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"Sandal, no!"

Familiar as the shout was, it wasn't often heard in the garden, let alone followed by a smashing sound. Dropping his book, Hawke rushed out expecting to find Bodahn trying to get his son down from a window or other flight of fancy. Instead, he found Bodahn fussily wiping Sandal's mouth with a handkerchief and bemoaning, "Oh, silly boy, I've told you, don't eat things lying on the ground—"

"Bowl," Sandal protested. "Is in bowl."

"—which is now broken, and you have no idea what kind of disease or dirt could be—"

"What's going on?" Hawke asked.

"Oh, messere!" The dwarf turned, flustered, already waving his hands as if he could magic the incident away. "Nothing you need be bothered by, my boy's just made a bit of a mess I'll get him to clean—"

"Milk." There was a huge smile on Sandal's face. "Drink milk grow strong."

Hawke blinked. "He found milk in the garden?"

"That'd be my fault, sorry." In ran Anders, down from the stairs that led up to the mansion's bedrooms, his coat fluttering open as if it had just been flung on and bringing a smile to Hawke's face. "All me, don't blame the boy, I'll clean it up—"

"Enchantment!"

"Sandal, no, no clapping, son—"

This was all too much noise for what had been a lazy morning. "I'm invoking lord's privilege," declared Hawke, "so I talk, you listen." He pointed through the snap silence at Anders. "Explain first."

The mage looked embarrassed. "I sneaked into the kitchen and left some milk out last night. There was a cat, you see, I saw it through the window walking along the garden walls ..."

"Kitty!" Sandal clapped his hands.

"... and I thought, maybe I could convince it to come closer."

Hawke felt himself grin. "A cat? No wonder you were distracted last night."

"Only a little. You got my full attention quickly."

"I should hope so, I put enough effort into getting it—"

"Ah, messeres," Bodahn coughed delicately. "Such conversation brightens any morning, but keeping in mind your company ..."

He gestured to Sandal, whose blue eyes were looking confusedly up between the two men. "My apologies, Bodahn," said Hawke, trying to look serious as Anders coughed. "All right, so that's how the milk got into the garden, what's the problem?"

"The problem, messere, is that the saucer the milk was in is ... well, no point hiding it now." 

Gently, Bodahn pulled his son aside. On the dark flagstones behind Sandal's boots were porcelain shards, glowing white in the springtime sun like fragments of frozen light. Hawke didn't need to bend to know it was a piece from the formal banquet set, stamped with the Amell family crest. One of her mother's bride gifts, Leandra had said, and she had been so happy to find the whole set safely hidden in storage when they had taken back the mansion. Bodahn continued, "I'll see if it can be repaired, messere, but such fine Orlesian make, I don't have much hope – please, let me apologise on behalf of my boy, I'll see that he's punished—"

"Oh no. No, no, no." Anders shook his head vigorously. "It's not Sandal's fault, he had no idea what he was doing. Certainly you shouldn't punish him for it, that would be Unjust." Briefly the mage's eyes flashed cold blue, making Hawke tense, but thankfully the Justice spirit did nothing more. "It's my fault completely, I'll take responsibility and pay for it."

"Anders, it's just a saucer, I'll explain to mother, I'm sure she won't be upset—"

"It's your mother's?" Anders paled. "Oh Maker, what have I done—"

In four steps Hawke strode over and grasped Anders's shoulders. "A mistake. A simple, honest mistake over a little thing that in the grand scheme of things, doesn't matter a single jot. There's no need to worry about it, let alone pay for it."

"But there is." The look that met Hawke's was distressed, but also proudly clear. "If I'm to live here, not just with you but with your family, I have to take responsibility when I wrong them, especially your mother. I want her to like me, after all."

"She will. She does." His hands tightened, feeling muscle twitch beneath thick fabric. "I'll speak with her."

"As much as I appreciate your protection in battle, I don't need it in this." Anders pushed Hawke's hands away. "I want to look in on the clinic today, but I'll stop by the markets and pick up something – a trinket, at least, or maybe some wine? Maybe one of the dock merchants has something nice from Orlais, what kind of things does your mother like?"

"Anders—"

"Flowers!" Sandal exclaimed happily.

"Flowers, great idea!" Anders's face lit up. "I'll ask Elegant, she'll suggest some—"

"Anders." Hawke leaned into the word, hauling Anders's jitters to an abrupt pause. Briefly Hawke thought to fill the pause with another offer, of help, of company, whatever lovers do when one has need, but this thing between them was new, and they had first been something else. Something still relevant. Hawke slowed the breath he had taken. "You'll be back tonight?"

The mage's face softened. "Of course. I promised I'd massage more of those armour kinks from your shoulders, didn't I?"

"I meant for dinner. When I asked you to stay, it was in the whole house, not just the bedroom."

"I know." The smile twitched uncertainly. "It just ... takes some getting used to."

The next pause was more awkward, not helped by Bodahn fussing as he guided Sandal back inside the mansion. "I'll ah, get going, then," Anders said, fumbling at his coat. "I'll be back before sundown."

Impulsively, Hawke stepped in, close and intimate, deftly doing up the fastenings of Anders's coat in a reverse of last night as he said, "I look forward to it. And be careful when you leave."

"I'm always careful." Gradually, under Hawke's touch, Anders's breathing calmed until, finally, when the coat was dressed and done, his smile was once again soft. "I really don't know what I've done to deserve you."

Any smart reply Hawke may have made was cut off by a quick kiss, and then Anders was striding off, head high and dark gold in the sunshine as it always was, even in the open streets of Kirkwall. Hawke would have preferred the renegade mage to stay, ideally in bed, rather than risk being seen leaving, but keeping Anders from the clinic was a battle Hawke knew better than to fight ... a gentle cough overhead caught his attention, and Hawke looked up to find Leandra watching from her bedroom window. "How much did you hear?" he asked wryly.

"Good morning to you too, and by 'hear' do you mean just then, or the last two nights?"

"Ah—"

"Don't blush so, these stone walls have stood up to far worse assaults than cries of passion. I heard nothing once I closed my door." Leandra chuckled warmly. "He seems like a charming fellow. A mage, too, right? I hope he knows not to worry about me being frightened or disapproving of him."

"He knows about the mages in our family, so the only real worry is from him talking your ear off about mage rights – and overreacting to this saucer thing."

"Oh, pish, it's only a dish, if I cared that much over things like that I would have never run off with your father. Though I won't say no to flowers. You should get him something, too."

"I'm always happy to do that, but your expression tells me you have something in mind."

Leandra winked. "It's one thing to tell someone they can stay, but making them feel they belong where they're staying is quite another. We could have a kitten about the place, couldn't we, dear?"

 

* * *

 

"A cat?" Aveline raised an eyebrow. "What do you want a cat for?"

"A kitten," Hawke corrected. "Baby cat, terribly cute."

"Also terrible to furniture, and you didn't answer the question. What do you want a kitten for? I thought like most Fereldans you're a dog person."

"It's not for me, it's for Anders."

"Ah," said Aveline, and that said everything. "Is that a good idea, though? A kitten in Darktown, once it gets some meat on its bones, like all other cats there it may end up in some refugee's stew—"

"It won't be in Darktown, it'll be in the mansion." Hawke said, trying to sound offhand. "And Anders will be in the mansion with it."

The captain's green eyes blinked, then widened. "Oh."

"'Oh?' No, 'do you know what you're doing?' or, 'is that a good idea?'"

"I can say that too, if you like, but actually, I just ... didn't realise it had gotten to that. I mean, we all know that there's a thing between you two, but that's quite different to you two actually being a thing."

"Ah." Hawke had the decency to look a little embarrassed. "Well, it's a new thing, if that helps."

"So I'm the first to know? I'm honoured." Aveline gave a little smile, which immediately disappeared as she clanked back behind her desk. "So what's going to happen to his free clinic if he's living with you?"

"I'm not sure, we haven't discussed that. But I doubt I can convince him to abandon it."

"I wouldn't even bother trying." She ruffled through the papers on the desk, pulling out a large book of what, even upside down, Hawke recognised as patrol schedules. "I'll get Donnic to take a few rounds at your end of Hightown – if Anders keeps his movements to those times, you'll have less to worry about. Although, Donnic won't appreciate being put on such an easy beat for long."

"Thank you, hopefully it gives us time to figure something out."

"You'd better. And do mention this to Anders – if he doesn't appreciate the fact that, despite knowing where he lives, I've never breathed a word to the templars, maybe he'll appreciate this. I'm curious to see if he can say something nice to me." She closed the book with a thud. "Sadly, I can't help with the kitten. None of the Keep's mousers are currently breeding, and the rest of the cats I've seen about here are the overbred, fluffy ones who only hunt when bored of being pampered. I can't imagine your scruffy mage with one of those."

"Neither can I." Hawke grinned. "You called him my mage."

"And scruffy, too. Try Lowtown, I'm sure you'll easily pick up another scruffy stray there."

 

* * *

 

Hawke remembered seeing plenty of cats around Lowtown back when he and his family had still been living with Gamlen, but only as a passing observation on the local scenery. Add that to the three years which had passed since Hawke had moved to Hightown via the Deep Roads, and Hawke had no idea where to start in finding a cat, let alone one with kittens. Chasing one of the strays darting about the busy market was not just an embarrassing option, it would be time-consuming, especially with the sun already past its noon summit. Hoping that maybe Corff had a female mouser in the cellars, Hawke headed for the Hanged Man.

The tavern, as usual, was warm and noisy, if not exactly full. Other than the regulars, the biggest group was the trio of figures at the far corner table, and they were certainly the rowdiest. Isabela caught the most attention as she leaned her chair back, her long legs perched on the table, laughing uproariously with glints of firelight reflecting from her jewellery into her dark hair. Her mirth looked to be prompted by something Varric was saying, a story, perhaps, going by the dwarf's smirk over his quill and papers. Only Fenris was studiously unimpressed, and sat straight and silent in his chair, slowly writing letters on another piece of paper. "Again from memory, just like we practiced," Varric continued. "A, anus, capitalised is spread, lower-case is the hole. B is for balls, capitalised is a pair, lower-case the one left dangling after a Mabari bites off the other. C is for cunt, same shape whether big or small—"

"Maker's breath, what are you teaching Fenris?" Hawke asked as he approached them.

"Hawke, darling, how good of you to come by!" Grinning, Isabela raised her pint and pushed a spare chair out with her boot. "I've thought up the best way to help our favourite free elf learn his letters, and it's working like a charm, isn't that right, Fenris?"

"It would work better if you didn't keep sniggering," Fenris growled.

"You know what they say, the more outrageous the memory aid, the better it works." Varric emphasised this pearl of wisdom with a wave of his quill. "Keep going, broody-britches, I'm sure you can remember what 'D' stands for."

"I don't want to know," Hawke said dryly, ignoring the offered chair. "Is Corff around? I need to ask him something."

"He and Norah went to roll another barrel up from the cellars. I offered to help, but Corff turned me down. Can't imagine why, it's not like I would steal a whole barrel, at least by myself." Isabela winked. "He let me keep an eye on the bar, though."

"Only because he also asked me to keep an eye on her," Varric threw in. "What do you need to ask Corff about, Hawke? I've got all of today's gossip from him already."

"Nothing quite so interesting. I just wanted to know if any of the tavern cats are whelping, or may be."

"Is your mansion having mouse trouble?" Varric chortled. "You really have ruined the neighbourhood, Hawke!"

"It's just been ruined further: Anders has moved in."

The silence that followed that was short and sharp. "Anders," Isabela repeated, slow and deliberate as she swung her legs off the table to sit properly, "has moved in. With you. Justice as well?"

"Of course as well, it's not like Blondie can take a time-out on being possessed." Varric let out a whistle; beside him, Fenris had stopped writing. "Hoo boy, Hawke, are you sure you know what you're getting into?"

"More importantly, when did this happen?" demanded Isabela. "And did he glow in the dark?"

"Please don't tell," Fenris muttered.

"Please do tell, there's money riding on it!" Isabela slapped the money pouch on her hip. "Come on, Varric, time to cash in!"

Hawke stared in both horror and amusement as both rogues threw their pouches on the table. "You've been betting on us?"

"Concern for my friends doesn't stop me from profiting off them in mostly harmless ways," Varric said expansively.

"When, who, where, why, and what." Isabela ticked points off her fingers, eyes gleaming as wickedly as her knives. "Fifty silver on when it would happen, another fifty on who made the first move, thirty on where you did it, and ten on various whats and whys. Like, whether Anders made any dramatic declarations of love in the face of the mage-hating world, which I'm betting he did—"

"You're not hearing any of that!"

"We already know the crazy mage wants a cat," Fenris said darkly.

"Which, sadly, neither of us put in the betting pool." Isabela sighed. "It seems like such an obvious thing in hindsight. So, Hawke, spill! For reasons of silver, if not gossip – not all of us have a Hightown mansion to live in."

"Sorry, still no. You have to have more stable coin flows than this."

"Betting is less effort than treasure hunting in spider-infested caves," said Isabela. "And you do realise that if you don't tell, we're just going to have to use our imaginations? Like this!"

Before Hawke could stop her, Isabela climbed onto her chair, assumed the pose of a Chantry sister at sermon, and gave a theatrical cough before dramatically reciting, "'I've been dreaming of you for years,' the apostate whispered huskily, his cock straining hard as a spear in the warrior's hot fist. 'Every night, lying awake, imagining how you'd touch me with your strong, rough hands—'"

"Hey, she's got Blondie's voice down pretty well," Varric commented, not moving to help as Isabela leaped lightly onto the table out of Hawke's desperate reach. Fenris swore and dived to rescue the inkpot. 

"—and ah! his words broke off in a moan of passion as the other man thrust into his trembling body with the force of a charging ogre—"

"I love how she can just think up these things on the spot – I mean, I do it too, but I'm better in other genres, whereas in this one she's the undisputed queen—"

With a lunge, Hawke somehow managed to catch Isabela's ankle and yank. She tumbled onto the paper-strewn table nearly kicking Fenris in the face, but twisted free almost immediately back onto her feet on the tavern floor, only to turn and find Hawke holding both her and Varric's money pouches. "Not a good idea to leave these lying about in this part of town," Hawke observed, tossing one up and down so that the coins clinked. "Maybe I should take them in for safe keeping."

Varric winced. "Aw, come on, Hawke, buddy, I've been paying for all your drinks here!"

"Should I have made it more cute?" Isabela asked, fluttering her lashes. "More tender kisses, vows of undying love, that sort of thing? I can add a kitten."

"Cute would be even worse," growled Fenris. His slender hands were black with spilled ink. "How tiresome – if you're looking for a kitten, Hawke, go speak to Merrill. She mentioned having her toes attacked by one when she was in the bazaar a few days ago."

"Thank you, Fenris." With a wink, Hawke placed the two money pouches in the ex-slave's hands then turned to go. "I'll return later for a drink, but there are some bets you're not meant to collect, I'm afraid."

Isabela snatched her ink-stained pouch from Fenris and pouted at Hawke's retreating back. "Spoilsport. Do you think I can I claim an injustice and get Anders's glowy half to intervene?"

"With your luck, Rivaini, I wouldn't push it. Although," and here Varric broke into a wide grin, "I just had a new idea for a romance story. Want to help me write it?"

 

* * *

 

"Hawke!" Merrill's voice came out as a squeak. "You've come to visit! I was just, um, cleaning, again—"

"Hello, Merrill, you're looking well. I'm just here to—"

"Is this about me wandering into the Viscount's cupboard? I swear, truly, I didn't mean to, I just took one turn and then another and somehow ended up there—"

"It's not about that, no," Hawke interrupted gently, although not before sparing a thought for Aveline's headaches. "I'm looking to get a kitten. Fenris mentioned you knew where to find some."

"A kitten, yes! I saw a stray not three days ago in the Lowtown Bazaar, all tiny and cute and fluffy and – what do you want a kitten for?

"It's for Anders."

"Oh, for Anders, right." She blinked at him. "Will it be called Ser Pounce-A-Lot, too? With a little feathered hat and everything?"

"Let's just start with the actual cat. Can you show me where you found this kitten?"

"Um, I think so ..."

Back out Merrill's door Hawke went, this time following the young mage as she took him out through the Alienage, up into the Lowtown slums, around a corner, down a hill, down another hill and along a street and— "Merrill, this is not the way to the bazaar."

"It's not? Oh dear, where are we then?"

"Well on our way to the docks, I'm afraid."

"Oh. I thought the air was smelling salty. Would it be better if you lead the way?"

"Probably a good idea."

An hour and several uphills later, Hawke and Merrill finally arrived in the square of the Lowtown Bazaar, which was already turning bronze and shadowed in the sinking sun. Hawke glanced at the sunset, glanced at Merrill wandering about the emptying bazaar, then restlessly up at the towers of Hightown glowing in the distance, wondering if Anders had left his clinic yet. Most of the stall-holders had already packed up. "Merrill, are you sure this is where you saw the kitten?" he asked.

"Absolutely, I was trying to buy cheese when I dropped a wheel and got yelled at by the stall-owner, and when I bent down that's when I saw it—"

"The cheese stall is just closing," Hawke pointed at the table near the stairs.

"So it is, and ooh, look, there's the kitten!"

Sure enough, there, at the foot of the stall, was a kitten, striped orange and white, sticking its head out from under the table's support beams and apparently intent on a bit of cheddar on the ground. Instantly, Merrill went up close and down, ignoring glares from the cheese man and passer-bys who suddenly found their path blocked by a Dalish elf kneeling in the dirt. The kitten froze and stared at her with huge green eyes. "Puss, puss," Merrill crooned, stretching her fingers out and inching closer, "come here, puss—"

The kitten bolted. Too late, Merrill dived after it, bumping her head on the cheese table and making its owner shout. Somehow Hawke managed to run and keep his eye on the kitten as it dashed under the other tables, pairs of feet, around piles of goods, to disappear into a midden of broken crates and rotting baskets in the bazaar's far corner. "There," he pointed, "at the back by the wall, maybe that's its shelter."

"I hope not, I've seen huge rats scavenging there. But let's go see." Ignoring the yelling cheese-seller, Merrill got to her feet and ran over to the midden, easily squeezing into the narrow gap between it and the wall before getting down on hands and knees to look into the various dark hollows. Hawke could see her nose wrinkle. "This doesn't smell very nice ..."

"I can look myself—"

"No, no, you can't fit here and I have better eyes. Elvish, you know – oh, hello there!" Her face lit up, and she pushed it along with her arm into the hollow she had found. "Aren't you adorable – don't hiss like that, you're going to go somewhere nice you can be cuddled and fed and wear little hats – ow!"

"Merrill?"

"Little blighter scratched me." Merrill brought her hand up to her mouth and sucked at it. "I can't quite reach it back there, and it definitely doesn't want to come out – oh, I know."

Even in the growing twilight Hawke could see the faint mist of dark red appearing about Merrill's fingers. He could certainly smell the whiff of iron, and hastily moved to block any view of Merrill from curious eyes. "Merrill," he hissed, stomach curling a little, "we can try something else—"

"Got it. Her, actually." The iron smell disappeared, and then Merrill was standing with a beatific smile on her face and a kitten in her hands. Tiny paws clawed frantically in the air until Merrill shifted her grip on its scruff, whereupon the kitten immediately stilled. "Poor thing – she probably thinks we're going to eat her."

Hawke watched the kitten carefully as Merrill eased out from the midden back into the bazaar square. To his untrained eye the creature looked to be perhaps nine or ten weeks old, with lines of ribs showing through her dirty and probably flea-ridden fur, but the green eyes were bright as they balefully stared at Hawke. "What did you do?" Hawke demanded.

"Nothing harmful, just a bit of blood magic to compel her to come closer. But maybe don't tell Anders that." Merrill's lip curled a little. "He might think I've tainted the kitten and reject her."

"I doubt he'd do that, but I agree that there's no need for him to know." Reaching out, Hawke gently took the kitten from Merrill, holding her between his armored hands. Immediately the kitten tried to slip through his fingers, and was barely caught again as Hawke closed a large hand down. He thought he felt tiny teeth try to bite his fingers. "She's got spirit, that's for sure."

"Good sign. And don't hold the kitten like that, you'll squash her!" Lightly Merrill went back to the midden where pulled at various pieces until she eventually unearthed a basket in decent condition. "Here, put her in this."

The basket smelled of turnips, but was serviceable enough, and, importantly, still had its lid. Hawke let the kitten spill out of his hands into the basket with a plop, where it yowled plaintively as it was closed in. "Shh, shh, it's all right," Merrill cooed through the basket weave. "Hawke's nice, you're going to be fine, and Anders is mostly nice as long as you like mages and don't make him glow blue—"

"Thank you, Merrill, I really appreciate this." Smiling, Hawke arranged the basket under his arm and used his other to clasp Merrill's hand. "Especially since you did all the catching."

"It's nothing, think of it as thank you for the Eluvian, and well, everything." The elf beamed up at him. "Do you want to get some food as well?"

"No need, I'll feed her at home," Hawke replied, not wanting to be delayed any longer. With the crying basket firmly secured, Hawke turned to make his way back, finally and triumphantly, to Hightown. "But if you're hungry yourself, I saw Isabela, Varric and Fenris in the Hanged Man earlier, you should join them for dinner."

"That's a good idea, Varric said he was going to teach me more card games. I'll head on over. See you later!" She waved after Hawke as he left, then paused as a belated thought struck. "I forgot to ask why he wants to a kitten for Anders. Eh, I'll ask Isabela, she'll give me all the details."

 

* * *

 

The kitten meowed and mewed most of the way back to Hightown. Hawke tried to make the basket more comfortable with hay from a stable, but given the way the kitten clawed at him the gesture didn't seem to be appreciated. He really hoped it would be better inclined to Anders. Actually, given that the sun had already set, Hawke hoped Anders had just returned to the mansion, period, and hadn't gotten caught up at the clinic, or worse, by a guardsman flying into a panic upon seeing a free mage in Kirkwall—

All thoughts were forgotten when Hawke entered the main hall of mansion and found it filled with flowers.

Bundles of lavender and dandelions. Stands of brightly-coloured embrium and white Andraste's grace. On the hall tables, chains of tiny daisies wound their way around huge roses in red, pink and yellow, possibly clipped from various private gardens. Cornflowers decorated Sandal's enchanting box, glossy laurels framed the crackling fireplace, and there were even sprigs of blue, delicate crystal grace tied above several of the doors. Still holding the now-quiet basket, Hawke had to turn around twice just to take it all in. "By the Maker ..." 

"My fault. Again." A familiar voice floated through the fragrant air from the top of the stairs, and Hawke looked up to find Anders smiling ruefully down. "I mentioned to a patient that I needed flowers. She mentioned it to other patients, who mentioned it to their friends, who mentioned it to more friends, and ... well. Apparently I forgot to include flowers in my no payment policy."

He was descending the stairs as he spoke, and, despite tired feet, Hawke felt his face break into a broad smile. "They admire your work even more than I do. Did they help you carry everything here as well?"

"No, that was Isabela and Varric. They turned up in the afternoon demanding I give them information to settle their bet, and threatened to make up embarrassing stories about us if I didn't. I said I'd tell them if they help me with the flowers, but I never promised I'd tell them the same thing. They're probably still arguing over who got told the truth – hint: it's neither." 

"Nice work." He didn't move as the mage drew close enough to touch, not that they did. Yet. "Has my mother seen what you've done to the place?"

"Seen? She's the one who did all the flower arranging. I think she likes me now." Anders flushed. "Do you like them?"

"I certainly do, but probably not as much as I hope you like this ..."

Carefully, Hawke pulled the basket out from under his arm. It was disturbingly silent as he passed it to Anders, and his heart momentarily skipped thinking maybe something had happened, that maybe he had handled it too roughly and Anders was about to find a tiny corpse inside— "Oh. Oh, Hawke, you shouldn't have."

There was a mournful yowl. Suddenly Hawke breathed a little easier, his lungs filling with the scent of flowers as the basket fell to the carpet revealing the kitten, bristling and dirty orange, clinging to Anders's sleeve. The mage himself wore a wide-eyed expression that was part awe, part disbelief, and all open-mouthed as the kitten scrambled up his arm to his shoulder, mewing all the way while Anders stammered, "I don't – how did you—"

"Mother's suggestion. Aveline, Fenris and Merrill helped. I suppose Varric and Isabela did too, although more with you than me." Hawke chuckled as the kitten tried to squirm away from Anders's grip, only to get tangled in the mage's blond hair. "She'll need a bath and be trained to hunt mice, not furniture, all of which is your responsibility."

"Of course – ow – with pleasure, but—" Somehow Anders managed to grab the kitten and disengage claws from his hair, bringing her to cradle against his chest where she could be petted properly. His healer's hands were far gentler than Hawke's, and immediately made the kitten still. "She's beautiful, it's just ... I don't think I've done anything to deserve this."

Callused fingers reached out to cup Anders's cheek. "I don't need a reason to give gifts to those I care for," Hawke said firmly, running a thumb over warm lips and stubble. "Although, if you want to give me a reason retrospectively, I could use a way to relax after kitten-hunting all day."

"Ah." The kitten was beginning to purr between them. "Well, I suppose I could do that after cleaning her—"

"Dinner's ready." As one, they turned to see Leandra watching and smiling from the banquet room's door. "Orana has done the most delicious roast, and Bodahn found a lovely Orlesian wine in the cellars. Anders, dear, why don't you take the kitten into the kitchen and find her some milk before joining us."

"Certainly, my lady." Cuddling the now-docile kitten close Anders went to do so, though not before casting a lingering glance at Hawke and mouthing, thank you. The mage's smile glowed warm and gold. With a small smile of his own, Hawke made his way through the flowers to follow.

 

~end~