.x.

Hawke catches sight of them the moment she crosses the threshold into the Hanged Man. The door thuds shut behind her as she stands absolutely still, unable to tear her eyes from the scene unfolding before her. The familiar noise of the tavern's evening patronage washes over her—several of the regulars call out her name in greeting—but she is unable to respond, so focused is she on what she sees.

In the corner of the large room, furthest from the door, Isabela and Fenris stand. The dark-haired pirate has cornered the elf, it seems, and is leaning against him in a most intimate way. There is no sign of reluctance in the way Fenris holds himself—indeed, as Hawke watches, he runs a hand up the naked length of Isabela's arm. The pirate's mouth is moving, her full lips forming words that Hawke knows will be boldly lascivious in nature, words that no man in his right mind would ever try to resist. And with an odd hollow sensation in the pit of her stomach, Hawke sees that rare, secretive smile flicker to life upon Fenris' face in answer to the pirate's proposition.

Isabela's hand, splayed flat on the elf's armored chest, begins to move downwards in a slow and deliberate exploration. Hawke knows the pirate will not shy from groping him outright in public; such exhibition only excites her. And so Hawke beings her retreat, taking a step back, still unable to look away but inwardly fighting to find the strength to do so. Another step, and another, and now she can tear her eyes from what is happening between pirate and once-slave; one more step and she can turn and flee this place and try to forgot what she has just seen—and try to forget the reason it hurts so.

But she is clumsy in her quiet desperation, sidling into a table occupied by two young men. Her jostling has upended their drinks and they cry out in simultaneous indignation, the sound cutting across the rest of the tavern's clamor. Hawke utters a swift apology, hoping beyond hope that the silence that has fallen was not of her doing. In the moments that follow she slowly raises her gaze, knowing what she will find, all the while praying it will not be so.

Fenris is staring back at her. Isabela is far too involved in her seduction to allow her attention to wander—she's still caressing him, her mouth now working in a lazy pattern along the line of his neck, trailing up towards his mouth. The pain returns to Hawke, a quick, stabbing flare she feels now in her chest. She twists around so quickly the world blurs, fumbles for the catch of the door, and with a frantic shove manages to escape the stifling confines of the tavern.

The night air is refreshing in its coolness, washing over her and soothing the heated flush of her cheeks. She closes her eyes for a long moment, willing the lingering images of pirate and elf to dissipate, willing them both to disappear entirely and fervently wishing that she'd never had the hapless misfortune to lose her heart to someone as mercurial as Fenris. It has been three years and still the memory of his touch haunts her, a relentless and torturous recollection that she cannot rid herself of. Worse still is the way she still hears him saying her name, his voice catching as she brought him to the very cusp of pleasure, as she teased him over it—

She shakes her head with sudden and grim resolve. For too long has the white wolf dogged her steps this way. She is no longer the young and uncertain girl she once was—she is the Champion now. Resolutely squaring her jaw, she inhales deeply and turns to face the Hanged Man. Carried by the evening breeze, the tavern's namesake swings gently back and forth above the door. The muted sound of song and merriment from within reaches her ears and she feels a sudden longing for companionship, for revelry, for entertainment with which to drive away the worries and cares she has shouldered for far too long. She shakes her head again, unable to completely exorcise the image of Isabela and Fenris; with a deep sigh she turns her back on the tavern, and begins to make the long walk home.

.x.

It is Fenris' voice that beckons her out of sleep into the realm of wakefulness, a constant and repetitive mantra that at first she attributes to a dream. When she realizes that it's not, her eyes fly open and she sits bolt upright, blinking in dazed bewilderment at the sight of the former slave standing at the foot of her bed. A chaotic wave of emotion floods through her then as she recalls in what exact manner she has seen him last. Running a hand through long hair made tangled by sleep and tugging with the other at the twisted lengths of the long simple shift she sleeps in, she scowls her confusion and speaks with a voice made husky by the last reluctant remnants of slumber.

"This isn't really the hour for a visit, is it?"

Fenris remains silent. The fire is burning low in the hearth across the room, and by the soft light cast by its flames she can see clearly the intensity in his lucent emerald gaze. He has not moved since she awoke; in silhouette he is a lean and rangy spectre. This is not the first time one of her companions has arrived uninvited—indeed, she has made it clear the mansion is always open to them should they ever have need of it. However, it is the first time one of them had ever encroached upon her private inner sanctum in the latest hours of night. Growing both irritated and a little apprehensive by his refusal to speak, she asks, "You have a reason for being here, I assume? How did you even get in?"

"Hawke," he says. "What you saw—"

She raises a hand to prevent him from going any further, unwilling to discuss it. "What I saw," she says softly, "was none of my business."

His expression shifts, a fluidic transformation that she has always found fascinating to watch. He looks suddenly stricken, a state so unfamiliar for him that she finds herself feeling unaccountably remorseful. He moves then, quickly striding forward to sit before her on the bed. As always, his proximity overwhelms her with an unwanted deluge of feelings; she feels heat flood her cheeks and she looks away, shaken and disturbed by this potent hold he's had over her for far too long.

"Hawke."

His voice is thick with some indefinable strain. She reluctantly turns her head to face him once more and finds that his gaze, intrinsically bright, is nearly glowing with an ardent warmth. It disconcerts her. She recalls then how brittle and empty she felt seeing him surrender to Isabela's ministrations earlier that evening and clings to the memory, marshaling her resolve as she steadily holds his eyes. She tries not to recognize within them the tumult of his own emotions; instead she remains mulishly silent and waits for him to speak.

He does so a moment later. "Isabela and I …" But it seems whatever words he has gathered have abandoned him, and he closes his eyes, whispering a harsh curse in his native tongue.

"Fenris," she says then, hating the compassion that she cannot help but feel in light of his obvious distress. It is not easy to adopt the mantle of casual carelessness, but she manages. "It doesn't matter what the two of you do. It's not for me to judge."

"Don't!" He snaps at her, eyes flying open to fixate on her once again. This time their glow is borne of anger and frustration and what she thinks may be sorrow; the chaotic amalgam of the three is difficult for her to bear witness to. He leans forward, one hand fisting in the sheets of her bed, the other clenching in his lap. "Don't tell me it didn't matter to you. I saw your face."

She is angered by how blatantly he would accuse her of lingering feelings when he has no higher ground to stand upon—it was he who had left her those years ago, after all. With slow deliberateness she says, "You saw nothing, Fenris."

"Then why did you leave?" He demands.

But she will not answer that question, instead countering with, "Why did you come here?"

He makes a noise of aggravation and steps away to pace a tight circle near the hearth before turning to look back at her with his face now in shadow. Even thus, she can still see the volatile gleam in his eyes. When next he speaks, his voice is soft. "Tell me it meant nothing to you, Hawke, and I'll go."

She is shaken by how quickly his mood has altered and shaken even more by all that he has said. In the three years since their ill-fated tryst, neither has spoken of what had transpired. He had made it clear that there was nothing to address and she respected that, as much as it has wounded her. She is thus suitably perturbed by the blunt reappearance of the issue. Of all the emotions roiling within her now, anger is the one from behind which she can feel most secure, and so she seizes it and uses it to galvanize her waning resolution.

"It meant as much to me as what happened between us mattered to you." She tells him.

She is vindicated by his reaction to those words; his head snaps back and he inhales sharply. Her grim satisfaction withers abruptly, however, as he stalks back to the bed with narrowed eyes. Hawke makes an attempt to rise but he does not allow it; placing one knee on the mattress he leans over her as she sinks back against the headboard, placing both his hands flat upon the bed on either side of her body. She can force him to let her go; she is more than capable. But she is caught and tethered by more than just his physical self now, unable to move for the forcible weight of his gaze.

"Then," he breathes, his face so close to hers that she can almost feel the brush of his lips against hers, "it meant a great deal to you."

It takes a moment for the implications of his words to sink in, so rattled is she by his nearness; when they do she feels her eyes widen. "It was you who left, Fenris," she says in a voice that trembles despite her best efforts, "so don't lie to me now."

"No lie," he whispers. He is ever-so-slowly inching forwards, closing that miniscule difference between them—

"No!" The single word explodes from her mouth with all the strength of her constrained emotions. He rears back as though startled. Reaching out with both hands, she shoves him hard, sending him stumbling away. Swiftly she slips from between the sheets, coming to her feet on the other side of the bed, effectively making it a solid barrier between them.

"You've had too much to drink, Fenris." From where she stands, his features are again lost to her by shadow, but she can read in the rigid lines of his body how furious he is. Feeling far too exposed in her simple nightgown, she casts a furtive glance towards the weapon stand in the corner near her armoire and wonders with no small amount of trepidation whether she will need her arms before this encounter is done.

"I'm not drunk."

He is lying. She could smell the liquor on his breath when he'd been so close to her just moments ago. She is exasperated suddenly by his presence, by his unpredictable nature, by his cryptic words, and so she asks him with tired resignation, "What do you want?"

"You."

She sucks in a breath at unwavering directness of his answer. He begins to circle the bed, approaching her with a slow and predatory tread that has her edging backwards unconsciously. "It's all I've ever wanted, Hawke, for a long time."

"You," she reminds him quietly, "left me."

"Yes." He halts an arm's length from her. "A foolish mistake."

She laughs, a mirthless exhale of air. "And so you've come now to rectify it? It's too late, Fenris."

He shakes his head and she finds herself pinioned then by the piercing intensity of his gaze. "No. It's not too late. I saw your face tonight, in the Hanged Man. You still feel something for me. I know you do."

"Nothing will come of it!" Frustrated ire has furrowed her brow as she flings her words at him. For so long she has kept bottled the gamut of loss, of confusion, of anger that had ensued after that one night years ago. She finds now that she her control over these emotions is eroding; she is unable to keep the vexation from her voice as even more words slip from her lips unbidden. "It's been years, Fenris! I have not spent all this time simply waiting for you to return. And besides," she cannot help but adding spitefully, "there is Isabela—"

He moves then, closing the gap between them in two swift steps. She holds her ground, drawing her shoulders up and steeling herself for whatever is to happen next. Expecting further opposition, she is astonished when he reaches out with both hands to capture her face in his grip.

"Isabela is nothing. We've done nothing together." His voice is resonating with in a manner she finds most disquieting.

"I don't believe—" is all she manages before he lunges, brings his lips down hard on hers, her head still captive in his hands. Her eyes close as he kisses her with punishing abandon, as though funneling all his conviction into the action. She makes a muffled noise of protest, her hands coming up to pull at his elbows, and he suddenly relents, drawing back a hairsbreadth. Still he cradles her face.

"There is no other. There has been no other, not since then. This I promise you." His words ring with unflinching honesty. "I was a fool to have left then. I was a fool not to apologize. I've been a fool for the past three years, Hawke, for not explaining to you why I left."

"I knew why," she whispers. A recollection filters to her through the cluttered, nervous haze that is her current state of mind. "But tonight … you smiled at Isabela—"

"Yes." He holds her gaze steadily. "And I would have gone with her."

"Why didn't you?"

"I saw you." He says simply. When her eyes narrow, he elaborates, "I wasn't certain if you cared for me anymore. You've treated me with nothing but that which mere friendship warrants since that night—"

"You told me it couldn't be! What else was I to do? Spend my days mooning over you like some lovesick girl?"

He ignores her questions. "Tonight I saw it in your face, when you saw Isabela with me. And I knew you still felt for me the way I still feel for you."

She steps back then and he lets his hands fall to his sides. She edges around him, needing to gain space in order to restore some semblance of clarity to her jumbled thoughts. He tracks her progress, turning on the spot as she moves. A few feet from him she stops and turns to face him once more. "You say you feel for me, but you would have gone with her, you would have—"

"Yes."

She shakes her head. "This is … I am tired, Fenris. I don't know what to say to you. I don't know what you want from all of this."

"Tell me," he says, approaching her again. She watches him with some wariness. He halts within touching distance, but does not reach for her. "Tell me what it is you feel."

"We would be here all night," she says, a lame attempt at humor. It falls short and she finds herself again rendered immobile by the penetrating light of his gaze. An errant lock of snowy hair has fallen over his brow and unthinking, driven by some unnameable urge, she reaches out to brush it gently aside. His hand flies up to fasten about her wrist; eyes boring into her own, he slowly uncurls her fingers and places a kiss upon her palm.

Instantly her pulse jumps as her heart skitters through its next beats and she knows he can feel it with his fingers pressed against her wrist. He pulls her closer, a sharp tug that has her stumbling into him and then his arms are around her and she is flooded with an overwhelming knowledge that this has all along been an inevitable occurrence, one that she has been foolish to doubt. His lips find hers again unerringly, their caress this time one of slow and purposeful warmth. Her mouth opens beneath his own, allowing his tongue access to its warm recesses, allowing him to invade her in a thorough and dominating pattern. She is no longer resisting. She no longer has the will to.

When they break apart they are both breathing heavily. Her arms have crept upwards of their own volition, coming to rest upon his shoulders. Abruptly Fenris swivels, carrying her with him; he is driving her back now one faltering step at a time, nipping at her mouth as he does so, catching her bottom lip between his teeth before releasing it. His tongue slides against her own a heartbeat later and then she feels the solid presence of the bed pressing against her legs. When he gives her a gentle push she falls willingly, sinking down into the welcoming softness of the mattress, reaching for him as she does so. He does not follow, however, instead stepping back, reaching up with both hands to work at the numerous buckles affixing his armor to his body.

She makes to rise to help him, but he shakes his head. And so she watches as he methodically removes his gear, piece by piece, letting it all fall to the floor in a cluttered mound. When the last bit of clothing that he wears beneath the armor is stripped away, when he is standing before her utterly naked but for the beautifully sinuous brands of white lyrium adorning his skin, she is assaulted by vivid recollections of another night, in this very bedroom, when he'd come to her for the very first time—

He sees and recognizes the memory in her eyes then; he approaches once more, sliding lithely onto the bed as she moves back to allow him space. He leans over her and she gives way before him, letting herself fall back slowly onto the mattress. She reaches up with both hands and runs them over his shoulders and down his chest before carefully tracing with the tips of her fingers the intricate lines that mark him. They come to life with a soft light beneath her touch and he stiffens. Her eyes dart up to his face to find him staring at her with such heat that she finds herself momentarily breathless. He nods once, an affirmation that he welcomes her touch, and she begins her exploration once again. Her fingers sweep downwards in a curving arc, following the path of the lyrium, leaving behind them an ethereal glow. Lower and lower they move and she notes with pleased detachment that his breathing has become uneven. When finally her fingers run over the length of his rigid cock in a gentle caress he inhales sharply; she takes him in her grasp a moment later and he groans softly.

It is torture that she has devised, steady and languid strokes designed to render him thoughtless. She delights in the way her touch has him shuddering, exults in the way she coaxes from him with a gentle squeeze a low and primal moan. So intent is she in her task that it is with great reluctance that she cedes to him when he catches at her wrists and pulls her hands away. For a moment they are caught in the searing fervor of each others gazes, he propped upright on one elbow, she laying willing and supine beneath him. He runs a thumb over her lower lip, lets his fingers trail in a seemingly aimless path down the graceful column of her neck. He leans down and places a lingering kiss in the exposed hollow of her throat before tugging on the collar of her shift, saying with a small, slanted smile, "Off."

She complies with his assistance, shimmying out of the garment and maintaining a modicum of grace while doing so. When the offending garment lies in a heap next to his discarded armor, he pushes her down beneath him once more and begins his gentle delving once more. His palm slides over the swell of first one breast and then another, his movements unhurried and intended to inflame. Her nipples have pebbled beneath his touch and he accepts their brazen invitation, dipping his head to take one his mouth. She makes a desperate, urging sound as his tongue laves her flesh; the noise becomes a sharp gasp as he fastens his teeth about the hardened nub. Her fingers have woven themselves through the lengths of his hair and as he shifts to nip at the other breast she tugs hard at the white strands, wordlessly asking for more.

But he is not content to remain in one place for long, she soon realizes. His tongue blazes a scorching trail down from her breasts, across the expanse of her flat, heaving stomach, through the provocative dip of her navel until it finds, at the juncture of her thighs, that part of her he knows is ripe for his touch. Deftly he parts the folds of moist, heated flesh, his eyes moving upwards to her face as he slowly inserts first one finger, and then another into her tight, throbbing sheath. Her hips buck upwards in the wake of the tantalizing invasion, her eyes fluttering as pleasure floods her veins. Carefully, he inserts a third finger, and her breath explodes from her in a furious exhale.

"Fenris, please—!"

He shifts, his fingers leaving her body in one last slow, riveting withdrawal as he moves his body up and over hers. The brilliant light in his eyes as he stares down at her is promise enough of what is to come, but she is unwilling to wait. She lunges upwards, catching his bottom lip between her teeth in a teasing nip while at the same time dragging her nails down the length of his back. He growls deep in his throat and she feels the hardened length of his cock nudging that pulsing, sensitive flesh he had so recently abandoned. With a shiver, she closes her eyes in expectation of what is to come.

"Look at me, Hawke," he commands then, his voice fairly vibrating with his intent.

Wordlessly, she obeys. The moment her eyes fasten on his he moves, entering her in one forceful thrust. She is still as she feels the entire swollen, ridged length of him filling her in a torturous penetration, unable to think for the powerfully exquisite sensations. She wraps her legs around him and with her mouth—delivering sharp, teasing little bites to his neck, his shoulders, to any place she can reach—invites him to continue this welcome and excruciatingly wonderful invasion of her body, this claim he is making upon her soul. He complies with a warm, fleeting smile as though to promise her more of this, withdrawing slowly before plunging back in, setting a steady and exhilarating rhythm. The feel of him pulsing so deep within her is maddening, magnified by the slide of his body against hers, by the strength she can feel radiating from the flexing muscles beneath her desperate, needy hands. He is mine, she thinks as she races towards that inevitable, glorious peak of delectation. Suddenly she is there, the world exploding into fragments around her, her body reflexively tightening around him as pleasure beyond imagining flows through her, unstemmed.

Her climax is his undoing. As she clenches around the length of him he pushes deeper with all his might, burying himself with a raw, primal cry as he convulsively empties himself within her. He rolls away and collapses beside her, burying his face in her neck and for long minutes they remain thus as their breathing calms and their hearts slow in unison. She runs a hand through his hair then, a gentle and possessive gesture and in turn he rises up on his elbow to look at her.

"You're mine, Hawke." He tells her. With one palm against her cheek he turns her head to his and kisses her with all the unwavering certainty behind his words. When he pulls away, she is smiling.

"Are you going to leave this time?" She asks him.

He shakes his head, the corners of his mouth curving upwards in response to the wry lilt in her voice. "There is no force on earth that could drag me from this room. I meant what I said," he continues as he brushes his lips across her brow. "You're mine now."

They are silent then as they regard each other; the weight of so many things unsaid and undone fills the air between them, a near-tangible thing. "I think," Fenris says finally, "that we have much to discuss now, you and I."

"Yes," she agrees as he snakes an arm around her waist, pulling her against him. She kisses him once, twice, three times before letting her head fall back to rest on the comforting swell of her pillow. The smile has returned to her face and she has cause to wonder now if it will ever leave.

"We can talk later," she says. "Now is a time for other things."

He raises one brow. "Other things?"

Her smile widens, becoming both playful and wicked. It is all the answer he needs.

.x.