It had been over three years since the first time Hawke had stumbled into the Hanged Man tavern, yet the stench and the sights alike hadn’t changed with time. It still served the same piss pour ale, the same drunk bastards still sat in the same beaten-down chairs, and, above all else, Varric Tethras was always in his suit upstairs, ready with a pint for Hawke as soon as she had stepped through the door.
That was a tradition that had sprung forth the very first time they had ever entered the tavern together. Varric had flagged down the waitress and told her that should she ever see Hawke enter the tavern’s doors she was to order up a pint of ale on Varric’s tab and have it sent up to his room, and she had made good on that promise. Tonight, however, Hawke figured she and Varric might want something a little harder. After all, she and Varric had finally confronted his lyrium-crazed brother after he had screwed them over in the Deep Roads; and, if Hawke wasn’t handling the memory of Bartrand’s maddened face well, she could only imagine how Varric was fairing.
As such, Hawke made her way to the bar, asked the tender for something a little harder, and then began her trek up the familiar steps of the Hanged Man, bottle in hand. She’d made this trek a million times before, which was probably about half a million times too many; a fact that was almost embarrassing to admit, though no one had ever remarked on the frequency of her visits before. No one besides her knew, after all, why she frequented the Hanged Man so often, though it certainly wasn’t for the drink.
Varric’s door was closed when she arrived at his room, surprising her. In all the years she had known him the dwarf had always been very receptive to guests, should they come during a reasonable hour and especially when that guest was Hawke. Maybe, she dreaded the thought, he did not want to see her at all. Still, she should try, as the closed-door was both a surprise and a concern. Hawke lifted a cautious hand and knocked the door twice, just loud enough that she was sure Varric would be able to hear. It was quiet for a moment before his voice rang out from inside.
“If that’s you Riviani, I’m not really in the mood to play Wicked Grace, right now.” Varric’s voice was raspier than normal and obviously laced with the influence of alcohol, though he did seem to put in some effort to steady his tone, at least.
Hawke lifted her chin, trying desperately to convey a smile through her voice as she talked. “Just me, I’m afraid.” She lifted her hand once again, fingers uncoiling and palm resting flat against the door. Her smile faltered. “I… was in the mood for a drink. Figured you might want to join me.”
Again, Hawke was met with quiet before a short “Ah” could be heard from the other side of the door. Then, there was a chair sliding out, a tankard being set down, heavy footsteps, and the click of a lock. Hawke removed her hand from the door as it swung open, revealing the man of the hour himself, in all his stupor. Varric’s signature outer layers and clunkier jewelry pieces had been shed, leaving him in his pants, boots, and his rolled-up low-cut shirt. He looked disheveled and at least a few drinks in, already, by the looks of it. Still, he mustered up a cocky smile that didn’t quite reach his sunken eyes before addressing Hawke.
“I’m afraid I might have started without you, Hawke,” his honeyed eyes met hers with ease, and Hawke could see the pain there in the span of a moment. “You know you’re always welcome to join me, though.”
Varric moved aside from the doorframe, making plenty of room for Hawke to enter. She did, of course, waving the bottle of alcohol she had acquired from the bartender downstairs in the air as an offering.
“Thought we could use something a little harder, tonight.”
The dwarf let out a small chuckle. “You know me too well, Hawke. Though I’m afraid I got the jump on you there, too.”
Hawke made her way to the table in the center of the room, setting the apparently unneeded bottle down, noting that there were in fact two tankards and a few large bottles already set on the table’s surface. Her eyebrows cocked in confusion as the door shut and locked behind her, Varric once again closing himself, and now her as well, off to the rest of the tavern. The dwarf made his way back to his table slowly, sighing and running a hand back through his hair, flattening it down as he sunk into his seat. Hawke eyed him with vague suspicion. It did not take long for him to notice.
“What, Hawke?” He began, taking a deep swig of whatever was already in his glass before cocking his mouth to the side in a halfhearted smirk. He looked exhausted. “You look like you’re going to jump me.” He said.
Hawke grumbled at that, taking her usual seat catty-cornered to Varric’s, in front of the empty, extra tankard. “Were you-” she paused, mulling it over, sending a soft glare at the cup, “-expecting someone?” She hated the inkling of jealousy she felt.
Varric, confused momentarily, follows Hawke’s gaze to the empty tankard in front of her before relaxing into a gentle laugh. Her eyes snap back to his. “Oh, no, that? That was for you, Hawke. In case you dropped by.” His demeanor shifts as he settles into Hawke’s familiar company, an easy smile painting his lips. “I wasn’t sure you’d be up to it, though. When you didn’t show up a couple of hours ago, I figured you were a no show, so I closed the door. Sorry ‘bout that.”
Hawke’s expression softens as she listens to the dwarf; he had waited up for her. The thought made her heart swell.
“Well then, what are you waiting for? I’ve got some catching up to do.” She holds the tankard in Varric’s direction, motioning for him to pour her a drink. He chuckles and plucks the bottle from where it sits beside him on the table, removes the cork, and pours Hawke a full glass until the bottle runs dry. He discards it next to the other empty bottle that Hawke now notices on his floor.
“Good luck.” He jokes.
They both take a swig. After a few moments of quiet drinking, Hawke sets her tankard, now mostly gone, onto the table. She shoots Varric a sympathetic, almost apologetic look and he immediately blusters.
“Varric-” she begins, but she hardly gets a word out.
“Now, Hawke-” he cuts her off, setting down his tankard with a flourish and waving his hands about in a rather dramatic fashion, characteristic of a man and avid storyteller when under the influence. “I know you’re not about to get all mushy with me about my previously-estranged, currently-insane brother.”
Hawke softens and their eyes meet, and she can see the hurt there in his amber gaze. Sure, he’d been playing it off; coating his pain with a thick veil of liquor and a dashing smile, but none of that would be enough to fool Hawke. Not when she had known him so long. She’d gotten very good at reading Varric’s emotions over the years; she’d had to. The dwarf loved to cover his actual feelings within a charm covered cage, but the years had taught her that his eyes tell much more of a story than his honeyed words ever could. Now, she could read them as easily as any book, though she couldn’t always tell why his eyes told her what they did. For now, the hurt she read there was obvious. Bartrand’s betrayal had run deep, much deeper than he had let on. Maybe it would have been easier for him had Bartrand not been under the influence of the idol. Maybe, if he had just been the asshole they’d spent the last few years thinking he was, Varric would have been able to let this go without so much as a hair out of place. But Anders had healed Bartrand for an inkling of a moment, and that allowed Varric to see his old brother on the inside, beneath his lunatic ravings. He allowed Varric to hope.
Hawke wasn’t sure if Bartrand would ever be able to come to his senses, but she hoped that with time and treatment Varric could have his old brother back. As much as he had disliked Bartrand pre-expedition, they were still family and she knew that Varric valued that. He had such fierce loyalty to his loved ones. To her, even.
“I think,” she begins, her eyes boring into him, “we should talk about it, Varric. I think it might help.”
“Now Hawke,” he starts, words coated with a false nonchalance that his eyes betrayed. “You know me, I love to talk. It’s kind of my whole thing; storytelling, and all that. But this-” He pauses, contemplates his ale, picks it up, empties the glass, and then lets out a mirthless laugh. “I have nothing to say.”
He’s bristling under the pressure of Hawke’s stare, eyebrows come together and eyes refusing to meet her accusatory gaze. He’s lying, trying to pass this off as if it’s nothing, but even in his tipsy state, they both know it’s not convincing. Not to her.
“Varric, you know that’s not true.”
In an impulse, Hawke reaches out her hand, placing it atop Varric’s which rests on the table. His face relaxes then morphs into mild surprise in response, though he does not raise his eyes to hers. It wasn’t unheard of for them to touch like this, but it certainly was uncommon, as neither were the type to display easy physical affection. Words were much easier and harder to read. Touches like these, laced with affection, held deeper meaning and implications. Implications Hawke had never wanted Varric to read into. Sure, she flirted with him freely on missions as she did all of her companions, but to anyone outside of herself, it was nothing beyond witty banter. Something she shared with everyone for a laugh. But reaching for him, aching to touch him, to know what he felt like in a gentler sense, especially when they were alone, just the two of them, was too much, too telling. Especially when she was so certain he did not share her affections.
Not when she loved him; and she had for some time. She couldn’t pinpoint an exact moment when it had started, exactly, but her affection had plagued her for many years, at the least. Still, despite its depth, her attraction was a hopeless one. For as long as she had known him, Varric had pined over the woman who coined the name of his beloved bow: Bianca. Not to mention, she was nearly certain that he had little to no interest in humans past maybe a fleeting appreciative glance. Plus, there were his eyes. Certainly, after all these years together, she’d be able to tell if he shared her feelings. So, no, her affection was not returned, and therefore he had no need to know of hers. And there was certainly no reason for her to go out of her way to give him that suspicion.
Varric stared at Hawke’s hand where it rested on his before flashing a sad smile and looking away at the far wall. “You know I don’t really talk on my own feelings, Hawke.” His voice was quiet, gentle as he spoke. “I much prefer focusing on other people’s and then writing them down.”
Hawke gave him a small, empathetic smile. “I know. But I can tell this is hurting you, Varric, and I want to help.”
Sighing, Varric turns towards her and she can see him contemplate something for a moment before his entire face softens to match the hurt in his eyes. “Fine. I should have known you’d crack me, Hawke. Let’s talk. You always did have a way with words.”
She smiles. “Aw, you think so? Have my advances finally gotten through to you then, oh stubborn dwarf?” The joke is a little close to home for Hawke’s comfort, but the genuine grin and chuckle she receives from Varric in return proves it was worth it and causes her heart to flutter.
“Of course they’ve made an impression, Hawke,” he’s grinning now, “how could they not.”
She knows he’s joking, that he’s just responding in turn to her bit. But her heart swirls with a mixture of joy and pain, both wishing those words were true and knowing that they’re not. She can feel a slight blush heat her cheeks and she can only hope that her signature red paint mixed with a sidelong glance will cover her tracks. She forces herself to refocus.
“Anyways,” she distracts, “Bartrand.”
Varric sighs, any smile he had, dropped. “Yes, Bartrand.”
“I’m sorry, Varric.”
“So am I.” Varric meets her eyes again, and the emotions there are so raw and so many that she has a hard time deciphering their depths. “I know our relationship was rocky at the best of times, but he was still family, ya’ know? We grew up together. We were business partners. When he betrayed us in the Deep Roads, I was so ready to hate him. I thought there would be no going back. But, seeing what Blondie did to him, Hawke… How he… brought him back. Bartrand isn’t himself, wasn’t himself. Probably hasn’t been for a long time. How could I blame him when he’s like that?”
He looked so troubled when he spoke, hurt lacing his voice and sobering up the edge he had been given by the alcohol. His hand stayed beneath Hawke’s on the table, though neither dared to move them.
“You did the right thing,” Hawke began, eyes soft and boring into his, “giving him another chance like that. Letting him get help. I know you gave me the final call and all, but that was very big of you. I didn’t think the poor bastard stood a chance at survival when we first approached the mansion.”
He scoffed. “Neither did I. I was ready to kill him, Hawke. Especially after I had learned what he had done to his help. But in the end I. I couldn’t. Bartrand is a bastard but he’s still my brother; and knowing he wasn’t in his right mind when he screwed us over and hurt all those people… It really fucked me over.” He sighed.
“It’s good that you care, Varric. You… have a huge heart. That’s not a weakness.”
“Sometimes I wonder.” He muses under his breath.
Hawke gives his hand a gentle squeeze. “It’s not. And for what it’s worth, I’m here for you. Always. I know it’s not the same, but-”
Suddenly, their hands shift, and Hawke finds that Varric is lacing his fingers through hers seamlessly. Caught off-guard, heat explodes in her cheeks and she blusters for the words she was going to say. She finds none.
His eyes are molten staring through hers when she meets his gaze. She can’t comprehend what they say. “You’re more than enough, Hawke. You always have been.”
To her disappointment, Varric unthreads their fingers within a moment and uncorks the extra bottle Hawke had brought, refilling both their tankards. He takes a swig.
“Blondie is a lucky man.”
And suddenly, Hawke is confused. “What?” She says, coming out of her stupor and addressing him directly, eyebrows drawn together and face screwed with emotion. “What are you talking about, Varric?”
Now it was Varric’s turn to look confused, though that confusion was quickly replaced with a cover-up smirk and false laugh. “Come now, Hawke, I’m not blind.”
Did he think she was toying with him? Her eyebrows drew impossibly closer together. “Varric, I’m not joking, I-” she began, then the realization of what he was implying hit her full force. “Wait,” she blustered, “You think I- that Anders and I are together?”
Varric, to his credit, did not miss a beat. “Of course?” He stated, nonchalant as if what he was implying was some universal truth.
It stung Hawke, deeply, to think that not only was Varric unbeknownst to her true feelings, he also was so ignorant he thought she was actually with someone else. Sure, it was true that she had shown Anders perhaps more kindness than others within their small group of ragtag friends, and there had been a short time where she had considered that they might have something together. But that inkling had gone as quickly as it had been born, squashed by her feelings for the dwarf, and if she showed him any special kindness now it was bred only out of compassion for their shared plight against the templars and the church. She could not believe that Varric, of all people, had misconstrued that into something that it clearly was not.
“Varric,” she began, voice steady and eyes unwavering on his, “Anders and I are not together. We never were.”
Varric’s eyes were wide with surprise. Unceremoniously, he stood from his chair, pacing slowly, hand raking through his hair in a stupor. “So, you’re...” he paused, turning to Hawke, finger pointed in her direction as she sat. Hawke shook her head in agreeance. “Well damn. That’s going to take a while to rewrite.” He muttered, aside.
“Sorry to add another draft to your workload.”
He did not remark on her comment and instead once again turned away from Hawke, face hidden from her view. “Is there… anyone else, then? Broody, maybe? Daisy? Choir boy?” He questioned, and Hawke could not make out what emotion was lacing through his voice. "Oh god, it's not Riviani is it?" His voice was shaky and odd, perhaps fueled by the liquor in his system, and altogether very unlike the steady, calm dwarf she usually knew and loved.
Hawke let out an empty laugh. “If you’re looking for some steamy content for your books, I’m afraid I’ll have to disappoint.” Her heart ached as she stared at his back. This was not a conversation they had ever even approached before, and Hawke wished for its speedy closure. It hurt to discuss her unrequited love when the object of her unreturned affections was right in front of her. “I haven’t been with anyone since I came to Kirkwall.”
He did not turn. “Why not?”
It was a simple question, asked concisely and to the point. Yet, the weight it held was immense and threatened to crush Hawke underneath its pressure. She struggled with the right words to say. “I’m,” she began, tentatively, “afraid I gave my heart away years ago to someone who doesn’t want it.”
They sat in quiet for a moment, Varric’s back turned, unresponsive, Hawke’s heart threatening to break free from her chest. She didn’t know why the atmosphere of the room had become so thickened, and it was impossible to tell what was going on through Varric’s head with his back turned towards her. She felt like she might explode. “Varric?” She questioned with hesitance. He answered, slowly:
“Hawke, feel free to stab me if I got this wrong, okay?”
And suddenly, before Hawke even had time to think, Varric had turned, large hands caressing either side of her face, and his lips were on hers.
At first, she didn’t know what to think as she froze to her spot. Soon, however, as reality set in, she melted seamlessly into the kiss, eyes closing as one hand came up to clutch his shirt, and her other wrapped around the back of his neck and into his hair. It felt like Hawke could finally breathe after years with no air. Varric had stolen her heart and given her renewed life within the same breath of a moment, and it was all she could do not to lose herself in it.
Soon, however, Varric pulled away, hands still resting on Hawke’s cheeks, and amber eyes melting with compassion Hawke had not been able to decipher before.
“You didn’t stab me.” Was all he could say.
“I didn’t.” Was all she could respond.
One of his hands moved to cradle the back of her neck as the other remained and stroked small circles onto her cheek. She let out a small hum from the back of her throat, leaning into his touch as her eyes drifted shut. In this position, with him standing in front of her between her legs, Varric stood over her. It was an intoxicating feeling, having him this close, eyes only for her; she couldn’t even begin to convey how long she had wanted this. He kissed her again.
“How long,” he began, lips buzzing against hers before he pulled further away, eyes hooded and taking in every inch of her face at this new distance, reading her as she had him all these years. “How long have I had my head up my ass, Hawke?”
She hummed, blush staining her cheeks as she ran her hand over his heart, eyes lowered to where it now rests. “Hard to say,” she started, “at least since the expedition. But I’d wager I felt this way long before that.”
Varric visibly flinched at that, hands starting to withdraw with shame before Hawke caught them within her own grip, placing them back where they were before he tried to leave.
“Fuck, Hawke-” he began, pity lacing his voice and hurt coating his expression. “I didn’t know.”
“I know.” She smiles, pulling him down into a short kiss, her eyes and heart full of love for him. “How could you have? I never told you.”
He sighs. “I should have seen it.”
She shook her head. “Varric, it’s really fine. I thought you had no interest in me, either.”
He startles at this, eyes wide until he breaks into a grin, a small chuckle on his lips. “Have you seen yourself, Hawke? You’re beautiful, badass, and,” he continues, planting a peck to her forehead as he speaks, “with your wit, how could I not fall for you.”
Her heart swells with his admission. “How long have you known?”
Varric laughs. “Since day one, sweetheart.” His familiar cocky smirk paints his face, and Hawke feels like she might explode with happiness. “That kid on the street stole your coin purse, and you stole my heart.”
“Maker,” she laughs, “that was horrible.”
Varric smiles a large, genuine smile. “Horrible, maybe; but it’s true.”
“And you call yourself an author.” She laughs, then says, simply: “I love you.” and saying it out loud brings an enormous weight off of her shoulders that she did not know she was carrying. “You don’t know how hard it’s been to keep from saying that all these years. I’ve wanted to tell you so many times.”
Varric’s eyes swell with emotion, as he pulls Hawke from her chair and onto her feet. Stepping backward, he leads her to his bed until they reach the edge and he nudges her until the back of her knees touch the mattress and she is inclined to sit down. Once she’s seated again, he pulls her into another deep kiss, until they part, foreheads resting together, and hands intertwined. He’s smirking at her, but his eyes are soft and telling.
“Stay with me, Hawke. You’ll have plenty of chances to tell me how you feel, then.”
He says it lightheartedly, like a joke, giving her an easy out should she want to say no. Which was, of course, sweet but unnecessary. Hawke could never deny him; especially not now. She inches herself further back onto the bed as she grabs the collar of his shirt, enticing him to join her. He crawls onto the bed as Hawke lowers herself onto her back, and Varric follows suit, his slightly smaller frame hovering over her as she lay.
“Of course.” She says, and she could almost cry, she’s so happy. Her hand traces his face absentmindedly as she takes everything in.
“I love you, Hawke.” He says, and her breath nearly stops. Sure, he had essentially told her only a moment ago, but this was the first time that had been proper and complete. She pulls him down into a kiss.
“I love you, too.” She reminds him against his lips.
Over, and over, and over again.