So, it's here. I can't really believe this is the final chapter after more than five years. I can't thank you all enough for reading and supporting this story, no matter how long you've been following it. I wrote this over several months - the start of this was originally part of chapter 26 until it got too long and unwieldy. The last part I only wrote tonight. I sincerely hope this chapter has been worth the wait. It surprised me as I was writing it, with the events that unfolded, but ultimately I'm happy with the way things played out. I've enjoyed writing this Hawke and Fenris so much over the years, though I think it's high time they got a break - they certainly deserve it!
I have started posting my fanfiction on Tumblr, I'll put my link on my profile. TGoY is going up chapter by chapter on Tuesdays, with minor grammar and punctuation fixes, along with tweaks like changing 'Gods' to 'Maker' and 'Arcanum' to 'Tevene' when more accurate info came out. I'll probably update the FF version as well at some point.
I'm sorry for making you all wait for so long, but I hope this has been worth it. So for the last time, enjoy, and thank you all so much for reading.
Then came the outburst, the rage. Meredith shot to her feet, towering above the table, fists clenched. Behind her, Hawke saw Fenris warily rise to his feet, ready to intercede. 'How dare you. After everything I have done for this city, after my years of devotion, and you would have me step down?'
'After your years of abuse and allowing corruption into the heart of the Templar Order you command? Yes, I would. And you will.' Hawke turned blandly from Meredith to Orsino, who had sagged back in his seat as though his spine had been removed. 'As will you, First-Enchanter. Meredith is not the only one at fault here. I know you both started out with the best of intentions,' she said, voice only slowly becoming heard over Meredith's snarling as the Commander petered out. 'I know you stepped up to protect the mages already suffering in the Gallows, Orsino. And I know you did the same thing for your men after Threnhold's betrayal, Meredith.' She had them both again, staring at her in mute shock or fury. She took advantage of their silence, ploughing on. 'But you have both lost sight of those intentions. All I have seen you two do is escalate this war between yourselves, and it's getting your people killed. The people you once chose to defend are now being sacrificed to soothe your own egos, and you both have the gall to say you are still doing it in their name.'
Orsino stared at her, something like guilt rising in his eyes.
That was until Meredith slammed her fist on the table, leaving gouges in the wood from her gauntlet. 'This is preposterous! This is an insult to everything I have worked for.'
Hawke paused, holding Meredith's gaze calmly - more than that. She was detached, the Knight-Commander's shouts washing over her as if she hadn't even heard them. She waited to be sure Meredith was finished, then pointedly rested a hand on the papers before her. They were an odd mix, different quality and age and size. 'These are all the letters I have received from the people of Kirkwall, from illiterate beggars I have helped who needed someone to write it for them,' she held up a grubby scrap of paper with charcoal letters on it, 'to various nobles across the city,' her other hand picked out a heavy piece of vellum, the ink smooth and rich, 'all of whom have asked me to help resolve this issue. The vast majority of them have also presented a solution to the viscount problem.' She eyed Meredith again with distaste, catching the ripple of movement as everyone glanced at the Knight-Commander. 'Though I certainly wouldn't enjoy it, they have asked if I would be willing to take the post. I suggested it once before, half-jesting. I mean it now. If it means getting this city back on its feet and keeping it safe, I will become viscount. And I will not do what Dumar did and let the Templars cow me into submission out of fear of being deposed.' She didn't raise her voice, didn't taint her words with anger or challenge. She simply stated facts.
Meredith looked around at Cullen, as if for support. The Knight-Captain had been silent thus far, listening with a heavy frown. Now he slowly turned to his Commander, not quite able to meet her eyes. With a wordless snarl of frustration, Meredith passed over him, looking to Elthina. 'Grand Cleric, you cannot possibly agree with this.'
Elthina sighed, lifting her head from her silent contemplation. The lines of her face seemed deeper than usual; her normally bright eyes dim and weary as she addressed the table. 'As it happens, I do not, Meredith. However the Champion is right in one point: things have to change.' The steel Hawke was used to crept back in those four words, and everyone around the table bar Isabela straightened up a little to hear it. 'Time and again I have tried to reason with you both, without success. If this is the only way to resolve this dispute, then so be it. If you have a better suggestion then please, child, tell me.' There was a note of hope, of pleading in the old woman's voice.
If Meredith heard it, she gave no sign, instead slowly straightening, away from the woman she'd seen as her last, best defence.
Orsino first broke the quiet. 'Knight-Commander-' he began, placating.
'No!' The force with which the word burst from her spurred Meredith back to life. She rounded on Hawke again, spine rigid, eyes fierce, almost glowing with fervour.
Hawke's eyes narrowed. Glowing – just for a moment, maybe even a trick of the light, but for an instant she could have sworn light, like she'd seen when Justice broke through Anders, glinting in Meredith's eyes. But not bright, lyrium blue – red.
'I do not care what you say, Champion, nor how many lackeys you gather to threaten me with,' Meredith spat, throwing a hand out to encompass the whole table – Cullen, Elthina, everyone. 'This is my city, and I shall not surrender it.'
Hawke sat quietly, her expression unchanging, until Meredith stopped. Then she nodded, tapping an idle fingernail on the tabletop in thought. 'Just think for a moment, Meredith. You may be the Knight-Commander, and Orsino the First Enchanter,' she said with a small nod to the elf before turning back to her target. 'But who do the people of Kirkwall turn to, to keep them safe? Me. Who solves their problems, no matter how small, while you snipe at each other in a courtyard? Me. Who is the only person in this whole fucking city that could unite everyone – human, elf or dwarf – in it? Me. The Champion of Kirkwall. I assure you both, if you challenge me in this, I can and will summon the support of the people and make you comply.' She paused in the dead silence, meeting each of their eyes. 'I do not want to resort to that. In the past I wouldn't. But I've stood by, doing nothing, for far too long. You see Meredith, this is my city as well, my home, these are my people, and I will defend them from anything, even you. I didn't want to believe that Kirkwall needed defending from itself before, but after seeing Minrathous, I know it does.'
'Are you implying we are as bad as the Tevinter-' Meredith started, stepping forward.
'I am saying you are negligent, which is almost as bad as outright malice,' Hawke said sharply. 'You've spent so long arguing with each other over your own personal issues, you've forgotten why you were fighting in the first place. You can't see past each other, and what you each represent in your own minds. You cannot lead or protect this city when you are so blind.'
Orsino could only hold her gaze for a moment before bowing his head and looking away. 'You shame me, Champion,' he said quietly, 'but you are right. I would prefer the chance to make amends, but it seems the time for that is passed.'
Hawke nodded sombrely, glancing up as Varric sidled back into the room and silently retook his seat. He and Aveline traded a loaded glance, before turning back to the proceedings. Hawke barely paused, keen not to draw attention to them. 'Thank you, First-Enchanter. I understand the Circles elect their own leader from among their senior enchanters. I will not interfere.'
Orsino gave her a grateful nod before sitting back in his seat, lines clearly visible around his eyes. Hawke turned back to Meredith and addressed her calmly, as though the woman wasn't still on her feet and looking ready to leave another dent in her table. 'As for the Templars, you already have a defined hierarchy. As such, Knight-Captain Cullen will become the new Knight-Commander of Kirkwall.'
Before Cullen could do more than jolt and stammer, Meredith had kicked back her chair, knocking it to the ground, and lunged around the corner of the table for Hawke.
Her hand stopped inches from Hawke's neck, and Hawke was only mildly surprised to see that no one had restrained her. Fenris was on her an instant later with Dumat sinking his teeth into Meredith's greaves, Cullen leaping from his seat to help drag his former Commander back, but during that instant of surprise and her advantage of close proximity it had been Bethany to stop her cold. Hawke glanced over to her sister with a grateful nod as Bethany lowered her hands, a rare fury flaring in her amber eyes.
'Meredith, enough!' Elthina shouted over the chaos of people surging to their feet and shouting. It did no good. Between them, Cullen, Fenris and Dumat wrestled Meredith back into her seat, pinning her there as she heaved, trying to throw them off.
Hawke waited until Meredith subsided, seething, her teeth bared in frustration and defiance as she glared. Hawke slowly shook her head at the look - the light - in the Commander's eyes. Clear, red light. 'Varric, look familiar to you?' she asked, barely turning her head, never losing eye contact with Meredith. She heard Varric' chair shift as he stepped around it, heard his boots on the floor as he walked up behind her chair to get a better look. Meredith's glower shifted briefly to him.
'Lyrium. Red lyrium. Shit, Commander, how long have you had that sword? Where did you even get a hold of it?'
Meredith regarded them with a snarl, refusing to answer even when Dumat growled and sank his teeth deeper, the metal starting to dent beneath his jaws.
'Meredith, child, please.' Elthina had walked around the table, and came to kneel directly in front of the Knight-Commander, beside the mabari. Fenris' arms tensed, expecting Meredith to try and lash out at the older woman with her free leg. Sebastian hovered by Elthina, ready to haul her out of the way. Elthina paid them no mind, instead gently resting her hand on Meredith's knee. 'I have always been there to guide you through the darkness to the light. Please, please trust me once more, and answer the questions.'
Meredith stared down at those grey eyes for a long moment, her shoulders slowly dropping. When she spoke, it was quietly - still with a note of anger, but she was in command of her senses again. 'Four or five years. I purchased an idol made of it from a half-mad dwarf, and had it reshaped into this blade.'
'Half-mad...?' Varric shook his head, dragging a hand down his face. 'Shit.'
Aveline placed a hand on his shoulder, squeezing. Varric half-heartedly patted it, ending up merely grasping it to hold it there.
Fenris glowered down at Meredith, fingers tense on her pauldrons, eyes narrowed in disbelief. 'Do you not know how dangerous this lyrium is? It is the reason that half-mad dwarf was insane in the first place.'
She turned to sneer at him over her shoulder. 'All lyrium is dangerous, but handled correctly its risks can be safely navigated-'
'Navigated my ass,' Varric snapped, head jerking up as he stepped away from Aveline. 'That dwarf was my brother, Bartrand. Even after he sold you that idol, it was driving him insane. When we found him, he was force-feeding his guards lyrium and hacking parts off his servants. Do you know where he is now? A sanitarium. And after that, it turned out he'd chipped off a part of the idol and hidden it in the mansion. Three years later, it's haunting the place and demons are popping up out of the ground like mushrooms. He only had that thing for two or three years, and look what it did to him. What's it done to you, Knight-Commander?'
Meredith's anger surged back, her teeth bared, shoulders bunching underneath Fenris and Cullen's hands. 'What it did to a weak-minded dwarf is no concern of mine. That sword is mine, mine to use as I see fit.' Her eyes bored into Hawke's as she strained against her captors, looking clean over Elthina's head. 'I have tolerated your influence on the people and your misplaced charity for the mages of this city for too long, Champion. You cannot keep me here for long; not all of my men are traitors and cowards. And once I am free I will use that sword to end your control over them for good.'
Dumat snarled, Fenris' tattoos flared, and beside him Cullen tensed torn between keeping his grasp on Meredith and restraining the elf.
Hawke lifted her hand; gaze moving from Meredith to find Fenris. His eyes were shadowed by his hair, darker than normal, and it was only grudgingly that he looked up from the target he was envisioning at the back of Meredith's skull. He held her stare for a long moment, consciously reining himself in. His tattoos remained alight, his right hand poised to faze through Meredith's head while his left kept a punishing grip on the woman's shoulder, bearing her down into her seat. His eyes said he thought showing compassion was foolish, but he nodded his head very slightly, trusting her no matter her choice.
'It's alright, Fenris. She can't hurt me. Can she, Varric?'
It was his turn to clap her on the shoulder as all eyes turned to him. He even managed an approximation of his old grin, though it didn't reach the lines around his eyes as he watched the fallen Knight-Commander. 'Oh, she could give it a go. But she won't be doing anything with that sword anymore,' he said with mock joviality.
Meredith went still - too still, as though all life had ceased except the flickering of her eyes between Varric , Hawke, then Aveline, putting the pieces together. Finally her lips parted for a hoarse whisper. 'What have you done with it?'
Varric smiled, holding his hands out innocently. 'Me? Not a thing. Didn't even go near it - made that mistake once, never again. Sandal, on the other hand, was delighted with his new crafting material. He made a clever little rune out of the shard we found in Bartrand's old estate. I wonder what he can do with a whole greatsword of the stuff?'
There was a heavy, silent second - the growing swell of pressure before the clap of thunder, the screaming warning bell you feel instead of hear because the shockwave has already deafened you - where Sebastian swept in to snag Elthina around the middle and physically lift her away, where Fenris, Cullen and Dumat braced, where Orsino and Bethany stepped forward hands raised, magic banding down against Meredith helping keep her down.
The scream was unnervingly like that of the profane in the Deep Roads - that dual-toned, dissonant blare of sound. Meredith was lit from within - not like Anders, not anymore - red light filled her eyes, crackled across her hair, her skin. Everyone tensed, power surging out from her seated form, Fenris and Cullen gritting their teeth and leaning into the force, eyes narrowed in a desperate bid to keep her contained. Dumat hunkered down against the ground, refusing to be moved. Bethany and Orsino shuddered, fighting to keep her in place as Meredith's legs strained, slowly pushing up against the combined pressure. The woman's head was tilted back, the scream still ripping from her, red lightning crackling across her armour. The battling magic and unnatural power clashed in the air around her, shaking all three in the storm.
Hawke was on her feet, waving Sebastian and Elthina out. Sebastian backed the Grand Cleric towards the door, keeping her firmly behind his armoured body until she was safely out of the room, Aveline guarding their exit.
When it came, it was too quick to process. Hawke was a few feet from Bethany and Orsino, Meredith between and in front of them. Fenris' teeth were clenched as his veins burned. He was trying to drive his hand into Meredith's skull, but though every muscle was bunched, the glowing, half-there claws on his gauntlet couldn't get any closer to the woman, though they were only scant centimetres away from her hood. He had lifted his eyes to Hawke's, as if looking for another reserve of strength, trying to find something to help him cross those last few inches and end this madness. Then his eyes shifted just beyond her shoulder, widened. He turned into the rushing air and muted booms of clashing magic, abandoning his attempt to kill Meredith in favour of seizing Cullen's arm in warning, locking eyes with Bethany and Orsino as Cullen looked up, froze, nodded.
Hawke, in that split-second, became aware of someone directly behind her.
Fenris bellowed over the cacophony. 'Now!'
He and Cullen released Meredith and dove for the floor. Dumat twisted his teeth free of the warped greave and scrabbled away under the table. Bethany and Orsino leapt aside, magic turning, twisting - shoving directly towards Meredith than down upon her shoulders. For a single moment the air was clear and dead in front of the corrupted Knight-Commander as she rose to her feet.
Silver flashed by in Hawke's peripheral vision, and a dagger hilt protruded from Meredith's bared throat.
Everything stopped. The magic ceased, the power emanating from Meredith cut out with barely a whisper. Meredith swayed on her feet for a moment, then tried to breathe and choked, blood welling up around the knife and spilling down her neck.
Hawke turned. Isabela - so quiet during the meeting, so unobtrusive and out of character - was standing behind Hawke, arm still out from the throw, eyes hard and focused.
Of course Isabela had been the one who hadn't disarmed completely.
She slowly straightened as Meredith crumpled, Cullen getting to his knees in time to catch her as she fell. He stared at her for a moment, at her wild, scared blue eyes. He held them; saw the realisation and the plea there. 'Get the Grand Cleric,' he said quietly, carefully shifting his grip on the dying woman so he could clasp her hand. She held it tight, fingers shaking.
Hawke stared at Isabela as Sebastian ducked out to find Elthina. The pirate was studying her handiwork with a closed expression, her jaw tight. After a long moment she realised Hawke was watching her. She almost glared; chin jutting, daring Hawke to judge her. The one to break it was Aveline, stepping up behind Isabela and putting her gauntleted hand on Isabela's shoulder. There was no accusation in her green eyes, no more than there had been in Hawke's, but it took that tiny contact for Isabela to nod and relax. She briefly patted Aveline's hand before pulling away as the Grand Cleric entered.
'Oh, child,' Elthina said softly, crossing to Meredith fearlessly to kneel at her side. The Templar found Elthina's eyes desperately, then relaxed when she merely rested her hand on the younger woman's brow and took her free hand in hers. Meredith tried to swallow, to speak, but her chest seized with another choke.
Her eyes shifted beyond Elthina and Cullen, hardening at the figure approaching as if in a daze.
Orsino paused for a moment, on the verge of retreating, but then knelt beside Elthina and held his hands out over the prone woman's body. 'This is all I can do, Commander,' he said, a soft, blue-white light swelling from his hands. Meredith frowned for a second, then blinked in open surprise, relaxing, the pain draining away even as blood continued to beat out over her and Cullen's armour. She couldn't nod without jarring the knife in her throat, but she held Orsino's eyes for a long moment before the elf nodded and stood, moving to sink into a chair out of sight. He passed a weary hand over his eyes, glancing up briefly when Bethany settled a hand on his back.
Elthina began to softly recite the Chant, speaking directly to Meredith as she smoothed her hair back from her face, using her sleeve to wipe away the blood around her mouth.
'The Light shall lead her safely
Through the paths of this world, and into the next.'
Hawke stood apart, watching in silence. A hand slid into hers and she interlocked her fingers with Fenris', the cool metal of his gauntlets giving way to the comforting heat of his palm.
'For she who trusts in the Maker, fire is her water.
As the moth sees light and goes toward flame,
She should see fire and go towards Light.'
Meredith's gaze was becoming fixed, the blood flow sluggish, a look of peace settling over her face.
'The Veil holds no uncertainty for her.'
Meredith Stannard's eyes closed, and her breath sighed out.
'And she will know no fear of death, for the Maker
Shall be her beacon and her shield, her foundation and her sword.'
Somewhere amongst the practicalities and arrangements and explanations that needed to be made, Hawke took refuge in the kitchen for just a moment. Just one minute to gather herself, to set everything straight.
Of course, he found her.
She curled in against his chest, arms wrapped around his back, fingers latching onto the straps of his armour, hanging onto them. 'It wasn't supposed to happen like this.'
His arm was a warm, strong support around her middle. His hand ran gently across her hair, pressing with his palm rather than his encased fingers. 'I know.'
The funeral was attended mostly by Templars and nobles. Hawke's band was an odd addition, given the strained relationship they had with the late Knight-Commander. Orsino did not attend out of respect, though his replacement did as a show of solidarity with Cullen, already looking tired in his new armour.
Elthina presided over the cremation. Many of the words said did not match the woman lying on the pyre. A younger her, perhaps. A woman remembered by the older members of Kirkwall, those who knew how she had started and had come to honour her. There was an unspoken agreement to not tarnish the proceedings with dragging Meredith's decline into the memorial. The day was for the Templar and leader who had inspired her men and saved her city.
That did not mean things would remain the same. Cullen, during his speech, vowed to uphold the spirit of the Templar Order, not merely the letter. He promised to bring in a new atmosphere of cooperation and trust alongside the new First Enchanter. 'Distrust nearly tore this city apart. I think it would be a disservice to Knight-Commander Meredith's memory to allow the city she loved to fall to infighting and fear. The road will not be easy. There is reason for suspicion on both sides. All I can ask is that we make a fresh start, and I promise to turn the Gallows into the place of education and learning it should be - and not the prison it once was. We are better than that.'
It was a pretty speech, but he meant every word. Belief and trust would only come with time, however, and Cullen showed his awareness when in the weeks following he arranged investigations into, and the expulsion from the Order, of several notable Templars whose names had come up far too many times in the scared whispers of the younger mages. He submitted gratefully to the investigation into the Kirkwall Order as a whole sanctioned by the Grand Cathedral, and ensured the recently expelled members were handed over to the Seekers that arrived to conduct the examination.
The coronation took place two weeks after the funeral. It was a grand affair - not Hawke's idea, but the city via Seneschal Brann had insisted. Hawke had kept her cool, calm mask in place for the length of the ceremony, but as soon as she stepped through the door at the end she had shrugged off the cloak and removed the crown. Corff had been delighted when the new viscount and her usual crowd showed up at the Hanged Man within a half-hour of the coronation ending.
Hawke had disappointed Seneschal Brann immensely when she made it clear she would not be changing her residence. She liked her own bed, thank you very much, and after the trouble she'd gone through to reclaim the Amell estate she wasn't about to let it go now. He'd changed his tune when Hawke said he could have the viscount's chambers if he wanted them.
Thankfully she was not often required to sit on the massive throne, preferring to spend the time in her office. Varric came on as an unofficial supervisor and sanity-preserver as she spent weeks locked up trying to heal the city from the many problems it had. Fenris frequently came into her office to find the crown hung on a coat rack, Hawke sat at her desk surrounded by papers, Varric with his feet up on the corner of the desk and plotting out a way to 'unofficially' fund Anders' clinic. Aveline was often in attendance, working with Hawke on targeting problem areas in the city and figuring out how to address the root of the problem rather than the symptoms. Both had to repeatedly block Varric's petitions to buy The Hanged Man.
For the first couple of months Hawke would stagger in from work late at night, exhausted and with bloodshot eyes. She and Fenris would eat the dinner put away for them by Orana - each time Hawke insisting he didn't have to wait up for her, while Fenris insisted he didn't mind with the same tone. They would head up to bed, both yawning, too tired to mind Dumat sprawling out over the foot of the bed. They would snatch a few hours of deep sleep, only for one or the other to jolt awake, sometimes with a scream or shout and a lack of recognition in their eyes.
That was the one thing neither of them offered to change. There were plenty of rooms in the Amell estate, they could have slept separately and not been disturbed by the other. Neither did. The middle of the night was when they could share all the fears that still plagued them, the frustration that they were still at the mercy of their memories. It was when they could hold onto each other, arm around shoulder or hand over heart, tracing veins and fingers resting over pulse points. It was when they could readjust, could reassure themselves that they were real, this was real. They were here in Kirkwall, safe, able to touch and hold and breathe freely. Each point of contact was a victory, a refusal to flinch away from touch in fear of pain or humiliation. It was their quiet, private campaign towards normality, when only they would see their failures and fears.
'This still doesn't feel real,' Hawke whispered one night, after an evening of celebrating First Day. Her head was resting on his right shoulder, his arm holding her against him and she was idly tracing one of the soft, yielding blood veins along his left bicep. His bare fingertip returned the favour, brushing careless patterns over the tunic covering her stomach. He could smell the cold sweat cooling on her skin from the night's terror, her stomach still jumping beneath his sketches from the force of her pulse as it slowed.
'I thought I'd get used to it in a few days, get it in my head that we're here. But it's been two months, and I still feel like this is some wonderful dream, and I'm going to go to sleep in it and wake up on the floor in that room.'
Fenris was quiet for a long moment, breathing with her, the wandering of his fingers slowing. 'The night before we were taken, I woke in the middle of the night. I had dreamed of the Fog Warriors, only instead of running... I stayed. I returned. I was on the ship; I could smell the seaweed on the air and the blood still on my hands. I could feel the chains, chafing,' he said quietly, leaving her stomach to briefly run his fingers over his opposite wrist, finding only the softness of Hawke's token. 'It took me several hours to convince myself I was awake - truly awake, and not trapped in some demon's game. Not every night was like that, by then. After nine years freedom usually felt more real, but there will always be the bad nights.'
Hawke tried to imagine that. To imagine being nine years down the line, and still plagued by nights like tonight. Nearly a decade of bad dreams and night terrors, with no definite end in sight. Reliving that, over and over, until she woke up or Fenris shook her awake.
'How do you stand it?' she asked softly, fingers curling up into loose fists on his chest. He shifted his free hand to hold one of them, to smooth her fingers out and interlace them with his own. 'How do you stand knowing how long it will take to get anywhere near normal again, to even start to recover?'
His fingers were slim but strong, steady where hers shook. His heartbeat was slow, calm beneath her ear.
'I stand it because to do anything else would be to let them win,' he said. 'I survived that viper's pit twice. I won't let anything they did drive me to do what they failed at. And neither will you.' His grip on her hand and waist tightened - and his hands shook then, if only with the pressure, if only for a second. 'You survived, Hawke. And you will continue to do so. You are stronger them.'
She tilted her head further against his chest, her wet lashes delivering a warm droplet to his skin - too small to even run down towards his sternum. She sniffed and took a tremulous breath. 'I know. I promise. I'm just scared that I'll never feel real or normal again.'
The muscles beneath her cheek shifted as Fenris gathered her up, holding her tighter and high enough against himself that he could bow his head and press a gentle kiss to the crown of her head. 'You will recover,' he whispered against her hair, a fervent promise. She felt his lips curve into a smile. 'Though I fear normal may be beyond the reach of the woman who killed a high dragon.'
That drew a sputtering laugh out of her, and she finally twisted so she could look up at him, some of the fear evaporating as effectively as seeing daylight. He still wore that little half-grin of his as he gently tucked her hair behind her ear and ran a thumb beneath her eye, dragging the skin dry.
He was so close, so relaxed. It was easy, in that moment, to lean up and kiss his smile. He fell into it, his only surprise a sharp breath in through his nose. His hand was already in her hair, moving to the back of her neck. They parted softly. Hawke bit her bottom lip - not regretting, never that, but... thinking. She could see the same hesitancy in his eyes, even as his thumb brushed against her lip to free it. It would be so simple for him to tilt her head towards him again, to taste her again and not stop.
But this wasn't the right time. They were both vulnerable and open from the wine that evening and the shock of her waking. Neither would forgive themselves if they allowed each other to get carried away now, only to regret it later.
Fenris was the one to break their stall. He sighed, fingers lying along her jaw as he pressed up to kiss her forehead. She closed her eyes, smiling, warmth bubbling up in her chest at the simple gesture.
'Try and get some sleep, Hawke. I'll be here in the morning.'
She smiled, reclaiming his chest as her pillow. 'I know.' Something else lingered on her tongue, demanding to be said. Something warm and delicate and giddy that made her heart hammer through the fear. His chest rose and fell in a deep, comfortable sigh.
She tucked it away. Now wasn't the time and besides, he'd be there in the morning. He'd be there every morning to come.