Varric tells Isabela a story while they're waiting for their Wicked Grace partners to show. Set a few months after the Qunari takeover was thwarted, his story is based on rumour and gossip but how much of it is true? A what-if set firmly behind the scenes during Act 2. Fem Hawke/Arishok. Rated M for language and content.

All characters property of Bioware.

The Arishok's Curiosity – A Tale by Varric Tethras

Varric jumped as the chair opposite him was scraped back along the filthy wooden floor and two mugs of ale were slid onto the table, he began to hastily gather the scraps of paper that littered the tabletop as Isabela flung herself into the chair, dramatically.

"New stories?" She questioned, her dark eyes sparkling with curiosity. Varric nodded.

"All works in progress."

"Ooh, can I hear one? It's ages until Hawke and Fenris are due and I'm bored." She leant forward over the table and he was momentarily mesmerised by her cleavage as she snatched a piece of paper from his fingers. "Hmm, two Karasten standing guard outside an estate in Hightown. " She read and frowned thoughtfully. "I heard about that. It supposedly happened a few times, it's was Hawke's estate and there were some downright filthy rumours about what a Qunari might be doing in Hawke's house and which Qunari it was." Her eyes narrowed. "I dismissed it as scurrilous gossip meant to discredit Hawke. Is there truth in it, dwarf?" Isabela sat back in her low, comfortable chair and regarded Varric over the rim of her ale, dark eyes sparkling wickedly.

Varric glanced about them, nobody in the Hanged Man was paying them any attention, ensconced as they were at Varric's usual corner table shrouded in shadow and the pall of smoke from the oil lanterns.

"I'm sure I have no idea, Rivaini," he murmured.

"You're lying," Isabela said, laughing. "So there is some truth in it then. How delicious."

"What did you hear?" the dwarf asked, curiously,

"That Hawke and the Arishok spent time together last year in Kirkwall. Special alone time together." Her eyebrows lifted suggestively.

"That's absurd." Varric snorted, inelegantly, "He would never have fit for one thing." Isabela giggled.

"Is it absurd? Two Karasten, Varric. In Hightown. Guarding."

"The Qunari moved freely about the city, you know that."

"They never went visiting much." Her eyes narrowed, "come on Varric, spill the beans. Did Hawke really dine on Qunari meat?"

"Rivaini!" He sounded almost shocked. "Well, there is a story nearly written." Varric grinned wickedly. "I can change the names back for you, if you like."

"Oh goody," Isabela said, settling back to listen to the smooth-voiced dwarf weave his tale.

There had been something between Hawke and the Arishok, from their very first meeting when Varric had watched, slightly concerned for the groups safety, as Hawke had deliberately taunted the massive, horned male.

"Well, if you don't want to talk," and she had turned away, dismissively. Smirking slightly as he growled almost petulantly but wiping her face clear as she turned back to him, brilliant sapphire eyes boldly meeting his golden ones.

"Do you turn your back on what is happening here as easily as you turn it on me?" he demanded.

She'd mounted the steps then to stand directly before him and Varric had seen the Arishok's nostrils flare, his eyes widen as he caught her scent in the still, heavy air. He was too far away to see the sudden heat that flared in the Arishok's golden eyes but Hawke wasn't, she saw it just fine. She just didn't know what it meant.

Time passed, as time does. Hawke made a name for herself with the Deep Roads expedition, moved up to Hightown and had frequent dealings with the Arishok. Polite business dealings at the Compound, sometimes in his office where they would share wine and talk of other matters, but usually in full view of all the other Qunari.

Varric had been visiting Hawke when the first 'out-of-the-ordinary' message had been delivered by typically grim-faced Ashaad who'd waited silently for her response. Hawke had taken the scroll, surprise etched across her delicate features, and carefully broke the seal. The missive was short to the point of abruptness.

'Hawke, I would speak with you. Kindly advise a convenient time.'

Her eyebrows drew together in a puzzled frown as she turned back to the Ashaad.

"This is from the Arishok?" He nodded. " Does he wish me to come to the compound?" He shrugged eloquently. "Does he wish to come here?"

"I believe so," the Ashaad grunted. Hawke flashed amazed eyes at Varric.

"Tomorrow evening then, after sundown." She wrote her answer on the scroll and handed it back to the Ashaad.

"What does he want?" Varric had asked as soon as the Qunari had left.

"I have absolutely no idea," Hawke said, shaking her head slowly.

"When did you last see him?"

"Weeks ago," and the bafflement was evident in her sapphire eyes,

'Weeks ago', as it turned out, was the problem.

Hawke had freely admitted to Varric that she had been uncharacteristically nervous as she waited for the Arishok to arrive the following night. Partly because she genuinely had no idea why he wanted to come to her estate rather than her visiting him at the compound as has always been the case before and partly because he had exercised a curious pull on her from the first time she had met him and his rumbling voice washed through her, tugging at things low in her body.

"When my guest arrives, Bodahn, please show him through," Hawke had instructed and removed herself to the drawing room where she could tremble in peace. A part of her didn't believe that he would show up. She smoothed her light silk gown over her hips, it was a favourite of hers, Orlesian silk, the same deep blue as her eyes and cut to flatter her feminine shape. She wondered if it was appropriate; he had only ever seen her in armour but she was at home and surely a woman was allowed to wear pretty clothes then.

Caspian, her Mabari wardog, was crashed out cold in front of the fire, twitching in his sleep, his paws making inroads into dream fields as he chased down dream rabbits, or maybe dream darkspawn. Hawke smiled as she watched him and then heard Bodahn clear his throat behind her.

"Messare, the Arishok."

Hawke turned slowly to greet her guest, noting a slight widening of his eyes, a flare of his nostrils, as he took in her attire.

"Thank you, Bodahn," she said, moving towards the huge, horned male. "Arishok," she inclined her head, respectfully.

"Shanedan Hawke," he grunted. She heard the door close quietly as Bodahn left the room; she and the Arishok were alone.

"Please," she motioned him to one of the chairs by the fire, noticing as he passed her that he was missing his usual shoulder guards but instead of it making him appear smaller, it only accentuated his height and breadth.

He wore thick linens rather than his leathers, a red sash knotted at his hips, his huge chest was crossed with straps, painted with the intricate Qunari red war-paint but otherwise bare. She shook her head slightly, feeling a little dazed by his presence; he was magnificent, there was no other word.

She poured two goblets of wine with a slightly shaking hand and placed them on the small oak table between the two fireside chairs. The Arishok nodded silent thanks, his golden eyes fixed unwaveringly on her every move until she sank gracefully into the chair beside him in an audible whisper of silk, gently nudging Caspian awake with her foot.

"A fine beast," the Arishok said approvingly as the Mabari lurched sleepily to standing and regarded him solemnly, his head tilted to one side, ears pricked. A rare smile briefly touched and lifted the corners of the Arishok's mouth. "He understands?" he questioned.

"Probably," Hawke reached to scratch the Mabari's ears. "He understands most things. I have a question, Arishok, if you will indulge me."

"Just the one?" he rumbled, dryly, his massive hand settling on the goblet of wine she had poured him. "May I speak before you ask your question, Hawke?" She nodded, not sure that the situation could get any stranger or more surreal. "How long is it since you first came to the compound?" she frowned.

"It must be nearly four years,"

"It is, and we are no closer to Par Vollen. The demand of the Qun has not been met. The relic remains undiscovered and we are stuck in this disgusting city," he paused, his horns glowed in the firelight as he turned his face away from her to stare into the flames. "Do you know, Hawke, how many Bas I have met in that time?"

"A fair few, I would imagine,"

"Indeed." Hawke stared at his bowed head, baffled. He seemed uncharacteristically human at that moment. "Do you know why I requested this meeting?" his golden eyes finally found hers once more.

"I admit to having no idea," Hawke said, honestly, and watched something in his face cloud until she wondered if he would just up and leave. He didn't though, he sat back in his chair and took a long draft of his wine as if regrouping himself.

"I find myself in a peculiar situation, Hawke," he admitted at last, his eyes fixed on the dancing flames and the Mabari who had prostrated himself before them once more.

"Um .. Arishok, you could call me Marian." His head swung swiftly and she was pinned in his gaze like a bug.

"Marian? You are Marian Hawke?"

"Yes. It would please me if you called me that," she hesitated, completely out of her depth with Qunari etiquette, "if it pleases you." There was something satisfied in his gaze as he looked at her.

"It does," he confirmed. "Marian," he said it in the manner of tasting a new sound, rolling it on his tongue like a fine wine and Hawke was even more baffled. "A good name," he concluded. Hawke smiled and saw that strange satisfaction glint in his eyes once again. "I find myself in a peculiar situation," he repeated, to get their strange conversation back on track.

"How so?" she asked, and had to crane her neck to look up at him as he rose swiftly to his feet and moved in front of her chair, his eyes drilling into her face.

"The Qun demands that curiosity, should it become overly troublesome, be satisfied lest it divert one from the way."

Hawke remained silent because she didn't understand, her neck strained at an uncomfortable angle as she stared up over his mountainous chest, to his face. She was surprised when he leant down to her, his huge hands gripping the arms of her chair, effectively trapping her. "And I find that I am very curious," he whispered.

"What about?" her voice was low. She wasn't scared of him but his presence looming over her was disconcerting.

"Can you not guess, Hawke?" and seeming to sense her unease, he lowered himself carefully onto his knees in front of her. He was a good foot away from her but still managed to effortlessly form a warm, hard prison with his arms though his face was now nearly on a level with hers.

"I could," she said, maintaining steady eye contact with him. She let out an involuntary, surprised gasp as his hands encircled her waist and gently, inexorably, slid her towards him until her silk-covered knees brushed his rock-hard abdominals. He bent to whisper in her ear.

"You Hawke. I am curious about you. How do you think?" She remained stock still as he inhaled deeply. "How do you smell?" She jumped as his tongue darted out to lightly trace her jaw line. "How do you taste? I find myself wanting to know all these things about you, and I realised that my curiosity would never be satisfied if I waited for you to come to me," he punctuated his words with the brush of his lips against her hair, her cheek and all the while, his big hands were strong and warm on her back, circling and kneading her skin gently, "despite my belief that you are just as curious about me," he concluded.

"Curious," she murmured slowly, giving herself time to think, to decide, feeling her heart begin to race.

This was more than unexpected. Over the years, Hawke had firmly locked away her inappropriate attraction to the huge Qunari leader. That he was harbouring curiosity about her was astonishing.

"I suppose that is one way of putting it," she murmured and allowed her hands to skim up over his chest, amazed at how soft the skin was that covered his rock hard body, and lifted her face to his, threading her arms loosely around his neck and feeling him shudder at her touch.

Then the Arishok's mouth was on hers, hot and fierce, his thick tongue invaded her mouth as his hands gathered her even closer to his chest and she was moulded tightly against him, his arms about her like steel bands. She entangled her fingers into his silken white hair and gave herself to his kiss. There was nothing else she could do.

It was some time before the Arishok pulled back from her, breathing heavily, a low rumbling growl sounding deep in his chest. Hawke opened heavy-lidded eyes, he could certainly kiss; his thick tongue had pushed into her mouth and sensuously slid over hers, playing and caressing. She could feel the after-effects washing through her body and she longed for him to touch her, but the Arishok released her and sat back on his heels, his breathing slowly returning to normal as he stared at her.

"Has that sated your curiosity, Arishok," Hawke asked at last, a little tartly, she was starting to feel uncomfortable under his scrutiny.

His lips twitched into a tiny smirk. "No Hawke – Marian - it has not." He rose gracefully, despite his bulk and picked up his goblet, taking a deep swallow, "but I should leave now."

"If that is what you want," Hawke answered.

"It is the prudent thing to do," his eyes lingered on her. "Panahedan, Hawke."

Isabela stared at Varric in astonishment.

"You are bullshitting me dwarf,"

"Am I?" Varric asked, innocently. Isabela snorted.

"Why did he turn up at her house? And how?"

"I think she had been slowly driving him mad over the years and he just couldn't bear it any longer. The Qunari focus on smell when choosing a mate for breeding, they believe that if a couple smell right to each other, they will have healthy, strong babies. There might be something about the way she smells that drew him to her."

"Is that true?" Isabela demanded, smelling only Tethras bullshit. Varric shrugged eloquently.

"How much of anything is true?" he asked. Isabela glared at him but it did no good, the dwarf offered nothing further on the subject.

"So what happened after that?"

"You want to listen to more of my bullshit, Rivaini?" Isabela shrugged.

"I'm a sucker for a good tale."

"Okay then."

The second message arrived three days later delivered by the same Ashaad.

"Marian, please advise a convenient time if you would like me to visit."

She stared at the scroll realising that she could just refuse him, refuse to be the subject of his curiosity. Something lurched deep inside her at the thought, she would miss out on something important if she ran away now, and so would he. She wrote her response carefully.

"Tonight. Sundown."

Hawke had seen the hot flare in his eyes and recognised it this time as he strode across the room to her in a way that had her breath catching.

"Marian," his voice was a low rumble as he reached for her.

She was somewhat ashamed that within twenty minutes of his arrival she was on her back in a pile of cushions on the thick rug in front of the fire, her carefully chosen dress bunched about her waist; the bodice pulled down, exposing her breasts to his busy mouth and the skirts tugged up about her hips so his fingers could stroke her through the thin fabric of her panties, his big hand persuading her legs apart so that it felt like nothing separated her sex and his hot touch.

When she reached for the red sash knotted at his hips, he caught her wrist gently in one huge hand and turned his face from the creamy mound of her breast to look at her face. There was warning in his eyes as he shook his head. Hawke frowned even as his lips returned to her nipple, his hand between her legs.

"Wait," her voice was breathy. He ignored her, his teeth lightly grazed her skin. Her body stiffened as his fingers finally slipped into her damp panties and hot wetness, pleasure threatened to claim her utterly and sweep her away. The low rumbling purr sounded from the centre of his chest as he sucked and pulled at her nipple, his fingers stroking and caressing her.

She felt a sweet pressure begin to build deep inside, the muscles in her thighs began to quiver, his growling purr intensified as he felt her skin heat and flush.

"Oh!" Hawke screamed as her back bowed, he snaked his arm under her back drawing her close to his naked chest. Two fingers plunged into her body tearing another scream from her throat as pleasure swept over her, washing everything away except the feeling of his fingers sliding in and out of her body, his thumb circling and teasing her clitoris. She gasped and moaned, her body trying to twist in his arms as he brought her a quick second time.

He grunted into her hair and pressed his groin to her hip, stroking himself against her in quick rhythmic thrusts, she could feel the huge, hot, solid length of him through his linens before he abruptly stopped, his fingers stilling. Hawke, still panting from the intensity of it all, was cradled against his solid chest and unable to look at his face as his arm relaxed its hold, dropping her back into the cushions as his huge body shifted away from hers. Interestingly, his fingers were still between her legs as if he couldn't stand to lose that contact.

"That nearly went too far," his voice was a low growl. Hawke frowned up at him as his fingers finally left her.

"I thought that was going just fine," she murmured as inoffensively as possible.

"We cannot … it is impossible." Hawke waited to see if he added anything but nothing further was forthcoming.

"So what then? I don't get to touch you?" He shook his head as Hawke stared up at him incredulously. "That hardly seems fair."

"No Kadan, I do not suppose that it does,"

She sat up, pulling her bodice up to conceal her chest though the thin material didn't afford that much concealment. Kadan? What was that? Some kind of pet name? She wriggled her dress down over her bottom and drew it over her bent knees. She thought that he might leave like he had done after their first kiss but the Arishok watched her, his eyes still hungry.

"Perhaps you could touch yourself while you touch me," she offered, hesitantly. His brows drew together in a frown, his horns dipped, the gold in his ears glinted in the firelight.

"Why would you suggest such a thing?" She was relieved that his tone was puzzled rather than angry.

"It doesn't seem right for only me to have pleasure."

"I got pleasure from what I did to you," he countered.

"Have it your way," she gave up for the moment, knowing that if they were to have anything together, that would have to change.

"I intend to," he said and was on his knees in a flash, chasing her skirts back up over her knees with his huge hands and drawing her legs either side of his kneeling body.

Hawke gasped as he bent his head to her and his tongue traced the edge of her panties before exploring the line of her sex through the damp, flimsy material. His fingers hooked the material aside as he stretched his body out full length on the floor and his face hovered above her, eyes closed as he breathed deeply before deliberately running his tongue along her folds, delicately probing and licking at her.

Hawke shuddered in his hands, speechless, nobody had ever done this to her before and his mouth on her was beyond intoxicating.

Looking down the line of her body, she realised that he was in another world entirely; his low rumbling purr filled the room, his hips gently rocked against floor, his eyes were closed, his tongue busy and there was an expression of contentment on his face that she never expected to see.

Her body tensed, her back arching as he curled two curious fingers into her body once more and began to stroke the sweet spot hidden just above her entrance, his mouth sucked fiercely at her. She came in a blinding explosion of colour and light, her body floating, twitching and boneless, she was vaguely aware of the ragged moans that tore from her throat and his desperate growls as he ground his hips into the rug and jerked rapidly as orgasm overpowered him too with savage force.

She could feel his hot, quick breath on her skin as he laid his head on her belly, she reached to stroke his magnificent horns, smiling as he carefully smoothed her sopping panties back into place.

"Was that better for you? Me finding pleasure too?" his voice was muffled. She ran her fingers through his long silken white hair.

"It was. Did you not find it so?"

His lips pressed to her belly in response, kissing the smooth white skin over and over.

"Their friendship blossomed," Varric's voice was like chocolate, "she began to visit the compound regularly; they sparred and talked, he visited her home as often as he could and got really good at making her come in front of that big open fire."

"But they never actually did it," Isabela's voice dripped with disappointment.

"There was a lot of foreplay," the dwarf corrected, " and the Arishok was teaching Hawke to fight him; we know why now."

Hawke followed the Arishok's naked broad back wearily, almost blindly, too exhausted to admire the smooth ripple and coil of muscle beneath his bronze skin. Her whole body was drooping, the muscles in her arms still quivering from their brutal sparring match, if it could be called a match. He held back less and less as the weeks passed and had 'killed' her countless times. The only thing that saved her and levelled the playing field somewhat was her speed. If they ever had to fight for real, it would be his death by a thousand cuts, if he didn't just cleave her in half first.

She sighed heavily, dragging her aching legs through the stone corridors beneath the compound to the Arishok's quarters. She was vaguely aware of the door slamming shut behind her and the heat of his body close to hers.

"That was better, Kadan," There was a barely contained excitement in his voice, she had almost had him. Almost. Her leap had been seconds too late and he had caught her firmly in his arms instead of her intended result.

"Do not hesitate," he had growled, releasing her abruptly and causing her to stumble awkwardly. He immediately reached to steady her, concern flickering briefly in his golden eyes to be chased away by her smile as she reached down to rub her ankle.

The Arishok's hands were suddenly on her shoulders, unbuckling the heavy breastplate and lifting it from her body. She moaned in relief, she couldn't help herself. He had insisted she wear heavier armour than she was used to but she recognised that he was terrified of really hurting her. He untied the padded vest and slid it gently down her arms, hissing when he saw the bruises that were blossoming on the pale skin beneath her breast-band. He lowered himself onto his knees in front of her, his dexterous fingers were at her back once more, unfastening the strip of cloth and tossing it aside, she gasped when his eager mouth locked onto her nipple, his tongue flicking at the sensitive nub, teeth lightly grazing. She thought briefly about pushing him away or trying to; he never touched her body here in the Compound where other Qunari surrounded them. Touching her was reserved for in front of the fire at her house. Or had been. Rules changed it seemed, especially when she had come so close to beating him.

One arm wound about her waist holding her still, the other worked at the buckle on her hip until it loosened off and the leather skirt folded neatly into his hand. He growled against her skin as his fingers lightly traced the edge of her panties from hip to hip and his head dipped lower, she shivered as his tongue probed at her navel and dipped lower still following the path of his fingers which were now busy tugging her panties down her thighs to her knees and over her black boots to her ankles. He guided her gently backwards, shuffling forward on his knees until her bare ass met the smooth wooden edge of his desk, and lifted her smoothly, parting her thighs in the same fluid movement. She moaned, her head lolling back as his tongue unerringly found the centre of her, caressing and teasing at her slick folds. He lifted her legs over his substantial shoulders, shifting his muscles until she settled to his satisfaction, one hand moved to free himself and a grunt escaped him as he gripped his own length.

She had a brief wild thought of how this would look should someone walk in on them; her naked apart from black leather boots atop his desk, thighs stretched wide by his body, his mouth busy at her groin while stroking and pulling on his own exposed hardness. Not what the Qunari would expect from their Arishok.

"Oh!" A finger lightly teased at her entrance and slid slowly into her, her insides tensed and gripped at him. She could feel his quickening breath as his tongue circled and teased at her more urgently, he added a second finger and Hawke screamed, a brief clipped sound torn from her throat, as her orgasm crashed over her, curling her toes against his shoulders, bowing her body as her breath fought to escape in desperate gasps and her world exploded into stars and light. She felt his muscles tense beneath her calves and his face turn into her thigh as he growled his pleasure into her soft skin, his seed pumping over his fist to drip onto his thigh. He remained still for a long while, his breathing slowing, the purring rumble in his chest subsiding to silence and then slowly withdrew his fingers from her body and disengaged himself from her legs, rising to his feet and tucking himself away in an economical movement.

Hawke covered her face with her arm, modestly drawing her thighs together, though honestly, it was a little late for modesty. Would he never finish it? she wondered, her teeth worrying at her lower lip as her body raged. Did he really not understand?

The orgasms he so expertly delivered were nice, more than nice, but she ached for him to just fuck her, to cover her body with his hot, hard one and fuck her senseless. She groaned quietly to herself and sat up; he was wiping his hands, his eyes fixed on her.

"I wonder if you nearly beat me because all I could think about while we were fighting was doing that to you," he mused, his eyes soft. She smiled and, emboldened by his admission and long weeks of foreplay, asked,

"Do you not want to be inside me?" He shuddered and his head bowed. The silence stretched out, became heavy and oppressive, but she didn't know what to say to lighten it so she sat and stared at him, holding her ground, waiting.

"Yes," the admission was ground out grudgingly from the depths of his respect for her just when she thought that he might never speak again. She hopped lightly down from the desk, a couple of steps and she stood, still naked, in front of him, she leaned into him and pressed her lips to the smooth plane of his chest.

"Then please, can we try?" His fingers twined into her hair, gently drawing her mouth from his skin and turning her face up so he could meet her eyes.

"I will not hurt you." He released her and turned away. Her familiar irritation at his intractable stance flared.

"Does my curiosity count for nothing?" she questioned and saw his back stiffen.

"Enough Hawke." She had hit a mark and angered him, she watched his shoulders heave. It had been a typically flippant question but asked only partially in jest. She was getting fed up with the one-sidedness of it all though she admitted to herself with some surprise that she did adore him. "I will send a message." It was a dismissal. He surprised her then by reaching down and picking up her panties; he held them out to her, a tacit peace offering, and watched intently as she slid into them.

"Varric," Isabela's voice held frustration. She swung her legs over the arm of her chair and took a long swig of ale. "Is there any real sex in this?" she demanded. The dwarf smirked.

"Yes, Rivaini, there is real sex in this."

The Arishok arrived unexpectedly at Hawke's estate two nights later, his body a hard line of need and urgency. When Bodahn showed him into the drawing room, Hawke was curled up in one of the low, comfortable armchairs reading a very dull book about Tevinter mages.

"Please excuse my intrusion," he said, his eyes were wild and desperate. Hawke frowned as she stood and closed the distance between them.

"What is it? "she asked, reacting to his being rather then his words. He looked down into her face, gripping her upper arms tightly, and she shivered at the hunger in his gaze, saw and recognised his conflict.

"I shouldn't have come, forgive me," his hands fell away from her as he spun towards the door.

"Wait." Hawke reached into the pocket of her thick robe and retrieved her mother's key, "take this." He turned back to her slowly, his confusion evident in his bearing and expression.

"What ..?" his huge hand rose to take the heavy iron key from her outstretched fingers.

"It unlocks a gate beside the clinic in the Undercity, the gate leads into the cellars beneath the house. I know there are tunnels from the Compound into Darktown."

He frowned briefly before his forehead smoothed in understanding and then he left, as abruptly as he had arrived.

Hawke wrapped her robe tightly about her body and curled herself back into her chair. The book remained discarded as she stared into the flames. She'd been carrying the key around with her for days, waiting for the right time to give it to him. She wasn't sure that tonight had been the right time but he had seemed so disoriented by everything, by her.

Hawke knew that the Arishok had had a clear idea about how their relationship would progress when he first came to her house. He had expected to be in control, to satisfy his curiosity and go back to being a good Arishok. His behaviour indicated that things weren't going as he had planned.

Hawke didn't understand what that meant regarding his role within the Qun, she couldn't begin to and he spoke of it less and less the more time they spent together saying that she wouldn't understand. She had the distinct feeling that he didn't want her to. Sighing, she gathered up her book and went to unlock the cellar door in the kitchen before going to wash before bed.

Hawke awoke to darkness and her mattress dipping and shifting under a heavy weight, the brief thought that it might be an errant Mabari flitted through her mind before the weight unfurled beside her and a sudden flickering candle revealed the Arishok reaching up to carefully place the candle into the brass holder fixed on the wall above her bed bathing them in a dancing orange light.

"You used the key," she said, foolishly, half asleep and somewhat taken aback at the appearance of the Arishok in her bedroom in the small hours of the morning. He looked at her gravely, settling his shoulders against the headboard. Her huge bed suddenly felt much smaller.

"Is that not what you intended when you gave it to me?"

"I..." she began, and trailed off as she realised that she hadn't considered what he would actually do with the key once she had given it to him. Daft really although she trusted him, and evidently so did Caspian as he had just walked through the house, right past the Mabari, to get to her room. He gave a deep snort of amusement and, as if reading her thoughts, said,

"I gave the key to my Ashaad, told him to find the gate and use the key. To report back. He did this. I put the key on my desk." His eyes drilled into hers. "I stared at it for a long time and thought about you, on my desk; your thighs spread wide, and what you said afterwards." His lips twisted bitterly. "I realised that I had to come."

"Had to?" she questioned, her tone light. He growled, sharp and angry, shockingly low in his chest,

"Do not make fun of me."

"I wasn't .. I … you know me, a smart-ass." He regarded her for a long moment before his eyes softened and he reached to trace the outline of her body through the thin summer blanket, his hand coming to rest on her hip, his fingers curling into her buttock.

"A smart ass," he murmured, squeezing, "it is pleasantly rounded and firm but not, I think, smart." She laughed, relieved that his sudden anger had evaporated and reached up to stroke one proud horn before her hand caressed his cheek lightly.

"Are you alright? She asked not mentioning his agitation earlier in the evening. He sighed, a touchingly human response.

"I am now," he answered, his head turned slightly, his lips nuzzled her palm. "You desire to touch me, Kadan, as I touch you." Her eyes widened in the candlelight as her breath caught.

"You know I do," she whispered. His hand, which had been lying quietly on her belly, bunched and grasped the blanket, sliding it down her body to her hips.

"You sleep naked?" he seemed faintly amazed, momentarily distracted from his purpose.

"Always." He smirked.

"Even in winter?"

"I'm a firm believer in the 'more blankets is best' principle and I hate nightclothes when I'm in bed, they always twist up around my waist," Hawke trailed off, aware she was babbling, as her eyes were drawn to the subtle shifting beneath his light cotton pants. She frowned, she had never seen him in anything so insubstantial. Qunari nightwear? She wondered. His fingers laced lightly on his rock hard stomach.

"Touch me," he invited. Twenty questions tumbled through her brain, the first of which fell from her lips.

"Why now?" His expression turned brooding as he stared at her.

"Disturbingly, I find that my curiosity seems limitless." He tore his eyes from hers to look down the line of his own body. "And I wonder about yours." They both watched as his hands, seemingly of their own volition, travelled the few inches to the laces on his pants and began to loosen them off.

"The Arishok's cock? The Aricock!*" Isabela exploded into mirth. "Oh, that it too much," and Varric became belatedly aware of the unfortunate rhyme. He scowled at her.

"Hush Rivaini, you're ruining the mood." She choked back her giggles and waved an arm for him to continue.

Hawke watched, transfixed, as he shoved the material over his hips and lay back, his thick length lying exposed on his belly, pulsing slightly.

"Oh my." Hawke's lip caught in her teeth, she tried to swallow the sudden lump in her throat as she looked upon him for the first time. He was beautiful; straight and long and very thick, the skin the same rich bronze tone as his thighs. She lent over his taut body, he smelled of tar soap, and beneath that something rangy and very masculine. She groaned, feeling her insides pulse and contract, and pressed her lips to the hard planes of his stomach, licking along the muscles, tracing the red war paint with her tongue and scratching at his skin with her fingernails.

The Arishok groaned under her touch, his fingers entwined into her hair. She allowed her fingers to brush his length lightly, smiling when it jerked and hardened. His hips tensed as his body twitched. She looked up at him. "Open your legs, Arishok," she whispered. His brow tightened briefly before his curiosity pulled at him and he did as she asked; she lifted herself carefully over his thigh into the gap between them, positioning herself on her knees, leaning over his groin. His body shuddered when she took him into her two hands and caressed his long, thick shaft feeling him harden further, he groaned again and began to purr.

Hawke deliberately held his startled eyes as she bent her head to him and ran her tongue over his tip, his hips jerked beneath her, his fingers clutching at the bedspread. She took a deep breath and took as much of him as she could into her mouth, gratified at his hoarse cry. Closing her eyes, she applied herself to the sweet task of bringing him, slightly stunned that he had finally allowed this. Oh Maker, he had allowed this.

She felt a sharp pull between her own legs, felt herself grow hot and wet as he grunted again, his purr intensified and the thick, corded muscles in his thighs twitched as his legs spread wider. She ran her tongue across his delicate skin, her mouth sucking harder until his hips pumped upwards threatening to choke her and the Arishok came with a low grunt, spilling his hot seed into her eager mouth and she drank down every last drop he gave her.

Hawke drew her lips reluctantly from him, pressing a last, lingering kiss to the glistening tip and laid her forehead against his stomach beside his still hard length, breathing heavily, her body raging. She wondered what he would do if she moved to straddle him, to impale herself on him; she suspected it wouldn't go well. She was strong for a woman, and tall but her strength was pitiful compared to his. She groaned softly and felt his fingers gently entwine into her hair and exert a slight pressure, persuading her to crawl up his body, ignoring the part of him that her body screamed for until her face was level with his.

One of his hands cupped the back of her neck, bringing her mouth to his in a fierce kiss, the other travelled down her back, dancing over the skin, and between her legs. Feeling how wet she was, he thrust two fingers into her body, sliding them smoothly in and out, and his tongue pushed into her mouth.

Hawke moaned into his mouth, her body writhing on his busy hand as her arms locked about his neck, her fingers threading into his hair and she came, hard, gasping, and his arms tightened almost painfully around her. He grunted and twitched beneath her, his hips jerked, thrusting his hard cock along her inner thigh just above her knee, she whimpered and tore her mouth from his.

"Please?" she whispered raggedly. Fire briefly raged in his eyes before he shook his head firmly.

"I have allowed too much already." She knew it would be foolish to push it any further, but she couldn't help herself. She feathered light kisses across his lips.

"Please?" she breathed.

" I said no," his bellow was cruelly loud in the stillness. Hawke was swept from his chest and tucked firmly into his side, his arms a warm, hard cage. She peered up at him over his chest, he was breathing heavily, his nostrils flaring. His head swung, his eyes pinned her. "I do not understand why you wish me to rip you in half, " he growled, the anger fading from his eyes as she watched.

Hawke took a deep, cleansing breath and sagged against him. She didn't think that he would tear her apart but she couldn't really tell him why she was so sure. She smiled against his skin as Jonas skittered through her brain; tall lanky Jonas who had been more than generously blessed and had wept tears of joy the first time they made love and he found that Hawke had been blessed with a startling depth that could accommodate him. In the same moment, Oliver crowded in with his much more modest member and his complaint that she had a twat like a bucket. Her lips tightened briefly, that had hurt, she had liked him but it had set her on a path; she didn't have sex with a man unless he met a strictly defined criteria. The Arishok was a thick twelve inches of perfect, and stubborn, really stubborn.

"I did not expect you to get so much pleasure from doing that to me," his voice was smooth again, contented, when he finally broke the peaceful silence.

Hawke laid a gentle kiss against one sharply defined deltoid.

"How many months have I hoped you would relent?" she murmured, rhetorically. "Of course I was going to enjoy it." His arms relaxed their iron hold, fingers caressed her back in gentle circles.

"Will you go to sleep in my arms, Kadan, nestled against me?" he asked, his voice was curiously soft. She smiled up at him, her hand lightly feathering across his broad chest.

"I can certainly try." A tiny smile lifted his lips as she snuggled into him and closed her eyes.

"It was the first night of many that Hawke went to sleep in his arms; he was always gone when she woke," Varric paused, "but I'm getting ahead of myself.

The following night, Hawke was awoken in a very different fashion; the blanket stripped from her body, huge hands roughly pulling her legs apart, yanking at her body."

"Oh. Varric. No." Isabela protested. "Not rape, not after all this."

"Who is telling this story, Rivaini?" the dwarf countered, his eyes narrowing. Isabela slumped in her chair

"Go on then," she said, her eyes disappointed.

Hawke had been dreaming; she had given herself a brief, unsatisfactory orgasm before she had fallen into a restless doze, her mind full of him and the most recent development of their relationship; the feel and taste of him in her mouth and hands finally, her body twisted under the light cover until deep sleep had finally sucked her under.

And now, as her body goose-bumped in the cool darkness, she shivered as she felt the tip of him stroke the line of her sex, wet and swollen by her dreams, and find her; his elbows were suddenly either side of her head, his weight supported above her as he shoved into her, and kept shoving, filling her.

Was she awake? She wondered as her back arched and her body convulsed about him. She locked her legs around his waist, angling her hips and driving her heels against him, moaning as he sank the last couple of inches into her body and he was sheathed within her. She came, gloriously abandoned, her screams muffled by his hard chest, her hips rocking into his, driving him even deeper.

The Arishok's hips bucked, slamming his thick length into her body again and again as his rumbling purr began, jerkily at first before smoothing out and filling the room.

"Oh yes. Please. Yes." she moaned into his skin finally realising that yes, she was awake and this wasn't merely a figment of her desperate imagination. She slid her hands to his shoulder blades and let her fingernails dig into his muscle as her body moved in perfect harmony with his, eagerly taking every thrust. She should be angry, she knew that and maybe she would be later but at that moment, with him finally inside her and riding her hard all she felt was relief, and satisfaction, and something bordering on ecstasy.

Hawke felt his rhythm change to something wilder, his body tensed and began to tremble; the change in him brought her again, bucking beneath him, feeling him spill into her and grunting low in his chest as he filled her.

"Andraste's tits," she murmured when she had mostly regained her breath, "could you not just have done that the first night we were together by the fire? I know you wanted to."

"No, no, no." Isabela shook her head, firmly. "Hawke just wouldn't say that."

"How do you know what Hawke would say after sex?" Varric grinned. "My story, Rivaini, but I can change it." He frowned thoughtfully.

The Arishok's tears fell like rain, splashing gently onto her upturned face, his body still trembled above hers. He had withdrawn from her, squirmed backwards down the bed until their faces were level in the darkness and his mouth blindly found hers before he had made a choked sound deep in his throat and started to cry. She reached up, her fingertips chasing his tears from his cheeks.

"Oh my love, don't," she whispered.

"I thought I would damage you," he said, hoarsely, "but I still did it." His huge body shuddered. "I must go."

"Don't. Please." Her hands slid around his neck. "You didn't hurt me."

"Do you not see?" He broke her hold easily. "I did not care whether I did or not." She felt the weight of him shifting off her in the darkness. The bed creaked in protest as he rolled, lithely coming to his feet. "Panahedan Kadan."

"Don't go," she pleaded but her answer was the bedroom door softly closing behind him. "Shit," she murmured to herself.

"Oh well, bugger," Isabela muttered, crossly. "The Arishok is a bloody idiot." Her forehead creased into a disconsolate frown.

"Aren't most men bloody idiots when it comes to women, Rivaini? Why would the Arishok be any different? " The dwarf asked lightly. Her generous lips twitched into a small smile. "I've already said that the night she went to sleep in his arms was the first of many." She brightened.

"So he comes around?"

"He does, after he nearly kills her."

"What?" Her tone was flat and hard.

It was ten days before Hawke heard from him. A brief invitation for her to spar with him. If she would like to.

Hawke grimaced to herself, supposing that it was better than no contact at all and wondering if it was some sort of tacit apology. She'd had a miserable time as the days had dragged on with no word from him. She had wondered if that was it; if her amazing, improbable affair with the Arishok was over. She also wondered if he was thinking about her at all. She put on a brave face, dismissing the idea of going to the Compound. She had the feeling that the Arishok would be unavailable. Besides which, it would look weak. She was disappointed though, she would have hoped that he'd have the courage to tell her to her face if it was over.

And then, a one-line missive that brought her here.

The Arishok spun more quickly than she could have believed possible, nobody that big should be so fast, and came at her again, his wooden swords held low, his eyes blazing. He hadn't said anything to her other than a curt 'Shanedan' when his Ashaad had escorted her to the sparring ring. He was already stripped down to light leathers, the war paint on his chest and arms particularly vibrant. Repainted? She wondered.

He had never pressed her so hard as he did that afternoon. His body was a furious mass of barely pent up aggression, the serious, doing real damage, kind of aggression.

As the sun dipped low in the sky, Hawke was nearly sick with exhaustion but he still hadn't beaten her. She used her last reserves of stamina flickering into stealth and circled behind him; he roared and spun, his teeth bared in a savage snarl, seeming to unerringly sense exactly where she was. His arm whipped back and swung, bringing the flat of the wooden blade hurtling towards her head, fully expecting her to dive out of the way and she tried, she heard the blade whistling through the air, but her legs had turned to lead.

"No!" His roar was the last thing she heard together with the wooden clatter of the blade falling to the stone before the pain exploded in her head, so excruciating it was almost sublime, she let out a strangled cry and her legs folded beneath her.

The Arishok stood as if paralysed for a long moment and spun toward the nearest Karashok.

"Find Arvaarad. Tell him what happened. Ask if he will consent to bring Saarebas to heal this human." He knew he couldn't order it, not for a Bas, not even for his Baslit-an. He dropped to his knees on the cold stone beside her crumpled body and watched clear fluid trickle from her ear. "Live Kadan," he urged, not daring to touch her lest he damage something in her head further.

Her body was thrown into shadow as Arvaarad approached from behind, Saarebas leashed and bound beside him.

"Arishok," he said, his voice grave.

"Arvaarad. I request that you permit Saarebas to heal this human." The Arishok's eyes were riveted on her prone body, the fluid seemed to have gained a pinkish tinge and was leaking more quickly, forming a tiny, glistening pool on the stone.

"Bas?"

"Baslit-an." he turned then to look up into Arvaarad's cold eyes. "My Baslit-an," he whispered, turning back to her so he didn't have to watch disapproval flare on the Arvaarad's face. There was a long silence.

"Saarebas."

The huge Qunari mage shuffled forwards, dropping to his knees beside Hawke's still body. He bowed his head, holding his hands above her. His body shook as his hands were engulfed in a dancing ball of soft blue light and he carefully placed his palms on either side of her head.

"Oh by Andraste's tits," Isabela threw up her hands. "First he rapes her, now he nearly kills her."

"It wasn't really rape," the dwarf protested.

"Yes, it really was," Isabela corrected, her eyes narrowing. "He was just lucky."

"Have it your way, Rivaini." The dwarf settled back, taking a swig of ale.

"Well, carry on," Isabela said, impatiently.

Hawke was mystified to wake up in her own bed, her head thickly bandaged and throbbing dully as she cast bleary eyes around the familiar room. She swallowed experimentally, her mouth felt like something had crawled inside and died. A huge hand slipped under her neck and gently lifted her head a few inches, a cup of blessedly cool water was held to her lips.

"Just a few sips," a growling voice cautioned. Hawke's heart swelled; he was here at her bedside, presumably waiting for her to wake up. She sipped greedily at the water, it was bliss as it slid down her parched throat. She tried to turn her head to look at him and gasped at the sharp pain that seared from skull to shoulder.

"Uh," her eyes swam with sudden tears. His hand curled briefly around hers.

"Do not try and move, Kadan," She closed her eyes against the tears and the pain and felt the mattress dip beneath his weight as he lay down on his side next to her, his head propped up on one bent arm so that he could look at her face, the other arm snaked carefully across her ribs and up under her shoulder, squeezing her gently. He lent and pressed his lips to her forehead.

"I am sorry, Kadan," he whispered.

"It was an accident, you thought I would move," she said hoarsely.

"It did not go as I had planned," he admitted, "but I am sorry for so much, what I did to you was unforgivable."

Hawke groaned to herself, she was in no condition to have this talk with him but if she didn't, it would never be mended and she and the Arishok would be having the break-up conversation.

She turned her head a fraction, ignoring the white hot shard of pain that sliced through her skull and rolled her eyes to meet his, seeing guilt and shame in the gold. She thought for a long moment, choosing her words carefully.

"While I don't condone the circumstances, what you did to me was wonderful," she whispered. "Next time, some foreplay would be nice."

The Arishok made a peculiar noise deep in his chest, a choked grunt caught perfectly between self-loathing and amusement.

"Next time?"

"And, I would rather you didn't work yourself into such a frenzy that you feel sneaking into my bedroom in the middle of the night and forcing yourself on me is the only course of action open to you," her voice became stronger as she spoke despite the near crippling pain developing rapidly above her left ear. "And why did you wait ten days? I thought that you didn't want to see me any more." A low, angry growl interrupted her flow.

"Do not chide me like a nagging wife. It would be better if I had not invited you, if I had been strong enough." Hawke frowned, she would think about that later.

"As for what you did being unforgivable, I decide that." With a tremendous effort, she swept her arm up at the elbow and rapped her knuckles against his chest. "It wasn't, and as long as you promise there will not be a repeat, you are forgiven, unequivocally." She watched his face soften as the tension slipped away, his eyes cleared.

"Just like that, Kadan?" he asked, taking her hand in his and bending his head to kiss her knuckles. She shivered, and then gasped as pain spiked in her head.

"Just like that," she gasped through her agony.

The Arishok watched, scowling as her face twisted squeezing a few tears from her tightly scrunched eyes, and held her hand gently, rubbing comforting circles on her palm with his large thumb.

Hawke panted, if she concentrated on his touch, she wouldn't scream. Screaming would be too much.

Just when the pain was tugging at the edges of her sanity, it abruptly eased to a low, bearable roar as something warm and healing flooded through her skull and she found she could breathe again, her body could relax and subside gratefully into the mattress.

The Arishok stared down at her, his eyes sharp with concern, still holding her hand.

"You shouldn't be in this much pain, I could request Arvaarad bring Saarebas."

"Not here, she whispered when she could speak again. "How badly was I hurt?"

"I thought you were going to die, that I had broken your neck. I hit you very hard, Kadan."

Her lips twitched into a tiny, brief smile. "Yes. Yes, you did. You're going to have to make that up to me."

He snorted in amusement and continued. "Arvaarad permitted your healing; Saarebas accelerated the mending inside your head as much as he could but warned it would be a few days before you were on your feet. The magic will keep working. It will make you better much quicker, and it undoubtedly saved your life." His expression turned brooding. "Not what I intended though I appreciate the irony of the two events when considered together."

"Not what you intended," she murmured. "What did you intend?" She smiled again to see a sudden heat flare in his eyes, his fingers involuntarily tightened about hers.

"After I had beaten you, I was going to take you to the Bathhouse, strip you and wash you." His voice was slow; she closed her eyes, imagining his big hands on her skin.

"And then?" she breathed.

"I was going to take you back to my quarters, throw you onto my bed and give you the foreplay you desire before fucking you until you couldn't stand," his words ended on a throaty growl.

Hawke felt a frisson of excitement spark in her loins despite her fragile condition, despite everything, and smiled. "And if I had won?" she questioned, lightly. His nostrils flared.

"The mood I was in, Kadan, I had not considered that possibility." He lent over her and his lips were oh so gentle on hers as he kissed her softly. "I should leave, Kadan. Let you rest and heal." Her blue eyes were pleading as she looked up at him.

"Stay until I fall asleep?" she whispered. He nodded briefly.

"As you wish."

"The Arishok visited the next four evenings to spend the hours sat in a large comfortable chair beside Hawke's bed; talking with her about matters of no real consequence, reading to her and just watching her sleep. He left around eleven each night, kissing her nicely and didn't come back in the small hours."

"He's in very deep, isn't he," Isabela murmured, "in more ways than one." Varric flashed her a quick grin.

On the fifth night, the Arishok arrived to find Hawke sat up in bed, the bandages removed, her eyes bright.

"I got up and took a bath today," she said, her voice excited. "It was wonderful."

He smiled briefly and sat beside her on the bed rather than in the chair. He cupped her face gently and kissed her forehead lightly. "You look much improved, Kadan," he murmured against her skin.

"I feel mostly human again though I wouldn't want a fight." She patted the bed on her other side. "Come relax, that chair can't be that comfortable." Her tone was the familiar, teasing Hawke and the Arishok found that his relief was immeasurable.

Hawke watch him uncoil and stretch, languidly; muscles rippled beneath his skin and she shivered, something dark shifted within her as a vivid picture of his snarl and the inescapable wooden sword flashed into her minds eye.

The Arishok was immensely powerful, deadly and intractable, quick to anger and, as far as she was concerned at least, increasingly unpredictable. Maybe you should send him away for good, a small voice at the back of her mind ventured. She stifled a wild giggle as she thought about how that conversation would go and realised immediately that she didn't want to. She was in as deeply as he was; they would both follow this to its conclusion, whatever that might be.

"Hawke."

The Arishok was lying beside her, his arm curled under her shoulders, drawing her into his chest, she obediently slid under her blanket and tucked her body into his. He gently turned her body into his and enfolded her into his arms, his lips nuzzled at her hair. "I cannot put into words how relieved I am that you did not die." His arms clutched at her almost desperately, she could feel his heart pounding in his chest.

"Shhh, it has turned out alright," her hand snaked under his arm to rub comforting circles on his broad back.

"I am amazed that you still let me hold you in my arms. You are a remarkable woman, Baslit-an."

"What does that mean?" she asked, her voice gentle. "You call me names in your tongue and never tell me what they mean." His arms loosened as he relaxed into the pillows, drawing her out from under the blanket, to lie, half-draped across his chest, her arm tucked about his waist. She sighed contentedly against his skin, resisting the urge to lick along the hard line of muscle beneath her cheek.

"Bas is foreigner, anyone not of the Qun," he explained. "Baslit-an is a foreigner worthy of great respect. In the Compound, other Qunari refer to you as the Arishok's Baslit-an."

"What do you refer to me as?" she was suddenly curious.

"My Baslit-an," he answered simply. She was touched.

"And Kadan?" she asked. The Arishok shifted restlessly.

"That .. ah .. doesn't …. translate well." he said and she could have sworn that he was embarrassed.

Her fingers began to trace small circles on his hip and felt a tiny tremor in his body. She smiled and turned her face to his chest, kissing the hard ridge of muscle until his hands on her shoulders stopped her.

"Please do not, Kadan," he whispered. "You are not yet recovered enough." She frowned, feeling a warning throb above her ear, and stilled.

"You're right, although I wish it were otherwise." She squirmed up in his arms until her head found his shoulder, slipping into the crook of his arm. He drew the blanket over her carefully.

"As do I. Perhaps, now that all avenues are open to us, we should discuss possibility." She twisted her neck to look up, over his mountainous shoulder, into his face trying to work context and meaning into his words. He shifted her easily so that she was more comfortable and added, impatiently, "Now that I am prepared to do anything with you and to you it seems, what would you have me do?" Her forehead creased into a frown which smoothed as he brushed a light hand down her back to his own groin where it settled, covering himself, and she understood what he meant.

Hawke freed herself from his arms and lay down tight to his body, her head on the pillow next to his so that she could speak into his ear in low tones and tell him exactly what she wanted him to do to her now that there were no restrictions.

The Arishok groaned and gripped himself through his thick linens, his arm rising to cover his face as Hawke poured sweet torment into his willing ear, her fingers trailing fire across his chest.

"They spoke late into the night about sex and pleasure, and the Arishok's eyes were opened to the endless possibilities and intricacies of intimacy." Varric's voice dripped like honey.

"Lucky him. I'd love to have Hawke whisper filth into my ear in that sexy voice of hers." Isabela licked her lips, lasciviously. "Yum."

"Easy Rivaini," he chuckled.

"Hurry up and finish, dwarf. She and Fenris will be here soon."

"If only you knew how often I've heard that," the dwarf sighed. "Well, more weeks passed, their affair continued until it was a few days before the takeover and Hawke was at the Compound, in the Arishok's office.

Hawke stared at the Arishok wondering what in their conversation had suddenly enraged him so.

"I do not understand," he growled and she realised that whatever had made him angry had nothing to do with the alarming increase in the price of grain. He stood up suddenly, looming over his heavy wooden desk, sending his chair thudding against the wall behind him as he planted his fists on the smooth surface.

Hawke, for once glad of a barrier between them, regarded him with wary eyes and asked, "what do you not understand, Arishok?"

He was breathing heavily, his shoulders heaving and she watched his fists flex ominously. "This is a serious topic we discuss, it grows ever more expensive to feed the Qunari in this disgusting city and our resources dwindle." His golden eyes fixed on her face. "And yet," he growled, deep and low. His arm shot out and gripped her shoulder jerking her to her feet and pulling her towards him so he could lower his face into the warm curve of her neck and inhale deeply. "How am I supposed to concentrate when you smell so intoxicating? How am I supposed to get anything done when all I can think about is ripping the clothes from your body and running my tongue all over you?" His body was shaking with barely contained anger, his eyes flashing, his voice working up to a roar. He shook her roughly. "How do you exist in this primal thrall?" he snarled. Hawke twisted pointlessly in his grip.

"Let me go," she demanded.

"I will not." His eyes blazed, his other hand clamped around her bicep and jerked her upwards, lifting her onto the polished surface of his desk on her knees with a dull thud and crushing her to him with one arm about her shoulders. She felt his other hand slide up her thigh, under the leather skirt of her armour.

"Don't you dare," she hissed. "What has come over you?" His hand stilled, the other entangled in her hair and sharply pulled her head back so he could look down into her face.

"I dream of you; you are the first thing I think of when I wake, the last before I sleep, all I can think about is being with you, being between your legs." His words might have been romantic if they hadn't been so laden with fury. "I am the Arishok of the Qunari and I am mooning over a woman like a simpering fool." He growled, loud and angry. "This cannot be."

Hawke genuinely didn't know if he was going to fuck her or kill her, or both. She struggled briefly, stilling as his fingers tightened painfully in her hair but her temper spilled over her.

"Let me go," she screamed into his face, pleased to see surprise war with the anger in his eyes for a split second as his arms released her and he stepped back a pace. "Why can you not deal with your feelings," she asked, angrily. His nostrils flared.

"You think that is what we are discussing?" he questioned, incredulously.

"You can't deal with feeling like you want to have sex with me all the time." She sat back on her heels and saw his shoulders slump.

"You are right, I cannot." His head bowed as the Arishok regrouped. When he looked at her again, his eyes were curiously tender. "I want to be in your head, in your soul. It seems the only way I can express that is to be in your body and have it sing with mine. The Qun warns against such distraction," Hawke sighed sadly.

" Sex is enshrined in marriage, blessed by the Chantry and the Maker." He sneered. "It's in the marriage vows. With my body, I honour you." she said softly, solemnly.

"The promise to fornicate is in your mating ritual?" His face twisted into ugly leer as something in his eyes shuttered. Hawke's shoulders sagged. He didn't get it and maybe he never would.

The Arishok was too Qunari it seemed to learn any more lessons.

She crooked a finger at him. He lent down placing his hands either side of her, his face inches from hers.

"Go to your chamber," she said coolly, meeting his eyes. "I'll be there soon." She slid off his desk and ducked under his arm without waiting for his answer and made her way to the bath-house, intending to give him time to regain himself fully.

The sun had set when she emerged, a light cotton robe concealing her nakedness for the brief walk back to his quarters.

His chamber was in near darkness but she could clearly see the Arishok, stretched out in all his glory against the rich red, velvet bedspread. She moaned, deep in her throat at the sight of him and walked slowly across the room, shedding her robe behind her. He growled as she crawled up the bed and lent over him.

"If it's any consolation, I find it hard to keep my hands off you as well," she murmured, lightly caressing his face. "It's completely normal in the course of a human relationship,"

"How long does this last?"

"Two years or thereabouts, it never wears off but it becomes more manageable."

"Two years?" he snorted in amusement. "I would be worn away to a stub in that time, Kadan." She giggled at the thought and pressed her lips to his in a serious kiss, feeling a delicious warmth course through her body when his tongue pushed into her mouth with a growl and his arms slid around her. She was a tall woman but he made her feel tiny and fragile, somehow womanly. She drew back a fraction from his lips.

"I want to ..." she trailed off and smiled as he frowned slightly. "I'll show you."

Hawke started at his chest, teasing his nipples with her fingers and tongue, biting and scratching at his skin until the smooth, rumbling purr had begun, deep in his chest. Then she worked her way slowly down, revelling in her exploration, reverently kissing along his ribs, her tongue tracing the sharply defined abdominals until she reached his stomach.

The Arishok growled in anticipation under her lips but she ignored him apart from shifting his hardness out of her way so she could lick slow, lazy circles across his stomach and down the hard edge of the V that pointed to his groin. Her hands moved smoothly to his thighs, kneading the heavy corded muscles, when her tongue followed his body tensed

"Hawke, if you don't..." he growled in frustration, propping himself up on his elbows. She rolled innocent, doe-eyes to meet his.

"If I don't what?" she questioned, her lips twitching into a smirk, her hand sliding up the inside of his thigh firmly, her fingers lightly stroking his balls. He groaned and sank back into the pillows.

"Have it your way, woman,"

"I intend to," she retorted and heard him snort as they both remembered their second evening by the fire.

"You are an impossible woman, Marian Hawke," he murmured. His body tensed, his fingers curling as she finally licked along the length of him and took him into her mouth and hands. "I surrender," he groaned, as his back bowed.

Varric sat back in his chair and lifted his mug to his lips. Isabela looked slightly shell-shocked.

"You're saying ..." she trailed off and shook her head incredulously.

"Just a few days later, the Qunari took over the city," Varric continued, " Hawke awoke in his bed for the first and only time."

"His last gift to her," Isabela murmured, her eyes unexpectedly prickling with tears, "oh, how very, very sad."

"Not quite his last," Varric corrected, gently. "The day before the attempted takeover, Hawke received the Arishok's last message. Typically brief, it said:

'Come tonight and spend the night with me.'"

Hawke stretched against the muscular embrace that had her pinned to the Arishok's curiously naked chest, stripped of the red war-paint as it was. It was a bit like being held by a tree, she imagined, he was that solid, but a lot warmer. She nestled into him, wriggling against his groin and smiling when the low rumbling growl began in the centre of his chest and one hand skimmed down her back to rest possessively on her ass, squeezing lightly. When she looked up into his face, his golden eyes were heavy with sleep but lightening with a growing lust.

"Mmm," she murmured, "morning sex." She squirmed against his body until her face was level with his and leaned in to kiss him, her tongue tracing his full lower lip. He growled and opened his mouth to her persistent tongue, his arms tightening around her. One hand found it's way into her hair, fingers entwining in it's length so he could gently pull her head to one side as his mouth left hers to trail down her neck to her breast where he licked in lazy circles finally capturing her taut nipple between his lips and sucking hard, drawing sharp lines of pleasure from breast to groin. His hand glided over her skin, stroking her hip, her thighs and knees before sliding between them.

"Will you open your legs for me?" he growled into her skin. She relaxed her thighs and allowed him to chase them wide apart unsurprised when he settled himself between them, his shoulders holding her legs splayed open. She shivered when his broad, thick tongue slid into her and his fingers moved to stroke her wetness, teasing at her throbbing clitoris. She felt the muscles in her thighs begin to tremble, her body begin to shake as ripples of pleasure radiated through her. He straightened, covering her body with his as he guided himself to her entrance and stroked her lightly. She moaned deep in her throat and wriggled against him.

"Yes," half screamed as the Arishok steadily pushed himself forward into her and she felt as if she would melt. She undulated beneath him, her hands clutching at his shoulders, her legs wrapped about his hips as he smoothly slid, deeper and deeper until his heavy balls rested against her and he stilled, buried within her, waiting.

Hawke's back savagely bowed, her body twitched and quivered as her orgasm threatened to rob her of all her senses except the pleasure that was spilling through her body. She screamed and sobbed into his chest, her nails leaving scarlet trails across his back as she came and came.

"So hot," he groaned and began to fuck her, hard and fast. His hips pounding, growing quickly erratic as he began to pant and his body stiffened, and jerked, as he spilled into her body. With a deep grunt and a final thrust, he stilled and rolled onto his back, his hands moving swiftly to her shoulders to bring her with him still lodged inside her.

"That was perfect," Hawke sighed. She lay in his arms, along the hard line of his chest, her head nestled into the hollow between neck and shoulder. His arms tightened about her briefly; she felt his lips brush her hair.

"It was, Kadan," he murmured.

Positioned as she was, she couldn't see the look of utter despair on his face as the glimmer of final understanding, the tantalising abstract that had eluded him for so long ignited and began to slowly burn with a hopelessly fierce intensity.

"Despair?" Isabela questioned disbelievingly. Varric nodded thoughtfully, staring into space.

"About two months had passed since he had thwacked her. Once she was better, he had taken in her every position, every variant of every position he could think of and he still couldn't get enough of her. Everything was out of control; both in Kirkwall and within the Arishok." Varric sighed, heavily.

"He took her once more that morning for what turned out to be the last time. As the Compound came to life outside the sanctuary of his quarters and readied for war, he took her slowly, sweetly, bringing her over and over with an intensity that made her weep beneath him, her hands clutching desperately at his back and neck.

She was unable to see the tears that streamed down the Arishok's cheeks as the last barriers within him crumbled to nothing; understanding coursed through his brain, body and heart.

"With my body, I honour you," he whispered and finally made love to his Baslit-an."

"Oh," said Isabela, on a choked sob.

"It ends today," The Arishok said, his voice muffled against her breasts, long fingers caressing her arms and shoulders, dancing along her collarbones.

"What does?" she was in a post-coital half doze, soothed by his touch, the occasional swipe of his tongue over her breasts.

"Everything," he said and his tone was hopelessly bleak.

"Withdraw!" Aveline's voice was urgent, she grabbed at Hawke's arm, trying to drag her toward the Compound gate. "Hawke, it's too dangerous." Hawke resisted as she twisted her head to look back at the dais and the one again fully painted Arishok. He stood, body rigid in his armour as he stared at her. Their eyes locked; she saw the pain and loss and longing in his golden eyes replaced with resolve; spears rained down around them and she allowed her friend to tug her to the gate.

"You fought your way to the keep."

"We did, Rivaini," Varric said, not mentioning the fact that Isabela had, at that point, betrayed all of them and scarpered. "The Arishok used the Viscount's head as a bowling ball. It wasn't pretty. And then, well, you know what happened after that."

"Finish the story, dwarf," Isabela muttered, darkly.

Hawke was panting and bleeding, sweaty and nearly exhausted, but so was the Arishok. His head hung low as he regrouped for another assault. She let him come, diving out of the way as he rushed her, springing to her feet to attack his broad back, to lacerate for real, noting how it was taking him longer to recover, how much blood he was losing from the myriad of cuts.

Caspian spun and taunted in front of him as reluctant to bite and snap at the Arishok as the Arishok was to hurt the animal.

She hadn't wanted it to come to this but she couldn't let him take her friend. Not when Isabela had risen above her own selfish nature and come back, bringing the relic with her.

A dual though. Of all the stupid things she had gotten herself into over the years, this had to be the pinnacle of her idiocy so far. He couldn't just take the damn book and go back to Par Vollen? He had to make this unreasonable demand? A glimmer of understanding shot through her brain, an inkling of just how much he had given up and how far he had compromised himself to be with her and then the thought was gone, chased away by the sight of him rushing her again, gone to be dwelt upon again later, over and over again.

Hawke feinted left and saw the Arishok hesitate, saw the beginning of the tiny vulnerability, the moment of imbalance that he had taught her to read and exploit in their months of sparring. His eyes softened as she leapt and she knew that her timing was perfect, her momentum drove her body into his, capturing that minute imbalance, making it hers as her knees connected with his shoulders, through the gap in the heavy, stone guards and rode him backwards with a loud crash to the stone steps, his weapons skittering across the floor as he released them.

Hawke realised that he had planned this, had played her, trained her so that she could achieve the seemingly impossible and beat him in a dual. Her body clenched with anger before her heart lurched as the thought struck her. What came next?

"Yield," she ground from between clenched teeth. Her slender body was perched atop his chest, her twin blades pressed against his throat. He could throw her off easily but not before she cut his throat. "Please yield," she begged, looking down into his face, her heart in her eyes.

A drop of sweat rolled down her nose and fell with a tiny splatter onto his lips. A brief sad smile touched her face as the tip of his tongue darted out to capture the bead of moisture and heat flared in his eyes, she knew exactly what he was thinking about; one of his favourite things to do with her, have her sit high on his chest, palms flat to the wall, her knees either side of his face, his head propped up on cushions so that he easily slide his tongue into her, huge hands firm on her hips holding her immobile as he drove her crazy with his tongue until she was nearly blind and sobbing with need, and he'd relent, easily lifting her down his body and onto him, still holding her firmly and smirking at her short screams as he flicked his hips upwards, driving his thick length deeper and deeper into her body. Only when he filled her would he relent further and move his big hands up her body to fondle her breasts and she could finally move in abandon.

Despite herself, and the situation, she shivered slightly as she remembered. When she refocused on his face, there was tenderness in his eyes that she never thought she would see on a Qunari or anyone and certainly not for her.

"I cannot yield, Kadan," he growled. "Honour dictates that we fight to the death." She leaned down until her face was inches from his, her mouth hovered above his as she whispered, her tone pleading. "I do not want to kill you."

"You must," golden eyes met blazing blue.

She shook her head. "You said you would never hurt me. How can you ask me to do this?"

"Only with your death could I rediscover my place in the Qun, my ebasit." his voice was a harsh growl but pain flickered across his chiselled features. "Maybe. Maybe not." She shivered as his gauntleted fingers briefly stroked her arm. " I do not want your death," his tone was anguished as he confessed.

"You could have asked me to go with you,"

Anger flared briefly in his eyes. "To be what? The Arishok's whore? That would demean us both," he growled, his massive bulk shifted beneath her coiled body, reminding her again of how intimately she knew his. "You must do this, Kadan." Inexplicably, his eyes softened, "my heart." he whispered, explaining that at last. He could be telling her that he loved her.

Which he did.

All the sparring, the talking, the sex had led to this, the humanising of the Arishok and ultimately a death.

As Hawke looked deep into his golden eyes, saw the madness lurking, she realised that he would rather die at her hand than have to kill her, to kill her would break something further within him, something that could never be mended.

"Do not make the mistake of letting me rise, Marian Hawke," that soft rumbling purr that tugged at her heart. "You understand?"

Hawke nodded, feeling the sting of sudden tears, and spared a glance around, blinking fiercely, they had fought their way to the stone steps; her back was to the rest of the Qunari and the nobles. Not that she really cared. Not when she was about to do what she was about to do.

She chose life, hers over his. She would do the guilt thing later, the guilt and the mourning.

She swallowed hard against the sudden lump in her throat, her mouth tightened, her lips pulling down as she felt tears prickle her eyes again. She leaned the last few inches and pressed her lips to his wishing her hands were free to caress his face and horns.

"So be it," she whispered and felt his hands on her waist suddenly. "Goodbye, my love."

Hawke reared up, jerking her blades across his throat in a savage, smooth, deep x, feeling his blood spray hot across her thighs and hands as he convulsed twice beneath her.

Tears fell freely from her face and she watched the light fade from his golden eyes, tears fell and mingled with the blood in tiny blooms on his skin, tears fell and nothing made sense to her.

The Arishok was dead. The relic reclaimed.

The other Qunari silently returned to the compound to await their ship. Kirkwall was safe.

"She loved him?" Isabela shook her head disbelievingly. "That has to be bullshit, dwarf."

"You were there, Rivaini. Did you not see?" Varric smirked. "Why did he not just take the relic and return to Par Vollen? Return to the Qun? Why force a dual with Hawke?" He sat back, folding his hands across his belly and stretching out his legs "I think that he loved her."

"She could have refused to fight him."

"Rivaini," he said with a hint of disappointment. "We're talking about Hawke." Isabela grinned widely.

"True." Insight flashed into her bright eyes. "He gave her all of himself, piece by piece and realised that his curiosity would never be satisfied, that he would always love her and want to be with her. He couldn't reconcile that with who he was, who he had been." She sighed heavily, "a good tale, dwarf. I wouldn't be telling it to Hawke though." Varric heaved a huge, inward sigh of relief.

The sparse, speculative gossip would be woven into the fiction and the story would evolve, as stories do, until it was barely recognisable as the tale he had spun for Isabela.

"Did you read the one about the Grey Warden and Qunari Sten that travelled with her? Absolutely filthy but..." he trailed off.

Something tickled at the edge of his senses; Hawke was threading her way through the busy pub. He waved an arm at her approach.

"Sit down, Hawke, have a pint."

As Varric looked into his friend's face, he could see the sadness, the loss, that still lingered in her compelling sapphire eyes.

What he hadn't told Isabela was that after the Knight-Commander had departed that night four months before, after grandly declaring Hawke to be Champion of Kirkwall, Hawke had turned to him, sorrow and despair shining in her beautiful eyes, a thick smear of the Arishok's blood daubed in a fierce line across her nose.

"I ruined him," she had whispered, and weaved away, reeling from exhaustion and guilt, heartsick and alone.

Varric shivered in sympathy for his friend, she had cut the throat of the Arishok, her friend definitely, her lover, Varric was almost certain, and who knows what else the huge Qunari leader had been to her.

That would leave a mark on anyone.

This is the first fanfic I've posted. Thank you for reading.

*Aricock - I couldn't resist – not after 'apostitute'