Disclaimer: This story has been written out of fan-appreciation, so please don't sue.

She stared into the embers of the campfire burning before her. She felt empty, especially thinking about what lay behind her.

The last couple of years she had cautiously avoided anything even remotely resembling introspection. She had drowned her sorrows at the bottom of a pint and hid them behind sarcastic remarks. Taking a lover to avoid the feeling of loneliness hadn't worked out as brilliantly as she had planned either. He had betrayed her in the end.

The reasons for his betrayal were unimportant right now. She highly doubted they mattered to the many corpses that littered the wake of their love affair. Why should those reasons continue to matter to her then? Talking about the many deaths their love affair had caused wasn't just a flowery figure of speech or her being overly dramatic. No. Hundreds of people had actually died. She would have loved to say that it was just his fault, but as a matter of fact she thought her own behaviour equally reproachable. If she had only made the effort to really see him for what he was, if she had only taken time to marvel at the broken shell of a man that he was, instead of just looking at the rather pleasant façade of good looks and gentle words, maybe none of this would have happened.

Then again, how well could you know a person? How well did she know herself?

She had been through a lot in the last couple of years. Lost her home, her sister, mother, brother, gone from rags to riches and back again… Hearing it all in her mind now, it just didn't sound right and ever so slightly surreal. Things like that didn't happen to normal people. But, oh, how could she forget? She wasn't a normal person. I was the Champion of Kirkwall. She let out a sarcastic snort and poked at the embers with the tip of her dagger.

The dog, which lay stretched out at her feet, let out a pitiful whimper. She scratched him behind the ears. Just the way he liked it.

"Figures that it's just the two of us in the end, Barnaby. I always thought animals to be more trustworthy than humans anyway…" The dog laid his head on her knee and looked up at her with huge black eyes. Only a truly heartless creature would have not been moved by the tender expression in the dog's eyes. She allowed herself a little smile. "And the Champion walked away into the wilderness, accompanied only by her faithful dog. Hope Varric included you in the tale."

A deep voice behind her let her reach for her daggers and jump to her feet. "Sorry, that's not how I told it." She took her time to take in the figure standing before her. Even though he was still engulfed in the shadows of the forest she could faintly make out the trademark smirk on his face. Apparently he hadn't changed a lot since she last saw him. How long ago was that exactly? Half a year? A month? Maybe two? It was difficult keeping track of time out here.

Varric stepped into the light of the campfire. "Take those things out of my face, Hawke." He motioned with his eyes at the daggers that she was still directing at him.

"Sorry," she said somewhat at a loss for words and did as he asked.

"You're getting sloppy and your dog too."

At the mere sight of her old companion said dog was practically doing flip-flops, jumping around and barking happily. As the grand finale Barnaby had apparently decided it was time to slobber all over Varric's face which made the dwarf smile while Marian was feeling rather nonplussed.

"Down, boy," she ordered, giving the Mabari a stern look. Barnaby looked at her with sad, big dog eyes, but did as he was told.

Varric had in the meantime sat down on the trunk near the campfire. Despite the unfamiliar surroundings, he looked almost irritatingly smug and sure of himself.

"Glad to see you too, Varric." Despite the sarcasm in her voice there was a genuine smile on her face which he reciprocated with one of his own.

She sat down next to him. Now would customarily have been the time she would have had to ask him why he had sought her out or maybe how he had managed to find her at all, but she preferred to postpone that for a little while. He was giving her strange sideway glances that told her he was thinking something along the same lines. For a short time the only sounds to be heard were the crackling of the fire and the lonely cry of a bird in the distance.

He cleared his throat. "Look, you know I'm not one for long stretched silences."

She sighed. "I know. I just didn't want to ask right away. I'm tired."

He turned his head to look at her sharply. His eyes were fixed on her face as if they were searching for something. "You certainly look…," he paused deliberating his choice of words, "tired."

"Thanks." She let out weak snort. He had at least been polite enough not to say that she looked like shit.

"When have you last eaten something decent?"

Now that was a curious question. She wondered why he was asking it. Sure, only today she had had to buckle her belt tighter again, but she had thought nothing of it until now. It was not like she had any mirrors to parade in front of here in the wilderness. Not like she cared. "Why are you asking exactly?"

Varric sighed and shook his head. He usually had never been exasperated with her. Curiouser and curiouser. "I'm asking because you look like you haven't eaten properly in days."

When she tried to think back to her last proper meal and couldn't immediately tell when it had been, it occurred to her that he was probably right. The only reaction this realization provoked, however, was a simple "oh" which sounded neither surprised nor remorseful.

Of course, he, being the smart person he was, immediately noticed the disinterested tone of her voice and took offence at it. "Oh? That's all you have to say for yourself?"

"Why not?" she shrugged her shoulder casually which for some reason seemed to annoy him further. She heard him mutter a curse under his breath. Had she really thought he was more or less the same old Varric? He had certainly changed since she last saw him. He seemed more ill-humoured somehow.

Apparently she had managed to outrage him so much in a comparatively short amount of time that he had had to jump to his feet and pace in front of the fire. "You're supposed to be the Champion of Kirkwall, aren't you?" he asked sharply.

"Fat lot of good that did me," she interjected sarcastically.

He continued choosing not to hear her last comment. "I come here looking for you. And what do I find? I find an unwashed, unkempt, thin madwoman living in the woods, talking to her Mabari."

For some reasons Hawke found his words highly entertaining. She let out a hoarse laugh. "Is that what you came here to tell me, Varric?" She challengingly looked up into his eyes. It was one of the rare occasions he was taller than her and she actually had to look up to meet his eyes.

"No, I came here to tell you about the Seekers." He gave her a stern look. Varric didn't do stern very often. It had to be serious.

"Let me guess. The Seekers," she put all her sarcasm into that particular word, "are looking for me. Big surprise!"

"I wouldn't be so calm about that. They've questioned me for an entire week. They seem to be pretty keen on finding you."

"Are they now? And what do they want? Kill me? They'll have to get in line..."

Varric ran his hand through his hair. "Why do I even bother?" He whispered frustratedly.

"Don't ask me. I'm at a loss."

"How did you manage to become even more irritating since we last saw each other?"

"Because most of the time, when we two were together, we were either killing things or getting drunk. Helps to take the edge off," Hawke calmly explained.

She knew that even being that mad at her, Varric couldn't possibly keep a straight face at that. It turned out she was right. He actually allowed himself a small smirk. It was only a rather short-lived triumph, however, because as quickly as that smile had come it disappeared again.

"All joking aside, Hawke, we need to do something about this. Right now I'm less worried about the Seekers finding you than about you fainting from hunger."

"And what are you going to do about it? Kill a deer and force-feed it to me?"

"Nothing that barbaric and time consuming," he swatted the thought away like a pesky fly with a wave of his hand. "I thought I saw an inn a few miles down the road..."

"Not worried anyone will recognize me there?"

He gave her a pointed look. "Right now? Not particularly. I'm glad even I recognized you."


"That's what I thought too. Glad that your sense of humour's still intact," he smiled at her humourlessly.

"I thought I didn't have to explain to you of all people the difference between a humorous remark and pure sarcasm..."

"You don't. A person of refined manners simply chooses to ignore rudeness sometimes and not point it out to others all of the time, because that, Hawke, would be rude."

"Behaviour lessons from a dwarf. And here I thought I've seen it all," Hawke muttered to herself sourly.

"Stop mumbling under your breath. And move you're ass, Hawke!"