And you ruin me with the easiest touch
Tear my world apart now enough is enough
I've been up most of the night now my head's like a trainwreck
One more time
Birds of Tokyo, Trainwrecks
Had someone, anyone pointed out the myriad civic duties and responsibilities inherent in his new role as Champion of Kirkwall, Hawke might well have decided to take a nice extended trip out into the wilderness with his companions rather than lead a counter-assault on the Keep and duel the Arishok. Once the chaos, panic and disorder surrounding the 'qunari incident' had subsided, Hawke found himself the centre of the nobility's attention – gala celebrations and banquets were held to commemorate his victory over the qunari, the nobility fawning over him, all but kissing the ground on which he walked.
More than once Hawke was tempted to point out to these same nobles just how eager they had been to deny the Ferelden refugees a place in Kirkwall. "I wonder what would have happened had we left Kirkwall behind and attempted to settle elsewhere?" Hawke pondered. "What would the nobles have done then?"
"Begged for mercy even as the qunari slaughtered them all," Fenris had replied.
The memory of this observation delivered via the elf's customary dry voice elicited a quiet chuckle from the Champion and a hiss of irritation from the tightly-wound artist painting Hawke's portrait. "Please remain perfectly still, serrah!" the artist snapped. The late Viscount's seneschal had commissioned a portrait to immortalise the Champion, requiring Hawke to sit immobile for hours at a time dressed in some ridiculous Hightown couture, all puffy sleeves and excessive gold embroidery. "Would it not be more appropriate for me to pose wearing the armour of the Champion?" Hawke had asked of Bran.
"Champion, the nobles have come to expect certain...protocol regarding such things. So no, the armour is not appropriate," Bran smoothly replied. He turned to the tightly-wound artist. "Proceed."
Three weeks later, Hawke was about ready to kill something. Still, the seemingly endless functions and portrait sittings distracted Hawke from Isabela. Rather, the absence of Isabela. The pirate had departed with the Tome of Koslun only to return to Kirkwall, having experienced a change of heart. "This is your damned influence, Hawke! I was halfway to Ostwick before I realised I had to come back."
Perhaps I should have seen it coming, her leaving once more. Hawke mused as he sat perfectly still. Almost as abruptly as she'd returned, Isabela had departed on a ship bound for parts unknown.
He sighed. He missed her and not just for the sex, either. It would have been easier for them both if all he'd wanted from Isabela was sex. Hawke wanted more, he wanted the kind of long-term togetherness Aveline and Donnic enjoyed. Well, maybe not quite like that – all happily married but something stable. Hawke turned his gaze to the tightly-wound artist; the man's splotchy face was the colour of old brick, an unhealthy dull red. A closer look at the artist revealed a vein pulsing in the centre of his forehead. "Serrah," he said, biting off his words, teeth gleaming with saliva, "What part of 'sit perfectly still' do you not understand?"
Moving with quick, jerky motions, the artist tore off his paint-stained white smock and stormed out, shrill voice ringing from the Keep's walls, "I cannot work under these conditions!"
Hawke breathed a sigh of relief and slipped from the room, tugging at the stiff collar of his clothing as he went.
"I should have known I'd find you here," Bethany spoke quietly as she sat beside her brother, hands smoothing out her Circle robes. Bethany thought her brother cut a forlorn figure, sitting at the docks staring pensively at the horizon as various ships entered the harbour. Hawke turned to face Bethany, surprised to see her. "Sister," he greeted her. He took in her appearance – in addition to her robes, she still wore the same red scarf around her throat, the one Mother had given her in Lothering so long ago. "I'm sorry I haven't been to visit you recently."
Bethany waved this off. Even within the confines of the Gallows, news of her brother's victory over the Arishok had spread like wildfire and as a consequence of Garrett's sudden and meteoric rise to prominence, Bethany herself became a topic of gossip among the mages, all because the Champion was her brother. Bethany found it strange – she was no longer 'that girl who was an apostate;' she was 'the Champion's sister.' Though she did not begrudge her brother's fame, Bethany thought it would be nice for people to think of her as 'Bethany, Circle mage' at least once in a while.
"How long has it been?" she asked quietly.
"Months," Hawke replied. "I know I'm wasting my time in coming here but..." he trailed off, looked down at his gauntleted hands. "I can't get her out of my head, Bethany."
"I miss Isabela as well," Bethany said after a moment as she too took to watching the dockworkers load cargo and the sailors ready their vessels for departure. "Still," she said, gaze returning to her brother. "She came back once. She'll come back again."
"Do you really believe that?"
Bethany nodded. "She's a lot less selfish and shallow than she likes people to believe. You stood by her when she needed you, Brother. Like you stand by everyone else."
Bethany looked over her shoulder as her Templar escort, Ser Liam walked towards them. "It's time for you to return to the Gallows, Enchanter," he said, nodding his head in deference to Hawke. "Good day, Champion."
Hawke took his sister by the hand and together they stood. "Walk with me back to the Gallows?" Bethany invited. Hawke nodded. Bethany tilted her head to one side as she studied his armour. "Why so many sharp angular parts?" she asked, raising her hand to touch a triangular section jutting from the breastplate like the prow of a ship.
"I suppose it's to inspire fear in people," Hawke shrugged. "Why?"
"You look like you could use a hug and I don't much feel like stabbing myself on your breastplate," Bethany replied with a faint smile. Moving carefully, Hawke enfolded his sister in an embrace, inhaling the faint scent of soap from her hair. Bethany rested her head against the sun-warmed armour encasing Hawke's shoulder, the sharp triangular section pressing into her chest. As she released him and stepped back, Hawke's gaze returned once more to the sea. "She'll come back," Bethany murmured reassuringly. "Wait and see."
As he entered The Hanged Man, Hawke looked as always to the bar as he had countless times since the qunari had left Kirkwall, hoping to find her leaning casually against the counter chatting with Corff, swigging whisky straight from the bottle. As always, he felt the pang of disappointment. Of course she wasn't there. Why would she be? Isabela clearly regretted having returned the first time and had probably decided to put Kirkwall behind her for good.
Part of Hawke knew he had to move on, or at least try. It should be easy, he thought as he crossed the stained wooden floor to his usual table. Clearly, Isabela had moved on. Flames, she was probably satisfying her own selfish urges even as he wasted time thinking about her. Varric nodded to Hawke as he sat opposite. "You're killing me, Hawke," the dwarf said in greeting. Hawke raised an eyebrow as his friend gestured for Norah to bring some pints. "All this moping around. You're almost as bad as Blondie after the templars came for Sunshine."
"At least Anders can still see Bethany," Hawke retorted as Norah arrived with the ales. She leaned quite far over the table as she placed a pint before Hawke and he couldn't help but glance down the bodice of her dress. "Ever since the nobility declared me Champion, I've had women all but throw themselves at me," he muttered as Norah sauntered away, hips swaying.
Varric grinned around his pint. "You know, Hawke, most men would be glad of that." The dwarf placed the mug back on the scarred tabletop. "But you're better than that. You could have your pick of women right now but here you are, pining away after Rivaini."
"I am not 'pining away,' Varric!" Hawke said forcefully.
The dwarf held his hands out in surrender, grinning. "So what do humans call it, then?"
"When she left with the Tome, it felt like I'd been gut-punched. It was like a betrayal," Hawke quietly explained.
"Like?" Varric echoed, his tone incredulous. "It was a betrayal, Hawke. Look, I understand how you feel about Rivaini but what she did was even worse than what Bartrand did to us in the deep roads."
Varric leaned forward, one hand tight around his mug. "Because she put the entire city at risk." The merchant leaned back, hand releasing its death grip on the mug. "On the upside, she did come back just in time."
Hawke nodded. "That's what keeps me awake at night, Varric. She left, she came back, she left again."
"And the one thing you're holding onto is that she'll come back?" Varric replied. When Hawke silently nodded, Varric added, "I still call that pining away, Hawke."
Somehow, Hawke managed a laugh. Varric drained the rest of his pint. "Listen Hawke. You need to get out of Kirkwall for a little while, clear your head. Don't worry," he added, seeing his friend about to protest, "If Rivaini shows up, you'll be the first to hear of it."
Hawke nodded, rising from the table. "You're probably right. I'll head over to Hightown. I'm sure some disaster or other has befallen the Bone Pit by now."
It was no great surprise to Hawke that Hubert had indeed brought tidings of woe from the mine outside Kirkwall. "What is it this time?" Hawke asked, rubbing his forehead with a gauntleted hand. "Dragons? Giant spiders? Undead? Undead giant spiders riding dragons?"
"No, no!" Hubert replied, attempting to placate his partner. "Nothing as terrible as that. Those lazy doglords claim there are 'noises' coming from the mine and refuse to work! Please, Champion, go to the mine and-"
Hawke cut him off. "Find out what's causing these noises, put a stop to it and tell the miners to get back to work so you can rake in more profits?" The Champion turned and headed away from the market district without awaiting a reply. A change in wind direction seemed to carry Hubert's parting words to him, "Jumped up doglord."
Varric had been correct when he suggested leaving the city would clear Hawke's head. At least as far as a certain sailor was concerned though Hawke thought it would be a long time before he could close his eyes without once more seeing what he'd found in the depths of the mine. Hawke had traced the source of the 'noises' the miners had reported to a small cave inside the Bone Pit where a number of apostates had taken refuge. Apostates apparently so overwhelmed with elation at having escaped the Gallows they'd decided to partake in an orgy to celebrate.
At least they weren't engaging in human sacrifice, thank the Maker was the thought running through Hawke's mind as he pushed open the tavern's door. And stopped motionless for a moment as though a paralysis glyph had been inscribed upon the stained floor. Isabela stood at the bar, ignoring the rabble around her. Though he'd long awaited this moment, even imagined various ways in which the encounter might play out, Hawke was struck with indecision – should he stride straight up to the lying, thieving wench, shove her against the bar and have her or just wander in and pretend not to see her? Oh, Isabela, is that you? I almost didn't see you standing there, oh lying, cheating snake I seem to be falling in love with. Silly me.
In the end, after what seemed like an age, Hawke lifted his right foot, stepped forward and made straight for the bar, brushing past Norah as he went. "Isabela," he began, heralding what he hoped would be a reunion of sorts. The Champion swallowed, aware his heart was beating harder than normal. She turned to him without meeting his gaze, an indecipherable expression on her face. "Hawke," she replied, the single word giving no hint as to her thoughts. She lifted her empty mug and glanced momentarily at Corff, requesting a refill.
"So...you're back?" Hawke said after a moment, anything to break a silence fast moving from uncomfortable to freakishly awkward. Brilliant conversation starter, Garrett! He chided himself. Obviously she's back else you wouldn't be standing at the bar making an ass of yourself! The Champion swallowed, breathed deeply through his nose and tried again. "Isabela-" he halted as she cut him off.
"Hawke, don't. Whatever heart-warming, emotional thing you're about to say, don't."
Ignoring her, Hawke went on, "I've missed you."
Isabela snorted and knocked back half her drink in one swallow. "You miss the sex," she countered.
"That as well. What you did during the qunari attack, I'm proud you of you. It was the right thing to do."
The pirate leaned her lower back against the bar, propping herself up with her elbows. "It was also the dumb thing to do. I had the relic! I should have kept running!" She sighed and finished her drink.
"I couldn't have saved the city without you," Hawke said.
"Bullshit," she retorted. "You could have stormed the keep and slaughtered every qunari in your way if you had to. You and Aveline. I mean, look at her, she's a woman-shaped battering ram!" Isabela pushed herself away from the bar. "Face it," she began, meeting his gaze for the first time since he arrived. "You and I have nothing in common any more. You're the Champion and I'm just a lying, thieving snake."
Placing his hands gently but firmly on her shoulders, Hawke's eyes burned with emotion as he replied, "You may be a lying, thieving snake but you're my lying, thieving snake, damn it!" The hands moved from Isabela's shoulders to cup the sides of her face and he lowered his mouth to hers, kissing her long and hard. Isabela voiced a low moan as her tongue slid in and out of his mouth, arms locking around the back of his neck. The kiss ended, both participants breathing hard. Isabela chuckled and wiped her mouth. "I so do love it when you come over all possessive, Hawke."
Author's Note: Two images in my mind led to this chapter - Hawke at the docks waiting for Isabela's ship and Hawke posing for an artist.