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The shadows burn blue, mottled gray light from the street outside struggling to strong-arm its way through a barricade of thick red curtains.  The rattle of a passing cart shakes the windows, the clomp of hooves cutting through the syrupy silence that filled her bedroom, beating like war drums against the back of her skull. 

Hawke doesn’t even have to open her eyes to know that today is going to be one of those bad days.

Blue eyes, heavy lidded and full of sand, open to stare at the plaster texture of the ceiling, vision blurring and swimming in a circular pattern before slowly coming into focus.  Her mouth is dry and faintly the taste of blood and brandy linger on her tongue, though the temporary absence of pain lets her know that last night’s dose hasn’t yet worn off. 


The noise in the street continues despite the threatening roll of thunder in the distance, joined now with the grating sound of a dog barking, occasionally punctuated by an expletive filled shout.  She closes her eyes again, brow furrowing as she counts to ten and forces them back open. 

It’s hard not to resent it.  The city.  The people.  There is a bone-deep exhaustion that has been her constant companion since she’d gotten herself hacked to pieces, nearly bleeding out on the throne room floor with the mangled body of the Arishok at her side.  It never leaves, closer than a lover, and she wears it like a second skin. 

Though sometimes, some days, it wears her.

There is a large part of her that just wants to close back up, bury herself beneath the covers and forget all about the waking world, but there is always something to do, something to be dealt with, someone to depend on her.  These amorphous reasons drag her out of bed, digging ghostly fingers into her hair and her clothes and her conscience until she knows that if she lies in bed one moment longer she’s going to hate herself for the rest of the day.

It doesn’t make getting up any easier.  Blindly she reaches for the unmarked bottles that sit on the table at her bedside and in her clumsiness knocks them into the floor, brown glass bottles spinning like tops across the hardwood. 


It takes a moment but she finally managed to sit upright, bare legs swinging off the edge of the bed to touch her feet to the cold floor.  She rolls her head slowly from one side to the other, elbows resting on knees, stretching out her neck, muscles gone stiff with inaction.  A glance around her reveals that she hadn’t moved once during the night, the breadth of her bed still completely made save for the spot that her frame had occupied.  Easing herself down a slide of sheets, her knees meet the floor with an unpleasant grumble as she leans forward to sightlessly rake up the fallen bottles, taking a swig out of one of them before unceremoniously jamming the rest back into the spot they were supposed to occupy. 

That’s great, Hawke, she thinks, lifting a hand to float blurrily before her face, not bothering to get to her feet as she inspects a series of small lacerations and broken nails on the ends of crooked fingers.  So glad to see you’ve got everything together.

It’s storming overhead by the time she manages to achieve standing, rain pelting her windows with the force of pebbles, sky the dull, anxious gray of a sea storm as far as the horizon.  The weather doesn’t cause the aches, the protestations of a thousand little war wounds all across her body, but it doesn’t help them either.

Maker, she feels so – old.  Somehow she’s sitting on the edge of the bed again and she can’t even tell how much time has passed, her bare legs and the chilly floor reminding her that she didn’t even have the wherewithal to put on pants. 

She should take a bath, a hot one, something to unclench the muscles in her lower back, something to ease the stress of knotted muscles in her right leg from all the limping she does on the left.  Do those exercises Fenris showed her to work out the kinks in her shoulders.  The stretches Aveline recommended to help with the pull of her shield that sets her over on one side.  It’s exhausting and it hurts, but if she wants to be worth anything at all by lunch time she has to.  She must, possibly to the exclusion of everything else.

It’s hard not to feel like it’s a waste of time.  Some days are better than other days.  Some days she feels almost human, and when she sinks into the huge dwarven-made bath with the water up to her chin, piping hot enough to scald her flesh from her bones, she almost remembers what it’s like not to hurt.  Hawke thanks the Maker for these small moments, and even more for the fact that Bodahn and Orana are there to quietly pick her up when she can’t get off her knees. 

She isn’t sure how she feels about the deity most days, isn’t sure whether or not an absentee god is worthy of her praise when so often she feels abandoned and low, but they are worth all the praise she can sing and so she does.  For them, she does.

It’s still hard, though, not to curse and bite and snap at little things - like making her once-shattered fingers curl around the fine handle of a fork, like when she’s clumsy and awkward in her body and things go flying every which way.  It’s such a mess, she makes such a mess, but she’s learned these long years that even though tears and wailing make it better, just for an instant, it isn’t something she can afford to do.

Not if she wants to be Champion of Kirkwall.  Not if she intends to do her duty to the city.

So she drinks the tinctures Anders brews, does her exercises, and puts the armor on.  Lets it prop her up when she feels weak, uses it like a crutch instead of a weight across her shoulders.  And when it’s time to do battle, she does it, without complaint.

Because she looks fine, and so she is fine, and that is all she can afford for anyone to see.