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Magic's Touch

Chapter Text

"What has magic touched that it doesn't spoil?" He spat the words out, and almost immediately regretted them. The way Hawke looked at him made him feel ashamed. Hawke did not look angry, that was not it. He seemed more bemused, and did not even say anything in response. He just looked at Fenris in that strange way, one eyebrow raised. Had Damian Hawke nothing to say in the mages' defense? He was a mage himself no less! Surely Fenris' harsh words must have touched a nerve. Usually Hawke was quick to argue against Fenris' opinion. Yet this time Hawke did not say a word. He just looked in that damnable way, as if he thought it was too much trouble to have to go through this argument again.

Suddenly, the anger he had felt the entire time since he had found out that Hadriana was after him, disappeared. Fenris turned around. He could not bear to look at Hawke any longer. His lack of a reaction confused him even more than he already was.
"I... need to go," he murmured, storming through the cave's exit before Hawke could stop him.

It was a long walk from the slavers' cavern back to Kirkwall. Fenris walked as briskly as he could, while muttering curses in Arcanum to himself. The blood on his gauntlets was beginning to dry, turning the dark red into a dirty, rusty brown. His right hand was completely covered with a caked layer. Hadriana's blood. Fenris opened and closed his hand, remembering how it had felt to reach into that bitch's chest, to reach for her heart. He had felt how it was beating wildly, still recovering from the fierce battle, right before he closed his fingers around it and squeezed. He had thought it would feel more satisfying.

Venhedis! Why did it feel more like he had torn out his own heart instead? He felt so empty inside...  After three years without any sign of Danarius, without any sign of another army of slavers coming after him, he had begun to hope that his former master had finally given up. But now he had sent Hadriana to take him back. Even after all those years he was still not free. He still could not go anywhere without needing to look over his shoulder, without having to be alert for an ambush, a trap. He was still on the run. An escaped slave, not a free man. A man with a sister... That was, if Hadriana had not lied to him in an attempt to save her precious life.

Whether she had been honest or not, it had not helped her. He had given Hadriana his word, and he had not even blinked when he turned around and killed her anyway. She deserved it. One less to hunt you, he told himself. But when he had given his word, he had he meant it. He had wanted to let her run back to Danarius, so that the bastard could see that even his apprentice could not touch him anymore, not with Hawke on his side. But then he had lost control. Seeing the woman he hated so much lying defenseless in front of him, he could not let her go. He had remembered how often he had been defenseless against her bullying, abusing and tormenting. And even when she lay there at his feet and was at his mercy, she had the nerve to lure him straight into another trap. If he really had a sister, Danarius knew about her and that meant it was suicide to look for her. Hadriana had attempted to buy her freedom with his death sentence. So his rage had flashed, his markings had flashed, and he had crushed her heart before he knew it. His hatred turned out to be stronger than his word and honor.

But what was honor to a slave anyway? It would only be foolish to cling to something like honor in his position. Honor was a luxury for the nobles and knights, not slaves. Still, it bothered him. Perhaps it was because he had broken his word in front of Hawke, the most honorable man he knew. Fenris threw his head back and let out a barking laugh. A mage was the most honorable man he had ever known! How ironic. And that man now knew that Fenris had no honor at all. Only anger and hatred. Thick, and black, and bitter.

Without Hawke's help Hadriana would no doubt have been able to capture him and drag him back to the magister, or to kill him and strip the lyrium from his flesh. But Hawke had saved him. Again. And in return, Fenris had told him all mages could rot. Could he have lost his only ally in his anger? That thought frightened him. Without Hawke, he had no chance to face Danarius. But that was not the only reason Fenris felt his stomach tighten... The idea of Hawke hating him and thinking of him as a man without honor... it hurt. He needed to apologize to Hawke, to make sure he would at least not lose his aid.

When Fenris finally arrived in Hightown, his legs felt heavy from the long walk. He wanted to go see Hawke, but he would probably not be home yet. So he went to Danarius' mansion instead. Once there, he was not able to sit still for long. He paced through the dark mansion and wished there was another bottle of Aggregio in the cellar. Now there were only a couple of cheaper wines left. Well, it was better than nothing, he decided. He needed something to distract himself with until he could talk to Hawke. More importantly, he needed something to distract his thoughts. His sister, Hadriana, Danarius, Hawke. He did not want to think about any of them. 

The sun had set when Fenris decided to finally make his way to Hawke's estate. He had drunk one bottle of wine and opened a second, but after a few sips he had smashed that one against the wall in a sudden flaring of frustration.

It was not far to Hawke's house. Sooner than he had anticipated, he was standing in front of the door to the estate. A little hesitatively, Fenris knocked. The door remained shut. He was about to knock again, louder this time, when it finally opened. But it was not Hawke who peeked around the corner. Instead, it was the dwarven servant, Bodahn.

Fenris blinked. He had not really counted on seeing anyone but Hawke now and had more or less hoped to be able to quickly apologize and then take his leave.

"Has Hawke not returned yet?" he asked hopefully.

Bodahn shook his head. "No, serah. Not yet."

After a moment of doubt, Fenris asked: "Can I wait for him inside?" It was better to talk to Hawke as soon as he could, to find out if he was truly mad at him.

Bodahn seemed to consider for a moment, but then he nodded and opened the door entirely so that Fenris could enter. Being a dwarf, he seemed to be a bit distrustful of elves - at least of elves that looked as unusual as Fenris. Even so, Fenris had been here a few times before and Bodahn had probably come to the conclusion it could not be blamed on him if he decided to steal anything. After having refused anything to eat or drink, Fenris was left alone in the foyer. He did not dare enter the house further on his own, feeling out of place and uncomfortable. Soon he started pacing again, while he tried to come up with a good way to apologize. As time went by and Hawke still did not arrive, he finally sat down on one of the wooden benches placed against the left wall and stared at his feet.

After what must have been at least an hour, when he was starting to believe he would have to leave and come back later after all, he heard the front door open. An aura of powerful magic filled the house. Fenris felt the lyrium in his skin tickle. Danarius, was his first thought. He has come with Hadriana to Kirkwall after all. He found you. But when he looked up, it was Hawke who was standing in the doorway. With a hissing sound, Fenris let out his breath in relief. Since the first time they had met, Hawke had become much more skilled and powerful, which had resulted in a stronger magical aura around him. The lyrium, being magic in its pure form, seemed to react to the presence of other magic, enabling Fenris to sense mages when they were close. He should have realized it was Hawke, but it was not until now that he became fully aware of exactly how strong Hawke had become. His aura must be nearly as intensive as that of a Tevinter magister... A remarkable difference with three years ago, Fenris thought. Then, he had not known Hawke was a mage until he saw him cast spells inside Danarius' mansion.

For a few seconds, they just stared at each other, both on another side of the hall. Finally, Hawke closed the door behind him and Fenris remembered why he had come here. Nervously he cleared his throat.
"I've been thinking about what happened with Hadriana. You and I don't always see eye to eye, but that doesn't mean you deserved my anger. I owe you an apology." So, that was that. He had told Hawke he was sorry. At least it was a better apology than the last one. Then he had ended up blaming Hawke for his own weakness. Now it was out of his hands. He could only hope Hawke would accept it. Would he forgive him? He couldn't read the expression on his face, just like in the cave. At least he still did not look angry. That had to be a good thing.

"I had no idea where you went. I was concerned."

Wait, that was it? Not one word of reprimand? Just genuine concern for his well-being? What was wrong with that man? Because that did not seem the right question to ask after just having apologized, he felt the need to justify his actions of that afternoon. Maybe Hawke would understand after all... The hatred that he had felt so strongly when he had looked at Hadriana welled up in his throat again, as he told Hawke about the torment that woman had been.

While he spoke, he turned away from Hawke. He did not dare to look at him, still counting on seeing disappointment or anger on his face. Or pity. Fenris did not want pity. He was not some fragile little elf. Not anymore at least. He had shown today to Hadriana that he was no longer powerless. But he could not keep explaining himself to the wall. He forced himself to face Hawke again. "The thought of her slipping out of my grasp now... I couldn't let her go. I wanted to, but I couldn't."

"Your need for revenge is consuming you."

And there it was after all. The mighty Hawke knew best. He knew what that fool of a Fenris should do. He should let it all go, all the useless anger. That man knew nothing about being a slave! Of course he did not understand. Someone who had been free all his life, a mage, would never understand.

Driven into defense, he responded angrily. "And what would you have me do? Hadriana came after me. I've never had the option to simply walk away. Am I supposed to forgive, no matter how many times they hunt me down? Am I supposed to forget all the things they have done to me?"

"If you're wondering why you can't move on, this is it." Pity. He could see it in Hawke's eyes. He felt sorry for poor little Fenris. This realization fueled his anger even further. "Yes, this is it," he said mockingly. "How can I not grasp something so simple?" A sense of somber helplessness came over him, smothering his anger. "It's a sickness this hate. This dark growth inside me, that I can't ever get rid of. And they put it there." His willingness to fight left him. It was not Hawke's fault. He may not understand him, but he had supported him today nevertheless and saved his life. He had come here to make sure he would not lose his support. He certainly did not help his cause if he continued to argue with Hawke. Letting out a sad sigh, he turned around, with the intention to walk away and leave. "This... isn't why I came here," he said softly.

Chapter Text

"So you're just going to leave?" Fenris had taken a first step towards the door, but now a hand closed around his arm. His markings came to life before he had even truly felt the fingers on his skin. A strange heat spread along the lyrium lines from where the hand touched him. The sensation startled him. He had never felt something exactly like this in his markings before. As in a reflex he twisted the wrist of the hand that was holding him. No one should grab him like that anymore! He was not someone's property! Without granting himself any time to think, he pushed the man who had dared to touch him like that against the wall.

Hawke let out a muffled "Ouch!" as the back of his head hit the bricks of the wall. Surprised and startled, he stared at Fenris, who looked disturbingly much like he was about to rip his heart out. He felt his pulse quicken, but it was not out of fear. He did not believe Fenris would actually hurt him. Well, at least not more than it had hurt to be smacked with his head against the wall... He stood as motionless as he could, trying to keep his breathing calm, and waited for what would happen. "Fenris..." softly, not more than a whisper, the name escaped along with one of his breaths.

Fenris, realizing his mistake and who he had just knocked against the wall, looked away. What was wrong with him? Why did it upset him so much that someone simply touched his arm? Why had it caused such a strange feeling in the lyrium? Because it's not just someone, it shot through him. This was Hawke... 

When he heard his name, he looked Hawke in the eye again. It shocked him to find no fear in those bright blue eyes. Instead he saw something else entirely. Want. Desire. As the seconds went by, he became more and more aware of the tension that had built up between them, while he was still pushing Hawke against the wall. He felt Hawke's heart beating under his right hand, which he had already placed on his chest. He had been so close to... He closed his eyes. His markings had calmed again. The blind rage disappeared as quickly as it had filled him. He felt Hawke's warm breath against his face and heard him swallow. He should get out of here. This apology turned out to be an even bigger failure than the last time. He turned his gaze to Hawke once again, to see the last bit of surprise being replaced by a look of grim determination he had already seen a few times before, usually when Hawke was about to do something stupid, like attacking an entire Qunari karataam to give a sarebaas the freedom he did not even desire, or lying to the templars to help a bunch of apostates - and most likely blood mages - escape. Before Fenris got the chance to wonder what stupid thing Hawke was about to do this time, Hawke bowed his head forward. And then their lips touched.

As if Hawke had just cast an ice spell on him, Fenris' body froze. What is happening? What is he doing? he thought foolishly. He felt Hawke pressing his mouth firmer against his own, his beard and mustache prickling the skin of his chin and upper lip. I just came here to apologize for yelling at him. Hawke's lips parted, just a little, enough to let his tongue slip out and follow the curves of Fenris' mouth, ever so lightly. When the touch became firmer, Fenris obediently let his own mouth slide open, still too utterly stunned to do anything but cooperate.

This seemed all the encouragement Hawke needed. He forced the opening Fenris had given him wider and let his tongue enter. I have no idea what I'm doing. Despite his mind being clueless, his lips, his tongue, his mouth responded to Hawke's movements with increasing intensity. The feeling that he should not be doing this got vaguer and vaguer until all that mattered was the kiss. Breathing Hawke's breath, feeling him so close, tasting him like this... it awakened a hunger in him he had not known existed.
Hands grabbed both his arms and once again the lyrium was activated, spreading a burning feeling through the lines across his skin. Fenris gasped, more out of surprise of this unexpected activity in his markings than of the odd discomfort it caused, while Hawke whirled him around and suddenly he was the one being pressed against the wall.

"Everything alright?" Hawke mumbled, his mouth only inches away.

Fenris could only let out a moan. He was not sure himself whether that was supposed to be a "yes" or a "no". Grateful for the extra support, he leaned with his back against the cool stones. His knees had grown weak and he feared he might collapse at Hawke's feet right there. Probably because of the long walk and all the pacing he had done, in combination with the wine.

"Maker, I've been wanting to do this for a long time now," Hawke whispered in his neck, before planting his lips on the soft, smooth skin; there, too, leading to an almost unbearable heat that travelled from where his markings were affected to lines further away. What kind of strange reaction is this? He had grown used to a certain degree of discomfort the lyrium caused, with peaks of pain in battle, when he willingly activated them for use. Now Hawke seemed to unknowingly trigger them somehow.

Danarius could do something like this with them as well.

No! Do not think about that! he scolded himself. With all his might, he forced away a memory of Danarius sending a burning pain through his entire body to punish him, while Fenris gritted his teeth to keep himself from granting Danarius the pleasure of screaming in agony.

This feels different. It's not the same kind of pain. That was even true. With the remembrance of Danarius' torture, the heat he was feeling now was... well, different. It was not pleasant, but at the same time it had something... arousing. Sensing Hawke's mouth in his neck, his tongue following one of the lines towards his right ear... hearing his breathing getting louder, faster... Eventually he did not know if his ear felt so warm because of the lyrium that was etched there or if it was simply because of Hawke's hot breath and his tongue, which was now exploring the folds of his auricle. It did not matter; he only knew that it required a lot more to make him want this to stop. The last of his restraint dwindled as he raised his hands to pull Hawke even closer.
He let his hands follow the arc of Hawke's back; lower, feeling the hint of muscles through his robe; lower, the vertebrae of his spine; lower, until he reached the point his arms could not stretch any further. There, he let his hands rest, while his mouth sought to return to Hawke's. The longer the kiss continued, the more his arousal increased. Never had he experienced something like this before, at least as far as he remembered. He could not have imagined that just a kiss could feel so good. He caught himself thinking of what else they could do, and how that would feel... He wanted more. His body ached for it, ached for Hawke. Without thinking, he let his hands wander further, only not lower this time.

Now it was Hawke's turn to groan. Fenris' mouth curled in a slight smile of satisfaction, but then he heard a discrete cough "Ahem... Fenris..?"

He had not realized he had closed his eyes, but he must have, because he had to open them before he could see Hawke looking at him. "Yes?" he asked, suddenly worried he had done something wrong.

"Would you mind, perhaps... to... take those gauntlets of yours off?"

For a moment, Fenris stared at Hawke blankly, uncomprehending. Then, the meaning of Hawke's words came through. He opened his mouth in a wide, embarrassed "Oh." And then another, louder "Oh!"

Hawke smirked at him. "I really didn't mind what you were doing, you know, but I'd rather you do it without those steel claws of yours."

Despite his embarrassment, Fenris laughed with Hawke. "Right. Of course. Sorry."

"Not at all." While Fenris struggled to take his gauntlets off, Hawke moved closer to kiss him again, a cheerful twinkle in his light blue eyes. When he had finally freed one hand, Fenris dropped the steel glove to the floor. It produced a loud CLUNG as it hit the ground. Startled by the unexpected sound, he nervously looked around. The sudden noise made him remember where they were and that they were not alone in this house. "The dwarf..?" he whispered, and then, realizing something far worse: "Your mother??"

Hawke chuckled. "I think Bodahn is discrete enough to give us some privacy. For his own good night rest he will probably not want to disturb us anyway. My mother... well, there you say something..." Seeing Fenris' face and that he was opening his mouth to say something, Hawke quickly added: "But I believe she is somewhere else tonight. Visiting uncle Gamlen. Or was it the Rhineharts..? Either way, she is not here."

Fenris was not convinced. "Are you certain about that? You haven't been further into the house than the hall. And won't she be back soon? It's late."

Hawke rolled his eyes. "If she was here, you would not have been sitting here all by yourself, I can guarantee you. She would have dragged you inside the living room and forced a cup of tea on you. But yes, she could be back any minute now..."

"Don't you think you could have mentioned this earlier?"

With an innocent look on his face, Hawke spread his hands. "You can hardly blame me. You were kind of distracting. Don't look so disapproving, she is not here yet."

"Maybe we should..."

"... make a tactical retreat to the bedroom? My idea. Let's go, before your greatest fear comes true and you are standing face to face with my mother, which, considering your current... condition," Hawke glanced suggestively towards the bulge in Fenris' breeches. "I admit, might be a bit embarrassing." 

More boldly than he felt, Fenris responded with a similar look at Hawke. "I don't see your condition differing so much from mine." Wait, did he just mention the bedroom? That's not what I intended to suggest.

He was rewarded with Hawke's widest grin. His white teeth flickered in the dim light in the foyer. "Touché. So we both agree it's wisest not to delay this any longer."

Wisest? Probably not. Fenris made an attempt to pick up his gauntlet from the floor, but Hawke practically dragged him away before his fingers could touch it. "You don't need the stupid thing tonight anyway. Come."

After a moment of hesitation, Fenris followed Hawke without protest through the living room, up the stairs. The short interruption had left his head a bit clearer and made some of his initial doubts return, but Hawke chased them away before a solid argument was able to materialize in his mind when he released Fenris' other hand from the grip of cold steel, tossed the glove casually away and immediately started fumbling at his armor.

"Andraste's ass, man! How do you take this off? I swear, I may look like I'm wearing a dress, but at least these robes are a lot easier to get out off. How long do you need in the morning to get dressed? An hour?"

Fenris lifted one corner of his mouth. "Perhaps I just never take it off. I have to be prepared, in case Danarius decides to raid the mansion in the middle of the night."

Hawke shot him a long, puzzled glance. "It's very unnerving that I'm actually not sure whether you're serious or just fucking with me."

"Considering I am still wearing my armor, and you your... dress, I don't see how we could be fu..." He did not get the chance to finish his sentence. Hawke interrupted him with a low growl and silenced him by pressing his mouth against his lips. More prepared for what to do this time, Fenris let his tongue slide between Hawke's lips. He started the walk backwards into the bedroom, without losing contact with Hawke for one moment. By the time his calves hit the bed and he fell backwards on the mattress, his armor was gone. So were Hawke's robes. Hawke let himself fall on top of Fenris, still refusing to break the kiss. Hawke's weight crushed the air out of his lungs, but the feeling of Hawke's bare skin against his own sent a shiver through his spine. I still have no clue what I'm doing. I just don't want it to stop.

Hawke's scent surrounded him. With a deep breath, Fenris inhaled it. He did not smell that good, actually. There was more than a trace of sweat, after a long day of walking and fighting, the faint scent of smoke clung to his hair, indicating Hawke had been hurling fireballs again, and something else, something he could not place. He inhaled again. Some kind of herb or spice? There was nothing he could compare it with. It was simply the smell of Hawke, and it was definitely the most pleasant component of the aroma.

Finally, when they were both gasping for air, Hawke pulled his head back a little so that they could look at each other. His pupils were wide, leaving only a thin blue ring of his pale irises visible.

"I want you, Fenris," he whispered in a hoarse voice. "I want you so bad." He felt Hawke's hand burn on his thigh, his erection pressing against his belly. Semen dripped on the skin there, mingling with the sweat that - in vain - tried to cool his body.

He tried to formulate a response, but eventually all that escaped from his lips was a ragged "Hawke."

A chuckle. "That's my name." Hawke chose to interpret his name as permission for his fingers to explore Fenris' body further. He felt the hand on his thigh moving up. That feels good. Why does this feel so good? But wherever Hawke's touch travelled, it was always accompanied by a flaming heat. His touch was fire and ice at the same time. Once Fenris shot a quick glance at one of Hawke's hands to see whether he was willingly setting him on fire. No flames were to be seen at his fingertips however. Only the faint blue glow of the markings he affected. He grabbed Hawke's hair, tucking the braid that held it in check loose, half planning to make him stop what he was doing. He only ended up pressing him closer. No matter how the lyrium burned, Hawke's strokes and kisses also made him quiver with pleasure. Perhaps, when this is all over, there will be nothing left of me but ashes. And I wouldn't even mind.  

Hawke would not let him burn on purpose. Hawke might be capable of letting fire rain down from the sky, but he was also a healer. Often Fenris had felt the heat of the fire around him, smelled the stench of burning flesh, heard the agonized screams of enemies, but the worst thing that happened to him was that he grew more hot and started to sweat. When Hawke's magic touched him in battle, it was always to grand him the strength to carry on, to make the pain of the cuts and bruises fade, the bleeding come to a halt. It was magic he had barely believed to exist, or at least that no mage existed who would devote his practices to it. No Tevinter magister would bother to close wounds and make pain go away. They preferred to specialize in inflicting it, using the blood of others to fuel their destructive powers. That abomination Anders claimed to be a healer as well, but Fenris would rather bleed dry than allow his magic to affect him. Hawke was the only mage he would trust.

There was the sound of a door opening and closing somewhere in the house.

"Hmm, you were right. Sounds like Mother's home. We retreated right on time."

"Glad to know you're at least capable of admitting I'm right sometimes," Fenris grumbled.

Hawke chuckled softly against his hip. "I wouldn't get used to it."

Their bodies were entangled in a way he could not explain or even comprehend. It was almost like Hawke himself got under his skin. Hawke moved. Fenris felt his breath on him. His beard. Lips. Teeth. Tongue. And then it was impossible to stay quiet. With a growl he tightened the grip on Hawke's hair and let his head fall back on the soft pillows. He closed his eyes, but instead of plain, black darkness, a new wave of pleasure crashed into his mind, creating images. He saw an elven girl with bright orange red hair. She smiled at him and raised her hand, palm upward.

"Leto, look!" A tiny, bright pink butterfly appeared. It moved its wings, then dissolved into thin air. Automatically the connection sister appeared in his mind.

An elven woman, with the same bright hair as the girl. Her face might have been beautiful once, but now lines of worry and tiredness were etched in the pale skin. Her dark green eyes looked at him in a sad way. Mother?

"Do not do this, Leto," she said with a soft voice. "What good would freedom do us? We have nowhere to go, no coin to spend. Where should we live? We can't even afford a room in an alienage."

"You'll get by, mother. You'll see. Imagine being free! Go where you want to go, not worrying about what your master wants. You and Varania can live your own life. Varania could train her magic, maybe even become a magister herself. Imagine how amazing that would be!"

"You don't understand, my boy. When we are 'free', we'll be just two more poor elves. Things will not get better, only worse. It's not worth you risking yourself in battles against fellow slaves. You could get hurt, even killed!"

He shook his head and turned on his heels. "I'm sure master Danarius believes in me for a reason. I will prove myself to him, and I will win for you, mother. I will win your freedom."

"Leto, please... Think this through."

He walked out of the room without looking back.

Danarius. Only he looked a bit younger than he remembered. To his astonishment, he felt no hatred for this Danarius,  but... admiration, some degree of affection even. He saw how a young version of himself bowed and begged to be given a chance to prove his worth. Danarius smiled faintly and told him to fight. It wasn't until then that he became aware of the other boys around him. Most were elves, some were human. They were all armed. He was armed. And then they fought. He felt bone splintering, saw blood spattering, heard cries of pain. He swung his blade around until his arms felt like they would fall off. This was the first time he was fighting to kill. The adrenaline rushed through his veins, allowing no other thought than that he had to keep on fighting. So that was what he did, until suddenly it was over. He fought until he was the only one standing. He looked around, panting, his arms aching of wielding his sword, and saw the remains of the others lying around him. Not one of them lived. The stench of death, a mixture of blood, feces and sweat, filled his nostrils and made him nauseous. At the sound of a slow, almost mocking applause he quickly raised his head to see his master. "Such a wild wolf. Congratulations, boy. It seems you have proven yourself. You won the last challenge. The boon is yours. And you... are mine." His master rose from the seat from which he had been watching the fight. "I hope you are able to endure pain well."

He fell to his knees and emptied what little his stomach contained on the remains of the boys he had just killed.

The constant waves of pleasure abruptly turned into a wild maelstrom that surged through his entire being, filling him with a feeling so amazing there was no room for any other thought or feeling within him. His body grew tense, he arched his back and let out a loud moan. Then, for a single moment, everything fell into place. The wall in his mind that had kept a whole part of his life from him, collapsed. He knew who he was, knew his past. He remembered everything. The smell of his mother, the lullabies she sang to him before he fell to sleep, the tears in her eyes after he had won Danarius' fight, the last time he had seen her. It melted together with the parts he had always remembered: Danarius and Hadriana, the Fog Warriors, Hawke... For one perfect moment, he was whole again.

Chapter Text

The sound of someone chuckling brought him back to the present. The faces of his mother and sister faded. No! Desperately he tried to hold onto the images that had so recently returned to him. There was no use. Even faster than they had come to him, they dissolved. The wall had returned, firmly blocking that part of his life again. He opened his eyes and Hawke's face appeared, grinning. It took Fenris some time to recall where he was and what had happened. The return of his memories had consumed him completely.

"What's so funny?" he grunted. It came out more aggressively than he had intended.

Hawke's grin faded somewhat. "Nothing, nothing," he said. The grin widened again. "It's just that I've never made someone glow before. That's a compliment for me, yes?"

Fenris looked down at his body and saw that Hawke was right. Every line of lyrium spread a soft, blue light. From neck to toes, he was glowing. The light gave Hawke's face a bluish tint. Although Fenris was not sure why, it embarrassed him. Those bloody markings drew enough attention already. There did not seem to be any situation in which he could actually be normal.

"I suppose that will come in quite handy when I have to get out of bed when it's still dark. My own personal nightlight," Hawke laughed. "You're like a pretty little glowworm. Or a firefly."

Fenris rolled his eyes. "Do you joke about everything, Hawke?"

"Or my own shining star," Hawke continued. "Yes, I think I'll stick with that. That sounds nice. Better than glowworm, huh?"

Fenris felt too confused to answer. He sensed there was something hidden in Hawke's humor, but the return of his memories occupied his thoughts too much to allow him to concentrate on anything else.

"And could you finally start calling me Damian? I'm getting tired of hearing my last name all the time. It's almost like nobody remembers my first name. I'm glad I'm at least named after a cool bird. What if my last name was chicken? Or pigeon? Would everyone call me that?" Hawke shuddered at the thought.

"You did call me a glowworm just now. I believe calling you a chicken in return would be justified." Fenris felt the corners of his mouth curl up. Even in the turmoil of emotions and thoughts that currently whirled through him, Hawke managed to make him smile.

Hawke's expression, however, turned serious when his gaze drifted over Fenris' chest. The  light of the lyrium was dimming slowly. "Your markings... do they... react to me somehow?"

So he noticed. Fenris avoided meeting Hawke's eyes. "So it seems."

Hawke remained silent after that for a time. "It hurts, doesn't it?" he asked eventually.

Now Fenris turned his head to face Hawke. "I'm not made of glass, remember?" he sighed.

Hawke looked unhappy. "No, I know, but... I don't want to hurt you. I mean... that's not really the kind of thing that I'm into..."

"It doesn't matter."

"But do you know why they react to me? Is it because I am a mage? Or does this simply happen when someone touches you?"

"I don't know." He did not want to talk about this. He did not want to talk at all. He was sick of those vile things. He was sick of magic. The remembrance of Danarius was etched into his very being. No matter how far away he was, he would always bear the sign of the magister. What has magic touched that it doesn't spoil?

He felt Hawke's examining look linger on him. When Hawke cleared his throat, Fenris knew Hawke was going to ask a question he would not want to answer. "Danarius..." Oh yes, this was definitely something he did not want to answer. "He could do something with them as well, couldn't he?"

"Yes." Just leave it at that.

Surprisingly, Hawke did. Apparently he sensed that Fenris would not elaborate on Danarius' actions. Perhaps he did not want to know. Fenris did not blame him. In a flash, Danarius' triumphantly smiling face appeared before him. "That's right! Howl, my little wolf!"

Fenris shuddered. Now that the activity of his markings and the intimacy with Hawke had ceased, it grew cold in the room. The fire in the hearth was barely burning. When Hawke saw Fenris shiver, he pulled the blanket over them both. His smile returned as he pulled Fenris closer to him. "Better?"

Fenris nodded. Hawke let one arm rest on Fenris' chest. It felt warm and heavy. With his other hand, Hawke carefully touched the back of his head. "You know, you did give me quite a nasty bump by smacking me against the wall like that."

"You're a healer. Can't you just heal it?" Fenris tried to hide his discomfort by sounding nonchalant. Shoving Hawke against the wall was not something he wanted to be reminded of. He still did not understand what had gotten into him.

"I suppose I can, yes." Once again, that broad grin appeared. "But I think I will let it stay, as a reminder of this night."

"You are a very strange man, Haw... Damian." He meant it. He doubted there was a man to be found in the whole of Thedas that was even slightly similar.

Hawke stifled a yawn. "I get that a lot. Oh, I'm sorry. It's not that you bore me. I just get so..." Another yawn. "... sleepy after.. uh, well... sex. All that roaming the streets at night to get rid of all the thugs doesn't really help to get a good night's rest either." He let his head sink back against his pillow. "When I got up this morning I really did not expect the day to end like this."

"Neither did I."

"I have figured it out, by the way. About your armor. You don't sleep with it."


"Yes. It would ruin your feathers."

Fenris laughed. "You got me there."

Hawke closed his eyes for a while. Fenris was starting to believe he had fallen asleep already, when he asked softly: "Fenris, do you hate me?"

Surprised, Fenris looked at him, but Hawke still held his eyelids closed. "What makes you say that?"

Hawke shrugged in his pillow. Then his eyes opened. "Well, as you said earlier, we don't really see eye to eye. Because I am a mage, and you don't like mages, and I help other mages, and you don't like that very much either. I've gotten a lot of angry looks from you in the years that I've known you. And let's not forget you just threw me against a wall."

Fenris shook his head. "I don't hate you. I've tried, honestly, but I just can't seem to hate you."

Hawke smiled faintly and closed his eyes again. "Good. I don't hate you either."

It did not take long before he started snoring, albeit not very loud.

No, he did not hate Hawke. He simply could not find it in him. But he hated what he was, hated what he stood for. Magic. Fenris let out a deep sigh. What was wrong with him? To trust a mage... had he not yet learned his lesson? Had he not yet seen enough examples of how magic corrupted man? What has magic touched that it doesn't spoil? He regretted saying the words aloud, in Hawke's presence, but he had meant it. He still meant it. Magic was a curse, not a gift or a blessing.

Magic had taken so much from him, a whole part of his life, and the part that it had left him was tainted by it. But tonight, he had gotten it back. All his memories had suddenly been there, fully complete. Fenris tried to recall the things that had come back to him only minutes ago. He focused as hard as he could, but he kept hitting the invisible wall that blocked off what he was trying to reach. He could not go further back than the pain: the agony of the lyrium being burned into his flesh.

Every life began with a scream; every infant cried when it took its first breaths of air. But no infant had screamed as he had then, no child had cried as he had at that unimaginable agony. He had screamed until his throat had felt like it would tear open and he had no longer been able to make a sound. He had wept until there had been no more tears left. And still the torture had continued. It had gone on and on, leaving no room for anything but the pain. He was only the pain. His existence had seemed defined by it. Eventually he could not even wish it would be over. He had had no idea how long it lasted, but when it had finally ended, he had not even noticed at first. Every fiber in his body ached, masking the absence of new pain.

With a lot of effort Fenris managed to free himself from the hold of this memory. As soon as it occupied his thoughts, it threatened to consume him completely, dragging him back into that terrible moment. Frustrated, he tried again. He had to go further back! There was more, his life had not started with that! He was more than pain and hatred. He had remembered! His sister. He had a sister, Hadriana had told him. He had remembered her, had he not? He had seen her. There had been something with... red hair? But he was not even certain whether it was the bright orange of Aveline's hair, or the dark auburn of Hawke. Or that his sister truly had had red hair. No matter how hard he tried, he kept hitting the wall of pain. There was no way to get past it.

Fenris forced back the tears of despair that welled up in his eyes. Oh, he had been a fool to think he could find comfort in the company of a mage. He was still struggling to remain free of Danarius' leash. No, not to remain free, to finally become free, he corrected. He was not free as long as Danarius breathed and was able to send soldiers after him.

"Your chains are broken, but are you truly free?" Was that not that what that mysterious witch on Sundermount had said? She was right. Even worse, now he was chaining himself to another mage. He was bound to Hawke. Because he owed him. Without Hawke, Danarius would have succeeded by now. Hadriana would have succeeded. But that was not all. That he owed Hawke, did not sufficiently explain what had happened tonight. Why it had happened. He felt... he did not even know what he was feeling. Fenirs looked at Hawke, who was sleeping peacefully. His hair, freed from the hold of the braid, was spread across his pillow. It turned out to be longer than Fenris would have guessed, now that it was loose.

Were demons lurking behind those closed eyes? Were they whispering to him, making promises, offering deals? The thought of his own experience in the Fade was enough to make Fenris' blood turn to ice. It had taken that terrible creature only a few words to make him turn on Hawke. The demon's voice had filled his head. It had created images in his mind, showing him what he could do with the powers it promised him. He would be able to defeat Danarius, all by himself. No help required from anyone. The price was small: kill Hawke. Those were the things the demon had made him believe. The way Hawke had  looked at him when he realized he was about to betray him... Just remembering it made his stomach turn. And yet Fenris had barely hesitated as he pulled his blade from his back and raised it. Endless sadness had lain in Hawke's crystal blue eyes as he, in response, had pointed his staff at Fenris. His mouth had formed the words "I'm sorry" before he had hit him with a frost spell. That was the single time Fenris had experienced Hawke destructive instead of his healing powers. The ice had frozen him on his spot, before he could even manage the two steps it would have taken to get to Hawke. Their presence in the Fade had reduced the intensity of the pain, but still it had hurt. Millions of ice crystals had pierced his skin, spreading their cold till it had reached his bones. The fireball that followed had hurt even more, but that was all it took. After the fire struck Fenris had woken up in Arianni's small house. Isabela had already been awake. When she and the Dalish keeper had looked at him, he had known they knew. In his shame he could not find the courage to meet their piercing, questioning stares. Instead, he had focused his eyes on Hawke, who had still been lying motionless, along with Anders.

Waiting for Hawke to wake up had been nerve wrecking. Would the demons get to him now? Would Anders turn on him as well, now that his demon had taken over? What if he would never escape the Fade? Those terrible questions had haunted Fenris. But finally, after what had seemed like forever, Hawke and Anders had opened their eyes. Hawke had survived. The relief he had felt about that had been tempered by feelings of guilt and shame. He had uttered an apology and left the house as soon as possible. Later, when Hawke had come to visit him, Fenris had wanted to apologize more extensively, but instead he had ended up telling Hawke the betrayal was his fault. He should never have taken him into the Fade in the first place. Did he not understand that not everyone was as strong as he was? When a demon had approached Hawke with an offer, he had not even bothered to listen but simply slain the monster. Fenris had thought he could do that as well, but pride had proven otherwise. He was weak, and in more than one way. The more he had thought about it, the more he had gotten convinced Hawke was to blame. The shame of reality was just too much to bear.

All this time he had despised Merrill and Anders for their dealings with demons. Now he had proven he was no better than the nearest mage. "If you do this, you are no better than the magisters." And it was Hawke's fault. Without Hawke, he would never have been in the Fade, would never have been confronted with the demon. He would never have found out how low he could actually sink.

Killing Hawke... somehow the demon had managed to made him believe that was a small sacrifice for the power to gain his freedom. But it was not. It might be the only sacrifice he was not willing to make. If he had succeeded, Hawke would have been turned tranquil. With his sword he would have erased the bright sparkle in those beautiful eyes. Hawke would never have flashed his broad smile anymore. And it would have been his doing. Fenris did not believe he could have lived with that. The guilt of that deed would have rivaled the guilt he carried for murdering the Fog Warriors.

He placed a hand on Hawke's chest, right in the middle, where his heart was beating in a slow, peaceful rhythm. Small hairs prickled his fingers. The firm skin felt warm against the palm of his hand. He had been so close to... he still did not understand what had come over him tonight. Had he really wanted to kill Hawke? Had he really almost tried it again? That would mean two attempts on his life, and yet Hawke was sleeping right next to him, as if he had nothing to fear. Why would Hawke trust him after the way Fenris had betrayed him? Why was he not afraid to close his eyes in Fenris' presence? Hawke knew what Fenris had done before he had come to Kirkwall. He had been drunk and had told Hawke how he had killed all the Fog Warriors on command of Danarius. He had spoken to Hawke because he had felt the urge to talk about it after all those years, perhaps caused by the alcohol. But he had also told Hawke to warn him. Make it clear what he was capable of. And maybe part of him had just wanted to see whether Hawke would finally be scared off. Hawke had persisted in flirting with him over the years. So had Isabela, but somehow Fenris found Hawke's remarks more difficult to deflect. At his objections that he was an elf and an escaped slave and that that should be a problem, Hawke had looked at him as if he was absolutely insane. None of the doubts Fenris had himself, seemed to concern Hawke in the least. After all those times he had shown he could not be trusted, that his word meant nothing and that he was capable of murdering the very ones who helped him, Hawke had kissed him. The man must have a death wish for sure. Who would let a wolf into his bed? The Fog Warriors had trusted him and allowed him into their midst, and see where it had gotten them: their graves.

Somehow, Hawke saw reason to trust Fenris. But could he trust himself? What would he do if Danarius finally came for him? Danarius would now certainly want revenge for the death of his apprentice.

No, he would never make the same mistake as he had in Seheron. Turning on Hawke for the promises of a demon was one thing; doing the same for Danarius was unthinkable. He was no longer the person who had killed the only people who had ever cared for him because his master ordered it.

But what if... Danarius would get into his head like the demon had? What if his old master used blood magic to control him? How could he fight against something like that? Hawke was the only one who had been able to break the bonds of blood magic that the malifecar at the Blooming Rose had created. The rest of them had not been able to do anything but standing there like sleepwalkers. How could Fenris hope to defend himself against such vile power? Danarius was no doubt stronger than the fake prostitute. Kill Hawke. How could he ever have complied to that?

So he needed Hawke. It all came down to that. On his own, he would be lost. Hawke was his only chance, but at the same time he endangered Hawke by staying close to him.

"My own shining star." In the dark, Fenris' eyes widened. Would Hawke have meant those words? Had he actually been serious? That could not be true. Right? Could Hawke actually feel something for him?

Doom. Doom. Hawke's heart was still beating underneath his fingertips. Maybe he could... but no. Even if Hawke had been more than a bit serious in his flirting, how could Fenris be with him in that way? Being with Hawke... it would be a fantasy life. Fenirs could not afford slipping into another fantasy life. Last time the results had been disastrous. Danarius would appear sooner or later and tear it all apart, or Hawke himself would finally come to his senses and end the fairytale.

Love. An even bigger luxury than honor. You fool. Why are thinking about love anyway? This is not love. I don't know what it is, but it can't be love. Fenris was not even certain if he was capable of loving. During all those years of being on the run, his hatred for Danarius was what had sustained him. It had given him the strength to keep running and fighting, day after day. The promise that one day, Danarius would have to pay for what he had done to him, was what had kept him going. Hawke wanted him to let go of his hatred for Danarius, but that was impossible. Hadriana had proven today that he could not let it go. Hatred was all he had left. It was the only thing magic could not take away from him. If he ever had been capable of anything else, the memory of it was lost. Lost... twice. He had recalled all of it, his entire life. And then it had been gone again. If being with Hawke meant he would find and lose himself time after time... he could not do that. To find what he had been searching for so long, only to lose it... it was like part of him had died. Again.

He had to find himself. He wanted to be complete. He wanted to be more than hate. He had to know if he could be more... something else. But as long as Danarius lived, he would hate. As long as the magister's heart beat in his chest, Fenris could not move on. Unless... unless he would remember his old life, perhaps... if he could be a whole person... if he could find something inside him that was not stained by magic... maybe he could at least make a start with starting over. His sister was the key. If he found her, maybe he would remember. Or she could tell him. If anyone could help him, it was her. Tracking her would no doubt be difficult, if not dangerous. The chance that contacting her would alarm Danarius was enormous. Then again, Danarius already knew where he was. If he wanted, he could come to Kirkwall to take his revenge. Still, Fenris knew he would have to be careful. There was no need to be reckless. So how could he find her?

Doom. Doom. Doom. Hawke. Hawke. Hawke. Why can't I keep you out of my head? No matter what trail his thoughts followed, it always returned to Hawke eventually. The man that had come into his life, laughed, spun it 180 degrees around and kicked it upside down.

I shouldn't have done this. Why couldn't I stop? I wanted him. I really wanted him. It all felt so good. I need his help, so I apologized. This wasn't supposed to happen. I can't do this. I want to, but I can't... How did it all become such a mess?

He had to find his sister. Wait for some time to see if Danarius would come after him in person, and then begin the search for her. Without Hawke's help. He owed Hawke enough. Fenris already needed Hawke to fight Danarius. He would find his sister without him. He needed less of Hawke in his life. Clearly. That would give him the chance to figure things out. I don't know what things, but it's obvious that I need to figure out something.

Hawke was still snoring contently. Fenris took his hand from Hawke's chest and raised it to touch his hair. His beard. He stroked his lips, lightly, careful not to wake Hawke. They were slightly swollen. Did I do this? He touched his own lips.They felt full, plump. And bruised. He turned on his back and traced with the same hand one of the markings on his stomach, around his bellybutton. The skin was sticky with dried seed. His or Hawke's? Both.

He had to leave. He could not stay. The longer he lay here in the dark with Hawke next to him, the more his thoughts spun around in circles. Circles around Hawke.

Hawke's arm was still lying on his chest. Slowly, Fenris started to shuffle out from under it. Hawke's snoring stopped for a moment and Fenris froze in the awkward position with half of his body sticking out over the side of the bed. Hawke let out a sigh, then rolled to his other side. His arm lifted from Fenris' chest. The snoring started again. Relieved, Fenris completed his escape from the bed. On his toes, he moved around the bed, looking for his clothes. The only light came from the hearth. The fire was almost extinguished. Quietly and quick as a shadow he got dressed. Gauntlets. Where are they? He sneaked through the house, remembering he had taken one off in the hall and Hawke the other one on the top of the stairs. There was no one to be seen. The house was dark and quiet.

Chapter Text

He was close to the front door when he finally found his second glove. While he put it on, he noticed that the thing was still covered with blood. Hadriana's blood. He had grabbed Hawke with the same hand that had crushed her heart. He had made him moan with the same hand that had made Hadriana gasp her last breath. Some contrast...

For a while, he stood silently in the pitch black hall, staring without seeing. I should check whether I've forgotten anything. He returned to Hawke's bedroom. Hawke was still sound asleep, still snoring softly. Fenris scanned the room. He knew he had not forgotten anything. He was already wearing all his armor and his sword hung securely on his back. His eyes lingered upon Hawke's robes, which lay in a disordered heap on the floor. Fenris stepped closer and picked them up. The clothing was torn. Did I do that? The fabric felt soft and smooth. So thin. It provided no protection at all in battle. A blade would go through it without slowing even a little bit. He is so easy to kill. He smiled faintly. Okay, not that easy. He had failed. Fortunately.

The robes were definitely ruined. Hawke would not wear it anymore. Fenris rubbed a finger over one of the decorative red ribbons. "I think I will let it stay, as a reminder of this night."

Damn you, Hawke. He tore the ribbon loose and tried to tie it around his right wrist. It took some fumbling and pulling at one end with his teeth, but eventually the fabric was firmly bound around his gauntlet. A reminder of this night. And of how vulnerable he can be with only those stupid robes on.

"I will fight at your side, Hawke," he whispered. "In that, I will not let you down again." Hawke snorted and turned on his other side again. He pulled the blanket higher, so that it reached up to his chin, almost as if that would offer more protection.

He could leave now. He had listened to Isabela's stories about her adventures with different guys who she snuck out on while they were sleeping. Like a thief in the night. If he walked out of the door now, it would be just like that. He would diminish this night to some meaningless affair he regretted once sobered up. Hawke would not like that. He would hate Fenris for it. He would probably hate Fenris anyway. He should. Better if he hated him. He would leave him alone then. "Good. I don't hate you either."

Fenris closed his eyes, pained. Why was this so hard? "Fenris, do you hate me?"

No, damn it. But I should. And you should too. We should hate each other. He had to leave. He could not keep standing here and listen to Hawke's snores. It would make everything only more difficult. Things were difficult enough as it was. Just walk out of the room. Through the door. Walk. One foot in front of the other. Don't look back.

He took a step. And another step. Good. The stone floor was cold against his bare feet. He took step number three. Almost there. The door was maybe two more steps away. Next step. He paused. Don't look back! He looked over his shoulder. He saw Hawke, lying in his large bed, his naked body hidden by the blanket, his face relaxed and peaceful. I can't leave. Not like this. He at least had got to let Hawke know how much tonight meant to him. Silently cursing his idiocy, Fenris walked to the hearth.

Something on the mantelpiece caught his eye. It was a crest with the symbol of the Amell family: two birds. Doves, he guessed. Fenris chuckled. Hawke is a pigeon after all. The crest was small, smaller than the other ones he had seen on the walls in the house. Now that he studied it more closely, he noticed that it was damaged. There were a few scratches on it and a crack in the middle. That was probably the reason it was not hanging on the wall but lying on the fireplace mantel. He had honestly no idea why, but Fenris could not resist picking it up. A thin layer of dust covered the red doves and he wiped it off. "... as a reminder of this night." He stared at the red ribbon around his wrist. The fabric could tear. He could easily lose it during a fight. And what did a scrap of red say anyway? Perhaps Hawke himself would not even realize it came from his torn robes.

Fenris' whole armor dated from his time with Danarius. His entire appearance was dominated by his former master. But he would never fight for Danarius anymore. He fought for Hawke now. He would do everything to repay his debt to Hawke, everything to rectify his betrayal in the Fade. Make up for what he was about to do... Only he would know the complete symbolization of the red ribbon. With the crest, he could show to Hawke and everyone else where his loyalty lay. So Fenris unbuckled his belt and attached the Amell crest.

Bodahn's suspicions about me stealing anything turn out to be justified. So, that was that. The crest rested on his left hip. I think I've decorated myself enough. Bound to another mage. And this time I'm applying the shackles myself. Now he had to wait for Hawke to wake up. Fenris suppressed the urge to start pacing through the room and leaned against the mantelpiece instead, staring in the dying fire. He found a poker next to the mantelpiece, with some fire wood as well. He placed a few blocks in the fire and poked until it came to life again and was burning fiercely. He let the heat of the flames wash over him. It drove away the cold in his limbs, but it failed to reach his core. Something inside him felt cold. Cold and empty.

He heard a movement behind him. A soft grunt. Fenris looked over his shoulder. Hawke's eyelids moved, then opened. He saw him blink a few times, rubbing his eyes with one hand, turning his head to look at the empty pillow beside him. Fenris' heart missed a beat when he saw that. How he wished he could still be lying there, able to meet Hawke's gaze. Instead, he was standing in front of the hearth, fully dressed. He waited for Hawke's eyes to find him. They squinted against the bright light of the fire behind Fenris. He watched the look of suspicion creep on Hawke's face. He tried to smile at him. He forced the corners of his mouth upwards, but that was all he succeeded in. He could not give Hawke more than a strangled smile, that almost immediately fell from his face again.

This is it. Hawke seemed completely awake now. He pushed himself a bit upright with one elbow. The blanket slid off, revealing his bare torso. Fenris tried very hard not to let his eyes drift down to his chest, to the place where he had held his hand, where Hawke's heart was beating. And he tried very, very hard not to look even lower than that. Fortunately the sheets covered Hawke from his bellybutton.

"Was it that bad?"

"I'm sorry. It was..." What was it? "It was fine." Fine? Judging the expression on Hawke's face, that had not been the right word. Of course that wasn't the right word! Of all the insufficient words there are to chose from, I go with "fine"? Fenris noticed Hawke's shoulders stiffen and for the first time he was the one to avert his eyes and look away. He hurried to correct his ridiculous choice of words. This is not going to go well. "No, that is insufficient. It was better than anything I could have dreamed." That was closer to the truth than "fine" had been, although it still did not cover everything he felt, everything he had experienced under Hawke's touch. Words to describe that had yet to be invented.

Hawke's eyes returned to his face. "Your markings, then..?" he asked. "The pain?"

The pain. In a certain way, yes, the pain was the problem. But not the pain of the lyrium. That seemed only a slight discomfort now, already almost forgotten. "It's not that." Now I have to tell him. I have to explain. How can I explain? "I began to remember... my life before. Just flashes... This is too much, this is too fast." The words tumbled from his mouth. He forced them out, before they would get stuck behind the lump in his throat and he would choke on them. "I cannot... do this."

Hawke sat upright, his legs hanging over the edge of the mattress. The blanket still covered his lap. His face appeared to light up a bit. Hope? Venhedis, Hawke! There is nothing to hope for! "Your life before? What do you mean?"

"I've never remembered anything from before the ritual. There were... faces," he brought a hand to his face and rubbed his forehead, as if it would help to remember and find the words to explain. "Words. For just a moment, I could recall all of it." He stared at the ground. "Then it slipped away."

"If it brings your memory back, maybe we should do it more often." A joke. Hawke had put his defenses up. Fenris was not sure how he knew that, but it just seemed obvious. Something in Hawke's face had changed as well. Actually, he looked like he always did. He had looked different tonight. It was like a shadow, a cloud, had come over him, darkening his eyes, accentuating the lines in his face. He appeared more guarded. The changes were subtle, but he noticed it nevertheless. But again, he doesn't understand me. He has no idea.

"Perhaps you don't realize how upsetting this is." He felt his eyes sting. No tears. He turned his back on Hawke to hide his face. "I've never remembered anything, and to have it all come back in a rush, only to lose it..." No weakness! He clenched his fists, the metal of his gauntlets screeched. "I can't..." He looked at Hawke without really seeing him, his vision blurred. "I can't." So much for the calm, detached explanation...

"We can work through this." The spark of hope was not completely extinguished yet.

"I'm sorry. I feel like such a fool." Fool. Fool. Fool! "This should never have happened in the first place." He saw Hawke cringe at those words before he turned around. "Forgive me." No. Hate me. Leave me alone from now on. Please. He left the room as fast as he could without running. He thought he heard Hawke mumble something about a falling star, but Fenris kept walking and was quickly out of earshot.

In his haste to leave, he nearly tripped over Sandal, who was standing in his pajamas downstairs. The dwarf simply stared at him with his big, round blue eyes while Fenris tried to regain his balance. A wide smile split his face almost in two when his gaze went over the lines on Fenris' arms. "Ooh! Enchantment!"

"Get out of my way!" he snapped. "I'm not one of your bloody enchantments!" He pushed Sandal aside, made his way through the room and into the hall, forcing the door open. He stepped outside, the front door slamming shut behind him. No way back. The sun was about to come up, driving the darkness away. The first hint of light colored the sky.

He had survived this night after all without being diminished to ashes. But something in him had indeed crumbled. He had been overreacting earlier when he thought he felt cold and empty inside. Now, alone in the chill of the early morning, without the fire and without Hawke, he felt frozen.

Chapter Text

Fenris was whetting his sword. It could not be sharp enough if Danarius came after him. The chair in which he was sitting was ridiculously luxurious for this kind of chore. The same could be said of the table, made of some exotic dark wood and decorated with complex spirals and other delicate shapes.

Two days had passed since he had spent the night with Hawke. Two days since he had left in the early morning. He had not heard from Hawke since. Which was good. It did not feel good at all, but he told himself it was a good thing. Soon, he would have it all sorted out. Now that Hawke was not bothering him anymore, Fenris would find a way to get Hawke out of his head as well. Once that was done, things would be back to normal, back to the way they had been for the past years. Except there would be less of Hawke. But that was good.

Fenris moved the sharpening tool up and down, over the length of the blade. He tried to distract his thoughts by focusing on a way to discover the whereabouts of his sister. Where to start? It seemed most likely she was somewhere in Tevinter, but where? Hadriana had said she was a servant. Where would she serve? Who? He could not just walk back into the Tevinter Imperium. Staying in this mansion was enough of a risk. It might be smarter to move... No need to make it any easier for Danarius to find him. But then again, did he not want to face Danarius finally? For that, it was better if Danarius came to him. And to stand a chance against Danarius, he needed Hawke by his side.

Fenris grumbled to himself. Hawke. Why did all his thoughts always have to return to Hawke? What was...

He stiffened in his large chair. Magic. He sensed magic in the house. Powerful magic. The lyrium in his skin buzzed and tingled. The hairs in his neck rose. Fenris tightened the grip on the hilt of his sword and held it ready. He could hear footsteps now too. He rose from his seat, taking a defensive posture, ready to attack or run. The footsteps got closer, the aura became stronger. Would Danarius simply walk inside? He would never risk going alone, would he? But yet he heard only one pair of footsteps. Perhaps Danarius wanted to show Fenris that he was still not able to stand against to him, even though he had managed to kill Danarius' apprentice. That would exactly be the kind of thing his master enjoyed doing: before he killed him, letting him know he had never stood a real chance. Well, he would not go down without a fight. He would fight till his very last breath. If only Hawke were here... then the odds would have been different.

The footsteps had almost reached the top of the stairs. Every muscle in Fenris' body was tensed, ready to make the required movement immediately. He inhaled deeply through his nose.

And blew the air out through his mouth while he let himself fall back in the chair. He threw his blade on the table. "Hawke." And to think I just wished for his presence.

Hawke frowned at the use of his last name, but made no comment on it. He strode casually into the room, as if he had gone on a walk and eventually found himself here, in this mansion, purely by accident.

"I thought I locked the door."

"You did. I brought Isabela along; she helped a little with the locks. She is standing guard outside now." Hawke halted in the middle of the room. He leaned on his staff, looking relaxed.

"And why did you find it necessary to break into my home? You could have knocked first."

"Yes, well, I thought maybe you wouldn't open the door if you knew it was me."

"And so you break in."

"Look at the bright side: now you know you need better locks. It took Isabela not even a minute to open these. No doubt Danarius could hire a lock picker of similar skill."

Fenris rubbed his brow. He still needed to recover a bit from the stress of thinking Danarius had come for him. This was the second time he had mistaken Hawke's aura for that of his former master. If continued at this rate, he would sooner die of a heart attack than by Danarius' hands.

Hawke apparently noticed something of his tenseness. "Something wrong? You look uneasy."

"What do you want, Hawke?" he sighed. "You didn't come here to tell me I need to change the locks."

"No, I didn't. I wanted to talk to you, messere "this-should-never-have-happened-in-the-first-place"."

What does it take to make this man give up? "I don't want to talk about it, Hawke. I have given you my explanation when I left. There is nothing left to say."

Hawke ignored his words. "The past two days I have spent thinking about what made you regret that night. Why you suddenly took off. You said the markings weren't the problem, so what was it?" He took a step towards the table, towards Fenris. "Do I snore? Because you should hear Carver. When we were all sleeping in one room in Gamlen's shack, I would pray to the Maker that I would fall asleep before he did, because once he started..." The light tone became more harsh and cold. "Was it because I am a man? Didn't you like that after all?" Another step. "Because I am a mage? Did you remember I have bad magic and didn't you want that after all?" He kept coming closer. "Was it all too much to take in?" He had reached the table. Fenris was glad it stood between them. It felt safe, like a shield. Normally he did not bother with a shield. Better to take the enemy down before he could try to hurt you. But he could not strike Hawke down. So now a shield would be rather useful... Hawke placed his hands on the table and leaned over it. "Did I remind you of your former master? Did I remind you of Danarius?"

His face was close to Fenris', very close. Their noses almost touched. Fenris was hurled between anger and embarrassment. At the moment the embarrassment was strongest. Hawke's last remark about Danarius, however, was enough to make his anger boil up.

"How dare..." Hawke interrupted him by slamming his flat hand on the table.

"I will have the truth from you, Fenris! I want the real reason, not that "it's not you, it's me" crap you gave me two days ago!"

"I have told you about my memory returning! It was too much. That you don't understand what that's like is your own problem!" The embarrassment was gone, only anger was left. Always anger.

"There is more to it than that. I know there is. Just tell me the problem. Maybe I can help you with it."

"I don't need your help." Not with this.

"Damn it, Fenris!" Hawke straightened his back and stared at him angrily. Fenris was primarily relieved that there was more space between them now. "You started this. You held me against the wall like that!"

"You kissed me!"

"Yes, because I saw in your eyes that you wanted it. I thought you didn't dare to make the move, so I did. And I haven't heard one word of protest from you. I left it for you to decide how far we would go, and you did. Because of you we ended up in the bedroom. You grabbed me. You made the next move. So why did you leave later?"

"I already toldyou! Why can't you just-"

"I knew something dirty was going on between you two!" Fenris jumped in his chair, cutting his hand on his sharpened sword in the brusque movement. Hawke whirled around on his heels to face the door, staff in hand.

Isabela appeared in the opening, a broad smile on her face and a devilish sparkle in her eyes. "Such an exciting image you have described for me." She placed a hand on her chest and sighed dramatically. "Could you go back to the part against the wall for me?"

As she said it, Fenris realized they indeed had summarized the events of the night quite nicely for her. Wonderful. Just what we need. Hawke was standing with his back to him, so Fenris could not see his facial expression, but when Hawke spoke, he did not sound very happy. "Isabela! I told you to stand guard outside."

"I got bored. Hightown is so dull. And I thought what you were up to would be more interesting." 

"Bored? You must have stood there for not even thirty seconds before you came after me."

"Details." She waved the word away as if it were an annoying fly. "It sounds like someone here deserves a good spanking. Are there troubles in love land already?"

"That's none of your business," Hawke grumbled.

"He dumped you, didn't he?" Isabela smiled at Fenris, then looked at Hawke again. "Are you that bad?"

"What... I... no! I am not..." Hawke's cheeks turned a bright pink that did not go very well with the color of his beard. It would have been rather amusing in any other situation, any situation that did not involve that night. It was better than anything I could have dreamed...

Isabela had the time of her life, though. She laughed till she had tears in her eyes at the look of Hawke's face. "Aww, look at that! Hawke is blushing. How cute. You really are that bad then?"

Hawke glanced over his shoulder at Fenris, almost as if he hoped he would come to his defense, but Fenris did not feel inclined to help him. It was Hawke's own fault that Isabela was here. He should not even be here.

"If you want, I could teach you a thing or two." She gave Hawke a seductive wink. "Maybe your next lover won't ditch you immediately after then."

"Why, thank you, Isabela. But I think I'll pass."

"Spoilsport. Suit yourself." She placed her hands on her hips and looked from one to the other. "So, what's the real problem?"

"Like I said, that is none of your business. You've had your fun. Now get out."

"Maybe I can help!"

"I doubt it."

"Should I get a saw?"

Fenris frowned. "What would you need a saw for?" He checked the hearth. "I have enough firewood."

"Oh oh, sweety, you can never have enough wood," laughed Isabela.

"I don't understand."

Hawke interrupted. "Enough jokes, Isabela. If you still want my help to find that blasted relic of yours, you leave now."

"Ugh, you're no fun today, Hawke," she snorted as she turned around and walked out of the room, hips swaying.

They both remained silent for some time when she had left. Eventually it was Fenris who broke the silence with a chuckle. He shook his head. "You could have known she wouldn't stay outside."

Hawke sighed. "I hoped she would behave this time. Damn those rogues! I didn't bring Varric because he would have eavesdropped as well and then made some kind of ridiculous tale of it. I should have asked Sebastian."

"I doubt Isabela will keep this quiet."

"Oh, I don't even hope for that. Tonight the whole Hanged Man knows it."

Fenris leaned his forehead against his right hand. "That's just great, Hawke. Are you happy now?"

"Not really."

He looked up. "I think it is better if you leave as well."

Hawke stared at his face. "You're bleeding. Are you okay?"

He touched the skin of his forehead with his fingertips. They were wet and red when he removed them. He looked at the cut in the palm of his hand. It crossed the markings in a diagonal and was deeper than he initially would have thought. He had not felt anything until now. Now, it was starting to sting. "It's nothing."

Once again ignoring his words, Hawke came closer and bent over the table to grab his hand. Fenris' breath caught at the touch. The lines of lyrium in his wrist underneath Hawke's thumbs started to glow, spreading a heat both to the tips of his fingers and his arm. He knew Hawke could feel his pulse beating faster against his thumbs.

"Let me heal this."

He pulled his hand free of Hawke's grip. "No. It's just a scratch."

"You can't hold your sword like that. And it could fester. Do you want to lose your whole hand because of a simple scratch?"

Fenris held his right wrist with his left hand to keep it away from Hawke. "Leave me alone, Hawke."

Hawke did not move. "I have healed you plenty of times, from things more and less serious than this. It will only take a few seconds."

When Fenris did not respond and kept looking at the wall on his left, Hawke sighed. "Look, I know it might be a bit... awkward, maybe. If you don't want me to heal you anymore, that's fine. I will respect that. But then you have to go to Anders. You shouldn't risk going to any of the imposters Kirkwall is crawling with. So it's either me or Anders. And I will keep pestering you until you choose."

Fenris growled through his gritted teeth. Hawke laughed. "That's what I thought. Now give me your hand."

Begrudgingly, he stretched out his hand to Hawke, who held it carefully in his own two hands. Hawke closed his eyes to focus on the wound. Fenris fixated his gaze on Hawke's face. He wanted to look away, but he could not avert his eyes. Again, Hawke was so near. He could see every separate hair of his beard, every pore and line in his skin. He smelled cleaner than two nights ago. No sweat this time. Hawke's lips were slightly parted. Fenris remembered how those lips had kissed his own, and where else those lips had traveled. He could still feel them, the memory of them lingered. He wanted to feel them again. He wanted to kiss, touch, feel, taste.

He tried to swallow, but his mouth had suddenly become dry as sand. He let his tongue run over his lips to moisturize them. He tried to revive the anger he had experienced when Hawke mentioned Danarius, but it would not come back. I can't even stay mad at him anymore.

The burning of the lyrium got company of the warmth of Hawke's healing magic. The edges of the gash melted together and the pain dissolved; all in the blink of an eye. The only thing left on the palm of his hand was a smear of blood, and hidden underneath, just the faint line of a scar. Fenris flexed and extended his fingers, not really because he doubted anything would not work, but more as an automatism. He still found it difficult to believe that magic that could do things like this existed.

"See, no big deal."

"Thank you."

"You've still got blood on your face, though." Before Fenris had the chance to dodge, Hawke got a firm hold on his face with one hand and started to wipe it clean with the other. Fenris struggled to evade him, but the chair limited his range of motion and Hawke's fingers around his face made it even harder to escape. A chair as a prison. That's all it takes.

Satisfied with the result of his cleaning attempt, Hawke smiled at him. "All done." Yet he did not let go of Fenris' face. One hand he held against his cheek.


Fenris turned away his head and stood up from his chair to get away from Hawke. "Hawke..."

"You really refuse to tell me?" Hawke waited for an answer, and when that did not come, he continued: "You could have left while I was asleep, but you didn't. You stayed. You stayed and waited for me to wake up. You wanted me to know it meant something to you."

Fenris turned to face the wall, his arms folded in front of his chest.

"I just... want you to know that it meant something for me too. I can't force you to do anything, and I don't want to either. But... I enjoyed that night. I hoped there would be more."

That one night was already more than I deserved. "Hawke, if you have need of me in battle, you can call upon me. But for the rest... please let me be for the time being."

"If that is what you want," Hawke said slowly.

It's not what I want. The absence of your touch hurts more than the touch itself. But this is what I have to, need to do. I wish I could...

"Take all the time you need. I am a patient man, Fenris. Just, don't go hiding any injuries from me, okay? Even if they don't seem very serious, let me heal them." Some wounds cannot be healed.

He heard Hawke's footsteps. He was not coming closer. He was leaving. Fenris shut his eyes, listening to the sound. The sound of Hawke walking out on him. Finally.

The footsteps stopped. It was too soon to be out of earshot.He looked over his shoulder to see Hawke standing in the door opening, also looking over his shoulder. "Are you certain you still don't want me to teach you how to read?"

His first reaction was to say no. The less he saw Hawke, the better. But before he spoke the word, he paused. Learning to read and write could be useful in the search for his sister. And he really wanted to learn. No longer being illiterate was one step further in the direction of a new life, the life of a free man and not a slave.

But it would mean more time with Hawke. Worse: just him and Hawke. Not with two others and an army of enemies surrounding them, but the two of them, sitting in a room, surrounded by books. Although, it might be useful to see Hawke in a different role, as a teacher. Perhaps it would help to get over this... foolishness.

So he gave Hawke a nod. "I would, if you still want to teach me."

"Alright. Your first lesson is tomorrow evening. I'll be here after sunset." And with that, he really left.

Fenris sighed. He had won. Hawke had given up. Why did it not feel like a victory?

Chapter Text

The sun had just set when Hawke arrived at Fenris' mansion. This time, Fenris was prepared and did not mistake Hawke's aura for Danarius'. Not that he was very relaxed under these circumstances... The entire day he had been anxious due to the prospect of the first reading lesson. He feared Hawke might bring up their conversation of yesterday again and would keep insisting on a more sufficient explanation this time. An explanation Fenris could never give.

His efforts to think of other things, anything but Hawke, kept failing. Even in his dreams Hawke followed him. This morning Fenris had awoken twisted in his sheets, covered with sweat and aroused. It had taken some time for him to realize Hawke that was not there and never had been. The dream had seemed so real that he could still feel Hawke's hands, travelling, exploring, teasing. Apparently that one night had provided his subconscious with enough material to go creative on its own.

That he could control his waking thoughts no more than his dreams frustrated Fenris to no end. The worst part was that he had been disappointed when he had woken up and found out it had all been a dream, and that he kept reliving the moments with Hawke in his head, sleeping or awake. Danarius used to be the one who occupied his thoughts and haunted his dreams. Now, he had to force himself to even think about his former master and his possible plans.

Fenris had not left the mansion the past three days. Yesterday evening there would have been a game of diamondback with the party in the Hanged Man, but he had decided it was most unwise to show his face there at the moment. He did not need to guess what would be the subject of discussion, and the idea of having to listen to the jokes and questions of Isabela, Varric, and the rest was not appealing at all. That, and Hawke would be there too. Or would he not want to deal with all the prying either? Hawke had not been pleased when Isabela had shown up, that was certain. "Tonight, the whole Hanged Man knows it." Only later Fenris had realized what the true consequences of that would be. His markings and white hair made him more than recognizable. He had often been seen in Hawke's company, who was well-known by his rise to nobility and his current interactions with the viscount. If there were stories about Hawke and that strange elf, people would know it was about him. He should not draw any more attention, but thanks to Isabela he would suddenly be in the center of it. If Danarius would not be drawn to it, then at least more bounty hunters would.

He could only hope interest would be lost quickly. It was not like he and Hawke were lovers now. One night; there was nothing more to it. People would find something else to talk about soon enough. Until then, he would simply avoid being seen outside.

Hawke was carrying two books in his hands and a bag that seemed to be filled with parchment, quills and ink bottles.

"Aren't we going to start with the book about Sharthan?" Fenris asked when he saw that.

"Not that I doubt you will make an excellent student, but I think that book will be a bit too difficult to start with. Unfortunately we had to leave my children's books behind when the darkspawn attacked, but I went to the Lowtown market today and bought a few books that are simple enough. I even found what used to be my favorite, look!" Hawke rummaged in the bag, found what he was searching for and waved a pretty badly damaged book around. The image on the cover was barely recognizable. Fenris could make out two people, one man and one woman, judged by their clothing. And something with wings.

"Very well." He held his face expressionless, hoping he would come across as completely calm and not nervous. What if he made a fool out of himself in front of Hawke? The illiterate slave... only good at killing and breaking his word.

"Okay, let's see how this goes. I'm not sure if I am a very good teacher, so feel free to say so when things should go faster or slower." 

Despite what Hawke - and Fenris himself - might have thought, Hawke was not a bad teacher. He let Fenris take his time and made no jokes or mocking comments if Fenris made a mistake. Perhaps he knew that if he did that, that would be the end of the reading lessons.

After a first introduction to the alphabet, Hawke decided it would be good if he learned to write the letters to become more familiar with them. He handed Fenris a piece of parchment, an ink bottle and a large quill. Fenris took the feather and dipped the point in the ink. Hawke showed him how he had to hold his fingers. It felt awkward, and instead of a letter his first attempt became a black blotch on the sheet.

His grip on the quill became cramped as he tried to form letters on the parchment. Although he did his best, his work looked no better than that of a four year old child. Still, Hawke smiled encouragingly at him as he sensed Fenris' increasing frustration.

"You are doing well, don't worry," he said. "This is your first time. Try to relax your fingers bit more. You're holding a quill, not a sword, and the feather won't fly away. Wait," he added as he saw Fenris struggle. He touched his fingers and adjusted their position on the quill. Fenris swallowed back his protests to the touch. Instead, he stayed silent as he let Hawke find the right place for his fingers. He caught himself enjoying the feeling of Hawke's warm fingers on his hand. When his hold finally had become more as it should be, Hawke's fingers lingered for maybe a second on the back of his hand before pulling back, activating a small branch of lyrium in doing so. The line lit up immediately, spreading the familiar heat.

"Try again."

While he obeyed, Fenris noticed Hawke looking away for a moment before he returned his gaze to the parchment. Fenris thought he could hear him swallow.

Writing went a little better this time and he successfully reproduced the entire alphabet after Hawke's example, or at least something that more or less looked like it. Hawke complimented him with this first attempt and then made him do it two more times. The visible difference between his first and third alphabet was minimal, but at the end of the last try he had gotten a bit more used to the feeling of the quill and the interaction with the parchment.

"Shall we try to write your name? Okay, first you need the 'F'. Do you remember which one that is?"

With Hawke's instructions, it didn't take long before he had written his name for the first time. He stared at the crude letters that spelled 'FENRIS'. The 'E' looked as if it was about to eat the 'N' and the space between the 'I' and the 'S' was too wide, but still, it was his name and he had written it. He looked up and smiled at Hawke, who returned his smile. The light of the candles danced on his face and added a golden glow to his skin. The rest of the room was dark.

When he had written 'Fenris' several times, Hawke proposed to try his name. He named the letters one by one, until next to the first 'FENRIS' there had appeared a 'HAWKE'. Not satisfied with the 'K', Fenris wrote another 'Hawke' next to the second 'Fenris', and then he decided to complete the set and add a 'Hawke' to every 'Fenris' he had written down. Satisfied, he pushed the now full sheet of parchment towards Hawke. Hawke nodded in approval.

"Very good." Hawke leaned back in his seat, bent forward again and picked up one of the books he had brought. "Try to spell the letters and see if you then can make out the words," he said as he opened the book on the first page.

Squinting his eyes to make out the letters in the dim light, Fenris started with the new task. To see what he was reading, Hawke leaned closer over the table than with the writing. Fenris could smell his hair. He shook his head and focused all his attention on reading the words, which was definitely necessary. While he struggled to make it through the first page, he almost forgot it was Hawke who was sitting next to him. He was only reminded of his presence when he corrected him on a word or helped him a bit when he got stuck on a longer combination of letters.

Word for word he progressed, slowly but steadily. When he finally reached the end of the page, he had no idea of the actual meaning of what he had just read. All his concentration had gone to deciphering every separate word; no attention was left to process the story as a whole.

Fenris relaxed a little now that he had finished the first page. He had not realized how tensed he had been while leaning over the book. Hawke sat upright again as well, with a faint smile on his face.

"So..." Fenris felt he needed to break the silence that suddenly hung between them and that quickly grew uncomfortable. "How bad was I?"

Hawke stared at him, surprised. "What? You weren't bad at all! You were pretty good, actually. It went better than I expected. Really, for a first time, this went very well. I am a happy teacher."

Although he tried to hide it, Fenris felt proud at those words. He could not prevent a smile from cracking through the mask of calm demeanor he had assumed this entire evening. Perhaps he could be more after all. Up to now he had doubted he would actually be able to learn. He had half expected Hawke would eventually shake his head and say this was not such a good idea after all. But Hawke said he did well. He would learn how to read. "Really?" Hawke's confirmation meant more to him than it should, but he asked for it nevertheless.

"Absolutely." Hawke's gaze went over the table and remained on the candles. Fenris had lit new ones when Hawke arrived, but now they were almost burned up. Only small stubs were left. If they were not replaced soon, they would be left in the dark.

"We've been working longer than I thought," Hawke remarked. "Time went by fast. I think this is enough for tonight." He stood up and started gathering the parchment, quills and books. Fenris wondered why he had bothered to bring so much stuff with him in the first place. "Tomorrow, same time, at my place." He gestured towards one of the dark corners of the room. "The corpse in the corner is looking at me." He narrowed his eyes, trying to make out the shape. "Or skeleton, I suppose. After three years, not much more can be left of him. I can't focus on books with skeletons watching me. Too much undead have tried to eat me. I don't understand why you don't tidy this place up a bit after all this time."

Fenris shrugged. "As long as Danarius is alive and can come back to claim his mansion, I am not cleaning it. I don't want to give him the pleasure of having taken care of his property while he was away."

"And thus you let dead bodies lie around..."

"If he arrives while I am not here, he might think I have moved after all. The dead bounty hunters could help to keep the illusion alive."

Hawke let out a deep sigh and rolled his eyes. "I get it, I get it. You have very good reasons to leave this mess as it is. Well, my house is clean, thanks to Bodahn. We'll practice there from now on."

Fenris tried to qucikly come up with an argument against this, but he could not think of anything.  Not anything legitimate, that was. It felt safer to do it here. What had happened the last time he had visited Hawke's place... But that won't happen again. So, no real problem. Books were books, no matter where they were read. And Hawke had made no remark of their night together or yesterday's argument. He truly had given up then. He had probably realized himself that this was for the best.


"Okay. I'll see you tomorrow then." Hawke hoisted the full bag up on his shoulder. "Have you already decided what you are going to do? About your sister I mean. Are you going to search for her?"

"I... no. It is too much of a risk."

"Are you certain? I would gladly help you. She is your only family. Maybe we could..."

"Hawke. I said 'no'."

Hawke opened his mouth, appeared to change his mind, then nodded instead. "Okay. Just... let me know if you ever do want to find her." He sighed again. "I'm going to the Hanged Man. I need a drink."

Fenris watched Hawke's dark silhouette become darker as he got farther away from the candles on the table. He had forgotten to make any other light in the house. After a few steps he could not distinguish Hawke anymore from the other black shapes in the hall. Absentmindedly he rubbed his forehead with one hand. From the corner of his eye he could see the scrap of red fabric that was still tied around his wrist. Now that Hawke had left, he felt tired. The lesson had been intensive in a way he had not anticipated. Who would have thought that reading and writing was so exhausting?

Fenris glanced at his bed, trying to decide whether he should go to sleep already. The only thing that was withholding him was the fear he would dream again. Sighing, he got up from the chair. If he would dream, he would also dream if he waited another hour, he told himself. Postponement would not help him. And dreams meant nothing. You could dream the most absurd things without them meaning anything. Perhaps he would dream of letters and books tonight.

He did not like lying to Hawke about his sister, but if he told him the truth, Hawke would want to help, and Fenris did not want that. He would find another way, a way that did not further increase his debt to Hawke. Besides, there was not much Hawke could do. He did not know anything about Tevinter. How could he be of use in the search for a certain elven servant? No, nothing would be lost by not informing Hawke about his plans. He did not even have plans yet. He still had to figure something out.

Fenris blew out the candles and stumbled in the direction of his bed in the complete darkness. When he reached it, he sat down on the mattress. He really was tired. He considered simply lying down, fully clothed, but then he decided against it and took off his upper clothing. "It would ruin your feathers." He grinned in the dark, then frowned at his own reaction. Do not think about it. With his breeches still on, he pulled the sheets over him and lay his head on the pillow. He fell asleep almost immediately after he closed his eyes. Hawke welcomed him as if he had been waiting for him.

Chapter Text

The next morning, Varric visited. Fenris was surprised to see him. It was not common for the dwarf to come by his house. He was usually busy enough with whatever it was Varric could be busy with. Yet here he was. The purpose of his visit became clear soon enough.

 "Oy, broody. What have you done to Hawke?"

Fenris frowned. "What do you mean? I haven't done anything. He teaches me to read," he added.

Varric chuckled in that hoarse way he always did. "Well, you're a bad student then, apparently. That, or your brooding has turned out to be contagious."

Irritated, he folded his arms in front of his chest. "I have told you I don't brood. What is it you want? What do you mean with "contagious"?"

"Hawke's got it too, that's what I mean. When he came to the Hanged Man yesterday, he looked at his ale as if he wanted to drown himself in it. And he almost did." Seeing Fenris' wide eyes, he chuckled again. "Not literally. But he drank enough to amaze even the Rivaini. We had to deliver him back to his mansion or he would have ended up somewhere at the docks. So, I ask you again: what did you do to Hawke?"

"I haven't done anything." Suspicious, Fenris leaned forward to bring his face closer to the dwarf's. "Why are you asking? You truly don't know... Isabela hasn't said anything?"

The chuckle turned into a laugh. "Of course she has told everyone who wanted to listen all the details, and I was the first. Even if she hadn't told me, I would have known."

"How could you..."

Varric brought a hand to his hairy chest. "Elf! You wound me! I know everything that's going on in Kirkwall that is worth knowing, and knowing what is going on with Hawke has become my specialty. That, and even a blind man could see something was going on between you two."

"Nothing is going on. It was nothing." He frowned as he gave more thought to Varric's words. "Wait. Isabela told you all the details? She doesn't know any details!"

"Ah, she might have used her imagination a bit to embellish the story. Every storyteller would do so, and she has a feeling for it. However, if you want me to tell it realistically later, you could provide me with your details. How did it go? Did Hawke sweep you off your feet?"

"I am not telling you anything, and you are not going to tell it in any way, realistically or not."

"Elf, right now, this is the most interesting story in the entire city. Everyone is talking about it. You broke more than one heart by conquering Hawke's. So you'll forgive me if I make sure it will be my version that is remembered. So, did he sweep you? Or did you sweep him? The other way around seems most logical. He is the tall one."

Conquering Hawke's? That dwarf is out of his mind. Fenris straightened. "There was no sweeping involved."

"Great! Every piece of knowledge counts. And can you tell me now if I can paint you a nice pretty sunset to walk into together? A romantic happy end?"

Fenris felt his shoulders slump. "I think we both know Hawke's story cannot have a happy ending. The man attracts trouble in every possible way."

"Now, now, broody. Until now Hawke has done pretty well. But I take it you are not going to give him that happy ending?"

He looked away. "It is better this way. His chances of that are even smaller with me by his side." Why am I even telling this? It's none of his business.

"I know! I told him that as well."

His head snapped back in Varric's direction. "You did what?"

Varric shrugged nonchalantly. "I warned him, that's all. Hawke is a good guy. I don't want to see him get hurt. I just said he had to watch out for all your spikes."

He let his arms fall to his sides. "I... see."

"The point is, you see that, I see that, but I think Hawke doesn't see it. Or doesn't want to. The guy is stubborn that way."

"He will," Fenris said in a somber tone.

The dwarf studied him closely. "Are you sure you don't... regret your decision?"

"Is there something else you wanted from me, Varric?"

"Only that you come to play cards with us the day after tomorrow. We missed you last time." At the sight of Fenris' doubtful face, he continued: "I promise you we won't bother you with questions. Much."

"I'll think about it."

Varric turned to leave. Fenris' thoughts raced. He had tried to think of ways to search for his sister, but had come to the conclusion that it would be nearly impossible to do this alone. He still did not want to ask Hawke for help, and he had already told him he did not intend to look for her, so he had to find someone else he could trust. Varric and his connections could be very useful. They were not really friends, but knew each other well enough. But Varric was loyal to Hawke. Would he agree to keep something from him? Fenris decided he had to take the risk. Without taking any risks, he would never find his sister. This would most likely be the smallest one he had to take. "Varric."

The dwarf halted on his way to the door. "Yes?"

"I need your help with something."

Varric smiled in a friendly way, but Fenris recognized the more guarded look in his eyes. "Sure, what do you need?"

"Hadriana told me I have a sister. I want to look for her, but I don't think I can do it all alone."

Varric's eyes narrowed. "You don't want to ask Hawke for help in this?"

"This is none of Hawke's concern."

"You know he is not going to like it you keep this from him."

"We tend to disagree a lot as it is."

Varric snickered. "Very well. I'll see what I can do. Do you have some kind of plan?" Fenris shook his head. "Well, talk to me when you do, and I'll try to help you."

"Don't tell Hawke."

"Why would I? It's none of his business, is it?" Varric opened the door and shut it behind him.

At the end of the day, which had remained quiet after Varric had left, Fenris went to Hawke's estate. Bodahn let him in and told him Hawke was waiting in the study.

The study was well lit, with a lot of candles burning in strategic places. The walls were covered with bookcases, and they were filled with books. Amazed, Fenris stared at all the covers. He had never seen this many books in one place, except for Danarius' library, and the main library of the Tevinter Circle.

Hawke sat in one of the two chairs that stood in front of a large desk, which was already covered with blank sheets of parchment and a few books that were placed on a neat pile. He looked up when he heard Fenris' footsteps.

"Did you read all those books?"

"Most of them, yeah. Except for Anders' manifesto, I think."

Fenris took a seat next to Hawke. Up close, he noticed that Hawke did not look very good. His hair, which was normally braided with care, was now bound together in a sloppy ponytail. His eyes had dark circles underneath them and looked a little red. Even his beard seemed messier.

Hawke cleared his throat. "So, let's get started. Let's try if you still know the alphabet. And please keep your voice down. I have a bit of an headache."

"Hawke," Hawke closed his eyes and Fenris lowered his voice. "Are you... alright?"

Hawke opened his eyes but did not raise them to meet Fenris' gaze. "You currently have no right to ask me that."

"If you... don't feel well, I could go. We could do this another time."

"No. No, it's fine. You'll never learn if we go postponing this." Hawke managed to put a smile on his face. Even now Fenris could smell the last remains of alcohol. "Come on, name the alphabet for me. But not too loudly."

At the end of the second lesson, which turned out to be more difficult because Fenris had to put more effort into focusing on reading and writing and could not stop casting glances at Hawke while he tried to decipher the meaning of the letters, Hawke stopped him when he was about to leave.

"Before I forget: could you come earlier tomorrow? Mother asked me to invite you for dinner."

"I don't think that is a good idea."

"I'll say it in other words. My mother asked me, meaning ordered me, to invite you, meaning to order you,for dinner tomorrow. There is no choice involved. You have no option to decline."

"Why would she even want to invite me?"

"Eh... I don't know."


"Hmpf. Alright. I told her I am teaching you how to read, and she found that very sweet of me. And then she decided she wanted you to feel welcome here and get to know you, and how else to achieve that than by inviting you for dinner?"


"Stop looking at me like that. I haven't told her. It's just... before you and I... Mother and I spoke, and she hinted at..."

"At what?"

"She sensed something was going on between us. She said something about how we were looking at each other. I don't know when she ever could have seen something like that, but..."

"Nothing is..."

"Yes, yes, I know. Nothing is going on. No need to repeat it for me."

"Then why..."

"It will be out of her head soon enough. Perhaps her suitor will help distracting her. Don't read too much into it." Hawke's eyes went to the book on the desk. "Ah, no pun intended. But she just wants to get to know you. It doesn't mean the intimate things you are associating it with. She would like to socialize with a few of the people I hang around with."

"If she wants to socialize, then why doesn't she invite Varric?"

Hawke sighed. "I'm not sure if I want him telling all his ridiculous stories about me to my mother. Just... don't make this so hard. Eat with us tomorrow. I swear to you this is not something I conspired with Mother. She has come up with it all by herself."

"That's supposed to reassure me?"

"Well, yeah."

Fenris stared at Hawke, who was still sitting in his chair. How is it possible this seems to be getting harder every time? "Fine," he grumbled eventually. "I'll come."

Hawke smiled, and this time it was not a faked smile. This was the genuine Hawke smile. He looked better as soon as it lit up his face. "Bodahn's soup is very good."


Chapter Text

Dinner had not been that bad indeed. At a certain point Fenris had even started to enjoy it. Leandra was a gentle woman, and she had not made any suggestions towards something going on between him and Hawke, which he had feared she would do. It was nice to feel welcome in someone's home.

Tonight, he had decided to join the rest in the Hanged Man again. He had skipped at least three of their meetings, but now he almost longed for the careless company they offered.

He was late. Everyone else was already sitting around the large table in Varric's suite, except for Aveline and Sebastian, who both had other duties this evening. The first thing Fenris noticed was his usual seat next to Hawke being occupied. Anders had taken his place. He thought he could see a satisfied smile flash across the abomination's face when he saw Fenris enter. Fenris fought back the anger he felt at that and took the last empty chair next to Isabela. She smiled at him as he sat down. The greater the distance to Hawke, the better.

"Good to see you have finally decided to join us again, Elf," Varric said cheerfully.

"Did you miss me?" teased Isabela.

"Very," he replied dryly. She chuckled at his tone.

"I'm still dying to hear the details."

"Then die, because I won't tell you a damn thing."

"Details? About what?" The blood mage interfered in the conversation. "Have I missed something?"

"Oh Kitten, how can you have missed it?"

"I don't know. I always miss the exciting things it seems. But it's not very nice of him to say you should die. I don't want you to die, Isabela."

"Aw, thank you, Kitten."

"Are we going to play cards or not?" Fenris grumbled.

"Alright, alright." Isabela fished a much-used deck of cards out of the folds of her white linen 'dress' and began to deal them.

His cards were bad, as far as he could see. Soon after the game started, Fenris quickly glanced in Hawke's direction. He appeared to be in a serious conversation with the abomination, who was softly speaking to him. Being at the other side of the table, Fenris could not hear what he was saying. He only knew that he did not like how much Anders bent towards Hawke so that Hawke could still hear him while he was speaking as quietly as possible. Hawke shook his head at something Anders said.

"Your turn, sweet thing."

Fenris turned his attention to the cards in his hand. He really had a lousy set. He tossed one of them on the table. Isabela pretended to think hard about her move. As she finally laid a card on the table, Fenris thought he saw her slip another card between her breasts. She caught him looking  and rewarded him with one of her seductive smiles. Embarrassed and annoyed, he looked away.

Varric began one of his tales. Fenris quickly looked at Hawke again to see if he was listening to Varric. He was still talking to Anders. How can that man possibly have something so interesting to say? He grabbed one of the tankards that was on the table and took a large gulp. Ale. He did not like ale; he preferred wine. Still, it was better than nothing.

He lost the first game. Isabela dealt new cards around.

"Don't forget the one in your... blouse."

She held it up. "You mean this one?"

"Isabela! Are you cheating again?" Merrill.

"I always cheat, Kitten. That's why I always win."

Why is Hawke so interested in everything that abomination has to say? Fenris hoped Hawke was actually bored and just did not know a way to make Anders shut up, but he seemed to amuse himself well enough. His loud, thundering laugh that suddenly resonated in the room was impossible to miss.

With a mood that was rapidly getting worse, Fenris stared at his new set of cards. Again not much good.

"Your turn again," Isabela purred. "Are you distracted? Perhaps by seeing these beautiful walls here..?"

Fenris shot her an angry look and threw one of cards on the table without seeing which. He emptied his tankard and gestured at the serving girl that he wanted another one.

"I think they would look prettier with flowers. I could paint them for you, Varric."

Varric chuckled. "I don't think the owner would appreciate that. Perhaps Hawke would like a few flowers, Daisy."

"What flowers do you think he would like?"

"I bet something with thorns."

How funny they all are.

"You mean roses?"

What is Hawke talking about? The abomination looks too content... and Hawke as well.

The blood mage giggled. When he looked at her, he saw her big eyes were aimed at him.

"What? Why are you looking at me like that?"

"You are in love."

He blinked. "I am not."

"You keep looking at Hawke with sad puppy eyes every time he is not looking."

"There are no puppy eyes." And I am not in love.

"Oh, he really has puppy eyes, doesn't he?" Isabela joined in.

"He does make a very broody puppy," Varric added. "I'm not sure puppies are allowed to be that broody."

Hawke's interest awoke when he heard the others laughing. "What's so funny?"

Fenris got up. "Nothing. I'm leaving."

"Oh, so soon? Okay. Uhm... tomorrow still reading, right?"

"Yes. Have a nice evening."

He already made it through the door when he heard Isabela say she was going to get more drinks at the bar and caught up with him.

"Why did you dump Hawke?" she asked.

When Fenris did not answer, she continued: "Because it's obvious you like him."

"I am not in love."


He stopped in front of the exit and turned to her. "What?" he snapped.

"You are afraid of hurting him, aren't you?"

He stared at the ground.

"Look, I am not the person who can give you much advice about love, but... Hawke can handle himself. All I know is that he likes you too."

"You're right. You are not the person to give any advice about this." He left without waiting for what else she might have had to say. 

Once he got back to his mansion, Fenris immediately went to the cellar to open a bottle of wine. He had bought a few at the Lowtown market earlier today. No doubt it would taste awful, but right now he did not care. He took large gulps out of the bottle and soon it was half empty. He stared at it, then smashed it to the ground. Glass splinters and wine flew through the room. The scent of alcohol filled the air. Curse that stupid blood mage. He kicked a table upside down and even pulled one of the shelves of the wall, smashing the bottles that were stored there. Letting out a shout of helpless frustration, he slammed his fist against the wall.

"I am not in love!"

He slammed again and felt the skin of his knuckles break open against the cold stones.

"I. Am." Slam. "NOT." Slam. "In. Love." He felt something in his hand break. Panting, he turned around and leaned with his back against the wall.

"I am not in love."

Slowly, he slid down to the ground, in the pool of glass splinters and liquor. He kept repeating the words, as a mantra. I am not in love. I don't love him. I can't. I don't want to. I want to hate him. Hating is easier.
But I want to stop hating as well. I am sick of it.
I am not in love. I don't know what love is. I barely know who I am anymore. Or I have never known.

It took him a long time to regain his calm. Finally, his breathing slowed and most of the frustration ebbed away. I should not let the thing that stupid blood mage says get to me. No reason to get upset for something like that. She's a fool. The things she says don't mean a thing. No reason to lose control.

He got to his feet, albeit a little unsteadily. His hand hurt. It was swollen pretty badly and looked almost twice as thick as it normally was. He would have to let Hawke heal it; there was no way he could hold a sword like this, or even a quill.

He ignored the glass that cut in his bare feet while he staggered back to the stairs.

Hawke arrived early in the following morning.

"There's trouble and I could use your help," he said. "Something with the Qunari."

"I'll come with you, but first I need healing." Fenris held out his right hand, with the scraped and broken knuckles.

"How did you get that?"

"Bad judgment. I made a mistake during a job. Mercenary work," he added as Hawke raised his eyebrows in disbelief.

"When did you have the job? Yesterday night?"

"Yes. Night work."

"And there was a guy you had trouble handling. At a mercenary's job. You had trouble."

"It's not like he beat me," Fenris felt almost offended by Hawke's reaction to his excuse. "He's dead now."

"It looks like it hurts. Give me your hand and I will heal it."

Hawke's warm fingers closed around Fenris' hand. The welcome feeling of the heeling magic spread through his hand. The lyrium veins lit up. The small bones of his hand shifted back into place. The skin of his knuckles melted together. The pain disappeared.


Fenris looked into Hawke's piercing blue eyes. Eyes that seemed to look through him and made his stomach clench. His hand felt cold and empty in the absence of Hawke's fingers.

I am not in love.

Chapter Text

What has magic touched that it doesn't spoil? Those words he had once spoken in anger, but how true they always turned out to be. Magic created monstrosities and destroyed good and beautiful things. He had seen it so many times. And now, now magic had dug its claws into Hawke's life and torn it apart.

Fenris glanced at Hawke from the corner of his eye while he walked beside him. Anders and Sebastian followed two steps behind. Nothing was to be seen on Hawke's blank face. No expression, no pain, no grief. Nothing. He looked as calm as always, while he marched in the direction of his mansion with a firm pace. As if nothing had happened. As if he had not just held what was left of his mother in his arms and heard her whisper goodbye. As if he had not sat motionless in that place filled with death, with Leandra in his arms, for more than half an hour, without saying a single word. As if he had not suddenly gotten up and began to carry his mother's corpse out of that room, to deliver her to a place where they would take care of her remains.

Fenris had offered to help carry her, but Hawke had only shaken his head. And now they were walking back to the estate. At least, that was where Fenris presumed they were heading. Hawke was walking fast. Fenris had to do his best to keep up with him. He could hear the deep breathing of the two men behind them.

As they passed the Chantry, Sebastian broke the silence. "I am going to the Chantry," he said to Hawke. "I will pray for your mother's soul."

Hawke only gave one nod, so quick it could barely be recognized as such. Sebastian left the small, silent group and they continued their walk.

Again, Fenris glanced at Hawke, hoping to see something, anything that could pass for an emotion, did not matter which. But he saw nothing.

Would Hawke snap? Had he snapped? Mages were vulnerable when they lost control. Hawke was the strongest person he had ever known, but would the sudden, gruesome death of his mother push him over the edge every mage was balancing on? In an instant, that what had seemed impossible had become a realistic fear. Fenris stayed alert, his senses highly active, so that he would immediately notice if a demon took over.

When Hawke's home got in sight, Anders increased his step length to walk next to Hawke's other side. Fenris did not like seeing that abomination so close to Hawke. That was currently the last thing Hawke needed: someone who had already fallen prey to a demon.

As Hawke put his key in the lock of the front door, the abomination placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Hawke," he spoke softly. "Is there anything I can do for you? Do you want me to stay with you for a while?"

Fenris clenched his fists as he heard those words. Who does he think he is? What makes him think Hawke needs him? That he has been talking to Hawke every night in the Hanged Man doesn't mean...

The reply came with a tone as cool and empty as Hawke's face. "Thank you, Anders. But I don't think that is necessary. You should go home."

Fenris waited for instructions on his behalf, but Hawke did not speak to him. Should I leave as well? I probably should. He saw Anders looking at him while Hawke turned the key in the lock.

"What do you think you're doing?" the abomination hissed at him. "You should leave him alone too. You're the last one he needs right now."

Funny, that's what I just thought about you. "I don't see how that could be for you to decide."

"You think you can offer him comfort? After what you've done? You'd only make him feel worse, with you blaming magic for everything. Does he have to hate himself as well for what some insane monster did? Is that what you want?"

Hawke had opened the door and stepped inside. Fenris expected the door to fall shut behind him, but he simply left it open and walked through the hall without paying any attention to him or Anders. Is that a hint?

With Hawke gone, Anders raised his voice. "You left him. You don't care how he feels. Don't bother to pretend now."

Along with his anger, the lyrium got activated. "Do not speak of things you know nothing about."

Anders mockingly raised an eyebrow at him. Then his face turned uninterested and he shrugged. He left without saying another word.

Fenris stared at the open door of the house, in doubt. Was Anders right and could he not offer any comfort? Would Hawke want him to try? What should he say? He did not know any comforting words that would make someone feel better. He knew how to kill, and they had already killed the man who had done this. And he had indeed left Hawke, something he had clearly not forgiven him yet. The situation between them was, at best, awkward. As far as Fenris knew Hawke had not tried to drown himself in his ale anymore, and he had never again seen him in the shape he had during the second reading session. But sometimes Hawke looked at him in a certain way, a way that made him feel uneasy. He thought he could recognize desire in that look, as he had in that night. He was probably imagining things, with his mind colored by his own foolish desires.

He had always suspected Hawke's blind trust in mages would once be betrayed, but that it had to be in this way... Not every mage was as strong as Hawke; it even seemed only Hawke was strong. Would the weak ones have destroyed the single strong one?

The mage had spoken of love; he had done all this out of love. He had murdered several women to create love. If love caused this, it was as terrible a power as magic. Could love actually be the cause of something so foul?

None of these things would offer comfort to Hawke if he said them out loud. So what should he do? Leave and let Hawke be alone with his grief? It felt so cowardly to walk away again. And selfish. This had nothing to do with him and his fears, this was about Hawke. Hawke had lost his family today. Fenris thought about that expressionless face of Hawke. He had to do something. He owed Hawke more than silent absence. Perhaps Hawke did not want him here, but then he would simply be sent away. He would at least have shown he cared. Leandra had been kind to him the few times he had joined for dinner. The first dinner had by far not been as bad as he had feared. Leandra had done her best to make him feel welcome, something he was still not used to. People tended to be afraid of him, intimidated by his appearance. She had not been intimidated, or if she had been, she had done her best to look past it. She had been a good, sweet woman. She deserved better than what that madman had done to her.

Fenris took a deep breath and entered the estate. 

When he stepped into the living room, he could hear Hawke's uncle, Gamlen, yell. "What kind of nightmarish magic is that? Oh Maker... Maybe the templars are right. Lock the mages up! Throw away the key!"

Fenris could barely hear Hawke's soft response. "And what about me, Uncle?"

He returned on his steps back into the hall. This conversation was not meant for his ears.

It did not take long before Gamlen came into the hallway, sobbing. He saw Fenris, but walked past him and left the house without looking at him or saying anything.

Fenris waited a short time before he entered the living room again. Bodahn just came down the stairs.

"Messere! I did not know you were here." he said. "Are you here for messere Hawke?"

"I am."

"Ah." Bodahn seemed nervous. "Forgive me my manners, but do you know about..."

"Yes. She is dead."

"Oh. How terrible! She was such a kind, loving woman. She reminded me of my own mother..."

Fenris interrupted the dwarf. "Where is Hawke?"

"He is in his bedroom, messere. I wanted to check on him and ask if he had found... But he did not want to speak to me."

"Thank you." Slowly, Fenris climbed the stairs. The chance he would be sent away seemed large. Hawke did not want to see anybody at the moment. Fenris was probably at the bottom of his list...

He had reached the door of Hawke's room. It was ajar. He pushed it further open and took a step into the room.

Hawke was sitting on his large bed and stared into the hearth. He did not look up as Fenris entered. As far as Fenris could he see, he was not crying. There was still no emotion on Hawke's face.

I think I'm supposed to say something now. He had been so busy deciding whether to go to Hawke or not, that he had forgotten to come up with something to say when he actually went. He decided to go with that. "I don't know what to say, but I am here."

He prepared himself for being sent back to where he came from, but Hawke turned his head to him and said instead: "Just say something. Anything."

I have no idea what to say, that's what I just told him. Fenris did his best to remember words that could be sufficient for Hawke. Certainly he must have heard something, somewhere. "Eh... they say death is only a journey." Where did I even hear that? He came closer to Hawke, hoping to catch a first glimpse of feeling if he simply got near enough. "Does that help?"

A frown appeared in Hawke's forehead as he considered those words. "It just raises questions. Journey to where?"

I think I heard this in the Chantry. Sebastian would be better at this. Why did I even bother to come? I am of no use. Hawke's expression remained so empty. Was he not supposed to look sad, with his mother gone? Was something wrong with him? Had he truly snapped and fallen prey to a demon? I suppose he would not look calm then either. "I don't know." I can't leave yet, even though I have nothing to say. Before he realized it himself, he sat down on the bed, next to Hawke, yet careful not to touch him. "It's just something people say."

He was quiet for a moment, aware that Hawke was looking at him. "To be honest, I don't think there is much point in filling these moments with empty talk."

Hawke nodded and returned his gaze to the flames in the hearth. They sat silent for a moment, both aware of each other's presence. Apparently Hawke decided he did not agree with what Fenris had said, because he broke the silence with a question. "What about your mother? Is she still alive?"

What kind of question is that? "I don't know. I have no memory of her." Which you know, so why do you even ask? "At least you knew your mother."

Hawke let out a mocking laugh. Fenris nearly jumped at the sound. "Ha! Of course. How could I forget. Whatever it is I am going through, it can never be so bad as what happened to you. I have not been a slave. I am so lucky to still have all my memories." Hawke abruptly jumped up from the bed, his face at once twisted in anger. Fenris got up too, taking a step back at Hawke's unexpected rage. "Why am I even whining?! I am a mage after all. I can just... do what that freak did and build a new mother! Perhaps I can make a new you as well while I'm at it. Tell me, are there more lyrium-infused body parts to be found in Tevinter, or will I have to experiment with that too?"

Fenris could not bring out a single word in his surprise. He felt his mouth hanging open, but was not able to close it. He could only stare at Hawke, who was breathing faster in his rage.

"Why are you even here?" Hawke growled. "To tell me again how evil magic is? That I shouldn't have trusted that filthy pig Gascard? That this is my punishment for allowing him to use blood magic to find Mother? To say "I told you so"? Why bother to pretend you care about something else than your own problems?"

He felt the air get heavy around him. Breathing became difficult. Alarmed, he staggered another step backwards."Hawke. Stop." He tried to suck in a new breath, but the pressure was increasing fast and was already too high to allow his lungs to take in air. Fenris opened his mouth further, desperate for air as panic rose in his throat. "Stop!" He activated his markings, hoping the lyrium would absorb part of the spell and diminish the effect, but it was too powerful. There was not the slightest relief.

His knees could no longer carry the weight and buckled. Fenris fell on his hands and knees, the muscles of his chest working in a desperate attempt to gain oxygen. Spots danced before his eyes, the edges of his vision became blurred. "S... st..." With no air, his mouth could not create the word. The memory of Danarius' laughter rang inside his head. "On your knees, my pet!"

Even more quickly than it had arisen, the pressure disappeared. He gasped and sweet air flowed back into his lungs, so sudden he choked on his own saliva. Coughing and panting he tried to get back on his feet, something that was not as easy as it should be. His legs felt weak and protested against standing up. He looked at Hawke before he turned around. Hawke stood next to his bed, no longer with anger in his posture. With wide eyes he stared back at Fenris, seemingly as shocked as Fenris felt. This was clearly a mistake. He doesn't want me here. I could have known. I should have known. His legs protested even harder against walking, but he had to walk to get out of here. All this time I was worried about hurting him. It never even occurred to me that he could hurt me too, that we could hurt each other. Everyone is dangerous when they lose control.
That's actually not a very comforting thought.

"Fenris. Wait."

He wanted to leave, he really wanted to. Hawke had gone too far. No command could make him stay after this. Except that this had not been a command. It had been a plea. Despite his anger, his hurt, the way Hawke had spoken those words made Fenris stop on his way to the door. Will I ever make it to that door in one try?

"I... I'm sorry. I didn't want... I'm so sorry. Perhaps you are right. Perhaps everyone is right and should I be locked up." Hawke sank back on the edge of the bed. "It's just... I... I keep seeing that... cut in her neck, with those stitches... I... what did he even do to her? Did he cut off her head and sow it back on another body? Did he p... peel off her face? Do you think she was in pain? I... oh Maker, I think I feel sick." Hawke gagged and dropped to the ground, on his knees, reaching for the chamber pot. He was just in time.

Fenris walked back and kneeled next to Hawke. I suppose this counts as emotion. I really should learn to be careful what I wish for.

Hawke wiped his mouth with a shaking hand. Fenris helped him get back on the bed and sat beside him, still careful to leave some space between them. Hawke avoided his eyes and stared at his hands instead, which he was holding in his lap.

"I don't want to remember that," he said. His voice was unsteady. "I know you want your memory back, but I want to forget what happened today. I don't want to keep seeing..." His shoulders started shaking as tears began to roll over his cheeks into his beard. More emotion.

"But I can't recall what I did today. What was I doing? Was I helping the mages? Was it something with those damned Qunari? Was I trying to help one of my friends? What was so important that I couldn't protect my own mother? I should have looked after her. She was the last one, and I couldn't save her. Just as I couldn't save Bethany. And Carver... he might as well be dead now too, as far as we know. Perhaps a darkspawn is chewing his head off as we speak." Hawke's body shook more severe as grief seemed to overwhelm him. This is not just about Leandra. This is about his sister too.

"Mother blamed me for Beth's death. I should have stopped her, attacked first, done something, but I didn't do anything. I just stood there and watched my little sister being beaten to the ground. I... remember the sound of her skull cracking, how it smashed open like a rotten tomato... Mother has never gotten over it. All those nights we were sleeping in the same tiny room at Gamlen's... I could hear her cry. She always cried very quietly, but I heard her. And... I wanted to make her feel better, but I never said anything, never did anything, because I knew... I knew it was my fault she was hurting in the first place." Hawke sobbed uncontrollably. We all carry our share of guilt.

"And then Carver... When I had to tell her he was not coming back, that I didn't know if he ever would be coming back... She was so... I know it killed her inside. And now I have failed again. I have failed to save her. Gamlen was right. I should have been faster... Am I to blame for not saving her?"

When it remained silent after that question, Fenris realized it had been directed at him. He had been listening to Hawke in silence, lost in his own thoughts; no reaction seemed to be expected from him. Until now.

"I could say no, but would that help? You are looking for forgiveness, but I am not the one who can give it to you."

"All I can do is kill. I kill people. Fast. I had never killed anything before the Blight, but now it's all I'm known for. I am that Fereldan who is good at killing people. But what does it matter if I can't save the ones I care about? What does it matter I win every battle? I have beaten Quentin as well, but Mother is still dead. It didn't bring her back."

"You have saved lives as well, Hawke. You save people by killing others, and you save by healing. I know you have saved me many times."

"But why would I be any better than the people I kill? Am I right because I won? What makes me better than Quentin? All that man wanted was the woman he loved back. And that's... that's just so sad. Right now, I can almost imagine why he did...
What good has it done me? All I have now is a big wallet and a big house with nobody in it but me and my dog and my servants." There appeared to be no end to the tears streaming over Hawke's face.

"Fenris." Hawke turned his head a little so that he was now staring at Fenris' knees instead of his own. "I... I know you hate me and all, b... but... could you... please... hold me, only for a second? I feel like I'm falling apart."

Fenris stiffened at the bizarre request. Nothing makes sense anymore tonight. Close contact with Hawke was what he wanted to avoid. He did not trust himself when Hawke touched him. It felt too good, and it should not feel good. But Hawke looked so lost, so hurt right now. That Hawke could look so helpless Fenris would never have guessed. He had come to offer comfort. If this was what Hawke needed, he should set aside his own issues, if only for a while. So he carefully raised his arms and pulled Hawke against him, who gratefully leaned his head in Fenris' neck and grabbed his left arm with his right hand. Fenris hissed at the feeling of the markings singing in his skin. Hawke clung onto him as if he was afraid to fall off the bed. Fenris felt tears drip on his neck.

"Haven't I told you before I don't hate you?"

Hawke sniffed. "Yeah, well, you kind of proved that point invalid by running off a few hours later with the comment "it should never have happened in the first place"."

Fenris closed his eyes for a moment. I really destroyed something by doing that. If he only knew how much I care. I can't stop caring. If he knew...

"Hawke, I..."

"Shhh." Hawke silenced him by pressing a finger against his lips. "You were right. Let's not fill these moments with empty talk."

He is so close. Fenris felt the longing of his body. In this time of grief and despair, he was aroused. He felt how he became hard. I want him. Right now. He is crying and so sad and he just used magic on me and made it impossible to breathe and I want him. I want to feel him, from inside out, feel him around me. I must be going insane. No, I already have. How can I even think about this at such a time? He smells of blood and death and vomit and sweat and tears but I want him and it hurts. My markings don't even hurt anymore when he touches me. It feels good now, and it hurts that it feels good. I want him.

They sat in silence, in their embrace. Every now and then, Hawke shook and let out a sob. Fenris held him while trying to fight the betrayal of his own body. He feared Hawke could smell his arousal. He could himself.

"She liked you, you know," Hawke mumbled against Fenris' neck. "After she had gotten used to your... appearance, she really liked you. She thought you were very sweet and polite and intelligent. She enjoyed having you for dinner."

"She was a good woman. I liked her too."

"She wanted to know why I hadn't made a move yet. She told me I should stop being such a chicken and go for it." Hawke laughed and cried at the same time.

"I... I'm sorry," Fenris whispered.

"I have never told her."

After another silence, Fenris said: "I want to forget things as well."

He already started to believe Hawke did not understand what he meant, or that he simply did not care, when Hawke lifted his head a little from his shoulder. "The Fog Warriors?"

Fenris nodded.

Hawke let his head rest in Fenris' neck again. "I understand." He does. Perhaps for the first time, he truly understands. And I think... I understand him. We understand each other, at least at the moment.

Neither of them knew something else to say. Enough had been said for now, more than enough. But so many things are left unsaid at the same time... He tried to keep his breathing deep and even to relax. Hawke's breath stroked the skin of his neck. The lyrium even reacted to these tiny air currents. Fenris knew the lines in his neck were glowing softly, while those on his arm where Hawke's fingers rested, burned more fiercely. He held his mouth tightly shut, afraid a moan would escape from it otherwise. The wanting was beating through his veins.

Time passed, and finally Hawke's crying became calmer, until the sobbing stopped completely. By the way the grip of his fingers loosened and his breathing slowed, Fenris knew Hawke had fallen asleep. He let out the groan that had been lying on his lips for such a long time. He lowered his head to lean with his cheek against the top of Hawke's head. I am here, Hawke.

Careful not to wake Hawke, Fenris lay down, still holding Hawke against him. He knew he would be unable to sleep like this, but wanted to make sure Hawke would at least not wake up with a sore back caused by sleeping in this awkward position.

And so they lay, legs hanging over the edge of the mattress. Fenris stared at the ceiling, remembering how he had lain here once before, Hawke asleep and he awake. Then he had decided he had made a mistake and had to leave. Now he almost started to think that had been a mistake. But I can't. I just can't. It's still too much. This is all too much. It is insane and too much. It hurts too much. "I am not in love," he whispered to the dark ceiling. "I am not in love."

He was close to sleep after all when Hawke stirred. He stayed still for a while but then Hawke broke the silence with a moan. "Hmm. Fenris? I... what time is it?"

"Still early in the morning."

"What? You stayed all this time? But... you didn't have to do that." Hawke sat upright and rubbed his eyes.

"You asked me to stay, so I did." Fenris followed his example and pushed himself upward.

"But I didn't mean... you shouldn't have... Have you slept at all? You don't look like you've had any sleep. You look as bad as I feel. I suppose that means I look at least as bad as you do."

"I don't need much sleep anyway."

"I... thank you, Fenris." Hawke smiled a sad smile to him, leaned to the side and pressed a kiss on his lips. It was different from the kisses they had exchanged during their night together. Those kisses had been passionate, hungry, wild, fierce, long. This kiss was none of that. It was brief; before Fenris could react, Hawke had already withdrawn. But at the same time, it was intimate and showed affection in another way. Perhaps it had not even been a real kiss; only a brushing of lips.

"I have really said those thing to you, haven't I? Oh, I am so sorry. You know I didn't mean it, right? I shouldn't have gotten mad at you. I... don't know why I lost control like that, but... there is no excuse for what I did."

Fenris got up from the bed. "It's okay."

"No, it's not. I am so ashamed. You didn't deserve any of that. Please say you know I didn't mean it."

"I know."

"Why did you stay after what I did?" Hawke paused while he thought about his own question. "You... you weren't afraid I would fall to the demons, were you?"

"No, that was not it." As he said it, he realized it was true. He had never truly believed Hawke would give in to a demon, not even in his darkest hour. Hawke was stronger than that. Hawke was the strongest and most honorable man he had ever known. But he was a man as well. A man who was hurting and grieved. That he did those things did not make him less strong.

Hawke looked relieved and grateful. "Thank you," he said again. "Now you should go home and try to get some sleep. You must be tired."

"Will... will you be alright?"

Hawke ran a hand through his hair, which was still partially braided. "I will, I think. Someday. Not yet. Not now. But I am a little better than yesterday, thanks to you."

When Fenris left the house, he knew they would never speak of this night again, just as they did not speak of the other night they had spent together. It was added to the things they shared, but hung silently between them, always remembered by both of them, but never acknowledged.

Hawke smiled at him. His thick, auburn hair was loose and hung over his shoulders. He was completely naked.

"Why don't you leave me alone?" Fenris sighed.

Hawke's smile broadened. "I would go," he said, "If you actually wanted me to." He came closer. "And you don't want me to leave." He leaned against Fenris and kissed him.

Fenris sighed again and closed his eyes, enjoying the feeling of Hawke's lips and the taste of his mouth.

A large hand closed around his throat and squeezed it shut, sending a burning fury through his markings. He opened his eyes and stared into the face of Danarius.

"Enough running, my pet," he hissed. "Time to serve your master again." He squeezed even harder. Fenris gasped for air, without success. Danarius' erection pressed against his stomach. He fought to get loose, fought to breathe, but Danarius's grip was as steel. Fenris heard him laugh while his vision blurred. He reached for his sword, but when he raised it he saw he was only holding a large feather. Danarius laughed harder.

I am not your pet anymore! With a final effort, he took over control of his markings and activated them. He dropped the feather and reached with his hand into Danarius' chest. His former master's eyes widened while Fenris closed his fingers around his heart. He tore it out and threw it away. Danarius made a high-pitched noise, but when Fenris turned to look at him again, to see the light in his eyes dim, it was Hawke who was standing in front of him, eyes wide, mouth open. A hole in his chest. No! One tear rolled down Hawke's cheek. It had not even reached his beard yet when the life in his eyes dissolved. Blood ran in streams across his chest. Hawke's body fell over, and Fenris caught it. He collapsed to the ground with Hawke in his arms. He was immediately soaked with blood. "No!" he cried. "No! I will not allow it!"

He was woken up by his own cries.

Chapter Text

He had known Hawke was going to do something stupid again. He had seen that look in his eyes. That look of grim, stubborn determination that warned Hawke was going to take a risk again. A big risk. Consequences be damned, he would fight for it, fight for what he thought was right.

And so now Hawke was dueling the Arishok. The most skilled warrior of the Qunari, whose soldiers were already known for their skills in battle. Hawke had accepted the challenge to fight a man who had arms thicker than Hawke's legs and whose chest was at the same height as Hawke's head. A man who wielded two swords as long as Hawke's arms. While Hawke wore those blasted robes.

No protection at all, Fenris thought as he curled his fingers around the scrap of red around his wrist. He clenched his teeth in frustration. He was forced to witness the duel; simply stand and watch, not interfere. No chance to stand by Hawke's side and defend him from deadly steel. His blade hung uselessly on his back, the weight an extra remembrance of what Hawke was up against. He had gotten used to the idea he would always be there to prevent swords to get close enough to Hawke to cut open his flesh. In every battle he kept an eye on Hawke, to make sure no one would get to him. Jumping between Hawke and the Arishok would get them both killed, however. Qunari expected a duel between two fighters to be honored. Interference was against the Qun and would be punished. By death. The only thing he could do was watching helplessly and hoping Hawke would actually be able to win the duel, with Anders at his right and Isabela at his left side. Aveline was standing at Anders' other side.

Dueling was the most honorable solution, with the fewest casualties. Although at the moment there is only one possible casualty I care about. The possibility of a duel had occurred to him. Perhaps he would even have suggested it himself if the Arishok had not offered the opportunity. He was not sure why, only that it seemed the right thing, and fitting for Hawke. Although now that all he could do was stand idly by, he wished he could duel the Arishok himself, in Hawke's place. Steel against steel seemed more fair than steel against magic.

But it did not matter. It had been out of his hands from the beginning. Hawke was basalit-an, worthy of respect. Even if Isabela had not suddenly returned with the tome of Koslun, the Arishok would have challenged Hawke for a duel. Fenris wondered if Hawke would have accepted then as well. Not wanting to let Isabela be dragged off to Par Vollen might play a big part in Hawke's decision.

Whatever Hawke's reasons, he was now dodging the Arishoks attacks, running to create a bit of distance between them, then cast a few spells. In front of all the nobles of Kirkwall, who witnessed the fight with eyes large of fear. Fear for their own pathetic lives. No doubt they would not care whether Hawke died or not, but only for the consequence of that for themselves. Nobles were like that.

If there is anyone who can defeat the Arishok, it is Hawke. But then why was it not over yet? The duel went on and on. The Viscount's throne room was silent. Occasional gasps from the crowd and grunts from Hawke and the Arishok were the only sounds that broke the silence. Whenever Hawke got close to where Fenris was watching, he could see sweat dripping from Hawke's face and hear him panting. He can't keep this up forever. The constant evasive moves and running started to take their toll. The Arishok appeared to be as fit as when the duel had begun.

With all the running and walking we do Hawke should not be tired yet. But walking as a way to get somewhere differed much from the quick jumps and sprints Hawke had to perform now to avoid being hit. Hawke was not used to this way of fighting. Fire, ice and the manipulation of gravity - and Fenris' blade - had made it near impossible for any enemy to get within melee range of Hawke. But the Arishok was only slowed for a short time by Hawke's spells. It never took him long to break out of the grip of ice or wade through air made thick and heavy as mud.

Hawke had reached one of the large pillars that held up the ceiling of the throne room. He turned around, fire burning at his fingertips, ready to launch a fireball. But the Arishok was closer than Hawke apparently had guessed. As the Qunari took a last step to reach his opponent, Hawke stumbled backwards to get away.

The pillar was behind Hawke.

Standing in front of him, the Arishok made Hawke look small, despite Hawke being a tall man. Hawke made a last attempt to dive out of the Arishok's reach, but he was too late. One of the swords swung forward and went right through Hawke's abdomen. Through him. Fenris saw the other end of the blade come out of Hawke's back, colored red. The fire in Hawke's hands disappeared while his eyes widened and a scream resounded from his mouth. The crowd gasped collectively in horror.

Slowly, the Arishok moved his sword, with Hawke impaled on it, up in the air. Hawke's feet were lifted off the ground. And then he was hanging above the Arishok's head, his limbs weakly floundering. If Qunari had been known for their sense of humor, Fenris would almost have believed it was supposed to be a joke. It looked so ridiculous and made Hawke appear to be hopelessly incompetent against someone like the Arishok, his attempts to take him down as meaningless and laughable as when they had come from a child.

Blood dripped on the Arishok's face. Victory could be read from his expression. Hawke's cries silenced to a soft moaning. Then that stopped too. This was not funny.

Out of the corner of his eyes, Fenris saw Anders move. Automatically he held up an arm to stop him.

"Don't touch me!" the abomination snapped. "He needs help!"

"You'll get us all killed if you interfere now."

Anders stared at him in disbelief. "Hawke is being killed right now! Get your hand off me, you heartless bastard!"

Fenris grabbed the collar of Anders' robes and pulled him closer. "Call me that again and I'll make you one as well." He pushed the mage away, so that he bumped into the people standing behind them. "You will ruin every chance of survival Hawke has if you make one move. So. Stand. Back." Aveline looked from Fenris to Hawke, gave a short nod and positioned herself in front of Anders. The statement was clear.

The abomination's eyes blazed with anger, but he did not move from his spot. Fenris turned back to the duel as the Arishok swung his sword back, then forth to let Hawke slide off it. Hawke did not move when he heavily hit the ground with a loud thud, nor did he make sound.

He can't be dead.

Fenris exchanged a worried look with Aveline. Hawke is not dead. He tightened the grip on the red sash around his wrist.

The Arishok raised his blades above his head once more, a gesture of triumph. Nobles whimpered, Qunari soldiers nodded in content, not surprised their leader had defeated the human.

Move, Hawke. Move!

Isabela took a step back. She looked like she was planning to make a run for it. Knowing what the Qunari would do with her, he could hardly blame her. On his other side, Anders finally came forward again. Fenris could feel the demon's magic lick his markings. "If he is dead now while I could have saved him..." he hissed from behind.

Fenris intended to snarl back, but then quickly returned his gaze to Hawke. Did I just see..?

Hawke moved. He turned his head in the Arishok's direction. Quietly, he got to his feet with the support of his staff, although he could not manage to stand fully upright. He leaned heavily on his staff while flames lit up around the fingertips of his free hand. The fire got brighter and brighter, until Fenris could no longer look directly into it and had to avert his eyes.

The Arishok, who had been standing with his back to Hawke, looked over his shoulder at the wave of excited whispers the foolish nobles suddenly produced. His eyebrows went up a fraction in surprise when he saw Hawke standing.

Just as he turned around to finish what he thought had been finished already, the concentrated ball of fire escaped from Hawke's hand. It hit the Arishok straight in the face, knocking him off his feet and sending him flying. The smell of burning flesh filled the air. The heat of the fire stroked Fenris' skin.

For one moment, everyone, Qunari and human alike, was silent. All eyes were directed at the burning body of the Arishok, with the expectation he would pull the same trick as Hawke had and suddenly get up again.

He did not. He raised his horned head a little; flames licked on his cheeks. "One day..." he grunted, "we shall return." The Arishok's head fell back.

When the realization hit that he was dead, the crowd burst into cheering. Hawke smiled and straightened his back somewhat while the people shouted his name and applauded for him. Fenris could not do anything but stare, still trying to process what had just transpired in front of his own eyes. He is not dead, was about all that got through. He almost fell to his knees in relief, had to force himself to keep standing. I thought he was dead.

Tumult at the entrance of the throne room drew his attention. Knight-Commander Meredith burst into the room, followed by a group of her templars. The First Enchanter followed suit. They all looked bewildered, trying to determine the current situation.

It did not take long for Meredith to find Hawke standing in the middle of the hall, leaning on his staff.

"Is it over?" The burning remains of the Arishok behind Hawke answered her question.

The nobles increased the volume of their cheering, now that everyone was completely certain they had been saved. The grin Fenris had come to know so well crept up on Hawke's face. With the room full of nobles, templars, and Qunari who were already taking their leave, Hawke was grinning at the Knight-Commander while she was forced to put her sword on her back now that there was no purpose for using it anymore, although her angry frown made it clear she would very much like to use it against a certain person. It was good to see that grin again, even though Hawke was flashing it at the leader of the templars. It had been absent since Leandra had passed away.

Within a few seconds Meredith had her face under control, and even managed something that could pass for a smile.

"Well done." Her eyes went to the staff before she looked at Hawke again. "It appears Kirkwall has a new champion." She could not prevent her mouth twisted a little when she spoke that last word.

The joy of the crowd was complete. People clapped their hands and started chanting the word "champion" over and over again. Some even stomped their feet on the ground to create even more noise.

Despite everyone's enthusiasm, Hawke's grin faded fast. Instead, his face turned alarmingly pale. He bent further over and lost his balance. Had Anders not jumped to his side to catch him, he would have fallen flat on his face. Blood that welled up from the wound in Hawke's abdomen was sucked up by the fabric of his robe, resulting in an expanding dark spot, both on his abdomen and back. What the fabric could not absorb dripped on the floor in front of his feet.

There was not that much blood a moment ago.

Anders hoisted Hawke's free arm over his shoulder to provide extra support and started to guide him towards the exit.

Fenris intended to follow them, get closer to Hawke to help him, but every other person present seemed to get the same idea at the same time. Before he could take one step most of the crowd had grouped around Hawke, blocking any way to get nearer. People smiled at their Champion, patted him on the back to show their admiration and gratitude, tried to get his attention by talking to him, offered their arm to lean on.

The more Fenris tried to push bodies out of the way and move towards Hawke, the more people appeared to block his path. Just as he had been forced to watch the duel without having a chance to lend aid, so was he forced to see the distance to Hawke grow.

Trying to avoid being touched by people was impossible. With every inch he got forward, arms brushed by and impatient people behind him bumped against his back and stepped on his heels. Fenris decided he could best focus on ignoring all this unwanted contact and simply getting out of here.

A hand was placed on his shoulder. Immediately Fenris reacted by spinning around and grabbing the person by the throat.

He stared into the wide, startled eyes of a middle-aged noble woman. Her mouth opened and closed in shock a few times before she managed to speak. "I... b...beg your pardon, messere. All I wanted... you are with the Champion, are you not?"

Fenris released her from his merciless grip and continued his struggle to leave without answering.

Chapter Text

Dawn was near when Fenris finally stood before the gates of Viscount's Keep. He set off to Hawke's estate, hoping he had had the worst now that he was outside, but the route to the mansion turned out to be no less quiet. In front of the estate, a large crowd had gathered, not only consisting of nobles but common folk as well. With well-placed elbows Fenris eventually reached the front door, where a bewildered Bodahn tried to keep all these unexpected guests outside. When he saw Fenris approach he almost jumped up and down in relief of seeing a familiar face. "Messere! Messere! Oh dear, do you know why all these people are here? They say they want to see the Champion... Messere Hawke got here earlier and he didn't look so good. There was man with him. Is he the Champion?"

"No," Fenris replied. "Hawke is."

Bodahn's mouth opened and closed in the same way as that of the noble woman had earlier. "I see. But... but what of all these people? Messere didn't say anything about.. They can't all go inside."

"Send them away." Fenris shoved Bodahn aside to enter the house.

Bodahn let his eyes drift over what had to be over two hundred people already and swallowed heavily.

"This is an amazing thing for the mages, Hawke! A mage has saved the city from the Qunari and has been named Champion. That will certainly help our cause."

"You have forgotten already how Meredith looked at me when she was forced to say that?"

"Oh no, I haven't. That's the beauty of it! She had no choice. You saved all the nobles. She had to reward you, or they would have stood up to her. Certainly now they will see mages can do more good in the world."

"Yeah, great... Fenris! Come on in." Hawke peeked under one of Anders' arms, which he had placed on his hip. Hawke was sitting in a chair in front of the hearth and Anders stood before him. His face darkened when he turned around to see Fenris standing in the doorway. Fenris stepped into the living room and returned a similar facial expression.

The silence that suddenly hung in the air was heavy from unspoken threats.

Fenris saw Hawke's eyes go from him to Anders and back. "Uhm... guys... as much as I would like to know how a duel between you two would go, I'm afraid it will end with me having one friend less, and I think I have dueled enough for everyone in this room for today. So be nice and smile at each other. I'm Champion!"

Both Anders and Fenris refused to break eye contact with each other and chose to ignore Hawke.

"Hey, Fenris! Lights out!" Hawke shouted.

Begrudgingly, Fenris let his markings come to rest. He had barely noticed they had shifted to the active state; controlling them had become as effortless and required no more thinking than breathing or walking.

"Anders." The abomination turned to Hawke again. Fenris thought he saw his face turn hopeful before he did. "Thank you for your help. I don't know how I would have managed without you. I think it is best when you return to your clinic, however. There are probably a lot of victims from the Qunari attack who need healing."

"But your injury... I could stay and keep an eye on you."

"I'll be fine. Really. There are people who need you now more than me."

Anders sighed. "Alright. But you stay in that chair. You have pushed your body to the edge, Hawke. It currently believes you are still wounded, and in a way you are; even with magic it will need more time to process everything, and I haven't been able to make everything the way it was yet. So rest is now the most important. Don't get up and walk around."

"Aye, sir." Hawke saluted. "I will stay on my arse."

When Anders had left, Fenris moved a bit closer. Hawke leaned in his chair and looked up at him. "So," he said. "Are you here to tell me what a stupid thing I have done this time?"

Fenris shrugged. "Not really. I would have suggested the duel myself if the Arishok had not offered the opportunity."

Very rarely he had seen Hawke at a loss for words, but now Hawke gaped at him while he tried to find words to express his bewilderment. "You would have... Have you seen how big that guy was? Do you want me dead?"

"If anyone could defeat him, it is you, Hawke. I thought, if you could overwhelm a Tevinter magister's apprentice who easily turns to the forbidden... a Qunair leader wouldn't be that difficult for you. And I assumed you would have preferred it like this... with the fewest deaths."

"Hmm, I guess that's true. But I didn't defeat that apprentice on my own, Fenris. You were there as well. And Sebastian and Isabela."

"It would not have been possible without you."

"I could say the same about you. Anyway, I'm afraid that Qunari leader wasn't that easy to fight as I had hoped."

Fenris stared at the blotch of blood that now covered Hawke's entire chest. "I... I thought you were dead," he said softly.

"Ha! So did I. I was sure he had me. I think the Arishok believed the same."

"I saw that blade go right through you. He waved you around on it. How is it possible you survived that?"

"Magic, of course. I was lucky the Arishok's aim was not that good; if he had hit me higher, if he had struck me in my heart, I would have been finished. I would have been dead immediately, no chance to turn things around."

"So you just healed yourself? But then..." What was Anders here for? Hawke can heal himself. "The blood... you fainted after you had won."

"I didn't faint. I got a little dizzy, that's all."

Fenris felt one corner of his mouth lift. "I am quite certain I saw you pass out."

"I stumbled. I did not lose consciousness."

"If you say so."

"I would like to see how you would have managed after you got pinned on a giant sword by a huge guy with horns who waved you around like some kind of living flag."

"Why are you not dead, Hawke?"

"I already told you: magic. I could temporarily slow the impact of the wound, stop the bleeding and such."

He knew he had to refrain from asking this, but the question gnawed too much at him to be ignored. "Anders spoke as if he had healed you."

"He did."

"Why? You can heal yourself."

"Fenris, have you ever had a huge guy with horns put a giant sword  through you and been waved around on it like some kind of living flag?"


"Well, let me tell you: it hurts. It took all I had to simply prevent that wound from being fatal. It was hurting too much to focus sufficiently for proper healing. So I needed Anders to actually close the wound for me."

Fenris's eyes drifted back to Hawke's abdomen, the hole in his robe and the large blood stain. He realized Hawke had really been very close to his death. His own willpower was what had kept him alive.

Hawke, following Fenris' gaze, looked down at himself. "I suppose I should change into something else," he said, letting a hand slide through the hole in his robe. "Where is Bodahn?"

"I think still busy trying to keep the crowd away from your front door."

Hawke frowned. "What?"

"You didn't notice all those people following you while Anders dragged you home?"

"Uhm... I guess I was a bit distracted."

"Why do you think it took me so long to get here? The entire city wants to see the Champion."

Hawke grumbled in disgust. "Is this title actually supposed to be serious? I mean... I killed someone. Again. And this time it happened to be the right person and now I am Champion? It doesn't make any sense."

"You did save lives by defeating the Arishok."

"Yeah, I saved Isabela's lovely, barely covered ass." Hawke plucked with his fingers at the edges of the tear in his robe, making it bigger. Fenris caught himself still staring, fascinated by the part of skin that was made visible, unable to ignore the images that forced themselves on him. Hawke stared into the hearth, his thoughts elsewhere.

"Champion of Kirkwall," he mumbled. His mood shifted back to more cheerful and he chuckled. "Carver will be pissed when he hears that. He must think my shadow blocks the entire sun now." He sighed. "I can't believe he was actually here. He is still alive."

"You did not know he would come back to Kirkwall?"

"No, I haven't heard from him since his first letter in which he told me he had survived the Joining. He did know about Mother, so he received Gamlen's letter... I haven't even written him myself. I don't know why...
And it's not like he actually came back. We had barely spoken before he insisted they had to leave. Still, it was good to see him. He looked good, my little brother."

For a while, they remained silent, both with their own thoughts.

"I guess Bodahn is unavailable then," Hawke said eventually. "Orana! Could you come over here for a moment?"

The young elven girl appeared so quick next to Hawke's chair it almost seemed she had materialized out of thin air. "Yes, master?" she asked.

Fenris saw Hawke shooting him a nervous look before he returned his attention to his servant. "For the fiftieth time, Orana, I am not your master. If you want to call me something formal, messere is fine." When she nodded, he continued: "I need to change. Could you please bring me another robe from my room? It doesn't matter which one."

Orana bowed. "Yes, mas...ssere." She almost ran up the stairs to Hawke's room.

"You can sit down, Fenris. You remind me of the Arishok when you're towering above me like that."

Fenris took the remaining chair opposite of Hawke. "You thought I would get mad at you because she calls you master?" he said, a bit amused.

"I didn't want you to get the impression she is actually my slave. I pay her. I think she wanted to kiss my feet the first time I gave her what she had earned. I hope... oh!"

Orana was standing next to Hawke's chair again, a robe in her hands. She bowed as she handed it to him.

"Thank you, Orana."

She made another bow before she returned to the rest of her tasks. "Stop the bowing is my next project," Hawke said. "I suppose for now I should be happy with "massere"."

Hawke carefully got up from his chair and started to pull his torn robe over his head.

Alarmed, Fenris leaned back in his chair. "Hawke! What are you doing?" That small patch of skin had been enough to awaken the wanting in him, although the feeling was not as strong as it had been on the evening of Leandra's death. Hawke getting undressed in front of him did not make things better.

"Getting changed," the muffled answer came from underneath all the fabric.

"You don't have to..."

A blue and purplish bruise became visible as the robe got pulled off. It spread almost over Hawke's entire torso, with its centre just above his navel. "Are you certain that has been healed?" Fenris asked.

Hawke freed his head and arms from his clothing and looked down at himself again. He carefully went over the colored skin with two fingers. "Ow, that actually hurts." He slowly sat back in his chair.

"I guess Anders was right after all. Standing up is a bad idea." Hawke fumbled his ruined robes to a ball. "I liked this one," he mumbled. "This is a bad year for my robes."

Fenris felt the blood rush to his cheeks at that remark. Before he could stop himself, his hand went to the red sash around his wrist and touched it.

Hawke picked up the set Orana had brought him and unfolded it.

"Ooh, Hawke is undressed! Am I on time for the good stuff?" Isabela came swaggering off the stairs, as seductive as ever. She was greeted by surprised stares of Fenris and Hawke.

"How did you get in here?" Hawke asked.

"Through your back door."

A wrinkle appeared in Hawke's forehead. "I have a back door?"

"Well, back window."

"I see." Hawke's face turned grim. "Why are you here?"

Now Isabela appeared to feel uneasy. "I wanted to see how you were doing." Her eyes went to the coloring on Hawke's chest.

"I'm fine, no thanks to you. After that event in the Fade I did not expect a real-life backstab."

Isabela's shoulders stiffened at that. "Look, I'm sorry I didn't tell you the truth earlier. It all got out of hand." She pointed accusingly at Hawke. "But I didn't ask you to duel for me. I am not a helpless damsel in distress that needed to be rescued."

"Oh, and here I thought I saw you batting your eyelashes at me in a silent plea. My mistake."

"You didn't have to fight for me. Why did you do that?"

"You heard what the Arishok said! You were unworthy. He only wanted to duel me. Would you have preferred I let him leave, tome under one arm, you under the other?"

"No, but..."

"I dueled him, but I did not do it for you, Isabela. I did not slay him for you." Despite his injury, Hawke jumped up. He seemed to have forgotten about the robes he had yet to put on. He stood there in his smallclothes, his face twisted in anger. "You caused all this! Because of you, the Viscount is dead, and so many others. Innocent people, citizens of Kirkwall, but Qunari as well. Their blood is on your hands! I have blood on my hands because of you!" His voice got less loud. "I thought we were friends."

"That's why I came back. I didn't mean for this to..."

"You knew damned well this could not go well! We were dealing with Qunari here. Did you expect they would eventually give up and leave? I understand you didn't tell me immediately what the relic was, but for three years? Friends don't lie to each other like that. Friends don't cause blood on each other's hands."

"What, the Champion of Kirkwall is worried about a little more blood on his hands? Can you even tell the difference with a few extra drops?"

As soon as she said that, Fenris knew Isabela had made a grave mistake. This was definitely not the way to get forgiveness from Hawke. Sitting here like this and listen to their angry words felt like an intrusion of something that was between Hawke and Isabela, but neither seemed to be aware of his presence anymore.

Hawke took one step towards Isabela. There was so much threat in that single step it surprised Fenris she did not step back. "Get out. Now." His voice was now completely calm, but so cold it would have sent shivers down Fenris' spine had Hawke spoken to him in this way.

Isabela looked like she regretted her remark, but she did not take back her words. "I am leaving Kirkwall, Hawke. Just so you know."With large steps she left the house.

The color that anger had brought on Hawke's cheeks melted away and left his face an unhealthy grey. It formed a clear contrast with the bruising. Hawke fell heavily back in the chair.

"Do you want me to leave?" Fenris asked after having waited for a while.

"I did not think I could win from the Arishok," Hawke said. "I expected he'd kill me."

"I don't understand..."

"I..." Hawke avoided looking at him directly. "I accepted the duel so that I could die."

The implications of that single statement hit Fenris like an iron fist. The duel he had witnessed had supposed to be Hawke's suicide. But... why is he still alive then? Thoughts raced through his mind, trying to escape his confusion. Hawke is strong. Why would he give up like that? How could he? His tongue attempted to form words, a question, an accusation, an angry shout, but he could not get any sound out of his throat.

"I have not been planning my death or anything. I hadn't really considered it until today. When that saarebas had us on the ground, I thought he would kill me. And with my dazed mind I realized... that I wouldn't really mind that." Hawke sighed. "But then Meredith came and cut off his head. And for a moment I believed my head would be next to be lopped off. I truly thought she would execute me on the spot. But she did not. I don't know why. But I have looked Meredith in the eye and she let me live. She saved my life." He snickered without joy. "I owe my life to the Knight-Commander.
She let me live and I went on. And then the Arishok wanted to duel me. And I thought: there is no way I am going to survive that."


"I... I felt like I had nothing left to fight for. I didn't know what was worth killing for anymore. After Mother's death... I can't stop thinking that I failed her. I keep having these nightmares about her and what Quentin did to her, and about Bethany, how disappointed Father would have been... I lost the will to... keep going."

Fenris's mouth finally functioned properly again. "But... you are still alive, Hawke. I saw the duel, and you fought. You defended yourself. And if you wanted to die, why is the Arishok now dead?"

Hawke's crystal blue eyes found their way into his own eyes. "Would you believe me if I said I changed my mind?" Hawke said with a sad smile.

"That is ridiculous, even for you."

"Still, that is the answer. I didn't simply want to stand there and let him cut me into pieces. I at least wanted to die fighting. So I really dueled the Arishok. But while I was fighting, I kept postponing the final moment. Maybe part of it was blind instinct that resisted and refused to give up. But I was also scared. I was afraid of death. And by the time he stood in front of me and I felt that pillar against my back... I had doubts. When his sword hit me and he held me up in the air, when I saw Death smile at me and felt its icy fingers on my face, I thought about what the Qunari would do to Isabela when I was dead. She lied to me and caused all this trouble in the first place, but in the end she also came back with the tome. She could have saved her hide, was well out of reach of the Qunari... But she came back and risked her freedom and her life. And I wondered whether all the nobles would be slaughtered. And I thought about Anders and Justice, and asked myself if he would lose control over Justice when I was gone. I thought about Merrill and the dangerous thing she is trying to do with a dangerous method. And I realized... I didn't want to die like this. I want to die in my bed, when I am old and even more wrinkled than I am now, in the arms of the man I love..." In a split second, Hawke's eyes flicked to Fenris. They were staring into the hearth again before Fenris was certain he had actually seen Hawke looking at him. "

 I want to die after I have had the chance to say goodbye to everyone I care about. And I realized there were still things to fight for. I still had my friends, and all those other people were counting on me. I knew I had to go on. So I smiled back at Death and pulled back from its claws."

Fenris could no longer sit still and got up to start pacing. He wanted to die. He let me watch his suicide mission. How could he give up like that? It's not fair. How could he do this... He couldn't prevent himself from thinking to me? He speaks of Anders, and Isabela and Merrill and even those nameless nobles... but what about me? I have no right to think this, but... what would I have done if he had died? He should not... I would never have gotten the chance to repay him for what he has done for me. Not that I can anyway, but... I have not found my sister yet. I have not found my past, myself. I would never know if I could... if I am capable of loving... not that I would ever be worthy of being with him, but... I... he can't... How could he do this to me? And at last, the worst thought of them all, the most selfish and despicable: what about Danarius? My chance of freedom would have died with Hawke. Although I don't know how I could be free in a world without him... Would it even be worth it when he lies dead and cold?

Eventually he turned to Hawke, the sense of being betrayed rising up at the back of his throat, bitter as gall. "Since when has the great Hawke become such a coward?" he snapped.

Hawke stared up at him. Those eyes. He would have extinguished the life in them and let me watch. "You think it is cowardice to end one's own life? Have you never thought about it yourself?"

"I have not. To kill oneself is a sin in the eyes of the Maker."

Hawke raised his eyebrows. "You really believe that?"

"I try to."

"Well, the Maker can drop from his Divine City as far as I care."

"You... don't believe in the Maker, Hawke? I thought you did."

"I refuse to believe in a Higher Power that would have been able to prevent the death of my mother and baby sister but did not care to. If He has turned himself from mankind as the Chantry says, I turn myself from him. I have fallen from my faith."

"I had still believed you stronger than that."

"Ah, well, sorry to disappoint you. Somehow everyone expects me to be strong and invincible, but I am not. I am not that brave. I was very scared when Meredith suddenly showed up with her big sword. I was terrified when I stood in front of the Arishok. And I am afraid of Death. I don't want to die yet. I know that now. It took a lot to make me see, but I do now. I just can't give up so easily. There are still things to live for."

"Glad you feel that way," Fenris said with a bitter tone.

"Fenris... what would you have done? If I had died, I mean."

"I... don't know." Would there even have been a world, a life if you were gone? Would my heart have kept beating? Wouldn't everything simply have... stopped? "I think I would have left Kirkwall."

"No longer waiting for Danarius?"

"I can't fight him on my own."

"Is that why you are upset with me?"

He turned away from Hawke, with his bright blue eyes that seemed to see every thought in his head, with the awful bruise on his still uncovered torso that screamed Hawke's end at him.

"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have told you this. I truly have changed my mind. I won't think of giving up again."

Fenris considered leaving now. Hawke had once again managed to shake the world underneath his feet and now left it to him to get back to his feet. A world without Hawke. I can't even imagine anymore what that would be like.

Magic against his skin. Very close. A hand on his shoulder. The effect of the contact spread even with the layer of leather in between. Soft pressure of the hand encouraged him to turn around. Hawke stood before him. Without robe, with bruise.

"I am sorry, Fenris," he repeated. "I promise you I will not let you down. I will not betray you like that." He smiled. "It takes more than a large Qunari leader to kill me."

Fenris licked his lips, which suddenly felt dry. "You should not be standing."

"Do you believe me?"

"Shouldn't you finally get dressed?"

"Do you believe me?"

He looked stared back in Hawke's eyes. He had to look up slightly to be able to do that. "Which part?"

"The part of me not letting you down."

"You owe me nothing."

"Stop evading the question."

I can't trust myself. I can't trust anyone. Anyone but him. Hawke is the only one. I walked away, but he is still there, in some way. And he is still getting close. Too close. But there is a distance as well now... created by the things we do not speak of, cannot speak of. There are still things he doesn't know. And things that I don't know, about myself. What I feel... I don't know what this is, why I can't stop it, why I believe the world would stop when he dies... I want to bridge this distance, now that I maybe still can... but I can't. And why would he even still want me? As if it is not obvious yet that he is done with me.

"I am glad you decided to live, Hawke."

Hawke smiled, visibly relieved, even though it still was not exactly an answer to what he had asked. "Thank you. So am I. Now, sitting down and getting dressed."

He picked up the clean robes and quickly put them on. What was underneath them, however, Fenris could not forget.

Once Hawke was comfortably seated again, he asked: "Hey, do you want to read a bit?"

They had not had a reading lesson since Leandra's death a few weeks ago.

"Are you certain you feel well enough for that?"

"Reading is perfect while I have to sit on my ass the entire time. It has been too long since your last lesson already. Could you get the book from my study? I think it's still on my desk."

Fenris nodded and went to the library. The ugly statue that was hanging above the hearth stared mockingly down at him. He hated that statue. Most Tevinter magisters had similar decorations in their mansions.

He found the book on the middle of the desk, as Hawke had said. It lay on top of several pieces of parchment. When he picked up the book, one sheet that stuck out a bit caught his eye. It looked familiar. He pulled it out from under the several notes that covered it. The alphabet was written on it several times, in clumsy, uneven letters. Under that, a row of at least ten times his name combined with Hawke. FENRIS HAWKE. FENRIS HAWKE. FENRIS HAWKE. It was the parchment he had used during his first lesson in reading and writing.

Why has he kept this?

The urge to tear it into tiny pieces or throw it into the burning hearth arose. He realized his hand was already crumbling it.

He must have forgotten to throw it away. Or he kept it to show my progress later.

He smoothed the parchment, then folded it and put it in his pocket before he returned to Hawke with the book.

"By the way, what was the with all the 'grrr' between you and Anders earlier?" Hawke asked when Fenris dragged his seat next to Hawke so that he could read along with him.

Fenris sat down, the book on his lap. "The what?"

"Come on, don't act stupid. You know what I mean. You both looked like you wanted to jump each other's throats."

Hawke would not let this go until he received an answer. "Anders wanted to grant your wish."

"I don't follow."

Fenris sighed. "With the duel, when we thought you were dying... He wanted to interfere. He wanted to help you." He looked at Hawke. "The Qunari would have killed everyone if he had done that. So I stopped him."

"Ah. I see."

Fenris waited for Hawke to say something else, but Hawke remained silent. So he opened the book at the second chapter and tried to decipher the first word, which contained an awful lot of letters. 

Chapter Text

Hawke stared up at the large statue that had just been revealed in his honor. The statue that represented the Champion and his victory. A crowd had gathered at the docks to witness the presentation. Perhaps it was supposed to be ironic that the Champion's statue was near the place that had been the Qunari compound for more than three years. It housed Qunari no longer. Immediately after the death of the Arishok most of them had left the city. Qunari who yet remained in Kirkwall were eyed with great suspicion. Several of them had become the victim of an angry mob in the less safe places in the city, places that had suffered most from the Qunari attack as well. The city guard had been busy trying to restore order.

Now, two weeks later, the worst excitement had passed, although a certain degree of unrest remained. The attack had become a memory, but was yet a fresh one. To put people's minds off of the unfortunate event, Knight-Commander Meredith had organized a 'surprise' to celebrate the naming of a new champion. The statue turned out to be the surprise, and in more than one way. Fenris noticed Meredith looking intently at Hawke to see his reaction.

Hawke squinted his eyes against the low sun. "Is that supposed to be me?" he asked eventually.

"This statue represents the Champion of Kirkwall," Meredith replied.

"Huh." Hawke looked up at the stone figure again. The statue was at least twice as tall as Hawke. It wore plate armor and a matching helmet that covered the entire face. The right hand, raised proudly, was holding a sword that functioned as a torch at the same time, creating the illusion the blade itself was made of fire. The right foot was placed on the horned head of the Arishok, which was staring at the crowd with dead eyes.

"But I don't have a sword. And I don't wear metal clothes... it looks a bit like the armor of the city guard." He turned to Aveline, who was standing next to him. "Aveline, have you signed me up for the city guard without telling me?"

Aveline raised an eyebrow at him in a way that said: "as if I would want to hire you".

"Perhaps it's supposed to be you then," Hawke said to her.

She smiled and shook her head. "I did not fight the Arishok."

"But I don't have a sword." Hawke gestured towards the right foot of the statue. "How would I have been able to cut off his head when I don't have a sword?"

Meredith narrowed her eyes at him. "Something wrong, Champion? Do you not appreciate this token of our appreciation for your heroic act? It took a lot to get it finished this soon."

"Oh no, no, not at all. I feel honored. It's very pretty. And big. I like big. Big is good. I was just... debating that I don't remember having hit him with a sword. Or wearing something that rattles when I walk. I could do the flames, though." Hawke flashed an innocent smile at Meredith.

Meredith folded her arms in front of her chest. She did not answer Hawke's smile. "Your point, Champion?"

"Point? No point. Only that I should perhaps try something like that on. If I had known I would look that good in armor, I would have considered it sooner."

"Hawke!" The abomination. "How can you stand here and joke about this... this outrage? That is not you!" Anders had been standing behind Hawke and was now pulling at his arm. Fenris, who had positioned himself next to Anders, felt his markings sting. Just what we need. That idiot's demon taking over in front of the Knight-Commander.

Hawke looked over his shoulder at Anders. "What do you mean, it's not me?" he asked, feigning surprise. He pointed at the engraved bronze plaque at the base of the statue.  "My name is on it."

Anders was so angry he could barely speak. "You can't be serious! You can't possibly approve of this. Yes, they have put your name on it, but is there anything in that statue that reminds you of you? You can't even see your face!"

"Yeah, because I'm wearing a helmet."

" In your entire life you have never worn a helmet! Nor any other kind of armor. You just said yourself you don't even have a sword! Don't you see what she is doing? She wants everybody to forget what you are." Of course. Just yell in front of everyone here what Hawke is. As if not enough people know already. As if Hawke himself has Meredith not given enough reason yet to want him out of the picture. Fenris bent his knees a little and brought his hand to the hilt of his sword, ready to put an end to Anders' rioting if things would get further out of hand. Hawke noticed the change in his stance. Fenris saw Hawke's eyes shift to the sword on his back and the grip of his hand on the hilt. Hawke moved his head to the left and back in a quick and small movement. Fenris understood the message. "Don't." He lowered his hand but kept himself ready to attack nonetheless. I will not allow that abomination to take Hawke down with him.

Anders was unaware of what had transpired between Hawke and Fenris, being too busy yelling.

"She has turned you into some kind of petty soldier. If you support this, you are a disgrace to all the free m..."

"That's enough, Anders," Hawke cut him off abruptly. Fenris wondered whether it was intentional he did that at the exact moment Anders had wanted to say 'mages'. Hawke turned back to face Meredith, who now looked extra threatening. "My apologies, Knight-Commander. As you can see, some of my friends have a thing for feathers in their outfits." Surprised by this comment of Hawke, Anders and Fenris looked at each other in bewilderment before their expressions both turned sour again. "They are disappointed my statue's armor is lacking feathers, but I have told them that even though my name is 'Hawke', I don't share their unusual preference for this accessory." Everyone standing near Hawke knew very well the conversation had not been about feathers, but he was raising his voice on purpose so that more people would hear this version.

"And my friend here," Hawke pointed with his thumb over his shoulder at Anders, "Also would have liked to see my handsome features on the statue. He has been looking forward to seeing my nose carved out of stone. Of course I would have loved to pose for the sculptors, but unfortunately I haven't had the time to do that. So I appreciate the brilliant idea of actually given me a helmet instead of making me deformed with only one eye or something like that."I would almost believe he enjoys making up this nonsense. Varric's influence... "So... I think all that is left to say is that I am very grateful that I have been granted the honor of receiving the title of Champion, and now this grand statue... I can only hope I will have the chance to continue to humbly serve the people of Kirkwall."

Fenris snorted. "Humble" and "serving"? Those words would better fit the vocabulary of a slave than of Hawke.

Hawke turned his head a little at the sound of the snorting, so that Fenris could see the corners of his mouth lift and the mischievous sparkle in his eyes.

Meredith gave a short nod. "As do we all, Champion."

At the same time Fenris thought he recognized something else in her eyes: disappointment. She was actually hoping to provoke Hawke with this statue. She wanted him to slip up, give her an excuse to arrest him. That fool Anders would have given her exactly that. Has he made it his new purpose to take down Hawke?

The crowd cheered and applauded their Champion for his modest words. Next to Fenris, Anders was shaking with frustration. His hands were clenched to fists and his jaw was set in disapproval. Faint spots of blue light danced over his skin. The normal amber of his eyes was swallowed by the magical blue. Fenris feared the abomination had lost complete control now, but then Anders surprised him by turning on his heels and pushing him aside to get away. A sharp pain shot through the lines on his arm where the abomination's hand hit him. It was brief, because the contact itself was, but it was surprisingly fierce, and felt as being electrocuted.

"Anders, wait!" Hawke went after the angry mage. Without giving it any thought, Fenris followed. The rest of the group, consisting of Aveline, Varric, Sebastian and Merrill came with them as well, along with a large portion of the crowd.

Hawke tried to get hold of Anders' arm, but he pulled himself loose. "Have you freed your tongue from Meredith's ass already? No, Hawke. Get away from me." Anders kept walking with a brisk pace. Hawke jogged beside him to keep up with him.

"Surely you understand I could not..."

"No, I do not understand. Since when is it a secret, Hawke? You dueled the Arishok in front of all the nobles of this city! This could have meant so much for all the mages. I thought you supported us. I thought you supported me."

"I do, but I also don't want to be locked up in the Gallows for it. If I had thrown a fit back there about that silly statue, Meredith would have had a reason to put me in chains. She has the law on her side."

"And you have justice on yours. Or you had. Now I see you are just a selfish hypocrite."

"Oh, please. You just said yourself that all the nobles witnessed the duel. There are plenty of people who know the truth. Don't take it so seriou..."

"I didn't know you were actually that stupid," Anders snapped. "Don't you understand? People forget, Hawke. And Meredith will encourage them to do so. Besides, have you forgotten there are not only nobles in the city? The rest of the people have not seen you fight. They will believe what they are told. They will believe what that statue shows them."

"What do I care what other people think?"

"You should care in this case. I thought you were actually proud of what you are, not ashamed."

"Because I don't want to be dragged off to the Gallows I am a hypocrite and a coward? Well, sorry I disappoint you."

Hawke stopped walking and watched Anders storm off. Fenris caught up with him, the crowd on his heels.

"He is an idiot," he stated. And I shouldn't be so pleased that they just argued.

Hawke sighed and ran a hand through his hair. It did not have much effect, since his hair was, as always, tight together in that one braid. "Not now, Fenris."

"But you were right. Meredith hoped you would take offense when you saw the statue."

"I know. But that doesn't mean it feels right."

Aveline placed a hand on Hawke's shoulder. "I never thought I would say this, but it is wise of you to be careful around Meredith, Hawke. Being Champion does not make you immune to her influence."

Varric managed to squeeze himself in front of Hawke. "I should teach you a few things about storytelling though. Humbly serving the people of Kirkwall?" He chuckled. "You are full of shit."

The smile returned to Hawke's face. "Varric, you hurt my feelings. I was so proud of what I came up with."

"Ah, you were not bad. Perhaps I will keep the part about the feathers in my version of the story."

"I don't have a thing for feathers," Fenris grumbled.

Hawke plucked at one of them. "Yes, you do. Don't worry, they look good on you. They make your shoulders seem very broad."

"Hey, Hawke! You still owe me for not bringing me with you when you dueled the Arishok and became Champion!"

"You're right, Varric. Let's go to the Hanged Man. I'll buy you a drink."They continued their walking, still followed by a large group of curious people who wanted to see a bit more of their brand new Champion.
Broad? What the... I don't even know what to think of that.

"So, I still need more details to fuel my inspiration. Elf, Aveline, you were there. Is it true the Arishok cut off Hawke's head and that he came back to life?"

Hawke almost tripped over his own feet. "You're kidding, right? You did not actually hear that."

Fenris held out a hand to keep Hawke upright. Only when Hawke actually grabbed his hand he realized what he was doing. The look Hawke gave him made him quickly pull his arm back. There is no reason to smile like that, Hawke.

"No, that is not true," he answered Varric's question. "Although Hawke did faint after he had won."

"Ha! Now, Elf, that's something I can definitely use!"

"Hey, you are not going to spread that lie!" Hawke objected. "Fenris is just joking. I did not faint. Ask any of the nobles. Or Aveline!" Hawke looked at Aveline for support, but she was in conversation with Donnic and paid no further attention to Hawke.

"Ugh. If this will haunt me for the rest of my life, I know who to blame."

"Speaking of haunting..." Fenris glanced over his shoulder. "Will we from now on always have this parade following us?"

"What, don't you like the extra company?"

"You draw too much attention, Hawke. You would do better to keep your head low."

"I can't help being tall."

"That's not what I meant."

"Would people stop trying to kill me if I kept my head low?"

Varric chuckled again. "I doubt it."

"I won't hide in my hole as some kind of crazy hermit. Sounds boring. I'm already having a hard time imagining what you do all day."

Fenris chose to ignore that jab. "You could at least try to be more careful."

"I'm always careful."

They had arrived at the Hanged Man. Hawke pushed open the door and entered first. Fenris felt people pushing behind his back to make sure they would be able to get inside as well.

Hawke was greeted by the cheering of the few guests the bar already had, which got louder when he raised his arms and shouted: "Drinks on me!".

He enjoys all the attention a little too much... I should know better than to think "careful" and "Hawke" could exist in the same sentence.

The eyes of the bartender widened as he saw his bar being filled with more customers than he would normally have in one week. Hawke winked at the man while he walked towards Varric's suite. Fenris, Aveline, Donnic, Sebastian, Varric and Merrill followed him. They all took a seat around the large table. Fenris chose the free spot between Varric and Donnic. Ever since he had rejoined their card nights, he made sure to keep a certain degree of distance to Hawke. Even so, Hawke usually managed to pull him into a conversation over Sebastian's head. It felt as if he was a moth trying to keep away from the flame.

The serving woman came to bring them drinks while Varric pulled a deck of cards out of his pocket and started to divide them.

"I have won a lot of money since Rivaini is gone," he said cheerfully, yet not succeeding in keeping a hint of sadness out of his voice.

Isabela had kept word and had left the same day as she had come to see Hawke after the events in Viscount's Keep. Nobody knew where she had gone, although Hawke seemed convinced she would come back. Fenris doubted that, but he had to admit to himself he was starting to miss Isabela as well. Despite her frequent teasing and flirting, he much preferred her presence over that of Anders or Merrill. 

Chapter Text

They played two rounds, which Varric indeed won. The atmosphere was relaxed and everyone seemed in a good mood. Sebastian and Aveline held a political debate about who could become the new Viscount. Hawke tried to convince Varric he had not passed out in public. Merrill was humming a melody.

Donnic leaned over to Fenris. "Say, is it true about you and the Champion..?"

"What is true?" Fenris asked cautiously.

"I have heard some rumors about you and him, that you are a couple."

Fenris stared at his third set of cards. "I thought those rumors would have been forgotten by now."

Donnic smiled at him. "Since serah Hawke has been named Champion, there is a lot more interest in everything that involves him. Many stories about him are on people's lips."

"Thus the one that involves me as well." Fenris decided he had changed his mind again about missing Isabela. Without her those rumors wouldn't exist in the first place.

"But they are just rumors then?"

Fenris glanced at Hawke. "We are not a couple."

"Ah." Donnic's curiosity seemed not yet sated, but he was polite enough to not continue prying. "I thought Aveline had once mentioned something, but I guess she was wrong."

"How is it going between you two?" Fenris changed the subject.

Donnic look at Aveline and placed a hand on her arm. "Very good," he said with a tender expression on his face. "We owe serah Hawke a lot."

Who doesn't?

"I suppose a lot of people will be pleased the Champion is not yet spoken for. My sister dreams of him, as do all her friends."

"Sounds like he'll have plenty of choice."

Donnic, detecting his attempt at a joke was not received well, coughed. "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine." Fenris picked up his tankard and took a large sip of his ale. He was getting used to the bitter taste.

"A friend of Aveline and serah Hawke is friend of mine. If there is anything you need to talk about... you could always come to me."

Surprised by this unexpected offer of friendship, Fenris turned his head to Donnic. "Thank you. I appreciate that."

When the third round of diamondback had finished, Donnic pushed his chair backwards. "I am not very good at this game."

"Neither am I," Fenris chuckled.

"Captain, shall we take our leave?"

Aveline nodded at Donnic and got up. "I still have to make the new roster."

"Come on, Aveline. Isn't this a wonderful day to get drunk while on duty?"

"No day is good for that, Hawke. I'm still busy cleaning up the mess of the attack."

Hawke sighed. "I don't know why I asked. Very well, Captain." He got up from his chair and grabbed Donnic's forearm in a sign of respect. "Donnic, take care of that woman, will you? Make sure she gets some sleep every now and then."

"I will, serah Hawke. I bid you a good day."

Hawke sat down again and emptied his tankard of ale. "I think my statue is a good reason for another one. That blasted piece of rock.  I suppose I should be glad they didn't dress me up as a templar."

Merrill giggled at that. "Don't be silly, Hawke. They don't let mages become templars."

"Even Meredith would not get away with that," Varric said.

"You think so? She is getting away with this. She could probably have taken it another step further."

"Don't worry, Hawke. I will continue to do you justice in my tales."

"So long as you won't draw inspiration from Fenris' anecdotes."

"A good storyteller uses all available information."

 "You're just still mad I didn't bring you with me."

"It's your own fault. Had I been there, I would have seen everything for myself and I wouldn't need to rely on eye witnesses."

Hawke brought his tankard to his mouth, only to find it empty already. "I hadn't thought I would piss off this many people by becoming Champion."

"That's the price of being the centre of attention."

"I guess."

"You did a good thing, Hawke," Sebastian said. "The Maker is smiling on you for saving all those people."

"I don't care about the Maker. He hasn't been much help."

"You don't know that. He may have giving you the strength to defeat the Arishok."

"If that's true, he has killed my sister, my mother and he has tried to take my brother as well. I don't need that bastard grinning down at me."

The merry mood of earlier that afternoon disappeared as if Hawke's words formed some kind of mood-killing spell. It used to take a lot more for Hawke to lose his nerve.

Sebastian's shock was clearly written on his face. "You... you shouldn't say such things. That's heresy."

"Ah well, I am already a mage, an illegal apostate, and a criminal, so why not a heretic as well? The Maker spits on me anyway."

"The Maker spits on no one, Hawke. He cares about his children."

"Then he has an odd way of showing it."

"I... I thought you were and Andrastian."

"You did? Maybe I was, yes. But not anymore. There is no Maker. Only demons."

"The Maker is no demon."

Hawke calmly leaned back in his chair. "I don't feel like continuing this religious discussion, if you don't mind. If you want to believe in the Maker, Sebastian, that's fine by me. But don't expect me to do the same, because I can't. I just can't find it in me to believe after everything..."

Sebastian got up and straightened his back. "Goodbye, Hawke. I hope the Maker will guide you back to the Light."

Hawke smacked his tankard on the table. "Don't give me that crap! I don't want to hear it."

With large steps the prince of Starkhaven left the room, leaving an awkward silence. Hawke looked up to see Merrill, Varric and Fenris staring at him.

"What?" he grunted. When none of them answered, he shook his head and stood up. "I will drink at home."

Merrill watched him leave, then smiled nervously at Varric and Fenris. "I think I'll go home as well. I still have... things... to do."

That cursed mirror of her. Trying to bring more demons into this world.

"So, Elf, I assume you will leave as well?"

"Actually, Dwarf, I wanted to talk to you."

"Ah, this is about our secret mission?"

Fenris frowned at him. "I wouldn't call it that, but, yes. Do you know a good way to track someone down?"

"I have thought about it, and I know a few guys who are good at that sort of thing. You could try to seek them out. Tell them I sent you, and they will help. Although I can't guarantee any of them will be successful; you don't exactly have much information for them to go on."

"I have no choice. I will try."

"You will have to pay them, however. They don't work for free."

"I have saved some coin."

"And there is another problem..."

"What is it? Don't waste my time, Dwarf."

"Hey, hey! It's not that big of a problem. It's just that none of them are in Kirkwall. You will have to travel a bit to speak to them."

Fenris sighed. "Where are they exactly?"

Varric pulled out a map and pointed. "Two of them live in cities near the coast. Eddy is usually in Cumberland, here, west of Kirkwall. Dagmar is the other way, in Ostwick, east from here. And then we have Pete. Last I heard, he is in Markham, quite close to Ostwick, but farther inland."

Fenris followed Varric's finger and studied the map. "This is Tevinter, correct?"

Varric nodded.

"Your guys don't live near the border. Will they be able to find someone who lives in the Tevinter Imperium?"

Varric shrugged. "As I said, I can't promise you they will be able to find her. I think Pete would be your best bet, but of the three he is the most difficult to find. He tends to move from place to place a lot."

"Then how will I find these men? You don't provide me with much information either."

"Patience, Elf. I will tell you where you can find them in those cities." 

At the end of the afternoon Fenris left the Hanged Man, Varric's map in hand and his instructions in his head. He did his best to memorize the information the dwarf had given him.

Back at the mansion he unfolded the map again and stared at the dots that represented the cities he would have to visit. They were more than a few days walking from Kirkwall. It would take a lot of time to simply get there.

I will find her.

The next day he had another reading session scheduled with Hawke. He left the mansion after sunset; he had  not joined dinner since Leandra's passing. Fenris was about to walk off the stairs towards the lower level of Hightown where Hawke's estate was located, when a red-haired woman in a brightly colored dress and not very subtle make up approached him. For a moment he thought she wanted to offer her 'services' to him, but he was not close to the Red Lantern District and her dress seemed too expensive for a prostitute.

"Pardon me, monsieur." She spoke with a heavy Orlesian accent. "You are with the Champion, are you not?"

When Fenris did not answer but just stared in an annoyed way, she continued: "I am Dulci de Launcet. I believe we are neighbors, are we not? I thought it would be time to get to know each other better."

I have been squatting this mansion for three years now, and all the neighbors have done is complain about my presence. Now she wants to get to know me?

"I'm sorry, madam," he said through gritted teeth. "I will be out of the city for the next couple of months."

"Oh, oh, what a pity! I would have wanted to invite you for a true Orlesian ball. The Champion is invited as well, of course. Or will he leave the city too?"

"Not that I know of."

She waited for him to say something else, make conversation, but he refused to play this game with her. When she realized this, her face turned back to the cool and haughty expression he had seen on it for the past three years.

"Well, a good day to you, monsieur.  I hope to see you soon after you have returned from your business outside of Kirkwall."

She must want to get closer to Hawke very badly that she believed it worthwhile to socialize with me.
"A ball," he grumbled to himself. "Hawke has made this city even crazier than it already was."

Hawke was not home yet, he heard from Bodahn. The dwarven servant insisted on guiding him to the library, where he could wait for Hawke to return, which he did after perhaps fifteen minutes.

"Sorry I am late. Is was visiting Anders."


"We talked it out a bit. I went to Sebastian earlier today. I had... eh... some apologizing to do."

"You owed that abomination no apology."

Hawke sat down in the second chair in the room, next to Fenris. "Don't call him that."

"He nearly let his demon take over in front of the Knight-Commander! He cannot control himself."

"He was able to restrain himself yesterday. I agree with you that it was close, but he succeeded nonetheless."

"You said you were worried about Meredith. Yet you will continue to keep the company of a possessed man and a blood mage?"

"They are my friends, Fenris. I will not just let them down now that I'm Champion. I think they both need me... I'm worried about Merrill and her mirror, and Anders... he needs a voice of reason when Justice threatens to take over. I have already managed to get through him once, when he almost killed that mage girl."

Fenris snorted angrily. "And if that Justice decides next time he wants you dead? His anger yesterday was directed at you. Will you be able to talk yourself out of that?"

Hawke looked at him calmly. "I trust my friends. I don't believe any of them will try to hurt or betray me."

 Fenris looked away, at the desk with piles of parchment on it. When he returned his gaze towards Hawke, he saw Hawke was still looking at him intently.

"What's the matter, Fenris?"

"Isabela betrayed you with the tome."

"She came back with it. She regretted what she had done. In the end, she did not want to abandon me. She has proven to be a friend, despite what she has done before."

"And I..." Fenris licked his lips. "I betrayed you in the Fade."

Hawke looked surprised. "Is that still bothering you?"

"I tried to kill you. You would have been turned tranquil. Why... how can you still trust me?" The question had continued to bother him. He had not intended to bring it up, but suddenly it was out there.

"Because you were right."

He blinked in surprise. "I was right? To try to kill you?"

"Uhm... well, no... not about that part per se, but when you said it was my own fault what happened. You were right. I am a mage, I knew what we would be facing. I knew how persuasive demons can be. I... wanted to show you what it's like, the Fade and the influence from demons. I wanted to make you understand what it is mages can be confronted with. I thought it could serve as a good lesson."

"You...expected I would betray you?" That idea hurt even more than that of Hawke trusting him blindly and him betraying that trust.

"No. Not really. I... A part of me hoped you would be able to withstand a demon's offer. But it was unreasonable of me to think there is nothing you want so badly you would be willing to kill me for it."

"Hawke... that's... not true. I don't want you to pay for my freedom. If I could go back... I would never want to..." An image of his dream appeared before his eyes; of Hawke with a red, empty hole in his chest where his heart used to beat. Shame burned in his throat.

Hawke bent forward to force Fenris to look at him. "I trust you, Fenris. What happened was not your fault. I understand."

"I was weak."

"You are not weak. The demon got in your head and manipulated you. Without years of training, very few would be able to turn away from a demon's offer. Let it go. You don't have to carry guilt over this. I have forgiven you, and I am certain you would not be fooled a second time."

"How can you be so sure?"

"Because I trust you. I know you are an honest person. Now, erase those negative thoughts from you mind and start reading."

At the end of the lesson, Fenris knew he now would have to inform Hawke of his upcoming travel.

"We will have to postpone any further lessons. I will be out of the city for some time."

"Oh, are you going on a vacation? I can't blame you for wanting some time off. I could use a break as well. Instead I am invited to every party in the city. I think there even was an invitation to a ball."

"It's not a vacation."

"How long will you be absent?"

"A few months, I think."

"A few months? Where are you going and what are you going to do?"

"I will leave tomorrow."

Hawke looked discontent about his questions were ignored. "I see."

"I... must do something, but I think it is best to be away from the city for a while as well." Away from you.

The look in Hawke's eyes indicated he sensed that too.

Perhaps I will finally come to my senses when I will not be confronted with him all the time. When I will be forced to focus on finding my sister, his face will not keep appearing in my head. I will stop imagining his smile, his eyes...

"Well, I won't allow you to simply skip that many lessons."

Fenris wanted to tell Hawke he had not asked for his permission, but Hawke got up and walked to one of the book cases. He took a book and handed it over to Fenris.

"Try to read this by yourself while you're away. Some parts may be a bit too difficult, but just try it."

Fenris studied the book's cover. "Didn't you say this was your favorite? I can't accept that."

"You are just borrowing it. You can give it back when you return. I don't need it anyhow. I have read that book so many times it's all in my head. Just try not to get blood all over it."

"Thank you, Hawke."

"You.. will come back, won't you?"

Fenris managed to force a smile on his face. "I will."

Chapter Text

It took Fenris four days to reach Ostwick. The small city was not as far as he initially would have thought. The journey had been without trouble, although it made him nervous to be  outside of Kirkwall again on his own. During the years he had been living in Kirkwall, he had never left the city, except for small trips with Hawke to the Wounded Coast, Sundermount or the Bone Pit when Hawke had business there. Being alone after that made him feel extra vulnerable. When he saw other travelers on the road he quickly sought the cover of the vegetation and waited till they had passed before he continued his way. Being forced to hide like this, to have to keep looking over his shoulder, unable to travel to the nearest city without more than the regular concern for bandits, it drove him mad. He was unsure whether he had become completely paranoid by now or that his caution was justified, but with Danarius still alive he would never find rest. He could not allow himself to relax and let his guard down. It could mean the end of his freedom, although this freedom seemed more like an illusion with all the hiding he had to do.

So he walked through Ostwick, searching for the place where Dagmar lived according to Varric, and kept an eye on the people he passed to see if they paid special attention to him. He got the usual stares, but no one seemed to care enough about him to give him more than a second, puzzled look.

Because Ostwick was not large, it was not hard to find the marketplace and the tavern that was localized there. Varric had told him the entrance to Dagmar's house was in an alley behind the tavern.

The sun had almost set. Merchants who had spent their day selling goods had packed up their merchandise and left for their home and a hot meal. Ostwick appeared friendlier and a bit less harsh than Kirkwall. At least this part of the city was well-kept, the doors colored with fresh paint in bright colors, hiding possible signs of decay which Kirkwall showed openly.

Fenris went around the tavern and to the right, into the alley. Ostwick was immediately more similar to Kirkwall. Behind the tavern turned out to be a brothel. A few early customers tried to look inconspicuous while they entered. Filth that had been absent in the market place turned out to have been swept into alleys like this one.

With a look over his shoulder Fenris passed the brothel and knocked on the damaged door that should form the entrance to Dagmar's house. Back to hiring people to aid me. Although, last time that had not worked out so badly. Last time it had brought Hawke to him. He smiled at the memory of that. If only he would be so lucky this time. Perhaps "lucky" is not the right word when it comes to meeting Hawke, though... Maker knew that man had brought a lot of new trouble as well.

The door opened slightly, a dark eye peering through the creak.

"What do you want," a low voice mumbled. The words were spoken so fast they sounded more like "whaddayawan".

"Is this Dagmar?"


"I... need you to find someone for me."

The door was opened further. The man who appeared in the opening was a dwarf with a round belly, short, brown hair and a full face. And of course a beard that covered the lower half of that face. His small eyes narrowed even more as he studied Fenris. "You got coin?"

"I do."

"Who do you want to find?"

"An elven woman. She is my sister."

"Sister, ey? Is she such a freak as you?"

Fenris clenched his fists and took a deep breath to restrain himself. "I am uncertain what she looks like."

"Ha! Am I supposed to believe that? Your sister and you don't know what she looks like? Well, I suppose all you knife-ears look the same. What's her name?"

"I... don't know her name."

The uninterested look turned annoyed. "Go waste someone else's time, bloody elf." Dagmar intended to slam the door shut, but Fenris jumped forward and prevented the door from closing. "Wait! This is no joke, I... Varric told me to seek you out."

The man's grip on the door loosened. "Varric, you say? And why would that talkative nug humper send a weird elf to me who wants me to find a sister he knows nothing of?"

"I have to find her, but I can't do it by myself. She is probably in Tevinter..."

"Tevinter? Huh! Forget it, elf! I don't want anything to do with that sodding magical country full of those freak magisters, especially not for some freak of an elf who wants me to search for his... his freaking sister. Find someone else, and tell that Varric to sod himself and not send more freaks my way!"

Before Fenris could stop him again, Dagmar smacked the door shut, hitting him in the face. "Venhedis!" He held a hand over his forehead, which had gotten the full blow. Still recovering from the contact with the door, he banged with his fist against the rough wood. The door remained closed and no one answered his calls. When he realized he was drawing attention, Fenris gave up and quickly left the stinking alley. 

Now that the sun had set, it had almost turned dark. Fenris rubbed his sore forehead and scanned his surroundings to make sure no one was following him. This was disappointing. Of course he had taken the possibility that some of Varric's connections would refuse to lend aid into account, but it was discouraging nevertheless. He would have to try his luck in Markham, with Pete.

He looked up at the dark sky, where the first stars already twinkled. He could immediately continue his journey, but staying in Ostwick for the night was probably wiser. Wild animals went hunting at night, and it was easy to get off the road in the dark without being aware of it. It would be foolish to risk stepping into a hole and break his ankle or run into a pack of wolves. No, he would sleep here and leave early in the morning.

Fenris turned back to the inn. It would be as good a place as any. The previous evenings he had slept on the road, underneath the stars. Fortunately it had not been cold. Sleeping in the dirt was bad enough.

When he entered the tavern, all eyes went to him. He was used to it. As Dagmar had recognized him as trouble,  so did all these people here. The air of it seemed to surround him, clinging to him, warning everyone to keep their distance and not to get involved.

So as soon as the eyes had processed this, they were averted and the conversations continued, albeit a bit louder. While he walked to the bartender, he recognized Fereldan accents in the conversations. As another port city, many Fereldan refugees had fled to Ostwick as well. Hearing that familiar accent here, reminded him of Hawke again. It's good to be away from him.

The bartender had folded his arms across his chest, waiting to hear what that strange elf wanted.

"Do you have a room for rent?"

"Sure, for how long?"

"Only tonight."

"That would be thirty silvers."

Fenris paid the man and ordered a hot meal, which he requested to be delivered to his room. He wanted to be by himself as soon as possible. He would not find company here anyway. People instinctively knew they had to avoid him. Well, the less they care to know, the better. So far he had seen no sign of hunters, but they could be anywhere, lying in wait for him. But they will not get me.

After he had consumed a decent meal in his room, he pulled Hawke's book out of the small bag he carried with him. It was a children's book, with small pictures illustrating the story. Judging from the cover it was about a boy, a girl and a dog. His homework.

Reading was more difficult without Hawke being there to give hints and help with the words he struggled with. Still, he was determined to be able to tell Hawke how the story ended when he got back. The book was rather thin, so it should be possible to finish it in time.

Markham was not far from Ostwick. The journey took only two days, and had been even shorter had Markham not been past the Vimmark Mountains. The bulk of the mountain chain was more to the west, so it could have been worse. Still, it made the travel longer and more difficult.

What made it even more difficult, was the news Fenris heard when he got to his destination in Markham.

"Nobody lives there, you know." A middle-aged woman with blond hair and a kind, innocent face told him as he stared at the building that was supposed to be Pete's residence.

"Did a man named Pete live here?"

"Oh, dear, I'm afraid he left a few weeks ago."

"He left? He moved, you mean?"

"Yes, he moved to a different city, I believe. He hasn't stayed here for very long. Only a year."

"Do you know where he went?"

The woman stared at the markings on his neck and arms and the sword on his back. "Uhm.."

"Please, madam. I need his help. I am not looking for trouble."

She sighed. "I don't know where he moved to. I didn't know him very well. Guy kept to himself mostly. But you could try Devan. He has a store not far from here. I believe he did business with Pete. Just go to the right, then straight ahead."

"Thank you."

So Pete had moved. Varric had already mentioned he never stayed long in one place. Apparently luck wasn't with him in this search, but then again, when had it ever been?

Fenris followed the woman's directions and found himself in front of a store that sold undefined goods. It seemed to sell everything the shopkeeper could come up with.

He was greeted with a welcoming smile.

"Come further, come further! See anything you like, yes?"

"I am not here to shop. I am looking for Pete. A woman told me he has moved and that you could tell me where to."

"Hmm. Pete... I don't know if I remember that name..."

"Don't toy with me. I have no time for games."

"Hey, hey. You just said you are not here to buy something. That means you are not a customer. A customer I treat with respect. An odd elf who is barging in here and demanding answers however..."

Fenris shook his head in annoyance. "How much?"

"Fifty silvers?"

"I'll ask someone else. You cannot be the only one who knew this man."

"Okay, twenty silvers. I'll tell you everything you need to know."

"I only want to know where I can find him. That can't be worth more than a few coins."

The shopkeeper snickered. "You think? You only find Pete when you exactly know where to look."

Fenris turned around and looked around the shop. A pile of old books caught his eye.

"Hey, where are you going?" Devan yelled at him as he walked towards it. "Seventeen silvers and I'll tell you!"

Fenris picked up the book that was lying on top and put it on the counter. "How much for this book?"

"Uh... five silvers."

"I would like to buy this book. That makes me a customer."

Devan stared rather dazed at him before he burst into laughing. "Ha! I like you, elf. Very well. Five silvers and you're a customer."

Fenris paid the shopkeeper and put the book in the bag he was already carrying Hawke's book in. "Where is Pete?"


"Tantervale," Fenris repeated. He pulled out the map Varric had given him and unfolded it. "Could you point it out for me?"

Devan shrugged and bowed over the map. "Here," he said after a quick search. "Near the Minanter River."

Fenris closed his eyes for a moment. That is closer to Tevinter than I would like to be. The Silent Planes would still be between the true Tevinter border and Tantervale, but it felt like he would be walking straight into Danarius' arms if he went into that direction."You are certain about this?" he asked.

"I am. Pete told me himself. " Devan," he said, 'it is time for me to move on. See new places"."

"Where in Tantervale would he be? You said you cannot find this man unless you know where he is."

"Well... he didn't have a new address yet when he left. But I'd say he will be in the most crowded part of the city. Makes it easier to blend in."

"It almost sounds like this Pete is on the run."

"What? Nah, it's just... part of who he is. Makes his work easier." Devan bent over the counter to bring his face close to Fenris'. "Considering you want to hire him, I think you understand."

Fenris took a step back. "I didn't say..."

"Come on, I am no idiot. Don't look so startled, I won't go to the guards or anything. Don't like them looking over my shoulder either.."

Not sure he completely understood what the shopkeeper meant, Fenris nodded. "Thank you for the information."

Devan grinned at him in a way that was slightly familiar. "Anything for a customer. Good luck."

"How long will it take me to get to Tantervale?"

"On foot or with a horse?"

"On foot."

"That would be quite a walk. You could follow the old Tevinter road for a while, but eventually you will have to go through rougher terrain to get to Tantervale. I'd say you'll need at least a week to get there. But that's just a guess. Could be less." 

Three weeks later Fenris finally found Pete. It took a little more than eight days to reach Tantervale. Every step not only took him closer to Pete and his sister, but to his former master as well. With every step Fenris felt less confident, less certain. More afraid. He was not even certain Pete would be able, or willing, to help him. Perhaps he was risking everything for nothing. But what was his "everything" now then? He was not free as long as he was being hunted. He had no family, no friends, no place to truly call home. He could not build a life like this. He did not know how. His sister was his hope, his chance to remember, to change, become something, someone better. She was the proof of his life before, that he had not been born out of pain, that his existence had not always been defined by it. That he had not always been meant to hurt others and be hurt himself. That he had been and could be more than what Danarius had made him.

And so he did not turn back, even though part of him wanted to. He continued his way to Tantervale, still without any sign of hunters. Once he had reached the city, it had taken him two entire weeks to find Pete. The citizens of Tantervale eyed him suspiciously, even more than the people of Ostwick or Kirkwall, and they were not very inclined to tell him what he wanted to know. But now he was standing in the small, dim hall of Pete's house.

Pete was a man of average height, neither fat nor slim, with short, light brown hair. His face was neither ugly nor handsome. All in all, Pete was a man one would barely notice when one laid eyes on him, and who would easily be forgotten. Fenris envied him for that.

"So...," Pete said slowly, letting the 'o' linger in the air. "What can I do for you?" His voice was soft and calm.

"I need you to find someone for me. An elven woman."

"A woman, ey?" Pete winked. "Do you want me to take care of her as well?"

"What? No. No! She is my sister."

The man chuckled. "Of course. That's what they all say."

"It's... complicated. I need to find her, but I don't know anything of her. Only that she is a servant and probably lives in the Tevinter Imperium."

"Hmm. And that's all? That's not much information."

"I know. That's why I need help. Varric told me you are skilled in tracking people down."

"Ah, Varric. How is that old guy doing? Long time ago I have worked with him."

"He is doing well. Telling stories in Kirkwall."

"Hmm. I think I can help you. But it will cost you. I ain't cheap."

Fenris held up his coin purse. "This is all I possess at the moment."

Pete caught the small bag in his hand and weighed it thoughtfully. "It's a start. But not enough for the time it will require to find your dear "sister"."

"I will send more. You have my word." The memory of the last person he had spoken those words to arose. He could almost feel her black, rotten heart beating against his fingers.

"Your word? And how much is that worth?"

Nothing. "You will find out, won't you? I have paid you for now."

Pete shrugged and leaned with one shoulder against the wall. "Very well. I will keep you informed. Can I send letters somewhere?"

"Yes." I hope I will be able to read them. He gave Pete the address of the mansion.

"Then it seems we have a deal." Pete held out his right hand. Fenris shook it. He was glad when he could pull his hand back from the clammy grasp. Back to hiring help. Let's hope this man is as skilled in what he does as Hawke. 

To get back to Kirkwall he now had to cross the Vimmark Mountains, which added three days and a half to a journey that would otherwise take four days. He would return a little sooner than he had thought. Of course he could still try to go to Cumberland and contact Varric's third man, but Varric had said Pete would be his best chance, and he had no more coin left anyway. So for now Pete was his only hope. Fenris would gladly search himself, but he did not know how he could do that without going to Tevinter. He had barely slept during the days he had spent looking for Pete, fearing Danarius would come for him now that he was so close to the Tevinter border. But he had had no trouble with hunters. Not one battle, not one time he had had to run. Fenris almost started to believe again that his master had given up. Almost. He had already made that mistake once, when he had not heard anything for three years. He would not make the same mistake twice. Danarius would come for him one day. It could be tomorrow, or over five years, but he would come. He would not give up. And Fenris would be ready for him. He would not let his guard down, allow nothing to distract him. No distractions.

He stared up at the dark night sky, and the millions of stars that shone in the black darkness. Tomorrow he would reach Kirkwall. One more night underneath the stars. Because there seemed to be no hunters on his tail, he had made a small campfire. The flames danced enthusiastically over the small twigs he had gathered, warming  Fenris' shins while he sat with his back against a broad oak tree. He took Hawke's book and looked up the page he had read last. He still had thirteen pages to go; he would not be finished before he got back. For a while he tried to read in the light of the fire, but it was too dark around him and the fire too small to completely light the pages. When his nose almost touched the paper in his attempt to make out the words, he gave up. He almost put the book away, but something stopped him. He leaned back against the tree and brought the pages close to his face again and inhaled. The smell of parchment reminded him of Hawke's study, with all the books against the wall. Parchment and books meant reading lessons. It meant seeing Hawke, being near him without touching, hearing his voice when he gave instructions. If he was writing, he could sometimes even hear him breathe in the silence. Hawke.

What would he do now? How had he spent the evenings they would normally have used for lessons? Was he busy with all the banquets he had been invited to as Champion? Was he dancing at a ball with an admirer? Perhaps he even was with Anders...

Anders wanted Hawke. Fenris had seen it in his eyes, the way he looked at Hawke. Would Hawke return his affections? Would he now lie with Anders? Fenris swallowed as he tried to force away the images his mind produced. Hawke deserved someone who could make him happy. He knew he was not that someone, but he did not believe Anders was qualified either.

Fenris brought the book to his face once again and inhaled the smell. With that smell in his nostrils, it was easy to believe Hawke was here with him. The tree-trunk against his back could be his broad chest. The leaves of a low twig pricking his neck could be his beard. It could be his hand sliding around his waist; his fingers tracing the lines they had once before, going lower and lower.

Fenris inhaled sharply at the feeling of Hawke's hand there. His toes dug into the earth, as if they could function as a way out for the pleasure that filled him so suddenly when they formed a connection with the ground.

Hawke sensed his arousal and increased his pressure and pace, not giving him a chance to recover. It had been almost six months already since they had been together in this way. Six long months with the absence of this wonderful touch.



"Damian." It escaped from the prison of his lips on a deep sigh. I should forget about you. Why is it impossible to do so? Why are you always in my head, in my mind?

"You want me."

I shouldn't.

"But you do. Can't you feel it? I can."

The hand did not let go, did not stop. Hawke did not want to stop. Fenris did not want to stop. It felt so good. He had missed it so much. He missed Hawke. He missed what it had meant to be with someone in that way; to surrender to that other person and just... feel.

His breathing had become rapid, his muscles tense.


He arched his back as the pressure built up to a maximum and found its release. His mouth fell open in a moan. With his eyes closed, he kept still, trying to catch his breath.

... leave me alone.

Slowly Fenris opened his eyes. He blinked at the campfire. He felt the bark of the tree against his back. In one hand he held the book about the boy, the girl and the dog. The fingers of his other hand were wrapped around his own cock. Hawke was not there. He had never been.

Disgusted and angry he let go and wiped his hand off on the grass.

You weak idiot! he scolded himself. All I had to do was stop thinking about that cursed man. About that mage. He is a mage! And here I am fantasizing instead. Like I want him. Like I need him. I don't. All I want is to find my sister. All I need to do is tear Danarius' heart from his chest. Nothing else. Nothing more.

He lay down on his side, with his back to the small fire. The last remains of his arousal ebbed away quickly, leaving nothing but emptiness behind. Emptiness with the hatred burning inside it. The only thing he could keep alive in himself. Hawke had tried to put it out, but he would not let him. He needed it. He hated it at the same time, hated the hatred, but what would he do without? He still had to keep going, and to do that he had to hate. He hated Danarius. He hated magic. He hated himself, perhaps most of all. He hated what he was. He hated it that he could not be with Hawke. Because he wanted to.

Chapter Text

When Fenris woke up the next day the sun had already claimed her place high in the sky. It had taken a long time before he had finally fallen asleep, and now he had slept way past sunrise. Usually he woke up before the sun was even visible on the horizon.

Now I will not make it to Kirkwall before dark.

He picked up his belt and fastened it around his waist, then hoisted his sword on his back. Laastly he put the bag with the two books over his shoulder and went on his way. Most of the Vimmark Mountains were already behind him. Just one last ascent and descent in the form of Sundermount and then finally more level ground. Fenris estimated it was only a few hours before noon. He decided to increase his pace to try to make up for the time he had lost. The less time he would have to continue after dark, the better.



By the time he had almost reached Kirkwall, the sun had long set. Fenris' legs and feet were sore of the long days of walking. So close to the city he did not want to spend another night outside. He had had enough of all the dirt and sand and longed to finally be clean. His last bath had been days ago and he was covered by a salty mixture of sweat and dust. The color of the skin of his feet could only be guessed, with the layer of black earth that had decided to stick to his soles.

Kirkwall with its places like the Hanged Man may not be clean, but it's still better than all the filth nature has to offer.

At least he had made it without being discovered by hunters, as remarkable as that seemed. Would Danarius not even care enough about his apprentice to seek revenge for her death? Fenris chuckled to himself. Of course not. Danarius would not care that Hadriana was dead. Only how that made him look in front of the other magisters. If he sought revenge, it was for the stain on his reputation that Fenris had created. But then why did he not come? Why not prove he could handle one runaway slave?

Fenris shook his head. It just made no sense. Perhaps Danarius was scared? Or he was simply hoping the anxious waiting would drive Fenris mad. That was actually working. To constantly have to be on edge was...

He halted in the middle of Lowtown. Footsteps. Boots scuffling behind him. A glance over his shoulder yielded no information. He saw no one.

Don't be paranoid, he told himself. It's not that late yet. This is a city. There are other people here too, you know. Just to be sure, he checked his markings for any hint of magic in the area, but he felt nothing.

He started walking again, but kept looking around for any possible threat. He passed by the empty market stalls and went up the stairs. It was not far anymore. Just a bunch of stairs.

A man stepped into his field of vision from around the corner, blocking his path. In the darkness Fenris could not see his face.

"What have we here? A lonely elf?"

A second man appeared next to the first and studied Fenris. "He looks weird," was his conclusion.

"You have valuables, elf?" the first man asked.

"I possess no coin." I can easily take those two. Fenris prepared himself to quickly pull his sword from his back.

A female voice shouted from behind him: "Boss, I recognize that elf! He is with the Champion! I have seen them."

The first man took two steps forward, down the stairs. "The Champion, you say?"

"Aye. I have seen him next to the Champion with my own eyes."

Champion! Oh, Hawke, damn you.

The eyes of the bandit leader shimmered in what little light the moon provided. "Let's see what the Champion will pay to get his pet elf back."

I can take the three of them. "Most unwise," he warned.

"I don't think so, knife-ear." Two more thugs slipped out of the shadows and joined their leader. Fenris turned his head slightly to look behind him. Six. Eight. Perhaps even more. Not so easy...

Below the eyes, something else glimmered in the leader's face: his teeth, exposed in a vicious grin. He walked further down the stairs and stopped two steps higher than Fenris, who now could smell the man's foul breath that escaped from the triumphant grin. It smelled like onions and deep mushrooms.

"Come with us, nice and easy, and we won't hurt you," the man rumbled in his low, hoarse voice.

Within two seconds Fenris' markings burst into their fully active state. Giving the man no time to recoil, Fenris thrust his left arm forward. As a ghostly limb, it went into the thug's chest without meeting any resistance. The barrier of skin, muscle, even bone, meant nothing to Fenris. Without hesitation he sought, and found, the heart. There, with his fingers around it, his hand took its solid form again, allowing him to get a hold on the heart. All it took then was a swift, firm pull, and the still pumping heart was removed from the man's chest. He puffed out a last onion breath before he fell dead on the steps. It had only taken a moment, perhaps just enough for the fool to realize he was about to die.

Fenris did not wait for the other bandits to process the unexpected turn of events, but spun around on his heels and threw the heart in the face of one of the men standing behind him, while with his free hand he unsheathed his blade. With a menacing growl he jumped of the stairs, sword raised above his head, and cut down a second thug, who held up an arm to protect his eyes against the bright light of the lyrium and did not even see the blow coming. Fenris' sword cut effortlessly through the arm and split the man's skull in two.

"That elf can do magic!" shouted the woman who had recognized him earlier. "He killed the boss! Get him!"

No more chance to exploit the element of surprise; the bandits were now ready to fight. Fenris managed to cut off a hand that reached for a maul, before he had to jump aside to evade a sword himself. The man who had lost his hand shrieked in terror, clutching the stump with his remaining hand, unable to prevent the blood from surging out of his wounded arm with a deadly speed. Fenris turned, in an attempt to get a wall behind him to cover his vulnerable back, but the stairs and the number of enemies made that impossible. They quickly surrounded him, like a hungry pack of wolves out for blood. A wall right behind him would limit his range of movement too much and made it more difficult to dodge incoming blows.

So he circled around, swinging his blade to keep the bandits at a distance. One man, apparently feeling invincible with the advantage of numbers, lunged forward with his weapon high above his head, in the same way as Fenris had attacked earlier. Fenris stuck his sword through the man's undefended belly. With his own speed, he pinned himself upon the steel.

But others saw their chance when Fenris tried to remove his blade from the man's abdomen. Two lashed out from behind at the same time. He could avoid one by ducking, but the other managed to hit his upper arm and cut open flesh. Fenris gritted his teeth, pulled his blade out of the now dead man and immediately swung it around in a wide arc. The two who had attacked him from behind and had gotten close were hit. The point of his sword tore through their light armor and the soft tissue underneath. They stumbled backwards as their entrails came spilling out.

Something came flashing by and cut his neck in passing. Archer. He was lucky it was only a grazing shot. A bit more to the left and the arrow would have cut through his throat. That the enemy was in the majority also meant the archer had a hard time aiming. The only advantage.

Fenris turned around once more, quickly counting his opponents. Five. Plus archer.

By now the remaining bandits were furious. The three in front of him attacked simultaneously, all from a different angle and height. Fenris readied his sword to block them, but a fourth jumped him from behind and grabbed his bag with the two books to prevent him from moving. The jerk at his shoulder brought Fenris off balance. He bumped into the person holding the bag. It was the woman. Or at least a woman. He was uncertain whether it was the same who had yelled before. Not that it mattered. What mattered was that she sank a knife in his side up until the hilt.

Fenris reacted by banging an elbow against her face. He could feel her nose break before she was knocked off her feet by the blow. She let go of the bag and her knife. With four more enemies standing Fenris had no time to take the knife out, needing both hands to wield his blade. He felt the knife cut through more muscle as he kept moving to avoid being hit another time. A new arrow came flying by, missing him. It was only a matter of time before one would find its target. With his living wall of defense diminishing he became a literally shining target with his burning markings.

And that gives me an idea.

Concentrating on the markings in the heat of battle was not something he was used to do. Normally they did what he wanted them to without needing any thought. They seemed to thrive on the adrenaline rush that came with every fight. But now he wanted to turn them off. Fenris focused all his energy on putting their activity to an abrupt halt. Come on, lights out. Didn't Hawke say that once?

His foes did not cooperate and wait patiently, but launched another attack. With his concentration elsewhere Fenris was slower to react. By making an awkward spin, he could evade two blades, but the remaining two made contact. Another cut in his arm, and one in his thigh.

Apparently inspired by the woman's example, the last person behind him attempted to grab his bag again. At the same time that the bandit's hand closed around the strap of the bag, the light of Fenris' markings finally went out, leaving them in pitch-black darkness. Fenris acted immediately. He lunged himself off the stairs, dragging the thug who had gotten a hold on his back with him. At the impact with the ground, the knife in his side moved, tearing through even more flesh. Fenris turned on his back and cut the bag with books loose. He heard the thug, dazed from the fall, move, searching for him. The man kept holding the bag, thinking it was still connected to Fenris.

Fenris determined the man's position and lashed out with his sword. It connected with something firm and living. The man yelped, and Fenris struck again. Silence. He made use of the moment of quiet to finally remove the knife from his body. Warm blood flushed out of the large wound, soaking his leather armor. He was bleeding out of the smaller cuts in his arm and leg as well. Four more. Three, plus archer.

As quietly as possible, Fenris moved in the direction of where he thought the archer was. He had to keep focusing to let his markings remain inactive. The lyrium seemed eager to join the fight again. Running footsteps resonated behind him. Fenris could also hear the archer's nervous breathing before him. He kept close to the ground and stalked around the archer. The sound of a bowstring, a fired arrow, followed by a loud thud of something heavy falling on the ground told Fenris that the archer had indeed taken down one of his allies in his anxiety. Fenris came out of his crouching position and gave the archer a firm push. He fell onto the swords of the two other bandits. Fenris followed, sword sweeping, finishing off the last two.

It's over.

With that thought he seemed to have allowed the pain to pass through. Fenris gasped at the burning sensation in his side. Blood kept streaming out of the wound, now soaking even his breeches. The other gashes stung fiercely, but were of little meaning. The injury of the woman's knife was of more pressing concern.

I need healing. Fenris raised his right arm to put his sword on his back, when something sharp found its way, right between two ribs, under his armpit. The vicious pain made him drop his sword.

"I'm still here, bastard," a voice whispered near his ear. The woman. That bitch.

With this unexpected danger, the markings came to life again before he had to think about it. The woman saw her chance to twist the knife right before Fenris plunged his left hand into her chest. He did not bother to rip her heart out, but simply damaged everything by moving his steel gauntlet around inside her, tearing through the living tissue. In the light of the lyrium he saw that her nose had been completely flattened, with two streams of blood streaming over her mouth and chin.

She was dead as soon as Fenris removed his hand from her body. He roared in pain when he pulled her knife out of him. That one woman has done more damage than the rest of the group combined.

I need healing. I need Hawke. He bent to pick up his sword, but nearly fell over from the pain in his left side. Fenris held his right hand against the wound, hoping to decrease the bleeding. I'm losing too much blood. At this rate there was not much time to reach Hightown and Hawke's mansion. He groped around until his fingers finally bumped against the hilt of his blade. He clutched it and started walking as fast as he could, which was not very fast.

It hurts to breathe.

When he reached the stairs he had climbed when the bandit's leader had stopped him, Fenris groaned. This would be the first of many more to get to Hightown.

Hawke. I have to get to him. Doesn't matter how long it takes. When I'm there, it's going to be alright.

And so the last part of his journey began.




By the time he finally reached Hightown's market, he could barely get one foot in front of the other. He was feeling lightheaded because of all the blood he had lost, and he heard wet sounds with every breath he took. Fenris suspected that the knife had punctured his lung. The weight of his sword, which he was still holding in his left hand and dragging with him, was almost too much, but he could not raise his arm to fasten it on his back.

He tripped a few times while he crossed the marketplace. Every time he had to increase his struggles to get up, and every time it took a little longer before he stood again. It must be late, because he saw nobody, not even a lonely guard on patrol.

At the end of the marketplace were more stairs. Fenris tried to raise his foot enough to get on the first step, but his toes hit the edge and he fell down once more.

I can't get up. His sword was too heavy. He needed his left arm to get himself up the stairs. I cannot be unarmed. What if Danarius comes? It would really be something for his master to appear now that he was wounded and unable to even stand upright.

Dead with blade is just as dead. He could not fool himself. He was in no condition to fight. If Danarius would come, he could simply pick him up. Fenris released his sword and dragged himself up the steps, one by one. With one arm he was still clutching the wound in his left side, but by holding it there he also pressed against the wound under his right armpit. The nerves there kept screaming their painful protest against that contact.

Above the stairs he lay down, with his face on the cold stones. Fenris wanted to close his eyes and rest there, only for a little while. It hurt to continue. It hurt to breathe. Everything hurt.

But he had to continue, he knew, or he would never get up again.

I am close. Close to Hawke. It can't be far anymore. This is Hightown, right?

Fenris gritted his teeth and pushed himself up with his free arm. Slowly he managed to put his weight on his legs. Even more slowly he started limping in the direction he hoped Hawke's estate was.

He tripped, but regained his balance. He took four steps. He tripped again and fell. He did his best to get up, but he couldn't. He crawled.

Where am I going?

He barely felt his injuries anymore.

That's not good.

He had lost every sense of direction. His vision was blurred, but it was dark, so he could not see much anyway. He simply crawled, went on. He had to get somewhere. To someone?

He hit his head. Something was in his way. He looked up. A door, between two stone pillars. He had hit his head against one of them. He had been looking for a door, had he not? But was it the right door? There was something hanging above it, some kind of symbol. A torch hanging next to the door lit the crest with the red symbol so that he could see it. Fenris smiled to himself as he recognized it. Pigeons.

Only a little farther and he was by the door. He crawled the last few inches. There. The door. He had made it. But the door was closed. He had to get inside. The door should open. Knock, he had to knock on the door. Fenris raised his left arm and knocked on the door, but he could barely hear the sound himself. He tried to yell, but instead he coughed. He tasted metal. He coughed again, and this time blood flowed over his lips.

That's not good either, he thought, in an oddly detached way. He knew it should concern him, but somehow it did not, as if this was about someone else, a stranger he did not know and did not care about.

Perhaps he should go somewhere else. This door was closed, and he could not knock. Or yell. Fenris tried to get up, but his legs could not carry him anymore and he fell back against the door.

"He.. help!" More coughing. More blood. He turned his head to feel the firm wood against his cheek. He would close his eyes here, for a moment. Then he would go on and find a door that would open. But he had to rest first. For a moment.

The wood moved away from him. A familiar voice came from above his head. "I thought I heard something..."

With the door gone, Fenris tumbled forward. He hit his head against something else, something warm. "What... Fenris?! Anders! Anders, get over here and help me!" the voice shouted.

No, no, I don't want Anders. This is the wrong door. It was his last thought before darkness embraced him.

Chapter Text

Fingers, dripping with magic, close to his skin. The fingers were fumbling his breeches, trying to pull them down. Foul magic against his stomach, setting the markings there ablaze. He opened his eyes, but what he saw was hazy. He could faintly make out the shape of the man pulling down his breeches. His chest plate and jacket were already gone.

No! Danarius must have found him while he had lost consciousness, and now he wanted to claim his property again. The idea nauseated him. He tried to resist, wriggle away.

"I think he is waking up!" a voice shouted. The hands had now loosened the laces of his breeches and tried again to pull them down.

NO! I don't want this anymore. I know now how it can be... No! Blinded by panic and disgust, he kicked wildly in the direction of the man-shaped form.

His feet hit something, and the hands withdrew. "Oww! Hawke, the mad bastard kicked me! Get your ass over here!"

Away. Away from here, before the hands get back. Because they would be back, forcing him to turn on his stomach, insisting on his surrender... His chest heaved heavily, working to get enough air. He tried to work himself upright, to get away, but a cough attack slammed him down. I can't breathe. Danarius won't let me. He nearly choked on the violent coughs and the thick fluid they brought with them. The warm liquid flowed out of his mouth and over his chin.

Darkness was nibbling at the edges of his consciousness again, closing in on him. But if he passed out now, Danarius would truly have him. He had to stay awake. He had to get away.

Still coughing, he turned on his side, hoping he would be able to sit upright from that position. Pain burst through him and threatened to shatter his mind back into the darkness. The hands were back and tried to keep him down. He kicked again, blindly. The hands disappeared.

"Damn it! HAWKE! By the Maker, I swear, if you don't take this over, I will finish him myself. He acts like a wild animal!"

The coughing wouldn't stop. The fluid prevented him from breathing. He could not get up. The pain in his side forced him to roll on his back.

Suddenly the air of magic became stronger. He was faintly aware of footsteps rushing towards him. Another mage. I have no chance.

"Anders, what did you do? He's even worse now!"

"I didn't do anything. He woke up and started acting insane!"

Another hand, full of magic, was placed on his chest. This was a different hand, though. It was gentle, applied no force to keep him down. The magic in it seemed less foul as well. As soon as the hand was there, the coughing ceased, and he could breathe. A second hand brushed the hair from his sweaty forehead.

"Shhh. It's alright, Fenris." A different voice. Belonging to the hands? He recognized it. Had he not been looking for this voice? It had been behind a locked door...

"Everything's alright. You're going to be okay."

He took a deep breath, relieved to be able to take in air again. A word was retrieved from the darkness, a name.

"Haw... Hawke?"

"I'm here, Fenris. I'm going to heal you. You'll be fine."

He relaxed and gave in to the darkness. 

The next time he woke up, everything around him was quiet. There were no fidgeting hands or prodding fingers. No pain or coughing. He was surrounded by warmth and softness. Something heavy was on his legs.

Fenris' eyes shot open. He was in a bed, covered up to his chin by red sheets. Sunlight shone through the opened window, accompanied by a cool breeze. There was a large hound lying on his legs.

Fenris eyed the mabari nervously. He did not remember Danarius having a dog, but he could have gotten one after his escape. Slowly, as carefully as he could, he tried to pull his legs out from under the heavy weight. His efforts were rewarded with a low, disapproving growl. Perhaps he should try to jump out of the bed, but with the mabari lying like that, he would probably not end up standing. While trying not the alert the animal, he pushed the sheets down a little bit. When he attempted to sit upright, a louder growl resonated from the mabari's throat.

"Ah, good morning. Or good afternoon, I should say."

Fenris quickly turned his head to the right, to find Hawke right next to him on the bed. He was fully dressed and lay on top of the sheets, a book in one of his hands.

"Hawke! I... what..."

"How are you feeling?"

The mabari got up and jumped off the bed, giving Fenris the chance to sit up. "I'm... fine, I think."

Hawke got up from the bed and picked up a glass from the nightstand. "You have lost a lot of blood. Here." He handed the glass, filled with a dark red liquid, to Fenris. "Drink this. Wine helps your body replenish."

Realizing he was thirsty, Fenris took a few gulps.

"You really scared the living crap out of me, falling on my feet like that. You're lucky I have good ears. I wasn't sure I had truly heard something at the door." Hawke studied Fenris while he drank more wine. "Do you know who attacked you?" he asked softly. "Was it Danarius?"

Fenris let out a short, bitter laugh. "Had it been Danarius, I daresay I would not be here. No, they were common thugs. They said something about you, the Champion... They hoped you could be extorted to get you 'pet elf' back." He brought the glass to his mouth and swallowed the last of his wine.

Hawke took the empty glass, refilled it and handed it back to Fenris. "They mentioned me? And they wanted me to pay to get my... my... what back? Oh Andraste's panties. That's insane."

Fenris rubbed his forehead with his free hand. "I don't need this, Hawke. All this attention...  People recognize me on the street! I've been asked several times if I'm 'with the Champion', and now this..."

Hawke sat down on the bed, a look of disbelief on his face. "So... hold on, how did this become my fault?"

"I don't want more people looking at me! Apparently everyone in the city now knows who I am, and yes, that is your fault. You're some kind of magnet for attention and trouble, and somehow you drag me with you."

"Yeah, because everything I do is just to annoy you. I woke up one morning, wondering 'what can I do to annoy Fenris today? Oh, I know! I'll duel the Arishok publicly and become Champion! That should piss him off.'"

"I... I don't mean it like that, but... without you I would not have gotten ambushed!"

"I believe I recall a pretty recent ambush that had absolutely nothing to do with me. And you would not have gotten ambushed if you had not been so foolish to walk alone through Lowtown at night."

"You... how did you know I was attacked in Lowtown?"

"You left a whole trail from my doorstep to Lowtown. The neighbors must believe I now drag virgins to my lair to kill them or something like that. Drink your wine."

Fenris brought the glass to his mouth. He felt the alcohol of his previous glass go straight to his head. "I apologize for ruining your reputation."

Hawke snorted. "I don't need you to ruin my reputation with the nobles, Fenris. I can do that perfectly well myself." He shifted closer. "I need to examine you, check if the healing went right. You were in a pretty bad shape."

Only then Fenris became aware of the fact that Hawke may be fully clothed, but he was not. The sheets had shifted when he sat upright, revealing his bare torso. A quick look under the sheets assured him he was at least not completely naked but that was only a moderate reassurance.

"Where are my clothes?"

"Bodahn is patching them up and trying to get the stains out."

Fenris casually tried to pull op the sheet so that he was more covered, knowing that he failed at the 'casual' part. The memory of his last night outside of Kirkwall made his face grow hot. He hoped there was not something that gave away to Hawke what he had been doing. Would there be any evidence left on him?

Of course Hawke noticed his hesitance. "I just need to check whether your breathing is okay. One of your lungs was filled with blood. I have to make sure no fluids remain."

Fenris tried to avoid meeting Hawke's eyes. The wine proved a good distraction. He drank until his glass was empty and his excuse ran out.

Hawke's mouth twitched in amusement. "Oh, come on. Don't look so embarrassed. It's not like I haven't seen it before. Ah... I mean..." A hint of pink appeared on Hawke's cheeks when he realized what he could be referring to. "I mean I undressed you. Yesterday, that is. Anders refused to touch you after you kicked him, and I had to get your clothes off to properly heal you. And I washed your feet."

"You washed my feet?" Fenris repeated. His feet would never feel the same again.

"Well, they were dirty! I was not going to let you sleep in my bed with such black toes."

"When did I kick Anders?"

"You don't remember? You woke up soon after we had carried you inside. I was getting poultices and bandages and giving Bodahn and Oranna instructions while Anders tried to take off your armor so that we could reach your wounds. You freaked out and kicked him. Twice. He wasn't too happy about that. Hey, don't look so content!"

Fenris forced his face back into a blank expression. "I am not." With Hawke's explanation, the events returned to him. The mage's fingers, impatiently fidgeting at his breeches. The hands, trying to push him back down. In his delirium he had believed it was Danarius. He suppressed a shudder and pulled the sheets up higher.

Hawke crawled over the bed and sat on his knees next to him. Carefully he pulled the sheets down, so that Fenris' chest was exposed again.

"This won't take long," he said. He placed his hands on both sides of Fenris' ribcage. Fenris immediately held in his breath at the contact. The markings that graced his ribs lit up underneath Hawke's fingertips. A pleasant warmth spread from them.

"Okay, take a deep breath. Good, and breathe out. And again. In. Out." Those hands. The images of his fantasy became more and more vivid. He'll know. Somehow he'll know.

Hawke nodded to himself and then surprised Fenris by putting his ear against his chest. Not in the middle, but a bit to the right. Fenris stiffened again.

"What are you doing?" he asked nervously.

"Listening. Breathe in again." Fenris obeyed. He stared at the top of Hawke's head, at his red brown hair. It was loose. No braid this time. He could feel it against his skin, together with Hawke's beard. He tried to use the deep breaths to calm his body, but the urge to start breathing rapidly was strong. Hawke's cheek against his chest... Fenris tensed his abdominal muscles. In one hand he was still holding the empty wine glass. The other he now used to grab the sheets and squeeze them. None of those muscular actions helped to get a hold of himself. What little blood his body still contained said goodbye to his head and travelled to lower regions. He'll notice.

Hawke withdrew his head and removed his hands, a satisfied smile on his face. "I'm very proud of myself. It doesn't sound like any fluids have remained in your lung. I did a good job." He cocked his head at Fenris. "Do you feel any pain? I might have missed an injury. I felt pretty weary when I was done with your lung and side."

"No," Fenris lied. He felt the wound on his thigh still sting, but there was no way he would allow the sheets to be pulled back any further at this moment. "I want my clothes."

"Why? No need to wear them in bed."

Fenris gave his glass back to Hawke. "I want to go." He shifted to the edge of the bed, clutching the sheets so that they kept covering him from his waist down.

"I'm sorry to disappoint you, but when you stand up now, what little blood you have left goes out of your head to your toes. Your head won't like that, and you will fall on your face. I warn you that I will sit and laugh here for half an hour before I can be bothered to pick you up when that happens."

Fenris stared angrily over his shoulder. "I don't need you nursing over me, Hawke."

"Aww, and here I thought I was doing so well. I was considering a career change. Well, by all means, try your luck."

By the time he had reached the edge of Hawke's ridiculously large bed, Fenris realized he was right. He was not even standing yet and he was already feeling dizzy. Dizzy and drunk. Why am I feeling drunk after only two glasses? With an annoyed sigh he lay down.

"A wise choice," Hawke commented.

"How long have I been unconscious?"

"Sixteen or seventeen hours, I'd say. It's late afternoon now."

"My sword... Did you find it?"

"You had no sword with you, and we haven't found it when we followed your trail of blood into Lowtown."

"I had to leave it behind... I couldn't carry it anymore."

"Varric is currently trying to trace it on the black market. A looter has probably found it."

No sword. That should be remedied quickly. He needed a blade. He always kept it near him.

While Fenris worried over the loss of his weapon, Hawke cleared his throat. "There is something else," he said eventually.

Fenris turned his head to look at Hawke. "What?" He did not like the tone of Hawke's voice.

"When I healed you, I noticed a trace of magic, a spell. I think it was blood magic. It was bound to your blood, but when you lost so much of it, it weakened the spell and I was able to dispell it."

"What do you mean? What kind of spell was it?"

"I'm not sure. I am no expert when it comes to blood magic. Do you feel anything different? Is there something you realize or remember now, that seemed different before?"

Fenris pained his memory for anything suspicious. "That's all very vague. What could I..." In a flash he saw Hadriana's face before him. She was out of breath, her heavy eye make-up smudged after the intense battle she had just been through. And had lost. He bent over her to look into her cold eyes. For the first time he saw fear in them. It made him feel powerful to recognize that emotion there. All those years he had been the one who was afraid of her, fearful of what new ways to torment him she could come up with. Finally, the tables had turned. He could almost see the mechanisms in her head working to think of something that could save her. "So I have your word," she whispered in a hoarse voice. "I tell you, and you let me go?" How hopeful she sounded.

"Yes. You have my word."

"Her name is Varania. She's in Qarinus, serving a magister by the name of Ahriman."

Varania. Maker! My sister's name is Varania! Hadriana had told me after all. Her name is Varania and she is serving a magister named Ahriman in Qarinus. Hadriana must have used blood magic on me to make me forget the details. When I broke my word to her, or even before? That shrewd bitch. Even after her death she had managed to torment him. All this time he had wasted, not knowing where to look for his sister... while she had revealed that information to him! He had to contact Pete to inform him. With this information it should be easy to track her down. But how could he reach Pete? He should go after him. He had probably left Tantervale already.

"Fenris? Are you okay? Do you know what the spell did with you?"

"I... I have to go." He threw off the sheets and got out of bed. He could barely stay on his feet, but despite his lightheadedness he stormed out of Hawke's bedroom.

"Go? Go where?" Hawke yelled after him.

Fenris did not wait to explain. There was nothing to explain. It was the usual. The corruption of those foul mages had once again succeeded in tearing it all apart. There was no chance he could ever move on like this. No way of building a life. He was building it on quicksand every time. As long as they existed he had no chance. Nor when he crushed their existence, apparently.

How he made it off the stairs he did not know, but eventually he found himself standing in front of a shocked Bodahn.

"My clothes," he demanded. When he tried to put on his breeches, he nearly fell over, but he refused to slow down. There was no time. He had to hurry.

"By the Void, what is wrong with you?!" Hawke appeared behind him in the doorway while Fenris put on his jacket. He had not bothered with the laces of his breeches.

"I need to... I have no time."

"Why? You've got on important meeting somewhere? You need rest. You can't go anywhere like this."

Chest plate. The chest plate was heavy. Too heavy. It would slow him down. Gauntlets then. The straps were too complicated. He would fasten them later. What else? Bodahn handed him his belt. Okay, done. He turned around to face Hawke, who was blocking the door.

"Out of my way, Hawke."

Hawke folded his arms across his chest and raised a mocking eyebrow. Fenris had not enough patience to deal with that stubborn man now. He marched forward and tried to push him aside, but instead he ended up losing his balance and falling against him.

"Or what? You're going to pass out against me?"

"Let me pass." He steadied himself with the support of the wall.

He expected Hawke to object, to try to stop him, but he simply stepped aside to let him through. Fenris stumbled through the opening Hawke had given him and left the estate. 

Once he was outside Fenris looked around to determine which direction he should take. Should he set off to Tantervale immediately? It was almost getting dark. Perhaps he should get his stuff from his mansion. What stuff he did not know,  but going to his mansion first seemed like a good idea. Reluctantly, he left the support of Hawke's estate.

If only he could see straight. The world was so blurred and danced up and down in front of his eyes. It was like he was on a ship while the sea was restless. Just keep walking. Straight ahead.

Were people looking at him? Yes, he saw them watching him. They must recognize him as easy prey, without his sword. Perhaps one of them had ran off to Danarius now to alert him. What could he do when Danarius came with a new army of hunters while he had no sword? He still had his markings, but they required him to be close to his foe, and with a lot of enemies that would mean his own end.

I have to find Varania. Her name is Varania. Varania, Varania, Varania. She's in Qarinus. How could Hadriana have put that spell on him without him noticing? Why hadn't Hawke noticed it earlier? He was a mage. Surely he was aware of it when a spell was cast. Had he decided not to tell Fenris then? Had Hawke kept that precious information to himself? Was it funny to see Fenris trying to track down his sister without knowing anything about her? Yes, perhaps that was Hawke's fault as well. He could trust nobody, especially now that he had no sword. He was so defenseless without.

He had crossed the square and turned around, his back against a large pillar, to see if he was being followed. He could not be caught. Not now. It was not fair if they caught him now.

Onwards then. It was not far. There, he could already see the Chantry. To the left, and then he would be there. To the left, and... he groaned. Stairs. Not more stairs. Why were there so many stairs in this damned city? Another cruel trick of those cursed mages.

He was so tired, and he had yet to climb the stairs. He had to do that quickly. They could close in on him on those stairs, and then he had nowhere to go. He had no sword. Panic threatened to overwhelm him. Why is it so hard to breathe? Hawke said he had healed me. Another mage's joke? You could not trust them. Even in death they kept haunting you.

After four steps he had to give up and sit down. He leaned against the wall and tried to catch his breath. Everything is falling apart. He had to find Pete, but he had no idea where he was now. Somewhere in Tevinter, and he could not go there. His sister was in Qarinus. It did not matter anyway. He had no sword. He could not get up the stairs. They would catch him. Danarius would finally regain his lost property.

"I'm impressed. You even made it partially up the stairs."

He raised his head to see Hawke towering above him. "Hawke. I... I need my sword."

"I already told you Varric is looking for it. If he can't trace it, I'll buy you a new one. For now I have a few things stashed, so you can get one of those. When you will be able to hold it without hurting yourself, that is."

"People are... looking at me. I saw them. Watching me."

"Probably because you have your jacket hanging open. And you weren't exactly walking in a straight line. To think you were blaming me for drawing attention on you..."

"I'm dizzy."

"Yeah, didn't I warn you about that? I know not everything that comes out of my mouth is brilliant, but sometimes I might actually say something smart. Watch for those little nuggets of knowledge."

Fenris let his head hang between his knees again, hoping it would help to drive away the lightheadedness. Above him, Hawke let out a dramatic sigh.

"Okay, I know I said I would wait for half an hour before I picked you up, but it's getting a little chilly outside and I'm hungry. Not to mention you manage to look even sadder than Merrill when she uses her 'you-kicked-my-puppy' voice."

He heard Hawke's robes rustle, and then felt one arm slide behind his back and the other under his knees. Before he knew it, Hawke had lifted him up and he was leaning with his head against his chest.

"Put me down," he protested.

"Fenris, remember I said I am a patient man?"

"Well, I lied. I'm not patient at all. I'm very impatient actually. I hate waiting. Waste of time. So I suggest you stop trying my patience for now and shut up."

"Where are we going?"

"Back to my place. Dinner's almost ready."

Hawke turned around and started walking back in the direction they came from, but after a few steps he halted again.

"Champion." A female voice with an Orlesian accent.

"Ah, miss Fifi de Launcet. Good to see you. You look especially lovely today. This," he raised his arms a little as if to show Fenris, "is Fenris. He is not feeling well at the moment."

"Thank you. Champion, why is there so much blood near your door?"

"Oh, that. Nothing to worry about, my lady. I just had... a practice duel last night. You know, to keep in shape for the next Arishok."

"Oh... did you win?"

"Of course I did. My opponent is in the stew right now."

"Uh... b...but..."

Fenris interrupted them with a groan. "Hawke! If you insist on continuing this, at least let me go!"

"Now now, not so impatient, Fenris. Fifi, if you'll excuse me. As you can see, Fenris here is in a bit of a hurry."

"Of... of course, Champion."

Fifi did not seem to mind she had an excuse to walk away.

"See? I'm perfectly capable of ruining my reputation myself." Hawke sounded rather triumphant.

"Who's in the stew?" Fenris mumbled against Hawke chest. Hawke was still carrying him in his arms. As humiliating as it might be, it also felt oddly... comfortable. Safe, almost. He knew it was a petty illusion, though, just as everything else that made him believe he was safe. There was only one way he could ever be safe, and it had nothing do to with hanging in Hawke's arms.

"A chicken from the local market, I guess."

"Why make up this nonsense? You're as bad as Varric."

"I am not! I was hoping to scare her a little. I danced with her and her sister on a ball, because her mother was the hostess. But now she won't leave me alone. Hence a bit of encouragement to go follow somebody else."

They were silent for a moment while Hawke kept walking. Fenris felt tempted to bury his face in Hawke's robes, to simply give everything up and stop battling the forces that continued to kick him around like a toy. The lyrium reacted to Hawke's hands even through the leather layer of his clothes. It added to his wooziness, his mind too ragged to shut these feelings out. Something inside him was nagging him, telling he should not let himself be carried like a child, ordering him to put an end to this humiliation. But he was too tired to do anything. Too tired to either fight or give up. 

"Hawke, why can't I hate you?" What did I just say?

Hawke paused. "Perhaps that wine wasn't such a good idea after all."

"Answer me. You always seem to have an answer to everything."

Hawke started walking again. "Uhm... okay. Because of my witty, hilarious sense of humor? My dashing good looks? My impressive intellect?"

"No... that's not it."

"Huh. Well... ouch? I think a better question is why I don't hate you." They had reached the estate. Hawke had left the door open, so he could enter immediately.

"Why don't you?" You're supposed to.

Hawke sighed as he carried Fenris up the stairs to his bedroom. "Just... shut up, alright? You're drunk. Blood and wine in equal measure in your brain right now. Or perhaps it's just wine your brain is swimming in."

"You gave me the wine."

"I know that. That's why I tell you to shut up, or you'll probably feel the need to kill me in the morning. So, here we are again." Hawke bent over and lay Fenris down on his bed. "Come on, get your clothes off."

Fenris felt too exhausted and dazed to protest.

"Hey, you lied to me!" Hawke said as he removed Fenris' breeches.

He tried to raise his head to look at Hawke. "What?"

Hawke pointed at his leg. "You said you didn't need more healing, but you have a wound on your thigh. I can't believe I missed that. I'll heal it."

Just enough of the fog in his head cleared to regain the sense to object. "No."

Hawke frowned at him. "Why? It looks nasty, but it won't take long." He leaned over and reached for Fenris' leg. "Just let me..."

Fenris crawled backwards over the bed. "No!" He had already discovered he had not much control over himself at the moment. He did not want to test himself with more physical contact with Hawke. The need to resist had returned. He would not give up, not give in. They would not get him down.

"What... ugh. Fine. I'll do it tomorrow." Hawke's forehead had wrinkled in annoyance.

Fenris pulled the blanket over himself. "Thank you."

"Do you want something to eat?"

"I have no appetite."

"Perhaps a piece of fruit? I'll bring you something later."

"Hawke..." He suddenly remembered something. "Your book... I lost it. I'm sorry."

Hawke gave him a half-smile. "That's alright, Fenris. If it was between you and the book, I'd rather have you back than the book."

"How does it end? I didn't finish it. Ten more pages, I think."

"You read it?"



"Well... I looked at the pictures, mostly. I tried to read it, but it was difficult."

Hawke walked around the bed and sat down on the other side. "I know. There were difficult words in it. Could you read some shorter ones, though?"

"Yes." He could not keep a defensive tone out of his voice.

Hawke chuckled. "Of course. I didn't mean to doubt you. You've made good progress so far."

"So how does it end?"

"Let's see... the dog comes up with a clever plan to lure the dragon away, so that the boy can rescue the girl. He does that, and then they both go after the dragon and the dog to help the dog. By the time they get there, they see the dragon is already locked up in a cave, blocked by large rocks in front of the entrance. The dog is waiting there for them, barking happily. When they get back home, it turns out the girl is actually a princess. Her father the king is so grateful that his daughter has been saved, that he promises the boy he can marry her when they grow up. They fall in love and live happily ever after. With the dog."

"The dog locked the dragon inside a cave?"


"That doesn't make any sense."

"Did you miss the part that says it's about a mabari? Those dogs are very smart."

"How did it get the dragon in the cave?"

"Only the dog knows that."

"What a stupid story."

"No, it's great. Just think about it for a while."

 "Why? It's a silly happy ending for children."

"Happy endings are not only for children, Fenris."

Chapter Text

When Fenris woke up it was still dark. His fast beating heart and the feeling of unrest in his stomach told him he had had a nightmare. He could not recall what it had been about, or who had been in it. All he remembered was laughter, and the constant echo of three words: "waste of time. Waste of time. Waste of time. Waste of time."

Who had been laughing at him? Had it been Danarius? Or Hadriana? His sister? Or perhaps even Hawke? Hawke was the one who had spoken those words, he recalled now. "I hate waiting. Waste of time." Fenris did not like waiting either. He wanted to see his sister, talk to her. He wanted to have a family. He wanted to live like a free man. The sooner, the better.

"Waste of time."

No, it was not a waste of time. He now knew enough to track his sister down. If only Pete had not been on his way yet... He could ask Varric if he knew a way to contact Pete. If he could reach the man, he could send him the right way, and then things would soon be arranged. He had made his decision, and he would not let this opportunity pass.

"Waste of time."

Good you finally realized that, Hawke. 

A snorting sound coming from his left drew his attention. Hawke's mabari was sleeping on the other side of the bed, next to him. He suspected Hawke had instructed the dog to not let Fenris leave, but that had not been necessary. After his failed attempt to go Maker-knows-where, Fenris realized he was in no condition to go anywhere yet. The loss of blood had left him weak, and he felt the beginning of a throbbing headache. Stupid wine.

"Why can't I hate you?"

Fenris turned his face in his pillow and groaned. Fastevas! Did I really say that? Why did he insist on making a fool out of himself when it came to Hawke? Let's add this to the things we do not speak of.

Perhaps it was better if he left. Time to move on to a place where nobody knew his face or his name. Hide in a new city where no one had heard of the Champion of Kirkwall. Or Magister Danarius. Waiting for Danarius to drag him out of the mansion had gained him nothing so far, so there was not really any point in staying. Building a life was hopeless as long as Danarius lived. Leaving Kirkwall was the logical thing to do, especially after that ambush. He could continue the search for his sister elsewhere, hire someone else. Pete would probably never find her with the little information he had.

There was only one thing that got in the way. One reason he could not simply leave Kirkwall for good. Fenris had sworn Hawke his loyalty. He was in Hawke's debt. Hawke had not shied away when Fenris had told him the true job was going to a Tevinter magister's house and kill him. Then Fenris had thought the man must really need coin to accept a job like that, but that assumption had been proven wrong. Hawke had helped him with Hadriana for free, risked his own life without the promise of coin. He had not even made up for his betrayal in the Fade yet. Even when he served Hawke for the rest of his life, he could never repay him.

Fenris' fingers curled around the red fabric around his right wrist. He had renewed his promise when he had left that night. He would continue to fight at Hawke's side, as long as he needed him. He would not let him down again.

And thus he could not leave. He would not break his word another time, especially not his word to Hawke. As long as Hawke did not tell him he no longer required his aid, Fenris would serve as his 'pet elf'. He did not care what others called him, what they thought of him. That the idea to never see that stubborn, problem-attracting mage again added a tiny bit to his reluctance to leave he tried to ignore.

Fenris shifted a little closer to the sleeping hound. His presence was oddly comforting. He kept staring into the darkness a long time before his eyes slowly closed and he drifted off to sleep again.

The next time he was woken up by Hawke, who came into the bedroom and opened the curtains to let the sunlight in.

"Good morning. Had a good night's rest? Feeling better?"

Fenris turned away from the window and shielded his eyes with one hand. "My head has felt better."

"The wine? Again, sorry about that. I should have known better. Here, I have brought some water and an apple. You have to eat something."

Fenris pushed himself a bit upright, and was greeted by a long, wet lick of the mabari.

"Mabs, time to get off the bed, you lazy bastard. And you know you are not allowed to lick people's faces. It's gross. I have seen what you licked last with that tongue."

Mabs cocked his head at Hawke and let out a disappointed whine before he obeyed and jumped off the bed.

Fenris rubbed his face to remove the mabari's saliva from his cheek. Hawke sat down on the bed and held out a bowl filled with slices of apple. Fenris took one. While he chewed on the piece of fruit, Hawke gestured at the shape of his leg, covered by the sheet.

"Can I heal it now? Is that okay?"

Fenris nodded, knowing there was no point in continuing to postpone it. Hawke pulled back the sheets to inspect the wound. He hissed through his teeth in disapproval.

"I can't believe I did not see this. I have to clean it before I can heal it properly. I'll be right back."

Hawke got up from the bed and left the bedroom. While he waited for Hawke to return, Fenris studied the ugly gash in his thigh. It was too deep to close by itself, so the cut was still open. It was just a flesh wound - fortunately no major artery had been hit - but it was a nasty one.

Within a few minutes Hawke came back with a bowl of water and towels. He installed himself next to Fenris again, grabbed one of the towels and dipped a tip in the warm water.

"This is going to hurt," he warned before he brought the wet towel to the injury. His eyes went to Fenris as he touched the cut, but Fenris did not even flinch. Hawke shook his head and chuckled.

"You are tough." I have known worse pain. Still, the cleaning was not a pleasant experience, so he found himself asking a question to distract himself.

"I have never understood why you called your dog Mabs."

Hawke did not look up from his work, but Fenris could see his mouth curl in a smile. "It's Mabsy, some kind of weird derivation of mabari. I was not the one who came up with it. It was Bethany's fault. When she heard we were getting a mabari, she insisted on calling him Mabsy. I wanted to name him something cool and manly. Griffon, or Dragon, or Demon! But even though the stupid dog decided to get imprinted on me, he refused to listen to anything but Mabsy. Mabs was the closest to a compromise I could get."

A low growl came from the other side of the room.

"Eavesdropping, are we? Well, you can't deny it's a silly name. Perhaps you're female after all."

Another growl, longer and even deeper than the previous one.

"Okay, okay. I take that back. Now go bother Bodahn. I think he has breakfast for you."

With a happy bark Mabsy trotted out of the room.

Fenris could not withhold a laugh. "If I had to choose between Mabsy and Demon, I think I would have gone for the first one as well."

"I hope he didn't hear that. Why do you have to take the dog's side," Hawke complained, with a smile playing around his mouth that betrayed his amusement.

They fell silent for a while, but Hawke had to go deeper into the wound to get all the filth out, and that made for a more and more unpleasant experience.

"I..." Fenris inhaled sharply at the feeling of an extra vicious sting, "I have been thinking about the story you told me. About the dog and the dragon."

"I'm almost done. Hold on. What about the story?"

"The ending still makes no sense to me. The only way I can think of to get the dragon inside the cave, was for the dog to go into the cave so that the dragon would follow. But how did the dog get past the dragon again? And how was the entrance closed off with the dragon still in the cave?"

"You over think this far too much."

 "I just want to know why you would let me waste my time with nonsense like that."

"Done." Hawke withdrew the cloth and looked up. "It's not nonsense. You have to practice reading, so it always serves that goal."

Fenris frowned, still not satisfied. "I can learn to read with more logical stories."

Hawke stared at him for a moment, then sighed. "Okay, I give up. The ending I told you yesterday is not the real ending of the book. It is the ending Father told me when he read it to me."

"So your father made that up? Why?"

"In the real story, the dog dies. Or, actually, it disappears. When the boy and the girl reach the cave, the entrance is blocked by large rocks, and they can hear the dragon roar inside. They look everywhere, but the dog is nowhere to be found." The look on Hawke's face turned absent as he drifted off into his memories. "I made Father read that story so many times. I loved it. It was years later, when I had learned to read myself, that I picked the book up again. Then I found out how the real ending went." He laughed briefly. "I was so upset. It was more the surprise that it did not end the way I thought it would than that I was actually sad for the dog. I was not prepared for an unhappy ending. I remember running to Mother in tears and clutching her skirts in a sadness I could not explain to her." His mind turned back to the present, and he looked at Fenris in a way that seemed apologetic. "I thought it would be better if you heard the ending Father told me so long ago first. I don't know why."

"Did your father say why he lied to you about the ending?"

Hawke looked surprised. "Well, to protect me, of course. From the disappointment of a sad ending I suppose. Children's stories have happy endings. Everybody is supposed to live happily ever after. The writer of that book was just an asshole. Who lets a story for children end like that?"

Fenris offered no further response, thinking about Hawke's words. He did not see the logic in hiding the way things went in life. The world was a harsh place. It did not offer mercy. The sooner you learned this, the better. What was the point in trying to deny it? It would make reality only a more unwelcome surprise when it decided to kick you in the face. Surely Hawke knew that too. Yet Hawke did not seem mad at his father for this useless cover-up. Instead he appeared happy with the memory. Not only that, he had tried to do the same.

The flame of anger lit up inside him. He did not have to be protected from the truth! Did Hawke really believe he could not handle the sad ending of a stupid dog in a story made up for children? He had seen and experienced far worse. He was not made of glass.

"Enough of my childhood memories," Hawke interrupted Fenris' growing resentment. "This still needs to be healed. I promise I'll try to find only stories with very depressing, logical endings for you."

Without waiting for Fenris to say something, Hawke placed his hands close to the wound in his thigh. As usual, the markings started to glow, first in reaction to Hawke's touch, then even brighter because of the healing magic that did its work.

Fenris immediately felt his annoyance fade. The warm sensation of the magic spreading through his leg and even further was soothing. Tension left him, allowing him to relax. Automatically he closed his eyes, to experience the feeling to the fullest. Not only the pain in his leg disappeared. Even the headache seemed to lessen until it was nothing but a vague discomfort. While he was leaning back with his eyes closed, he realized Hawke had attempted to share something from his youth with him. A father shielding him from the hurt a sad tale could cause, a mother holding him when that pain had found a way into his heart. He knew none of it. If he had ever had it, Danarius had taken it from him, exchanging it for pain and loneliness. He was less than a dog. Hawke's mabari had chosen his own name, refused to obey when Hawke had tried to call him something ridiculous. Had his master decided to name him Demon, it would not have occurred to him to protest. He would have been Demon.

One day, Danarius would pay for what he had done. One day, he would pull his master's black, rotten heart from his chest.

It took a while before Fenris became aware of the healing being complete. Yet he still felt one of Hawke's fingers following a branch of his markings. Fenris opened his eyes to see Hawke tracing one of the lines on his leg. The lyrium lit up under his touch, a blue light following Hawke's finger on its path.

"Stop that." He pushed Hawke's hand away.

"Sorry. I was just... thinking. About your markings. I noticed... well, when you get hurt, the injury usually damages the markings as well, right? And when I heal you, the markings are whole again, even though I do not direct my magic at them. I focus on the wound. And I thought your markings could be seen as some kind of unnatural wounds... So I thought maybe I could remove them by healing them. But it doesn't seem to work that way. If I try to direct my magic at them, it just... bounces off, or it is absorbed. I don't know. "

Fenris took a deep breath to steady himself. "You... tried to remove my markings? Without asking me?" As much as he hated the lyrium in his flesh and the agony it had brought him, the markings had also proven invaluable to his escape. He would not have been able to remain free as long as he had without their help. Many times he had wished to be rid of them, but now Hawke brought up the possibility, the idea made him feel vulnerable. Without the markings he would just be an elf with a sword.

Startled, Hawke hastened to respond. "No, no, it's not like that. I have thought about it, and paid extra attention to what happened just now." He brought his finger to Fenris' leg again. "Here the cut went through the markings. When I healed it, I noticed... I'm not sure how to describe it. The healing worked, obviously, but the last part, the lines... they fixed themselves. I just tried to heal the skin, but the markings came through it again. I don't even think they 'used' my magic to do so."

"Is there a point to this?"

"Not really, no. Just that I don't understand anything about your markings, but hey, that's not the only part of you I don't understand."

Fenris pulled the sheets back up to cover himself. Why was it so cold in Hawke's room? Despite having slept for hours, he felt tired. Talking to Hawke only seemed to exhaust him further. He needed to be alert for that, but instead his head became more and more clouded. The subject of his markings had made his headache return with new strength as well.

"I do not want you experimenting on me," he mumbled, looking away from Hawke. "I am not a test subject you can use to satisfy your curiosity."

Hawke crawled over the bed until he appeared in Fenris' visual field again. "Fenris." Reluctantly, Fenris fixated his eyes on Hawke's serious face. "I only want to help you. This is not about my curiosity. I am not another crazy mage who loves experimenting on other people. You always speak of never having wanted those things in your skin. I thought you would like it if I could remove them. I can't though, so I'm sorry if I have given you false hope."

Fenris sighed. He could not blame Hawke for not understanding this. He did not want the markings. But for the time being he needed them. He needed them to separate Danarius' heart from his chest. "As soon as Danarius is dead, I will be glad to have them removed. But not yet."

"But wouldn't it solve your problems? You said Danarius wants the lyrium, not you. Without the markings, he'd have no reason to hunt you."

"You do not know my master. He would still feel the need to punish me for ruining his investment. There is no way to be free of him. Except when he is dead."

"But maybe he has given up now, after Hadriana..."

"He will never give up, Hawke! How can you not get that?"

"I don't know. There is a lot I don't get, it seems... Speaking of that... care to tell me now what you were up to? Why you left the city and came back to be ambushed?"

"Waste of time" "I... no. This is my business. I have to do this myself. Therefore I want to keep it to myself for now."

"I see." Hawke's expression turned hard. A shadow shifting behind his clear blue eyes indicated that another wall had been put up. Fenris could almost feel the distance grow between them. Why was it that every time they seemed to take a small step towards each other, a bigger step backwards followed? He knew it was his fault. He was torn between the need to share his concerns and hopes with Hawke, and his pride, his need to show he could still accomplish things on his own. That had failed dramatically of course, by ending up on Hawke's doorstep severely injured. No, he should not be bothered by this. They were supposed to keep their distance from each other. He needed to get Hawke out of his mind, and Hawke should not keep trying to... whatever it was Hawke kept trying to do.

"Pity. I thought you would at least trust me a little by now."

That hurt, despite what he had just told himself. "This is not about trust, Hawke. I have to do this. On my own."

"Fine. Do what you wish then. But you can better hope I will be home next time to patch you up. I could be at one of those stupid dinners."

"I do not need the mighty Hawke for everything I do! Nor do I need your permission or approval. Or were you going to freeze me on my spot to prevent me from going anywhere by myself?"

Hawke leaned closer, his whole face now guarded, his eyes locked to hide the thoughts that would sometimes shine through. "I doubt you would feel it; you're just one big brooding ice cube anyway. But the idea of a little fire is tempting. Perhaps it would meld you a little."

Fenris was spared the need to reply by Bodahn, who appeared in the doorway. "Messere, serah Tethras is here."

"Oh, good. Let him come in." Hawke got up from the bed and looked down at Fenris. "Perhaps he has tracked down your blade."

Varric came strolling into the room, as usual appearing in a good mood. "Morning Hawke. Elf. Am I interrupting something?"

"Not at all," Hawke said, a bit coldly. The flash of interest that went over the dwarf's face indicated he had noticed that detail.  "Did you find something?"

"You sound like you doubted me, serah! Of course I have been successful. It seems Jimmy has found it. He is trying to sell it now." He snickered. "Man can barely lift the damn blade, I think."

"Good work, Varric. Do you know where we can find Jimmy?"

"He has found himself a corner in Darktown."

"Excellent. I'll go see if Aveline has time to come with us. If the Champion can't convince Jimmy to return the blade, perhaps the captain of the guard can." And with that, Hawke left the bedroom.

Chapter Text

Varric approached the bed with a smile on his face. His waist did not even reach the edge of the bed.

"So, Elf, how did the secret mission go? Except for the unfortunate return, that is."

"Dagmar slammed a door in my face and said to tell you not to send any freaks his way again."

"Ah, blasted nug humper that is. Sorry, Elf. He can be pretty good at what he does when he feels like it. So that was it? No luck?"

"I found Pete. He has agreed to help me."

"Pete! Was he still in Markham?"

"No, he has moved to Tantervale. It took me a while to find him."

Varric shook his head. "That guy never stays in one place for long. But your trip has not been for nothing then."

Fenris leaned over the dwarf. Even in bed his face was higher. "I need a way to contact Pete," he said urgently.

Varric looked confused. "Didn't you just talk to the guy?"

"I have... new information. I know my sister's name. I know where she is! Apparently Hadriana used blood magic on me to make me forget those details." He saw his angry expression reflected in Varric's eyes. He tried to relax a little.

Much to his dismay, the cursed dwarf chuckled. "I shit you not, this would make for such a great story. It's just brilliant, and I haven't even adjusted it yet!"

"Do you find this amusing? I'm serious, Dwarf!"

"Of course you are, my broody friend. Well, I'm sorry, but I don't know how a letter would reach Pete." The dwarf's expression became more empathetic. "I wish I could help you more. You could try to go after Pete... No, you'll never find him while he is looking for your sister's unknown location. Could you not go to her yourself, now that you know where she is?"

"She is in Tevinter. I can't go back there."

Varric rubbed the stubble on his chin while he thought about the problem. "I'm afraid Pete is wasting his time. He'll probably never find her. You could still go to Eddy in Cumberland."

Fenris hung his head in disappointment. The headache made him nauseous too now and forced him to lay back. "It seems I have no choice."

"Don't worry. You'll find her eventually. And then you might wish you hadn't. Family can be a pain in the ass sometimes. Or perhaps that's just the case with brothers."

Soon after their short conversation, Hawke returned with Aveline. They left again with Varric to go see Jimmy and get Fenris' sword back. Alone in Hawke's bedroom, Fenris stared at the ceiling. When the ceiling started to move and ripple before his eyes, he closed them.

Hawke and his blasted wine.

It seemed he was back to where he had started before he had left Kirkwall. Except that he had given Pete all the coin he possessed. He would have to accept a few jobs before he could go to Cumberland to hire Eddy. What a waste of time this all had been. And then he had gotten himself ambushed on top of that. Although he would still not know where his sister was if the attack had not happened. He would not have gotten injured, and Hawke would not have healed him and noticed the spell. Perhaps all this had served a purpose after all. If only he did not have to keep it from Hawke... That distant look Hawke had given him when he had closed himself off for him... Fenris knew it was supposed to be this way. Hawke had to be mad at him, then it would be easier to stop thinking about Hawke for Fenris as well. Not that it was working already; he was thinking about Hawke right now. Even the bed he was lying in held his smell. It was maddening. Fortunately his head was not capable of producing many thoughts at the moment, so he was spared from too much brooding. Plenty of time for that later.

Despite his efforts to stay awake and await Hawke's return, he fell asleep again. 

For the second time that day he was woken up by Hawke, or rather Hawke's voice this time. With the door to the bedroom still open, he could easily hear him.

"...why there was no patrol in the area. Isn't it the job of the city guard to make sure the city is save?"

Aveline's calm voice responded. "Brennan had a patrol in Lowtown, and she was occupied by trouble in the Alienage."

"Then hire more guards, Aveline! Clearly there are not enough now."

"I agree with that. I have lost good people during the Qunari attack. We're currently hiring, but this means we have a lot of recruits. I can't send a fresh recruit on a dangerous patrol in Lowtown."

"Don't worry, Hawke. I'll make sure Daisy and Blondie are being left alone," Varric chipped in.

"Thanks, Varric. And watch out for yourself too. If a group takes you by surprise, just as what happened to Fenris, you won't be able to take them all."

"Oh, please! Bianca can shoot a hole through every lousy thug in the neighborhood."

Hawke's voice lowered, and Fenris could only hear him because Hawke neared the bedroom. "Just... watch out, okay? I don't want any more of my friends getting attacked because of me, because they happen to know the Champion. I will not let that happen again."

"We will all be fine, Hawke," Aveline said. "What happened to Fenris is unfortunate, but he will be okay."

"But it was so close, Aveline. It is really a miracle he made it to my doorstep. I can't... never mind. I'll go give him his sword back." Hawke then barged triumphantly into the room, a sword in his hands. "The mighty Hawke has retrieved your blade," he announced mockingly, before placing it against the small desk next to the door. "Ugh, that thing is heavy. And here I thought I had build up some muscle by swinging my staff around."

Fenris wondered if Hawke knew he had overheard the conversation, then decided it did not matter. "Thank you, Hawke. Was Jimmy willing to part with it?"

"Oh, he was honored to have the Champion of Kirkwall as a possible client. Or shall I say: not to have him as a possible enemy."

Aveline entered after Hawke. "Hello Fenris. How are you?"

"Well enough."

Hawke left while Aveline took a seat in the chair next to the bed. She studied his face for a while before she spoke again. "Hawke said you refuse to tell him what you were up to."

Fenris let out an annoyed sigh. He could have known Hawke had sent her to prod him for information. "Not everything I do is his business."

"He was worried about you, you know. While you were gone. He didn't say it, but he didn't have to. I could tell."

"I had been on the run for three years before I met Hawke. I don't need him to hold my hand all the time."

She raised her eyebrows at him, reminding him of his current condition, and he felt his face grow hot of embarrassment. "It was because of Hawke I was attacked in the first place."

"That is not fair and you know it. Do you really think Hawke has to feel guilty about this too?"

His eyes dropped to his hands and the red sash around his wrist. He remembered the night of Leandra's death, and Hawke's breakdown afterwards.

Aveline was not discouraged by his silence. "Are you in trouble, Fenris?"

He raised his head and looked up at her. A corner of his mouth moved up a fraction. "More than the usual, you mean? No."

Aveline's green eyes narrowed. It was clear she was not content with that answer, and that she was not planning to leave before he had told her more. Fenris met her piercing eyes, wondering if he should trust her. She was more trustworthy than the dwarf, but she was also the most loyal to Hawke, protecting him like he was her younger brother. It was not certain she would agree to keep something from him. She had no right to demand answers, especially not if that was more out of concern for Hawke than for him. But the search for his sister was not something that brought Hawke in any danger. If he told her the truth, she would be reassured and leave him alone, whereas she would grow more and more suspicious if he refused to tell her anything. A suspicious Aveline who believed he was doing something that could harm Hawke was an obstacle he did not want to deal with. All in all, telling her would be the better option.

"I am trying to find my sister. Varric gave me the names of a few men I could hire to track her down. That is why I left the city for a while."

Aveline leaned back in her chair, her face relaxing in surprise. This was clearly not what she had expected. "Then why the secrecy?" she eventually asked. "Why all the trouble to hide this from Hawke?"

He sighed, unsure how to explain this. He did not even want to explain it. He knew very well how his motives might sound to someone else. "I already owe Hawke far more than I can ever repay. He has saved my life more than once. I want to find Varania. It is my choice, and I will do this on my own. I refuse to beg Hawke for help again. I have no right to do that."

Wearily, she shook her head. "I don't know exactly what has happened between you two... well, I know Isabela's version, but... all I know is that you hurt Hawke, and that makes you an ass in my book."

"Do you think I enjoyed that, woman," he snarled at her. "Leaving was the hardest thing I have ever done. I don't expect anyone to understand, but keep your judgment to yourself."

Aveline's mouth set in a stubborn line. "Then why do it?" she insisted.

"Venhedis!" His head seemed to burst because of the sound of his own shouting. "Why can nobody let it rest?"

Hawke stuck his head through the door opening to see what was going on. His eyes went from Aveline, who had folded her arms across her chest and stared at Fenris in dismay, to Fenris, who had also crossed his arms and whose markings glowed faintly, giving his skin a blueish tint. "Aveline, don't upset my patient, please. Fenris needs rest to recover. You can lecture him about losing his sword another time."

With a heavy sigh, Aveline rose from her chair. "Okay, then I have a lecture for you. Why are there upset noble women reporting you put Qunari in your dinner?"

Hawke at least had the courtesy to look a bit guilty. "Ah... by all means, continue lecturing Fenris."


"I was just joking, Aveline! That Delauncet girl has got a crush on me since I danced with her during the ball, and it was getting really annoying. I can't help it that she is so stupid to believe I eat people."

"There are few people who get your sense of humor, Hawke, and even less who actually find it funny. Do us all a favor and keep the jokes to a minimum, especially when it comes to the nobles."

"But it's the only thing that makes interaction with them bearable!"

"I don't care. Meredith warned me a week ago that your name is mentioned a lot by mages in the Circle. Don't give her or others something to smear your reputation with. You are already known as an illegal mage."

Now it was Hawke who folded his arms across his chest. "You don't say. Look, Aveline, I appreciate your concern, but I am not going to walk on my toes all the time. I'm sure people are going to forget about me anyway. I am not that interesting, and I won't be dueling another Arishok anytime soon."

"A lot of eyes are watching you. Don't underestimate that."

"They can look the other way."

Aveline let out another sigh, then gave a quick nod to Fenris when she saw the silent question on his face. The tension left his body. She would not tell Hawke. For now.

"I hope you'll feel better soon, Fenris," Aveline said before she left. 

On the third day in Hawke's estate Fenris felt a lot better than the days before. His headache and nausea were gone and he felt less tired. He told Hawke this when he came to check on him.

"You will need to take it easy for a few days longer," Hawke said, "but you don't have to stay in bed anymore."

"Good. I am sick of lying in bed all the time."

Hawke grinned at him. "Can't blame you. Hey, do you have to leave the city again soon, or do you have time for reading lessons this week?"

Fenris stared in surprise. "I will have to take on a few mercenary jobs before I can leave again, so I will remain in Kirkwall for this month at least. But I did not expect you'd want to... after... Are we..."

"Back to acting like nothing happened and nothing is going on? Yep."

Fenris sat upright in bed. "But..."

Hawke raised a hand to silence him. "Look, you are entitled to have your secrets. You don't have to tell me anything. Sometimes I want too much and I get impatient and then I start pushing, and you don't like being pushed so you dig your heels in the sand and then we are fighting and... it's no good. So I'm done pushing. For now. That means we're back to being awkward, but at peace, with lots of things we do not speak of. Does that work for you?"

"I... suppose."

"Good. So, reading lesson the day after tomorrow? Same time and place as usual?" When Fenris nodded, Hawke continued: "I bid you good luck with what you're doing. And remember what you found out when you hired me years ago: there are advantages in numbers. Do not hesitate to ask for help when you need it. You can even hire me again, if that makes you feel better." Hawke winked. "I'll give you a discount."

Step forward, step back, step forward. We continue to be in this strange dance, maintaining this fragile balance.

Why can't I hate you, Hawke? Why can't I run away from this? I'm certainly trying. 

At the end of the day Fenris left Hawke's mansion to return to his own, squatted place. He was dressed in his armor, his sword fastened on his back. Belt with the Amell crest around his waist. He had seen Hawke looking at it when he had put on the belt, but Hawke had made no comment of it. He never had. He wondered if Hawke knew what it meant, what it stood for. Not it that it would make a difference.

When he passed the Chantry, he halted. Something about the large building drew his attention. It pulled him closer, attracted him. He realized he was climbing the stairs and halted again. What did he actually intend to do in the Chantry? What should a man like him do in a place dedicated to the Maker? Beg the Maker to have mercy on his pitiable soul? Sebastian had tried to encourage him to do just so. The former prince was firm in his believe the Maker cared for everyone, even slaves. Or ex-slaves. Hawke had stated the opposite: that the Maker did not care for anyone, because he did not exist. Only demons were lurking beyond the mortal realm, he had said.

Fenris shuddered at the thought. He did not want to believe that. There had to be more than just demons. Evil could not be the only thing out there. That would mean there was no point in fighting demons. They had already won. There must be something that countered those foul creatures. Danarius had not been right when he had chosen Fenris'  purpose. His worth was not determined by demons and their servants. He wanted to believe that there was something more, something better. Something that made it worth to exist in this corrupted world. There had to be.

He pushed one of the huge, decorated doors open and slipped through the narrow opening. One of the acolytes was reciting a verse of the Chant of Light. Her high, clear voice was calm and full of belief.


"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

And nothing that He has wrought shall be lost."


The large statue of Andraste towering above him made him feel small. Small and unimportant. What was he thinking? That some divine being would suddenly notice him when he stepped inside a Chantry? Yet he kept on walking, turning to the left and up another set of stairs. He took a seat on one of the simple wooden benches that were facing one side of the proud statue. The smell of incense was stronger up here. He could see the smoke hanging beneath the ceiling. His breathing was faster because of the stairs he had climbed. He could feel that his body needed more time to recover. Being out of breath after a couple of stairs was not normal for him. Inhaling the incense made him a bit drowsy.

For a while Fenris just sat on the bench, alone, staring at the golden Andraste. Eventually he bowed his head, closed his eyes and folded his hands.

Maker, I don't know what the appropriate way to pray is. Slaves are only being taught not to bother. I don't mean to offend, so forgive me if my attempt is somehow wrong. I don't know if You hear me, or if You care, but Sebastian is convinced you do. I want to believe him.

I would like to know my purpose. I want to be more than my master intended and made me to be. If You have a plan for me... a reason... I would like to know. Perhaps You have already given me one. I believe my sister can be the link between what I could have been if I had been free to follow Your wishes, and what Danarius turned me into. If she is, if she can help me show me what You would want me to be, please help me find her. Let me find her. I only want to know...

Sebastian thinks You have given me the chance to escape. If that is true, You must have something in store for me. You must have had a reason. I would like to know.

Maker, have mercy on my soul, for I know I have sinned. Have mercy on the innocents I have killed. Have mercy on Hawke, for he has lost his way and no longer believes in You, while I am just starting to believe. He is not a bad man, even though he is a mage. He is strong. I know he is better than me. He deserves someone who can make him happy. I ask You to grand him that person, and... to grand me the strength not to separate that person's heart from chest when You do. And let that person not be Anders... No, I probably can't ask for that. Just let Hawke live the life he deserves... and please release me from the hold that man has over me... it feels like he is holding my heart in his hands and could easily crush it, and it hurts. I try to resist, I know I have to... but Maker, give me the strength to continue to do so, because I cannot stop the wanting. I can't seem to get rid of it. Rid of him.

I know I ask for a lot. I don't mean to. I know I am not worthy... but I'm trying.

Thank You for hearing me.


Slowly, Fenris raised his head and opened his eyes. The incense prickled in his nostrils and made him sneeze. The sound echoed against the stone walls and the high ceiling. Quickly he got up and began to make his way down the stairs. If the Maker truly existed, and if he really did hear prayers, this was probably the most ridiculous one he had ever heard, Fenris thought.

When he saw Sebastian coming out of a side room and looking his way, he increased his speed. As if he were a fugitive, he hastened to leave the Chantry, with his head bent.

Chapter Text

Time went by fast, without anything actually happening. Because he did not want to risk getting injured again, Fenris followed Hawke's advice and waited until he felt fully recovered before he accepted his first mercenary job. He worked as much as he could to earn some coin. Only the reading lessons with Hawke and the occasional meeting at the Hanged Man he visited to play cards, formed interruptions of his living pattern of sleeping, eating, leaving to do a job, and returning to the mansion. At least it was a relief not to have to sleep in Hawke's bed anymore. Lying in the dark, knowing Hawke was so nearby, just behind another door... it had not been helpful when he tried to fall asleep. Not that he actually spent less time thinking about Hawke when he was farther away. He still could not comprehend this unwanted... he kept shying away from giving it a name. Obsession probably came closest. His current life seemed to consist only of obsessions. Obsessed with finding his sister, obsessed with killing Danarius. Obsessed with Hawke. None of those he could let go. He got up with them and went to bed with them. He had given priority to finding Varania, but the others constantly kept warring for his attention.

By now Fenris had enough coin to hire Varric's last recommendation, but he had been postponing the trip to Cumberland, hoping to hear something from Pete. But he had received no message, and he grew tired of waiting. Within a few days he would leave Kirkwall again. Then it would not be long before he could finally meet her. Face to face. His stomach clenched in excitement at the thought. They would have so much to talk about. He had so many questions. Perhaps she would too. She hadnot heard from her brother in years. What would be the first thing to say to her? Fenris rose from his chair and started pacing. If Eddy found her, he would have to give her a letter from him, with the request to meet. She would have to come to Kirkwall, because going to Tevinter was not an option. But how should he write that letter? And not just how as in what he should say, but also how as in... how? He could manage a little reading and writing now, but he was not able to write a real letter without making mistakes. If she read a message from him filled with spelling errors, she would think him an idiot. She might believe someone was pulling a joke on her. Or she would simply refuse to meet with her illiterate fool of a brother. He stopped his pacing and ran a hand through his hair in a gesture of frustration. He wanted Varania to be as happy to hear she still had a brother as he had been when he had discovered he had a sister. He would practice until he had written the perfect letter. Determined he sat back down at the desk and took a piece of parchment. Hawke had given him several, plus a quill and ink, to practice at home. He dipped the quill in the ink and held it above the parchment.

Dear Va... Wait. How did you spell Varania? Was it with a V or an F? With two r's or one? Angrily he tossed the quill on the desk, leaving a black spot on the otherwise nearly clean parchment. That's just great. The second word of the letter and he was already stuck. 

At the end of the afternoon Fenris headed to Hawke's estate for another lesson. He was still in a sour mood because of his stranded attempts to write the perfect letter. It would have been a lot easier if he could write it with Hawke, but that was ruled out by his desire to do this all by himself. When he had made an appointment with Varania, he would tell Hawke. He would ask him to come along to meet his sister. She would like Hawke; for some reason it was difficult not to like the man. Or at least to hate him. Yes, that was how it should go. But then he had to write that cursed letter first.

As usual, Bodahn answered the door. Hawke had once told Fenris he had tried for a while to go to the door himself when visitors arrived, but the dwarf, who considered it his duty to perform this task, kept sprinting past him to do this for him. After a while he had given up and relied on his servant to open the door. This time, however, Bodahn did not give him his welcoming smile, but looked a bit uncertain.

"Good day, serah."

"Good day, Bodahn. Is something wrong?"

Surprised to be confronted so directly, Bodahn blinked at him. He looked over his shoulder before his eyes went back to Fenris. "Ah... I'm not sure, really. But messere Hawke is upstairs."

Fenris frowned at the dwarf. "Upstairs? Is he ill?"

Bodahn shook his head. "I don't think so. He's been there for hours though. Said he didn't want to be disturbed. Perhaps you should go see him."

Still not understanding Bodahn's hesitance, Fenris walked through the hallway and the living area and eventually up the stairs. Hawke probably thinks it is funny to read in bed, even though I have recovered. Well, he can forget about that, I'm not going to... He had reached Hawke's bedroom, but a quick look inside revealed it was empty. Confused, Fenris turned around. Bodahn had said Hawke was upstairs. Perhaps Hawke had gone downstairs without the dwarf noticing? Fenris already wanted to descend the stairs again, when he saw that the door on his right was open as well. As far as he knew, that door was always closed. Not certain whether he was allowed to look inside, he stepped closer to the door to peak around the corner.

A bed, as large as Hawke's bed, was placed against the far wall. Instead of red, the sheets were a light purple, further decorated with a pattern of small flowers. An elegant dressing table stood in a corner. Two paintings hung on one of the walls, or - more precisely - one painting and one drawing. The painting portrayed two children and one teenager who Fenris immediately recognized as a young Damian Hawke, although the young version had no beard yet and shorter hair. The children, a boy and a girl, were undoubtedly Carver and Bethany. Of the three, Bethany showed the brightest smile. Only the word 'innocent' came to mind to describe that smile. Carver looked the way he had still looked when Fenris had met him: not content with what life threw at him, and Hawke had one corner of his mouth lifted up in a skewed, forced smirk. It was easy to see when Hawke's smile was real and when it was fake.

The drawing was a rather rough sketch, simple black lines on a white background. At first Fenris thought it was a more recent picture of Hawke, but the man on the sketch looked older, and not quite like Hawke, although the similarity was strong. Fenris guessed this was actually Hawke's father.

He knew which room this was.

Hawke was standing next to the bed, in front of the nightstand, with his back towards Fenris. On the nightstand was a glass vase. In the vase were long-dead flowers. The petals had withered away; many had fallen on the nightstand or the ground. Hawke stared at the dead flowers as if he suspected they could jump out of the vase to strangle him. Fenris lingered in the doorway, vividly recalling the last time he had tried to comfort Hawke in his grief. Although Hawke must have heard him enter, he did not turn around or even look over his shoulder.

For a few minutes they simply stood like that, Hawke staring at the flowers, Fenris staring at Hawke's back. Eventually Fenris broke the pressing silence by saying Hawke's name. Hawke glanced at him before returning his gaze to the remains of the flowers. "Hey. Sorry, I didn't intend to be here by the time you arrived. I must have... lost track of time."

Fenris took a hesitant step into the room. "What are you doing?"

Hawke answered without looking at him. "I wanted to clean this place up a bit. Get rid of some clothes... I thought I could do that... How long has it been? Eight months? But..."

Letting go of his last reluctance, Fenris crossed the distance to Hawke. "You saw the flowers," he said.

"Did you know flowers have a meaning? Different species, different colors... you can send a message with it. Mother knew the symbolism of most flowers. Red roses, for example, say 'I love you'," Hawke gestured at the flowers in the vase, "White lilies say 'you're going to die. I'm going to kill you'."

Not knowing what to say, Fenris remained silent.

Finally Hawke looked at him again and gave him a smile. A forced smile. "Don't worry. I'm not going to cry again." He sniffed. "Not really."

The sadness in Hawke's eyes hit him. At that moment he only wanted to take that pain away from him, add it to his own if needed. Just to see Hawke's smile turn genuine again. That he was not capable of doing that frustrated Fenris more than being unable to write a decent letter to his sister. He had no comfort to offer, even though he wanted to.

Hawke apparently sensed that inability too, but misinterpreted it. "I'm sorry. I know you don't want or need this. I really didn't want to be here this long. It's just I... I somehow always end up talking to you, because it feels like I... can. I know it's silly, because you don't want to talk to me anymore, but you're the only one who seems to understand anyway. And I need that. So.. uh... thanks for listen to me rambling. Now it's time for your lesson. We'll go downstairs. But first..." Hawke faced the dead lilies once again, holding up one hand. Small flames lit up around his fingers. He brought his hand to a lily that had managed to hold on to its withered petals and let the flames lick on it. As soon as the fire tasted the dry flower, it swallowed it whole. Within a few seconds the lily had been reduced to ashes. Hawke set fire to the rest of the lilies, one by one, until all the remains in the vase had been burned up.

"There," Hawke said. He turned his back to the nightstand in a definitive manner. With a face that looked like it was made of stone, he said: "I never want to receive flowers. Mother knew the meaning of most, but when a madmen decides they symbolize he is going to murder you... then it's useless. If someone makes up their own meaning, you have no idea. So I prefer words. No bloody symbols."

Fenris' fingers went to red sash around his wrist, but he withdrew them before they touched the fabric. "Waste of time."

He stopped Hawke, who was already walking to the door, and pointed to the drawing hanging on the wall. "Is that your father?"

Hawke nodded. "Yes, that's him. Malcolm Hawke. That ugly painting is of me, Carver and Bethany, but you probably guessed that." He studied the painting, then added: "I think I got better. I don't know what was going on with that hair."

"You don't look happy."

Hawke frowned, wrinkling his brow. "What do you mean? I'm smiling."

"That's not one of your real smiles." He had barely said it when Hawke's mouth curled in a grin he tried to keep down. "What?"

"Careful, Fenris, or I might start thinking you actually know me. I'd hate to think I'm an open book to you."

"I think I'd have more trouble reading a book than you," Fenris mumbled. Hawke burst into laughter at that.

"Okay, wrong choice of words. Come, let's see if we can improve your readings skills a little more then."

While they walked the stairs, Fenris realized with surprise that he had just managed to make Hawke smile. Really smile. How had he done that? He had wished it, and then it had happened. Somehow. Had he really made things a little bit better for Hawke? Perhaps he did have it in him to provide comfort. Perhaps he really could be more than a living weapon. With Varania's help it would be possible.

Bodahn was waiting for them and looked relieved to see that Hawke seemed fine.

"Bodahn, go to Mother's room and clean it up," Hawke ordered. The dwarf did not seem happy with the request, but he nodded nonetheless.

The first half of the lesson they read, the second half consisted of writing. Hawke read the sentences of a book to Fenris, and he had to write them down. In the beginning Hawke had spelled every word, but now he only did that for the longer ones. It was encouraging to notice this sign of progress. Eager to learn, Fenris always did his best to stay focused during the lessons, despite the always distracting presence of Hawke. This evening though, he grew more frustrated while he wrote down all the words he did not want to write. At the moment he only wanted to know how to spell one thing. While Hawke continued to read the next sentence, Fenris put down the quill.

"And then he went to the - oh, this is a difficult one: k-i-t-c-h-e-n, to..."

"How do you spell Varania?"

Hawke looked up from his book to stare at Fenris. Fenris had expected to see suspicion creep on Hawke's face, but Hawke maintained a blank expression. After a pause, Hawke answered with a soft voice: "V-a-r-a-n-i-a."

Fenris picked the quill up again and fixated his eyes on the parchment that lay in front of him. "Thanks." 

Chapter Text

From under bushy eyebrows Eddy looked intently at him with dark brown eyes. "Do I look like a courier to you?" he asked with a rather high voice that did not match very well with his rough appearance. He was a bit short for a human, about the same height as Fenris. His black curls were kept flat on his round head with a strong-smelling oil. It had been a while since Fenris had seen this custom. It had been fashionable for some time in the Imperium. His master had enjoyed the use of oils, balms and perfumes a lot and often used them, leading to a strong - but fresh - scent of various herbs and other ingredients always surrounding him. If Fenris had not had his markings to sense the presence of magic, he could still have smelled Danarius when he neared. The scent lingered after he had left too, as if he was a predator that had marked his territory. When his master had touched him, the scent clung to his own body, remaining there long after the event. Eddy's high-pitched voice drew him back to the present. "Why all this trouble to deliver a letter?"

Fenris blinked to withdraw himself from the memory that had suddenly come to him and met the distrustful look with equal intensity. "I require discretion. I have not spoken to my sister for a long time. I am... not certain she has remained in Qarinus. If it turns out she is no longer there, I need you to track her down. Again, I demand discretion when it comes to that."

Eddy folded his arms across his chest. "And you can't go visit your sister yourself because..."

"It seems being discrete is not one of your qualities. I'll hire somebody more capable."

With a sigh, Eddy hold up a hand. "Alright, alright. Wait. I'll bite. But you can't blame me for being suspicious about anything that has to do with the Imperium. With all those blighted mages running around freely, it's no place to get in trouble. And something tells me an odd knife-ear with tattoos all over him and Tevinter are trouble."

When his comments were only met by silence from Fenris, Eddy let out another sigh, one even more dramatic. "You're lucky I have had bad luck with cards. Damn cheating dwarves," he mumbled. "Where is your sister, you said?"


"You better have enough coin."

Fenris took the purse that was hanging on his belt and dropped it in Eddy's waiting hand. "This should be sufficient." Out of the one of the satchels that were also fastened on his belt, he took the letter he had written for Varania. "Give this to my sister, and return with her reply."

It had taken him days to write the letter. Rejected, half-finished versions had been scattered across the mansion, but finally he had created one he was satisfied with:




I heard that you are my sister. I escaped and I would like to get to know you. I heard you are not a slave. Do you want to come to Kirkwall so that we can meet? I have added coin for the journey. There is much to talk about. I hope you are well and to see you soon.


Your brother,



It was short, but he did not dare to add more information. He had removed the names of Hadriana and Danarius after several drafts. If Eddy decided to read to letter, or if the letter ended up in the wrong hands, those names could bring him and Varania in grave danger. Eddy could easily decide that Danarius could offer a lot more coin than Fenris if he found out. It would not be the first time someone sold him out when they realized there was a bounty on his head. Best to remain careful and minimize the risks as much as possible.

It would not be long now before he could finally meet his family. 

He returned to Kirkwall without getting ambushed, and he fell back into the pattern of working, hiding in the mansion, and the regular lesson with Hawke and card game at the Hanged Man. He hid his excitement behind the broody mask he already used to cover many of his other feelings and thoughts and that had earned him Varric's mockery years ago.

Hawke had kept his promise so far and managed to withhold himself from further prying, although Fenris could see that Hawke was eager to ask one of his many questions every now and then. The man probably had to bite his tongue more than once to stay silent. Fenris looked forward to telling Hawke the whole story and asking him to meet his sister. He could receive her answer any day now.

But a week passed without any news, and then another week, and another, and another. His unrest grew steadily, until it reached its maximum after more than a month of not hearing anything. Things that could have gone wrong raced through his mind while he spent the days pacing restlessly though dark, poorly-tended rooms. Eddy had taken the coin he had included with the letter and decided the job was not worth the trouble. Or he had somehow drawn attention, gotten himself arrested and was being questioned about his business in Tevinter. He would then have confessed he was working for an odd elf with white hair and markings on his skin who was living in Kirkwall. Or Eddy had done his job, but Varania could not leave the city because the magister she was working for would not let her. Perhaps she simply did not want to meet him, an escaped ex-slave she had not heard from in years. His letter could have offended her. He could have made a mistake in his spelling, despite his efforts and keeping it simple. Or she just had not been able to read his terrible handwriting, and had thrown the letter away. All worse possible scenarios involved Danarius.

Frustrated as he was, much more than waiting for news he could not do. He had gone back to Cumberland after a month, but as far as he could tell Eddy's house was still abandoned. That made the first possibility a bit less likely, although he could easily be hiding somewhere else, somewhere where Fenris could not find him. 

Finally, after almost two months, exactly seven years after his escape, he received news. Fenris went to the door to check the locks before dark, as he always did, to find a letter on the stone tiles. It had been pushed under the door. Forgetting about the locks for a moment, he snatched up the letter and rushed back to the living area to make light and read the message. With a wildly beating heart he tore open the envelop and took out the letter. He cursed Eddy's tiny handwriting while he tried to decipher it. Only a few short sentences had been scribbled down on the parchment.


She is not in Qarinus. Finally have a lead: the magister she works for seems to have left for Minrathous. Heading there now. You better have more payment for me when I get back.




When he had read the letter, he crumbled it in his fist. "Minrathous," he whispered to himself. This could not be true. The Maker truly must have laughed at his prayers. His sister was now in the same city as Danarius, right under his nose. If this was no proof his master knew about her... Perhaps he was even responsible for her presence there. Nothing could ever be easy, apparently. On the anniversary of his escape, he got no reason to celebrate.

Fenris started pacing, squeezing the letter until it was a small ball. Should he call it off? Forget about his sister? He had known looking for her would be risky, but the risks had just increased tremendously. Minrathous was the capital of the Tevinter Imperium, the seat of power of the magisters. Danarius was well-connected there, and he had numerous spies. Not much in Minrathous managed to escape his attention. Was it still worth it to try to meet Varania? Fenris knew he was an idiot for still considering it.

He jumped at the sound of a fist banging against the front door. Was Danarius already here? At least that would solve his dilemma... Grabbing his sword from its usual corner, he made his way to the door. He hesitated before he opened it. Danarius came knocking and he would just open the door for him? Surely there were smarter strategies. Hiding in the shadows before attacking would be better. With his sword raised, he leaned closer to the door, hoping to hear something. It was strange Danarius would bother to knock in the first place. Perhaps he did not want to draw unwanted attention? It seemed unnecessary. Fenris doubted the city guard would be able to help him if they tried. He thought he heard multiple voices mumbling outside.

The second time there was being knocked startled him as much as the first time, with the sound being so much louder with his ear close to the door. A voice he knew all too well shouted: "Fenris! Open up!"

Hawke? Letting out a sigh, he lowered his blade and pulled open the door. "Hawke, what..."

Before he could finish, he was greeted by a storm of voices. "Happy anniversary!"

Hawke flashed his widest smile at him. Behind him, Fenris could see the entire gang: Aveline, Varric, Sebastian, Merrill, and even Anders. He saw Donnic standing next to Aveline as well. Fenris was too baffled to protest when Hawke shoved past him. "Happy anniversary, Fenris. Look, I made you cake!" A large, round chocolate cake came hovering before Fenris' nose as Hawke said it. There were fingerprints on it, and there was a piece missing. "Well, I told Bodahn and Orana to make you cake. They didn't manage to get it out of Sandal's reach, so that's why it's not whole anymore. It wasn't me, in case you were thinking that."

"You do seem to have gotten a bit puffy, Hawke," Varric said with an innocent tone while he stepped into the hallway.

Hawke blew up his cheeks in wounded dignity. "Puffy you say?! I'd say my width to height ratio is still a lot better than yours."

"I'm a dwarf. What's your excuse? And besides, this is all pure muscle."

Hawke snorted. "Of course it is." He returned his attention to Fenris, who had finally processed what was going on and was now clenching the hilt of his sword, turning his knuckles white. "That thing is bit too big to cut the cake," Hawke commented dryly.

While the others entered as well, Fenris struggled to find words to express himself. "What is this?" was the first thing he could manage.

"A birthday, slash anniversary party. With cake. You're supposed to celebrate your birthday, but with no memory you obviously don't know when it is your birthday. Sooo I decided the anniversary of your escape would then be the next best thing to celebrate. We'll just pretend it is your birthday as well."

Through gritted teeth, Fenris said: "And who said I want a party at all?"

The look Hawke gave him suggested he was completely out of his mind. "There is cake! Why wouldn't you want that? Now, don't be so rude and see your guests to the living room so that we can eat cake." The chocolate cake turned an elegant circle around Fenris, forcing Anders to jump back to avoid being hit, then floated through the door in the direction of the living area.

"Show-off," Anders muttered as he recovered his balance. Hawke ignored him and followed his cake, with Fenris, cursing under his breath in Arcanum, on his heels. With two steps at a time, Hawke went up the stairs. The cake landed in the middle of the table.

"We've brought wine too," Hawke said, gesturing at Aveline, Donnic and Varric, who were all carrying a few bottles. "Hopefully not made of the blood and tears of slaves... Do you have glasses?"

The right argument to send them all back to where they came from had yet to take shape in Fenris' head. His mind was still with the letter he had received from Eddy. He had to figure out what to do now that Varania was in Minrathous.  This was no time for a forced party. There was not much to celebrate after all. It was the anniversary of his escape, but not of his freedom. Had he been free, he could have gone to Minrathous without fear, to see his sister. As long as that was not possible, he remained an ex-slave, not a free man. But perhaps he could use a little distraction. He could brood all he wanted, it would not change the way things were. It did not change that Eddy was already on his way to Minrathous. And he had to admit to himself that even now he did not want to cancel his plan. He had gone over it more times than he could count, weighing the risks. He knew what was at stake. It had not changed. He would not give up on this. He needed this.

As a sign of surrender, he placed his blade back against the wall, next to the door. "In the cellar, I think."

Another smile from Hawke. "Excellent. Okay, people, take a seat. I'm sure there are enough chairs in this house. Don't let the corpses in the corner scare you. They don't bite, or Fenris here would have been eaten a long time ago. Fenris and I will go get wine glasses."

Donnic looked a bit startled at Hawke's remark about the corpses. Fenris saw him casting a few quick glances to all the corners of the room. Shaking his head, he led the way for Hawke to the cellar.

Once they were there, Fenris tossed the crumbled letter he had still been holding in the farthest corner while Hawke took a glass from a shelf and held it in front of his face, mumbling to himself. "'Puffy', he said. Blasted dwarf." He narrowed his eyes a bit and studied the reflection of his face in the wine glass. The shape only made the mirror image appear rounder. "Too many dinner parties."

From a respectable distance, Fenris looked at Hawke from under his eyelashes. Despite Varric's teasing, Hawke had not even gotten close to being fat. Instead, he looked more healthy. The months after Leandra's death, Hawke's face had become narrow. Although his beard had partially hidden the hollowness of his cheeks, he had still looked tired and older than his true age. Fenris could not escape the conclusion Hawke had never looked better. That he could not prevent himself from evaluating Hawke's appearance did not improve his mood.

"What gave you the idea I would want a party?"

Hawke abandoned his reflection and counted how many glasses he needed on his fingers, after which he started taking them from the shelf and handing them over to Fenris. "You celebrated it last year."

"Not with a party. Not with a group. What I told you that night I told you in confidence."

"The only thing I told them was that this is the anniversary of your escape. I haven't spoken of how you escaped, and I am not going to. I don't see the problem. Everybody deserves their own special occasion, and for you, this is it."

"So we are to celebrate how I killed the first people who ever helped me? How I betrayed the trust they placed in me?" The words sounded even more bitter than he had intended.

For a moment, Hawke's cheerfulness wavered. "No, that is not what we are celebrating. We remember and honor their deaths, but we celebrate what it has led to. I know it sounds... not right, but it did free you, Fenris. Without their deaths, you would not be here. You would still be Danarius' slave, and we would never have met." It was quite dark in the cellar - they had not bothered with lights - but Hawke's eyes found Fenris' without effort, and their gaze immediately locked. "I do not regret meeting you. It is a terrible thing you've done, but because you realized that, you found the strength to defy your master. It made you snap out of your slave mentality, so that you could make your first decision independent of your master. And that decision was getting away from there. You may not see it as strength or even as a real decision because you fled in shame, but it was something you did without Danarius' approval and it took strength and courage nonetheless. And you should not regret that. The Fog Warriors sacrificed themselves for your freedom, willingly or not. The least you can do is prove that sacrifice worthwhile by making something of your life. That includes celebrating special occasions. You don't have to keep living as a ghost. That would be insulting to their deaths, not celebrating your freedom."

"I have never looked at it that way..."

Hawke's smile returned. "So, in for a party? We'll make it an anniversary, slash birthday, slash memorial."

"I'd rather..." I'd rather do this just with you, like last year. I'd rather be truly free when I celebrate, instead of this cursed in-between. I am not free, Hawke. Can't you see? I am still in a cage, and sometimes it feels like I built it myself. If I was free, we could...

"Yes? You'd rather what?"

"I would have preferred it if you hadn't made this a surprise party as well."

Hawke chuckled, turned back to the stairs and began to climb them. "Oh, just stop being so bloody stubborn and admit you don't hate the idea." 

Everyone in the living area had already found a chair for themselves. Two empty chairs were left next to each other. Fenris and Hawke put a glass in front of everyone before they sat down. As usual, Hawke took charge. Fenris wondered if the man would even be capable of following instead of leading. Out of one of the pockets in his robes, Hawke took several small candles and placed them one by one in the cake. There were seven in total. After Hawke had moved his hand over them, they were all lit.

"Okay, Fenris. Close your eyes, make a wish, then blow them out."

Fenris frowned at Hawke's instructions. "Make a wish?"

With a hand wave, Hawke dismissed Fenris' hesitation. "Just do it. It's custom. You can wish whatever you want."

"Ooh, can I make a wish too when it is my birthday?"

"Of course you can, Merrill," Hawke answered."I'll get you a cake."

So far the Maker has ignored my prayers. Why would a cake grand me a wish? Sighing, he bowed toward the cake and closed his eyes. I wish... What was he even supposed to wish for? I wish I could hate you, Hawke. He opened his eyes and blew at the candles. They all went out. This unremarkable accomplishment was greeted with applause from the others. While he was still trying to wrap his head around why blowing out a few candles was worth rewarding with a wish, Hawke uncorked the first bottle of wine, then handed it to him. Reluctantly accepting that this would probably remain another mystery to him, Fenris filled all the glasses, while Hawke cut the cake. When they had sat back down, Hawke was the first to raise his glass. "A toast. To Fenris."

"To Fenris," they echoed, all raising their glasses. Anders was the only one who didn't bring it to his lips after the toast but put it back down and stared at it sourly. Fenris met Hawke's clear, light blue eyes before he drank from his wine. Without words, they shared an additional toast, the same they had one year ago. To the fallen. And he knew: that cake is not going to fulfill my wish. There was no shaking Hawke loose. He kept coming back. Like magic. Magic had sunken its teeth into his life long ago, and refused to let go ever since. It kept finding new ways, as did Hawke. It was almost comforting that he did. Knowing there was someone who actually cared, it helped. Although he did not deserve it, it felt good. Good and frustrating at the same time. Was that possible?

Fenris was pulled back from his pondering by Hawke, who had decided it was time to eat the cake and pulled the candles out of it. "So, Fenris not remembering when his birthday is means - how convenient - that he doesn't know how old he is. If we count in anniversaries, he is seven years old. But what would you guys think his real age is?" He looked around questioningly. When nobody answered immediately, he said: "Merrill. You are an elf as well. Maybe you can guess?"

The blood mage looked at Fenris' face intently before she said something. Fenris felt uncomfortable with her large eyes directed at him. You never knew if a demon was watching through them as well. "I don't know... he is hard! I think... thirty-three?"

Hawke addressed the dwarf next to Merrill. "Varric?"

"Judged by the color of the hair, I'd say fifty."

They all chuckled. "That would put him in a pretty good shape for his age," Sebastian noted.

"Well, the hair is my only clue. Impossible to tell with those elves."

"I think thirty-one," Sebastian guessed.

Aveline let her eyes drift over Fenris, then said: "Thirty-four."

"No, he has to be younger," Donnic countered. "Twenty-nine."

The abomination shrugged. "I have no idea. I'll go with thirty-two."

It was Hawke's turn. He cocked his head at Fenris, an amused smile on his lips. "Let's see... Would you be older or younger than me? I think... one year older. Thirty-one." He took a bite from the piece of cake he was holding. "Well, what do you think, Fenris? Who won?"

"I think Donnic is my new friend. He estimated me at the lowest age. Varric is no longer welcome."

"Ha, Donnic is a wise man, choosing the safest option. But seriously, how old do you think you are?"

Fenris leaned back in his chair, bit in his cake and chewed (it tasted delicious)  while he thought about the question. How old was he? And how ridiculous was it that he did not know something like that? Who did not know his own age? He had not given it that much thought before, but now that Hawke had brought it up, he tried to calculate the years he had spent with Danarius. The problem was that time did not have much meaning to a slave. Years, months, weeks, they did not matter. There was only now, and what the next hour would bring. The wishes and orders of your master were all that mattered. It was all you lived for. The details of your own existence were of no importance and yesterday was irrelevant. It felt like he had spent a lifetime serving Danarius. Narrowing it down to years was impossible.

"I... don't know." He ran a head through his hair, still thinking. "If I have to guess, I'd say thirty."

"Alright. Same age it is then. Say goodbye to the two in your age, Fenris, because today you turned thirty. But you didn't know you were in your twenties, so you won't miss the two much anyway," Hawke said, grinning. It had been a while since Fenris had seen him in such a good mood. That alone made it worth sitting through this silly party. After having seen Hawke in some of his darkest hours, he would do a lot more to make him smile like that. Not that he was not enjoying himself just a little bit at the moment... Although he did not doubt his 'guests' were all here because Hawke had asked them to come, he appreciated they had bothered to do so.

Donnic, who was sitting on his other side, bent over to him. "Congratulations with your... uh... birthday."

"Thank you." He gave Donnic a small smile.

"Why is it you can't recall your real birthday?" Donnic inquired, obviously curious. "If it is alright I ask."

"It is a long story. But the ritual that gave me these," Fenris lifted his right arm to show Donnic the markings, "wiped my memory."

"I see. That must have been... unfortunate."

Fenris opened his mouth to answer, but his attention was drawn to Anders, who had decided it was time to bother Hawke. "I have had disturbing news from my contacts," he began. "Several of the mages who saw you as an example and admired you, have been made tranquil."

Hawke took a sip from his wine. "I'm sorry to hear that."

"You have to take a stand here, Hawke. You are the proof mages don't have to be locked up. You saved the city from the Qunari. If you rally the nobles, Meredith will have to..."

A mocking laugh from Hawke cut him off. "Rally the nobles? Me? Why would they care about anything I have to say?"

"You are Champion," Anders hissed. "They look up to you. They owe you. You are being invited to countless dinner parties."

After he had downed the rest of his wine, Hawke placed one elbow on the table and leaned his chin on his hand. "Let me explain it to you, Anders. The nobles do not look up to me, and they have pretty much forgotten that they may owe me. Sure, the minor nobles still respect me, but the most prominent nobility has gone long back to wishing I go back to the Lowtown hovel I crawled out of, or better yet: that I will be locked up in the Gallows. I may be Champion, but I remain a mage in the first place, and to them that means I can still turn into an abomination at any moment and start nibbling on their shins. If I go to the Delauncets right now and ask them if I can marry Fifi, they are not going to be jumping up and down with joy. They don't care enough about me being Champion that they will let me bring magic into their precious noble line. The people who look up to me the most are the commoners, and although that is probably what is keeping me out of the Gallows now, it is not so useful that I can overthrow Meredith or something fancy like that."

The abomination's face darkened. "I don't believe that. You make it sound like it all means nothing, but that is not true. You could make a difference for your people. You have been free all your life. You owe others to strive for their freedom as well. They have the right to the same."

Hawke sighed. "Oh Anders. Shut your mouth or stuff some cake in it."

Hints of blue appeared on the abomination's skin and in his eyes. Fenris was immediately on the edge of his chair, ready to jump up and take action. "So you would rather continue to play Meredith's mascot, with that insult of a statue?"

"Yep. Team Meredith picked first. Sorry."

That was all Anders could take. He jumped up so abruptly his chair fell back with a loud bang. Fenris got up as well, his markings already ablaze. Before he had the chance to grab the abomination, he felt a hand around his wrist, pulling him back into his chair. He shot a wary look at Hawke that made it clear he did not agree.

To his surprise, Anders managed to rein himself in. The cracks of blue that had appeared everywhere on his skin disappeared, and his eyes turned back to their regular amber. "I was once like you, Hawke," he said softly. "Only thinking about myself, content when I thought I had escaped the Circle for good. But how can you not see? Innocent lives are being destroyed, their humanity taking from them, turned into empty husks of what they used to be! People who believe in you and the example you set, are being crushed under Meredith's heel. It's not right."

"No, it's not right. I know," Hawke replied. "And I do care. If they have truly been made tranquil because my name was on their lips, then that is terrible... I want to help, but I can't do what you want me to do. I don't have that power. Ask my help for whatever you want, but I cannot start a revolution. I will be in the Gallows before anything has been achieved."

Anders nodded, a sad expression on his face. "You're right. I don't want you to risk yourself for something that is doomed to go wrong. Forgive me. If you'll excuse me, I have to get up early tomorrow for the clinic."

"I'll come by tomorrow."

The tender smile Anders gave Hawke raised Fenris' suspicions. The abomination seemed all too pleased with Hawke's promise. Would Hawke coming by mean more than a simple visit? Had the abomination something to really look forward to? The idea made his stomach turn.

As soon as Anders had left, Donnic said, with eyes wide: "Is he... an..."

Aveline put a hand on his arm to silence him. The shock on Donnic's face only became clearer. "You knew about this and you allowed it?"

"He is right, this should not continue," Sebastian said. "He is dangerous."

"Ah, come on. Blondie is not that bad. He has his weak moments, but he has a good heart."

Hawke gave Sebastian and Donnic a threatening look. "No one is secretly going to report him. Understood?"

Sebastian seemed eager to protest, but cast his eyes down when Hawke's frown deepened. Donnic's mouth became a thin, straight line, but he gave one short nod to show he understood as well. Fenris suspected he would demand an explanation from Aveline later.

"So...," Hawke broke the silence that threatened to become very uncomfortable. "Who wants more cake?"

After some time, the incident with Anders disappeared to the back of everybody's mind. Hawke managed to get a conversation  going, and the rest of the evening passed pleasantly. It was late - past midnight - when everybody but Hawke had left. He stayed to help clean up the used glasses and empty wine bottles. They did not say much, being both busy with their own thoughts. It wasn't until Fenris walked Hawke to the front door that Hawke said something.

"Well, did you enjoy your first anniversary, slash birthday party?"

"Perhaps you could leave the abomination at home next time."

"You should stop calling him that. Although I suppose he did ruin the atmosphere quite a bit."

In more than one way.

Another silence. This time it was Fenris who eventually broke it. "I... want to thank you for what you said. In the cellar. You seem to... understand." He remembered how Hawke had said something similar a few months ago, when Fenris had found him in Leandra's room, staring at the dead lilies. They understood each other, when it came to things like this, the things they hid deep down inside. The other dug those things up without effort, laying them bare. But instead of making it worse, it was made better. The words he had spoken exactly one year ago rang in his head: "I didn't think I needed anyone. Or... wanted anyone. Until now." But he should not want Hawke. And why would Hawke need him? They might understand those darkest moments, but that did not mean it was enough. It did not make him good enough.

Breaking eye contact, Fenris opened the door. "Goodnight, Hawke."

"Goodnight, Fenris."

Chapter Text

Several weeks later it was the day of another anniversary: it had been one year since Fenris had crushed Hadriana's heart in her chest. And his own, because it was also one year since he had spent the night with Hawke. That one delightful, excruciating, awful night he could not get out of his head, no matter how hard he tried. Many nights he dreamed of it. Many mornings he woke up still feeling Hawke's hands on him, the paths his mouth had traced burning hot, lingering in his mind during his waking hours. A year later, and it seemed like yesterday.

Fenris would have preferred to stay at home this day, alone, with a bottle of wine - or perhaps more than one bottle. But there was a reading lesson scheduled for tonight.

Why did they have that planned for this night, of all possible evenings? All day he was tempted not to go, but if he did not go, he would acknowledge that that night had happened, and that it was still on his mind. If he wanted to act like nothing had ever transpired between them, he should behave no differently during this lesson. Not going and cowardly hiding in his mansion was clearly saying he remembered, and that it did not leave him indifferent. Perhaps if he kept pretending nothing had happened, nothing was going on, and that he felt nothing about it, felt nothing for Hawke... it would go away. Someday. Eventually. Maybe.

So when the sun had set, Fenris forced himself to leave the mansion and make the short walk to Hawke's estate. It was possible Hawke did not even realize that exactly one year had passed. Hawke had probably moved on long ago, pretty much forgotten about this one slip-up. As if Hawke would keep pining over someone like Fenris for a year. Especially if he had indeed moved on to the abomination...  That thought failed to reassure.

Before he knew it, Fenris was standing in front of Hawke's door, and Bodahn let him in. Reluctantly, he entered the study, where he found Hawke already waiting for him in his usual chair. Fenris halted in the door opening. He could immediately see that Hawke had not forgotten what day it was. Often Hawke was reading in a book himself when Fenris arrived, or writing a letter, but this time Hawke was just waiting for him. His blue eyes saw Fenris as soon as he stepped over the threshold and pinned him there. His expression was oddly tensed, and Fenris could see a silent question on Hawke's face. A question, mixed with the faintest hint of hope. Fenris cast his eyes down and stared at his bare feet. When Hawke read the clear "no" as an answer in that, he reached for a bottle from next to his chair. The bottle was already uncorked, and with one swift movement Hawke filled two glasses nearly to the edge with blood red liquid. One he placed on the desk; the other he brought to his mouth, drinking it half empty with long, deep gulps. Fenris watched Hawke's Adam's apple move up and down as he swallowed the wine. Fenris tried to swallow the lump that had settled in his throat without success. With slow steps he walked towards Hawke and sat down in the chair next to him.

Without saying a word, Hawke wiped his mouth with the back of his hand and pushed the book they were reading over the desk towards Fenris. Fenris grabbed the second glass and let the heavy, full taste of wine roll over his tongue before he bent over the pages of "the Adventures of the Black Fox". He could hear Hawke down the rest of his drink, followed by the sound of liquid being poured in a glass. It was not uncommon for them to enjoy a glass of wine during their lessons, but usually they had one or two drinks over the entire evening. Hawke emptying his in the first two minutes was something he had not seen before.

"Born Lord Remi Vascal in 8:63 Blessed, the Black Fox was a dashing thief and rogue who went on to inspire so many tales of his exploits that it is nearly im... imp... impossible to de-ter-mine today which are true and which are merely fabri... fabricated legend." Fenris drank from his wine when he had finally made it to the end of the sentence. "Maker, Hawke. Can those sentences be any longer?"

Hawke gave no witty reply. He only held the bottle over Fenris' glass and refilled it. Fenris shifted in his chair as he tried to focus on the book. Silent Hawke made him feel uneasy.

"Despite coming from nobi...lity, he has become something of a hero of the common people.

His initial exploits involved ri... ridi... c-u-l-i-n-g..."

"Ridiculing," Hawke helped, his voice calm, without emotion.

"Ridiculing the... t-y-r... tyranni.. cal..."


"Tyrannical and powerful lord of Val Chevin."

He sighed and followed Hawke's example of drinking more wine. Perhaps it would help.

It wasn't long before the first bottle was empty, but Hawke simply picked up a next one and continued to refill their glasses. Focusing on the uninteresting story became increasingly difficult, and Fenris became more and more aware of Hawke's presence on his right. Not that that was something he tended to forget otherwise... As the wine flowed, the memory of the night they had shared hung more heavily between them.

By the time his speech became slurred, Fenris had given up on reading. Yet he kept his eyes fixated on the pages of the book, just to avoid looking at Hawke. His glass he held on his lap, fingers of both hands -even now clad in his steel gauntlets - wrapped around it. He had lost count of how many times Hawke had poured more wine for him. Judged by the cloudiness of his head, it had been many. Many, but still not enough to forget. Not enough to wipe Hawke's caresses from his memory. Not enough to drown the moans of pleasure they had both let out and that were now for some reason echoing in his ears. Fenris felt his cheeks grow hot. Why was this still plaguing him after a year? He had thought it would take a few weeks at most to get over this, but there had been no improvement. What was wrong with him? Why did it have to be so difficult?

Hot air, carrying the scent of wine, against his cheek startled him. He looked up to see Hawke leaning over to him, his face close. Hawke's cheeks had a rosy tint, an almost feverish blush that accentuated the darkness of his eyes. Those eyes. The normally ice blue was almost completely swallowed by black, dilated pupils. In those eyes, with pupils wide from alcohol and lust, Fenris could see the wanting. It was clearer than ever. He had seen it before, especially after the first kiss, but it had gradually become more hidden, until all that was left was the color of frozen lakes. But now the ice had cracked, and he was being pulled under. He could not deny he saw it there. With this look, this gaze, all the lies he had been telling himself for the past year and before that, threatened to be dragged into the light and exposed. I don't want him: lie. I don't need him: lie. I don't know what I'm feeling: lie. He has to hate me: lie. It was right there, the wanting, the ache. Right there in those eyes. He was aware of his own eyes mirroring what could be seen in Hawke's.

But he did not want to face the truths he had tried so hard to strangle. He could not. The lies made it easier, bearable. Most of the time. Not now. Fenris looked down to no longer have to be confronted with all the things in Hawke's beautiful eyes, only to see the lump the soft fabric of his trousers was unable to hide completely. Hawke only wore trousers when he did not have to leave his house. The rest of the city only ever saw him in his robes. It did not occur to Fenris' alcohol soaked mind to avert his eyes. He kept staring at it, while his own hardness pressed uncomfortably against the leather of his tight breeches. He knew his own arousal could not remain hidden either.

Hawke lowered his left hand - to hide his erection, Fenris thought - but instead he touched it, stroked it. Three fingers ran up and down the length. A choked sound escaped from Fenris' throat at the sight. More blood came rushing to his loins, hardening him until it ached. He clenched his glass tighter.

He finally looked back up when Hawke placed his free hand against his cheek. Hawke's thumb pressed against the line on the right of his chin, causing a fierce heat to spread. Fenris felt the lyrium flare up, its activity spreading, traveling down the markings on his neck, his chest, his stomach until eventually Hawke's touch had reached his stiff cock without his thumb ever moving. It had Fenris shuddering in his chair. After a while, Hawke's hand started moving. His fingers traced the lines on his neck and went on to his shoulder. Even through the leather layer of his armor Fenris felt his markings react, conducting the magic of Hawke's touch downwards, as if Hawke had simply grabbed him there. The fingers went on to the bare skin of his arm, stroking lightly, in the same rhythm his other hand was keeping. Each stroke brought Hawke's hand a little bit farther down. Fenris wanted to flinch away from the contact, but the wine had diluted his reflexes, and it just felt so good...

A moan rumbled at the back of his throat, resonating in his chest. Hawke curled his fingers under the red ribbon around Fenris' wrist, leading to Fenris squeezing his glass even tighter. He did not want to see what Hawke was thinking while he stared at that scrap of fabric, so he lowered his gaze again. To Hawke's other hand. A dark spot had formed in his trousers. He wanted to fall to his knees, between Hawke's legs, and bring his mouth over that spot. Suck and taste right through the material of Hawke's pants, making him groan... Right now he could not think of anything he wanted more. He could not think of anything else in the first place.

Hawke's hand had moved again. Fenris closed his eyes as he felt it burn on his inner thigh. I want this. I want him. But through the drunken haze the doubt forced its way up. Nothing had changed since he had left a year ago. Hadriana was dead, but Danarius was alive in the Tevinter Imperium, ready to take him back, and he had still not found his sister. The only thing that had changed was Hawke. Hawke was now not only a noble, but Champion as well. A man with many admirers. If he did this now, he would only make things worse. The careful balance they maintained would get disrupted. Because he would still have to leave. As long as he could not force his past to stay behind him, he could not start this new life. Slipping away in a fairytale had never been this tempting, but the breakdown would be all the more painful. Hawke deserved better than that. If he could ever hope to be worthy of Hawke, Fenris would have to give everything he had to offer. And right now he still had nothing. With Danarius at his back, he had to keep looking over his shoulder. It limited his chance to look forward, and that was what he should be able to do if he was with Hawke. Fenris clenched his fists. As long as he could be nothing more than an ex-slave, it was not enough. He might be able to spell freedom, but he had not crawled out of his cage yet, had not thrown off all his chains.

"I'm a patient man, Fenris. Do you remember I said I was a patient man? I lied. Waste of time."

And his memory... What if his memories would return again when he lay with Hawke? He could not bear to have that precious knowledge, only to lose it moments later. When he met his sister, this problem would be solved... She could help him get his memory back, fill in the gaps. The flashbacks would not be so bad if it did not mean that he gained and lost an entire part of himself.

I'm sorry, Hawke. I can't. I still can't. It is not enough yet. I'm not good enough yet.

Hawke's strokes moved up, to the center of his ache. Fenris squeezed so hard that the stem of his glass broke, cutting his fingers. His eyes snapped open. He jumped up, nearly lost his balance, hastily put the broken glass on the desk, and started walking to the door with unsteady steps.

If Hawke had done something to stop him, had gone after him and grabbed him, he would not have been able to resist. But Hawke did nothing. He did not break the silence he had maintained for the entire evening, apart from the corrections in Fenris' reading he had made. And thus Fenris found the strength to stagger out of the room and the estate without looking back. The strength to flee as a coward.

As soon as he was back in the hallway of his own cold, dark mansion, he leaned against the door, chest heaving, and undid the laces of his breeches to release his rock hard length. With rough, fast movements he tried to relieve himself. Tortured cries welled up from inside him while he did so. The edges of his gauntlets dug painfully in the sensitive skin of his member, but he paid no heed to it. He did not care. It was small and irrelevant compared to the pain he was already feeling.

It did not take long before his seed flowed in spasms over his hand. Fenris bit in the palm of his other hand to silence his frustrated shouts. All over his body, the markings were burning in a manner that was no longer pleasant. They stung, like hundreds of vicious needles. The sensation of his leather armor against his skin became unbearable, so he stripped it off and threw it on the ground. His gauntlets quickly followed. Right now he did not want anything on him that reminded him of the tool he was created to be. A thing, not worthy of finding a caring embrace. A living weapon. Slowly, he lifted a trembling hand and laid one finger on the marking on his chin Hawke had touched. Without clothes, he was still a weapon. The markings were always there. That was why he could not be anything else, even when he tried. Oh, how he hated them! How he hated his curse.

One year. Hawke's face reappeared in his mind. One year later, and he was forced to admit...

A drunken tear leaked from his eye, but he immediately wiped it away. He would not weep like a petty weakling. Tears would not change the way things were. He could only go on, and he would. Soon he would meet Varania, and from then on it would get better. Finally his breathing calmed. His hand went to the red band that was still around his wrist. He would not give up. He would fight like the weapon he was, until things would go his way.

Not bothering to pick up his armor, he stumbled up the stairs, to the room he lived in, and fell down on the bed. Despite the rough night, the alcohol helped him slip into a restless sleep.

Hawke. Hawke had a collar around his neck. A collar with a leash. The leash was in Danarius' hands. With a triumphant smile, Danarius pulled Hawke closer. Hawke did not protest. With a dreamy expression on his face, he obeyed and walked closer to Danarius. Smile widening, Danarius leaned over to Hawke and kissed him. Lips on lips, the reddish brown of Hawke's beard against the darker, near black, of Danarius'. Fenris was forced to watched in horror at the exchange. After a moment, Hawke's content expression changed to a pained one. He gasped, tried to pull back, but Danarius continued to force the contact on him. Fenris could see a blue light spreading. It started on Hawke's chin, shining through his beard, and went down to his neck, further spreading over his arms, his chest... With a shock he realized it were markings, identical to his own.

When the light had reached Hawke's toes, it faded, leaving only a soft glow. As Danarius pulled back, Hawke whimpered and fell to his knees. For the first time, Danarius turned his eyes to Fenris.

"Playtime is over, little wolf," he said. "You can only have one master." He gave a jerk at Hawke's leash. "I am your master. Now, be a good pet and end this pathetic excuse for a mage."

Fenris felt the lyrium in his hand and arm react to the casually spoken command. Before he could stop himself, he took a step toward Hawke, who was still on his knees, and his master. When he stood in front of Hawke, Hawke looked up to him. He could now clearly see the glowing pattern on his neck. Hawke seemed dazed, as if he did not understand what was going on.

Fenris' markings flared up more strongly, but he did not reach out.

"Do not make me wait," his master hissed.

He raised his arm a bit. Hawke closed his eyes.

"Fenris." That tone meant punishment. Punishment was never pleasant. He did not want to feel more pain. And yet he did not act.

Danarius grabbed him by his throat. The pain drove out every thought. He sank to his knees himself when Danarius finally let go. White stars danced in his vision. As his sight started to clear, he could see Hawke looking at him. Expecting.

Fenris lifted a shaky hand. There was a red ribbon around his wrist. His arm shot out and reached into Hawke's chest.

Chapter Text

Cold sweat covered Fenris' body when he awoke from the nightmare. A powerful headache hammered him back down when he tried to get up. He moaned, but quickly stopped because the sound vibrated painfully through his head. Nausea welled up in his stomach, making it turn. The images of his awful dream kept flashing through his mind. Danarius' wide, cruel smile. Hawke's expressionless face. The pain as Danarius took control of his markings. His own hand up until the red ribbon inside Hawke's chest. Shudders coursed through Fenris as he relived his nightmare.

"You can only have one master."

The nightmare mixed with the events of last evening. Hawke's hand caressing the swollen length partially hidden in his trousers. Wide pupils directed at Fenris. With the headache pounding through them, they seemed just as real as the dream. Or just as surreal. Fenris wished the headache would at least stomp out the memory of that cursed anniversary. Unfortunately he had not drunk enough to wash it away.

He did not get out of bed that entire day. The hangover was enough to keep him down, but even if he had been able, Fenris would have stayed at home. He needed time to process things. Because not much processing could be done with such a heavy headache, he remained inside the mansion for the next few days as well, living on the emergency rations he had stored.

Days became weeks. Weeks without hearing from his sister, and weeks without seeing Hawke. He did not go to the reading lessons, or even attended the regular gatherings at the Hanged Man. Every now and then Fenris heard knocking on the front door, but he never opened it.

He struggled with his feelings, his memories, his thoughts, his hopes. The hope was the worst. Until now he had believed Hawke had lost all possible interest long ago. He could tell himself it was irrelevant what he felt, because Hawke was out of his reach anyway. But after that evening he could not deny what he had recognized in Hawke's eyes. And it had awakened hope inside him. That perhaps, when he finally had contact with Varania, it would be enough... That he could have it after all... Have Hawke. Let Hawke have him.

Fenris sighed. He should know better. Why was it so hard to accept then? Why could he not find the courage to face Hawke now?

More time went by. Time he mostly spent alone. The need for new food and earning a bit more coin eventually drove Fenris out of hiding. He started visiting the Chantry again. He had prayed at home too, but the chance that the Maker would listen when he prayed to Him in the squatted mansion of a Tevinter magister seemed infinitely smaller than when he whispered his pleas in a place that was dedicated to the Maker Himself.

Fenris just returned from a quick mercenary job when he finally found his prayers answered. And ignored at the same time.

Eddy was leaning against his front door, his arms folded across his chest. He was still wearing the clothes he had obviously traveled in. A layer of dust from the road gave him a grey-brown shade. With his heart jumping in his chest, Fenris increased his step length to reach Eddy.

"Ah, there you are," the man said with his odd, high voice.

"Why did it take you so long to deliver the letter?" Fenris grumbled at him.

Eddy's thick brows lowered. "That sister of yours was not in Qarinus. She is in Minrathous. Haven't you received my letter?"

"I have, and that was months ago."

"Ay, knife-ear, you told me to be discrete, so I did not go to a marketplace to shout if someone happened to be family of a white-haired elf with tattoos all over him, who could not visit the Imperium by himself for some mysterious reason."

Fenris made an irritated noise at the back of his throat. "Fine. Do you have an answer from her?"

A hand disappeared in Eddy's jacket, and then he held an envelope in front of Fenris' nose. Fenris immediately grabbed it. It felt heavy and he could hear coins inside. Why would she send me coin?

Impatiently he ripped the envelope open, almost throwing coins on the ground in the process. His eyes raced over the lines written of the parchment. Her handwriting, was his first thought. My sister's handwriting. The letters were large and tidy. Varania's handwriting was bigger and less elegant than that of Hawke or Varric, but more careful than Isabela's loose scribbles. And a lot better than his own. In his eagerness to find out what she had written, he gave himself not enough time to decipher the words. He had to go back to the beginning of the letter and take his time to actually read it. He was only vaguely aware of Eddy looking at him while he tried to read his sister's letter.




I don't know who you are, but I doubt you are my brother. If this was supposed to be a joke, it is not funny. I have included the coin you sent me. Please do not continue to bother me in the future.




Feelings of helplessness and disappointment spread over him as he reached the end of her short message. "She doesn't believe me," he mumbled softly.

Venhedis! He had known the letter he had written was vague, but he had had no choice. Writing down details about Danarius was dangerous. But now Varania thought he was a random jester who had pulled a prank on her.

Eddy interrupted his thoughts, but Fenris ignored him. "What did you say?"

He had to convince her she was really his sister. He had to take a larger gamble and give her more information in his next letter. Giving up now was unthinkable, not now he was so close. They had had contact! She had written to him. She had written that she did not want to be bothered by him, but he would convince her! He would have his family.

"Wait here," he ordered Eddy, after which he unlocked the door and ran inside.

He would write a new letter. She would believe him then. She had to.

Fenris grabbed some parchment and found a quill and ink after a little searching. Hurriedly, he dipped the quill's point in the ink and brought it to the parchment.




Please belief me. I wanted to put as little as possible in my letter because the risk of discoverry is greater then. I escaped seven years ago from magister Denarius and he has been hunting me since.

I do not remember our time together, so I cannot convince you with shared memories. I only remember my time with Denarius after the ritual.

I have had help here in Kirkwall. It is safest when you come visit me here. I really want to meet you and talk about our past. I hope you will give me a chance.

Be careful with this letter and if you book passage to Kirkwall. Denarius will do everything to catch me.


Your brother, Fenris


Fenris put the quill back down and read the letter over. He feared he had made errors in his haste to write a new message. Hopefully Varania would not think he was a complete fool in addition to being a random liar. Hopefully she would believe him this time...

Fenris returned to an annoyed Eddy and handed him a new envelop, with the letter and the coin he had sent Varania and she had sent back to him.

"I need you to go back to Tevinter and deliver this to her."

Eddy's nostrils widened. "Go back? Immediately?" he squeaked. "Do I look like a pigeon?"

"Not really, no."

"Hmpf. Do you have more coin?"

Fenris took the purse from his belt and handed it to the other man. Eddy warily shook his head. "Fine. But I'm not going back tonight. I'll visit the Hanged Man first to go see Varric. That dwarf is still there, right?"

Fenris shrugged. "As far as I know."

Uttering complaints under his breath, Eddy took off.

Fenris looked up at the sky. Dusk was near. It was one of the days he had a reading lesson - or used to have, perhaps. He had not shown up at Hawke's place for a few months already. He probably should pay a visit again. Sharing the news he had found his sister was tempting... But it would be better to wait until he had really good news.

He could only hope it would not be too awkward...

If he would saw the same things in Hawke's eyes as last time, Fenris did not know if he would be able to resist again. His resolve had been put to the test far too much already. He could only take so much...

Bodahn greeted him. "Oh, good evening, serah. Messere Hawke already has a visitor. Is he expecting you? Come in."

Fenris stepped over the threshold, his mind absent from the dwarf's polite questions. At least Hawke was home. After weeks of not showing up, Hawke must have thought he would no longer want to continue the reading lessons. Which was true, in a way... At the moment Fenris was still not sure whether he wanted to keep going like this. It seemed impossible to do so. He was balancing on the edge every time, always this close to surrender, to giving up his struggle.

As he entered the living room, he saw Hawke sitting in a comfortable chair near the hearth. Bodahn's remark about Hawke having a visitor only got through now that he saw Anders in another chair, opposite of Hawke. Fenris' step faltered and he came to a hesitant halt.

Hawke and Anders both looked up. The abomination's face darkened a bit, whereas Hawke's mostly showed surprise.

"Fenris! I didn't expect you. It has been a while."

Fenris stared at Anders, until he recovered his ability to speak. "I see my visit is inconvenient. I will go."

"No, no. Not at all." Hawke rose from his seat. "Anders was just leaving."

The abomination's eyebrows went up. "I was?"

Hawke wrung his hands before he let them fall back to his sides. "Yes. Yes, you were." His tone became stricter near the end of the sentence. "You can use the cellars as a shortcut if you want."

"How kind of you," the abomination sneered, but he did not object further and not long after he was gone.

Fenris had not moved from his spot close to the door, instead glaring at Hawke from a safe distance. A distance Hawke closed quickly. He appeared nervous.

"Look, Fenris... I... I'm not sure what happened the last time we saw each other, but... I hope you're not mad about it."

The glare faded and was replaced by confusion. "You're not sure what happened," Fenris repeated. "What do you mean? You don't remember?"

Hawke licked his lips and directed his pleading eyes at Fenris. "No, I don't remember," he eventually admitted. "I... I drank too much. I woke up with the mother of all hangovers, and I know we had a lesson, but I... don't know what we... did. But it must have been bad, because you haven't shown yourself for over two months. So, what did I do? I probably said or did something embarrassing. Bodahn mentioned something about a broken wineglass. I didn't try to stab you with it, did I?"

"Why would you do that?" Fenris asked, bewildered, when Hawke finally ceased his rambling for a moment.

"I don't know! But I was drunk, and I don't remember, so the most awful thing could have happened."

"I broke the glass accidentally. I'm sorry."

"Oh, that's okay. But... what did happen then? We didn't..."

"Didn't what?" Fenris snapped.

"You know.... Without clothes..."


The tension in Hawke's shoulders eased. "Oh. Good. I mean... I would like to remember if we... I didn't want it to... I'm glad we didn't... Good."

Fenris dropped his gaze. He had been an idiot to think that evening had meant something. It had all been the wine. Everything he had seen in Hawke's eyes... it had not been true. Hawke had been so far gone he did not even remember. All this hiding and worrying had been for nothing but a stupid misunderstanding. He had to accept once and for all that Hawke had moved on after their shared intimacy. The hope that had come to life during the past few weeks withered and died. Anders had been here... again. There was no doubt anymore who had now found his way to Hawke's side.

"Nothing happened," he said softly.

"Come on, something must have happened. Why else would you hide for this long? You didn't leave the city again, did you?"

"Nothing happened. I broke my glass and then I left."

"Right. And then you decided to avoid me for months."

"Not everything is always about you."

"Look, whatever terrible thing it is I did, I am very, very sorry and I regret it deeply. I will never do such an abominable, evil thing ever again. It would never occur to me in sober state, I am sure. So please forgive me for doing you wrong."

Fenris cringed at Hawke's words. Despite Hawke not knowing what he was actually speaking of, it hurt to hear him say this. "It's fine," he mumbled.

"Yeah, because you're clearly not upset."

"I am not upset!"

"That's what I said."

With eyes blazing with anger, Fenris growled. "Spare me your sarcasm."

"No sarcasm, not asking what in the Void is going on... Anything else you wish of the mighty Hawke?"

Hawke would never let him forget he had called him "the mighty Hawke" once in his bad temper, something that only fueled Fenris' frustration now.

"I think it is better if I leave," he eventually said when he had most of his anger under control. Most of his disappointment, actually.

But of course Hawke had something else in mind. He stretched out his arm and touched Fenris' shoulder to stop him.

"Don't go now. We need to sort this out."

The last bit of restraint he had managed to find deep inside escaped him again. Fenris snarled as he pushed Hawke's hand off him. "Don't frolic me! Go frolic your abomination instead."

Hawke took a step back. His blue eyes were round and his mouth hung open a bit. The surprise was clearly written on his face. Fenris had not intended to confront Hawke about Anders, but now he had let it slip out after all. Oh well. It was not like he had anything to lose.

"My abomination..?" For a few seconds Hawke was gaping at him, then his expression changed completely. He took the step forward again and brought his face close to Fenris, bending down a little to bring their noses on the same level. "Are you asking me if I'm fucking Anders?" His voice was low, heavy with anger's audible presence. This strong reaction made Fenris regret his words, but it was too late to back down.

"Are you?" he just said then, tauntingly.

Hawke's jaw dropped once more before he permanently recovered. "No!" he exclaimed. "Why would I..? No. Are you daft?! The man has a spirit of justice living inside his head! Well, he explained it's not exactly like that, but still... What are you thinking, that a blue glow turns me on? That when I see a blue light, I think "ooh, shiny" and am immediately aroused? And even if I am screwing him, what would you care? Hmm? You are not supposed to give a damn about what I do and with whom. You can barely stand being in the same room as me!"

Hawke fell back in his chair and, much to Fenris' surprise, started laughing. It was no laugh of joy. "You know, you even made it embarrassing for me to talk about," he giggled. "I don't know how you did it, because I still feel there is nothing I should be ashamed of, but as soon as the subject comes close to it, I start stammering and I... I go out of my way to avoid it. It's as if I have to pretend it has never happened and that if I fail, everything will collapse. But what's there to fall apart? There's already nothing after all." He chuckled again. "It's driving me insane. You," he accentuated every word, pronouncing it slowly and firmly. "Drive me. Absolutely. Insane. But by now my sanity is not such a great loss, so can you just please tell me what terrible thing I did this time so that we can move on to our usual uncomfortable behavior that is not uncomfortable at all because nothing ever happened that would make us feel uncomfortable?"

By now Fenris should have gotten used to Hawke's ability to make him lose all sense of what he was supposed to do, but once again he found himself unprotected against Hawke's words. The part about being driven insane was mutual.

Fenris opened his mouth to say something, then closed it. This was not going to work. That Hawke was not with the abomination was a relief, but it also meant he had to continue to keep his distance. That was the best for both of them, Hawke had basically said it himself.

"I... don't think I want to continue my lessons, Hawke."

Hawke's face fell. "What? Why? You were doing so well."

"It doesn't work. You said it yourself." Fenris turned around, making his way to the door. More distance was needed. He could not do this anymore. Their anniversary had broken his last resolve.

"What did I do?!" Hawke yelled after him.

You... made me fall in love with you. He kept walking. A few more steps and he was through the door, outside. Away. I've fallen and I can't get back up. But I will.


He stopped and looked over his shoulder. "I'm sorry?"

Hawke got to his feet and followed him. "I said you're a liar. There are contradictions in what you do and what you show. Contradictions can mean only one thing: lies. The truth has no contradictions." Hawke had reached him. "Your mouth says something, but your body says something else. And there is this," he pointed at the Amell crest on Fenris' belt, "And this." He grabbed Fenris' wrist and held it up so that the red band around it was visible for both of them. "Which is the lie, Fenris? What comes out of your mouth, or these things?"

Time seemed to slow down while they stared at each other, faces close, with Fenris' wrist in between them. Fenris felt Hawke's breath on his face. The piercing gaze of Hawke's ice blue eyes was so sharp that Fenris feared it would cut the truth out of him. The truth was that they were both crazy.

He pulled his arm free from Hawke's grip and left.

Chapter Text

The magister looked up from the letter to observe the man in front of him. Hair slick with oil pasted on his scalp. Rough, plump features. Thick, bushy eyebrows. All moving in a way that betrayed nervousness. Drops of sweat shimmering on his forehead. Hands fidgeting. A pathetic figure.

When the man realized the magister was looking at him, he swallowed audibly. The magister let him sweat a little longer before he finally decided to break the pressing silence.

"Describe the man who gave you this letter," he ordered with a soft, calm voice. The more relaxed you appeared, the more nervous the man in front of you became, he knew.

"Eh... He was an elf," the man squealed. What a ridiculous voice, the magister thought with annoyance. "White hair, big green eyes, large, pointy ears." For an elf? Truly? "And some kind of white scars all over him. On his neck and arms."

"Do you realize this man you claim to work for is actually my property? My missing property?"

"I... I had no idea."

"And why exactly did you decide to help this obscure figure?"

"Well, he... he paid me. I... I needed the coin."

The magister sighed. "What a pity. I am sure I could have rewarded you with a lot more coin, had you chosen to alert me instead of delivering those letters."

"I... I'm sure I would have, had I known..."

"Isn't it your job to know everything worth knowing?"

"I, but not when it c...comes to T... Tevinter."

The magister placed the tips of his fingers against each other. Talking to this man bored him to no end. Fenris must be desperate that he turned to folk like this for help. The lone wolf longed for his pack. Once more the magister's eyes went over the letter. A disapproving sound came over his lips.

"I'm offended. The fool can't even get my name right. "Denarius"! I ask you! And that hopes to best me." The magister shook his grey head. "It boggles the mind. Nevertheless, I have some questions for you, dear man. Mind you, I might already know the answer; I have plenty of spies at my disposal, so consider an attempt at lying most... unwise."

The man with the high voice nodded eagerly. "Yes, yes, serah."

Serah? Surely I deserve a higher title... The magister tapped with his right index finger on the letter. "He writes he's had help. From whom? I assume he does not mean you."

"I know that, serah!" A relieved smile spread across the man's face, eager to answer the question to the magister's satisfaction. "I talked to Varric before I returned to Tevinter. Apparently the elf, and Varric too, follow a guy named Hawke. He is the Champion of Kirkwall. There is a big statue of him at the docks. Fancy stuff. With a flaming sword in his hand. Must be a fine warrior."

The Champion of Kirkwall. Interesting. The magister had heard as much, but much of the man remained unknown. A Fereldan, who had risen to nobility in Kirkwall and had defeated the Arishok in single combat. It was no surprise a man like that had found Fenris' abilities useful. And of course Fenris had decided to follow one of the most well-known nobles. His pet was used to the best, although this little Champion would be no match for a magister, flaming sword or not.

"Do you also know why the elf would follow Hawke?"

"Ah... Varric hinted at something between them..." The man's voice faltered as he saw a look of disgust appear on the magister's face. "B...but he didn't give me any details..," he finished weakly.

So that Fereldan filth now has his hands on my little wolf. Disgusting. I will get him back ridden with diseases.

"One last question," the magister said when he had himself under control again. He studied the well-manicured nails of one hand while he spoke. "What shall I do with you now?"

The square jaw of the man dropped a little. His lower lip started trembling. His eyes bulged. It was a sight the magister always enjoyed. It felt good to be the one with the power, and not the weaker person. No one could hurt you when you had enough power. It was the only way to be safe, especially in a land like the Tevinter Imperium.

"I... what you m...mean?" The man licked his lips nervously. "I d...don't understand... I came here willingly when y...your ordered me to. I t...told you everything I know," he squeaked.

The magister shrugged. "What would stop you from warning the elf?"

"I swear I won't! I swear. The knife-ear ain't paying me enough for that."

"So you are willing to work for me instead?"

The man nodded so fast the magister vaguely wondered if his head would come loose and fall off. "Yes, serah!"

The man was a loose end, but he was still needed. He had to deliver Varania's message to Fenris. Making him a blood thrall was probably the safest option, but thralls had the annoying tendency to lose their ability to act naturally. Despite his lack of writing skills, Fenris was no complete fool. If he was confronted with someone completely bound to the magister's will by blood magic, he would probably become suspicious. And the man seemed afraid enough to be reliable in his state of free will...

With a swift movement that was quite supple for a man of his age, the magister rose from his seat. "Excellent," he said. "You're hired. Now, come with me, then you will receive your first job in my employment."

No questions were asked. The man simply followed. Good.

In the foyer, the magister ordered a slave to get the lectica. It did not take long for the vehicle to arrive, carried by four slaves whose broad, muscled arms were tanned by many hours in the strong Tevinter sun. The magister made himself comfortable against the soft purple pillows. "To the mansion of magister Ahriman," he ordered. The slaves moved immediately at the command. The magister's new employee hurried after them.

During the brief journey, the magister mused on the situation. It was almost a decade ago that Fenris had escaped. A decade. And still he had not been caught. The magister had even sent Hadriana after him, and the stupid cow had gotten herself killed! The magister's fists clenched in frustration. He had been the subject of quiet mockery when his most precious slave had escaped and he had failed to capture him again, but after the death of his apprentice he had become the target of open ridicule. What kind of apprentice could not stand against a desperate slave, even one with unique abilities like Fenris'? Hadriana had known what she was up against, and yet she had underestimated her opponent. Always too damn arrogant for her own good, that woman.

One good thing had come of her actions. It had been a smart move to tell Fenris of his sister, one that the magister could use to his advantage. No doubt Hadriana had told the slave to save her own worthless hide, but it was useful nevertheless. Only not for her.

Fenris had cost him far too much already. A large part of his fortune had been poured into the ritual. The small armies of slave hunters had not come cheap either. The ritual and the hunt had cost so much that he could barely even afford another experiment of this caliber. That, and he hated the idea of investing such a huge amount of coin while the previous version was still walking around freely. The magister did not like wasting things. He was no longer in the position to waste things. Years of training had gone to waste in Hadriana... Years of securing his position as a magister suddenly threatened to melt away...

One thing was certain. His ungrateful pet would not continue to escape his grasp for much longer. Soon, he would be returned to his leash. The magister had given Fenris powers no ordinary mortal could ever hope of getting. He had lived the life of the dearest pet, had even received the affection of his master, and what did the wild animal do in return? It turned around to bite the hand that fed and petted him. That was gratitude for you!

The magister's thoughts returned to the present when the lectica came to a halt in front of magister Ahriman's estate. With a quick look over his shoulder the magister assured himself that his employee had kept up with them as he got to his feet, straightened his robes and marched to the front door. A slave opened it for him and announced his arrival. It did not take long for Ahriman to greet him. At least I have not fallen from grace that much.

"Ahriman, dear friend," the magister said, "I am sorry to disturb you."

"Not at all, Danarius. Not at all," the other replied. "What can I do for you?"
"I would like to speak to one of your servants. Varania."

There was glimmer of curiosity in Ahriman's eyes, but he knew better than to pry. "Of course. Pedro here will bring you to her." He gestured at the slave who had opened the door. An Antivan, the magister saw now. Bah. How vulgar. With a straight back and his head raised proudly, the magister followed Pedro the slave through cool corridors. His pride was one of the few things his renegade slave could not destroy and he was determined to remind everybody of this.

Ahriman's estate was not that big, so it did not take long for them to reach their destination. Pedro opened a door made of dark wood that lacked the elaborate decorative carvings that could be found in the more public areas of the mansion. The magister strode past him, the man with the annoying voice still on his heels, and looked down at the red headed woman who was bent in concentration over a pair of silk pajamas. The subtle sound of the magister clearing his throat had her jumping up in surprise. When she saw who her visitor was, she lowered her head. "My lord," she mumbled.

The magister glanced at his servant to see if he had picked up on the title before he turned his attention to the elf in front of him. "Good afternoon, dear girl."

Now there were two ways to approach this: she could be threatened and intimidated into submission, or a more subtle, persuasive method could be used. Quickly the magister decided the second would be favorable. It was better when she distrusted her brother and saw the magister as her ally. It would ensure her loyalty.

"I am here because I require your aid," the magister began. He waited for the woman to look up at him and meet his eyes. Her eyes were the only thing about her that reminded the magister of Fenris. The same deep mossy green gems. Apart from that, they did not look much alike. Her skin was pale, whereas Fenris' had always been a bit darker, something that had contrasted nicely with his markings. Fenris' face was more angular and sharper than the softer, female features. Perhaps the mouth was similar as well... The magister recognized Fenris' rather full lips in this woman, but he felt no desire to experience their hot wetness. The dark color she used to paint her lips did nothing to awaken his desire.

And here my mind is wandering again. After some effort the magister broke off his mental comparisons and focused on the task at hand. Not that it would be difficult to wrap this frail figure around his finger....

"I need your help to catch a dangerous killer. He has escaped years ago from my service and has caused chaos and destruction wherever he went ever since." The magister took on a sad, pained expression. "He has mercilessly butchered many of my men, has even robbed my apprentice of her life, and I have received word he seeks to end me. This man will not stop until his lust for blood has been sated, and it may very well be endless."

The woman's eyes flicked from the magister's face to his robes, the ground, and back to his face. "I don't know such a man, my lord," she said softly.

"Oh, on the contrary. I think you do know this man. In fact, I have a letter from him for you."

Her light skin turned even whiter while the magister revealed a letter from the folds of his robes. She hesitated before she took it. Then she looked up at the magister in doubt.

"Go on, read it," he encouraged her.

Reluctantly, she obeyed. The magister noticed how she bit her lip as she reached the end of the letter.

"I... I told him not to bother me again, my lord. I swear. I wrote him I didn't believe him."

"Is that so?" the magister asked innocently. "And how can I be sure of that? He has written to you again. Perhaps you have promised to help him. Perhaps you two have come up with a plan to assassinate me. You know what the penalty is for an attempt at the life of a magister..."

True fear now twisted her face. "N... no... I... I swear... P...please!"

The magister held up a hand. "Hush. I am not unreasonable. I am sure we can come to an arrangement. Tell me, are you willing to help me catch this dangerous criminal?"

"Y...yes. Of course."

"I am pleased to hear that." The magister pretended to think for a moment. "You have the gift of magic, have you not?"

She nodded, still trembling from fear, her eyes directed at the ground. "Yes, I have."

"Then I have an interesting proposition for you. Since your... brother has murdered my apprentice, I will make you my new apprentice. If you help me to catch Fenris."

The dark green gems grew wide. She even believes it. "I... I don't know what to say..." How about "yes", you goose? "You... your honor me, my lord. This is... I... I would love to... Yes! A hundred times yes!"

The magister stroked his beard. So easy. "I am glad to hear it. Well then, you are going to have to write a reply to him. Tell him you will come to Kirkwall. But not yet. I am occupied elsewhere for the coming year at least..."

"What shall I write then?"

With a hand wave the magister dismissed the question. "Whatever you want. Say you can't leave yet. Say your employer does not want you to go for the time being. I don't care. Propose to exchange letters until you can see him in person. Try to find out as much as possible. I am particularly interested in his new master, the Champion of Kirkwall. See if you can get information about him. I will arrange passage and will let you know when we depart. As I said, it will at least take a year before I have solved my other business."

"Yes, my lord." She nodded that she had understood. "My lord? So it is true then? He is my brother?"

"Yes," the magister said. His eyebrows lowered. "Is that a problem?"

A flicker of doubt was quickly put out, replaced by a cold look of grim determination. Interesting. She may have more potential than I would have guessed. "No," she said. "It is not. That man you describe... that is not Leto. He is not my brother. He has stopped being that a long time ago."

Satisfied with the way things had played out, the magister turned to the man with the high-pitched voice. "I assume you already understand what is expected of you. You will deliver the letters that will be exchanged in the future, as long as Fenris asks you to. Do not in any way warn him or raise his suspicions, or you will be sorry for the rest of your very short life. My patience is at an end. Everyone who opposes me, will be dealt with without mercy. Have I made myself clear?"

The man nodded vehemently. "Yes, se... my lord. Understood."

"Good. Then you two know what you have to do."

"Yes, my lord," the human man and elven woman replied simultaneously.

The magister turned on his heels and walked with brisk steps back to the exit. The trap would be successful, he was certain of that. Predictable little Fenris would not be able to resist the chance to meet his dear sister. It was surprising how easy it was to let the common people do what you desired. Many of his colleagues had grown lazy and simply turned to blood magic to bend people's will to their wishes, but Danarius knew how some simple manipulations could be just as effective. And they were more amusing as well.

Fenris had made him look like a fool, and he would put an end to it now. Where all others had failed, he would succeed. If you wanted something done, you had to do it yourself, that much he had learned. He would stabilize his position and live the rest of his life the way he deserved after all his hard work. If he survived his year on Seheron... The senate had ordered him to go to their armies in the north to fight against those cursed horned monsters. Ordered him! If there was a sign your power was diminishing alarmingly, then that was it. Being thrown to the Qunari.

But he would not be defeated. They would see how he forced things to go his way again after a decade of failure. One more year, and he would have Fenris on his knees before him again. He would crush that little Champion of Kirkwall and his flaming sword under the eyes of his pet before he dragged him back to Minrathous and taught him obedience once more.

A smile played around the magister's lips as he seated himself in the lectica and ordered the slaves to return home.


Chapter Text

She was coming. She was actually coming! He could scarcely believe it. After everything, all the struggles, he would finally meet his sister. Fenris could not stop grinning at the letter he was holding in both hands. The letter with his sister's writing, telling him she would take ship within a few days and stay at the Hanged Man in Kirkwall for at least a week. He would see her, after all this time! Being able to talk freely would be welcome. Varania had insisted to exchange letters until she found the time to leave Minrathous, but he had remained reluctant when it came to writing down the most important things, despite her reassurances that Danarius was currently in Seheron fighting Qunari.

Eddy was about to leave when Fenris suddenly remembered his presence. He turned to the man, who looked rather tired.

"I... need to thank you. Without you I would never have been able to contact my sister."

Eddy reacted uninterested. "Oh, it's nothing. You paid me."

Fenris nodded. "I know, and you earned every single coin. Thank you."

The man's eyes shot over Fenris' face, as if they wanted to avoid looking at him directly. "Well..." Eddy said, noticeably uneasy, "Good luck." With that, he quickly took his leave.

Fenris stared at Eddy's back. Slowly, a cold, heavy object seemed to settle in his stomach. The old suspicion. After Varania's first message, in which she had written that she did not believe him, things had gone smoothly. That they had to wait more than a year until they could meet face to face had been a disappointment, but other than that everything went better than he had dared to wish for. And that was what made him feel wary now. He had gotten so used to all the struggling that its sudden absence was... unsettling.

Had it been too easy? Was he about to walk into a trap with open eyes? Was it Danarius' hand that was guiding all this?

 Eddy had acted strangely. Did he know something? Had one of Danarius' men caught him while delivering one of the messages? Growling to himself, Fenris pressed a hand against his forehead. Now that the moment was near, he could not even look forward to the meeting with his sister. The paranoia crushed every glimmer of excitement. No, this was not paranoia, he corrected himself. It was perfectly justified to be suspicious. That Danarius had been in Seheron did not mean his spies had been absent. To blindly assume the magister was oblivious to his initiative was against all the rules of survival he had learned. Danarius had to know about his sister. Of course he would have someone watch her! Of course...

He sighed heavily. He had to be sure Varania was not being followed. She was a servant, she did not know what to look for when you wanted to make sure you were safe. How could she realize the amount of times you had to look over your shoulder?

When the ship from Tevinter docked, someone would have to watch it to check whether Varania was truly alone. Doing this himself would be preferable, but he could not risk it. If Danarius was near, he might sense him via the markings. Fenris still did not understand how his master had always been able to stay on his heels wherever he ran. Perhaps it was something else, but whatever the cause, it would do him no good to get caught at the docks so that Danarius or his minions could simply haul his property on board and return to Tevinter immediately.

Hawke was the next person who came to mind, but Fenris dismissed the idea shortly after it had formed. Hawke would attract even more attention than Fenris, even if he actually tried to stay low. For an apostate, he certainly lacked the ability to hide. No, it had to be someone whose presence at the docks would not be questioned. Had Isabela been here, he might have asked her... He shook his head. What was he thinking? She would just have gotten distracted and ended up in a corner with some sailor.

Of the few people he knew, the person who could focus on a task and was least prone to draw attention, was Aveline. He would have to ask her. She would probably be in a good mood after her honeymoon. At least he suspected that was what people were when they had just gotten married.

After waiting for ten minutes, Fenris was allowed into the office of the captain of the guard.

"Fenris, I have already changed the patrols around your house last week. You don't have to ask me again," Aveline said as soon as he entered.

"That's not what I came here for, but thank you," he replied. "I... need your assistance in another matter."

A recent honeymoon was not enough to prevent Aveline from raising her brow in suspicion. "Well?"

"Donnic may have told you my sister is coming to Kirkwall." Surprisingly, Donnic was the one he had had the most contact with over the past year and a half. He did not recall how exactly their friendship had started, but Donnic visited the mansion once a week for some time now to play cards. Having contact that was... less complicated than with Hawke was more than welcome. It felt good to be able to talk with someone and remain in control. With Donnic it was easier to determine what to say and stick with that. Hawke had often managed to drag more out of him than he had planned to give; although the last time had been a while ago... Since he had put a halt to the reading lessons, Fenris had barely spoken with Hawke.

Aveline's face softened. "No, I don't think he has mentioned it. So your sister is finally coming? That's good news! I am happy for you." When her smile was only met by a wry half-smile from Fenris, she asked: "You're not happy?"

"I am, I am," he hurried to say. "It's just... she might be followed. The man who delivered our letters acted suspicious, and I doubt Danarius would let this slip his attention."

Aveline directly came to the point. "So what is it you need from me?"

"I was hoping you could be at the docks when her ship arrives to see if no one is watching her. I need to know if it is safe."

"Are you certain this is necessary? I am rather busy..."

"Yes, I am certain. Please, Aveline. I can't take any risks. Danarius knows about Varania. He has to."

She nodded. "I understand. Okay, I will keep an eye out when she arrives. Just tell me who to look for." 

Later that day, Fenris went to the Hanged Man for an evening of cards. Well, that was the secondary reason this time. He needed to speak with Hawke too. After he had asked Aveline for help he had felt a bit more reassured, but it did not take long for that to change. His master was cunning... How hard could it be to remain unnoticed by Aveline in the chaos of unloading a ship? Everyone could be a servant of the magister. Even if everything seemed clear, there could still be a surprise waiting. He had experience with that. And thus he needed Hawke's help. Again. One last time. Hopefully. He needed Hawke to have his back in case he and his sister were lured into a trap.

The usual smell of spilled ale, unidentifiable food, sweat and other bodily fluids washed over Fenris as he opened the door of the Hanged Man. He was about to make his way to the stairs when a familiar figure at the bar, yelling at the bartender he was ignoring her again, drew his attention. Doubting his own eyes, he took a few steps towards the bar.


She turned around to look at him. A happy grin lit up her face as soon as she recognized him. The empty mug was smacked on the bar. "Fenris!"

"What are you doing here? I thought you had left."

"I came back. Did you miss me?" she immediately teased.

"Well, I did win more with cards since your departure."

"Ha, has your poker face become even better?"

He shrugged. "Could be. Why did you return?"

Isabela rolled her eyes. "I missed this place, of course! Hey, how are things between you and our Champion?" she changed the subject. "Have I missed the happy reunion?"

He scowled at her. "After three years you still haven't forgotten that?"

"How could I?! I never forget something dirty."

"Well, you did not "miss" anything."

"What a pity. Why- oh, shit."

"Isabela!" a loud voice thundered. Isabela made a failed attempt at hiding behind Fenris, but his slender frame was insufficient to hide her from view. And Hawke had spotted her already anyway. With large steps he strode toward her, his arms outstretched.

"Hawke," Isabela mumbled. "What a supr-" The remaining air was crushed out of her lungs as Hawke pulled her into a firm embrace.

"I thought you were mad at me," she gasped when he finally released her.

Hawke blinked. "I was, but I just got stabbed by giant with horns. And you know I can't stay mad for three years! I never got the chance to thank you either."

"Thank me," she echoed. By the look on her face, she was doubting Hawke's sanity at the moment.

"Yes. You came back with the tome! You did the right thing and showed you're a good friend. I actually suspected blood magic at work - you never know with this city - but it was free will after all, wasn't it?"

She gave a push against his shoulder. "Oh, shut up. Come, I have to beat you with wicked grace again."

"Actually, Hawke," Fenris interjected. "Might I have a word with you?"

He immediately had Hawke's full attention. Fenris realized he had probably surprised Hawke by suddenly addressing him. Avoiding speaking directly with Hawke had become a habit. To Fenris' annoyance, Isabela stayed where she was and watched with great interest. He shot her an irritated look; she simply winked. "I... Could you come see me in the mansion tomorrow afternoon? I need to speak with you."

The glimmer of interest in Hawke's eyes died out. A curt nod and an "okay" was all he gave Fenris before he shuffled in the direction of the stairs to Varric's room.

As Hawke went to Varric's suite, Isabela swung an arm around Fenris' shoulders. "Aww," she purred. "Three years later and you finally asked him on a date again! Looks like I'm right on time for the fun."

He wriggled under her arm to get it off. "It's not a date," he grumbled. "There's nothing romantic going on, understood? Leave it be."

"Does this mean you are available?"

"I suggest you keep your distance."

"You do that on purpose. You know it only makes it more tempting," Isabela pouted. 

Asking Aveline for help turned out not to be a moment too soon. The next day she visited with news. Varania's ship from Minrathous had arrived this morning.

The knot in Fenris' stomach tightened when he opened the door for her. He had barely enough patience to wait until they had reached the living area. "And?" he said anxiously before Aveline had even taken a seat.

"Everything seemed alright," she answered.

He paced from one side of the table to the other. "Are you certain it's her?"

From the corner of his eyes, he saw Hawke appear in the doorway. Always on time.

"An elf matching your description," Aveline said, "on the ship you've named. And alone, as far as I could tell."

Her words failed to reassure him. In an outburst of frustration, he smacked both his hands on the table. "I need to know if it's a trap!"

Aveline's patience was at an end. "I did as you asked, Fenris. Now it's up to you." She got up from her seat. "You talk to him, Hawke," she said as she passed him. "I've had my fill for today."

Fenris straightened his back. "Venhedis!" he growled. "Fasta vass!"

"Maybe it's just me, but I'd swear you're upset," Hawke commented dryly.

The moment to reveal the truth to Hawke. Fenris sighed. "It's my sister." Unable to keep standing still, he started pacing again. "I didn't tell you, but I followed up on Hadriana's information." He glanced at Hawke, but noticed no change in his blank expression. "Everything she said was true," he continued. "I had to keep it quiet, but I eventually contacted Varania and sent her coin enough to come meet me. And now she's here!" He forced himself to stop walking and look at Hawke directly.

"She was in Qarinus after all?" That Hawke remembered the city Hadriana had mentioned surprised Fenris. He must have really paid attention back then.

"My sister left magister Ahriman's service." Varania had written this in one of her letters. It explained why she had not been in Qarinus. "I found her in Minrathous. That made things more difficult. But according to the man I paid, it's just as Hadriana said. She is not a slave. She's a tailor, in fact." He caught a bit of pride ringing in that last sentence. That Varania had a free life of her own made him feel good. It meant she had hopes and dreams, a mind of her own. She was not consumed by the will of someone else, a master, an owner. His sister was her own person. She was... his sister. "Getting a letter to her was difficult," Difficult. The word almost made him laugh. 'Difficult' seemed so insufficient for all the trouble he had gone through to find her, and yet it was the only word he could think of. "And she didn't believe me at first... but she's finally come." His voice sounded almost pleading at the last words. Hawke had to understand how important this was for him, how much he needed this.

But Hawke did not act impressed. "Yes, everything's gone exactly according to plan," he mocked. "What could be worse?"

Jokes. At a time like this, Hawke was making jokes! How could he not understand? Had Fenris managed to destroy this last thing that had bonded them? Had he made the gap between them even wider with his evasions? Had the weight of his silence crushed the mutual understanding of each other they had once had?

Hawke could ridicule him all he wanted, but Fenris knew something was wrong. After a decade on the run, he had developed a sense for it. That he was about to meet his sister was incredible, and extremely frightening. Danarius would have prepared something, he was almost sure of it! Things had suddenly gone so easily. But things never went smoothly! It was exactly as Hawke said: everything is going exactly according to plan. What could be worse? Nothing, because nothing ever went according to plan! Not with Danarius hunting you. Now he was truly certain. Something was not right. He could not risk going to the Hanged Man alone, even if Hawke did not take him seriously. He would not only bring himself in danger, but Varania as well.

"Yes, yes, laugh at me!" he snapped. "Come with me, Hawke. If this is a trap, I need someone who can fight to back me up." If you don't care about meeting my sister, then that's all I need you for. To fight.

"I thought you said there was no point in meeting her."

Venhedis, Hawke! Do I have to beg for it? She is here now, how could I pass up on this opportunity? "I can't simply leave it like this. If we go to the Hanged Man during the day, she'll be there. For the next week at least." Hawke still did not look very cooperative. Feeling defeated, Fenris nearly gave up on the expectation Hawke would be willing to help him. "Look, I know you don't owe me any favors..." Believe me, I know. "But if we happen to go there anyway..." He averted his eyes. It was all he could hope for. Perhaps Hawke would change his mind later on. There was time...

"Tomorrow morning. I'll meet you in front of the Hanged Man."

Fenris' head snapped back up. "Tomorrow? You want to go tomorrow?"

Hawke lifted one corner of his mouth. "Yes, tomorrow. You didn't intend to let your sister wait for a week, did you?"

"No, but I... thought you did not want to go with me."

"Well, wouldn't you prefer to be alone when you meet your sister for the first time?"

"I want you there, Hawke," he said before he had really considered the words. "I mean... in case Danarius knows..."

"I understand. In case there is fighting to be done. Don't worry. I'm sure everything will be fine."

I wish I could be sure of that. 

Another sleepless night followed. Fenris had already been anxious the night before, when he had to wait until he heard from Aveline. But now that he knew he would meet Varania the following morning, he was even less able to catch some sleep. He dreaded the idea of the nightmares the demons in the Fade could spin for him this time. He had so many nightmares... Most of them involved Danarius. Many involved Hawke or Varania. All ended with pain and an immense feeling of helplessness that threatened to overwhelm him.

If this was really a trap, he might very well have to face Danarius tomorrow. His stomach clenched when he thought about meeting his master after ten years of running, hiding and fleeing. Self-doubt came seeping in. Would he be able to withstand Danarius this time? What if he used blood magic to warp his mind? What if Danarius threatened to harm Varania? What if Hawke decided Fenris was not worth battling a Tevinter magister for? It was obvious Hawke had given up on him... For a year he had kept up, had continued to push, tried to diminish the distance Fenris was creating between them. But then he had given up. Since Fenris had stopped the reading lessons, they could barely exchange a few polite words before falling back into awkward silence.

At least it was easier now.


Or perhaps not. He had hoped that admitting to himself that he was in love would help, but it had just made it worse. He had not even believed that was possible, but it was. Instead of getting over it since he had faced it, it continued to drag him down, jumping him when he least expected it. How much time had passed? A year? A year and a half? So many cold, lonely nights...

Fenris sighed and rolled on his back. Tomorrow would be the day of a new beginning. He would put his past behind him once and for all with the help of his sister. He would learn who he really was, find completeness. Everything Danarius had taken from him, he would reclaim. With that, he eventually fell asleep in the early morning.

Hawke was already waiting for him when he arrived at the Hanged Man. So were Varric and Isabela. Fenris wondered whether they were here to gawk or that Hawke had told them to be here. They both lived in the Hanged Man anyway.

Hawke appeared less cold and detached than the day before. His eyes scanned Fenris' face. "Are you ready?" he asked softly.

Swallowing to loosen his tongue in his dry mouth, Fenris nodded. "Yes," he croaked. "Let's go."

Chapter Text

Danarius stared up at the ceiling, counting the stains. He had been in filthy places before, but this must be one of the worst. How did one get stains on the ceiling anyway? One dark spot looked like old blood. How peculiar.

He cast a sideway glance at one of his hirelings, who was watching the room beneath the stairs. The man shook his head to indicate nothing was happening yet. Danarius scratched his beard. He could only hope that he would not have to stay long in this disgusting hovel.

The squeaking door that gave entrance to the Hanged Man opened and closed loudly. A woman's voice sounded. "It really is you."

Danarius listened intently and jumped up when he heard a familiar voice. The voice of the person he was here for.

"Varania? I... I remember you. We we're playing in our master's courtyard while Mother worked. You called me..."

He did not need the gestures of the hireling to know who had just walked in. Finally, my wolf. He held up a hand to let his men know they had to wait. Downstairs, Varania, who was sitting at a table in the middle of the room, replied to Fenris: "Leto. That is your name."

"What's wrong? Why are you so..."

"It's a trap!"

Danarius gave a nod to his soldiers before he walked around the corner and began to descend the stairs. A tall man with dark red hair and beard seemed to have spoken those last words. How observant.

"Ah, my little Fenris," Danarius said cheerily. "Predictable as always."

Ooh, the look of absolute horror on the dear thing's face was priceless! So easy to trust when family entered the picture, so easy to fool... Too bad for him Danarius was long since past amusement.

Varania apparently suffered a light attack of guilt. "I'm sorry it came to this, Leto."

Fenris took a quick step towards her, his head held forward like a mad animal. "You led him here!"

Danarius had reached the bottom of the stairs and now took position on Varania's left. "Now, now, Fenris," he spoke calmly, using his favorite tactic to appear completely at ease and full of confidence. His attitude suggested everything was already lost. No need to waste time and fight. "Don't blame your sister. She did what any good Imperial citizen should."

He let his eyes drift over Fenris and his companions. Fenris' new master, the man with dark red hair, was standing next to Fenris. Behind them were a Rivaini woman dressed like a cheap prostitute, and a dwarf who was showing an impressive amount of chest hair. This is the company the little wolf has been keeping? A Fereldan barbarian, a Rivaini prostitute and a dwarf? What kind of freakshow is this?

Before him, Fenris growled. "I never wanted these filthy markings, Danarius! But I won't let you kill me to get them."

How adorable ignorance can be. He chuckled softly. "How little you know, my pet." He decided to turn his attention to - hopefully - someone of a bit greater intellect. The auburn-haired man next to Fenris was looking intently at Danarius. His jaw and fists were clenched. The icy eyes of the man managed to raise a few hairs on the back of Danarius' neck. Don't worry, he told himself. This barbarian is no match for me. "And this is your new master then?" he said, meeting the cold, hard look of the other. "The Champion of Kirkwall." To his satisfaction, he registered surprise in the Champion's eyes. Another fool, clearly, that he would think someone like Danarius would show up unprepared. "Quite lovely."

The brow of the Champion lowered. "Fenris doesn't belong to anyone," he said threateningly.

"Do I detect a note of jealousy?" Danarius taunted. "The lad is rather skilled, isn't he?"

The reaction of both Fenris and the Champion was worth this cheap jest. His pet's whole body was trembling with barely restrained anger. Blue light emanated from him as his markings came to life. "Shut your mouth, Danarius!" he yelled.

The Champion's head snapped to the left, to Fenris, at this vicious reaction. My, my, Fenris. Have you not informed your new master of all your previous experience? Surely such a recommendation would be appreciated. Or are you suddenly ashamed of your old master? Cast me aside, like an ungrateful dog? I don't think so. I will teach you some respect again.

Sighing, Danarius took his staff from his back. He noticed that the Champion immediately did the same. "The word is 'master'," he corrected Fenris with irritation.

Wait, the same? Why was this warrior carrying a staff?

His soldiers already jumped forward to face the group of freaks while Danarius retreated back up the stairs to oversee the fight.

Four against four. The prostitute, now swinging two daggers around, and the dwarf, who was holding a crossbow, would no doubt go down within seconds.

The four soldiers decided to focus on the Champion first. Holding their swords in front of them, they closed in on the man. Without taking a step back, the Champion moved his staff... and froze all four of his opponents in a wall of ice.

An apostate. How could this be? Danarius had seen the statue himself when he had arrived at the docks. Its burning sword had lit the street during the night. It had been the statue of a knight, a warrior. Why would a city ruled by templars place a statue for a mage? He suddenly understood a bit better what had caught Hadriana by surprise and had overwhelmed her. Bah, how could he have fallen for this as well! He now could clearly sense the magic in the man. Earlier he had not paid attention because the Champion barely seemed to pose a threat. Ah well. He had enough tricks up his sleeve. He was still a Tevinter magister. He had survived a year of war with the Qunari. This small group would not take him down.

Downstairs, Fenris leaped into the air, sword above his head, and crushed two of the frozen men with a single blow. A well-placed bolt from the dwarf's crossbow put an end to a third, and the prostitute slid the throat of the last one. With an irritated gesture, Danarius ordered the rest of his men, who had been hiding in a few empty rooms upstairs, to do their work.

Their heavy-armored boots stomped on the steps of the stairs as they stormed towards the prostitute, guessing her to be the easiest target. The man who reached her first lashed out with his blade to cut through her unprotected abdomen. A dagger blocked the sword. The Rivaini ducked under it, raised her other dagger and plunged it in the man's chest through a vulnerable point in his armor. "Too slow!" she cackled as she withdrew the bloodied weapon.

She would have been hit by another soldier if the dwarf had not fired a bolt right between his eyes. The force of the bolt made the already dead man collapse against a colleague who was just jumping forward. Brought off balance, he slipped in the pools of blood that were forming on the floor and fell on his back. He was beheaded by Fenris before he had the chance to even attempt to get back up.

"Another one for me! How many have you got, Hawke?" the dwarf shouted.

As an answer, the Champion shot a concentrated ball of fire at the three remaining soldiers. Their agonized screams resonated through the room as their flesh melted off their bones in their armor.

"I've already lost count," he shouted back. "But that's three in one!"

Furious, Danarius concentrated on the thin spot in the Veil he had sensed in the room. With little effort he tore it, allowing various shades and a rage demon to escape from the Fade and slip into this world.

The party of four immediately focused on the roaring rage demon. The Champion froze the fire creature, after which the dwarf shot a bolt out of his crossbow, Fenris swung his blade through the form of lava, and the prostitute thrust both daggers in it, all simultaneously. The demon let out a last growl before it sunk through the floor, back into the Fade.

The shades did not fare better. They were scorched, crushed, cut in half, shredded, pierced and torn apart, one by one. With each that was destroyed, Danarius felt his power dwindle a bit more. But he was not defeated yet. He would not be defeated. In the rush of battle, he focused on the tear in the Veil, pulled at it, made it bigger. This place was old. It had a history, a history of blood and death. Lives had been taken here. And yes, the remains of many were slumbering underground. The next demons that entered the mortal world were guided to those remains, so that they did not have to invest energy in creating a somewhat physical form for themselves.

The first dried out arm burst through the wooden floor. A second arm followed, then a head. Unsteadily, the corpse pulled itself up. It moved its arms experimentally, turned its empty eye sockets towards Fenris, and started shambling in his direction. Across the room, more corpses followed its example.

Taking advantage of the distraction the rather weak undead provided, Danarius tightened the hold on his staff, bowed his head, closed his eyes and let his magic build up. A light pink orb formed in the center of the room. Its contours were hazy due to the pressure that was rising inside it. His feet rose from the ground as the force continued to increase. Danarius took a deep breath and allowed the pressure to escape at once. His feet made contact with the floor again at the same time as the pink orb exploded. Fenris, the Champion, the prostitute and the dwarf were sent flying across the room, along with a set of undead.

With delight, Danarius surveyed the result of his effort. The dwarf was blown with his back against a wall. He fell limply, with his face to the ground. The Rivaini prostitute ended up at the other side of the room, near the entrance. She was already trying to get back up, but her swift way of moving had abandoned her for the moment. The Champion smacked his head against the point of a table. Danarius was slightly disappointed. A few inches lower, and he would have lost an eye. Now the man's head was bleeding from a gash above his brow. The force of the collision had made him lose grip on his staff.

And Fenris. Ah, Fenris. His pet had been blown off his feet, just like the others. He lay as a disheveled heap against a large column in the middle of the room that supported the ceiling. Ironically, his own sword had wounded him in the violent landing. Had he let go the moment of the explosion, it would probably have fallen elsewhere without doing any damage, but his survival instinct had forced him to hold onto it. And so the tip of the sharp steel had pierced his right foot and nailed it to wooden floor. Because he had been surrounded by the possessed corpses before the blast, most were lying close to him. A convenient - or inconvenient, depending which side you were on - thing about undead was that they do not experience pain and were therefore not bothered by any damage done to them until they literally fell apart. Ignoring the possible damage the blast had caused, the things clawed their way to their victim. The one closest to Fenris had lost its weapon and thus decided to sink its rotten teeth in his neck instead. The howl of pain the disobedient wolf let out was satisfyingly loud.

At the same time the Champion pushed himself up on his knees. The cut in his head was bleeding heavily now, as head wounds always do, and blood ran in his eyes, forcing him to search blindly for his staff. The dwarf's skull turned out to be thicker than expected, because he had not lost consciousness after all and was now reloading his crossbow. The prostitute had similarly recovered and threw herself on the undead surrounding Fenris. Lightning quick she ran her daggers through one after the other. Fenris's markings lashed out with spirit force, knocking the attacking corpses back. He then gritted his teeth and withdrew the heavy greatsword from his own foot.

Even from his spot on the top of the stairs Danarius could see that his wolf was suffering from his injuries. He was bleeding out of numerous superficial cuts caused by the claws of the shades and the rusted weapons of the undead. The bite mark in his neck was bleeding too, as was a wound at the back of his head caused by the impact with the column. The dark red formed a sharp contrast with the white of his hair and the blue of his markings. And yet, as with any animal that was wounded and felt threatened, it only seemed to fuel his anger. The look of pure hatred he sent Danarius before he cut one of the undead in half was strong enough to make the magister's confidence waver for the first time. He clearly felt his powers draining, and the four people below him were still alive, each looking equally dangerous now.

Just on time Danarius noticed the dwarf aiming his weapon at him. He was able to raise a protective shield around himself before the crossbow bolt could hit him in the chest. It now bounced off without doing any harm.

Damn all of his informants! Why had they all failed to tell him the Champion was a mage? Someone would pay for this!

The shield sucked up his remaining power fast. He felt beads of sweat form on his temples. While Fenris and his comrades were dealing with the last undead, Danarius let the barrier dissolve and gathered his remaining willpower for another blast. This one would shatter their bones! He led his attention to the center of power within himself. His chin sank to his chest, he closed his eyes. His body rose into the air until his feet no longer made contact with the ground. The pink orb was growing, already shimmering with the force that was drawn in.

An invisible force slammed against him from behind, sending him flying off the stairs, head first. He landed hard on his face. Painting, he tried to get up. He managed to get on his knees before Fenris was suddenly there and grabbed him by the throat with one hand, lifting him up until his feet were dangling above the ground once more.

Danarius made a strangled sound while the markings on Fenris' body started to shine brighter and brighter. No, it cannot end like this! I cannot be defeated by this small gathering of freaks! After everything I have been through, everything I have survived... How can you do this to me, my pet? My Fenris...

"You are no longer my master!" Danarius eyes bulged, his mouth hung open helplessly; sweat dripped from his face and tears leaked from his eyes, right before Fenris' free hand dived into his chest, found the wildly beating heart, and tore it loose in less than a few seconds. 

He was breathing hard. Blood was pounding in his ears. His vision was blurry at the edges. He let the lifeless body of his former master fall on the floor. The heart he threw away, somewhere behind him, without looking. Almost surprising to find a heart there. Part of him had suspected to only feel an empty space in Danarius' chest where his heart should be. But his master had had a heart, pumping frantically. And he had torn it from his chest. Finally.

It did nothing to soothe Fenris' anger. Hunched forward, every fiber of him radiating aggression, he turned to the woman cowering near the stairs. Varania. His sister. A traitor.

As he neared, the fingers of his right hand dripping with warm blood, she held up her hands protectively. As if her slender arms formed any barrier for him!

"I had no choice, Leto."

How dared she use that name! He was not Leto. He was not that person anymore, and he was nothing to her. "Stop calling me that," he growled.

Her next words nearly made him fall over. "He was going to make me his apprentice. I would have been a magister."

A mage. Varania was a mage. His sister was a mage. Another viper! She had betrayed him, sold him out, just to become like the man he hated the most. She wanted to be a monster. Well, she was on the right track. And he would give her the end monsters deserved to get.

"You sold out your own brother to become a magister?"

She lowered her hands. Most of her fear seemed to ebb away and was replaced by resentment at the disgust in his voice. "You have no idea what we went through," she said. She spoke slowly, as if she wanted to make sure every word came through to him. "What I had to do since Mother died. This was my only chance."

"And now you have no chance at all." His anger made the lyrium in him come back to life. This treacherous bitch was not his family. She had wanted to be one of the magisters, wanted to be like Hadriana and Danarius. And so she was no better than them. Of everything they had done to him, her betrayal must be one of the worst. He had wanted to have a family, a place to belong, so badly... and she had placed her hunger for magic and its power above the bond of blood the shared. She had to die. They all had to die!

Her arms shot back up. The fear had returned. Good. Be afraid. You monsters should learn to fear your victims.

"Please... don't do this," she begged. "Please, tell him to stop!" He barely registered her words. Nothing she said could save her. Betraying him was the last thing she had done. Hatred fogged his mind. She would pay for hurting him!

"Wait!" Another voice, one that did reach him. "Don't kill her."

He glared over his shoulder at Hawke. One side of Hawke's face was smeared with blood. A cut above his left eyebrow was still bleeding. "Why not?" Fenris snarled. "She was ready to see me killed." He turned back to Varania. "What is she to me other than just one more tool of the magisters?"

Hawke sounded a little uncertain when he answered, his voice careful and pleading. "She is as much a victim as you were." A victim? She?! She is just another monster!

Then Varric stepped forward. "Elf... Fenris..," he began, "It won't help. Trust me."

No. They could talk all they wanted. She had to die! She had to pay for what she had done to him. She had to die for betraying him like this. She had to... He stared at her lowered head, the flaming orange hair in a bun at the back of her head. His anger subsided, leaving only a gaping emptiness behind.

"Get out!" he snapped. His sister raised her head in surprise before she ran in the direction of the door. Fenris did not watch her leave. He kept staring at the place Varania had just stood, listening to her footsteps, waiting for the sound of the door.

The running footsteps stopped. He did not hear the door. Instead, Varania spoke. "You said you didn't ask for this, but that's not true. You wanted it. You competed for it. When you won you used the boon to have Mother and I freed."

Every word from her mouth felt like a poisonous knife that sank deep into his flesh. The meaning of those short sentences were blows that threatened to bring him to his knees. You wanted it. You competed for it. With these words, Varania shattered all his beliefs, his very perception of the world and of himself. You said you didn't ask for this, but that's not true. He had wanted this. He had fought for it. Fought for his misery. Everything he had believed turned out to be a lie.

He turned his head, looked over his shoulder. "Why are you telling me this?" He could not help it that his voice sounded pained. He could not prevent that he was visibly shaking.

Varania went on. "Freedom was no boon. I look on you now and I think you received the better end of the bargain." With that, she turned her back on him and walked away. Away from the shards that used to be his life.

After a moment of silence he looked at Hawke. "I thought discovering my past would bring a sense of belonging, but I was wrong," he said softly. "Magic has tainted that too. There's nothing for me to reclaim." Danarius had taken everything after all. Even his family. His voice broke. "I am alone."

Hawke shook his head. "Magic had nothing to do with this, Fenris."

Of course a mage would not accept the truth about what magic could destroy. What has magic touched that it doesn't spoil? The old words rang inside his head. They were true. Every time they turned out to be true. It was enough to rekindle a bit of anger. "No? Greed for it didn't bring Danarius here, make my sister betray me?" He took a step closer to Hawke. "You heard what Varania said. I wanted these." He stretched out his arms, to show the now white patterns in the skin. "I fought for them. I feel unclean, like this magic is not only etched into my skin, but has also stained my soul." After all, he had been touched by magic as well. According to Varania, he had craved its power and had fought to gain it. He had been just like the people he hated.

When Hawke did not say anything in return, he started walking - or rather: limping - towards the exit. "Let's go. I need to get out of here."

Chapter Text

Fenris did not notice the owner of the Hanged Man stumbling from his hiding place behind the bar, yelling they had to compensate him for the mess they had made. Nor was he aware of Hawke gesturing to Isabela and Varric that they had to leave, which they silently did while Fenris kept walking. His gaze was fixated on the street in front of him. He did not see the people they passed staring openly at him: a strange elf with markings on his arms and neck, covered in blood, limping by. He ignored the stinging of his wounds, the blood that was still oozing from them. The pain in his foot was harder to ignore, but despite its sharp presence he kept up a brisk pace. Walking would have been a lot harder if Hawke had not kept up his healing aura to numb the pain, but Fenris did not even realize it. All he cared about was getting away. Away from that place, his sister, his dead master. Away from the things Varania had told him.

Except they travelled with him.

"You said you didn't ask for this, but that's not true."

The lyrium had come to rest, but he could still feel it, as always. It was not only in his skin, but everywhere. Deeper. Inside him. He did not know better than that it was there, a part of him. He could not lose it, get rid of it.

"You wanted it. You competed for it."

How could he have wanted this? How could the things he hated so much be a prize? He did not want it! It had ruined his life, stolen his past and traded it for pain. How could this be the better end of the bargain?

"You wanted it. You competed for it."

She was wrong. She had to be. Why trust anything that came out of her venomous mouth? She had lied, just to get to him, to hurt him even more. A last strike of a snake. She had lied before; no reason she would not do it again.

"You wanted it. You competed for it."

The words kept bouncing through his head; he could not shake them off. He was breathing hard through his nose, his chest heaving. It was the first time he was walking somewhere and could be absolutely sure no one was after him. For the first time there was no need to look over his shoulder. He could not even enjoy it. There was only room for Varania's words in his mind.

"You wanted it. You competed for it."

He wanted to scream so that he no longer had to hear it. Instead he swallowed and unlocked the door to Danarius' - now truly his - mansion. Hawke entered after him. He had been silent the entire way, something that did not happen often. As soon as the door closed behind them, Fenris' restraint dissolved.

"You should have let me kill her!"

Hawke's reply was soft. "I know."

"Then why did you stop me?"

Hawke did not avert his eyes at Fenris' anger. "Like I said... she seemed to be as much a victim as you. Danarius is the one who caused all this. He clearly manipulated her. Maybe he threatened her."

"I don't care! She sold me out! Just because she wanted to become a magister. There is no excuse for that!"

"I know."

"Then why didn't you let me kill her?!" He was shouting so hard his throat felt raw.

"She is your family, Fenris," Hawke's voice remained calm. "You shouldn't kill your family. And..."

"And what?"

Now Hawke did look away. "She... had your eyes. I... didn't want to see what it looks like when life leaves those eyes."

For a moment Fenris stood gaping at Hawke. Then his mouth snapped shut. "I had to let her go because she had pretty eyes," he hissed angrily.

Hawke's brow furrowed. "I didn't say they were pretty eyes..."

"Fasta vass! This is not funny!"

Hawke's face immediately turned serious again. "I know."

"I've fought for these!" Fenris hit Hawke on the chest with both hands. The right one, the steel gauntlet and the palm of his hand, was covered in blood. Most had already dried up and become sticky, but he still left some smears on Hawke's dark robes. He let his fists come down again. And again. "I've fought for these..." His cry turned into a sob. "I've fought for my own curse."

Hawke's arms closed around him and pulled him close. Fenris leaned into Hawke's embrace, his hands still on his chest, while he tried to hold back the tears that welled up in his eyes. He did not want to appear weak in front of Hawke, but he had no strength left to fight. Not even to fight tears.

Having Hawke so close felt safe. The familiar smell of smoke, sweat and blood surrounded him. Magic absorbed from Hawke coursed through his markings and made them buzz. Fenris could feel how Hawke let his chin rest on the top of his head. Hawke's arms around him were warm and comforting. It was like they could shield him from what had happened today, protect him from the words that cut through him so viciously.

But they could not. A mere illusion of safety was all they provided. Nothing but another lie. Believing Hawke's arms would somehow make things better was ridiculous.

He wrestled himself away. "I wanted to find out if I could be more... if I was once more than what Danarius turned me into," he said with his back turned to Hawke. "Now I know I just used to be an even bigger fool."

"That's what you got from what Varania said? I heard something else. I heard her tell of a man who risked himself to give his family freedom. You sacrificed yourself to free them. And I don't think the ritual has wiped that man away."

Hawke's interpretation was tempting to believe. As before, he somehow managed to turn things in a way that made them seem less bad. But the hard truth was that he had wanted and fought for the markings, and that was impossible to make better. The truth was he had brought his faith upon himself. His own choice had destroyed a whole part of his life and tainted the rest. Hawke's optimism was wasted on this.

"Not now, Hawke." He took a shaky breath. "I... I need to be alone."

A gentle hand touched his neck near the bite mark. "You need healing."

He shrugged. "I'll live."

"An undead gave you a hickey and you almost cut off your own toes. I'm not leaving you like this." With that, Hawke bent over Fenris to examine the bite mark. "I'll have to clean this... Wait, is that a tooth? Ugh. Disgusting monsters. Do you have cloth and water here somewhere?"

Fenris raised his head to look at Hawke. "You're hurt yourself." He carefully touched the gash above Hawke's brow. The cut had not closed yet, though the bleeding was diminishing. Hawke flinched at the contact.

"Ouch! It's not as bad as it looks," he grunted. "I'll get to it later. You first."

Hawke did not need much time to clean the wound in Fenris' neck and the shallow cuts in his arms. He tended to them in silence. When he had forced Fenris to sit down so that he could treat the injury in his foot, he cleared his throat. "Fenris... I'm sorry I was such an ass earlier, when you told me your sister was coming." Hawke fixated his eyes on Fenris' foot. "I... eh... I think I was disappointed you hadn't told me earlier you were looking for her. Apparently you did trust Aveline with it."

"I didn't keep it from you because I don't trust you. I felt like I had to do it on my own. I owe you enough already. Now even more... If you hadn't come with me today, I would have had no chance against Danarius."

Hawke hesitated before he spoke again. "What Danarius said..."

Fenris closed his eyes. Don't.

 "'The lad is rather skilled, isn't he'..."

Don't, Hawke.

"And your reaction... He... did not mean your skills as a bodyguard, did he?"

Fenris turned his face away. "Leave it, Hawke."

Hawke's eyes grew wide. "He... he... Oh, damn it. A...and I said... back then... I asked if I reminded you of him. I did, didn't I? Reminded you..."

Fenris jerked his foot free from Hawke's hands. "What do you want to hear, Hawke? Why do you have to know everything?" He jumped up, something he immediately regretted because Hawke had not yet healed his foot. "It's not always about you! This is not about you."

Hawke had fallen back when Fenris had suddenly pulled his leg away. At first he looked ashamed, then his expression turned more determined. "So it was like that then," he said from his position on the floor. "I made you think of Danarius."

"No! How... No! Can you never let something rest? Does every sordid detail have to be dragged out?"

"This is not a detail."

Hawke would not give up. He would not let it go. This was the last thing Fenris had wanted him to know, but as a last cruel deed Danarius had hinted at it. And of course Hawke had picked up on the hint. Of all the humiliations...  Danarius was dead but still his past could not be ignored.

Hawke just wanted to be reassured, not caring what he was digging up this time. He was thinking how it reflected on him, not Fenris. His ego could not bear the idea of being similar to Danarius in some way.

"What do you want me to say? What do you want to know? How it felt? If I enjoyed it? That I believed it a reward when I could lie in the same bed as him, although it for some reason always meant Hadriana would torment me the days that followed? That I thought it was a sign I had been good and that my master was pleased with me, and that I only found out later that it was actually one of the greatest violations I suffered? Do you want to know if I screamed his name? If I reached climax? DO YOU?!"

Hawke scrambled to his feet, his head lowered. "You're right. I... I don't want to know. I'm sorry. I'm sorry."

Breathing heavily, Fenris turned away. "Go. I've had enough of selfish mages today."

"When I've healed your foot."

He spun around, although the pain in his foot made that difficult. "Go away, Hawke!" He gave Hawke a push. "Leave!"

Hawke grabbed Fenris' bloodied right arm. "I'll go when I've healed you. Now sit down." By applying pressure, Hawke forced Fenris to take the weight off his foot and sit back down. Not wasting any time, Hawke kneeled in front of him and placed his hands on the wound. The healing magic quickly did its work. At first there was a sharp sting, then the pain faded as the flesh started to mend. Ten seconds later only the blood that remained indicated there had once been a wound there. Hawke stretched his knees and got up. Fenris gazed at him while he walked to the door. In the opening, Hawke halted.

"One more thing: you are not alone, Fenris. If you would ever want me to, I am here."

Fenris gave no reply. Perhaps the averting of his eyes was an answer in itself. 

He sat and stared without seeing anything. He was free. After ten years, he was finally, truly, completely free. No master hunting him. Danarius' blood covered his hand and gauntlet, just as Hadriana's blood had almost three years ago. Danarius was dead. He had his freedom.

What now?

He had not made any plans for the future. What was the point when Danarius could have shown up at any time? He had never bothered to look far ahead, because it could easily turn out to be for nothing. What little hopes he had had involved Varania, and she had turned on him. He had no family. The conversations about their past he had been looking forward to would never take place. All she had given him was the knowledge that the markings that had been burned into him had been won. They were his prize. A prize he had wanted. He could not understand it. In no way he was able to comprehend why his old self had competed for this. Was this what he was meant to be then after all? A weapon?

How the Maker must have laughed at his search for his purpose! It had been right under his nose. He was what Danarius had made him, and he had wanted to be it. Perhaps he had been fooling himself when he said he did not wish the power the markings granted him. A pride demon had tempted him with the same: the promise of power. Power so great he could withstand even Danarius. The need for power had not been lost with his memory. Apparently it was still inside him.

He was meant for killing. That was why he had slaughtered the Fog Warriors, had broken his word and murdered Hadriana, had torn Danarius' heart from him. And had almost killed his own sister. He would have done it if Hawke had not stopped him. Could Hawke be what made him into someone better..? If it had really been the best thing to spare Varania... Had he killed her, she would not have been able to spew her poison. The knowledge of what she had told him would not bear down so heavily on his shoulders. His world would have been slightly less shaken. She should have died! He had freed her, and instead of with gratitude she returned it with betrayal.

"Freedom was no boon."

How could she not want to be free? Did she prefer slavery? How could someone who had gained freedom long back to the days of serving a master? Freedom was so important. With freedom... what did one do when free? He had nothing. No family, no goal... not even an enemy. For so long his hatred was what had sustained him. But now there was nothing to direct his hatred at. Danarius and Hadriana were dead. Magic continued to exist, but what good would it do him to blindly hate all mages? It was not like he could wipe magic from the face of the world. He had allowed his hatred to burn away everything around him, and now that the last flames died away he was alone and surrounded with ashes.

"You are not alone, Fenris."

Hawke. When he asked himself what he wanted, he saw Hawke's face before him, felt his rough hands on him. He could not even picture what his life would look like if he had never met Hawke. Because of Hawke, he had finally gained his freedom. Without Hawke, Hadriana would have captured him. Hawke's force magic had knocked Danarius off the stairs and disrupted his spell so that Fenris could finish him. Had Hawke not offered to teach him how to read, he could not have contacted Varania. Without Hawke he would not know what he knew now. So much was because of Hawke. He was not sure if he should be thanking him on his knees or hate him for it.

 But this was a mage he could not possibly hate. Possibly the only mage. When it came to Hawke, the hate had lost, despite the strong presence of magic inside him. Even though the man often asked for it, with his pushing and prodding, pulling at what he wanted to know until it was in plain view.

Fenris clenched his fists. Hawke knew what else Danarius had used him for. He had not wanted him to know, not now, perhaps never. But Danarius had revealed it, although his own reaction had not helped to diminish Hawke's suspicion either. It was disgusting and humiliating. He knew that now. Back then, he did not. To say he had wanted it was too much, but he had not hated - or even disliked - it. It had been another way of satisfying his master, one that happened to feel good... most of the time. But it was nowhere close to that one night with Hawke. To think that Hawke believed it had been the same as with Danarius... it made Fenris feel sick. There was no way to compare the two in this. Hawke had not owned him. He had wanted it. He had wanted nothing that much. And he still wanted it, had never stopped wanting it.

Seeing Danarius and hearing his arrogant insinuations had brought back many memories. His master undressed, the greed, the hunger in his eyes. The way Danarius had stroked his hair, scratched behind his ears, as if he were some kind of pet... The short command to take off his clothes, the finger that gestured to come closer...

Stop. Danarius was gone. There was no need to relive this in the context of what he had learned later. He got his revenge. Should it not feel better? He had expected it would. But the memories remained, as did everything Danarius had done to him. The markings were still there. The pain did not disappear. He still hated Danarius.

Fenris closed his eyes. Hawke. Immediately he saw Hawke, smiling. The intense look in his eyes when he tried to see through Fenris. His dark hair with the reddish hue falling in soft curls around his cheeks. He could almost feel the warmth and comfort of his embrace again.

He had hoped Varania could give him a reason he was good enough for Hawke. He had ended up with the opposite. If anything, he had turned out to be even more unworthy.

He opened his eyes again. But he was free. He had the chance to do what he wanted. There was only one thing he wanted. Only one person. Hawke could replace the hate inside him. To fill the gaping emptiness, he needed Hawke. If he had nothing else, the hate might find a new target. He knew it would turn to self-loathing. Hate for himself, for the fact that he had competed for the markings, would seep into the empty space.

That was not what he wanted to happen with his hard-won freedom. His life could not wither away like that. He would not allow his hatred to take even more.

He needed Hawke. 

His head spun. How could he not have realized this sooner? Why had he been so afraid to admit it? So much time he had wasted, searching for his sister, desperately clinging to the promise of something that would make everything better, easier. Nearly three years later, and he had ended up with nothing. Nothing but more reasons to hate.

Was it too late now? Panic surged through him at the thought. Why would Hawke still care about him? For all he knew, he had lost any chance long ago. He recalled Hawke's hesitance to agree with going to the Hanged Man, and how stiff their interaction over the past time had been. Had he lost what he wanted most of all before he had even realized he needed it?

And now Hawke knew about Danarius' other 'activities' with Fenris... Fenris had interpreted Hawke's horror earlier as shock that he could be seen as similar to Danarius in some way, but what if Hawke had actually been repulsed by the idea of Fenris in this?  Could Hawke be interested in someone who had been used that way? Was it proof for him that Fenris was weak?

Fenris got up from his sitting position and began to pace. He should not have yelled at Hawke, but it was so humiliating Hawke had found out...

He suddenly wished he could kill Danarius all over again. Not that it would help anything...

He took a deep breath. He had wasted enough time. There was only one way to find out if he had truly destroyed everything with his foolishness. After all, what did he have to lose?

By the end of the day Fenris heard someone at the door, but he did not go downstairs. No doubt it was Hawke, but he was not ready yet. Despite that he had realized what he had to do, he needed more time. Time to become at peace with everything he had learned today. It was more overwhelming than events during the day Hadriana ambushed him. Varania's betrayal, Danarius' death, that he had wanted the markings, Hawke finding out more about his duties as a slave, that he needed Hawke but had spent so much time pushing him away it was probably too late...  It was too much, threatened to crush him.

He made his way to the cellar, but returned with empty hands. To handle all this he needed a clear head. Clouding it with wine, trying to drown it, would not help. Now was the time to face it all. The time of running was over. If he wanted to live, he had to stop fleeing.

With slow steps he walked to the door of Danarius' old bedroom and opened it. The air inside was moldy and heavy with dust. He had not been here since he had stepped inside the mansion with Hawke, with the intention to kill Danarius. Cobwebs were hanging in every corner. His bare feet left a trail in the layer of dust on the floor. In front of the tall mirror Fenris stopped. For a while he stared at the reflection of his own image. The dark armor, the steel gauntlets and breastplate, his white hair, the scar-like lines that curled over his arms and spread over his neck and chin up to his mouth.

He carefully loosened the straps of his left gauntlet and let it drop in the dust on the floor. The right gauntlet followed. Next he removed his breastplate. He did not look in the mirror while he took off his leather tunic and leggings. At last he peeled off his underclothes, allowing them to slide down his legs so that he could step out of them.

He stared at his feet. The lines and dots of lyrium that decorated his left foot were clearly visible. The pattern on his right was hidden underneath a layer of dried up blood that had turned brown by now. He directed his gaze at the mirror, still at the level of his feet. Slowly he let his eyes drift upwards, over his shins and knees. The markings reached down on both sides of his legs, with small branches that curled more towards the middle. On his upper legs the lines became more elaborate, seemingly dividing and curling at random to decorate as much skin as possible.

His eyes continued their journey to his abdomen, chest and arms. Blood was smeared on his arms and colored his right hand. When he eventually met his own eyes in the mirror, he started. There was hostility in them, fear, anger. Hate. He recognized it, saw it was still there. He observed the whole image and saw a killer. With blood all over his arms, hand and neck, the hunched shoulders and the vicious look in his eyes it was obvious he was meant for it. The markings, however delicate they might look, only added to this. Inactive, they were white and looked like scars.

He had to force himself not to smash the mirror right then. Instead, he briskly turned around and left the room. He went to the pump in the cellar that supplied the house with water. It took a few walks before he had filled the tub. The bucket he had used to get water was thrown to the side. Without hesitation Fenris stepped in the cold water. Heating it would have taken too much time. He had to clean himself now, wash away blood and the lingering touch of death.

By the time he was violently scrubbing his right hand in an attempt to get all the blood off, he was shivering in his cold bath. Yet he did not stop till his whole body was cleansed. When that was done to his satisfaction, he dunked his head under the surface to wash his hair. The water in the tub had a slight pink hue when he finally got out. Once dried up, he returned to Danarius' room.

The image had changed. With the blood gone, he appeared less feral, less dangerous. All the markings were visible now, and while they still looked like scars, they also seemed to accentuate other lines of his body: his abdominal muscles, the various muscles in his upper legs, the curve of his biceps. They drew attention to some of them and softened others. He found there was still a certain threat in them, but it was not as hideously obvious as before. He studied his face. His hair, still wet, hung flat. His large elven ears stuck out. But his eyes... What had happened to his eyes? The rage was gone. Hatred burned in them no longer. Now he only saw vulnerability, uncertainty, insecurity.

He took a step back. Who was this man? Where had the monster gone? He noticed his slumped shoulders and drew them back. With straightened back he once again focused on the markings.

"You say you didn't ask for this, but that's not true."

They had been burned into his flesh because he had wanted it.

"You wanted it. You competed for it."

He had won them.

"I look on you know and think you got the better end of the bargain."

The markings would not go away. Danarius' death meant nothing for their presence. Magic had had a strong influence on his life and always would. A craving for its power was hidden inside him. Though he still wished he could be rid of them, he no longer wanted to let the markings - no, magic - rule his life.

Fenris stared at his face. He was free. Accepting the truth about his past, about himself would not be easy. But he would try. He would find a way to deal with it. He would try to do what a free person did: build a life. He had started with it today.

Chapter Text

Another restless night followed. Fenris' mind kept racing, circling around the events of the past day. Hawke, Danarius, Varania, Hawke. They kept appearing, refused to let him be. After a few hours of lying on his back and staring at the shadows on the ceiling, he gave up and got dressed again. He wandered through the dark mansion and caught himself still scanning dark corners before he walked past them. It would take some time before he was used to his freedom, before his survival instinct accepted that he no longer needed to keep an eye on his surroundings. Perhaps he would never lose the habit completely.

He lost track of time. When he found himself in the hallway once more, he noticed light creeping through the creak under the front door. He unlocked it. He knew Hawke would come by today. Or he expected Hawke would visit. Hoped.

At the same time he dreaded the prospect. He would have to say something, ask for forgiveness for acting like an idiot for so long. And then... Hawke could turn him down. Mock him.  Laugh at him some more. How much that would hurt... Would it be worth it to hurt even more? But then he remembered the feeling of Hawke's hand on his neck as he examined the wound the undead had inflicted there. The care and concern that had been in such a simple touch... and then he felt Hawke's hands everywhere, spreading their delicious fire. His face still grew hot when he was confronted with those memories.

Fenris still did not understand how somebody could have such a hold on him. The only one who used to have that was Danarius, but that was different. Hawke did not order him, and yet he followed and cared about what Hawke thought about him. Nobody could elicit so many feelings from him as Hawke could. Often the man was infuriating, a mage who thought he knew everything best, who refused to admit mage's freedom would inevitably lead to magister's tyranny. Despite this difference in their views, Hawke could look inside him, at the ugliness that was hidden there. But Hawke seemed not to see ugliness. Perhaps he looked past it. Fenris did not know. It might be the same the other way around: when he looked at Hawke, he did not see a mage willing to do everything for power. In fact he tended to forget about Hawke's magic when he looked into his pale blue eyes, as if it did not matter. He could never do this when it came to the abomination, or the blood mage. With them, he sensed their magic and kept his distance. With Hawke, he tended to look back only to discover his intended position had disappeared over the horizon.

Fenris returned to the room he lived in. There he placed some firewood in the hearth, more to do something than because he was cold. When a fire was burning, he went on with his pacing. When would Hawke come? Would he come at all? What would Hawke say? What should he say? I want you, please forgive me? I need you, don't leave me on my own? He scowled at those pitiable ways of saying it, though it was awfully close to the truth.

Hours passed. His heart jumped when he finally heard the door downstairs open and close, followed by the sound of heavy footsteps. As soon as he saw Hawke appear in the doorway he felt vulnerable and afraid, and that made him mad.

"Festis bei umo canavarum," he muttered under his breath, turning away to face the hearth.

Hawke was unimpressed with his angry tone. "Am I supposed to understand that?"

Rolling his eyes at this first hint of mockery, he looked back at Hawke. "It means, "you will be the death of me"," he growled. "Six years ago I decided to stay with you in part because I owed you, but I also thought you could help me. And you did. Hadriana is dead. Danarius is dead. I am finally free." Every word was a bubble of frustration. He tried to stop himself from sounding so angry, sounding as if he was blaming Hawke, but he could not stop. After hours of being alone with silence and the echoes of his memories, he had to get it out. He needed someone to hear it, to listen. Hawke needed to hear it. He continued. "But none of it feels like it should. This freedom tastes like ashes." So bitter...

Hawke raised an arm and let it fall back to his side. "I didn't tell you to do any of this," he replied.

"And yet you led me, each step of the way." Without Hawke, none of it would have been possible. But it was still not Hawke's fault. It was not Hawke fault Varania had revealed the truth about the markings after Fenris had told her to get out. He could not blame Hawke for things he had brought upon himself. He sighed. "You are not responsible for my misery. Why am I angry at you?"

Hoping it would diminish his agitation, he sat down in one of the chairs. Hawke followed his example. When he spoke again, he was calmer. "I thought finding Varania would open up a new world, one that was lost forever. But it's gone, and I can't get it back," he tried to explain, wondering if Hawke would understand why he had wanted to find his sister so badly. Hawke's ideas about the meaning of family were probably different from his own. "What do I do now, Hawke?" I only know one thing: being with you. Following you. He had asked Hawke a similar question when they had just met. "Tell me, what do you do when you stop running?"  Hawke's answer, building a life, did not say much to him. Build it with what? You could not build something with nothing, and nothing was what he had. A lot of nothing. A lot of cold hatred and emptiness.

Hawke shifted in his chair. "Change your clothes, join the Chantry, I don't know," he said.

The response elicited a chuckle from Fenris. For a moment he had feared Hawke was going to say he should leave. Get his complaining ass out of Kirkwall now that all his problems were solved. But instead Hawke dodged the question. It was not the most useful answer, but at least it was not the worst either.

"I don't think I'll go that far." Was he imagining that Hawke looked relieved at his laughter? He focused his gaze on his lap. Talking was easier when he did not immediately see Hawke's reaction. "Perhaps it is time to leave this hatred behind," he mused. "It's poison, yet I continue to swallow it. There is no one left to blame. What I have done I have done to myself."

"You wanted it. You competed for it." It was still hard to hard to believe, hard to accept. It still hurt.

"Danarius isn't exactly blameless, you know," Hawke reminded him.

"Perhaps, but he is dead now." Fenris paused. It was time to do what he should have done years ago. He had to face the last truth before he would have the chance to move on, with or without Hawke. He had to know, had to come clean. Hesitantly, he spoke. "We... have never discussed what happened between us three years ago."

One moment, no more than a second, Hawke looked as if he wanted to throw something. Then he wrestled his face back into a more emotionless expression. "You didn't want to talk about it." The way he said it made it apparent he felt that was an understatement. Fenris could not blame him.

"I felt like a fool. I thought it better if you hated me - I deserved no less." Please don't hate me. "But it isn't better." He could not do this sitting. Sitting felt too powerless. He needed more muscles at work to ease the tension that was building up inside him. Fenris stood up while he continued to speak. "That night... I remember your touch as if it were yesterday." He briefly looked at Hawke before his eyes darted away. "I should have asked for your forgiveness long ago. I hope you can forgive me now."

Hawke's expression seemed to mirror what Fenris was feeling, and that surprised him. He recognized the insecurity, the pain. Could this mean...

"I need to understand why you left, Fenris." Hawke's voice sounded smaller than before, timid almost. As he looked up at Fenris, who was towering above him, the advantage of his height lost, he was far less intimidating. No longer the mighty Hawke.

"I've thought about the answer a thousand times." And regretted it just as many. "The pain, the memories it brought up... it was too much. I was a coward." He averted his face again, the bitterness of the word 'coward' on his tongue.  "If I could go back, I would stay. Tell you how I felt." He almost wanted to close his eyes then. What reason had Hawke to forgive him?

Hawke's voice forced Fenris to look at him. "What would you have said?"

Fenris did not need to think about the answer. Since he had realized what Hawke truly meant to him, it was so obvious he could not believe he had not understood it sooner. Two years ago, he had admitted to himself he was in love, hoping it would be easier to move on after that. It had not helped, because he had still refused to accept the true meaning of it. The word love itself had scared him already, and so he believed it a huge step when he had allowed the word in his mind. But without accepting the meaning of the word, it was just that: a word. A word alone could not change anything. Now, the confession rolled over his lips without hesitation. "Nothing could be worse than the thought of living without you."

As if he were struck by lightning, Hawke stared at him. Fenris had never seen him this perplexed. What surprised Hawke so much? That Fenris admitted his life was far worse without him? Or that he even dared to ask this, after everything that had happened? As the silence progressed, Fenris became more and more convinced it was the latter. Hawke simply did not know how to react to this stupid notion, this pathetic desperation. He silently cursed his own foolishness. At least he knew now not to expect anything from Hawke...

Hawke opened his mouth and closed it again. He licked his lips. Fenris braced himself for the rejection he was certain was about to follow.

 "Oh, I don't know..." Hawke said, a hint of amusement vibrating in his voice. "It might be fun to hold this over you a little longer..."

Now it was Fenris' turn to stare in bewilderment. He had been so sure Hawke would turn him down. But this almost sounded like...

Still doubting his own ears, he bent down and brought his face close to Hawke's. "If there is a future to be had, I will walk into it gladly at your side," he said hoarsely.

Hawke got up so fast Fenris almost had to jump back to avoid hitting their heads. Before he could say anything else, Hawke's mouth was upon his. Every coherent thought fled from his mind immediately. There was only room for the kiss. The taste of Hawke, his scent, now clean and fresh, the sensation of his moustache and beard against his upper lip and chin. It was all he needed. He brought one hand to Hawke's head. His gauntlet got stuck in Hawke's hair, which was tied back in the usual braid. In response Hawke wrapped his arms around Fenris' waist to hold him close. This was enough for Fenris to awaken his arousal. He tightened his hold on Hawke's hair, eliciting a small gasp from Hawke, and pulled to undo the braid. He wanted to see it loose; he liked it that way. In the meantime, Hawke deepened the kiss, his tongue hot and eager.

Three years without this. How had he lasted? Hawke's hands burned through the leather of his tunic on the small of his back. Fenris felt himself grow hard. The possibility to take this slow and enjoy every moment went out of the window. Slow was for later. Now the buildup of three years of yearning had to find release. His free hand, the one that was not tangled in Hawke's hair, went lower, searching for something to hold, to squeeze.

After some time he became aware of Hawke holding back. Wherever Fenris' hands roamed, Hawke's hands followed eagerly, mirroring the movements on Fenris' body. But his hands did not take initiative, did not travel on their own to parts Fenris had not yet explored. Frustrated by this, Fenris pinned the larger man against the nearest wall.

Breaking the kiss, he growled. "Hawke, stop holding back."

Hawke turned his head away. "D... don't say that... I... I won't be able to stop if I..."

Fenris pushed himself on his toes, pressing his hips against Hawke so that he could feel the bulge in his trousers. Hawke's eyes rolled back in his head when he felt Fenris' erection against his own hardness. A tormented groan rumbled in his throat.

Fenris knew what was on Hawke's mind, but he would not have it. He would not allow Danarius' shadow on this. He let go of Hawke's hair and closed his fingers around Hawke's face, forcing him to look his way. The sharp ends of his gauntlet dug into Hawke's cheeks. 

He leaned his forehead against Hawke's. "I don't want you to stop," he breathed, increasing the pressure of his hips.

He saw the flicker of doubt in Hawke's eyes go out. For now. Desire took over. Hawke forcefully claimed Fenris' mouth again, at the same time grabbing his ass to pull him even closer. Their breathing sped up as they kept moving, trying to make as much contact with the other one's body as possible. Robes and armor became a barrier more and more and soon Fenris' chest plate was the first to go.

They were still standing when they were both undressed, not patient enough to stop their kissing. But Fenris wanted more. The soft groaning of Hawke was no longer enough. He wanted to hear him cry out, see and feel him writhe in pleasure. He would show Hawke how much he had longed for him. He withdrew from Hawke's mouth and started kissing a trail from his neck to his chest, from his chest to his stomach. He exhaled deeply when he reached the center of Hawke's arousal, already wet and dripping at the tip. For a moment Fenris took it all in, enjoying the fact that he could turn Hawke on this much, reveling in the knowledge Hawke was - against all odds - his now.

Teasingly he ran a finger through the hair on the inside of Hawke's thighs. Then he curled his tongue around Hawke's tip, catching the pearly bead that was about to drop to the ground. Hawke's knees nearly buckled as Fenris closed his lips around him and his tongue slid down his shaft. A large hand pulled at Fenris' left ear. He looked up to see what was going on.

Hawke was leaning with his back against the wall, his eyes half-closed. "Fenris... I'm going to fall over if we do this here."

Fenris nodded. Despite his eagerness he realized Hawke coming down with his full weight on his head would not end well. In a fluid movement he got up from his crouching pose. With the taste of Hawke's first seed on this tongue and lips he leaned forward to kiss Hawke, long and deep. They continued their kiss while they shuffled to Fenris' small bed in the left corner of the room. Luckily this was the corner they had been closest to, so it was not long before Hawke dropped heavily on the mattress with Fenris on top of him, one hand in that long, thick hair. Hawke lifted his hips in an attempt to find friction against Fenris' body and moaned when Fenris gave him what he sought.

Fenris started kissing and licking his way down again, taking extra time at Hawke's nipples before he went lower. A shudder of expectation coursed through Hawke when Fenris' warm breath fanned over his erection. Surprisingly tender Fenris wrapped the fingers of one hand around it before he took Hawke in his mouth as deep as possible. He realized he had not done this the first time they had been together. Hawke had pleasured him with his mouth, but he had not returned the deed. He had been so overwhelmed that he had done little more than completely surrender to Hawke. Now it was the other way around. Now he was in charge, and he tremendously enjoyed Hawke's helpless groaning as he moved his hand up and down, followed by his mouth. He varied the movements of his tongue, sometimes sucking around Hawke's member, then simply engulfing him as much as possible, all while his hand kept up its pace. He echoed Hawke's moans at the back of his throat, knowing Hawke would feel the vibrations.

He felt Hawke grow harder. At first Hawke had caressed Fenris' cheek with one hand, but eventually he lost control of his movements and instead grabbed the sheets underneath him. He tried to prevent his hips from moving so that he would not thrust violently into Fenris' mouth. His whole body was shaking from the effort. Fenris did his best to block out the contrast with Danarius that his mind forced upon him. Danarius had never bothered with holding back. He enjoyed it deep, often hitting the back of Fenris' throat and nearly making him gag. Danarius is dead. This is Hawke. I want this.

When Fenris growled encouragingly, Hawke's hand pulled at his hair to warn him he was on the edge of his climax. Fenris, refusing to be pulled away, held steady and circled his tongue over the soft skin of Hawke's tip.

Hawke cried out as his orgasm pushed out jests of semen, filling Fenris' mouth with the bitter, salty fluid. Though he did not find the taste pleasant, he let it flow over his tongue and swallowed it all. To him, it represented the freedom to choose what he wanted in life, the freedom to finally be with Hawke. It was immensely preferable to the foul taste of ashes that had clung to his tongue earlier. He continued to suck carefully while Hawke came, making sure Hawke completely emptied himself. Hawke whimpered at the continued stimulation.

Fenris felt his own cock throb in need for more. He released Hawke's slinking erection and began to kiss the area around it while he listened to Hawke's ragged breathing. One hand massaged Hawke's balls before exploring what was behind them. Fenris' ability to think was fogged with desire. All that mattered now was to get what he wanted, needed, craved so desperately. He wanted to feel Hawke, from the inside out, be surrounded by him, claim him. He wanted to have him.

Hawke went very still when one of Fenris' fingers brushed over his closed entrance. It made Fenris hesitate. Suddenly doubt found its way inside him. Did Hawke want this? Would he submit to an ex-slave, allow Fenris to take possession of him so completely? Perhaps he found it offending Fenris expected him to be submissive to him... Hawke was always the leader, the one in control.

He raised his head to look at Hawke, one hand still between the cheeks of Hawke's buttocks, uncertain how to proceed. Hawke propped himself up on his elbows, keeping his eyes locked with Fenris'. His hair was a disheveled mess, a few locks stuck to his sweaty temples. His beard was in no better state. Fenris could not read his expression. Paralyzed by insecurity he dropped his gaze. He could hear Hawke move and feel the mattress shift. Then a big, rough hand caressed his neck. The markings reacted to the touch by glowing softly and spreading their heat through the lines. Because he was looking down, Hawke's kiss surprised Fenris. Suddenly his mouth was there, his tongue probing Fenris' lips, begging them to open. Fenris complied,  offering Hawke a taste of himself. The taste of Hawke's seed was still present on the back of his tongue.

"One second," Hawke said softly when he withdrew from Fenris' mouth. To Fenris' horror, he got up from the bed and picked up his robes from the floor. Believing he had messed up already, he closed his eyes.

They shot back open when he felt something cool and hard being pressed in his hands. He stared at the small glass bottle while Hawke returned to his spot on the bed.

"It's a concentrator agent," Hawke explained at Fenris' surprise. "I intended to give it to Anders so that he could use it to make health poultices, but I forgot. So..." Hawke's face colored. "You... we can use it for... you know."

"Does that mean you want to..."

As an answer Hawke spread his legs. Fenris' member twitched at this clear invitation. For a moment he had feared his desires had ruined everything all over again, but apparently Hawke was willing. Hawke truly was his.

He bent over to kiss Hawke before he uncorked the flask and poured some of the agent over his hand. He shot one more glance at Hawke, then placed a slick finger against the circular muscle that guarded the entrance. Slowly, carefully he moved his finger inside. With this act he had no experience, not from this position... Despite the need that roared inside him he did not want to hurry in fear that he might hurt Hawke.

When he added a second finger he hit a spot that made Hawke gasp and squirm. Startled Fenris held still. "Did I hurt you?" he asked concerned.

"N... no. That was... go on."

One corner of Fenris' mouth crept up. He curled his fingers upward. "Like this?"

Hawke moaned, then realized he had been asked a question and nodded. "," he hissed. "That."

Fenris' fingers kept working, steadily stretching Hawke's hole, while he watched how more beads of sweat formed between the dark hairs on his chest, how Hawke's breathing became deeper, how his shaft - still wet from Fenris' mouth - was beginning to grow hard again under the continuous stimulation of that spot inside him. When his third finger was inside Hawke, he started to rub his own erection with his other hand to make sure he was stiff enough to take what he wanted. He did not need much work.

He poured more lube on himself so that both he and Hawke were slick with it. A faint protest bubbled up in Hawke's throat when Fenris removed his fingers, a protest that was silenced as soon as Hawke felt Fenris' tip press against his entrance.

More impatient than he should have been, Fenris thrust to enter. He stiffened immediately after, overwhelmed by the sensation of being completely buried inside Hawke. Every lingering thought was effectively wiped away in that single thrust. The lyrium on his shaft pulsated and launched a scorching heat along the markings over the rest of his body, until he could feel the sensation of being inside Hawke in his toes and ears. It hurt and was delicious at the same time. He had Hawke. Hawke was his. He had always believed Hawke had power over him, power Fenris had not wanted him to have and had made him feel helpless. But now he saw it was the other way around as well; it was an equal thing. After three years of being pushed away, Hawke still took him back. Somehow Hawke cared about him and wanted him too, no matter how impossible that seemed. He was Hawke's and Hawke was his. And now the mage lay under him, legs spread, fully aroused, looking at Fenris with silent anticipation.

Hawke did not give Fenris much time to recover. After a pause, he rolled his hips to let Fenris know he wanted more. Fenris' breathing hitched at even this small stimulation. It created room for one new thought: so. Tight. Hawke's heat pressed against every part of his member. Fenris feared that if he started moving, his senses would overload.

And yet that was what he did. He made one experimental thrust, a bit unsure what movement to make. The first movement was followed by stronger one, one that made his toes curl. Then his body knew what to do and took over. He went faster and faster, harder and harder, until he was pounding into Hawke with all his might. He threw his head back as Hawke picked up the pace and began to move in synch. His fingers dug into Hawke's hips to find a good grip and enable him to move even harder.

His orgasm neared quickly. Fenris growled as he spilled his seed inside Hawke. Hawke's breathy groan when he came for the second time was even louder than the first. At the back of his mind, a girl giggled.

The wall that blocked the memories of his early life collapsed.

He was running, chasing someone. A little girl with flaming orange hair. She tripped over a loose tile and fell down. Out of breath, he reached her just as she started crying. Both her knees were skinned, blood already welling up from the scratches.

"Varania! Are you okay?"

He was being led to a dark room he had never been before, deep down in the mansion. His master was bent over a collection of books and loose sheets of parchment filled with complicated scribbles. He waited silently, his back straight, stomach clenched with pride and expectation until his master finally turned around to look at him and gave him an approving smile.

His master drew intricate patterns everywhere on his body, every now and then casting a glance at his parchment before he continued. When he was done, his master took a step back to admire his work.

"This will make you strong, a warrior without equal," he promised, while taking a silver dagger from the folds of his robes.

He did not understand how these pretty lines would make him strong, but the answer required no thinking. "Yes, master."

Two other slaves placed his ankles and wrists in chains. The razor-sharp point of the dagger cut through the line that was drawn under the left side of his jaw.

Hawke's voice, panting, came from far away, barely audible through the buzzing of his ears. "For the love of... I'm not twenty anymore, Fenris!"

He came back to the present with a shock. Fenris inhaled abruptly, hoping it would help against the feeling he was going to choke. His head was sweaty and he felt almost feverish, his body trembling uncontrollably while Hawke's chuckle resounded in the background.

Fenris rolled off Hawke until he was lying with his back to him, facing the wall. So it was as he had feared then. Being with Hawke meant regaining his memory... and losing it again. Already what he had remembered was becoming vague and blurry, despite having recalled everything a few heartbeats earlier. He curled up in a ball without realizing it.

This was not fair. Why could he not be happy for more than a single moment? Why did his curse insist on tormenting him every time his life threatened to be good? And now he knew it was his own fault as well... This was his own doing. He would pay the price the rest of his life.

A hand brushed the sweaty hair from his forehead. A beard prickled against his shoulder. For one confused, panicked moment Fenris thought Danarius was lying beside him, but then he recognized Hawke's concerned voice. "Fenris... don't turn away from me. Not this time. Please. Talk to me."

Reluctantly he rolled back to look at Hawke. But he could not speak. He knew no words.

"Your memories again?"

He nodded.

"What did you remember?"

"I... don't know. Varania..."

Cursing softly under his breath, Hawke put an arm around the small of Fenris' clammy back and pulled him close. His stomach was sticky from his own seed. "I'm sorry," Hawke said. "I can't imagine how..." His voice trailed off.

With his face buried in Hawke's neck, Fenris spoke. "I'm not sure I want to remember anymore, after what Varania told me."

Hawke tightened his embrace. "It can't all be bad. You said you saw Varania. Do you know what she was doing?"

"No... we were children, I think... I... I don't know. As soon as I remember, it slips away."

"Perhaps it is like with dreams," Hawke suggested.

Fenris frowned, though Hawke could not see that. "What do you mean?"

"Well, we always dream when we sleep but often we don't remember it when we wake up.  But you can train yourself in remembering them. Perhaps you can train to hold on to the memories. They are not gone, that much is clear. You also recognized Varania when you saw her. You remembered your name: Leto."

Fenris looked up. "That is not my name," he snapped. "I just... why are you doing this to me?"

"I'm not doing anything! I have no idea what might trigger those flashbacks. I wonder if it has to do with your markings and my magic. You were glowing again, bright like the sun - if the sun would be blue. You almost blinded me."

Fenris glowered at Hawke's poorly restrained grin. "I meant why it could be connected to you. I am not blaming you for it. But apparently these ugly markings are just amusing for you anyway."

"Woah, you can't be serious," Hawke let out. "You were..." He withdrew his hand from Fenris' back to stroke the line of his jaw. "You looked good. More than good. You still do. Don't look like that, it's true. I know you hate your markings, but they don't make you ugly. They have something magical - oh, that's not the right word of course. I... it's not that I would only want you with the markings, or that I want you to have something to do with magic... Oh, how do I say this... You..."

Fenris silenced Hawke's stammering with a short kiss. "I thought a blue glow did not turn you on," he teased.

Hawke smirked back at him. "I never said that. I don't believe I'd do blue in general, but with you... well, you can handle the color."


"But don't go thinking you're irresistible now, serah. I happened to be completely over you."

Fenris arched an eyebrow. "Really."

"Yes, absolutely. Right until you came up with your puppy eyes and begged me to take you back."

"There are no..." Fenris' protest broke off.  "Hold on. That was a few years ago in the Hanged Man... You heard that?"

"Of course I did!  Everybody seems to think I'm hard of hearing, the way you guys go on behind my back. But my ears happen to be excellent."

Fenris wrinkled his nose. "I wouldn't say I begged you, though."

"'Nothing can be worse than the thought of living without you'," Hawke imitated in a low voice. "You know you are going to hear that the next time we have an argument."

"I did get you speechless with that."

Hawke chuckled. "True. I never saw it coming." He turned more serious. "What are we... what do you want to do about the memories?"

"I don't know," Fenris replied with a sigh. "I don't believe there is much that can be done about it."

"If you don't want to do this anymore, I understand. You don't have to do it if it makes you miserable afterwards. Or... do you... do you want me to leave?"

Fenris shook his head in bewilderment. "I think I missed something in this conversation. What are you talking about?"

"I mean... do you regret you decision? About us."

He ran his hand through Hawke's hair. "I meant what I said, Hawke. I want you. I am yours."

A shudder went through Hawke at Fenris' last words. "But your memories... it's why you left the first time."

"It... it was more than just that. I was afraid... of so many things. I thought Danarius could come back and ruin everything; I believed you would be better off with somebody else." The doubt in Hawke's eyes did not escape him. "Do you doubt my words?"

Hawke shot him a careful smile. "No... but you did stomp on my heart on your way out."

Fenris' eyes dropped. "I told myself it was just your pride I was stomping on," he whispered.

"Sure, pride got hurt too. But that was not the biggest casualty."

Fenris raised his head. "I won't leave you again," he swore. "I know better now. Only Death could take me away."

He did not expect Hawke's face to crack the way it did. Suddenly, he seemed on the edge of panic. "Don't say that!" he hissed, his large hand squeezing the back of Fenris' neck. "Please don't say that."

The ghosts of the family he had lost floated behind his eyes, reminding Fenris of the night a broken Hawke had mourned his mother. He was not the only one who had suffered losses.

Because there was nothing to say, he pressed his lips on Hawke's. His tongue easily found a way into Hawke's mouth: Hawke was eager to answer the kiss. Fenris knew this was why he could not stay away. The sex might feel good, and he could not deny his desire for Hawke had plagued him, but in the end he could do without if he had to. No, what he needed was this, the understanding, being able to care, knowing that somebody cared as much for him. The possibility to find complete surrender in each other's arms.

After a while, he felt Hawke's hand wander down, reaching for Fenris' half-hard shaft. If he had to sacrifice his memories repeatedly to be with Hawke, he would do that. It was not such a big loss as he had believed three years ago. He could find completeness and acceptation in this instead.

Chapter Text

After several nights with little sleep, Fenris slept long and deep with Hawke's warm, hairy presence against his back. Life as a slave or a fugitive were both not suited for deep, peaceful slumber. Fenris knew no better than to wake up in the early morning, at dawn. Often nightmares woke him even before the sun greeted the new day. But this night, in the narrow bed he suddenly shared with Hawke, he slept like a child. Long, without demons spinning dreams that would continue to haunt him during the day, and when he opened his eyes this time, half of the morning had already passed. This time, a beard tickled in his neck, warning him before a hot kiss was planted there.

"Mmm morning," he mumbled as he rolled back to look at Hawke through half-opened eyes.

"Good morning," Hawke replied with a bright smile. "You're a tight sleeper. I would have thought you'd be awake long before I was."

"I'm usually a light sleeper. Sleeping late is a luxury I was never permitted."

Hawke kissed him again, this time on his cheek. "Well, I'm glad to find you sleeping next to me when I woke up."

Fenris frowned. "You didn't still expect me to leave in the middle of the night, did you?"

"No. I'm just... glad. To see you. I can still scarcely believe it. I didn't really expect it anymore that we could... be together." Hawke sighed. "I... I knew it was wrong of me to want you, and to push you for that, considering your history..." He let his fingers trace the lyrium carvings in Fenris' neck. "My magic won't go away," he whispered. "And neither will your scars. So before we are letting this go any further, I need to know if you are okay with it now... No second thoughts. Because I understand if you do, but then I need to know now. If there is any doubt in your mind, this is the moment to say it. Because if you have doubts, I know we should not try to do this. Then we stop. I... don't want to push you, but it has been a long time, and  if you're still not sure, it won't work. I know it's scary and unknown, that's fine. But you can't have doubts. Not anymore. So..." Hawke took a deep breath.


Ignoring Fenris, Hawke continued: "So I'm offering you a way out. If you are even the tiniest bit uncertain, you have to tell me now. Before I have allowed myself to believe that this... that this can last. Because I can't..."

"Hawke, I..."

Hawke simply went on, determined to say everything he had on his mind now that he had come up with a new reason why Fenris would want to give up on him, despite all his previous reassurances. Fenris shook his head, deciding a change of strategy was required. Slowly he let his hand creep lower over Hawke's abdomen.

"I don't want to feel the disappointment after you let me believe we can actually be together. I know we're not the perfect couple. We're more of an insane type of match. And again: no pressure, but... I've always felt that I... need you, Fenris. Oh, I probably should have waited with saying that. Now I really sound crazy. I don't even know why I'm feeling this way with you, but..."Hawke gasped as Fenris' hand found what it was looking for. "What... what are you doing?"

"What does it feel like?" Fenris rumbled in a low voice.

"Uhm... but I... wasn't done talking."

"Sometimes you talk too much." He applied more pressure, squeezing with his rough fingers, and Hawke moaned. Fenris felt the tension that had built up inside of Hawke disappear. The man relaxed against him, giving in to his touch.

"I thought I was clear yesterday. The... two times I told you I was a coward when I ran away and kept hiding from what I felt. I admit I found it... troubling that you are a mage... but the truth is that I had to keep reminding myself of that fact. I had to force myself to think about it, and tried to use it to hate you.... but I can't." Fenris continued to move his hand up and down while he spoke, with long, languid movements he knew were a bit too slow for Hawke. "I don't care that you have magic. I can't care. When I think of you, when I see you, I don't think of you as a mage. For reasons I don't understand either I want you and you want me. I won't resist it any longer. I have left my doubts behind. Is that enough for you?"

"You... mmm... you'll have to repeat that later. I haven't heard a word of what you said."

A content chuckle got stuck in Fenris' throat as Hawke's hand closed around his own length. It was a lot harder to mock Hawke for his arousal when he was equally helplessly caught in desire.

When they were finished, Hawke collapsed next to him on the bed. 'Don't think that you can always shut me up like this from now on," Hawke panted.

"Of course not."

Hawke eyed Fenris suspiciously at the lack of seriousness in his voice, but eventually decided not to react on it. "So, what's it like to be free?" he asked instead.

A smile lit up Fenris' face. "It feels good. At first I felt lost, but now I think I can get used to it."

"You do know you no longer have an excuse for not cleaning your house, don't you? The corpses have to go. Finally."

Fenris chuckled. "Fine, I'll clean up."

"You also need a bigger bed. I don't know how you've managed to sleep in this tiny thing. My ass is hanging over the edge."

"I've never had trouble with this bed. Perhaps it has more to do with your ass."

"Hey, you're not allowed to mock my behind just yet, you scrawny elf. For human standards my ass is perfectly fine."

Fenris laughed. He had not dared to dream that he would ever lie next to Hawke, joking and teasing each other. At the moment his only regret was that he had not found the courage to accept his feelings earlier. He could have had this so much sooner if he had. 

The happiness of their reunion was not left in peace for long. Not a week later Fenris opened the door to his - now relatively clean - house for a pale-looking Hawke. "I think I've made a big mistake," he said as soon as he stepped over the threshold.

Fenris was immediately on edge. "What have you done?"

Hawke waited with giving an answer until he had walked up the stairs and fallen down in a chair. "You know I helped Anders collect ingredients for a potion that should reverse the merging with Justice?"

Fenris nodded, his frown deepening. When the abomination was involved, this could not be good. 

Hawke let out a sigh. "Well, there is no potion. He told me that today. And he wanted my help to get into the Chantry without being seen."

"Why would he want that?"

"I have no idea. But it... it can't be good, Fenris. I regretted it immediately. I should never have agreed in the first place, but Anders... well, let's say he more or less blackmailed me into helping him."

"You do not owe him anything, Hawke!" Fenris felt his blood boil. He was not even surprised. How many mages would hesitate to use someone to achieve their goal? He knew only one, and the abomination certainly was not him. But as usual Hawke, as the only good person in the city, attracted trouble. "I can't believe you let him talk you into helping him! What has he ever done for you to deserve your aid?"

"More than enough. And you shouting at me isn't helping anything. It's already done, and I told you I regret agreeing to it."

"Then what do you intend to do about it?"

Hawke deserved better than to be used by the abomination. If Hawke would not stand up to resist the abomination's foul play, Fenris would. Hawke was his now, and he would not allow somebody else to drag Hawke with him to his doom. He...

Hawke, who seemed to have reclaimed some of his old vigor, interrupted Fenris' heated thoughts. "It's probably not as bad as it seems. For all we know he has hidden more manifesto's in the Grand Cleric's office," he attempted to lighten the mood.

"You can't truly believe that."

Hawke looked away. "Maybe not. But I don't know what else I can do at the moment. It's done. I can only hope Anders still has enough control over Justice."

"He has already shown he has no control over the demon inside him," Fenris spat. "You should not expect anything else. He is an abomination."

"That's enough. I... I will think about it. In the meantime," he looked intently at Fenris, "You stay away from him, got it? If you start interfering, things will explode." 

Fenris waited till nightfall before he left the house. Hawke had returned to his own estate shortly after their talk. He had not needed much time to convince himself it would all be alright and that Anders would never use him to do something terrible. Fenris had a different opinion, and that was why he decided to ignore Hawke's order and seek out the abomination. He would find out what the monster was planning, and tear his heart out if he had to. He would not let Hawke get hurt, not even by his own gullibility. Hawke could be a smart man if he wanted to, but when it came to people who appeared in need of help, he was always quick to trust. Too quick if you asked Fenris. Especially when mages were involved.

Hawke would be mad if he found out Fenris had taken action while Hawke had asked him not to, but Fenris did not care. Hawke was wrong, and this time he would not stand by and watch. He knew now they could disagree and still care about each other. He would risk Hawke's anger for his safety.

The lantern next to the entrance of the clinic was still lit, but the doors were closed. Fenris did not hesitate and pushed the door open without knocking. The hinges creaked in loud protest before the door smacked against the wall. Both the abomination and a young woman with a round belly were startled by the sound. His concentration on the healing spell failed, and the abomination took a step back, his eyes cautious and fixated on Fenris. The pregnant woman made herself small on her bed, avoiding to look at either man.

"What have you done?" Fenris' markings were already ablaze, sending a bright blue light across the room. With large steps he approached the abomination, who was backing away until he hit the far wall of the room.

"I have a patient," he hissed angrily. "Get out, you mad dog."

With a snarl that bared his teeth, Fenris grabbed the human's collar and lifted him up. The lyrium increased his already formidable strength. "What have you used Hawke for!" Fenris yelled. "Tell me or I will rip your heart out of your chest, and I won't even use these," he lifted his left arm to show the blue glowing veins that circled across the skin, "to do it."

"Hawke chose to help me, whether you like it or not," the abomination gasped. Fenris had slammed him so forcefully against the wall that the air had been crushed out of his lungs. "I didn't force him to do anything. He supports my cause."


The abomination spat on Fenris' brow. "Put me down."

"Fine, don't tell me. I'll just kill you now so that you can't cause any more trouble," Fenris growled.

"You... will not..." The light skin of the mage cracked and revealed a blue that was similar to the color of Fenris' markings. The amber of the eyes made way for the flashing color as well. Within a few seconds his entire body was covered with the magical light. "... stop justice!" the abomination roared in a voice that had suddenly become very unnatural.

Before Fenris had the chance to react, the abomination's fist had made contact with his chin with a dazzling blow. His hold on the mage's robes loosened and he fell back. Through the fog in his mind he heard the young woman scream. Apparently she had not anticipated that her underground healer could be a possessed monster.

Fenris shook his head a few times to clear his dazed mind. The emerging of the demon had given the mage a strength that was beyond that of a normal human. It was only thanks to the power of his markings that he had not lost consciousness. Still, it took time to recover, and time was scarce in this situation. While his vision sharpened again, the abomination had closed the small distance between them and stretched out a hand to grab Fenris' hair. Now he was the one to be lifted into the air.

"You should be punished for your closed-mindedness," the abomination boomed. "Mages deserve their freedom, and you will not stop it!"

"The only mage I care about is Hawke," Fenris grunted. "The rest of you can rot away in the Gallows for all I care."

He tried to kick the abomination, but his answer had angered the monster even more, and with a loud cry he was thrown away. He landed at the far end of the room, in front of the door he had entered through. The pregnant woman was still sitting on her bed, one hand pressed against her mouth to silence her frightened sobs, the other clenching her belly. Why she had not simply run away while the abomination held him by his hair Fenris did not understand. There was no point in staying here. Or was she still hoping the mage would finish his healing on her? The world was filled with fools. And right now he was one of them, because this did not seem like something he could win. Sparks jumped between the fingers of the abomination. Fenris rolled to his left as soon as he saw the lightning bolt leave his opponent's hand. It struck the floor right behind his back. Fenris could sense the heat of the charge through his armor.

He was in trouble. The spells the abomination had at his disposal would keep him at a distance, and if he could not get close, there was no way he could finish him. He would not lose his freedom, his life, to this failure of a mage.

Staggering, Fenris came to his feet, keeping low to have a greater chance of dodging a new magical attack. The abomination was watching him closely, but did not immediately attack again. Fenris considered his chances one more time, but came to the same conclusion. It was better to get away now that he still could. Unfortunately he had failed at helping Hawke. He had hoped to sabotage whatever plan the abomination had set up, but he had been foolish and had allowed the monster to surprise him with the demon's strength.

Fenris kept an eye on the abomination while he retreated through the still open door. The shift of the magical aura in the room suggested the abomination was planning to surprise him with a last spell. Ice, judging by the slightest tingle that travelled through the lyrium in his body.

At the exact moment an ice spike broke through the wooden floor, Fenris launched himself backwards. The sharp tip of the frozen spear cut his right calve, but other than that he landed unharmed.

The abomination made no attempt to follow him out of his clinic. Probably because he did not want to raise alarm and alert the templars to his presence. Fenris was able to flee the scene without further trouble, with only a few minor injuries. The more serious one to his pride not included.

When Hawke inquired about his bruised chin the following day, Fenris told him he had had a run-in with the Coterie. He did not dare to confess his failed fight with Anders. He had wanted to take the matter into his own hands, but now he was forced to do what Hawke had chosen to: wait until the abomination decided to set his plan in motion, and pray that they could escape the blast.

Chapter Text

The waiting for the abomination's next move was interrupted by another event. What started as a favor for the First Enchanter suddenly turned personal for Hawke.

Fenris watched all the color leaving Hawke's face when he heard from Keran, the templar recruit that owed both his job and his life to Hawke's kindness, that his brother had been kidnapped. Then, the shock made way for cold anger, an anger Fenris recognized from the time Leandra had gone missing.

"You bastards kidnapped my brother!"

Keran flinched at Hawke's yelling. "We weren't going to hurt him," he defended himself meekly, "Just make sure you left us alone. Do you understand? Thrask says Meredith will cause open war with the mages if she stays in charge. We have to take her down."

"Is this whole thing to oust the Knight-Commander?" Hawke appeared to have as much trouble following the young man's logic as Fenris. Even all the templars' propaganda had failed to let the people believe Hawke was on their side. Whenever he was asked about the issue, he had no kind words for the Order. Over the years he had become less and less careful, until he had openly chosen Orsino's side in front of at least half the city's nobility, which also meant he had publicly humiliated Meredith. Why Hawke would need to be blackmailed to take down the Knight-Commander was a mystery.

"She needs to go. Don't you see? We need a real viscount, and templars who protect mages, not massacre them. Just look what Thrask accomplished! Mages and templars working together. Isn't that what we all want?"

And the stupidity of some people would always continue to amaze Fenris. How Keran believed he could successfully use Carver's kidnapping and the two attempts to kill Hawke as an excellent example of mages and templars working together was mind-boggling.

"Is Thrask the one running this conspiracy?" Judged by Hawke's voice, he was now out for Thrask's head.

Keran remained blind and deaf for what Hawke was feeling. "He's the one who brought us together. For six years he's been working - one mage, one templar at a time. Teaching us we don't have to hate each other. He showed us Meredith isn't the only way."

The kinder part in Hawke, the part that had strived to save as many people as possible, mages as well as normal people, made a last attempt to understand why a man he had saved was standing in front of him and told him he was part of a group that had kidnapped his brother. "I thought you'd be the last person to join a conspiracy of apostate mages."

"They aren't apostates!" Fenris tried to withhold a snort. "They want the Circle. They want it to work the way it's supposed to, to protect them. The mages aren't the problem, Meredith is. The Knight-Commander needs to go, that's what Thrask says. Without her, we have a chance for peace."

Finally a bit of Hawke's cold hostility rubbed off on Keran. "What are you going to do to Thrask? To me?" he asked, visibly nervous now that his passionate defending of Thrask's greatness was over.

"You went too far when you targeted my people." This surprised Fenris. Despite Hawke's anger, he had expected Hawke would spare Keran, just as when the templar recruit had been held captive by blood mages. So many people he had given the benefit of the doubt. Just a few days ago he had let a potential blood mage who had escaped the Circle walk away, believing in the act of stupidity and innocence the mage had played. But now there was no sympathy to discover in Hawke's face - in his eyes of ice.

Keran saw it too. "But I had nothing to do with that, I swear!" he said in panic. "You can still save your friend! The Wounded Coast - we use the ruins there as a base. That's where they were going."

Sebastian did take the fool's side. "Keran got in over his head," the priest argued, "Surely that doesn't merit death?"

Hawke did not even answer. While he kept his eyes, his cold, cold eyes, locked on Keran, he took the dagger he always carried with him from his belt. His face did not give away what he was thinking or feeling when he stepped toward Keran. Without warning Hawke plunged the knife into the templar's abdomen, straight through his protective armor. Hawke did not use his magic, he did not even grand a quick death. Keran would suffer a slow, painful one. For a short moment, in a flash, Fenris wondered if the Hawke who was staggering back was the same man as he had known for six years. Not that he necessarily disapproved of Hawke's action. If Hawke had finally learned not to accept people toying with him, using him, Fenris was the last person who would argue about it. Yet there was something about Hawke, the way he looked, how he was staring down at Keran perishing on the filthy ground, that made Fenris feel a bit uneasy.

"I'll kill anyone who tries using one of us against you," Fenris cut through the soft sounds of Keran's suffering and his own feeling of discomfort.

Hawke only gave him a blank stare. No, not even that. He turned away from Keran and his eyes went over Sebastian, Isabela and Fenris without seeing them. Then he started running to the exit. 

He was right. Again. No matter how much he would have wished it was not so, for Hawke's sake. The group of escaped mages Hawke had saved six years ago, believing in their oath they were no blood mages, that only their leader and a few exceptions had fallen to the forbidden art. Fenris had not believed it, and now it turned out he had been right. Again.

What has magic touched that it doesn't spoil? Despite Hawke's efforts, magic had sunken its claws deeper and deeper into his life, rewarding his trust, his belief in the goodness of mages, with crippling blows.

Hawke looked bewildered when he recognized the mages. Thrask the templar hid behind a face of reason while he demanded Hawke supported him. Fenris knew Hawke would never agree with anything the man said while his brother was lying lifelessly on the ground behind Thrask. Shock was gone soon enough, and with it Fenris saw Hawke's last willingness to negotiate dissolve. Perhaps Grace saw it as well, because then she gave the order to kill Carver.

Hawke had his staff already in hand. "You all die."

Thrask, who apparently only had the courage to kidnap the Champion's younger brother with the aid of blood magic, panicked now that he was about to face Hawke himself and tried to calm everyone. Grace spared him that fate by showing her true face: she used blood magic to kill the fool,  she who had sworn she had had no truck with demons, before she commanded her goons to kill the Champion. Right once more. 

The fight was short. Laughably short. Hawke unleashed every spell he knew on the mages and renegade templars as fast as he could. Within seconds Grace fell, and then the Pride demon she had harbored within herself. Screams tore through the air as blood soaked the sand of the Wounded Coast. Never had the name of the troubled beach been this fitting. Fenris did not have to use his blade on many opponents. The vast majority were taken out by the fire and lightning that rained from the sky.

A few minutes later the screaming died away. All survivors needed some time to gather themselves after the wave of destruction that had crashed over them. Everyone except Hawke. Hawke was immediately next to his brother, the ice in his eyes breaking to reveal intense fear.

The dark-skinned Alain was one of the few who had not joined the fight. Now that things seemed to have calmed down, he stepped forward.

"I knew she was still alive, but I didn't know Thrask was working with her..." he said. "When I saw her today, it brought everything back, everything I saw Decimus do."

Another act, Fenris thought skeptically.

"I... I'm sorry. Grace used blood magic to hold him. There's no other way to wake him up." At the words "blood magic" Fenris unsheathed his blade again. Those vipers had done enough. So many times they had proven they were not to be trusted... This one was the next to go, before he would use his foul magic against them.

But just as he wanted to reach the mage, Hawke's arm was suddenly in front of his chest, holding him back. Fenris looked at Hawke, but Hawke did not look back at him. His eyes remained focused on Carver. Carver and Alain, who knelled beside the unconscious young man.

Fenris readied his weapon as Alain took a knife  and slit his wrist. If this one also betrayed them...

But for once a mage appeared to keep his word. The blood magic descended upon Carver, and immediately Hawke's brother awakened. He seemed disoriented and confused as he coughed and got to his feet. Fenris felt Hawke relax next to him. The arm in front of his chest dropped. "Get out of my - What? Where am I?"

The relief shone from Hawke's face, bright like the sun. Fenris, realizing he had been holding his breath, exhaled slowly. Carver was alright, and that meant Hawke was too. He would not be confronted with a broken Hawke again, a man shattered by grief. They did not have to go through that again. For once, Hawke had been spared more pain.

"I promise I'll never let anything like this happen again," Hawke said hoarsely to Carver.

Understanding dawned on the Grey Warden. He was saved by his elder brother. Hawke had succeeded where he had failed. His face did not mirror the relief that was visible on that of his brother's.

"Thank you, Brother," he said stiffly. "It seems I am again in your debt... and shadow."

Hawke was about to reply, when Samson, the templar who had fallen from grace long ago, led Cullen and a few of his men to the their small group.

The exchange was brief. Brief, but surprising. And unsettling. When the mage Alain caught the Knight-Captain's eye, Cullen made a disgruntled noise and ordered to put the mage to questioning. Fenris anticipated Hawke would stand up for the young man, tell Cullen that the mage had refused to kill Carver and had released his brother from the hold of blood magic. Instead, the cold expression returned to Hawke's face while he spoke. "The boy's been working with blood mages since he was in swaddling clothes."

Had Alain's skin color not been so dark to begin with, Fenris was sure his face would have turned red. "No! I stood up for you!"

Hawke only gave him an emotionless look before he turned back to Cullen.

"Is there any recommendation you would have me bring to Meredith, Champion?"

"They used illegal blood magic in a plot against the Order," was Hawke's answer. "I say execute them."

Sebastian made a shocked sound but did not dare to protest. Isabela stayed out of it, as she had in the issue with Keran. Carver frowned. Just like Fenris he had not expected words like these from Hawke. Without blinking, Hawke had just told a templar to execute mages who had not actively fought against him. There was no denying Hawke would never have done this six years ago. If there was even the slightest chance somebody was innocent, Hawke chose that person's side. Clearly in this case everyone was guilty in Hawke's eyes. There was no mercy for people who targeted his brother. It was something Fenris would cheer for, if Hawke's lack of emotion did not make him feel so uncomfortable.

Carver was the first to speak when the templars and their prisoners had left. "Well, that was... enlightening. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a job to go back to."

Hawke broke out of his cold shell. "How are feeling? Do you need healing?"

"No." Carver sighed. "No, I'm fine."

"You're acting like you're mad."

"Ugh, I'm not mad, Damian. It's just... I have my own life. I'm a Grey Warden. I don't want to be dragged into your stupid mage problems. I don't want anything to do with it. Just leave me out of it."

"I told you I won't let anything like this happen again. No one will hurt you. Ever."

Wrong choice of words. "I don't need your protection!" Carver snapped. "I can take care of myself. I was doing fine."

"Yeah, lying unconscious at the feet of your kidnappers. You could have taken them out whenever you wanted; you were just waiting for the right moment."

Carver's face twisted in wounded dignity. It took him visibly a lot of effort to retain his self-control. "Perhaps I'm better at fighting darkspawn than sneaky blood mages," he said coolly. "We Wardens are more busy saving the world than do... whatever it is you're doing."

Hawke shook his head. "Right. Funny," he sneered. "Can't we get over this stupid grudge between us for once? We haven't seen each other in years."

"I'm afraid I have to leave. Like I said, I'm not mad at you. Not anymore." Carver laughed awkwardly. "I realize I used to be quite a tit. I've tried to change, but when I see you, you still annoy the crap out of me. So I think it's better for both of us if I leave now. Besides, I've got to get back to my duties."

"Save the world?"

Carver chuckled. "Trying to." He brushed the sand off his uniform and took a few steps away from Hawke. "Goodbye then." Fenris thought this was all he had had to say before he left, but after several steps Carver stopped and looked over his shoulder, although his eyes did not meet Hawke's. "Oh, and Brother... take care. You're still the only family I have left."

Hawke swallowed, then nodded that he had heard. 

Fenris returned with Hawke to Hawke's estate. He was not sure if Hawke wanted his company, since he had ignored Fenris from the moment he had heard his brother had been taken. Fenris was not mad about that. He was only not sure what he was supposed to do now that it was over. Did Hawke expect comfort? Silence? A hand on his shoulder?

Hawke grew more somber on the way back. His shoulders went up, his head down. He kept his eyes directed on his feet and did not say a word to any of his three companions. When they arrived in Lowtown, Isabela quickly said goodbye and made her way to the Hanged Man. Sebastian walked with them until they reached Hightown. Then he shot Hawke a last disapproving look before he went to the Chantry. Fenris felt the need to pray as well, but first he wanted to make sure Hawke was alright. So he followed him into the mansion. Hawke sat down in the library. To Fenris relief, Hawke looked up to him, and really looked at him, not through him.

"I murdered someone," Hawke whispered. "Someone who was not hostile, who did not attack me, who was unarmed, who told me everything I wanted to know out of free will... And I killed him. I... when he said that... that they had Carver... I... I couldn't take it. The thought to lose anyone else... all I could think of was that I had to save him, that I could not fail again. So I killed Keran. Because he was somehow involved. And everyone involved had to pay. I wanted to kill them all, before they could kill my brother. " His eyes were hard when he said this, the light blue back to its frozen appearance. Then Hawke's eyes dropped. "I don't even feel bad about it," he continued softly. "Not really. It's more that it... frightens me. I did not even hesitate, there was no doubt in my mind... I just did it. And when Cullen asked me what to do with the last rebels, I just told him to kill them. Because they wanted to kill my brother."

Fenris stared down at the top of Hawke's head. He did not know what to say. He did not believe Hawke should feel guilty about what he had done. After all it had been the wisest thing to do, and Fenris was the last to grieve for a few mages - who had turned to blood magic to get what they thought they deserved - and their sympathizers. In his eyes they were no better than the abomination.

Hawke looked back up at him, waiting for Fenris to say something, anything. Fenris cleared his throat while he tried to think of what to say. "You did the right thing."

Hawke chuckled and shook his head. "No," he said. "I did not. I mean... perhaps it was the best thing to do, but not for me. I... don't think that makes any sense, but... be honest: do you think I would have handled this the same way years ago? Before..."

Before his mother was murdered by an insane necromancer. Fenris forced himself to meet Hawke's gaze. "No, I don't think you would have done it then." When Hawke put his face in his hands, Fenris quickly added: "Couldn't it mean you have learned of the past? People change." I thought nothing could ever change you, that you could withstand everything, but I guess I was wrong. Not even Hawke can get through some things without it leaving scars. "If you don't want people to crush you under their heel, you have to face them and cut them down before they can do the same to you."

Hawke grabbed Fenris left hand and pulled him down, until he was sitting on his knees in front of Hawke. At first he thought Hawke was angry, that he had somehow messed this comforting part up again, but then Hawke drew him in an awkward embrace.

"I can't express how glad I am that you're here for me," Hawke breathed in Fenris' neck. 

The waiting had come to an end. The abomination had made his final move. Filled with disgust Fenris was forced to watch the destruction of the Chantry from afar. Nothing was sacred for those mages. Nothing would be spared in their quest for freedom. What has magic touched that it doesn't spoil?

Hawke was clearly shocked as well. But when the Knight-Commander announced the Right of Annulment, that old look appeared in his eyes, a look that Fenris knew well enough. Hawke was about to do something stupid. The most insane and stupid thing he had ever done. Even after the abomination's betrayal, Keran's betrayal, the betrayal of the mages they had helped escape, after a blood mage had murdered his mother, Hawke would not allow this many people to be purged for the fact that they had been born with magic. Not when there were potential innocents among them. Fenris saw the look in Hawke's eyes, and knew Hawke would side with the mages. Hawke would fight Meredith and all her templars. And Fenris would fight with him. He almost threw his head back and laughed. He would join a mage in a battle to defend mages. Probably mostly blood mages. He would never have believed it if someone had told him years ago. But for Hawke he would do this. Nothing in this world was going to keep him from that mage, that man. The person he owed everything to: his freedom, his life, his happiness.

It had taken him so long to admit and accept it, but now he finally had. Hawke was everything to him, and he would not let him go.

Before Hawke openly made his decision, he looked at Fenris from the corner of his eyes. Questioning, asking if Fenris would support him. This was the first time Hawke turned to him before he jumped into his next foolish act. Hawke wanted to make sure Fenris would still be there if he did this. Fenris now had a part in what Hawke decided.  But he would not stop Hawke, would not prevent him from doing what he thought was right. Fenris felt more relieved that part of the old Hawke was still there, the part that believed everybody should be free. When Carver was kidnapped, it had seemed that part of Hawke was gone, replaced by a ruthless man who desperately fought for the last things he had, the last people close to him. Perhaps that part would have died if Carver had died, but Carver had survived, and so had the last bit of Hawke's faith in the people around him. And Fenris loved him for it. Countless times he had cursed the mage for it, had argued with him about his decisions. But now he only wanted that Hawke would stay the same. Hawke was his rock, the one person he could always count on. Hawke had earned his loyalty, and even though in his heart Fenris did not agree with what Hawke was about to do, he would not stop him.

He gave a quick nod to Hawke, a gesture so fast and small that nobody around them noticed it. But Hawke did, and he returned the nod before he turned to the Knight-Commander, with his head held high, his back straight and proud. Fenris unsheathed his sword for what was to come.