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Off to Ostwick We Go

Chapter Text

     Two weeks after the Qunari had left Kirkwall, Anders’ clinic was unusually peaceful. It unnerved him, considering half of the city had filled it the night after Hawke had defeated the Arishok. He had assumed those injured in the battle would be coming in for weeks.

     Perhaps he had healed more than he thought. Had it really been two weeks? Maybe the Freemarchers were staying home and resting like he had recommended. Maybe they didn’t have the heart to fight themselves into his clinic after watching their city nearly burn to the ground.

     They have found serenity in justice, Anders thought. He sighed pushing his second conscience away. He was too weary to converse with the spirit.

     However long it had been, he had been pushing his limits too far, draining his mana pool too completely. A mana pool - like a stomach, which shrinks when it isn’t fed - became shallower every time it was drained.

     “Organs grow to their peaks and then they start to decline. Organs fail if you don’t treat them properly,” Anders whispered to himself remembering a discussion he had had with a spirit healer in Amaranthine. She had scolded him like she was his grandmother, if he had had one – stop it, he thought. Food and sleep, keep it simple.

     He finished changing the linens on his cot, the closest to the back of the clinic.

     Maybe tonight he would get a decent nights rest himself. Maybe he could start rejuvenating. What he really needed was a vacation.

     Justice grumbled from the low depths of his mind.

     Anders sighed. He bundled up the dirty sheets and tossed them onto the floor in the make-shift pantry.

     “Mage,” came a familiar growl from the doorway.

     Anders deliberately ignored him, reaching for the panty door and pulling it closed. What could the blasted elf want now?

     “Blondie, if you’ve got a sec, we’ve got a problem with your name on it.”

     Anders looked around to see Varric and Fenris laying a familiar figure on his cot. He brought the lanterns up reaching briefly into his mana pool with a wince.

     Varric met his eye over Hawke’s too still form, reflecting his weariness.

     “What’s happened?” he asked rolling up his sleeves. Fenris stepped back as he approached.

     “We were walking back from the market and she dropped,” Varric told him feigning innocence.

     “Which market?” Anders demanded knowing the answer as he checked Hawke for blood.

     “There were slaver dogs in Darktown,” said Fenris before Varric could speak.

     “It was only the three of us, she was casting like a firestorm –“

     “She was stupid. We could have handled them.”

     “Clearly she thought differently,” muttered Anders. Besides droplets of her assailants on the front of her grey dress, she seemed in tact. He unbuttoned her collar. Fenris stepped forward. “I need to check her stiches,” Anders sighed unzipping the front of her dress to reveal her chest. Meredith had had her carried to the circle by the Templars for Orsino’s healers. After that fiasco, Hawke had refused to let him ‘waste’ his energies on her. Meril had told her of the popularity of the clinic after the battle, irresponsible child that she was. Anders slipped his fingers into Hawke’s hair to cradle her head. He reached underneath her to untie her breast band.

     “Fen, you should go,” Varric said quietly.

     “I am where I need to be.”

     “If I’d had the year you’d had with Hawke, I’d be waiting at the door while the bane of my existence examines her intimates.”

     If looks could kill, Anders thought, feeling Fenris’ gaze on his back as he padded to the doorway. Varric turned his back as he pulled Hawke’s half corset free. The stiches threaded in a wide curve from just under her shoulder, between her breasts, and down under the left to stop just below her ribs. He sent out a pulse feeling it slither between her skin and bump over the many healing fractures in the plate of her bone, and a singular one in her bottom rib. Hawke’s force shield had faltered under the brute force of the Arishok. She had surrounded herself as he brought down his dual axes in order to slip close to him and drive the blade of her staff into his throat. One had gone wide and grazed her arm, the other has buried into the centre of her collarbone. She would have been cleaved in two if not for the shield. How she had managed it after the length of the battle still worried him.

     “She shouldn’t have been out at all,” Anders scolded Varric.

     The dwarf gave him an apologetic shrug. “It’s Hawke.”

     As far as Anders could tell, Hawke was in as good condition as she could be. “She’s just run herself too thin, her body shut down to force her to rest.”

     “Walking should not cause you to lose consciousness!” shouted Fenris from out of sight.

      “It’s actually quite common in mages. We get so used to casting high level spells, that we forget the amount of energy they require. Our bodies shut down to force us to replenish our mana.”

      “Remind me never to have that argument with my body.”

      “The alternative is to tap into the soul.”

      “Blood magic,” spat Fenris.

      Anders ignored him. He scrapped what was left of his mana pool to speed Hawke’s healing along. It wasn’t enough to remove the stiches, but hopefully, it would be enough to ease the pain she must be in, and make her less fragile for Hawke-days like these. As he zipped up Hawke’s dress, Anders considered calling on Justice to finish the job, but thought better of it with Fenris near. The last thing she needed was her not-lover dead. Or maybe the first thing she needed was the coward singed like a nug on Feast Day.

     “She’s gunna be fine, right Blondie?” asked Varric.

     “She’s just over exerted herself,” sighed Anders righting himself with a hand on his back. “My professional recommendation? She needs a vacation.”

     “She wouldn’t know the meaning of the word,” said Fenris dragging a chair across the wooden floor boards and stationing it at the end of Hawke’s cot. He took off his greatsword and laid it across his lap as he sat.

     “She needs to rest.” Anders repeated with a glare.

      Fenris ignored him, he only had eyes for Hawke.

     “Well, that’s my que.” Varric sighed. “You should take your own advice, Blondie.” Anders continued to glare at Fenris. “See you nug wranglers tomorrow.” Varric passed into Darktown pausing only to size up his friends. “Idiots,” he muttered.

     “Are you going to sit there all night?” demanded Anders retrieving the dirty linens from the pantry. Fenris ignored him again. Anders dragged another cot closer to Hawke’s and fixed the linens over it. Maybe he should offer him a cot…

     Emerald eyes met amber.

     Nope, thought Anders as he climbed into bed. Bloody elves. “I’m perfectly capable of keeping an eye on her,” he muttered. “I doubt she’d fancy waking up next to you, again.”

     “Go to bed, mage,” Fenris snarled.

      Not likely, Anders thought. He turned so he slept towards them both, less likely to get a knife in the back that way.

      Anders gazed at Hawke as he let the firelight die. The soft curves of her cheeks were more pale than he had ever seen them. He doubted the strain was purely physical, but the poor girl - she refused to talk about anything, everything even. Anders wondered what he could say, how to even start? She stirred as if she knew he was there, her face falling towards him. She looked so peaceful, far in the fade, in a world where she had far more control. Maybe where Bethany and she picked wild roses in Lothering. He wondered if he could find them there. He drifted off, feeling safe so close to the woman who did everything in her power to protect him.

Chapter Text

     Waking in Anders' clinic wasn’t anything new to Hawke. She wasn’t surprised when she felt the scratchy fabrics under her finger tips. She really should fit the entire place with new linens; Maker knew she had more money than she could spend after the Arishok. She should move the entire clinic to Hightown, smack in the centre like a slap to those nobles who flocked to her door with their problems.

     “Anders, you’ll never guess the idea I’ve had,” she smiled stretching gingerly. She tried to remember how she had wound up there this time. “Anders?” she asked opening her eyes.

     The early morning light laid gently upon Anders, it cast shadows over his gaunt features. He was asleep an arms length away, his mouth hung wide, dead to the world. Hawke reached across to him and stroked his cheek. It was good to see him resting, finally. She wouldn’t dare wake him.

     Hawke sat up with a wince. She should leave before his nurses arrived. She expected the clinic would be full within the hour. She gripped the end of the headboard expecting the dizziness that would follow from standing too quickly. Any slower however and her chest would protest her getting up at all. She wavered falling to grip it with both hands.

     There was a thud of steel against wood. “Hawke!” said Fenris suddenly standing before her.

     Hawke met his eyes and with a grimace she stood straight. “I’m fine Fenris, what are you doing here?” She noticed the chair beside her cot and his greatsword on the floor. “Have you been here all night?”

     Fenris looked away, “No.”

     Hawke snorted. She moved to retrieve her staff, grasping the cot to secure her footing. She felt particularly woozy today.

     “I heard you were with the Abomination, I came to check on you,” Fenris lied as Hawke footed her staff below her as a crutch.

     Hawke looked down at her dress with a frown. She pulled at the collar to peak at her stitches - not her blood. “Shouldn’t you be checking on Isabella?” Hawke asked when she looked at Fenris again. She turned towards the door unable to hold his gaze for any length of time.

     “Where are you going?”

     “Home, Fenris.”

      “I will walk you.”

      Hawke started forward ignoring the sting in her bones as she hobbled out of the clinic. “No, go find Isabella.”

      “I know where she is.”

      “Yes, but I like to have all the people who betray me in one place incase I decide to visit.” The stench was far worse in the open of Darktown, the sunlight suddenly too bright. Hawke told herself she was being unreasonable, but she was short on patience lately. 

     “She misses you, Hawke.”

     Hawke unlatched the door beside the clinic that led up into her mansion. “Isabella doesn’t miss people Fenris, you’d do well to remember that.”

     “Hawke,” said Fenris moving to hold the door shut. She met his eyes and was almost defeated by the longing there. “It’s easier - ” he started struggling to find the words. With Isabella the memories stayed away, it was pleasurable companionship, nothing more. The pirate was just as broken as he was. Both of them were petrified by Hawke and her loyalty, both of them faltered in the wake of it. “With her.”

     If there had been a worse thing to say, Fenris would have found it.

     Hawke wrenched open the door with a cry. Fenris stumbled backward in surprise. She gasped as the pain in her chest rippled through her body. Why hadn’t Father taught her how to heal? She ran up the stairs desperate to be away from him as tears came to her eyes.

     “Hawke!” shouted Fenris hurrying after her. “You mustn’t –“ Fenris cursed as the mage tripped on her dress and fell foreword over the stairs. He moved to help her.

     “Go away!” she shouted bringing a force field forward to stop him. He swore and brought his fists down upon it. It died in an instant. Hawke felt her heart drop further, exhausted anew.

     “Why must you act this way?!” he shouted at her. Hawke rested her head on the step behind her as he towered before her. His shouting became a hum in her ears as he continued, swimming in her tears. 

     Fenris reached down to help Hawke up, acutely aware that his words fell on deaf ears. His lyrium flared with his anger when she snatched her hands away. He noticed a droplet slither from her gemstone oval eye. Fenris rage faltered, insatiable but reigned in by the purity of the woman before him. He wanted nothing more than to drag her into his arms and comfort her. But he feared smothering her light with his darkness, even as he remembered the sooth of her soft skin and the whiplash of being parted from her. As much as he wanted to be what Hawke needed, he wasn't. He was what she wanted, entranced by his lyrium, feeling the addiction as surely as he did. It couldn't be anything else. She didn't know his marking reflected a beauty that remained external, and only so. Fenris cursed them, concerned that her blind spot for him only continued to grow. The only thing in the world he now wanted to protect, was the same as what he had been forced to as a slave. Hawke's inability to allow him to be just that to her, a body guard, frustrated him beyond logic.

    Hawke's last thought was that her elf looked more like an angel shining pure light, than the devil he claimed to be, and she slipped into darkness. 

Chapter Text

     Hawke woke under Bodan’s many braided beard at the side of her bed. She felt worse than when she had hugged the Arishok’s axe, well, maybe not worse, but close.

    “Begging your pardon messere, but ser Tethras is requesting your presence,” the gingery dwarf told her playing with his thumbs.

     “Where’s Orana?” Hawke rasped.

     “Halfway to Antiva I imagine. I told the girl Fereldan would be too much of a culture shock from the Imperium –“ he ranted reminding Hawke she had ordered the girl to take some time off.

    “Bodhan, shhhhh,” grumbled Hawke pulling her comforters up over her face. Had Fenris carried her here? She groaned inwardly wishing she was a thousand pounds.

    “Sorry messere, what shall I tell ser Tethras?”

    “That he can get his stalky self up here if he wants to see me –“

    “If by stalky you mean chiseled dwarven god I’ll take it,” chuckled Varric pushing through the door to her bedroom.

    “Mistress Hawke is in a state of undress!”

    “For Maker’s sake Bodhan –“

    “Don’t worry old friend, there isn’t much of Hawke I haven’t seen.”

    “And you’ve loved every minute of it.” 

    Bodhan glanced at Hawke as she snuck one eye above her comforter. He looked uncomfortable to say the least.

    “Yes, limbs dressed in blood always gets me going.”

    “I’m sure there’s a club for that somewhere in Kirkwall.”

    “Oh, I don’t think Bianca would like that.”

    “Messere!” shouted Bodhan interrupting them. Messere Amell wouldn’t approve, there was a proper way of doing things, she would say, and this wasn’t it.

    Hawke pulled herself up with a sigh. She wondered if Bodhan thought he owed it to Leandra to keep her line. Somehow he had managed to keep the loneliness away even after she had passed. He and Sandal loved her almost as much as Hawke had. “It’s alright Bodhan, we can take it from here.” She patted her bed for Varric to come and sit.

    “I think you’re confusing me with Meric,” said Varric of Hawke’s mabari who barked from somewhere downstairs.

    “I’ll just go and fix breakfast then shall I,” said Bohdan casting Varric a frustrated look as he passed. He took the handle of the door, then thinking better of it, left it wide open.

    “Bohdan suspects you’re up to something naughty,” laughed Hawke as Varric jumped up onto the ancestral bed. It was almost taller than his waist.

    “I usually am,” shrugged Varric. He gave her a wide smile and a wink. “I’ve got some secrets for you, very hush hush, very important persons only.”

    “You’re hush hush,” grumbled Hawke imaging what it could be. She was short on need to fulfill her obligations today. What a pessimist she was becoming.

    “If you’re not feeling up to it –“ Varric started feigning hurt.

    Hawke just stared at him.

    “How are you feeling, Hawke, really?”

     “Oh Varric, don’t worry about little old me. The Freemarchers will spread rumours you’ve gone soft.”

     “I’m the only one with a decent rumour in this city.”

     “Yes, which you were about to share.” Hawke padded a drum roll off her mattress.

     “Word is the Prince of Starkhaven has tapped into his dowry,” smirked Varric with a mischievous glint in his eye.

     “Bash has decided to take the throne?!”

     “No. He sent four horses, a horse drawn carriage and a wagon to a noble woman in Hightown.”

     “Well if he’s courting someone you must have guessed he’s planning on taking it back,” frowned Hawke wounded that the priest hadn’t discussed it with her.

     “Word is he and his lady friend will be traveling to his family’s vacation home in Ostwick.”

     “Lucky girl,” Hawke murmured thinking it must be on the beach, overlooking the Waking Sea.

     Varric rolled his eyes. He hopped off the bed and moved to Hawke's window opening it to let the breeze through. Hawke raised an eyebrow at him. Her mouth fell open as the sound of hooves and neighs traveled from below. “Pack your shit, Hawke,” laughed the dwarf. He waved to someone Hawke couldn’t see before looking back. "We’re getting you out of here."

    “Bodhan!”

Chapter Text

     Varric had gone to Sebastian to invite him on their little adventure when the prince had turned around and offered a destination and travel to it. Until then it had only been a playful idea, now they were up and off without a second thought. It had to be that way, or they would never go. He had intended to take Aveline, Sebastian and Meril, the less confrontational of their disorderly family. He should have known what a pipe dream that was. Sebastian had told Fenris over drinks, Meril had cooed her excitement to Isabela and Anders had come to check on Hawke, running into they're party at her door. He doubted they would have any peace trapped together in one place, but they had promised to try.

     "Maybe it will be good for them," Sebastian had insisted when Varric had cornered him. "The Chantry takes the cloister on retreats to improve camaraderie every year." 

     Sometimes Varric wondered which was worse, stone-sense or Maker-sense. 

     “Nice horsey, no kicking or anything, okay?” Meril said patting the paint Sebastian had acquired. Isabella laughed sitting behind her more nervous of the beast than the elf. 

    Varric stayed close to Hawke as they crossed the threshold of her Hightown mansion, still unsure any of this was a good idea. The way the woman clutched her staff he wouldn't have been surprised if she went toppling forward.

     "Good morning Hawke!" Meril smiled with a wave almost losing her balance.

     The pirate steadied her. "Good to see you among the living, sweet thing." 

     Hawke looked up once she could remove her focus from the stairs. "Looks like you'll be going to Ostwick after all Isabela," she smiled. 

     "Things do have a way of working out, don't they?" 

     Bitch, thought Hawke. 

     "You were much more fun before you got that stick of yours stuck in the mud," Isabella added casually in her Rivaini purr.

     "That's the new me, a rich prude of circumstance."  

     "Common girls," Varric chuckled nervously. He opened the carriage door hoping that Fenris wouldn't speak as Hawke passed. Too much to ask for. 

     "Going on vacation with mages Fenris? Perish the thought," Hawke growled in passing.

     With eyes that only brightened for Hawke, Fenris allowed himself a cheap glance and refused to be baited. "It's good to see you well, Hawke." 

     Varric raised an eyebrow at Hawke.

     "What?" she asked passing him her staff to climb into the carriage.

     Sebastian and Anders were already inside. Hawke settled next to the prince and hugged him in earnest, she'd only seen him once since the battle. Funny how people found their faith after a crisis. She gave Anders a small smile as Varric closed the door and sat beside him. It was nice; the were seats lined with white leather and the walls with blue silks in honour of the Starkhaven. Sebastian would have blended in if not for his tan skin. 

     "How are you feeling?" Anders asked. It was strange to see he had traded in his pauldrons for a simple tunic and breeches. The tan of the fabric washed the colour from his cheeks more than usual. What a pair they were. 

    "I could ask you the same." Hawke said like it was a secret.

     Anders' honey-brown gaze defrosted her heart. 

   "Thank you for this, Bash," Hawke said adjusting her Amell cloak around her thighs. "It's too much, truly." 

   "Not too much at all, Hawke," Sebastian smiled. "It's a shame no one uses the cottage anymore." 

    Sebastian's deep blue eyes moved to the window as the carriage began to move. Hawke tried to pull him back, wondering if they were all doomed to suffer from a broken heart. "It will be nice to get out of Kirkwall for a while," she said patting his hand. 

   "Yes. This city is - troubling at times."  

   "I don't know, Kirkwall's hard to beat, eh Blondie?" laughed Varric.  

   Anders caught a glimpse of Fenris through the window. "Hard to escape, really." 

   Hawke smirked. "Here, here." 

   "Well, I'm ready for a new adventure," said Varric, he popped the window open.

   "That's the spirit - even if it is with a bunch of spoil sports!" Isabella chimed from outside. 

   Varric caught a glimpse of Hawke's scowl. "You have to forgive her sometime," he shrugged. 

   "Yes, sweet thing, do!" 

    It wasn't that Hawke was having trouble forgiving the pirate. If she was being perfectly honest, she had forgiven Isabella the moment she had returned with the Tome of Koslun. For someone who had been running their whole life to run instead into the fire, it was a type of courage she honoured. Her family had been running for as long as she could remember. She understood, but the woman had stolen her heart. First when she had rejected her in their first years together, because Maker forbid the pirate admit she cared for anyone, and second when she had taken up with Fenris. It's not like Isabella had known, besides the fact that she had pointed out his obvious affection for her, she hadn't told her about that night. 

    Something had broken - like the flood gates at the docks. She had touched him, something she was so careful not to do, twice that day. Once begging him to calm and the second begging him to stay. It was a feral need, Hawke shook her head looking at her hands, of course it was, he the wolf. But she had had it too. It wasn't a connection, or a question, it was complete passion, a need, wild and pure. She was so sure he had realized it too. It was so pointless to deny it, even now. Maybe that was why she allowed him to be near, allowed him to speak to her when she was so sure - or at least the others were - that he didn't deserve it. Hawke looked up at Anders. Were they right?

     Anders glanced at Hawke to find her watching him from under dark lashes, eyes burning. He was suddenly trapped there, unable to look away. Amber twisting in pain.

     I was wrong, Hawke thought as she stared at him. Was I truly wrong, Anders? 

   "Hawke, sweetheart are you alright?" Anders asked leaning forward. 

     The attention in the carriage redirected to her and Hawke straightened out. "Yes," she lied swiftly. "Just tired." She had to be wrong. Fenris didn't need anyone, or he didn't allow himself to. There was too much risk in that, to give what was left of a broken heart like she had to him. She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose trying to hold back the roar she felt driving against her rib cage. 

     "Here, Hawke." Sebastian soothed in his brogue.

      Sebastian's shuffling caused Hawke to open her eyes. He offered her a pillow. "It's a long way. I'll wake you when we arrive."

     The priest's compassion caused Hawke's heart to swell further. She bit her lip to stop it from trembling, taking the pillow and putting it on his lap.

     "Hawke?" Sebastian asked confused.

      Hawke laid her head on his lap, facing his torso, hoping to hide there. "It's more comfy this way," she attempted a laugh. She clamped her eyes closed attempting to keep back the tears. What a mess she was.

     Sebastian brushed back the hair that fell across Hawke's face. The pad of his finger came back damp from her temple, tears slipping from her eyes even though she had screwed them shut. His shoulders bent instinctively as if he could protect her from outside influence. He glanced at Varric, worried. 

    The dwarf had seen everything. The hint of emotion, the fight of it, the slight shake that took her shoulders before Blondie could notice. Varric shook his head and returned to the window. 

    Fenris had ripped out her heart almost as effectively as he had Hadriana's. 

Chapter Text

     Ostwick was beautiful. There was no other way to describe it. And Sebastian’s “cottage” was just as grand as Hawke had imagined everything in Starkhaven must be.

     The carriage had entered a lush forest almost an hour previous, diverting from the Imperial Highway onto a gravel trail. The wheels clattering over the pebbles roused Hawke from dreams she'd rather ignore. The trees were tall and old with thick trunks that cast long shadows from the setting sun. As the carriage weaved and bobbed the road grew narrower and narrower still, eventually turning to dirt and sand.

     Hawke watched the trees inquisitively, wondering at their difference from any she had seen in Kirkwall. In a blink the carriage had broken from the forest. At first she had been alarmed, the forest disappearing so abruptly with a jump, but instead of falling, the carriage landed on a stone bridge crossing from the forest's edge upon a rock wall. They were suddenly surrounded by the sea, the orange and pink of the sunset twinkling off the water.

     The vacation home was no larger than a small castle. Stone angels welcomed the party off the bridge and into a small courtyard with a centred fountain carved in the image of Andraste. Doors as thick and tall as the trees before lead into a hall with a wide marble staircase, where long blue and white banners hung from a high angled ceiling.

     “You’ve been holding out on us, Prince,” said Aveline, unperturbed by such splendour.

     Sebastian chuckled and ran a hand through his hair. “We are well blessed by –“

     “The Maker's glorious loins of blah. Where do our bags go?” Anders asked.

     “Where’s the beach?” Isabella asked.

     “Don’t you need a swim suit, Bella?” Meril asked.

     Isabella winked at the small mage.

     “Oh, I – I just thought that humans wore clothes while swimming. Of course, the Dalish don’t but –“

     “Common kitten, I can smell the sea air!” Isabella interrupted her. She dropped her bag for Meril’s hand and the two disappeared behind the staircase.

      “The sleeping quarters are upstairs, there’s more than enough rooms,” Sebastian explained. “The kitchens are to the left of the stairwell and there is a walk out to the beach from the right.”

     "Kitchen sounds about right," said Varric leaving his things behind. "Common Broody."

     “I, for one, would like a swim suit to wear to the beach,” smiled Hawke watching them wander away. She patted Aveline on the shoulder. "Shall we?"

     “We shall," nodded Aveline. She took Varric's bags, already having hers and Hawke's over her shoulder, and followed the Champion upstairs. 

     Sebastian and Anders looked at each other. Library, thought the prince. He and Anders started in different directions at the same moment.

      Past the landing, the marble stairs spread into a lobby of sorts. Centred was an enclosed glass fireplace from which its flames could be seen from any angle. Ivory chutes shot out of the marble on ending sides of a variety of sheet-covered furniture. They had wide open mouths supporting cream candles but they were not lit. Enough light flooded into the common area from the back wall, which was made entirely of glass, except for a stone archway over stained glass doors.

     "What's out there?" Hawke wondered aloud. She crossed the lobby and pushed through the doors. 

     Outside was a stone balcony that swept around the castle, its ledge supporting different statues of Starkhaven heroes. It overlooked the sea which extended as far as the eye could see. Below, Meril danced across a white sand beach, chasing Isabella who was already frolicking - because there was no better word to describe it - in the water.

     "She never wastes any time, does she?" Aveline wondered watching the pirate. 

     "Not if it's something she wants," Hawke smirked. 

     "Did you want to share a room?" Aveline asked as they returned inside. 

    Hawke missed her question, she had noticed the walls. Hand painted murals, beautiful with deep reds and ever-greens, covered the walls. She ran her finger tips across the dress of one wondrous character marvelling at the expression of pure joy captured on the woman's face. The entire lobby was painted with delicate and elegant images.

    "Hawke," said Aveline. She had moved to one of the rooms, holding the door open expectantly. "They're large enough for more than one person." 

    The she warrior was right. Hawke stepped into the room confronted by a bed larger than hers at home. "Oh no," Hawke laughed. She ran and leapt up, belly-flopping onto the bed and sinking into a poof of feather filled blankets. "No, I want this all to myself!" 

    Aveline shook her head with a warm roll of her green eyes. "Alright, I'll take the one next to this one then." 

   "Thank-you, Aveline." Hawke said, grinning like Sandal. She slid off the bed, marvelling at the textured navy wall paper. As it turned out, each room, like hers, was the same; feather-down people devouring beds, navy walls, sky reaching dark wood armoires and balcony walk-outs. Hawke opened her doors wide letting the salt heavy air and the caw of gulls rush around her.

    "Incredible, isn't it," Anders laughed from her doorway. He had followed them up.

    Hawke spread her arms wide as if the wind could take her away. "Mmm," she sighed in agreement.

    "I'm just across the hall if you need anything."

    Hawke looked back. "Same goes for you."

    "Of course," Anders smirked. 

    "I'm surprised, you know." 

    "Of what?" asked Anders entering into the room.

    "I don't want to sour your mood." 

     Anders wrapped one lengthy arm around Hawke's shoulders. "You're the last on my list of possible mood-spoilers, Hawke." 

    Hawke wrapped her arms around Anders' waist in turn. "I suppose I didn't think this was possible."

    "Hmmm," agreed Anders. "Varric has a way of making the impossible -"

    "Possible, yes but," Hawke peered up at her old friend. 

    "Spit it out, Hawke."

    "Justice - and Kirkwall, and the mage rebellion, and the left over horn-heads, and," Hawke rolled her eyes. "So much, all the time."

    "You want to know if it's okay to be here." 

    Hawke nodded. Anders always had a way of seeing right through her, she wasn't sure she could manage without him. She resisted the urge to pull him closer. He was still there beside her. He could heal any scrape, or talk her back from any cliff. She wouldn't have thought it possible; not after he had thrown her up against the wall of his clinic and stolen a kiss. After she had had to reject him. He made more sense, but that had happened after Fenris, and what could she do but turn him away? 

     "Are you sure you really want me here? I thought you and Fenris - or did the beast finally turn on you?" Anders had asked that night, almost four before the uprising.

      "Don't call him that! I'm sorry Anders, we can't do this." She forced herself to say. He reacted like she had slapped him.

       Hawke hadn't meant to reject him, she had wanted him. He was gentle and comforting and warm. It was logical, mage and mage against the world, romantic even. She loved Anders, but for him to insult Fenris - it had stunned her. It had snapped her resolve to get over him. Suddenly, being with Anders was a much larger betrayal than she could commit to. 

      "Fine, whatever you see in a maniac like that - perhaps at least your hand will tame him."

      Anders' thoughts had wandered to that night as well. He sighed. He had been so angry, but by the grace of someone he clearly didn't deserve, he had resolved that Justice was right, Hawke was a distraction he couldn't afford. He could at least have this however, these stolen moments where it was so obvious she cared for him just as he did her. These moments were precious, they wouldn't even be an option in the future - a sooner future than he'd like to admit. So he told her, because it was true, for now.

     "It's okay," he said rubbing her shoulder. You can't save everyone, he thought. "Common, let's take a look at those stitches and get you out in the sunshine." 

  

Chapter Text

     When everyone had unpacked and settled in, Sebastian had wandered into the kitchens to check on supper. The servants they had hired to drive the carriage doubled as cooks, but Aveline had dismissed them. She said they needed rest. No one thought to argue with her. The cellar had enough dried meats, pickled goods and wine to suffice for their stay. If needed, Sebastian would take a horse into town and restock.

    "How long are we planning to stay?" he asked remembering it hadn't been discussed. 

    Varric pulled one plump finger out of the stew he was concocting - who knew he had a flare for cooking. "That's up to you, Choir Boy."

    "We should stay for as long as is needed," Fenris suggested. His rich voice deepened as it resounded off the wine glass before him. 

     "How long is needed, Fenris?" 

     "As long as it takes for Hawke to get better." Fenris picked up the 50 year senior red merlot he had discovered in the cellar. He took another glass from the steel dish wrack, hanging above the island counter, and filled it before offering it to Sebastian. 

     The Chantry brother touched the glass just below his thick nose, enjoying the heddy smell of ancient grapes. "I fear that may take quite a long time, my friend."

     Fenris looked in the bottom of his glass for an answer.

     "We're talking about healing from more than giant axes, Broody."

     Sebastian nodded in agreement.

     Fenris scowled, of course he knew that. The damned woman was the harbinger of other people's problems. That wasn't what he meant, but it seemed all of Hawke's friends felt the need to point it out. He wasn't sure why he allowed it. Maybe because he felt he needed to be punished for leaving her, for not being strong enough. 

     "She could just get a crossbow like Varric." Meril said walking into the room. "Varric that smells scrumptious."

     "Come now Daisy, where's your sense of originality?"

     "I don't like it when Hawke's sad."

     "Neither do I." Sebastian agreed. 

     "She can't pull it off as well as Fenris."

     "Stole the line right out of my mouth, Daisy." 

     "I am not sad." Fenris said. Angry, weak and twisted perhaps, but not sad, he thought. 

     "I think you're sad, Fenris." Meril said anyways. She moved to Sebastian's side, and eyed his glass greedily. "Can I have some?" 

     Fenris poured her a glass as well. "What would you have me do, mage? Shall I wear a smile for your benefit?" 

     "Oh no, don't do that," entered Isabela. "It would ruin the smolder."

     "You're welcome to smile for me, Broody. Than again, you might lose your title in Tevinter."  

     Fenris' chin dipped lower and he focused harder on his wine glass. He wondered to what extent they understood he and Hawke's relationship; he scowled when he realized they probably understood better than he. Hawke was kind and passionate, he was - he wasn't sure. He wished he could tell them. Hawke was a good woman, but a powerful woman. Her eyes tortured him when he slept. Begging him to let her in. Fenris was worried there was nothing left.

     He had never meant to hurt her. Even when they had fought, about everything, about her magic. What was it she had said to him?

     "If you're wondering why you can't move on, this is it." Her voice was so soft, her eyes gentle when he had expected a fight, wound himself into a spring. He wanted someone to blame. She was standing right there, allowing him to have a tantrum like a child. 

     "Yes, this is it. Why can I not grasp something so simple?" He had said. It was true! How could he make her understand? "It's a sickness this hate, this dark growth inside me, that I can't ever get rid of. And they put it there! -"

    "More wine, Fenris?" asked Meril. She poured it for him when he grunted, never looking up. 

    Maybe the drink could soften the ache he felt. He had almost attacked her, this is what she did to him.

     "So you're just going to leave?"

     The rage made him shake, on the verge of possession. The demon gripped him and he was upon it in an instant, flaring to life with a power he refused to recognize. In her eyes he saw the eyes of every magister and then, the quietest of sounds. Something so powerful it halted the rage. The lyrium glow faded and he could see her. Truly see this creature who anchored him, kept him on this earth and forced him to see. And he was so sorry. He was so sorry that he had brought fear to her gaze when not even the worst of her enemies could. And he let go, feeling loss and to be lost, like he hadn't before - but then she kissed him.

     Fenris took a sip of his wine, unaware as his companions continued around him. The memories! he cursed inwardly. His name on her lips, belonging. He would not be so selfish. He must be lost if he were to fall into the arms of a mage. Hawke is not like him. Danarius had - Fenris could hear his voice. 

     "A slave cannot love, little wolf." Danarius patted him gently feigning empathy. 

     "But I love you, master."

     A crack split the room.

     Fenris looked down to see his wine pooling, dripping over the side of the counter. Shards of glass slipped out of his fingers as he opened them. The sting was oddly comforting.

     "Fenris!" shouted Meril but Isabella was already at his side with a towel. 

    "Thinking about things we shouldn't be, are we, sweet thing?" Isabella murmured as she swept the glass from the table. "Naughty, naughty," she dabbed his hand careful of the glass. "Fetch our healer, won't you kitten?"

    Meril disappeared upstairs. 

    "It'll be alright, Fenris." Isabella said, turning his chin with her finger tips. "You know that, don't you?"

    "No." 

    Hawke ran down the stairs after Anders, hot on Meril's heels. She caught the girl's arm so that Anders could pass first, she didn't want her friend tempted by the blood. It was bad enough they had one possessed mage running around. "Stay out here, alright Meril?" 

    Meril nodded. "I'll go and - something. I'll go and find something to do." 

    Hawke caught a wiff of elfroot and ginger as the girl passed but then she hesitated. She tried to turn her feet around to leave, she could hear Anders berating Fenris and Fenris growling in response.

    Varric came out of the kitchen carrying a pot large enough to be a cauldron. "Move it, Hawke."

    "Is he alright?" she whispered as he passed.

    "See for yourself, beautiful."

    Hawke's eyes narrowed but Varric missed it, whistling as he brought his stew to the dinning area. It smelled just like his mother used to make it.

   Hawke took a deep breath and walked into the kitchen. Anders held Fenris' hand closer to the firelight, twisting it over looking for glass shards. Isabella winked at her from a stool not far behind them.

   "I've found some healing potions, he might not need them but I -"

   Hawke missed the last of what Sebastian said as he entered the room. His attention drew all eyes to where she was standing, and while Anders thought nothing of it, Fenris' and Hawke's eyes locked. She knew what he had been thinking, she saw it again, with the strange impression of how could someone so beautiful be so sad? An angel with emeralds for eyes and a bleeding heart.

    "I can't - I can't."

    No.

    "I'm sorry. I feel like such a fool."

    No.

    "This should never have happened in the first place."

    No. All we want is to be happy, Fenris. Don't do this. 

    "Forgive me." 

    Hawke swallowed hard. 

    "I'm alright, Hawke." Fenris said breaking their exchange. His tattoos flexed down his throat as he tried to hold himself down, but she was his anchor. 

    "Good." Hawke said stiffly. 

    Fenris flinched. A slave cannot love.

    Hawke turned and headed for the dinning area. 

    Aveline smiled when Hawke found her attempting to carry a mountain of plates. "Grab some of these will you?"

    "Gladly." Hawke said reaching up and taking a single plate. 

    "Hawke!" shouted Aveline, but with her hair down, and her torso in a simple wrap instead of her warrior plates, it was harder for Aveline to intimidate. "Hawke!"

    Well, maybe not that hard. "Sorry, sorry!" Hawke laughed helping her set the table. It was far too fabulous, stretched out under a sparkling chandelier the size of a Drake, the table could sit fourteen at least. 

    "You alright Hawke?" said Meril appearing with eight crystal glasses. 

    "Fine." Hawke laughed. Screw him, bastard.

    

    

Chapter Text

     There was a storm rolling in over the sea. It had driven everyone in to bed early - which was good, considering the tension in the room at dinner couldn't have been sliced by Isabela's favourite dagger. Hawke sat in the lobby. Unable to sleep, she'd pulled the sheets off a chaise lounge, white leather with blue paisleys, and dragged it over to the glass wall. There, in her night slip, she thought bitterly of love. She thought of the look she had shared with Fenris, she shook her head trying to clear it from her mind. She wondered idly why she had agreed to come. She contemplated the glass of red wine in her hand, listened as it sloshed in the quiet before the storm. Right, Varric Tethras was the most persuasive dwarf in all of Thedas.

     The lightning cracked illuminating the room briefly. She stuck her tongue out at her reflection before it disappeared. Hawke hadn't bothered to light the chutes. The darkness calmed her. The room split again. Being alone only worked when she was so busy with work no one could keep up, or be bothered to. Stormy nights like these left her cold, befret and frustrated in every way.

     A low moan escaped under the door of a bedroom not far off. Hawke immediately thought of how she had elicited the same sound, and she almost cursed out loud, feeling her chest tense again. It wasn't fair that emotion could cause such a physical pain. The thunder rumbled like her past, cutting off another pleasured groan. When it settled she could hear the steady rhythm of the bed set.

     It wasn't hard to imagine them together, both beautiful in their own way, both equally not hers. Unbidden she listened closer, jumping when the rain began in thick sheets, thrumming against the glass wall. 

     Hawke let her mind wander as the rain distracted her. Did he have her pushed up against the wall? So close her nails could only claw at the wall paper? Did he reach around and play while he growled in her ear? Isabella loved to play coy, the element of surprise was everything for a rouge. Hawke imagined her purr, pure temptation. She smirked thinking of how she could spin so quickly, pinning her down, her thighs spread, control lost. Was she riding him as he dug into her back pulling and begging her faster? A surprise gasp from her escaped under the door, a little louder than the pirate intended, followed by a shriek that Hawke assumed went without a second thought. So it was one of those nights - when he was possessive and careful. Where he brought her to the edge just to tease, to switch again so she would beg for more. 

     Hawke squeezed her thighs together trying to focus on the rain. Fenris called out and her stomach clenched twisting with desire.

    The mage let her mind wander, if only for a moment, again. She heard the pirate come closer, feigning that she cared how forbidden it was to listen. Isabella sent her a frustrated groan bordering on a whimper, he had done it again. 

    Screw it, Hawke thought. 

    Hawke let her nails trail along her thighs dragging up the silk that covered her. She imagined Fenris lying beneath her, Maker knew she had been here before.

  "Close your eyes," he whispered, worrying her ear lob with his teeth. His breath was hot on her skin.

   "Let me see you." he begged and Hawke gripped her breasts, pulling them from under her night slip. His growl vibrated across her neck. Perfect pink nipples against skin like a goddess. Her body called to him, raising up under his fingertips. 

   Another moan and Hawke pictured Isabela below her, slipping her hands into her smalls. 

   The contrast between their skin was something to marvel at. Hawke was entranced as Isabella met her eyes letting her hands crawl up her thighs. She kissed the top of her thigh, and then her hip, her nose brushing across the line of skin between her hips. Hawke lifted her hips and Fenris' hand spread across her chest between her breasts pulling her closer. His other hand stretched out to Isabela and she took one long finger into her mouth to the second digit. Hawke moaned watching them as the pirate slipped one finger inside her.

    Fenris egged Isabela on, his lips caressing Hawke's shoulder.

   Hawke gasped realizing how wet she was, how much she wanted them. She let her fingertips move onto that tiny bud of nerves. 

   Isabella was talented, her tongue like liquid fire. She wasn't shy, she didn't hold back, she enjoyed the taste of Hawke. Fenris ground his hips behind Hawke and she could feel how hard he was. He ground her into Isabella's mouth as she began to lose control. 

  Hawke slipped inside again, curving against the place he had showed her, afraid to do what else he had. She bit her lip to keep quiet.

  Fenris reached with Isabella, slipping another finger into Hawke. Isabela moaned in approval, her lips trembling across Hawke's. The pirate called to Hawke begging her to come. Hawke reached down and pulled on her hair unable to stop herself. Isabela laughed. "Common, sweet thing. For me -"

   "Fenris?" Hawke begged. 

    Hawke came quietly, arching her back to keep from crying out. As her breathing calmed the rain soothed her, like it was cradling her soul. The slave and the pirate were quiet in comparison, they must have finished. Hawke relaxed feeling better than she had since she arrived. 

    Opening her eyes slowly, Hawke looked out over the sea. Maybe now she could sleep, she felt less hate. The lighting flashed and she shrieked seeing another set of eyes in the reflection.

    Hawke pushed herself up into the arm of the chair, hastily pulling her slip straight. Looking up, she met Fenris' dark gaze with wide eyes, he had a glass of water in hand.

    "I-I-" Hawke stammered mortified. 

    Fenris had trouble focusing. He couldn't believe what he had seen, or how he could be so lucky. Hawke lay flushed and wild before him after climaxing with his name on her lips. He was frozen in place torn between a need to take her and a need to flee. 

    "I-go back to bed!" Hawke ordered out of habit, but they weren't in battle here. She jumped up and hurried to the closest door. 

    "Hawke!" Fenris managed.

     Hawke flew behind the bedroom door before the elf could say more. 

    "Hawke?" asked Anders his voice heavy with sleep. "Hawke, has something happened?"

    Hawke took a breath begging that Fenris wouldn't follow. "No, no," she lied pressing her back against the door. 

    "Are you sleep walking?"

    "No," Hawke smirked. "The storm - I couldn't sleep." Will Fenris know this is Anders' room? 

    "Oh," Anders yawned. He shuffled further to the far side of the bed. He held the blankets up for her. 

    Hawke went without hesitation, climbing in and allowing Anders to lay the blankets over her.

    "She can kill the Arishok, but throw thunder at her and nope - duel's over," Anders muttered with a smile.

    The thunder rumbled in approval. Hawke pulled her knees up into her chest, meeting his eyes for a moment, too large, too vunerable. 

    Anders shifted closer pulling Hawke into his chest. 

    Hawke's cheek laid against his skin, a small smattering of blond curls tickling her lip there. She nuzzled him to get more comfortable as he wrapped his arms around her. She thought again of how warm, gentle and essential her healer had become. 

    "It's okay," Anders said again. "It's -" His words faltered into a snore.

    Hawke sighed and followed him swiftly into the fade.   

   

 

     

Chapter Text

    The storm had given new life to the island, leaving a crisp scent in the air by morning. The brisk of it allowed for a restful sleep, one that Hawke took to heart, sleeping until the sun touched the peak of the sky. She woke when Meril sat crossed legged at the end of her bed, tickling her feet. 

    "Meril!" Hawke groaned trying to hide her extremities under the blankets. 

    "I've brought coffee! Well, the version of coffee I like, but it still has caffeine!" Meril giggled.

    Hawke didn't doubt it, the cups on the night table smelled strong and rich with some sort of mint wafting over them. "Is it Dalish?"

    "Yes, I hope that's alright." Meril handed Hawke a cup as she sat up. 

    Hawke took a sip, surprised when it was cold. Her eyes snapped open, pried as such by the brew. 

    "It tends to have that effect on people." Meril laughed seeing Hawke's reaction. 

    "Is everyone else up?"

    "Yes, Sebastian's gone with Varric to town. Something about a spice he wanted for tonight and a special drink he could only get this close to the outer provinces. Aveline's reading in the library - Isabella and Fenris went for a boat ride," Meril sipped and added. "I wasn't about to sail out into that much water." 

    Meril's chatter was much easier to keep up with, with the Dalish coffee. "And Anders?" Hawke wondered glancing to where he had been last. 

    "I don't know where he is. I thought he'd be here with you, lethalan." 

    "With me?" 

    "Fenris said he would be." 

    Hawke coughed, choking on her coffee. "Fenris thinks Anders and I - ?"

    Meril shrugged. "Who knows what he's thinking."

    "Come, da'len." Hawke scoffed, scolding Meril like the Keeper.

    "Well no, unless -"

    "No," agreed Hawke. 

    "I thought as much. Would be a nice change though." Meril's oval elven eyes inspected her over her mug. Hawke resisted the urge to hide behind hers. 

    "It would be a nice change wouldn't it," smirked Hawke finally. 

    "He does have lovely hands." 

   "Then maybe you should -"

   "No. I'm much too busy." 

   "I don't know, you both have things in common; magic, invisible friends."

   "Yes, but Anders is convinced mine is much worse than his." 

   "Hmm," Hawke agreed, her mug was almost empty. 

   "Have you ever considered befriending a spirit, Hawke? They're quite comforting when you're alone."

   "I find I'm rarely alone, Meril. I tend to enjoy the privacy." That wasn't true. She always surrounded herself with the others. If she didn't she had too much time to think. It was easier to worry about the others, to fight with the others. Maker she did a lot of fighting these days.

   "That's what it was like when I was with my clan, not so much now I'm living in the Alienage."

   "Still haven't gotten used to it, hey?" 

   Meril shook her head. 

   Hawke watched as Meril was distracted by a bird on the balcony. She blinked twice, as if neglecting a thought. It was easy to want to protect Meril, she was so thin, petite even, but Hawke knew better than to think her frail. She had seen Meril ensnare minds and swallow foes in an eruption of roots from a far off Sylvan.

    Meril noticed her watching and blushed, the flush warming her ivory cheeks, stark in contrast to her ebony bangs. She popped up, a thought occurring to her. "I love you, lethalan."

    Hawke cocked her head towards her. "I love you too, Meril."

    Meril shook her head looking away again. "I only mean that I'm with you, Hawke," Meril peaked at her. "Whoever you choose." Meril looked back at her cup. "Well, I'm done. Are you done? Here." Meril took Hawke's cup. "Let's go out into the sun."

    Hawke smiled. "It's easier not having to share you with that dreadful mirror." 

    Meril shrugged and light as a feather, left the room. 

    Hawke was slower, swinging her legs over the side of the bed and brushing a hand through her hair. She looked at her palms, it was easier to stay in bed when you over slept. She stretched out her hand wondering if the breeze would help. She pulling on the doors to the balcony with Force. Her palm sparked instead, growing heavy. She pulled harder but the doors resisted. She let her mana go with a sigh. She pushed herself up and moved to open them by hand, the breeze quickly freshening the room. When would she be back to herself? She felt like part of her was missing, ever tired. Maybe today she could spar with someone. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked around the room. No one would spar with her; they were all to happy coddling her.

     A sun dress hung on the knob of the armoire in the corner. Anders must have left it. 

    Hawke smiled and shed her nightgown faltering when she spied the long deep red gash that ran across her torso. She wondered again if it would scar, fingering it absently. No, there wasn't a point in worrying about it. She forgot it with a thought of studying healing more effectively. She stepped into her long red dress, pulling it up until she could slip her arms through the thin straps. It was less painful than reaching overhead.

     The cool material was almost soothing across her stitches. Hawke smiled smoothing it over her hips before walking from the room. 

     Aveline was in the library, because of course even a vacation home needed a library, if only a small area off in the corner from the hall to the kitchens.

     The shelves were thin and long inside the library, just like the room itself. Lit by skylights and wall-hung plates for candles, its walls rose as high as the room was long. Aveline looked up from the thick leather bound novel in her lap. She sat cross-legged in one of a twin set of overlarge armchairs pushed up against an exposed stone brick wall at the end of the library. "Homey, isn't it?"

     Hawke let her fingers bump across different bindings. 

     "I was thinking the Vael's had a knack for over doing everything, but here we are in this tiny paradise." 

     "You don't think it's so bad, do you Aveline?" Hawke asked sitting in the chair beside her. She squeaked when she sank further than she thought she would. 

     "It doesn't really matter what I think," told Aveline opening her book again. "There's a book over there," she pointed absently, "Ancient Families of Thedas. You might enjoy it." 

     Hawke nodded but didn't move, content to just sit with the Guard-Captain. "It's nice to have you here, Aveline." Perhaps she was feeling sentimental because of Meril's earlier affirmation.

     Aveline continued to read pretending she hadn't heard her. 

    "I'm surprised you came."

    "Surprised?" 

    "I didn't think you could get away." 

    "It's my duty to protect the people of Kirkwall," Aveline shrugged. 

    Hawke rolled her eyes. "And you can't bare the thought of not being able to keep an eye on me."

    "You're Champion now Hawke, it's not just our bond that intertwines us anymore." 

    "Meredith might well have burned the city down by the time we return." 

    "I've more faith in my men than that," Aveline spat looking up from her book. 

    Hawke held up her hands. 

    Aveline's eyes turned up at the corners but she kept her smile to herself. 

    "It's nice to have someone to call Sister, after Beth."

    Aveline's brow knit together and she looked back to her friend. Hawke was looking at her hands with the same expression.

    "I've got you, Aveline. And you, I. That's all I'm saying."

    Aveline nodded warily. She wasn't sure she wanted to have this conversation now, she wasn't a fan of self-expression. Their love should go without saying. Maybe this was all a part of Hawke's process. Aveline watched as Hawke tried to organize her thoughts. Everything had been turned upside down for her friend, she couldn't imagine having to put it right side up again, especially after Leandra. "This was your fault." Aveline shivered, she knew Hawke hadn't meant it, she didn't need to apologize. 

    "You don't need to say sorry, Hawke." Aveline told her. "We understand."

    Hawke snorted. She raised an eyebrow at Aveline. 

    "You're doing the best you can. Even Isabela sees that," Aveline reached out to pat Hawke's shoulder but then thought better of it, feeling awkward. She stood up. "Here," she handed Hawke her book. 

    "Where are you going?"

    Anywhere at this point, Aveline thought. She wondered how her always bull-headed and compassionate friend could have such doubt in her eyes. Maybe to beat an elf, she thought next. "I'm hungry," she said instead. "Should have been up earlier Hawke, what would Leandra say?" 

    Hawke smiled at that letting Aveline flee from the room. 

   "Big girl," Isabella greeted Aveline as she passed through the entrance. 

   "Whore," Aveline returned with a smirk. 

   Isabela was still grinning as she approached Hawke. "Hawke, beauty, how are you?" It wasn't that she had to ask, she wanted to. 

  Hawke eyed her warily. Isabela had been prancing around in her underclothes since they had arrived. She had tied her customary bandana over her bust. The effect was better concealed by her now-free dark locks, tumbling down and blanketing her shoulders and back. Hawke tried to avert her eyes to her book. Maker the women was a tease. "What do you want, Bella?"

   Ou, pet names, bird-ling? Glad we're getting back to us. Isabela smiled in earnest, she hated fighting with Hawke. "I'm only asking." 

   Hawke caught a wink from one of Isabela's golden earrings as the pirate perched in the chair beside her. "Only asking?"

   "How you are," Isabela peaked up at her from under dark lashes, her purr as if she was saying so much more. 

   "I'm fine, good even." Hawke raised an eyebrow. "How was your boat ride?" 

   Too predictable bird-ling. "Informative." 

   "Informative?" 

   Isabela winked, "Relaxing, after that wicked storm we had last night."

  "Hmm," Hawke agreed missing her meaning. 

  "Curious beasts, storms. Wild, reverent things. Contrast that will drive you to more wicked things." Like you.

  "I can't imagine what you mean," Hawke felt the tips of her ears turn red and she shook her head to hide them with her hair.

  Isabela might have believed her, but she saw Hawke's jaw flex, noticed her eyes tighten, she was watching for it. Hawke's first instinct was to intimidate, push anything confrontational back into a corner. It came from spending too much time with Aveline in her opinion. The mage might do well with a little bard's training. Redirect, thought Isabela. "There was storm while I was crossing to come here last." 

  "Fleeing here, you mean."

  Ou, scrutiny. "Maybe it brought me back to you." 

  Hawke glanced at Isabela and away again. 

  "Or maybe," Isabela leaned forward. Andraste's tits, her bird's eyes were gorgeous. "I did that all on my own, sweet thing."

   Hawke set her book to the side and brushed her knees like they had collected dust from it.

  "I never thanked you." Please don't run away. 

   Hawke stood. You don't have to, of course I would stand by you. 

   Isabela slumped back in the chair as Hawke crossed to the archway, seemingly ignoring her yet again. What will I do with you, bird-ling? She wouldn't apologize for finding pleasure in the wrong places, she never did. Even if she couldn't admit it was Hawke's pleasure she preferred. She wondered if Hawke realized that, if she realized it was the same for Fenris. How was it that she had become the least desirable? Sailing through this mess, and coming out without, was entirely against her selfish nature. What in the void did they expect?

 "Bella?"

 "Hmm?"

  Amber eyes met softly, open-hearted for a moment. Hawke adjusted the strap that had fallen down her shoulder, the same colour of her lips. She kept her chin there, struggling inwardly. Hawke resigned and turned her hands up in a shrug. "You're welcome."

  The mage left in a wisp of fire missing the pirate's soft expression. Thank-you, bird-ling. She would fix this, she would help them. 

Chapter Text

     By the time dinner was finished dusk was falling in a wide sweep of pinks and purples that teased the Waking Sea. Hawke wandered outside with Anders, kicking up sand and twirling in the cooling glow of another day past. 

     "You're in a good mood, " Anders commented quietly when Hawke picked up his hand and spun beneath it.

     Hawke didn't say it, but she was. Dinner had been easier tonight. Everyone had been lighter among each other, and that made her glad. She wouldn't wish her anger on the others, not intentionally. Anders laughed when she dipped, expecting him to catch her, and instead falling in a soft thump onto the beach. 

     Hawke blinked up at him. "That wasn't very gentlemanly of you." 

    Anders shrugged and sat down beside her careful to avoid the pool of red silk. Hawke pulled up her knees and hugged them, resting her chin as she looked out over the water.

     "I still can't believe Varric likes to cook," Hawke said after a moment. 

     "Likes to is one thing," Anders smirked. "Doing it well is another."

     "I thought it was delicious."

    Anders mock shuddered crossing one leg over another. 

     "When will I get my magic back?" Hawke asked changing the subject with a bluntness only a Hawke could achieve.

     "It's strange isn't it?" 

     Hawke stretched out her hand and a wisp, red in comparison to Anders' healer's green, floated absently above her palm. "I feel like I'm a child again," she said after a moment sending it out over the water. "Like my father is still feeding me teas to restrict my mana until I can properly control it." Hawke played with the wisp, pointing her index finger and dancing it across the sea. It appeared to be skipping over glass having no affect on the water, little more than a puff of smoke. She looped it around the sun and back again. 

     "Once I found myself in a battle where I had to defend a large number of people from a ridiculously long list of dark spawn," Anders paused when Hawke raised an eyebrow at him. "The Warden-Commander had a preference for four-person suicide missions over suicidal battles for Keeps - actually that's a lie. Suicidal and Commander of the Grey just go hand-in-hand I think."

     Hawke snorted and sent another wisp to join the first. 

     "After the battle, I was roped into a drinking contest as the mage who saved all the peasants." Anders lit a wisp of his own and sent it to join the red orbs over the sea. Hawke sent hers sailing after his, crashing into it and exploding into a puff of smoke. Hawke frowned and replaced her defeated wisp with another, sending both after Anders' shining wisp. 

     Anders dodged Hawke's wisp sailing high enough that it might have been a star among the night sky. "Drinking myself under the table quickly became my recovery method. I was back to myself within the month." 

     "A month?!" Hawke gasped at him distracted.

    Anders dove, quickly defeating both of her wisps. The effect was something like fireworks, expanding over the water and popping quietly. "No," Anders laughed. "But now I've won."

    Hawke shoved Anders' shoulder sending him sideways as she spouted another wisp to chase his. They twirled around each other, dancing above the now rising moon. 

    A yellow wisp flew from the balcony to join them, Meril giggling beneath the peaking stars. Hawke and Meril turned their wisps on Anders, flying after his wisp as he complained about fair-play. Each collided sparking in the air and drifting, trails of smoke reflecting like tinsel, until disappearing just above the water. 

    Isabela sauntered to the window where Fenris stood watching the mages play. "It's beautiful," she whispered. While she would never wish to be a mage, she often found herself jealous of them. 

    Fenris only smirked, watching Hawke with glossy eyes as she rolled back clutching her sides which shook with laughter. 

    "Just like she is." Isabela breathed into Fenris' ear. They turned pink when he looked away, hiding his expression.

    "I'll go get the rum than shall I," sighed Isabela. She would have him as long as he would have her, but the elf did have a way of draining her energy.

    In the kitchen Isabela managed as many glasses as she could before descending into the cellar. If only there was a way they could all get along - together even. What had Hawke done to Fenris that she hadn't? Isabela smirked as she reached up on her tip toes to fetch the rum above the wine rack; that clever fingered minx had learned almost everything from her. Isabela tried to imagine them as she carried the rum upstairs. Her mind was adrift with images of both her lovers - Hawke gentle and elusive, like love was a secret, and Fenris calculated and lethal, like he would take all of her, and it would never be enough. Isabela pressed her thighs together as she poured the rum carelessly, thinking of their contrast, of them a tangle together. Hawke's eyes closed, her breath fast as ivory tattoos slid over sun kissed skin, almost virginal in comparison. They would be beautiful. They shouldn't deny themselves each other. They shouldn't deny her either.

    "Night cap?" Isabela asked as she passed around the rum to Hawke's companions. They had all gathered at the edge of the building watching the fireworks. Isabela hid the last three glasses in front of her torso as she stepped into the sand. She pulled from her breast a tiny vial she usually kept on hand for Fenris and the games they played. She sprinkled the powder - Antiva's Secret they called it - into Hawke's glass and sat beside her. 

    "You've inspired a fan club, bird-ling." Isabela smiled at Hawke's flushed cheeks and twinkling eyes. Even Anders was smiling openly. 

    Hawke peaked behind her and blushed harder letting her wisp disappear.

    "Here," Isabela chuckled heartily holding out their glasses. "To take the edge off." 

    Hawke smirked and took both glasses from Isabela. For a moment the pirate thought she would have to object as Hawke held one glass and then the other to Anders. He reached for one but Hawke gave him a mischievous grin and pulled them out of reach. 

    "Hey!" Anders laughed reaching across Hawke. 

    Hawke dove out of the way, across the pirate's lap, laughing harder. She swallowed both glasses and stuck her tongue out at Anders. 

    Anders rolled his eyes. "You're a bad influence Bella, the woman's practically a pirate when it comes to sharing her rum!"

    Hawke shifted her head so Isabela's thigh craddled her head. "You're the one who wanted us to get along again."

    Isabela laughed with Hawke as Anders pouted. He managed his feet beneath him and rose to fetch his own drink. 

    "Get me one too, please!" Hawke called, she glanced up at Isabela. "He probably won't will he?"

    "Are you asking me, bird-ling?" Isabela smirked leaning back on her wrists.

    "You're a pirate not a wench," scoffed Hawke looking back over the water to Meril's lonely wisp. "That's what we have men for," Hawke sent out a wisp to meet Meril's letting it wander with a lazy finger. 

    The wind blew across the beach as they waited for Anders to return. Isabela brushed back a stray strand of chestnut that slithered over Hawke's cheek in the breeze. The mage's skin was just as soft as she remembered. 

    Hawke smiled without looking at the pirate. She felt warmer than she had in a long time. Her cheek tingled where Isabela had touched her and she allowed the warmth to swell. "I'm glad you came, Bella," she admitted. 

    Isabela twisted the strand around her finger. She played with it absently returning her gaze to the show. How easily you change your song, bird-ling.

    If Anders noticed he didn't comment when he sat back down. He gave Hawke another drink and they chased the moon with the simplest and purest of magic. 

 

 

Chapter Text

     Isabela wasn’t sure this was going to work, she wasn’t even sure what she was doing. When was the last time she was so unsure about something? She didn’t remember caring so completely.

     “Isabela what are you doing?” Hawke asked drudging through her dream to consciousness.

     “Shhh, Hawke. Don’t think.” Isabela helped Hawke up and slipped a strip of red fabric over her eyes. The idea hadn’t been fully formulated until she had seen her red dress in a pile of fabric on the floor.

     “Bella, I can’t see,” Hawke complained as the pirate lead her from the room. Isabela didn’t know if it was her grogginess from the potion she had slipped into her drink on the beach, or the fact that Hawke didn’t want to stop her – she hurried her out of the room before the mage decided.

     Isabela pulled Hawke’s hair back from her bare shoulder. “Step down,” she whispered feeling triumphant when she saw Hawke’s neck turn to gooseflesh. She helped her out into the sand. Hawke squeaked when her bare toes slipped into the cold sand, she made to turn around but Isabela’s hands were firm. This was the first time since they had met that Isabela was stronger than her friend. What fun, Isabela licked her lips.

     Isabela stepped in front of her, feeling sturdier with the balance of the boat beneath her feet, and reached back to pick Hawke up onto the boat.

     Hawke’s breath hitched at the feel of warm hands around her middle. What was she doing? “Are you kidnapping me?” Hawke asked. Isabela stopped turning towards Hawke, ready when the blinded mage ran into her, her mouth opening in a gasp.

     “You’d like that, wouldn’t you, sweet thing,” Isabela purred as she ran her thumb across Hawke’s bottom lip. “Come,” Isabela beckoned when Hawke’s teeth worried where her thumb had been. She walked backwards down the stairs, putting Hawke’s hands on her shoulders, careful of her balance.

     Fenris had been much harder to coerce. Of course he had already been sleeping on the boat.

     “Let’s play a game, Fenris,” Isabela had said coming to stand beside him. Fenris grumbled, hair tussled from their recent lovemaking. Isabela knelt down and drew a finger up the lyrium line that disappeared under the blanket. “I promise it will be fun.”

    “You want to tie me up?” he had asked later, his lack of trust was disheartening.

    “You want me to tie you up,” Isabela purred pushing him into a meagre wooden chair below deck.

    “No, I’m certain I do not.”

    “But I have a gift for you, sweet thing.”

    “That requires me to be tied up?”

    “Must you be so literal?”

     “Yes.”

     Isabela stood behind the elf and slid her hands down over his shoulders, suckling his ear as she bent, coaxing him. When Fenris reached back to hold her, she trapped his hands behind his back and secured them to the chair.

     Fenris growled.

     “I’ll be back.” Isabela promised swiftly fleeing from the under deck.

     Isabela pressed her finger to her lips when she reached the final step. She gave Fenris a mischievous wink. The elf scowled when he noticed Hawke followed, a growl catching in his throat. Isabela smirked as she lead the mage to the narrowed area of the cabin, a kitchen of sorts – a hallway lined with cabinets that lead to the sleeping quarters. The cabinets smelt like wood stain coaxed from the dampness of the previous storm.

     Isabela pushed Hawke back against the cabinets coming flush against her. Hawke’s breath hissed from between her teeth, her breasts betraying her against her night slip as Isabela’s warmth sank into her bones. “Do you trust me, bird-ling?” Isabela asked placing a kiss on her shoulder.

     “No.” Hawke breathed.

     Fenris grunted from where he sat, intrigued and guilty at the same time. He wondered what Hawke would do if she knew he was here. Was it a betrayal if she actively allowed his lover to take her down into the depths of the boat? Did he have the right to be jealous of either of them? He didn’t know if he should be angry, he didn’t know if he should be aroused. When Isabela tied a piece of red cloth around Hawke’s slender wrist and fastened it to a cabinet handle above her, he decided he was.

     “Isabela –“ Hawke warned. This was a terrible idea. Nothing good would come of this. Hawke shivered despite herself when Isabela fastened her other wrist above her with a brush of her lips to her palm. This would fix nothing, but she wanted this. She wanted to be wanted. She was so tired of her anger. She wanted to be loved and cherished. She had been robbed of her heroine. Her addiction to Fenris – “What about Fenris?” Hawke snapped.

     Isabela glanced at Fenris. “What about him?”

     Hawke knew Isabela was fickle with her lovers, but what if Fenris wanted something more from her? What if he had somehow tricked himself into believing she could be his? What if he had fallen for her? Hawke felt her heart sink into her stomach. “What if he loves you?” she breathed forcing the words from her mouth. What if Isabela was his release, the healer he needed? She couldn’t take that from him.

     “That’s impossible.” Isabela ran her hands down Hawke’s silk arms, over her hips and between Hawke’s legs pulling them apart.

     “Impossible?” Hawke murmured.

     “Mhmm,” Isabela said kissing the inside of Hawke’s thigh just below her nightgown. She tied another piece of cloth to Hawke’s ankle and fastened it behind her to keep her there. She placed feather light kisses from her ankle up to her hemline, breathing in the smell of her warm skin like fresh rain. She loved the smell of mages, they had a particular tang that put her nerves on edge and woke her up. She wondered idly if it was from their close relationship with lyrium.

     Hawke’s knees felt weak, she tried to focus. She wanted this to be right. “I don’t want you to hurt him.”

     “It’s a little late for that bird-ling,” Isabela smiled into Hawke as she trailed her lips down to her left ankle.

     “If he loves you we can’t do this, even if you don’t want him.”

     “I’ll always want Fenris, he’s so delicious.”

     “Isabela!” Hawke whispered harshly.

     Isabela rolled her eyes and peaked at Fenris. The elf was as pale as a sheet. Hawke was taking all the fun out of this. “It’s not like that with us,” Isabela finished tying the last binding, a little more tightly than she had to. She drew her fingers up Hawke’s bare legs as she stood dragging her nails across her flesh. She snaked her arms around Hawke’s back and caught then ends of her soft hair. She pulled her head back exposing her neck. “He loves you,” she whispered into the crux just below her ear, loud enough she knew Fenris would hear. She suckled slowly to her collarbone. “He loves you, bird-ling.”

     Hawke let out an audible moan at the second pronouncement. He did, didn’t he, bastard.

     Hawke’s voice spiked Fenris’ ecstasy plunging through him, cleansing him. He watched Isabela’s mouth on her skin wishing it was his, praying Isabela would allow him that. She lavished every inch of Hawke, torturing him with slow movements that left Hawke leaning out towards Isabela, her breath coming faster.

     “Can I take this off, Hawke?” Isabela purred running her finger across the collar of her night gown.

     Hawke tried to discern what she was feeling - her heart hammering against her rib cage, her body on fire, her body willing her to fight but held still – this was need. Pure need. “Yes.” Hawke breathed. “Please,” she added when she couldn’t stop herself.

     Isabela slipped her dagger from its holster and pressed the cool flat edge against Hawke's stomach. “Beg me again, Champion.” Hawke bit her lip. Isabela drew the blade up and pressed the cool edge against her clavicle. “I am Captain of this ship, bird-ling. You will beg me.” Isabela reached around and gripped Hawke pulling her against her.

     “Please,” Hawke gasped feeling wet enough to soak the damned thing through. Isabela grasped a handful of Hawke's nightgown pulling her in so she could devour her mouth. Hawke let herself be consumed, opening her lips to Isabela and her wicked tongue. After slitting the top of Hawke's nightgown, Isabela dropped her blade, wishing she could fuse with Hawke. The woman was unlike anyone she had ever had. She guessed she would never meet another who could turn her insides to jelly the way the mage did. She honoured Hawke, wanted to prove herself worthy in every touch.

     Damned fool, Isabela cursed of herself tearing the nightgown in two. She clawed at her revealed skin purring into her mouth when she caught her breasts. She ran her nails carefully over Hawke’s pert pink nipples smiling into her shoulder when her head fell back. She ran her nails over Hawke’s torso and kneeled, raking Hawke’s skin between her hip bones and across her thighs and back again. She turned to see the elf completely enthralled, his muscles straining to be set free. She winked at him and shifted so Hawke’s whole body was bare to him.

     “Stop teasing, Bella!” Hawke whined. She shrieked when the pirate slapped her ass hard enough to sting.

     “That’s no way to address the Captian!” Isabela chuckled feigning disapproval. She drew away in punishment. 

     Hawke’s body was on fire. What did the wretched woman want from her? She wished she could see her face, do the exact same to the pirate. Where had she gone? She tried to listen but the rogue was too light on her feet. She was completely vulnerable but it was oddly freeing, she tried convince herself otherwise, but the fog of arousal disagreed with her. She needed this, to be cherished and wrung dry to exhaustion - she knew that's what Isabela had in store for her. She always had when she was this gentle. Hawke's mind wandered to the times they had shared together as she waited reducing her to trembling with need. Tumbling ebony locks, olive kisses, warm strokes, debaucherous words, pulling teeth - a soft moan hung in the air. Hawke's nerves were struck still. Another moan was drawn across the underbelly of the boat. Hawke's heart kicked into overdrive pounding furiously with nervous energy. Fenris

Chapter Text

     Time suddenly seemed relative but Hawke was lost for a way to control it. Her eyes pleaded with the silk before them, begging passage and sight, as she strained to hear them. Her heart beat furiously like it would wear itself to mortality. She heard the screech of a chair drawing back, a murmur of encouragement, and the pad of bare feet, slow and hesitant. Her skin turned into chords, a current of electricity stirring as he drew closer, was he closer? She couldn't see, but she thought she could feel him, there, before her. Her heart ached making her clench her teeth as she remembered it within her chest, threatening her. She tried to control her breathing, tried to distract herself within the shadows but memories of him, of them, of Isabela, assaulted her. A relinquished smile when she explained an embarrassingly crude word from one of Varric's novels. A pair of amber eyes filled with concern, the first above her after a rouge spell threw her into a cliff face. And something, more distance, dreamlike in the wake of a submerged memory.

     The trees were loud around the clearing, not to say that they were shouting, but their whispering had become a constant hum, ruffled by the wind which argued furiously. Hawke had her arms crossed against it, watching Bethany's long dark hair twisting backwards as it flew. She fingered the wicker of her basket, she had given up picking roses almost a half a dial before, while her sister, stubborn like her mother, like her even, battled to keep those she had picked, chasing them around the clearing to bend and have another fly from her basket. 

     "Beth, it's useless, there's a storm coming!" Hawke called over the wind. The sky was turning to mercury chilling the late summer heat. Had it been that way that day?

     "Bethany!"

     "Coming! Coming -" Bethany conceded. She wrapped her arms around her basket and jogged back to Hawke, fluid and graceful. 

     The sisters ducked under the canopy of the forest just as the first drops of rain began to fall in the clearing. The walk back to Lothering was short, hopefully the rain would be forgiving until they made it back to their family cabin. 

     "I'm not sure this will be enough -" Bethany worried, stroking the bed of pedals in her basket. 

     "Mother will understand."  They had been collecting roses for the Chantry, Mother had spent every anniversary there since Father had passed. She said it brought them closer together, even if they couldn't spend it together. Mother said those at the Marker's side could see loved ones in the Chantry more clearly from the Void. 

     "Maybe he'll be there," Bethany giggled, changing the subject. She had become infatuated with a boy at the Chantry, an initiate not much older than her. 

      Hawke thought of the boy's ocean blue eyes, lit with mischief, and the scratch of his accent that resonated from him like a purr - the memory skipped, she could feel the warmth of a body through the remnants of her slip that clung to her shoulders. She clung to the ghosts - he was much too old for her. "You really shouldn't tease yourself, you know it could never be." 

      Bethany was quiet for a moment, thinking of fantasy and fairytales. "If he was my true love it could be," she blushed. 

      "There's no such thing as true love, Beth." 

      "Oh sister, you're such a pessimist." 

      "And you're much too much of an optimist." Hawke thought of having a soul mate, conjuring a familiar prince in her minds eye. No one would search forever, people didn't have that kind of drive. "And even if there was, they would never find you." 

      "Maybe there's more than one?" 

      Hawke peaked at her sister as they wound between the trees. "Than it's not your one true love?" 

      "Maybe true love means anyone you were supposed to love - all love is true?" Bethany stretched out her hand and let it dance across the foliage. "Maybe the Maker sends us many loves, maybe everyone you love you were supposed to love - you will always love. Maybe he gives us more than one chance." 

       "Because He knows we'll screw it up the first couple times," Hawke laughed.

       Bethany joined her, giggling before settling into the hum of a tune Mother sang before the fire. 

 

       "Hawke?" Fenris asked, his voice like it had passed over bedrock to find her. He reached up and stroked his finger tips over her cheek skimming her blindfold, velvet and silk.

       Hawke flinched, startled by his touch.  

       Fenris hesitated.      

       "Fenris?" Hawke whispered like they might plummet from the edge if she begged too loudly. The chasm within her beckoned a sacrifice, the witness of a rebirth.

       Fenris brushed the backs of his knuckles down to the curve of her throat, where her pulse fluttered like a trapped butterfly. He exhaled when she did not turn from him, sedating the beast caged between his ribs. He felt it again, the distinct impression of cleansing, her light banishing the darkest edges that had come to consume him in the past few months. Delicately, as if she might disappear, he pulled the silk from Hawke's eyes, never letting go of Isabela's hand - incase he be swept away, for surely the stampede of memories, of torture, were not far behind. 

      Hawke saw her reflection in Fenris' dark eyes, the evergreen rings that played with silvers almost entirely black with need. She reached out to touch him only to be reminded she was restrained, resigned to staring. Maker, he was everything - the long plain of his bronze face, beautiful with high set bones that angled to a set jaw. He licked his parted lips when her eyes settled on them and Hawke thought of sucking gently on the bottom one, plumper than the top, but not by much. If only he would come closer, he was a hair's breadth away. Hawke looked back to his eyes, reflecting the heat she saw there - determination, predatory, and light to her darkness, reflected in dripping white hair around his face like the starlight that collected in his lyrium veins, shining as if it reached for her. 

     "Untie me," she said first. She blinked not recognizing her own voice. Fenris obeyed, starting at her ankles, and before he had even finished her second wrist she had torn free, launching herself at him. Fenris stumbled backwards, letting go of Isabella to support Hawke. She twined herself around him, locking her legs against his hips. She clung to him, clutching him to her chest where he could hear her heart, her fingers wound into his hair. She tried to steady her shaking by pressing her cheek to his crown. 

     Fenris was stunned for a moment. Until this moment, he had never considered that he might be the centre of her universe, as she was his. He hadn't considered he was depriving her of what she needed - only that he was depriving himself. In an attempt to protect her, he may have been defeating her. He thought of everything he held in contempt and listened to her heart. Suddenly his reasons seemed superficial, her heart was beating in time with his, like his, as his.

     "Fenris, please -" Hawke's voice broke. "Don't push me away, please -"

     Fenris' heart broke - their heart. "Hush, Hawke," Fenris soothed, freeing a hand to slip up her spine and hold her just as tightly. What else could he say? How could he possibly explain the sorrow he felt for hurting her?

      Hawke pulled back, her hands on either side of his temples and kissed him, gasping as if he could breathe for her. Molten fire ripped through her, an eruption that ebbed into a steady current when he pulled her from the brink with a tenderness that calmed her, his lips soft against her hunger. She rested her forehead on his before she was overwhelmed, wishing her heart to calm. She wasn't sure what it meant, but she could feel the pulse of him beneath her, keeping time, racing against hers.

      Slowly, Hawke slipped back down, feeling every curve in his abdomen, tingling where his lyrium was set. Then the scratch of his leather breeches against her torso, and something more fierce contained there. She let go, suddenly embarrassed by the vulnerability of her display. Had she cornered him? How could she make him understand? Was his kiss an admission?

       Fenris pulled Hawke back to him, a long finger, gentle under her chin, bringing her eyes from the floor below them. Confronted by her wide eyes he was lost but for two words. "I'm sorry," he whispered. He kissed her again, gentle again - and she believed him, intrepidly, so much so that she feared the earth might fall out from beneath her.

      "Okay," Hawke nodded when he broke to look at her again. He stroked her face. "Okay," she smiled shyly. She wiped her cheek, turning to disguise herself and seeing her comfort across the room.

      Isabela stood statue still, containing herself, giving them this, something like fear in her amber eyes. Hawke closed the distance between them, letting her slip slide off of her arms. She cupped Isabela's cheek tenderly and a ghost of a smile returned to the pirate. Hawke pulled Isabela towards her, feeling the points of her corset across the soft flesh of her chest.

      Hawke murmured something in Isabela's ear and Fenris saw her eyes go wide over Hawke's shoulder. Hawke pulled back and kissed Isabela, persisting until the pirate's eyes closed and her arms snaked around Hawke's waist. When Isabela looked at him again her eyes had focused back into their familiar gleam.

     Hawke reached back, extending a hand to him and he strode with lithe precision to take it. There was no hesitation now, this was right. The mage looked between the two of them, and, taking Isabela's hand, turned and lead them past the kitchens into the dark hall before the sleeping quarters. 

Chapter Text

     Hawke was trembling when she beckoned the candles to light in the tiny cabin. When only two lit she frowned, her thoughts wandering to weakness. 

     "It's alright, bird-ling." Isabella crooned, she brushed Hawke's kiss-tussled hair from her shoulder and kissed her warm skin.

     Hawke's shoulders relaxed slightly. She heard the strike of a match - from where she wasn't sure - but then Isabella was in front of her, moving to light the remaining candles.  

     Fenris took Hawke's wrist gently and turned her to face him, admiring her form in the shadows. He cupped either side of her face and brought her lips to his. Her torso curved against his. She pulled his lower lip gently into her mouth shuddering as one of his hands began to slither from her face, over her backside and then around and between them. 

     "Fenris," Hawke pleaded. There were so many things she wanted to say - but then his fingers came flush with her clitoris and he sucked her moan into his mouth. Small teasing circles made her knees lock and all she could do was wrap her arms around the elf's neck to support herself. She was so nervous - terrified of the emotion flushing through her veins. She wanted this, but both of them? Only in her dreams had she -

     Isabella whispered to Fenris from behind. She ran her nails down Fenris' back, over his lyrium tattoos causing him to rear back with a growl.

     Hawke gasped, her arms coming loose. Isabella tangled her hands in Fenris' hair and pulled his tongue deep into her mouth.

     Suddenly, all coquettish was gone. 

     Hawke copied Isabella, dragging her nails down Fenris' torso and tearing at his waist band. His chest vibrated in response spurring Hawke. Fenris' cock sprang free, swollen from arousal and confinement. She gripped his hips and slid him between her lips, pushing until her mouth was flush with his hips. 

     Fenris kissed Isabella harder attempting to distract himself from coming undone. Hawke was warm and wet - he could feel the muscles of her throat flexing around him. Isabella bowed against his backside, clutching his chest, just as Hawke retreated to his tip, plunging his cock back into her mouth. Fenris broke the kiss gasping. 

     "Do you feel that elf?" Isabella purred bucking her hips so Fenris was consumed by Hawke again. "That's Marian, our Hawke, around you." She had stripped her clothes. Fenris grit his teeth, reaching back to sink his hands into Isabella's flesh - anything to hold on to. Hawke's tongue toyed with the shelf of his head, slicking down his shaft with the saliva gathered on her lips and back up until she was around him again. 

     Isabella nipped down Fenris' spine, wriggling out of his grasp until he was forced to find purchase in Hawke's hair. His grip sent sharp sensations across her scalp making her moan around him, vibrating against his cock. 

     The pirate sucked first her index, and then her middle finger between her lips, watching Hawke bob back and forth. She had done this, and if the lust in Hawke's eyes were any indication, she had done well. She moved her fingers against her opening, wet enough to drip, and reached up, drawing a line along Fenris' perineum to her tongue which she shoved between his cheeks. Fenris' bucked, shouting incoherently when she pushed her finger carefully past his anus to arc against his prostate. 

     Fenris saw white, his markings glowing as he satiated their hunger. The muscles in his neck clenched as he bent foreword trying to control himself - his hands numbing in Hawke's hair as a cord pulled tighter, and tighter - reducing his nerves to a tingling. "No," he ground out even as they moved faster, pushing him further. "No, not yet," he gasped grabbing Hawke under her arms and pulling her up.

     "Gently," Hawke gasped failing to ignore the protest of her chest. 

     Fenris' body bowed in protest to the loss of assault. He gripped Hawke's shoulders to steady himself leaning his forehead against hers. Isabella continued, daring him to lose control. His cock twitched, but the wench stopped, smacking his ass with the firm hands of a sailor.

     Fenris turned on Isabella who looked up at him, feigning innocence. "You," he growled. 

     "Me, sweet thing?" Isabella leaned back on her hands, spreading her legs for him, balanced on her heels. Fenris obeyed the goddess, dropping in front of her. He wrapped his arms around her thighs and yanked her up to his mouth. She tasted like cream, and sun and woman. She tried to grind her hips into his mouth but he held her still, her legs wrapping around his neck. 

     "Hawke!" Isabella cried begging the mage foreword. Hawke straddled Isabella's face, bracing the pirate's back as Fenris ravaged her. Isabella flicked her tongue against Hawke's nub and she lit on fire, calling out as she met Fenris' too dark, too large eyes. The build was fast for each of them, writhing on the floor and watching each other. 

     Isabella reached up and pinched Hawke's breasts, the pain sweet and summoning, releasing her on top of Isabella. Hawke cried out and Isabella slowed, only just coherent, making her climax again. The sound, the simplest reminder of her lover returned, and the quick penetration of one of Fenris's suddenly freed hands, sent the pirate over next. Fenris put Isabella down and slipped inside her clenching walls. Hawke covered his mouth with hers as he came. 

     Hawke stood first, bracing herself on Fenris' shoulders to stand. He watched her face twist even as she tried to hide it. 

     "You need to rest." Fenris told her. Perhaps this was a mistake, he had already risked her well-being -

     "Oh no you don't," Isabella said offering him a hand as she stood before him. "She won't break, sweet-thing." 

     Fenris scowled but Isabella shook her finger at him. She took Hawke's hand and lead her to the bed. Isabella laid down first, curling around Hawke's back so the two were facing the elf. 

     "She's right, Fen," Hawke smiled. "Come, sleep with us." 

     Fenris crawled into bed, wrapping his arms around both.

     Hawke nuzzled Fenris' chest, amazed by how at home she felt. The first time in a very long time.  

     Fenris kissed the mage's forehead, how could he possibly say no to her. 

------------ 

 

     Hawke woke on the whicker bed with Isabella between her legs - slow and sweet. 

     Fenris ran his fingers down her arm, and back again. His lyrium turned her skin to gooseflesh. He trailed back, over her shoulder, across her clavicle and skimmed over her stitches. She didn't have a chance to feel self-conscious, only cherished. Fenris' took one of her nipples into his mouth suckling and then grazing his teeth over it. Hawke crooned as he continued to touch her, worshipping her as Isabella continued. 

     Isabella slipped two fingers inside her, coaxing her soul with hooked ministrations. 

     "Oh Maker," Hawke sighed when Isabella moved her thumb over her swollen clit.

     Isabella giggled softly when Hawke reached for her. She knew what Hawke wanted. She paused. 

     Hawke whined, taunted. Her toes curled under and she took the sheets into her fists. 

     "Kiss her, Fenris." Isabella whispered, and when the elf grasped her chin, Isabella slipped her little finger into Hawke's forbidden entry. Hawke bucked her hips, revelling in the rhythm Isabella set and the contrast of her three touches. She came quietly, gasping into Fenris' mouth, even as his tongue ran along her lower lip. 

     Isabella went next. Hawke straddling her stomach as Fenris filled her. Hawke kissed the pirate slowly, and she kissed back with the same emotion - she allowed herself this feeling this once, instead of being afraid.

     Fenris gripped Isabella's wrists and she clutched back at him as he sank deeper, pulling them to their peaks. She came with Hawke's lips on her neck, calling Fenris' name. 

     Hours later, in the cool calm of the early morning, the whicker bed would be empty, but for a hawk and a wolf. 

Chapter Text

     Isabella heard the pad of feet across worn planks. If she shirked into the shadows now, Hawke would miss her silhouette on the bow, but that seemed cowardly. She had run from the mage before, and of the many regrets she refused to acknowledge, that was very nearly her largest. She sighed and leaned against the railing of the deck watching the full moon reflect over too still waters. 

     It would be easier, she imagined - to ignore her gut feeling. For if she was serious for a perilous second, Kirkwall was her home, and she wouldn't be leaving it anytime soon - so why stir the pot? Honestly Bella, she thought, What are you going on about? Hawke is your home you irrational plum. 

    Isabella had just begun to process what was happening. She had been too enthusiastic and jumped the arrow - again. In a rush to bring Fenris and Hawke back together, she had overlooked what she had come to take for granted in Fenris. Watching them, together, made her heart beat uneasily - it was not a feeling she was accustomed to. The only time she had witnessed that sort of passion between two people had been back at The Peral in Denerim - and alone with Hawke. But she clung to him, jumped him like a gull does a fish - can you possibly imagine being clung to? Can you give her that you fickle flirt?

     "Bella?" Hawke called from just behind her.

     The sea breeze blew up over the bow like it could push them together. Isabella gave her a small smile over her shoulder. The mage had wrapped herself in a wool blanket, her hair bubbling from where it caught underneath it at her shoulders. "Come to watch the sunrise?" she asked returning her gaze to the water. 

     "Yes, let's go with that." Hawke murmured taking post beside her. 

      You thought I'd left, bird-ling.

      Yes, do you blame me?

      No, some sands never remain buried. 

      "What are you thinking?" Hawke asked glancing at her. 

      Isabella avoided her eyes. "I'm wondering what juicy details I can tease Varric with."

     "Do you think he'll believe we only played a private game of Wicked Grace?"

     "Oh he'll believe something wicked, bird-ling. Of that I've no doubt." Isabella spared a wink for Hawke. 

     "We could go below deck and not return for the rest of the trip, avoid it all." 

     "And avoid the scandal?" Isabella gasped. "Oh no, sweet-thing, I want to watch Anders eyes heat when I saunter by."

     Hawke put her head down with a low chuckle. "I'm not the only one with admirers, Bella."

    "No, of course not, I've had my share - until I met you, bird-ling. You sweep them all up with all those -" Isabella let her eyes wander over Hawke. Her pink lips, her soul swallowing eyes, her endless soft locks, and her peaking cream skin. She licked her lips. "Delicious assets." 

    "Meril." Hawke said pointedly, ignoring her assessment. 

    "Well, you've just got that all wrong. Kitten has eyes for you." But don't think I haven't entertained the idea. 

    "Sebastian." 

    Isabella shrugged, "What can I -"

    "Fenris."

    Isabella met Hawke's eyes recognizing the same simmering jealousy that she herself could feel. She pushed off the railing to lean against it with her hip so they were inches from each other.

    Hawke resisted the urge to step back, smelling the salt of Isabella's breath as it washed over her face. There was no better time than the present. She had been so worried for him when Isabella had taken her down into the belly of the ship, only to find he was there. That had changed things for the moment, but she was still weary of it. Fenris had only allowed himself to enter Isabella over their night together, and Hawke had taken notice, even if she tried to ignore it. Fenris had been waiting for Isabella to return that night, not Hawke.

     "Don't be coy now, bird-ling." Isabella baited her. "Is it my turn to ask you what you're thinking?"

     Hawke looked down at her hands, then back to Isabella's eyes when she realized they were hidden beneath the blanket. What was she thinking? That she loved him? Yes. But Isabella knew that. The pirate goddess could see right through her, of that she had no doubt. It was one of the things she loved about her. Hawke never had to speak to have a conversation with Isabella. They moved in-sync. Watched the world crash around them knowing the players and the game, and playing in each other's game. She worried Fenris hadn't a clue what was happening, worried he couldn't see the signs that he was turning the tide in his favour, and that he would end up hurting someone without realizing it - and that she would only be wanted so long as Isabella lied to him seemingly indifferent. But she was kidding herself if she believed it was only Fenris she wanted. She was ever careful of Isabella's game - but she didn't want to be. You want what she cannot give.

     "You're over-thinking this, bird-ling." Isabella lied, caressing the mage's cheek. 

     Hawke sighed into her palm and let her blanket go. It pooled around her feet. "No more words," Hawke said. She kissed Isabella tenderly, closing her eyes to keep her heart from spilling from them. When she pulled back the fire had been reignited in both of them. 

     Isabella's amber eyes dilated responding to her beckoning. 

    "Come back to bed."

      

 

 

Chapter Text

     It was late afternoon, breakfast and lunch had passed without word from Hawke. It wasn't like her to waste the day in her bedroom. Anders had knocked twice - and then left, assuming she was resting or meditating - anything to distract him from the notice that Fenris and Isabella were also missing. It wasn't that it was the worst thing in the world, he told himself. Hawke wanted both of them, of that he had no doubt. It was easy to notice the way someone's eyes lit up when they were looking at someone else, especially when you wished it was you. He tried not to think about what a bad choice she was making. He was in the process of convincing himself that he had to let her make her own mistakes, when he noticed Isabella's reflection on the glass fireplace in the lounge. She winked at him through the flames before disappearing into Hawke's room. 

     "Do you never have any regrets?" Anders asked Isabella on a stroll through the Hightown market with Hawke. 

     "About what?" Isabella asked twirling her toes into the concrete as she rolled her ankle. It was an anxious habit of hers.

     "Anything? Everything? I can't figure you out."

     "The past's the past. I learned that young. If it can't bring you gold or giggles, what's the point in dwelling on it?"

     "Maybe the chance to fix a mistake? Make things right again?" Anders glanced at Hawke's back as she swooned over a gem hilted dagger. Perhaps her next gift to the pirate, another attempt to win her over.

     Isabella followed his gaze. "Eh. Our mistakes make us who we are."

     Anders popped back to her, surprised. "That was almost profound." 

    Is that what this is, Bella? Anders asked himself. Have you finally decided to right one of your wrongs? Anyone, with half a brain, had to know letting Hawke go was the worst mistake of their lives - testament to the fact that Fenris was still as stupid and yielding as the slave he was brought up to be. Had the elf waited one moment before accepting Isabella's proposition? Had he realized what it would do to Hawke if he rejected her? 

     "Anders, what are you doing here?" Hawke asked as she came from her room in Gamlen's shack. The only other occupant at home was Meric. 

     "I wanted to talk to you about the Tevne elf." Anders wrapped his arms around Hawke in a brief hug. He was only beginning to understand what she meant to him, unable to shake the threat his conscious muttered Fenris was to her. 

    "Now isn't the best time, Anders." Hawke sighed pulling away. "I've told you, we can't afford to be picky right now." 

   "You're headed into the Deep Roads, Hawke, you can't afford to be anything else." At the time he was extra paranoid, Carl had him questioning his allies, and his enemies.

   "He's a bit unstable - okay." Hawke put her hands up. "But he's powerful as well as dangerous, Anders. He could make the same argument about you." 

   "My moral judgement isn't questionable, Hawke. I have a damn spirit of justice running around in my head - the elf hates mages! Might I remind you, you ARE a mage!"

   "He hates Tevinter mages and blood magic. Do you see any of us practicing that?"

   "The fact that we practice at all -"

   "What do you want me to say, Anders?" Hawke turned her palms up in submission quieting his rage. "Do you want me to abandon him?"

    "Yes!" 

    "Well, I can't - he's lost, just like the rest of us."

    "Hawke -"

    A spark of electricity snapped behind Hawke's pupils. Justice reared upon seeing it and Anders had to clench his fists to keep the spirit from stirring. 

   "Sister, is everything alright?" Carver asked, his voice breaking the tension as he appeared in the doorway. 

   "Yes, Carver, Anders was just leaving for his clinic."

    Anders was drawn from the memory by Aveline's angry foot falls. He wondered if Hawke had felt a connection with Fenris even then. She must have. Anders watched as the guard captian stalked by, slamming Hawke's door closed behind her. Perhaps he wouldn't have to interfere afterall. 

----

     Isabella was measuring one of Hawke's dresses up against her bosom when Aveline stormed in. She had wondered who would find her first, Anders, Aveline - even Varric was a wager. "What do you think, big girl?" she asked spinning with the violet silk. 

     "Too regal for a whore." Aveline seethed.  

     "That's my girl." Isabella sighed tossing the dress onto the bed. "Purple's never been my colour anyway." 

     Aveline stood firmly in front of the door, trapping the pirate. Isabella picked a navy dress from the armoire and tossed it over her shoulder, taking her time before the confrontation. When finally she turned to the door Aveline still hadn't spoken. 

     "If you'll excuse me, big girl. Hawke will be wanting this," she said, tapping her shoulder. "And I rather enjoy giving Hawke what she wants." 

     "How could someone, like you," Aveline spat. "Possibly know what that girl wants, let alone needs." 

     "Hawke's a woman," Isabella purred suggestively. "I'll trust her to tell me what she wants, or show me for that matter." 

     Aveline stepped up to the pirate wishing she had her armour so she might not be seen through so plainly. Hawke was like her younger sister, she couldn't sit by and let the wench toy with her. If she knew one thing for sure, that was what the widow was doing, spinning souls into her endless web of lies and secrets. Isabella regarded her without intimidation. "You're not going back to them." Aveline said, grasping at a plan. "You're going to leave them be to figure out whatever this is."

     "Just because you haven't had your frigate floated since Wesley doesn't mean you have to be jealous of the rest of us." Isabella baited. 

     Aveline roared at the mention of her dead husband throwing out an arm to catch Isabella by the throat. The pirate dodged her with ease, spinning past the flurry of red hair and slipping past the door. She jammed her dagger under the door knob locking the gaurd captian inside. Aveline pounded on the door causing it to shake in it's hinges.

     "Why don't you cool off for a moment, big girl?" Isabella giggled nervously from the other side - Maker forbid the law was right for once.

---

     Varric and Meril sat outside on the balcony enjoying the sea breeze. Varric was graciously sipping Meril's Dalish brew, worried of offending her - the stuff was awful - when he saw Isabella cross over the beach. She waved to him, and he waved back, hoping she couldn't see his frown.

     "Well, at least she's alive." Meril chirped not looking up from the basket she was weaving. There were some lovely trees across the bridge, their discarded leaves on the forest floor would make an excellent basket.

     "She's a survivor," Varric nodded.

     "You're right, Varric," Meril said soberly glancing at him. "I'm never ever worried about Bella, oh that's not true, that was a lie - I'm sorry."

     "What's on your mind, Daisy?" Varric knew what was on his - he couldn't make this shit up. 

     "How can three people love each other - it all seems very crowded. I know Hawke loves Fenris - I know Fenris loves Hawke - I know Hawke loves Isabella - does Fenris love Isabella? Does Isabella love Hawke? Does Isabella love Fenris? It's all very confusing -"

    "Come now Daisy, you can't expect me to have an answer."

    "You've an answer for everything, Varric." 

    Varric chuckled. He had never heard something so untrue, but the girl's optimism was inspiring. He stood, turning so Meril wouldn't notice him pouring the rest of her coffee off the balcony. He placed the cup on the railing and sighed. 

    Meril only noticed when Varric was passing through the entry back into the cottage. "Where are you going?"

    Varric shrugged. "You might want to pack, Daisy."

Chapter Text

     Hawke could tell, from the damp warmth of the room, that the sun had passed high into the sky. There were no windows in the bedroom, but she could tell - and she didn't care. Whenever her mind wandered to the others, of what they might be thinking, she returned to watching Fenris sleep beside her. There was no place she would rather be. With Isabella gone it was easy to imagine they were somewhere else. In her bed at home perhaps, on a warm summer night, with Fenris beside her every night before, and every night in the coming future. Her heart beat uneasily when he stirred, and she closed her eyes, weary of being caught. 

     "No," Fenris whispered. 

    Hawke opened her eyes confused. Fenris had turned towards her, his mouth drawn into a line, his eyes wrinkled at the sides tightly shut. 

    "No," he said again. "I won't -" his voice was shaky. "I won't do this for you." 

    "Fenris?" Hawke called gently. She wondered if he was having a nightmare. She reached out and stroked his face. 

    "You can't ask this of me!" Fenris shouted. 

    "Fenris!" Hawke called grasping his arm. Her fingertips skimmed over a vein of his tattoos. It flashed, rearing outwards to seize her and drawing her into his mind. 

    The room was clearly Tevene - dark greens and damp walls, the smell of spice and the tang of blood stinging her nose. Fenris was kneeling before a man in sweeping robes, his greatsword feebly underfoot of the man. The man kicked the greatsword away from Fenris, it bounced across the tile sliding to a halt in front of raven black boots. Hawke gasped realising Isabella, chained by the wrists so her arms were taught over her head. She was crying.

    "Danarius - Master, please." Fenris begged bowing to the floor. 

    "Shame on you, little wolf. You know what begging earns you -" The Tevinter blood mage kicked Fenris, his foot connecting with his jaw, sending him onto his side. Fenris shook his head trying to recover his thoughts, never looking up, and returned to kneeling before Danarius.

    "Bring the Champion." Danarius said to the darkness.

    "No!" Fenris shouted. He lunged foreword only to be met by another swift boot, this time he didn't recover so quickly. Fenris gagged gasping to fill his lungs.  

    "Fenris, it's not real." Hawke said, shocked out of stillness by his pain. She ran to his side. 

    "Hawke -" Fenris choked, but he looked through her. Hawke turned to see a woman being dragged, kicking and screaming by her hair, into the scene, past the dark edges of the dream. Fenris' eyes watered as he watched the woman be chained beside Isabella. She was still screaming, Hawke covered her ears, the noise made her heart feel like glass.

     "Amatus-" Fenris called in a broken voice. The woman stopped flailing. She looked up, and her eyes, which shone like diamonds, met the elf's. Hawke gasped, she was the most beautiful woman she had ever seen.

     "Is this how you see me, Fenris?" Hawke breathed. This was not her, this was not the woman who met her eyes in the mirror. This woman was perfect.

     "Amatus," whispered the woman in a note that was like the saddest key of a piano.

     Fenris tried to stand but Danarius slammed his staff into his gut. Fenris grunted, trying to free himself but the Tevinter mage spun the dagger of his staff and pressed it into Fenris' clavicle. "If you will not kill one, I will kill them both." 

    Fenris cried out, breaking Hawke from the trance of the woman. 

    "Than again, this one could prove useful." Danarius spoke in Tevene and the woman screamed again. The light of her eyes retreated, bursting from the centre of her forehead, lyrium veins webbed from the epicentre of the burst. They spread across her face, splitting her red lips, making her hideous. 

    "Fenris, wake up!" Hawke shouted turning to him. She didn't want to see anymore. His fears were too much for her. "Fenris!" She pulled on her mana but it wouldn't respond. She tried to cup his face but her hands passed through him. She heard Danarius cackling as the darkness inched closer to them. 

    "Please!" Fenris begged. "Kill me!" 

    "No!" Hawke shouted. The darkness was swallowing them up. 

     There was another flash, stunning her eyes. She felt Fenris' long fingers wrap around her face. When her eyes adjusted she was staring into bewildered green. Fenris was gasping, clutching her like he were still asleep. 

     "Hush," she said quickly mimicking his hold on his soft skin. She brought her forehead to his. "It's alright, I'm here."

     Fenris embraced her, encompassing her with enough force that it was hard for Hawke to breathe. "You're safe," he whispered. "You're safe." He ran his hands over her hair. "He was there, you were dying - I -" 

     "I'm okay, Fenris." Hawke tried in vain to forget what she had seen. 

     "No," Fenris said sternly. "You're not." He pulled her back to look at him. "How could you be?" He ran his thumbs over her cheeks. "You can't -" Fenris kissed Hawke briefly. "What are you doing?"

      Hawke's eyes stung as she met his gaze. There was so much confusion there. He was of so many words, here with her. But out there, he never spoke of this.

     "What are you doing, Hawke?"

     "What do you mean?"

     Fenris looked away from her. Danarius would find him and then he would find her. How could she survive while protecting him?

    "Hey," Hawke whispered pulling Fenris back to her. "Tell me Fenris, I can't understand if you don't tell me."

    "Festis bei umo canavarum," he told her knowing she wouldn't understand. She was so close. He rolled over her, trapping her. Why did she coddle him? What did she hope to achieve? There would be nothing but torture, again, but he couldn't send her from him. He couldn't ask her to leave again. What was this anger that burned his soul so close to the pain of his lyrium? "What do you wish of me?" 

     "I want to be yours," Hawke gasped from beneath him. "I want you to be mine." 

     The beast in Fenris bucked against its restraints. She would see it and run, of that he could never doubt. But he kissed her anyways, one last time, because he was weak. He snaked his arm around her back, pulling her off the mattress so they were glued together.

     Hawke locked her legs over his back attempting to get closer, her hands gripping the backs of his shoulders. She felt every inch of him against her. His skin was like the heat of the sun against hers, she was hyper aware of the tiniest of movements - the flex of his chest, the curve of his blunt nails as they dug into the small of her back - the hard press of him against her stomach. 

     Fenris rolled so that Hawke was on top of him. Each gripping at each others skin. Fenris thought she was ever soft, her amber eyes healing him when they broke to look at his. She kissed his cheek, his chin, his neck, her tongue dipping into the hollow at his throat. She kissed his pulse, his chest - "Hawke," Fenris broke pulling her back to him. She blinked at him, fearless as he searched for the hope he so desperately clung to - that this might be alright. This feeling - this is what brought the memories back - the remembrance of having felt something so unconditional before. "I am afraid," he breathed into her mouth. 

     "We don't have to," Hawke told him, but it was a lie. She needed him. Needed him to show her physically and to know he wouldn't run from her again. She kissed his forehead. "Amatus," she tried, wondering if it meant something like 'kadan' in Tevene. 

     Fenris made a gruntled noise deep in his throat bordering on a cry. He gripped the back of her neck and brought her closer, and closer still. Frantically, in case the coward rise from him again, he gripped himself and pushed into Hawke. Her head came down and rested on his shoulder. The way he filled her, like no one else, made her complete. He pushed into her slowly, savouring the act. Just fast enough to start the build, the deep wanton an assurance that neither could ever quantify.

     Fenris focused on her quiet pleas, hoping to distract himself from what was sure to follow. His knuckles whitened on her back as it threatened to consume him. He would not succumb. Hawke was everything. He held her closer, splaying one hand on the back of her head and the other on her lower back. He hid in the crux of her neck and shoulder, her hair falling over his face, sheltering him. She had the scent of comfort, of home. The feeling connected him, he heard voices in the distance, people who had made him happy once. Who were they that they would take her from him?! How could he stop them? Anything, give her this, he thought. Fenris cried out as his vision turned white. No, he thought banishing them. Think of something - Isabella. He saw the pirate's face. The visions wouldn't threaten him if he thought of her. 

    Hawke pushed against Fenris ready to explode. All she could feel was Fenris, this moment, nothing else mattered. If they could remain this close -

   "Come for me, Marian," Fenris whispered. His dark voice made her body tense, falling, forever falling. She convulsed on top of him, and nothing could compare. 

    But he was too close. Fenris thrust erratically, unable to stop himself. "Ah," he fought. He called out, even knowing it was Hawke, but so desperate to be rid of them. Those who would break him from the deepest part of his mind. As he filled Hawke, letting all go, his last desperate thought was of Isabella, to silence the memories. 

     "Isabella!" he cried. 

Chapter Text

     For one menial second, there was nothing. They had both frozen - and Hawke thought she must have her magic back, and she must have frozen them. For how could time possibly go so slow without a spell - and surely her head was cold-glued to Fenris' shoulder because she couldn't move. 

     Fenris was afraid to let go of Hawke, but what could he do as she rolled away from him? Their heavy breathing the only sound after his - what had he done?

    "It's alright -" Hawke was saying, or that's what she heard her voice say. "I - it's okay Fenris -" Hawke bit down on her lip. Her heart throbbed painfully behind her lungs as she tried to calm her breathing. If she was gasping, then she was gasping because of what they had done - their lovemaking. But it wasn't his love, it was her love. It was only her - the fool caught begging of the desperately poor.

     "Hawke - I didn't," Fenris tried but the words wouldn't come, not the ones that could make it right. Were there any? He cursed and it only proved to spur her further from him. 

     "It's alright, I understand." Hawke nodded turning her nails against her palm. Real pain as they dug into her flesh, pain she understood and could compartmentalize. 

     "No - Hawke -"

     She was such an idiot - how did she allow this? How could she hide now that she had allowed him this - her. 

     Fenris grabbed Hawke's arm as she made to flee their bed. 

    "Don't touch me!" Hawke shouted snatching away from him. She was out of the bed, she had made the first step - but it didn't feel like her body, or her soul. It was as if she was watching from somewhere far away.

    Fenris' hand remained outstretched as if he could reach through her fury. He would be separated from her - again. AGAIN! Not again Hawke, please. 

    "Don't tell me I've missed the start of role-" Isabella stopped a foot into the doorway. Fenris was in pain - his emerald eyes wide with horror. What had Hawke done to make him look like that? Her back was to Isabella.

    "Hawke?" Isabella asked cautiously tugging on the mage's shoulder. 

    Hawke stumbled away from her, shocked by her presence. She bumped into the dresser at the edge of the room. She noticed the exit was just beside it. Run. 

    Isabella stood with her hands up confused by Hawke's bewilderment. "What's happened?"

    Hawke shook her head, she didn't trust her voice. 

    "Hawke, I was just trying to protect you -" Fenris whispered hoarsely. 

    "No!" Hawke shouted. "No-" Isabella cannot know what you did, Hawke begged hoping her eyes would implore Fenris. "It's nothing, it's fine -" Isabella was looking at her with too much worry, pity. What she did not need was the pirate's pity. She noticed the navy dress on Isabella's shoulder as she tried to look anywhere but into her goddess's eyes. "Is that for me?" 

    Isabella glanced at her shoulder. 

    Hawke held her hand out for the dress. 

    "Don't run, bird-ling." Not like I did.

    Give me the dress, Bella. 

    We can fix this - whatever the hell is going on.

    "Give. Me. The. Dress." Fenris was getting up, approaching her like she were a scared fawn. Hawke launched forward, grabbing a fistful of fabric and peeling for the doorway. She ran for the stairs as her brain caught up with the moment. She heard the pirate's name on his lips twice over. No. Her chest protested as she pulled the fabric down over her head, barely covering herself before she emerged into the sunlight. 

-----

     Anders had watched Isabella dash down the stairs from Hawke's bedroom, fleeing Aveline. He had decided quickly what had transpired. He was up and racing after Isabella to try and succeed where the guard captian had failed.

    "Isabella!" Anders called leaving the glass door open behind him as he chased her. "Isabella - Wait, we need to talk!"

    "No time, sweet-thing!" Isabella laughed, kicking up sand behind her. Her heart was still racing from her altercation with Aveline. What faith Hawke inspired - your Hawke, she thought. No one would steal her from them now.

    Anders pulled to a halt just before the hulking Vael ship. He cursed as he watched the fly of ebony locks disappear down into the ship. 

    Anders, stop this. Justice commanded. 

    "Stop -" a shiver slithered over Anders' spine. He looked down to see sand snaking up around his ankles, the grains vibrating with the thrum of magic - powerful magic. He looked back for the cottage noticing first that the beach was moving like it was alive. He bent down and pressed his hand to the ground. It lit green against the sand, his mana clashing against the caster's whose fuelled the spell - red and sparking.

     You can't do this, Justice distracted him, ignoring the magic. 

     "I haven't done anything -" Hawke blew into view, almost tripping over herself. Her chestnut hair concealed her face. She bolted down the stem of the ship towards him, Fenris hot on her heals, his hands flashing after her skirts. "Yet," he finished feeling his mana crackle in his hands even before he squeezed them into fists. 

    "Hawke!" Fenris called. 

    The mage's hair curtained before her as her momentum swept it backwards. She looked up and met Anders eyes, raw red surrounding darkened sparrows. Anders stood. 

     "Move!" Hawke shouted. 

     He didn't. Of the many things running through his head upon seeing her fleeing the elf one was the foremost - Hawke couldn't command the magic she was drawing upon. She was weakened, after everything, and if this pure emotion was set loose, it might consume her. Anders reached out and caught Hawke around her middle, trying to be gentle, hyper aware of her state. Her energy flooded through their skin where it connected. Anders grit his teeth against the emotion - each at it's extreme. Grief, rage, love - hate. He had felt it before his mind told him, after finding her with a blade in her study.

     It was the first time he had let himself into her mansion in Hightown - a fort night after the funeral. There was no fire in the hearth, the mansion was as still as death. 

     "Hawke?" Anders called out. He brought up the embers, lighting the fire place in the living room. "Hawke, are you here?" She had to be, she hadn't spoken to anyone after she'd smiled falsely and accepted condolences with as much grace as anyone, who had lost a mother, could.

      Meric barked at him.

      Anders turned to the mabari who had stationed himself before the study. Meric's giant paw scratched against the door leaving claw marks in the expensive wood. "Hey, hey," Anders calmed him with a pat to his over-large head. The pure-breed was almost as tall as his hip. "Hawke?" Anders called when the beast whimpered again. 

      "I sent you away," came a weak voice. "Stay away!" 

      "Hawke, it's only me -"

      "No, go away. Leave me be," Hawke's voice broke on the last word. 

      Anders turned the knob of the door, pushing it inwards. Hawke was stationed in front of the fire, her head down, a blanket pulled around her shoulders. Anders blinked, confused by the sight. Her hair was matted, dirty. Her shoulders were shaking. She was curled over herself like she could fold into herself and disappear. She was whispering to herself -

     "Go away, go away," she bid. "You're not welcome here - no I don't want you. I know! I know!"

     "Hawke?" Anders asked moving to stand over her. 

     "You would send him, you foul creature. Stop!" Hawke brought her hands up to her ears shaking harder, a dagger fell from her hands clattering on the tile before the fire. 

     Demons, Justice murmured. Anders eyes were overwhelmed by a blue haze. Suddenly he could see them, despair and desire, circling her. One was grey skinned and swallowed by a tattered dark hood, the other was perverted and sparsely clad, violet - they paid him no attention assuming he was yet human. Anders was petrified upon seeing them.

     "You can't bring them back," Hawke sputtered. "Even if I do it -" Hawke's eyes focused on the blade before her. "Even if I let you in -" 

     Anders didn't need to hear them to know what they were promising - a life where everything was right and the world wasn't so cruel. Even if a mage was smart enough to realise it, it wouldn't be real. Their dreams were enticing - you would never know it wasn't real, all you had to do was agree. He had fought them off before - but never two at once. For why would demons share a mage - unless she was more powerful than he had assumed. He was amazed at her ability to deny them - Anders! Justice roared.

    "Hawke." Anders gasped, woken by the spirit. 

    "Anders don't ask this of me." Hawke begged. 

    "It's not real, Hawke." Anders debated. He knelt beside her. She had picked up the dagger again in his absence. She was staring at herself in the blade's reflection. 

    "It would be so easy," she whispered to herself. "One tiny cut -" Hawke looked at him and the sorrow in her eyes almost broke him. He thought of the Warden Commander, so much for one so young. It was unsettling, to see so much pain amongst the undeserving. But they were made to believe they deserved it - from birth - because of what they were, of what they saw. 

     Hawke reached up to touch him but faltered. "I wish you were real," she said. "I wish there was someone left who could hear me." 

    "I am real, Hawke. I'm here," Anders begged. 

    Hawke shook her head. "I have to save what's left, I have to save them all. They can't know, they can't listen." Hawke began to recede, to take her hand back. "I won't let them see -" 

    "I see, Hawke!" Anders glared at the demons, if only he could take them from her! If only he could push them back! "You're not alone!" Anders took Hawke's hand  from the air and held it to his cheek. His mana cracked fiercely and Justice bellowed from deep in his chest, their connection ripping through the air - and he heard every awful circumstance, every hateful thought and prayer - and he bowed against it as she fought to realise him and come back. 

    Anders drew Hawke behind him. Justice reared to help him, drawing the pain from her and realising the injustice against her. Anders spared her what he could. "Hawke - you can't, you have to calm down." 

    "Anders?" Hawke shrieked. "No! Anders, I'm sorry!"

    He couldn't hear her. Justice condemned his actions, he would not let this stand. Anders reared on Fenris as he closed in on them, but seconds passing. He thrust out his palm and shouted, the force colliding with Fenris and sending him flipping backwards added to by what he stole from Hawke. The elf growled in fury, his lyrium coming ablaze as he took the momentum and settled into a fighting crouch. 

Chapter Text

     Isabella staggered in the after effects of Anders' blast, stumbling to gather her footing behind Fenris. The creature before them, eyes shining like sapphires against the darkening sky, forsook humanity. Isabella had never seen Anders react with such vehemence, nor seen a mage shape the weather with a thought. She glanced at Hawke trembling behind him, even as Anders' skin began to crack and reveal the spirit. Lighting broke from the sky. It sparked behind Hawke jumping fulgurites around her. The tiny mage didn't realize the petrified grains of sand - she would be caught in the cross-hairs. 

     Isabella sprinted as Fenris vaulted foreword. She twirled out of Anders' way, pulling Hawke down as the mage leapt to stop Vengeance. They rolled across the sand as a flash ricocheted over the beach - Fenris almost as blinding as Vengeance as they collided. Isabella blinked furiously, stunned by the light as Hawke writhed beneath her. "You can't!" she shouted over the whirling storm. If Hawke tried to intercede she would be hurt, and no one could forgive that. She couldn't forgive that. Stupid girl, she thought helplessly. 

     Once Anders gave into Vengeance he couldn't be brought back, the same as Fenris and his rage. The lyrium pushed rational thought from his mind. He felt the abomination under him and that was enough. He thrust his hands into Anders' chest meaning to tear out his heart. How dare he condemn him! He had put them in danger for the last time - he would end his reign of terror - he would keep them safe, both Hawke and Isabella.

     Vengeance was hot against his hands, burning as he reached into pure mana - his fingers wrapped around bone, white hot - but Vengence called his rage, summoning martyr. The elf flew upwards, crashing back down into the fulgurites which had taken over the beach. They shattered beneath him.

     "Anders!' Hawke screamed as Fenris lay stunned on the ground. "Isabella get off me!" Why did her chest ache, why had she done this?! The pirate held her firmly even as she struck out at her, catching Isabella's jaw. Isabella caught her wrists and pinned them beside her head. "No!"

     Vengeance shook the beach with his steps, descending on Fenris. The elf pushed himself up, into another crouch, ready to spring. He ran at Vengeance, a cry of fury in his throat - incapable of thought. The abomination wrenched his hand from his hip, drawing a cage of pure energy around him. Fenris collided with the bars, flying back to hit its other wall. "No!" he roared. The energy bars singed where they chaffed against his lyrium tattoos. "You will not have her!" 

     Vengeance drew on his power, surrounding Fenris in mana. He cried out in pain, payment for his fury. "Look at what you are!" 

     Fenris bent backwards, his body changing, his bones snapping. 

    Hawke let out a weak cry at the sound of the spirit's voice - she hated him like this, knew he hated himself like this. She had caused this. "I'm the only one who can bring him back!" 

    Isabella didn't hear her. She stared in horror as the bright faded and a black wolf stood where Fenris had been. The wounded animal circled itself in the cage. 

    Vengeance let the walls of the cage fall, ready for Fenris when he lunged at him. He caught the wolf like a pup, throwing him across the beach by the scruff of his neck. He directed the lighting from the sky, striking down at the beast. 

    Fenris whimpered pain shooting from each muscle. The lightning came again, throwing him onto his chest, digging him into the sand. It came again and his vision blurred, he had felt this before, but again - again. How could he stop it - his limbs stuck, crippling him. 

    "Isabella look at me!" Hawke shouted. The pirate met her eyes wide and frightened, she could feel her gasping breath across her cheeks. "I have to help them!"

    Noyou can't. They'll kill you.

    They can't hurt me.

    You have to let them fight this out. 

    He's killing him! 

    Isabella was immobile with indecision. Her heart clenched as she took one of the mage's knees to her torso. She refused to let go.

    "Get off!" Hawke shouted.

 

     Isabella heard the bolt before she felt it.

   

     Isabella shouted, tearing her gaze from Hawke. She freed the mage's arms to shield her face with her forearms - it was all she could do to cover Hawke. The rouge lightning tore from the sky to strike her spine. She convulsed violently unsure in the arch of agony, it was too much - suddenly the world was gone.

     "Bella!" Hawke cried her sight stolen from the bolt. Isabella's weight crushed her as it went limp. She rolled over the pirate, clutching desperately at her skin. "Bella!" 

     Anders was shocked within Vengeance at Hawke's cry. He fought from where he was caged in the spirit's mind. 

    Hawke cried out helplessly, feeling more than recognizing her face contort. She placed her hands over the pirate's heart trying to pull her mana forward. Isabella's head lulled to the side, her eyes parted, amber unseeing. Hawke couldn't feel a pulse. "Bella! No, no!" She could feel the magic all around her but she couldn't focus it.

     Hawke felt her fingers spark, acting of their own accord. She pumped her hands against the pirate's chest, bile churning in her core. Isabella's body arched, following Hawke's hands up as she attempted to jump start her heart. "Anders!" Hawke cried when still she didn't respond. Hawke checked over her shoulder, tears pooling in her eyes. Vengeance was struck clutching his temples, trembling, fighting - he was caught between Hawke and Fenris. Hawke forgot them. "No, no!" - She shocked Isabella again this time beating her chest with her fists.  

     Stop! Anders cried from within Vengeance, This is not justice! Justice ignored him fighting to keep control. He ground one boot forward, a step closer to Fenris. We must kill the wolf, he works against the Champion. Anders flailed throwing himself against whatever he could. He thought of Hawke's voice, heard her broken cry again - something was wrong! He couldn't find purchase against Justice if it were Fenris, there simply wasn't the want, but with Hawke it was need. Need he could focus. He saw her eyes in the distance - come back to me. He wouldn't allow Justice to harm Hawke.

    Hawke pulled Isabella into her lap, her gaze shimmering into a red glaze. "Wake up, Bella!" she begged. She covered the pirate's eyes searching for her soul, some spark of her light. She couldn't look. Isabella was everything to her, she couldn't leave her - not like Carver, "Not like Beth," she breathed.

    Hawke heard thunder and doubled over the pirate's body, her chest flexing inward like the Maker had struck her. "No, please," she rasped thinking of everything He refused to leave her with. Take it, she thought as her heart throbbed painfully, What do I need it for if you're to take everyone from me?! And finally, Hawke's heart cracked.

    Red mana shone outwards, lifting Hawke's breast, fire catching on her chest. It licked down her arms, her skin turning like Anders'. It followed her veins, turning them blood red and creeping out of her fingernails onto Isabella's skin. It spread to take her as well - I'll come with you Bella, wait for me. This was the difference between their loves, she realised. Isabella was unconditional, Fenris was passion - one her partner, the other her heart. She couldn't live without either of them. "I'm sorry." Hawke told the pirate fighting against her relinquished power to rock the pirate's too still form. The memory, the thought - that pain was too great. She would be swallowed whole - the rest seemed dull in comparison. Cold dread lapsed underneath the fire on the plains of their skin. "I'm sorry." 

   Anders had blinked and everything had changed. He stood, in the centre of a thousand glass peaks. Vengeance's magic slithered from Fenris back into the sand, sparkling off the shards of glass surrounding the elf. A stream of blood came slowly from his purple lips to turn the beach to mud. If Anders didn't look over his shoulder he could ignore the elf, though he too was unmoving. He wouldn't look, wouldn't allow himself the question of what he had done.

     Anders rose slowly, taking his palms from his skull to look across the beach. Hawke sat statue still with Isabella, but yards away. "Hawke?" Anders choked out. They were encased in a sphere of floating sand, spinning slowly like a ward. The grains reflected the ruby glow fissuring Hawke's skin - the same that was cast over Isabella, and splintered up the fulgurites within the sphere. "Hawke," Anders called more clearly.

    Anders stepped towards them only to be interrupted by the sure pluck of a bow. He jumped back as an arrow struck just ahead of him, erect in the sand. Anders swivelled towards the cottage, an echo of the arrow's whistle still ringing between his ears. 

     Eyes as blue and full of fury as the ocean met his, over the point of another knocked arrow.    

    

 

Chapter Text

     Isabella could see the inside of her eyelids, the low glow of the morning outside stealing her from her death-like slumber. Hearing birds, soft and many at once, reminded her that she was not on her ship. Harsh caws of fighting gulls, passionate for their kills, were easier to wake to. Soft birds just reminded her of Rivain. That tiny inland prison-cottage Mother was always telling her to sweep. The sand never settled in a peninsula, no matter how many times you beat the rugs. 

     Isabella stirred, soft silk slipping pleasantly across her breasts. She wasn't in the Rose then either, the Madam there was too cheap for silk. Forgetting the night before was a bad habit she had been attempting to quell. Not that she minded waking up in different beds, but Hawke worried about her drinking. Silly mage, too sweet for the world weary. What was it she had said to her that first night? We were rutting, that has nothing to do with love. Now she was watching her drinking and trying to make sure Hawke's was the only bed she woke in.

     Isabella peaked one eye open, red coverings, red walls, red - Hawke wasn't much for colour diversity, was she? Unless you counted her. Isabella giggled, nothing to do with love she had said, and look, she was waking up in her bed again. Good. 

    Isabella hopped out of bed shivering against the chill of being uncovered. Her skin turned to gooseflesh.  

    "Hawke, darling," she called coming to the doorway. "Beauty, I'm naked and I'm alone, don't leave me to fend for myself."

     Isabella spied Orana at the bottom of the stairs carrying a tray of fruits and biscuits. Isabella leaned against the mahogany frame letting her hip jut forward. 

    "Oh my," Orana jumped, her too large green eyes darting away quickly. The tea pot shook nervously on her tray. She stopped where she was on the stairs. "I - I'm so -"

    "No need to be sorry, sweet thing," Isabella smiled skipping to meet her. "It's entirely my fault." The pirate plucked a berry from the tray.

    Orana's eyes skidded over Isabella's lips as they puckered around the berry. The pirate closed her eyes and let out a suggestive moan as she chewed. Orana was staring at her when she opened them again. She blinked quickly her pointed ears turning the most delicious shade of pink.

    "Where's Hawke?"

    "Mistress -" Orana spent a great deal of effort on avoiding the pirate's gaze. "She went, there was work - Mistress Hawke had to take care of some things." 

    "I don't suppose you'd keep me company until she returns -" Isabella had the impression Orana's eyes might pop out at the request.

    "No!" she shouted wide eyed. "I mean, no, Mistress Hawke would - She'll be returning soon."

    Isabella took pity on the girl and took the tray. "My loss then," she winked. She returned to Hawke's room with a game in mind.

-----------------------

    Hawke had never liked the Fade, not any time she had been self-aware at least. 

    This time it was warmer than it should have been, stronger perhaps. The far set horizons were more pink than blue. It still felt hallow though, deep like her stomach might summersault at any moment. Her bones vibrated with the hum of energy in the dream-sphere. It made her restless. 

    Hawke looked down at her hands, if she remembered correctly, they should be turning all sorts of red and veiny. There were no red fissures however, or abominate qualities to them. Hawke took this to mean she mustn't be physically there then. 

   "And where is here exactly?" Hawke asked out into the space. There was nothing for miles, just plains of existence. She couldn't remember making a deal. Or perhaps this was her deal gone wrong. Perhaps she had asked for serenity and a demon had sent her into the Fade trapping her in a corner where she would never be found. Alternatively, she could be dead. "At least it's peaceful," Hawke said in the absence of panic. Hawke shook her head trying to arrange her memories.

   "Peaceful is not how I would describe it, pup."

   Hawke closed her eyes at the sound of her Father's voice. That would be the demon then. "That's not playing fair, demon."

   "Very well."

   When it spoke again, the voice was female. "I only wish for you to be at ease, child." 

   Hawke turned, a sigh in her lungs. A woman stood casually before her, long waves of snow white hair fluttering behind her though the air was still. "Who are you then?" she asked impatiently. "Wait, let me guess - fairy godmother? Come to grant me a wish have you?"

   The woman's crystal blue eyes were wise but her skin was taught. The glow of her essence was obstructing her true form.

   "Well?" Hawke asked continuing to assess the demon. She knew from the Gallows that the woman's robes matched those of a senior enchanter. It was a curious trick, for the demon to appeal to her in a state that suggested she was from the place Hawke feared most.

    "You instructed me to wait, and so I am waiting."

    "Someone who likes the sound of their own voice too then. Wonderful." Hawke shook her head. "I'd love to stay and chat but -" she turned on her heel and threw her arms out. "As you can see I've a long way to go to get somewhere."

    "I wouldn't advise that."

    "Oh no?"

    "You'll just end up right where you started."

    Hawke looked over her shoulder to glare at the woman. 

    The woman shrugged. "But then in all the time I've known you, you've never had much sense for direction, so by all means -" the spirit gestured forward. "Push forward aimlessly, see if it yields better results than it has in the past."

     "Don't act as if you know me, demon." 

     "Come now, child. Do I truly look like a demon to you?" 

     Hawke wasn't sure which was worse, the woman's scolding tone or her airiness. She supposed, that if she had made a deal with a demon, the demon would have no further use of her. It wouldn't take the time to speak with her, what could it possibly want if it already controlled her body? The fact that she was not already with the Maker made her shiver. She did not want to think of what that meant. It would be easier to believe that this was the void. "All I know -" Hawke started trying not to think about her friends dying at the hands of her abominated body. "Is that before this, I was holding - a corpse. The body of someone dear to me, and now I'm here." 

     "Ah, Isabella," the woman smirked. "I never had the, oh how did Zevran put it, pleasure. But I remember the stories of her well enough."

     Hawke pursed her lips together, emotions were intensified in the Fade, she wasn't sure she could live through the memory. Hawke thought she heard the crack of thunder in the distance. She wrapped her arms around herself. 

    "She is not dead, child. And for that matter, neither are you." 

    "Do not tease me, demon." 

    "Still with the demon talk? Even if I were you're hardly in a position to judge."

    Hawke looked away then, trying desperately not to cling to the woman's lies. "I don't have time for this."

    "Don't you? Where are you planning to go?" 

    "What do you want?" Hawke asked weariness tugging at the edges of her mind.  

    "It's not about what I want, it's about what you need." The woman held out her hand. "Walk with me, it'll ease your tension. We've much to discuss."  

-------------------

    First, Isabella cleared Hawke's desk. That was to say that she shoved everything off it when she heard the groan of the mansion's front door. She laid a sheet over the desk and climbed on top of it. Gathering the fruit from Orana's breakfast tray, Isabella laid back and placed the berries across her body. The first at the juncture of her thighs, straight to one resting in her belly button, up between her breasts and finally one between her teeth. 

    Isabella heard Hawke's voice downstairs, checking her letters no doubt.

    "What'd you say Orana?"

    The servant was too soft spoken for Isabella to hear her. 

    "She's still here?"

    Isabella felt a pang of guilt at the surprise in Hawke's voice. Hadn't she eased her lover's mind in the many years after the Qunari attacks? They had been together for years, now. 

    Isabella smirked at the sound of footsteps on the stairs. Butterflies took flight in her stomach. She closed her eyes.

    "What in the void?" Hawke asked coming into the room. Hawke came closer, Isabella could feel the warmth of her proximity near her feet. "What are you playing at, Bella?" Hawke whispered more to herself than to the pirate.

     Isabella peaked at the mage. Hawke's long legs were bare from the short hem of her home robe. Her hair was free, wind blown from whatever adventure she had been having. She looked best that way, Isabella thought, when she was unkept, free. Isabella winked, meeting Hawke's bright amber eyes. She closed hers promptly when she caught the spark of mischief in them. 

     Isabella flinched, surprised by the brush of Hawke's fingers. They swept softly up from her ankle, barely a caress. Suddenly her lips were at Isabella's ear, so close they brushed against her lobe when she spoke. "I suppose I did miss lunch."

     Isabella's eyes snapped open. Hawke flicked the tip of her tongue against her ear. The mage sucked gently just below it, on the crook between her ear and the tip of her jaw. A hiss escaped around the berry in her mouth, she was exquisite.

     Hawke's open lips traced the line of her jaw, teasing. When she reached her chin, Isabella tensed waiting for her kiss. Her skin was tingling where Hawke had been, the anticipation was delectable - but Hawke stood and swept away, chuckling lowly when Isabella groaned in frustration. 

     "If I had known a berry would quiet your treacherous mouth, I've had thought of it sooner," Hawke laughed from somewhere behind her. Isabella heard the slip of silk. When Hawke leaned back over her, her gorgeous mouth-full breasts were bare. Isabella longed to lick them, but this was her game, and with something in her mouth - wicked witch.

     Hawke palmed Isabella's collar sliding her hands down over her chest, stretching over her like a languid cat. Following the trail of her hands, Hawke nipped gently to the berry between her breasts, her hands kneading as they went around it. Grasping the tops of her wrists, Hawke held Isabella's arms down beside her body, taking care let her lips slide against the pirate's skin as she took the berry into her mouth. Isabella came off the table, following her mouth, groaning again.

      Taking her time, Hawke swallowed the berry before sucking one of Isabella's dark nipples into her mouth. It slipped out with a slight pop. Isabella made to free her hands but Hawke twined their fingers and swept her tongue around Isabella's second nipple. Isabella felt her teeth graze the sensitive outer edge of her breast as Hawke drew away again. She brought Isabella's wrists with her, over her head.

     "Mmmm, delicious," Hawke teased kissing her briskly on the forehead. The mage slid her finger tips down each side of Isabella. Being touched in so many places she was never drew up a warmth Isabella hadn't expected. She sighed as Hawke came to stand beside her, bending down to shower her torso in hot open kisses. Her hands massaged her thighs. Isabella squirmed beneath her, her stomach flexing under the assault. She slipped one ankle over the other, squeezing her thighs together as Hawke reached the berry on her belly button. She was more of an instant gratification kind of woman.

    Gods help her, her thighs merely slipped against each other. She was soaked through. Hawke's hands pried her legs apart then. Isabella grunted against the act. But then Hawke had slipped her hands under her was gripping her ass, hard. Isabella cried out when Hawke's burning tongue slipped past the berry at the juncture of her thighs and slid against her swollen nub - the build up was almost too much.

    Isabella spread her legs wider bringing her hands down to grab at Hawke's flesh. Hawke's slight hips were bent close enough that she could slip her hand into the gap between the mage's thighs. Isabella moaned as her finger slipped against the mage's lower lips. Isabella slid into her with ease, and Hawke moaned with approval, the vibration causing Isabella to buck up against the her mouth. 

   Hawke tore away from her hands and spun to thread her fingers into Isabella's thick hair. The last berry long since swallowed, Hawke held her in place while she devoured her mouth. Isabella's heart clenched painfully. Never before had she felt so comforted, and to see Hawke, to feel her having come so far, with her - to be so in control, so equally comfortable - Isabella couldn't match her fast enough. Even as Hawke stole her breath she clutched at her shoulders, careful not to bruise the mage's delicate skin.

    Hawke released one hand and spread Isabella's legs again. The mage's hand settled between her lips, her thumb pressed up against the apex of her sex and Isabella moaned her name. Hawke slid each of her fingers into her next, stretching her, condemning her. Hawke moved both at once, rolling her hand and Isabella kissed her harder. Hawke assaulted her then, jutting her hand and moving in circles that increased in speed until Isabella was forced to pull away and bite into her shoulder. There was only her hand inside her. She cried the mage's name as she peaked, romping into her hand.

    Hawke's hands caressed her body as her breathing settled and her body relaxed. The mage pulled back as Isabella released her, but only just. Isabella realized her eyes were warm, more like the orange of a sunset than a gemstone. 

    Isabella pushed back a damp lock sticking to the mage's forehead. I love you, bird-ling.

    "I love you, Bella." 

   Isabella blinked, surprised that Hawke had said it out loud. She couldn't remember her ever having done so before. The mage hadn't even flinched, like it was casual. Had she said it before? Isabella tried to think back over their years together but a fog had settled in her mind. She had to stop drinking, the holes in her memory were becoming ridiculous.

     A smug smile split the mage's mouth drawing her back to the moment, triumphant. Well, I'll just have to do something about that then won't I.

   

Chapter Text

    It was a very small cut. It was just below the pad of his thumb, a paper cut. 

    Fenris pursed his lips to keep from smirking as Hawke fussed over it. She angled his hand toward the firelight, frowning at the oozing drop of blood.

    "He keeps telling me it's as easy as telling the flesh to knit itself together -" Hawke brought his thumb to eye level. Her fingertips caused the lyrium tattoos on the back of his hands to tingle. "But flesh is flesh," she huffed. "It doesn't think, daft cat-loving genius."

    Now, Fenris did smirk. Hawke had never been a healer. She was more akin to a hurricane, calamity rushing from her calm and circling to destroy. The elements obeyed her as a reflex, like it were natural. It was in these moments, when he saw her humbled, he could remember she was human. It was good for him to remember they both bled and felt like mortal beings. It allowed him to be close to her if they were both people, even if he was a flawed man, and she a flawless woman. 

    Hawke's ever-watching eyes looked up at him. "And now you're mocking me, Maker's breath." Hawke sat back on her heels, her hands falling to her lap. Fenris frowned as the absence of her touch allowed the dull ache of his markings to return. 

    "I told you it was nothing, Hawke." Fenris rubbed his palm on his leggings. He nodded to where her book lay open on the chair before him, so they might be done with this nonsense. She had come for study, not fussing. Fenris sighed and returned to the book in his lap. Why he had decided to read one of the only books, in the abandon mansion, in King's Tongue he wasn't - 

    Hawke sighed audibly. 

   Fenris growled at her attempt to distract him from the escape of the book. 

   Hawke coughed. 

   "What do you wish, Hawke?" Fenris found her pouting beside him, her full upper lip hidden by the lower, the thinner. Fenris rolled his eyes and handed his wrist back to her. "Silly mage," he growled but her returning smile was brighter than the hearth. 

    "Secretly you like me fussing over you."

    Fenris' frown deepened. He was indulging her. He was partial to her touch, but he had dismissed that as being partial to the effect her mana had on him. "Every being finds pleasure in being cared for," he grumbled. It wasn't soothing exactly, but energizing in a way. It was a numbing balm that distracted from the after burn that so often accompanied fighting and the flare of his abilities. 

    Hawke closed her eyes and tightened her grip on his wrist.

   The elf remembered the first time Hawke had touched him - her hand fell heavily on his shoulder, catching him before he fled their conversation.  He hadn't realized the Gallows were equivalent to a Kirkwall Circle. Hawke's taking them there was brazen and senseless. It wasn't that he cared that the Templars might catch her - in some ways that would have been better - but he owed her a debt. Fulfilling that debt against mage keepers, a guard he respected, felt wrong. She was trying to convince him they would be careful, he still disagreed. He had jumped away from her expecting the connection to burn. Later he realized it hadn't. Later still he began to realize that his markings reacted differently to each individual mage, the same way they reacted situationally to different types of magic. 

    "Ah!" Hawke spurred. 

   Fenris blinked at her. As her eyes squeezed tighter in concentration, a green aura spread from her hands, like a weak flame around a wick.

   Hawke had combed out her braids with her fingers while reading, her free locks fell into her face as she tucked her chin.  Fenris reached down and ghosted his fingertips across her cheek, moving the obscuring strands to better see her expression. 

   Hawke gasped and her magic disappeared with a pop and a spark of red.  He had the strangest impression that like her hair, like her face, she must be soft all over, as the wings of the overlarge butterflies native to Par Vollen.  Hawke turned up to him, eyes wide. Suddenly they were very close, her button nose a hair's breath away from his. Her breath felt as delicate. 

  "I - I almost had it." Hawke murmured. 

  "You did."

  "You distracted me." 

   Fenris watched a blush flush across Hawke's cheeks. "I did."

   Hawke looked down to where her fingers still held his wrist. He wondered if she could feel his heartbeat there. Neither of them drew away. 

   "Hawke," Fenris called her back.  She examined him, eyes darting to his lips and back again. She was holding her breath - another human moment. He reached out and stroked her cheek again, smirking as her eyes fluttered closed. She had a habit of biting her lip and when she exhaled he could see the grooves dyed a deeper red by the mulled wine. He wondered what she tasted like. 

    Fenris curled his fingers behind the mage's neck and drew her to him. He remained chaste, just a brush. Her lower lip slipped between his and he swept his tongue across it. She tasted like mulled wine, and Hawke. Just Hawke, human. Slowly, Hawke relaxed against him, allowed him to hold her in that single kiss. He wished he would always be able to embrace her like this, just Hawke, just Fenris. 

     "Hawke," Fenris choked out as he woke. He curled in on his side as his lungs protested under his crushing chest. The world flashed light then dark. There were figures standing down the beach. He reached out to them. His ribs cracked painfully. His vision darkened again. 

    "Here," Aveline ordered. She appeared with the light, pressing a vial to his lips. She propped his head up with a long manicured hand. "Why is it that men always return to violence when they have a problem?" The bitter taste of elfroot helped Fenris to see her better. Her hair was tied back in a knot of itself, orange pieces escaping around her angled jaw. "You leave the boys alone for a moment and the whole world goes to hell - if we were back in Kirkwall -"

    Fenris groaned back at the guard-captain. He could take a full breath again, that was a start. He doubted he would be healed on poultice alone.

    "Can you stand?" Aveline guided Fenris up into a seated position before he could respond. She expected him to protest, to rumble some ungrateful attempt at pride. She let him take a breath before shucking under his shoulder and heaving the elf to his feet. It didn't do anyone any good to let an injury sit, in her experience. Fenris remained oddly quiet as they crossed to the others.

    Sebastian was seething over Varric. The dwarf stood between he and Anders, one palm flat on the prince's chest to keep him at bay, the other scrunched into Anders' tunic to keep him from fleeing. In the background, Meril was casting, her ebony bob blowing this way and that as her eyes glowed yellow and she chanted in Elvhen.  

    Fenris opened his mouth to ask but Aveline cut him off. "You'll see soon enough." 

    "Stop being such a coward and fix what you've done to them!" Sebastian demanded, his voice was deep with fury. 

    "It's not that simple!" Anders cursed back. 

     Varric only kept glancing behind himself. Lost for words, his grey-gold eyes focused on Aveline with thinly veiled unease. If the dwarf didn't know better, he'd have thought Hawke had been run through with red lyrium. 

    "Make. It. That. Simple." 

    "If I -" 

    "Blondie -" Varric warned as Sebastian shoved against his hand. 

    "If we, alright. If we disturb her ward, we risk sending them deeper into the Fade." 

    "I'm not so sure they're in the Fade, Anders," Meril told them. There was an eerie edge on the tip of her tongue as she spoke while casting.

    "She has to be," Anders muttered to himself. 

    "Then pull them out!"

    "Oh yes, just pop into the Fade and tell the kids it's dinner time," Anders shouted. "Do you know the amount of energy it takes to go physically into the Fade?" 

     Fenris and Aveline had come close enough that Fenris could see over Varric's shoulder. Hawke sat, her eyes open and unseeing, with Isabella in her lap. They were frozen except there were no signs of ice or hoarfrost among them. Instead, Hawke was fissured with red, like her magic had spread through her veins and seeped out into Isabella's. Fenris growled low in his chest. Had the abomination done this? 

    Aveline looked sideways at the elf. She was torn between holding onto him, should the need arise for her to hold him back, and letting him have free-range. "Are you alright to stand, Fenris?" Come what may, idiots. 

   "I am," Fenris lied. Aveline released him gently and Fenris clenched every muscle in his torso to remain upright. 

   "Maybe Angry all up inside you can help us out here, Blondie." 

   "No!" Fenris, Aveline and Sebastian shouted in unison. 

   Anders held his hands up in surrender doing a double take upon seeing Fenris. "Even if Justice had enough power to help me into the Fade, he's retreated after his display-"

   Sebastian scoffed. He leaned away from Varric and crossed his arms. "People go to the Fade to dream, surely it is not so difficult."

   "Yes, humans and elves go to the Fade when they dream, and yes, sometimes mages are aware when they dream -"

    Fenris pulled Aveline's sword gently from where she had tied it to her hip. The guard-captian met his eye but did not protest. Someone has to do something.

    "- So yes, technically if I was to sleep I could go into the Fade but -" 

    Fenris let out a furious roar as he threw his weight into Aveline's sword, connecting the pommel with Anders' temple. The mage crumpled as the elf fell beside him, unable to stop his momentum with his injuries. 

    Sebastian's mouth fell open. 

    Aveline gasped. 

   Varric's brow knit together. 

   Fenris rolled onto his back in the sand. He looked up at his friends with nonchalance. "Now he is in the Fade."

   "I did it!" Meril chimed as if on que. The women fell limp as the ward disappeared, but the fissures remained. "We should be able to make them more comfortable now - oh, are they alright?"

   Fenris let his head fall back with a grunt. 

Chapter Text

     “That was roughly six years ago now,” the spirit, a self-proclaimed spirit of Faith, finished. During their aimless walking, or so Hawke suspected it was, the spirit had explained its’ history.

     Hawke stared at it dumb-founded. She was certain her mouth was hanging open.

     “I know it’s very complicated.” The sheepish look on its’ face might have been akin to a blush, if spirits could blush.

     “Complicated?” Hawke asked, she wiped the side of her mouth with the back of her sleeve. “Complicated is figuring out the way Orana makes coffee, or how to be in love with two people at once. Your story? Closer to –“ Hawke shook her head. She wasn’t sure what the word was. “So this isn’t your true form either?”

     “No, this is the form of the woman I currently inhabit. First enchantress Wynne.”

     “Of the Ferelden Circle.”

     “Yes.”

     “Whom you came to inhabit as an act of mercy.”

     “Yes.”

     “When she was killed in a darkspawn attack while traveling with Hero of Ferelden?”

     “No.”

     “Okay, I got it – wait, no?”

     “Wynne granted me access to revive her after she was killed during the mutiny of the Circle.”

     “So she survived Ostagar, then this mutiny, and then the Archdemon?”

     “Yes.”

     Hawke sighed, the spirit’s two-toned voice was beginning to give her a headache. She anchored her hands on her lower back and took in the surroundings again.

     The Black City was an eyesore against the horizon. It was as far away as it had been when Hawke had first woken in the Fade. It was curious considering it seemed like they had been talking for an age - time was different in the Fade.

     Once she had realized that the spirit might actually be a spirit, and that she was not an abomination wherever her physical self might be, Hawke had hoped she would wake up. She assumed if she kept the spirit talking, she would be stolen from the conversation by the waking world. She had thought the others might find a way to wake her up. Now she thought a number of other things, many of which suggested something might be terribly wrong. She needed to get back to her friends.

     “So will you accept my proposal?”

     Hawke glanced at the spirit. According to it, the spirit had inhabited this dying woman for some six years, keeping her living long after the woman’s dying wish had been granted – to do one final act of good in the world. That of course, had been helping the Hero kill the Archdemon. If it was to be trusted on its’ word, when even spirits could be deceiving, both the spirit and the woman had come to the conclusion that it was time for her to move on to the void. While the spirit encouraged its companion to move on, it did not want to do the same. The spirit enjoyed living amongst mortals. It enjoyed helping. It also had a love for those who fought unwinnable battles against impossible odds for unachievable change. Or maybe that was Hawke’s pessimism colouring what the spirit had said.

     Regardless, it made sense - a spirit of faith wanting to help someone who no longer had any. Though Hawke doubted her cause was worthy – she was just doing the best she could and looking out for those who had gotten mixed up in her mess. She wasn’t about to volunteer to be the change she wanted to see in the world. She wasn’t like this Wynne. Wynne sounded like she actively sought justice for the people, mage and peasant alike. Hawke just saved whomever she could. Wynne volunteered to be First Enchantress – she rallied for the mages in Amaranthine. Sure, Hawke had helped the Viscount when she was called. Sure, she was Champion now, but she wasn’t about to go challenging the Knight Captain. If anything she hoped the title would grant her some peace and quiet. Surely this spirit was better suited with this inspirational whomever instead of her.

     “Stop fretting, child. All you must know is that I have chosen you. You need not question it.” Hawke backed out of the spirit’s grasp before it could grip her shoulders. The spirit sighed. “It will be painless, you needn’t even know I’m there, until you need me.”

     “And that’s at your discretion,” Hawke scoffed, thinking of Anders. Justice came to his aid more often than not these days, and mostly when it was problematic.

     “I have already lived among you. I will not change like the spirit who comes to your minds eye.”

     “Stop speaking in riddles!” Hawke pressed her thumbs against her temples.

     “You are angry because you cannot think of a reason to refuse me, none that I cannot quell.”

     “Quell,” Hawke muttered childishly. “You sound like my great aunt.”

     “I can take your burdens, child, if you let me.” The spirit came closer and Hawke shivered as wisps of its’ essence caressed her skin. “You needn’t be tired any longer.”

     Hawke was tired.

     “When you falter, I will be strong for the both of us. When you need rest, I shall take your stead. When you are tempted, I will be a voice of reason.”

     Hawke looked up at this. Twice now she had lost control of her magic. Once she had needed Anders to pull her from demons’ grasps, the second she – she didn’t know what. She was still living it.

     “I know you are afraid,” the spirit smiled, if spirits could smile. “You needn’t be any longer.”

     “I’m not afraid,” Hawke bulked. This time when the spirit reached out to sooth her however, Hawke didn’t flee.

     “You needn’t lose anyone again.”

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     Only in her wildest dreams had Isabella considered what was happening now.

     If she were honest, and there wasn't a shred of evidence to suggest as such, she hadn’t even thought to suggest it, because it was simply too good an idea to come true. Imagine her surprise when Hawke had suggested it instead.

     “Might as well, she says,” Isabella laughed remembering Hawke’s words. She sat bare-bummed on the bar of the Rose. It was empty except, well, it was empty of customers. “I’ve more gold than I know what to do with anyways, she says.”

     Lustful moans and the thrum of creaky headboards laid the ambiance for the lounge in a sort of musical undertone. They’d bought out the Rose until the next day. No one allowed but Hawke, the prostitutes and she. Isabella was quite certain she could pick out Hawke’s vocals from somewhere among the whorehouse, but she wasn’t quite ready to find her. She was enjoying the moment. She stirred her whiskey with her forefinger and laughed again. The front door slammed and Isabella frowned.

     “We’re closed today,” she called. “Than again,” she thought aloud. “If you’ve the muscles of a Ferelden or the lips of an Orleasian, you might be allowed to stay.”

     Anders came through the entryway, green and blue against the lush reds of the room. A deep frown was set on his face. His cloak swept in a wide arc that settled around his ankles when he stopped, noticing her.

     “Tortured mage works too,” Isabella smirked. She checked up the stairwell on the far end of the room, seemingly ignoring him. A beautifully cut elf was taking a devilish red head there, over the railing of the open landing in front of the client rooms.

    “Isabella, what are you doing here?” Anders asked drawing her eyes from over her whiskey glass. His eyes wandered down her body. “Really, you’ve piercings there?”

     “Among other places,” Isabella shimmed a little for his benefit. She set her whiskey down and popped off the bar. “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours.”

    “I think I’ve seen all of yours, thanks,” Anders shook his head. He looked around the lounge. The high backed furniture was empty but for an elf with a wiry man between his legs. “Where’s Hawke?”

    “We’re taking some time off from all the swindling and swords. What happens behind closed doors, as they say. Unless –“

     Anders cut off her brewing sword innuendo. “They say a lot of things. What is going on here? Why are you here?”

    “What do you mean why am I here?”

    Anders pinched the bridge of his nose. “Not why are you here, why here, as in just here. Why here exactly?”

     Isabella rolled her eyes. She found she didn’t really want to make sense of whatever Anders was talking about. Mostly, she just wanted to keep drowning in debauchery. If she was a pouting woman, or even if she thought any seduction might work on Anders with Hawke near, she might have done so. Than again, maybe Anders could be coerced with Hawke near.

     “Common Bella, think, what’s the last thing you remember?”

     “Well if it’s details you wanted –“ “The beach, Isabella. Remember the beach?”

    “What bea-“ Isabella saw a flash of blue paisleys, golden sand and amber eyes. There were storm clouds all around her. “What the hell was that?” she asked when the Rose appeared around her again.

    “We’re in the Fade. You were injured, Hawke took you both here by mistake-“

     Isabella saw Fenris fly and Anders. She blinked hard, when had that happened?

     “Is Hawke with you?”

     Isabella looked around the Rose, the lounge was suddenly eerily quiet. The couples from before had disappeared. 

     “No,” Isabella said, trying to convince herself. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

     “Anders!” Hawke smiled sauntering from somewhere the pirate had missed. She looked incredible, all black lace and red ties.

     “I’m so glad you could join us!”

    “Hawke, this isn’t real, it can’t be –“

    “I know, it’s too good to be true,” Hawke laughed, echoing Isabella’s earlier thoughts. Hawke leaned up quickly, her lips brushing over Anders’ stubble before she whispered something in his ear.

     Isabella smirked when Anders shuddered in response.

    “You’re just in time.” Hawke beckoned Isabella with a finger. Isabella wound her fingers in Hawke’s hair and pulled the mage against her. Their lips met, hot and wet, warring in front of Anders.

    Isabella had never thought much about being with one person for the rest of her life, but she knew a thing or two about true love. Not from experiencing it of course, but from using it to manipulate targets, and reading about it. The one rumor she had always hoped was true was that true love’s kiss never tired. If she never tired, she would never be tempted. But this kiss with Hawke, this one for Anders benefit, was off, wasn’t electric. It didn’t feel the same as when they had first met. In fact, they hadn’t felt the same since that time with the berries.

    Anders grunted before pulling them apart.

    “Hey!” Isabella shouted. Just because it wasn’t the same didn’t mean she minded.

    “Both of you need to stop. We need to get you out of here.”

    “But we’ve just arrived, Anders,” Hawke whined.

     “Hawke, we’re in the Fade.”

    Isabella rolled her eyes and reached back for her whiskey. “Isn’t the Fade supposed to feel, I don’t know, less real?”

    “You pulling us apart seems very real to me,” Hawke backed.

    “Yes, jealous, Anders? Maybe Justice wants to come out and play instead?”

    “What, no, Justice isn’t with me –“

    “Yes, common Anders, don’t be such a spoil sport,” Hawke pressed up against Anders, her corset slipping lower down her chest. She winked at Isabella, and for a moment she could have sworn that eye was violet. Then she was kissing Anders – or more attacking him with her mouth.

     Isabella frowned at her lover. She wasn’t used to Hawke being the aggressor.

    Anders recoiled and shoved Hawke away from him. “You!” he shouted.

    “Let’s not get our –“ Isabella started jumping to Hawke’s defense. But the mage smirked, and her eyes were violet. “Hawke?”

    “You’re not Hawke,” Anders hissed. He grabbed Isabella by the wrist and wrenched her behind him.

    “Come now Anders, don’t be like that.” Hawke’s skin freckled until large spots of violet and scales showed broke through her pale skin. “I can be Hawke if you want me to.”

    “I’ve been kissing that?!” Isabella shouted when Hawke sprouted spiraling horns, the illusion falling away with increasing speed. She shoved Anders' hard in the back. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

     “I didn’t know!” Anders recoiled looking at her in disbelief.

     “That’s just not going to come out.”

     “You loved it,” laughed Hawke who now had a purple tail to match.

     Isabella shivered and spat. “I’ve had better.”

     Hawke frowned.

     Isabella blinked and her lover had become a drooling desire demon, clutching at itself with talons. The landscape shook as she hovered above it, giving way for cascading plains of simple ground that spanned in every direction. Isabella cursed, wishing she had her weapons and armor. Then, suddenly, she did – her dream, she supposed.

     Anders’ palms sparked. “Die, demon!”

     Isabella shoved him aside and whipped her dagger from her back. The silver hilted blade rounded twice before it sunk deep between the demon’s eyes. It blinked twice, surprised, and collapsed in a heap on the ground.

    Anders looked back at Isabella incredulously.

    The pirate, now fully dressed, merely shrugged. “What?” she asked. Isabella walked forward and picked her dagger from the ground. “No one gets to play the wily slut but me.”

Chapter Text

Faith was as encompassing as when they had first come across each other, in the deepest reaches of the Fade. Justice remembered it as if it were yesterday, because it might as well have been. The time of mortals didn't apply to him - he had never suspected he would long for it to. Longing itself was hard to comprehend. 

Justice knew well enough that want and need were mortal appetites that had stuck to him. So was a gender, imperatively. He could still see past them, but he wasn't inclined to when the deepest desire took him. That's how he knew Faith was lying when the she spoke with Hawke. The fact that she was able to lie at all was testament that her time with mortals had indeed changed her, no matter what she told the Champion. 

The Champion - the only mortal to contradict all, the only mortal to be completely complexing and inconsistent. Justice wouldn't admit to the emotions of mortals, but if he had he wouldn't know which he felt towards her, be it hate or love. That made him certain he was still more spirit than mortal. He couldn't understand the complexity of emotions they felt. Or maybe he was more mortal, because like them, he couldn't. 

Things were simply easier here. Every thought and idea was it's own entity. Compassion was compassionate. Victory won. Justice sought justice. Faith was faithful - but wait that wasn't right - as of now, even Faith was no longer faithful.

Justice wondered when Loyalty had left her. Whether that be the Loyalty of cause, or the Loyalty which championed the loyalty between two entities he wasn't sure. To be sure he would have to commit himself to a surety of himself, and if he were to consider that, he might have to commit to the corruption that had begun festering after he had been trapped outside of the Fade.

For now he simply followed the two, the immortal and the mortal. He wondered if Faith's Wynne was somewhere here with her, as Anders was somewhere here with him. Wynne had brought them together and torn them apart - another mortal he wasn't sure he hated or loved. Faith and Justice had met when Faith was watching the woman, and they had wandered into his domain. Wynne was a babe then, just a blooming soul. Justice had told Faith not to save the mortal when the time came, their affairs were trivial after all, but she had faith in them. He was beginning to think she was right to. 

Hawke stood embraced by Faith, her posture ridged. Faith had proposed to merge with her, like he had with Anders. Justice thought to interfere, but he was certain Hawke would make the right choice. What the right decision was however, was another matter entirely. 

The Champion would be stronger with Faith. She would no longer act with the plague of doubt. Their enemies would cower and selfishly; Justice would have a companion himself. 

Faith would be stronger with the Champion. She would have the ability to inspire, again. She would influence Hawke's love for Anders, unintentionally perhaps, when she realized Justice was within him. They would be together again, and Anders would be able to love Hawke as he had longed to for so long. He was naive enough to believe that under the influence of them, the two mortals could still achieve their causes, and be whole. Justice was an idealistic, afterall. The the pirate had said as much. 

The scene momentarily blocked his view of Faith and Hawke as it played before him in the Fade.  

His distress awakens me, doubt, questions, prove them wrong. "There is justice in the world," Anders says, but he lacks conviction. I wonder who he means to tell, certainly not the Champion who walks just ahead. 

"Is there?" asks the pirate. Her eyes dart back and forth, she always talks lowly to Anders, she doesn't want anyone else to hear their debates. She doesn't want people to see her, but I decided long ago she is good, just - she is with the Champion. "You want to free the mages. Let's say you do, but to get there, you kill a bunch of innocent people. What about them? Don't they deserve justice?"

They do, I compel Anders. "Yes," Anders says for me. 

"And what then? Where does it end?"

I growl at that and Anders admonishes me. Be quiet, Anders tells me without speaking, he doesn't want to be disturbed. This is more about asserting his conviction than the ideal itself. Truth, what is the truth, Justice be real.

"It's like a bar brawl. People are continuously pulled into the fray, and nobody remembers why it started," she shakes her head while she speaks."Justice is an idea. It makes sense in a world of ideas, but not in our world."

"She's right," Hawke said, stepping through the scene. It dispersed like smoke around her. She crossed her arms over her chest making herself appear smaller. Her energy fluttered around her revealing her emotions. It was a deep navy, sadness."She was very rarely wrong." 

"You would insult me in a place where I have far more power than you?" Justice asked ignoring Hawke's use of the past tense for the pirate. He supposed he could tell her that the pirate was no doubt with Anders now, safe. She would know that soon enough however. He looked over her head for Faith but the spirit had gone.

"I would think you are insulting yourself if you are perturbed by my belief." Hawke sighed and uncrossed her arms. "Hello, Justice."

"Champion," he said, more than a little distracted by the longing that clenched his spirit. "You sent Faith away."

Hawke nodded but he could see the uncertainty in her thoughts, it changed the colour of her aura. "It's better this way."

"Is it?" Justice asked, intrigued.

Hawke set her feet and Justice saw a glimmer of the old Hawke, the child whose light and brazen surprised him when she first came into Anders' clinic searching for an entrance to the Deep Roads. Her eyes shifted over him and he was unsurprised when her appraisal did not leave her fearful. It was not because the child Hawke, and the Champion Hawke, were the same. The first Hawke would have come to this conclusion because she did not think she could die, this one concluded that she did not care if she died, as long as she went down fighting. 

"You'd rather your mistakes be your own," Justice watched her eyes harden. Mortals were so stubborn. 

"I've no one to blame for what I make of the world but myself," Hawke agreed after a moment. Mortals are clever.

Justice nodded. It should be that way. He approved that she would always be herself, though he wasn't sure what that was yet. He knew she must have an entity, anyone as strong as she must. She wasn't Faith, nor Justice, nor Honour, nor Patience, nor Kindness, nor Compassion - she had love for all of these things, and then she would fight against them all, even as she acted for them. She feared being swallowed up. He saw all these things in her mind, here in the Fade where Anders did not block most of his ability with the permanence of his physical body. She might be Passion, or maybe she was simply Love. Didn't Love have the same effect, the same ideals? It was unconditional, unassuming, all-doing, and then it was blatant and impulsive and acted against itself. Hope could be described as just as idiotic. 

"You didn't interfere," Hawke stated. "When I felt you behind us, I thought that you might."

Justice watched her thoughts as she pondered this, seeing the times he had met both Love and Hope, and trying to tie them to her. There was nothing words could add to her conclusion. 

"You think Faith can save me?" Hawke smirked. 

"Or destroy you," Justice noted aloud. If Hawke was one entity, then another would corrupt her - but maybe that was what a mortal was. Many things at once, instead of singularly purposed, and that was what set them apart. He still couldn't shake the idea that she was reincarnate of something. Or maybe she was a spirit in the making. "I do not think things," Justice told her pridefully. "I simply know."

"Must be nice." 

"It is not." 

Hawke's smirk turned into an unbelieving smile. Justice knew Anders would be happy to see it when their minds became one again. 

"So what's next Justice? You? Trading up from Anders?"

Justice watch her aura tense. "No," he said too quickly. He didn't trust himself with her power. 

"Maybe you should." 

"Why is that, Champion?"

"Birds and stones. I'll never be under the threat of possession again, and," Hawke looked at her feet. "You won't kill Anders."

Justice reared up at her words.

"Easy, big guy," she said immediately, shielding her face from his growing light. "You know I'm right."

"I would never allow Anders to come to harm," Justice spat. How could a mortal girl rile him so? 

"Not intentionally, perhaps. But slowly you will. He looses more of himself everyday."

"You would condemn yourself to such a fate instead?" 

"One day there will be a battle even justice can't win," she said, her voice weary. Her aura shifted to the colour of fear, fear for her friend. She was only ever fearful when it came to friends.

Justice had felt frustration in Anders before, he thought he might feel the same if he had emotion. Again, she revealed herself as another entity. 

The colour of the Fade sky darkened. Justice felt the energy shifting, felt it taking more from him. He looked at Hawke and she sagged under his gaze. She was fading, her mana draining. She could not hold them here much longer. She and the pirate were here due to her unintentional spell, one cast with her life essence.

"You need to wake up," Justice said reaching out to her.

"What? No, Justice this conversation is not over."

"It is." Justice touched Hawke's brow and she was drawn from the Fade in a ricochet, like the snap of a band, sailing out of sight. Justice curled in on himself, expecting the sharp sting of being torn from the Fade with her. When it didn't come, he stood once more. 

"You should have taken her deal, old friend," said Faith, appearing before him. She was a wisp now, under no pretence for the sake of a mortal. His spirit stretched towards her, remembering what it was like to be whole. "I've missed you." 

Their trials together surrounded them. Times when they had traveled together, giving mortals choices, inspiring them and hoping they would make the right choice. He, being her sword when they chose wrong, when they were unjust. She, shinning brighter when they chose right. The times when Wynne was a babe, and when she was not asleep - before she tore them apart. Before mortals corrupted them both. 

"It feels different now," Faith told him, reaching back. "It's harder."

Harder because they didn't know what love was, not before mortals. They had seen it, but never felt it. Or maybe they had and they hadn't a word for it - not then when purpose was singular. 

"Do you miss me?" Faith asked.

Justice felt Anders' conscious pull at his essence even as Faith anchored him. He wanted to hold onto her, to never let go - to slip to the deepest part of the Fade where mortals would never find them again. "It is not right," he told her, realizing he was indeed feeling these things, emotions. "We are not what we once were."

Faith recoiled and Justice shouted in pain as the Fade drew him away. He hadn't meant that he needed it to be right. If this mortal emotion was wrong, he didn't want to be right. 

It was in Ostwick, in this moment, that Justice finally accepted his corruption. 

When Anders next woke, his friend was gone. Though neither admitted it to the other, both felt the difference.

Furthermore, Anders would secretly wish that Justice had taken Hawke's proposal. This wish would grow into a quiet resentment that would lead to distrust, even lies - Vengeance would see to it.

Chapter Text

     The curtains were drawn over the window, so heavy they held back the sunlight. The room seemed like it was perpetually caught in that time, just before the sun comes up, but after the stars go away – that strange silent navy.

     Hawke woke with a jolt. Her head felt like a mule had kicked her – twice over. Her limbs felt like they were held by golems. Too hot under the duvet, but she couldn’t persuade her body to shift. She tried to speak, but her throat was too dry. Her voice came out like sandpaper, scratching against the silence. 

     The time she had spent in the Fade had spilled into the pool of every other dream she had had – distant and foggy. She felt the darkness was circling her, growing deeper as she tried to remember. She sucked in a hard breath to settle her heart before her despair summoned more trouble.

     “You’re awake.” A softly lit hand floated from her bedside and ran over her forehead to rest on her hair. Upon contact with her skin, the light bled into a map of markings, revealing Fenris to her. “Here,” he pulled her up gently and pressed a cup to her lips. “Drink.”

     The cool water soothed the ache in her throat. “Isabella?”

     “She’s awake,” Fenris pressed the cup back to her lips. "You healed her when you went into the Fade."

     "I healed her?" Hawke's stomach flipped. 

     "Sebastian thinks the Maker intervened," Fenris scoffed. He put the cup back with a dull thud on the nearby nightstand. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees. 

     Hawke's eyes pinched as she watched Fenris stare between his knees. The glow of his hands, crossed as one thumb circled the other, spoke more words than he could. He almost never fidgeted, only when he was trying desperately to contain himself. "You must think I'm some kind of monster," she whispered, careful to keep her voice from cracking - she wouldn't apologize. She wasn't sure what he thought meant much to her anymore. 

     Fenris looked up into her amber eyes and saw himself reflected there, glowing like a demon. Her skin was sickly pale, drawn with a damp sheen. Her breaths were shallow and her hair was mussed, tangling across her pillow. Still, those eyes saw him. They betrayed no weakness even as they glimmered with frustration. He understood that gnawing frustration. He understood most of it - why she had broken, why she had fled, why she had changed from the woman he had once believed could not be touched by the treachery of magic. That didn't mean he was certain he was the only monster in the room. 

     Hawke knew that he should think lesser of her, after everything that had happened, but that didn't mean she was prepared when he looked away without answering her. If she had had the strength, she would have lunged and slammed her fists into his chest, but that one look drained what was left. "I'm sorry," Hawke sighed because she didn't know what else to say. 

    "What do you have to be sorry for?" Fenris pinched the bridge of his nose and fell further forward. 

    "What don't I have to be sorry for?" Hawke snorted. "That I couldn't change your warped perception of mages?" 

     Fenris stilled. That wasn't true. Before, all mages were evil, now - now they were people. Most of them were not, but some of them were like Hawke - with hopes, fears, love, and if Hawke's tone was any indicator, hate. "That is - complicated," Fenris did not want to admit that each mage he had killed for the sake that they were mages was wrong. He didn't want to think of them as Hawke, with families and friends and lovers. What if he and Hawke had met before Kirkwall? Fenris shuddered. The things he would do to anyone who harmed her now -

    Hawke mistook the rise in Fenris' markings. She hated his anger for mages, hated that she couldn't change it. "I'm sorry that meant you couldn't love me," she spat next. 

    "Couldn't?!" Fenris flared. "Couldn't?!" Fenris stood, his chair flying back across the room. "You would -" Fenris gripped the underside of the nightstand and flipped it onto it's side. He shook with fury. "I have sat here, waiting," he growled. He turned on her. "I prayed, Hawke, that I would not see you last as an abomination. That I would not have to -" Fenris kicked the stand. "I locked them out!" He pointed at the door. "It would have been my fault!"

    "You locked them out?"

    "I -" Fenris hated his weakness. He forced air into his lungs as he remembered, hours earlier, when he had sat at Hawke's beside, hoping, when he would have struck down anyone else, and not being able to fathom her slain by his sword. "I would have let you kill me, first."

    Hawke's veins turned to ice, cold shooting up from her fingers and draining the blood from her face. "Fenris -"

    The way she said his name calmed his heart, as it always did. Fenris picked up his discarded chair - grateful to have something to do with his hands as images of her waking, wretched and twisted stabbed at him. He sat and met her gaze again. 

    "Don't ever question my heart, Hawke," Fenris said, so low that with the base of his voice she almost missed it. "Do not think because I am a fool that I could ever leave your side."

     “I’m getting used to waking with your watching over me,” Hawke whispered. She hoped he knew she was trying. “You're welcome to make a habit of it.”

     “Every time I fail you.” Fenris’ light died and he was swallowed up by shadows.

     Hawke’s weak teasing smirk fell away. “Fenris –“

     “Do not defend me, Hawke.”

     Hawke wished she could see his expression. She grunted as she shifted onto her side, forcing the lead out of her limbs. She wanted to curl in on herself, to be as small as she felt, but she resisted. She didn’t want to think about what had happened. Not what he had done, not about him lying in a heap at Anders' feet - “I’m just glad you’re alright,” she said, honestly.

     Fenris’ began to glow again, his distress plain as he sat trying to think of something to say. “Hawke –“ he started, but he knew his explanation wouldn’t be enough. Or maybe it would be, and he would hate himself more for hurting her.

     “I really don’t want to talk about it further, Fen,” Hawke whispered. “Not tonight.”

     Fenris was reduced to a nod. Not talking would be easier. “I will go and fetch the healer.”

     Hawke watched solemnly as Fenris stood. He lingered, putting the chair back in its place across the room, returning to fetch the cup, running a hand through his hair – he didn’t want to leave. When he made up his mind and his glow faded in it’s conclusion, Hawke was surrounded by darkness again. It churned in his absence.

     “Wait,” Hawke called out. It sounded weaker than she intended it but her fear had won out over her pride of not calling him back. “Stay with me.”

    Fenris paused, long enough Hawke thought he had left.

    “I just need rest, Fen,” Hawke’s voice quivered with her nerves. It was like tightening the strings of her heart, his walking away pulling them tense. It was absolutely maddening, like her whole body could lash out but her soul only slammed against the inside of her chest. She knew exactly why she was here, exactly what he had done – but she still needed him. She hated that she needed him. “I always sleep better when you’re around.”

    “Hawke,” Fenris whispered in warning.

    “Don’t make me beg, Fenris!” she shouted hoarsely. It barely made it across the room. “Not after everything you’ve done to me!”

     Fenris was back across the room in seconds. He knelt at her bedside. He gathered up her hands and pressed his forehead against them, surrendering. He began to tremble. “There is nothing,” he started but his markings flared up and he had to clench his jaw to control his emotion. “What can I –“

    “Just,” Hawke murmured and then she was lost for words. She pulled weakly on his hands, dry sobs clawing up her throat. Fenris followed until he lay beside her. She let go of his hands to wrap herself around him.

     Hawke buried her face against his chest until she could hear his heartbeat. She listened to it, trying to steady her breathing in time with it.

     Fenris pressed his lips into Hawke’s hair. He stroked her back, unsure which of them was shaking. “I’m so sorry, Marian.”

     Hawke pulled herself closer, if that were possible. She held on so tightly she imagined it would hurt him, she almost wished it did.

Chapter Text

            Time passed while Fenris lay with Hawke curled against him. A minute, an hour, a day – he wasn’t prepared to move for anything. He kept her as her heart broke underneath him, tucked under his chin. He glared daggers at the darkness daring someone to interrupt them, because so help him – he wouldn’t be held responsible for their possible, probable, misguided intervention.

            Eventually, Hawke had stopped shuddering. Fenris had tensed when he had realized she had cried herself out. He thought she might send him away. She was the only one who could. But her breathing had evened, her grip had loosened, and she had fallen asleep. Watching over her was easier then, now. Watching over her meant they didn’t have to speak - and what words were there left for them? There wasn’t one that could accurately describe what Fenris wanted to - not in Common, not in Tevene, not in Qunari. So he held on and waited, hoping with his only source for hope wrapped carefully against him, unwilling to close his eyes, because he wasn’t sure how many more moments like this he would get.

            Not that it was a particularly good moment. It wasn’t like before that night they had shared. Not that it was easy before then either – but it was different.

            Before their night together, and each angry drunken fumble after that, before Isabella had had to pull him up for air out of his grief, Hawke had been everything, but quietly. Quietly when she drew her fingers along the underside of his gauntlet to remind him where he was - he wouldn’t have known how tense he was until her touch put him at ease. When she shared a bottle of wine with him and talked, more at him if he was being honest, until she got to things she wasn’t sure she could share, and then did anyways because it was him. When they fell asleep together, in the same position they were now, just because she knew he was as lonely as she was, and ‘why not’ according to Hawke. Those were the moments that he cherished, those ones behind closed doors where they were themselves and the world didn't demand they fight with each other. Looking back now, it was obvious that it had been the same for her. Both of them had known these little quiet happenings meant so much more than they were ready for, but doing instead of saying was easier. Just doing, however, had also lead them here. Just doing, just jumping in had lead to that first time. And if he had thought he had loved her before that – well Hawke made him more the fool every day, didn’t she?

            Hawke shoved him back against the wall, stunning him. What was she doing? What was he doing? Her eyes found his and her depth sent the ache from his chest south. She was fire and she had kissed him – so help him he would do it over and over –

            Hawke grabbed behind his neck, her fingers pressing into the sensitive places at the base of his skull. He felt the tension ebb out of his shoulders and he sagged back against the wall pulling her with him, against him. Her kiss was frantic and she trembled against him, her warmth seeping through his armor.

            “Hawke,” he said pulling away from her before he was swept away. If this was going to happen, it would happen in a way that it could happen a thousand more times.

           “What?” Her breath came in pants across his lips.

           Fenris pulled each gauntlet off with the other hand behind her back, letting her breathe – reminding himself to breathe. Had they been arguing moments before? She blinked when they hit the floor, her long lashes close enough to brush his cheeks. He clenched his fist to keep from gasping, raising the other to brush his thumb from the corner of her eye to the corner of her mouth. “We have time,” he told her. He wanted everything she had to give and more. She gave him a shy smirk and he knew some of her control had returned.

          Fenris slid his arms back around her waist. He wandered down her back pulling her flush against him, watching her eyes heat, her pupils dilating. The things he had thought of doing to her, of sharing with her, flashed through his mind and he wished his heart would stop pounding so he could make sense of them. His fingers found the hem of her skirt and he dragged it up to the small of her back, his fingers catching the backs of her thighs. His mouth went dry.

         Hawke crossed the inch between them and kissed him. This time it was perfect. He slipped his tongue into her mouth and she met him with small teasing flicks of her own, a smile stretching her lips. He growled at that, playfully taking her cheeks in each hand and squeezing. She bowed back begging him forward, letting him devour her.

         “Fenris,” she breathed. He groaned. How had he waited so long to hear that? He kissed the corner of her mouth, her jaw, her delicate neck. She gripped the back of his head pulling him harder into her neck, and so he sucked harder, leaving a mark.

            Fenris slipped his hands under her under garment, massaging her ass. He wanted to tear off her clothing, his cock pressing painfully against his armor. He drew his tongue up her neck and suddenly she was heavier in his hands. He smirked and whispered in her ear. “Have I made your knees weak, Hawke?”

            “Mmm,” she grunted at him. “What? Shhh-“ Hawke’s torso fluttered as she giggled. It was the most beautiful sound he knew. He only heard it when the world didn’t hound them. Out there, she was the world’s, here with him, she was Marian – the very same who giggled. She ran her blunt fingers threw his hair and grazed his pointed elven ears. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had touched him there – it was so intimate, it was with her.

            “Do it again,” he whispered, his voice sounded different, deeper and close to desperate - but he trusted her. It didn't matter if they never agreed on anything again, he realized, he trusted her. 

            “What?”

            Fenris took her small wrists in each hand and lead her fingers to the tips of his ears again. He closed his eyes as she caressed them gently, lighting the nerve endings and sending a shiver threw him. He felt light, like a burden he hadn’t known he was carrying had been lifted. Her presence always did this to him, had in those first weeks of knowing her – was it comfort? Her eyes were full of wonder when he opened his.

           “I missed you before you were mine to miss,” he said, it was the only way it made sense.

            Hawke blushed, he shuddered under her hands.

            “Marian,” he breathed.

            “Yes?”

            “Let me make you mine.”

            “Yes.”

            After that he had pushed her away - as far and as fast as he could, because it was easier. What excuse had he given her? He had told her they were moving too fast, besides the memories. He had lied. How could you move too fast when you were going where you were supposed to be? He had been a coward. He had taken her, and he had left her - because it was easier. What possessed him to think that easier was better?

           Nothing easier was better. Being a slave was easier than freedom. He always had a place. He always had a job. He always knew what his life would be. It was revolting, but it was easy. He would never go back, couldn't go back. Choice was hard, but it was exactly what he wanted. It was time to stop squandering his choice. It would be the same with Hawke, not matter what it took. 

           "Fenris," came a whisper. He had been so deep in thought he hadn't been paying attention to the room. He looked down at Hawke, but she still slept. 

           "Fenris, here."

           Fenris looked up to gold earrings glinting in the low light. 

           "I came to see if she was alright," Isabella said approaching slowly. "She's saved me twice now."

           Fenris didn't say anything, he didn't want to wake Hawke. He felt guilty suddenly, but he wasn't sure if it was because Isabella had found him in such an intimate position with Hawke, or because Hawke wouldn't want anyone to see her like this. 

           "The door was locked, trying to keep me out, sweet-thing?" There was an undertone to her voice, one that hinted at jealousy. Isabella reached down and stroked Hawke's hair. "Come outside with me."

           "I don't think -"

           Isabella held a finger to her plump lips. "Don't wake her." She sauntered back into the darkness.

           Fenris heard the click of the lock. Moonlight spilled into the room from the windows in the lounge making Isabella's skin shine like caramel. She beckoned him with a finger and left the door open behind her. Fenris unwrapped himself from Hawke, careful not to joust her, and followed after her.  

           

           

Chapter Text

Down the staircase the scouting arms of morning's light were beginning to banish the shadows of night from the marble floors through the glass of the back walkout. Fenris cursed it even as Isabella strode purposefully towards it. The dawn would be upon them soon, and with it the house would wake - Hawke amoung them. If she woke without him there again she would relinquish him for good. Hawke lived in the present, every new action changed her perception. He couldn't allow that to happen but neither could he cower from his obligations to the pirate. 

Fenris spotted Varric's notepad in the kitchen as they passed. "Wait," he ordered, darting into the room. He picked up Varric's quill - more phenix than feather - and scratched out the dwarf's scrawl at the top of an open page. Fenris couldn't read what it said, he hadn't had a literacy lesson with Hawke since they had become trapped in this mess. He scowled at the dawnlight peaking on the horizon trying to remember the symbols for letters. Sebastian would rise with the dawn, he would come to the kitchen first. He would leave a note here and -

"I'm not getting any younger, sweet thing," Isabella picked at her nails as she leaned against the door frame.

Fenris glanced to Isabella and back, scowling deeper. His first line ripped the paper, he pressed the pen too hard. He swore in Tevene. He started again, furiously writing what he hoped was legible. He tore the page from the pad and hung it on the rack above the island. Sebastian would read it, and attend to Hawke until he returned. "Go," he said to Isabella as his arms dropped. She winked and he followed her out. 

-------

Sebastian was, Maker forgive him, hungover. His neck pinched painfully as he woke lifting it from its awkward angle against the arm chair in the library. How could he have fallen asleep there? Had he passed out?

The priest noticed his sips-left glass of bourbon perched on the armrest. He grimaced at the sunlight flooding through the skylights. He had most certainly passed out. Sebastian pushed himself up from his chair, stumbling forward and swiping the glass by mistake. It shattered at his feet, spilling warm liquor onto his bare toes, sicking the accompanying smell on his nose. I will not be sick, he told himself turning from the affronting smell and massaging his neck. 

Sebastian tried to remember how he had ended up in the library. He ran a hand over his face as he passed into the foyer. Yesterday, after Anders had woken up, sometime in the afternoon - yesterday being the day after Fenris had had a fight with Anders and Hawke, Isabella and Anders had gone into the Fade - Varric had persuaded he and Aveline to let the healer into Hawke's room. Aveline had carried Hawke up to her room and had been formidably standing guard in front of it since. After Anders had ensured them that Hawke would wake, Aveline had returned to her post and stayed, ignoring Isabella who woke second in a stalk pose without so much as a flex of her jaw when she attempted to visit Hawke, and then doing the same to Fenris once he was awake.

Aveline ignored them like common criminals trying to cut a deal. Fenris tried to reason with her, bartering this and that, more hobbling to state his peace with his injuries. Isabella had weaselled in her way, but again, no deal. 

To her credit, Aveline had remained stationed before the door for almost the entirety of the day, her parlour turning slightly more pale the longer she remained. Sebastian had been watching carefully, knowing that Hawke was fretful in her rest. When Aveline's stone expression had finally faltered, he had stepped in, relieving her of her post, ushering her down to the stairs and waving off her apologetic smile. 

Hawke's night terrors had developed during her passage to Kirkwall. Between being packed like slaves into the hold of a dank ship and having fought through a horde of dark spawn that saw her sister killed and burns from dragon fire - the stress had been too much for her psyche.

Varric will tell you about how he bought off the entire Carta after, on a dare, Hawke had stolen an entire shipment of their weapons while streaking across half of Low Town, but he won't mention how that same night the Hanged Man, which is never full to capacity, had no vacancies - the same with every night Hawke slept there. People know a lot about Hawke. They know about her trials and her victories and her strengths, but very little about her afflictions. If they've met her, they remember her passion and her conviction. They forget how her eyes go distant when they come too close to a trigger, or how she holds her staff with both hands to stop them from shaking after a battle. 

Sebastian remembered the first time Hawke had come to see him at the Chantry seeking peace. It was late, long past the curfew now in place in Kirkwall. He was wondering at the excessive amount of candles in the great hall. 

The rest of the priesthood had retired. Sebastian doubted there would be another soul to the Chantry tonight. He hung the large gold bell, too heavy for the priestesses by half, over the front doors and ran his fingers down the sun burst on its helm - should any one seek shelter, it would raise him. Slowly, he covered the candles, working his way to the impression of Andraste at the front of the Chantry. 

"Hello?" came a female voice, so low it might not have been whispered at all. 

Sebastian looked back over his shoulder into the darkness, confused. There had been no ring of the bell. "Is there someone there?"

A hooded woman stepped into the candlelight, but just. Her eyes were shadowed, her frame swallowed by the old wool cloak she wore, moth holes along its hem.  "I suppose I'm someone," she smirked, her arms came up to wrap around herself. Another refugee, he thought immediately, sadly unremarkable with the trouble in the south. 

"That you are, lass," Sebastian said coming to stand before her. She was only a head shorter than him, but her slight frame made her appear smaller. "Are you alone?"

Her lips turned down at the edges, frown lines peaking from where they would eventually be etched with age. "Are you?"

"It's awfully late for someone your age to be wandering about, child, that's all I meant." Sebastian turned up his palms in an offering of peace, the hanging cuffs of his priest robes swinging in the quiet. 

"I'm not a child," she pouted. She reached up and pulled the hood from her crown avoiding his eyes. Her long fingers pulled her braid from under her cloak before running them both over her hair before she looked up at him. Amber eyes, gleaming under a weary glaze above dark circles dared him to say otherwise. "I'm young," she offered, and he could see it in the roundness of her face, the last of her girlhood, but no where else. "But I've seen enough now to believe the novelty of naivety has worn off." 

"Only the naive believe they are not," Sebastian kept himself from smiling. She was biting because she was nervous, he could tell from the way her eyes darted back and forth like she was seeking an exist. 

"Ah the wisdom of a priest, why ever did I come looking for it?" She looked over her shoulder as if reconsidering her visit.

"If it's wisdom you're looking for, I might have to wake someone else," Sebastian drew her back. 

The woman's smirk grew into a smile brighter than the candlelight. 

"If it's someone's ear for that smart mouth you're looking for, I might help with that." Sebastian held out his arm offering her a path to the stairs which lead to the prayer rooms. She looked up at them as if they were a mountain but stepped forward. 

"I'm Marian," she said stopping before she passed him. "And you have a wonderful accent."

"I'm Sebastian," he told her, fighting down the childlike spark she ignited in him that made him want to roll his eyes. "And thank-you."

Marian peaked in every prayer room until she had lead Sebastian to the farthest reach of the Chantry. There, in a tiny prayer room, with a bench against each wall packed so tightly their arms touched at the ends, she sat and nodded for him to sit across from her. His stillness made her uncomfortable. She tapped her foot, unsure, and stood, and then sat. Then she stood again, and sat again, her cloak billowing out each time. Finally she stood and gathered all the cushions from the unoccupied bench and then piled them around herself, forming a wall on either side of her bench, and settling one against her stomach to hug her arms around.  "What now?" 

Sebastian cleared his throat to buy time. "I'm not sure," he said finally, he had guided many followers before, but none of them read quite like Marian. He wasn't sure if she was on the verge of laughter or tears. There was a giddy energy about her but that could mean anything - was she running? Was she hiding? Was she in trouble? Or did she simply need someone to talk to? Someone to pray with? "Would you like to pray?"

"No," she said like the snap of a whip. "I don't think the Maker wants to hear from me."

Sebastian frowned, he wanted to tell her that wasn't true, but he doubted it would settle her. "How about some tea?"

Marian's eyes met his. "Tea?" she asked. 

"Tea," Sebastian nodded.

"A truth serum for my sins?"

Her gruffness pulled a chuckle from his chest. "No, just hot water and herbs, lass."

"That sounds," Marian took a deep breath. "That sounds really nice."

Even after returning with tea that first night, Sebastian had been unable to pull from Hawke what had brought her to the Chantry. For every story she shared she expected one in return but slowly they had relaxed in each others company, talking like old friends even in that time before the beginning of their friendship. They spoke of Thedas and its state, he shared what he knew of politics from his up bringing though he avoided his lineage and her sharp mind took in all the intricacies he explained; they spoke of their families and their annoying habits, he remembered her mentioning that her sister Bethany was much too nice for her own good and he teased back that he knew what it was like to have an overbearing older sibling. The third time she came back to visit she accidentally used the past tense, and only by the forth was she willing to share Bethany's tragic death. She told him the nightmares of that night kept her awake and that was what lead her to him. She had thanked him for listening that night - her visits happened weekly after that, they still did.

Sebastian was pulled from his thoughts by humming - a sweet somber tune, calming in its melancholy. He turned into the kitchen to find Hawke managing a loaf of bread from the masonry oven. She spun, her thin wrists wobbling under the weight of the overlarge wooden spatula, and shuffled the bread onto the island. There was already a pile of squeezed oranges there beside a glass decanter filled with juice. She looked up at him with that same smirk he noticed all those years ago. 

"Good morning, Bash." Her smile widened. "You're looking a little worse for wear." 

Sebastian gave her an elongated grumble but smiled. "The Guard Captian and I caught up in the library last night," he explained. Once Fenris had noticed Sebastian had taken Aveline's post he had tried his hand at persuasion a second time. Sebastian, who had told Fenris of the trip to Ostwick because he believed Hawke and Fenris needed time to work out what was going on between them, had eventually relented. Their conversation was what had sent him in search of a stiff drink in the library. There he had found Aveline already into his Father's ancient Antivan brandy. 

"Well, perk up priest, we're going on an adventure today." Hawke poured him a mug of orange juice and placed it in front of him. 

Sebastian eyed her wearily over the mug. The liquid washed the stale taste of liquor from his mouth.

"You're taking me to Ostwick," Hawke laughed at him, spinning away. She fiddled with something before her, her back to him. "Eat something, I'm just about to start the pig, you'll feel better I promise." She began humming again.

Sebastian was already beginning to feel better. Her demeanor eased the tension in his body and he was glad to have let Fenris see her - it must have helped. If Hawke was feeling better, he would have no trouble doing the same. He sat watching her, the room settling around their companionable silence, the morning light dimming to be a little less affronting to his senses. The house was quiet, no one else was up. 

Sebastian noticed a crumpled fist of paper amongst the oranges. He reached towards it, "Our writing dwarf doesn't make a habit of cleaning up after himself."

Hawke shooed Sebastian's hands from the oranges, placing a plate of bread and fruit before him before he reached the paper. "You're right," she giggled, but it sounded forced. She picked up the ball of paper and it caught fire in her hand.

Chapter Text

Ostwick wasn't as uplifting as Hawke had imagined it would be. The costal city was settling into a second heat wave, the canals drying up in the drought of it, making the people irritable and impatient. 

Hawke rubbed her shoulder after a man pushed past her, making room between she and Sebastian. "Can a people be described as 'shove-y?" she shouted over the bustle of the market as she found her place back at Sebastian's side. 

Sebastian smiled back at her. "I warned you, Hawke. You didn't listen."

Hawke snuck her arm around the crook of the priest's elbow, allowing him to guide her as she tried to peer over the bobbing heads. Rickety stands crowded the dusty streets set before shops whose architecture blended them together. One man with a hole through the nether tip of his beard scowled at her. "I'm used to people stopping and staring," she told him. "Champion of Kirkwall, and all that. They're much easier to manoeuvre when they're standing still."

"And all that," Sebastian repeated her, chuckling. 

"Couldn't we announce you, or something?" Hawke asked pulling him to a stop. "Long lost prince, here," she said more quietly. "The heralds will have a field day, they'll ask you to speak, the sea will part!"

"No," Sebastian said in his way that wasn't offending but didn't leave any leeway to be persuaded. "If Fenris were here, he could phase us through, lass. But you didn't want to invite him either." 

Hawke tried to keep herself from frowning. Fenris, she thought, his note to Sebastian to take care of her while he was away with Isabella had left a bad taste in her mouth. She didn't need to be taken care of, she was the bloody Champion, she had taken the Arishok in single combat. She had had enough of being coddled like a child. The Fade incident had been a set back, but this, Ostwick, was a chance to refresh, atone for her bad behaviour of late. Her weakness in allowing him to fool her, again. Again. She swept a hand over her brow, wiping the sweat from it. "It's too hot for this -"

"Hawke," Sebastian said before she cursed. He had been helping her reign in her attitudes for her presentation as a Lady, now that she was Lady Amell. He hadn't missed her evasion however, not here, and certainly not back at the cottage when she had rushed him out of the dwelling before the others woke. He spied a small cafe at the end of the block, a head taller than most Marchers. "Would you like to rest?" 

"Rest?" Hawke followed his gaze. 

"Tea?"

"Tea? Hot tea? Maker's -"

Sebastian resisted his urge to roll his eyes, a frequency with Hawke. He pulled her through the crowd towards the cafe.

Hawke let her hand fall to Sebastian's with a smirk, falling into a quiet appreciation of his profile. Celibate or not, he did have a way of carrying himself that called to darting eyes and drooling maws. His blue eyes saw through the girls he pulled her between, never noticing their winks, or their turned up noses when they finally noticed her behind him. Sometimes she fantasied forgoing Kirkwall and joining him in Starkhaven, just like she imagined many had when he was the rebellious royal from his past. 

The cafe was quieter than the street. Inside Marchers talked in low voices, leaned towards one another from tangling wrought iron chairs over single stand tables. They looked oddly placed with their tattooed faces and bulking shoulders among such delicate furniture. The after effects of barbarian descendant separatists dividing from Orlais. 

Sebastian pulled out a chair at a corner table and offered it to Hawke. She smiled warmly at his chivalry and held her witty comment about being a modern girl. To his credit, the tea he brought her soon after did stop her unending sweating - a blend of white chocolate, blueberries and mint. She wrapped her hands around it out of habit, watching Sebastian's long, proud nose settle over the rim of his mug, his eyes closing as he revelled in the smell. 

"I've never asked you where your love of tea came from," she said after a moment. 

Sebastian leaned set his mug down, contemplative. "What's not to love?"

"Fair point, well made." Hawke looked over Sebastian's shoulder. An elven woman blushed as a man whispered into her ear. He was handsome, his forehead a little too big but his eyes were the colour of lyrium. She drew painted fingernails across his cheek and kissed him, slow and languid. 

"Do you want to talk about it?" Sebastian asked after peaking over his shoulder. 

"Not really." 

"I thought after last night you would have worked things out." 

Hawke snorted. She couldn't meet his eye. "He means a lot to you." 

"Almost as much as you do." 

Hawke sighed. Could she have this conversation with Sebastian, this one she couldn't with anyone else?

Sebastian watched her carefully, protectively. Her fingers drummed the table as she shifted under his gaze. She was confused, unfocused, in pain - and trying to hide it the way no one believed, under humour and nonchalance. Or perhaps it was only him who saw it, because they had taken each other in, sharing the worst kinds of experiences and somehow finding empathy in them for each other. 

"NO! What happened to my family was murder," he says, his bow trembling in his grasp. He turns from Elthina and his eyes meet Marian's. He's shocked but the anger keeps him moving. She assesses him as he passes, storming away like a child - but he doesn't care, he will kill them.  She's surrounded by people he doesn't know. He feels her eyes on him until he's passed where she'd have to turn around to chase him. He hopes she does. Today she will see who he really is under the Chantry Brother. He feels another stab of guilt, the vows he's broken helped him help people like Marian. He might never see her again.

"You came to me that night," Sebastian remembers. He reaches out across the table and takes her hand. "That night when I found out about my family."

"Of course I did," Hawke says wrapping her other hand around his. "After everything you had done for me, listening to my ramblings -" Hawke shook her head embarrassed.

"You became my family that night, Hawke." He had never had a sister, he had been the youngest son of three boys. He imagined if he had, he would have the same relationship with her as Hawke. The same awkward conversations, the same speaking-without-speaking conversations, the same constant awareness of her presence, the same worry, the same protectiveness to anyone who would hurt her - the same love.

Hawke nodded. Sebastian was a brother in the same ways Carver was, if not easier to talk to - she and Carver had fought like cats and dogs. Sebastian would never replace him, but somehow he filled the hole he had left with his passing. She took a deep breath. "Fenris left with Isabella this morning." 

"What?" 

Hawke bit her lip against the rush of emotion that crushed her heart with admitting it aloud. "Last night, he said so many things, Bash. Mostly about never leaving - and then," she shrugged unable to say he left. Sebastian's hand went tense, a current that she followed up into his suddenly rigid shoulders before she focused on on a dark speck on his white armour. "Maybe it's time to go home," she gave a false laugh. 

"What do you mean he left?"

"I mean I woke up and he wasn't there. So I went to his room, and he wasn't there. So I went downstairs and there was a note saying, 'Take Care Hawke Sebastian' in the kitchen."

Sebastian just blinked at her. 

"Let's go out on a limb and assume that he meant to have an 'of' in there. Or let's not and say he left us both." Hawke looked up at Sebastian and squeezed his hand. "Are they coming back?" she asked desperately. "Did he say anything to you?"

Sebastian ignored his instincts and tried to think of why Fenris might have left, why he might have left Hawke in his care. He and Fenris had had many conversations about Marian. He had pieced together how Fenris felt about Hawke. There was no way, that even confused, Fenris would choose Isabella, she was a fleeting vixen. "Perhaps he went to tell her he was to be with you, lass."

Hawke snapped away from him. She sat all the way back in her chair and crossed her arms over her chest, a tear sneaking from her amber eye. She burned, the same anger he was accustomed to fighting himself. "Tell me he's in love with me, tell me he's said that to you."

Sebastian flexed his jaw clamping his teeth together. He hadn't. In fact, he remembered a time when he had asked, and Fenris had told him love didn't exist. Another memory came to mind. The smell of ass and liquor from the Hanged Man, Isabella falling over herself to convince him to sleep with her. 

"Isabella," he said uncomfortably. "I can't."

Isabella rolled off of his lap and clamped her hand onto the back of his chair for support. "That's fine, I'm in love with a princess anyways." She raised her mug, shook her head, and headed towards a lonely looking knight by the fire.

"I don't know why she puts up with him," Hawke's knuckles turned white, gripping her arms. "Maybe she knows something I don't, or maybe she likes that he won't commit. It's safe. Stupid -" She let go and gripped her tea again. 

Sebastian looked at his own mug. He knew Hawke struggled with her love for Isabella, but at least they were equal in that front with each other. Isabella brought out what laid underneath in Hawke, forced her to be better - even if she was only trying to convince Hawke that she wasn't good enough for her. The pirate was much deeper than she let on. She had never made Hawke cry. Sebastian sipped his tea. "I love tea because my Grandfather loved tea," he told her, thinking of the wise man. He remembered a story the man had told him about love. "You know, he said my grandmother wasn't his soul mate."

Hawke put her elbows on the table and hid her face in her hands. 

"He told me he chose his partner, instead of his soulmate." 

"What does that mean, Bash? You want me to leave your brother? Find someone else?"

Fenris was his brother-in-arms, but Hawke was his family. "I want you to be happy, Hawke." He reached across the table and pulled her fingers from her eyes. "The Maker gives us both kinds of love, it's up to us to choose. The right choice isn't always the one it seems to be." 

Hawke tilted her head to the side, his warmth eased her heart. At least she had him. "Riddles aren't really your thing," she told him steering them away from the conversation. "Good thing you weren't a Chanter."

Sebastian narrowed his eyes at her feeling the tension leave the room. "Drink your tea." 

Chapter Text

Isabella had a chortling laugh. It never came in giggles or spurts, it came in moments - breathless chuckling that lasted longer than was appropriate, because it was free and she had no where to be. She did so now, her head thrown back in a fit of laughter, as Fenris scowled up at her from the floor. Strained from their duelling in his Hightown mansion, Fenris had misjudged  his footing, caught on a rouge floorboard disjointed from the rest, and fell before her - his sword bumping, laughing at him, in a slide that ended at the pirate's booted feet. 

The longer she laughed, eventually bending to press her hands on her thighs, ever mindful of her drawn daggers, the harder it was for Fenris to keep scowling. She was laughing at him, consequences be dammed, unafraid. He'd be stuck to find something she was afraid of. While others were quelled before his rage, she teased it, coaxed it from him, and she simply didn't care. He wanted that, to be unafraid - to be free. He wanted to taste freedom.

This was the moment Fenris remembered as Isabella popped up onto the rail of the bow. She was fully armoured - her blue bandana over her scattered ebony curls, her almost-white corset tight against the swell of her breast, her daggers glinting where they were holstered against her thigh-high boots. She swung her feet back and forth appraising him, he was bare from the waist up. He could feel her eyes follow the lines of his tattoos, unabashed and again he was reminded of her freedom, his envy. Opposites attract, is what she had told him. 

They simply watched each other, a sad sort of silence over the melancholy of the waves pushing against the ship. He knew it before she said it, but he still was reproached of an answer. 

"I'm leaving," she said to let it hang in the air. The ship swayed with the shake of his head. "Yes, Fenris, I am." 

"You can't," Fenris told her automatically. His stomach was suddenly heavy, a pit forming against his will. 

"It's better for everyone if I do." 

"Since when do you care about anyone but yourself," Fenris growled. 

"Ouch," Isabella smirked, cocking her head to the side. "That hurts."

She was running, away from him, away from Hawke. A sort of protective guilt brought his hands into fists. He glared at the ship boards. 

"You and Hawke -" Isabella started, she looked to where he did. Isabella pushed off the rail and pulled his chin up. "You and I," her nails caught his skin when he shook her off and stepped back. "The three of us, can't work, sweet-thing," she sighed as her hand fell away. 

"I don't need you to tell me that," he felt like a child, the initial anger winning over the relief he should be feeling. Maybe it was that she was his excuse for blame. He was selfish to want that, to keep it. "I want you to stay," he said fiercely, spitting it out. 

"Fenris," Isabella tutted. She turned from him and took a deep breath of the sea air. "This," she said opening her arms wide. "Is my only love, love." 

A hundred names came to mind, but the one that was the loudest was liar. Fenris ran a hand threw his hair. "No!"

Isabella looked over her shoulder, engraving a memory of her, with the call of the sea and the horizon of the rising sun into his mind. 

"What about Hawke?" he asked, in a vain attempt to keep her. "You leave now, so you won't have to fight her." You're abandoning her.

Isabella returned to the water. "Hawke has you, sweet-thing." 

Fenris wanted to grab her, shake her stupidity. His fists were shaking and he scoured for something to make her stay. He couldn't sort through the reasons she had to stay. He saw an image of Hawke, kneeling on the beach and screaming at the sea, broken without her other half. His jealousy won over his fear of her leaving - his anger that Isabella could do that to Hawke. Let this be her lesson to him then, to be fearless. Fenris turned and forced himself towards the beach. "Go then," he said like a threat.

"Fenris?" Isabella called, shock holding back the heart break.

Fenris spared her a last look, seeing a shadow in the place of the person he believed he could find. "Go," he said as the sea wind picked her hair from her shoulder. "Never come back."

"I love you too, sweet-thing." Isabella mocked as she watched his tense shoulders descend to the beach. She leaned back over the railing, fingers white in her grip. Her tears dropped into the sea - she hoped she would be half-way to the next land before she added this action to her list of regrets.  

 

Chapter Text

After having tea, Hawke was remiss to return to the cottage. Their sanctuary was proving anything but, and so she pushed Sebastian to send the carriage to station at a nearby tavern. They would stay in Ostwick for the night. She couldn't leave without a souvenir, she told him. Maker knew when she would have another vacation. 

They wandered to the end of the market, arm in arm, never rushing. It was nice, the quiet. Her thoughts were still a project that seemed too large to start. Her talk with Sebastian left her confused, wavering. She had always thought that Fenris was the one she should be with, because he was unique - she didn't believe she would ever meet another who could make her feel like he did. It became harder, as time passed, to list the positive attributes of the way he made her feel, but she was not so pessimistic as to believe there were not as many goods as bads. That was the problem with his love however, the pain was equal to the joy. It couldn't be anything else, especially when each of them was composed of half each of agony - after everything.

Hawke let go of Sebastian to wander into a shop, he meandering outside, examining at a table of innovative arrow heads. The shop smelled thickly of oils, packed from top to bottom with knick-knacks - antiques and priceable tourist scams. Hawke picked one such item from a cubby down a thin isle. Labled Wave of the Sea, a cup of water within a glass orb sloshed between her fingertips, reflecting her confused eyes. Sebastian was right, she didn't have to choose that love. She didn't have to choose her other half, or at least the definition of her other half didn't have to be so close to its counterpart like Fenris. Having a partner, someone who was another half perhaps, in the way that she was everything that Hawke was not? Someone she understood, who, though fallible, was predictable? A woman who brought her joy, who sat on the surface and knew it for what it was and enjoyed it, did not sink into the tragedy of their instincts, her instincts.

Hawke replaced the orb and pushed past a dark curtain, her fingers catching in its holes. The back of the shop was consumed by odd looking things, skulls and ancient daggers, more marauding equipment than traveler's wares. Hawke's fingers tingled, a mischevious smirk catching her lips, slithering into her heart. An elf with a deep frown and fading vallisan cleared his throat. He watched her hands with thinly veiled suspicion beside a wall of iron bark mage staves labeled hiking assistance. She let her eyes fall to preoccupy her fingers with the oddities. She was selfish to want both, wasn't she? There was no way having both was fair. Fenris was beautiful, as Isabella was. Fenris, his touch, like fire on her skin, drawn lines that left gooseflesh, and Isabella, her touch, like certainty, drawn lines that spoke of what she understood. Isabella was logical, a partner. She knew the pirate, inside and out, in a way that let her see, and the elf? What was a river that flew down brooks and flooded with emotions to take entire villages? What was she to do when she burned from the inside out? How could she trust herself with such a cause? How was she to be Champion in the wake of consumption? She had to think of more than just herself, there were others who were steadfast due to her dependability. Hawke had the impression that thought wasn't fair either, but she was drawn away by Sebastian's deep laugh. 

Sebastian it seemed, was not as unrecognizable as he thought. Pacing back to find him, Hawke peered Sebastian through the front windows of the shop. Bent forward with a palm on his shaking torso, Sebastian laughed with a plump silhouette who spoke to him with flying hands. Sebastian put a hand on it's shoulder and the animated gestures paused to wrap around his waist, almost too short to make it around him. Sebastian's posture melted around the embrace, warm eyes closing as he took a deep breath of the cloak. He pressed his cheek against it's crown, opening his eyes to meet Hawke's through he window. 

Hawke cocked her head towards Sebastian in an unanswered question - she had never seen Sebastian show such affection to anyone. He laughed again, straightening and waved to her, beckoning her back out into the sunlight. His joy was something she was humbled to see. 

Hawke passed her thoughts into the sun, basking in it as she stepped outside into the dusty Ostwick market - and then, a foot from the pair, all warmth fled from her. A strange caution, a halting energy, sucked the heat from the air, leaving a cool nervous tang. Sebastian nodded to the cloaked figure, and Hawke resisted the urge to frown as a pair of breath-stealing grey eyes fond her. The woman pulled back her hood with small hands, freeing tumbling almost-blue black curls. 

"Lady Trevelyan," Sebastian said dwarfing the woman's shoulders with his hands, "This is Hawke."

Trevelyan's thin purple painted lips curved into an enchanting smile - secrets, Hawke thought. She dipped in a foreign bow. "Lady Hawke," she said quietly before rising. "It is more than an honour to meet you."  

Hawke forced herself to smile back. "Hello," she said, noticing the twin daggers on the woman's hips, each glinting with scaled dragon head hilts. 

"The Maker smiles on us, Hawke."

"No! It is I, Sebastian!" Trevelyan gushed. "Dear one, let's go somewhere we can be nostalgic without prying ears," Trevelyan's fingers caught Sebastian's wrist. She peaked over her shoulder, her face half distorted by her curls. "Please Hawke, this is my city! You are so very welcome here." 

"Come, we've already a room at a tavern." Sebastian offered his arm to both of them. Hawke took it wearily, a thin smile on her lips, a vibration on the edge of her bones. Sebastian, it seemed, had ghosts of his own.

Chapter Text

The tavern was more the size of a dwelling, but then Hawke had become accustomed to the size of the Hanged Man, so small was sizeable enough. It was one story of stone and mortar, staged in a quieter part of the city on a parchment piece of land, paces wide. A well that borrowed from the main irrigation system, deep stone channels that ran centred through the main roads, took up most of the front beside a narrow cobble path that lead to an off-kilter timber door. 

Trevelyan stopped short upon seeing the tavern, jolting first Sebastian, and then Hawke, who had mostly been watching her boots, to a halt. She fixed Sebastian with a questioning look, a raised eyebrow over her left eye which was surrounded by a navy tattoo - it curved both under and over her eye, paired with three spear embellished lines on her chin and a series of small dots running from her middle-parted hairline, down the centre of her forehead, to between her eyebrows. 

"It was the closest tavern, lass," Sebastian shrugged starting them forward again. 

"You were always sentimental, dear one," Trevelyan sighed, pushing in front when the tavern path became too narrow for their three person wide procession. She pulled the door, holding it for Sebastian to take as she stepped inside. 

"Evie!" came a scattered chorus from the patrons as Hawke passed Sebastian through the doorway. The dozen-or-so assembled had looked up as they entered, most still smiling after noticing the compact woman. Trevelyan's shoulders tensed, but she smiled and nodded back to them, moving to shake hands with an elderly couple at the closest table.

"Someone's a regular," mentioned Hawke, watching a lean, salt-and-pepper man cross from the wide but short well-polished bar in the corner to greet Trevelyan. 

"It appears I'm not the only one whose sentimental," Sebastian murmured back - it was Hawke's turn to resist rolling her eyes.

The insides of the tavern were exactly what Hawke expected. Thick tables, the same timber as the front door, squeezed into every spot they could fit, a flock of which were lined up against the southern wall - each under shutter framed windows that looked down onto the city's residential escarpment before the Waking Sea. The warm light of the setting sun filtered through the windows, catching on flecks of dust that floated in the wake of stumbling travellers. A thin isle beside the bar lead to the rooms, or so she assumed. Trevelyan skittered to the back, dodging long winded conversations with waves and the patting of shoulders. She beckoned them to the table furthest from the bar, against the southern wall. Hawke sat, her back against the wall beside her outward chair, ignoring Sebastian as he pulled a chair for Treveyan, and then sat across from her, beside Hawke. 

"You're popular," observed Hawke. 

Trevelyan nodded. "Though I'm sure if Sebastian were the lanky, bright-eyed boy he was when I knew him, there'd be much more of a fuss," Trevelyan shrugged off her cloak and folded it with careful precision, smoothing it on her lap. She wore a collared off-white dress shirt underneath, a black leather corset connected to similar spaulders with x-ed belts over it and her breast. Hawke realized she had mistaken plump for muscular of Trevelyan with her cloak - she was solid, every movement gracefully flexing something. "I've also treated most of the city along the inner boarders." 

"Treated? You're a healer?"

"Of sorts, I've no magical talent." Trevelyan leaned back as the bartender approached her again, this time with three mugs of ale. "Thank-you, Geoffery."

"She's a talented herbalist, Hawke. She's pulled me back with work nothing short of a miracle on more than one occasion," Sebastian told Hawke.

"On the house, Lady Trevelyan. Prince, Champion," nodded Geoffery. He stood there for a moment taking them in, before shaking his head at his own foolishness, and their rapidly paling faces, and turning away. 

"You didn't have to tell him who we were," Hawke bristled immediately. She didn't like having her identity known outside of Kirkwall's contradictorily protective walls.

"Geoffery's an old friend, Hawke," Sebastian soothed.

"The rumours run rapid in this city, Lady Hawke," Trevelyan seconded. "People know the Vael cottage is occupied, and they also know their youngest keeps company with the slayer of the Arishok."

"And you wouldn't have anything to do with that, would you, lass?" Sebastian asked half-heartedly.

Trevelyan examined him over her mug. Hawke couldn't decide is she was pretty or not. Her features were almost too sharp, somewhere between elf and human, but not yet a half-breed. Hers was an unsettling beauty, the kind you were drawn to watching, entranced - which did nothing to snuff the electricity her presence put in her nerves. "May the murderers of Starkhaven quake in their fear of you and your companions, dear one. Now, and at the time of their defeat," she raised her mug before taking a large gulp. 

Sebatian's eyes burned as he watched her, Hawke wanted to nudge him, draw him from his obvious fixating - she was embarrassed for him. 

"So tell me Lady Hawke, how did you defeat the Arishok?" 

"Hawke is a very talented mage."

"Bash!"

"Seb!"

Hawke and Trevelyan met each other's eyes and quickly looked away, Trevelyan looking down, Hawke looking out at the sea. Hawke gave up to glare at Sebastian. 

"Evelyn has cousins from Tevinter, Hawke," Sebastian told her, as if his trust was universal, infallible. 

"Oh, wonderful, shall I bring out the knives and slaves than? Make sure she feels at home with my magic?"

Sebastian frowned. Trevelyan watched her closely, fingers sliding down her mug, delicately. 

"No? No sacrifices with drinks today?"

"Hawke," Sebastian said. "There's no need for that, lass. She's not her cousins -"

"I don't need to tell you that all cultures are good, and bad, Lady Hawke."

"Tevinter is mostly bad - demons, also mostly bad."

"I understand that you come from a culture that sees the world as good and bad, that is constantly striving for something to champion -"

"Like abominations?"

Sebastian finished his mug and waved the bartender over again. They sat in silence, Trevelyan folding her hands in her lap, Hawke glowering, as Geoffery refilled their mugs. "So, how are things in the city, Evelyn?" 

"Markham has been a problem in recent weeks, like Kirkwall we've taken in many Southeners due to our proximity to the boarder," Treveyan shook her head. Hawke couldn't see through the veil of calm Trevelyan showed, but she thought she could feel it. Every move, every word, was deliberate. It was so unlike what she was used to - she hated it. Her proper made Sebastian's look like sailor civility. "While the Marches might very well be the largest cultural melting-pot in all of Thedas, the Marchers have taken to barbaric civil warring now that they aren't preoccupied with the Blight."

Hawke looked back out the window as Trevelyan and Sebastian settled into a foreign political discussion - she was on vacation, there was no use for such conversations. Besides, she had decided she didn't like the woman.

As the sun sank past the water line, Trevelyan grew quiet, listening to Sebastian, her eyes warm. When he realized she had stopped intentionally, he blushed, or at least as close to blushing as the prince could - for surely he was more the prince than the Chantry brother here with her. Their mutual laughter drew Hawke from her thoughts, turning back to realize they had accumulated many more empty glasses than she had. 

"We've changed, haven't we, dear one?"

Sebastian nodded, his boyish grin fading to a smirk. 

Trevelyan reached across the table, her composure only slightly hindered by the roseying of her cheeks, and clasped Sebastian's hands. "You're no longer the charmingly blundering too-smart-for-your-own-good boy just into his third decade, and I'm no longer the timid -"

"Timid?!" Sebastian laughed, loudly. "Don't listen to her, Hawke. We once stole one hundered pairs of boots from the city barracks and -"

"Seb!" Trevelyan laughed. She shook her head and sat back, finishing her fifth mug.

 Hawke stretched wearing a tired smile. "I think that I'll call it and leave you two to your more infamous reminiscing."

"Oh, no!" whined Trevelyan. "You still haven't told me the story! You know if Kirkwall was in its proper, we would've placed a cornet of sage upon your brow and praised the Maker as you hefted the Celebrant for all to see!"

"Another time -" Hawke started pushing away from the table.

"Alas, I doubt the Arishok would have time for The Grand Tourney, Evie," sipped Sebastian. 

"Please stay," Trevelyan begged as Hawke rounded their table. She reached out and caught Hawke's hand, snapping the dormant electricity in her to a proclaimed current that defined Trevelyan's mana. MAGE! Hawke's inner being shouted, knowing Trevelyan as the same. Trevelyan pulled away from her jarringly, obviously having felt it as well. Their magic was so different, but Hawke had felt hers before, with the half-elf boy from the Kirkwall Alienage. Cousins from Tevinter, indeed.

Sebastian looked between the two of them with a furrowed brow. 

Hawke glanced at him. The lust in his eyes was so obvious, she wondered if he knew his Evie was a witch.  "You've been here before, haven't you Lady Trevelyan?"

"Yes, Lady Hawke."

"Care to show me where the rooms are?" Hawke couldn't expose her in front of Sebastian, not out in public where rash actions could see them detained.

Trevelyan glanced at Sebastian as well. 

Chapter Text

"Yes." Trevelyan stood swiftly, laying her cloak over the back of her chair.

Hawke offered her the lead, watching her back carefully as she moved towards the isle beside the bar, stopping first to take a key from Geoffrey. 

The isle appeared to be a dead end, but split on either side into a drafty, low lit hall that spanned the side of the tavern. Clearly an addition crafted in its later years, what would have been boundary wall of the tavern was instead a wall of exposed stone - the mortar lighter in its youth than the crumbling dark grey it had been outside - along which were evenly staggered stone-arched doors. 

Trevelyan strode to the end of the hall, her hands shaking slightly as she pushed the key into its lock. It swung inward, heavy on its hinges once it was released. "After you, Lady Hawke."

"No," Hawke smiled, lacing her fingers before her, "After you, dear one."

Trevelyan squared her shoulders and nodded, looking at the shadowed doorway like it was a foul thing, and then disappearing inside. 

Hawke was upon her before the lanterns could be drawn up. The door slammed behind her with a kick, and she shoved Trevelyan up against the wall, her forearm hard under her chin. 

"There's really no need for this," Trevelyan wheezed around the pressure on her throat. Hawke could see her eyes glinting, trying to adjust to the shadows, buying time. 

"I know what you are," Hawke spat, seeing the twisted gallows of Feynriel's Fade dream in her mind's eye. "I'm willing to bet Sebastian doesn't."

"If you'll listen -"

Hawke's hand caught fire, casting a flinching blaze just before Trevelyan's cheek. She was a head shorter than Hawke. Hawke used her height to leverage her weight against Trevelyan's neck. "How long have you been lying to him? How long have you been manipulating him with your power?!"

Trevelyan's knee came up, but Hawke pushed away from her. Focused on her legs however, Hawke missed Trevelyan's flying hands, catching the wrist of her flaming hand and twisting it around behind her back. Hawke hissed in pain. "I would never manipulate him." 

"Bullshit!" Hawke cried, forcing further mana into her fireball. The mage-fire slithered up her arm, forcing Trevelyan to throw her forward, abandoning her hold. Hawke staggered, spinning into a fighting crouch, facing Trevelyan. Her breath was laboured from that small effort. 

"We can talk Lady Hawke - please."

"Or I could kill you!" Hawke threatened. She threw her fireball wide hoping to keep up the facade of strength, it worked.

Trevelyan dove forward, expecting the fireball to aim true. She landed on her stomach. "I don't want to fight the flaming Champion of Kirkwall!" she shouted. She rolled to the side as Hawke ran at her, somersaulting up on the other side of the room. "I'm a healer!" 

"You expect me to believe that? A Dreamer whose decided to be a healer -"

"How do you -" 

Hawke started forward again, but she knocked her shin into the corner of some unseen furniture, cursing. 

"Maker help me," Trevelyan cursed in return. She turned, lighting a lantern with its gas dial on the wall behind her. The room appeared around them -  the same exposed walls on each side, wide timber lain floors, a small double bed, and a hope chest at its end, which Hawke had hit. "I don't practice," Trevelyan offered, turning her hands up in surrender. 

"Because lighting a lantern without magic proves that."

"Does this look like a Circle to you, Lady Hawke? What are the odds that I could manage to evade the Circle if I was a Somniari?" 

Hawke didn't miss how quickly the term came to Trevelyan. "I knew a Dreamer in Kirkwall, he turned everyone I love against me in his dreams."

"You think I'm going to do that to Sebastian?" Trevelyan shook her head, locking her wrists behind her back. "I love him, Champion. I would never -"

"People are just as stupid in love as -"

"Are you always this confrontational?!" Trevelyan's composure broke again, her eyes shinning. "What is it with Fereldans and condemning the action of one on the many!?" Trevelyan bowed her chin. "Have you that little faith in respect given by your friend?"

Hawke took a deep breath, sobering. "You're dangerous, Trevelyan."

"And you're not?!" Trevelyan's voice was higher, strained. She looked up to meet Hawke's eyes, storm clouds swirling. Her petite frame shook with her conviction. "I lost everything once, Lady Hawke - and then I was granted a boy who understood, even though we were from different worlds - and then a group of manipulative social climbers took him away from me," Trevelyan did not bother to hide the tears that slipped across her skin. "Who, not only changed him into a celibate Chantry brother," Trevelyan scoffed and wiped her face with the back of her hand, wrinkling her cuff. "But then lead to his consorting with -" 

"Someone who kills Arishoks in their spare time?" Hawke offered, feeling suddenly guilty. She was not without compassion, but Sebastian's obvious loyalty to this woman scared her - especially when it could be manipulated like the others' like when Keeper Marethari sent she and her companions into the Fade. 

Trevelyan nodded, scrubbing furiously at her face. 

"If he loves you, he'll understand," Hawke said, but she wasn't sure who she was trying to convince. Sebastian would see the lie as a betrayal, and the thing he valued above most, after faith, was loyalty.

Trevelyan seemed to know this as well. She set her chin, standing with what pride she could manage after her display. 

"I have to tell him." 

Trevelyan's shoulders fell slightly. 

"He has a right to know the risks."

"What risks? This is the first I've seen him in years. I imagine it will be the same once you leave again, if I ever see him again."

Hawke looked at the daggers on her hips. If anything else the woman was trying to avoid her demons, but for how long? Another year? A few months? A night? But if it were Fenris... No, Hawke couldn't lie to save Fenris. It wasn't within her, healthy or not. If it were Isabella...Yes, Hawke could lie to save Isabella pain. She could understand picking the lesser of two evils to spare the one she loved. What did that say in itself? Hawke sighed, suddenly exhausted. Who was she to judge?

"Go," Hawke said.

Trevelyan started at her voice. She swallowed hard, and moved past Hawke towards the door, careful not to touch her.

"Have tonight with him, Evelyn." Hawke said before the not-mage disappeared behind the door. "Tomorrow," Hawke shuffled her feet. She could give her one night, surely tomorrow was almost the same as right now. "Tomorrow, I will tell him, if you haven't."

A ghost of a smile graced Trevelyan's thin lips, her purple lipstick long worn off. "Farewell, Lady Hawke. Until I can repay this debt to you." 

Hawke closed her eyes and fell back onto the bed. With the click of the door latch she let herself fall in to a deep slumber. 

Chapter Text

Sebastian followed Evelyn slowly, slower still as to not have her rush away. She carried their glasses back to Geoffery at the bar. He smiled at them, if a little sadly, his eyes lighting upon Evelyn with old memories. Sebastian didn’t know the much about how Evelyn had become so close with the bartender - she had told him she had helped his daughter once and left it at that. She was never one for too-many words, she had taught him that if you are good, and you act good, people will ask after it - if they do not, you must be content to let them go. Evelyn took his arm and doddled with him down the isle, their hips pressing together in the squeeze of it, reducing them to liquored-laughter.

Evelyn had changed, he knew. She was more confident, more sure footed. While the hunger for more of the world lingered in her eyes, it had settled from the licking fire of anger of failing expectations to the embers of patience. She had settled into her circumstance, into her breeding and accepted it – something he had never had a problem with, but figured maybe he should have because in her eyes, it was nothing but handed to them. He imagined her dancing at the balls they always used to run from, enchanting everyone who caught her eye. He felt a hint of jealousy, but selfishly took solace in her word that she had yet to give her hand. He wondered if she thought the same sorts of things about him.

“This is me,” she said quietly, the door next to his with Hawke. She picked a thread from her cloak, her olive hands always so much smaller than his. Her eyes found his, her cheeks flushed and her eyes glossy with ale, shimmering over longing. He had seen it often enough to know it, before. 

“I’d almost forgotten how much I missed you,” he told her just as quietly. Her thin smile faltered, dipping as her eyes filled, and she looked away with a sniff. He wanted to touch her, wanted to wrap his arms around her tiny frame and pull her up against his chest, his dormant heart.

Evelyn shook her head, her curls bouncing, finding the courage to reach up and cup his cheek. Sebastian pressed his palm over hers, leaning into her touch, letting his eyes close. She still wore the same perfume, sneaking up from her wrist, the citrus of a foreign fruit he’d never found to place. “You’re happy, aren’t you Seb?”

He told he was, a mumble into her palm.

“It sounds like a nickname for a boy, not the man you’ve grown into,” she drew her hand away gently. “I was so,” Evelyn’s voice broke. She huffed in frustration at her emotion. “I was so angry when they took you away.”

Now, Sebastian did wrap his arms around her - her crossed arm wiggling against his abdomen to free itself to return his embrace. She rubbed his back, soothing him as he looked for the right thing to say - what had he imagined he’d do if she some how found herself in the Kirkwall Chantry his first few months of being there? He saw her, years earlier, her hair falling from the braids her mother told her were proper as she chased after the carriage. His Father’s guard had caught up with him, he was to be taken straight to Kirkwall, no chance to return home, no chance to argue, no chance to say goodbye.

“I’m at peace with it now,” he told her. “It was the right thing to do.”

Evelyn nodded against his chest, digging Meghan’s locket into his breastbone. He’d worn it every day since Hawke had returned it to him. Evelyn sniffed again and pulled away. Then their time together was over, she was looking at the door handle like it might bite her. 

“Wait,” he said, suddenly possessed by a need to pray. Give me strength, he begged, pulling the locket from under his shirt. He clasped the necklace behind her neck, over her curls, kissing her forehead – Maker protect her, keep her from regretting these rare open moments. Andraste give her the purpose I know she is meant to fulfill, let her be – happy. He pulled her curls from under the chain, letting his fingers draw through gently, one last time. She turned the locket over in her fingers, her chaste smile returned.

“It’s good to see you still trust me, lass,” he whispered. “Maybe the Maker will lead me back to you, someday.” He held her gaze while she searched for any reason to doubt him. She reached up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek, and against his logic, he turned, capturing her lips. She gasped, her hands fisting in his shirt. It was perfect, the same as it had ever been, home – he wasn’t sure how he held back the immense tide that threw him towards her as she pulled away. He wanted to say he was sorry, but he wasn’t.

“Maker keep you, dear one,” she said breathlessly, and that sound alone whipped his frantic heart. She gave him one more quick hug, ignoring his ridged posture, and before he could react she had fled into her room with the snap of her closing door.

Sebastian pressed his palms on either side of the doorframe, and took a shuddering breath, overwhelmed. He heard the deadbolt click into place and smirked – he was a troublemaker back then wasn’t he.  Sebastian shook his head, revering that he could still feel so deeply after so much time, resigning that that was enough.

Evelyn pressed her back up against the door. She pulled Sebastian's locket off and stared at it, unable to decipher between joy and pain. She had known Meghan, a bright little girl, one of Sebastian's cousins. She thought of everything they had discussed, mostly memories, but also their fears, failings, victories - Hawke's warning. Evelyn bit her cheek. Damn it all, she thought. She reached into her mana and drew up the mass of candles in the room, a hundred now lit, carefully circling the bed. She hung her cloak quickly and settled cross-legged on the bed. It would take longer with her pounding heart to find the trance of the Fade, she worried maybe she wouldn't be able to settle into the dream-state. But as the locket floated up in front of her, her connection to Sebastian, she knew she would wait as long as she had to to find him - for all she knew, Hawke might very well take him from her tomorrow. 

------

Sebastian wasn’t surprised that he was having this dream tonight, or at least; he had the notion that he shouldn’t be buzzing in his subconscious – not after having seen Evie tonight, not after their chaste kiss, and certainly not with her sleeping in the room beside his room with Hawke. Maker help him, he had had it before. He stood outside the very same tavern, except the timber door hung straight and instead of the buildings that would eventually replace it, an old, weary hanging willow tree, sagged long leafy vines over the tavern’s roof. He had this dream each night an unsuspecting trigger reminded him of Trevelyan, who now stood, a decade younger, under that willow tree examining its vines with tender care. Triggers like Elthina bringing a basket of spindle weed to the Chantry for a tonic, the leaves wilted like those that washed up on the shore of the beach where they used to meet in the moonlight; a white stallion with a brown spotted rear for sale in the Hightown market, the same as the stead she favored for racing with him away from their rebellious mischief; a young woman praying in a simple white dress with a navy corset, so close to the one she wore in this dream, this memory. Except in this dream, on that night so long ago, she was wearing a simple white dress, no corset, with navy blue paisleys rimming its hem and cuffs, its silk shimmering in the mixture of starlight and the warm glow from within the tavern. Sebastian knew what he would say next, but he still cringed when he heard his own youthfully stupid voice.

“I hate that dress,” Sebastian approached her, even though she looked lovelier than any other girl he’d ever known. “It looks like my mother’s furniture.”

Trevelyan – Evelyn - Evie to him then, blinked up at him. “Then your mother and mine share the same taste,” she held his eyes, taking in his too-tight leather pants and bulky-to-hide-his-narrow-shoulders smock. He thought he had offended her, but then she had to purse her lips to stop from laughing. She leaned back and assumed what he called her ‘noble pose’, grasping her wrists behind her back to hold her posture – but when that failed to control her fit, they both broke into laughter at the same time.

“You took your time getting here,” Evie said nervously, settling back into her posture. “I was starting to think your father had caught you and forced you to the Duke’s announcement party after all.”

“And be stuck dancing with his girl all night?” Sebastian’s heart beat rapidly as he reached down around Evie to tug her forearms apart. “Not when dancing with you is an option,” he cooed, lifting her arm to twirl her in front of him. She spun outward, laughing as her curls danced around her. She drew to the full length of his arm, and then he rounded her back towards him, pulling her into his chest where her small hands fell flat on his chest. She looked up at him, safely in his arms which almost trembled, and he chanced the hope that this was the first time she would allow him to kiss her, but then –

“My prince charming,” Evie whispered in a mock swoon.

Sebastian rolled his eyes, a habit he only later quelled, and pushed her away from him. “You know I hate it when you call me that!”

“I do,” laughed Evie. He marvelled at how carefree she was alone with him, he cherished that, he could never stay mad at her for long. "Come, let's get a drink." She took his hand and marched him towards the tavern. But as they stepped inside, they changed. Evie became Evelyn, the one he had met today, the roundness of her face gone thin to striking, and he was himself, his arms finally having filled out that shirt as he had imagined they one day would. Everything else was the same, the tavern was as packed as it had been that night - a loud group of dwarves clinking their glasses over two tables they had squashed together, a man hollering an off-tune ballot in the corner -

"What's wrong?" Evelyn asked, tugging insistently at his hand.

"This isn't," Sebastian was confused by the clarity he was experiencing, he couldn't remember having been so aware in a dream before. "This has never happened before." He blinked and the tavern was empty.  

Evelyn cocked her head at him, though she didn't seem surprised. 

"This is the night I told you -" Sebastian felt silly, Maker help him, why was he questioning his own dream? What control did he have?

"This is your dream, dear one," Evelyn said, as if she knew what he was thinking. "It can be whatever you want it to be." She lifted their hands and spun into his chest again, turning back time, again. "I can be whatever you want me to be," she spun out shimmering to what she was now, this time the dress disappearing, replaced by her white dress shirt and black leather armour. "Here," she said spreading her arms out to the now empty tavern. "Or here," she said, suddenly inches from him, the scene changing to the hall, the moment before she stepped away and disappeared behind her door. 

Sebastian felt a familiar tickle in the back of his mind, but he couldn't place it. It had to be a dream, he thought, moving Evelyn's curls behind her delicate ears with a hand on either side of her face. She was soft like clay, and just as cool to the touch, always collected, their skin tones almost the same shade. 

"If you had the chance to relive this moment, leaving out everything else," Evelyn whispered, pressing her body against his. "What would you do?"

Sebastian stared deep into the place behind her eyes, the place that seemed luminescent, glowing in the low light. "I would," Sebastian swallowed hard, surely he could be forgiven for the mistakes of a dream - surely the Maker would let him have this, if nothing else. He took a moment to let the lustful thoughts in, having fought them for so long. It was all he wanted, every inch of her - every hitch of breath, every whispered secret, every bit of flesh. "I would remember you." 

Sebastian guided Evelyn's lips to his, her gasp a reward that picked at the lock he had put on the selfish parts of his heart. She wound her hands up into his hair, his scalp tingling where she gripped one hand over the other, barely reaching. He reached underneath her and pulled her up to wrap her legs over his hips. His hands formed blunted claws against the flesh of her back, pulling her hard against him, her little tongue dipping into his open mouth. She reached over him and pushed the door open, giving him access to her neck. She moaned as he cheeked her curls to kiss under her jaw as he backed into the room. Surrounded by her, the world all but fell away. He footed the door closed and she gripped his shoulders to steady herself. "I've got you," he said quietly - or was it that she had him, he could never tell in the wake of her example.  

Sebastian cradled the back of Evelyn's head, laying them onto the bed. His chest filled with light, relief as he laid over top of her. He took a moment, running his hand over her crown to look at her, just remember as he had said. It would be different than that night, no fumbling or guessing - he would love her like the man she kept saying he had grown into. Her breath was laboured, her cheeks flushed - he took pride in doing this to her, in what he would be able to do to her now. His groin pressed against the juncture of her thighs, swelling from just the look in her eyes. 

"I've missed you too," she whispered, running her hands through his hair again. 

"I know," he said, pressing his face into her breast. "Maker, I know." Sebastian trailed his hands to the button on Evelyn's collar, pulling the the fabric from her clavicle bones. He placed a kiss on each, running open lips from one to the other, his fingers working on the line of hooks that ran the side of her corset, her own finding purchase on his shoulders. He tugged the bib of her shirt from her leathers, slipping his hands underneath to knead at the over-warm muscled flesh of her torso as her corset fell open. She gasped as the cool air flushed against her chest, her nipples peaking against the thin cotton. He tugged at the next button gently, grazing her skin underneath with his teeth around one, and then another, all the way down, as the fastenings came loose. She was harder in places, the fleshy protections of youth worked into muscle. But as he kissed the strange puckering of skin that rounded her hip, a uniqueness she had told him was a birth mark but he believed was a burn scar, and the three sheen curved lines that almost formed a triangle on her sternum, like a branding mark, he found she was mostly the same. He pulled her up, kneeling before her legs that dangled off the edge of the bed, and pulled the last of garment away, the sleeves she kept tightly to hide the long-since healed gashes on the insides of her wrists. He ran his thumbs over them, secrets from before he knew her, secrets she told him she had saved him from. He looked up at her, wonderfully bare, and was humbled by the fact that she could be more beautiful than before. 

"Reverence," she shook her head warmly and kissed his forehead. He closed his eyes. "Come here," she smiled, one of the few that bore teeth and lit across her face. She pulled his smock over his head and pulled him onto the bed, underneath her. Her hands were more than fire on his chest, they scalded him. She kissed him gently, leaning over him, cascading around him. He gripped her full breasts and she thrust against him, drawing a moan out of him. He clamped down upon it, but she drew another from him, and he relinquished fighting it the fever that gripped him. He glided his hand down between them, into the crotch of her leathers. He bucked when his fingers slipped between her wet folds, and she tried to hide in the crook of his neck. He pulled her back, holding her forehead to his by the back of her neck, watching her face as he explored her. She was trembling, he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, pressing inside her. There was nothing like the heat of a woman, and here she felt the same as well, reacting like she had when he had first touched her. 

"Sebastian," she choked out. She kissed him furiously now, her hands grasping at this leathers to release him. The cords of his body drew tight when she found him, rock hard. He had to hold her tighter to keep from letting go. She pulled him up, shimming one knee out of her leathers, and then the other, to straddle his hips. He leaned back on his wrists, supporting them, one of her hands steadying on his chest and the other wrapping around his member. She let his head slip against her, jarring his nerves and hers, back and forth, once, twice - his hands fisted behind him. And then slowly, so slow he had to bite his tongue and press his crown into her shoulder, she took him, all of him. This too, was the same - no one fit like Evelyn Trevelyan, not before, and not after. 

"You feel amazing," she managed, pulling on his chin to look at her. She rocked forward, her eyes closing, her thin lips forming an imperfect 'oh'. He pushed up slightly as she rocked again, and she clamped around him. "Wait," she scolded him, her eyes pinching, almost too tight around him. 

"I have waited," Sebastian said, he didn't recognize his own desperate voice, but he managed to hold still. Another moment he wished would last forever, like every single one he had had with her this night. She settled again, sliding along him with more daring. Then she wrapped her arms around his neck and she was moving faster, and he was, wrapping his hands around her hips and pulling himself into her. She cried out, taking all of him, more than she would ever know. He revelled in the feel of her riding him, his insides twisting, begging for release as he focused on her. Her grip in his hair became painful, and recognizing the tell, he slowed her hips, swallowing her whine. She pushed against him but he kept her still, controlling her body, groaning at the fluttering of her walls, so close to her orgasm. He pushed her as far off of him as he could, and then pulled her as close as he could. 

"Sebastian," she gasped in wanton, completely at his mercy. She constricted around him, pulling everywhere, surrounding him again and it was all he could do to keep them hovering there for a second longer - and then he pulled her again, again, again and they were falling, Sebastian's body releasing in a tidal wave, anchoring themselves against each other. 

Sebastian drew his fingers up and down Evelyn's small frame, soothing her tremors. "Hush lass," he whispered, hoping he wouldn't have to let go - not of home, not again. She calmed slowly, coming with him as he laid back, loosening her grip but remaining wrapped around him. They watched each other, he still stroking her, listening to their breaths amongst the twisted blankets. He was tired, and he wondered if one could dream about sleeping, but that didn't seem fair, when she could only be here with him while he was dreaming, not out there in the real world. "I wish this was real," he whispered. 

Evelyn kissed him gently. "If it's real here," she said laying a palm over his heart. "And it's real here," she placed a finger on his temple. "Then it's real both here and there."

Sebastian felt that familiar tingle again, the one he couldn't quite place. He didn't really understand what she meant, but he hoped he would eventually, as well as hoping he might remember this dream. It was his last wish for his dream to come true, even though he supposed, for the moment, it already had. 

Chapter Text

Fenris pushed the sharpening stone down the length of his greatsword. It gleamed in the last light of the moon, sinking over the sea, playing over the metal as it did his tattoos, his scars. He hadn't slept, the quiet of the night left the warring voices in his mind to argue, too loud against the silence. He listened to the scrape of the stone as it followed back up to the hilt of the sword. It was busy work in his vigil, watching for if Isabella would come back, wondering if Hawke would. He hadn't returned to the cottage right away. Instead, he watched from the shadows of dawn as Isabella readied the ship to sail, contemplating stopping her. Only once she was a dot along the horizon did he find his way to the kitchen. There amongst the dirty dishes were the ashes of his note. The sharpening stone ran back down to the point of his sword. He heard the sound of the wheels passing over the rut of the bridge, moments too late to stop her. At least she was in Sebastian's care. The stone ran back up to the hilt of the sword.

"You're up early," Aveline stated, drawing him from the trance of his work. She had wrapped a blanket over her shoulders, over her long white night gown. She yawned, "Or is it late?"

Fenris continued his work, ignoring her.

Aveline ran a hand through her shucked-short orange hair. "I'm surprised the ship hasn't returned yet, Varric said she went fishing."

Fenris sighed and looked out across the sea. "No."

Aveline nodded. "That dwarf does prefer fairytales to reality." Aveline sat in the deck chair next to Fenris, leaning her head back and listening to the night. Fenris made no move to continue their conversation, and while she recognized this as an attempt to quell her lingering, she ignored it. She wouldn't be intimidated by the elf. "Sebastian sent word from Ostwick, they've stayed the night in the city."

Fenris's hands paused for a moment.

"Incase no one informed you."

"Thank-you."

Aveline grunted. Fenris resumed his ministrations. The air was dampening, the stars blinking out, moving in respect for the shine of the sun, for which they could never compare. Aveline closed her eyes.

"I miss Donnic," she said after a moment. "Sometimes so much it keeps me up in the barracks, being away from him, as it does now." If Fenris moved to reply she didn't catch it. "I didn't think there was such a thing, a girl's fantasy at most," she sighed. "It wasn't like this with Wesley, Andraste keep him."

"Guilt cannot be slain."

"Do I feel guilty?" Aveline asked him, though the question was more for herself. "No," she searched her heart. Memories of the Templar; his charming smile, too-white teeth; the way he paused before every action, his careful composure. "Welsey was a good husband." She thought of Donnic; his charming smile, almost a grimace creeping across his face as if he couldn't stop it when she was around; the bellow of his laugh, deep and rich; the delicate way he kissed her, without demanding or possessiveness. "I loved him, in a simple way. He just wasn't Donnic."

"Why are you telling me this?" Fenris frowned.

Aveline opened her eyes and looked at him, squarely. "I imagine you can relate." She stood and clapped him on the shoulder, ignoring the way he tensed. "Meet me out front after breakfast, all this relaxing is turning me soft," she pushed towards the balcony doors.

"Aveline," Fenris called before she disappeared. She paused. "She'll come back?"

"Isabella isn't -"

"Hawke. Hawke will come back to me?"

Aveline allowed herself a tiny smile. "Did she ever really have a choice?"

 

--------------

"You know she's a mage, right?"

Sebastian blinked at Hawke from the other side of the carriage. "I beg your pardon?"

Hawke narrowed her eyes at Sebastian - maybe it was the stupid smirk he'd been wearing since they loaded onto the carriage back to the cottage, maybe it was the inevitable mayhem they were returning to, maybe it was just that she didn't like Trevelyan - either way, better to rip the bandage off, as it were. "Trevelyan, Lady of Ostwick, convenient excel-er in all things healing. She's a mage, Sebastian."

The carriage hit a particularly imprudent rock, throwing Hawke up so she hit her head on the curved ceiling. Sebastian watched her carefully as she rubbed her head, cursing Andraste.

"Are you alright?" he asked, chivalry beating his more candid thoughts.

Hawke looked at her palm and then at the prince. "Don't change the subject. She has magic Sebastian, just like me."

Sebastian sighed. He had always suspected Evelyn was a mage, but he had never asked her, a mage's privacy was important, life-effecting.

"You don't seem surprised."

"What reaction did you expect me to have, lass?"

"I don't know, call down the Maker, throw her in the Gallows, righteous -"

"You think I would condemn keeping company with a mage?" Sebastian raised an eyebrow at her.

Hawke swallowed her argument, remembering she was a mage. Her opinion of Sebastian shifted slightly, revealing him in a new light, not that there was such a thing as bad lighting when it came to Sebastian Vael.

"Magic is meant to serve man, not rule over him." Sebastian smiled kindly at her, reading the confusion that played over her features. "I have traveled with you long enough to understand that the Circle is not devoid of corruption. My interpretation lends that, as long as a mage does not practice what is forbidden, and is neither a risk to herself or others, their power is reminder enough without the weight of a imprisonment."

Hawke lunged at Sebastian, wrapping her arms around him in a fierce hug.

"Oh," Sebastian huffed as her embrace forced the air from his chest. He hugged her back, giving her an awkward squeeze.

"Thank-you." Hawke murmured.

"You're very welcome, Hawke." Sebastian coughed.

When Sebastian tapped her on the back again she took pity on him and retreated to her side of the carriage, suddenly too warm. She sobered, unsure of what she had meant to teach him, that he could love a mage? But he already knew that, didn't he? If not for Trevelyan, than for her. She was so used to assuming the opinion of those without magic that she had forgot to ask for it. Sebastian wasn't her enemy, and he wasn't a bigot. The love that filled her heart was a tender light she could carry with her, her friend a present reminder that things could and were looking up.

---------

It was high noon by the time the carriage pulled back under the gaze of the angelic statues before the cottage. Aveline and Fenris were sparring in a precise, collected dance - both used to the long enduring muscle fatigue of warrior training. Hawke watched them for a moment as the carriage stopped before the front of the cottage. She felt instantly better with Fenris near, and yet her stomach had flipped on itself with the anxiety of having to face him. She had decided, over the course of her adventure with Sebastian, that she owed Isabella a chance. A chance at what she wasn't sure, but she had tried with Fenris already. He had betrayed her in his own right. She was just so tired of fighting, with him, for him, against him - maybe the pirate could make her happy, if only for a little while. She wanted to try.

Sebastian stepped from the cottage, returning Aveline's nod of greeting. He offered Hawke a hand for balance.

"How was Ostwick?" Aveline asked, wiping sweat from her brow.

"It was excellent. The city is as busy as I remember."

"Dusty and stinking hot too," Hawke smiled not looking at Fenris. His evergreen eyes bore into her as she fidgeted with her sleeve. "I can't wait for a bath."

Sebastian nodded. "I'll have the servants draw the water."

"Allow me," Fenris said, sheathing his greatsword. Hawke looked up to be struck silent by his conviction, daring her to object. He was looking at her like a predator, flushed from his activity. His eyes darkened behind his damp bangs, his chin slightly tucked.

Hawke swallowed. She had to stay strong. "That's, uh, I can -"

A tiny smirk caught on the end of his plump lips. He paused before her, placing his hands on either side of her hips. The heat of them, blood rushing through his body from fighting, made her tense. "It's my pleasure," he said before leaning closer. "Or maybe it'll be yours." He moved her to the side, letting go to pass into the cottage.

Hawke could only blink, pressing her thighs together. "Oh, balls," she whispered, blushing before Aveline and Sebastian. This was going to be harder than she thought.

Chapter Text

Hawke enters the downstairs bathroom hesitantly, and then she has to rush in, closing the door behind her quickly to stop the cloud of steam from escaping. The humidity sinks into her skin immediately, the hot air thick and relaxing scented, with floral soaps. Hawke pulls off her sandals and curls her toes against the cool damp stones.

Fenris is pouring a final bucket of boiled water into the tub, which is more like a cistern embedded in the floor. He's humming to himself, a deep sound resonating from his chest. Hawke watches the flex of his lethal arms as he rights and leaves the bucket to the side. She wonders helplessly at him, content and mindful about his task. 

"I know that song," Hawke says, crossing her arms over her dress. 

"I would hope so," Fenris picks a towel from the wracks on the far wall, off-white and fluffy. He hangs it over his shoulder. "I learned it from you." He saunters around the cistern. He holds his hands out to her. 

"Fenris," Hawke warns, painfully. She counts the callouses on his palms, avoiding his eyes - to feel those strong working hands against her skin, the insides of her thighs, the curve of her back - Hawke closes her eyes. She starts when his knuckles brush against her temple. 

Fenris watches his hand slide down her face before meeting her eyes. He just looks at her, his breath soft over her lips. While there is lust there, there is something else to, someone who sees her. He hopes she sees him too.

Hawke grips his wrist gently, feeling his pulse as she pulls it away. "I don't think we should -"

"Don't you ever tire of talking," Fenris says, but there's a soft chuckle in his voice, mirth in his eyes. He takes her hands, turning them over in his. "This isn't about that."

"What -" Hawke begins, but he kisses her forehead silencing her. Her eyes close again. 

"I just want -" Fenris sighs. "I just want to take care of you, Marian. Let me take care of you." Fenris presses his forehead against hers. 

Hawke wants to fall into him. She's forgotten her 'why not' - something so innocent, something so incredibly pure of Fenris. "Okay," she says quietly. 

Fenris nods, chaffing her shoulders with something like a smile growing on his lips. "Turn around," he says. She does. He plaits her long hair down the centre and moves it over each of her shoulders. He kisses the tip of her spine, showing under the goose bumps across her skin above the zipper of her dress. The teeth of it click quietly as he slides it down her back, stopping at the dip in her back. He slips his darker hands under the top corners of the fabric, smiling at the tense of her muscles when he touches her skin, working the knots from her shoulders. Hawke murmurs as he presses his thumbs up the column of her throat, massaging from the back of her skull and back down. "You make such pretty noises," he tells her. Hawke relaxes under his hands. Fenris feels warm, proud and surprisingly normal without the churning expectancy of something deeper, darker, sexual - just innocence. 

Fenris pushes the fabric over Hawke's shoulders and it slips to the stones. He takes her hand and she steps out of it, letting him guide her to the bath. He tries not to stare as she steps into the water, tries not to check her stitches and fuss. "It's almost time for them to come out," she says anyways when she catches him. 

The water rises up over Hawke's thighs blessedly warm. It bites at her flesh as it swallows to her breasts, just a touch below her collar when she sits on the inside step of the tub. Fenris sits on the edge behind her, rolling up his leggings so his calves can rest in the water. He reaches under Hawke's arms and draws her between his legs. She giggles as she floats back into him, he smiles too. 

"Close your eyes," he hushes her, leaning her back so her hair is consumed by the water. Hawke hears the hallow muffle of the water as it rises around her face. She just floats there, feeling weightless as Fenris' fingers slip through her hair. He pulls her back and rests her head against his thigh, letting go until she smells the same floral scent of the bath oil, strong as a matching shampoo, lather into her hair as he begins to massage her scalp. His hands are gentle, careful to keep the soap from her eyes. Every now and then they slip into the water and squeeze her shoulders, her arms, her upper back. 

"Fenris," Hawke breathes, slipping to a calm place, a thick peaceful rest. She isn't sure how much time passes, a moment, an hour - his hands are perfect, he's humming her song again. She thinks she can feel him through his touch, his love, his soul. She's missed these rare tender takings of his. Her heart is warm, full. It's like she's remembering his presence, and she longs for those moments they used to have, when that was enough. How do we get back to that, Fen?

Fenris smoothes his thumbs over the worry lines that worm onto her brow. "Marian," he warns quietly. He pushes her down again, cupping her chin when he submerges the back of her head, fingers massaging the soap from her hair. 

"I was just wondering why Fenris," Hawke winces at how loud her voice sounds in her own head, underwater. "Why you're doing this..." Hawke trailed off as he drew her back, moving his fingers to her neck. "Mmmm," my but you're good at that.

"Do I need a reason, Marian?"

She mumbles a response. 

"I'd rather show you," Fenris kisses her wet head. 

"Show me what?" Hawke leans back against him, looking up at him.

"I love you," Fenris sighs.

I don't think you've ever said that out loud to me. "I'm not sure that changes anything," Hawke sighs. She reaches up and holds either side of his face. He kisses her wrist. She uses him as leverage to pull up out of the water and balance in front of him. Her face hovers inches from his. She presses her forehead against his, feeling droplets of warm water roll down her body. Fenris' eyes follow one down her neck, over her clavicle, between her breasts. "Kiss me," she begs. I just want to feel you.

Fenris hesitates. Hawke slips her tongue out lightly across his lower lip. "Just one kiss," Hawke begs. Fenris sucks her breath into his mouth, swallowing her gasp. The ferocity of it stings, but it the passion shoots through both of them. Hawke breaks it to back up, pulling him into the water. He slips with a splash and she laughs, floating back, away from him. He shakes his head, growling at her. 

"I can't touch you," he says when she pulls back up to him.

She palms his hair, pushing it away from his face. 

"I want to touch you -" Fenris' voice cuts off into a deep whine. He doesn't know how, he can't imagine hurting her again, and again. He buries his face in the crook of her shoulder. 

"I know," Hawke says, wrapping her arms around his shoulders. "I know, we'll figure it out. We'll all figure it out." 

Fenris stiffens. His grip becomes too tight, too rigid. 

"Fenris?" Hawke asks, confused. She tries to pull away but he holds on. "Fenris what's wrong?" 

"She's gone, Hawke." Fenris is ashamed when Hawke breaks free, staring at the water. 

"Whose gone?" Hawke asks, but dread is already climbing her throat. "Fenris, who is gone?!" Hawke demands. 

"Isabella," Fenris squares his shoulders, his hands almost rising to comfort her. "Isabella is gone, Hawke."

 

Chapter Text

"Gone?" Hawke wonders aloud. "What do you mean gone?" 

Fenris stands his ground before her, even though he's aware of the churning mana within her. Hawke sees his recognition as his markings shimmer, power brewing just beneath the surface. What did he think she would fight him? Would she?  "What do yoU MEAN GONE!?" she shouts. 

"GO AND SEE FOR YOURSELF!" Fenris shouts back, his rage for the pirate mingling with his growing anxiety of the situation. He knows what is coming, he had hoped to tell her quietly - he foolishly forgot Hawke was beyond his control, a storm to be waited out. 

Hawke glares at him. He reaches back and holds out the towel he'd had beside him on the ledge. Hawke snatches it up, stumbling in the weight of the water past him. She climbs out of tub, choking on a wretching nausea. Isabella couldn't be gone - she wouldn't leave. Why would she leave? Hawke manages the towel around herself and throws herself into the hall. 

Fenris doesn't follow her immediately. He pulls the lever that drains the cistern-tub, and moves to open the windows in the off-set bathroom, airing the steam. He lets the chores put distance between them. He steels his nerves as he exits, following Hawke's wet footprints. He worries his blunt nails against his palm, calming his instincts that warn him of the damned power of magic. Her wound is almost healed, she has regained some of her control. He hadn't meant to trick her, he had wanted to protect her. He wonders what allows him to keep making the same mistake. Is she not his equal?

 

 

"But she is no female. She is a respected outsider, by your own words." Fenris spoke quickly, looking for an out barely condoning the distance between Hawke and the bruiting Arishok. His mouth worked before his thoughts could catch them. If he could stall long enough to get them out of here -

"What say you, Hawke? Do you agree to a duel?" The Arishok balanced one of his great axes on his shoulder with ease, playing with his target. 

Fenris ground his teeth together. This is what the Arishok wanted all along, he thought, to put his respect for a human out of his mind, to quell his doubt of the Qun put there by realizing her as basalit-an. He had put her right within his grasp, played right into his hand. Fenris put his hand on his greatsword but Aveline's firm hand finds his shoulder. He looks at her in disbelief.

"He'll murder us all," Aveline whispers hastily, Hawke continuing her conversation with the Qunari leader. "All these people will die." 

"-So shall it be!" roared the Arishok. 

Fenris' heart hammers. Hawke is heading for the centre of the Viscounts throne room, just ahead of the Arishok - or at least he thinks she is, he can't see around the Qunari's thick shoulders, so much wider than Hawke's. His mind is screaming at him, rage threatening to conquer him. His markings flare, burning from the inside out. He takes a step forward, and cold consumes him, freezing him in place. 

Anders steps up beside him. "You can't," he says quietly. The mage eyes the surrounding Qunari warriors, some with fistfuls of noble hair, spineless patrons held on their knees below them. "You have to let her try."

Fenris shakes, trying to break free of the hold. He flexes but the hold is too strong. He can't argue, his lips glued together. He looks on in horror as Hawke pulls her staff, facing defiantly before the Arishok. There's already blood on her armour, is it that of her enemies or her own? It looks like cloth, vulnerable cotton, not even leather between her skin and this hulking man who pulls a second greataxe from his hip. 

The Arishok swings his axes in an experimental circle, each wrists rolling expertly. Hawke glances at her companions, her eyes skirting each of them. She looks wild in her trepidation, but she settles with each meeting of their eyes. Varric gives her a firm nod. Her eyes find Fenris' last. She gives him a grateful nod, like this wasn't the worst idea he had ever had. Her conviction makes his knees weak - and then Arishok lunges at her. 

Hawke means to play against the Arishok's endurance, he has strength where she as speed. Fenris is grateful for the time they've spent training together. He reminds himself of each of her attributes as the Arishok charges and she rolls out of the way, steering him into the wall where he barely manages to stop. He's furious, his knuckles slam around the hilts of his axes leaving dents in the plaster. She's agile, clever, smart -

"Is that all you've got, Arishok?" she pants. Maybe not so smart. 

The Arishok roars, charging her again. She ducks around a column almost too slow. His axes bury inches from her skull, his dripping war paint spraying across her cheeks. Fenris breath hitches, it looks too close to blood. She pulls a torrent of fire and flares it into his torso, pushing him back. He bends against it, shielding himself with his horns as he tears his axes free. She draws a fire rune behind him, flashing as he stumbles into it and throwing him backward. She's breathing hard, taking a moment to steady herself. USE THIS MOMENT! Fenris begs inwardly.

As if she's heard him, Hawke shouts viciously and charges the Arishok. His eyes glint, something like a smirk on his lips. Fenris bucks against Anders hold. The Arishok feigns left and catches her blundering staff with a sweeping elbow to the right, knocking it out of her hands in an explosion of sparks. Meril gasps behind Fenris, clutching Isabella. The Arishok grips Hawke's throat and throws her across the room. She skids to a twitching halt beside her staff. 

"Be ready," Aveline says to Varric. 

"She can still pull it off," Varric spits, but he's reaching for Bianca as the Arishok stalks towards Hawke's limp form. 

Hawke is beaten, he thinks. She's torn from head to toe, rips in her dress, blue bruises already forming on her exposed skin while the Arishok looks but out of breath. He raises his axes over his head, pulling back to the full extent of his beastly power. Fenris' vision singles into a tiny point, the images around them blurring together. But then Hawke moves, her hands sliding underneath her chest. In a blaze of red mana, her last reserve, she rolls up, a shield forming between the two of them with a deafening crack of colliding forces. Her staff finds her hand, her momentum like a dive, throwing her to the side. The first axe misses! It flies wide, grazing her at best, she twirls her staff slowly, the blade coming up and digging itself into the Arishok's throat as his second axe pounds her back done, hitting her squarely in the chest.

The Arishok's roar curdles in his throat, his knees buckle. Hawke's staff, protruding from his throat, props him for a moment - and then he falls with a quiet thump. For a moment everyone is too stunned to react. Hawke's hands, frighteningly small, grip halfway around the hilt of the axe. She cries out, pushing, letting it fall with a sucking sound beside her. The cling of the metal wakes them up. 

Varric draws his crossbow, aiming it towards one Qunari and then the next, the whole battalion too stunned to move. Aveline calls her guards around her, heading off the nobility from converging, their cheering. Anders runs forward, releasing Fenris. They're the first to make it to Hawke. Anders grips her shoulder and hauls her up. Fenris stands tensed behind him looking for another threat. Her chest is spewing a violent red light, trying to heal itself as she staggers against Anders. He almost drops her. 

"Move!" Fenris demands, sliding underneath Hawke's arm. He cups her face, drawing her eyes to his. She smiles deliriously. She's breathing, she's alive -

Meredith comes in. She's speaking, Hawke stands as tall as she can manage but Fenris won't let go. His hand keeps flexing on her waist, making sure she's still there. He can feel her slipping, she's sagging against him. Varric draws Meredith's attention and it's all Fenris can do to draw her up into his arms, fitting one under arm under her knees. 

"Fenris," she gasps, but her eyes are closing. 

"Hawke," he pulls her close, dodging the nobility towards the doors. "Stay awake, Hawke." 

"I -" Hawke goes limp against him, her figure lighter than it should be, like her soul is trying to flee her. 

"Marian!" Fenris whispers. His heart sinks into his stomach, the burning still hasn't stopped. "Marian! Can you hear me! Marian hold on!" he phases, taking her form into the ether with him as he flies out of the keep. 'Please," he begs, finally able to speak. "Stay with me!" 

 

 

 

She had hadn't she, Fenris tells himself as he follows out the back walk-out of the cottage. She had then, she had after taking off with Sebastian, and she would after this. They would get through this, somehow. Together. He could wait out her - 

"You bitch!" Hawke says, visibly shaking. She's yelling out at the see. She turns on him. "You bastard!" 

"Hawke," Fenris says, lowly. "She had to go, she thought -"

"I don't care!" Hawke shouts. "Every time! Every time I think there is something redeemable about you, about us," Hawke shakes her head and stalks towards him, lightning scratching up her bare arms. "It's always a trick! It's never real! You tricked me!"

Fenris bares her rage, a growl rumbling in his chest. "She doesn't care about either of us!"

"Do you?!" Hawke cries, angrily. "She leaves and what, you settle for me?"

"No, Hawke." 

"How could you let her go!?" Hawke runs a hand over her face in frustration, checking over her shoulder again to make sure the pirate is gone. 

Fenris didn't want to discuss it. In his mind, her running was conformation that Isabella didn't love either of them. While that hurt him, it only served to make him ever aware that the pain would be so much worse if Hawke left him. "She left so," Fenris ground his teeth together. How could he make her understand? "She left so we could be together." 

"Maybe I don't want to be with you!" Hawke curses. "Maybe I'm tired of your games and this, this pain!" Hawke claws at her chest, her towel losing around her chest. 

Fenris knows, he wants it to stop too. He sighs, defeated. He doesn't want to stop her, he doesn't want to stop them, but how could it go on? He knew he needed her, but he was an enemy to himself as much as he was to her. He couldn't help her manoeuvre an enemy he didn't yet understand- it was the Arishok all over again.

"You're not going to say anything?" Hawke asks, her voice desperately broken. "Nothing?"

There's nothing for him to say.

Hawke wipes furiously at her face, though he doesn't look to see if it's tears she's fighting. He can't see her cry again. He can't be the one who made her cry, again. Hawke shakes her hands, the lightning dying away. She stomps through the sand, the grains sticking to her wet ankles. "Maybe you should just leave too," she spits as she passes him. 

Fenris nods, but she's already closed the door with a snap. He looks out over the water. He was doomed it seemed, to fight and lose. He shook his head, determined to pack his things and free her of his company. She didn't deserve this, she deserved more - more than a slave. 

He opens the door and steps inside. He looks up, hearing a familiar fizz. A sharp light runs along the bottom of the front door - a wick, sparking to a dark lump blocking the sun from outside under the door. The crisp sting of powder hits his nose - gaatlok.

"Hawke!" Fenris shouts, but it's too late. Hawke stops on the left staircase, looking over the railing at him, incredulous. He points, "Get down!"

The spark reaches the obstruction. The door is blown backward. Hawke clutches at the railing through the wave of energy but she's thrown over it, splinters spraying towards them. She looses her grip, falling with a cry as it reaches Fenris, throwing him backward. He grabs at the space between he and the explosion, crashing through the glass doors. 

 

Chapter Text

Varric peaked over his cards, hiding his smirk as Anders fidgeted behind is own hand. The coins gathered on the table between them, reflected as a twinkle in the dwarf's eye - Anders was beat, and he knew it. 

"You know," Anders said, trying to hold on to his last moment of pride. He shifted forward in his blue armchair, one of the two they had pulled up to a table in the upstairs lounge. "Only a crazy, greedy, dwarf like you, would risk cheating a mage possessed by a virtue of bloody Justice." 

Varric raised an eyebrow at him. "I'm taking a page from Hawke's book," he shrugged, and Anders had more tells than words in this sentence. 

"You wrote Hawke's book!" Anders mock shouted, throwing his cards up in frustration. He pouted as they floated down around him. 

Varric chuckled and laid his cards on the table, of course he had the winning hand. He reached around the coins in slow motion and drew them closer to his side of the table. 

"You're not going to count them in front of me too, are you?" 

Varric met Anders' eye, picking up a handful of coins and letting each plink into a stack on the corner of the table. 

Anders rolled his eyes. "I hate you, I bloody hate you - your entire kind. I hate all dwarves. That's what you've done as an ambassador for your people. Made me hate -"

"Hawke!" Fenris shouted from downstairs. His grating tone stopped Anders, curling his hands into fists as his posture went ridged. 

"Blondie," Varric warned.

"There at it again?" Anders cursed. "Again?"

"Get down!" 

Varric turned sharply at the desperation in Fenris' voice. He saw Hawke, her red rimmed eyes appearing just over the second floor from the stairway, before time seemingly slowed. She floated up, eyes widening as clouds of dust and smoke burst behind her. Rocks popped free of the stone work, rocketing towards them as the entire front wall of the cottage was pushed inwards, blown free. Hawke reached out towards him even as she tumbled, flipping over the banister. In a towel? 

Varric grabbed the scruff of Anders' tunic and dragged him to the floor as time resumed, throwing up the table as a barricade. Coins showered around them. An overlarge piece of rubble smashed into the table, crashing it into the back of Varric's skull. Anders plowed his shoulder into the table, trying to hold it steady.

Varric shook his head, trying to clear the ringing from his ears. "Do you see anything?" he asked as Anders peaked over the table. 

Down the stairs, rays glowed through the dust where holes were left in the stonework. The ceiling had caved near the corner adjoining the front and west wall, leaving a teetering slide of haphazard rocks. One of the massive centre doors lay in splinters beside its partner, hanging kitty-corner in its framework - the only front structure left standing. 

Slowly the sound of voices shouting overrode the deafening of the blast. Thudding rumbled next, the stomping of boots as an enemy party spread out, passing over the rubble. Anders ducked as a shadow vaulted the overturned banister of the left stairway, appearing through the veil of smoke. 

"Varric!" shouted Sebastian, stumbling in from the stain glass doors on the far side of the room. 

Anders wrapped the prince in a reactionary force, pulling him to the floor as an arrow sailed over their heads, missing him by inches. It struck into the glass.

Sebastian looked up in horror as a fissure ran from the arrow, cracking upwards and down towards him. He covered his head with his forearms as the glass shattered, falling towards him in the chunks of its different stains. 

"Dirthara-ma!" Meril cursed, suddenly in the doorway of an eastern bedroom. She threw out her arms in a fury of yellow mana, halting the glass inches from the prince's back. Sebastian rolled out from under it, clearing the glass as it dropped. 

Anders shifted and threw a fireball over the table, hoping to catch anyone that might be aiming at Meril. She dove, summersaulting behind the closest couch as the sounds of burning screams found them. Sebastian threw himself upwards, dodging arrows and Meril's cover fire to Varric's side. 

"Thanks," Sebastian huffed, nodding to Anders. 

"How many are there?" Varric asked. 

"Five? Fifty? I can't tell through the smoke." 

"They're wearing emerald cloaks, serpent heraldry," Anders spat, grinding his teeth against Justice. "They're Tevene."

"Magisters?" Sebastian asked. 

Anders nodded. "At least one, maybe more. I can feel him underneath us." 

Sebastian looked down at the floor boards. "Why?"

An arrow split the wood above Varric's shoulder, its veridium head whispering a taunt in his ear. 

"Dwarf!" shouted Aveline, running by them in a flurry of orange hair. She flung Bianca and Sebastian's bow into his arms as she passed, brandishing only a short sword in one hand. With a vicious war cry Aveline whipped her sword towards the first archer, slicing the tip off his drawn arrow. The three men jolted to provide cover fire, pinning the two archers that had formed up behind the largest chunks of fallen wall. A rouge uncloaked behind Aveline, twin daggers raised high, but Anders pulled him away as he brought them down. The rouge turned, a furious expression on his face as he reached for a pouch at his hip, but Aveline's sword split through his throat. The rogue fell, blood gurgling through his lips, and Aveline turned to face another onslaught - a brute fully armoured with a body length shield. 

"We have to flank him," Sebastian cursed as his arrow rebounded off of the brute's helmet. It was true, curling serpents and similar dragon-like creatures curled up the man's veridium plates, marking him as Tevene. 

Varric nodded, darting out from behind the table in time with Anders. He shot at a woman who came charging up the right stairway. She twirled around his first arrow but her scowl faltered as the second buried in her chest. Varric levered the back spike from Bianca and pierced it into her side for good measure. Varric aimed at the brute as he drove his shield into Aveline's shoulder. She cried out and stumbled backward.

"Hey!" Varric shouted. His arrow glanced off the tip of the brute's shield as Aveline recovered. Varric saw a peice of the man's green tunic glimpse between the plates at his hip as the brute was distracted by Aveline again. "Common baby," Varric whispered. He shot and the arrow sailed, slicing into his mark. "Bullseye!" he shouted as the man crumpled, giving Aveline the room to sever his head from his body. 

"Hawke!" Aveline called, now near where the Champion had been thrown over the banister. Two more brutes came, digging boots against loose rubble as a reply. 

"Where are they coming from!?!" Meril cried, firing fists of stone at the brutes. Sebastian leant his arrows to her assault. 

"The same place all ignorant blood mages come from!" Anders seethed casting a rejuvenation aura over Aveline as she defended against one brute with a two-handed axe. "Aren't you familiar with where that is?"

"Now is not the time!" Aveline ordered, bulking against the weight of the greataxe. She leaned back and kicked the brute square in the chest. He tumbled, bending backwards over the banister. Aveline plunged her sword into his midsection. It stuck in the wood underneath him. Aveline heaved against the hilt but it wouldn't come free. 

"Look out!" 

Aveline gripped either side of the banister and vaulted herself over it, hearing but not quite registering the slice of the blade behind her as she fell. She hit a pile of rocks, meaning to roll with a measure of grace, but they shifted beneath her, casting her rolling to the bottom. Someone reached out and caught her forearm, digging nails in to pull her back behind the rubble from open ground. 

"How many fingers am I holding up?" asked a blurry face. It waved a hand above Aveline, slowly coming into focus. Hawke smirked down at her, blood splattered up the right side of her face and dripping from her hairline. Aveline smacked her hand away and pushed herself up against the rubble. "Not a fun fall, am I right?"  

"Shut up, Hawke," Aveline growled, but the relief in her voice was plain. "What have you got us into now?"

"Me?" asked Hawke, clutching the towel around her chest to peak around the rubble. "Why is it always my fault?!"

"Because it is always your fault." 

There were fallen bodies on both sides of the rubble, all soldiers Hawke had managed to fell on her own. Some were burned, some were frozen, some were partially pulled apart - there must have been ten bodies on the marble floor behind their position, which Hawke must have fought to. Aveline kicked out and heeled a cast away shield. It was silver plated with a wood back. The weapons - swords, axes, even maces - were all out of reach. 

"Allow me," said Hawke. Her eyes flooded with red mana, hands coming ablaze as the scattered weapons from the fallen rose up, shivering as they hung in the air. Hawke grunted as she forced them towards the enemy line, one catching in the rubble beside Aveline, the others speeding out of sight. Men and women hollered between the squelch and shatter of metal against flesh and barricades.

Aveline pulled the stuck mace out of the rock and leaned up onto the balls of her feet in a crouch. She swung it in a circle to test its weight. "Do you know how many there are?" 

"No, " Hawke panted, supporting herself on the rubble. "But I say they all die." 

Aveline shook her head. "Where's Fenris?"

Hawke glanced sideways towards the beach. Aveline noted the shattered remains of the glass walkout. "We took the brunt of the blast," Hawke whispered. "I haven't been able to get to him - he hasn't come forward." 

"He'll be fine, Hawke." Aveline said firmly. "One thing at a time." 

Hawke nodded, amber eyes hardening. A soldier stepped from beside the rubble and Hawke snapped her fingers over Aveline's brow, sending the soldier into a deep horror. She screamed, scratching at her face, her emerald cloak whipping about her in her panic. Moments later, an arrow pierced her from the back, a mercy killing from an enemy solider at the front of the cottage. Aveline suppressed a shiver. 

"Hawke!" Varric called from over the banister above them. "We need to get behind them! There aren't enough offensive players in this game!" 

"I know!" Hawke yelled back, cursing Isabella again for leaving. "Do you think you can get me up there?" she asked Aveline. "Into the centre? I might be able to cast a mass sleeping spell if I can get close enough."

Aveline nodded. 

"Varric, we're going to push our way in!" 

"What are you crazy?" Varric disappeared, ducking under an arrow one way and a fireball the other. 

"Rhetorical question." Hawke whispered taking Aveline's shoulder. 

"On three," the warrior breathed. She set the shield before them. "One, two -" Aveline drove out into the oncoming fire, Hawke clutching at her from behind. The two women dashed headlong towards the enemy line. Hawke shoved out right from behind Aveline as the warrior went left, coming upon the row of debris that was what was left of the front wall of the cottage. Vaulting over on either side of the now burning remains of the front doors, Hawke pulled two archers together, dropping her towel as she used both hands and cracking their skulls against each other. She spun to reign chain lighting over the next line of assailants. Aveline did similar damage. She swept the legs out from one man before catching the arrows of four others with her shield. With a roar, she splinted the shafts of the arrows sticking from her shield and charged the archers, trampling them one by one. They ended up back to back, Aveline covering Hawke as she prepared her spell. Hawke swept her arms around to cast, then stopped short when she realized there was no one left to fell.

Aveline caught movement from the corner of her eye. "Mage!" she shouted, just as a volley of ice spikes rocketed from behind the statue. Hawke drew up a wall of ice catching the spikes in one movement, before shattering it all with the next. She drew her hands behind her and pushed out, crying bloody murder as a firestorm rained down around the statue. Straightening with a smug expression, Hawke and Aveline watched as molten balls cratered the grass around the statue, casting anything left into ashes. When it was over, nothing came forward. 

"Well," Anders coughed coming up behind them with the others. "That was -" The head of the statue dislodged from its neck, crumbling over its' charred shoulders and landing with a thick thunk. "Exactly."

"I'm glad you're on our side," Meril said pointedly, better voicing Anders' thoughts. "Or we're on yours. Is it both?"

"It's both, Daisy," said Varric, shaking his head. "And we all agree."

Hawke gave the dwarf a large grin. "That felt amazing," she told them rolling her shoulders. Her power had been cooped up too long, finally she had had an outlet.

"Maker!" Sebastian huffed, turning around even as he crested the rubble. He covered his eyes to banish any further temptation to stare at Hawke, standing proud, bloody and naked before them.

Varric laughed, picking up her towel and handing it to her. "I'm going to have to tell this one Hawke. Blood, guts, and you naked? Can you say crowd pleaser?"

Hawke was in too good a mood to bulk at his idea. "Is everyone alright?" 

Meril nudged the boot of a soldier at her feet. "Everyone but them."

"The real question is, why would a bunch of men from Tevinter come looking for us? In Ostwick, of all places?" asked Sebastian, rubbing his neck. He looked up at the remains of the last of his family's legacy. "Maker, why this destruction?"

"Why do magisters come hunting anything?" sighed Anders. "They're blood thirsty -"

"What did you say?" Hawke asked, chills snaking down her back. She blinked rapidly.

"I said -"

"Hunting. Magisters -" Hawke whispered. Cold dread swallowed up her euphoric adrenaline. She turned, stumbling over her feet before vaulting over the debris and sprinting across the burning doors. Idiot! she thought, Stupid, stupid girl! "Fenris!" 

Hawke tripped, her feet sliding against the scattered glass at the rear of the cottage. Sand gritted into the cuts the pieces made on the bottoms of her feet as she fell onto the beach. "Fenris!" she cried, searching the horizon. Two soldiers lay dead in the sand, bleeding it to mud. The beach was torn up around them, many different pairs of boots stomped into the sand. One wide length of men, their boot prints marking their arrival, had marched around the cottage to the dead. Another marched pattern, less wide, fewer men, lead out. "No, no, no, no, no -" 

A length of red fabric was tied to the under column of the balcony, nearest to the back doors. Parchment was rolled neatly behind its knot. Hawke clawed up the column, whispering against what she knew it would read. It was his favour, her favour to him, the ribbon from her red dress. Hawke rolled open the parchment, almost ripping it as she clutched the ribbon in her hand. 

Varric found her standing like that, one hand fisted around the parchment, the other clutching the ribbon. Her shoulders were tense but calm, like a waiting storm, calculating the necessary casualties of its wake. She knew he was there, watching. She held out the parchment without looking at him. 

Varric hesitated. He knew the dark points of a plot when he saw them, the turning of a tide into worse territory than had come before. He wasn't sure he wanted to write more misery into this story. He took the parchment with a sigh.  

 

Champion, 

Thank-you for bringing one of my most prized, and special possessions so close to home. It's been some time since delivery and pick-up were so simple. In gratitude for your helping transport him to where he belongs, I will send no one further to punish you for keeping things that do not belong to you. I suspect your failure will suffice as punishment enough. Fear not, I'll take very good care of him. My lovely Fenris cannot miss what he does not remember.

Yours, 

D

 

"We'll get him back, Hawke," Varric said as he reread the letter for any notion of where they had taken him.

"I know," Hawke said, too light, expressionless. "Because we always get back the people I love, right?" 

Chapter Text

Varric found her standing like that, one hand fisted around the parchment, the other clutching the ribbon. Her shoulders tense but calm, like a waiting storm, calculating the necessary casualties of its wake. She knew he was there, watching.

Varric carefully followed Hawke back inside, a sense of deja vu tickling the back of his mind. The two servants who had come with them to the cottage stood just inside. The woman was bent, sweeping glass into a wide dustpan. The man, or just barely so it looked like, stood beside her shivering, but holding a trash bin for the shards.

Varric spoke to distract himself from the memory. “Are you two okay?”

The woman started, wide hazel eyes darting from behind loosely curled blond hair. “Yes, messere,” she said quickly.

“We’re so sorry, messere, we hid in the back –“ the young man choked, his hands shaking violently. “Like rats, like –“

“It’s okay junior,” Varric patted him on the shoulder. He looked over his own to Hawke, who stood still in her towel speaking lowly with Anders. “There’s no need to apologize. Better to leave the bad guys for the professionals.”

“Is there anything we can do, messere?” asked the woman, standing.

Varric nodded. “Leave that,” he took the dustpan from the woman. “Go to the kitchens and pack for us what you can. Keep the packs small, one for each of us."

“Yes, messere.”

“Pack for yourself and the boy as well, enough for your journey back to Kirkwall. You’ll take the carriage, if it survived the blast.”

“Enough, Anders!” Hawke snapped.

Varric nodded to the servants and hurried back to Hawke’s side. She met his eyes briefly, the last of her patience firming the muscles in her jaw. “They’re going to pack up,” he told her.

Anders crossed his arm over his chest, his hair pulled from his ponytail in a mess around his face. “Ridiculous,” he said looking away.

“We’d do the same for you,” Hawke whispered harshly.

“You’re not strong enough to be running off –“

“I just fought off a small army.“ Hawke sighed in exasperation.

“ – on a suicide mission for a man who doesn’t even love you back!” Anders ground out. Hawke’s dedication to Fenris was infuriating, he would never understand it. He couldn’t help but see someone who enjoyed being kicked over and over again, without learning their lesson. He had been that way once - in the circle tower, as a warden. It was a hard lesson to learn on your own, so help him he would help her understand it.

Hawke took a deep breath and looked up at the ceiling. “You can come with us Anders, or you can go back to Kirkwall.”

“Some people, Hawke,” Anders took a step closer to her, his hands hovering over her shoulders helplessly. He let them fall back to his sides. “You need to let them go, why can you never let anyone go?” Anders looked at Varric for support.

“For your sake Blondie, I hope we never have to have the same conversation about you,” Varric stood a little straighter – but he had to admit, Anders made a good point. He could trust Anders, most of the time. Aveline had come with Hawke from Ferelden, so she passed too. Sebastian tried to be moral to a fault. Meril even made the cut, counting that any betrayal she might make would probably be misinterpreting something and causing an accident. Broody though, he had too many ghosts. A single passion could drive a man mad, look at what had happened to Bartrand. Fortunately or not, Hawke wasn’t one to play favourites, and she wasn’t as sane as the rest of them – not when it came to self-preservation.

Anders shook his head. “Fine,” he said. “Fine. Point taken. Feral dog, feral mage. Let’s save them all. Consequences be dammed.” Anders glared at Varric. “For the record, I told Hawke to stay away from me when we met. I told her it was dangerous to keep me, that she would be better off leaving me to my fate. I wouldn’t want her to come get me if I was –“

“We would do it anyways, Anders,” Hawke explained tiredly. “That’s friendship.”

“No Hawke, this is friendship. Me; trying to heal your bloody feet. You; bringing snacks to my clinic. That’s friendship. Going after some asshole who will probably end up back as a slave because he can’t get over it anyways? That’s sadism.”

Aveline grunted as she pushed herself over the front wall, scattering some of the smaller stones. She rolled her shoulders, wincing as she approached. “I didn’t find anything out there Hawke, not even on the magister.”

Varric took a step closer to Hawke, close enough that he could feel the heat over her bare arm through his leather jacket. Waves of tension rolled off of her. She was a hero, not a battle captain. He could only imagine the plans rolling through her mind, the pros and cons of each, the insecurity that came with being a leader. It made him glad it wasn’t his decision.

“I can scout up the road, see if I can find something...” Aveline offered, but she didn’t seem hopeful. She looked at Varric.

Why does everyone keep looking at me? he wondered, watching the red ribbon flutter as Hawke pinched the bridge of her nose. The memory nipped at him again.

Sebastian trotted down the east stairwell, which had remained mostly intact. He came carrying a fleece blanket. “I found something,” he said wrapping the blanket around Hawke’s shoulders. She blinked, as if remembering she was still mostly naked. Sebastian held her eye for a moment, then nodded. “Here,” he said, holding out a tattered piece of parchment to Varric.

He took it. The runes on the inside were dwarven, scripted in the merchant guild’s code. “It’s a receipt,” Varric said slowly. “Four horses, two for a trailer-wagon, a trapping cage –“ Varric winced slightly at that. “That’s great Choir Boy, but what use is it? From Carter’s Caches? So we know where they’ve been –“

“There were no horses or trailers outside,” said Aveline. “They came on foot, I’m sure of it.”

“So what, they had them stored further back for their getaway?” Anders shrugged. “Why keep the receipt?”

The group stood quietly for a moment. Sebastian frowned wearily at Hawke who twirled the ribbon between her fingers. The blood at her crown had clotted, matting her hair to the side of her face. “Hawke, maybe you should get cleaned –“

“Unless it’s a proof of payment slip,” she cut him off, looking up. “Unless they meant to pick up the items from Cater’s Caches after they had their charge.” Hawke looked to Varric with bright eyes.

"I don't know, Hawke -"

"Do you have a better lead?" Hawke waggled her eye brows up and down. She cocked her ear to him, and Varric was lost for an excuse. 

"I've heard of the shop before, I know where it is," Sebastian nodded, "It's something."

"In Ostwick?"

"Close to there, yes."

"Pigeon your girlfriend Bash," Hawke ignored the puzzled expressions of her friends at the term. "Tell her I'll be cashing that favour sooner than expected. We'll need her contacts, we're as good as blind out here. I want eyes on that shop."

Sebastian nodded, turning to go without further questions. He was eager to see his friend safe as well, no small amount of guilt clenching in his gut. How many hours ago was it that he has wanted Hawke to move on from Fenris? How easily he had forgotten his friend's tragic past - who was he to judge him?

Hawke watched Sebastian's back as he went, wanting to move herself. "Aveline, scout up ahead," she said looking out at the sea, watching the last rays of daylight being torn away from her. She wanted to leave now, but they wouldn't get anywhere in the dark. She snatched the receipt from Varric's hand.  "Scout far enough to be sure there aren't any fresh tracks that might have been these things. Be sure," she stressed, looking up from the runes she couldn't read. "Please." 

Aveline nodded. She rolled her shoulder again and left.

"Anders, find Meril. Repair what you can of this place." Hawke met the mage's eye but couldn't hold it. "And make up your mind," she said, slapping the receipt into his hand. She moved past him. "We leave at dawn."  

Varric followed Hawke towards the right stairway. "Hawke," he called, dodging her bloody footprints. 

"Not now, Varric." Hawke hurried away from him, bounding up the stairs. 

"Hawke!" Varric called, putting a hand on the banister. She didn't stop, she disappeared onto the second landing. "Damnit Hawke," Varric cursed. He manuvered the stairs more carefully, avoiding the loose debris. One of the steps had cracked, dislodging half of it's thick marble setting. It would take them forever to get this place cleaned up. He should check on Sebastian. He put the prince on his list of 'check-in-on's as a vision of Hawke, standing before her fireplace formed in his mind. "Look what you reduce me to, kid," Varric sighed, succumbing to the memory. 

It was late, and it was raining, and there were many, many other places he could be - but he was standing on the front step of the Amell mansion instead. Not that he minded that. Hawke had, after all, traveled into the Deep Roads and saved him from the wrath of his brother, at the cost of her own brother. She had also made him a very, very rich dwarf. He was just thinking there were a thousand other places he could be - Maker save them all. 

Varric knocked three times. Three loud squashes, wet spraying off his leathers. What was he doing here? He shook his wrist wicking the last of the water from his sleeve. He was not the person for this job. Varric clenched his fists - he turned to leave. 

"Messere?" Bodhan asked pulling open the front door. He flinched when a rain drop plummeted onto his nose. 

"Ah, Bodhan, my well beard-styled man," Varric spread his arms wide not missing a beat. "I was beginning to think there wasn't anyone home!"

"Apologies messere," Bodhan stood aside so Varric could cross the threshold. "Messere Hawke has retired for the night." 

Varric cocked his head to the side. "She has?" he asked. Hawke didn't seem like the turn-in and forget about it type. Actually, she seemed just the opposite, that was why he was here, away from his winning hand of Wicked Grace. "Than why are you -"

"She told me no visitors but I can see you just won't take no for an answer, messere," Bodhan helped Varric out of his coat. "Very unorthodox, this late hour, but I'd not soon meet the wrong end of that fancy crossbow." Bodhan all but shoved Varric towards the front hall. 

Varric heard foot steps on stairs as Bodhan disappeared into an alcove, using servant passages. "Well then," Varric cleared his throat. "Good." This was what he wanted. He wanted to talk to Hawke. One on one. He owed her that, didn't he? He could be there for someone, as a friend. Varric nodded to himself to set his thoughts, and stepped into the front hall. 

He could not be there for someone as a friend. Varric all but wilted at the sight of Hawke, one arm cushioning her forehead over the fire as she looked at a red ribbon wrapped around her fist. There were tears on her cheeks. One fell and sizzled in the dying fire. He didn't know how to do this. But that feeling, the feeling that came with seeing her distraught - not big and theatrical like others might be, but soft and small and hunched into a ball of pain - the feeling that hit him like a ton of bricks? That was how he knew he was done for - he, Varric Tethras, had a friend. Whether or not he could be, he supposed, was a mute point. 

Varric weighed forward on his heels and back before spotting the whiskey and glass tumblers on Hawke's desk. Silently, he crossed and filled them. What to say, what to say, how was he lost for words right now? "Rough night, eh champ?" That was not what he should have said. Varric bit the inside of his mouth as he set the glass stopped back in the whiskey. Varric turned at Hawke's sniff, tumblers in hand. "Common Hawke," he held up a glass for her. "Have a drink."

Hawke's eyes were the colour of the firelight reflected in the glass. "I haven't been crying," she said, taking the glass. 

"No?" Varric smirked, sipping his whiskey. The redness around her eyes said something to the contrary. "I didn't think so. Rumour has it you don't. Not even when you stub your toe." 

"And it's dragon blood tears if I do." Hawke drained her glass.

"Something like that." Varric took Hawke's glass to refill it. "Do you want to -"

"If you say 'talk about it', dwarf. So help me." 

"But you do." Varric handed her another glass. 

Hawke drained the second shot like it was water. "Of course I do, I'm a human being aren't I?"

"Humans do tend to be rather emotional." 

Hawke smirked a little at that and Varric's heart lifted. 

"This is where you tell me he's not worth it. I'll find someone else. Common bestie, what have you got?" Hawke moved to refill her own glass this time. 

Best friend? Varric thought. He downed his own glass. He was in further over his head than he thought. "You're asking the guy whose in love with a crossbow?"

Hawke shrugged and popped up on her desk, beside the whiskey. "Bianca and I have been planning to run away together for months now. You can have Fenris." 

Varric chuckled and sat in the desk chair across from Hawke. She reached over and refilled his glass, swinging her feet a little as she did. 

"It'd be easier to talk about if I could make sense of my own thoughts." Hawke swirled her glass, staring into it for answers. "It's like every little thing is a siren in my mind. It feels weak, purposeless. But there's no job to push it away right now, nothing that needs doing. So it just sits there and eats at me."

Varric knew what that was like. He remembered going back and forth, waring against the reasons why Bartrand betrayed them. 

"And it's not even about me being upset. It's about her not being the one for him. But then I think if she was, would I be selfless enough to let her be?" Hawke gulped her whiskey. "I don't really care about me, Varric. Is that bad? I don't care, not really. I just want - I just want him, you, Anders, Aveline, Meril, Bash -" Hawke paused. "Even Isabella. I just want you to be happy." 

Varric swallowed hard, disguising his voice with whiskey. He knew then that Hawke was dear to him. Her compassion made his heart ache. Her words hit too close to home. They were so similar to things he had told himself. About his mother, his father, even his brother. If only he could be enough to make them happy - it was like looking at a version of his younger self, reflected in her eyes - he still felt guilty for giving that up. He'd never let her give up. 

"Of course I could do with a little myself," Hawke laughed, feigning nonchalance. She pulled up hard when he didn't respond, afraid of going too deep. 

"We know, Mar," Varric said quietly. He wasn't sure it was true, but he didn't care. He cared about her. 

"I know it's wrong to have so little drive left for myself. But with everyone gone, it just feels like it's the only thing that's worth anything, you know? Other people's happiness - when mine might be so far out of reach." Hawke shook her head and sighed. "I sound like a broken record I'm sure." 

Varric snorted and filled their glasses for the last time, the whiskey draining to the last drop. 

"I know if I have demons of my own, demons like that. Dark -" Hawke finished her whiskey. "I can't expect to help him. I can't expect to understand the awful, terrible things that happened to him. I can't figure out his demons, if I have my own. I've just got this nagging suspicion that we're supposed to figure them out together." Hawke looked up at Varric, burning from the inside. Varric had the slightest notion there was no way he could understand the complexity of the woman before him, should he be so lucky. But she was a hero, that was the way heroes were. That's what made them heroes, and now he knew it for sure. "That's why it hurts so damn much."

Hawke's hand slipped on the corner of the desk and she fell forward. Varric shot up and caught her, but her height sent them sprawling onto the ground in front of the fire. Hawke erupted into a fit of laughter, the warmth of the fire and the whiskey banishing the shadows that had been creeping up on her. Varric laughed too, harder listening to her laughter. They rolled around on the ground like two fools on King's Day, completely unabashed in each other's company. 

And that was what had Varric chasing after Hawke as the sun disappeared. He knew, in some weird way he could sense it. He pushed open Hawke's bedroom door, the squeal of the hinges alerting her of his presence so he didn't sneak up on her. She sat at the edge of her bed, the same expression as that night plain on her face - just as he'd known it would be. 

Varric sighed audibly, trying and failing to disperse the tension. He kneeled in front of her and took her hands in both of his, hiding the red ribbon. 

"What?" she sniffed with a false laugh, meeting his eyes for the briefest of moments. "I thought I told you 'not now', you crazy nug." 

"Only dwarves are allowed to use nug references, Hawke."

"I think I've earned a little dwarven cursing putting up with you all these years." 

"Stop it," Varric said, pulling her chin to look back at him. 

"Stop what?" Hawke asked, her bottom lip trembling. 

"Stop thinking about all the ways this could go wrong. We'll get him back, Mar." 

"I don't know what you mean, messere dwarf," Hawke smiled. It was a tiny thing, but it was a start. 

"Well then listen extra hard because I know everything, ask anyone in Kirkwall," Varric squeezed her hand. "Fenris is one of us, Hawke. He doesn't get out of this," Varric drew a circle between them. "All this crazy nug shit, without at least making it up to me." 

Hawke laughed. "Making it up to you?"

"Exactly. Do you have any idea how much I have invested in his story line?" Varric stood, pulling Hawke with him. "At least what Anders has invested in paintings of cats, if not more. He has to get a happy ending. The hero always gets the guy." 

"You're insane, Varric." Hawke laughed. 

"That makes two of us." Varric smacked Hawke's ass as he pushed her past towards the stairs. He might have been pushing it with that, but damn if there wasn't anything better than seeing light in that girl's eyes. "Now go and get yourself cleaned up. Then rested up. And let's go get our guy." It wasn't much, but it was the least he could do. 

Hawke paused at the edge of the stairwell. She opened her mouth, but Varric cut her off. 

"I know, Hawke." Varric said. I love you too. "Don't go ruining it with words." 

"Rich, coming from you." Hawke laughed again. "Anders," she called bluntly. "Come fix my stupid feet you angsty ass!" 

Varric watched Hawke descend. "That's my girl," he said. He turned. "Now where's the other one? Daisy!"

Chapter Text

Fenris had fought. He had shouted, and rioted and given into his lyrium markings, again and again until -

"Come peacefully elf," said one of the magister's guards. He was heaving, his breath in hot pants. He released one hand from his greatsword to point over his shoulder. "Or the girl dies." 

Fenris looked at him, incredulous. He held his sword pointed at three more guards, easily taken down. He would cut them in two and this would all be over. Then he allowed himself to look over the man's shoulder. 

Two guards, the green tint of their armour glimmering in the mid day sun, stood above Hawke. Her chestnut hair was splayed over the rubble of the blast, knocked unconscious by it. If she were awake, she would destroy them, but she just lay there, strewn amongst the rubble. 

"Do it now, or she dies!" shouted the lead guard. 

Fenris chanced a glance at Hawke. Wake up, he pleaded. She looked so helpless, a towel against steel. Please, Hawke! he begged. She didn't stir. He wished his thoughts could pass through the glass of the cottage. 

"I won't ask again."

Fenris took a deep breath. His body might have acted against him, might have tried to take them before they took Hawke, because he couldn't imagine coming under magister chains again. But his stupid heart, the same one that clouded his judgement enough to push her away with memories, held his body at bay.

Fenris lowered his sword. 

"Good elf," said the guard, even as the others hesitated. "Take him," he ordered. 

Fenris committed Hawke's face to memory, even as the bravest guard moved behind him. I love you, he thought as he watched the guard raise the pommel of his sword. He couldn't decide which feature to commit to memory. He could only think of what she would feel when he woke. Forgive me for abandoning you, he thought as the pommel struck his skull - the rest was black. 

He woke cold. He flexed his fingers against a drug that felt all too familiar. His thoughts were dull, slow, just as the burn of his tattoos. He remembered suddenly that he used to worship the use of this drug, if even to end the constant agony he endured in Danarius' presence. 

Fenris sucked in a gasp. His heart started racing, too fast to comprehend under the fog of the drug. Panic attacked him. His breath came in short pulls as his blood turned to ice. 

Fenris raised a white lit hand to the closest wall of his prison. Wood - maybe a crate. His knees were drawn up to his chest, but there was no room to stretch out. He pushed the balls of his feet against the furthest wall. There was a creak in the sway of the wood, even as he swayed up and down with the movement of transport. It was pitch black. 

"No," he groaned hoarsely. He pushed harder into the wood, hoping it would give. 

"I think he's waking up," came a voice from outside. 

"That's not possible," said another. "He should be out for hours." 

Where were they taking him? Fenris kicked out but the drugs kept him fromm doing any real damage. He flexed his tattoos, hoping to phase through the material, but they didn't respond. 

"I swear there's something going on in there." 

"Just keep moving, we'll be there soon enough. We can drug him again there."

"We shouldn't be stopping at all," said a voice, it was farther than the last.

Fenris hoped he was actually trapped, he couldn't tell if he couldn't just open his eyes. 

"We should've taken the whole place down around them."

"We follow the magister's orders."

"Some orders, facing the Champion of Kirkwall, could've given us some notice."

"Would you have taken the job if you knew?"

Fenris clenched his fists to save his strength. He would bide his time. He would break free. His breath almost came under control. 

"No, she'll kill us all by the end of this."

Fenris almost smiled. 

"No, we'll kill her by night's end."

Fenris lost control. His breaths too fast. He succumbed to darkness again. 

 

Chapter Text

Hawke woke with a start, white knuckles grasping the end of the chaise lounge. The first lights of dawn prodded through the gap where the stain glass windows of the lobby room had shattered. Hawke shivered, pulling her robe closer around her shoulders against the draft. She didn't remember falling asleep. She felt like she hadn't slept at all. 

Hawke pulled herself up, grimacing against the ache in her chest. Her bones felt like sandpaper under her skin. If the others asked, she was ready, but yesterday's battle had drained her more than she had realized. Even maneuvering gingerly to her quarters left her out of breath. 

The mage passed through the doorway of her chambers. They were somehow untouched by the battle. Her bed was just the way she had left it, tightly made when she woke to find Fenris wasn't there. That didn't matter now.  

"I'm coming Fenris," Hawke whispered. She pulled open the drawers of the dark dresser. Her armour lay neatly folded on top.

Hawke stepped first into her navy tights, then her matching undershirt. She paused when she looked down, scrunching her nose against the smell of recently treated leather.

A pair of bracers lay wrapped in a red ribbon atop her leathers. They were a rich black, matching her torso piece and pants. Three small topaz gems set in gold coins rimmed the pointed cuff of the elbow. Each was tied in by careful thatch work. 

"Bella," Hawke breathed. She untied the ribbon, lifting the right bracer to inspect it. A rolled piece of parchment was stuck inside. 

I've a lot to repay, and I'm shit at saying thank-you, properly, it read in looping scrawl. I saw these on our ride up. This makes us square for that ship in a bottle. If you're still not talking to me when you find these, consider them the first in a long line of boons you've earned from me bird-ling. 

The parchment trembled in Hawke's grasp. A tear dropped onto the corner, and Hawke started. She fisted the parchment and swiped at her eyes. She took a deep breath a moved to the table beside her bed. Varric had left a quill and ink there, from when he had stood watch over her.

Hawke flattened out the parchment. With shaking hands she picked the quill and dipped it into the ink. 

They've taken Fenris, she wrote on the back of Isabella's note. She failed to stop her tears from landing on her words. Hawke sniffed harshly, commanding herself straight. I'll get him back. 

Hawke wanted to write more. She wanted to ask questions, she wanted to demand answers. Hawke moved to the balcony and whistled through the open door. A pigeon landed on the broken ledge. She held out her hand and it came to her. She slipped the parchment into the band on it's leg. Red mana turned the bird's eyes red. 

"Find her," Hawke commanded. She released the bird to return to her dressing. This was not the time for goodbyes. 

Hawke slipped into her sleeveless chain mail dress and buckled her leather pants. She fitted the leather corset over the mail and tied the bracers onto her forearms. She ignored how the sunlight played over the coins. She fetched her cape and her staff and headed downstairs. 

Outside, her companions and the servants stood with five steads. 

Varric nodded to Hawke as she came towards them. 

"The attack scattered the horses," Aveline told Hawke. She looked down from her painted mount, the horse still beneath her. Aveline always looked right on horseback, even regal. She had raised horses on her family's ranch in a different life. "We'll have to make due with what we have."

Hawke nodded, trying to pair horses with riders. Her eyes fell to Anders. "You've made up your mind then?"

Anders set his jaw. "No." 

Hawke rolled her eyes and placed her hand on her hip. "No you haven't made up your mind, or no you're not coming?"

"No, I'm not coming with you on a fool's -"

"Alright!" Hawke clapped, silencing him. "You'll escort our fine employees home," Hawke nodded to the servants, the boy squinted at her in the dawn light. "Take a horse to carry your packs and what-not." 

"Hawke -" 

"I'm tired, Anders." Hawke sighed. "If you're going, go. Hopefully none of us get fatally wounded while you're off throwing a tantrum." 

Anders bristled but closed his mouth. He shook his head and moved towards the servants with the tanned horse he had saddled. 

"Sebastian, you take that big boy," Hawke nodded to the most restless horse. His royal upbringing would him help settle and control the beast. "Meril, you'll ride with me." Hawke took the reigns of a white horse from Aveline.

"Then it's you and me, gorgeous," Varric said to the smallest, painted horse. He pulled him to the statue's severed head and used it to climb onto the horse's back.

Hawke helped Meril up onto her horse, breathing through her teeth when her chest pulled like tearing fabric. She clenched her fists against the side of the horse, waiting for the pain to subside. 

"Are you alright, Hawke?" Meril asked.

Anders paused, saddle between his arms. 

Hawke met his eye under her arm. "Fine," she grunted. She threw her foot into the stirrup and ripped herself up to settle behind Meril. 

"Evelyn sent word," Sebastian said as the group formed up on the bridge. "We're to meet her where the river meets the sea outside of Ostwick. She said Carter's Cache is just on the outskirts." 

"We ride fast," Hawke replied. "We get there today."

Sebastian nodded. "Hah!" he spurred. Varric and Aveline followed quickly after. 

"Hawke," Meril stopped her friend from taking the reigns with a firm hand on her bracer. "You're bleeding, I can sense it." 

Hawke met the elf's too large eyes. "There will be time for healing later," she smiled weakly. Hawke squeezed the horse below them. "Hah!" 

Chapter Text

Cater's Cache was a rustic shop, set aside on a large yard just outside of Ostwick. Carriages, many without wheels, waited to be repaired in uneven numbers out front of it. Trapping cages of all sorts, sizes and materials, were stacked on either side of its entrance.  

Isabella sauntered past a number of questionable patrons, browsing outside. Their tattooed faces ignored her, used to the look of a pirate among them. They bartered instead with assorted men in soiled white aprons throughout the yard.

She noticed one lot stood out from the rest. Three men, more clean cut than the rest. One, obviously the leader with his thick veridium plate armour, gripped the bars of a rusted cage just shorter than he was. He shook it, testing its strength. The frown lines in his face twitched as if he might smile. She noticed a Tevene looking symbol on his hip, blazed in emerald green. 

"Not my problem," Isabella whispered before passing into the shop. 

The interior wood was rotting, nails slipping through at odd angles around tackle and rusted anchors. Isabella took out her list and approached the slouching counter. 

"What'll it be today?" asked a leathery woman, appearing from a dark hallway. Her right eye was an opaque white. She wiped her hands on her apron and leaned into the counter. 

"I need everything on this list, sweetness," Isabella purred, placing her parchment down. "And a map, if you have one."

"A map?" asked the shopkeeper. "A map to where?"

"Anywhere will do." 

The shopkeeper muttered under her breath. She disappeared to collect the pirate's wares. 

Isabella turned and leaned her elbows against the counter, careful of the splinters. The Tevene men from outside, entered with another shopkeeper. Isabella pushed off the counter and moved to browse the anchors on the wall. She wandered closer to them, curiosity getting the better of her. 

"I was told you had an enchanter as well," said the leader. His voice was gruff, nerves heavy underneath it. 

"He's out sick," said the shopkeeper. "Ain't nothin' I can do about it." 

"There must be someone else, in town perhaps?"

"No one better than our enchanter, not for what you're looking for."

"That's not good enough," said the Tevene man behind the leader. 

The room was suddenly tense.

"It's going to have to be, son." A moment of silence pushed the shopkeeper. "Don't know what you're worried about anyhow, ain't nothin' gettin' out of those bars. That's twin folded steel, and at a sale price. Ain't nothin' but a dragon is breaking out."

"We're not worried about a dragon," muttered the underling again. 

"What was it you boys said you were transporting again?" the shopkeeper leaned forward. "What are you doing all this way from home anyways?"

Isabella turned her back to the men when the third cast his eyes towards her. 

"A dangerous fugitive," said the leader under his breath. "Nothing we can't handle, of course."

"Of course," nodded the shopkeep. Isabella could feel his eyes on her back. "Tell you what, give me half now, you take the cage and when you get 'im secured back home you can send me the rest. Just to be sure." 

The leader grunted and Isabella heard the thunk of coins on the countertop.

"Girl, come collect your wares," said the woman shopkeeper, returning with three wrapped bundles. 

Isabella watched the men even as she dropped a bag of coins onto the counter to be counted. They didn't spare her a second glance as they left. 

"Keep the change," Isabella said, gathering the bundles and following the men outside. She caught a glimpse of the group as they disappeared around the outer gate, the two underlings carrying the steel cage between them. Something was off about them, she couldn't quite place it. 

Isabella shook her head and placed her wares on one of the trapping cages to check them. "Not my problem," she said again. She thought of a time when the goings on of undesirables didn't spark her interest. It was before a certain hero had come into her life. Isabella shucked the memories before they surfaced. She had made up her mind, she was leaving. She had no excuse to return to Hawke. 

The light call of a pigeon drew the pirate from her thoughts. It swooped down and landed on the unwrapped cloth before her.

Isabella cocked her head towards it. "For me, sweet-thing?" Isabella checked over her shoulder before taking the parchment from the bird. It took off as soon as it was free of her fingers. 

Isabella read the parchment. "Andraste's ass," she cursed. Maybe she had an excuse after all. 

 

 

Chapter Text

As it was, the Tevene men were holed up not far from Cater's Cache. They stopped at an abandon mineshaft maybe 10 miles outside of Ostwick. 

Isabella picked her way carefully after them, the trampled brush of the forest leaving a weaving path where the men detoured so the cage might fit through the trees. She hovered in the shadows as the last lights of day sunk below the horizon.

The mine's entrance was set in a low rock face, not much taller than the two guards that stood on either side of it. Only one door of the entrance seemed to be remaining. The flicker of torch light somewhere within shone up over the decent through a hole where the other might have been. 

"You're back," said the right most guard. He was slight, either elvish or youthful, but Isabella couldn't tell in the low light. His upper left arm was wrapped in a bloodied bandage where a shoulder guard should be.

"You sound surprised, Gerald," said the leader from the shop. "Put it down over there," he pointed to the left of the mine for the men carrying the cage.

"Forgive me, General Titus, I just thought - when you didn't return in the hours you said - I wondered if -"

"Gerald thinks the Champion is coming for us, my lord," said the left guard, shaking his head.

Gerald nodded fiercely, gripping the sword at his hip. "You know they say she killed a hundred Qunari, single-handedly!"

Titus chuckled lowly to himself. "Childrens' stories, Gerald. There are no almighty heroes in this world."

"But sir -"

"Enough!" Titus barked. 

"Touchy, touchy," Isabella whispered to herself, watching the General tense. 

"We left that waif of a girl bloody and knocked out on a heaping pile of rock," spit Titus. 

Isabella clenched her fists. She pictured Hawke helpless to defend herself from the men before her and assumed the worst. The pirate spit into the mud, clearing the taste of bile from her tongue. 

"What was that?" jumped Gerald. 

"Divine's mercy, boy," started the left guard but Titus held up his hand to silence him. 

Isabella stepped backwards, trying to sink deeper into the shadows. Her foot lighted upon a branch. She hesitated, watching Titus' eyes straining right where she was positioned in the trees. "What the hell," Isabella smirked. She weighted on the branch, breaking it with a satisfying snap. 

Titus drew his sword. He motioned for his men to do the same. 

The left guard got to the tree line first, a hair's breadth away from Isabella. She watched him pass cautiously, close enough to smell the salt of his skin. She darted out and covered his mouth as she slid her dagger across his throat. Her heart beat two-stepped in her chest, the smell of blood calling it to partner in frenzy. She lowered him down lightly. 

Isabella let out three notes in a whistle. The guard who had spoken at the shop spun in confusion. 

Isabella stayed low with the fallen man, waiting for the next to stumble towards her. When he was within reach she stood swiftly, gaging him with deft fingers and sweeping his legs out from under him. The man fell onto his neck, landing on the gnarled root of a near tree. A sickening crack marking his end. 

The third man caught a knife between his eyes. 

"Don't blame me, I waited until you were looking. " Isabella whispered, meeting his glazed eyes. She bent and closed them, patting his forehead. "Try to be better at ducking in your next life." 

Fumbling footfalls alerted Isabella before the next man was upon her. Isabella spun and held the point of her dagger level with Gerald's throat, even as he held his sword raised above her. 

He started at her wide-eyed, frozen in place. "Please-please don't."

"Why is it that I always find men in this position?" 

"I don't want to die." 

Isabella narrowed her eyes at the boy. "You are so young, sweet-thing." She pushed his stubbled chin up with her dagger. "What are you doing with evil men like these? Men who drag slaves back to their masters?" 

"I didn't - you, you know! Are you with her? Are you her?"

Isabella chuckled darkly. "No. You thank the Maker for that." Isabella lowered her dagger. "Run along then, but remember," she nodded to the man at her feet. "That'll be you if you scream yourself silly." 

Gerald dropped his sword and ran passed her, tripping over his own feet. To his credit, he didn't alert Titus. The general had rounded back to the entrance of the mine.

"Men, form up!" Titus ordered sheathing his sword. 

"Rookie mistake, big boy," Isabella whispered. She shouted as she charged out of the tree line. Titus hollered in return, but he was too slow. His sword managed to prop from its scabbard to deflect her first blade, but her second shover up under his chin striking up through his crown. 

"That was for Hawke," Isabella growled, meeting his dark eyes. She pulled her dagger free and wiped his blood on her thigh. 

Isabella strutted into the mine. Her boots clicked on the exposed stone. "Oh boys," she called softy, flipping her ebony locks. "My wagon lost a wheel," she mocked. "I need a big strong man to -" 

The pirate stopped short as the mine tunnel suddenly opened up into a dinning hall. Almost 30 men, swords at the ready over their shoulders, sat with mugs and drumsticks. Each was looking at her. 

The solider sitting closest to her stood haphazardly. His mug spilled onto the man across from him.  

Isabella blinked. "My wagon? Lost a wheel?"

The man's eyes lit upon the blood dripping down the exposed skin above her boot. His eyes widened in alarm. 

"Shit."

Chapter Text

Hawke stood in her armour over a flipped boulder. The unearthed side was flat, a makeshift table. Trevelyan, Sebastian and Aveline considered the map of an abandon mine a top it. Trevelyan had ordered it from an old tradesman contact in Ostwick. 

Hawke flicked a clump of dirt that had rolled onto the parchment. Darkness was upon them more quickly than she wanted, like time was laughing at her. They had been forced to set up camp, far enough away that the firelight wouldn't attract the Tevene men.

Varric stood chatting softly with two of Trevelyan's men, Meril fidgeting in his shadow from the firelight. The men towered over them. A few wore the same ebony leather that the Trevelyan did. On each of their left shoulder guards was a horse, embroidered with white thread. The rest, an assortment of six mercenary friends between jobs, patrolled around them in the forest. They were anxious. They had to move. 

Aveline crossed her arms over her bulky plates, somehow more intimidating without the orange pauldrons that marked her as Captain of the Guard in Kirkwall. "You're sure they're there?"

Hawke smirked to herself. Aveline was as mistrustful of Trevelyan as she was.

"Carter said only three men collected the -" Trevelyan met Hawke's eyes. She shifted uneasily, her navy curls quaking. "Cage. The force that attacked the cottage was much larger than that, from what you described. They couldn't travel through Ostwick without people asking questions. That means they must have held most of their men back, this is the most defensible position for miles."

"They might have moved on already," Hawke cursed. "We need to go now."

"Hawke," Sebastian warned. "We can't go rushing in without a plan." 

"Our plan always goes to shit anyways, Bash. When have we ever made it past step one without the whole fucking world going to hell -" Hawke threw up her hands. Her worry for Fenris gnawed on her insides. Her unspoken fear was that the longer he remained in captivity the harder it would be to draw him back. She covered her eyes, pressing her thumb and middle finger against her temples. 

"Last bottle of the Agreggio. I've been saving it for a special occasion," Fenris smirked, pulling the wine away from his lips. His green eyes travelled the length of her body and she shivered. 

"And what's that?" she asked. She took the bottle from his hand and sipped it, warming as the heady wine slithered down her throat. 

"The anniversary of my escape. Astia valla femundis," he took back the bottle. He leaned forward, his eyes glinting. "Care to hear the story?"

Hawke sat wearily, folding one leg over the other. She wasn't sure she could hear this story. Listening to Fenris talk about his past made her see red, even thinking about it her mana tightened, perching to strike. "I enjoy listening to you talk," she smirked anyways. It was so rare he shared anything.

"There are few pleasures greater than speaking with a beautiful woman," Fenris almost laughed. He was in good spirits tonight, like she could reach out and he wouldn't draw away. Maybe they could find better ways to celebrate.  Hawke swallowed, inwardly scolding herself.

Fenris eyes grew dark, remembering. He spoke of the Qunari wars; of the horned giants that occupied the docks, hunting he and Dinarius. His fists clenched and then released. His eyes found a point over her shoulder. 

"I was left behind. I barely got out of the city alive."

Hawke attempted a joke. It was a lilting thing, shallow. She clenched her jaw when it fell flat. She ran a hand threw her hair nervously before folding her hands in her lap. 

"I had no intention of escaping. That time." Fenris watched her and it seemed to Hawke he was making sure she heard him. He was sharing a piece of himself, he wanted judgement. Or a witness.

Fenris spoke slowly of the Fog Warriors who had taken him in. They had cared for him, until Danarius returned. 

"He was relieved to see you'd survived, right?" Hawke spit. She shifted her legs underneath her, shaking her head. 

Fenris paused, his eyes pleading with her. She didn't tell him it was alright. He wouldn't want that. He told her of his fondness for this people that had helped him. They were free, something he couldn't understand. He searched for answers in the wine bottle. 

"When Danarius came, they refused to let him take me," Fenris took a long drink and cold dread washed over Hawke. "He ordered me to kill them. So I did," Fenris closed his eyes. "I killed all of them." 

Hawke's world dropped out from under her. She had known Fenris was confused as a slave; tortured, psychologically manipulated into doing horrible things - but she had never known how dangerous he had been, or how deeply controlled. She tried to keep her voice steady, but her mind worked over her next question - why? 

"It felt inevitable. My master had returned and this, this fantasy life was over," Fenris whispered.

Hawke could feel his pain, like all the air had been pulled out of the room and it was hard to breathe. She had never felt so connected to him. She wondered if his tattoos gave off a different scent when he felt strongly. The lyrium had to be imposing on her state of mind, on her heart. She remembered having the same feeling upon meeting him - the world shifting, knowing someone without meaning to. She should be disgusted, but she was agonized. She didn't know yet how truly connected they were.

"But once it was done, I looked down at their bodies. I felt," Fenris took a breath. "I couldn't." 

Hawke bit the inside of her cheek to stop tears from rushing to her eyes. 

"I ran," Fenris turned his head in shame. Hawke clutched the arms of her chair to keep herself from - lashing out or latching on she couldn't be sure. "I never looked back."

"Fenris -" Hawke started. He searched her eyes, their broken hearts. "This can't be easy to talk about," she whispered. Of course it wasn't, bloody fool.

"I've never spoken about what happened, to anyone. I never wanted to. Perhaps this is what it means to have a friend."

The change in subject was like coming up for air. Hawke tried to disguise her emotion. She looked at the markings that climbed up his neck and onto his chin."It might mean more than that."

Had she said that out loud? Hawke pulled back into her chair, embarrassed.

"I have never allowed anyone too close. When my markings were created the pain was extraordinary. And the memory lingers," Fenris met her eyes again, bolder. He was convincing himself of something. "But you are unlike any woman I have ever met. With you it might be different."

Hawke's heart thumped unsteadily. She held back her hope. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

"If there was someone before, I have no memory of them." 

"There as no one after you escaped, even?" Her heart ached to easy his loneliness, but where would she begin?  

"I stayed no where for long. Who would I trust? I didn't think I needed anyone. Or wanted anyone. Until now."

Hawke looked up at the ceiling, unable to hold the intensity of his gaze. They were kindred souls, she realized. It was the same for her. But to allow herself to anyone, especially someone as broken as she was? She couldn't save him, and she doubted she could be saved. "We could find out," she said more to herself than to Fenris. 

"On another evening, perhaps." Fenris said, and Hawke knew that he was just as afraid as she was. "A last toast then, to the fallen."

"Hawke," Sebastian called her back. "He's going to be alright." 

"You don't know that," she whispered. "You don't know him like I do." Fenris had come so far, but even the strongest men faltered in the wake of their fears. He wasn't ready to be confronted by Danarius. Truth be told, neither was she. "Look," she pointed at the layout of the mine tunnels. "There is no other exit. We have to go in head first and hope for the best. It's the only way." 

"They could have more mages, Hawke."

"You're right, dear one. We need to know more," Trevelyan sighed. "We can't send scouts 'til the morrow." 

"Who talks like that!?" Hawke barked, her frustration getting the better of her. Aveline snorted and it was a grim satisfaction. 

"Hawke!" Varric called. He pointed to the tree line where a mercenary with oily black skin emerged, pulling with him a squirming young man. The prisoner shouted in a language Hawke didn't understand. He was too small to fight off the mercenary. 

"What's this?" Sebastian asked. 

The mercenary threw the boy into the dirt, his knees sliding to just before the boulder. He favoured his shoulder, sputtering again in a foreign language in a way that was close to hysterics. Varric sauntered towards them, one eyebrow quirked at Hawke. 

"I found him south of camp, my Lady, he was trying to bury this," he tossed a hunk of armour onto the map. 

Varric picked up the chest piece and tilted it to glint in the fire light. It reflected green. He looked at Hawke and then down into the boy's terrified brown eyes. "Your night just got a whole lot worse, kid." 

"That's the same metal as what the Tevene guards were wearing!" Hawke spun around the boulder and lunged for the boy's neck, but Varric stepped in front of her. He dropped the shoulder guard into the dirt and caught her around the waist. "Where is he!?"

The boy tripped over his words, each in the same foreign language.

"He's Tevene alright," spit the mercenary. "Doesn't seem to speak common, though."

"Easy, Hawke," Varric pushed her back even as she tried to stretch over top of him. She shouted and the boy cowered back.  

"No one speaks Tevene in Tevinter," said Trevelyan. Her next words came out with a sharp tongue, dipped in the same accent as the boy's words before. She crouched before him when he didn't answer and cupped his chin. She said the words again more slowly. He responded tentatively. Their quiet conversation twirled uselessly to Hawke's ears.

"Please -" said the boy suddenly, looking at Hawke's snarling lips. "Don't, don't kill me." 

"Hawke," Varric warned. He took both her wrists and crossed them over her chest with a look that meant stay. Hawke narrowed her eyes at the dwarf but took a deep breath. 

"What happened?" asked Trevelyan. 

"How many of you are there?" asked Aveline. 

"Are there many mages amoung you?" asked Sebastian. 

"When was the last time you ate, dal'en?" asked Merill. Each of the party members looked at her at once. "Oh, sorry." 

"Well?" asked Hawke. 

"I wasn't at the attack," said the boy. He tucked his hair back behind his pointed ears, nervously. "I had to stay back, I'm not - I'm a -"

"You're a slave," Hawke blinked. Maker shit on her, nothing was easy. 

"I'm a house servant," the boy corrected immediately. "My name is Gerald."

"What's the difference?" asked Aveline. 

"A house servant is above a -"

"Enough!" said Hawke. She felt her mana crackle at her impatience. She almost reached out and grabbed him with it, but clenched her fists instead. "Why are you here, Gerald?"

"I was - oh, you mean how did I end up here. You southerners aren't very direct."

Trevelyan bit out something in Tevene.

"Sorry, I was keeping watch. Like I said, I wasn't in the attack - I know what you're thinking. I got this tripping over a rock. General Titus should have been rid of me years ago, but I guess he is now, now that he's - dead. What am I going to do without -" Gerald sputtered into hysteria again.

Varric put an affirming hand on his shoulder and pulled him to his feet. Hawke noticed his thumb was over the boy's wounded shoulder. She wished he would apply pressure. It wasn't right but that didn't mean she wished it any less. "Pull it together, kid. Hawke is feisty when she's hungry."

"Hawke? I knew it!" Gerald nodded furiously at Varric. "I knew you would kill them all, I told them but they didn't listen. I'm just glad I got out of there alive."

"Your master is dead?" Hawke asked, though the words felt like bile in her mouth - no man should have a master.

"Yes, a woman killed him. She told me to run away. She said I was lucky she wasn't you, Champion, my lady, Hawke."

"A woman?"

"Quiet like the night, quick as a fox. She cut down everyone like they were stalks in the ground." Gerald's voice sounded like awe, and Hawke's stomach fell further. "She was one of yours, a scout?" 

"Whore." Aveline cursed, even as Sebastian said, "Isabela." 

Hawke couldn't help what happened next. At the sound of the pirate's name she reached out and captured the boy's mind, as if on instinct. Her eyes turned red, and if she didn't know better she'd have thought she was drawing from her open wound, crusted from the day's ride. It was almost too much, an intense source that cut under her instinctual hesitation. The boy's eyes just stared at her, empty. 

"When?"

"Near dusk."

"How many?"

"30."

"Mages?"

"Two."

Hawke cocked her head, the motion twisting the boy's inner energy. She could feel it, pumping with his heart. A snap would end it, she fought to control it.

"Athea is Titus' second in command, my lady. She'll be the last, behind the men."

"Is there another way in?"

"No."

Hawke remembered the question she cared about, it hovered on the edge of her mind. "Where is Fenris?"

"They've taken him deep into the mine. They're scared of him."

Hawke cursed as the answer brought her back to reality. She let Gerald go, stumbling back into Sebastian's chest. The boy slumped to his knees.

"What was that?" Sebastian asked.

Hawke avoided Meril's eyes. "Let's go," she said pushing away from Sebastian's tightening grip. She looked at Trevelyan. "Are you ready?"

"Are you?" Trevelyan glanced at Sebastian. 

Hawke grabbed her staff and stomped forwards. She would figure it out after. "I'm coming," she whispered, though to Fenris or Isabela she wasn't sure.

Chapter Text

“This is, by far, one of the craziest ideas you’ve ever had, Hawke,” Varric whispered, drawing his crossbow to enter the mine at her side.

“Crazy is by far one of the nicest words you’ve ever used to describe one of my plans, Varric,” Hawke checked over her shoulder to make sure the others weren’t following. There was only one way into the mine, and their assembled force was much smaller than the slavers’ who had captured Fenris, and now Isabella.

“You’re right, this is the stupidest idea you’ve ever had.” Varric leaned back as the tunnel floor descended. The pair was to draw the men out so their companions could flank them from both sides at the mine’s mouth.

“You’re right. We should probably turn back.”

Varric raised an eyebrow at his friend, her chestnut hair glinted in the low light. She sped up with a smirk and he followed suit.

“Why do I let you get me into these things?” Varric asked. They hadn’t much discussed how they were going to accomplish getting a small army to chase them so much as they were just going to go for it.

“You love it.” Hawke snorted.

Varric grinned roguishly. “I don’t know, you make it hard to say no.”

“Me?” Hawke feigned surprise.

“Have you met you?”

“You’re right, Varric. I’m sorry, let’s go back,” Hawke slowed as the shadows began to lighten, the low grumble of many voices vibrating along the stone. She stopped and put a hand on her hip.

Varric stopped too, sighing and resting his crossbow on his shoulder. “Not the best place to have second thoughts, Hawke. Someone could walk out at any –“

“I’m just making sure you’re here of your own volition, ser dwarf,” Hawke chided, checking over her shoulder.

“We can stand here all day,” Varric challenged.

Hawke batted her eyelashes at him, amber eyes twinkling. One of the soldiers close by, just around the corner, bellowed a laugh. It echoed around the halls, each flinched.

“Okay!” Varric hushed out. “Let’s go!”

“Now?”

“Now.”

“Just remember, you twisted MY arm, Varric.”

Before Varric could protest Hawke slipped out of the shadows. “I didn’t mean right now!” he chased after her.

Varric skidded to a halt to Hawke’s right. She stood, looking down at what must have been 30 men. The makeshift dinning hall was narrow, two rows of thick long tables leaving skinny isles to another tunnel at its opposite end.

At first no one looked up. It was a sea of green armour, too enthralled by it’s assumed power.

“Not really how I thought this would go,” Hawke frowned.

Varric shook his head, trying to pick a target. “We need something with pizzazz. Something hero-y.”

Hawke looked down at her friend. “I can do that.” She stepped forward, the stones beginning to shake around her boots. “I am the Champion of Kirkwall!” she lifted her hands and the tunnel rumbled. Tankards danced until they dropped off their tables. Varric volleyed a hail of arrows, most landing in the centre of the room, pinning hands into the wood.

The chaos was almost immediate, but Varric didn't miss the wink that Hawke threw at him before dashing into the throng of men grabbing for their swords. She popped up onto the closest table. She rained lightning onto two men at her feet, each pulling helplessly at their pinned hands. They vibrated until their slack jaws smacked off the thick lumber beneath her. 

"Common boys!" Hawke hollered ducking an arrow. She drew a fireball in a large arch, dancing into a firestorm that crashed in a ricochet across the tables. Men clamoured onto the table, a hoard falling over themselves to get at the champion. 

Varric stuck three men in quick succession, each with a bolt in the eye. He elbowed the fourth, stepping back as a wave came towards him. There were too many of them to fight in close quarters. "Hawke!" Varric called. "Time to go!"

Hawke laughed, a manic sound that accompanied her power. She lashed out with her staff blade, catching a neck behind her. She pushed the soldier down into the table, using the momentum to vault the sea of guards. Varric fired a sweep of arrows to cover her as she dashed towards him. 

"What are you waiting for?!" she asked as she darted past him. 

Varric fired one more arrow before turning to chase her heels. His boots skidded on the loose stones of the tunnel, but Hawke was there to pull him along. They sprinted forward. 

"Keep up with those short legs!" Hawke laughed.

Varric's witty retort was lost in the look on her face. If Varric could explain how Hawke looked in the midst of battle, the closest he could come was free. Her elation spurred him hard, by some small miracle he kept up. 

"Don't ever say I didn't do anything for you!" 

"Are you kidding? Imagine the books this will sell!"

"No one would believe this shit!" 

"Duck!"

Hawke volleyed spears of ice over Varric's head. 

"I'd believe this shit!" She laughed. 

"You're not really my target audience, Hawke!"

"That hurts me, Varric -"

Varric snatched Hawke's wrist and flung her to the left. No less than six arrows rebounded off the rock where she had been running moments before. She held on, using the momentum to throw them through the tunnel mouth. Both tucked, Hawke skidding and Varric rolling through the waiting wall of their friends. 

Aveline charged, crying out as she ran between the two where they skidded to a halt in the dirt. She met the throng head on, Trevelyan and her men charging the flank. The chaos was instantaneous. 

Hawke watched the Captian with awe. She looked at Varric and smirked. The dwarf matched her huffing breaths, mere feet away. He smirked back. 

Hawke pushed her hands under her chest and popped up. Varric noticed her grimace but kept it to himself as he rolled over onto his back. Hawke stood above him and offered him her arm. "I'll die young of a heart attack, and it'll be your fault." 

"Good thing you're already old," Hawke laughed pulling him up.

Varric wiped his brow and checked his ammunition.

Hawke nodded to the fray. "Common."

"Right behind you, Hawke."

Hawke dashed after Aveline and Merril turned up beside her. The two casted simultaneously, each in harmony with the other. The men the elf put to sleep, Hawke lit on fire. The men Merril caught in grease, Hawke electrocuted. 

Sebastian came up beside Varric, pushing his back against the dwarf as they fired into the darkness. They glimpsed their enemies in the mages' fire.

The guards were well trained, they caught on to the ambush quickly. It wasn't long until the men had circled up. In the centre, a mage with blood red hair stood whipping her head around for the head of a beast. But Tevelyan stood at the south east corner, one of her horse embroidered guards - a man with snow night hair - close to her side baring his teeth. Aveline at the south west, bulking her shield and chomping at the bit beside another of Trevelyan's guards. Meril, Hawke, Varric, Sebastian, and the remaining mercenaries - three in total -  stood staggered before the circle's front. The odds were still in Tevene favour. Together the companions made 11, and the soldiers made up 19. They had lost 11 and the companions had lost four. Hawke counted her blessings that none of her friends were among the some 15 bodies limp in the dirt.

"Athea!" Trevelyan shouted, breaking the silence. The blood haired mage snarled at her and she scowled back. "You have something we want!" 

Hawke stepped forward but stopped, hanging on the balls of her feet. 

"Your general is dead! Surrender!" 

The men took turns looking at their leader. She eyed them with cold fury. 

"If you are slaves, know that you need not die -"

"There are no slaves here!" Athea roared. "If they were before, they each have titles now!" 

"You don't need to fight -" Trevelyan continued anyways. A few seemed to consider her offer, their sword grips trembling. 

Hawke watched, her heart beating like a war drum. She could only see the red of Athea. She wanted to dive at them, held back for too long. 

"They are less than us!" Athea shouted. "They worship a false prophet! They do not turn to the power that fuels us!"

"You don't have to -"

Hawke charged, feeling the pulse of wounds that Athea drew upon. A second's hesitation and her companions followed after her. Sebastian called upon the Maker as two men to each of Hawke's companions charged back. An arrow caught the man at Trevelyan's side.

"Ronan!" Trevelyan cried. 

Hawke slid under the stomp of the soldiers' boots. She drew down the force of the sky and blasted after Athea. The mage dove back towards the mouth of the mines, rolling with the blast into the stones.

"Hawke!" Varric called.

Hawke gripped one soldier by the shoulders and threw him away. She dashed after the mage, whipping ice forward.

"You will not have them!" Athea screamed, casting backwards as she ran.

Hawke dodged her fire, curling around the red tendrils that scraped at her flesh trying to control it. "Stop!" 

"Hawke!" Varric called, horrified as the two mages disappeared into the mines. He pulled a dagger from his vest and thrust it into an assailant, trying desperately to follow after Hawke. 

Hawke couldn't hear him. She chased after Athea, her vision clouding with red. They burst into the light of the dinning hall but it made no difference. The next tunnel twisted upwards, both mages tripping over the others' magic. A fork appeared in the distance, fissures of grey crystal vibrating with their mana. 

"No!" Hawke cried, pulling on the crystals. They jutted out. Athea dodged the first but the second wave pierced her green armour, spearing her into the wall of the fork in the tunnels a foot from the ground. 

Hawke slowed, feeling the power in the woman's blood. It dripped from her mouth, sprinkling onto the ground at the mouth of the fork. Hawke ducked under one of the many jutting crystals to stand before her. 

"Where are they?" she asked. She looked at the empty darkness on either side of the fork, helpless. Her heart pounded even though she knew she had won. Something was wrong. The air felt wrong. How could the air feel wrong? She stepped towards one dark tunnel, and then the other. "Tell me!"

The mage coughed, her throat choking around the blood in her mouth. A chortle cut from her body, spinning into a quite cackle. 

"Where are they?!" Hawke screamed, her fists bawling at her sides. She didn't know where to turn. In one direction she thought she might feel - Fenris? The song of lyrium, one that begged her heart, weak but alive. The left tunnel was ripe with the scent of the blue stone. Was he that way?

"Danarius said - if he couldn't, no one would," Athea coughed. She smirked a toothy red grin at Hawke, shuddering as life left her. 

'What?"

The blood on the floor sparked. Athea whispered under her breath and a green fire started on either side of the tunnel, following a twirling train of ashes. 

Hawke didn't know what it meant, but the ice came to her palms on instinct. She threw it at the fires on either side. It burned threw her ice, singing up the tunnels against her protest. "What is this!?" Hawke cried. 

"Pick one, Champion," Athea's last word died on her lips as her head sagged forward. 

"Hawke!" Varric demanded, skidding to a halt behind the spears of crystals. 

"No!" Hawke shouted. She threw more ice at the burning trails. They darted away from her, one to the left and one to the right, burning more quickly than she could think of ways to stop them. She had to make a choice. 

"NO!"

Chapter Text

    In the mere seconds that followed before she chose, Hawke managed to look at Varric. She trembled so hard she thought she might shatter into a thousand pieces - more than the two she had already been torn into. I can't, I can't, I can't...

     "Hawke, what do we do?!" shouted Varric, watching the trails of fire flicker against the tunnels.

     "Don't be coy now, bird-ling." Isabella baited her.

     "I love you," Fenris sighs.

     "Fenris," Hawke sobbed out. She reached out with clawed hands, her knees shaking. "We have to save them!" she cried to Varric. She darted, acting on instinct, following the cackling fire. 

     "Damnit, Hawke!" Varric shouted, he dashed down the opposite tunnel. 

     "I get to see Bethany again, and your father. But you'll be here alone."

     Hawke was crying. She knew it distantly. As she gave chase, the rush of air chilled on her cheeks where her tears left streams.

    He's all I have, Hawke yelled at herself. She saw memories of Fenris, ghosts before her in the deep shadows not yet reached by the fleeing flame. Her mantra changed. I can't be alone, I can't be alone, I can't be - Isabella would leave me.

   Hawke wasn't breathing. Her chest burned against her ribs as she threw her arms out, grasping at anything that would propel her forward, faster. He is my strength, my nerve. He's the only one that is stronger than me. 

   Hawke saw a pair of emerald green eyes sparkling under overgrown white hair. Those stupid bangs she was always telling him to cut. That stupid glimmer that meant he was happy, Maker be damned if it ever showed on his lips. She imagined a world without him and it hurt so hard she felt it like a physical blow. She stumbled, scraping her nails against the tunnel floor. She held on desperately, righting herself. 

   Fenris, she thought with each step. I love you, I've always loved you. I'm so sorry. I didn't mean it, please make it through this. Please, I love you.

   The tunnel took a treacherous turn, banking so Hawke had to push off the wall to keep up her momentum. She had almost reached the flames.

   He'll survive this, like he's survived everything else, Hawke told herself. A memory of him reaching out hammered against her mind. His beautiful tan hands, his sacred voice; You have the luck of fate behind you, Hawke. Another sob broke from Hawke's chest, a retching pull of breath. No, that's just you, she had said. 

    Fenris was Hawke's, just as she was his. Come war, come heart ache, come unadulterated hate towards everything they were and couldn't be - they were the same. He was every time she had held back. He was every time she had ever cried out. He was faith, and ruin, and hot and cold and -

   "Fenris!" Hawke screamed, a last burst of power pushing her past the trail of fire. Her tense hands sliced through the damp air. 

   Hawke felt his arms, strong and safe around her. She saw his affirming nod, confident in her abilities. She recalled his clenched fists when he trusted her against what he believed. She remembered rocking as he carried her to Anders' clinic that night of the slavers. He was whispering to her, telling her to be strong, begging her to live. How can you do this to me again? Please Hawke, don't leave me. You beat him, beat this. I just got you back.

   Hawke remembered being angry at him for that. Even as she lay limp, unable to draw the energy to defend herself, she vented against him and his taking up with Isabella. It all seemed so childish now. It all seemed so far away. 

   Isabella was a part of all of them, just as each of them were to the others - but in the grand scheme - she didn't compare. She was the same as every other one of her companions. Hawke loved each of them dearly, but there was only one she couldn't live without. 

   "I'm sorry," Hawke whispered, hoping against hope at the light that began to glow at the end of the tunnel. "It'll all be over soon -"

   Hawke had saved Isabella once. She had saved her and believed in her, but she was the same as everyone else. The mage felt calm then. A serenity washed over her, cooling the strain and reducing the fire to darkness, emptiness. She might have laughed had she not been so ashamed.

   Isabella was the same as every other person that Hawke had to save. Fenris understood her, he believed in her - he knew that duty meant doing the right thing even when it was grey. Maker, he loved her. He would do anything for her. She had to live up to the example he made of her. Without his strength, how could she be strong enough to let him go?

   You sent her that message, Hawke thought she heard Fenris say from behind her. 

   You're the reason she came back, Fenris egged her on. She thought he knew that her instinct was selfless. She wondered if it was only so because it made her chose against what she perceived falsely as selfishness. 

   You have to save her.

   Hawke called fire to her hands, burning the iron bars of the cage that came into view. The bars burned so hot they melted from where they were drilled into the rock.

   "Hawke?" Isabella called weakly from where she sat in the corner of the cell, made by walling off the end of the tunnel. She was chained to the floor beside a man-tall stack of TNT.

   Hawke knelt beside the pirate. She cupped her face, firm hands on soft, warm skin. Shaking, Hawke threaded her fingers through Isabella's dark hair. She pushed through the knots and pulled the woman's forehead to hers. "You won't be a casualty of my life," Hawke whispered.

   The responding look in Isabella's honey eyes was sad, as if they somehow knew. Hawke looked back just as the fire reached the TNT. Her hands brightened to a white-blue, spilling out around them. "Death will not have you!" she shouted, shielding them. 

   There was a moment when Hawke thought it would be too much. She considered giving in. The heat singed her mana, like burning her from the inside, out. The agony warred to consume her, but she thought of Fenris - of his sacrifice - and she pushed harder.  

   White light surrounded them, blocking out everything else. The dispersal of the fire, pulling back after it left the tunnel walls black, pulled Hawke away from Isabella. She whipped against the tunnel wall. 

   "Hawke!" Isabella shouted, pulling against her chain to get to the mage as the dust settled. She was just out of reach. 

   Hawke sucked in a painful breath. The back of her neck was hot with blood. It didn't matter. She lifted herself, exhausted. Nothing would matter ever again. 

   "What's happening?" Isabella asked as Hawke reached down and froze the chain that attached to the cuff at the pirate's ankle. "Hawke, what the hell is going on?"

   Hawke snapped the chain like a stick through the ice. She met Isabella's eyes, numb. 

   "Where's Fenris?" Isabella asked, clutching at Hawke the way Hawke had held Isabella not moments before. 

   Hawke pulled away gently, looking at the rubble of the tunnel before them. She was amazed it hadn't caved in. The rock that had broken free stuck in the cooling metal pools on the ground. 

   "Hawke!" demanded Isabella.

   The mage spared her a glance. Her lower lip trembled. "It was selfish to save him," she whispered more to herself. 

    Hawke stood quietly and started back the way she came. "You were never the one," she said quietly to the pirate. She knew it now. 

Chapter Text

When dawn finally broke, it was like hot embers relinquishing themselves to the smoke. The first slivers of red jabbed through the tree line, chasing away the shadows that covered the bodies.

Evelyn sat knelt over Ronan. The ice in his eyes no longer sparkled, like his soul was melting from his body. His black hair was matted across his forehead with sweat. His breath came in broken pants.

“You’re going to be alright, dear one,” Evelyn smiled weakly. She pressed his chest gingerly, inspecting where the arrow had pierced his leather. The battle had been drawn out. She worried she wouldn’t have the strength to save him.

“It was an honour to fight by your side, my Lady,” he whispered. He watched her grimly, his lips pulled tight.

“Hush, talk like that only welcomes the void,” Evelyn pushed a pulse into his chest. The arrow had nicked his heart. He was bleeding internally. She was so focused she almost missed the low rumble of many boots marching through the brush.

“What’s that?” Ronan asked. He was too tired to turn towards the sound.

“The Templars,” Clayton whispered, coming to kneel at their sides. He knew before the first armoured man appeared. He had sent for them on Evelyn’s order. If there was one thing Evelyn didn’t do, it was leave something to chance.

The petite woman looked over her shoulder to Hawke’s companions. They hadn’t noticed the noise yet.

“You called them?” Ronan grimaced.

Evelyn didn’t answer. They were going after Tevene men – of course she had sent word to the Ostwick circle. She had to be sure that the men would die, even if it meant putting the others at risk, even herself. She wouldn’t let the evil of Tevinter threaten the place she had come to call home. “They’re late,” she said.

Clayton appraised Ronan, his brow furrowed when he looked at Evelyn. The white horse on his arm was spotted with blood. He was the only man of her personal guard to make it through the battle unscathed.

A group of 50 Templars made their way out of the tree line. They stopped in lines of 10, observing the chaos before them. Evelyn, Ronan and Clayton were the only survivors besides the Champion’s friends.

Evelyn had never seen a group work so well in tandem as Hawke's. It was like the impossible bowed to them, the living dying because they asked. She was naïve to think her men were as good, that they could stand such an assault. It wasn’t fair.

Evelyn yanked the arrow from Ronan’s chest while the small army distracted him. He yelped and she covered the wound quickly with her palms. “It’s alright,” she soothed. “The pain will be gone shortly.” She pulled on the mana that circled behind her heart.

“No!” Ronan cried capturing her hands. He coughed, blood on his lips. “They’ll know!”

“I don’t care,” Evelyn said.

“My Lady,” Clayton warned, watching the Templar leader move closer. They would sense her magic now if she were to heal him.

“No,” Ronan begged. Evelyn hesitated, looking into the fear in his wide eyes. “You can’t! They’ll take you."

Blood slipped through Evelyn’s fingers. Her eyes darted between his and the wound. “You’ll die, Ronan. Let me heal you,” she whispered fiercely.

“You, elf, what is your business here?” asked the Knight-Captain. He was short and stalky, not much taller than Evelyn might be.

“My name is Aveline Vallen, captain of –“ Aveline started instead of Meril.

“Please, my Lady,” Ronan drew Evelyn back. “I swore to your father I would protect you. They took my sister to that place. They made her Tranquil.”

Evelyn looked to Clayton but he had closed his hazel eyes.

“You can’t –“ Ronan trailed off. His eyes slipped from hers.

“Ronan?” Evelyn asked. “Ronan!” Evelyn pushed on his wound. She felt the incantation on her lips, green mana came to her hands.

“Lady Trevelyan,” Clayton cursed. He gripped her wrists.

Evelyn trembled in his grasp.

“He’s already gone. It was his wish.”

If she was a cursing woman, she would have done so. Evelyn looked into Ronan’s still eyes and ran the cup of her hand over them. She bowed her head to his. “I’m sorry, dear one,” she whispered.

“Where is Lady Trevelyan?”

Evelyn pulled back slowly, fighting the tears from her eyes. Clayton stood and offered her a hand to stand.

“I’m here,” Evelyn said. She took a deep breath and turned to clasp her wrists behind her back. Her shoulders strained in protest. “It’s alright Aveline, I called them.”

“You called Templars, here?” Meril trembled. Her fingers whitened around her staff.

“She was right to do so,” Sebastian said, but the look in his ocean blue eyes suggested otherwise.

“You’re too late, Donovan,” Clayton said to the Knight-Captian, hovering behind Evelyn. He scrutinized the assembled men, casting long shadows along the trodden ground. “As you can see we’ve already dispatched of the mage-men.”

“As you have,” Donovan nodded. He toed one of the men on the ground. The head rolled clear away from his body. “We were returning from a hunt in Wildervale when we received our orders. We came as quickly as we could.”

Evelyn thought he didn’t seem like a cruel man. There was no hate in his eyes when he spoke of his hunt, only disdain. "Not quick enough," she whispered.

“Why were they here?”

“They were hunting a free man,” said a ghost, her voice floating over the dawn mist.

Each of them turned at once to watch Hawke stumble from the tunnel mouth. She weighed heavily on Isabella.

Each was covered in soot. The pirate was missing her customary knee-high boots. Her ankle was bruised and bleeding. A portion of Hawke’s ruby and ebony cloak was missing. It looked burned away from the right side, holes revealing her silver chainman underneath.

Isabella propped Hawke against the cliff face. She steadied the mage by wrapping her arms around her waist.

“Don’t touch me,” Hawke said weakly, trying to push her away.

Isabella ignored her. She looked around wildly. “Where’s Anders?”

“I said don’t touch me!” Hawke said hoarsely. She shoved Isabella away and slid down into the dirt. Her legs spilled out haphazardly before her.

Isabella was quick to cover the hurt in her eyes. “Where’s Anders?” she asked again. The rest simply stared back at her.

“He’s not here, Bella,” Hawke snorted. Her hands were limp between her knees.

A moment of quiet allowed the crickets to sing over the scene. Suddenly, many things were happening at once.

Aveline strode with purpose to Hawke’s side and knelt before her. Meril followed close behind, wrapping her arms around the pirate with a quiet shriek.

“Isabella, what’s happened?” Sebastian asked. He watched the tunnel mouth for Varric and Fenris. His unanswered question hung in the air.

Isabella shook her head, holding Meril close. She whispered assurances into her hair.

“Were you victorious?” asked Donovan.

“No,” Hawke laughed. She shied from Aveline’s touch. “I’m fine, Aveline. Just tired.”

“You’re speaking to a Templar,” Aveline reminded her quietly.

“A Templar?” Hawke asked, her head rolling up. Her hair caught on the rock behind her, messing over the face. “Well, no one told me the Order of Useless was amoung us. My apologies, messere.”

Donovan cleared his throat as his men shuffled uneasily behind him. He inspected one of his bracers. “Where is the man they were hunting?”

Hawke met Donovan’s eyes with a cold hatred. A look the Arishok had tempted.

“Hawke, where’s Varric? Should we –“ Meril asked, pulling slightly from Isabella.

“Dead –“ Hawke looked up at the sky. She was barely coherent, wavering back and forth. “Dead, again. Death. Dead!” Hawke laughed in a cruel way.

Evelyn covered her mouth. Her heart fell into her stomach. She felt guilty watching the great Champion break before her. It was wrong. It was all-wrong.

“How?”

“Perhaps now is not the best time,” Sebastian warned Donovan. He stepped closer to Hawke, but stopped when he looked at Evelyn. He was torn for what to do. What could he do? His helplessness hurt her further.

Donovan watched them for a moment. He looked at Clayton, then to Evelyn. “We’ll tally the bodies then,” he nodded to the men behind him. The first two lines came forward. Their blood red skirts matched the dank ground. “Thank you for your service to the Maker.”

Hawke snorted again.

“Not that one,” Evelyn said when two men came towards her. She looked down at Ronan’s still form. She looked at Clayton.

“He’s one of ours,” her guard nodded.

The Templars nodded, their faces hidden by their thin-slatted hamlets. Evelyn watched as they moved to the next body. It was the man who had shot Ronan. His bow snapped underneath their heavy boots.

“Will you see to the mercenaries as well?” Evelyn asked Clayton. “I’d see them returned to their families.”

“Wouldn’t you rather I stayed at your side, my Lady?”

“No,” Evelyn said meeting Sebastian’s eyes. “Return to where we left the horses. Ride to Ostwick and return with a priest and wagon. I’ll be here when you return.”

“My Lady, I’d prefer –“

“Go, dear one,” Evelyn said firmly, she was already moving towards the prince. Clayton bowed with a sigh and weaved through the Templars towards the tree line.

Death hung in the air like a tangible thing. So many souls were among them, those who had survived and those who were lost. Each watched the Templars move with practiced ceremony. Time was a slow fog, respectful.

“Are you alright?” Sebastian asked as Evelyn stopped beside him. He still watched the tunnel.

Evelyn stared ahead as well. Her magic reached for Hawke’s, begging to sooth the pain that seeped off the woman in waves. “Are you?” she asked quietly.

Sebastian covered his eyes. He pinched the bridge of his nose.

Evelyn gripped his elbow gently, wishing she could hold him. “Sebastian,” she whispered.

The prince shook slightly within her grasp. “Maker forgive me,” he choked. He took a cleansing breath from the cover of his hand. “He can’t be. Maker, how could this have happened?”

Evelyn looked at Isabella. Their amber eyes met. The pirate didn’t see her. She looked through her to the light like she might curse it. She leaned back against the cliff face, her face like the stone. Her hand was squeezed around Meril’s. The elf was knelt with Aveline, obscuring Hawke.

Evelyn was an outsider. She had heard the stories of Hawke and the tragedy that followed and lead her. While she couldn’t imagine what each was feeling, she knew the Maker could be cruel. To see it reflected in each of them, in Sebastian – it was overwhelming. Tears rose to her eyes and spilled onto her cheeks.

“She won’t make it through this,” Sebastian followed Evelyn’s gaze. “Not with Varric too.”

Evelyn caught a glimpse of Hawke between the backs of her friends. She smiled thinly at Aveline. She tried to nod at Aveline but more flopped forward. Aveline steadied her, pushing back on her shoulder to keep her upright. Hawke grimaced in response.

“We should collect them from the tunnel, dear one.”

“I shall not be left to wander the drifting roads of the Fade. For there is no darkness, nor death either, in the Maker’s Light,” Sebastian took another deep breath. “And nothing that he has wrought shall be lost.”

Evelyn tried to take heart in Sebastian's verse. His posture shifted, changing into something stronger when his eyes met hers next. She gave him an encouraging nod. "It'll be alright."

Sebastian smiled at her weakly. He patted her hand and tiny shocks sputtered up her arm. Then he froze, the smile dropping from his lips. 

"What is it-" Evelyn looked to up. 

The dawn light reached into the tunnel, casting upon a pair of blackened leather boots. With a wobbly step forward, it crawled to a dirtied pair of trousers. With another the morning sun glimmered off the blond chest hair of a stout dwarf. 

Varric grunted, pressing into the light with great effort. In place of his leather jacket was Fenris. The elf was draped limply over his shoulders.

Sebastian darted forward, running to Varric's side. Evelyn chased after him.

Isabella shouted, realizing the prince's target, pulling away from Meril. Meril stumbled after her. 

"Varric!" Sebastian demanded. The dwarf fell to one knee before him. Sebastian helped him lay Fenris down. "Is he -" Sebastian placed two fingers onto the pale man's pulse point. 

Evelyn held her breath. She looked back at Hawke who was just beginning to understand what was happening. The mage was clawing at Aveline to help her up. 

Meril dropped behind Varric, cradling the dwarf as he slumped backwards. "Tell me he's alive, Choir Boy."

Sebastian pressed harder against Fenris' neck. His lyrium tattoos reflected in the dawn light, but there was no glow to them. His chest plate and right shoulder guard had been torn off, leaving a ripped black tunic underneath. 

"Common Broody," Varric leaned forward, using the momentum of his weight. Varric pushed his ear close to Fenris' chest. "You're too damn stubborn to die."

"There's a pulse!" Sebastian cried. 

"Fenris!" Hawke screamed, lurching against Aveline. The guard captian brought her close enough to see him, but her grip was iron. "Fenris!"

"Keep her back!" Varric ordered. He placed his palms over Fenris' heart and pushed, starting a pumping pace. 

"Fenris!"

A few Templars came forward, Donovan at their head. 

"Do you have any potions?!" Isabella demanded of them. 

Donovan shook his head. "In the battle -"

Hawke broke free from Aveline. She caught herself on one o the Templars, narrowly avoiding knocking herself out. She crawled to beside Evelyn, spilling some incoherent sorrow. "Varric," she cried. She gripped her mail, clawing at her chest to stop herself from interfering. "Please, Varric -"

"I know, beautiful. I know," Varric murmured. He beat on Fenris' chest again. "Common, Broody."

"Why isn't Anders here!?" Isabella shouted. Evelyn was the only one to spare her a glance. No one was listening. Everyone was holding their breath. 

Suddenly, Hawke had latched onto Evelyn. Her grip was fierce, her nails digging into her wrist. "Save him! Please!"

The cry rang, reverberating off the mist. "Please!" 

Chapter Text

"Please!" Hawke cried at Trevelyan again. The woman looked petrified, pulling slightly from Hawke's grasp. Hawke turned on her knees and begged. Fenris was dying.

"I can't," Trevelyan whispered, her eyes flicking to the Templars. She looked back at Hawke's desperate amber eyes. "Hawke, I -"

"Please! I can't — I can't," Hawke wept. "I don't know how!"

Trevelyan stepped back and Hawke staggered forward. Her bent fingernails caught on the soft ground. The young mage trembled, lost for words.

"Why won't you save him!?" Hawke shouted. She tried to stand but suddenly Sebastian was there to stop her. He caught her around the waist and turned her around. Hawke beat her fists on his chest. "No! No, no, no, no —"


"Hawke," Sebastian tried to sooth. "She can't." He pulled Hawke close. He rested one hand on the back of her head and cradled her into his shoulder. Trevelyan couldn't meet his eyes when he looked up. She couldn't face his judgement.

"Save him," Hawke sobbed into the prince's shoulder. "Please, save him. Sebastian —" She couldn't watch. She knew he was lying there. He was fighting somewhere alone. Hadn't they promised they would never be alone? She couldn't remember. Maybe not in so many words. Why hadn't she promised him? This is why.

Varric continued to beat on Fenris' chest, keeping his heart going. The elf's lips were turning blue, his skin paling. If Varric stopped he would die, Evelyn knew. How can I save him? Ronan's words crashed around her skull as her heart did in her chest. She couldn't have let her friend die to save another man in the same way he had begged her not to. His sacrifice would be in vain.


Varric's arms felt like lead. He had beat the flames to Fenris' cage, but it hadn't been soon enough. His lock pick wouldn't steady, it wouldn't catch the the proper fit. Fenris lay just on the other side, yelling at him to run as the fire crept between his feet. Go! Fenris shouted. You insufferable dwarf, run!  Just as the lock had clicked the bomb had exploded. He had lost precious time unconscious on the ground. Maybe if he had woken up sooner, been able to carry Fenris faster, but the man was - Varric grit his teeth and pumped harder.

Aveline saw the dwarf's grimace. She moved around Sebastian and Hawke and knelt beside Varric. "Here," she said quietly. She placed her hands over Varric's and copied his rhythm.

"Varric," Meril choked, pulling him back to rest as Aveline took his place.

Varric leaned back against her. Her cool palms cradled his face, one arm warping under his shoulder to rest on his forehead as he watched Aveline grunt and push on. He wished her magic worked on dwarves as the shock began to wear off. Just past Fenris, Hawke stood vigilant. One eye peaked around Sebastian's armour and Varric knew the prince didn't know she was watching. Don't watch, Marian, he wished. Common kid, don't do this to yourself. Though she shook and cried it wasn't sadness he saw in her gaze. Varric closed his eyes, he couldn't watch.

"Big girl," Isabella said softly, resting her hand on Aveline's shoulder. Fenris had shown no improvement. He looked worse if that were possible. Isabella had seen enough death to know when someone was beyond saving. She kept her eyes from his body, staring at Aveline's shoulder guard — a speck of red there.

Aveline looked up at the pirate. She pumped on Fenris' chest. Again. Again. She held the pirate's gaze.

"Even good men die."


Aveline looked down at Fenris. He looked like Wesley. In a blink he was her dead husband, a ghost shuddering his last breath. The same parlour, the same limp wave rippling out of his limbs from where she pushed to save him. She pushed harder.

"Let me try," Hawke shook.

At first Sebastian didn't let go, he tried to pull her back. "The Templars -"

Hawke looked at Donovan. He looked back utterly calm. Her tears stopped. A deep part of her subconscious thought if she couldn't save her love, maybe they would make her Tranquil. Sebastian lowered her without her word.

Hawke knew she wasn't right. She knew she had pushed herself too far, that her body was failing her. She was too stubborn to acknowledge the dark blurs around her vision. She put her hands on Fenris' chest. Aveline backed away. Hawke thought she whispered a warning, but she was too weak to hear. She dropped onto Fenris' chest, snaking her arms up. Her wrists caught on his pieces of ebony armour that remained. She rested her forehead on his chest, focusing to move past them. He smelt like gun powder. She breathed deeper, no. He smelt like lyrium, no. She breathed deeper. She would not remember him like this. She took a shuddering breath, fighting against the darkness that begged her to rest as she hid from the light against his chest. He smelt like the an ancient spice, a soap he coveted from his time in Seheron. He smelt like salt, always to her side after training, always wanting to be better. She imagined his heart beating, imagined he was warm. He smelt like love, and home, and then she could feel his skin and the thin rough of the tattoos on his neck as she pushed past where her hands had caught. She threaded her fingers into his hair.

Hawke reached for her magic. She searched under her heart in that pit where it slept. She pushed until her breath came out in a low whine. There was nothing left, and if there had been — she couldn't heal. She had never healed. Hawke kept her eyes closed as she pulled against him. Her knees came slowly behind her, lethargic. She imagine they were at home. Fenris had just fallen asleep while she was teaching him to read, while she was sitting quietly and letting him figure the words by himself. She felt his chin against her cheek, leaning him into her — she imagined his arms around her. This wasn't the place for blood magic. He wouldn't want this. She realized his peace might be the only thing she could give him now. 

Evelyn watched Hawke's trembling fingers brush back Fenris' bangs. The mage leant up and kissed his forehead, barley able to support herself. Evelyn clenched her wrists behind her back. Her mind raced for ways to fix this, for ways to save them. Even good men die. But she had seen this kind of love before hadn't she?

Sebastian put a hand on Evelyn's shoulder, startling her. When she looked up he was watching Hawke and Fenris. Evelyn wondered what it might be like if Sebastian lay there dying. She wondered what he wanted from her. Why doesn't he ask? She realized there was no understanding there. The kind of love they witnessed here was rare, only felt by the lucky or the cursed. Sebastian hadn't loved like that. He had never — Evelyn tried to push the memories behind her. She had a family, she had friends, she had a man, a friend, who had died for her.

"I love you, Fenris," Hawke whispered. She kissed his cold lips, cherishing the last time she would feel them. She thought she could feel her soul reaching into him, trying to pull him awake. She left it there. "I'm so sorry."

Varric wished this was a fairytale. He said a prayer. He thought if there was ever a time to intervene, this was it. But there were no happy endings here. His friend was gone.

Aveline stood as still as she ever had. A woman who was never without purpose, but there was no duty here. There was no man to punish, there was no god in absence, there was only sorrow. She thought of Donnic, and the woman of steel felt her heart break.

Meril kept quiet. She saw her friend as Tamlen, telling her if she reached deep enough — if she was desperate enough. But demons were cruel. They didn't understand because they weren't understood. She banished her ghost, holding onto Varric incase she wasn't strong enough.

Isabella fidgeted. She wanted to fight, to hit, to hurt. She wanted to scream at Hawke for being stupid. She wanted to beat Aveline who had no insult for her. She wanted to demand Sebastian give up the cloth. She thought she was shaking. There was no thought, just pain, anger — blood thirsty anger for something she had allowed to happen again. She recognized it as being too close to someone. She was too close to all of them, fool that she was. Her mother had warned her. She had forgotten, again.

Sebastian defaulted, transforming into a pillar. He was lost for verse, but he could be strong for those who didn't believe. Though now, he wondered if he did. Evelyn was there, just under his hand as was her power — just out of reach. He did nothing. It felt familiar to do nothing. He thought he couldn't ask this of her. He couldn't risk her.

"Goodbye, Amatus."

The word struck Evelyn as it left Hawke's lips. "Amatus," she whispered, remembering an elf she had let go. There was a man she still held hope would find her. There was man whose being alive was the only thing that kept her going.

Evelyn stepped forward. She knelt beside Hawke, pulling in the woman's pain as white light filled her heart, her eyes. It spread from her hands. She smiled threw her tears when Hawke looked up at her, only a shadow against the light. "Amatus," she spoke again and suddenly it all made sense. She didn't need to know what was right or wrong. Love was never right or wrong. She cupped Hawke's cheek, and then Fenris'. The light spread from her hands and encompassed both of them. She closed her eyes against the bright and thought of her love. The one she somehow knew she would see again.

"Amatus," Evelyn said again. It was an incantation that calmed her heart. It reached into the void and gripped Fenris' final tether. It weaved and twisted around it until it was strong enough that she could pull him back, even as she took the pain in Hawke's chest making it ebb. Their woulds wounds sealed, their fractures melded.

Suddenly, Varric was awake. The magic was so strong it had touched all of them. He felt alive, more than he felt awake. The shock had cleared and the pain wasn't there to replace it. He sat up with a gasping breath. As did Fenris.

Chapter Text

Fenris is falling, and it’s the most relaxed he’s felt in — he can’t remember when. He supposes, distantly, that he should be uncomfortable. He thinks certainly, he should feel nauseous. Didn’t people feel nauseous when they were falling? But he doesn’t. 

He just feels the wind gently slip past him. It’s under his arms, under his thighs, pushing his hair forward and tickling his ears. His hair doesn’t get in his eyes, because they’re closed. But he can’t be certain of that either.

It could just be that he’s falling in the dark. A dark, quiet, calm. He thinks he should cut his hair in case he decides to open his eyes in the future, it’s far too long — just as Hawke is always telling him.

Hawke.

Who was Hawke?

Fenris sighs internally as he falls. The sound is lethargic, like waking up before the dawn light, before a new day. The name scratches at his mind. The scratch is insistent, like it wants very much to be remembered. Fenris feels his skin scrunch against his nose. He doesn’t like the scratch. He tries to remember the calm, thoughtlessness.

The itch moves. It crawls down to his heart and takes up its task there instead. It wiggles and Fenris realizes his heart is beating. Has it always been beating? It seems loud against the quiet. It’s slow, but the base seems to reverberate amongst the darkness.

Fenris tries to open his eyes, because now he knows for certain they are closed. The falling makes his skin chill. First he remembers a thought, then his heart, then his eyes, then his skin, now his hands, his toes, his lungs — Fenris gasps.

There is no air in the darkness. There is nothing to breathe.

Panic sets underneath Fenris’ heart. Its beating becomes louder. He moves his arms and claws at his chest. It seems like darkness berates him. It might hold him down if he doesn’t fight it. It whispers harshly.

“I’m so sorry,” it says. That doesn’t make sense. Why is the darkness sorry? Why do the voices not have faces? Why can’t he breathe? He must breathe.

“Goodbye, Amatus.”

“No!” Fenris shouts but his lips won’t open. They’re sealed in a way he can’t command. “No!” he tries again.

It’s then that Fenris realizes he’s being pulled. He’s not falling, he’s being dragged down. Fear steals up his throat, begging him to scream.

Fenris reaches up into the darkness. He tries to catch anything to pull him back. He must go back.

“Amatus.”

This voice is different.

“Amatus.”

What does it mean?!

“Amatus.”

Fenris sees a pair of amber eyes peak through the darkness — two perfect stars. They blink, and when they open again the gemstones are rays of light. The light banishes the darkness. It’s so bright it hurts his eyes.

Fenris shouts within again. He covers his eyes.

Air rushes into Fenris’ lungs. He sits up, shoving the weight on his chest in an attempt to breath deeper. He gasps hard. It’s too bright to see but dirt bunches under his fingertips. He pushes himself up in his confusion.

“Fenris!” someone shouts as he stumbles back into a body. Large hands grip his shoulders and turn him. “Fenris, calm down brother.”

Calm? How can he be calm? His lyrium comes readily, the familiar pain shooting up his back and over his arms —

“Fenris!” orders another voice. His body reacts before his mind, stopping cold, as if it’s his instinct to obey.

Fenris blinks hard. His instinct? Hadn’t he been fighting so long to destroy that instinct? His memories come rushing back. Tevinter, Seheron, Kirkwall, Varric, Sebatstian, Meril, Anders, Aveline, Carver, Isabella, Ostwick, the priest’s cottage, the attack, the box, the drugs, the cave, the explosion — Hawke.

The light dims until Fenris can see Sebastian staring down at him with concern. His brown hair is stuck to the side of his face with sweat.

The prince must see coherence return to his eyes, because he lets Fenris’ go. The elf looks down at himself. There are holes in his armour but no wounds underneath. He squints over the priest’s shoulder, the light is from the dawn.

“Welcome back, brother,” Sebastian grips his shoulder again. A stunning smile splits his face.

“Thank you,” Fenris coughs, finding his voice. He notices Aveline standing beside Isabella. The pirate winks at him, and Aveline, against her nature, seems to be smirking.

“I’m fine, Daisy,” Varric calls Fenris’ attention. He’s standing with the elf, brushing off her hands. “That was one mighty spell, Tevelyan.”

The name directs Fernis’ attention to a petite woman kneeled in the dirt. She meets his eyes the moment he looks at her. They seem distant, like they see through him. Their colour is vivid, an electric current cooling from within her. Magic?

Fenris looks away from them to motion before her. Emeralds meet ambers.

Hawke stays kneeled in the dirt from where she’s righted herself. She doesn’t look through him, but into him. The disbelief is plain in her face.

Neither can look away. It’s a tumbling of emotion, many of which are too deep for description.

“I hope you are worth it,” Trevelyan whispers, away from Hawke’s eyes. Fenris doesn’t care to understand. But Hawke does. She leaps to her feet, pulling her staff from her back to have its blade catch the blow of an arcing long sword — it burns with blue lyrium — a smite.

Hawke deflects the blow, pushing back a man in Templar armour. She bears her staff before her for protection, her grip wide at both ends. Trevelyan remains kneeling behind her defensive stance.

The Templar is breathing hard, his eyes steeled. His sword still burns with the smite as he glares daggers at Hawke.

Sebastian pushes past Fenris. He draws his bow as he stands behind Trevelyan and aims it over Hawke’s shoulder. Varric takes point beside him as do the rest of Hawke’s companions — except for Aveline. She stands as dazed as Fenris, too torn to intercede.

In these few short moments, the remainder of the Templar’s battalion has rushed from the tree line. They draw their swords. Their uniform quiet efficiency is eerie to behold.

“That woman is an apostate,” says the lead Templar.

“She is,” Hawke replies. There is a dark note under her breath, a taunt.

“You don’t want to do this, Champion.”

Hawke blinks at that.

“You know who we are?” Aveline asks, stepping to Hawke’s side.

“Aye,” the Templar concedes. “What man of the Order hasn’t been shown the likeness of the untouchable apostate?”

“If I’m untouchable than she’s one of mine,” Hawke responds quickly.

“That girl is an Ostwick-native. Her family is one of the most powerful in the city — I can’t abide letting her go. I can leave you for the Kirkwall Order, Champion, but my duty demands I take her as my charge.”

“I won’t fight a Templar, Hawke,” Aveline says quietly.

Hawke meets Aveline’s eyes around her born staff. The two share a private battle, but Aveline holds steady. Hawke looks away, undeterred.

“Nor will I,” Fenris says through the tightening silence.

“She just saved your life!” Hawke shouts back at him. The pain in her eyes is clear, betrayal. Fenris wonders how this can surprise her, had he really lead her to believe he would defend against the mage-keepers? Is that who he had become?

“You will fight for her,” Hawke growls. “You owe her that much.”

“There’s no need for a fight, Champion,” the Templar says but Hawke doesn’t look away from Fenris. Her eyes burn, waging against him for dominance.

Fenris resists the twitch of his hand that means to take his sword for her. The instinct turns his blood cold. He’s reminded again that he has become a follower, someone who wants to obey — to obey orders from a mage, no less.

Fenris’ hate flushes fresh to the service. To come so close to being taken, to come so close to being a slave again — the fear is louder than the reason of his heart. He doesn’t see a woman who has earned his devotion, one who returns it equally. He sees another mage, a threat to his independence.

Hawke in her fury misses his falling. She presses again. “You will stand with me,” she demands.

Fenris scowls at her. He misses that the look causes her to flinch, hitting her like a physical blow. “No,” he says. He turns and starts towards the tree line.

“Fenris?” Hawke asks. Fenris ignores the note in her voice that cracks his heart. Surely, it was the same disturbed connection he had developed with Danarius. Love was weakness, it made him vulnerable.

“Fenris!"

Chapter Text

“Fucking typical,” Hawke snorted, before turning back to Donovan. It had never been said that Hawke had a flawless mask, but she had picked up a thing or two from that cocking elf. She channeled her emotion into fury. “Looks like it’ll just be you and me dancing, Templar.”

“You’d be wise to take after your friend, Hawke,” Donovan said, but he set his free hand back onto the hilt of his sword. He was preparing for a fight. “This isn’t a fight you can win.”

“You’d be surprised,” Varric muttered. Isabella snorted. Shit if this wasn’t going to hell-in-a-hand-basket.

“Are you sure we have to fight?” asked Meril. “Humans do seem to fight an awful lot.”

“I’m 99 per cent sure, Daisy.”

“Unless Trevelyan wants to play princess in the tower?” Isabella quibbled. The petite mage didn’t look up from her position in the dirt. The pirate didn’t know if she was recovering, maybe asking herself if her life was worth all of theirs? She certainly hoped so. “We could always play a game of break-the-mage-out-of-the-circle? Hawke’s dealt with a few fire-breathing lizards in the past.”

Sebastian shot Isabella a glare.

“Or not,” she sighed. She reached for her daggers only to remember the mages had confiscated them. Luckily, the Templars had left the Tevene weapons where they fell as they piled the casualties. There was a shiny set of daggers, a little less for the blood spatters, just a league away. One upside to this mess, she supposed.

Hawke touched the blade of her staff into the dirt. Her stance relaxed, even if she remained a wall before Trevelyan. She met Donovan’s eyes, proud but sad. She couldn’t determine how she still felt exhausted. Her body was healed, but a weight still sat on her heart, her shoulders, her soul. She didn’t want to fight, not when the out come always left her defeated. She glanced to where Fenris had disappeared into the forest. She wondered if the bloodshed would ever end. She wondered if it was worth it.

“You don’t want to do this,” Donovan said again. It was as close to pleading as Hawke would ever hear from a Templar.

“You can’t know what I want,” Hawke whispered. She looked back at Trevelyan. The huddled mage reminded her of Bethany in that moment. Unsure, scared, powerful in a way no one could understand. Had anyone bothered to wonder what she wanted?

Hawke turned her back and knelt beside the mage. She placed her hand on her shoulder, the touch drawing Trevelyan’s stormy eyes from the dirt. Her mana no longer felt foreign or condemning, but warm. In that moment Hawke knew that Trevelyan was one of them. She hoped the shaking girl knew it too.

“I don’t know what to do,” Trevelyan whispered. It was only loud enough that Hawke could hear.

“I know.”

“Should I go with them?”

Hawke didn’t answer, she couldn’t.

“Good men will die if I don’t.”

“Good men die everyday.”

Trevelyan brought her hand up to rest on Hawke’s. Her fingertips were like ice.

“Thank you,” Hawke managed a smile. “For what it’s worth.”

Trevelyan’s lower lip trembled. A tear slipped from her eye, the first rain. “I couldn’t let him die. You deserve —“ Trevelyan looked to Sebastian. He kept his eyes trained on Donovan, but from the dirt he seemed untouchable, brilliant. “More,” she whispered back to Hawke. “Peace.”

“What do you deserve?”

“I’ve a while yet before that I think,” Trevelyan sniffed. She took a deep breath. “Help me,” she said reaching out. Hawke pulled Trevelyan to her feet gently.

Trevelyan turned carefully and drew her forearm parallel with Sebastian’s bow. He looked at her rigidly. “Don’t trade your vows for poor circumstance, dear one.”

Sebastian hesitated before allowing the tiny mage to push his bow away. She was right of course, his duty to the Chantry was — but this was Evelyn. “You don’t have to go,” he said. It came out more forcefully than he meant it, but he wasn’t prepared for the rush of emotion that accompanied the realization that she was leaving.

Trevelyan smiled sadly. She rolled up onto her tiptoes and kissed his cheek. She rested her forehead against his temple for a moment, steadying herself. “Yes, I do.”

Sebastian wrapped his arms around her tightly. He kissed her forehead and then he pulled her closer.

“You’ll write this time?” Trevelyan joked, pulling away.

Sebastian snorted, it made him seem like a young prince again. “Of course,” he sniffed.

Trevelyan nodded.

“I’ll make sure of it,” Varric said. He came to their sides and gripped Trevelyan’s shoulder. “Thanks, kid.”

Trevelyan smiled a little wider for Varric. She was thankful for the strength of the dwarf’s presence. She realized how lucky Hawke was to have him.

Hawke stepped to the side so Trevelyan could pass towards Donovan. The amber-eyed mage spared her no sympathy, only respect. “I was wrong about you,” the Champion told her.

“Take care of them,” she replied.

Then, Trevelyan stood before Donovan.

“Thank you,” the Templar said. He looked to Hawke. “We’ll send wagons for the bodies.”

“Sure.”

Donovan nodded. “Men, move out.”

With that the Templars rotated and stomped one boot into the ground in unison. They started forward at the same time, Donovan and Trevelyan following as a pair behind them.

Varric stepped up to Hawke. “What happens now?”

Hawke watched the many plated backs glint in the sunlight, a tide of silver pulling back into the void. A fitting rift between she and her elf.

“We collect what we can,” Hawke sighed. “And then you go after Fenris.”

“He’s likely gone back to Kirkwall,” said Aveline.

Hawke nodded. “Then return to Kirkwall.”

“What about you, Hawke?”

Hawke looked back to her friend. The red-haired warrior stood firm, but weary. She wondered if a rift had formed between them as well. Hawke didn’t know. Her eyes slid to Isabella. The pirate smirked. Seeing running is easier bird-ling?

“You’ve still got a ship, Bella?”

“I’d wager it’s still there. Fancy a ferry?”

Hawke nodded. “Find Fenris,” she said to Varric, before moving towards the pirate. “I’ll see you when I see you.”

Chapter Text

Varric was never very good at tracking. That being said, it never failed that whenever Hawke was away, leadership fell to him.

If you ask the dwarf how he found Fenris the very next day, he’d tell you it was a mix of training and cleverness. The truth was, if Varric didn’t know any better — and he usually did — Fenris wanted to be found.

So the Maker would have it that Varric found a footprint that first day. Then another. Sebastian, Aveline and Merril followed diligently behind him.

“Another, dwarf,” Aveline called from horseback not 20 yards away. She pointed to the forest ground and Varric nodded, turning his mount to follow her.

It went on like this until nightfall.

“We should stop for the night,” Sebastian said. Truth be told they were exhausted. No amount of healing magic could make up for good, old-fashioned sleep — of which they had had none.

Merril had dismounted to dance her fingers across the foliage, sore from riding all day. She spun and agreed.

“He’ll have to stop too. Even those who flee have to rest.”

They looked to Varric to give his approval. The dwarf sighed. Fenris may well want to be found, but Varric wasn’t sure what he would say when he found him. You’re an idiot, came to mind. Regardless, he conceded.

_______________________________________________

The day’s journey was almost as uneventful for Hawke and Isabella. The pirate lead the horse, Hawke uncomfortably gripping her hips.

“Beautiful day, isn’t it sweet-thing?” she asked in the beginning.

Hawke didn’t respond.

“Do you think we’ll beat the others home?” she tried to be conversational. Hawke ignored her prompt.

“This is the least fun we’ve had pressed up together in a long time,” Isabella chided. She squirmed in Hawke’s weak grasp trying to pull a reaction from her, any reaction really. Hawke didn’t take the bait.

Only when the ocean appeared on the horizon and the stink of the city began to foul the air did the mage make a sound.

“We’ll make camp there,” she pointed over the pirate’s shoulder. A small hill had eroded so its rock face was visible.

As the sun sank Isabella went about finding firewood. Hawke leaned against the rock and watched it set, silent. Isabella noticed the dark circles under her eyes.

“Romantic, isn’t it?” Isabella flirted, finishing the woodpile for the fire.

“Not at all,” Hawke said, lighting the fire with a blink just as the pirate released the last log.

She woke to a nudge from Hawke at dawn.

“Get up.”

Isabella looked at the puddle of her drool, which made mud in the dirt. She wiped the corner of her mouth with the back of her hand. “Guess there is some rest for the wicked,” she joked as Hawke saddled their horse.

Hawke didn’t answer.

“You didn’t wake me for my watch,” she said more seriously.

“Didn’t need to,” Hawke muttered. When she turned to wait for the pirate it was evident she hadn’t slept.

Isabella frowned at her as she passed to mount. “Something keeping you up, Hawke?”

“I’ll sleep on the boat.”

Isabella pulled herself up onto the horse. She doubted that, but she could hold her tongue, contrary to popular belief.

_______________________________________________

The dialogue was almost as exciting with the other party.

“Choir boy,” Varric halted Sebastian when they were on the trail again.

“Yes?” the priest asked as Varric pulled their horses parallel.

Varric cursed inwardly wondering how to bring it up. “So,” he stumbled. “You and Trevelyan.”

Sebastian stiffened.

“Do you, uh,” Varric shuffled. “Want to talk about it?”

“No.”

Varric found himself nodding again as Sebastian pulled away.

“Well that’s strange,” he heard next. Aveline motioned for him to come over.

“What?”

“Look.”

The party had been lead to a gully. Steep banks followed a river that cut from the Vimmark Mountains, sloshing against the hilly terrain of the mountains’ base until roots from the forest hung from the dirt to great it. Varric’s horse whinnied nervously as he drew close to Aveline’s. A set of footprints appeared to jump down into the gully, heel tracks slashing to the river. Another seemed to continue along the edge before veering off back into the trees.

“He can’t have gone both ways,” Aveline grumbled. “He wasn’t travelling with someone, either.”

“He wants us to split up.”

“Maybe,” Aveline dismounted and pressed her boot into the soft ground. “The horses can’t follow this trail. We’ll have to take them around to cross.”

“We’ll lose him if we do that,” Sebastian interjected. He ran a hand through his hair. His bicep flexed, visible in the tight undershirt usually concealed by his armour. The prince had elected to keep his customary ivory plates in his saddlebag. “We could follow, if you wanted to take the horses around. You could catch us in a few days.”

“That’s your choice, prince,” Aveline sighed. “Better that way, perhaps.”

“Why?”

“The chant keeps you at peace,” shrugged the guard-captain. “You’ll try talking to him first. I’ve always been more of a knock-some-sense-into-him kind of woman.” The guard captain smirked when Sebastian’s throat bobbed.

Aveline and Merill helped the men prepare packs from the horses — mostly their bedrolls, armour and Bianca. They filled fresh canteens from the river.

“Keep the mountains to your right and you’ll run into Kirkwall,” Aveline reminded them as they descended to cross the river. “In case we don’t run into each other before then.”

“Yes, mum,” Sebastian muttered as he skidded into the water. The current was slow and shallow, but the cold sent shivers into the back of his skull.

“There’s nothing a hate more than wet boots,” Varric complained as he worked to the other bank.

“Wet boots and an empty stomach.” Sebastain’s stomach growled as if on cue. He had told Varric to leave the rest of the dried meats with the women, promising he would hunt in the morning.

It wasn’t until Aveline and Merril had pulled out of sight that they realised they wouldn’t have to. Just inside the line of trees, so thick the river could be heard but not seen, was Fenris.

The elf was perched on a boulder, cleaning gore from his greatsword. Below him was a quiet fire smoking a boar speared above it.

“Honey, we’re home,” Varric strode up to the camp with his arms spread wide.

Fenris glowered at him.

“What, you weren’t expecting us? Is there a maid hiding in the broom closet? Maker, I thought you loved me!”

“Shut up, dwarf,” Fenris growled. He eyed Sebastian. “I was expecting you.”

“That’s a bit obvious Fenris,” Sebastian dropped his pack beside the fire and began unlacing his boots.

“What are you doing?”

“Joining you?” asked Sebatian.

A chill silence fell between them.

“Isn’t that why you wanted us to find you?”

“No,” Fenris jumped to their plain. “I wanted to tell you something.”

“Well don’t keep us in suspense,” Varric crossed his arms.

“Stop following me,” Fenris ordered. “I’m not going back.”

_______________________________________________ 

“We both know that isn’t true,” Hawke sighed as the pair passed through the evening streets of Ostwick. With the sun set again the air quickly cooled. Isabella leaned into her to steal her body heat. She allowed it if only to stop the pirate’s constant nattering.

“Me? A liar? Not about this, bird-ling!” Isabella feigned innocence. “What do I have to go back for? Word will spread that the tome is back in Qunari hands. Once that happens it’s only a matter of time before I’m hunted down like a dog.”

Hawke snorted.

“What?”

“Hunted like a dog? Fitting as you’re a female dog.”

“Is that the nice way of calling me a bitch?” Isabella laughed, turning them towards the docks. “Well, I appreciate you being civilized about it.”

The shop stands gave way to residential huts as they passed from the market. They then grew into longer industrial buildings. A mill on the right for the irrigation system, a hatchery on the left, thick warehouses up and down the corridor before the docks. Suddenly, Ostwick smelled a lot like home, the sour of fish thick in the air.

Home, Hawke thought. What was left for her there? It was an empty thought that left her empty. What was she returning to? A dwarf and his son who stayed because they felt they owed her a debt. A city that wanted her blood one day and her authority the next. Ashes, thieves, whores — Hawke looked at Isabella from the corner of her eye. She had always believed the pirate had the potential for more, that they all did.

Isabella dropped Hawke off at the ship and went to stable the horse. She would sell it in the morning, the vessel wasn’t large enough for the beast.

Hawke wandered into the bowels of the ship lost in her thoughts. The image of Fenris’ back was seared into her mind. It flashed when she blinked. What wasted potential, she thought bitterly. He was a miscalculation, she told herself. It hurt less.

There was a time, not so long ago, when she had taken them into the Fade. Isabella and Fenris both. The magic of the place was heavy on her bones, twisting and sucking to congregate into corrupted corners and phantoms. There both Fenris and Isabella had chosen themselves at the heed of desire demons. She had believed at the time that if she gave them more time they would come to love her as she did them. That they could see beyond themselves.

_______________________________________________

“Hawke was wrong,” Fenris told Varric. The insufferable dwarf had taken up camp with him despite his protest.

Varric frowned, the crevasses it drew in his face were deeper than they were before the Blight, before Hawke. The play of the fire made him seem years older.

“No, Fenris,” Sebastian interrupted. “She was right. You may not agree with her, but you are better than this, better than walking away from her when she stood against a sodding platoon. What were you thinking?”

Varric wasn't sure he believed Fenris was capable of better, like Sebastian, like Hawke. He looked at the prince. Convincing the elf he was wrong might not have been the best course of action, but damned if he didn’t agree.

“I don’t fight mage hunters. I hunt mages,” Fenris growled.

“And break their hearts,” Varric said tiredly. He poked at the fire with a stick.

Fenris flinched at that but he squared his shoulders, if he had to push them away he would. He wouldn’t go back. He couldn’t face this choice. The memories were too fresh. Loving Hawke went against everything he believed in. “If you mean by tearing them out —“

“Maker’s sake, Fenris,” Sebastain swore. “You love her.”

Love makes me weak, Fenris thought.

“After everything she’s done for you?”

“I never asked —“

“Yes. You. Did.” It was Sebastain’s turn to growl. “That first night when you used her as bait to hunt Tevene men.”

“And when we went after Hadrianna,” Varric alternated.

“Who are you kidding, man?”

“None of us, that’s for sure.”

Fenris stood and paced the fire. “I don’t need to listen to this. I know what I stand for.”

“And what is that? Betrayal?”

“Sebastain,” Varric warned.

“Am I wrong?” the prince spun on the dwarf. His blue eyes were hard. Varric shook his head. Sebastian pushed himself up and blocked Fenris from pacing further.

“Do not test me, priest,” Fenris’ breaths came in hot pants. He had betrayed himself first.

Sebastian towered over him. “You’ve made mistake after mistake and instead of owning up to it like a man you want to run away? Coward!” 

“Enough!” Fenris shouted.

Sebastian spat into the fire, then he lunged.

_______________________________________________

"Just stop!" Hawke cried, pushing herself back from the table and standing in a rush. She looked at Isabella with such frustration it left her out of breath. 

"Stop what, sweet-thing?" Isabella gave her an innocent honey stare but her lips curled at the ends. She had caught Hawke wallowing, so she had switched tactics. She wouldn’t allow Hawke to berate herself for something that wasn’t her fault. "Stop hiding behind other people's problems, perhaps?" Isabella bit her lip. She pressed a palm onto the table between them. "No," she said. "That can't be it." 

Hawke put her head in her hands. "I've had enough of your games, Bella." 

Isabella fluttered her dark lashes. It was just enough that Hawke could tell the pirate was playing her. She wanted Hawke to realize it too — Ravaini was a better poker player than to be caught in a tell.

"Stop playing it close to the chest? Stop posturing for the rest of the world? Stop bridling Maker-forsaken passion like a stead that needs to be broken?" Her questions were a harsh whisper by the end. Isabella pressed her second palm into the table, holding herself back. Her next words were as soft as silk, "These are men's games, bird-ling."

"You're not making any sense," Hawke's fingers clawed into her hair. She almost laughed. Isabella did. 

"The Champion speaks, and she lies. Just like the rest of us." Isabella gestured to the ceiling of the ship and anything that might be higher thereafter. "She lies and she cheats and she's a selfish bloody whore skiving in the dirt with the rest of us." 

"I've done the best I can," Hawke ripped away from her nails. She glared daggers at Isabella. 

"It's not enough." Isabella pushed. "You're not enough. You see our darkness and you fly so high above us. Save us, Marian! Save us all!" 

"You're wrong."

"Am I?" Isabella stepped around the table but kept out of arms reach. "Do you not feel better? Does it not earn you some repentance from the hundreds you've left dead in your wake? What do you plan, bird-ling? Who do you save? What does it get you?"

"Please, stop," Hawke begged. 

"I won't stop until you admit it."

Hawke looked at her boots. They’re muddy from their trek to the boat. What was she doing coming here? Why was she running? What did she have to run from? She battled with herself. Didn't she have things to do — things to change?

"Admit it!" Isabella shouted at her. 

"Admit what?!" Hawke shouted back. "Admit that everything I do, every time I turn around, you've fucked up again? All of you? Every last one?"

"Us?"

"You!" Hawke stomped. She moved so she could bore down on the shorter woman. "You with your singular views! Your effigy that sees one way and lays the rest to waste! Damn the consequences!

“You and your expectations of everyone else except for yourselves!

"I've tried! I've loved and given and what do I have to show for it? A slut who can't give more than her body and an elf that’s so broken he makes my story look like a fairy tale! I chose! Everyone, and their fucking ignorant pride, and their high expectations. You look at me to see through your grey, make your choices and then you criticize me when I make my own?

"Maybe I am selfish! Maybe I'm just as bad as the fucking rest of you but damn it all if you ever see it!" Hawke gripped Isabella by the shoulders and threw her backward in a howl of fury. "This is not my fault! Look what you’ve turned me into!” Hawke looked at her hands as if she couldn’t believe she had attacked. “I’m angry, desperate, broken —"

"Not our problem," Isabella whispered, regaining her footing. She backed away. "It's not our fault you didn't live up to the dream we thought you were. That you give us chances we have no choice but to fail." 

“He shouldn’t have failed!” Hawke vibrated. Her hands curled into fists. “He should have stood with me! You want choices when you give me none?!

"No one could do it! No one!” Hawke stocked the pirate. “What kind of life is that to live? To be perfect, to look out for my brother and my sister and everyone else with two cents and a backwards view of humanity! I'm human too, damn it!"

"No you're not," venom dripped from Isabella’s tongue. "You're better. You believe it. They believe it —"

"No!"

"Yes, you've made them believe it. You love it that way. You love the attention. You want them to think you're different!"

"I'm not!" Hawke choked. "I'm the same! Maker damn it!" Hawke began to plead. "I'm the same," she said weakly. "All right?"  

_______________________________________________

“All right!” Fenris hollered from under Sebastian. The prince had tackled him to the ground. Fenris kept his wrists by his ears to deflect Sebastian’s blows. “All right!”

Varric snaked his arms around the prince’s middle and heaved him off of Fenris. He pushed his palms into Sebastian’s chest when the prince tried to punch around him. “Calm down, choir boy. He said uncle.”

Sebastian huffed in response.

Fenris covered his eyes with his forearm on the ground. “You’re right," he said once he had caught his breath. "I betrayed her. Is that what you want from me?”

Sebastian and Varric looked at each other.

“I’m not good enough for her. I don’t deserve her. Is that what I should say?” Fenris sat up, his shoulder’s slumped.

Varric guided Sebastian back to where he had been seated before.

Sebastian ran his thumb across his lip, wiping off blood drawn from a lucky right hook. “Then why,” he began as he rubbed the blood between his thumb and forefinger, “do you continue to fail her?”

Fenris was quiet for a moment. He stared into the fire, Varric thought the light hit just right that you could see a man behind the monster. The dwarf wondered if that was what Hawke saw.

“The darkness is,” Fenris closed his eyes, “easier.”

“Light and darkness,” Varric snorted. “There’s something I can write into your love story.”

“The old ways, the hate, it is — familiar,” Fenris breathed. Admitting it made him heavier. It made his dissent more real. “The unknown — she shines too bright. I don’t deserve her.”

“None of us deserve her,” Varric clapped Sebatian on the shoulder when he was sure the prince wouldn’t lunge again. He sat beside him.

“If we’re not careful, we’ll bring her into the darkness,” Sebastain whispered. He continued into the Chant, praying for them, for Fenris, for Hawke. For a saviour who could sustain them.

_______________________________________________

Isabella's back hit the cupboards, not far from where she had tied Hawke all those nights ago. 

Hawke came so close her hot breath dampened the pirate's cheeks. Isabella had Hawke right where she wanted her. The wall had finally cracked. In Isabella's mind it was a victory, it was picking the lock on a gilded cage. Hawke thought differently, the pirate could see it in her eyes — raw. "Prove it," she egged anyways. 

Hawke locked eyes with Isabella. She wasn't sure if she wanted to cry, or scream, or beat against her chest until her outside felt the same as her inside — until she broke free. 

Isabella let the bird out of the cage. "Give in." 

"Give you what you want, again?" Hawke coughed a laugh. It was her turn to look to the ceiling. 

"No," Isabella cupped Hawke's cheeks. The mage’s tears spilled into the creases in her knuckles. "Take what you want. Do what you want. Damn the consequences."

Hawke tried to pull away. 

"Damn what people say. Damn what they think. Damn what they are," Isabella pulled Hawke back to her. She wiped the tears under the woman's amber eyes. "There is no right and wrong in this world, bird-ling. There is only us and what we make the world."

Hawke looked down again. Her hands slid up Isabella's bare shoulders, then her neck, then into the hair at the base of her skull. Her hands turned into fists. "I hate you," she breathed. 

"Two sides of the same coin, bird-ling." 

"You'll never love me." 

I thought we weren't lying to ourselves anymore. 

You're words, not mine. 

Whatever helps you get by. If this is what you need. "I'm yours now, Hawke. Here, now. It's not about me."

"It's always about you," Hawke joked, sniffing to steel herself again. 

Isabella closed the distance between their lips. Hawke hesitated before jumping away from her.

"I chose!" the mage shouted.

"What do your choices mean?" Isabella asked. She gripped Hawke's wrist and pulled her in again, stapling her mouth to hers.  

"No!" Hawke shouted, throwing her back. 

"Stop trying to do the right thing! Stop trying to be finite in this shit world! What has it given you?!" Isabella shouted back. 

Isabella stepped back to Hawke, slowly. Cautiously, she slipped soft fingers under Hawke's chin. "Beautiful girl," Isabella sighed, touching her lips to hers. "Scared girl," again she kissed her. "Angel amongst devils," their eyes met. "If you've nothing to hold onto, hold onto me,” Isabella moved Hawke’s hands up to sides of her face. She kissed her palm. “Today, tonight. For one breath at a time. For once. Let go." 

Hawke was still stuck, Isabella saw. The war in her eyes was one that would never quite ebb, but Isabella was tired of watching her struggle needlessly for people who would never give back — herself included, not in the way Hawke needed. Not in the way of rare, pure people. Having the world disappoint you was a story she knew too well.

“Join us in the shadows,” Isabella whispered. She’d take Hawke whatever way, good or bad. People weren’t just light, they were light and dark and grey.  

“You’re the only one who sees me?” Hawke asked, it was barely a question.

“That you're human just like the rest of us?” Isabella shook her head. “Do you?”

Hawke wasn’t sure if she felt grateful or scared. She didn’t want people to know these things about her. She didn’t want to admit it.

"Give in,” Isabella taunted quietly. 

Hawke wondered if Isabella was a desire demon in her own right. Her offer was so tempting. She wondered if she could give up the hope she had left, the little girl who believed she could save everyone. Perhaps the girl could have, but the woman — all she had was damning evidence.

Hawke's eyes changed. They hardened. They forsook and they brightened with a mischief that lit a fire in the Isabella's belly, but also frightened her.

Hawke’s hands moved into Isabella’s dark trusses and yanked, exposing her neck. She ran her nose along the pirate’s exposed collarbone up to the pulse point beneath her chin. She nipped her there, almost too hard.

Isabella whimpered in response. Hawke gripped the back of her neck and drew her back against the cabin wall.

“So you want to fuck it out.” Hawke growled, spinning Isabella's words, taking the poetry of holding onto each other out of the equation. Her fingers circled to grip Isabella’s throat, cutting off her reply. She moved her lips close to the pirate’s ear, “I’m not in the mood for gentle, pirate queen.”

Hawke’s other hand slid down Isabella’s corset dress and under the back of her skirt. She gripped her ass and pushed her knee between her legs, prying them open. Hawke pulled Isabella’s earlobe between her teeth. “What do you say, Isabella,” she hummed, the tip of her tongue flicking along the bottom of her lobe with the words. “Do you want to play?”

Isabella gasped when Hawke released her neck. She gave the mage a dark look, matching her wanton. “It’s your game," Isabella bit her lip, hiding a smirk. "Mistress."

Hawke smirked back. Then she jumped somewhere deep within herself. She gripped Isabella and kissed her deeply, desperately. 

Chapter Text

Sebastian woke first, the dawn sky a peaceful blue before the sun's light pierced it. He rolled up and stretched before untangling from his bedroll and making his way to the river. He slipped his hands into the cool water and brought it to his face. 

"Priest," Fenris greeted lowly as he approached. 

Sebastian looked up as Fenris stepped past him into the river. He examined the elf's bare shoulders curiously. The prince had never seen Fenris half-naked before. Long lyrium lines seemed to drip down his back in the pale light. They were liquid silver except the colour was too light, too blue. They disappeared behind the belt woven through the waistband of his leggings. 

Fenris caught Sebastian watching him. "Yes, they're everywhere," he grunted. 

"I wasn't —" Sebastian frowned. Only thin knots of scarred flesh seemed to keep the elf's tattoos from spilling over his back. "I was only thinking they look painful, brother." 

"They are." Fenris considered laying down in the current to cool their burning. Ice water had once been his only relief, before — Fenris snorted. 

"What?"

Fenris shook his head and splashed water over his shoulder with a hiss. "Hawke." 

Sebastian cocked his head. 

"It's just that they're —" Fenris cleared his throat. He could almost feel her touch, careful fingers gliding from his neck to the small of his back. The sooth of her magic and emotion that came with her presence — "How did I find you?" he asked as she stepped closer. Her long hair tickled his chest. "Where else would I be?" she whispered. The combination was intoxicating, if he had to describe it. Maddening, like you might starve without it. Fenris cursed. These realizations were nothing new, but they seemed more condemning after he had admitted them to Varric and Sebastian. His instincts pushed against his dependance, but he swallowed them down. "It's easier in her presence." 

"Isn't that the truth," Sebastian smirked. He was glad to have Fenris back on the right path. He regretted attacking the man, but he wouldn't question the Maker's will. It had worked, that was all that mattered. 

"Sometimes the way you talk about her, I wonder," Fenris drew Sebastian back. 

Sebastian chuckled. "Last night you were leaving her, now you're jealous of her?

Fenris grimaced. Sebastian wondered that the elf revealed any emotion. That was the effect of Hawke as well he suspected. 

"I'm sorry, that was unkind." 

"No," Fenris said. 

The two returned to camp close to companionable silence. Sebastian found his bow, making to string it as Fenris roused Varric. 

"What? What?" Varric bolted up, his snoring cut off with a snort. 

Fenris chuckled and moved to pad out the fire. 

Varric yawned as he watched Fenris' bare feet blacken with soot. "So what's you plan, Broody?" 

Fenris moved to his bedroll. He pulled his armour from his pack and began outfitting himself. 

"Broody?" 

Sebastian caught Fenris' eye over his bow. 

"Return to Kirkwall," he nodded to the priest. He looked at Varric, "Return to Hawke." 

 --------------------------------------

Hawke filled her lungs with the salty air of the ocean as she stepped from the ship's underbelly. She moved to the bow of the ship. The sun was heaving itself above the ocean. Wasn’t it amazing that it always rose again? Come hell or high water.

Hawke stretched her arms over her head, her camisole revealing her midriff. It felt good to stretch without grimacing. The sounds of the rising city worked from a whisper behind her.

Isabella followed moments later. She carried Hawke’s tattered Amell cloak, her staff and an over large satchel bag was thumping against her backside with the rhythm of her strut. Besides this, she was dressed in her customary white corset and thigh high boots, strapped with daggers all up and down, including the two she had pillaged from the Tevene men they had killed.

“You had another pair of those laying around?” Hawke asked as the pirate approached.

Isabella yawned. “Always, you’d be surprised how often I loose my boots.”

“I wouldn’t,” Hawke snorted imaging many beds with lonely long-boots under them, forgotten as the pirate queen fled her suitors. “How lovers must pine for you, clutching your boots and praying you’ll return for them.”

Isabella shrugged. “Here,” she held out Hawke’s staff and cloak. “We should go into the city and sell the horse. Maybe fetch you supplies.”

“I thought you had already taken care of that.”

“I didn’t think you’d be with me, sweet-thing.” Isabella pressed her wrists against the banister on the bow. She pulled, arching her back in a stretch. “Not that I mind,” she winked as Hawke admired the way her body curved and bowed.

“We’ve no coin with us, Bella.”

Isabella smirked. She slipped the satchel from over her head and slid it over Hawkes. She then took her cloak from her hands and tied it over her collarbone. She slid the bag until it fell against the mage’s lower back, hidden by the fall of the cloak.

After selling the horse to a no-nonsense stable hand on the outskirts of the market district, Hawke and Isabella worked themselves into the city’s heart, sliding through the throng of its morning commuters. It was louder than Hawke remember from her short time with Sebastian in the city. The city seemed to have more energy in the morning. Somehow, it was busier.

“Keep your hands off my meat you thieving beggar!” yelled a shop-stand owner to a buyer whose armour suggested he was quite well off. The owner spit as he rehung the hare the two must have been bargaining over. Hawke saw the dispute in a glimpse between the seas of bodies.

“I wouldn’t have my hands anywhere near his meat, if you want my opinion,” Isabella joked, sliding her arm into the crook of Hawke’s.

“It almost makes me miss Kirkwall,” Hawke thought aloud. Compared to Ostwick, the people of Kirkwall seemed mild-mannered. Even the drunkards were more polite.

“I suppose they’d have our heads if we were caught,” Isabella shrugged. She steered Hawke between the stands and into one of the many shop buildings set behind them.

The smell of turning dough and baking ovens caused Hawke’s stomach to rumble as they entered the bakery. It was quieter in the shop, but not by much. Even off the street there was a crowd. They lined back from the seller’s counter in four rows of five. Those waiting to pay barely fit between the baskets of baked goods stacked on stands against the walls.

Isabella pulled Hawke to peer at the selection of cookies. She placed her arm on a woman’s shoulder, trying to levy herself to see the top shelf. The woman, who had the three long, dark lines running from the top of her cheekbone, sneered and shook Isabella off.

“Watch it!” Hawke bit as Isabella stumbled backwards into the stand.

The woman scowled at Hawke. “Filthy dog-lords,” she muttered.

Hawke’s temper flared. “What did you just say to me?”

“Come now, love,” Isabella said, pulling at Hawke’s arm. She kissed Hawke’s cheek. “Free Marchers don’t have time for tourists. So sorry, sera.”

Back in the crowded street, Isabella laughed at Hawke’s expression.

“I can’t believe you put up with that.”

“First rule of thieving, bird-ling. Make it about something else.”

“What?”

Isabella slid her arm under Hawke’s cloak. She trailed her fingers down the mage’s spine, cooling her temper, and pulled two cookies from her satchel. “Breakfast?” she asked, handing Hawke a cookie.

Hawke blinked at her. “You tempting trickster.”

“Second rule of thieving,” Isabella said around a bite of her sweet. “Always keep moving.” The pirate tugged at her arm and they began moving through the crowds again.

“What’s the third?” Hawke asked as Isabella bumped shoulders with a man. When he gave her a glare, she blew him a kiss. He shook his head and kept walking.

Isabella dropped a glinting gold coin into Hawke’s palm. “Take only what will go unnoticed.”

“Gold is going to go unnoticed?” Hawke asked, a smile peaking from her lips as she watched Isabella trick another man. Her heart began to beat faster. The thrill sent a shock through her empty veins.

“I could take the whole purse,” Isabella said, coming back to Hawke’s side. “But then I’d have to run and these boots tend to chafe. So if they’ve a purse of gold, I take a coin here, a coin there. If they’ve a purse of gold and silver, I take silver. If they’ve silver and less, I take less. No one is the wiser.”

Hawke was grinning by the time the pirate finished her explanation. “I’d like to try,” Hawke nearly giggled. She wanted to take. She wanted to take until the world had nothing left to give. It’s what she deserved, the adrenaline in her blood intoxicating. She could start with a few coins.

“Patience, bird-ling.” Isabella spotted a robes shop nearby. She pulled Hawke up to the display window. A silk cloak, black with a red inlay, showed in the display window. “Let’s start you off with someone small before we move to pickpocketing.”

Hawke’s eyes glinted. “Let’s,” she said.

 

Chapter Text

As her luck would have it, if you asked Isabella, Hawke was a natural. The two took turns causing distractions. Stumbling drunken friends, still boozing from the night before, knocking over a shelf to snag their wanted wares as they apologized and cleaned their mess for the store keep. A pair of overeager lovers, making others avert their eyes as they whispered into each other’s ears and kissed in alleyways just within reach of stacked supplies. They made it up as they went along, passing well into the noon hour.

It wasn’t long before they had everything they needed, and anything they didn’t, but wanted anyways. Hawke’s satchel was heavy, as was the pirate’s, one she had stolen from an unsuspecting old women who hung it while she picked her fresh goods for dinner that night.

“We make a good team,” Hawke said as they picked their way back towards the docks, moving into a quite section of the city.

“But we already new that,” Isabella laughed as she bit into a stolen apple.

The two stopped at a main intersection, giggling at themselves as they waited for carriages to pass among the warehouses. One, with two white stallions, stayed for a moment too long as the others passed out of view. It was more a covered wagon than a carriage. A wide, tall, thick-boarded box on wheels was set behind the driver. It had two dwelling sized doors on the back.

“Whoa!” shouted the driver, drawing Hawke’s attention from Isabella’s lips. She looked up to see a hooded figure linger, his shadowed face turned towards them. He tied the reins to the front rail of the carriage and stepped from it, dropping beside them.

Isabella pulled from Hawke’s arms and frowned.

“Lady Hawke?” asked the figure, his voice was weak, as if it had been torn hoarse from shouting.

“Who asks?”

The man pulled down his ebony hood, revealing a set of pinched hazel eyes.

“Little hot to be wearing all black,” Isabella said, standing by Hawke’s elbow.

“It’s one of Trevelyan’s guard dogs,” Hawke smirked crossing her arms over her chest.

Isabella appraised the man. The ocean winds brushed back his cloak, a stained white stallion on his shoulder guard.

“I am Clayton, lady,” he bowed his head. His dark hair was greasy, it shone in the high sun.

“What do you want?” Hawke bit. She shifted her satchel strap.

“I —“ Clayton cleared the brittle from his throat. “I’m looking for my lady.”

Isabella and Hawke shared a look. Trevelyan was halfway to the circle by now.

“Please,” Clayton begged. “I went to the battle site, as she asked. I was to collect the dead with her. But when I returned —“

“She’s gone, guard dog,” Hawke sighed. “She went with the Templars to the Ostwick Circle.”

Clayton could only blink.

“She saved us,” Isabella whispered, frowning at Hawke. She tried to soften the blow. “She healed Hawke and Fenris —“

“Practically the whole bloody company, showing off like she did. All of us felt it.”

“That can’t be,” Clayton looked at the dirt. “She let Ronan die, so that she could avoid — it was his dying wish. He laid their dying and she — my brother.”

Hawke looked to the horses of the carriage, bored as Clayton’s heart broke. “Well, now she’ll be the one lying and waiting for death. Nothing we can do about it.”

“What?”

“What?” Hawke furrowed her brow.

“Forgive me, my lady. I don’t understand.”

“Lying and waiting for death? Pretty girl like Trevelyan. You don’t get that?”

“I —“

“Come now, guard dog. You know what happens in the circle. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have spent all that effort keeping her from the circle for as long as you did.”

Isabella swallowed. She nudged Hawke and gave her a firm glare.

“What, I’m just stating the obvious. You know it just as well as I do.”

Clayton clenched his fists. “Templars have more honour than that. They are just. My lord will not stand for this. We will free her before she is —“

“Quit lying to yourself,” Hawke spat. “They’ll hump her for punishment. They’ll hump her, and hump her and then one day she’ll ask for the Rite. After that she’ll bend over the bed willingly.”

“How could you say such awful things?”

“I wasn’t the one who left a mage surrounded by a battalion of Templars in the middle of the Marker-sodding forest, now was I?” Hawke seethed. It crossed her mind that she might be blaming him unfairly — this broken warrior. Perhaps she saw someone else beneath his ebony leathers. Someone she was trying very hard to forget.

A silence lingered between the three.

“Right then,” Hawke said. “Off to tell your master, or whatever you call him. Tell him she saved the Champion of Kirkwall and it landed her in the tower. Constellation prize, maybe you’ll get lucky and have some Templar blood in the lineage in a few years.”

Hawke made to move past Clayton. His struck out and gripped her forearm. “You dishonour her.”

Hawke turned and shoved Clayton backwards. He stumbled into the carriage. The horses whinnied nervously.

Clayton’s hand went to his sword, “Draw your weapon, Champion.”

“Really?”

“Hawke,” Isabella warned.

“I took on the Arishok and won, guard dog. This isn’t a fight you can win.”

“I will avenge her!” Clayton shouted. He drew his sword and lunged at Hawke. She dodged backwards, the weight of her bag pulling her onto her back.

Clayton’s eyes were wide with rage. He bore his teeth at Hawke as he charged. Hawke fumbled with her cloak and shoulder bag. She rolled away from them, snatching her staff at the last moment, as Clayton’s arched his weapon towards her.

Isabella’s dagger caught Clayton’s sword, diverting it from Hawke’s back. She shouted as she shoved him back. “Enough!” she shouted as Hawke climbed to her feet.

“Stay out of this Bella,” Hawke shoved a hand at the pirate and she was pinned by force against the shop of the street corner. “If the man wants to kill me, let him try.”

Isabella cursed. Hawke had no armour under her cloak. She stood in a camisole and leggings against a seasoned, dressed warrior. All the mage had was her staff.

Clayton hesitated, his eyes falling on the weapon like Isabella’s.

“What?” Hawke asked, breathing hard. She looked at her staff. “This?” Hawke tossed the staff towards her cloak.

“Hawke!” Isabella shouted, pushing against Hawke’s force.

“Come and get me,” Hawke gestured to Clayton with her hands.

“Ah!” Clayton roared charging again.

Hawke spun away from him, almost casually. He came at her again, and Hawke dodged, swing after swing narrowly avoiding her neck, her arm, her ribs. Suddenly she was feet from the carriage again.

Hawke smirked as Clayton huffed, running head long towards her. She pushed her shoulder up, catching his sword and wrapping her fingers around his neck. She levied his weight to send him crashing into the carriage. It rocked, leaning onto two wheels with the collision. When if came back down it through the warrior on his back. Clayton laid there, his body slow as he tried to regain his senses.

Hawke turned her back on him. She checked the slice in her arm, fingering the blood between her forefinger and thumb before looking at Isabella. “You worry too much,” she smirked. She flicked the blood away.

“Hawke!”

The mage spun at the pirate’s cry.

“Arg!”

Hawke coughed. Clayton’s blade slid through her stomach. The pain surprised her. It knocked the wind from her lungs, searing white hot from the blade down her legs.

Clayton let go of the sword and stepped backwards. “I am sorry, Champion,” he said immediately. 

Hawke looked at the sword and fell to her knees. She saw red droplets pool on the blade, falling from her lips.

“Hawke!” Isabella cried.

Clayton looked at the pirate. He backed away further. He looked at the champion’s bowed head and was shocked by what he had done.

Chapter Text

"Hold!" Sebastian whispered hoarsely. Varric and Fenris froze. 

The deer was yards away. The trio had been tracking it for the better part of the day. Unknowing, it nibbled away at the wet grass. Sebastian knocked an arrow. 

"Oh, no way, Choir Boy," Varric chuckled lowly. He drew Bianca. With two clicks the crossbow's bolt had fired. The prince didn't even have time to align his shot.

Sebastian lowered his arrow as Varric's pierced the deer's heart. Dropping it effortlessly. He looked at the dwarf. "That Make-damned contraption steals the grace of the hunt." 

"Don't listen to him, baby," said Varric, kissing the crossbow as he came upon the deer. "You're plenty graceful."

"Tell him, Fenris," Sebastian joked, as he appraised the beast beside Varric. He looked back over his shoulder. "Fenris?"

Fenris stood, bent forward over one hand, the other clawed into the bark of a tree for support. He shook as his markings flared across his abdomen. "Something's wrong," he hissed. The pain was worse with the dread that rolled in his stomach. "Ah!" he cried out as another wave brought him to his knees. 

"Fenris!" Sebastian shouted, darting to his side. 

Fenris writhed on the ground. He grit his teeth as the pain beat with the pound of his heart. 

"What do we do?" Sebastian asked Varric. Their hands hovered over the elf helplessly. 

Fenris went rigid as the white burn consumed him. 

----------------

Hawke ignored it at first. The pain was too intense to understand it, but as the power grew — licking her wounds with its dark spirit — so did its thrumming voice. It did not speak, it only laughed. You think this is funny, she asked it. It filled her with hilarity. Death would not take her, she did not deserve death. But the darkness, the cackling devil that had been whispering in her ear since her mother's death, since the Arishok had almost killed her — it would accept her.

Clayton watched the mage tremble on her knees, wishing death would take her. It was slight at first. Just trembling. Then, Hawke's shoulders moved up and down as if —

Hawke’s head lifted, a laugh sputtering the blood from her throat. Her dark amber eyes met Clayton’s, her teeth lined with red. She spit and looked at the sword.

“You know,” Hawke wheezed, gripping the weapon’s hilt. “Before,” she grit her teeth as she pulled, “This might have worked.”

Hawke let out a gasp as the blade tip slipped back between her meat. She took a shuddering breath, drawing strength from the blood all around her, sharing in its acceptance. “Before I was almost cut in two,” she whispered to herself. She grasped the blade when the hilt was too far for her to leverage.

“But,” she hissed as the blade cut into her palms. The warmth seeped out and slid down her wrists. “Ever since that day, this,” Hawke looked at Clayton. “This, power, has been clawing at me.” Hawke growled as she pulled the blade from her body. The warrior grimaced at the sucking sound. She dropped the sword. "Maybe even before that," Hawke said without emotion.

“I’ve been denying it, fighting it,” Hawke leaned back on her knees and looked at the sky. The back of her hands lay against the dirt. She took a deep breath, listening to the song of the blood.

“But if I’m honest with myself,” Hawke said, reaching forward and gripping the sword’s hilt. She dug the blade into the ground and pushed herself up. “I’ve been using it since that day.

“Little by little. Never enough to admit it to myself,” Hawke examined Clayton’s sword before throwing it into the dirt before him. He stood there, shocked still.

“Blood magic,” he whispered.

Hawke nodded. Spitting the blood from her mouth, clearing it again. “My father taught me." She looked at the deep cuts in her palms, flexing them. “Not the spells of course, but how to recognize it.”

Hawke and Clayton stood facing each other. A second ticked by, then another. The warrior dove for his sword. He was caught just before it, his body betraying him. It held him at an unnatural angle, his arm outstretched just inches from his blade

Clayton blinked at Hawke. She stepped towards him. Her eyes made her seem a devil, smoking red as she stalked her prey.

“For example,” she whispered. “Did you know there’s a spell that sucks the life from your enemy, healing you?”

The pain started immediately. Clayton cried out as his insides writhed like they were on fire, splitting apart.

“It isn’t hard to figure out,” Hawke stopped. “He taught me defense. Knowing defense, I can figure out the offence.” Hawke thought maybe she was beginning to love hearing the sound of her own voice. She watched Clayton’s pupils dilate, water pooled and rolled over his lashes.

Hawke’s body stitched itself back together. When there was no more fresh blood the spell stopped, Clayton dropped to the ground. Hawke watched him writhe on the ground from phantom wounds that could not be seen. She picked up his sword. She raised it over her head to end his suffering — an ant under a magnifying glass.

“Hawke!” Isabella cried.

The mage looked over her shoulder. She had almost forgotten she was still holding the pirate, her pure mana singing so quietly — it was barely a rock in the canyon of power she now controlled.

“He doesn’t deserve to die.”

Hawke looked back at Clayton, lowering his sword. The red smoke cleared from her eyes, but not her belly. “Sure he does,” she said, releasing Isabella.

“No,” Isabella said, trotting to her side. She took Hawke’s arm. “He doesn’t.”

Hawke noticed Isabella’s grip was shaky. She rolled her eyes, “Have it your way.”

Hawke took Clayton’s wrist and heaved his arm around her shoulders. He whimpered as she dragged him to the back of the carriage. She pulled the large wooden doors open with her magic, then hesitated.

Inside the wagon were the bodies of the mercenaries lost on the battlefield. Each laid face up, eyes closed. Their arms were crossed over their chests. Their hands dripped their weapons. It was eerie how still they were.

“Help me with his feet,” Hawke told Isabella. Together, they laid Clayton along the mouth of the carriage. Isabella pulled his shoulder so he laid on his side, facing out, away from the eyes of the fallen. She stood out of the way as Hawke closed the doors.

Clayton met Hawke’s eyes as she brought the doors together. She paused. “Live,” she said quietly. Her eyes were almost sad. Then the amber hardened, deadening their glitter. “Live knowing your mistress gave her life for those who don’t deserve it.”

Hawke locked the doors. Her eyes smoked, consuming the horses' eyes at the carriage's front. “Take them home!” she shouted. “Hah!”

The horses bucked, rearing the carriage before galloping down the barren street.

Isabella watched it go, she cursed under her breath. “Feel better?”

Hawke turned her back on the pirate and moved to her things. “You don’t?” she smirked. 

Hawke bent, collecting her cloak, satchel and staff. “Wasn’t it you telling everyone even good men die while I whined over Fenris’ corpse?”

“I know a woman who would’ve argued they don’t have to.”

Hawke snorted. She fastened her staff before meeting the pirate's eyes.

What’s the matter, Bella?

This isn’t what I meant, Hawke.

Afraid we freed a beast and not a bird?

Hawke moved towards Isabella, stopping before her. The two starred at each other without blinking, a passive war of wills.

Hawke closed her eyes and shook her head. “I knew a woman like that once,” she finally replied. She knocked Isabella's shoulder as she moved to cross the street. It wasn't much, but the pirate knew Hawke well enough to know it was a warning. "She was a fool," Hawke hissed into the pirate's ear as she passed. 

 

Chapter Text

Meril started when she opened her front door to find Fenris standing there.

“Meril,” he grunted.

She stood there wide-eyed with the door ajar. “Are you being chased?”

“What?”

Meril peered over the taller elf’s shoulder, leaning up on her tiptoes. The alienage was no busier than usual. The Addah boys were playing stick-ball under the sacred tree.

“Are you going to invite me in?”

“You want to come in?” She looked even more puzzled at that.

“Yes, I —,” Fenris clenched and unclenched his fists. “I have need of your expertise.”

Meril cocked her head at him, perhaps intentionally, to make him more uncomfortable. A slow smile spread over her face, “You need my help, Fenris?”

“Yes.”

Meril swung the door open and stood aside. “That must have been very hard for you to admit.”

Fenris made his way to the back of the blood mage’s hovel. He swore a rat scuttled behind a book on the small roundtable before the empty fireplace.

There were no windows in the hovel. The clay hut was just that, the only light coming from a pair of shrinking candles in the other room. Fenris thought they glinted off a mirror.

Meril closed the door to her room, plunging them in darkness. She cursed in elvhen. “Light,” she ordered the fire.

Fenris hissed as mana slipped passed him into the pit. His markings hadn’t been the same since he had collapsed hunting with Varric and Sebastian. The pain was constantly burning now. The tiniest breath of magic was a chafing wind against him.

The two stood awkwardly in the yellow light.

“Would you like to sit?” Meril gestured to a chair against the wall behind him.

The rat was gone when Fenris pulled it up to the roundtable. Another silence.

“I’ve been having — dreams,” Fenris started.

The sky is aqua, the horizon black. Streaks of smoke, the colour of pollen, pull across the scene in lazy vertical strokes.

The grass tickles his bare feet. It slips between his toes and smells of dew. It’d be pleasant, except it too is black.

“I’m in a meadow — of sorts. Then I hear a voice,” Fenris explains, ignoring Meril’s offer of tea. It’s hard for him to put the feeling of the dream into words. “It’s her voice.”

“Hawke’s you mean?”

First, the air rises, pushing him. It feels like waking up while he’s asleep — if that were possible. He stops looking at his toes. The ground shifts, rolling into hills. He takes a step forward but finds himself two back. Each time he moves, so does the land.

“Fenris,” she whispers. “Fenris, where are you?”

“Yes,” Fenris admits. “It might not even sound like her voice, but it is. It’s —“ he struggles to find the word in common. “Melancholy, despondent —“ he tests.

“Sad?”

Fenris lips part as he looks at the tiny woman before him, he wonders how well he hides his desperation. It’s been the same dream for weeks. “Yes,” he nods. “Like she doesn’t know I can hear her.”

He takes another step. Another two back.

“I need you, Fenris,” she says. “I’ve always needed you. Why aren’t you here?”

Fenris heart aches then. It ripples out of his chest and brings him to his knees. His markings burn. The hills grow larger. They surround him.

“Fenris, help me,” she’s more desperate as the land consumes him.

“Marian?” he calls out.

The dream ends there, Fenris tells Meril. He can’t bring himself to say more. Sometimes the dreams are with smoke, sometimes with unending flat plains, sometimes with a wind that beats him back until he can go no further. The pattern is the same every time — no matter what he tries, he can’t reach her. When he wakes it’s with hopelessness. The same dread that brought him to his knees during the hunt weeks before, causing him to pant and grip at his bed sheets like a child. Each time the same ringing is in his ears — like fate is laughing at him.

Fenris looks to Meril. Her oval eyes peer at him over a heavy teacup.

Meril had been to the Fade enough times to know the difference between an awares visit, and one that was unawares. The subconscious was a funny thing in her opinion, barely tangible here but only tangible there.

“On rare occasions the conscience can stay active in the Fade,” Meril spoke to fill the uncomfortable silence, hoping to ease or educate him. “When this happens, people can remember dreams as more than puddles of images and emotions. Somehow, however, the subconscious never does the same thing in the awake realm. I’ve never been able to figure out why. It's like they can only peek through the wall between them.”

Fenris nodded, though skeptically.

The gears in the back of her mind worked furiously, “Even more rarely, threads of consciousness, sub or otherwise, can extend past a person’s pocket of the Fade. Unspoken thoughts needing to escape, probably tied to powerful feelings —”

Fenris blinked at Meril.

“Like love, desire,” Meril poked.

Fenris stared at her blankly.

She rolled her eyes, “Hate, rage, pain.”

“I understand,” Fenris said dryly.

Meril doubted that, “If the threads find other threads, they can tether to each other. Sometimes when we dream of people, our conscious sees our subconscious through — oh one of those human glass twisters that makes things look like they’re seen through fly eyes — kaleidoscopes! Or the wall I was talking about."

Meril sipped her tea, “Usually, we think we’re dreaming about one person, but we’re actually dreaming about another who has something in common with the first — subconscious mind misinterpreted by the conscious mind — but sometimes we’re actually connecting with the person we’re dreaming about — our escaping threads weaving together.”

“That’s what you think is happening between Marian and I?”

Meril didn’t want to crush the hope in his eyes, but it was so rare that regular minds travelled the Fade while sleeping. It'd be just two people reaching and bumping into each other with their eyes closed. No one in control. 

Even seasoned mages had trouble weaving with other minds consciously, unless they entered the Fade through magic, she thought. If Hawke's message was this distorted, there'd be no magic involved. In which case, without conscious effort, it was the same wasn’t it, as two non-magic brains floating in the Fade — very unlikely.

“Well?”

“I could tell you, but you’re not going to like it,” Meril thought Fenris looked more frail of late. Then again, he had never been particularly stout. He was an elf afterall, no matter how much he wished otherwise.

“They must stop,” he pushed his forearms into his knees for support. “I need — I need them to stop,” Fenris sighed. He pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes.

What a curious thing, Meril thought. For a man to wish to stop dreaming of the woman he loves.  “Give me your hands,”  she put her palms flat on the table.

Fenris eyed her wearily.

“Yes, it will hurt. I’m a mage. I use blood magic. Of course the demons you give power too will be brought to the surface by the tingle of familiarity to your markings.”

Fenris narrowed his eyes at her.

“I’m sorry,” Meril blinked. “Were we pretending we liked each other enough for me to lie for your comfort?”

Fenris wondered how her voice could remain so innocent and yet her words so cutting. His hands hovered above hers for a moment. He exhaled and closed the gap between them.

The pain was immediate.

“Fenris,” Meril’s voice came through the roar of buzzing across his body. “Remember you give power to your pain.”

Fenris thought to tell her knowing it did nothing to help it. He gasped when she released him. She picked up her mug and sipped as he recovered.

“Well?”

“You’re still not going to like it.”

Of the thousand ways Fenris would’ve told Meril she hadn’t an inkling of what he did and did not like, in that moment, by the grace of the Maker, he chose none of them. He sat quietly, instead. The rat scuttled between his feet.

“You’re connected to her,” Meril sighed.

“Yes,” Fenris flexed his hands. He and Hawke had been connected — in more ways than flesh — after their first night together. Not more than a year ago, the tattoos on his left thigh had burned so hot he’d been forced to dodge into a High Town alley to recover. Later, he learned Hawke had been injured in an ambush on the Wounded Coast. A mabari had torn through the critical artery in her left leg. There were a handful of times like that.

“She might not come back the way you left her, Fenris.”

Fenris ground his jaw together as he returned to Meril, “I don’t understand.”

“You were connected, are still connected from what I can tell,” Meril said. “But the connection is fading. The dreams I can’t be sure, but the mana — you used to feel like her, now you feel like you.”

Is that what this constant pain was? Is this what it had felt like before Hawke? Fenris’ heart felt heavy.

“When did the dreams start?”

“Not long after I left.”

"Left?"

"Hawke."

"On the battlefield full of Templars?" Meril drove the point home. “When was the last time you had one?”

“Last night.”

Meril drummed her fingers on her mug, “I’d be able to feel a spell powerful enough to last that long, or one that had happened as recently as last night.”

“You felt nothing?”

“Nothing new. If she was using magic to reach out to you through the Fade, I’d feel it.”

Fenris stood.

“I told you you weren’t going to like it.”

He pulled her front door open, then hesitated.

“Thank you, Meril.”

“You’re —“ He was gone before she could finish.

On his way back to High Town, Fenris' stomach churned. He didn't much understand the ways of the Fade — certainly, not at the depth Meril had tried to explain them. It made him long for Hawke — for her patience, her ability to sort through his grey. But he wasn't afforded that luxury anymore, he'd taken it for granted. Or so he assumed, it wasn't like she was present to ease his worry. He was angry at her for that. 

Perhaps angry wasn't the right word, Fenris thought. He turned up the wide grandeur of the first steps from Low Town to High Town. Frustrated, disappointed that she had given up as was so clearly evident from her absence. It might be better that way, there was so much he still hadn't come to terms with — but he had grown used to her unwavering presence. She felt like the only piece of his life that was grounded in reality.

Even when she hated him, at least she was still there. But now? It'd been weeks without word. Was she ever coming back?

 

Chapter Text

The high backed chairs in Varric’s room at the Hanged Man were modelled after dwarven masonry. The bright red cushions were stained and flat from use — cheap. They were crafted from wood instead of stone — the timber faded to a dull grey — but they still reminded him of home. So he continued to sit in them, shuffling from one cheek to the other on occasion. It helped his blood circulate when one side of his lower half inevitably went numb.

Varric scratched absently at his chest, grunting quietly at the latest report by the urchin he stationed at the Kirkwall docks. Usually, the letter would be one of many on the long table before him. In recent weeks, however, he found himself keeping up with the under city. That was due in no small part to the absence of one champion apostate and one pirate queen.

The child’s report was barely legible — Varric didn’t hold that against him, he was lucky to have found a boy so nearly literate. But if he was reading it right, a merchant crew a fortnight late to port had turned up that morning. No ship, no cargo. Nothing to come in but the three men who’d survived.

“One man told the quartermaster they were attacked by an evil lady and her shadow. The pair came in on a tiny ship. She cackled and threw balls of fire at them. Some jumped over bored; others fell off as they burned. When they waved the white flag she had them throw the goods into the sea and told them to swim home.”

Varric shifted back in his chair. He picked up his glass and listened to the brandy turn as he swirled it.

Ships were lost at sea everyday. This was, however, the fourth involving this aimlessly devilish woman and her tiny ship. Each varied except for those two tiny details.

In one, a tiny ship on the horizon, seemingly stranded. A woman scantily clad as the well-meaning crew drew near. Suddenly, each crewmember was compelled to raise the plank and dive into the deep blue.

In another, a whole harbour fell asleep at midday when the ship pulled in. All the workingmen woke up in women's fancy dress that evening. The first to wake swore he was woken by a woman’s giggle.

Hawke and Isabella had been gone for more than a month, now. Long enough for the rumours to solidify. Long enough it was getting hard not to connect the dots.

Aveline and Sebastian had asked him to send word if he heard anything of them. Fenris and Anders alternated days, stopping in to check on his sources but disguising it as a visit to play Wicked Grace. Varric had never won so many games in a row.

This last report, though, it seemed progressively worse. Varric hadn’t mentioned the four he'd received to anyone — that didn’t help the uneasy feeling building in his gut. Instead, he had tried to keep them quiet. He had worked to keep the rumours from reaching High Town, or worse, Dark Town. That meant technically he was actively keeping the others out of the loop.

But what was he to say? There wasn’t much to be done until Hawke came home, was there? If they asked if he was worried, he'd just say, "It's Hawke." Whatever that meant — should he be worried? Was she just blowing off steam? Was this a healthy way to be doing that? All things he distracted himself from with his new proactive work ethic.

“Will that be all then Sera Tethras?”

Varric was startled from his thoughts. The urchin boy stood with his thumbs through holes at the hem of his sweater.

“Hmm, yes,” the dwarf reached into his vest and tossed the kid a gold coin. “Bone, you know the Starkhaven heraldry?”

“Blue and white, sera,” Bone mumbled while turning over the coin.

“You know what to do if two women come in on a ship with those colours?”

“Straight here, sera, of course, sera,” he turned to go.

Varric nodded as Bone disappeared into the hum of the Hanged Man. He stood and walked the report to hearth. He tossed it in the flames. He’d just have to hear it from Hawke, before he decided anything.

Varric finished his brandy and left the glass on the fireplace ledge. He sighed and moved to the window beside his bed. He stuck his finger in the shudders, just enough to see the alley below.

Bone scuttled from shadow to shadow, checking over his shoulder to make sure he wasn’t being followed — Varric had taught him that. The boy knocked three times on a door pushed back in the brick.

A cloaked man stepped out a moment later. Words were exchanged. Bone handed the figure a piece of parchment. The figure dropped two gold coins into Bone’s outstretched hand. As the figure made to replace his coin purse, his cloak slipped from his shoulder — a white stallion winked the moonlight.

"What the hell is going on, Hawke? Where are you?"

Chapter Text

There was a single businesswoman left tending her stand as Fenris made his way back to Danarius’s forgotten mansion. She looked up as he cusped the final steps from Lowtown.

“A closing deal for you sera?” she asked, hoping to make one more sale before the sun sank behind the Vimmark Mountains.

Fenris shook his head, continuing past the grey towers of Hightown’s market.

The city was quiet, lethargic in the lull between day and night life. Even the doors to the Blooming Rose were unattended.

Fenris was weary of the shadows growing across the city. In the underway from the Viscount’s keep to the Chantry’s summit he swore his footfalls echoed twice more than they should.

He paused before the chanter’s board and checked over his shoulder. A stone skidded towards him from the shadows of the underway’s mouth.

“Show yourself,” he growled as the stone came to a halt. He squinted at the shadows. He half expected rouges to materialize from the dark. Only silence followed.

Fenris pulled away slowly. He looked up at the looming statues of magisters that flanked the Chantry’s steps, the bronzed tips of their stone staffs burned in the setting sun.

Fenris looked back again, shaking his head when still there was no one there.

As he headed up the final assent home he thought of his conversation with Meril. It had left him with an unpleasant taste in his mouth, a sickening feeling in his gut. Each added to the nagging suspicion that she was wrong. 

Fenris pulled his keys from his belt, attributing his uneasiness to the evening’s events. He flipped through them as he came to the door, his fingers lingering on the iron that would grant access to the Amell estate.

Fenris turned the key over in his palm. It wasn’t grand — just two prongs on its blade, the lower and shorter blood red.

 

“Take this,” Hawke said, thrusting it into his hands and letting go before he could react.

He pinched it between his thumb and forefinger, holding it at eye level. “What is it?” he asked. It looked like a key, but to what?

Fenris’ eyes refocused to see Hawke resisting a smile in front of him. “What does it open?” he reworded.

“Good, I was going to ask how anyone locked doors in Tevinter —” she joked, but her words came out in a rush. When he continued to look at her expectantly she ran a hand over her hair and pulled it over her shoulder. “It’s for the estate.”

“The estate?”

“My home, Fenris.”

Fenris’ brows knit together. “Why would I need a key to your home?”

“I don’t know,” she said like she was scolding him. He couldn’t help but smirk back at her.

“I gave one to everyone, okay?”

“Everyone?” he raised an eyebrow at her.

“Not everyone —“ she stumbled. She put her hands on her hips. “It’s for — you know —”

Fenris tilted his head.

Hawke sighed.

“I want there to be somewhere for you to go —” she said bringing her hands together to grip at her fingers. “ — if you ever get in trouble.”

Fenris blinked at her. His smirk grew against his will. When she looked up at him a rare smile played across his lips.

“You may be able to rip hearts from chests but —“ Hawke shrugged.

Fenris waited until she found the courage to meet his eyes again. “Refuge, should I require it?”

Hawke shrugged, “Sure.”

Fenris looked at her for a moment, awed by the kindness in her gesture. A rose blush brewed behind the soft swells of her cheeks.

He looked back at the key and found his smile returning again. He nodded at her. She smiled back.

 

Fenris wondered if he should use the key to check she wasn’t there now. Maybe she had been at the Amell estate all along, unwilling to face him.

The tut, tut, tut of feet climbing stairs made him freeze. Light leather boots met the landing. They clipped to a trot as they headed for his position.

Fenris dropped his keys quickly, listening. As the steps grew closer he bent to grab them, hoping to deceive his pursuer. He slid a silver dagger from the pocket sewn at the left ankle of his leggings.

 A shadow flickered across the door before him. Fenris spun, reaching for the neck of the body behind him.

 It was a man, taller and broader than he was, but Fenris had momentum. He slammed the man back into the stone and pressed the dagger to his clavicle.

 Breathing hard, Fenris met wide blue eyes.

 “Fenris,” Sebastian huffed against the fingers clawed around his neck.

 Fenris released him immediately, taking a step back.

 “Andraste’s mercy, elf,” Sebastian coughed. He bent, propping his hands on his knees.

 “I apologize.”

Sebastian shook his head as he righted himself. He rolled down the outter layer of the gold and red wrap at his waist. He was still dressed in his Chanter’s robes.

“I come in peace,” he said pulling a bottle of wine from the wrap. He held it up by the neck. 

Fenris frowned, bending to pick up his keys. Had the shadow that’d been dogging him only been Sebastian.

“Were you expecting someone else?”

“No,” he said absently. He opened the door to Danarius’ mansion. He dropped his keys into a vase near the arch of the foyer.

Sebastian moved past him in a sweep of ebony fabric.

“We missed our visit last week,” he called, pausing before the twin staircases in the foyer. “I thought we’d have it tonight.”

Fenris nodded, moving to check through the front door once more before following after him. The square was clear.

“Is everything alright, brother?” Sebastian asked as Fenris joined him in the foyer.

The elf looked drained. The dying twilight that filtered through the estate’s skylights highlighted purple circles under his eyes. The shade made their green more vivid, more easily interpreted as he stared past Sebastian’s shoulder.

Fenris had been more distant since they’d returned to Kirkwall, Sebastian knew. Unbidden, images of their trip home, the day they’d hunted the deer, flashed across his vision.

They’d never discussed it, but witnessing such pain had left Sebastian unsettled. Fenris had writhed in the grass, grunting and crying out. His back had arched and thumped against the ground in an unnatural way, his markings burning white, hot light. There’d been nothing neither Sebastian nor Varric could do. 

Sebastian had thought of the Maker’s small mercies when his friend had finally passed out. Fenris had come to near dusk, bolting upright as he and Varric managed the deer carcass onto a spit over the fire.

The elf hadn’t said a word. He’d picked at his food and retired early, just as perturbed as his friends. No one had pushed the issue.

“We should open that,” Fenris sighed.

Fenris had never told anyone of his suspicion that his markings had somehow become connected to Hawke. As he looked at the question lingering in his friend’s eyes he thought better of it. The priest’s cautiousness towards magic rivalled even his own.

As Fenris trailed after him on the steps he tried to talk himself into revealing his secret. Maybe if he knew, Sebastian would understand his urgency for finding Hawke. He wanted to know she was safe, even if it wa less than he deserved.

He remembered the searing, sharp pain that had wrapped around his abdomen as Sebastian and Varric approached the slain deer ahead. He felt it all the way to his back — he didn’t understand.

Before the pain had been focused at a single point. This had been piercing. Every breath, every shift had sent licks of fire up his chest and between his shoulder blades.

As he’d fought to stay still, to keep the pain still, it had spread. He felt his pulse in his veins, throbbing and dragging him towards darkness. Time felt slow, like it would never end.

Fenris paused on the steps, caught off guard by how the memory affected him. He looked out over the banister to distract himself.

Danarius’ mansion was in the same state it had been when Fenris had first decided to squat there. Grime clung to the walls and surfaces, worse where it had been compacted by the footsteps of its new tenant and his visitors.

Fenris told himself again that he had no proof what he had felt had any connection to Hawke. He put his other hand on the banister to steady himself.

Had he felt it when the Arishok had nearly torn her in two? He forced himself through the memories of that day, but he’d been frozen. How was he to know when he hadn’t been able to feel anything at all? 

If his suspicions were correct, Hawke had been seriously injured. Images of a sword slicing through her at the base of her sternum assaulted him. He imagined blood on her lips, her eyes caught in surprise as they found his.

He suddenly felt out of breath. He squeezed the oak between his hands.

 “Fenris?” he hears distantly. He looks up at Sebastian. Worry is clear on the priest’s face.

Fenris shakes his head, looking away from him. He presses his brow into his forearm, finding purchase as he glares at the floor.

 He'd dreamed of her calling out to him. What if she was — what if that blow was fatal? He wasn’t there. She’d been right there, asking him to stand with her and he’d walked away.What if she was calling from the void, forever out of reach? How could he ask her forgiveness?

 

“I need you, Fenris,” she says. “I’ve always needed you. Why aren’t you here?”  

Fenris heart aches then. It ripples out of his chest and brings him to his knees. His markings burn. The hills grow larger. They surround him.

“Fenris, help me,” she’s more desperate as the land consumes him.

 

“I can’t,” he closes his eyes. He gulps for air, it’s not enough. He imagines her kneeled in the dirt, reaching out to him as she draws her final breath. The light dims in her amber eyes. His hands are on her cheeks. She’s too still.

“Fenris,” Sebastian says, close to his ear. He puts a hand on his shoulder and Fenris rips away from him nearly plummeting down the stairs.

“She’s dead,” he says, hitting the wall as he backs further down the stairs.

“Who's dead?” Sebastian asks, following.

“She’s gone. She’s —“ Fenris moans at the skylights. “I did this.”

“Hawke?”

“Don’t say her name!” Fenris shouts at him. He claws at his scalp and turns his back on the priest.

“Fenris there’s been no word,” Sebastian reaches out to his panicking friend. “We’ve no reason to think anything has happened to her.”

“You know nothing!” Fenris bellows, frantic. He knows, he felt it. 

“Fenris,” Sebastian calls and Fenris turns on him ready to lunge. Sebastian holds up a hand between them. “Fenris, listen to me. She’s not dead.”

Fenris glares through him, his eyes wild.

“Fenris, look at me,” he says, taking a step closer. “You need to listen to me.”

Fenris shakes his head, rising trembling hands to his face. "What have I done?"

"She's alright," Sebastian tells him, quietly. "She's Hawke, Fenris. You have to be patient." 

How? How could he be patient? Each day was overwhelming, the next longer than the one before. Time was cruel. He couldn't outrun the minutes, then hours, then days. Fenris runs his hands up into his hair.

"She's never coming back," he whispers. It's his darkest fear, speaking it makes it heavier, more real. The words don't bring her back and his admission hangs in the air like defeat.

Sebastian lowers his hand, seeing Fenris slump as the waves of panic pass. His breathing steadies. 

Fenris looks up at him. 

“Hush, lad,” Sebastian soothes. He breathes a sigh of relief recognizing clarity in his friend’s eyes. “You can’t keep bottling everything up lad, you’re bound to snap every once and again.”

“I didn’t —“ Fenris frowns at the mischief in the prince’s eyes. “I don’t snap.”

“Oh ho,” Sebastian hits him on the shoulder. “You do. And cannae say it’s ever in the best interest of our enemies when you do.”

Fenris sighs, “I suppose there are things we need to discuss.”

“You don’t say,” Sebastian huffs wagging the bottle of wine before him. “You know, back home, the men wait until the bottle’s empty before they start seeing their ghosts.”

“Common,” Sebastian herds him up the stairs, careful to keep his expression neutral.

On the landing Fenris pauses before the door. He looks at it like it might bite him. His posture still sags, he opens his mouth to apologize again, but thinks better of it. Sebastian reaches past him to open it.

Each of the men freeze in the doorway.

Isabella sits before the hearth, the burnt amber of whiskey disappearing from the glass in her hand behind her lips. Her legs are crossed one over the other. She balances a boot precariously from the toes on her upper foot.

“Hello boys,” she says. She meets Fenris eyes. “I was beginning to think you’d keep me waiting all night.”

Chapter Text

Isabella is up and in front of him before Sebastian can think of something to say. She plucks the wine from his grasp. She spins back to the tattered armchair she’s pulled before the fire. Her ebony locks tickle his nose in a sweep as she goes.

“This isn’t going to be strong enough,” Isabella sighs. She picks up the whiskey bottle tucked beside her chair and moves to the dark dining table pushed up against the left wall. She turns her back towards them.

“I’m surprised you keep glasses here, Fen. I always thought of you more as a right-out-of-the-bottle man.”

Isabella returns with a pair of whiskey glasses. She wiggles them in front of the boys, “Happy surprises and all that.”

Sebastian looks at Fenris and the pair share a confused blink. Isabella rolls her eyes and thrusts the glasses into their chests.

She tuts as she returns to her chair. She picks her glass from the floor, careful of the octal tiles that sit uneven where the grey floor has seen better days. So has she, she supposes. She sits and sips, amber eyes over amber whiskey.

Sebastian steps cautiously forward, “You’ve been gone for quite a while.” He sits on the peeling bench across from the fire.

“Too long, it seems,” Isabella whispers, her eyes never leaving Fenris. Sebastian looks too. The elf seems to wake up with each of them looking at him. He scowls at his glass before draining it.

“We’ve been worried,” Sebastian speaks for him. He swirls the whiskey in his glass. “When we left the caves, lass, it seemed to us that you’d be heading straight for Kirkwall.”

Isabella shakes her head, watching Fenris as he comes to stand before the fire. He doesn’t look at her, even though he's close enough she could kick him. She considers it. He stares into the flames, a faint glow under his armour. She can feel the tension coming off of him, his shoulders straight as rods.

Sebastian clears his throat, trying to diffuse the tension. “Did something happen?”

“No,” Isabella says, narrowing her eyes at Fenris. Does he think he has the moral high ground in this? Is that righteous rage sizzling in his markings?

She looks back to Sebastian, perched on the edge of the bench, “Hawke needed a break.”

“Hawke is with you?” Fenris asks immediately.

Isabella considers him, waits for him to look at her. She sips her whiskey loudly when he doesn’t, forcing his eyes to hers. The pain she sees is blatant, obvious. He doesn’t deserve to feel that much for her, she thinks. It was his fault they were in this predicament — well, mostly his fault. How was she to tell him?

“Don’t test me, Isabella,” Fenris breathes, low and gravelly.

“You can’t go to her, Fenris.”

Isabella gives him a pointed look, making sure he’ll wait for her to proceed before she drain drains her glass. When she looks again he’s halfway to the door, “Dammit!”

Isabella chases after him. He races down the staircase that curves furthest from the foyer entrance. She stumbles down the nearer, catching herself in the door frame. He skids to a halt before her.

“What are you doing?!”

“What did I just say?!”

Fenris grinds his teeth together, his markings blazing to life. “Get out of my way!”

“No!”

She stands blocking the doorway, glaring at him.

Sebastian is the voice of reason, louder than the buzz in her veins. “We’re going to need to know why, lass. What’s happened? What’s wrong?”

“She’s not home.”

“Then where?” Fenris demands.

Isabella glances at Sebastian. He has one boot on the stairs, the other on the floor.

“You have to promise me you won’t go chasing after her,” Isabella warns returning her eyes to Fenris.

“No.”

Isabella lets go of the door frame to cross her arms over her chest.

Fenris glares at her for another moment. Then his eyes soften and his scowl recedes. “You’re scared,” he says, eyes searching hers.

It’s Isabella’s turn to frown. Was she?

Slowly, Fenris’ markings dim. He sighs and pinches the bridge of his nose, bringing himself under control. “Just — tell me she’s all right?”

Isabella shrugs. When Fenris moves forward she holds up her palms, “Yes, yes, all right, you love-sick scoundrel. She’s all right. Mostly.

“We came back because I wanted — I needed something to keep her busy,” Isabella sighed. “She’s on the Wounded Coast, chasing a false lead I fed her to keep her out of the city until — Maker why do I not have a drink?”

Sebastian makes room for Isabella on the stairs as she stomps towards him. Fenris hesitates looking at the the front door of the estates, the promise of Hawke out there — somewhere. He shakes his head and follows after Isabella.

Back in the room Isabella contemplates the fire. She chafes her shoulders wondering how to speak of this Hawke. She thinks of the many different hawks Hawke had had to be.

“When I told her,” she starts. She switches tactics, beginning at the beginning. “She was devastated, Fenris. I’m not telling you that to hurt you, love, it’s just the truth.”

Sebastian holds the whiskey bottle to Fenris and fills his cup when he offers it. He places the bottle back on the table as Fenris sits on the bench. Sebastian takes up post behind him. 

“You died,” Isabella looks at them. Past them she sees Hawke. Her chestnut hair whipping around her face, backwards then forwards. She’s laughing at the ship’s bow as she watches the carnage they’ve left in their wake.

A ship burning, their crew calling to them as they swim after their craft. Hawke waves. Isabella wants to ask why, she wants to question Hawke, but she’s so used to following her — she blows the sinking sailors a kiss and winks at Hawke instead.

“That’ll show Anora,” Hawke sighs. She leans her elbows on the banister and smiles freely at her pirate in crime.

“Anora?”

“The not-queen — that was her and her father’s. You didn’t see the heraldry?” Hawke laughs. “Loghain Mac Tir — idiot lost us the Blight.”

Isabella hesitates, it shows on her face. Didn’t enough people die for the mistakes of the Blight? Didn't they win the Blight in the end?

“Cheer up Bella. It’s just more death,” she claps her on the shoulder. “More death but not connected to us. Win, win. I’m hungry, are you hungry?”

The fimiliar feeling of bile churns in her stomach. It's the same she'd felt when Hawke threw Clayton amongst Trevelyan's dead. 

But Isabella had pushed it down. She told herself Hawke would always be Hawke, deep down. Her apparent disregard for human life was her way of coping, of sorting herself out.

“You died, and then you didn’t and then you left,” she continues. She sits in her chair and picks a chip in the fireplace mantle to focus on. “What must that have felt like, I wonder?”

“Isabella,” Sebastian sighs.

“You didn’t see her in that cave, Sebastian. There was no life left. She was hallow. One foot in front of the other, mangled from head to toe — she wouldn’t let me carry her.”

“She’s never let any of us carry her,” Sebastian interjects. He downs his whiskey.

Fenris leans on to his forearms, “Not willingly.”

The three share a moment of reflective silence. Isabella thinks there's been a hawk for each of them.

“When we got to the ship — to see her sitting there, staring at her hands, still somehow blaming herself for our mistakes," she shakes her head remembering Hawke in the belly of the ship that first night in Ostwick after she'd saved them, again.

“I’ve always been able to get through to her. We’ve always understood each other,” she scoffs, then she smirks. “We’ve never agreed, but I’ve never pushed her because I didn’t want to take away her hope. This time she didn’t have any hope to take away.”

“What did you do?” Fenris whispers. There's a nervous energy in his bones begging him to go to her.

“I’m getting to that part,” Isabella bites. She fills her glass. What had she done?

“I gave her an out?” she asks. “But I didn’t realise how close she was to the edge — how far she’d really fallen.”

They had commandeered a miner’s vessel. They had picked up the lead at the last port. They were just supposed to take the gold. It was just a bit of sport —

"She’s not satisfied,” Hawke growls as she calling more fire from the sky. “She will have blood. She will have penance!”

“Hawke what are you doing?!” Isabella shouts. This hadn’t been the plan.

“They must feel the pain that I’ve felt, that we’ve felt!” Hawke roars. There's fire all around them, the ship's sails are burning, men are screaming. 

“Hawke stop!”

“No!” Hawke turns on her, fire in her hands. Her eyes plume red smoke, her voice takes on a second tone. “They’ll be punished a thousand times for what they’ve done to us. They’ll never hurt us again!”

Isabella didn’t want to tell Fenris nor Sebastian of these moments. Her glass is empty again. 

“I woke something up. Whatever was holding it at bay before — we’re going to lose her Fenris,” Isabella whispers the last words. It felt like betrayal. All she had wanted was for Hawke to feel free, to let go, to grieve and heal. Or maybe she was trying to bring her home — home to her, where she belonged. 

“I don’t understand,” Sebastian says. “What do you mean you woke something up?”

Fenris looks between the priest and pirate. Her shoulders tense, her instinct to protect plain. Fenris feels a sickness in his gut as he comes to the conclusion first. All the hope he had felt at the announcement of her being alive drains out of the soles up his feet where they connect with the tile.

“You fear she is possessed,” Fenris breathes. He holds Isabella’s gaze wondering why she’s trusted him with this, if she should. He’s never seen her so raw. Trust is so rare for her, for them both. She fears his reaction, waits for it. He waits too. 

“That’s impossible,” Sebastian shakes his head. “Hawke would never let that happen.”

“She’s a mage, isn’t she?” Fenris says before he can stop himself. He’s still holding Isabella’s eyes when she sets down her whiskey. He sees her shift, realizes her fury but there’s nothing in him to react. He stares through her.

“If she was possessed she would become an abomination,” Sebastian says. “She would be vile and twisted, forsaken.”

Fenris thinks he should argue with Sebastian. He thinks he shouldn’t so readily believe it, but he does.

“We need more information,” Sebastian squares his shoulders. “You have to tell us what happened.”

“What does it matter how it happened?” Fenris snaps. “If it’s happened, it is done.” Every mage succumbed when pushed too far. That was his doing, wasn't it? He had pushed her too far. How long had she helped him pretend this fate was inevitable? The loss of the illusion leaves him empty. 

“I won’t believe —”

“Believe it,” Isabella says through her teeth drawing Fenris’ attention. She’s disgusted with him.

“I’ve heard it, squirming inside her, fighting for control,” she baits him. “She enjoys it, Fenris. Her bloodlust rivals your own.”

Fenris blanches, “Then you know what must be done.”

“Tell me.”

“We must go to the Gallows.”

Tears prick Isabella’s eyes. Of course, she thinks, of course he would betray her again. She picks up her glass and whips it at him, “You coward!” She tells herself this is why she had pushed Hawke as she had, to save her from the monster before her. 

Fenris ducks easily, feeling as if he’s on autopilot. He remembers Isabella in Hawke’s arms, fissured red. The fear that had gripped him seems far away. He had known then she was beyond saving.

 Fenris looked up into her amber eyes and saw himself reflected there, glowing like a demon. Her skin was sickly pale, drawn with a damp sheen. Her breaths were shallow and her hair was mussed, tangling across her pillow. Still, those eyes saw him. They betrayed no weakness even as they glimmered with frustration. He understood that gnawing frustration. He understood most of it - why she had broken, why she had fled, why she had changed from the woman he had once believed could not be touched by the treachery of magic. That didn't mean he was certain he was the only monster in the room.

What had she said to him then? She was sorry she couldn’t change his warped perception of mages?

“Hold on, Fenris. What about Anders, or Merrill? They are the same. Perhaps —” Sebastian trails off looking to Isabella. Vehemence comes off her in waves.

“Why do they get a free pass and she doesn’t?!” Isabella shouts.

Fenris stands, rising as if through water. Time seems slow, foreign. The notion is a fairytale, he knows, to hope that she could live like them.

“She’s too powerful,” h is brow furrows. “Both of you know that.”

Sebastian takes a step back. He braces himself on the table, “We can’t, Fenris. I can’t.”

“It isn’t your burden to bare, my friend,” Fenris smiles weakly.

“No,” Isabella seethes. “You’re not going.”

“Isabella,” Fenris says, exhausted.

“This is not how we handle this,” she spits. “The Gallows? Do you hear yourself?”

“What is she?!” Isabella demands. “Some common blood mage you can sink your hateful, perverted teeth into? She’s Hawke, Fenris!”

“Is this not why you brought this to me?!” Fenris roars, her insinuation igniting his fury. “You’re here because you cannot do it yourself!”

“I’m here because she chose you!” Isabella screams at him. She looks for something else to throw.

“She - she, arg!” Isabella grabs a discarded book, then a tile, whipping each at his head. “You don’t - you foul, ignorant —”

“Isabella!” Sebastian shouts grabbing her arm. She punches him in the chest and he stumbles backwards.

She turns on Fenris, “Do you know what she said to me when she found me in those caves?”

Fenris swallows. He doesn’t want to know.

“She knew. She knew when she came for me that it wouldn’t be you, you son of a bitch,” Isabella puts her hand on her forehead trying to find her voice. She doesn't know what to do, her throat burns as her chest constricts. 

“She said it was selfish to save you,” she shouts. The stress of it all, of trying to support Hawke on her own when he should have been there, of watching her fall apart, of every Maker forsaken atrocity they had performed together, breaches the surface. She glares at him through her tears. She won’t hide them anymore.

“She didn’t think she deserved you,” she scoffs. “You.”

Fenris doesn’t speak. He knows the feeling. He should have told her — before. He watches Isabella, baring his punishment. "But you tried to leave to."

Isabella is struck still. "I came back," she whispers. She thinks of them lying together, holding Hawke together.  “Where were you?!”

Fenris takes a steadying breath, “I’m here now.”

“What good is that to her?” Isabella asks. She shakes her head. She moves to stand before him, searching his eyes. She doesn’t see anything she hasn’t seen before.

She's deathly quiet. Fenris doesn’t argue. He sees the storm raging in Isabella, sees her strength and wishes it was his own.

“Fine,” she looks over her shoulder at Sebastian before turning back on Fenris. “Go, live up to everyone’s bloody expectations. But don’t you dare think this will be any different than the last time you sided against us. I know where my loyalties lie. Even if they aren't recognized. ”

Isabella storms from the room. She knocks the whiskey bottle from the table as she goes. It shatters on the tile. 

"You should have died in that cave." 

Chapter Text

The moon is sinking behind the Gallows as Hawke returns from the Wounded Coast. The stars blink out one by one, fleeing her arrival or succumbing to the heavy stillness of the time before morning — she can’t be sure.

She enters her city near the docks, dragging her fingers along the rough stone of its alleys. Her cloak flutters restlessly behind her, just like the energy that stirs beneath her heart.

Kirkwall, it purrs and Hawke imagines it flexing, bridging like a waking cat. Such memories.

The energy churns under her skin, looking to be spent — an itch she’s finding harder and harder to scratch. It echoes from far away, from the Fade, as if the portal no longer closes when she wakes. The connection is what makes her strong, she knows. The voice is a forgivable consequence, she decides, more an annoyance than anything else.

Whatever helps you sleep at night , it snorts.

“We don’t sleep at night,” Hawke bites. She curses under her breath as soon as she’s awknowledged it. The more she does, the more it seems to linger.

Hawke rolls her neck as images of the last few weeks come unbidden to her mind. Broken flashes of fire, the smell of sea air and blood, the sounds of screams against the waves — something quiet and small within her trembles, sad and maybe, scared?

The energy sighs. A flush of righteousness, deserving and simple stops her trembling. Hawke shrugs, not really caring either way.

Her nose wrinkles against the familiar smell of bile and sweat as she finds her way to Darktown. She ends up standing before the entrance to the sewers. It’s stupid really. She’d never have been here alone — before.

Reckless, she thinks, but she doesn't want to wait. The need is growing stronger. She’d spent two days on the coast finding nothing to — Hawke shakes her head. To what?

To kill, the energy whispers.

Hawke’s eyes flutter closed as a tingling slithers down her spine. The energy doesn’t speak in pretenses anymore. They both know she feels the bloodlust under her skin, gnawing on her bones. She looks down at her shaking hands. She curses and flexes her fingers.

Hawke lowers herself down the ladder, popping off the last wrung to avoid an odd-coloured puddle. Her landing echoes down the tunnels that split off before her.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe, the energy grins. Hawke picks “moe.”

The undercity tunnels are lined with wet, rotting planks. The clips of her boots dance with the hallow echoes of muddied water dripping into many puddles, in many places. Her eyes flick across the shadows, searching for enemies in the low torch light.

Someone coughs themselves hoarse in the shadows. A rat scuttles away when her steps come too close.

It’s been so long since you’ve been down here, the energy whispers. Hawke blinks and she’s standing before Quentin’s shrine. His wife, Hawke can’t remember her name. Her portrait is balanced precariously on the mantle in his lair, two candles lit on either side. Hawke recalls the ice cold dread that plummeted from her throat into her stomach. She’d wanted to wretch.

She looked so much like mother, the energy whispers her memories. Hawke blinks again and she’s standing in front of the foundry entrance. Her hand rises and presses into the splintering wood. Fear seizes her heart, knocking the breath from her lungs — this isn’t a vision.

“Why have you brought me here?” Hawke asks, trying to keep the tremor from her voice.

The energy within her rises up, darkness clouds the edges of her sight. Hawke’s fear peaks.

You know why, it whispers.

Hawke hunches as a sucking sensation pulls her together. Her fear recedes as the energy devours it, pulling its icy clutches from her heart and leaving nothing but emptiness. Hawke gasps and touches her chest. She half expects it to pass through, for the hole to be tangible.

You make it too easy, holding onto these mortal memories, the energy purrs. Hawke straightens, looking at the foundry entrance with half lidded contemplation. She tilts her head, “You’re right.”

We could go in, if you’d like, it pulls her hand up again. I could take it all away.

“No,” Hawke says. She turns away from the temptation and starts back into the sewers. She needs her memories. Not to remember, but to remain mortal, doesn’t she?

“You’re not in control,” Hawke reminds it.

Not yet, it laughs and Hawke smiles. They’d come for blood, not tragic tales of a girl she longed to forget.

“Champion?”

Hawke blinks, surprised to hear a real voice. A child runs towards her from the shadows. She can’t be more than 8. She skids to a halt before her.

“Champion! It is you, please, you — you have to help! Come quick!” the child grabs her hand and pulls.

Hawke doesn’t move. She looks at the child’s tiny hand, feels blood pulse under her skin.

It wants out, the energy whispers.

She’s just a child, Hawke hisses even as her rage lights, the need to lash out.   

“Please!” the child cries. Hawke nods slowly, swallowing past the image of crushing the girl against the sewer walls. She runs and Hawke follows.

The wood-walled tunnels suddenly give way to rock. Another hundred steps and they open up, the sky the same colour as the ocean. They’re running along a trench at Kirkwall’s base. The wood gives way to rock, and the rock walls tilt downwards, shrinking until they’re shorter than the child, and then until they don’t exist at all.

She stops suddenly and Hawke has to grip her shoulders to ensure she doesn’t barrel through her. She points into the valley ahead.

Hawke takes in many things at once. Carta. Fifteen or so, most dwarves. A string of elvhen women, less than a dozen, tied together and seated beside the southernmost fire.

“They took her,” the child cries. She looks up at Hawke and her chestnut hair falls over her pointed ears. Hawke blinks and her eyes turn amber, a vision of her younger self.

Hawke looks into the valley and her blood begins to boil. She offers her hand to the child, if only to steady her shudder of anticipation. “Let’s get her back,” Hawke says, leading the child into the Carta camp.

“Oi!” shouts a dwarf on the fringe of the camp as they approach. “Who are you, then?”

The child slips behind her. Hawke can smell fear, she realizes, like burnt, sucking the oxygen up around them. She can even see the aura of it strengthening around the dwarf before them, whose joined by another, then another.

Hawke reaches her arm around the child’s shoulders and pulls her close to her side. The energy slips from her fingers and sighs as it connects with the child’s skin, drawing out her fear.

“You don’t have to be afraid of them,” Hawke promises. She meets her eyes and watches them shrink from wide to calm. “We don’t have to be afraid of anyone, ever again.”

“Hey, I’m talking to you,” the first dwarf calls. Hawke kisses the girl’s crown before looking at him. She lets go of the child and steps towards them.

“Hey!” they shout one after the other, drawing their weapons. The aura thickens.

More , the energy purrs.

Hawke smiles. “Who are they?” she asks, stepping towards the bound women.

“Ours, that’s who, what’s it to you?”

Hawke steps into the firelight, cracking her neck. “Mine?”

“Is that the Champion?”

“Of course not, what would the champion —” the speaking dwarf chokes, a puff of black smoke pushing past his lips.

“Find the blood,” Hawke tells her spirits, loud enough the dwarves can hear. She casts out her hand as the other two run towards her. They stick where they step, slipping and falling over one another.

Hawke watches the dwarves in her traps with quiet fascination as the camp comes alive. Carta members shouting, calling each other from sleep, drawing their weapons all around her. She forces the entropy deeper into the dwarf’s throat. He kneels under the weight.

And then — Hawke sighs as his inwards stretch too thin, splitting and bleeding. The mana hidden within the blood sings to her, filling up the void left by her demon’s feast. It crawls towards her where it drips into the grass. She takes control of his mind to hush his screams.

“Hugilid!” one of the stuck dwarves cries, reaching out to the one Hawke controls. There’s something about the set of her eyes, the way her face contorts as Hawke manipulates the bleeding dwarf to her.

“Champion!”

Hawke turns as three dwarves rush her from behind. A blade flashes in the firelight, stabbing up and narrowly avoiding her neck. With a cry, the dwarf drags the sword down across her shoulder.

Hawke hisses as the blade slices into her skin. She swings to the left as another blade dives for her abdomen. She shivers as her own blood slithers down her chest, louder than the dwarves. Her vision clouds with red smoke, the pain gives way to the sensation of floating.

It’s almost too easy, she thinks as she casts, revelling in the numbing peace that comes from the blood. She has them turn on each other, she barely lifts a finger. She has faint memories of a time when saving people wasn’t easy. She remembers hardship, loss, agony, rage, but not anymore.

“No, no, no, no, no.”

Hawke returns to the present. She’s kneeled amongst their bodies, all of them. Hugilid has fought past her suppression, he’s cradling the dwarf who reached for him in the dying firelight.

“Finka,” he pleads around a gurgling breath, clutching the dwarven woman. He slides a palm across her crown, pushing her dark hair from her face. Hawke stands but he pays her no attention. “Please come back.”

Hawke moves behind them now. Finka stares out at the void, unseeing. There are trails in the dirt on her face from tears that fell while she reached for him. Hawke remembers her expression. The small part of her that trembles, that fights to remember whispers something. A name, a man she saved, not a dwarf, emeralds against starlight — Hawke blinks as she realizes Hugilid and Finka must have been in love.

“She’s gone,” Hawke whispers. The blood high recedes, the restlessness of her bones and the energy satiated. Her clarity returns.

Hugilid moans and bends over Finka. His shoulders shake. Hawke wants to tell him it’s better this way. “She can’t hurt you anymore,” she whispers.

“No,” he moans. He presses his forehead into his lovers'. Hawke slides her hands gently past his neck to grip his chin. He doesn’t flinch. She snaps his neck.

Mercy, the energy tuts. 

Hawke let’s Hugilid fall from her fingertips. Is that what it was? She touches her chest as she looks at lovers lost to the mud. Her heart is hammering, but she feels as if she hasn’t broken a sweat.

“Champion?”

Hawke looks up as the child, and a languid woman dressed in rags, come towards her. The energy purrs, rolling and wriggling in the cloud of fear that billows from them.

“You are, aren’t you?” the women asks.

Hawke nods absently, looking out over the massacre she’s wrought. Past it the other women are freeing themselves — hugging, crying.

“Did you do this?” she asks the child. "Did you free them?"

The child clings to woman’s side. Hawke sinks to her height.

“You don’t have to be afraid of me,” Hawke says, reaching out to her.

The woman nods to her, the child steps towards Hawke. She pushes her long hair behind her ears when she’s close. Hawke chaffes her arms and squeezes her hands, “That was very brave.”

The child blinks at her, Hawke sees a flash of amber again. She points out the other women, “Because of you all of these people get to come home. Because you are so brave.”

“Mumae too?”

Hawke blinks and shivers.

"What?" 

"Mumae," the child points over her shoulder to the woman standing behind her. 

Hawke looks past the child and sees Leandra. She recoils inwardly, closing her eyes.

“Amelia,” the woman whispers instinctively. “The champion is tired. Come child, we should let her rest.”

But Hawke’s grip is heavy on the child’s shoulders. Amelia touches her fingertips beneath Hawke’s closed eyes. It steadies her.

“Are you OK, champion?”

Hawke opens her eyes as the child shows her her fingers. They’re damp in the firelight. Hawke looks back into amber eyes. They flash, daggers against digging binds in her mind. Hawke flinches, hands flying to her temples.

“Amelia!”

Fear!  the energy cries. Hawke claws at her scalp. It forces her eyes open. 

Hawke watches the child run into Leandra’s arms. Leandra shakes her head, disappointment clear in her ever present frown.  

“Look what you’ve become,” she hisses. “What would your father say?”

“You’re not real,” Hawke says, stumbling backwards as she stands. "Stop this!" she shouts at the energy. 

“This is everything we tried to protect you from!”

Hawke looks at Leandra, incredulous. Her body morphs, stitches sewing around her neck, her eyes clouding.

“He knew, he knew you’d turn bad. I wanted to take you to the Circle, but I couldn’t let Bethany go.”

“No —”

“Your thirst for power has destroyed us all!”

Hawke sees Leandra as she was, every grotesque detail the way she was before she died. She sees Carver and Bethany at her feet. She sees the child, her younger self, and the life laid before her, all pain and suffering.

“No!” Hawke cries, and she reaches out and catches Leandra’s throat. “You won't have her! She doesn't deserve this!”

Leandra begs for her mercy. Her nails draw blood from the back of her hand. Hawke refuses to be a victim. "I am stronger than your legacy," she hisses. 

“Mumae!” the child cries.

As she draws her last, Leandra shifts back into the child’s elvhen mother. The energy sucks the horror Hawke might've felt from her soul.

You are in control, the energy soothes. You never needed her. You never needed any of them.

Hawke tosses the woman amongst the other corpses. The child dives towards her, clawing at her shoulders, shaking her to wake.

“You’re better off without them,” Hawke tells the child. She can almost taste the disgust in her voice. She looks out at the women watching them, too scared to move. “You’re better off without any of them.”