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A Long and Lonely Road

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This was a terrible idea.

If anyone other than Varric had asked, she would have sailed to Amaranth rather than go anywhere near this ‘Inquisition’ that he was so caught up in. Not that it was his fault, exactly, but…

But he had asked. He had asked her to come to Skyhold (of all the corny names) and talk to the newly dubbed Inquisitor, despite the fact that it was apparently swarming with Chantry representatives, Circle mages, and Templars, knowing that she was violently allergic to all of the above.

Hives were forming and she hadn‘t even finished crossing the bridge.

The guard looked the other way at the sound of her thrown rock, "What's there?“ and as he walked in the other direction to check on the source of the noise, she sighed and took advantage of his sloppy skills and gullible mind to scale the wall just inside of the portcullis. From there she snuck out into the courtyard, and up the stairs to the battlements where Varric had told her to meet him, while he gently broke the news of her continued survival to the Inquisitor and her advisors. She hoped a certain Commander choked with horror.

Well, not really. She might owe the damn Templar, and wasn’t that a horrifying thought? But his kind hadn’t made things easy for her. At least, until right until the beginning of the end. Or was it the end of the beginning? Three years hadn’t really given her any grand perspective over the events of the past. Her hindsight wasn’t even clear enough to see through, much less bring things into focus. It was like trying to see through Crestwood’s mud.

If she wasn’t careful she’d end up sounding like Flemeth. “Fate and Chance can go fuck themselves,” she muttered under her breath, feeling better immediately as she rounded the stair landing.

She crested the stairs, the mountain wind flinging her short hair wildly, and she cursed again, her eyes tracking the scouts and runners and workers automatically. Even up on the battlements this was more people than she had been around for… Maker’s Breath had it really been years?

She needed to get out more.

No one looked at her twice, too busy with their own tasks to wonder about a stranger. The entire Keep was full of people gawping blankly or sneering critically at the Inquisition’s new bastion - a woman walking with purpose and direction didn‘t even register.

The tavern looked like a happy possibility – if she didn’t have to stay incognito during her whole stay. Trust Varric to make sure the tavern was up and running even before the bridges were repaired or the main hall was free of scaffolding. She could bless every single hair on his fuzzy, prioritizing, barrel of a chest.

She hoped that the Seeker that had been plaguing Varric’s life for the last few months wouldn’t kill him when she heard - but Varric could take care of himself, with the exception of his horrible taste in women, anyway.

Not that she could talk. Her love life could serve as a cautionary tale as told by any Chantry sister. At least Varric only brought half the trouble on himself? She really shouldn’t be trusted near anyone even halfway interested in sex. But then again, that hadn’t worked out for her either. Sebastian hadn’t been, and she had still managed to screw that up.

Stupid Fucking Vael with his stupid shiny armor. Let him have his pretentious city with its fucking palace and shitty weather. She could have just about anyone for a wink and smile, and sometimes cheaper than that. And often did. It was better that way.

Hawke had been forced to be reclusive, thanks to the damn Red Templars and Wardens haunting Crestwood. She was feeling the lack of ‘company’ pretty hard at this point.

Stroud had made a couple of tentative movements in that direction, no doubt suffering himself from a lack of friendly attention that wasn’t his own hand, but the Moustache was just too much. She shuddered at the thought of letting it touch her.

What was the male fascination with facial hair? Stroud’s moustache was larger than some Orlesian lapdogs. That Blackwall that ran with the Inquisition apparently had a legendary beard - Varric‘s description in his letters had been all too thorough, almost as if he envied the furry chin. If he did, it would be the first time he had ever wanted a beard, she was certain. Varric shaved with a devotion bordering on obsession.

Speaking of Varric… her best friend waved at her from a distant landing, looking a bit too excited, really, considering the reason for her presence. “Quick, duck into the tower,” he hugged her quickly, skipping the effusions of joy in favor of shooing her in. “I’ll set you up, let you make an entrance… avoid causing a scene if anyone just happens to stroll by…” He wasn’t excited, she realized. He was nervous.

If that Seeker dared so much as touch him she would find herself pinned to the wall.

“Causing a scene? Since when have I ever cared about avoiding one of those?”

“There are a few Templars, here, Hawke. You might have noticed?”

“You said the Inquisitor supported mage rights!” Hawke had assumed she was a female version of Anders, only without magic and the partner from the Beyond, and with an entire army at her disposal.

So in other words… nothing like Anders at all. Just imagine what Anders could have done with an army. He used his friends effectively enough.

“Yeah, but some of the Templars followed Curly - the good ones. Mostly. Fellow called Rylen is great for a laugh. But we can‘t guarantee that none of them have it out for you…”

“I suppose it would be a shame to make it this far only to die at the hands of the former Knight-Captain of Kirkwall’s blade.“ She had managed to survive, with Stroud’s help, for this long, even without Dog to keep her company - a victim of old age.

Varric shook his head, denying that fear of hers for at least the dozenth time. “Curly’s changed, Hawke. He’s left the Order. Stopped taking lyrium. The Seeker’s watching him, to see if he’s going to kick the bucket.”

“People don’t change that much. The last time I bought into that lie, a friend blew up a fucking Chantry. Remember that? So forgive me, my friend, if I‘m cautious.“

Varric had sighed, “Just stay put, will you? Don‘t run for at least a minute. She’s coming. Be here any second.” He paused, sighing with resignation, “If we’ve got to fight our way out, there’s a roof right below this landing. Only 15 feet down, so we can skip the stairs, jump to it, swing down to the ground, and make a run for the gate. Bianca‘ll have your back.“

"I adore you, Varric.  You always know exactly what I'm fretting myself silly over."

And no, it wasn’t like that.

It was just damn good to see him again. It was good to be seeing anyone again, other than the Moustache, but especially him.

A rather flat-faced woman with the dull look of Ostwick (nothing interesting ever came out of Ostwick) combined with sharp eyes approached him as Hawke watched her through the crack in the rather shoddy door. She seemed reasonable and not angry - definitely not a female version of Anders, then - and Varric beckoned her forward.

Hawke straightened and approached, trying to seem confident, unobtrusive, and street-smart, keeping her staff handy. Varric wouldn’t lead her into a trap, but she didn’t know the rest of these people, with the minor exceptions of Leliana and Cullen.

Those two, based on their behavior in Kirkwall, were definitely capable of setting a snare just for her.

People didn’t change that much.

But that’s what her Champion face was for. Combined with her armor, she was a force to be reckoned with. And Varric always had Bianca at his back. If this went pear-shaped he would have her back while they fought their way out of this damn castle. It wouldn’t be the first time they had had to beat a rapid retreat, and it wouldn’t be the last. She had already proven it wasn’t that secure.

She hoped she would get the chance to mention that little tidbit to ‘Commander’ Cullen.

It was easy enough to banter her way through the Inquisitor’s all too giddy questions until she reached the part about Corypheus.

“He was dead. We stripped his body. I still have his stuff in storage back home,” she deadpanned. Varric backed her up, nodding along to her story. It was all true, for once. Not that if she chose to lie he wouldn’t back her in that, too. She had done nothing to deserve a friend like him.

She suspected that if she told the Inquisitor that she was the second coming of Andraste that Varric would start singing the Chant. Maybe make up a few extra verses that supported the promiscuity and public inebriation side of things.

She’d pay money to see that. Maybe the next time that Varric backed a losing cause. He did rather make a habit of it, didn’t he? He hadn’t done that until he met her. Probably her fault. Just like everything else.

She wrapped up her all too sad story, and waited in silence for the Inquisitor to ask the next questions. The ones everyone asked, after they had read the fucking book. And the Inquisitor had definitely read the damn book. “Where was Fenris? Was Merrill’s blood magic evil or justified? Was Carver really that much of an ass? Did you and the Prince of Starkhaven have a ‘thing‘?”

But the Inquisitor didn’t ask about her friends, only promised that she’d head out to Crestwood as soon as possible, to recover Stroud.

Hawke relaxed, ever so slightly. She wouldn’t ask about Sebastian. Thank the Maker. If only Varric hadn’t put it all in the book… but he swore the love story would sell more copies. Even if the love interest was a pretentious Chantry-loving moron with a waffling problem.

She had been drunk when she agreed, telling him that yeah, that was all true, but that he was her pretentious Chantry-loving moron. Besides, she liked waffles.

He had called her Waffles for the next two years. She deserved it.

But if theirs was a love story, then the rest of the world was doing it wrong. She sighed, and pulled herself away, peering around to make sure she wasn‘t attracting undue attention. Varric had offered his room as a place where she could hold up until the advisors were ready to speak to her - but it was across the battlements and through the main hall, the solarium, and upstairs, through the library.

Maybe she’d convince him to bring her some ale later. If she hadn’t fallen asleep. It would feel good to sleep in a bed again. The thought of a bedroll made her back start to kink and seize.

Neither of them were as young as they used to be.

She didn’t mind feeling older, but she hated feeling so fucking useless.

But maybe being here would change that.  She could only hope.

Of course, when you try to change things, things change.  Rarely did anything change for the better in the wake left by her passing.

She shivered, and denied being cold when Varric asked.

And no, it wasn't a fucking premonition.