Sebastian swallowed hard, screwing up his courage to knock on the front door of the Amell estate. It was always a bit of a trial, enduring Malcolm Hawke's gimlet gaze as he waited in the foyer of the estate for his friend. Because that was all Celeste could ever be, his friend. It didn't stop her father from giving the prince the evil eye every time he showed up, however.
He sighed, blowing out a calming breath before giving the wood a firm rap with his knuckles. Bodahn answered, ushering him inside and steering him toward the library instead of leaving him to wait. He swallowed again at the sight of Malcolm Hawke's broad back as he stood by the fireplace, dressed in a plain cotton shirt with the sleeves rolled up to show off the apostate's arm muscles. Carver came by his physique through blood, it appeared.
Malcolm Hawke was a warrior, and the fact made Sebastian's insides do a sickening flip when the man turned to face him. Ruddy hair that made Celeste soft and desirable made Malcolm fierce and proud, though his was shot with grey that dusted the temples, like an aging Mabari – still dangerous and prone to bite. A strong, chiseled jaw and a hooked nose gave the patriarch of the Hawke family a close resemblance to his namesake. Dark green eyes narrowed under thick brows in appraisal as Sebastian approached.
"Good, you're here. Have a seat." Sebastian swallowed again, unable to stop the nervous sweat that broke out on his forehead and upper lip, making his palms cold and clammy. He sank into one of the overstuffed chairs. Malcolm remained standing, staring down at Sebastian with crossed arms. "I've been meaning to have a word with you about my daughter."
"Celeste?" Sebastian said a silent prayer of thanks to Andraste that he hadn't stuttered. He was confident that Malcolm could smell fear, and it had to be rolling off him in waves now.
"Yes, the one who drags you all over Kirkwall and beyond because she fancies you?" His eyes narrowed further. "You and I need to set some ground rules."
"Serrah Hawke, I had no lewd intentions towards your daughter. I am sworn to the Chantry – "
"Cut the bullshit, boy." Malcolm's stance didn't change, but a subtle odor began to build, and Sebastian realized it was the smell of ozone. A small spark flickered across the greying temple, and Sebastian resisted the urge to flinch by a small margin. It was a close thing. "I've seen the way you look at her. I also know of your history, and I was a young man once myself. I know what happens between young men and women. Don't think me stupid because I'm old, son."
"I wasn't – " Another spark cut him off, this one leaping from Malcolm to the chair with a sizzling pop.
"You made your vows to the Chantry, but if you keep looking at my daughter like that, she's going to get ideas in her head. And if you don't deliver on those ideas, she will get very upset. Would you like to know what happens to young men who make my daughters upset?"
Sebastian gave a slow nod, because he knew that a negative answer would get him the story anyway. Malcolm leaned closer, bracing his hands on the arms of Sebastian's chair, pinning the archer in. His hooked nose came within inches of Sebastian's own, and their gazes locked.
"I have set men on fire before. I have no problem doing it to you if you break my daughter's heart." Sebastian swallowed, sweating hard now. "You will give my little girl every courtesy she deserves, and you will continue to do so until she is finished with you. If you do not, remember this: I was outrunning templars before you were a squalling babe in your mother's arms. Don't think they'll find me before I find you."
Malcolm righted himself, crossing his arms again. "Do we have an understanding, your highness?"
"We – we do, Serrah Hawke." Sebastian let out a trembling breath. Maker, but the man was terrifying.
"Good talk, lad." The corners of the apostate's lips twitched in amusement.
A clatter at the top of the stairs announced Celeste's arrival, her hair still damp from her bath. She stopped in surprise at the sight of Sebastian sitting in the chair, speaking with her father. Sebastian scrambled to his feet as she descended, bowing low over her wrist.
"Sebastian, you're here early," she said, flustered at his attentions. Her gaze flickered to her father, who gave her an indulgent smile. "You didn't say he had stopped by yet, Daddy."
"Oh, it's fine, Punkin. I was happy to entertain your little friend while you prepared to go out adventuring. We had a nice chat."
"Daddy," she said, her tone warning. "You aren't trying to intimidate my friends, are you?"
"Not at all! Was I trying to intimidate you, your highness?" Malcolm affected an innocent face, his voice sliding up the scale to joviality as he clapped Sebastian on the shoulder a little harder than was necessary.
"No, serrah, your company was perfectly agreeable. I – I will speak to the guard on Carver's behalf." Malcolm nodded as if this was what they'd been discussing all along, instead of bodily harm to his person.
Sebastian smiled at Celeste, who was searching his face for anything false, and took her hand, giving it a gentle squeeze. She flushed, dropping her eyes, and in that moment, Sebastian's mind was made up. If he were to keep living a life without being set on fire, then he would have to renounce his vows to the Chantry. If anything would please Malcolm Hawke and keep Sebastian's hair unlit, it would be courting Celeste as a proper Prince.
He noticed Malcolm was frowning at their twined fingers, and he let her go, putting his hands behind his back in guilt.
Malcolm smiled at his eldest, who was still blushing from Sebastian's attention. "Where are you off to today, Punkin? Saving the world, as usual?"
She laughed. "Yes, we're going to clear out the Wounded Coast again."
"Be careful, all right? Slavers are nasty business." He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "You sure you don't want me to come with you?"
"I'll be fine, Daddy. I'll have Sebastian, Varric, and Aveline with me." She put emphasis on Sebastian's name, and he was certain that she always had, now that he knew to listen. Malcolm had heard it too, and his expression was plain.
"Have no fear, Serrah Hawke. I'll look out for her." It was easy to summon the gallantry when Celeste looked at him that way, he found. Her father seemed satisfied.
"If you're sure. I have to speak to your friend in the clinic – Anders, was it? – when you get back, so would you stop by and ask him to come see me?" She nodded, and Sebastian almost felt bad for Anders. He'd seen the glances shot at Bethany when Anders thought no one was looking, and after the talk he and Malcolm just had, Anders was sure to get a much sharper warning than Sebastian had. The Grey Warden was much older than Bethany, after all.
Sebastian gave Malcolm a bow, offering Celeste his arm. She took it with an expression of curiosity on her face, and they turned to leave. He glanced over his shoulder before they exited the room, just in time to catch Malcolm's eye. The patriarch brought his fore and middle fingers up, pointing at his own eyes, and then at Sebastian. I'll be watching you.
Of that, Sebastian had no doubt. His mouth twitched in a smile as he stepped into the spring sunshine with Celeste on his arm, for all of Kirkwall to see. The pressure of her fingers on the inside of his elbow gave him new resolve.
He would not disappoint either of them.
A/N: It is my personal theory that had Malcolm survived rather than Leandra, you and your siblings would have made it to Kirkwall in one piece. Malcolm seems like too much of a badass to fall to an ogre or let his children get hurt. "You will not take any of my children from me. Not now, not ever." Papa Hawke is also likely to be EXTREMELY overprotective of his daughters, and when I saw this prompt, I had to write it. He also might be based entirely on my own dad, who has actually sat, cleaning his guns, while waiting for a boyfriend to pick me up. I'm the eldest in my sibling lineup too, but that never stopped me from being my dad's little girl. As always, thanks for reading!