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It's the best kind of storm, raw and primal; all swirling winds and cold rain coming down so hard and fast it stings Isabela's skin as it pelts her face, her bare shoulders. She really should have brought a cloak. Anyone sane would have just stayed inside altogether; but then, no one has ever accused Isabela of being sane.

Silver moonlight pierces the thick clouds in places, fails to break through in others. It gives the whole sky a surreal sort of glow, and provides just enough illumination for Isabela to see the swelling and crashing of the waves, crests flashing white amidst the deep almost-black of the ocean.

There's a ship in the distance, being tossed about by the wind and water. The three tall masts give it away as likely a merchant's galleon, but from here, it looks like nothing more than a child's toy boat--or, Isabela thinks sullenly, that blasted ship in a bottle that Hawke gave her years ago. It was a ridiculously thoughtful gift, one that had twisted her insides into knots whenever she looked at it; more for the shy smile on Hawke's face as she joked about a dozen sailors attending her belowdecks than for the gift itself.

It's gone now, left behind with the rest of her meager belongings when she skipped town so abruptly three years ago. Maybe Corff took it as payment toward her sizeable tab, but more likely it lay forgotten in some corner of her old room, gathering dust--if it's not shattered, that is.

And isn't that just like you? Someone gives you something sweet and meaningful and you piss on it. Isabela frowns, picking moodily at a small piece of rock that's ready to come free of the cliff she's sitting on. She didn't come out here to wallow in self-pity, and she definitely didn't come out here to think about Hawke.

Blinking raindrops out of her eyes, she gazes out at the ship, and feels an old familiar ache in her chest. She hasn't dared set foot on a ship since leaving Kirkwall. Castillon has surely not given up hunting her, and the sea is the first place he'd look. She's managed to get by all right, of course; whether it be sex, booze, or coin, Isabela has never been one to go wanting for long.

A bolt of lightning streaks across the sky, and for a brief moment Isabela can see a few crewmen scrambling around on deck, securing everything that hasn't already been tied down. Seconds later, thunder roars across the water, rumbling in her ears and making her heart pound.

Isabela tilts her head back and closes her eyes as water slides down her neck, trickling down between her breasts. She's always said that being on the open ocean in a storm is the best feeling in the world. Now, she tries to picture herself on the deck of that distant ship, tries to imagine the rush of adrenaline as the deck lurches beneath her feet and the rain and wind whip at her face; all she can see is full red lips curved up in a wry smirk, and eyes as blue as the ocean off the coast of Llomerryn glittering with something too heavy and terrifying to name.

Damn it all to the Void and back. It's been three sodding years, and she still can't get that blighted woman out of her head. It's not even the sex she can't stop thinking about, either. While Hawke was never a slouch between the sheets (or against a wall, or on the floor, or on a conveniently located table or rock), it's the other things that stand out in Isabela's mind: the soft, hesitant smile as Hawke dared to mention the possibility of love; the shattered look on Hawke's face as she held her dying mother in her arms; the exultant grin as the Arishok bled out at Hawke's feet, blue eyes seeking out Isabela's as though half of bloody Kirkwall wasn't also in the throne room; the way Hawke's face crumbled as Isabela told her she was leaving, again.

It's that last look that haunts her the most; not because of the pain, so raw and open that Isabela herself ached to look at it, but because that pain was overshadowed by a stifling sense of disappointment, resignation. Isabela had screwed up, taken Hawke's heart and smashed it into a million tiny pieces, and Hawke didn't even have the decency to look surprised about it. Hawke didn't try to stop her, didn't cling to her or beg her to stay; she just stood there with her arms wrapped tightly around herself, tears silently streaming down cheeks still splattered with the Arishok's blood. And Isabela...Isabela turned around and left.

It's what she does; what she's good at, though she's never felt so sodding awful about it before. The whole point of running away is to escape the consequences of her actions, not dwell on them for years after the fact. Regrets are a waste of time, and depressing besides. There are far better uses for her time and energy--like dueling, or sex.

Neither of which she's been able to really enjoy. Not like she used to, at least. Fighting gets her blood pumping, but she can't help but remember how Hawke looked so tiny, practically child-like, as she faced off against the Arishok's hulking form; how there were moments, more than Isabela cares to admit, when she was terrified that Hawke wouldn't make it. Sex is pleasurable--it always is, if you do it right--but no touch has been able to compare to the urgency of Hawke's hands on her skin, the fervent need in Hawke's eyes as Isabela drove her over the edge.

Andraste's tits, her thoughts are starting to resemble one of Varric's trashy serials. She's never caught herself thinking like this before, except maybe about that kind-hearted man who had asked for her hand. But that was different, she was young, and in--

Oh, sod it all, she's in love.


All eyes fall on Isabela as she strides back into the tavern, most shining with undisguised lust. She can't help the smug grin that quirks her lips; she's well aware of the sight she makes, with rainwater dripping from her hair to slide down glistening bronze skin, and her soaked tunic clinging to every curve, the white material making a valiant but futile effort to conceal her considerable assets. She may have heavy thoughts on her mind, but Isabela does love attention.

One of her recent favorites saunters up to her: a strapping Nevarran with golden skin, dark hair, and sleek muscles. He's been trying to prove Isabela wrong about men only being useful for one thing, and she has to admit, he's come pretty close.

The look in his eyes tells her he has every intention of continuing his efforts. He leans in for a kiss, hands reaching for her hips, and she stops him with a firm palm to the center of his chest.

"Not tonight, sweet thing." She can feel the muscles of his chest tighten beneath her fingers, and for a moment she's sorely tempted; Kirkwall will still be there, whether she leaves tonight or tomorrow morning.

"Why, have you got something better to do?" He's laughing as he says it, but it's too low, too masculine, and his accent is too harsh, and his cocky smirk isn't quite right, and his eyes are brown instead of blue.

Balls. This love thing spoils all her fun.

But she thinks of Hawke, of the smile that used to light up her face whenever Isabela did or said something thoughtful or kind--purely by accident of course--and her own lips turn up of their own accord.

"As a matter of fact, I do."

She'll probably never see him again, and this is probably the stupidest idea she's ever had. If Hawke has any sense at all in that noble head of hers, she'll tell Isabela to turn around and go right back the way she came.

Isabela thinks of the ship she was watching, lost out on the sea at the mercy of nature's wild wrath. She's never felt lost at sea, but she's lost without Hawke, as much as she hates to admit it to herself. The last three years have been one long storm, tossing her about from place to place, and for the first time she can remember, Isabela finds herself wanting shelter.

It's idiotic, and she'll likely end up dashed against the metaphorical rocks, but it's a risk she can't help but take.