A/N: A little piece I wrote for a dear friend who wanted some first person Varric. Posted to the kinkmeme first, now here, too, because hey, why not, I ache for reviews, same as the rest of us. And, as always, I don't own Dragon Age or its characters and I make no profits.
My door—the door that is always open—is a treacherous liar. Because tonight it is shut.
It's all Hawke's doing.
She turns up at The Hanged Man for a mug of ale or two. I can hear her in the main room laughing with Rivaini over some imperious fool of a human man who must think he's about to get lucky twice. He doesn't know it, but he's approaching the verge of public humiliation and, most likely also, the verge of bleeding. He's going to get his fool ass handed to him as soon as he tries to touch Rivaini uninvited. And they always do try to touch.
Don't know how she does it, but once again Rivaini proves that a lapse in trousers is not quite the same as a lapse in judgment. And Hawke proves that a lapse in judgment is a great way to start a bar brawl.
She sneaks out in the middle of it. I look up at the sound of a heavy crash followed by a loud splintering that might just mean a table has been lifted and heaved against something equally, if not more, solid—a wall, the bar itself, a misplaced qunari. Who knows? There's no telling really. Not without getting up to see for myself. And I can't do that because the way is blocked—by Hawke, leaning in the door jamb and watching me with some hidden agenda swirling around in that half-drunk head of hers.
"You're missing a good fight," she says.
"Then so are you, messere. Best to return to it quickly."
But Hawke is undeterred. She passes the threshold and stops at the seat beside mine. She leans forward and plants both elbows on the top of the chair back and with open palms as a cradle, she rests her chin. She smiles at me. Reflex is a hard thing to break and I return the smile without having made it my intention. Not good. It will only encourage her. Never mind that I've been trying to achieve the opposite of encouragement for weeks now.
"Is it really about Bianca?" she asks and I can almost read her thoughts in the deliberate arch of one eyebrow. Why not just ask what's on your mind, Hawke? Exactly how delusional are you, Varric? Are you really in love with your crossbow?
Points for me, at least, because I don't give the real answer. What would I even say? Yes, but not quite. That would neither go well nor make much sense to Hawke without the full tale—not to be told—so I choose another angle.
"You are my business partner and I am nothing if not a professional." Genteel flourish of the wrist to add a hint of levity. Noncommittal. Also true. Points for the dwarf.
"We're done with the Deep Roads. What partnership is left if not one based on affection?"
Points for Hawke.
Times like this she's just sharp enough to make me wonder if half of all the foolishness isn't an act. Is she playing us all in some game I can't yet fathom? Or are the insights just born of rare moments when she's not wholly bored and working to amuse herself? Either way, serious Hawke is a thing to behold.
And I don't have a ready answer.
What would become a few more points for Hawke are squandered when she fails to bide her silence long enough. And when she does speak, she shows her hand.
"I love you," she says.
More like her next ten dozen hands. No half measures for Hawke. I shut my eyes—possibly so as not to cringe. Hawke, you heedless fool. This simply isn't how we do it.
I should say, "I can't return those feelings," but that would be the wise thing. And wouldn't you know it, I'm fresh out of wise things. I check my mug, but no, not even the dregs of wisdom. So apparently we're playing for broke tonight and it's foolishness all around.
"Sit down," I say. "I'm going to tell you about my family."
And don't I just tell her everything? Well, not Bianca's story. No one gets that from me. But I might as well have, for all I give away enough of its heart. I give up the story of a younger son who becomes parent to his own mother when she can't pull herself together any longer. I give up hard, sibling stories based on events that should never have happened. And all the solemn promises a broken kid makes to himself alone in the dark to mend the wounds a parent should have been there to help him fix. I talk for well over an hour as the bar fight ebbs and the typical sounds of drunken revelry return.
"All that to say, I made a decision years ago." The last relevant story is concluded and now there's only the vital piece left to tell her. "Someday I will have children of my own—sons or daughters—and I will give them what I was denied. A happy childhood. A stable family. I want that more than I can tell you."
I'm not even looking at Hawke, but again searching the empty mug for a better idea than speaking about all of this. But no, still nothing.
"As you probably know, we dwarves are not exactly the most prolific nugs in the breeding pen. The only halfway decent chance is with a woman of my own kind. And I'm not ready for any of that yet, but I vowed to myself a long time ago that I wouldn't ever risk a strong attachment with a human or an elf."
"Qunari and ogres are ruled out then, too?" she asks.
I look at her and, by the Maker, if she isn't beautiful. Eyebrow raised, jocular smile, but I think her heart is breaking. Those dark eyes of hers are shining a little brighter than they should from just the drink.
"Casual affairs are one thing." Might as well lay it all out. "But, Hawke, you could never be casual. Not to me."
There it goes. One teardrop spills over and down her cheek, but she pays it no mind. Her smile is unchanged.
"I would have you take that as a compliment," I say, "but I doubt it would serve."
It feels like an age before she takes a breath. Another age before she speaks. "That is a beautiful story," she says. "And I would never wish to destroy it for you. Not in a lifetime."
"It's more than a story—"
She interrupts. "I didn't mean it badly. What could ever be more than a story to a man for whom stories are everything? I will go now and I will never do this again. I promise. But please, one more question."
"Do you love me?"
Oh, Hawke, don't do this. It is not easy to wage war against a weakening mind and traitorous body, both demanding that I start issuing commands: shut the door, lock it, go to the bed and wait for me there.
"Yes," I say. "I love you." True, but far from noncommittal. That will come back to bite me.
But for now she only chuckles a little and mostly to herself.
"You know," she says, "I always thought that unrequited was the worst thing. Turns out it's not." She nods to me once. "Goodnight."
She's gone and I get up to shut the door behind her.