From a kmeme prompt: Hawke is still a mage from Ferelden but he has moved to Tevinter in search for freedom (oh, the irony, I know). Once in Tevinter he proves talented enough to rise among the ranks of Magisters and do so quickly. He and Danarius strike a vicious rivalry and Danarius sends Fenris, who is still his bodyguard/assassin to kill Hawke, but Hawke proves a tough nut to crack and overpower Fenris, taking him prisoner. Once forced to stay at Hawke's house Fenris is actually treated with respect - more so than in Danarius' household, despite having tried to kill Hawke. He slowly falls head over heels in love with his new master/captor.
This is an AU where Fenris made it onto the boat in Seheron, and both Hawke siblings survived. Hawke left Kirkwall after defeating the Arishok to find some peace and quiet somewhere he wouldn't be persecuted.
Nothing marked the day as auspicious, no difference to their routine until near mid-day when a slave rushed into Danarius' study, bowing low until Danarius bade her speak with a gesture. "Your guests are here, Master."
"Guests? How many came?" He didn't look up from his notes, which was not at all unusual; the slaves were little better than furniture.
"Two, Master. The young Magister and his brother."
"But not the sister. Unfortunate. Fetch Hadriana." Where he stood at the door, next to the girl, Fenris saw the full-body shiver that passed through her at the apprentice's name. "She is to entertain them until dinner. If she balks, tell her she will have the next slave to falter's lashes in their place." The girl flinched, knowing that such a threat would put her in a sore place with the apprentice. "You are dismissed."
Only once she'd fled did Danarius begin putting away his notes. "You are to remain at my side at all times today, Fenris. These guests are not to be trifled with. Fereldan savages; they're an unpredictable sort."
When they left the room Fenris heeled to his master like a dog, one pace behind on his left, which was his place in such times instead of simply at the magister's disposal. Thusly came his first novel thought of the day: he had never met a Fereldan before. He was not sure what to expect.
He spent much of the afternoon helping a couple of other closely-trusted slaves pack away the more sensitive experiments from Danariu's lab, always under Danarius' keen watch. It was more exciting, at least, than standing guard at a door. None of them chatted under Danarius' watch, and Fenris wondered how much of that was discomfort in his presence, marked, favoredas he was.
Dinner was served in one of Danarius' more intimate dining rooms, as it was just himself, Hadriana, and the brothers Hawke—so he'd heard a servant call them—and Fenris, standing just behind Danarius' chair and to his left, at the man's beck and call, and with Hadriana at his right shielding the magister from any direct contact with the guests. Much of the conversation simply washed over him, as it was more his place to scrutinize them physically, to search for weaknesses and assess them as a threat. Talk about lyrium trade and idle chatter about the Blight the guests had apparently fled, smattered with a little gossip about "cousin Amell" meant less than nothing to Fenris.
They didn't much look like savages to Fenris, but he wasn't entirely sure what a savage shouldlook like. They were taller, at least, than most Tevinters, and certainly broader than any mages he had met. The younger brother's manner of dress was somewhat unusual for Tevinter, yes, but the older wore robes even Fenris could identify as a very junior member of the Senate, different shades of rich blue and chased in silver. They didn't look much related, either, the younger brother dark-haired and light-skinned, his eyes an almost yellowish brown; the older, the one who was quite clearly a mage and by all appearances a senator, his skin was just a tad darker, his unruly hair tending more toward auburn, and neatly shaven save for his prominent sideburns—which would have looked ridiculous on anyone else, and his eyes a paler blue, the only shade missing from his robes.
The younger kept to himself on matters of magic, chewing his lip as if irritated with the talk. The elder was glib, his humor contagious, and Fenris suspected Danarius hadn't smiled so much in his life that wasn't at a successful experiment or a particularly inventive punishment, of the clever defeat of a political rival. The smile widened when Danarius followed the elder's repeated glances to the slave at his elbow.
"You've an interest in my bodyguard, I see."
"His markings vex me." The elder's voice was a rich tenor, and Fenris had to avert his eyes quickly so as to avoid making eye contact. "They appear to be lyrium. What purpose would that serve?"
Their talk turned to some business in the Free Marches the Hawke family had neatly avoided, stranded Qunari invading a city or some such, which had been his reason for coming here. The brothers seemed reluctant to discuss the particulars, though both Danarius and Hadriana pressed in a delicate fashion, at length drawing from the elder, "Their Arishok is dead by my hand. Let's leave it at that, please."
This unknown foreigner supping with Danarius, wearing the robes of a newly-made senator, made perfect sense now, and Fenris looked on him in a new light. Dangerous didn't begin to cover it if it was even true that this man had held his own against an Arishok, nevermind defeated one.
As promised, Danarius arranged for a demonstration after dinner, which was quite simple; one of the soldiers Danarius kept on to guard his manse, which lay just outside Minrathous since they'd been driven from Seheron, faced off against him out in the training yard, first with swords, which was more a choreographed dance than a fight, and then hand to hand. When Fenris plunged his hand into the man's chest he was very, verycareful not to do any permanent damage—these were servants, after all, not slaves—but he was still led away choking and gasping by his fellows.
Fenris expected the ordeal to be over, glanced to Danarius watching from beneath a pavilion for some signal, found instead Danarius scowling at the brothers Hawke and Hadriana delicately hiding a smile, the guests in a heated argument Fenris couldn't quite make out. It ended in the younger brother stalking out onto the practice field and the elder yelling, "Fine! Get yourself killed, Carver!"
The younger brother—Carver, then—stalked out onto the practice field, and stopped just a blade's length from him, grinning in a mix of hunger and youthful pride Fenris had seen plenty of times before. "You," he said, "look like a challenge."
Fenris looked to Danarius for some sign, and his master gestured that Fenris should give the man what he wanted. Another slave brought out a greatsword, the hilt of which Carver fingered lovingly before taking a stance. Fenris retrieved his blade, but did not react to the human, waiting for him to move first.
So he did. And Carver was strong, relentless, his strikes so powerful that in blocking them Fenris' arms shook from the impact. He wasn't simply strong, either, but clearly had some experience behind him, formal training somewhere in his education that gave his power focus and precision. Challenge, indeed—the lyrium markings flared to life as Fenris stepped half into the fade to lessen the impact of the blows.
But Carver did not stop, he did not tire. Fenris found he had to put his all into the fight, narrowly missing blows and having his own blade turned away just as surely. Carver made a mistake, eventually, and Fenris darted in, instead of laying a lethal blow bringing his pommel a hair's breadth from the man's throat.
Carver roared at the indignation, and Fenris hardly had time to brace himself for a fall as Carver knocked him back. There was angerin the man's eyes then, as if that had been a grave insult, and Carver was on him before he could pull himself up out of the dirt. It was reflex, then, when his hand phased through Carver's throat to grip his windpipe. And then several things happened at once.
Carver stilled, dropping his sword, choking as Fenris' hand tightened. The elder brother called out his sibling's name, rising from his seat, and Danarius commanded, "Release!" Fenris could do nothing but obey, his hand slipping out of Carver's flesh more or less safely. In a single breath Carver was off him, scrambling away, and the elder brother suddenly at his side, inspecting the damage, a glow of gentle magic on his fingertips.
Fenris righted himself, coming up to a kneeling position just as his master and master's apprentice reached him. "See that he is properly disciplined," Danarius said, just loud enough that the brothers would hear it. Danarius turned away, and all Fenris saw of him was his boots and the hem of his robe. "Is your brother well, Aodhan?"
"He's fine." Watching Danarius walk away meant that Fenris looked at the brothers where they knelt in the dirt, and he caught those pale blue eyes for a moment, something between awe and concern in them—directed at him.
"Fine? I'm fine after randomized surgery?" Carver choked out.
"Your case of melodrama is sadly terminal," the elder brother deadpanned, and if anything else passed between them Fenris didn't catch it as Hadriana tapped into the lyrium in his skin and drained him, which put him face-down on the ground, breathless and writhing in agony, to struggle back up before he could follow her off.
Those pale blue eyes and their concern followed him, and Fenris wondered, briefly, what it would be like to have someone worry over him as the elder Hawke had over his brother, carried himself through Hadriana's punishment with the fantasy of those nimble fingers tending his own wounds with gentle magic. It was so unlike him, Fenris almost began to worry by the time Hadriana was done with him. There was nothing for him beyond the walls of the compound, after all, and no comfort or hope to be found in others. That had been made abundantly clear over the years: kindness was cruelty wrapped in a sweet coating, and hope self-deception.
Fenris took his post outside Danarius' favored study, bearing the lingering pain of Hadriana's punishment with little more than a stiffness to his motions and a strong set to his jaw-he had endured worse, farworse, than the bruising and fine marks she'd left him with this time, and recognized only the knowledge that they needed him rightly whole had stayed her hand from greater cruelties. There was a dim sort of pride in the amount of pain he could endure, one of the few indulgences he allowed himself.
Carver was there, a loose grip on a comely slave girl's shoulder, speaking to her in soft tones with a gentle smile on his face, oblivious to the fear and confusion that ran underneath her bland acceptance of his manner. They were making eye contact, though, and Fenris felt his breath hitch. If Hadriana saw-
She used Fenris' appearance to excuse herself, and Carver let her go as she pleased, turning to Fenris with an exasperated huff of breath. Fenris carefully avoided matching the appraising gaze that passed over him, but knew there was greater observance and calculation in it than the younger Hawke let on. "Well, I should've tried to bet Aodhan on what state you'd be in. Your hide's intact," for now, but Fenris said nothing as it was not his place, "I'm still breathing through the right holes, no hard feelings?" And the younger Hawke offered him a hand.
Fenris eyed the offered hand for a moment, glanced up to catch the lazy smile on Carver's face, but didn't take it. He'd had this trick played on him only once before, and would not make the mistake again. Instead, he nodded demurely, looking away.
After a moment of hesitation Carver's hand fell aside, and he made a sound that seemed half a sigh before shifting to lean against the wall, as if he meant to slide down it and sit on the floor. Fenris began to wonder why he was here and not somewhere more comfortable.
"We could've used a sword-arm like yours in that mess with the Qunari," Carver said, as if unable to bear the silence, needing to fill it with something. When he got no reaction, he kept talking. "Have you been with Danarius long?" Fenris nodded once, barely perceptible, still refusing to look at the human. "Then do you know Tevinter well? I think Aodhan keeps moving us around just to keep us confused so we'll stay with him." Fenris wasn't sure what to say to that, and was unwilling to rise to Carver's bait anyway, knowing this game for what it was. "Fine! I get it. Seen and not heard or whatever it is-pardon my savagery, you get caught with slaves in Ferelden you're like as not to be lynched by the townsfolk." The younger Hawke did slide down the wall to sit, dejectedly.
Silence fell between them, not quite thirty minutes' worth before the elder Hawke's voice raised, his tone angry but his words muffled by the door. Carver stood, and Fenris bristled, but he never felt the pull of Danarius' magic, those red tendrils twined into his mind gave no hint of distress. The argument calmed quickly enough, and the elder Hawke stormed out after a reasonable amount of time, Carver quickly falling in step behind him and a servant darting out of the room to catch up. Those pale eyes brushed over him again, a quick assessment, such sincere emotion-he wantedto believe in it, wanted more of it, and the way the brothers walked so carefully close, speaking in hushed tones in comfortable confidence even though the elder was clearly angry.
Fenris had no frame of reference for it, as Danarius' service was his entire existence. He didn't bunk with the other slaves, so his knowledge of family ties and deeper relations than temporary alliance was academic at best. His only experience with these sorts of emotions was the pride he felt when he satisfied his master, and Danarius' occasional dark affection-which was rarely more than a word or two of praise.
Danarius emerged from the room while Fenris was still watching the brothers Hawke retreating down the hall, a grim little smile on his face. "I will be in my lab," he said. "Regrettably, you would not be able to stomach this experiment, I think. You will take this time for dinner, and for your exercises. If either of the brothers approaches you again, you may speak to them." A whisper of magic across his mind, as of a strong hand trying to be delicate, and a song in his blood. Had they been physical sensations Fenris would've leaned into them, like a dog to a good petting. "Discretion." Danarius drew away from him, smiling softly. "But you know your place." Which was as much of an admission of faith or trust as Fenris could expect.
The words would normally have left him trying to calm his pride, but for once they left him hollow. It was a melancholy he couldn't quite fathom, a want. But it was not his place to have wants.
When he curled up at the foot of Danarius' bed that night, like a guard animal, it took too long to fall into an uneasy sleep, full of faces he didn't recognize, things that should've been familiar but came utterly detached, meaningless.