Disclaimer: Dragon Age: Origins and Dragon Age II, its characters and settings, are all the properties of Bioware, its affiliates and subsidiaries. This is a work of fanfiction, with the intent of paying homage to the original.
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"Didn't you used to have freckles?"

Her forehead wrinkled, and she looked up at him. She tilted her head, looking like a dog who'd heard an odd noise from its master. He'd been standing near her, placing a glass of water for her on the table in front of her when he'd asked his abrupt question. Her voice had been cracking terribly as she'd been sitting with Fenris, talking with him for hours. Well, she'd done most of the talking, anyway. When he'd noticed her voice had begun to sound a bit too much like two blades scraping together, he'd left the table, without excuse or explanation in the middle of her raspy sentence, and produced a glass of water for her.

"Eh... what?"
He looked at her as if she was completely daft. Thick in the head. A ditzy little girl, even. He looked at her like that all too often, and it made her want to slap him. Embarrassment was not an emotion she knew how to deal with well, and she had long ago had to learn to control her red-headed temper and keep from lashing out in response.
"It is a simple question, woman. Did you previously have a rash of freckles all across your cheeks when we first met, or did you not and I am imagining things?"
"I didn't think you noticed such things," she murmured. She took a drink from the glass. Hawke couldn't help but wonder if it was some hard-wired slave training which made him so ready to provide what she needed even before she knew she needed it, or if it was something naturally within him. Perhaps he was just polite? She tried not to laugh at that thought.

"Thank you," she finally said, realizing she was being rude. He nodded in response, almost as though he'd wished she hadn't acknowledged his kindness at all.

"Is it really so difficult a question to answer?" Her face reddened, her forehead beginning to match her hair. The slightest twitch of a smirk tickled the corners of his lips. He loved when she was embarrassed and frustrated. He liked to watch her wriggle, squirm, and try to come up with a witty come back whilst he remained calm, firing back with his jagged wit. Damn that man! Why did she care so much what he thought of her? He was never going to fully accept a mage, no matter how much she could match his wit, so why bother? His opinions were solid, cast firmly in the evidence he saw in Tevinter of the corruption of mages, and unmoved by the bits and pieces he saw of mages doing good and resisting demons. It infuriated her that he would always look at her with the slightest sneer of disgust, always watching for the day he was so certain would come when she would give in to a demon and become an abomination he would have to destroy. Why? Why did she want that cold gaze to stop studying her, looking for the tiniest crack or flaw? Why did she want him to look at her and see the good? It didn't matter, really it didn't. She had his blade, he would follow her, and trusted her more than most people, mage or not. That was the most she could ask for, and she should be grateful.

"Yes, alright. Yes, I used to have freckles."
"Ah, there you are. Thank you. Now my next question, if it is not too much trouble to answer, is why you no longer have them?"

"I still have two."
"Yes, one on your right cheek, just below your eye, and one on the other side of your nose." She blinked at him, her heart fluttering a little at how quickly he'd answered that. By this time he had been settling back down in the chair opposite her, and hadn't been looking at her. Did he really know her face that intimately? Probably checking for any signs of corruption, she thought bitterly.

"Pray tell, why are you so bloody interested in freckles?"

"I'm not so much interested in freckles on the whole as I am in how they can be there three years ago, and now they are not. Your guard friend still has a mess of them, if I recall correctly."

She shrugged, her embarrassing line of thought fading to the back of her mind now that she had settled into an easy banter with him.

"Aveline is what one might call a 'ginger.' Her hair is a lighter red than mine, and her freckles are just kind of a permanent part of her, too numerous and dark to ever really be rid of them. Mine I think were just more a mixture of youth and too much time in the sun. I don't go out as much anymore – I don't have to, now that I don't have to find odd jobs just to stay financially afloat." She watched him, though he wasn't looking at her. He was picking at the cuff of his shirt. Maker, what an ugly shirt. It didn't fit him, either. She suspected that he had merely found it in the mansion, one of many things left behind by the previous owner. He really needed a new shirt. Pants too. They hung off of him comically. So funny, to see that when he wasn't wearing his fancy, stylish armor, he actually didn't seem to care at all how he looked. She realized with a stab of pity that he probably didn't remember a time when he had actually picked out his own clothing. Of course, he had to pick that moment to look at her. His eyes narrowed.
"What?" he growled in that low, always menacing voice. She knew he'd intended to make her wince, regret giving him a look of pity and replace that look with fear. But she wasn't the least bit afraid of him, though she knew she should be. It was a bit like trying to befriend a wolf – it might like you now that you're letting it eat your chickens, but don't expect it to remain loyal once you run out of chickens for it to eat. Still, she didn't falter, and she wasn't sure if he was disappointed or not.

"Just thinking that you have horrible fashion sense, is all," she replied steadily, giving him a flash of her smile. She wasn't afraid to use her smile, as she knew it tended to assuage most anyone's anger, even his.

Fenris scoffed, not at all offended by her words. "They're clothes. They serve their intended purpose." He waved his hand dismissively at her. Again, she found herself asking why – why, Maker preserve her, did he always have to be so bloody flippant and dismissive of her! Her opinions mattered, blast his arrogant fool ass!

"I'm going to make you a shirt." He burst out laughing, one of his few, albeit brief, moments of genuine laughter, untainted by bitterness or sarcasm.

"You? You're a seamstress?"

"Well yes, Mother insisted. I wanted to go out to the yard and learn how to swordfight like Carver, but noooo... I had to stay inside and learn 'womanly arts.'" She snorted in a very unladylike fashion. "Arts my flaming ass – more like 'how to be a maid to a man who won't respect you.'"

"I think she was wise to give you practical training to prepare you for life. Did she teach you to cook as well?" He looked intrigued, actually impressed. He was even leaning forward, gaze steadily on her instead of his fingernails or the window. Oh sure, he didn't flinch when she made darkspawn explode with a psychic blast from her mind, not a pat on the back or a 'good job,' but sewing and cooking he was impressed with? How bloody old-fashioned! The knife-eared, chauvinist pig!

"Yes, yes. I can cook. I'm actually pretty good. At both. They're stupid, useless talents, I don't know why I'm good at them."

"It's not at all stupid! You're being most childish. You should thank your mother. Those skills will serve you well in life, unlike magic." Oh yes, he had bring up magic, with that same, disgusted sneer.

"Magic has saved my life. And yours. Many times."

"Sewing and cooking are productive – they produce important, basic necessities. Your magic is used mostly for death and destruction, and leaves you open to demons. No real debate, there. One is a set of skills to aid in hearth and home, with no risk other than the possible stray needle or mild burn, while the other is very likely to lead to your eventual possession, destroying everything and everyone you hold dear – one is markedly better than the other. Surely you see this." His calmness was only raising her ire.

"Look, if you think I'm so dangerous just kill me now, or take me to the Templars. You know very well I am not as fast as you should you decide to turn on me, so just do it already and get it over with," she said it in an angry rush, breathing hard once she'd gotten it all out. The look of hurt, however brief it flashed across his face, was not at all what she'd expected to see.

"I would not turn you in, or kill you. If I truly thought you were an imminent danger, I would have done so by now." He sighed heavily, combing his hands through his hair in exaggerated frustration. He chewed on his lip a moment, then leaned forward, eyes hard on hers.

"Of all the people in the world to turn out to be a mage, you are... well... the least likely to be influenced by a demon, at least in my opinion, for whatever that's worth. Do I feel it is a risk getting close to you as I am? Yes, of course, but no more than I would any genuinely good person with, for sake of argument, a very large gaatlok bomb strapped to them. Do I trust that you won't set it off? Implicitly. But that doesn't stop me from worrying that the bomb may be triggered against your will by some freak accident. Furthermore, I would certainly not trust that bomb in, say, the hands of that abomination, or the blood mage. I do, however, trust that you will keep them from detonating their hypothetical bombs – trust only in their loyalty to you, and your sense of morality, not in their own. Do you understand?" Damn him for making sense.

"Yes... though I can't help but be hurt that you worry I might 'go off' at all."

"Why would that hurt you? You haven't. You likely won't, and unless it does happen, in the meantime you have my support and trust." His look of confusion was amusing to her. At least he wasn't smirking at her like she was a poor fool, or sneering at her.

"Believe it or not, I happen to value what you think of me. Silly me."

"Silly you indeed. Beyond establishing whether or not I might dislike you enough to kill you, my opinion of you should matter very little."

"Why?" It was her turn to look confused. A flash of embarrassment on his face, this time. Good.

"In many ways... I am not your equal." Before she could pull her lower jaw off of the floor and respond, he completely changed the subject yet again.

"So – what is it you can cook?"

"Eh... what?"

"Maker's Breath, woman, why do the simplest questions befuddle you?"

"It's not the question, you insufferable man, but the sudden change in subject which confuses me."

"Is it my fault you find it difficult to keep up with the conversation?" Smirking again. She wanted to slam him to the ground with her magic, and make a nice, elf-shaped hole in his dusty floor – that'd wipe the smirk off of that too-handsome face.

"I can cook whatever you like."

"I like roast mutton."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. With all the trimmings. And fresh rolls. And maybe a pie for dessert."

"What kind?"

"Apple, of course."

"Of course."

She sighed heavily, but smiled at him, the light of it reaching her eyes. He smiled too, if not as brightly as her, it reached his eyes as well, crinkling the corners of them, making him seem less the perfect, immovable statue and more mortal.

"Well, come by the house at six tomorrow, then."

"I'll bring the wine."

"You'd better."

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First, I want to note that the way this uploaded is not entirely how I had originally had it formatted (ie - the spaces between paragraphs, no indentations, etcetera) but I am too tired of messing with it tonight so I am just going to have to let my OCD take a break for a while. Secondly, I intended this as a stand-alone vignette, though I may continue if I can scrounge up some long-lost creativity again. I make no promises, however. I would also like to get a feel for opinions regarding Lady Hawke – would you rather she remained mostly description-less, unnamed, either, neither, or both? I would like to know that before I even consider doing more. Also – don't ask for lemon/lime. I'll write a sex scene if it is important to the story, and it is not going to go into the raunchy details. Sorry, I don't write textual porn.

Well, not anymore. Heh.