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The Art of Pining

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The books Bethany borrowed from Isabela proved to be more vulgar than she could have ever imagined. Much to her embarrassment, she could not put them down for even a second. They truly were filthy, but Bethany found that the filthier they were, the stronger the desire pooled in her lower belly.

It was difficult to find time to read them when sharing a small space with three family members other than herself. To make it worse, her elder brother slept in the bunk just above Bethany. She would try to find moments to read; either in the early morning or in the middle of the night. The fear of being discovered forced Bethany to be very careful with her reading.

Unlike the first book Bethany borrowed from Isabela, which featured a romance between a dashing rogue pirate and noble woman, the others were strictly about women loving and being with other women. The more she read these types of books, the more Bethany realized two certain things about herself. One: she very much preferred women over men and two: she was hopelessly in love with Isabela.

The ladder Bethany came to gradually. When she did, she decided it was best to keep it to herself. Isabela was a smart, beautiful, and well-travelled woman. Bethany was an inexperienced virgin raised in a tiny farming village. Why would Isabela be interested in her? There were so many more attractive people in Kirkwall.

These thoughts remained with Bethany until nearly dying in the Deep Roads. Becoming a Warden made everything else pale in comparison. Why focus on the small things when in ten, twenty years she could succumb to the taint?

For a long time, Bethany held a grudge against Garret for the decision he made. He often wrote her, but for every ten letters he sent, she sent one — if Bethany could manage that. The only people Bethany communicated regularly with were Varric and Isabela.

She especially looked forward to the ones from Isabela. It almost always brought a hint of a smile to her face whenever a letter from Isabela arrived. One or two of the other Wardens would tease her, but Bethany quickly and easily brushed them off. Moments of happiness were fleeting for Bethany, so she took them where she could find them.

It was years before Bethany’s warden duties took her back to Kirkwall. Seeing Garret and the rest of their former companions brought out a multitude of emotions in Bethany. Some bitterness remained, but the joy overpowered that negative emotion.

“Sweetness, it’s lovely to see you again,” Isabela greeted, giving Bethany a wink.

The feelings Bethany had for Isabela instantly came flooding back. She tried to steady her breathing, refusing to let that shake her resolve.

Beside Isabela was Varric, who chuckled. “Rivani, I don’t think the best time to flirt is when Kirkwall is literally coming down around us.”

“I was not flirting, Varric. It’s called being friendly.” Isabela said with a roll of her eyes.

Garret stifled a laugh. “Isabela with you, it’s basically the same thing.”

“Oh, shut it, Hawke.”

The exchange nearly got a laugh out of Bethany. She held it back, watching the exchange with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it reminded Bethany of a happy time in her life, but also of what she had missed during her time with the Wardens.

Bethany’s reunion with everyone was brief. She and the Wardens got called elsewhere — as was their duty. It was with a heavy heart Bethany bid goodbye to her brother, Varric, Fenris, and especially Isabela.

Much to Fenris’s displeasure, Bethany gave every one of them a goodbye hug. The one she shared with Isabela lasted a few seconds longer. It was difficult to break the embrace, but she did so with only a little difficulty.

As the years passed, Bethany occasionally saw her brother and former companions. It wasn’t until Garret and the others fled after Ander’s action that she saw them again. They escaped on Isabela’s ship, which brought up an additional problem for Bethany. She was apparently extremely prone to seasickness.

Garret thought it was hilarious. She glared in her brother’s direction until another wave of nausea hit her.

“Hawke, leave the poor thing alone,” Isabela chided, coming up beside Bethany and stroking her lower back.

He lifted a brow. “I am the older brother, Isabela. It’s my duty to tease Bethany.”

“Keep it up, brother, and I will light a fire under your ass,” Bethany threatened, half in jest. “Literally.”

Isabela let out a gasp. “Now sweetness, you know a ship and fire don’t exactly go together. Perhaps instead you can freeze his balls off. God knows I’ve threatened to cut off plenty of men’s junk. It always gets them to keep in line.”

“.... I don’t know whether it’s safer for me to remain on the ship or hightail it back to Kirkwall.”

Hawke’s lament sounded a mixture of confused and nervous. It brought Isabela and Bethany to laughter while Hawke overcame the shock of the statement and rolled his eyes.

The mal de mer faded after two or three days’ sailing, and this meant Bethany had time to enjoy sailing. The idea had always fascinated her, but never thought it would come to pass. Despite the circumstances that led to them fleeing on Isabela’s ship, Bethany still was enjoying sailing on the ocean. It was a lovely sight to behold.

One evening while Bethany was above deck, she heard footsteps coming in her direction. She looked up to see Isabela only a few feet away, a teasing smile on those full lips of hers.

“Enjoying yourself, Sweetness?” Isabela asked.

Bethany tore her eyes from Isabela’s face and forced them back on the ocean. “The ocean is lovely, Isabela. I should have taken up sailing ages ago.”

“Well, you’ll get your chance now, love. None of us are going anywhere soon.”

She sighed. “We are on the run, so I suppose that is the case.”

A few moments passed when the ship lurched a bit. Bethany lost her balance, falling right against Isabela. The scene reminded Bethany of something she’d read in those filthy books once borrowed from Isabela. It was enough to make Bethany feel like that virginal twenty-year-old again who blushed at even the slightest hint of attention from an attractive woman.

Isabela steadied her, but didn’t pull away. She gazed at Bethany, a laugh making its way past her lips. “Oh, how cute! Your blushing.”

“I can safely say you are the only one who gets such a reaction out of me Isabela.”

Bethany didn’t hesitate before these words tumbled out of her. Still, she had the courage to gaze into Isabela’s eyes and not look away. The woman looked surprised, but not as much as Bethany imagined she might be.

“About damn time, sweetness!” Isabela exclaimed in exasperation. “I thought I was going to have to draw you a map.”

She blinked, a dozen questions on the tip of her tongue, but Isabela kissed Bethany before she could utter even one of them. The kiss made Bethany feel weak in the knees and desperately cling to the other woman.

When they parted for air, she struggled to gather her thoughts and say something. However, the only thing Bethany could think to say was: “Maker.”

Isabela laughed. “You flatter me, Little Hawke.”

The name would’ve ruffled her feathers years ago. However, hearing it now made Bethany laugh. She took the lead this time, pulling Isabela close and starting their second kiss. Isabela quickly distracted Bethany with that wicked tongue of hers, nearly drawing a soft moan out of her.

When Isabela pinned Bethany to the side of the ship, she gasped in surprise and excitement. Along with Isabela’s wicked tongue still drawing pleasure out of her, those clever hands wormed their way underneath Bethany’s tunic, which added to the feeling.

“Isabela, wait a moment!” Bethany gasped, gaining a chance to speak when Isabela released her lips and broke the kiss. “Perhaps we should take this in your Captain’s quarters? I would prefer it if Garret didn’t discover us.”

Isabela stood there a moment, looking like she was considering her words. Finally, after nearly a minute, she moved away with a sigh.

“Hawke would choose now to wander above deck. The man has terrible timing,” Isabela mused. “Have I ever told you about the time interrupted Aveline and her poor suffering husband?”

She frowned. “Isabela, I’d rather not talk about Donnic and Aveline being intimate. She is practically a sister to me.”

“Yes, the big hulking woman is a buzzkill,” she drawled. “Shall we focus on more interesting things?”

Bethany let out a soft, shaky breath. “Maker, yes.”

She tried her best to not trip on her way to Isabela’s cabin. It was difficult when Bethany was finally going to be with the woman she had thought about for literally years. Whatever happened next would remain in Bethany’s mind for years to come.