A/N: My take on the rivalry romance between mage Garrett Hawke and Fenris. Also Fenris/Hadriana, Hawke/Isabela, Hawke/Zevran, and non-con — mild, to my sensibilities, but, ymmv. Rated M for a reason, with quite a few smutty bits, though this didn't end up revolving around smut as much as I'd planned. The story is based on a kink that is revealed in Chapter 3, and deviates from canon in details but not enough to be called AU.
My Hawke is the default one with a hairy mod.
During the early chapters, I had a very vague idea where I was taking the story. Be warned that the fic turns more angsty, later on. Also, I only found myself a beta starting from Chapter 21.
He woke up in the dark to the memory of his own screams.
A single candle burned in a holder next to the narrow cot. In its flickering glow he could make out the worn white linen sheet that covered him, the stone walls of the cell looming all too close. A heavy wooden door was the only way out, save for a tiny window far above, too small for even a child to pass through.
The few times he remembered waking before, the agony had made him thrash and cry until, mercifully, he'd passed out. This time the pain was finally almost bearable. It still coursed through him, but no longer in a chaotic and uncontrolled manner. It moved in patterns, instead, spiraling from his chest in long curls across his flesh, all the way to his hands and feet, to his head, between his legs.
Grimacing with the effort, the pushed himself up to lean on one elbow.
The sheet over him was stained with brown lines and dots of old blood that were clinging to his skin. Removing it was not a pleasant experience.
Under the cover, he was completely naked, and the alien markings in his flesh were still oozing blood. They pulsed in pure white under his golden skin, glowing faintly with every heart beat. It did not feel unlike the flow of blood, what throbbed in them, if only he'd had molten lyrium coursing through his veins.
He raised his left hand. Even there, in his palm, stark white lines carved their way into each long, slender finger. He turned his hand and saw that his nails had turned an ugly black color. A few of them were already falling off.
Something soft tickled the side of his face. Surprised, he made to brush it away, only to see a length of jet black hair fall to the hard mattress beside him.
He sat up, startling himself by how fast he could move. Gingerly, he touched his head. The merest contact was enough to part the hair from his scalp. Like a caress it fell down his back and chest. Thick, black, glossy hair, lovingly tended to by someone and now severed from him like, like...
A memory fluttered against his mind... was gone.
Even in his scalp, the elaborate white veins throbbed. His own fingers were like a branding iron against them. His whole body felt burned, more a charred thing than something living; yet to his eyes it seemed whole and unharmed, and whispered with something... something fearsome and unnatural that strained within his aching skin.
He realized he had no recollection of how he'd come to be in this room. All he could remember was pain. And before the pain... white. The pure, cold and unforgiving color of nothingness.
He swallowed down the bile that was rising in his throat.
Muffled sounds of footsteps made him look up, tense with a feeling of threat. His heartbeat quickened. With it, the pain grew worse.
A voice came from behind the door. A key turned in the lock.
A man stepped inside, a torch in his hand that threw everything in the cell into harsh, red-gold relief. He was a tall human in black and silver robes, thin and straight of back, with a gaunt, bearded face. The man took in the sight of him sitting on the edge of the bed, and smiled in surprised delight.
"Ah, wonderful. And how are we this fine evening, my pet?"
Without quite knowing how it happened, the elf was on his feet and reaching for the man's throat. For a second he could see his own skin glow a pale demonic blue, and it terrified him even more than the human standing in front of him.
The next moment he was on the floor, gasping with the all too natural pain of being slammed into a force field.
"So feisty! And you used to be such a good-mannered boy." The man smiled, and that gentle smile crippled his will with an unknown fear. "I am pleased to see that you have recovered. I am Danarius, your master. You must rest and eat. You need to regain your strength for your training. And do not worry about your hair — it will grow back. You will be just as pretty as you always were, my little pet."
The man turned to go. "See to it that he's ready tomorrow, Hadriana," he said to someone behind him, and left.
A boy in a servant's dark red livery stepped inside, knelt to place a tray of food and a large pitcher beside the door. In the doorway, a slender, dark human woman stood listening to the receding footsteps, then looked down at the naked elf who slowly struggled himself back to a sitting position. She did not try to mask the contempt in her striking blue eyes, nor did she spare a glance at the servant who bowed to her and went away.
"So you didn't die after all." Her voice was as frigid as her eyes. Not knowing why, he almost preferred that to the male visitor's false kindness; he had no idea who she was, but at least she did not pretend.
"Where... where am I?" the elf growled, his own deep, gravelly voice unfamiliar in his ears. "Who are you?"
The blue eyes narrowed. "You really can't remember, can you?" She stepped to him, pushed at his chest with one silk-slippered foot. Shamefully it was enough to send him back to the floor, where he sprawled beneath her weight, every breath like fire in his lungs. For a while she just stared at him, as if probing into his mind for something — and for all he knew, she did. His heart raced and the pain in his markings grew worse, until he groaned and tears streamed from his eyes with the white-hot agony.
"I see. How inconvenient. Years of conditioning... all wasted." Her painted mouth curled into an almost regretful smile. The blue eyes examined his body, lingering at certain areas a little longer than others. Then she removed her foot from his chest. Immediately, the pain receded back to a dull, throbbing ache. "Well, at least you still have all your parts intact. Perhaps I can draw some amusement from this new state of things. Until then... Enjoy your meal, worm."
She waved a hand toward the candle, smothering the small flame that was the only source of light in the cell. With a cold laugh she stepped away and slammed the door shut behind her.
The lock clicked, the sounds from the corridor faded, and the elf was alone again, this time in a true dark where only his half-healed markings glowed dimly into the black void.
Slowly, grimacing with the pain of it, he rolled onto his side. And unable to stop himself he cried, shedding tears of anger and shame at the white poison that was embedded in his skin, and at the raw emptiness where his memories should have been.
o o o
As mages went, Garrett Hawke had always considered himself an exceptionally boring one.
Not that he lacked skill or talent. Or had many other casters to compare himself with, until he arrived at Kirkwall. But where Bethany had always complained of constant nightmares, haunted by spirits who tried to seduce her from the straight and narrow, Hawke slept like a baby, and the only type of spirit that regularly bothered him was the kind that came in a bottle. In the rare case that some inhabitant of the Fade tried to approach him in his sleep, he mostly did not understand a word they said. He usually resorted to making faces and flinging tired jokes at them until, confused or bored — or both — they went away.
Carver liked to warn that his brother just hadn't been found by a strong enough demon. But Hawke tended to put that in the same basket as his mother's opinion that his fondness for loose women and gambling would one day be cured by the Right Girl.
Whatever the truth, Hawke had always thought it was not as much willpower as sheer lack of affinity that had saved him from the temptation of blood magic. Perhaps for that same reason he sometimes underrated the danger of being an apostate in a city that was known for its merciless templars, and often took too few precautions before he revealed his abilities to strangers.
Even so, it was a bit much that he was now being confronted about his gifts by an elf who had some sort of fancy magical tattoos branded all over his skin, and occasionally turned into a ghost who killed people by passing his hand through them.
"Excuse me. I think I have something in my ear," Hawke said slowly. "I could swear I heard you say something nasty about me and my fondness for fireballs."
The tall, slender elf crossed his arms and stared at him from the shadows across the nighttime street. Beneath the spider-silk hair, his face was impossible to see. Even so, Hawke noticed the man's eyes glint as they narrowed in suspicion. He also noticed that the elf had not attached the strap that would have secured his beautiful two-handed blade to its scabbard.
"I saw you casting spells inside." The man's strange, deep voice reverberated with a faint accent that Hawke now recognized as Tevinter. "I should have realized sooner what you really were."
"And pray tell me, what is that?"
"A mage." Hawke had rarely heard the word being said with more resentment. "A mage, and worse — an apostate, a mage that imagines himself capable of being free. Tell me then. What manner of mage are you? What do you seek?"
Hawke placed his right hand on his hip and leaned on his iron-bound maple staff. He was a tall man, heavily built, and already had something of a reputation in the undercity as someone not to be messed with. But this strange elf — Fenris, was it? — did not seem particularly impressed.
"Fame and fortune," Hawke answered. "Same as everyone."
The joke was completely wasted on the elf. Hawke might as well have said he liked to eat babies for breakfast. With puppy dogs for a side dish.
"You're the one to judge," Hawke heard Isabela butt in from his side. The rogue stepped into view, striking a pose that somehow managed to convey both sarcasm and an open invitation to admire her amazing cleavage — and the wicked daggers at her curving hips. "Mr. Magical fisting trick."
"These powers were not given to me by choice. Beyond that, what I am is none of your concern."
Varric appeared out of the shadow from Hawke's other side, one hand resting on Bianca's shapely butt. "If you have a problem with Hawke, you have a problem with all of us."
For a moment the four of them just stared at each other across the deserted Hightown street. Hawke could not help but wonder how ridiculous it would be to fight this Fenris fellow now, after all the trouble they had gone through — first Anso's false lead and the bounty hunters, then thrashing the old manor in search of a Tevinter magister whose death in Kirkwall would undoubtedly have caused a diplomatic fiasco.
But if he really thought so, why had he agreed to help the elf in the first place? At this point, he did not really expect to get paid. There had been little in the house worth taking.
Surely he wasn't doing it just for a pair of lovely green eyes?
Incidentally, it was that very pair of eyes that looked aside first. It seemed that the elf had reached some sort of a conclusion, and apparently it did not involve ridding Thedas of a certain filthy apostate right now.
"You are powerful, I give you that," the elf said.
"You're not half bad with that sword, yourself."
Varric released his crossbow and pushed his thumbs under his belt. "Sounds to me like the start of a beautiful friendship."
"Yes... about that." The elf cleared his throat. Whatever he was going to say next, it sounded like he had to force the words out. "I imagine I must appear ungrateful. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet... I cannot pay you. What little I had, I gave to Anso. I'm afraid I will need to offer you my services, instead."
That gave Hawke reason to pause. An escaped slave with a sense of honor? I'll be damned."You, working for me? You didn't seem all that thrilled with me a moment ago."
Fenris shrugged. "I said my piece. Take it or leave it."
"I don't know," Isabela said. "I can think of a few ways to use his... services."
If the words had any sort of an effect on the elf, it was impossible to say, for he was still standing in the shadows.
Hawke stroked his beard, puzzled by the strange turn of discussion. "If I accept... against my better judgment I might add... are we going to be hassled by these bounty hunters at every turn? Seems like a complication that will have to be taken into account if we strike any sort of a deal. Which reminds me — capturing you seems like a costly venture. Your old master must want something more than just a runaway slave."
A silence, then — perhaps the elf was considering how far to trust him. Then he relaxed his arms to his sides and stepped forward. Moonlight fell on his white hair and dusky skin, and as he looked at Hawke again, the mage felt his breath catch, just like it had when he'd first seen the elf in the alienage.
Many elves could be called attractive in their strange way, but this one had good looks that transcended race or gender. He was not only taller and darker of skin than Southern elves; he was also broader of shoulder and his features were stronger, more striking than delicate or beautiful. He would have appeared exotic even without his tattoos or the unusual color of his hair. The way he moved reminded Hawke of a lone wolf who would bite off a stranger's hand if he came too close. And the way Hawke had seem him fight, he seemed more than capable of doing it. It was nothing short of... intriguing.
"I suppose there's no harm in telling, considering how much you already know. My former master doesn't want me at all, just the markings on my skin. They are lyrium, burned into my flesh to provide the power that Danarius required of his pet. And now he wishes his precious investment returned, even if he must rip it from my corpse."
"Seems like a waste of a perfectly handsome elf."
I am! I am doing it for a pair of green eyes. Blight it, Garrett Hawke, you're an idiot.
The elf coughed. "Ah... well. The truth is... I know nothing of the ritual that placed these markings on me. It was Danarius's choice, one he now regrets."
"Without doubt," Hawke said, recalling the carnage the elf had left in his wake in the alienage where the Imperial bounty hunters had, earlier that night, set their trap. No wonder this Danarius fellow was a bit cross over losing such an instrument — or perhaps wished he hadn't made it quite so powerful. "Well, what the hell. I am planning a Deep Roads expedition I might need help with. You can swing a sword and seem to have contacts I could use. And it's not like my companions don't already carry so much baggage that a little more would make any difference. By the way it keeps piling up, we're going to need a wagon for each of us when we set out for the Deep Roads."
The elf nodded. "Fair enough. If you need me, you will find me here. If Danarius wishes his mansion back, he's free to return and claim it."
Hawke glanced at the decrepit manor looming above them. The elf was going to stay here? Aveline and the city authorities would probably have something to say about that. But as to Hawke — well, as a smuggler and a hired sword who certainly wasn't above breaking into a house now or then to complete a job, it was none of his business.
He frowned at a different matter entirely. "There's something you should probably know. I am not the only mage you will encounter if you work for me. And I will not tolerate any hostility toward people I consider my friends."
A look of distaste ghosted over the elf's well-proportioned features. Then he looked away and shrugged.
"Ah. Well." He turned back and stepped out of the light, into the shadow of his master's dilapidating abode. "I am working for you, not them. And you are not Danarius. Whether you are anything like him... remains to be seen."
o o o
Later that night at the Hanged Man, Hawke and his companions were sitting around their usual table, sipping ale, eating and idly gossiping while Isabela shuffled a pack of cards for another uninspired round of Wicked Grace.
It had lately ceased being difficult for them to find free seats in the Lowtown establishment. Actually, when Hawke arrived, a table in the back of the bar tended to suddenly become available. It was a definite change from the first time Hawke had set his foot in the place, when the regulars had almost thrown him out for being a Fereldan, until they learned he worked for Athenril.
Now he and his companions were even sometimes served ale that tasted like it wasn't just rat's piss mixed with nug droppings.
"Did any of you notice the armor?" Varric said.
Merrill raised her head from the dirty old bit of metal she had been cleaning. Hawke had no idea what it was or where she'd got it from; then again, he had no idea where she got any of the junk that was quickly turning her home into a magpie's nest. "Who are you talking about, Varric? That elf you mentioned earlier? Oh, it is so exciting! I've never met a Tevinter elf. Tell me about him. Is he anything like the Dalish?"
"Oh yes," Anders joined in with false enthusiasm. "Please tell us about the crazy mage-hater you decided to recruit. I mean, obviously there was no reasonable way to approach the situation, such as... dunno, knocking him unconscious and earning some money by delivering the nutcase back where he belongs?"
"My brother and reason?" Carver shook his head. "Sorry, the sentence doesn't parse."
Varric ignored the other men. "Well, he has pointy ears and pretty eyes, Daisy," he said to Merrill. "Otherwise... He's nothing like you. I don't know what they feed the elves up there, but it must be goddamn hard to pass, otherwise I can't explain why he seemed so sodding cranky. Anyway. The armor? With the iron feathers and all?"
"Inoticed." Isabela had a twinkle in her eye, one Hawke already knew all too well. "I tend to pay attention when someone goes around in black leather and metal that fits like a glove. Well, at least when the specimen inside is so... pleasant. That magister who owned him might have been a complete asshole, but at least he had an excellent taste."
Varric sighed. "You bunch of hopeless apes. What I mean is, that armor was far too fancy for a runaway slave who couldn't even scrape together a few silver to pay us. This Danarius must have had it made for him. What does it say that, after all this time, the elf still wears it?"
"That he has a sense of style?" Isabela offered.
"Har har." Varric wagged a thick, callused finger. "My instincts never lie. Well, maybe that one time that involved Orlesian cheese and a chamber pot, but I digress. I know a good tale when I see one. The man has a past, one that has left him not quite right in the head. He's also good at what he does, and what he does is not pretty. Stuff like that tends to make for a great story. I hope you intend to take him up on his offer?" he concluded, directing the last words at Hawke who, until now, had remained silent.
Hawke toyed with the dwindling pile of coppers in front of him. "Maybe."
"Maybe?" Isabela threw a piece of bread at the mage from across the table. "Of course you will, you dog! 'Seems like a waste of a perfectly handsome elf.' Ugh, no wonder he almost coughed up his supper. And I didn't even know you swing that way! I thought you only go for buxom wenches with swaying hips and a sultry smile. Or what did you say the other day? About liking your 'marks hard and your tricks easy'?"
Hawke remembered his clumsy flirting all too well. What had possessed him to say such a darnedest thing to a man who obviously found him more or less as fetching as a dead sewer rat?
"I live to surprise you, my dear." And apparently, myself."I know how you like surprises."
"The kind that involve two handsome men with their hands all over each other? Yes, please."
Carver looked like he was going to be sick. "Hey. Mental images here. Please."
"Oh, poor baby." Isabela grinned at the younger Hawke, then returned her attention to the elder one. "But could it be that you just can't resist a challenge? Poor fellow, he looked like he expected you to curse him on the spot."
"As you probably should have," Anders muttered.
Hawke knew he should have agreed. He recalled the look the elf — Fenris— had given him after he'd scorched the shades that had been waiting for them in Danarius's mansion. That same spell had seemed to burn away all beginnings of an acceptance he'd had for Hawke's company.
Please, help me do this,the elf had pleaded earlier, when they'd first met, all hope and urgency and compelling looks. And Hawke's stupid heart had skipped a beat (or maybe the reaction had been situated a bit lower than that) and against his better judgment he'd done what this gorgeous, alien creature asked. And then everything had turned to shit. For a moment in the manor, he'd been sure the elf would join the shades against them. After they'd found out that the magister was no longer around, Fenris had said something about needing fresh air, and Hawke had been sure he'd never see the elf again. But when they'd left the dusty old place, there he'd been, waiting in the shadows. And asked if everything Hawke had said had been a lie.
"More like he was contemplating whether to skewer me now or save the pleasure for later."
"Oh! That doesn't sound very friendly." Merrill frowned. "Rather makes me wonder what he'll do to me. He might decide to spare you and skewer me instead, you know. I'm smaller and... easier to skewer."
"I don't know, Hawke." Varric rubbed his beardless chin and threw a thoughtful look at his Fereldan companion. "Free or not... well, for someone who is fighting to escape an evil magocracy, he seemed oddly willing to serve the first capable mage that crossed his path."
"I'm sure there must be more to it than that," Hawke said, but Isabela had already started dealing, and to avoid any more inquiry into his motives the mage pretended to concentrate solely on his cards.