Title: Paradise for Lesser Men

Rating: M

Summary: The chantry is destroyed. Hawke and Fenris find solace on an abandoned farm. MaleHawke/Fenris

A/N: Thanks for reading. Review please.

Chapter 9

Hawke is kneeling by the river, cupping soothing water over his busted nose. Pink, diluted blood dribbles into the stream, washed away by the current. Fenris offers his stained shirt wordlessly, and the Champion uses it to dry his face. The bone is askew, and the tissue is reddening and swelling. He has yet to snap it back into place. Whether because he knows how much it will hurt or because he hasn't thought of it yet, Fenris doesn't know. Nevertheless, it remains crooked.

Hawke sits back on his haunches and sighs, shoulders sagging. "I shouldn't have been so hard with her. She is a Hawke, after all."

"I have never seen you treat your sister like that," Fenris says quietly, watching the swirling water. It's not as though Fenris has seen Hawke with his sister very much. He spent most of their first year together brooding and planning dastardly revenge in his mansion. Only when Bethany was taken did the two of them begin to get closer. Fenris didn't see her again until Meredith went insane.

"I thought that if I seemed adamant she would back down," Hawke confesses with a vague gesture of his hand. "'I'm big brother, so I win by default'. That sort of thing. I get so wrapped up in trying to protect her that I forget she isn't helpless." He touches his broken nose and winces.

"She can't come with us," Fenris says softly, turning his head to look at Hawke. "If she does, she'll be hurt. Killed, even. The Circle has kept her sheltered, and she hasn't seen the things you and I have." As much as he hates mages, the thought of a gang of Templars stealing off with Bethany in the night to rape and kill makes him angry beyond belief and frightened at the prospect.

"'Us'?" Hawke blinks at him in surprise. "I didn't think it would be that easy."

Fenris sighs. "Why fight the inevitable? If you are going, then so am I." He has always followed Hawke with little questioning, even when it endangered his lover's life. This time, it seems just as real as the day that he decided to take on the entire Templar order to protect the sad Circle of Kirkwall. It's against what he believes, but he won't abandon Hawke. He will go when he is called and do his best to keep the man alive.

"And I am, too," Isabela chimes from behind, and Fenris turns around to see her standing at the edge of the forest with her hands on her hips.

Hawke frowns, glancing back. "No, you aren't. Not anymore than Bethany."

The pirate snorts and comes closer, swinging her arms back and forth. "I'm not as innocent as dear, sweet Bethany. I know pain and desertion and betrayal. Void, do I know betrayal. Besides, you'll need a ride."

"To where?"

"Ferelden, of course," she rolls her eyes, sitting on her knees beside Hawke. "Your first step should be to petition the king for refuge. Asylum. Whatever you call it. He didn't seem like a mage hater."

"You've been thinking on this," Fenris accuses.

"I have," she replies, smiling. It doesn't reach her eyes. "Look, I know Hawke. I know he's not going to be content to sit back and watch the world burn. He's crazy like that. He needs to do something, and…well, the mages need him. Or else they'll all die."

Hawke gently lays his hand on her forearm. "I can't ask you to do this."

"You're not," she winks. "I promised you this time I would be there for you. I won't run. Not again. This time I help you."

Just as he starts to smile, Isabela reaches up and wraps her fingers around his nose, twisting sharply. The crunch as it pops back into place echoes sickeningly off the trees, and Hawke swears loudly enough that a few birds take off in the distance. The pirate starts laughing so hard that even Fenris cracks a smile, hiding it politely behind his hand as more blood dribbles over Hawke's lips and chin, falling into the water.

"Maker's breath, I hate you. You're an evil woman," he grouses painfully, leaning over the river. Fenris puts a hand on the back of his neck and wipes the blood with his shirt.

"You love me, and you know it," she chuckles. "Anyway, you look ridiculous with a broken nose. I can hardly take you seriously."

Hawke groans and washes his face with the river water. "Still a dirty trick, Rivaini," he complains. Fenris has broken his nose a few times and knows the pain that comes with it. Still, it will heal better now that Isabela has reset the bone, so he keeps quiet.

"Whatever," she leans sideways so that her head his horizontal to the water, black hair falling over her shoulder. "So I'm going, then. What do we do about Bethany and Sebastian?"

"Hawke's original plan is a good one if we can get the both of them to cooperate," Fenris peeks at her through his snowy hair, setting his shirt in his lover's lap. Hawke's bloodied hand catches his and squeezes the fingers lightly. "Sebastian has shown himself a traitor when it counts, and Bethany is not made for war. They can't come with us."

"Sebastian already agreed from what I saw this morning," Isabela frowns at Hawke. "The only problem is your sister. Why she won't stay behind with that mouth-watering, sexually frustrated Chantry brother all to herself is absolutely beyond me. I'd just jump at the chance." Her eyes take on a glossy, distant look, and Hawke snaps his fingers in front of her face.

"Focus, Isabela," he tells her with a small trace of amusement.

"Well, what in the name of the Void is wrong with her?" she demands. "He's cute, polite, a gentleman—which is good if you like that sort of thing—, a prince, a devout servant of the same god she worships, an archer, and an absolute sweetie with powerful hips and an absolutely perfect—"

Hawke grabs her around the ankle and tips her from her precarious perch into the water just before she can finish. The splash rains down on the both of them as Fenris gives a chuckle at Isabela's loud screech of surprise. She surfaces, spitting water and blinking droplets from her eyelashes. With her clothes wet, it leaves absolutely nothing to the imagination, every inch of cloth clinging seductively to her curves and breasts. Not that the two of them haven't seen her naked far too many times.

"We get it," Hawke smiles at her. "He's attractive."

"You ass," she hisses, climbing out onto the bank like a drenched cat. She stays on her knees for a moment longer than necessary, brushing her thigh against Hawke's arm before getting to her feet and spreading her arms. "I'm soaked."

Hawke admires her, eyes roving. "I cannot imagine what happens when you fall overboard on your ship."

"They ravage me, of course," she winks, wringing out her hair. She closes her eyes. "Until the Maker changes water into sweat."

All three of them turn their heads when they hear someone tentatively clearing her throat. Bethany stands there in her battle robes, the artificial azure so out of place among brown and green earth and trees. Her black hair is still mussed from sleeping, wild around her face. She appears uncertain, teeth sunk into her bottom lip as she takes a step away from the forest. Sebastian appears at her side with his bow strung across his back, a hand coming to rest on her shoulders. All eyes zero in on that simple gesture of intimacy.

"Isabela, Fenris," the mage nods her head, cheeks pink. "I want to speak to my brother. Alone, please."

"I don't think that's the safest course," Hawke jokes, but his eyes are guarded. Her blush spreads to her slender throat, and Fenris's eyes dart to her hand where blue light gathers around delicate fingertips. It's a healing magic, one that Anders used often enough around them for him to recognize it. She holds the appendage out, palm up, wiggling her fingers. An invitation.

"A gesture of good will?" she raises her eyebrows.

Hawke sighs and gets to his feet, meeting her halfway with his arms out. "Come here, Sister."

She flies into his arms so quickly that Fenris nearly misses it. Isabela slinks around the embracing siblings to press her slicked fingers against Sebastian's cheek and lead him away from the woods nearer to the bank, a water nymph catching her prey with a wink and a pretty glance. Fenris stands and brushes the dirt from his calves, bristling as the archer appears at his shoulder.

"I lost my temper," Bethany says against his ear, leaning back and cupping her hand around her brother's nose. "I'm sorry."

"No, I'm sorry," Hawke grasps her wrist. The ethereal light outlines his facial features, setting them off with an eerie glow. As each second ticks by, his voice is become less nasal and restrained. "You're not a child. I shouldn't treat you as one."

"But you do," she accuses bitterly. "You do it all the time, and you make sure that the others do it, as well." Over Hawke's shoulder, she shoots all three of them a glare.

Hawke's thumbs come up to wipe the tears sliding down her cheeks. "I love you," he whispers fiercely in her ear, and Fenris turns his head. This is too intimate a conversation for him to hear. For any of them to hear. "I know I don't tell you enough, but I do. With all my heart. Mother, Father, Carver…Maker, Bethany, you're the last bit of family I have."

The blue disappears to reveal healed tissue, not a blemish nor a pore out of place. Bethany's long fingers clamp instead around Hawke's shoulder, her glimmering eyes searching. "Don't you understand?" she implores. "You're my brother. The last of my family. How would you feel if I went off to fight this war and forbid you from going with me?"

"You know how I would feel."

"Let me help," she says almost desperately. "Don't leave me again. I can't bear to watch you take off and never come home."

He cups his hands around her face, her smooth face near perfect against his lighter, scarred hands. "We won't have a home if I don't do this."

"Please," she begs, and the tears are falling in earnest now, too frequent for Hawke to wipe them away. "Please, Maker, please."

Fenris sees his face and the torment in his eyes. For a moment he looks truly torn, almost as if he's considering it. The elf feels his pain, but he can't allow Hawke to say yes. She's too vulnerable. War will break her tender heart, her rare innocence. Nothing is worth that. Despite all that the Hawke family has suffered, she still believes that people can be trusted, that there isn't a blackness swirling in every man's heart. Fenris can't remember ever feeling that way. It is a precious thing that is worth preserving.

"I…" Hawke starts but cuts himself off. Bethany sees a weakness in his defense.

"Please, Brother," she says again, more resolutely. "Please."

Her brother's resolve is breaking apart at the seams, and Fenris sees it happening. He meets Isabela's uncertain eyes, her sensual lips set into a firm frown. Sebastian appears concerned, mouth open as if in disbelief. Together, the pirate and the elf march forward, and each set one hand on Hawke's shoulder. As if awakening from a trance, Hawke blinks and stares at them in alarm.

"No," Fenris says to Bethany, triggering his tattoos.

"I'm so sorry, Kitten," Isabela bites her trembling lower lip, leather gloves squealing faintly as she tightens her grip.

It is Fenris's fervent hope that seeing the two of them will remind him of what a life of hard warfare and pain can do to a person. He is scarred and branded like an animal. His cynical mind is a product of a dangerous life, his guarded demeanor instinct after years of physical and mental abuse. Isabela is another perfect example. She wears her scars on the inside, hidden carefully behind breathtaking smiles and witty banter.

Bethany would experience the same things as a Tranquil slave. The only difference would be that she couldn't despair about it, couldn't mourn the loss of her memories like Fenris did for years. She wouldn't feel her brother's tender touches or loving kisses. He would never wipe away her tears again, because she would never cry. To not see her pretty face twisted in pain or brightened with joy would be beyond what the rest of them could take.

Fenris is part of the family now, and he must help protect what is left of it.

"Whatever you think now," Fenris tells her in a gruff voice with a tinge of sympathy, "this is the best choice."

Hawke shuts his eyes for the longest time. When he opens them, there's no hesitance. "They're right. You'll stay here with Sebastian." His voice takes on the hard, unyielding tone of that morning.

She jerks away as if slapped. "How can you do this to me?" she demands, staring at the three of them. "You're worse than the Templars!"

"Stop it," Sebastian says, storming forward and gripping her shoulders. "How could you say such when you know what has happened to your family? To your father? If you go, you will be made Tranquil, raped, or killed. Maybe all three."

She shoves at him. "You're one to talk. Why don't you just run back to Starkhaven if you're so ready to take prisoners?"

"I asked him to do this," Hawke tells her fiercely. "Take out your anger on me, not him."

"He agreed," she spits.

"Yes, because he wants you safe," Isabela rolls her eyes. "Really, you're acting like an idiot. Why would you want to stomp through mud and marsh trying to find a bunch of ragged mages to save? When you could stay here in this cozy little nook with that?" She wiggles her fingers vaguely at the prince.

"The Divine is going to wage holy war," Sebastian sighs. "If you go, you'll die for sure. Kirkwall will probably be razed. You might not like this, Bethany, but it's your only chance at survival."

"Maybe I don't want to live if my brother dies!" she screams so loudly that the rest of them blink in shock. Hawke pulls Sebastian away from her. "What do I have if he dies? What have any of us got? He's the entire reason we're friends at all!" She points a finger at him, tears dripping off the end of her chin. "Why aren't you three more protective of him? Huh?"

In the silence that follows, Isabela picks at her clinging clothing. Fenris raises an eyebrow at them. Isn't it so very obvious? "Because we know nothing can stop him," he tells her quite plainly.

"Sister, I'm coming home," Hawke insists. "I swear. Fenris wouldn't let me do otherwise. I'm coming home."

She wipes at her eyes almost violently, staring at the ground. "I get so very tired of being baby sister that everyone has to protect," she admits sullenly.

Fenris feels for her. He does, really. He knows that he wouldn't be able to bear it if Hawke went off on some lost cause to fight without him, not that the rogue could. Fenris would follow at any cost, and there would be such a reckoning for Hawke once he caught up. That fight would be a never-ending battle. Thankfully, though, Hawke learned long ago that Fenris could protect himself.

"Bethany," Hawke says, putting his arm around her shoulders and gesturing with his hand toward the trees, "come with me. Now that you've calmed down, I want to talk to you." He looks pointedly at Isabela. "Alone."

The pirate twirls her hand around and bows dramatically in sarcastic supplication. Fenris drifts away toward the river as the two siblings head into the trees. Sebastian watches with trepidation and something more. He has every right to. Agreeing to be a part of Hawke's plan intertwined his life with hers. He is her safeguard now. If she agrees.

Isabela slumps down next to Fenris, beginning to wring out her hair again even though it's no longer dripping. Butting her shoulder against his, she smiles. "Two sovereigns if she says yes."

"They've been talking for over an hour," Isabela whines, banging her head lightly against the side of the barn. The heat of the sun has created a fine sheen of sweat all over her body, the light catching and making her glisten. Sebastian is sitting next to her, dozing lightly against her shoulder while Fenris paces and wears a trench into the ground. "How much convincing does it take?"

"A lot, apparently," Fenris bites out irritably, digging his blunt nails further into his upper arms. For some reason, he is nervous. Hawke can be damn persuasive when he wants to be—he once convinced an Antivan wine merchant that he was royalty and demanded free wine delivered to his house—but their entire plan rests on Bethany's tiny shoulders. The only other option is to tie her to the bed and disappear.

"This is her life," Sebastian says with his eyes closed, and the pirate glances at him in surprise. "How much convincing would you need to watch your family walk into a war and stay behind where you couldn't protect them?" He cracks an eye to see her face.

"Lazy sod," she sniffs, ignoring his question. "I thought you were asleep." She promptly butts his cheek with her shoulder, and he sits up straight with a graceless stretch. Twig is sprawled on the ground a few feet from the elf's pacing, huffing softly every once in a while and snuffling in the dirt. He ran out of the house earlier with a dead rat clutched between his powerful jaws. It explains where he was that morning.

"Do you think Hawke can make her stay?" Sebastian wonders aloud, pulling his legs up against his chest and blinking blearily at the sky.

Isabela snorts. "Haven't you learned by now? Hawke can do anything."

Fenris turns his head toward the sky to block out their conversation, shielding his eyes from the blaring sun. It's midday now, and the birds are chirping in earnest. Trees sway and leaves rustle in a light wind coming from the North, but the breeze is too humid to offer any type of cool relief. Dressed in his heavy metal armor, Fenris feels a trickle of sweat slide down his back, his hair slick against his forehead.

"Yes," Sebastian muses comfortably, the hot sun sparkling off his white armor. "I suppose you are right. What reason do we have to doubt our Champion now?"

Twig gives a soft woof in response, tail thudding against the earth and stirring up dust. Fenris ceases his endless pacing and walks toward the cool shade of the barn, unstrapping his heavy sword to lean it against the wood. His reflection is distorted in the dark surface of the weapon.

The thought of the war weighs heavily on his mind, as well. Unless the Divine deigns it necessary to raze Kirkwall to the ground, there will be no battles. No great armies fighting against one another. It will be a war of guerilla tactics and flight plans. They will be spending the next few years rescuing mages and creating safe havens for them in lands where they will barely be tolerated. With so many frightened mages in one place, they'll need Templars to control them or suffer a legion of blood mages and abominations.

"I'm going to the river," he announces quietly and retreats in that direction, leaving his sword behind in the shade. Isabela shakes her head and shouts something at him, but he doesn't pay any attention. The grass is warm and crisp under his toes, baked almost until it's brittle. Twig jerks awake excitedly and sidles up to trot at his heels.

At the bank, he kneels and washes his face. Just a few feet down is where Hawke sat earlier that day, cupping water over his nose and complaining. His mind drifts back to the siblings. Fenris doesn't pretend to know about their personal lives—he's never really spoken much to Bethany or Hawke about it—but he's certain that Bethany doesn't throw punches often. The girl wears her regret in her eyes.

Twig flops down on the grass with a huff, dangling one paw in the stream. Fenris runs his hand along the great beast's back, feeling the fine, smooth texture. With the lulling trickle of the stream and the decidedly cooler temperature down by the water, Fenris actually manages to fall asleep. And it's with his head bobbing forward on his chest and one of his hands propped up on Twig's head that Hawke finds him and startles him awake.

Hawke grabs his shoulders and shakes gently, startling him so badly that his tattoos come to life.

"Hey, hey, sorry," the human says in his ear, kissing the tip as Fenris relaxes. "Shouldn't be falling asleep so close to the water. You're going to fall in." Instead of sitting beside him, Hawke wraps his arms around Fenris's thin torso and rests his chin on one shoulder. The strong scent of alcohol makes Fenris wrinkle his nose as fingers bury themselves in his hair, gently scratching his scalp.

"You've been drinking," he accuses with some surprise.

Hawke's laugh is a little breathless, and he feels the smile against his cheek. "Of course. How else was I supposed to convince my baby sister we weren't going to die?"

Though it is a distinct possibility, he bristles a little at how casually it's said. Sighing, he leans back into the searching hands, a little bit of stubble grazing his neck as Hawke breathes him in. He can't have been asleep long as the sun has hardly moved, and Twig is still napping soundly beside him. Hawke's plate armor digs painfully into his back, but he doesn't mind. He blinks sleepily at the sun.

"So you managed it?" he asks without bothering to hide his apprehension. Fingers on his stomach curl, nails against his mesh torso.

"Naturally," the human breathes with a slight laugh. "This time tomorrow, we'll be on our way to Ferelden to petition the king for asylum, at Isabela's suggestion."

Fenris perks up. "Isabela is coming with us then?"

"Of course," he replies. "How could I leave her behind? Besides, Sebastian and Bethany will have enough sexual tension in the air without her reminding them of it every three minutes."

"You have a low opinion of Sebastian's self-control."

"My sister is beautiful," he says matter-of-fact with only a small shrug of his shoulders. "He'd have to be stupid to stay celibate now that the chantry and his god have essentially abandoned him to the mages."

Deft fingers pick idly at the buckles around his waist and shoulders holding his steel carapace together. When the piece of battle equipment falls into his lap, Hawke's hand slides up the plane of his flat, taut abdomen. He's hardly instigating anything heated, just touching. Fenris falls into the casual embrace before he can stop himself, suddenly feeling rather weary despite his nap. The day is still hot, and it's a bit uncomfortable having a living furnace snuggled against his back.

"Why doesn't this feel like a victory?" he asks Hawke, the human's nose against his snowy, blonde hair.

"Because it's not," Hawke whispers back. "We just signed our own death warrants, and we've turned down a skilled mage's help while doing it. Bethany could have replaced Anders. She could have healed a lot of people and done a lot more good than hiding out here waiting for me to say it's safe."

"Then why didn't we take her with us?" he knows the answer before he asks it.

"Because I love her," is his simple reply as he tilts Fenris's head back, "and she could be dissuaded."

Fenris doesn't miss the implied, "You couldn't" as Hawke seals their mouths together in a chaste kiss that lasts only a few seconds. The taste of whiskey lingers sharp and bitter in this mouth, and he vaguely wonders just how much Hawke had to drink. Bethany can get drunk on a thimbleful of wine. For the smell and taste to linger, he has to have drunk more than that.

Of course, he is leaving his sister behind in the hands of a man who has proven when it counts that he isn't trustworthy or loyal to his friends. If anyone deserves to drink, it's Hawke.

"This is going to be hard," Hawke whispers in his ear, nibbling on the lobe.

"Yes, it is."

His lover laughs. "Blunt as always. That's what I love about you. Don't let me talk myself into grand illusions, okay? Don't let me hope that we'll win." Sobering, he crosses his arms over Fenris's chest, pulling the elf flush against him.

Twig lifts his head to peer about before rolling over onto his back and slapping a paw over his eyes with a groan. His thick, extra skin hangs about him like a heavy coat, the fur a dark brown with filth and smatters of blood from his kills.

"That dog," Hawke shakes him. "What are we going to do with him?"

"He'll grow," Fenris says, scratching the animal behind the ears. "One day he'll be as protective and fierce as Quill."

"More so growing up during a war," the other man sighs. "I suppose we'll have to stop lazing about in the sun like a bunch of housecats and get into shape again. At least, I will. You haven't gained a pound of fat." A finger pokes him in the ribs, and Fenris scowls.

He shoves the hand away. "Neither have you. We have only been here for a few weeks."

Hawke smiles against his ear, but it's sad. He can tell by the melancholy timbre of his voice. "It feels like minutes."

For once, Fenris can't argue. "It does."

Cool wind blows across the water, sending ripples charging against the stream. The scent of earth and clean water is refreshing and will be sorely missed once they start out on the road again. Hawke's heart is powerful against his back, beating with the same willpower and determination that it always has. Lips press against his own pulse point, and he tilts his neck just slightly. To think that he is so trusting now as to bare his neck to a man more than capable of cutting it is just a little frightening. That's the thrill of it, though.

Hawke sets the carapace in Fenris's lap to the side and takes a deep breath. The metal glints in the afternoon sun, scarred where knives came too close and arrows penetrated too deep. Fenris sets his fingers on the cold, reflective surface. It's been a while since he's worn his armor for any real cause. The thought of doing something again, having a purpose, kindles a dark place inside of him that loves the fight, the kill. He's excited about the war just as he is apprehensive. There's so much to lose but everything to gain.

Coming to this place was such a perfect accident. It allowed for them to seek a moment's respite after so much death and destruction. It gave Hawke a project when he needed one most. Fenris is reluctant to leave it. Of course, they can't stay. They aren't meant for domestic lives of peace and tranquility. The two of them are built for war and death. The house belongs to a powerful young woman who would make a wonderful and caring mother. Maybe it even belongs to an ex-prince ready to prove himself one of the people. Maybe they can discover the secrets that elude Hawke and Fenris.

"Do you want to stay?" Hawke asks him in a breathy, wistful voice. The question nettles Fenris in a way he doesn't expect.

"It is done," he replies gruffly. "Let it be."

"I want to stay," Hawke confesses almost sheepishly, the scent of alcohol clinging in his hair, even to his skin. "Here, with you, things weren't so complicated." The pain lacing the words like a poison head straight for Fenris's heart, and he softens.

Sympathetic, he touches one hand. "Life for you has never been simple."

"For either of us." Then suddenly Hawke laughs, and the slow tension dissipates. "Since when did we become a couple of soft sods? Maker, if Varric were here, he'd never let us live this little moment down."

"You're drunk," Fenris smiles slightly in answer, and Hawke shifts so that the elf can see the liquid blue of his eyes. Stubble has begun to grow across his chin again, but his short hair is cropped out of his face. He looks just as he did in those early days when he, a refugee, extended a hand to a penniless slave with a sly grin and a sincere heart.

Hawke connects their mouths slowly, keeping his eyes open as Fenris's heart pounds in his chest. Fenris is staring into the blurry particles of the ocean, drowning in the heady scent of liquor and the steady heat of the day. They shift, and he's falling backwards onto springy grass as strong but gentle hands grasp his sides, and the human sighs against his mouth. The weight of another human being pressed up against him is delightful, and it sends a thrill straight through his spine. He shivers and wraps his arms around Hawke's neck, pulling him ever closer.

The sweetness is almost too much as Hawke separates and douses him with kisses, in his hair and across his lips and throat and chest. Calloused fingers slide over the exposed flesh of his belly as he gasps and breathes in the taste and smell of their coupling. Nails scratch too lightly. Breathless chuckles caress his skin, following the silken trail of Hawke's lips and tongue. Time seems to erode as Hawke spends less and less time focusing on getting to the very precipice as quickly as they possibly can. Instead, he drugs Fenris with kindness and emotion and love, forcing them to float in limbo.

By the time they are both spent and Hawke is lying beside him, breathing harshly the cooled air, Fenris can barely form coherent thoughts. He wipes his eyes with the palms of his hands and sucks in as much oxygen as he dares without hyperventilating. Hawke keeps a few inches distance between the two of them as they both try desperately to cool down.

Immediately after Fenris's breathing evens out and the droplets of sweat stop stinging his eyes, Hawke rolls them into the river. The elf doesn't fight. He knows what this is. It's one last respite, one last handful of mindless pleasure and paradise. When the war finally begins for them, there will be no time to focus on their tortured relationship which seems to mean so little to the rest of the world. After all, it's what Hawke wanted all along. A few moments of peace before it all begins again. Time to stop and look around. Time to love.

Fenris loses count how many times Hawke takes him. Against the trees, the grass, in the river, on the bank with water dripping from their soaked hair. Desperate clawing and biting and marking. Making love as Hawke never has before, with a sort of pained want and desire.

Yes, catch these moments and hold them in for as long as we can, savoring them like the sweet smoke of a cigar.

Only when the stars are out does Isabela come hunting for them with a knowing smile on her full lips. She helps Hawke to his feet and kisses his cheeks, squeezing his hands with her dainty fingers. Hawke puts an arm around Fenris's shoulders and pulls him close so that he is a part of their tiny circle of nervous glances and excitement. The moon is high, and the breeze is cool. Leaves flutter in the air.

She says it with her eyes, but her voice is all the more lovely as it shapes the words, "It's time."

Hawke lets out a sigh and takes Fenris's hand. "Come then."

The walk back to the farm is tense and suspenseful. Hawke squeezes just a little too tightly, his head held high, his jaw clenched, eyes bright. Fenris feels an awful apprehension again as he glimpses Bethany and Sebastian in the distance, their silhouettes outlined by the low, orange glow of a fire in the main house. Isabela moves with sashaying hips and unbreakable confidence, and Fenris envies her freedom. She has nothing to lose, this pirate. She doesn't know what it's like to have a family, what it's like to leave them behind.

Hawke and Bethany embrace wordlessly, and Fenris flounders for something to say as Sebastian shakes his hand. It's all come on too fast. He isn't ready to depart. A chapter has been torn from this book. He and Hawke deserve more time. Bethany throws her arms around his shoulders, breasts pressing flush against him. Her heart hammers in her chest. He can feel it even through his armor plating as he curls his fingers in her fine black hair.

"Keep him safe," her lips press against his ear, and she's stepping back to stand at Sebastian's side. The prince and the refugee. The chantry brother and the mage. What a pair.

All of a sudden, they're on the march. Hawke has a backpack slung over his shoulder—Fenris can't even remember pulling on his own. Twig trots at their side, twisting his head inquiringly at both masters. He doesn't understand, but he soon will. Bethany's quiet sobbing can be heard even as they cross the field, headed toward the ocean. Isabela's ship waits in port. She's giving them a respectable distance, trailing behind and keeping quiet for once.

Hawke reaches out and takes Fenris's hand as they once again lose everything.

School's kicking my ass. I've got advanced placement courses all year, but I have some time in Newspaper to write. So I'm sorry. Really. It's over, but I may write another story in this universe. Thanks for reading. Review please.