It was during the second summer after the Champion's arrival that Kirkwall was hit by a heatwave. Even by Kirkwall's standards it was bad; the nobles and merchants in Hightown were whining in their silk shirts but Seeker...? Lowtown was an inferno in comparison. The high buildings stopped any breeze from the sea and the small windows made sure the insides were sweltering.
In the Hawke's house, Bethany was sweating for another reason. "You're going out like... that?" was all she could think to say.
It had all begun innocently enough. Garratt had been in the room where they kept their equipment all morning, cleaning his armour like he usually did every second day. Writing a letter to a friend back in Denerim, she'd been tortured by the bloody clothes she'd been wearing-heavy cloth, slightly uncomfortable for the hotter Free Marches at the best of times. She'd have loosened the belt a bit more, or maybe undone a button or two but she was sure she'd caught Gamlen leering at one point when her hand had moved to her top's buttons. So, fleeing her uncle and mother, she'd entered the room to check up on her elder brother to discover him bent over his storage chest, carefully placing his armour away with his claymore's blade a silver bar even in the gloomy light next to him.
Standing to face her, Bethany found her throat suddenly dry as she watched his back become his front. Her brother's muscles were... fantastic. He looked even better than some of the sculptures in the Viscount's Halls, or the Chantry.
"Brother," she began, painfully aware of blood rushing to her face "where's your shirt?" By the end of her question a hint of hysteria was in her voice as she realised why she was blushing.
Garrett nodded over to the rickety table. "Over there Bethany, why?" He suddenly gave her that insufferable smirk and her heart lept into her mouth. "Do I look that bad?" Not bothering to answer, Bethany stalked over to the shirt, grateful for the gloom hiding her blush and her brother's cluelessness, before dropping it like she'd been burnt.
"Eurgh." It was almost dripping in sweat.
"Bethany what's wrong?" Garrett's smirk was now confused and as he reached a hand out Bethany spun, startling him before giving him a fake smile. "Nothing," she almost shrilled at him, "Nothing at all!"
Normally he'd have pushed, since it was Bethany's 'I've done something wrong' reaction and she was furiously trying to look at anything but him. Though her eyes kept running to his chest. Her brother mentally sighed. He really didn't understand his sister sometimes. Still, Garrett didn't know his sister's thoughts but he knew his own: he was thirsty as hell after cleaning his armour and he wanted a drink. He gave her a long stare during which her face seemed to darken. "...okay." He turned, "I'm off to the Hanged Man," he announced to his mother and uncle as he entered the front room. "You coming too Betha-"
"Andraste's flaming knickers Garrett!" Gamlen cut him off, gazing at him like he'd grown a second head. His nephew arched a brow, noting in the corner of his eye Mother was looking proudly at him for something. Even Wuffles raised his head and chuffed at him. Painfully aware everyone was staring at him (Bethany now lingering in the doorway behind him) Garrett blinked.
"...Since I'm suddenly the centre of attention for some reason, I'm sorry to say I'm off for a drink. Come on Wuffles, you come get one too." With that, he opened the front door and they left the solid stuffy air of the house for the solid dry air of the slums. "You coming Bethany?" he asked once more at the door. Reciving a squeaked "No!" from the gloom, he shrugged and shut the door and made his way down the steps into the street. But not before hearing Gamlen's incredulous "What in the Maker's arsehole do you feed that boy!"
Walking to the Hanged man, aware of quite a few stares, Garrett made a mental note that he apparently had gained weight and needed to do some more training and weights.
Varric was, as usual, in the Hanged Man. It was surprisingly empty-the Hanged Man was one of the few buildings that managed to catch shade, so most people were outside drinking. It was still hotter than any day he could remember though. He was also rather bored. The heat was cripplingly intense and no-one, not apostates, Templars, the gangs and least of all himself could work up any enthusiasm for doing something on a day like this, so he was on the end of the gang's usual bench, drinking what passed for ale. Suddenly a very familiar Mabari barrel through the door and made it's way over to him. Scratching behind it's head, he called for a bowl of water before giving Wuffles a second look. "Make that a bucket," he yelled to Norah while he waited. Sure enough, not a minute later, Hawke entered, looked around and waved, making his way over, oblivious to the stares he was getting.
The dwarf's eyes flicked over some of the women present. 'Make that ravenous looks.'
"Hey Varric," the human greeted as he perched on his usual corner giving Varric's visibly damp chest a quick glance, "How are you on this wonderful sunny day?"
"Better than you Hawke," his friend grinned, his own eyes glancing over Hawke's chest hair. It was soaked in sweat. "Here to try and cool down?"
"Something like that. Bethany and the others were staring at me like I'd grown a second head." Garrett gave Varric a wry smile. "Guess I need to lose weight." Varric nearly choked on his ale at his friend voicing that idea before he gave the man in front of him a look over, and smiled.
"I think they were surprised by what you've been hiding under your armour, sure." He smirked at the human. "I know I am. I thought you were like Fenris under that armour, all scrawny muscle."
Hawke shrugged, and Norah behind him licked her lips as she approached. Placing the bucket near Wuffles, she rested a hand on Garrett's shoulder and bent over at the waist, so when he turned his head to give her his order, he got a face full of her generous cleavage and see right down her top. For the half-second his gaze rested there, before he flicked up to her face to Norah's irritation. "Just an ale."
As Norah stalked off Varric tried not to snigger too loudly. Garrett gave him a dirty look. "It's not my fault," he grumbled. "It's like she wanted me to see down her bloody top." Varric started laughing over the noise of Wuffles gulping down his drink. By the Ancestors his friend was so dense sometimes. "How'd you get so sweaty anyway my friend? You look like you got caught in the rain."
Garrett shrugged. "Cleaning my armour and polishing my sword." He didn't notice the glint in Varric's eye.
"Polishing your sword," he asked, loud enough for his voice to carry, "it's a two-hander, isn't it? You need both hands to handle it properly?"Garrett shrugged as he drank from his just-delivered ale, oblivious to the innuendo and that the women were listening intently. "I can do it with one hand but it's a bit unwieldy. It's easier with two."
Varric whistled in appreciation. "Too big for one hand eh?" Mid drinking, Garrett froze before giving Varric the middle finger salute.
"I'd expect that from Isabella," he grouched as he signalled Norah for another ale. Varric shrugged.
"I'm bored, and it was funny seeing your face when you got it... and speaking of entertainment," the dwarf spotted Fenris' arrival, who came over and sat down heavily in his usual space. After a few moments glowering at the table, the ex-slave finally looked up to notice Hawke's state of dress. Realising Fenris was staring at him, Hawke grimaced.
"Don't you start too," he muttered before taking another drink. "Just been getting it from my family and Varric."
"Over half the bar too," said dwarf cheerfully added, a hand drifting down to pat Wuffles.
Fenris didn't hear the pair, he was too busy being distracted. It took considerable willpower not to reach over and touch the human. It had been a long time since he'd seen such a body... how had he missed that for so long? He'd been fighting by Hawke's side for months. Growling in frustration at his own ogling, he pushed himself up from the table and stomped over to the bar. Varric and Hawke exchanged a confused look. "Was it something we said?" Garrett wondered out loud.
Having downed a glass of wine Fenris felt a bit better. 'Damn this wretched heat,' he thought to himself as he brushed a the tips of his hair out of his eyes, weighted with sweaty dampness. He didn't know why he'd decided to come when his mansion was cooler than anywhere in Lowtown. He grimaced he started his second. Certainly not for the drink.
Still... he shifted and turned his head slightly, so he could see Hawke in the corner of his eye. It wasn't all bad. Reaching up to scratch the back of his neck while talking to Varric, Garrett's shoulder muscles rippled like the sea and shone like dull copper in the gloom. Making out a rivulet of sweat running down his spine, Fenris licked his lips unconsciously.
"Hey Corff," a familiar woman's voice sliced into his thoughts, "shot of whiskey."
"Hello Isabella," Fenris muttered, gazing openly on Garrett. Hearing a happy gasp and empty cup hit the counter, he felt Isabella looking at him.
"What's up with you the-h hey..." the pirate trailed off as she followed Fenris gaze. "Oh... oh wow. He's been hiding that under his armour?" Isabella cooed thoughtfully. "Very nice," she murmured, standing closer to Fenris to get a better look. "Very nice indeed..." The woman's appreciation irked Fenris for some reason he couldn't place.
"Put your tongue away woman, you're drooling all over the floor," the ex-slave sniped before he snatched his glass from the bar and made his way back to the bench.
Things were looking up for Isabella. Not only was she used to weather like this so she got to swan around almost unaffected but after coming down from her room she was now witness to a most delightful sight. She shifted where she stood, rubbing her thighs together in anticipation and appreciation of it. She hadn't seen a man built like that for a very long time... getting a beer, she swaggered over to join the others, mischief unconcealed.
"Well hello there Hawke," Isabella purred , sitting on the end of the table between him and Varric, giving him an unrestricted view of her thighs. Her tunic flaps were riding oh-so slightly up as well, something Garrett hadn't failed to notice. He swallowed, eyes resting barely a moment before flicking up to her face. Such an endearing thing; one of the reasons she loved flirting with him. "So where exactly have you been hiding this under all that armour?" she purred, gently dragging a fingernail up his forearm to his biceps. Hot, slick and shining in the light, a trail marked her finger's path along his skin. His hair started to stand on end, and their eyes met, Isabella giving him a sultry gaze. Once at his biceps, she ran her palm along the hard flesh and gave it an experimental squeeze. Not even a hint of give.
Hawke pulled away, suddenly self conscious. "Right next to your pants Isabella," he muttered, drawing a quiet chuckle from Varric. Pouting slightly, Isabella was not to be put off and leant forward, giving him a nice close look at her top.
"Don't be such a grump Hawke. I haven't seen a man with a body like yours for years, let me have my fun."
"Your fun can be got with anyone at the Rose," sneered Fenris behind her. Looking over her shoulder, she pouted her bottom lip and shook her head, making sure to jiggle her chest a bit in the process. "You can only do what I have in mind with a body like Haaawke's" she faux-whined. Turning back she crowed to herself in her mind. He was wavering! Fenris growled viciously.
"I knew I shouldn't have come here."
And just like that, the shutters slammed down and she lost him. Isabella wanted to punch Fenris.
Ever oblivious, Garrett turned to Fenris, giving his signature smirk. "What, stay in your nice cool mansion and miss out on our delightful company?" Hawke put on a hurt face. "How could you possibly think such a thing?"
To Isabella's surprise, Fenris actually looked... flustered. Tucking that bit of knowledge aside she turned to ogle Hawke some more, chewing her lip thoughtfully. Oh if she'd known this is what was under that armour she'd have got him into bed so much sooner. Seeing who one of the two newcomers to the Hanged Man was over Garrett's shoulder, she gave a quiet sigh. Emphasis on the would have. 'Still... that doesn't mean I can't have some fun.'
Standing she waved before gleefully yelling "Merrill! Aveline! Over here; look at Hawke, he's ripped!"
Perhaps the most annoying thing about Merrill was she was so innocent. Or perhaps gentle natured. Whatever you called it: you couldn't really get angry at her because it she clearly wasn't doing it to make your life-or job as Guard Captain-that much more annoying, Aveline couldn't help but think. Certainly not without feeling bad about it later, which of course was why she was here with Merrill on her day off instead of at home. Several days ago a guardsman had hauled Merrill into the chair in front of her office desk (or so it would be soon) for cooling her feet in the Viscount's fountain. Yet. Again.
"Merrill, I've told you three times this past week, leave the Viscount's fountain alone!" Merrill gazed at her with childish petulance.
"Other people were using it before I was. Why didn't you arrest them?" Aveline could feel a nerve throbbing. Oh, that was it.
"Because unlike you they haven't been warned three times already!" Having to deal with 'Merrill logic', stuck in her yet-to-be office filling in paperwork while slowly cooking in her armour, Aveline yelled at her for the better part of thirty seconds. When she finished, the room was filled with deafening silence. Merrill had been sitting in the large chair in front of Aveline's desk. It made her delicate appearance even smaller; looking anywhere but at the redhead, the girl hugged herself and (Aveline wasn't sure) trembled slightly.
A quiet "I'm sorry Aveline," shattered the silence, and Aveline felt like a complete bitch. Because really, while Merrill deserved a bollocking for repeatedly ignoring her, Aveline knew she'd gone too far and used the poor girl as a verbal punching bag. Apologising, she'd offered to take Merrill out somewhere she wanted to go next time she was off duty. Which lead to today, probably the hottest day yet.
"So Aveline, how's your day off been," the elf chirped as they entered one of the main streets of Lowtown.
"It could have been better Merrill," Aveline sighed. "Some of these papers for Captain make me want to scream." Seeing the confusion on Merrill's face she elaborated. "I need to prepare for some tests to be a Guard Captain, so I was studying this morning."
Understanding dawned on the dalish's face. "Oh." Merrill seemed to consider this for about half a second. "I'm sure you'll be fine," she said confidently, dodging some children running towards them. "You do so well in things like that," she added in a matter-of-fact way. Aveline felt herself smile at the elf's sincerity. Besides, a break would probably help.
"Thank you Merrill."
"It's just the truth," she replied, before she rounded the corner and smiled happily. "Here we are!"
'Somewhere' turned out to be the Hanged Man. Aveline was going to question it at first but it made sense-it was a hot day, the Hanged Man was familiar, relatively obscure for a rogue mage and even if they could afford anywhere in Hightown (which they probably couldn't beyond the Rose) Merrill would almost certainly be refused by the stuck up pricks. Besides...
"Merrill! Aveline! Over here; look at Hawke, he's ripped!"
...everyone else would probably be here on a day like this. Seeing the small mountain of muscle, Aveline didn't give Garrett a second look; she went over to be bar and ordered the first round of drinks for her and Merrill while said elf padded over to the table.
"What do you mean Isabella," Merrill asked with a confused look. "Hawk's not h-" at which point he turned to fully face her. "-ere. Oh..."
"Oh. Um..." Merrill just stood there, her green eyes wide with a hand half-raised to her mouth. "I'm so sorry, I thought you were someone else. I didn't realise you had such big muscles," she trailed, greedily drinking in the sight of his body. Until Hawke's voice shook her from her stupor.
"If I have this effect on everyone I'm keeping my shirt on next time."
"It's fine!" she blurted, sitting down heavily in her usual spot. Which was right next to him; she wasn't sure if she should thank or curse the Creators as her ears started to burn. Head locked straight ahead, her gaze flicked over so she could see him in the corner. He was had his puzzled face on. "It, it's just I didn't know humans could look like the qunari." Painfully aware the other were watching her, the elf's face steadily turned more red. She felt her cheeks burn.
"I mean, a qunari without horns and the body-paint," a voice said, one she realised with mounting horror was hers. "you look better than the Qunari though and I'd never imagined you were so strong and it's really warm in here, I think I'm just going to be quiet now and wait for Aveline..." she trailed off into murmurs, finding her lap very interesting suddenly. So she missed Hawke looking shyly at her. Fenris just brooded. Varric pretended to ignore what just happened, leaning over to scratch the back of Wuffles' head and Aveline had only just arrived. Isabella looked evil. That is to say, she had an idea.
"See Garrett," the landlocked pirate purred, dragging herself across the table. "Merrill 's amazed too." Hawke turned to look at Isabella only to discover her breasts were at head height. He could feel the heat of her body and he was so close he inhaled the heady combination of her sweat and dusky scent of her skin with every breath. He almost jumped out of his chair while Isabella cackled at her prank. Varric, watching while playing a quick game of cards with the dog smirked as Merrill turned in perfect synch to... well, frankly ogle Hawke as he turned to Isabella.
The moment she saw Iabella's prank she paled. The elf looked like she'd been slapped in the face. Oblivious (or ignoring) Isabella leant forward. Unbalanced, Hawke had to stay put and let Isabella get close again. The pirate licked her lips slowly, eyes never leaving his. Merrill watched unblinking, wringing her hands, drink in front of her forgotten.
"So come on Garrett," she leaned in more, giving him an unrivalled view. One the warrior took before returning to her face. "Show me what that body can do," she cooed again, running a hand slowly from his shoulder down to his stomach. The tips of her fingers brushed a bulge before rising up to lazily scratch his slick flank. Hawke's eyes darkened. Merrill's, filled with hurt, flicked between the two humans.
"Isabella do you have to be a slattern all the time?"
Leaning back, hand feather-trailing along Hawke's arm, Isabella answered Aveline. "You are just jealous" was what she meant to say. She didn't get further than the 'You' however, suddenly feelimg a pair of hands around her waist and being lifted off the table, deposited in front of Varric. Looking to Hawke's hands retreating to his side of the table Isabella blinked. "...are strong." As she'd turned to see was picking her up she'd seen Merrill's face; it was ashen, and she was wringing her hands in distress. Her teasing had probably gone a bit too far. Oh well, time to end the game.
"Come on Fenris," she hopped off the table, "let's get you another drink, on me." To her relief (she really didn't want to needle him into coming) he gave a grunt and made his way over to the bar. Giving Varric a look, his eyes flicked to Hawke and Merrill. He nodded almost imperceptibly.
"Say, guys, how about we get some jugs, take this upstairs to my room? Aveline, you wanted to discuss something about Hard in Hightown, right?" As the woman started to reply, Isabella walked past. "Play along," she muttered, loud enough for only the guards-woman to hear. Seeing Varric's eyes flick to the pair opposite him, Aveline's face lit up with understanding.
"Oh! Oh, yes Varric, I did."
"I think my room would be better than here-don't want anyone eavesdropping, do we?" the rogue replied smoothly. "Hawke, you and Daisy head up there now, we'll come up in a moment. Unless you like being ogled my friend?" the dwarf suggested.
"Only by you Varric," Garrett replied as he stood. Merrill's eyes widened as solid muscle rolled like waves in front of her.
At the bar, the others watched the pair walk up the stairs. "Five silver says nothing happens," Fenris spoke.
"I'll take that," Isabella confidently replied, "and I'll say double something does. The look on Kitten's face? She'll definitively try and make a move after-"
"You acted like a slattern again?"
"-I showed her someone else might make a move," she continued effortlessly. "Especially with a body like that," she purred.
"Poor Daisy looked sick when you did that Isabella. Please, don't do that again."
Looking up at the now closed door upstairs, the pirate queen had a very satisfied smile. "Oh don't you worry Varric. I doubt Kitten will need any more prodding."
"They're paying for my cleaning, that's all I can say."
Varric had had the sense to open his windows. The shutters and iron bars were still in place (it was Lowtown after all) but it meant the air was fresh, a small mercy after downstairs. Closing the door behind them, he turned to almost walk right into Merrill, who had an almost accusing look on her for some reason. Looking at Merrill's hurt face he cursed himself.
"I'm sorry about Isabella," Garrett began. Why was he even apologising? "I know I'm irresistible but I don't know what got into her, she's never acted like that before," he murmured apologetically. Merrill smiled shyly.
"Oh I think I know why," she murmured distractedly. Hawke swallowed. Merrill was still close to him, and he'd just realised that she wasn't wearing her usual outfit. Her scarf was gone and the green was still there but... chainmail had been replaced. With skin and what looked like leather shorts and a... bra? He could only see the sides, and he dare not find out.
But he wanted to so badly. He wanted to run his fingers across her skin, to see if it felt as soft as he imagined it, lick the path the droplet of sweat running down the base of her long neck... he was startled out of his thoughts by a gentle touch on his biceps. Following a delicate hand back to it's owner, brown gazed into green, as she stepped in to his heat. He smelled of sweat, polish and him.
"C-can I touch? I've never seen anyone like this, well except the Qunari, but they're all... not you and" she went rigid as Garrett's hand rested on her hip, fingers stroking her sweat slicked back. After a moment her mouth closed it's little 'oh' and she relaxed.
"Only if because it's you, Merrill." His gentle smile became wolfish. "And I get to as well," he growled, as Merrill giggled, taking his free hand and placing it on her other hip. A squeak escaped her lips as his first hand cupped her rear and gave the firm flesh a unyielding squeeze.
Isabella jumped for joy as Varric came downstairs towards the gang, sighing and fishing out money as he did. "Told you!" she chirped.
"I'm still surprised you're all so amazed," Aveline grouched.
"The only one here who isn't impressed is you," Varric noted. She shrugged. "I was a soldier, remember? Hawke's not the first warrior I've seen with muscles like that." Her ale paused in front of her lips, eyes dancing in mirth as a thought occurred to her. "You mean not one of you realised? You all actually believed it was his armour?"
Their faces confirming her disbelief, she started laughing.
Ah Bethany. Nothing more awkward than realising a family member is actually pretty hot, and nothing more horrifying than realising you find them hot too. Liz gave me the dog's name and it was too silly not to use. Plus Discworld nods are always good.