It is a strange thing, Aveline thinks, attraction. Something completely separate from her brain, her body another entity. Another entity that doesn’t seem to mind when Isabela calls her Big Girl, or does something illegal, or insults her in some way.
Or simply exists.
It’s the only explanation for how she feels.
It’s foolish to even consider the woman as anything more than a nuisance and a criminal statistic she has to give the Seneschal at the quarterly meetings. Isabela has her own damn report of statistic and those are just the crimes Aveline knows about.
So the sway of her hips, and the shine of her hair, and the colour of her skin.
Isabela does not seem to feel the same way about Aveline, given the insults she slings her away about the way she looks. Aveline gives as good as she gets, but mostly about the woman’s sexual proclivities and criminal activities.
Rarely, rarely about the way she looks. Because she looks divine.
She is aware that her own insults are both reactionary to Isabela’s teasing and to her own feelings. She crumples up the paper in her in annoyance and throws it across the room.
“What’s up Big Girl?” Isabela asks.
The pirate is in the doorway, hand on one hip, leaning on the frame.
“You, as usual.”
“I seem to be on your mind a lot,” she says. “If it were anyone else I’d think you had a thing for me.”
The words hit a little close to him and Aveline blushes bright red, knows she does, red hair, red cheeks. She can help it but she manages to hide it by bending down behind her desk to pick up a stack of reports. She drops them on her desk and the thud echoes around the office.
“These are complaints, accusations and crimes either about you, committed by you, or contracted by you,” she says, glaring. Isabela comes into the office and up to the desk, leaning on hip against it. “For this quarter.”
The pirate reaches out, and runs a finger up the edge of the stack of papers.
“Seems small,” she says and Aveline growls. “Plus I do not contract. That indicates people get paid for doing my dirty work. Well, that they get paid in money.”
She chuckles but it just makes Aveline angrier.
“I have a presentation with the Viscount next month. You alone would take up the entire meeting as I try and explain the crime stats.”
“Then leave them out, no one gets hurt.”
Aveline stares at her, then halves the stack, pulls out a report and hands it to her.
“Hurt badly,” Isabela amends as she reads it over.
Aveline slams the stack back together.
“Why are you here?” she asks.
“I need some help.”
Aveline nearly falls over laughing and Isabela glares at her this time, standing up straight hands on hips. It pushes her breasts out and the observation is sobering enough to calm her back down.
“No,” she says.
“You don't even know what I need.”
Aveline opens the stack again, pulls out a different report and hands it to Isabela.
“Not that sort of help,” she says, putting it back on the stack herself. “Though if you’re offering...”
“I am not!” Aveline cries, even though, she would really like to help Isabela remove her clothes. Though not down on the docks and not to the conclusion detailed in the report. The guard that found them quit and a lot of details were left out.
Aveline doesn’t know if that makes it worse or better.
“Then what do you want?”
She’s pretty sure she’s blushing, but Isabela doesn’t comment on it. Probably because she could easily be flushed from anger which is something the pirate is definitely used to.
“I need some backup. Hawke and Varric are off in Orlais, she took Merrill and Fenris with her. I can’t have a mage with me so that rules out Anders and Sebastian is worse than you are. ”
“No,” Aveline says. “Ask someone else. Anyone else.”
“There isn’t anyone else I trust,” Isabela says, softly, like a secret and Aveline pauses.
She should say no and throw her out. Have her thrown out. She has work to do, and she really can’t be writing a report to add to the pile. Really can't be starring in a report to add to the pile. But Isabela isn't even looking at her now, arms down by her side, eyeing up the stack on the desk.
“Fine,” she says. “What do you need?”
Isabela smiles and Aveline has no idea how she manages to pull her in so easily. She would say it was her curves, it’s always the same when she had a crush on a woman. It’s always the damn curves. She has a type, she can’t deny it, quiet solid men and curvy loud women.
It’s gotten her in more trouble than she would like, at least before she married Wesley. And since she met Isabela.
“Just some backup big girl!” Isabela says. “Meet me down by the docks at eight.”
She agrees with a grunt and Isabela swans out of her office.
It goes about as well as Aveline expects. Whatever is supposed to happen, she thinks things going wrong is an understatement. She tries not to look as Isabela kicks one body into the harbour and throws a knife in the back of retreating mercenary.
“Was that really necessary?” she asks, folding her arms across her chest and frowning.
“No witness,” she says, “didn’t I mention that?”
“I love it when you growl Big Girl,” Isabela says, she presses her heal into the back of the mercenary she’s just killed and pulls the knife from his back. It disappears somewhere on her body and Aveline is about to ask just how many knives she has hidden when the pirate starts pushing the body towards the water.
“You might want to turn around Aveline,” she says, “you’ve done enough.”
Aveline has a retort but she’s taken aback by Isabela’s sincerity. She does as she suggests and pretends she can’t hear the splash, splash, splash as the rest of the bodies hit the water. No witnesses, no evidence. She really needs to be asking for more information when she agrees to help Isabela.
“Done?” she asks when it’s quiet for a little while.
“Done,” Isabela all but purrs into her ear and she jumps.
“A whore and a murderer,” she says.
“Self defence,” Isabela says and Aveline can’t really argue with that, the pirate didn’t even have her daggers out when the first arrow went flying back her head. There is a tear in her headscarf from where it hit and she was lucky.
She’s always lucky, Aveline is aware of that and she realises that’s why she keeps going along on these stupid little favours.
Eventually, her luck is going to run out.
“Come on Big Girl,” Isabela says, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and pulling her close. “Let me buy you a drink.”
Aveline forces herself to pull away and out of Isabela’s strong grip, and they head away from the harbour and through the city to Lowtown. Aveline is moving up in the world, had a little house in midtown, but she likes Lowtown. It’s more welcoming in a way and there are no more criminals here than there are in any other part of the city. She’s no more likely to be attacked her than she is standing outside the chantry in Hightown.
Like last week.
Aveline is not lucky.
But that’s okay, much like Hawke, she falls on her feet. Things seem to be evening out again.
She’s so lost in her thoughts she hasn’t even realised Isabela has stopped outside the Hanged Man without going inside. She turns, letting the door close again.
“Everything okay? Did you want to go somewhere else?”
She hopes she does not want to go the Blooming Rose.
“I wanted to thank you,” Isabela says, and so quietly that Aveline has to move closer.
She doesn't know what to say to that, Isabela rarely thanks her with such sincerity. Or sobriety. Usually, she’s a few drinks deep and slurring and Aveline is usually gone by then. The thanks are passed on by Hawke, Merrill, the odd guard on patrol or relaxing (embarrassing as that is).
“You’re welcome,” she says.
“Will this go in your stack?” she asks and Aveline smiles.
“not for this quarter,” she replies and Isabela laughs and the moment passes.
“Come on, let's get drunk and commit some common indecency crimes.”
“How about you get drunk and naked and I just watch?” Aveline says, pushing the door or the Hanged Man open again.
She’s inside when she realises what she’s just said and Isabela is laughing. She blushes bright red and stalks up to the bar, ordering two of whatever tastes the least offensive. Nora just shrugs and pours her two ales. Isabela sidles up to her and takes one.
“Something you want to tell me Aveline?” she asks.
“Shut up slattern,” she growls.
“You are one of the few people in Kirkwall who hasn’t seen me naked.”
“Let’s keep it that way,” Aveline says, “though this doesn’t really count as dressed,” she says, looking her up and down.
“I don't get any complaints.
“That’s a lie,” Aveline says, “I’m always complaining.”
“Too much,” Isabel says, “makes a girl think.”
“You should think too much pirate,” Aveline says, “it usually gets me into trouble.”
“You love it,” she says. And then, with a frown. “Love me?”
Aveline doesn’t have an answer to that. It’s not love, that much she is sure of, though it’s more than attraction. Whatever animosity there was between them has turned into some sort of friendship. It’s honest and other than Hawke, she doesn’t have many friends. Raising up the ranks has cut her off from the other city guards, and she’s a Ferelden with an Orlesian name who only really lets Hawke and Isabela get away with anything.
Isabela doesn’t say anything either, and they just drink and that makes her feel a little better. It’s been a weird evening all round and she really has too much work to do to be dealing with whatever is going on with Isabela.
“Why were you even meeting those guys?” she asks.
“I’ve lost something. I was told they knew where it was.”
“Your morals?” Aveline says, “your sense of decency?”
“Both long gone sweet thing,” she says, “but it’s nice that you think they’re out there somewhere to be reclaimed.”
Aveline smiles and finishes her drink quickly. If this is
what tastes the least offensive she’d hate to try anything else in Hanged Man tonight. It tastes like something Corff found in a ditch and let mature in the sun. When she tells Isabela this she laughs and she’s beautiful and Aveline entertains thoughts of kissing her again.
“Something stronger maybe? Strip away our taste buds?” Isabela suggests.
Aveline can hold her liqueur, she just chooses not too, but she decides on one more. Isabela is surprised and orders two of the strongest drinks they have. It’s a shot, thankfully, and Isabela raises her glass to Aveline before downing it. She barely reacts but Aveline knows her well enough to see that it’s strong even by the pirates’ standards. The slight widening of her eyes, the twitch of her chin when she swallows.
She takes a deep breath and downs her own drink.
As promised it strips away her taste buds, plus several layers of her throat. She coughs and Balearic pats her on the back, even as she laughs at her.
“Good?” she asks.
“Awful,” Aveline says. “How are you still alive?”
“Now I am going,” she says, “please try not to get into any more trouble for the next couple of days, I have a lot of work to do.”
Isabela doesn’t reply and Aveline tells her goodnight and goes to leave when she asks her a question.
“Why do you do it?” she asks, “why do you help me out? You never say no.”
“I always say no,” Aveline replies.
“And then you come with me anyway.”
Aveline thinks about it, thinks about what truth to offer her. Or least how much truth to offer her.
“You wouldn’t ask if you didn’t need me. You are more than capable of looking after yourself.”
This seems to satisfy Isabela and she nods.
“Good night Big Girl,” she says finally.
“Night,” Aveline says, and then, because attraction is a funny thing, and ruling her body, she leans forward and kisses her on the cheek. She blushes bright red as she does so quickly looking around to see if anyone saw her. Isabela is shocked, for the first time ever it looks like. Enough so that Aveline wants to laugh.
“It doesn’t mean I like you,” she tells her.
She leaves then, to the sound of Isabela laughing.