it’s glory no longer subdued by whatever power the spirit of the Divine was using to hold it back.
A fade rift sits behind it and they run towards it, the Inquisitor trying to hurry them along but it’s there, huge and horrifying and in the way.
“We need to clear a path,” Stroud says.
The words come out of her mouth before she can’t even really fathom she’s saying them.
“Go, I’ll cover you.”
“No, you were right, the warden’s caused this. A warden must-”
“The wardens must help them rebuild,” she interrupts, and in the back of her mind, Josephine is crying. “That’s your job.” She looks up at the demon. “And this is mine.”
The Inquisitor looks at them both.
The relief she feels, at just hearing the man’s name, that apologetic tone, is immense and she almost sobs.
“Inquisitor, it has been an honour,” Stroud says.
He’s gone, shouting, sword in the air before she can even say anything. The Inquisitor has to grab her arm to get her moving and the run towards the open rift. Adaar pretty much throws her through and follows, closing the rift behind her.
Hawke is pulling herself off the stonework as the rift closes and demons are destroyed in the process. The mages come back to themselves around her as she dusts herself down.
She manages to convince the Inquisitor to let everyone believe she saved them all, again, because Hawke wants to believe it too. She just wants to live in a world where she is not the hero. ||| She leaves her to deal with the wardens then, slinking off to find some hot water for tea and a bedroll to lie down on.
Varric finds her not long later, with a mage in tow and points out her wounds. There is a cut along the side of her head where her red hair is still growing back after Dorian’s errant lightning bolt. There is dried blood on her arm, and her abdomen is sore now she thinks about it. He swaps her tea for elfroot and she chugs it, taking the mug of tea back and finishing it off to chase the bitter taste away.
The mage heals her and leaves them, and it’s a moment before either of them speak.
“You okay?” he asks.
“I will be.”
She thinks she should go to Weisshaupt, let the Wardens know what’s happened so they’re not blindsided so that Corypheus can’t try this again.
“Don’t do it,” Varric says and he’s already pouring her more tea. It’s not a blend Josephine has sent her, but it’s nice enough and comforting all by itself.
“Don’t do what?” she asks.
“Don’t do the right thing for once,” he tells her. “Be selfish for a change.”
“You know me too well,” she says, cradling the hot mug.
“Get some sleep, Hawke.”
She nods and thinks she might actually sleep.
The journey back to Skyhold is much shorter.
Hawke tries not to think of it as the journey home, because it’s not really home, she doesn’t really belong there any more than she belongs anywhere else.
Except Josephine is expecting her, waiting for her, will welcome her.
She’s written, to tell her she’s okay, alive, but she’s left out most of the details. Josephine knows them of course, she’ll have had the Inquisitor’s report by now but she doesn’t want to worry her. Not when she already has so much to worry about.
She’s already decided to help Josie out with the family’s problems and get them out of debt. It’s easy enough, she has enough money to do it, though she’s not sure Josie will take it.
Maybe if they were married.
The thought isn’t new but still startles her a little.
Hawke doesn’t dwell on it. Not yet, she has to get back because she’s still not sure if she’s in love with Josephine or if she just misses her.
Except, except, when she finally makes the ascent to the fortress Josie is waiting for her at the gates. She’s twisting her hands together, looking down at the ground and back up again, a little pale from what Hawke can tell. She wants to rush up to her and drop to her knees. Wrap her arms around her waist and cry into the silk of her clothes.
Instead, she walks up to her and kisses her.
She takes her hand, kisses her lips and pulls her close.
She can cry later. Much later.
Josephine kisses back and for a long moment, they just stand there in the courtyard kissing until Josephine pulls away and smiles, tears in her eyes.
She starts crying too then, far harder than she would like to in public and Josephine pulls her into a quick hug, before taking her hand.
“Come, let me make you some tea.”
Hawke smiles then, hugs her again, kisses her again.
“I love you” she mumbles against her lips, sure of it now. Now she’s seen her, held her, kissed her. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” she whispers back and Hawke knows.
She’s known since the second cup of tea.