A/N: Oneshot inspired by a prompt suggesting Hawke and Varric are like a mum and dad for their cohort of friends. Wasn't sure if this qualifies as a T-rating, so I went with M. I don't own Dragon Age 2 or any of its characters. That would be Bioware. And I certainly don't make profits.
Though the elf said, "Perhaps you are right," there was nothing conciliatory in his tone.
Anders, however, was more than willing to ignore the tone entirely and seize only upon his opponent's words. "There! That's the first reasonable thing you've said all afternoon. In point of fact, I am completely right."
But Fenris was not finished. "Hawke may deserve a better man than I, but if that is true, then she also deserves far better than a weak-minded mage such as yourself." He practically spat the last three words.
"Weak-minded? You don't know the first thing about my mind," Anders countered. "Nor my feelings. I love her. Real love. Can you truly say the same or-"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa, hold on a minute, Blondie." Varric stepped between them, his hands raised in hopes of preventing yet another childish public argument from devolving into general mayhem. He'd had a long, tiring day and the last thing he wanted now was another bar brawl. He extended his arms, as if guiding an invisible force-field between the desperate suitors, causing both Fenris and Anders to take a step backward.
"That's better," Varric said. "I think we could all use a little space."
"You're not siding with him, are you?" Anders' voice was sharp with accusation.
"Shit, Blondie, I'm not siding with anyone," Varric said. "Just watch it with the L-word, okay? You can't just say things like that… not in a place like this." He cast a glance around the interior of the Hanged Man.
"The dwarf is right," said Fenris. "You speak of 'real love' as if it were something to be nurtured in isolation from its object. It cannot be. Real love requires reciprocation. And Hawke does not love you."
"What can a slave possibly know about love?" said Anders.
"Shall I dictate a treatise for you?" Fenris said. "It would likely gain more readers than your miserable manifesto."
"Dictate?" said Anders. "Why not just write one yourself? Oh, wait… I forgot-"
Varric interrupted. "Here's a thought. Let's pretend we're all gentlemen and settle this with a card game. The winner gets to keep brooding for Hawke in public and the loser has to shut up about it and go home."
"What if you are the winner?" Fenris asked.
"I aim to be," Varric said. "And in that case, no one broods, we all shut up, and you both go home."
"I don't think I like these rules," said Anders, but he sat down anyway and lost at cards.
Fenris also lost, of course, because Varric was not only the better player but also one who whole-heartedly endorsed furtive cheating as an essential part of any card game.
Before the elf left, Isabela wished him well and sent him on his way with a favorable comment on the length of his sword and a passing inquiry as to the hardness of his fist. She then settled luxuriantly into the chair that he had vacated.
"Does this mean you get the girl?" she asked Varric when both Fenris and Anders were gone.
Varric laughed. "Doubtful," he said.
"Oh, right. Too high maintenance… or whatever," she said.
"Or whatever," he echoed.
"Odd, though," she said. "I don't really picture you in a low maintenance relationship. I mean, aside from all relationships sustained with weaponry." She glanced at Bianca. "I picture you as the patriarch of a massive family. And all your children would be completely insane, but they wouldn't dare disobey you."
"Where'd you get that idea?"
"Oh, I don't know. You're like everyone's dad already. That's probably it."
"Yeah, thanks Rivaini. I'm glad we had this talk," he said. "Or whatever."
Varric looked up just in time to see Hawke saunter breezily through the door. For an instant, her short, tousled locks seemed to glow a dark red, backlit by the remains of a bright Kirkwall day. The door shut behind her and she spotted him. She didn't even stop to order a drink. As quick as you please, she was right there, dragging a chair closer and taking her seat beside Isabela. She leaned close and whispered so softly that only the Rivaini and the dwarf could hear.
"Guard captain's onto you. Better run and hide."
"Shit," said Isabela. "Thanks for the warning." She drained her pint and got up, setting a quick pace for the stairs at the back of the bar.
"What'd she do this time?" Varric asked.
"Carved a dirty limerick into the doorjamb of Sebastian's room at the Chantry," Hawke said and began to recite the words Isabela had written. "Her maiden head sits at my crotch, Which I polish to clean every splotch, By my carelessness made, Now I rub at my blade, Praying Andraste will watch."
Varric laughed. "Delightfully juvenile."
"I know," said Hawke, "and not badly done… for Isabela. At least it rhymes. It's just too bad our prince didn't like it. And Aveline agrees with him."
"Captain's on her way?"
"Yes," said Hawke. "But I've got a plan for smoothing things over."
"Of course you do," said Merrill. "You always do take care of us." Varric and Hawke both looked up at the unexpected materialization of their slender Dalish friend. Merrill had, almost literally, appeared out of nowhere, though on closer examination, the appearing act was simply a clever—though exceedingly bizarre—illusion.
"You're not wearing clothing," Hawke said.
"I know," said Merrill gleefully, "I painted my entire body to match this big wooden pillar. I've been blending in to the background scenery. And I've gone undetected for five hours."
"Well, shit." Varric said. "Now I've seen everything."
"Have you?" Merrill asked. "I'd ask to hear the story, but I doubt you'd ever manage to finish telling. Everything is an awful lot… or… wait… were you being hyperbolic? Again?"
"Merrill?" Hawke said. "What in the Fade are you doing this for?"
"To find out what it's like to be an inanimate object, of course. Turns out it's rather boring. Oh look! Here she comes."
Merrill stepped back to her pillar and shut her eyes, blending once more into the background. She may have used magic to tighten the illusion, but Hawke had no time to consider the matter further. The door to the tavern had swung wide and Aveline stormed in followed closely by guardsmen Donnic and Brennan.
"All right, Hawke, where are you hiding her this time?"
"Hiding?" Hawke said. "Who do you think I'm hiding?"
"Enough with the games," Aveline said. "That treacherous whore is always here drinking. She's not here now, so that means someone's tipped her off. I'm willing to bet it was you."
"She was here," said Hawke, "not twenty minutes ago. But she took off in a hurry to track down some idiot who'd been telling stories about Castillon. I think she was bound for Darktown."
"Darktown, you say?" Aveline asked, her eyes narrowing in skeptical consideration.
"To the best of my knowledge, yes," Hawke said, her voice achieving the weighty sincerity she had gained through much time spent with the best of liars. "That's where she went."
"All right," Aveline said. "Come on then, let's go." She nodded curtly to her small entourage and both guardsmen followed her out.
The bar settled back to its typical rhythm of murmur and uproar and in half a minute Isabela had returned from her momentary exile. "Oh, that was brilliant," she said. "I was hiding upstairs and listening to the whole thing."
"I wouldn't be so quick to gloat if I were you." Varric smirked at her.
"Here," Hawke said. "This is yours." She took hold of Isabela's hand, flipped it over, and dropped 10 silvers into the pirate's ready palm. "You'll use it to buy some spackle and tonight, when all the Chantry is sleeping, you'll sneak in and repair the damage you've done to Sebastian's door. And you'll do it all without causing any further insult to person or property. Understood?"
"Oh, you're no fun at all," Isabela whined, but she closed her fingers around the silver coins, implicitly accepting Hawke's terms.
"Fun's a luxury," Hawke said. "And I do sometimes have to balance the fun-having with the practical need for my friends not to tear each other's throats out."
"Fine," said Isabela with a wicked grin. "Late tonight I'll go spackle sweet Sebastian's doorpost."
"She made even that sound dirty," Varric said once Isabela had grabbed her mug, strutting to the bar for a refill.
"She can dry hump the doorjamb for all I care," said Hawke, "so long as the limerick's gone in the morning."
Merrill reappeared from hiding and took a seat just as Isabela returned from the bar, her hands laden with three full pints, two of which she passed to Hawke and Varric.
"Don't bother thanking me," Isabela said. "They're all on your tab anyway." She glanced at Varric, who simply narrowed his eyes at the bar and muttered something nearly incoherent about a certain dick-for-brains bartender.
Isabela looked to Merrill and added, "Nice paint job, kitten. What's the occasion?"
"I was given brown paint," Merrill said.
"Oh, well, it's an interesting look for you. Though a bit chilly, I suppose," she said, glancing discreetly at Merrill's painted breasts.
"Good for hiding, though," Merrill said. "Unless someone bumps into you. Then it's all over. For a little while I was afraid Anders was going to elbow me in the ribs. He got so animated in that argument he was having with Fenris."
At that, Hawke groaned. "Not again. Let me guess, another round of mages-are-evil, no-we're-not?"
"Nice try, but guess again," said Varric. When Hawke shook her head, perplexed, he added helpfully, "Think several rounds of Marian-loves-me, no-she-doesn't."
"Hmm," said Hawke. "Perhaps I shouldn't have offered reading lessons to Fenris. Seems to be making things worse between them. And here I'd hoped it would give Anders one less insult to hurl."
"Oh, don't worry," Merrill said. "Varric broke up all the fighting with a clever ruse. As Isabela pointed out, it was very fatherly of him."
"Yes," Isabela said. "Parents are always gaining the upper hand by tricking their children."
"You're awfully parental to us in that way, yourself, Hawke," Merrill added.
"I think the word you're looking for is scoundrel not parental," Hawke said.
"There's a difference?" Isabela asked.
Hawke rolled her eyes. "I'm not trying to be your mum. In fact, I thank the Maker everyday I'm not related to any of you. I've got enough fools in the family already thanks to Gamlen."
"Same here," Varric said. "Just swap out Gamlen with Bartrand."
"But wouldn't it be nice if you and Hawke really were our dad and mum?" Merrill said. "We could all live together in one big mansion and we'd never have to eat weevily bread again."
"Weevils?" Hawke ignored all the rest that Merrill had said, so upset was she by the thought of her friend dining on infested food. "Merrill, you shouldn't have to eat bread with weevils in. You have plenty of coin for food."
"The bugs get into all the grain. It's just part of life in the alienage," Merrill lamented.
"Well, that's not right. You must need new containers for storage. Varric, can we import something better than the rubbishy barrels these Kirkwall coopers make?"
Varric rubbed his chin in thought. "Yeah, I can probably arrange a shipment from Orzammar. Might take a while, but it'd be easy enough."
"Good," said Hawke. "She should not be eating weevily bread."
"I agree," Varric said. "There's no reason for that."
Isabela burst into laughter. "Protest all you like, this conversation alone proves you're nothing more than couple of doting parents to the rest of us. And sort of a cute couple, at that."
Merrill perked right up as the conversation veered from weevils to romance. "It's true," she said. "You're very cute together. But perhaps a bit naughty, too?"
"Oh great," said Hawke. "Here we go. Flood gates open."
"Merrill, can't you just imagine the cover of the romance novel?" Isabela said. "Strong, flaxen-haired dwarf meets dark, mysterious human with a tragic past. Passion and business acumen ensue."
"How creative," said Hawke. She glanced at Varric, whose expression was completely unreadable. Hard to tell if he was amused or irritated. She'd have to ask him later. "It's getting late," Hawke added, nodding up at the patches of fading daylight visible through the upper story windows. "Time for someone to make her purchase and high-tail it to the Chantry. And definitely time for Naught-But-Paint over here to find her way home before the streets are blooming with gangs."
"Good point," Varric said. "Come on, Daisy. Hawke and I will see you home safely."
She bid them both a goodnight before entering her home in the alienage. As she shut the door behind her, Merrill called out to Hawke and Varric, who had turned to leave.
"I'm going to pretend you are my parents," Merrill said, "because I don't know what I'd do without you."
Varric sighed. "You'd die a painful death in a back alley on a more or less weekly basis. So don't take it for granted." His words were muttered softly enough that they reached Hawke's ears alone. She chuckled quietly and punched him playfully on the arm.
"So what do you think all that was about?" Hawke asked Varric as they left the alienage and set a slow pace back towards the Hanged Man.
"They've never had it so good," he said. "We do look out for them, you know."
"I meant all that cute couple stuff," she said.
"Right," he said. "That."
"You think they're onto us?" she asked.
"Well, they're not stupid," he said.
"But a little slow, perhaps," Hawke said. "It's taken them—what—nearly two months now? Provided of course they are onto us. Honestly, how many private, behind-closed-doors, partners-only business meetings do they think we need on a weekly basis?"
He laughed. "Speaking of partnership meetings," he said, his voice smooth as butter, "I think I ought to walk you back to Hightown, come in for a drink, and then stay for a while. Can't remember what at the moment, but I'm sure I've got something that requires your expertise."
"A particularly hard problem I imagine," she said.
"Either that or special mom and dad alone time," he said, winking at her. The devious gleam in his eyes held a promise of yet another night she wouldn't soon forget.