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Operation Protect Hawke From Himself

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As soon as he steps foot inside The Hanged Man everyone cheers “Hawke” and lifts their bottles in his direction. There’s waving and handshaking, then after a drink (or two), he heads to Varric’s room.

Despite the immeasurable wealth it brought, the Deep Roads expedition came at a price: Carver. No amount of money was worth his little brother’s life. With Bartrand leaving them there to die, they had to find an alternate route back to the surface. Said alternate route made Carver contract the taint. Or maybe just being there in general made Carver sick. Whatever the reason, had Anders not been there with those extra Grey Warden maps there’d be one less Hawke in the family tree.

With the money he got from the expedition he was able to speed up the process his mother started, petitioning the viscount for ownership of the Amell estate. He was going to put it under his mother’s name but she insisted he claim ownership himself. Considering how badly she wanted the place, he was surprised to say the least.

“Cheer up, Hawke, Junior’s a fighter. You’ll be out of Gamlen’s hovel in no time and we’ll get word of your brother being the latest, moodiest Grey Warden.”

“It’s still my fault. My mother pleaded with me not to take Carver and I did it anyway.”

“If it’s anyone’s fault, Hawke, it’s mine. I should’ve seen Bartrand’s betrayal coming. He’s never been all that loyal. Not sure why I thought this would change things.”

“Despite the obvious bullshit, Bartrand is your brother. You’re always gonna give him the benefit of the doubt.”

“No offense but you’re twelve-hundred times the older brother Bartrand ever was; I doubt you’d understand.”

“I understand my brother probably hates me, if he even survived. I don’t know why I let Anders talk me into offering up my brother—”

“You did it because you know he has a better chance of survival as a Grey Warden. Hell, it was his only chance of survival. You know about the tale of The Warden, don’t you? A Dalish Elf who caught the taint after coming in contact with some elven artifact. A Grey Warden saved her life too. Junior will be fine Hawke.”

Hawke stands, “I need some air.”

“Just don’t do anything you’ll regret?”

“I can’t promise that.”

“Humor me.”

The redhead sighs, “alright Varric, I’ll try not to do something I’ll regret.”

Kirkwall’s never been safe at night but he helped get rid of the scum plaguing the city and that “Friend” paid him good coin too. Other than a few stragglers, there hasn’t been much action since he’s been back. What would he do if Carver died? He already lost Bethany, too damn weak to protect her – his little sister. Their mother was right to blame him. Now he’s gonna lose another sibling. Is he so unfortunate to lose both siblings due to his powerlessness? Both to darkspawn?

He didn’t realize his feet took him straight to hightown until he spotted the familiar outline of Fenris’ mansion. His parents taught him better than to barge into people’s places without warning but he’s already reaching for the doorknob. (Why doesn’t Fenris lock this place?) Fenris’ company was always preferable to his other friends, even if the elf abhors magic. Although, Hawke can say his magic has yet to make Fenris hate him.

He’s shuffling his feet across the floor when Fenris’ voice snaps him out of his reverie. “Something is troubling you.”

“Astute observation.” At least that gets a smirk out of Fenris. “I got sick of drinking whatever The Hanged Man passes for a decent drink and I know you usually hoard the good stuff.” Fenris beckons him closer and they head to the cellar.

He’s been to Fenris’ place a few times, even spent the night shooting the shit with the man, but he’s never gone to the cellar. Hawke’s always known there was one: where else would Fenris’ endless supply of alcohol come from? Danarius is a first class prick but he has decent taste in booze.

The cellar is far less sinister than Hawke imagined it would look like. No dead bodies to speak of in the immediate area. Fenris plucks a bottle from the wall and hands it to Hawke. “I’m assuming you heard nothing from your brother? Hence the reason for a strong drink?”

Hawke sighs heavily, accepting the bottle. “I feel so useless. This place...coming to Kirkwall’s been one disaster after the next. I-I should’ve been able to do something for Carver.”

“There’s nothing you could’ve done.”

“We were all there. Why did it take Carver? Why not me instead?”

“Hawke...” Fenris puts a hand on his shoulder, “brooding doesn’t suit you.” The redhead chokes a laugh. “Come. Let’s do something to occupy your mind.”

“Just my mind?” The redhead waggles his eyebrows.

“Your flirting skills put mine to shame, Hawke.”

“Wait until I have a few of these.” He shakes the bottle in his hand. After grabbing a few more bottles, they head back upstairs. Into a bedroom Hawke’s never seen before. He looks around as Fenris sets the bottles down. There’s a perfect view of the (half) moon from this window. “This is weirdly romantic.” They pause then stare at each other. Chuckling awkwardly, Hawke puts the bottle to his lips. Something is definitely bubbling between him and Fenris. Ordinarily, it would be arrogant to think so but how else could one explain not only Fenris’ tolerance for him, a mage, but the willingness to pal around him. Given the guy’s history with mages, Fenris is not the least bit wary of him like he is with Merrill and Anders. Hell, Hawke himself is wary of those two; weary too. Merrill is more of a threat to herself than anyone else, though.

“If I was trying to romance you, I’d do a better job.” Eyes widening, Hawke spits out his drink. “Perhaps I should’ve waited until you were finished drinking...” Fenris shrugs, “come. Sit. We’re going to meditate. You don’t need to put all of Kirkwall on your shoulders, Hawke.”

Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Hawke takes the space next to Fenris on the floor. “It’s not solely about Kirkwall, it’s about my family. My little brother.” He sighs, “did Varric tell you I had a little sister? Carver’s twin. She didn’t make it to Kirkwall, got crushed by an ogre then tossed aside like garbage. I blamed myself for it. My mother blamed me. Carver blamed me—”

“Why did they blame you?”

Hawke sighs then takes a swig of the bottle, “everyone was angry. We left Lothering, fought through darkspawn together only to have one literally tear apart our family. I’m the eldest, I protect by default. What purpose do I have if not to protect those dear to me?” He starts shaking, “sometimes I just...” He takes a deep breath, still shaking slightly. “I feel like it should’ve been me, you know?”

Fenris nods slowly, “your guilt drives you to take impulsive and potentially reckless action.” A beat, “even more reckless actions.” Hawke smiles a bit. “You couldn’t save your sister so you’re trying to save whoever you can. Not everyone can be saved Hawke. Not everyone deserves saving.”

“I...” Tears run down his closed eyes. “Damn do I ever know. Not everyone who needs saving gets it either.” A sniffle, “thank you, Fenris, you’re real easy to talk to.”

“As are you.” Hawke hands him the bottle and Fenris takes a sip from it. “I understand why you’ve attracted such a following.”

Hawke smiles at him then wipes his eyes. “It’s not usually due to me wailing I assure you.” Fenris chuckles. “T-This probably doesn’t mean much but I wanna thank you for being here. Being my friend. It means more to me than you know.”

Fenris stares at him a bit before returning his attention to the bottle. “I must admit, I was doubtful when we first met. When I first realized what you were. I suppose befriending a blood mage would make anyone cautious.”

“Merrill’s not so bad, a little crazy but hey so are the rest of us.”

“Still, I’ve never met a finer mage – a finer person than you, Hawke.”

“U-Uh, t-thank you.” Did it get hot all of a sudden? He can’t remember the last time a mere conversation left him this flustered. Shit, perhaps he needs more of whatever Fenris is drinking? Or less? When Fenris passes him the bottle he all too eagerly takes a big gulp. Fenris will be the death of him, of that he is certain. Hawke can think of no better way to go, though.

“Maker’s breath, I wasn’t even certain you still lived here but you keep getting mail.” Gamlen says on his way out.

“I wasn’t sure if you still lived here either. You’ve been spending an awful lot of time with that elf. The one who glows?” Leandra pinches his cheeks, “my little boy is growing up into quite the young man.”

“Mother. Fenris and I are just friends.”

“Of course, love, now you are.”


“I’ve seen the way you two look at each other. I remember I used to look at your father like that.” She sighs dreamily. “Honestly, I don’t blame you for spending the night at his place. I’m sure it’s better than here.” Hawke chuckles, then the two of them sift through the letters on the table until one with an all too familiar handwriting catches their eye. “Carver!” Leandra gasps. The redhead hesitantly reaches for the letter, his hands are shaking his mother takes the letter from his hands to open. It’s been three weeks since he came back from the deep roads. The nights he’s not in his “room” gasping for air, dreaming of Carver’s death, he’s with Fenris staying up and trading stories. Although he spends most of his free time with Fenris, he’s visited his other companions occasionally; each of his friends busy with other matters. The two of them read Carver’s letter. A letter from Carver. He survived the joining and is now a Grey Warden. His mother has tears in her eyes and he can’t help shedding a few himself. “He’s alive.” Leandra sobs.

“Mother?” She turns to him, “I-I’m—I’m sorry. None of this would’ve happened if it weren’t for my stupid idea.”

“From what I heard, Carver is just as responsible.” Leandra sighs, patting her son on the face. “Sweetie, don’t fret. You are too hard on yourself. Carver is alive and from his letter he doesn’t sound upset.”

“You’re not mad?”

“At you? Oh honey, no.” She wipes the tears from his eyes. “Things will work out, you’ll see.” She goes through the pile of letters. “Oh. A letter from the viscount. I wonder if this is about the estate.”

It takes nearly a year to move into the estate. Qunari problems, bullshit paperwork, more paperwork, people not sure what they’re doing. An endless array of fuckery is involved. Eventually, everything gets settled and the Hawkes take over the Amell estate – well it’s the Hawke estate now. They didn’t have anything to move from Gamlen’s, fortunately, so it was just the two of them. Then Bodahn pops up out of nowhere pledging his loyalty and with Bodahn comes his son so there are four people living in the Hawke estate.

It’s bittersweet. The place definitely has enough room for everyone – it would’ve had enough room for Bethany and Carver too. Hawke sighs then plops down on his fancy bed. Anytime he’s alone, he begins harboring dark thoughts. Since the process with acquiring the estate began he’s been keeping to himself more. No reason to drag anyone further into his shit. He feels as empty as this house. The slavers took out everything before he and Carver killed them all. It’s a miracle the place still has its beds.

He lays back and looks at the ceiling. All of this was for their mother – she’s his only family at an arm’s length, barring Gamlen. If he can’t protect her or make her happy there really is no point in doing anything.

Within the next year he generally keeps to himself and makes sure his mother is taken care of. She worries and fusses over him but that just means she’s content.

Town criers going on about missing women just makes him even more paranoid.

His peaceful life as a recluse gets interrupted when the messenger gives him an urgent letter from the viscount. Although she says nothing, his mother is happy to see him get out of the house. He grabs his staff and hesitantly gets dressed to face whatever crap the viscount will undoubtedly throw his way.

When he arrives at the keep he gets a fifteen minute lecture from Aveline (halfway into said lecture he zones out so he’s not sure what she’s yelling at him about). Once Aveline’s had her fill, or realized he stopped listening, he heads to Viscount Dumar’s office.

The viscount wants him to talk to the qunari. You get involved one time and suddenly you’re everyone’s favorite delegate. He hasn’t even seen a qunari since escorting that Saareabas essentially to its death.

“Don’t get involved. It’s as simple as that.”

After meeting with the viscount, he calls everyone together at The Hanged Man. The only other halfway decent drinking establishment rumored to exist in Kirkwall is The Screaming Duck and no one’s sure how that place got its name. Not that Hawke’s ever been, they have a ridiculous “no mages” rule after a templar “saved” the owner “from abominations.” Now the place is a popular templar hangout.

They’re all at that big ass table Varric likes to write his stories on. Aveline sighs, massaging her head. “Hawke, please don’t listen to her.” Isabela scoffs, “you can’t turn down a request from the viscount—”

“Says who? And really, isn’t this something your people should handle?”

Aveline scowls at her, “I agree on the second part but not the first.” The redhead folds her arms over her chest, “I said my piece.”

Anders leans back in his seat. “I think you should help. You never know when you’ll need a favor from the viscount.”

Isabela points at the blond, “that makes sense. I change my vote – are we getting paid for this ‘help?’”

Hawke shrugs, “probably?”

“Good. Then I agree wholeheartedly. Kitten, what do you think?”

“I’m all for helping.” Merrill nods. “Paid or not.”

“W-Whoa, let’s not get carried away, Daisy. Personally, I think we should get paid. A lot. Sticking our necks out for...for...” Varric’s eyebrows furrow, “what was this job again?”

“Seeing what the Arishok wants. Apparently he sent some letter to the viscount or something? The job description was vague.”

“Ah. Yeah, is it too late to turn him down? You remember the last time we got involved with the qunari?”

“If I’m not mistaken it was that chantry sister who fucked us over. Not the qunari.”

Varric waves Isabela off, “same thing, Rivaini.” He sighs. “I doubt things will get settled if we don’t help and I’m sure I’ll find some material in this mess. What the hell, I’m in.”

Hawke glances at Fenris and he gives a one-shoulder shrug. “Okay. So it’s unanimous. We’re helping the viscount.” The others shrug in agreement. “Any volunteers to see the Arishok?”

Merrill raises her hand, “I wanna go.”

“I shouldn’t. If I’m there it’ll look like the guard is involved and Viscount Dumar clearly doesn’t want that.”

“I’ll sit this one out too. I paid for a room at The Blooming Rose and I’d rather it not go to waste.” Isabela holds out her left hand, “speaking of which, can I borrow two sovereigns?”

“You still owe me two sovereigns.”

“Then I’ll make it four. Madame Luisine says she has a special for repeat customers.” Hawke grumbles something under his breath before handing Isabela the money. “Thank you~”

Anders’ eyes flit briefly to Fenris before he leans forward, smiling at Hawke; Fenris, on the other hand, curls then uncurls his fingers. “I’ll go.”

The blond watches Hawke and Fenris exchange a glance – a strange indescribable glance – then they nod minutely. Something is going on between those two. Hawke’s such a damn sweet-talker it would be impossible not to fall for him. But... Fenris?! That guy’s unworthy of Hawke’s attention and affection and wouldn’t you know it, he has most of both. It’s a damn shame; Hawke really deserves better.

Varric sighs, running a hand through his hair. “We should head out before nightfall, never know what gangs are trying to take over the streets nowadays.”

As they’re already in lowtown, they head to the docks. The qunari guard eyeballs them before allowing them entry. The Arishok tells them someone’s “stolen” a formula for a poison instead of the explosives that dwarf tried to get a few years back.

“I’m hungry.” Hawke says once they leave the qunari compound.

“I know a place.” Varric jerks his head to the left. “I was hoping to try it but I needed some witnesses.”

“Witnesses? Where the hell are you taking us, Varric?”

“Hawke, you know I love you but my lips are sealed.”

“He doesn’t know the place himself.”

“Keep cracking jokes, Broody, and your frown lines will dissipate.” Fenris glares at the redhead who has the nerve to chuckle. Then Hawke coughs into his fists and shrugs.

“The won’t disappear because he’ll just get new ones. Fenris can’t go ten minutes without frowning.”

“Well said, Daisy.”

“We all can’t smile all the time like you do.”

“Sure you can.” Merrill tilts her head to the left, “maybe not you ...or Anders but most of us.”

“I smile plenty thank you very much.”

“You’re in the running for top brooder, Blondie. Sorry to tell you. With Junior in the Grey Wardens it’s between you and Fenris.”

“Don’t discount Aveline, Varric, she broods just as hard as Anders.”

“Truer words never spoken, Daisy.”

“Still.” Hawke shrugs, “my money’s on Fenris.”

“So glad to be your source of amusement.” That smile he gives Fenris just annoys the hell out of Anders. He’s sure Hawke doesn’t even realize he’s doing it. The fact that Fenris’ lips quirk upward really makes matters worse.

“Ah! Here we are!” The others look around, “the place doesn’t have a sign. It’s a working development.” He pushes open the door and it’s full of people who look like they’re half a second away from breaking a chair over someone’s head – and that someone is easily one or all of them.

“Are we here to eat or fight?”

“A little of column A and a little of column B.”

Hawke bounces up and down on his feet. “Varric Tethras, you magnificent bastard!”

Varric shrugs, “I try.” Still grinning, Hawke bear hugs the dwarf.

“Is this some kind of dine and fight place?” Anders asks, “I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

A rather large man steps up to them. “I know you.” He sneers, “you’re Bartrand’s brother.”

Varric looks up and his face falls. “Oh, shit.”

Hawke gracefully takes a step forward, putting himself in front of Varric and the big guy (who could easily be mistaken for a qunari, without horns). “Hi. I’m Hawke. We haven’t met. I like your beard. I have trouble growing facial hair. Not the point. You guys are out for Bartrand? So are we.”

The man looks at Varric then back to Hawke. “So you’re against Batrand?”

“The bastard left us to die three years ago so, yeah, we’re against Bartrand.”

The large man relaxes. “It takes a while for it to grow.” He clasps Hawke on the back, “but you’ll get there. Now, if you see that pisspot tell him ‘A’ is looking for him. And make sure to leave a body part or two for me to break.”

Hawke salutes him, “will do, Big Guy and thanks.” The man grunts then stomps off.

“Andraste’s holy fire, how do you do that Hawke?!”

“Do what?”

“How did you get that man to not kill us!?” Anders asks with a hiss. “Did you see the size of him? I mean, you’re a big guy Hawke but not that big.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You don’t even realize you’re doing it.”

“Hawke, Daisy notices – no offense.” Merrill shrugs him off, “but you don’t? You have this way about you. I can’t describe it. I mean, look at the people you’re friends with. None of us would even meet under normal circumstances yet here we all are brought together by you.”

“I’m still not following.”

“You’re a people person, Hawke. A real good one. You use violence as a last resort.”

“That’s not true. I enjoy violence.”

Merrill frowns, “maybe but you’ve talked more people out of fighting than you did actual fighting.”

“Have I?” Hawke tilts his head. “I distinctly remember killing a lot of things over the past four years.”

“I guess he enjoys killing things more than killing people. That’s good to know. In any event, you’ve killed four-hundred-fifty-seven ‘things’ by my count, and those are just the things we couldn’t identify as they came rushing at us. You’ve killed about eight hundred bandits and maybe two-hundred to two-fifty rebellious apostates.”

“You actually kept track of how many apostates we’ve killed?”

“Not ‘we’ Blondie. Just Hawke.”

“It was two-hundred-fifty-two apostates.”

“Of course you’d know that.”

“You sure? I had two-fifty-one. It doesn’t count if the guy split into two.”

“It doesn’t? Hmm. Then it’s two-fifty.”

“This is unbelievable.” Anders massages his temples. “I feel a headache coming on.”

“Blondie, you’re not the only apostate in the group. Something I really shouldn’t’ve said out loud but I doubt Hawke enjoys spearing fellow mages with lighting.”

“I do so enjoy when their bodies explode!” Fenris actually snorts at that, the ass. They grab a table at the back of the establishment and Fenris sits on Hawke’s left, Merrill sits on his right and Varric is in front of Hawke. With no other choice, Anders takes the empty seat on Varric’s right. “I really wanna have a discussion about the best way to kill with magic.”

“Fire.” Merrill replies. “Hands down.”

“Daisy, I’m...a little intrigued.”

“I’d say ice. If you freeze the body the right way it’ll shatter instantaneously.”

“Really?” Merrill folds her arms over her chest, “I’ll have to try that.”

“This is not a conversation to have anywhere.”

“What about that other magic you do?” Fenris moves his left hand up and down. Merrill, Hawke, and Varric look at him. “Am I not allowed to partake in this conversation?”

Varric clears his throat, “I’m willing to be magic isn’t the only thing you’ve noticed Hawke do.” Fenris’ eyes narrow. “But what is that shit called?”

“Force magic. It’s—”

“Rare.” Anders breathes. “How?”

“My father taught us. Bethany was always better at it than me. She was better at a lot of things.” Hopefully, it’s just the lighting making shadows all over the place but Anders could swear Fenris’ hand goes on Hawke’s. Briefly. So brief he has to wonder if it was even there at all.

“Bethany was your sister, right? Carver told me about her—”

“What’s this? You and Junior had some special alone time?”

“I don’t...” Merrill tilts her head, “think so? He spent most of the time at my house complaining about you.”

Varric points at himself, “me?” Merrill nods. “Why not Hawke? He came to The Hanged Man to complain about his brother.”

“He complained to me about the rest of you when we were at home.”

“A vicious cycle.” Fenris mutters.

“You only say that because he never came to you to complain.”

Fenris gives a one-shoulder shrug, “true.”

“There you are!” Isabela literally pops up out of nowhere and puts her body flush on Anders’ back. “Maker, Andraste, everyone up there. Searching for you guys with Aveline is the worst.”

Aveline is right here.” Everyone tilts their heads collectively to the left at the orange-haired woman. “What?”

Varric taps at his chin, squinting at Aveline. “You look different.”

“She’s not in uniform.” Merrill whispers. Everyone looks at Merrill, then Aveline, then nods at one another murmuring.

“Honestly.” She sighs, taking the seat on Varric’s other side. “Why in the Void are we here?”

Although no one’s sure when she disappeared, Isabela sets a tray of drinks down before everyone. “This shit is much better than The Hanged Man.”

“You’re preaching to the choir, Rivaini.” Varric toasts glasses with the brunette who half shares a seat with Merrill. “Hey, we should toast Hawke. He’s the best damn friend anyone could ask for.”

“What amazing thing did we miss?”

“He talked a guy twice his size out of killing us.” Merrill says, weirdly proud, nodding emphatically.

“No!” Isabela gasps.

“He wanted to kill my brother, no surprise there, gave us a letter then asked us to leave a body part for him to break.”

“A letter? Like a note?”

“No.” Fenris replies, “an actual letter of the alphabet. I believe that was his name or a nickname.”

“You’re shitting me!” She leans over and punches Hawke in the arm, “you bastard. I miss all the fun!”

“Speaking of ‘fun’ how was The Blooming Rose?”

A dark look crosses Isabela’s face, “never order the special. I’ll pay you two extra sovereigns for that...mess.”

“Spill, Rivaini. We need details after that ‘I wanna kill someone’ look.”

“We need more drinks first.” Then Isabela’s off again, only this time she takes Merrill with her.

Aveline raises an eyebrow in Hawke’s direction, “did you seriously talk a man out of killing you guys?”

“He was more interested in killing Bartrand. It’s an easy mistake to make. I mean, you guys all met my brother right?”

Aveline fixes him with a glare but before she can comment Isabela and Merrill come back with two more trays of drinks. “Let’s get soused!”

“Shouldn’t we be eating with these?”

Isabela huffs, “spoilsport. C’mon, Kitten.” Merrill easily bounces up and follows the brunette.

“I’m definitely out of the loop here. When did everyone pair up?”

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh. Sorry, Blondie. You’re out of the loop too.” Varric glances at Aveline, “alright, so not everyone but the majority.”

“Now I’m confused.”

“Daisy and Rivaini. Hawke and Fenris.” As if on cue, both of them spit out their drinks. “See? Not the reaction one expects from two people who aren’t together.”

“Maker’s random body part, Varric. No.” Anders shakes his head, “just no. They’re not—”

“Hold on, Blondie. I’d like to get actual verbal evidence against my claim.” Hawke sends a pained look Fenris’ way and the white-haired elf simply picks up his drink and starts sipping. “Ha! Hawke, you sly dog!”

The redhead lulls his head back and forth, “I can’t answer this without incriminating myself...” Fenris tugs Hawke in his direction then whispers something in his ear. Anders blanches at the intimacy of their body language, the fucking comfort, the ease of it all. If only Justice allowed him to get drunk. Plus, whatever Fenris whispers to Hawke has him blushing. When they part, Hawke chuckles. “True. Alright. I have an answer for you Varric. Ready?”

“I have a feeling I’m not gonna like this but go on.”

“Then I’ll put it in literary terms: the prologue is over and we’re working our way into the heart of the story – particularly the really juicy bits.”

Varric breathes a heavy sigh of relief. “Ah, Hawke. I knew you wouldn’t let me down.”

Aveline looks bewildered. “That...makes no sense!”

“You can bet The Maker’s ass it does. Hawke’s a natural born charmer, that one.” Varric nods to himself. “Even caught me a few times. I should be immune to sweet talking apostates yet here I am.” Aveline continues to shake her head. Isabela and Merrill return with a tray of unidentifiable foodstuffs on it.

“Enjoy!” Merrill cheers, resuming her spot with Isabela beside her.

“We don’t know what the hell it is but Kitten really turned on the charm and got us everything for free~” The brunette wipes a tear from her eye, “I feel so proud.”

“Is this edible?”

“Damn if I know, Sweet Stuff.” Fenris shrugs then pops a circular, fluffy object into his mouth. Everyone watches, gauging his reaction. He shrugs and the others take it as a sign that it won’t kill them instantly.