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Hawke was—everything and nothing Fenris had expected, from their first encounter. The man consorted with abominations and blood mages and apostates as though they were friendly neighbors he might have met around the corner in whatever thatch-and-mud Ferelden village he'd come from. He fought like the barbarian the magisters would have called him, great sweeps of blade and a cold light of battle in his face, then read the Lament for Arlathan by the fire in their camp; he cut down street thugs with casual cruelty, then wept unashamedly over the body of a child in a slaver's hole.

And of more immediate concern: he traded ribald jokes with pirate queens and dwarven storytellers in taverns, and then in a dark hall at night looked an escaped and hunted slave in the eyes straight-on and asked him to his bed, softly, as if afraid to be refused; as if Fenris might have some power in this, over him.

Fenris bent forward over his knees before the dying fire, bewildered to the point of sickness with it all.

He had turned it aside, of course. Leering, light flirtation: such things he understood. He had been a rare and valued slave; there had been many in the slave quarters, women and men, who had looked at him with hope. He had answered the flirtations with idle enjoyment, as a game to pass the hours, and the leering with scorn, knowing himself untouchable either way. Danarius did not choose for his bodyguard to have any divided loyalties. Fenris almost laughed to think how he had prided himself on it, then; thinking himself above the others. Thinking himself better, for being a better cow on a lead, a better trinket on a chain.

Well: now he was free. Untouchable no longer, and yet—some pathetic habit, perhaps—he still turned aside the invitations that came: from those who looked at his blade and his body and saw either strength or beauty enough to seek a little easy pleasure; who took refusal with equanimity and looked elsewhere. Hawke had even thrown him such lures, once, not long after they had met: cheerful and direct, untroubled to get only Fenris's smiling banter in return.

This—this was something else entirely. Something so far outside all his experience he had not even thought to wish for it. To be valued so by Hawke, who made of himself a shield wall for those he loved, and not only for them: for the innocent, of whom there were few, and the weak, of whom there were many. Whose angry eyes had softened so quickly, that first time they had met, when Fenris had asked for his help with no right to it. Who had stood at his side and carved a path with him through the slavers who would have taken him back.

Fenris rose and turned around the room, twice, distracted. "I don't know whether this is the right time, or the worst time imaginable," Hawke had said.

"Both," Fenris said, to the empty chair. It had been a week since he had torn out Hadriana's heart. He wanted nothing more than to be rid of this—emptiness, the hollow sickness that lived beneath his breastbone. He wanted—he wanted Hawke here, in this room with him—wanted the sound of his voice or even just his breath. He wanted to see the firelight shining off Hawke's eyes, to have that to treasure: that he had a friend he could trust.

Oh, blast the Maker: he wanted more than that. He wanted Hawke's hands on him, warm and sword-hard and gentle all at once. He wanted to know the shape of Hawke's mouth beneath his own.

And he could have had everything he wanted just for stretching out his hand. This very moment he could have been lying in the tangled nest of his bed in the corner with Hawke beside him, sweat cooling on their skin, every other thought driven out of his head, loved and loving at last. So of course he had sent Hawke away. Because he was a fool.

The bottle of wine on the table was mostly full. Hawke hadn't stayed long. Only long enough to comfort him, and turn his world over.

Fenris tipped it up and drank, tasting none of it until it was empty and smashed into pieces in the fireplace, and he could weave over to his bed. His empty, cold bed. He lay in it staring at the ceiling, a long time. Wine had brought him sleep every night of the last week. Evidently, it was proof against the hollow wretchedness of being alone with his vengeance, and not against the knowledge that he need not be so.

Hawke.

He flung off the covers and went to his feet. He slept in most of his armor; he pulled on the gauntlets and his sword swiftly and left, trying not to let himself think about what he was doing. It was not a long distance to Hawke's manor, and he climbed the wall to the balcony rather than go by the front door and rouse the servants.

The mabari picked up his head from the floor and whined curiously when Fenris stepped into the room. Hawke roused with a hand already reaching for his sword, and halted, looking up at him rumple-headed and blinking, mouth soft with sleep, and Fenris put his own sword aside, stripped his gauntlets, and went to him.

He was desperate, and perhaps it showed. Hawke's muffled noises of exclamation beneath him died away after a moment, and then, thank the Maker, Hawke put his hands blindly out and started undoing buckles, one after another until Fenris could shrug off the rest of his armor and at last slide naked beneath the sheets with him.

"Tell me to go," he said, kissing Hawke too swiftly to give him the chance. "Tell me to go, and I shall. Hawke, I don't know what I'm doing."

"When do we ever?" Hawke said to him, something almost like laughter in his voice, and a light in his eyes Fenris had never seen—a light he had put there, and the heady sweetness of that was nearly enough, alone.

Hawke's hands slid up into his hair and Hawke's legs spread to welcome him, the broad strength of him almost implausible. Fenris shuddered and thrust against him, feeling clumsy and wildly urgent at once, his cock sliding alongside Hawke's. "Is there, do you," he said, gripping them both with one hand, trying to stroke.

"Here," Hawke said: there was oil, redolent of herbs, and Fenris spilled too much of it over them both.

They rolled around in the bed, sliding over one another, kissing feverishly; Hawke took Fenris's hand away, after a little while, panting, "Not yet," and Fenris agreed wholeheartedly: he wanted this to last forever; he wanted it to fill every hour waking and sleeping all the rest of his days. And then Hawke groaned and said, "Oh hell, I'm not going to last much longer: will you have me?" and he wanted that even more.

"Yes," Fenris said, "show me, yes—"

"It works the same way, really," Hawke said. "We're already covered in oil, so there's that." Fenris half thought to warn him of the breadth of his own inexperience, and then Hawke settled himself onto his back against the pillows, an arm behind his head and one knee propped up, a wanton sprawl, and any thought but hunger was driven from his mind. He fitted his body to Hawke's and pressed inside—too quickly, surely; a gasp in Hawke's throat that stoked some darker hunger—some thirst for possession of his own.

He would have been ashamed of liking it, but for the shuddering of Hawke's breath, the blurred look of his eyes, the curve of his throat as his head fell back. "Fenris," Hawke said, and gasped again as Fenris thrust deeper still.

It was not so very difficult, after all; easier than swinging a sword. The physical of it, at least. His body told him in no uncertain terms what it desired: to take, and take, and take, while Hawke went ever more yielding beneath him, a half-smile on his lips, his eyes all but shut, breathing heavily: he was holding to the end of the bed with a hand, to brace himself.

The other was buried deep into Fenris's hair, holding tight: a single anchoring flare of pain that Fenris welcomed gratefully. To watch Hawke's face, to see such pleasure written there, by his hand, by his choice, was nearly too much to bear.

"Please," Fenris said, not even sure what he was pleading for. "Hawke, please—"

Hawke groaned and let go and put his hand down around his own cock, stroked twice and was suddenly coming, his release spilling over his own belly, and his body clenching tight, so very tight, and Fenris keened softly and spent in one blinding rush.

He stayed there, braced over Hawke and panting in deep heaving breaths; he felt he needed his very chest to expand to bear what had just happened. And Hawke, Hawke was lying beneath him, eyes closed and laughing softly, hand now raking gently through his hair, saying, "Maker, Fenris, if I'd known—"

Too soon. Fenris didn't want it to be over. He couldn't bear for it to be over. He bent down and took Hawke's mouth roughly again, though his arms trembled from the strain of keeping up his weight. Hawke was smiling beneath his mouth at first, a welcoming curve, and when Fenris pressed him harder it grew surprised. "Andraste, you're ambitious," Hawke said, gasping for air. "Really?"

"Yes," Fenris said, nearly a snarl. "Will you—would you have me?"

Hawke made a noise that might have been a whimper. "All right," he said, helplessly. "All right, give me a moment."

Fenris rolled away, onto his back. He pressed the heels of his palms to his eyes to try and stop the pounding behind them. He wanted, he needed —

Hawke was still breathing hard beside him, and then he said, "This calls for extraordinary measures." The bed creaked, and Fenris opened his eyes: Hawke had climbed out of the bed and gone to the heavy cabinet at the end of the chamber. He was beautiful beyond measure: the long smooth line of his back sheened with sweat and glowing in the firelight, the corded muscle of his legs, his shoulders, his arms; his cock heavy between his legs.

Fenris watched him, taking satisfaction in it, in Hawke's thighs still wet and gleaming where he had yielded; and yet it wasn't enough. He wanted Hawke destroyed; wanted to see him wrung down to the heart and bone, and by his hand and no one else's.

Hawke drew out a slim apothecary's vial full of potion, honey-gold, and tipped half of it down his throat. He brought the rest back to the bed, and held it out as he climbed back onto the bed, already bright-eyed and shivering with renewed heat: Fenris had scarcely enough time to swallow the rest before Hawke was upon him, kisses at his throat, his jaw.

"Gods, Fenris, yes," Hawke said, and bit.

"Yes," Fenris said, gripping Hawke's shoulders for something to hold on to. He felt the potion drumming in his veins, a sensation meant for battle, and yet Hawke was trying to be gentle, as Fenris had not been; unbearably careful, until Fenris warningly closed his hands harder on his shoulders, demanding. Then at last Hawke took away his hand and entered.

Fenris did not shut his eyes: he watched Hawke's face hungrily, watched the struggle for control written in the clenched line of his jaw, a quick lick of tongue over dry lips. Far too much control left, for his tastes. "More," he said, as avidly desperate to conquer as ever Danarius had been. "Hawke, now."

"Have a little patience, will you? I don't want to hurt you," Hawke said. "You haven't before, have you, with a man?"

"With no one, to my knowledge," Fenris said, adding through clenched teeth to Hawke's startled look, "and I don't care. I am not an Orlesian riva-blossom, now get on with it and fuck me."

"You're going to damn well kill me," Hawke said, but thank the Maker, he ducked his shoulders under Fenris's legs and bent forward, and Fenris could watch Hawke's face twisting with desperation even as he sank into Fenris up to the hilt and they were joined again. Hawke moved upon him in strokes that quickened into thunder, until he ground to a halt and hung there, panting desperately.

He let his head sag forward between his shoulders; his hair was matted to his forehead, a bead of sweat like clear glass rolling down his neck. He looked almost a man in agony, and Fenris let his eyes shut at last, feasted to satiation; he let his hand curl around the sweat-damp back of Hawke's neck, coaxed him down, and leaned up to lightly, lightly brush his lips over Hawke's mouth.

Hawke shuddered, and then he drew in a great breath and bent forward, determined, hips moving once more: and Fenris felt a spark almost of terror with the climbing pleasure. A yawning chasm had opened before him unexpectedly: a fresh kind of slavery, only this time he had delivered himself to it as a willing victim. "Hawke," he said, his voice cracking, and Hawke blindly bent his head down to kiss him again, and Fenris could not bear it—could not, could not bear—

The fall, when it came, wrenched him loose from all his moorings.


He woke in the early morning, Hawke sprawled beside him, the air thick and close. Half a dozen vials littered the coverlet at their feet, and the bedcurtains had come down when he'd torn the soft ropes away to bind Hawke's wrists, during the fourth time, or perhaps the fifth. He wasn't certain. Of anything, for that matter.

He pushed himself up sitting, the bedclothes pooling about his hips. They might have been in a dark and velvet cave, the first light only limning the edges of the curtains. It was almost possible to imagine he and Hawke were somewhere far away and alone, free from the endless tangle of the city's cares that wound themselves around Hawke like some monstrous spiderweb, free from all fear of slave-hunters and pursuit and the long deadly arm of magecraft.

"You'd get bored," Hawke murmured, and was awake and looking up at him with eyes yet heavy-lidded.

"Perhaps," Fenris said, low, and looked away. "After a time."

They were silent. Finally Hawke said, "I wish you'd told me."

Fenris shrugged angrily. "It didn't matter."

"It did. It does," Hawke said. He rested a hand low on Fenris's back, thumb moving in slow, perilously gentle strokes along his spine, as though he might liquefy it. Fenris shuddered under the touch. "I'm honored. And I'm glad. Selfishly, I suppose, but still—glad."

"There is no honor to be found in it," Fenris said, trying to be brutal; why did Hawke make that so infernally difficult? "If Danarius had commanded me to service him, I would have."

"I'm glad he didn't do that, at least," Hawke said, "but I meant since then."

"Because I've never bothered to buy myself a whore for a night?" Fenris said, and Hawke's hand stilled.

"Was that all this was, to you?" Hawke said, low, as though it would have hurt him if true; as though he could be stupid enough to think as much, even for a moment, when—when—Fenris shut his smarting eyes.

"Damn you, Hawke," he managed, and Hawke was pushing up from the bed and cupping his cheek, saying, "No, I'm sorry—oh, I'm a damned fool; Fenris—"

"I have no arguments," he said, turning his face aside.

"And you're a prickly bastard," Hawke returned, with a snap of asperity, and turned him back for a kiss, bitter with sleep and the aftertaste of potions, and sweeter than any wine. "Will you let me tell you I love you? Or is that only going to make you curl up even more like a hedgehog?"

It was the rankest folly to take such words. What use was there in them? His life stood on a foundation of sand in an hourglass, running away grain by grain. If Hawke even meant them, he was a fool indeed, to love a man with a magister on his back.

"Hedgehog it is, then," Hawke said, with a sigh, and Fenris realized he'd hunched his shoulders away from Hawke's hand.

"I should go," he said, looking away. Hawke deserved a thousand times better than this.

"Stay," Hawke said, stroking his back again. And added, more lightly, "There are still a few things we haven't tried, yet."

Then again, few received what they justly deserved, in the world. He turned into Hawke's arms, and let Hawke draw him back down to the bed.

= End =