Fenris remembers the pain. At the start of it all, the beginning of memories and little else of what came before. All he knew was the pain. A searing, overbearing sting, raking his insides. An ache in his limbs, a throbbing in his head. The pain was the shredding of trust, of all things good.
No smiles and caresses. Only chains and sharp words. Even sharper blades. Lyrium biting white-hot.
That pain is duller now, mainly a reminder in the back of his mind. Something to resurface in the night, attacking him in his dreams.
This is different, though. This— the touches, the whispers and embraces — there is a warmth he did not know of before the pain. He is reluctant to call it as it feels, even now, years later. He doubts. Never for him. Could not be.
Watching the shift of blankets, rising and falling with the slow draws of breath, deep in sleep. Hawke stirs faintly, a mumble at his lips and twitch of his eyebrow.
Grey whips protruding through the dark brown of his beard and his head, curling around his face wildly.
Wrinkles around his eyes proof of many years spent laughing, enjoying good company and good drink in safe places. The scars littering his face are proof of times more dark. Many of them Fenris was present for.
He finds he loves them all the same. Many years they spent together, holding tightly to one another in bed through pain and tears, melting into the other in dreamless sleeps, aching for comfort. For promises of peace.
All things out of their control though Hawke has never faltered. Always trudged on. Always smiling. In rare moments— silent baths and early mornings when the sky is still dark— does Hawke cry. Fenris offers only company or the warmth of his body. Empty words are a waste to him and Hawke both when they know the truth. Why waste the breath. Everything will not be okay.
But sometimes— when the rays of sunshine filter through the curtains, illuminating the room slowly, does Fenris smile with the sense that things will be fine. Hawke looks younger here in their bed, with blankets piled around him. In sleep he is calm, little fear of demons and the world outside their estate. His face shrouded in light as if the Maker himself willed it so the sun shone for him alone. Fenris sometimes thinks it does.
In these moments, with the world holding still seemingly for them alone, Fenris dares to smile. He loves. He feels it, ever present and throbbing, like an itch in his chest. His heart. Warm and troublesome, as Hawke has always been. They have made it many years together, the aches settling in for their old age, the grey making itself known in Hawke’s hair as proof of time passing. Seeing it helps him to believe.
Fenris is happy. Hawke sees it most in the moments Fenris thinks he isn't watching. Fenris is happy to love and know he has made it this far. Happy to know when his life comes to end it will not be filled with searing pain unending, but love to conquer it all. To battle him into submission, accepting a hand from the Maker as he crosses to through the Veil.
For now, he watches and waits. There is no stuttered breath, the onset of a nightmare to startle Hawke awake and ruin the start of his day.
Fenris reaches out, petting his fingers through the long strands of Hawke’s hair that have spilled around his shoulders. Lightly trailing his finger down his neck, pausing to rest on his chest, above his heart. The beat is strong, steady, calm. It settles something deep in Fenris and he sighs softly.
Hawke stirs and Fenris doesn’t move his hand away, wouldn’t dare. Instead he inches closer, legs searching for Hawke’s under the covers, pressing close.
Hawke doesn’t open his eyes, probably savoring a good dream. “Good morning, love.”
“Mmm,” Fenris mumbles. “Love.”
Hawke cracks one eye open, then the other, settling his tired gaze on Fenris’s face— open and unguarded. Staring down at Hawke with a softness that always catches him off guard; his eyes are smiling. Hawke melts. Fenris feels the jump of his heart beneath his fingers.
“You okay, Fen?”
“Mmm?" Fenris blinks down at him and looks at his hand. It rises along with Hawke's chest. "Yes. I'm- I..."
Hawke says nothing, just continues to look around Fenris’s face, searching.
When he speaks again he sounds strangled, his words a hoarse whisper. "I-- love..."
“Yes. I know.”
Fenris opens his mouth to respond, closes it a few times. His voice comes out edged with something deep and unnerving. Uncertainty. “Do you? Do you know? Truly.” Hawke hears the urgency in his voice, feels it resonate deep
There is silence a while, the two staring at one another. No longer a battle of wills between them, the stubbornness of their youth and duties left behind long ago. Now it is a silent communication, an attempt at reading the other’s mind.
“Fenris.” His voice crackles angry, or something near it. He wants him to know he understands, needs to feel it as easily as Hawke feels him. In the back, far behind them both now, after so many years, is the heaviness of it all. The battles, the blood, family and friends lost. The regrets and catastrophic mistakes, sprinkled with some of the happiest times. But here they have the sun, the beating of the other's heart. Hawke needs him to know he understands. Hawke’s brows are set straight, near brooding. The thought makes Fenris want to laugh but he is caught, wouldn’t dare look away. Not when he says his name like that. Not with his eyes like that.
“I know,” Fenris whispers. It’s been too many years, he still cannot say it. The words sound too weird in his head, even more odd if uttered aloud, he knows it. Maker knows he has tried. Terror seems to grip him his heart, rattle his brain if he would dare say it out loud. As if the world would not allow him this and take it away. So instead he stares, knowing Hawke understands. He feels it.
Hawke he knows and has always known and always felt it. The pull between them, an invisible tie that the creators themselves could not sever. Not through this life or another, even after they have crossed the Veil. Fenris is certain.
Hawke joins Fenris’s hand still resting over his chest with his own, and curls their fingers together. He squeezes once and then shifts to hold their clasped hands against Fenris’s chest instead. Over his heart.
“You are okay, Fen.” Fenris can only nod, lips pursed but near smiling. Hawke’s face is so set and determined, he wouldn’t dare utter a joke. There aren’t often mornings so serious as this. He savors the feeling. “And I love you.”
Hawke says it for the both of them. Fenris can only nod again, shuttering with chills. He squeezes Hawke's hand a little tighter.
“I know, Hawke,” he says. And he does. In that way it is Fenris saying it back and then some. Any more words uttered and he fears they will disappear, fears he will watch Hawke collapsing to ash before him like the end to a demon's terrorizing mirage.
It is safe here, though. In the steady grip of Hawke’s hand, the warmth of blood running under his skin, the soft sounds of his exhale in the quiet morning. They are alive. They have made it this far. Between the charge of their gazes, Fenris sends a little prayer to whoever will find it that there will be no pain in the end and only this. This warmth, unending. This love, eternal. Terrifying and beautiful.