He hears the small group of intruders come; they have the subtlety of a herd of stampeding bronto. Listening to the sound of boot-shod feet, he counts three, and then a fourth set of footfalls. His sword was close at hand, and gripping the pommel, he walks slowly from his bedroom. His front door is kicked off its hinges, footsteps banging against the tiled flooring. Readying his weapon, Fenris bends his knees slightly, steadying himself on strong bare feet.

"Let them come," he breathes, over and over, like a mantra. He'd waited long enough.

The mansion is dilapidated, dried puddles of blood on the floor and splattering the walls, remnants of those who came before. Rusty old weapons, discarded armor, and what he could only assume to be the residual belongings of the previous owner strewn about.

This was only a place to wait. It wasn't a home, or a respite from worry. This place was his worry, his trap, one of his own choosing.

The woman who stepped through the entryway to face him now was not what he'd expected. Her visage looked soft and striking beneath her fierce expression, with unruly jet-black hair and soul sucking eyes. She gripped a bladed staff in one hand. So she was, indeed, a mage, but she wore armor, and Magisters did love their fancy frivolous robes. Those who stood beside her looked nothing like slave hunters, either, a rather manly ginger-headed woman in heavy plate, a buxom - and pantsless - raider-type, and a beardless dwarf. With earrings.

Mercenaries, then.

Hawke entered the derelict mansion expecting to see the elven squatter flanked by an entire company of men. The Dalish liked to run in packs, and from the reports that had been taken regarding the havoc he'd caused, she couldn't have imagined she'd find a single man alone.

She'd never seen anything like him. He was not cowed or stooped, as were so many of the city's unwanted. He stood tall and proud, his feet braced for battle. His armor was far from simple, and of fine make. Black brows cut like blades over clear green eyes. He had the most fascinating mouth she'd ever seen, soft lips curled into a contemptuous sneer, and a shock of striking white hair. And his tattoos... Hawke felt the pull of mana across the distance that separated them, and knew he was like nothing she'd ever even read about. The ancient dwarven golems, perhaps, but to see it on a flesh and blood being was beyond her knowledge and experience. He was different, but not necessarily in a bad way. He wasn't conventionally handsome by any means, yet Hawke found him attractive beyond belief.

"If you've come to loot the place, I'm afraid you'll be disappointed. There's nothing here."

He had a deep, commanding voice. It rumbled its way over her, causing her muscles to tense and twitch. Drawing up short, Hawke turned to her companions and said with authority, "He's just one man. I've got this."

"Are you with the Red Iron, then?" He asked as, alone now, Hawke continued her approach.

Stepping onto the bottom of the stairwell that led up to where he stood, she hefted her weapon in front of her. "The Red Iron? No. I've come to clear you out, elf. Let's just make this easy, shall we?" She stopped, adding a hardness to her tone and features. "It's time for you to move along to the Alienage where you belong."

His eyebrows met over narrowed eyes. "No."

Gripping her staff until her knuckles turned white, she raised her voice, slightly. "Leave. Now. I warn you..."

He remained firm. "I will not."

He couldn't believe the audacity of the woman before him. She spoke to him with authority, yet her eyes held fascinated interest rather than the disdain he was accustomed to. Their awareness of each other was sharp and forceful, the underlying power struggle adding to the tension.

Shaking her head softly, Hawke grinned, shrugging the cloak off her shoulders as she stepped onto the landing. "Very well." She watched him brace himself as she paused, for just a moment. Then she rushed him, bringing her staff up to try to knock his sword aside with a vicious blow. He held fast, pushing her back without effort.

His brows lifted and he watched as she retreated, walking in a large circle around him and swinging her staff in a lazy arc.

Thrusting toward him with the bladed end, she leaned into her swing, trying to slice into his belly. Again, he deflected the blade, knocking her back with the force of his own blow.

He aimed for her staff with strong, hard strikes, causing her hands to go numb as she fought for purchase.

Gritting her teeth, she parried, moving quickly to evade his sword.

"You're a mage, are you not? Why not use your magic?" he grunted with exertion.

She wanted to. She wanted to freeze the smug look on his face with winter's grasp or use mind blast to send him reeling. But she was no fool. In the time it would take her to cast, he could run her through. Smiling at him, she swung again, feeling deep satisfaction as she felt the two-handed grip on his blade slacken. She moved in for the finish. All at once, her mind whirled as his entire form lit up in brilliant blue light. Moving faster than her dazed mind could track him, his blade came up between them, knocking her staff from her hands.

She watched it slide away, across the floor in incredulity. "Holy, blood of Andraste..."

His sword fell to the floor with a bang. She didn't have time to finish or move before he was upon her, spinning her around and pulling her back up against his chest, his arm going around her neck in a headlock. Turning them both to face her friends, he said something unintelligible under his breath, then, "Nobody move."

The trio of onlookers paid him no heed, readying their weapons as they made their way toward the stairs. She didn't doubt for a moment that any one of them would do whatever it took to see her freed.

Hawke felt the cold metal of his gauntlet on the back of her neck. He was taller than she, if slightly, and strong. He had her dead to rights, she knew it, but perversely, she didn't want to see him hurt. Leaning back into his hold, she met Aveline's eyes. "I'm fine. We're fine. I think that maybe we've been a bit hasty here. We should talk."

His hold relaxed, marginally, but that was all she needed. Grinding herself against him, Hawke turned within the circle of his arms until she faced him. They were nose to nose now, and she smiled at the look of bewildered anger he wore. "That's better." He seemed almost indignant as, nonplussed, she continued. "I'm Hawke. This is Guard Captain Aveline, Varric Tethras of the Merchant's Guild, and Isabela."

"That's Captain Isabela, if you please," the buxom raider amended.

His arms adjusted around her, found a more comfortable fit. His hold was strong, she wouldn't be able to flee unless he allowed it. He recognized this, and that knowledge fed the intimacy of their position, causing his blood to heat. Staring steadily into her eyes, he spoke, "I've heard of you. I was expecting... someone else."

This close, she could smell him, a wonderful, if undefinable scent like the smell of a forest after rain. His breaths pushed his chestplate against her, and she found herself matching her breathing to his. "We're here on behalf of the Viscount. Seems he's grown tired of complaining nobles. As a neighbor of yours, I can't say that I agree, but, well, I do what I must."

His eyes narrowed back at her again. "I cannot leave. Not yet." His answer was firm, immovable.

Hawke felt her own eyes narrow in turn. As thrilling a diversion as this was, she was beginning to get used to things going her way. Normally, people she reasoned with fell in line.

He must have been able to sense her intent, for as soon as she'd decided to struggle, his arms tightened around her.

She squirmed, wriggling against him, armor scraping armor with a grating noise. His expression was vicious, narrowed eyes and gritted teeth.

He could feel every curve of her body, the warm enticing shape of her causing him to lose his reason.

Hawke's nose bumped his, and she'd just decided to chance giving the man a savage headbutt when his mouth covered hers.

It wasn't something he'd planned, or could ever imagine himself doing with a mage, no matter how beautiful. But she'd provoked him, feeding his passion with anger and violence. She was too close, too warm, and sweet smelling. He wanted to crush her, and taste her, and feel her tremble against him.

She stiffened, briefly. Then she went wild in his arms, her hands coming up to clutch at his spikey-armored shoulders. His lips covered hers, catching the breathy little moan that escaped as one hand moved and fisted in her hair. Her belly pressed his through their armor, he ran his tongue over her lips, pressing beyond and sinking into the dark velvet of her mouth as she shuddered against him. Her gloved fingers bit into his shoulders, her tongue tangled timidly with his, drawing him deeper in the maelstrom of pleasure. His tongue drove deep and hard, the kiss so carnal it made her heart hammer. His hand tightened in her hair as his lips slanted over hers. Her body arched against him, her insides melting. He sucked at her, pulling at her tongue. His lips slid over hers, soft but firm and parted for the rush of his breath. She felt like the victim of a mesmerist, caught in the spell of his magnetic power. His body was so hard, so warm.

The sound of Aveline loudly clearing her throat finally reached Hawke's ears. Remembering herself, as well as their audience, she pushed away, and he let her. They stared at each other with wide eyes.

"Oh, you are such a wet blanket," Isabela griped to the source of their interruption.

Hawke felt her cheeks redden in mortification.

"I agree. Things were just starting to get interesting." This aside, from Varric this time, was cut short by Hawke.

"That's enough." She couldn't believe what had just happened, how she'd forgotten herself completely. The world had narrowed until it had been only the two of them, and it had been wonderful and violent and terrifying.

Fenris, more appalled than any of them by what had just occurred, looked angry, his arms and legs tense with agitation. He brought a hand up to his mouth, absently touching his lips. Forcing a cough, he composed himself, and said, with no small amount of irony, "You haven't asked, but my name is Fenris, should that interest you."

"Yes, well, maybe the business regarding this property can be sorted through on another occasion. We do have... other pressing matters we can attend to." Aveline spoke, suddenly in a very big hurry to leave.

"Fenris," she said, rolling the sound off her tongue. Back to the business at hand, Hawke strove to regain her composure. She spoke to Aveline, "I have no objections, if you don't. This whole thing was your idea, anyway." Turning to Fenris, she hesitated. "On another day, it seems." The corner of her swollen mouth kicked up in a smile. "You know, if you're willing to play nice, and keep your hands to yourself, I could use someone of your... unique talents, what with all the fighting we get up to. I can offer decent pay."

The stern line of his brow never softened as shrugging, he bent to retrieve his sword, securing it on his back. His answer was an uncommitted, "Perhaps."

Nodding her head, Hawke turned from him, bending to collect her staff before heading down the stairs. "Since you know who I am, I assume you'll know where to find me, should you decide to take me up on that offer." He tipped his head in agreement, tracking her steps as she readied to leave. "And we still need to talk about the trouble you've been causing. Don't think that I've forgotten."

It wasn't a victory; it was more of a stalemate, but he'd gotten his way for the time being, and picked up some new prospects along the line. The situation was confusing, but for the present, acceptable.

They filed out the door and into the night, Hawke glancing back over her shoulder at him. Varric was grinning, and rubbing his hands together, clearly plotting something Fenris was sure he wouldn't like. The other woman, Isabela, dragged her feet as she left, giving him a wink as she noticed his regard.

He'd think about it. The woman could very well mean more trouble for him. But he supposed he could always use the help if Denerius ever did show his face here.

A/N: The prompt for this was "AU: Hawke doesn't do 'Bait & Switch' and thus, never meets Fenris in Act 1. Instead, in Act 2, Guard-Captain Aveline sends her to deal with the elven squatter who is causing trouble in Hightown." I wrote this trying to recreate the Fenris from his short story, since he wouldn't really have any time to relax and grow. This is a quick look at a more forceful Hawke, although I do try to keep her ambiguous enough that she could be the character of anyone who reads this.
Feedback is much appreciated. I'd especially like to know if the switch from present to past tense works ok. I'm willing to go back in and change it if you find it to be too jarring. A continuation of this is possible, depending on interest.
I had to really work to keep this from turning into a total smutstorm. I think that my brain just really wants me to write some naughty Fenris, but bringing on the smut here just didn't seem feasible. AU though it is, an Act 2 Fenris would have to be a lot more OOC than he already is here to sleep with mage!Hawke at this point (I love him, and I tried to keep him in character, but, you know, it's all going to be about sexy violence with him when I write). However, I do reserve the right to write Fen-smut now that this is done and posted...