Title: Paradise for Lesser Men
Summary: The chantry is destroyed. Hawke and Fenris find solace on an abandoned farm where the villagers are prejudiced against everything their relationship is. MaleHawke/Fenris
A/N: Thanks for reading. Review please.
Fenris has been following Hawke for nearly three days in the cold rain when they come upon the farm. It is a dilapidated place, brimming over with old ghosts. The fields are muddy, most of the plants drowned and buried. Bones of dead animals linger in the grass, crunching under their feet. Winding vines crawl across the silos and the crumbling ruins of what used to be a fence. Though the paint is chipping, and the porch seems to have caved in on itself, the main house is the only part that offers any sort of shelter. Hawke heads straight for it and climbs inside without fear.
Instantly the stink of death makes Fenris wrinkle his nose in disgust. The rotten boards creak as Hawke cautiously walks over them. Moldering furniture is littered throughout the house, and Fenris finds himself unconsciously identifying rooms: kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, living room. When they approach the stairs, Hawke slowly draws his blade and kicks bits of broken concrete from the wood as he ascends. Fenris follows with his hand resting on the hilt of his sword.
There are three rooms on the top floor, and all of them are empty. A few toys sit in one, a pink rabbit abandoned, a few blocks scattered. Dead rats lay in the hallway. All the furniture is soaked with rain. Mold grows on every last surface. Both of them are satisfied that it is safe and dry enough for the night, though. Hawke huffs and sheathes his blade, brushing past Fenris to head back downstairs. Their fingers touch faintly, and Fenris doesn't miss the tired smile on his lover's bloodied and rain-soaked face.
First, they gather firewood. Hawke is merciless in tearing sheets of wood from the very walls. Every time the house gives a shudder, Fenris tenses. The creaking ruin manages to hold up as they take what they need from its carcass and light a fire. Soon a soothing orange glow fills the larger family room. Hawke shuts up the door to the upstairs level to save heat. He shoves the ugly loveseat and tattered chairs in front of the other door so as to create a pocket of warmth and life. The window stays open, though, even as it drips water inside. The smoke would suffocate them otherwise.
Hawke takes off his soaked and bloodied armor gracefully and leaves it next to the fire to dry. It seems they are both still covered in gore even after all that time wandering in the rain. Bits of skin cling to Fenris's long blade. Blood has dried beneath his fingernails and around his eyes. It is in his hair, flaky as the fire warms him. He even tastes it in his mouth. Hawke is no better, but he doesn't seem to be uncomfortable. On the contrary, he shoves his backpack against the wall and leans against it, propping his feet up near the fire. His deep blue eyes scan the house's ceiling with his careful gaze, taking in every detail.
"What ghosts lie here, I wonder?" he asks into the silence, and Fenris is alarmed at how much the sound frightens him. It seems to him that they haven't spoken in days, haven't communicated by anything but touch and looks for an eternity.
Fenris clears his throat. He is still standing, arms crossed as he absorbs the delicious heat from the fire. His fingers and toes are frozen. "I do not know, Hawke." It was rhetorical, he is sure, but he answers anyway. He does glance around though and think on it. How many did this house once contain? Did children run through the halls with smiles on their faces, playing with blocks and pink bunnies? Did laughter still ring in the collapsed dining room?
Hawke kicks his bedroll toward Fenris, knocking his sword slightly askew. The sound is deafening in the silence filled only by the cracking wood as it is devoured. Fenris jumps, and Hawke lets out a soft chuckle. "Sit down and stay awhile," he says easily while wiping off one of his daggers with a wet cloth. "I don't plan on moving tonight."
Reluctantly, like a puppet pulled on strings, Fenris forces himself to sit. He doesn't like this old place. As Hawke said, there are too many ghosts. They whistle through the halls, and the rain outside seems less and less friendly by the minute. Thunder roars across the plains. He is not accustomed to doing nothing. They are always on the move: killing mercenaries or murdering bandits or angering the Viscount …something. They always have an objective. For the first time in a while, it seems they have none save stay alive.
"Relax," comes that gruff voice, Hawke reading his thoughts again. "We won't be staying for long." Fenris edges closer to the fire, staring at the warped boards beneath his feet and skinny thighs. In the dark, his markings are all the more brilliant, his hair stark against his skin. He shivers.
He knows better than to ask Hawke where they are going. They have no destination. The Templars are out for Hawke's blood after the massacre left behind in Kirkwall, and escaping the chantry's long arm is the first of priorities. On the way to the rotted old farmhouse, they passed a village of some sort with inns begging for coin and many shops shut up in the wake of the storm. Fenris wonders just what town it is, and if they might buy supplies from it before they move on. Both are running low on food.
"You're shivering," Hawke notes dully, not staring at him. Fenris glances down at his hands, and they are trembling. How does this human know him so well? He shakes his head back and forth, throwing sparkling droplets tinged with red on the floor. His skin his drying, but it is still glistening with rain. His armor is speckled with water. Naturally, he is cold.
A beam falls on the other side of the room, stirring up dust. Fenris glances over at it, but Hawke pays it no mind. He is so intent on his dagger, wiping it clean. The cloth comes away pink, and he sets it aside, tossing the weapon beside the rest of his drying equipment. He has always loved that blade. It was Carver's favorite. Suddenly Hawke is standing. He climbs to his feet in one of his smooth, effortless movements and dusts off his cotton pants.
Fenris watches the defined hips as they come closer, and strong hands are pulling him up into a standing position. "What are you doing?" he asks even as he allows himself to be moved around. Hawke's unbuckling things from him—his armor, his weapon. These things are cast aside toward the fire where the blood can crack and dry on them, rusting the shining metal. But he trusts Hawke, and Hawke would never harm anything of Fenris's.
"Your skin is like ice," Hawke whispers in his ear when he's stripped down to simple underclothes dried with crystalline salt from the ocean. Hard fingers run over his back, under his shirt, lacking that gentle demeanor. He frowns even as he's wetting his lips.
"I'm filthy, Hawke," he says, and it's a poor excuse. He knows it. Teeth graze the skin under his ear, tasting blood no doubt. So much has happened, so much death. The hatred of that place was palpable, men slaughtering men. Brothers against brothers. He wants more than anything to feel a physical connection to this world again, to feel loved as he has only in Hawke's presence.
As he expected, Hawke is only goaded on further. "Hush," he whispers in Fenris's ear, hot breath sending chills over his spine. "Let me touch you." It's all Hawke need say, and Fenris gives in. They move away from the danger of the fire and make love on that hard, unforgiving floor. Pleasure rinses pain from his heart and flesh, the present shoving memories from his mind. Love replaces hate, sweat and kisses washing away the blood and rain. As he arches up into Hawke's ministrations and feels that tenderness pulsating inside of him, he feels alive amongst so much death.
He wakes up in the morning to the chirping of birds outside and an earthy scent pervading the air. Light streams in over the old boards, shaping the room into a much more welcoming space. He sits up to realize that he's lying on a bedroll and covered with a thick, cotton blanket. Someone has also dressed him, and he feels the pleasant ache of a night well spent in his spongy bones. It is humid in the room and very hot. He shucks the blanket off his thin hips and stands in one fluid motion. Off in the distance, he can hear more birds and a strange, rhythmic pounding.
After fixing his gauntlets in place, he sheathes his sword on his back. The fire was long ago put out by Hawke, doused with a bucket of rainwater, he assumes. The ashes are a smeared, black tar on the floor. He ducks out of the cave of a house and outside where the wind is just a bit harsher. There is a chill in the air, as well, and the vibrant green grass is doused with diamonds. He walks barefoot through the grass, following the sound. It is coming from the side of the house, and he frowns curiously at what he sees.
It's every cheesy romance novel that Isabela has ever read. Hawke—the handsome love interest—is dressed in his cotton pants, large black gloves, and a sleeveless, white shirt that appears to have been recently bought. He's sporting a hammer and beating away at the siding of the house. Fresh wood, again freshly purchased, is dumped in a pile beside him. Winding muscles flex beneath his shirt, and his forehead his beaded with sweat. He looks as though he has been working for hours. He is covered in dust and dirt. Fenris is almost waiting for a beautiful woman to slide her arms around his waist with water to cool him off.
Hawke sees him and hops down from a makeshift stool, letting the hammer swing at his side. He blinks at the heated sun, squinting, before shooting Fenris a cocky smile and hooking his thumb in the waistband of his pants. "I thought you'd never wake up," he comments, tilting his head.
"What are you doing, Hawke?" Fenris asks, getting straight to the point. How much coin, he wonders, was wasted on that wood? What sort of tactical plan is this?
"I'm killing time," the human shrugs, bending to toss the hammer against the side of the house. It falls with a thump, and Hawke's moving to a stump where there's a mug of what Fenris can only assume is water. He watches as the throat contracts, swallowing. Fenris feels the ribbon around his wrist get a little heavier, and he glances away. Hawke sets the mug down. "Why? Does this bother you?"
"Not particularly," Fenris says. "We do have limited resources, though." He looks pointedly at the pile of wood.
Hawke follows his gaze. "What? We've got a fortune to spend on food and supplies. How much do you eat, anyway?" he teases, pressing a large hand to Fenris's stomach momentarily before pulling back. The touch is scorching. "Besides, if we run out of money," he bends down to retrieve the hammer, "I'll just save someone's gorgeous daughter from a tree. We'll be set again in no time." He shrugs and pushes black hair from his face, leaping onto the stool and continuing his pounding.
Fenris knows that is the end of it. Hawke needs a project always. When they were in Kirkwall in the beginning, it was the expedition. Then it was the house. That achieved, he had to find a lover. With Fenris sufficiently hooked, he fought the qunari. When Fenris left, it was protecting his mother. That backfired, and he tried to stop the Templars from murdering all the Templars. Eventually winning Fenris back seemed to be top priority. Now that they were on their own, together, Hawke didn't have anything to focus on.
He smiles for a moment and leans back against the side of the house. It vibrates with Hawke's insistent hammering. He can remember those awkward days when Hawke suddenly looked at him with renewed interest. It was as though Hawke was blocking him out until that day, realizing suddenly that he was there. The smile that spread on his face as he visited just after Orsino's rally was both incredibly attractive and cocky. Nothing can get to Hawke's confidence. He never second-guesses himself. He is easily side-tracked, though. Fenris doesn't take that personally. Doesn't he always come back?
For a moment, Fenris watches him work. There is something painfully attractive about Hawke. There is such a tempered strength in the way he moves and a lazy arrogance that draws women in. He moves like a feline sometimes, sprawling in chairs, putting his feet up on expensive tables as he keeps eye contact with the owner, leaping over buildings, and carefully shoving Fenris into walls to ravish him in secret. It never stays secret for long. Besides that, though, Hawke is very apathetic to things that don't require his immediate attention. He's a terrible flirt and procrastinates at a constant rate. Aveline used to joke that he wouldn't have stopped the qunari until they got to his front door had he not been there at the beginning.
As if he knows that Fenris is thinking about him, Hawke winks at him from the corner of his eye and adjusts his glove. He leaps down from his perch and grabs another piece of wood. It appears as though he's trying to restore one of the fallen walls. He's already barred most of the gaping hole, and he only has a few more boards to go before it is covered completely. Pieces of splintered debris lay in a pile several feet behind him. He must have yanked the bad boards out.
Fenris wonders faintly how long he has been going at this.
"So, you want to help?" Hawke asks. "You might want to put that sword down, though. And take off your armor. It gets hot out here fast." He pauses thoughtfully before smiling. "And yes, I might just be trying to get you out of your clothes."
"That's not what I was thinking," the elf offers softly, eyes roving over his smooth appearance. There is stubble growing on his chin. He hasn't seen it since those awful weeks underground in the Deep Roads where no one had time to shave.
"You know, I thought we could go into town for breakfast, actually," Hawke announces suddenly, dropping the hammer. He extracts his fingers from the black gloves, letting them fall onto the stump next to his water. "Did you see it when we came in?"
"It's where I bought all the supplies," Hawke crosses his arms. "They've got a nice tavern there, and I don't really feel like dried fruit. I'm starving." He shields his eyes and stares at the sun. "There's a river near here where you can get all that dried blood off you. I don't think you arriving like that would be the best way to impress the neighbors."
Fenris glares at the dried blood beneath his fingernails, and he can feel the oil in his hair. He knows he's dirty from sleeping on the floor for most of the night, and Hawke's insistence that they have sex the night before did not improve his hygiene. The human holds out his hand, palm up, and Fenris has to sigh as he laces their fingers. Sometimes the romantic side of Hawke can get the best of both of them. Whatever they are—friends, companions, trusted confidants—they are lovers, as well. Hawke doesn't let him forget that. Ever.
They walk for several minutes in silence, and Fenris watches the lay of the land. The field is much bigger than he thought. The fence seems to go on forever, and he finds himself unconsciously noting places where it requires repair. Hawke senses his distraction and does a little distracting of his own, working him into a melted mess by the time they tumble down the hill into the river. Their clothes are shed on the bank, and Hawke does less washing than dirtying. Finally, though, Fenris feels clean as he steps from the water and pulls on his pants and armor again.
It is beautiful, he notices. The river is wide but shallow. Trees surround the entire area in a dense curtain as if made for the privacy of young lovers that can't wait, and Fenris smiles at the comparison. Is that what they are after so many years? Still young lovers that must touch, must kiss, must feel that intense pleasure? Hawke catches him an embrace as he gets out of the river, pressing their soaking bodies together again. Fenris can't help the shiver it causes. He hopes it is a good thing that Hawke can still do this.
Eventually, Hawke lets him go. With delighted laughter at Fenris's flushed face, Hawke takes his hand and leads them back to the house. He retrieves coin and his weapons, turning from the loving man made of tempting beauty and brimming with affection into the dark stranger that Fenris remembers from Kirkwall. A part of him thrills at the thought that he is the only one who sees Hawke prancing around half-naked, soaking wet, and laughing without restraint.
The town is quaint as they approach. It is little more than a settled bit of land near the forest, but there are shops and at least a dozen houses. For a moment Fenris is reminded of Lowtown just outside the Hanged Man. There isn't any sort of bustling life here, though. The citizens are all sleepy as they stumble from their shacks and out into the open. Women wear gray rags and men are dressed in brown work clothes. There is no color, no life. All of them are pale as if the rain has washed away the blood in their faces. The streets are muddy as they make their way to the tavern.
Inside is a sweltering heat and a crowded drunkenness. The evening has started early for some of these men. This isn't a port, so they aren't the sailors that Fenris is used to. No, these are hardened bounty hunters and travelers, mavericks in their own right that have come for a warm bed and food. Despite these lingering fugitives, there is a sort of civility present. The paint isn't peeling. The floors look clean. The woman that comes to seat them is a lovely, bird-like creature with large eyes and a quick smile.
They sit in silence, Hawke nursing a tankard of water. He's watching, waiting, and listening. For all his bravado and attitude, he is quite the patient man. Fenris knows that he is categorizing everything, breaking down the meanings behind this establishment. He is learning about them, and Fenris doesn't interfere. He thinks of the blade pressed against his spine, the freshness of these fields, the blazing sun outside covered in thick, puffy clouds. There is a peace in this little village, but it is not a place he wishes to stay.
"Tell me, Hawke," Fenris says suddenly, interrupting the other man's thoughts. "Why are you really fixing that old farmhouse?" It can't be another long-term project like he thought. Hawke surely doesn't want to stay for so long. They are in danger. Hawke is in danger.
"You caught me," Hawke shrugs as the waitress places breakfast in front of them. "We've been together for a while, Fenris, and I thought it was time to settle down. This is a great place to raise kids. We'll adopt a human, an elf, and a half-breed just so no one can think we're showing favor to any one race, and we'll grow old together on that wretched farm. I'll even buy a few chickens." The woman nearly drops the tray and glances at the both of them. Hawke flips her a sovereign and shoos her away.
Fenris can't believe he has said that in front of the entire tavern. "You are a glutton for attention," he whispers conspiratorially. A lot of the hardened workers are looking at them. Two women are blushing in a corner.
"And you are worrying too much," Hawke accuses.
"In this backwater town? You are in danger already, and you take these things too lightly."
"You don't take them lightly enough," the human smiles at him and reaches across the table to touch the back of his hand. "Calm down. I like building things. The thought of bringing back some life into that old place appeals to me. That's it." He's pulling away, his eyes going dark as he begins listening to some of the chatter, chewing almost absently at the dry meat while Fenris picks idly at his meal. When he's finished, Hawke orders more ale for him but doesn't touch a drop.
The waitress clears the dishes away, and they are outside again. The day has heated up, and Fenris thinks they must have spent more time in there than he would like. Hawke is in a hurry, taking long strides back to the farmhouse. Fenris is used to this brisk pace, and it makes him smile at the normalcy of it. How many times did he run after Hawke in the beginning, trying to save someone who was desperate to put his or her life in danger? Too many, it seems. Not enough.
Once they are tromping through the muddied fields again, Fenris feels a sense of calm. Hawke slows and even reaches back to take his hand, squeezing lightly. He often does little things like that, quick and daring touches that make Fenris's heart soar. He flexes his hand and keeps his head down. In some parts of the world, an elf and a human in a relationship might be hanged. In some parts of the Free Marches still, a man that loves another man might be hanged. Hawke knows that. Fenris wonders if they are perhaps trying too hard to tempt fate.
Soon they are working. Hawke uses some of that new lumber to finish hammering up the side of the house. When it's finished he smiles at Fenris and takes his breath away in a kiss that leaves his heart thudding against his rib cage. After clearing away the dead and rotted wood by tossing it into a nearby burn pile that is getting even larger as the day goes on, Hawke invites him to the old, rundown barn just a few yards away.
The barn needs less work than the house, made more of steel and metal rather than wood. Somewhere in the back, it turns into a stable that can house at least two horses in separate pens. The other stall is caved in on itself and filled with muck and wet straw. They find the bones of a dead dog rotting near the entrance. It reminds Hawke too much of his slain mabari, and they bury it in a makeshift grave by the woods.
Finally, Hawke is standing in the barn and rubbing his gloved hands together. "I can see us staying here for awhile," he announces, and Fenris nearly drops the saddle he is holding in his hands.
"Does my opinion matter?" he demands impetuously and a little childishly. He sound small, like a whining wife.
"More than mine sometimes," Hawke says easily, bracing his foot on one of the stalls and climbing up the skeleton of a wooden ladder. There seems to be nothing but straw in the loft. A few bits of it fall into Hawke's hair. "If you want to leave, we can."
"You would leave for me?" he tests, crossing his arms and leaning against the other stall. Hawke is like a monkey, all sinewy muscle and flexibility. He hauls himself up easily and sits on the edge of the loft with his legs dangling. "That is all it would take? Just my word?"
"Well, I do love you, you know," Hawke says distractedly, flopping back into the hay and reaching up. His hand disappears into some sort of alcove above his head, and he's feeling around in there clear to the juncture of his elbow. Fenris is momentarily stunned by the words, because he has never heard them before. If Hawke realizes his slip, he doesn't acknowledge it. Instead, he pulls his hand back and frowns, leaping down from the loft and onto the ground. He dusts his hands together. "Damn."
"What?" Fenris clears his throat. He wonders how Hawke could have seen that alcove from the ground as he approaches the spot where his lover was standing.
"I was hoping for some sort of secret box buried in the ceiling, clues to what happened here," he laughed at his own folly. "Maybe there would be a painting of a family. Instead there's just a few dead rats and a lot of hay. It does look like a secret cache, though." Fenris glances and thinks that, yes, perhaps it does. An arm winds about his shoulders and pulls him close, kissing the side of his head.
Always touching, always close, heat, tenderness, affection.
Instead of melting, the elf remains stiff in his arms. "Would that change things?"
"No, I suppose not," Hawke admitted. "A little history is all I'm asking. What happened here? Why is it abandoned to such an extreme? Farmland like this is precious. There are plants growing all over the place. The house could have once been beautiful, so why is it shut up with the windows boarded and the doors rusted? And why, I wonder most of all, does every inch of this place reek of death?"
Fenris starts at these words because they are so very true. Every inch does stink of death, of decay and rot. He hadn't noticed the boarded windows, but he is certain Hawke is telling the truth. The land does seem fertile. Flowers grow in abundance and vines wrestle everything to the ground. It is all true. A small wind blows suddenly, and he feels uneasy. Could something atrocious have happened here that the veil is torn? Why does no one come to claim this property?
"Look at you getting goose bumps," Hawke teases him. "I'm sorry. I know you've had enough of magic to last a lifetime. So have I."
A cold flash of Anders helping them defend the mages pops into his mind. Hawke is not ruthless, but practical. Anders fought for his life by helping them, and Hawke wouldn't let him become a martyr. No, he is a murderer on the run just like they are.
"Hmm, I wonder what Bethany is doing," Hawke hums idly, following Fenris's line of thought.
"We are staying here, then," Fenris draws his attention with quiet words, gently extricating himself from the sweltering heat of Hawke's arms. Such idle affections are only a burden during a humid day.
"For awhile," the human admits. "Until the townspeople rise as one to slay us. Can you imagine the scandal? Two men, an elf and a human, as lovers? I don't know much about small communities, but I'm pretty sure that's a double sin."
Fenris frowns. "They could seriously harm us."
"Really?" Hawke shoots him a skeptical glance and moves to flop down into some moldy pile of hay. "Slay us? The killers of a High Dragon, murderer of the Arishok—I'll take credit for that one—and the victors over the templar order? That's cute." Lazily, he folds his arms beneath his head and slings one of his legs over the other. Raising an eyebrow, he waits for a counter argument.
Fenris hates when Hawke stares at him like that. He swallows and walks closer. "Perhaps not, but they do know where we sleep. They could come in the night. Numbers can sometimes beat skill. You are arrogant, and you throw yourself into the fray too often. What if you are injured while working on the house? You'd be weak, and the weak make easy targets. That combined with the element of surprise could be our downfall."
"Look at my little general," Hawke laughs out loud. "I concede. You win. That all makes perfect sense." The elf doesn't see it coming. Hawke keeps perfect eye contact with him as he slides his foot around Fenris's ankle. "But you are forgetting one tiny detail…" he trails off.
"What is that?" Fenris rolls his eyes.
With a jerk of his leg, Hawke topples the smaller man. His hand darts out to grip Fenris's wrist and jerk him down into the hay. In moments, Fenris is pinned, slim chest beneath the human's. The acrid stink of dust and hay rises up to meet him. Hawke's lips ghost over his own. The human smiles. "I'm undefeatable," he whispers, and Fenris shivers.
It has always been like this. Hawke touches him, and he melts. Hawke has the libido of a teenage boy with the wisdom and stamina of a man much older than that. Fenris blames it some nights on the fact that he doesn't remember his sexual life from before, and he hungers. He blames it on the fact that Hawke is the first one to touch his markings in a tender way, with all the reverence of a man at worship. Sometimes he doesn't blame it on anything and just revels in this love.
Fenris puts his gloved hand on Hawke's chest, exerting little pressure. He likes the feel of their bodies pressed together, like two broken pieces that are finally reunited. "Nothing scares you, does it?" It's a silly question. Of course nothing does. Hawke's smile becomes just a little sad and world weary. He brushes snowy hair from Fenris's dark skin.
"Yeah, there is one thing," he murmurs, eyes lidding. "Losing you."
He trembles as he reaches for Hawke and crushes their mouths together. It doesn't matter that he had him the night before or that morning. It never does. Their thirst is unending, and Fenris thinks that's a good thing. The world is a place of pain and anger and hatred. Everyone should have at least one place to lay down his or her burdens and just be at peace.
Short. Less than ten chapters. Maybe more than five. Thanks for reading. Review please.