Note: Uploaded a revised edition of this story in order to fix some errors and change some phrases. Nothing too major, but necessary for the mini-sequel I may or may not be writing :P Thanks for reading and let me know what you think, and if you want the original version previously on this site, message me.
"I think I could manage watching your back."
She responds with a smirk and a chuckle, dusky amber eyes aglow. "I'll bet."
And manage, Adrian Hawke does.
Isabela's impressed, to say the least. She'd wished for someone remotely competent, but when Hawke strolled into the tavern with at least five different weapons hidden beneath her armor, Isabela knew she'd found the one. It certainly didn't hurt that Hawke helped dispatch Hayder and his men faster than Isabela could've even hoped for, and looked damned sexy while doing so. Isabela always did like a woman in armor.
Isabela flirts with anything that's got two legs and a heartbeat (sometimes, less than that, if Bianca's included), so when she bats her eyes and tells Adrian what room she's in at the Hanged Man, it's not really anything new. Neither is the fact that Hawke shows up, leaning on the doorway with a confident little smirk, because when Isabela beckons, they always come.
What is new, however, is that when Isabela saunters towards Hawke like sex on legs, Hawke doesn't budge, and neither does that smirk on her face.
Isabela's just a little bit confused, but she'll be damned if she'll let on. Isabela's always on top. Of things, of people…whatever.
She smiles sultrily (she doesn't think she knows how to smile otherwise, actually). "Looking for…company, Hawke?"
"I am," Adrian says with a smile, gray eyes twinkling. "Come on downstairs for a pint," she offers.
"A pint?" Isabela asks, unable to hide the confusion from her voice. Weren't they going to…?
"Yeah," Hawke agrees amiably. "On me."
Perplexed, Isabela tries again. Hawke wouldn't be the first person she'd slept with that was … a little slow on the uptake. "I can think of a few other things that I'd like to have on you," she says alluringly, a slew of tantalizing images already coming to mind, many of which involving whipped cream.
To Hawke's credit, she barely even blinks. She does, however, clear her throat quite pointedly. "I'm sure you could. You're quite…imaginative," she replies, neutral.
Isabela has to quell the urge to pout and to stomp her foot, but it's not the first time she's been rejected (not that it happens often, mind you, but you know. Law of averages, she supposes.), and she'll never say no to a pint.
"Fine," she sighs, rolling her eyes dramatically, pleased when Hawke's smirk widens a little.
"Perfect," says the other woman, strolling out of the room and not entirely oblivious to Isabela's gaze on her ass.
"Indeed," Isabela purrs, a comment that goes blissfully ignored.
"So…you've been with women… in bed?"
Hawke gives an internal groan, bracing herself for the inevitable.
"Shocking, isn't it?" Isabela laughs, and her tone becomes far too knowing. "You see, sweetness, men are good for one thing. Women are good for six."
Bethany shoots Hawke a questioning look, and then returns her gaze back to Isabela. "Six? Which six?" She asks, the picture of naiveté.
"Isabela!" Hawke grinds out; the word alone gives her enough warning.
A mirthful laugh is her only response.
"What six was she talking about?" Bethany whispers to Hawke later that night at the Hanged Man.
Adrian nearly chokes on the sip of ale in her mouth, already feeling her ears turn red. "Bethany," she says as a warning, but it comes out more like a plea. Put Adrian Hawke in a room full of whores, darkspawn, or raiders, and she can handle herself just fine. Make her talk about sex with her little sister?…Cue flailing arms and awkward stammers.
Her little sister frowns at Hawke's stiffening back. "I'm just curious," she wheedles, looking all of twelve summers old.
"Well, don't be," Hawke retorts in her best authoritative tone.
"Come on. I know you were sweet on…Kaitlyn, was it? The farmer's daughter?" Bethany accuses, thinking of their past in Lothering. "Yeah, you weren't so sneaky when you crept out at night," she says, far too smug.
Adrian winces. No matter how old you got, it always was a bother having your younger sibling tag along.
A snort interrupts their conversation. "Our Hawke? Creeping out at night?" Isabela says as she swaggers over with a refilled mug and Varric at her side. "I didn't know you had it in you, Adrian," she says, eyeing her appreciatively.
Varric barks out a laugh. "The farmer's daughter, Hawke?"
"How…quaint," Isabela smirks. "She probably only knew three of the six," she says offhandedly.
"What six?" Bethany practically screeches in frustration.
As Isabela's taunting laughter rings out in her ear and Varric merely pats Bethany on the back by way of consolation, Hawke can only glare into her mug.
"Is that…raw lyrium?"
"Who cares? It's shiny!"
"I'm going to kill that son of a bitch – sorry, Mother – if we get out of here," Varric roars, pounding at the door that Bartrand's conveniently slammed shut.
Hawke crosses her arms, trying to rein in her growing temper. "When we get out of here," she growls, already stalking towards the other end of the room, giant sword in both hands.
"She's absolutely delicious when she's mad," Isabela leers.
"Really?" Anders asks, incredulous. "We may be trapped down here forever in the Deep Roads with all the darkspawn, and all you can think about is still sex?"
Isabela shrugs. "Silver lining, Anders," she replies easily. "Besides, look at her." She gestures towards the other woman, who kicks open the other door easily with a grunt.
"Let's go," Adrian barks out with gray eyes as cold as steel, not waiting for a response and storming through the exit, intent on finding a way out of there.
Anders gulps, his cheeks a little flushed. "I see what you mean."
"We're taking this apostate back to the Gallows," Ser Cullen says, grabbing at Bethany's arm as soon as Hawke steps into Gamlen's hovel.
Hawke's reaction is immediate. "Over my dead body," Adrian snarls, reaching for the hilt of her sword.
"Adrian, don't," Bethany pleads. "I'll go with you willingly," she offers to the templar.
"Bethany," Hawke says. It is a plea, a warning, a question all at once, and Bethany just smiles. Between the sinking feeling in her stomach and the rising pounding in her chest, Hawke wonders when her little sister got so brave.
"Take care of Mother," is all Bethany says, but the look in her eyes also tells Adrian all the things she does not have time to say: I love you, I'm glad you're safe, we missed you, I'm scared.
Hawke feels utterly helpless.
"You're lucky," Cullen says, as though he has the right to speak to her. "Her willingness earned you no punishment for harboring an apostate mage…this time."
Hawke spits at his feet as Mother collapses to the floor in despair.
"I'm sorry about your sister," Isabela says when Hawke escapes later that night to drown her sorrows at the tavern.
"I should have been there," Adrian slurs, knuckles going white around the handle of her mug. She tosses the rest of her drink back with far too much vigor, some of the liquid spilling down the side and dripping down her chin. Hawke sloppily wipes at it with the back of her hand, uncaring.
"She would have been found eventually, Hawke. And if you were there, there is no doubt in my mind that you would've gotten yourself into a whole lot of trouble trying to stop them."
Adrian nods, staring forlornly into her mug. "Thanks," she says miserably after a pause. "I know you don't like sensitive chats."
Isabela smirks. "I don't. But I'll do anything to get you into bed, sweet thing," she says saucily before dodging Hawke's swat, laughing.
"You don't have to keep checking up on me, you know."
"I'm not. I'm just here for the…ah…rat-flavored whiskey."
A year later has Hawke finally giving in, for reasons that Isabela doesn't understand but more importantly, doesn't question.
Adrian's almost as insufferable with her flirting as Isabela is, and more than once Varric has half-jokingly offered to leave the two of them alone. But what with taking care of her mother, making the name Hawke one to revere, and finally re-instating the Amells back into their family home, Adrian barely has time to trade suggestive banter with Isabela, and it'd been weeks since they last had time to share a drink.
That changes when Adrian jauntily strolls into the tavern as if she owns it, tone jovial as she shouts across the bar.
"Isabela!" she grins, spreading her arms wide. "Fancy finding you here."
"Yes," Isabela smirks. "This is quite possibly the last place you could ever find me. I'm surprised you didn't check the Chantry first, really."
"Oh, I did," Hawke plays along. "Sebastian said he missed you at service last week."
"Poor thing," Isabela simpered. "I would have loved to go, but I was busy helping old women cross busy streets and finding out the cure for the taint."
"My, but you have been busy, haven't you?"
"I even planted some flowers, too," Isabela lies smugly, "and read to blind children."
"You can read?" Adrian laughs at Isabela's pout, and in addition to how sexy Isabela finds it, she recalls how much she missed hearing it. "It's always good to see you, Isabela," she says, warm and affectionate in a way that no one else really is.
"And you, Hawke." The reply comes easily off her lip, and in a moment, she is gesturing at the barkeep for a refill for her, and a drink for Hawke. She doesn't want to dwell on how Hawke's affection makes her feel. Isabela doesn't like dwelling at all. Not in cities, and certainly not on feelings. "What brings you here, really?"
Adrian shrugs, nodding her thanks to the barkeep as he brings her a mug overflowing with frothy bubbles and ale that looks like piss. "Just seeing how my favorite pirate wench was doing."
Isabela reaches over and flicks her ear. "I'll show you wench."
Squawking, Hawke flinches and clutches at the wounded earlobe. "I see you haven't changed a bit," she says, pouting.
"Hope you didn't place any bets on that, sweet thing," Isabela laughs. "I'm still on the hunt for that damned relic."
"Any luck with that?"
"I think I've almost found it," Isabela says.
Adrian merely eyes her. "Have you really, or is this like that time you thought you found it, and instead opened a box full of badly written poetry and a hairbrush?"
The pirate has the decency to look a little sheepish and rubs at her neck. "Um…yes? No? I'm not really sure how to answer that, really."
"Tell you what," Hawke interrupts. "I'll keep an eye out. My promise to help you still stands."
"How chivalrous of you, Hawke," Isabela says, batting her eyes and tilting her hips just so. She delights in the fact that Hawke's eyes watch the subtle movement with interest the way that they always did. What's new is the way Hawke steps just a little bit closer to her, close enough that Isabela can feel the body heat radiating off the other woman.
"You know me," the dark haired woman shrugs loftily, her voice low. "I never go back on my word."
"And what would the reward for this generosity be, I wonder," says the pirate with a wicked smirk.
Adrian taps a finger against her lips in feigned thought. "Well, I suppose a kiss will have to do," she offers with a twinkle in her gray eyes that's as endearing as it was the first time Isabela saw it.
She chuckles low in her throat, the way she knows both men and women like. "Tell you what," Isabela says, her tone cloyingly sweet. "Do this for me, and I'll even let you decide where I plant it."
Adrian shakes her head, laughing freely despite the noticeable dilation of her pupils. "Oh, Isabela. It really is always good to see you."
Isabela scrutinizes Sebastian to the point where he begins to wonder if he has something on his face.
"Can I help you, Isabela?" he asks kindly.
"Not once have you tried to get me to repent and turn to the Maker, and it's been an entire year."
"Preaching rarely works, Isabela. To change someone's heart, one has to lead by example."
She ponders for a moment, looking thoughtful. "Huh. That makes sense. I can respect that."
"I grew weary of the nameless strings of lovers and the nights of endless pleasure. You will, too."
Horrified, Isabela clutches at her chest and gasps audibly. "That's the cruelest thing someone's ever said to me. I think I'm going to cry."
Varric snorts as Hawke barely conceals her laughter. "I don't even think she can cry," he whispers.
"Well, she must be able to do more than drink and have sex, right?" Hawke laughs.
"Yes. I can hear incredibly well, pick locks, and not to mention, stab people," Isabela scowls, the epitome of petulance.
Adrian simply winks at her, and inexplicably, her scowl becomes a pleased little smirk.
A few days later, when Adrian returns to her estate from speaking with the Viscount, she finds Isabela wandering around the atrium, head tilting every which way as she takes in her surroundings.
"I suppose I have to change the locks again," Hawke says by way of greeting. Her smile gives her away, as usual.
"Before he left to run errands with his son, Bodahn let me in. I think that boy, Sandal, would have, if he wasn't so busy shouting 'Enchantment!' at me."
Adrian snorts. "Yeah, he does that." She strutted towards Isabela, placing her hands behind her back and clasping them casually. "Well, nonetheless. What can I do for you?"
A delicate eyebrow lifts. "I can think of a few things," she flirts, smirking when Hawke playfully rolls her eyes. "But I really just wanted to see your fancy new estate. I think I liked your old place better," she notes.
Hawke's dark brow rises in surprise. "By old place, you mean that hovel I shared with my mother, uncle, sister, and Mabari? In Lowtown?"
"It had character," Isabela insists. "The sound of merchants barking out their bargains, the stench of poverty and labor, the wheedling tones of a whore begging for a customer. Don't you miss it?" she asks, leaning against the wall and crossing her arms. "Hightown is so utterly dull."
The smirk that grows on Hawke's face sends a pleasantly familiar shiver down her spine, and she revels in the darkening of Adrian's slate gray eyes. "You can have your fun in Hightown if you know where to look."
Isabela lets out a throaty, interested hum, inching into Hawke's personal space. "Whatever could you mean?" she says seductively, canting her hips in a faux-innocent manner that Hawke clearly enjoys, if the brief flaring of her nostrils is any indication.
"Have you seen my mother?" Hawke rasps out suddenly, almost effectively dousing the fire that curls within Isabela's belly.
"Not a good time to be thinking of your mother, Hawke," Isabela breathes, unable to tear her eyes away from those hypnotizing gray eyes or the pink lips that hover so near her own. "But Bodahn said she was off visiting Gamlen for the day."
"So we're alone." Adrian's eyes narrow, and as her knees practically tremble, Isabela is utterly grateful for the strong hand that suddenly grasps her wrist, tugging her upstairs. "Good. Come with me," Hawke growls.
"Oh, I think I will be soon," Isabela retorts as she gleefully allows herself to be dragged to the bedroom.
"But the act of love-making is so…intimate."
"I don't 'make love.' What I do is only skin-deep, Kitten."
Merrill only blinks in confusion.
"Oh, don't worry your pretty little head about it," Isabela says, resisting the urge to pinch the little elf's cheeks.
An hour or so later, and after the fifth time Hawke makes her see stars and call out for the Maker she doesn't believe in, Isabela's sitting on the edge of the bed, trying and failing to loop the last ends of her corset strings into their loopholes. Maker's breath, even her fingertips were still tingling. She'd been with many, many lovers, but something about Hawke…No. She didn't want to think about it any further than what it was, which was Just Sex.
Good sex. Amazing, really. But Just Sex nonetheless.
"That was…" she chuckles, her voice hoarse from all that screaming. "Thank you." Maker knows she needed that, had been waiting rather (im)patiently for Hawke to give in for a year.
"I'm always prepared for a repeat performance, you know," Hawke teases, looking absolutely delectable as she lounges on her bed in her robes.
Isabela laughs. "If you ever want to do it again-" Suddenly, a horrific thought comes to mind. "Wait. You aren't thinking of bringing feelings into this, are you?" Isabela accuses.
Adrian props herself up on one elbow, raising an eyebrow and regarding Isabela coolly. "Why not?" she asks, sounding more curious than offended. "What about love?"
"It's not for me," Isabela says, voice stern, bending down to double-check the laces on her boots and also, to avoid Adrian's steely eyes.
"Is that so?" Adrian responds lightly, rhetorically.
Isabela answers anyway. "I was married once. Mostly because my mother needed three gold sovereigns and a goat more than she needed a daughter, that bitch." Isabela keeps her eyes on everything else but Hawke. "And my 'husband' treated me like a plaything until he so unfortunately met his death at the hands of an assassin. One that I did not hire, contrary to popular belief."
Hawke hums something noncommittal.
"Yes. So. Feelings. None of them," Isabela says in mild confusion, surprised at Hawke's seeming nonchalance. She had expected more of a fight, really, but tells herself the churning feeling in her stomach is relief, not regret.
"Have you never been in love then?" Adrian asks.
"Oh, I have," sighs the pirate. "But he foolishly wanted to marry me, and I fled as soon as he asked for my hand."
"Love them and leave them, hmm?" Hawke's tone is teasing as usual, but something about it sets Isabela on edge. Something about this whole conversation does.
"Yes. And I like it that way," she says firmly in response. She finally turns to look at Hawke, who merely eyes her with muted interest and a cool gaze. "So… if you're done trying to confuse the issue," she says, already inching towards the door, "I'll see myself out."
"Get home safely," Isabela hears Hawke call out softly, and for some reason, the familiar, simple goodbye, makes her wince.
"I…I failed you. I should have gotten here sooner, I should have watched over you more closely…" Tears blur her vision.
"Shh…" Her mother breathes shakily. "Don't fret, my darling girl. That man would have kept me alive for as long as he could if you hadn't come. Now…now I can be free. I can be with Carver…and father…"
"Mother," Hawke's voice is broken, and she sounds more like a lost child than the esteemed Serah Hawke.
"But now you'll be all alone," her mother whispered.
"Don't…don't worry about me, Mother," Hawke insists, the quiver in her voice giving her away. "I'll be fine."
"My little girl has become…so strong…" the dying woman says, her last breaths becoming more and more labored. "I love you," she says clearly, and Hawke can't stop the sob that breaks past her throat. "I've always…been so…proud…"
Hawke clutches her mother's body closer to her, as if holding her tighter will breathe life back into her. "No…no…" she says. "Mother? Mother!"
"I... feel as though I should…say something," Isabela mumbles, not knowing what to expect when a forlorn Bodahn greets her at the door, and a silent, stony Hawke doesn't budge from her bedside for days.
"It's okay," Hawke rasps, her voice husky from crying and lack of use. "I told you before. I know you're not good with emotional stuff."
Isabela presses forward nonetheless, sitting next to Hawke, hoping that her presence is enough.
"At least your mother loved you," she offers lamely, wincing when she realizes that it makes it sound as though she wants this to be about her.
"I…I'm an orphan now," Hawke whispers into her lap. "And Bethany is practically out of my life forever…trapped in the damned Circle. I've no real family anymore."
"You don't really believe that, do you?" Isabela asks, incredulous. Didn't Hawke know how important she was to everyone? To her? "Family isn't just made up of the people you're related to by blood, Adrian. There are people that care about you now." She falters, suddenly feeling incredibly shy. She turns away briefly. "Like…um…Aveline."
"No, you don't want my life," Isabela says to Merrill, her voice taking on a tone the elf had never heard before.
"Why?" she asks in that overly curious, overly interested tone that is so utterly Merrill.
A wistful smile graces Isabela's lips as she looks down at her with utter fondness. "Because you have a good heart, and you deserve better."
After weeks of artfully avoiding any interaction with the Qunari or Hawke's questioning looks, things come to the inevitable forefront, and suddenly, Isabela finds herself standing over the dead bodies of several Qunari and their blood, looking plaintively at Hawke as if she could simply will her to understand.
"I've always known what the relic is," she weakly admits. "But… but I didn't want to worry you," she adds hastily.
"How generous of you, Rivaini," Varric says coolly, eyeing her in suspicion while Merrill simply looks confused and concerned like a frightened little kitten.
Hawke turns to her, regarding her with the utmost seriousness. "Tell me everything you know. You can trust me." With those words, Isabela hates herself instantly, because she almost believes it.
She tells them what she can, about the sacred tome, about how she stole it, about the shipwreck and why the Qunari really can't leave. She expects the glare she receives from Varric and the forlorn look from Merrill, but she doesn't expect the sadness in Adrian's eyes. Anger she could handle, what with sharp retorts and even sharper daggers in her repertoire. But sadness and disappointment, especially Hawke's, is a whole different story.
"Please," she begs. "The relic is right in there, and I can't let it get away from me."
She looks desperately at Hawke, who can barely meet her eyes. "Okay," Hawke says, as if it's the easiest decision in the world for her to make: to doom Kirkwall to spare Isabela. "The relic is yours. Your life depends on it," Hawke finishes, utterly resigned.
To say she's taken aback is an understatement, and Isabela's shock is palpable. "Really?" She squeaks. "I thought…well…thank you, Hawke. It's…nice to know I've got someone on my side for once."
But Hawke doesn't look her in the eye and merely heads towards the warehouse without a single word.
Isabela can't help but feel like trading Hawke's trust for the relic is a transaction she isn't ready for, but has to make nonetheless.
Hawke stands, looking bloody and glorious and exhausted, but she stands nonetheless, and Isabela feels her stomach churn with relief she cannot afford to analyze right now. The proud smile on Hawke's face as she strutted into the Keep with the relic, and her vehement refusal to hand Isabela over to the Qunari sent Isabela on an emotional tailspin, and she's still sort of reeling.
But it wasn't until Adrian's lack of hesitation in accepting the Arishok's challenge to a duel that Isabela really felt like there were explosives in her chest, and her heart leapt into her throat as she watched her first true friend in years battle with her own life on the line to spare Isabela's.
"Is it…over?" Knight-Commander Meredith asks in muted surprise as she and the others burst into the room, cheers and not death screams greeting her.
"It's over," Hawke nods tiredly, blood-spattered and beautiful. The cheers and excited whoops practically burst Isabela's eardrums, but it's nothing compared to the overwhelming, terrifying surge of emotion that makes her feel like she's drowning.
"Well," Meredith says. "It seems that Kirkwall has a new champion."
Hawke gives a weak grin, looking a little pale but alive, nonetheless. The first thing she does at Meredith's declaration is look back at Isabela who watches silently from the stairs, and shifts slightly under Hawke's proud, warm gaze.
Yes. Kirkwall has a new champion. And it appears that Isabela does too.
Hawke manages to pry herself away from the overjoyed mass of nobles and squeezes her way past the crowds.
"There you are," she says brightly, spotting Isabela who had been sulking in a corner. "I…"
"You didn't have to do that," Isabela snaps, although she doesn't mean to. The surprised, wounded look on Hawke's face makes her regret it instantly, but she can't stop the flow of words tumbling from her mouth. "I mean, I could've done it, or you could've refused or something. You didn't have to do that."
"I did have to. They were going to take you away and do Maker knows what," Hawke says. "I couldn't let that happen."
"Why not?" Isabela huffs out in exasperation, pacing. "I betrayed you, remember? For like, the second blasted time. I lied to you all this time and tricked you and then made you fight for your life in place of my own!" She's angry, for sure, but Adrian gets past the initial stinging remarks and realizes that Isabela's angrier with herself, if anything.
"Isabela, it's over. I understand," Hawke says in an attempt at consolation. She reaches out with a bloodied hand, but the sight of her bruises and blood only remind Isabela of what she cost Hawke.
"You can't, Hawke. I'm sorry," she says, turning away.
"Then make me understand, Isabela," pleads Hawke. "I can't read your mind but that doesn't mean I don't care what's going on in it."
"Don't you get it by now?" Isabela barks. "I did it for you, not for them," she waves an angry hand towards the mass of nobles who, despite the partial destruction and terror that just rained down upon Kirkwall, have managed to procure celebratory wine. Isabela's lip curls in disgust.
"It was always about you," she whispers, before storming out of the Keep and away from Adrian.
Hawke doesn't see her again for months.
"You're not nearly as selfish as you pretend."
"Hey! You take that back!"
"You had your relic. You were gone. There was no reason for you to come back and face the Qunari."
Well. That's a lie. Isabela did have a reason, but not one she is going to voice any time soon, even to herself.
"I…still don't have a ship. I thought I could get one," she offers.
"From a bunch of shipwrecked Qunari?" Anders asks pointedly.
"From the Viscount," she hedges. "I just got here late."
Anders smirks. "I always knew you had a heart of gold."
"Shh!" she hisses. "Don't tell anyone!"
"Done moping?" Hawke asks, months later when Isabela stops being so elusive and she finally finds her.
"Done stalking?" she retorts.
"You're a champion, Hawke, and I'm just a lying, thieving snake. We don't have anything in common anymore."
"You're just saying that because you don't see yourself as anything else."
"I don't know how to be anything else!" she insists, frustrated and bristling at the unwanted compassion in Hawke's eyes.
"Yes you do. We just have to find that deeply-buried heart of gold of yours and then sell it."
Isabela laughs heartily for the first time in weeks.
Three years later, and life has got the Champion of Kirkwall trying to defuse the impending war between the templars and mages. It's clear whose side Hawke is on, what with Bethany in the Circle and her natural affinity for the oppressed underdog. Consequently, the Knight-Commander's got her eyes honed in on Hawke.
But nonetheless, Hawke always makes time for Isabela like she always has, even deigning to play along with her charade in order to get back at Castillion.
With the Champion, everything she sets her mind to gets done quickly and efficiently, from setting Aveline up with her guardsman to driving the Qunari out of Kirkwall. Her efficiency, as usual, extends to Isabela's quest to get Castillion off her back. So as fast as Isabela asked Hawke for her help, she finds herself in a warehouse at the docks, trading slaver documents for the fastest ship on the sea.
"So I guess you'll be off sailing into the sunset by tomorrow," Hawke says lightly, although after years of practice, Isabela can finally realize when those cool slate eyes are intentionally expressionless or not.
"Don't worry," she says with a small, affectionate smile that has been playing on her lips for weeks. "I'll be sticking around for a bit. I have a feeling something big is going to happen, and if I know you…you'll be at the center of it." Her smile widens. "I wouldn't miss that for the world."
Adrian reaches a calloused hand out as if to place it on her cheek, but she pauses and settles for Isabela's shoulder, the heat of her hand burning through the sleeves of Isabela's top. "I'm…glad," she says, a little flustered.
Isabela doesn't mention the small flush creeping up the tips of Hawke's incredibly cute ears, but that doesn't mean she doesn't notice.
"I think Hawke likes you, Isabela," Merrill says casually one day, as if noting how blue the sky is.
"You think so?" Isabela asks, teasing the little elf.
Merrill, of course, takes her inquiry to be serious. "She looks at you all the time, and then she looks embarrassed and pretends she's busy with something else."
They both notice Hawke's back stiffen in front of them, but more importantly, the growl in her voice. "I can hear you, you know," she warns, but the threat isn't as effective when there's a noticeable tinge of pink to her cheeks.
Merrill can only giggle, as if dealing with an angry puppy. "See?" she says to Isabela.
Yes, she does. "Hmm," Isabela says lightly. "I'll have to think about that."
And think, she does.
Endlessly, really, and especially over many pints of beer and several bottles of port.
When Adrian strolls up to her table at the Hanged Man, Isabela's surprise is partially due to the alcohol and partially genuine.
"You…you're here," she inelegantly stutters. "Uh… Good. I've been meaning to um…talk to you." Maker, this was difficult.
Hawke sits gracefully down in the seat opposite her, ignorant of the awed whispers from the patrons nearby. She sprawls her legs out, looking every bit like a lounging tiger. "So," she begins, voice inexplicably but utterly suggestive, "when do I get the tour?"
She blames her inability to think on the alcohol once more. "Haven't you already…?" Realization hits her. "Oh. You mean my ship." She scowls, thinking of the mess it's in. "It's not fit to be seen. Castillion had this strange obsession with mustard colored fabric."
Adrian smiles, the warmth in it beckoning Isabela to continue.
"But anyway. You know…I wouldn't have all this if it weren't for you. I'm glad you walked into this bar so many years ago," Isabela admits, fiddling with her beer.
"What can I say, I was drawn to the smell of piss and vomit," Hawke replies easily, earning her a laugh.
"I can imagine," Isabela agrees, then sobers her tone. "But I was thinking…you know. When I finally set sail…if I do…I could really do with someone like you board my ship. Someone I can trust…that I know has my back."
"I think I could manage watching your back," Hawke says, echoing her words from what seems like a lifetime ago, and something in Isabela's chest flip-flops. "I'd like that," she adds in a softer tone. Something shifts and melts beneath those gray irises, and Isabela feels safe and terrified all at once.
"Good," Isabela says shakily in the wake of Adrian's pointed gaze. "I…I would hate to lose you," she continues, much to her embarrassment. "It's strange. I can't imagine not being on the ocean, but finally having my ship doesn't really seem to matter that much anymore. Everything that I care about is here. You're here." She realizes what she's just said and fumbles immediately, all those years of smooth-talking and easy banter suddenly vanishing from her body and making her stumble over her words like her name is Merrill.
"I….I'm sorry," she apologizes, a rarity despite all the years she and Hawke have known each other. "Maker, I don't know what's wrong with me, I just…" Isabela sighs heavily.
"Tell me what's going through your mind," Adrian offers gently. "You can trust me with anything, you know that."
She does, and that's what makes this so difficult. Because if Hawke rejects her, she's just so damned noble and nice about everything that she would never make Isabela feel bad about it or embarrassed (well, further than she already is, really), and would let her down easily.
And that's the thing.
Isabela doesn't want to be let down, and disappointment isn't even in Hawke's vocabulary. She's seen the way Hawke looks at her, but that doesn't mean the Champion would want to spend the rest of her life with her or do anything beyond share a bed. But if she does…Adrian's reciprocation of her feelings is almost as terrifying as a rejection of them.
But Isabela is no damned coward, and she takes one breath to steel herself before blurting out what she wants to say.
"I…I think I'm falling for you," she says in a rush, barely able to look Adrian in the eye. "Just…" She casts her eyes down towards her lap, nervous and shy like a schoolgirl. "Just tell me, Hawke, if I have a chance with you."
Hawke's silence seems to last for an eternity, until Isabela finally garners the courage to look her in the eye to face her rejection.
But there is a familiar smile on Hawke's face, a familiar twinkle and warmth in those gray eyes that Isabela finally realizes is beyond affection, beyond friendship, and into something much deeper. How she didn't recognize it all these years is a mystery, but there was that old Rivaini saying, something about there being none so blind…
Suddenly, Isabela is ready, desperate even, to see what she knows is there, and in the depths of those slate gray eyes, she does.
"It's taken you this long?" Adrian teases. "Darling, I've been waiting for you for years."
Isabela stands abruptly, the swell of emotion becoming almost too much. She paces a few steps away from Hawke, who, by the time she whirls around to face her, is already there, standing behind her.
"I think I…." Isabela whispers but stops herself, and instead decides that she's never been good at talking so much as doing.
Hawke doesn't say anything because she knows she doesn't need to, at least not verbally, and instead merely wraps those strong arms around Isabela's waist and squeezing as though she'll never let go. She kisses Isabela back as if it's as necessary and vital as breathing, and to the both of them, it feels like it is.
"Why are you smiling?"
"Ooh, ooh! It's something dirty, isn't it? Tell me, tell me!"
"It… it isn't anything dirty. I'm just…happy."
"Oh. That's good, too," Merrill concedes, a little deflated.
In front of them, leading the way, Hawke smiles knowingly to herself before discreetly looking backwards to catch Isabela's eye.
She winks and delights in the dark blush that stains Isabela's cheeks.
"Hawke, don't be so embarrassed. How could you know what it was?" Isabela asks, toying with the Rivaini talisman Hawke had just been so proud of.
"I didn't know it was for fertility. I didn't even know it was shaped….like that," she says petulantly. "I wanted you to like it."
The pirate rolls her eyes and laughs, tugging Adrian down onto the bed to stop her from pacing. "I do like it," she says.
Isabela rolls over and climbs atop Hawke's body, straddling her. "How about I just show you much I like it?"
The furrow in Adrian's brow immediately dissipates, and her lips curl up in familiar, wicked smirk. "I always was more of a visual learner," she says, far too agreeably.
"How can you stand with the mages? Isn't what happened to your mother evidence enough of how dangerous they can be?" Knight-Commander Meredith accuses in front of everyone.
Adrian seethes, her vision practically going red. "Don't you ever speak about my mother," she snarls.
Meredith merely shrugs, looking insufferably smug. "I merely bring her up as an example, Champion."
"I will make an example out of you if you don't shut up," Hawke threatens, until the Grand Cleric interrupts.
"That fucking bitch," Hawke roars, storming into her bedroom, startling the dozing Isabela.
"Hmm? Whatsa matter?" she grumbles, rubbing at her eyes sleepily.
"That…that….Meredith," she snarls, as if that's enough explanation. She tears off her boots and flings them to the floor, then tugs ineffectually and forcefully at one of her gauntlets.
Isabela rolls her eyes. "Stop that," she hisses, swatting Adrian's impatient hands away and removing the gauntlets for her. "Now. As attractive as you are when angry, what did that psychotic wench do now?"
Hawke yanks her warplate off just as viciously, and it drops to the floor with a clank and a thud. "She had the audacity to mention the Kirkwall Killer and my mother as evidence to support her tyranny against mages," Adrian growls.
"What?" Isabela squawks. "That fucking bitch."
"That's what I said!" roars Hawke once more, flinging herself onto the bed and burying her face into the pillows to let out a scream of frustration.
When she comes up for air, an attractive flush covers her face, sweat pricks her forehead, and her eyes, gray and wild, look like they could murder someone themselves with just a look. Adrian scrubs a hand through her tangled hair, messing it up even further.
Isabela licks her lips instinctively.
"Bloody flames, I need to do something, I'm so damned worked up," Hawke grumbles, already sitting up to leap from the bed. "Do drills. Spar or something. Yeah. Do you want to spar?"
A forceful hand slams into her chest, pressing her back down on the bed, flat her back.
"Uh-uh, Champion," Isabela croons. "Now you've got me all worked up too, and I can think of a much better way to…alleviate the tension."
She doesn't wait for an answer, but when Hawke flips her over forcefully and pins her arms down as she kisses her senseless, Isabela takes that as all the answer she needs.
"We can't let them do this, Hawke. I believe in you," Merrill says as all eyes zoom in on the Champion.
Hawke nods with a small smile that is reminiscent of the one she would give Bethany years ago, sisterly and assuring.
Her gaze turns to ice, however, when she turns to face the Knight-Commander.
"I've made my decision, and I stand with the mages." Her lip curls in disgust. "You will not get away with this, Meredith. I promise you that."
"What have I gotten myself into?" Isabela mutters, watching Hawke stare defiantly back into the Knight-Commander's eyes.
"Is she sure about this?" Varric questions, despite their collective realization that this was essentially a lose-lose situation, thanks to Blondie and his destruction of the Chantry.
"I don't know," Isabela sighs. "But after all these years, you have to wonder if that even really matters."
"True," Varric assents. "Just hand her a big sword and tell her what needs to be killed, and Hawke will manage to take care of it all."
The smell of smoke and burning flesh, the sound of dying screams and clashing swords, the roars of abominations and angry Templars overwhelm all of Isabela's senses, but when Hawke storms away from Meredith with determination in her eyes, nothing else seems to matter.
"Come on," she says to Isabela and the others who are willing to stand by her decision. "We're not going to make this easy for them," she growls, eyes like steel.
Isabela lets Hawke take her hand, an uncharacteristic display of affection she can't bring herself to mind, not in light of potential impending doom.
And whatever she's gotten herself into? As always, with Hawke there…well, Isabela really just can't bring herself to mind at all.
"It figures, doesn't it? I finally find someone I want to be with, and suddenly, everything is exploding."
Hawke can only look at her in commiseration.
"Tell me I'm not going to lose you," Isabela insists, even if Adrian has to lie. She just needs to hear it.
"You won't," Hawke says resolutely with a fierce, determined look in her eyes.
"Promise me," she persists nonetheless.
"You're never going to lose me," the Champion swears. "Never."
"Remember," Isabela says, eyes embarrassingly glassy. "You never go back on your word, either."
She rushes forward, unable to stop herself. When they kiss, it tastes like goodbye just in case it has to be.
Even a Champion and her sword can't stop fate once it's made up its mind.
They triumph, but not without consequences, without costs.
Bruises. Blood. Broken bones. Dead innocents.
But in addition to all that, on top of all the exhaustion and delirium, there's the unshakable, tangible relief that it's finally, finally over.
They all limp and shuffle away with their victory, but at least they're not the ones that have become petrified in lyrium for eternity.
No one says a word, except for the two that lead the pack of wounded warriors, former slaves, apostates, and thieves. The tightly knit group that's family not by blood, but by choice.
There is a rough, honest whisper, and a responding smile that could light any darkness:
"I love you."
"Promise you won't run off and break my heart?"
"I won't if you don't give me a reason to."
"...I think I could manage that."
And manage, Adrian Hawke does.