Dragon Age II

Waiting to Exhale

"I need somewhere I can work on my healing NOW!"

The door burst open, with Anders pushing through the heavy wooden panels, followed by Fenris, carrying the barely conscious Ageha Hawke. Varric, Aveline, Merrill, Sebastian and a guilty looking Isabela closely trailed behind.

Leandra nearly fainted upon seeing the sight when rushing down the stairs to investigate the commotion.

"Ageha!" she cried. " What happened? Was she caught in the fight with those Qunari outside? Maker, no, please don't take her, too! She's the only one I have left!"

"The Arishok," the Grey Warden replied simply: "Messere, if it's not too much trouble, can we use her room? I need somewhere to do the healing."

"Cer…certainly." The old woman nodded and quickly turned around, leading them up the stairs and toward her daughter's room.

Fenris lowered his gaze on Ageha resting in his arms. She was covered with so much blood. Her robe was battered, her agile form was limp, and there appeared to be cuts and bruises all over her body. Her brilliant blue eyes were now closed. It was unknown to those around her when they would they see them open again. She felt so small in his arms, so fragile, considered the amount of energy she wielded not very long ago, in the Viscount's Keep, in the hall full of nobles and Qunaris.

The duel had been fierce and long. The horned leader was aggressive and merciless against the female mage. The Fereldan did not hold anything back, either. Powerful spells flew out from the tip of her staff, some of them were so bright, and those who watched them couldn't even keep their eyes open.

She had never ceased to amaze him.

From the first time he saw her.


He could smell it before he emerged from the shadows and approached the steps. Sparks flew across the sky, spells hissing as the sound of weapons clanged against each other. There was an awful lot of yelping and roaring. If he was not mistaken, which he usually wasn't, he could have sworn he heard mabari barking down there, too.

Mabari, huh? A rare breed in the land of Free Marches.

"Oi! You there! What are you doing here?" The slave hunters at the top of the steps spotted him, and he turned his head to them, as they demanded, "Explain yourself!"

Danarius' dogs.

Were they aware of what they were hunting when they took the job? Did they know what he was capable of? Had they known who they were after, would they still have taken the job?He felt energy surged within him, screaming to fracture through the markings on his body. The elf snarled, and watched in satisfaction as the hunter's eyes widened with the mixture of shock and fear, as his hand went through the man's armor and tightened around his heart.

Someone at the bottom was barking orders. Sounds like the fight was settling.

"Cap…captain…." The slave hunter staggered and stumbled a couple of steps forward, before he finally collapsed in front of his stunned looking superior.

"Your men are dead, and your trap has failed," Fenris sneered as he strode down the remaining steps. " I suggest running back to your master while you can."

That was when he saw her.

Standing among the fallen hunters, she looked rather… otherworldly. Under the glowing moon, her silver hair glittered as though made of strands of moonlight. Her two longer tail-like hairs flew wildly in the wind. One of her eyebrows arched up slightly. Her piercing blue eyes looked straight into his, fearless and curious. He felt his inside shiver.

Was she an angel? She looked like a human to him.

"It was all my fault." Isabela's voice turned his attention back from his recollections: "She… she shouldn't do that. She doesn't have to defend me like that. Why didn't she simply hand me to the Arishok?"

"There is time for that later, Rivaini," Varric said as he patted her lower arm. "Now we will have to let Blondie do his thing, and hope for the best."

"Let me do something, anything!" Merrill begged. "I can brew potions; I have plenty of elfroot in my house! Please, Anders. I am a mage, too!"

"Humph…actually we might need that." Anders' hands were glowing in blue light. "If you don't mind, can you make…. Oh." He chuckled slightly, despite himself, as the petite elf was already bolting out of the door before he even finished his sentence. "Oh, well."

He turned around and placed his hands just inches above Ageha's body and began to work on his healing spells. The unconscious mage's body arched up reflexively as the shimmering energy surged through her body.

"Come one, Ageha. Bear with me, don't venture past the Fade," The Grey Warden Magemurmured.

Fenris watched as Anders continued to work on his healing, and wished for the first time in his life that he, too, wielded some magic. A hint of jealousy twisted within him. Ageha and the blonde mage had been close pretty much from the first time they met. More than once, he had spotted the petite mage heading toward the Grey Warden's Darktown clinic, arms laden with books and scrolls, sometimes pouches of elfroot and other herbs. They often fell to the back of the group, their heads close together, speaking in hushed tones. More than once, he saw Hawke's face as she laughed at some private joke Anders had shared. And he burned with longing, wishing that she had shared her bright, smiling laughter with him.

She insisted she and Anders were just friends.

What gave him the right to question her, anyway?

He was a runaway slave who was constantly chased by his former master.

"And I am a apostate who is constantly hunted by the templars."

She had responded once to his lament. And yet, she did not fear, nor run away. Nor did she question him about his time in the Tevinter Imperium.

Like all her friends around her, she took them the way they were and never thought twice about digging up their past. She never questioned about their beliefs, but fiercely guarded hers. The more he knew her, the more he was drawn to her. He was fully aware of the rule of survival: don't let anybody close. But he couldn't help it.

Nor did he want to.

More slave hunters came, along with Hadriana. She volunteered to accompany him to the Slaver's Den. They fought past the slavers and demons, finally reaching the wicked Tevinter apprentice. After watching the Tevinter mage draw her last breath, Fenris' anger still had not settled. The revelation about his sisterbounced inside his head like a cannon ball, and he lashed out at her. He immediately regretted it when he saw the sadness in her eyes. He had to leave, to get out, before he said something that caused more catastrophic damage….

He turned up at her estate later, tormented by guilt. He felt like he had to apologize, to explain, to say something, anything, to make the pain in her eyes go away.

"I was worried," she told him, her eyes has relief written all over: "I've been looking everywhere for you. I didn't know where you went."

He certainly did not expect that.

"Elf, perhaps we should wait outside, giving Blondie some space to do his healing." Varric's hand was on his shoulders.

It was when Fenris noticed he had been sitting at the edge of the bed, with his face buried between his hands for quite some time. He cast a side-glance at Anders, and noticed the Grey Wardenmage's hands still glowed with light, but his forehead was now covered with sweat, and his brow was in a deep knot.

"I am not going anywhere," replied the former Tevinter slave.

"Fenris…" Isabela attempted to persuade him.

"I will not leave." The elf's eyes paused on Ageha's small porcelain face, as still and white as wax.

No, he would not leave. Not this time.

"Was that really that bad?" Ageha's soft voice disturbed the quietness, and turned his attention away from the throbbing pain that had been haunting his head for the whole night.

"Arh…" He hesitated as he slowly turned around and greeted the pair of brilliant blue eyes and their beautiful owner, pondered what he could say to break this awkward moment. What had happened earlier that night washed back toward him with a force that was ten times stronger than his headache. On that bed, in this room, they passionately devoured each other, drained with all the things that one had taken from the other, and yet filled with all that the other had taken. He had wanted and yearned to do this for so long, he could hardly believe it was real.

"It was…fine," he said. Immediately, he wanted to slap himself. "No…no, it was more than fine. It was more that I could have ever dream."

Then he clumsily tried to explain to her about his memories, how they suddenly rushed back, how he was overwhelmed by them, and before he could react, those memories were gone again, leaving him feeling lost and utterly frustrated.

His words disappeared into the void when Hawke looked straight into his eyes, with the same sadness he had back in that cavern not very long ago.

"So you are going to end this?" asked Ageha.

It was like several bolts had shot through his heart. He suddenly was having trouble to breathe. He could not face her anymore. Staggering, he murmured something that was completely insane, and left the room like it was filled with Tevinter magisters. And through the whole time, he could feel Ageha's sad eyes on his back. Eyes filled with emotions and utter sadness, eyes glittering with unspilled tears….

Fenris stared at cracking fire by the bed idly. Anders had finished his healing less than an hour ago and was now having supper provided by Leandra Hawke with the others downstairs. Orana, who they managed to save during the pursuit of Hadriana, came in about ten minutes ago, quietly taking away Ageha's battered robe and placing a plate of cheese and salted meat and a bottle of red wine next to him.

He turned his head and his gaze fell upon the unmoving mage in bed. Ageha's wound was healed, but somehow she had not yet regained her consciousness. Anders was certain it was only the matter of time before she woke up, yet somehow the warrior did not feel convinced. What if the Grey Warden was wrong this time? What happened if she never woke up?

Fenris had never feared anything. Even when he was on the run, away from his former master Danarius. He always faced his enemy head on. Fear had never entered his mind, not even once.

But now, looking at the woman in bed, fear suddenly caught up and gripped his heart. The thought of living the remainder of his life without Ageha Hawke was just…unimaginable.

The elf approached the bed and knelt. He reached out his hand and touched the petite mage's forehead tentatively, feeling the coolness and softness of her skin. He snapped his eyes shut, trying to remember the last time his fingers brushed past them, how warm and smooth they felt.

No, she could not die. Not now. Not when he hadn't told her how he felt, that whatever he said that night didn't mean anything.

That he loved her.

"Why are you looking at me like that?" One day at the Hightown market, he finally asked Merrill, the Dalish elven companion she picked up after delivering Flemeth's amulet to the Sundermount. She's been looking at him rather smugly for some time.

Instead he got more giggles.

"Am I going to receive a proper answer by the end of the day?" He arched his eyebrow.

"You are in love." The small elf nudged him.

"I what?" His eyebrows nearly shot to the sky above. "I am not!"

"Oh, you do." Merrill laughed. "Everytime she looks away, you stare at Hawke with those sad puppy eyes."

Fenris' hand stopped at Ageha's hand and wrapped gently around it. It was quite small, much to the elf's surprise every time. How could something that small cast spells that were so devastating?

" What about you and Fenris?" Aveline looked at the mage curiously.

It was the only time he saw Ageha show any emotion in front of the others, about what happened between them. Her delicate porcelain face suddenly clouded. She looked over her shoulder and glanced toward him. For a moment, she seemed to unable to reply. The glance was full of questions, melancholy, and somehow submission. His heart was tightened and riddled with guilt.

"Perhaps…" She sighed heavily. "Perhaps we are not the best example…"

Weren't they?

Her hand rested unmoving in his, until one suddenly shook. Fenris looked up, just in time to see Ageha's eyes flutter and slowly open. For a while, she did not seem to recognize where she was, or what had happened to her. The mage frowned, slowly turned her head around, before noticing the elf's presence.

Fenris held his breath.

Warmth returned to her piercing blue eyes, and soon overflowed to other parts of her face. The corner of her mouth curled up. Suddenly, the former slave felt every part of his body relax, and his heart returned back to where it belonged, instead of in his throat.

"Ageha." He smiled, unaware that tears were welling up in his eyes and he was addressing her by her first name.

"Fenris." She sighed; her face broke into a devastating grin.