A/N: This can't decide if it wants to be cracky or serious, so it's a little bit of both? Bonus points for picking out the Firefly quote (bwahaha).
Rated M for language, nakedness, crude pirates, and possible author fail.
She used to hate that house in Lowtown. More like a series of tiny rooms than a home, she and mother, Bethany and Gamlen all crammed together, overrunning each other and bickering. It always smelled of smoke, of dog and old cheese, and the ingrained aroma of Lowtown itself sunk into the walls. She had resented it.
With mother and Bethany gone, the old Amell home -now the Hawke estate- felt empty. She rattled around in it like a copper piece in an old tin can. She had filled it, of course, with servants whom she overpaid - more friends than anything else, for whom loyalty was tantamount. Her companions came there often as well, quasi-permanent visitors for all that she could not convince any of them to take any of the empty rooms as theirs.
Still, it was comfortable. She had a real bed now instead of a pallet on the floor, and a desk to work at with a chair that she need not fear would crumble into sawdust at the slightest shift of weight. Her favorite thing, though, was the internal bathhouse, the large square basin cut into the stone of the floor. A remarkable feat of engineering, she wondered if it was a dwarven innovation. They had built most of this city once upon a time.
She did not like to go too long without bathing, a peculiarity from childhood perhaps, though with as much time as she spent in her leathers she considered it more of a necessity than a vanity. And now, well, she wasn't just a Hawke anymore, she was an Amell too. It came along with certain... expectations.
She had filled the tub to near capacity, the water rising over her shoulders when she hunched over. Sunlight shone through the large windows, the glass made opaque for privacy, and warmed the room with a charming light. The house was quiet for all it was near the end of the day.
This should have been relaxing, but it wasn't. She had been sitting in tepid water for over an hour, staring blankly across the room as her hands wrung and re-wrung the water out of the cloth she'd used to halfheartedly scrub the day from her skin.
Sometimes she didn't know what to do with herself, and it was in those times that the weight of grief and guilt that seemed so much a part of her now seemed the hardest to bear. The Qunari were gone, but it had offered them little reprieve. The firestorm between the mages and templars within the city had already been set, just a match-strike in the dark that the presence of the Qun and the fear that came with it had obscured. It was as if the city held its breath, and while she feared which way the scales would tip, dreading the moment she would inevitably have to make a choice that damned her, she almost wished the storm would come. Then she could fight for something again. Or at the very least, she'd have something to do, to plan on those long nights when sleep eluded her in the safe quietude of her home.
She had not thought to miss the rabble and noise of Lowtown, and she supposed she didn't. She supposed it was mother she missed. Her small series of victories rang hollow without anyone to share them with.
If not for her friends, this second family she had wrought from the ashes of the first, she thought she might lose her mind. And Fenris… but Maker, that was a double-edged sword too, wasn't it? Inextricably linked with them, and yet always apart. Hers, and yet not hers at all.
Irritated by her line of thought, she lifted a dripping hand to her face, rubbing at her temples in an attempt to fend off the headache she could already feel dragging at her eyes.
She didn't realize the door had opened until it closed with a snap. Hawke leapt to her feet, snatching up one of her daggers that lay to one side, never very far from her reach. The reaction was instinctual, done without regard to how water slopped out of the edge of the tub and how she was, in effect, about to face down an intruder stark naked.
It was only Isabela. The pirate gave a low, cheeky whistle and made a point of looking Hawke up and down appreciatively. "I really need to remember to break in here more often."
Hawke looked less than amused and dropped the arm that had held her dagger extended. "Isabela." Great. Scowling, she sank back down into the lukewarm water, tossing the dagger aside to clatter somewhere on the floor. "State your business."
"You're brooding, aren't you?" Isabela looked far too amused. "You even sound like him."
"I love how his eyes get all dark and his voice goes all snarly and vicious, it just makes you want to…"
Hawke had stopped listening at this point, bringing her knees to her chest so she could lay her head on them, regretting this already as the least relaxing bath in the history of baths in Thedas, possibly ever.
Water rose higher around her and when she looked up, Isabela had divested herself of clothing and had plopped herself down in Hawke's bath, her back resting against the opposite end of the tub.
She narrowed her eyes, her voice coming out as disapproving as possible. "Isabela."
The pirate rolled her eyes and waved off the tone with a careless flip of a hand. "Oh relax, if I haven't contracted any spontaneous broody babies from Fenny-Fen-Fen, I'm certainly not in danger of getting them from you."
Hawke's head was starting to pound a little, and she dug the heels of her palms into her eyes. "I don't know whether to laugh, or to tell him you called him that so he can murder you."
"Friendship makes for the hardest decisions, doesn't it?" Isabela was undeterred, even having the temerity to sound amused. "Anyway, I brought you a present." Hawke looked up in time to see Isabela uncork a large green bottle with her teeth and spit the stopper across the room. "Varric said you weren't feeling up to coming to the Hanged Man tonight, so I thought I'd just pop in and see how you were doing."
You weren't feeling up to coming was a nice way of saying you're hiding, and they both knew it. Because the effort of glaring was doing nothing for the quiet throb in her temples, Hawke let the look drop and merely sighed, holding her hand out for the bottle. "Fine, but keep your feet to yourself."
"I knew you'd see the genius in my sneaky plan. Still, seriously Hawke, who takes a bath in ice water?"
Hawke blinked and looked down at the tub. "It wasn't-"
But it's too late and Isabela was already yelling towards the door. "Kitten!"
"Merrill's here? But what-"
That was as far as she got before the door was flung open again, admitting one very small elf with a very large armload of towels. "Hi Hawke!" The girl's voice (Hawke still had a hard time thinking of the elf as a woman, naïve as she tended to be) was bright as always, and it made her cringe a little.
"Bodahn said we might need these, and they're so nice and clean and warm! I never know how he gets them to be warm, I never see them in front of the firepla- oh! Everybody's naked." Merrill blinked at them owlishly, her head tipping to one side as she put down the towels. "Should I be naked?"
"Now it's officially a party." Isabela was laughing, and for lack of any better response, Hawke stuck the bottle back in her mouth and took a long, long drink.
Merrill was already stripping off her clothes, chattering all the while. "Oh, won't this be fun! It's just like that one time, with the clan, when we-"
Hawke choked on the wine, nearly spitting it all over herself. "Andraste's ever-loving ass, I can't know that!"
Isabella giggled. "I could stand to hear a little more."
The sound of Hawke's palm slapping into her forehead just made the pirate laugh harder. Defeated, Hawke passed the bottle back to her.
Compromising, Merrill had stripped down to her underthings and stretched out on her stomach at the edge of the tub, trailing her fingers into the water. "Oh, your water is cold. I can fix it!"
Hawke almost bolted. "Ah, wait! Carefully. I've already been brow-beaten, I don't want to be boiled too."
Isabela tsked at her, wagging the bottle like a finger. "Ye of little faith. She does this for me all the time."
As the water began to steam around her, Hawke could only wonder as to the specifics of the situation that would require Merrill to be reheating Isabela's bathwater. Continuously. She decided it was probably safer not to ask.
The door flew open again, and it was Aveline this time, the ruddy-haired guard-captain bearing another bottle in place of her usual armor. "Am I late?" She stopped and looked back at the three sets of eyes that swung her way. "Why is everyone undressed? Hawke." The name was said reprovingly.
"What! It's not my fault!"
"It's my fault," Isabella spoke up proudly, splashing Hawke with her foot.
Aveline shook her head. "Of course it is. Whore." But the insult had no real bitterness in it and she came to sink down onto the floor across from Merrill, unbending enough to roll up her pant legs and dangle her feet in the water. The bottle she passed to Isabela, who checked the label and nodded her approval.
Hawke stared around at her friends uncomprehendingly, having found herself suddenly naked, wet, and on her way to drunk in the company of a Rivaini pirate, a Dalish mage, and a Ferelden guard-captain when all she'd sat out to do was have a bath and do some brooding. No, wait, not brooding. Thinking. That was it. Thinking.
She glared across the tub at the pirate captain, who was looking more and more pleased with herself the more convoluted this became. "I swear to the Maker-"
"And all the elven gods!" Merrill cut in swiftly, already looking a little flushed with the wine.
"-And all the elven gods, Isabela, if anything with a penis walks through that door, I'm dumping you off that cliff on the Wounded Coast. The really tall one. I'll jump in after and save you of course, but I'm still going to push you off."
Isabela scoffed as though the suggestion were ridiculous. "And share the wine? Not likely. And anyway, now that we're all here, I call this meeting of Hawke's Harlots to order."
Aveline shot her a skeptical look. "Hawke's Harlots?"
"Hawke's Whores? Hawke's Hotties? Hawke's Handlers? Oh, that one sounds dirty-"
"Dirty- that's funny!" Merrill exclaimed, as though making a grand discovery. "Because you're in the bath? Get it? Nevermind, I'm shutting up now."
They did laugh, more for the delivery and the way Merrill's ears were bright red than because the joke was actually funny.
When it was quiet again, Hawke shook her head and held up a hand before anyone else could speak. "Now that I've been plied with wine, fine humor, impeccable glares and ridiculously dressed women, are you all going to tell me why you're here?"
There was a significant glance that bounced around between the three of them: Aveline to Isabela, Isabela to Merrill, Merrill back to Aveline. When no answer was immediately forthcoming, Hawke sighed. "Just to annoy me then. Alright. Goodie." She started to stand, only to be gently pushed back down by Aveline.
"Relax, Hawke. We were just worried about you."
Hawke blinked, and echoed uncomprehendingly. "Worried about me?"
"You hardly come to the Hanged Man anymore," Isabela said meaningfully, emphasizing her point with the business end of the bottle she held. Wine almost spilled into the tub and Aveline took it from her hand, tipping it back herself to take a long drink right out of the bottle. "You've missed wicked grace four times in a row, and the last time you showed up for diamondback, you didn't even pay attention. You lost money to Merrill."
Rather than be offended about her lack of skill at cards, the elf just nodded. "And all your plants are dying. You used to at least remember to water the one in your bedroom, but it looks like something's been chewing on it. Unless of course, something has been chewing on it. No? I don't know."
Aveline cleared her throat, shushing the babbling mage. "More importantly, you've stopped talking to us, and you find a way to avoid us every time someone tries to ask you why. You've left us no choice."
"A bathtub ambush." Isabela was nodding in agreement. Aveline and Isabela were actually agreeing on something, the notion was making Hawke's head spin.
Three sets of eyes were on her now, and Hawke hunched her shoulders defensively, hugging her knees to her chest. "I don't know. What do you want from me? I'll play cards. I'll water the plants. I'm talking. See? I'm talking right now."
Aveline just gave her a look. The look. The deadly don't-give-me-any-crap-or-I'll-bake-it-into-a-brick-and-beat-you-with-it guard-captain look. "You're hiding and you're dodging us. Why? Stop bullshitting."
Hawke looked down, spun little circles with the washcloth in her hand in the surface of the water. "I guess I just miss them," she said finally, her voice a little flat, and they all knew who she meant.
Silence stretched for a long moment, before Merrill broke it. "You know, we don't expect you not to."
Isabela nodded. "We just want you to talk to us about it."
"You can you know," Aveline added. "Talk to us about it, I mean. You don't always have to crack jokes and smile, it's not like we can't tell."
"And here I was, thinking I was clever," Hawke muttered, not sure whether to be touched by this barrage, or offended by it.
"Oh you are," Merrill agreed brightly, either not hearing the sarcasm in her voice or choosing to ignore it. "But we know you."
"We know you," echoed Aveline.
"We do," confirmed Isabela.
There was nothing she could say to that, her voice lost to the sudden lump in her throat that kept her quiet for a good long measure. When she could swallow again, she lifted her chin to look at them. "You know, this whole choreographed conversation between the three of you thing is a little creepy. Can't we talk about something else?"
"Dark and broody elves?" Isabella offered, hopefully, along with the bottle of wine.
"Sexy, tortured apostates?"
"Tempting and forbidden priest-princes?"
"Not that either."
"What about dwarves with impressive amounts of chest hair?"
"I know – Aveline, how's Donnic?"
"He's wonderful, as always."
"No, I mean, how is Donnic? Is he slow and sweet? Wild and wanton? Adoring and ardent? Perky and passionate?"
Aveline kicked her foot at the pirate, showering her with water. "Like I'd tell you, whore."
"Not even one tiny detail? I mean, is he like this," Isabela held her hands apart a few inches, "or like this?" She repeated the gesture, more space between her hands. "Or, dare I ask…" The distance lengthened.
"Isabela! You can't just ask her about the size of his- the size of his-" Merrill hiccupped and put a hand over her mouth. "Even though I guess it is kind of interesting. I've always heard humans are bigger than-"
Hawke had her face in her hands again. "I can't know that. I really can't know that."
Merrill giggled. "I could stand to hear a little more."
Aveline reached and took the bottle out of Merrill's hand. "Maker, I'm not nearly drunk enough for this."
At the prospect of the famously rigid guard-captain getting drunk enough for anything, Isabela perked up admirably. "Fine you sticks in the mud, I'll share."
Hawke groaned. "This frightens and appalls me."
"Spoilsport. Anyway, I figured out how to get Corff to stop ignoring me when I come to the bar."
"Tell me you didn't."
"Oh yes I did. What!" She exclaimed as the other three women looked at each other with expressions ranging from horror to disgust to a slight morbid curiosity and chorused a harmonic eeeeewwwww. "He refills my drinks immediately now. That's real love!" She waved a hand at them dismissively, even though the grin she wore was broad. "Anyway, it wasn't all bad."
Isabela measured a distance with her hands again, and this time it made them all roar with laughter.
It started with Hawke's mabari, who came creeping to the closed door of the bathing chamber, parking himself down in the hall and staring intently. Curious, Varric got up to follow him. When the dwarf didn't return for several minutes, Sebastian went to look for him. Unable to continue their game with half the players missing, and having no desire to make conversation amongst themselves, Fenris and Anders followed a few minutes later to find their companions staring transfixed at a door.
"It makes you wonder what they're doing in there." Varric's voice was almost reverent in its curiosity, and his hand twitched as though tracing out letters with a pen.
"Probably something terrible," Anders replied, a riot of giggling and splashing coming through the door. "And dangerous."
"Yes, probably." Sebastian sounded strained. "We should pray."
"He means play," Fenris corrected absently. "Cards."
Still, it was a long time before any of them moved.