Falling

A Dragon Age 2 fic

One word can change you

One look turns you around

One touch and your world's upside down

let it carry you away

'cause you've fallen anyway

-Brother, Falling—

A/N: I chose to paraphrase rather than follow word-by-word the dialog between Hawke and Fenris; as everyone's Hawke is unique and no two playthroughs are alike, I decided to stay true to the spirit, rather than the letter of the conversation. I do hope it is acceptable to most.

And if I have to listen to one more broody song to get into Fenris's head (however cautiously—this is, after all, Hawke's POV), I'll slit my wrists. Seriously. But let me know if you want to know which ones, I like to share the angst.

Finally, the usual disclaimer: no, I still don't own Fenris. No one does.

We were due to visit the Bone Pit Mines the next morning. Well, I was, to be exact. But when it came up that afternoon while we were catching up, sitting at our usual table at our usual disreputable hangout, Varric immediately insisted he'd tag along to make sure Hubert, my business partner in this lucrative venture wasn't stealing my eyes out. Merrill, perching precariously on top of a chair that was way too tall for her and wrestling with a mug of ale the size of her head (she nursed it for hours) piped up that she needed some fresh air that wasn't tainted with foundry smell and rotten fish, and Fenris… Fenris just sat there and glowered with such silent determination that I threw my hands up and said 'Fine, I get the message… you're coming to make sure the workers are not mistreated, right?', at which point Varric muttered 'damn skippy' under his nose in such a perfect imitation of Isabela's accent that I snorted wine all over the table and that was the end of things.

And yet, there I was, a couple of hours later, in front of that creepy mansion, clutching the little package wrapped in cloth that Mother shoved in my hand.

"I'm so going to regret this." I muttered, easing through the door, which, as usual, was left cracked open. "Hello the house!" I yelled on the top of my lungs. After the first time, all of us learned that unless we wanted a greatsword stopping about a quarter of an inch from our noses, we simply had to announce ourselves if we came visiting.

"Up here." I heard him faintly from above the railing. I eased around a couple of suspicious stains on the rugs that lay scattered all over, and tried to see in the almost total darkness that was only lit by the fireplace's flames through the open double doors on top of the stairs.

"Still love what you did with the place." I continued out loud as I tried to weave my way up. I hoped there were no more broken chairs, armor pieces or shattered glass. "Definitely got that 'creepy haunted mansion' look down pat, if you ask me. Although maybe this way no one thinks twice to check it out. Creepified houses do that; I'm just so glad you stopped short of leaving the corpses lying around from the first time we visited."

I kept talking so he'd know where I was; I learned this one from experience, too. You learned damned fast when you were hanging out with Fenris for any period of time. The longer I talked, the surer he could be that it was really me and not some trick from a possible slave hunter. I really liked my head and my vital organs where they were, thank you very much.

"Well, here I am." I announced in front of the door; I could only see one corner of the scuffed-up grand oak table in the middle. It was littered with bottles.

Crap.

"Don't hit me, I got cake." I said as I slipped through and scooted over to the fire, lifting both hands and holding them far from my body, so he could see the package I was holding. "Mother made a new batch; we got some oranges fresh from the last ship in from Rivain and she remembered how much you liked it when you were over for dinner, so…" I sniffed the air. "Maker, Fenris, when was the last time you opened the windows here?"

He sat in one of those overstuffed monster armchairs that somehow survived the stormy recent history of the house almost intact, holding a bottle to his chest as if it was a rare treasure. The flames cast complex shadows on his white hair, emphasizing the stark planes of his face, the upswept, elegant curve of his ears.

"Don't remember." He confessed, pausing and considering the question."Maybe last week?" he offered, tilting his head to the side very carefully.

Sweet Andraste, but he was drunk.

"And I thought you were doing just fine." I felt the bottom of my stomach sinking; he seemed a bit broodier than usual at the Hanged Man earlier, but this…?

What the Fade was going on?

"I'm…fine." He said, pulling himself up with as much dignity as he could muster. "Was fine." he corrected after a thoughtful pause, with compelling honesty. "I just…can't do this at the Hanged Man."

I nodded, carefully easing myself into the other chair by the fire.

Okay, if this is how we're going to do it, this is how it shall be. Come on, Hawke, you can do this.

"Yeah, I know, the drinks are real shit."I took a breath and put the package on the table, pushed it across. "At least try this with your wine. Mother will slay me if I don't tell her how you liked it this time."

"Your mother is… motherly." He shook his head angrily, but reached out and took the cake anyway. "I have no idea why she sent this, but…tell her I… thank you." He flashed a weak smile. "I suppose it will go well with this." He lifted the bottle. "The last bottle of Aggregio."

I breathed a bit easier, watching him fumble with the package. I could smell the cinnamon and oranges through the cloth and the waxed paper Mother wrapped the thing in; it was like a piece of sunshine and summer in this bleak and smelly hole of a room.

"Any special occasion?" I figured out the rules early on. When you were with Fenris, it was best to keep it light. Don't show pity, don't show weakness, but don't be rude or obnoxious either. Be alert, be on your toes, try to make him laugh and show that there's such thing as life, even with those broken wings of his.

Even if doing that makes you bleed inside, watching him. Even if you know perfectly well what you really want to do, instead of sitting here trading witty banter and making sure you never, ever make eye contact for more than a second.

At least I didn't try to deny it anymore. Pure progress, me.

Bethany surely would have said I was going batty. She said the exact same thing when she figured out I was seeing Bryant, back in Lothering.

But my fierce little sister was gone, with her upturned nose and curly locks and ability to shoot fireballs out of her hands and completely drive me to screaming fits with her stubbornness… She was with the Grey Wardens, and there was a very good chance I'd never see her again.

I sure could have used a good smack on the head from her now.

"The anniversary of my escape." Fenris stared at the cake for a second, as if not quite sure where if came from, then shook himself, tore off a piece and offered me the bottle, muttering a toast in slurred Arcanum. "Astia valla femundis. Care to hear the story?" His voice broke a bit in the middle as he blinked at me from underneath the curtain of his white hair.

"Sure. " I took the wine and sipped, trying to imitate Isabela's throaty voice. From the earliest times we've known each other, this always worked. "I like listening to you talk."

"That was good." he said appreciatively and I felt my cheeks heating up from the way he looked at me. His voice deepened. "There are few pleasures more… enjoyable that exchanging words with a beautiful woman."

Yeah, this always worked. Except when it didn't, dammit. Granted, I've never tried mock-flirting when he was this drunk. I couldn't decide if I wanted to just get out of there fast, or go ahead and respond to him in kind.

Andraste's Mercy, I had no idea this was going to be this hard.

So, as usual when it came to my personal life, I chickened out and went for the route I always did way back when I was running with the Red Irons and had no inclination whatsoever to take that shit from any of them.

"Keep that up, I'll smack you. Beautiful, my ass." I took another swig of the wine and handed it back to him, very careful that our fingers didn't touch. That was another thing you had to watch out with him: no touching. He tried to hide it, but I saw the pain clouding his eyes even when someone just accidentally brushed up against him on a crowded street. "You're just flattering me because you want more of Mother's cake, is all. " I leaned back in that awful chair that threatened to swallow me every time I sat in it, and swung my legs up on the table. Might as well complete the image here. "You said something about a story? About how you escaped?"

"It was in Seheron." His fingers toyed with an uneaten piece of cake, restlessly. He probably would have paced, too, except I honestly don't think he could stand up. "Danarius was there helping with the war effort. Latest chapter in the Qunari conflict and all. Naturally, I had to be there as well… bodyguard, prize and 'the greatest living weapon Minrathous has created in a century'. " He grimaced. "I've heard it enough during fancy dinner parties as a compliment to Danarius that I can probably recite that in my dreams." He drank again. "The war effort went wrong… there was a surprise counterattack and we had to flee. I managed to get him on a ship in the harbor; him and precious else. The captain of the ship didn't give a fig about the greatest living weapon lying there bleeding on the docks; he cast off so fast Danarius didn't even have a chance to realize what was happening until they were out beyond the chains of the harbor."

"Oops." I snickered. "I bet that didn't sit well with him."

"He had no choice…" Fenris shrugged. "At the end, he figured he could always come back for me, and if I didn't survive on my own, well…"

"Then you weren't worthy, after all." I made a face. "You told me enough of your former master by now to really appreciate Tevinter society."

"And he could have still, at least, reclaimed my body for the value of lyrium." He nodded. "Precisely." He squinted up at me as he rested his chin in his palm. "Where did you learn to be so cynical at this young age, anyway?'
"Forgetting the people I hang out with?" I grinned. "Well-versed in the wicked, wicked ways of men and other creatures, that's me. I'm in the Chantry with a laundry list's worth of sins every week."

"And yet…" he murmured, but didn't finish. Instead, he tilted the bottle back again, and passed it to me when he was done. "Almost empty…where was I?"

"You bleeding on the docks; Danarius on the ship, shaking his fist at the captain." I said. "Obviously, you survived."

"There are rebels in the jungles of Seheron who bow not to the Qun." He watched as I took a sip of the wine while he spoke. "They are called Fog Warriors. They found me and took me in, nursed me back to health. I was with them for months… until Danarius finally found me."

"No doubt rejoicing that his precious investment was rescued intact." I nodded; proving, yet again, that despite my claims I didn't quite yet grasp the full darkness of Tevinter.

"They refused to let him take me. He ordered me to kill them." Fenris said flatly. His green eyes were still on me, watching my reaction, unflinching, unwavering, but his voice… ah, his voice broke just a little bit. "And I did."

"What?" My hands felt numb all of a sudden; the bottle slipped and almost fell to the floor. I fumbled for it with icy fingers, scrambling to swing my legs off the table. "Why?"

"He was my master." he said dully. I felt nauseous as the full impact of those few words hit me. "It felt…inevitable. After all those months of freedom… He returned and this…" He gestured with one hand, almost helplessly. "This…fantasy life was over. I did it. I killed them all." There was that little break in his voice again, the one that I've never heard before. "Afterwards…I stood there, over their lifeless bodies, looking at my master who sat there slumped against the wall, injured in the fight earlier, barely conscious but laughing at me, knowing the power he still held over my head…I couldn't…I ran."

"Maker, Fenris." I whispered. Whatever I expected when I set out that night, this wasn't it. The words bubbled out of my mouth and fell, ugly and croaking and insufficient. "That's… monstrous. I'm…I'm sorry." I was a soldier at Ostagar, and I thought I've seen all manners of things there, and since I arrived in Kirkwall years ago, but this…I felt my hand creeping towards my mouth unconsciously, to keep a new wave of bile at bay.

"You've never been a slave." The bitterness in his voice threatened to overwhelm me even more. I felt my shoulders bending under that unbearable weight I could never fully comprehend. "You have no idea of the hold a Tevinter magister has over one such as me. You don't dream of freedom, you don't dream of escape. You just exist to please your master and to get through another hour, another day. Those months with the Fog Warriors…They allowed me a glimpse of another life, another existence, but… once Danarius was back, it all seemed like a dream."

"But… you escaped?" I clung to that like to a last ray of sunshine. "You managed, at the end. Was it because Danarius was injured?"

"He almost died there." Fenris nodded, staring at the scuffed wood of the table in front of him now. "He lost most of his followers, mercenaries he hired to track me down. The fight prior to locating me was…fierce. I fled, and he lost my trail in the jungle. Eventually I made it back to Seheron and further, to a ship, and… here to Kirkwall." He lifted his head and looked at me again. "And I met you."

"In an alley, thoroughly pissed about being stiffed by Anso." I chuckled, desperately tried to ease the tension in the room. I didn't say anything even remotely funny for quite a while: I felt like I was drowning. "I know I wasn't very nice to you that night, although I really think I apologized enough for it already."

"You're right, you weren't." He shook his head, suddenly slumping as if all the strength went out of his limbs. The wine probably didn't help either. "But I wasn't, either. I…" He halted, searching for words. "You know, I never told this to anyone before. I never had reason to trust anyone."

"Andraste, Fenris, who'd you trust if not your friends?" It was out of me before I could even think about it, but dammit, he looked so…vulnerable and fragile and alone right there, in some ways I've never considered before. I just couldn't help myself. My hand flew across the table to grasp his… and I realized too late what I was doing.

"Shit, I'm sorry…"I muttered and wanted to pull my hand back immediately.

His markings.

I am such an idiot.

"Don't." His voice broke again, and I've felt his fingers close around mine. "Please."

My mother's cake was right there, between us, scenting the air with cinnamon and orange… and the wine in my veins danced and whispered things, sweet, hopeful, terrible things in my ear that I never really wanted to hear before.

"But I'm hurting you…" The bottle clung to the table as my other hand fumbled around, scraping for a hold.

"Hawke." That's all he said; that's all it took for me to freeze, as if hit by a spell, watching him lean across the table towards me, still clinging to my hand as if it was some kind of lifeline holding him afloat on the sea of his terrible past. From somewhere deep inside me, I heard the echoes of slightly panicked laughter and I clamped down, hard.

"You'd never hurt me." He breathed into the distance between us. "You're the only person who never has… Even when you were yelling at me." I saw him sway slightly and his mouth quirked upwards in a crooked grin. "Especially when you were yelling at me." he continued, still holding my hand, face so close I could see the little wrinkles in the corner of his eyes. "And I've never met a woman like you. Probably never will. Also, I'll probably never will get this drunk again, so…" He bent his head. "Forgive me."

His lips were warm and his breath smelled of wine and cinnamon. The kiss was light and yet if felt as if everything concentrated into those two points we touched. I had longed for this, Maker, I had dreamed about this for weeks now: the pressure of his mouth on mine, my fingers playing along the knuckles of his hand…

A sigh escaped me as he abruptly broke away-I stared at him with stars dancing in front of my eyes. It felt as if I just had been hit between my brows with a war hammer the size of a Qunari.

"You have to go." he said roughly. His tattoos were glowing; that eerie blue light was dancing around his entire body. He threw himself back in his chair, covering his face with one hand, the other, clenched into a fist, still on the table.

"Fenris…" I took a deep breath. "I…"

"Go!" His voice cracked like a frayed whip, like the sound of his fist on the table, lashing across the room at the same time as the lyrium lines etched into his body flared up so strongly I had to throw up a hand to shield my eyes.

I went. Predictably enough, the only thing that went through my numb mind as I sped down the stairs and slammed the heavy oak door behind me was this:

Well, that trip tomorrow will be interesting…

I so didn't have any idea just how much.