Chapter 1: Blood and Wine
“So Danarius called you ‘Fenris’.” She leaned back slightly and inhaled, closing her eyes to better focus on the sensation on her tongue. The wine was aromatic, and the bitter fruit was still hanging on her lips. The scent of alcohol, berries, black currant, and… She squinted slightly as she tried to place it. Cinnamon? Sweet birch? She wasn’t sure. It surrounded her wholly, and in the dim firelight, wrapped her mind and shoulders in a comfortable, drowsy embrace. “Is that your real name?”
Fenris sighed. The floor on which he sat was filthy with dust, and though his back was pressed back into what was once a settee, the bare wood and shredded fabric offered little comfort or support. The upholstery was once blue, now faded to grey. An animal had destroyed it, he supposed. Something loose and rabid upon the house. Some dog lord’s mabari, or perhaps himself, blinded by rage. He had been known to break windows before. Crack the stone in walls. Break bones.
He could count three empty bottles littering the area, each dark and seeping burgundy onto the hardwood and scattered stone tile. The one in his hand, however, was a vintage Tevinter wine, one that brought him back to Danarius’s home. It was served in tall stemmed,crystal glasses, honey gently rubbed around the rim. A smile. A hand on his. A cheek pressed against his forehead.
The vividness of it made him shudder.
“I would tell you if I could, Marian.” He drank deeply, willing the shaking in his shoulders to cease. “He always called me Fenris. His ‘little wolf.’ I don’t know if that was my birth name or simply…” He trailed off, watching as Marian turned over and lay across the floor at his feet. Her own swung up behind her and she fingered the lip of her bottle.
She gazed at him, her eyes half shut, her vision blurred. This was Fenris in his most natural habitat. Inebriated in the firelight and filth. Restless. He was miles away.
And Maker… He was beautiful.
He stared out beyond her, beyond the dying fire, beyond the limestone walls and Kirkwall itself. Marian wondered if he was somewhere back in Tevinter. If his mind, left to wander, would willingly return to their chains.
After all. Hers often did.
There was a time when this wasn’t so. When her past wouldn’t creep up on her like an assassin in the night, waiting for the right moment to strike. When the feeling of her sister’s blood flowing out, warm across her hands didn’t flood her mind, make her shake. Whispered apologies, salt from tears, and Bethany’s sincerest thanks.
But time passes and blood flows. There was no use dwelling on things she couldn’t change.
Fenris had stood at one point, a cloud of dust hanging in the air. His hand was pressed into the stone above the hearth, the bottle dangling precariously from his fingers, eager to drop, begging to shatter. Fenris knew the feeling of broken glass, broken lives, but he knew better than to sound the alarm when Hawke was so far away. Her memories engulfed her as often as his own. Pulling her back was a sharpness to which he would not subject her.
Marian inhaled, a quickness catching her. Her sister was gone, but she was here. Carver was gone, but she was here. She was here.
And so was Fenris.
She studied him as he leaned into the stone. Lithe, he was. Strong. His jaw clenched and cut, the lyrium singing to her as she longed to feel his skin on hers. He could tear into her very soul and she would welcome her end.
“I should go.”
And she did.
She always woke up ripping at her skin, the itch, itch, itching unbearable, and for a brief moment after the panic overtook her, she remembered she was safe. No more Lowtown. No more bedbugs crawling, biting, working their filth into her skin. No more skulking Gamlen, staring over her, watching her, leering at her every step. Kicking her dog, venom in words to Mother. Stupid bitch. It’s none of your business. This is your fault, your fault, you and your stupid brats.
It was over. It was past.
Thank the Maker she was away from all of that now.
The morning light had yet to break, but at some point, Orana had come in and lit the fire. It must be close to dawn, then. Valor would come to wake her soon, all wagging tail and happy barking. His energy was boundless, and his presence brought her calm.
She closed her eyes and tried to breathe. Her skin was angry, raw and red, from her own nails. Digging into her flesh never did her any good, but what good was a habit besides habituation? It was infectious. Like an addiction. Some lyrium-addled templar, the way Carver had longed to be.
Carver. He’d had dreams, once. Hopes for the future. Misguided, yes, and grandiose, as his always were.
All it did was get him killed.
Marian needed a bath. She needed a hot meal. She needed to be touched and held and told her life was worthwhile.
She needed the memory of those parasites out of her fucking mind. For now, though, the firelight and growing dawn would have to be enough to sustain her. Life goes on, and today was no different. It was no different. It never was.
She wondered if it was too early to drink herself to oblivion at the Hanged Man.
Varric would be disappointed.
He heard the breaking glass before he ever reached the door. From the street outside, it must have sounded like Hightown was being robbed. But of course, the guard paid little attention to the home of a squatter, though Aveline had so kindly asked they avoid it all together. Still. He would have thought someone would take an interest. No matter. His gauntlets thirsted for blood, and he could use a few more skeletons to add to his growing collection. Humans that felt they were his better. Men with mouths to feed at his expense.
His bloodlust would go unsatisfied, however.
“Get out, Hawke.” He shut the door behind him, annoyed that she had left it open. If she weren’t the warrior she was, he would worry some thief had followed her. Alas, Hawke would never allow it. Whatever ner-do-well that deigned to enter behind her would be lucky to take a single breath inside the house.
She was standing on the main hall’s staircase. “No, I won’t.” She swayed, half smiling, leaning forward into the bannister, a bottle falling from her fingers to the ground with a dull thud. “I’m not leaving.” Her speech was slurred, thick, like honey. She sighed audibly, watching Fenris walk through the house.
“Really.” He said. He approached the stairs, but kept his distance, looking up at her while she struggled to keep her position.
“Yes. I’m staying here tonight.” She sounded haughty. Sure of herself. She gazed down at him and leaned onto the banister, her chin resting gently on the carved wood.
Fenris crossed his arms and studied her closely. She was drunker than he’d ever seen her. She could barely stand. Her hair was dark and wild, uncombed and rough around her face. Her brilliant blue eyes hidden by impossibly dilated pupils. Her lips, swollen and red. Her breath ragged. Her armor off and half thrown at the base of the stairs. Maker.
“Get out. I won’t say it again.”
“No!” She stood, barely, and stepped toward him, taking a stair and smoothing the dark padding she still wore. “I want to know. I want to ask you.”
His stomach clenched. He didn’t want to have whatever conversation she had in mind. “You want to know what?” His voice was flat, but soft. She wouldn’t remember this tomorrow. She wouldn’t remember in five minutes. Now was the time for gentleness, he reminded himself. Regardless of what he might want. He crept up the stairs in silent steps, took her by the shoulders and steadied her.
“How much have you-” As his eyes scanned the room, his question was answered. There were several broken bottles around the floor, some from Danarius’s stores, and some Hawke had clearly brought herself. He recognized the acrid smell of rotgut she had thankfully decided not to drink, though she had chosen, apparently, to dump it out in the middle of the floor. More filth to demean his home, of course.
“Fenris, why don’t you want me?”
He blinked. “What?”
Her eyes flashed and she came at him, shoving him backward, nearly knocking him down the stairs. “You heard me. Why don’t you want me?”
Fenris recoiled at the touch and leaned forward to steady himself. The lyrium flared under his skin, bright, hot white and blue. “Don’t touch me. I’m warning you.” His voice was harsh now, more of a growl than a whisper, low and dangerous.
“Warn me all you want.” She shoved him again, but this time it was half-hearted. She was strong, and if she had the mind, he was sure she could match his own power. “Am I not good enough for you? You said I was beautiful. All I do is come here and beg for you to touch me and you never do. You keep your distance. All I want is to feel your skin on mine, Fenris.” Her breath was ragged, shaking, and Fenris was absolutely still.
“Make me,” she hissed.
Fenris inhaled deeply, held his breath, and with eyes closed, exhaled long and slow. Now was not the time. It was not the time. She was in no place to fight, no place to fuck, no place to do anything but sleep this wretchedness off in the comfort of her own bed.
Fenris didn’t even have one.
Be gentle, he thought. She doesn’t know what she is asking.
“Do something, Fenris!” Her voice broke and she stumbled, nearly falling down the landing.
He stepped toward her again, his brow furrowed. Her breath came more quickly as she tried to step back. Too close. Too fast. She wasn’t ready for it. She thought he’d fight.
Instead, he slowly laced his fingers in her hair, pulling on the wild blackness, took her head gently in his hands, and kissed her.
He was blindingly bright. The lyrium sang against her and she cried, her hands finding their way around his slender waist. His lips pressed into hers with a tenderness she’d never known. A man who sought not to make her hurt. She pulled him into her, but he resisted.
“I want you, Hawke. I do.”
She breathed against him, their lips and lashes close. She was dizzy. Drowsy. Kiss me again.
“Then take me, please, Fenris.”
He pressed his forehead against hers and shook his head. “Not now.”
She pursed her lips and pulled at his tunic, feeling the rough cotton and silver thread. “Who says I’m taking no for an answer?” Her voice was sweet. Taunting. Temptation.
Who says I’m taking no for an answer? Coy grin. He smiled down at him. Stroked down his face, tracing the lines of his cheekbones. His jaw. Sweet boy, Fenris. I don’t take no for an answer. Sweet boy. Sweeter voice. Take me, Fenris. Do as I ask.
The tremors wracked him again. He was far away, perhaps farther than she, but Hawke was on the verge of a blackout. “You are not in the right mind for this. Marian.” He took her shoulders and guided her to sit, her breath still ragged, her eyes still wide, and Fenris’s hands shaking. “I’m taking you home.”
She looked at him hopefully.
“And I am not staying the night.”
They sat together for a moment in the silence of his home. Marian’s breath was slow now, and Fenris, wide awake from the ache of responsibility, struggled to stay still. She lay her head against his shoulder, lashes fluttering, breath heavy. It was getting harder to stay awake. Harder to think. Harder to feel her own body.
“I love you.”
It was a whisper, but Fenris felt it like lightning, bile rising in his throat.
Chapter 2: Three Days
Hawke tries to drink herself to death, but Varric won't allow it.
Chapter 2 is also smut free. I'm getting to it!!!!
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
“You have such beautiful hair, Mistress.” Orana’s fingers dug deep into Hawke’s scalp, working almond oil and soap into a rich lather. Her fingers rolled against the lay of Hawke’s hair, gently pulling to loose the hair ready to fall and encourage growth.To cleanse the dirt and sweat from her head. The elf’s mother had done this once, to her. Before she was sold to a different Magister. Before Orana was sent away.
Hawke was nearly asleep in the water. Her head was laid back against the carved stone, the water still steaming from the handful of runes Orana had thrown in. Sandal was particularly adept at making fire runes last, and Mistress Hawke was quite enamored with long baths. Orana didn’t mind. The least she could do was help her relax. First washing her hair, then rubbing her with scented oils. Her mistress went to bed with a smile on her face and Orana’s heart would swell at the sight.
The elf dipped a silver pitcher into the water and poured it over Hawke’s head. She was careful to tip her head so the water and soap spared her eyes. Angry, red tears would not become her mistress tonight. She needed rest. Rest to wipe away the day, the week, the drunkenness, the blood under her fingernails. Mistress Hawke so rarely was able to breath deep and let the day fall from her shoulders.
As she rinsed the lather from Hawke’s head, Orana felt her breathing slow. She could see the small muscles in her eyelids move as her breath came in steady rhythm.
She poured almond oil into her hands and began to sing.
“Bright silver were his helm and chain
Bright silver on his horse’s rein
He rode upon the golden plain
The brave and comely knight.”
Hawke stirred gently, her eyelids fluttering. Orana’s hands worked their way down the base of her neck and onto her shoulders, fingers pressing into her flesh, working out knotted muscle, gently rubbing at deep, purple and yellow bruises, finding and avoiding yet-healed lacerations that would eventually scar. She was worn down and hurt this day, but that was not unusual. Aveline was relentless in asking for help on night watch, and Marian could never refuse her. When she stumbled into the estate, Orana had tea at the ready and a bath nearly drawn. She wished her mistress would eat something, but she refused. Tea and a bath. Tea and a bath. Tea and a bath couldn’t mask the heady smell of The Hanged Man from her. Liquor and smoke and vomit and ale and something else that made Orana sad.
This was more ritual than routine these days.
“The elves stood fast, their banners high
They would not flee, they would not fly
Though knowing they would surely die
The last of Dalish might.”
Orana combed through Hawke’s hair with her fingers, separating tangles with an expert hand. The steam had finally ceased, and the water in the tub began to chill. If it wasn’t evident by the feel of Hawke’s hair, the gooseflesh that pinpricked across her neck and shoulders was enough.
“Mistress?” Orana touched her face gently. “It is time for you to retire.”
Hawke rolled her head back and made a sort of acknowledgement, and allowed herself to be assisted. Orana helped her stand from the bath and took her hand as she stepped out onto the cold limestone floor. Before Hawke could ask, Orana was rubbing at her skin with a soft, cotton towel, shaking the water from her hair, and whisking her off to her bedroom.
Despite the cold Kirkwall night air, Hawke fell into the sheets as Orana gently closed the door behind her. The day had been too long, she had been too alone. Mother too demanding. Bodahn too talkative. Valor too energetic. The Hanged Man too busy, Varric too tense, the ale too freely given, coin too easily spent. All she wanted to do was lay down and close her eyes. Alone.
Maker , she wished she wasn’t. The chill she felt from the air and being pulled from the bath had her wide awake. Orana’s gentle caresses on her shoulders and neck had her longing to be touched.
Why was she always so alone?
Fenris should be here. That absolutely maddening elf. He should be here to see her spilled across her sheets, naked in the moonlight, ass in the air, dark hair against the pillow. Drunk or not, she wanted him here. Drunk or not, she needed his hands on her.
That maddening elf. The one that wouldn’t touch her. He kissed her once, a moment burned into her consciousness, fleeting and fuzzy around the edges, like some half remembered fade dream. His lips stole her breath. She was drunk then, too. He wasn’t.
Stupid man, a perfect gentleman.
Her hands began to wander at the thought of him. Fenris’s lips on hers. How would it feel to have him burning against her? His teeth on her neck? His arms wound around her, pressing her down, forcing her to accept him? His whispering at her ears?
She bit down on her lip as she closed her eyes, already far away in some wild place where Fenris would press his lips against her and touch her, maker, touch her until she came undone around his fingers, his mouth, his tongue.
She sucked in her breath as she felt the slick wetness between her legs, her fingers gentle in movement to part-
She screwed her eyes shut and sighed heavily. Alas. Tonight, it was not to be. Sandal was awake for some reason, and soon Valor would be barking.
To the void with them all.
The Hanged Man was emptier than usual. The droll of conversation, flirtatious men too inebriated to listen to themselves, women in aprons paid a copper to listen to them slur their words, smile, and roll their eyes. It was present, but sparse. Distant and away from her, a dream fought to be remembered. Hawke sat on a rough hewn stool and stared into her cup, hammered copper shining through some sort of sack mead. It... wasn’t good. It was hardly potable, but the only thing she cared about in that exact second was whether or not the liquid inside could get her drunk, and sweet Maker could it ever. Vinegar, honey, some sort of added spirit, she assumed, crushed clover flowers and just a hint of elfroot to ease the nausea. This was home for her aching head and heart.
Varric drummed his fingers on the table before them, his eyes trained to Hawke, still staring down her booze and contemplating the benefits and drawbacks of continuing to drink. The benefits apparently won, as she took another swig and made an extremely displeased face, though not one he did not expect.
She made a noise in the back of her throat and took another swig. Her eyes did not meet Varric’s, much to his annoyance.
“What?” she hissed.
The drumming ceased and Varric narrowed his eyes, cleared his throat, shoved his own cup away from him. He wrinkled his nose and, for a brief moment, contemplated the best way to approach the subject that had been pulling at him for the better part of an hour.
There was no getting around it. Direct. Great.
“No offense, but… When was the last time you… washed?”
She blinked, but didn’t seem to understand. “What?”
“You know. Soap? Hot water? Washcloth? That kind of thing?”
She stared at him blankly.
“You, uh. You don’t… smell pleasant. I think you need to go home?”
His voice pitched up. A question, or a suggestion. She blinked again, her eyelids heavy. The moment hung in the air like the smell of vomit that always permeated the tavern. Thankfully it wasn’t Hawke’s. This time, at least.
The response came. “No.” In a moment, she drained her glass and gestured to a barmaid to bring her another. Varric eyed the barmaid hard enough to burn straight through her, but Hawke’s coin was good and came in a steady stream. She wasn’t fool enough to deny her.
“What exactly are you trying to do here? You’ve been holed up in this dump for three whole days, Have you slept? Have you gone home for a second?”
Hawke squinted, put both her hands on the table and gripped the edge until her knuckles were white. She had been here far longer than she’d thought. She remembered the sun… She felt like she could touch it. She remembered the feeling of being sad, the desire to drown herself in the sea. She remembered her sister’s blood, the Ferelden dust. Sharp blades and sharper words. I’m sorry. Don’t go. She remembered. Get out.
It echoed in her mind.
“Varric, I think-” She stopped, her breathing slowed. “I think I’m trying to die? I’m not actually sure.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.”
“You aren’t trying to die.”
“I’m not trying to live.” Her voice grew quiet. “How is that any different?”
“And I thought I had a flair for exaggeration.”
Marian sighed and tipped her drink into her mouth, swallowed, and realized her throat was numb. No burning, no bile, no nausea. She was past the point of no return. It was so easy to drink until she was unconscious, so easy to drink until she was so sick her tab tripled and the barmaids had to clean up.
“It’s literally been three days. You are going home.”
“I’m not. I’ll go when I’m ready.”
“And when exactly will that be?”
She started to cry.
“Andraste’s tits, seriously?” Varric shoved the stool into the table so hard both cups shook and fell, drink spilling out across the wood and dripping onto the floor. He made a line for the entrance, called out, “Cut her off!” and slammed the door behind him.
Blondie could help. He was a healer, right? He had to. This ended now. Varric would sooner be dead than watch Hawke drink herself to her own demise, throw herself at Isabela for some semblance of comfort and relief, sob into the night like the rest of the filth that occupied The Hanged Man.
This was absolutely asinine. At least Isabela had the sense to tell her no.
Anders would have some potion. Some incantation. Maybe some bittering agent they could slip into her drink to make her turn up her nose and decide to go home. That would be the easiest way to deal with Hawke. She was stubborn, though, and did not like the demands of others placed upon her. She was prone to argument, to staunch refusal just for the sake of refusing.
Maybe possession was the key here. Hawke was no mage, but maybe Justice knew some… spirit… of sobriety that needed a host. Definitely not a demon, just a friendly spirit that needed some corporeal form. For a little bit. Maybe.
On second thought, that would probably end poorly. Make for a good story, though.
“Varric, my friend. Welcome!” Anders’ arms were open wide in greeting, but Varric waved him off.
“I need your help.”
He must have known this was coming. Anders frowned and closed his eyes. “How long has it been?”
“Uh. Would you believe twenty four hours?”
Anders crossed his arms.“Don’t lie for her.”
Varric’s eyes wandered around the Clinic. Darktown was all the better for having it, but operating in a strange half-open-half-secret way was less than ideal. At least deaths were down. Children were fed. And the people here, the ones who really needed the help, weren’t afraid of magic.
Anders waited expectantly but Varric was silent.
“Three days.” He rubbed his knuckles and gave the mage a weak smile.
“What’s her record?”
Hey I am REALLY sorry for the delay. More coming soon!
Chapter 3: Closure
Anders gets hit, Fenris finally gets Hawke home.
Oop still no smut. I'm a giant slacker and I'm so sorry. Changing the rating for the time being.
“I still fail to see how this is in any way my problem.” Fenris latched the door behind Varric and Anders, while the mage was still pressing a poultice to his temple.
The dust swirled around them, catching the light from the broken windows, forced up from the floors and half covered, half broken furniture by the wind sweeping in from the door. It shot a dart of shame at Fenris, as he was all too aware of the filth in his home. He meant to keep it tidy. He truly did, but more often he spent his time with wine and Diamondback, keeping company with Donnic, Isabela, or Hawke. At least they didn’t mind the appearance of his home, or if they did, they never mentioned it.
“How is it not your problem? She threw a bottle at my head!”
Fenris’ face broke into a hint of a grin. “And? She’s drinking. I’d throw a bottle at you, too, if you barged in and tried to tell me to leave The Hanged Man.” The dust began to settle and Fenris hurried them through the foyer of the house, up the stairs, and into the study. The only room with chairs enough for the three of them, and the most well kept of any in the mansion. The windows were covered in heavy, red velvet, but the light from the crackling fire and a few candles was plenty. Anders eyed the copy of The Book of Shartan on the end table near an overstuffed settee and grimaced.
“That’s because you’re an asshole.”
“Show some respect while you are in my house, would you?”
“ Your house?” Anders stepped toward Fenris, a finger pointing in accusation. “I’m fairly certain this is stolen proper-”
“Children!” Varric clapped. “We’re not here to argue. We’re here to get our friend out of the downward spiral that is consuming her. Can we at least all agree that we want what’s best for Hawk?” Varric sat and ran a hand through his hair, exasperated and brimming with regret at coming here in the first place. These two were insufferable together, and Varric was far too tired to play Daddy.
Anders and the elf murmured their agreement, though it was obvious that neither was too pleased about it.
“Thank the Maker. We need to get her out of there before she passes out again. I know the clientele that hole up there, and she is liable to be robbed or worse.”
Fenris snorted. “You underestimate her. The first cutpurse to approach her will be dead before they know it.”
Varric looked at him carefully and stretched himself forward, fingers drumming lazily on his knees.. “I don’t think you understand exactly what she’s like right now.”
“It can’t be that bad,” he retorted.
Anders sat down, wincing in pain. “Do you honestly think I would be here if it wasn’t?”
“...That is a fair point.”
She was as Varric said she’d be: Head down on a table, heady drink spilt, seeping down sordid wooden legs. Mumbling incoherently. Her hair was almost stiff, unmoving as her head shook, digging into the wood with her nails, carving something into the surface. He could see from the entrance to the tavern that she was barely conscious. Her movements were a sway, a swagger, unlike her. There was a sparkle of broken glass beneath her, shining in the candlelight, and a large swath of space given to her by the other patrons. No one sat near her. No one dared. The glass remained, spilled drink remained. And in her other hand, she clutched an empty bottle. The same one, he assumed, that she had used to assault Anders.
He most definitely deserved it.
The tavern was alight with the patron’s jubilations. Men flirting with barmaids, the sound of retching, slurred speech and fabricated tales told fireside. It was the sound of contentment and desperation, all at once. Depravity of the soul and the brightness of hope, swirling together in a haze that could bring a man to his knees. How fitting.
Fenris sighed. Hawke didn’t seem so terrible from a distance. Drunk? Yes. Near a blackout? Definitely yes, though he had seen her both drunk and unconscious more times than he could count. Head rolling backward, barking laughter. That was not new. Though this silence… This isolation… There was something…
The sight of her shoulders trembling was like a punch to the gut.
Oh. Oh, Hawke.
“What you drinking, sweetheart?”
The barmaid’s voice brought the elf out of his trance. He blinked twice and put his hand up to stop her. “Nothing,” he said. “I’m here for a friend.”
“Alright. Holler if you need anything, darling.” She smiled at him, winking, and trailed a finger across his shoulder. it made him shiver.
Hawke. Stupid, beautiful, sad, blind drunk Hawke. What was she doing to herself here?
Despite the quickless of his approach, Fenris caught her hand as she lunged to strike him, and held on tight.
“Your reflexes suffer when you are inebriated so.” He pinned her wrist to the table, and she lifted her head to look at him, her eyes squinting in the dim tavern light. Recognition crawled slowly across her face.
“The one and the same.”
He sat down and released her from his grip as she lay her head back on the table.
Fenris cleared his throat. “What are you doing here?”
He was met with a reticent glare, one that barely acknowledged a question had been asked. A stupid question, he knew. The answer was fairly obvious.
“Hawke, answer me.”
“Don’t tell me what to fucking do.” In one whirlwind motion, she knocked the half-filled cups from the table. The sound of copper on stone rang across the tavern, reverberating in their ears with a sharp and sudden sound.
The tavern was at attention. Silent. The murmurs, the laughter, even the sound of vomit had faded, and every soul in the main room was turned, staring. Hawke was oblivious in her deep, drunken breathing, but the eyes on Fenris made him burn and the lyrium brands in his skin flare their blueish light.
“Marian…” He laid his hand on hers gently, swallowing the visceral emotion of anger that held him. He reached out and touched her face. “Please. Let’s go.”
She looked up at him again and caught her breath and tears. She nodded, and allowed herself to be helped up, and when she realized she couldn’t possibly keep her footing, Fenris carried her, and she lay her head against his shoulder.
Darkness and rain. And Fenris. And sleep.
It was time to go home.
“ Venhedis,” he whispered. The door to the estate was jammed, it was late, and Hawke was dozing on Fenris’ shoulder. It was awkward trying to balance her and attend to the door without waking the entire household. He could hear Valor on the other side, growling, ready to spring into action. If the damn dog could just push against the door….
Fenris took the chance and slammed his un-Hawked shoulder into the solid wooden panel, which seemed to be the correct course of action, as immediately Valor met the noise with the weight of his entire body thrown forward. The door popped open, and the dog’s snarling ceased when he saw his master and the elf.
Fenris hissed, “Get back, you fool!” The dog wagged his tail happily, sniffed the two of them, and trotted off, finally satisfied that these intruders were more guests than threat.
The hearth beyond the foyer had long since died and there was a chill in the air, one that reflected the sting of Kirkwallian nights. Fenris almost wished the rest of the household was awake. That would make this easier. As it was, he decided to try and make as little noise as possible, and get Hawke to bed quickly.
Hawke’s home was infinitely better kept than his. There was no dust caking the floors, the surface of every table, swirling in the air and choking him. There was a sort of welcoming here, parchment and ink laid out on her writing desk and flowers in the squat, red vase next to the hearth. This place was lived in. It felt like home.
His own was no more than a borrowed shell.
He crept up the stairs and to Hawke’s room, a place he had seen but a few times, in late night talks, drinking, laughing, brushing against her hand, trying not to stare. The door to her quarters was ajar, and inside, found a lavish spread of linen sheets, a down comforter cocooned in a velvet coverlet, and pillows. Maker, the pillows. Red and gold and embroidered by an expert hand with the Amell crest. Handiwork of which he was truly envious.
Fenris sighed. Hawke was filthy, and there was no way he could, in good faith, send her to bed in her current state.
“Forgive me, Hawke, but…” he trailed off. His fingers found the straps that held her pauldrons in place and undid them, letting them drop to the floor. Her vambraces, chestplate, leather breeches, and gauntlets followed, finally leaving her in a very dirty, very wet cotton shift and drawers.
“Oh Marian.” Fenris furrowed his brow and sat Hawke on the bed. Across the hall, he found bathing linens, dug until he retrieved a washcloth, and dipped it into the water pitcher in Hawke’s room. He wrung it out into the deep porcelain bowl beneath the pitcher, wondering where exactly to begin.
Hawke sat on the edge of the mattress looking… far beyond. She was elsewhere, to be sure, caked in blood and vomit, exhausted, and unwilling to do much of anything.
She glanced up at him.
“You may want to… undress for bed.”
She threw her arms up over her head, waiting, swaying gently in her place, expectant in her haze of drunkenness.
“Sweet Ma- Hawke, please. I am not your mother.”
She waggled her hands at him until he set the cloth down and pulled her tunic over her head, unlaced the ties of her breeches, and helped her stand. Hawke, using Fenris as a means of balance, stepped out of her garments, laid back, and sighed.
Fenris crouched on the mattress near her. He picked up the washcloth again and wiped at her face and neck.
“How are you feeling?”
“I can tell.” He reached over to the nightstand near the bed and found a comb, carved from some sort of bone, and set to work on the tangles in her hair. “This would be easier if you sat up.”
The two sat in silence for what felt like hours, Fenris gentle in his ministrations, the occasional whimper from Hawke when he found a particularly nasty knot, and the soothing cool of the cloth on the back of her neck.
He nodded, bent low to her, and kissed the top of her head.
“I will excuse myself for the night. Dream well.” He rose, but Hawke’s hand caught his.
“Please. Stay? I hurt. Everywhere. I would sleep better if you were with me.”
Her eyes were sad and teary, but no longer tracked with dirt. He inhaled sharply, and leaned back from her, but her grip did not waiver. He intended to go. Truly. He was not meant to see her like this, to be with her like this. He was meant to be away from her, a storm away from the sea. He was lightning and she, if struck, could burn and burn and burn until there was nothing left.
It was the destruction he had always brought. She was drinking herself to death and he was going to leave her here, alone, in misery.
He deserved to be alone. But Hawke...
It took him a few moments to remove his own pauldrons and gauntlets, but when he did, he felt vulnerable as if he were naked. He crawled next to her and wrapped his arms around her. His head nestled in the crook of her neck was rocked slightly by her breathing, slow, slowing, whining at the pain in her head, until she was, at last, asleep.
Chapter 4: Flashpoint
Marian comes to terms with the blood on her hands and Fenris remembers bruises.
WARNING FOR SOME NON-CON STUFF! Fenris/Danarius flashback.
“Oh sweet mother of fuck.”
This was it.
Hawke was dying.
At some point, a patron of The Hanged Man had jammed a serrated knife into her temple, twisted it until it pierced her skull, and shimmied it around in her brain.
No, it was worse than that. An axe. An axe, obviously enchanted with fire, had been struck into the back of her head and cracked her open, exposing not only the soft, tender gray matter, but somehow severing her spine.
Wait. What was worse than an axe? There was something. A flail. No… What was it that Aveline was using right now? A cudgel? What was the word... A big, iron hammer thing. Did lots of damage and had a heavy handle as a counterbalance.
“Fuck fuck FUCK!”
Okay, maybe she wasn’t dying. She must already be dead, and somehow this was her eternal punishment for a plethora of sins against the Maker.
What did she do to deserve this?
Well, for starters, she never prayed. She’d donated a total of fifty silver to the Chantry in her entire life. Once she kicked a stray cat because it tried to run off with some of the furry ruff from her armor. She’d never told anyone that, though, and neither had Merrill, but she did shake her head and give Hawke the most judgemental look she’d ever received. One time, she put powdered rashvine in Carver’s trousers when he called her names. Or maybe it was because of when she took Anders’ only bit of Royal Elfroot and used it to flavor her tea. Turns out he actually needed it for a rather intense healing potion. Er… The lady it was to be made for was alright. Well, she lived. Mostly.
None of those were worthy of what she was feeling right now.
Hawke squinted at the blinding light pouring in from the windows, wishing desperately that it would set her on fire and she could achieve a quick death.
Fenris lay beside her, his back turned, and Hawke realized that in the night she had taken all of the blankets and left him cold. She frowned, covering her eyes, and tossed one over him. Fenris immediately relaxed and his breathing slowed.
Stupid Fenris. A perfect gentleman.
She groaned as she threw herself from bed, doubling over as the nausea hit her in waves. She scrambled forward toward the chamber pot and retched again and again until the contents of her stomach were void, and the fetid mixture in the pot made her heave all over again.
Sandal was going to have his work cut out for him. The poor boy.
Her eyes stung from tears and her nose from the smell of vomit. Hawke could hear the rest of the household preparing for the day: Orana humming while straightening the house, Bodhan reminding Sandal to dust the hearth, and Mother chasing Valor around for her slippers. Familiar sounds. Comforting. Her headache, however, was less comforting. As was her desperate need for a bath.
She poked her head out of the doorway. “Orana!” she called. “Bath, please!”
“Of course, Mistress Hawke!”
“And can we draw the curtains closed? I had… a long night.”
Fenris did not stir. She smiled in his direction before wrapping herself in a sheet and ducking out of the room, content to spend the next hour in a warm bath with glass after glass of water to soothe her aching head.
Orana handed a steaming mug to Hawke, along with a very fluffy bathing cloth. “We were all worried about, you Mistress. We hadn’t seen you in days. Your mother… she was inconsolable.”
“I’m sorry, Orana. I really am.”
The elf glanced down as Marian rose from the bath, a cascade of water pouring down her, steam curling skyward from her skin.
Marian drank deeply from the glass and winced. “Eech. What is this?”
“Hair of the dog, madam.”
She spit. “Hair of the what now?”
“Oh, it’s tea and spirits. Together. It should help take the edge off your headache.” The edges of Orana’s lips curled upward until she hid behind her hand. She shouldn’t smile at her mistress’s suffering. She shouldn’t. Really.
“So no part of Valor was used in this concoction?” She stared down into the glass and winced again. “At this point, I’ll try anything.”
“Elfroot should help as well, mistress. As should bloodroot. Your humors are probably poorly balanced, what with…uh, with the expectorating.”
“Ah, yes, thank you. I’ll take them in my room.”
“Mistress, if you don’t mind me asking, um… Did… Did you bring someone home last night?”
Hawke flushed red and whipped the cloth around her, tucking the edges together tightly above her chest. Of course they had all noticed. Of fucking course. “What of it?”
Orana giggled. “I’m happy for you. Hopefully they will put you in a better mood.”
She glared at the elf, willing Orana to turn tail and exit the bathing room so that Hawke could be alone in her continually reddening skin. “Not funny.” She gulped the last bit of liquid from her cup and handed it to Orana. “Not funny at all.”
Orana bowed low. “Enjoy your afternoon, mistress.”
As soon as Orana had shut the door, Hawke broke into a smile. It quickly devolved into ridiculous, giddy laughter, and for a moment, she didn’t care who knew how happy she really was.
The sight of him, glorious and dozing in the afternoon sun, made her face burn once again. Shame, this time. She recognized the feeling.
He lay sprawling across her mattress, head thrown back next to a discarded pillow. His hair swirled around him, a mess, it was true, but an elegant one. Fenris was dreaming. Hawke watched as his hands curled and uncurled, his eyelids fluttered. And the lyrium. Oh, those wonderful markings glowed softly, pulsing in time with his heartbeat.
Fenris had managed to tame Hawke, which was a feat in of itself, especially after her drunken tirades in The Hanged Man. But this was different. This time she had been collected. She had been picked up and dusted off and literally cleaned up like a child.
It was shame filling the hollowness inside her.
What would have happened to her had Fenris not arrived? Had Fenris not challenged her, agitated her, instructed her? Anders tried and she’d almost knocked him out. Varric was tired of cleaning up after her, tired of seeing her slosh mead and ale and spirits all over herself, tired of listening to her slurred, resigned sobbing.
She deserved to be left there. She deserved to drown in her own vomit. How else could she forget the smell of tainted blood in her clothes? On her hands? The slick, heavy wetness? The sick, warm cascade when she took her sister’s life?
She almost didn’t hear him. “Fenris.” She spun quickly and went to her wardrobe, fetched a comb, and worked the tangles and water from her hair. As if that was always her intention. As if she hadn’t been watching him. As if she hadn’t felt the blood on her hands for the millionth time. “Fenris. I-”
“You don’t have to say anything, Marian.”
She nodded toward the wall before she turned to face him. What exactly did she intend to say, anyway? A thank you? An apology? A confession?
Fenris sat up slightly. “How much do you remember from last night?”
Ah. The burning again. “Enough.”
He nodded and stretched, arching his back against the mattress and gestured for her. “Come here, Hawke. Please.”
“I should get dressed-”
He cut her off with a wave of his hand and shook his head. “No need.”
She flushed again and crept toward him, tucking the cloth in tighter for fear of exposing herself to him. Though she seemed to remember waking up in her smalls… Shit. Ugh. Of course she stripped herself down at the first opportunity. Fenris was in her room at night and she couldn’t keep her fucking clothes on. Of course.
“You smell lovely.”
She found herself resting against him, his arms laced around her, her face pressed to his shoulder. It was overwhelming for a moment, this warmth. She blinked back the salt from her eyes and inhaled sharply. He had kept her safe. He had stopped her from drinking herself further into oblivion, and when it would have been easy to excuse himself, somehow he had stayed. She could almost remember asking. She could almost remember reaching out for him, but the feeling of companionship- the lack of loneliness she had come to accept as normal- was fresh within her mind.
“Fenris… I don’t know what to say.”
He chuckled softly. “You don’t have to say anything.”
“No, I do. I do. I think…” She sat up slightly, looking down at his face. ”Forgive me, Fenris. I think you saved my life.”
The elf’s eyes softened. “You were in no danger.” He examined her carefully for a moment, bringing a hand up to caress her cheek. Heavy freckles. Heavy eyelashes. Heavy soul.
“I think I was. From myself, at least. I don’t know how to live with the weight of what I’ve done.”
“You mean with Bethany.”
Her name. Oh, her sweet sister’s name would bring her to tears quicker than anything else, and this was no different.
“Hush, hush. I know. I know. Marian, I know.”
She sat up away from him and wrung tears from her eyes. Her blurred vision would fade, the shaking would cease, and soon she would be able to breathe. She just needed the tightness in her chest, like giant’s hands crushing her ribs, to leave her.
This was the conversation she’d been avoiding. This was the reason she was so ashamed, the reason her soul was hollow, that every moment she lived ate away at her insides until she was a shell. She was nothing. She was nothing.
No wonder she took such comfort in drink.
“It didn’t feel wrong.”
She exhaled. Closed her eyes. “Bethany’s death. Taking… Taking her life. It didn’t... feel wrong.”
“I expect it wasn’t.”
She turned back to him, fingers pressed to the bridge of her nose to try and stem the shaking. “It should have felt wrong, Fenris. But it wasn’t just…”
He laid a hand on her shoulder, but the comfort of it fell short and Hawke flinched.
“It wasn’t just that it didn’t feel wrong.”
“I’m not sure I know what you are saying.”
“I’m afraid, Fenris. I don’t know if I can…”
The elf sat up behind her and pressed his lips to the back of her neck. She was exposed here, in her own element. Bare in body and soul, aching to be understood, shaking with the want of it. Her fragility in this moment was intrusive. He wanted to break her like glass.
“I think I enjoyed it.”
He kissed her neck again, letting his lips linger a moment longer as his mouth curled into a smile. “Is that all?”
“Is that all.” She repeated his words. Sharp in tone and soft in volume. “Is that all.”
He found the spot where her neck met her jawline and kissed again and again, murmuring gently to her. “Of course you did. You are a warrior. Trained in blood and death. You think that would not seep into every part of your being?”
Of course she had thought exactly that did, he was sure. What would a warrior be without a thirst for blood? The thought of it sent a shiver up his spine. Hawke blood spilt upon the ground, staining the stone of the deep roads. Fenris had killed far more innocent things, gentler things. Things far more pretty and precious than young mage sisters.
Hawke opened her mouth as if to speak, but Fenris’s lips on her neck gave her pause.
“It was right. A better death. A noble death at her behest, rather than of blighted blood. You did right, Marian. You did right.”
His teeth found her, gently nipping at her earlobe, sighing, and lashes fluttering against her cheek. Hawke groaned and leaned back into him, tears still threatening to spill.
“It doesn’t feel right. I should hate myself.”
“Perish the thought.”
“The memory of her blood makes me shake, Fenris.”
“Many things in our past will.”
He was right. Stupid Fenris.
But the shaking in her hands didn’t stop. His teeth on her skin didn’t help matters. In fact, she found it not just her hands, but her knees, her breath, her fingertips quivering from the sensation. She turned to face him and he caught her lips with his and wound his arms around her waist.
“Hawke?” he murmured.
She could hardly speak, but managed a small noise of acknowledgement.
“If I asked you to…” he tugged gently at the cloth wrapped around her body, and when she nodded, the lyrium under his skin flared. Blue white, blazing, fierce and hot. As quickly as it had flashed, it was gone, and with it, any semblance of modesty she was feigning for Fenris’s sake.
How she’d longed for this. Spent months, long nights whispering his name as her hands wandered over he own flesh, and now she was here with him, breasts pressed into his chest, wishing desperately that his hands would slide down from her back. Lower, and lower.
Her turn. Soft bites at his neck, pulling noise from him, warm lines of lyrium singing under her, pressed against her skin. It doesn’t sound like her , though. It’s different. It almost sounds like it hurts.
“I’m not hurting you, am I?”
I’m not hurting you, am I? No. I thought not. Good boy, Fenris. Yes. Good boy. He takes his hand and rakes it through silver white hair, pulling hard until he winces. Fenris, you can take it all. I know you can. I’m not hurting you. He whines in the back of his throat. Tears streaming down his face, choking, gagging on him. Hips rock forward, deep sigh. Good boy. Good boy. Knees bruising from hard stone, purple and black from night after night after night. Can’t stop or else. He thinks this hurts but it could be far, far worse.
Fenris pulled back in a hasty motion, and ragged breath gave way to counted breaths. One. Two. Three. Inhale. One. Two. Three. Exhale.
“Yes. Marian. I’m sorry.”
“I’m sorry.” He stood and pushed her away, collected his things. “We will… We will continue this. At a later date. I’m… I’m sorry.”
“Fenris, wait, please, I-”
The intensity of his breathing had yet to cease. It was quick. Shallow. Fragmented.
In a moment, though, he looked down to see shining blue eyes staring up at him, and a crimson ribbon tied around his wrist.
He knew what it meant, and like before, it struck him like lightning.
Chapter 5: Cards and Kindness
Fenris has nightmares. Sandal and Orana play the lute. Wicked Grace brings most everyone together.
CONTENT WARNING: NON-CON FENRIS/DANARIUS/MAGISTER STUFF! It might be triggering. Reader beware.
Isn’t he handsome, lads? The sweet boy. He knows it, too, dear pet. His fingers feel like velvet on his skin. So soft. Warm. Inviting. A curl behind his neck, pulling him close. He even enjoys these nights sometimes, when the fire builds in his gut and he feels it like lightning behind his eyes. Markings flare and he feels his own body respond. Danarius is kind now, but not for long. Never for long. Never for long when he is meant to be borrowed. Eyes scan the room. There is no exit. No way out. The only way out is forward. Forward. Breathe slow, savor it. Breath will be hard to come by soon. Sweet boy, I promised Magister Ardell a night with you. And Rowan, as well, you dog! Always always asking. So rare is it a slave with a tongue like yours. You don’t mind it, do you. He shakes his head. He is expected to. He trembles. It so much harder when it’s not with him. With the others. They are rougher, don’t mind leaving marks, leaving him bloody. At least Danarius is soft with kisses and gentle touch, as long as he is willing. As long as he follows the rules.
Go with Ardell, little wolf. Eyes flash. Fear, but Danarius smiles. He knows this smile. It means pain and taunting, blood, a concussion, and if he is very very good, he may be able to sleep through the night when it is done.
His eyes beg Danarius. Please. Please. Not with him. With you. He will not be kind. Danarius averts his eyes, pretends he cannot see. Goes back to laughing with Rowan, his other guests, calling for others to bring the wine and fruit. What is a night of debauched revelry without the alcohol flowing? Blood and sweat and tears and a nice merlot to wash away the pain.
The door clicks behind the and Ardell is all teeth, too fast, too fast. Ripping through his clothing, nails digging into flesh. He doesn’t speak. No instruction, no expectation except to use him. He is used to this by now. Time to be far away, see himself from above, close his eyes and pretend he is anywhere but here. Where the darkness is elsewhere, where his body is his own. When he can live without hating himself and crying to the Maker.
Ardell reminds him of reality. Shoves his thighs apart and forces himself inside. The pain comes so quickly and Fenris must relax, breath ragged and shaking, take it slow, please, please, but he doesn’t. He moves suddenly and without hesitation, cutting into his hips with his nails and Fenris can feel the blood, the rawness of his flesh, how he hurts everywhere, and how he wishes it were him instead.
Danarius takes longer, takes his time, but Ardell is quick. He spills inside him with a groan, pulls himself out and knees Fenris down to the ground. Your ass is tight but your tongue is like gold. Or at least that’s what I’ve been told. Too bad my time is up, little pet. You are certainly worth keeping around.
He turns as Ardell leaves, unable to stand, falling sideways onto the hard stone. The only thing he feels is empty, skin burning from blood and semen and the smell of his insides torn open. The pain will go away. It always does. It always does. It always does…
He’d been sweating in his sleep, pools of it on the floor and the wool blanket damp with it. He hated the feel of it on his skin, hated the Maker-forsaken darkness that enveloped him, hated the fact that he had left Hawke’s mansion at all.
Dreams may haunt him, hunt him in the night, but dreams are easily forgotten if one does not dwell. Even if said dreams leave him aching with the taste of blood and salt in his mouth.
“Alright, Sandal, now strum!”
The sound was hideous. Punctuated with vibrating strings and clumsy fingers, but he smiled anyway, and Orana couldn’t help but giggle. He slipped from each fret, moving lower and making the sound sharp, then flat, then sharp again. It was enough to make Orana cringe.
“Don’t forget to press your fingers down! Otherwise the strings won’t play properly.” She took his hand and guided him to the right strings, moving his fingers in an awkward way to them. Sandal was still and unsure of himself, but Orana was determined to teach him. He had watched her play for months, enraptured by the quickness of her hands and the sound that poured from her lute. The least she could do was give him a break from enchanting. And lizard hunting. And hoarding salamanders in his room.
“It’s not pretty.” He picked at the strings, his face hardened into lines, trying to find the right sound. What emanated from the instrument was decidedly not the right one, and though Sandal didn’t know what he was doing incorrectly, he knew this was not the music Orana could make.
“It will be, Sandal. You just need practice.”
“Will you play?”
She grinned as he offered the lute back to her, and she took it without hesitation. “Of course I will. What would you like to hear?”
Sandal considered for a moment, furrowing his brow, until he decided. “The bees! The bees!”
Orana nodded as she found a rhythm. It was golden, pouring from her hands, gentle strumming and quick fingers up and down the neck of the lute. The notes came fast, sustained by the vibrations and a learned hand, carried forward from her expertise. She hummed along with the sound until it was time to break into song.
“ Oh fair damsel of the garden,
Arlessa of honeysuckle and rose,
I humbly beg your gracious pardon
For the offense that here arose-”
Her voice was light and lively. Orana swayed gently as she sang, and Sandal clapped along to the beat. His smile was wide and he hummed along to the tune.
“ Surely your work is far too vital
To be interrupted by one like me!
I am in no way entitled
To earn the notice of a honeybee-”
“I like bees! They are fuzzy!” Sandal swayed with Orana, continuing his percussive claps and chiming in when he knew a lyric or two. It was nice, Orana thought, to have something in common with him. He was such a kind boy, after all, but lyrium was always caked under his nails and the runes he enchanted were always a bit odd. Lightning runes that stuck to metal. Fire runes that stayed hot for far too long. Runes of protection that refused to shatter. Like plenty she’d seen in Tevinter, but always just a bit strange. No matter. Sandal was Sandal, and he was as much a part of the household as she.
“I was a fool to pluck that flower
For my lady fair, On my honor I
Swear to bring you dozens more within the hour
If you give me leave to try!
Listen, traveler, if you would walk
The garden paths some spring,
Mind that you don’t trespass, for
The gardeners do sting!”
The two of them fell back in giggles. The cacophony lured Bodhan from the room adjacent to inquire if the noise was through.
“You’re no fun, Bodhan. Sandal and I are having a great time.”
“That’s lovely, Orana dear, but Mistress Hawke should be back soon, and you know-”
Valor’s high pitched, excited whine gave alert to Hawke’s immediate presence.
“It’s nice to have my place back.” Varric leaned back in the overstuffed chair, throwing his arms up behind his head, and resting his feet, crossed, of course, on the table.
“Your place? You don’t pay rent here. Do you?”
“Rent? No, Blondie. They pay for my presence.”
“Bullshit.” Anders sat across from the dwarf and motioned to a barmaid for a drink.
“They do! Keeping a storyteller around means their coffers are always full.”
“I’m not here to make a believer outta you.”
“Good. Because it’s not going to happen.” Anders took a deck of cards from the bag at his waist and shuffled. “Cut the deck, will you?”
“Shouldn’t we wait for the others?”
Anders shrugged. “You know Hawke. If we wait for her, we’ll be here all night.”
“True,” was the reply, and Varric did as he was asked. “Though I’m genuinely afraid Isabela will kick my ass if we start without her.”
“That’s actually a good point.”
“...And do you know what they do there? They… service people! Isn’t it amazing? As a job? I can’t even imagine. I mean, I can imagine. But I cannot imagine doing what they do. I mean, I can, I just don’t know if I’d want to. And the food! The Blooming Rose has far better cooks than-”
“Varric!” The elf stuttered forward to embrace her friend. “It’s so good to see you!”
“You two, sweetheart. Uh… Rivaini, did you take Daisy here where I think you took her?”
Isabela stifled a giggle. “Of course I did! But don’t worry. It was only for dinner and conversation.”
“Ah. That’s what they’re calling it now.”
“Oh, shut up,” Isabela shoved into Varric’s shoulder, playful, but hard enough to knock him off balance.
“Honestly, Varric, it was amazing ! Did you know they use real Druffalo in their stews? They get it imported all the way from Ferelden! Know what happened when I asked the man at the counter what was in the stew at The Hanged Man?”
“Tell me, Daisy.”
“He said he didn’t know!!!!!”
“No!” Varric’s feigned horror was misinterpreted as genuine, and Merrill grabbed him by the shoulders.
“Varric, I know you have been eating the stew here. Are you feeling alright?”
“You know, now that you mention it, I am feeling… A little…” He stumbled backward and fell into his chair in uproarious laughter. Merrill, after seeing it was all in good fun, joined in. Isabela had never rolled her eyes harder.
Amid the noise and revelry, Hawke and Fenris slipped inside, hand in hand, and found stools next to one another at the table. Hawke was dreamy, her gaze far away, and Fenris was tight-lipped as usual. He stroked her hand under the table, a gentle reminder that he was, in fact, there with her.
“Is Aveline coming?” Isabela inquired. She sat and pulled Merrill into her lap, wrapping her arms tightly around her waist, and squeezing tightly.
“I don’t think so,” Anders responded. He was shuffling the cards again, having taken them from Varric who had nearly knocked the deck off the table with his wild gesticulating. “Her and Donnic have some… scheduled alone time, if I remember correctly.”
“Scheduled!” Isabela huffed. “That is hardly romantic.”
“When have you known Aveline to be romantic?” Fenris this time.
“Fair point. Nice of you two to show up, by the way.”
“Wouldn’t miss it,” the elf replied.
“You missed it last week!”
“I did not!”
“Yes you did! But to be fair, that was when…” Isabela trailed off, and the laughter died. Ah. Last week. When Hawke’s three drunken days had landed Anders’ a concussion, Varric in disgust, and Fenris looking after her, trying to keep her from choking on vomit. Of course their entire game had been cancelled.
Fenris cleared his throat. “Are we dealing cards or sitting around?”
“Here, here,” said Anders under his breath as he tossed cards in their direction. Varric. Hawke. Fenris. Isabela. Merrill. Himself. Varric. Hawke. Fenris. Five each, hoping he had dealt in his favor. Anders always considered using his magic to an advantage, but hiding it was another matter altogether. Cheating was accepted in Wicked Grace, but Justice would never approve.
“Shit.” Hawke rubbed her forehead. Of course her first hand of the night was absolute garbage. It seemed to be the theme of the last few weeks. Shit and garbage. Headaches and sleepless nights.
Varric laughed. “I’m putting a sovereign on Hawke losing.”
“Fuck off, Varric,” she said, tossing a coin of her own into the center of the table. “I’m not going to lose, and when I don’t , I’m kicking your ass,”
“You would never.”
“Watch me, dwarf.” Hawke grinned. She discarded a card- the correct move, as she drew a second knight and was able to rid herself of her single serpent card.
Merril’s brows were knit together, deep in thought, and Isabela, who thought she was being sneaky, was slyly pointing at different cards in her hand and gesturing to Merrill what to do with them. The elf snickered and planted a peck on her cheek.
Anders raised an eyebrow at Hawke, who was watching the two women and smiling. “Good hand, Hawke?”
“Right.” He tossed a handful of coppers onto the small pile of gold in the center. “If my hand bests yours, Fenris has to let me join him and Donnic for Diamondback.”
“Absolutely not,” Fenris growled, but Hawke giggled and nodded.
“How do you get a say in this?”
Hawke shrugged. “He bet me. I don’t make the rules, I just follow them.”
“You will be the death of me, girl,” Fenris hissed into her ear. Hawke turned and grinned, then kissed him.
“If only, Fenris. If only.” She tilted her head back and laid it on his shoulder. There was a fondness in the gesture that made the corners of his mouth turn up, and for a moment, Fenris could stomach the idea of entertaining Anders, if only for a single card game with he and Donnic.
Chapter 6: Wounded Pt. 1
Fenris has truths buried deeper than Hawke's, and he finds her in the night.
This chapter is paired with the next one.
The Wounded Coast was a bit of a misnomer. At least, Hawke thought it was until she saw that the dying light reflected red on the breaking waves. They crashed over the sand and rocks, foaming and churning in the dark, bringing forth decaying seaweed and what she was sure was blood from the depths. The sea was deceptive here. In the light of day, it was tempting. A bath, a brisk swim, a day spent fishing, but at night the danger was revealed. The sea swept lives away, and if one was not careful, the redness of the coast would reflect ones own blood.
She clutched at the sand between her fingers. They had made quite sure they were alone, and the highwaymen that often pilfered the worn paths here had been frightened off by the impending storm. The rain in Kirkwall could turn deadly fast, and the churning sea was a harbinger of intensity, of floods, of lightning-charred trees and fires. But fires could be put out and lightning would strike the trees and high rock faces. They were safe for the time being.
Good company was hard to come by, and these days, silence was a rare gift. They sat together, watching the moon rise through the clouds, listening to the distant rumble of thunder as it rolled across the Waking Sea. They were unencumbered here. The weight of refugee life, of a fugitive, fell from their shoulders and drifted out until it was no longer seen.
“I’m sorry about your sister.”
The elf’s face hardened into a sneer. “I’m not. Why should you be?”
“I suppose I just… know what it’s like.”
“Yes. You do. You truly do.”
There were so many things he wished he could say. Admittance to her and her alone, a way to forgive himself, to atone for the abandonment and mercurial words he so often offered. To bear his soul, tell her that his own madness was eating away at him, that he felt Danarius in every touch, that each kiss was infected with him, with an impression that left his heart and soul a carved and bloody sacrifice. That in some strange way, he missed that. In some filthy, disgusting way, he smiled when his face came to his mind.
He needed to tell her. She had confided in him, after all, the shame she bore on her own heart. Why was he so tongue tied? Why would words elude him so? It was simple, really. To admit that, when pressed against her lips he swallowed the word “ master.” When she touched him, he was overcome with fear.
It would be easier to say that the feeling of his hand crushing his sister’s heart made him grin. That the blood pulsing through his fingers, the dying light of her life, made him giddy. Made him ache. How he longed for that feeling again.
Two truths he had buried for such a long time that they were as much as part of him as the brands burning underneath his skin.
Hawke’s gentle touch brought him out from the darkness, and her hand, though gritty from the sand, found his.
He had been alone with the weight, with the knowledge of what he’d done for weeks now. And the darker things… They had been with him far longer.
“Fenris?” Hawke’s voice was soft.
“Why are we here?”
He inhaled sharply, holding his breath to find the right words. It was so important for him to come here. He was manic in searching the coast for those with ill intentions, ecstatic when he saw the darkness on the horizon, and finally, as he sat with her and filled his lungs with the smell of salt and her hair, he knew there was only one reason they were here at all.
“To remind me that I am not alone.”
A wolf at the door is a daunting hunter, dogging the steps of its prey and tracking, tracking, tracking. Scent and starlight and dust and raindrops and a hint of evergreen crushed into the earth. Blood. Iron and copper. Wine and salt and tears, he thinks. The terrible wail that humans make. Bones crush between teeth and the taste is sweet. Honeyed tongue, warm and wet and sticky and smooth like marrow. Scraping against teeth that worm their way through flesh. Let him in. Let him in. To die by him is bliss, you know. To surrender to the tide of feast and famine.
This is the end here. The hunt in its inescapable bliss, the heat rush blushing of taking down an animal, of robbing rabbits of life. The steady gaze, glazed over eyes, enbrium stained redder than before and grass soaked into fen from death after death after death. Let him in, won’t you? Where blood can mingle in cracked, stone floors. Death is well deserved. It will be quick, he thinks.
The bones lie here, half cracked and sucked through, scattered through the landscape, waiting to be broken by vultures and various other scavengers, vermin picking them clean until they shine in the sunlight over the horizon. Yours and his and rabbit fur plucked from thorned branches in the brush. Nothing left but a memory of what once was. The memory of life and the lingering taste of you.
The wolf at the door is hungry. Let him in. Let him in.
She bolted upright to the sound of tapping on the window pane, heart racing, nausea settling in over her. The storm was heavy, rain pouring down the stone walls outside, and when the sky was brightened by lightning, she saw silver-white hair, blue-white lyrium, dark, soaking skin. Hawke skittered to the window, kicking aside half empty bottles and nearly crushing the neck of one with her foot. Shit. The smell of alcohol, of deep burgundy wine made her wince. Shit shit shit.
“Fenris!” The window pane slid out of its pressure mount and Fenris ducked inside. Hawke stood, groggy, still half drunk and slightly bewildered at the sight of him in the flashing light. His hair developed a bit of a curl from the rain, twisting around itself into a sort of halo that flashed in time with the lightning; a reflection that struck her and made her suck in her breath. The markings on his skin glowed, though faintly, and she could see the outline of them through his leathers. His feet were bare, save for cloth wrapped from his leggings to the arches, and water had begun to pool around him, settling into the plaster and grout between the tiles of the floor. The elf’s hands curled and uncurled slowly, forming fists at his sides, his eyes downcast at the floor, his body quivering from the chill of the rain and night air.
“I’m sorry, Hawke. I needed to see you.”
She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and took one of his hands, breaking the grip of his fist and lacing her fingers through his.
“Fenris,” she slurred. “It’s late.”
“Are you alright?”
He was silent. Alright. It meant adequate. An unobjectional state. What she was really asking, however, was if something was wrong. What thing was eating at him that brought him through the streets of Hightown, that wouldn’t allow him entry through the door. What was clawing at his mind with such ferocity that it forced him to scale walls in a storm and wake her at midnight.
Not if, he supposed. What.
He considered her in the darkness, his view punctuated by brilliant, flashing light and sound. She was wide eyed, blue and shining, with a mess of dark hair tousled around her face. She had a silk robe clutched around her, held tight at her breast. It was shorter than he thought it should be, at least shorter than one she would wear in company. The burgundy fabric reflected the mess of storm light outside. He could smell the alcohol on her. It permeated his senses, delightful in its familiarity but disappointing in its presence. Of course she’d been drinking. Of course she had slept, nursing a bottle. If he had been here, he could have eased her inebriation, kept her sober, kept her safe.
Though he knew he was not exactly the picture of sobriety.
There was a time for a great reveal. That time was not tonight. He felt his throat go dry, his voice catch deep within his lungs, and a familiar itch spread through his fingers. She was beautiful. Hawke was unsoiled, unnerving, on the verge of unmaking him in every way. She was still in her perfection, and if he looked too closely, he might see the cracks that could bring them both to their knees.
He shouldn’t even be here.
She pulled him toward her, edging herself back to her bed, and as she sat back on her heels she pulled Fenris closer, unlacing his leathers and tossing them to the floor with little regard.
“What are you doing?”
She smiled, but her fingers did not pause in their mission. “You are not coming into my bed soaking wet.”
“Who says I’m getting into your bed at all?”
Her eyes flashed and she inhaled sharply, leaning forward and resting her red-stained lips against his neck.
It was enough, he thought. An invitation. A welcome to continue where he had stumbled backward and cut them both off.
This… This felt like home.
Hawke felt like home.
She pulled him close to her and kissed him gently, tucking her fingers in the waistband of his trousers.
He shouldn’t have come here.
But Maker did he want this.
“Come to bed, Fenris. Please.”
Come to bed, Fenris. Please. He feels giddy when he asks. Happy to oblige. He beckons to him, laid back gently on lavish pillows and golden fringe. Silk and embroidery and wine in crystal goblets. Fenris crawls forward, smiling, blushing, happy, happy, happy. Yes. Yes I will come to bed for you.
He furrowed his brow, shaking the image from his mind. He didn’t remember it that way. Not exactly. Not… happy.
Hawke pulled him closer and knelt forward on the mattress.
“You’ve been drinking.”
“So what if I have?” Arms wound around his back, lips pressed to his collarbone. He was slick with rainwater and he tasted of it. Pure. Unadulterated. Unbittered by sweat or salt or tears. “Do you want a drink?”
He closed his eyes. “Of course I do, Hawke.”
Hawke grinned and shoved him backward. “Outta my way then!” She lit a candle on the bedside table and rose, finding her own glass overturned, and rummaged for another. One of the bottles she found on the floor was still sealed, and she offered Fenris a glass. He pushed her hand away and reached for the bottle.
“A glass, Hawke? You underestimate me.”
She laughed. “Hardly. Save some for me.”
He uncorked the bottle and brought the neck to his lips, tilting it back and savoring the warm wine within. Blackberry, he thought. Dark and unusual, but sweeter than he was used to. Blackberry and… what else? Oak. Mace. Something dark and sultry. “This is quality, Hawke.”
“Of course it is,” she giggled. Marian snatched the bottle from him and drank deeply. She was still inebriated from earlier, he thought, as he watched a trail of dark purple wine wind down her chin from the corner or her mouth.
He was overcome with the desire to taste her. It electrified him, lighting up the lyrium under his skin, spreading outward from his chest to his fingertips.
“Fenris?” Hawke cocked her head to the side and fingered the lip of the bottle, throwing an arm across her middle to rest upon her hip.
He realized he was… staring. Intently. Curling and uncurling his fists, once again, watching her drink and smile and sway.
In a moment, the elf was on her. Hawke dropped the bottle as he caught her mouth with his own, panting against her, catching her lips between his teeth and biting down, hard, hard enough to draw blood, but it didn’t matter. It was bliss. She tangled her fingers in his still-wet hair, digging into his scalp with one hand, the other resting on his lower back. Before she quite knew what was happening, he had her against a wall.
Her skin was absolutely divine. Smooth and warm, giving to his touch, her own hands wandering, and his on her thighs, slowly pushing upward until her silk robe was less a garment and more a formality. Hawke let her head rest against the wall, and Fenris lifted her up. She could feel him between her thighs, his hands curling under her ass, pressing her hips backward until they dug into the stone.
“I need you out of this robe before I go absolutely mad, Hawke.”
“You need it, do you?”
He leaned forward and rocked his hips, grinding into her center until she groaned. “Yes. Need. Now.”
Hawke narrowed her eyes for a moment and smiled. He was torturing himself with her, and she was all too willing to oblige him. “What do you plan to do to get me out of it?” She bit her lip, leaning back into the wall, letting the feel of him against her overtake her. He growled low and dropped her legs to the ground. The look on his face was fierce. More serious than Hawke was used to seeing, his brows knit together, hard lines in his face, lyrium burning under his skin. He sank slowly to his knees and lifted one of her legs gently, hoisting it over his shoulder, and letting it rest against his back. He kissed up her thighs slowly, using one hand to cup the back of her flesh and the other to force her legs apart. As he approached her hips with his mouth, her knees shook, anticipating what was to come, but Fenris was content to draw it out. His teeth found the soft flesh of her thighs and bit, gentle, but purposeful, his tongue darting out to press into her skin. She tasted of almonds and honey. So like her.
“Did you come here to taunt me?”
Fenris did not respond, nor did he look up to meet her eyes. He simply continued his game, of biting and kissing and moving closer, ever so slowly, to the places she desired him. It was wicked and delightful all at once, and he couldn’t help when the corners of his mouth curled into a smile when she whined and pressed back against the wall.
“You are torture, you know that, boy?”
You are torture, you know that, boy? Gentle kisses on his ears. I couldn’t have asked for a better slave. You are so… willing in your duties, Fenris. I cannot fathom being without that golden tongue for long. He reaches down to clean himself off and Fenris adjusts himself sideways. He is alone in his own want, but Danarius won’t allow him pleasure tonight. He rarely does. It keeps him craving touch.
He bit his lip, willing the memory to fade. This was not the time for haunting, for remembrance, for examining his own shortcomings and shameful desires.
Hawke reached down and caressed his face. “Are you alright?”
“What?” He looked up at her finally, blinking back tears.
“Oh. Yes. Yes, I’m fine, Hawke. I just needed a moment to catch my breath.”