Her name day was not going well.
Everyone seemed to have forgotten, even her brother. Celeste tossed down another set of missives that clamored for the Champion's attention; nothing was urgent, and all of it could bloody well wait until the day was over. Bodahn, Sandal, and Orana were nowhere to be found. A note left on her desk next to the pile of mail said that they were all off to the market, and could she please see to her breakfast herself?
Not that she minded making breakfast for herself, of course. It was just a surprise that everyone seemed to have disappeared. She frowned at Varric's empty room in the Hanged Man; Isabela's room was empty as well. Merrill didn't answer her door, and the lights outside of Anders's clinic were dark. Fenris was not home as well, the mansion cold and empty. The Grand Cleric had frowned at Sebastian's absence from the Chantry, and Celeste wandered back home, dejected.
She knelt to hug her Mabari, Cambert, when she got home, his stubby tail wagging as he licked her cheek.
"Looks like it's just you and me on my name day, lad," she said, stroking him behind the ears. Cambert chuffed at her, pleased to be her sole source of company. "It's all right. You were a name day present a long time ago, it's only fitting that you be the one I spend it with."
Cambert gave a conversational bark.
"I suppose a mug of tea and a book isn't a bad way to spend a name day, after all. Much more quiet than what we normally get up to, hey?" She wandered into the kitchen, setting the kettle on its hook over the fire and preparing the pot. She was just about ready to pour the steaming water when a voice called from the foyer.
"Hawke? Are you home?" She recognized the brogue – it could only be Sebastian.
"In the kitchen!" she called through the open door.
He came down the steps with a clatter, and she realized he was carrying a large bundle of shopping in his arms. She rushed over to help him set some of his parcels down, her lips quirking in amusement.
"What's all this?" she asked.
"Well, I heard that it was your name day, so I thought…" He flushed, and she tilted her head to the side. "I thought I would bake you a cake, if that's all right."
"I didn't know you could bake," she said, a smile on her face. At least someone remembered. "Of course it's all right."
"Well, the Chantry teaches many skills," he said, pulling his ingredients out of the packages of shopping. "I learned to bake bread from the cook there when it was my turn to help do charitable works for the poor. Sure, I might have bought bread, but with the skills to make the bread, the money I use can feed a lot more people. It sort of…took off from there, and I discovered a hidden talent for baking."
"Deadly with an arrow and a rolling pin, who knew?" she said, laughing. He gave her an uncertain smile that soon warmed as she got him chatting about other things. He set out the ingredients he would need, setting them in a neat little pile. Flour, sugar, and salt sat in their own little bags, next to which he laid out a small basket of eggs and a bottle of milk. A bottle of heavy cream was added next, along with a clay jar with a sealed lid.
"Honey," he said when she picked up the jar. "I thought a lot about what I would make, but I couldn't decide if fruit would be too much, or–"
She laughed, holding up her hands. "I'm an absolute klutz in the kitchen, so whatever you make will be far better than what I could."
A small smile played on his lips. "Well, normally I wouldn't ask you to help, since it's your name day, but I don't think you're a hopeless case. Come on, let's wash up, and I'll teach you."
She rolled up her sleeves so that she could scrub. "You're going to regret this. I'm a terrible cook."
"It's not a hard thing, baking." Sebastian lathered his hands, making sure to get under his nails. Maker, she'd never seen a more fastidious man. When she thought about his hands touching food, however, it made sense, and she endeavored to scrub her hands just as well. "It just requires the right touch."
"Well, your touch might be better than mine when it comes to that." She shrugged. "I can make tea, and porridge for breakfast, but anything more complicated than that and I'm hopeless."
"I don't believe that," Sebastian said, his eyes crinkling at the corners with good humor. "Come on then, let's get started with this batter."
She watched as Sebastian pulled open the bags of flour, sugar, and salt, measuring out an amount of each of the ingredients. His hands were sure, confident, as he pulled out Orana's baking tools and placed the measured flour into the bowl. She watched, her lip between her teeth.
"Would you pull me a mug of ale, please?" he asked, smiling at her. "Just a bit, about to the second knuckle of your finger if you were to measure with your hand."
"Breaking your vows already? It must be a special name day, indeed." She stood and grabbed a clean tankard.
"It's not for me," he said, gesturing to the flour. "It's for the cake."
"Your cake has ale in it?"
"You never would have guessed, would you?" He grinned at her, really grinned, and she felt her heart do a little flip in her chest. She had never told him how she felt about him, and if she had her way, she never would. She knew he valued his vows above everything else, and she wouldn't take that from him. She crossed the room to hide her discomfiture in the ale barrel, pouring a measure of the lukewarm ale.
"Now," he said, as he took the tankard from her, "we add the most important ingredient."
He reached into his belt pouch, pulling out a small packet of waxed paper. He tipped the contents into the tankard and set it aside. Curious, she peered into the ale, but nothing amazing happened. She looked up at his chuckle, his amusement plain.
"What was that?"
"Yeast. It will help the cake later on. Now, Champion, come here and I'll give you proper instruction on how to mix the wet ingredients together."
She rolled her eyes at his commanding tone but obeyed, walking over to the counter where he stood. He placed two eggs in her hands, putting a clean bowl in front of her.
"Crack the eggs open into the bowl, and whip them until you can't tell the yolks from the whites." He handed her a fork.
"Whip them? Are we baking a cake or choreographing a new routine for the Rose?" She obeyed, however, cracking the eggs with exaggerated care into the bowl. As she blended the creamy yellow yolk with the clear white, she glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He was sifting the flour, humming a little under his breath as he worked. He caught her looking, flashing her a smile as her hands slowed.
"Let's see," he said, holding his hand out for the bowl. She handed it to him, aware of his fingers as they brushed hers. "Well done! I might be able to make a baker of you yet."
"Again, I doubt it." Sebastian ignored her disparaging remark and placed another bowl into her hands, filled with sugar and a measure of the butter.
"Blend those together," he said. "You're doing fine, there's no need to be skittish about this."
There was plenty of reason to be skittish, she knew. Being in the same room as Sebastian had that effect. She would trip, or drop something. Still, she did her best, trying to stir the mixture together.
"Here, let me help." Warm breath ghosted over her ear as he stepped up behind her, guiding her hands with his. "You're trying to beat it into submission, and that will just not do. You have to be gentle, and…coax it."
He showed her, stirring in loose, easy strokes, the sugar coming together with the butter in a clumpy mass. He didn't release her at once, and she felt the way his chest muscles moved against her back, his breathing steady and even. He had forgone his armor for obvious reasons, a simple linen shirt and a pair of doeskin trousers serving to dress him today, and she could feel the heat of him through his clothes. She swallowed, feeling his breath ghost against her ear again.
"I think you have it, now," he said, causing goosebumps to ripple up her arms. "Do you think so?"
Her mouth was dry, and she couldn't speak, so she nodded. He stepped away, and she sighed a little in relief even as she missed the closeness of him. Even in the kitchen with its myriad of scents, he was leather, incense, and the split wood scent that came from his arrow-making. She shivered, setting down the blended sugar and butter. He reached around her for the bowl with the egg in it, his arm circling her waist. Stepping away again, he added it to the bowl, along with a handful of aromatic seeds.
The scent of anise wafted up, and she sniffed, taking in the smell of black licorice.
"I know you don't much care for the candies they make in Hightown," he said. "This should actually be lighter in flavor."
"I'm sure it will, Sebastian. Really, I'm all right." She wasn't, not since he'd stepped into her personal space, but the little white lie could be forgiven. It was her name day, after all.
"You'll see," he said, his smile wide. He blended together the seeds and eggs with the butter; sure, smooth strokes had it blended into a creamy mass dotted with specks of seeds. He poured the flour into a bowl, patting down a hollow in the middle. Taking the tankard, he poured the measure of ale into the hollow, filling it. He handed her another spoon, pressing it into her hands. "Now you're going to fold the batter together."
"All right," she said. She looked down at the gloopy mess in the bowl. "Erm, how?"
"Here," he said, stepping behind her again and taking her hands. He showed her, stirring the mixture in scooping motions, working the ale into the flour until it was moist. He didn't move away this time, reaching for the bowl with the wet ingredients and scraping them into the flour. She folded those in with his help, too, concentrating hard on controlling her breathing. The mixture came together, and he added milk as she stirred, humming under his breath against her ear as she stirred.
It was a comfortable moment, she decided. He was relaxed against her, as if this was the most normal thing in the world; despite his earlier nervousness, he had become a lot more confident as the cake got underway. It was becoming a thick batter now, speckled with the anise seeds. His hands stilled over hers, and she leaned back to look up at him.
"Do you know something?" he asked.
"What?" she asked, her heart pounding.
"You might be a better baker than you thought. I only did a little of the work on this cake, you know." He dipped his finger in the bowl, scooping up a little of the mixture, even as he stepped away. He held out his hand, the batter clinging to it. "Taste it, and tell me what you think."
"I…" She hesitated.
"I'll not bite." His smile was warm, and his eyes held a note of challenge. "Are you that afraid of your own cooking?"
Celeste was many things. Afraid, yes, but to be challenged on that fear? Never. She stepped forward, taking his wrist in her hands to hold him steady as she closed her mouth around his index finger, her tongue caressing the callouses as she cleaned the square tipped digit of the batter. The light taste of licorice was balanced by the sugar and the heady taste of the ale. She closed her eyes, cleaning every last drop from his finger, until a strangled noise from Sebastian made her open them again.
He was watching her, lips parted as his nostrils flared. His gaze was locked on her mouth, and she swept her tongue along his finger again for good measure, giving it a last suckle to teach him a lesson about temptation. He wet his lips as she released him, taking his hand back after a moment.
"I forgot myself," he said. "I should have used a spoon. My apologies."
"For what? The chance to lick batter off the fingers of the most attractive yet unattainable man in Kirkwall?" Her voice was bitter. "No, it's fine. Thank you for the opportunity. Happy name day to me."
He caught her hand. "Don't think I haven't been tempted, Hawke."
His thumb traced circles on the back of her hand, sending electricity jolting through her. She pulled her hand from his, turning back to the batter in the bowl.
"I – I think I'd rather just have my book and my tea, like I was planning." She took a deep breath. "You know what? Just the book is fine. You can finish the cake without me, and take it to the Hanged Man. The drunks can celebrate my name day, at least."
He was behind her again, his hands over hers as she stiffened. His movements were slow and deliberate as he curled her fingers inward save the index finger. He dipped her finger in the batter, turning her so she could watch him bring her hand to his mouth. His lips closed over her finger, and the slow sweep of his tongue across the sensitive pad of her finger almost overwhelmed her. The rasp of his tongue was made more intense by the look he gave her, blue eyes locked to hers as he suckled the last of the batter from her finger. He released her, pressing a kiss to the pad of her finger as he returned her hand.
"When I say I have been tempted, that doesn't exclude right now." His smile curled up at the edges, turning it into something far more wicked than she thought he was capable of expressing. His eyes darkened as he stepped forward, brushing a thumb over her lower lip. He cupped her face in his hands, broad fingers sending shivers to her toes. "I can't say no any longer."
"Sebastian, I won't ask you to forswear your vows," she said, reaching up and taking his hands. "I can't ask that of you."
"I forswore myself when I swore to avenge my parents. There is no vow to be broken." He pulled his hands from hers and cupped her face again, slanting his lips across hers. She made a small sound of protest that faded into a whimper as he brought her flush against him, tracing her lower lip with his tongue and begging for entrance. She parted her lips, and he quested inside, his hands sliding from her face to her hips and her back, soothing strokes that relaxed her rigid posture into something far more malleable. She sighed against him, the heat from his body igniting her from the inside out as she grabbed two handfuls of his shirt, trying to tug him closer.
"Easy," he murmured against her mouth, placing a small kiss at the corner. "We have plenty of time today. It's your name day, after all."
He brushed his thumb against her lower lip again, making an amused sound when she kissed the pad. To her surprise, he reached for the bowl of batter, dipping his finger into it again. He held it out to her, a smirk playing on his lips.
"You never told me what you thought of your cooking. Perhaps you need to try it again." She parted her lips as he brought his finger up, surprising him with the flicker of her pink tongue before he could stop her. She lapped the batter from his finger, taking it into her mouth at last. She was rewarded with a moan of approval as his eyes fixated on her mouth again. He'd thought about this before, she realized, and the idea excited her. Never in five years had he even hinted at this secret desire for her, and to know that she could wrench that sound from him with just the touch of her mouth on his fingers was an empowering feeling.
"It's good," she said, her voice a murmur as she stepped closer. "It might have something to do with how it's presented, though."
"Perhaps," he said, that smirk still playing on his lips as he kissed her again.
This time, she'd gotten over the shock of it and gave as good as she got, nipping with playful care at his lower lip. He growled and pulled her closer, pressing her against the counter and tasting her. She twitched her hips up to be rewarded with a gasping intake of breath as she pressed against the insistent hardness of his trousers. A hand rough with callouses slid her robe off her shoulder, his lips following the tingling trail his fingers left. She wound her hands in his shirt once more, her head tipping back as he nipped a path down her throat.
She bit back a gasp of her own when he bared her breasts to the warm air of the kitchen, trailing his lips down her sternum. He reached for the bowl again, dipping his fingers and daubing a bit of the batter across her flushed skin. He lapped it up, her breath hitching at the sound of approval he made.
"It is better when presented properly, I agree," he said, placing an open-mouthed kiss on her throat, his tongue flicking against the pulse point that fluttered there. She gave a soft sigh, winding one of her hands in his auburn hair and giving a tug. He nipped then, soothing it with a pass of his tongue as she arched against him. One broad, tanned hand traced a teasing pass up the side of her breast, the palm pebbling the nipple as he bent his head to the other, his teeth scraping as he suckled.
"Mnh," she said, eloquent in her need as she held his head there for a moment before tugging him up for another searing kiss.
"Celeste." She heard it for the first time from his lips, and it was uncertain, as if he wasn't sure he'd crossed a line. She reassured him with a growl of her own, pulling his laughing mouth closer as she drank in the scent and taste of him, heady with the flavor of anise. Teeth clicked together in their haste, but neither cared at this point, Sebastian clearing the table with a sweep of one broad arm, sending the forgotten mug of tea clattering to the floor.
"You'll be cleaning my kitchen later," she said, her voice a mock warning as he laughed and pushed her backward onto the polished surface.
"Yes," he agreed. "Later."
Fire followed his kisses then, more urgent than anything she'd ever experienced. Talented fingers worked the ties of her robe free at last, baring the rest of her to his view. One broad, square-tipped finger traced a line down the flat plane of her stomach, his appreciation evident in the way he smiled at her. She reached for him then, and he jerked his shirt over his head, the white cloth fluttering away from tanned skin to reveal the broad, muscled expanse of his chest. He was lean, with a slender waist and hips but corded with muscle that flexed under the tan of his skin like that of a large hunting cat. Appreciative fingers traced the dusting of coppery hair there, drawing a deep intake of breath as she neared the waistband of his trousers.
He pushed her hands away, instead pulling her hips to rest on the edge of the table as he stood before her. She squirmed in his grasp, but the fingers tugging her smalls to her ankles would not be denied. His fingers brushed against the curls at her sex, and she arched, her eyes closing as a single finger tested the depths of her wetness, sliding along her folds with practiced ease.
She gasped his name, and Sebastian chuckled again, his finger probing her already slick entrance. Her breathing hitched as he slid it in, the curl of his finger hitting something on the slide out that had her mewling.
"You liked that, did you, sweetling?" He grinned and ghosted a kiss over the inside of her knee as his thumb circled the aching heat of the bundle of nerves at her apex. He bent over her, his breath hot in her ear as she gave a whine. The sound of his brogue in her ear as he spoke again had her turning to kiss his neck and shoulder. "Let me know when it gets to be too much to bear."
A second finger joined the first, stretching her to accommodate him as he increased the pace, his thumb making a broad lap around her again as his fingers worked her core. Her hips wriggled as she squirmed, her nails clenching in the broad muscle of his back, drawing a growl from him. He kissed and nipped her throat, giving a gentle tug with his teeth on her earlobe as she sighed against his shoulder. It was not enough, and she craved more movement, more friction.
"Sebastian, please," she said. She arched down, trying to graze her hips against his, but he had a better angle on her. His fingers withdrew and he brought them to his lips. She watched in a daze as he lapped the slick of her from his fingers, savoring it as he had the cake batter. The sound of approval that rumbled from his chest sparked something primal in her, and she squirmed again, heat suffusing her as he fixed her with an intense look, still cleaning his fingers with his tongue.
"Yes, when presented properly, any meal can be a feast," he said, his eyes flicking across her form as he unlaced his trousers, taking himself in hand as he gazed down at her. The first press of him against her was a welcome relief to her heated core, and he teased her with a sliding thrust up her folds that had her swearing under her breath at him. He relented then, stretching and filling her as he held her hips steady with one hand, guiding himself with the other.
She closed her eyes, lips parting as the first slow thrust had him hilted inside her, their hips flush at last. She felt him start to move, and her eyes opened to find him watching her, his hips canting forward as he leaned one palm on the table beside her head. She turned her head to kiss the inside of his wrist. Something flared in his eyes at that, and he withdrew, drawing her to her feet and turning her around.
He splayed her across the table, her breasts pressing into her discarded robes as he spread her ankles with a nudge of his booted foot. She felt his fingers stroke down her spine and then he entered her again, the different angle hitting something good deep inside her. She stood on tiptoe, arching backward to meet him as Sebastian thrust into her, the intense rhythm sending a jolt coiling into her belly, a delicious tightness that wound up higher and higher until she was sure she would shatter from the strain.
His fingers sought her wetness again and then she did shatter, his thrusts pressing her into the table as she was lost to her peak, cresting sharp as a snap of a whip. Her hands gripped the table as he held her hips, riding out her release with his thrusts hitting a crescendo. He gave a growling shout and pulled her up flush with his chest, possessive hands holding her to him as he sank his teeth into her shoulder. His breath was hot in her ear as he trembled against her, and she steadied herself against him.
At last, he slipped from her, their mingled release leaving much to clean up. He pressed a kiss to her temple as he fetched a clean rag.
"Happy name day to me, indeed," she said, and he laughed, nuzzling her earlobe as they righted their clothing.
"And we haven't even put the cake in the oven yet."
Varric glanced at the setting sun from the window of his suite in the Hanged Man. The others were engaged in a game of Wicked Grace, but the food was getting cold. Anders kept looking at the door and shaking his head, his brows drawing down in a scowl.
"Maybe I should go get her, instead," he said, setting his hand down and preparing to stand up. "Sebastian's been gone for hours."
"Blondie, the only thing you're going to find at Hawke's house is heartache and you know it. Trust me, Choir Boy ran the long con on all of us when he offered to go fetch Hawke while we set this up." Varric took a swig from his tankard, wandering over to the sideboard and dishing up some of the food. "We might as well eat, because we won't be hearing a peep from them until morning, maybe longer."
A/N: Mmm, cake. Just a little break from Aquila. I'll have a new chapter of that up tomorrow. For now, enjoy, and as always, thanks for reading.