A/N: This is the sequel to A Healing Touch, as was promised on the kmeme. Many thanks to zevgirl for beta-ing this for me. She is truly awesome.
The moon hangs in the clear night like a silver sickle, and the stars shine crisp and bright in the cold air. Winter has arrived in Kirkwall, and autumn's last leaves rattle across the cobblestone streets of Lowtown before skittering into piles against the buildings. Hawke barely notices them as he makes his way through the deserted market and toward the Hanged Man, his back bowed from the weight of its burden. Fenris's greatsword is obscenely huge. Hawke is broad-shouldered and more muscular than most mages, but even for him, Fenris's weapon lays across his back like a boulder. It is strapped next to his staff, which resembles a twig compared to the sword.
He knows that Fenris will be at the Lowtown pub playing cards, as he does every week on this night. Sometimes Hawke even joins in, although his abysmal skills usually result in an empty pocket. If both Varric and Isabela are present, there's no point in even bidding, but it's not the game that draws him anyway. Although they all joke about being 'Hawke's crew', there is no rank among the comrades. Hawke values his friends, especially now, when the rooms of his estate echo with loneliness, his mother dead and his brother gone to the Gallows to wield the templar's sword.
Entering the Hanged Man is like stepping into another world. Laughter and loud voices filter through the smoke wafting from the lanterns on the rough, scarred walls. Scantily clad barmaids weave through the tables and benches with expert dexterity, easily escaping the clutches of leering drunkards with no more than a shift of the hips and a jaunty wink. Men and women alike hunker over their mugs of ale and whiskey, playfully slapping at each other while struggling to keep from falling on the sticky floor layered with years of grime and spilled liquor. Hawke smiles affectionately to the bartender who scowls back and jerks his head at the stairs.
A twinge of nervousness deepens his breath as he climbs the steps, neatly sidestepping a snoring drunk sprawled against the wall. He hasn't seen Fenris since last night, when he managed to coerce the reluctant elf into allowing Hawke to give him a healing massage. It had turned into much more than just a massage, however, and Hawke still has no idea how Fenris is feeling in the aftermath of Hawke's efforts. He really hadn't intended for the evening to progress in the manner that it had, but the opportunity had been too perfect to resist. He hopes fervently that Fenris is still unaware that Hawke knew exactly what effect his magic was having on Fenris last night.
He strides into Varric's quarters to find most of his friends gathered around the stone table. Merrill is leaning against Isabela, giggling while clutching a mug of ale. Hawke is surprised to see Anders on her other side clutching a black kitten, which is batting at the feathers on his coat. The clinic must be closed tonight. On the other side of the table sits Fenris, hand wrapped loosely around a bottle of red wine, bare feet tucked neatly beneath his chair. As Hawke enters, Fenris shifts slightly and looks up at Hawke from beneath a fringe of snow-white locks. His flinch is barely noticeable, but Hawke has become adept at scrutinizing Fenris's movements: the way his hands twitch when they're empty, the slight bend at the knees when he's preparing to attack, the roll of his shoulders after he sheathes his sword, the slight quirk of his lips when he's amused. There is no quirk tonight, and his eyes glance away from Hawke as if sliding off a sheet of ice.
"You're right on time, Hawke," says Varric, waving him to the empty chair beside Fenris. "I didn't even think you were coming tonight. You're later than usual."
"Sorry. I was helping Bodahn fix a few things around the house." He reaches back and unstraps Fenris's greatsword with relief, his back cracking noisily as he straightens. "Here," he says, handing it to the elf. "You left this." His fingers brush against Fenris's as the elf grasps the pommel. The slender, tanned hand twitches and triggers a memory: fingers twisting into red velvet as a desperate moan is bitten off, Fenris struggling to quiet himself while Hawke trails a palm full of healing magic over the sharp curve of Fenris's hip…. Hawke swallows and releases the sword reluctantly, unable to meet the green eyes that always leave him a little too breathless.
Fenris gives him a nod and easily hoists the sword over his shoulder, settling it in the sheath on the back of his armor. "Thank you." His eyes flick hastily back to the bottle of wine, as if he is afraid it will topple without constant attention.
As Hawke seats himself next to Fenris, Isabela straightens and leans forward with a leer. "Oh, and what were you doing over at Hawke's, Fenris? Do tell." She rests her pert chin on a fist and licks her lips in anticipation.
"I was healing him, 'Bela." Hawke slouches back in his chair casually, hoping to project just the right amount of indifference. Fenris doesn't move beside him; that decanter of wine is terribly interesting. "Don't go getting any dirty ideas in your pretty little head."
Isabela purses her full lips in a perfect pout. "But you know how I love dirty ideas, Hawke. Really, you disappoint me."
"You'll get over it." Hawke glances at Merrill, who is leaning her head on Isabela's bronzed shoulder, forcing the linen tunic down the pirate's arm. "Seems like you've got plenty to occupy your attention, anyway."
Merrill smiles at him dreamily, while Isabela fondly strokes the Dalish elf's perky hair. "Isabela is teaching me how to be a good drunk. She says I need to act the part if I'm going to play cards."
"Looks like you're almost there, Merrill," says Hawke with a chuckle. "Deal me in, Varric."
While Varric expertly slides the cards across the table, Hawke tells them about a job he has accepted.
"More slavers are hiding away in the caves at the base of the Sundermount. They're taking elves this time, probably to the Imperium."
"So, let me guess. You expect us to fall to our knees, begging to come along, right?" says Anders. He drops a few cards as his cat scratches at his wrist for attention. Cooing quietly to the feline, he retrieves them, but not before Isabela has taken note of the cards with a satisfied smirk.
"I can hardly rout the lot of them by myself," says Hawke with a wink. Anders glares back at him.
"Count me out, Hawke," grins Isabela, cheerfully. "I can already see a big, juicy hangover on my horizon tomorrow." She casts a sideways glance at Merrill, who is still leaning against her arm, hiccupping. "I doubt Merrill will be up for it either. You know what even a teeny bit of ale does to her."
"I'll go, Hawke," says Varric. "Just make sure you get a reward this time. We'll bring Broody and Blondie with us."
Fenris just stares down at his cards. His eyes are hidden behind stray locks of hair, and Hawke still can't get a read on his mood. Anders scoffs under his breath, but simply shrugs as he downs a gulp of Corff's latest poison. Hawke proceeds to let the three of them beat him soundly by way of thanks.
The moon has set low in the sky by the time the companions shuffle down the stairs of the Hanged Man, Merrill supported by a grinning Isabela. Anders tucks his pet beneath his coat to hide it from the bartender, who happens to have a distinct dislike for animals in his establishment. A petulant yowl erupts from under the feathers, and Fenris gives Anders a look of disgust before following him down the steps. Varric counts his winnings while Hawke slumps over the table with his head on his arms, contemplating the level of comfort that might be found in just sleeping right here on Varric's table.
"You know, Hawke, you should just cast a sleep spell on him, drag him to your home, and let him wake up in your bed. It would really simplify things."
Hawke raises his head and blinks sleepily at Varric. "What do you mean?"
"Don't play dumb with me, Hawke. If you stare any harder at Broody, you're going to burn a hole right through his pretty, pointed ears."
"I don't stare," mumbles Hawke, glaring down at a puddle of ale left behind by Merrill.
"Well, your subtle attempts at not staring aren't as subtle as you might think." Varric tips his mug back and finishes the contents with a satisfying gulp. "But don't worry, he's no better at being sneaky than you are."
Hawke glances up hopefully. "He looks at me, too?"
"All the time. Actually, it's quite amusing watching the two of you try so desperately to act like you're not blatantly ogling every move the other makes." Hawke groans and drops his head to the table. "Just tell him how you feel, Hawke."
"I can't push him, Varric. He's still learning how to make his own choices, now that he has choices. He knows how I feel; all I can do now is wait for him to come to me."
Varric shakes his head. "You're a patient man, Hawke."
Hawke pushes himself unsteadily to his feet. The room tilts, and he sucks in his breath sharply, willing his equilibrium to settle. Corff's brew had been especially virulent tonight. "He's worth it, Varric. I'll see you tomorrow."
The stones under his feet blur into a sea of gray as he meanders back to Hightown. As he passes Fenris's mansion, he looks up, but the windows are dark as always. He stares at the door for a long time, swaying slightly while beautiful, mossy eyes stare back at him in his liquor-fogged mind. Finally, he turns away, the lingering taste of ale in his mouth as bitter as the regret in his heart.
The clouds swept in overnight, and the morning sky is heavy and gray. As Hawke, Varric, Fenris, and Anders make their way to the Sundermount, the wind whistles harshly through the trees, the limbs stripped of their autumn finery. All of them have dressed warmly for the weather, adding extra layers beneath their armor, except for Fenris. The elf wears his usual leather armor with arms and legs exposed, feet bare against the cold ground. Hawke wonders if the lyrium somehow offers protection against the icy air or if Fenris has somehow learned to adapt to temperature changes. Whatever the reason, his smooth skin remains free of goose bumps, marred only by the beautiful lines of white that Hawke longs to trace with his fingers.
The caves they seek are close to where they found Hadriana two years earlier. Anders grimaces as they descend down into the muggy, warm air of the subterranean passage.
"Is it just me or are we spending all of our time underground? Why does every smuggler and slaver have to hide in dark, moldy caves with giant spiders? Is it a job requirement?"
"Wanted for hire: scruffy, evil vagabonds that love underground environments. Passion for arachnids a must. Please see Tevinter slaver at Sundermount to apply." Varric chuckles as he draws Bianca from his back and ignores Fenris's glare.
"Isn't it a job requirement for Grey Wardens?" asks Hawke with a grin. He casts a wisp that floats in the air before them to light their way.
"No, the only prerequisite for becoming a Warden is being in the wrong place at the wrong time," replies Anders. He grunts as a huge cobweb drifts over his face and slaps it away with a shudder.
Fortunately, the cave isn't very deep, and they don't have to travel far before reaching what appears to be the main room. One end of the cavern holds a long, heavy stone bench to which several elves are chained with steel manacles. Several campfires are scattered around the cave, filling the musty air with hazy smoke. Heavily armored men huddle around the fires, eating hunks of meat with greasy hands.
It's a lone guard standing watch over the elves who sounds the cry of alarm. By that time, Bianca is already spitting out a hail of arrows over the cavern, while Anders casts glyphs of paralysis around the campfires. Fenris sprints toward the rush of scrambling slavers, silent and swift as he fades into the transparent glow of lyrium ghost. His sword flickers wildly in the electric sparks of Hawke's tempest as he swings it in deadly arcs. Flashes of blue light up his snarling face as Anders casts his heals around the warrior in swirling currents.
Later, Hawke has no memory of how he and Fenris become cornered in a small alcove in the back of the cavern. Anders is occupied with protecting Varric, who is surrounded by a circle of slavers wielding axes. Hawke follows Fenris toward the back of the cave, casting healing and regeneration spells while flicking lightning at the enemy warriors that Fenris is attempting to herd against the wall. Neither of them notices the slaver mage standing on a nearby ledge watching Fenris with narrowed eyes.
Hawke is standing behind Fenris when he feels the shock wave against his back, throwing him against Fenris, who is likewise tossed forward against the wall. Both of them scramble quickly to their feet, only to be driven backward as huge sheets of rock collapse from the walls around them. A strong arm encircles Hawke's waist and throws him to the ground, a leather-clad body curling protectively over his as rocks fall over them in a cloud of dust.
After an indeterminable amount of time lying pressed against the dirt, the sounds of crashing stone end in a deathly silence. Fenris shifts above him, moving his weight off Hawke as the mage struggles into a sitting position, coughing up the dust clogged in his throat. Complete darkness surrounds them; Hawke can't even discern the white of Fenris's hair, although he hears the harsh breathing next to him. He gropes out with his hands, only to find that they are completely enclosed in a prison of rock. There isn't even enough room to stand or lay flat, and he is forced to sit against the wall with his back crunched forward, knees drawn up slightly to make room for Fenris, who crouches between his legs.
Hawke has never been claustrophobic but being buried under a barrage of immovable stone is less than comfortable. He hears Fenris grunting and realizes that the elf is trying to push against the rocks in an effort to free them, but to no avail. He reaches around in the dirt but cannot locate his staff; it's probably buried under the rocks as well. Panic closes around his lungs like a vise and he shuts his eyes, struggling to control the rapid gasps that heave from his chest.
"Hawke." In the tiny space, Fenris's deep voice echoes in a deep, soothing rumble. He hears a small rustle and feels Fenris move across his legs, straddling them and moving closer to sit in Hawke's lap. A hand presses gently against his chest, the sharp gauntlets pricking at the fabric of his robes. "Relax. The others will get us out."
As if on cue, faint shouts filter through the rocks and Hawke swivels his head blindly, trying to locate where they're coming from.
"Varric! Anders?" His voice is hoarse and ragged from coughing.
"Hey! Hawke! You guys okay?" Varric's yell has never sounded so beautiful.
"We're trapped! The rocks won't move!"
"Listen, Hawke! We're going to go get help. The slavers are dead; they won't be giving us any problems. Just stay there, and we'll be back soon!"
Hawke forces a weak laugh. "I don't think we'll be going anywhere!" He slumps down further so that he can straighten his neck and rest his head against the wall. Fenris shifts with his movement, likewise trying to get comfortable. Concern for the elf lessens his panic.
"Fenris, you all right?"
"It is… cramped in here, but I will be fine." Fenris pushes his knees under him and settles awkwardly into Hawke's lap, hands braced against the wall for support. "I apologize for… the position."
Until that moment, Hawke hasn't really noticed the sudden intimacy imposed on them by the enclosed space. Suddenly, he's acutely aware of Fenris's weight against his thighs and the hot breath close to his neck. He reaches out to steady Fenris, noting that the proximity of the rocks above is forcing Fenris to curl over Hawke. Only his hands pressed against the wall on either side of Hawke's head keep him from lying against Hawke's chest.
"It can hardly be helped, Fenris, and your arms are going to tire if you keep holding yourself up like that. Just relax."
He hears a resigned sigh, a puff of warm breath against his neck, and Fenris sinks forward against his body, soft hair tickling Hawke's neck as Fenris lays his head on Hawke's shoulder. Maker, maybe this was a bad idea…. A warm pressure rests against his groin, Fenris's hips meeting his, and even in such a dangerous place, he feels a flush heating his cheeks. Now is definitely not the time for this, he reprimands his body.
He must have tensed against his body's unwanted reaction, because Fenris turns his head up, the elf's nose brushing against his jaw.
"I'm fine," he reassures Fenris quickly. Just lying here with the man I love pressed right up against me, and I can feel everything. He swallows hard before realizing that Fenris would most certainly hear it, his head right beside Hawke's neck. Even so, Hawke isn't prepared for the touch, the fingers that quest lightly over his throat, causing his chest to heave slightly against Fenris as his breath hitches. It's the gentleness, the way the calloused finger pads tenderly stroke over the taut tendons in his neck, which affects him most. After all, it has been a very long time since Fenris has touched him like this, not since the night of Hadriana's death.
He holds perfectly still, afraid that even the slightest movement will break the spell, afraid that even a sharp breath might send the elf flinching back into the shell he has worn since fleeing Hawke that night. He has longed for this for two years, for Fenris to find his way through the tangled confusion of his emotions to the place where Hawke waits. If it is now, in this dark, confined prison, so be it. He closes his eyes as Fenris caresses his throat and trails his fingers down to rest on the heavy curve of Hawke's collarbone.
"I would like to ask a question, if I may." Hawke twists his head toward that voice, that achingly smooth bass that makes him shiver. His lips brush against silky hair, and he holds himself there, allowing Fenris to feel the heat of his breath as he replies.
"You knew, didn't you?"
"Knew?" His fingers dig into the dirt nervously. The head beneath his chin shifts, and he feels those piercing emerald eyes staring him down in the darkness.
"What you were doing to me. Two nights ago."
Uh oh. He swallows again, leaning his head back from that invisible gaze, heart suddenly pounding. "Yes." There is nowhere to run here, no place to escape that question.
"Why?" Fenris is as still as the stone around them. Is he angry? Hawke cannot read those eyes in the darkness, cannot read the expression on Fenris's face. His question is a valid one, but Hawke feels the threads of fate weaving around him tightly. If he answers this wrong, he might lose Fenris, so what should he say? He keeps his head bowed over Fenris's hair, wanting so much to stroke it, but he knows he needs to be careful right now.
"I would never push my desires on you, Fenris. You have wanted your space, and I've tried to give you this. But… I'm just a man, a man who wants to give you what no one has." He allows one hand to slide against Fenris's hip, just resting there lightly in reassurance, and Fenris doesn't shove it away. "The choice has always been yours, my dear friend. But that doesn't mean I won't take an opportunity to give you whatever happiness I can." It is all he can say; it is the truth.
The silence is almost deafening with all the words left unspoken. Now is not the time for a speech or eloquent words of love. Simplicity has always been Fenris's way; it is what he appreciates, what he surrounds himself with in his dilapidated home in Hightown. Hawke knows this, has spent years learning it and loving Fenris all the more for his disdain of anything excessive.
A blue glow slowly chases away the night around them as Fenris spends a little of his energy to light their tiny space. His eyes find Hawke's and they are unshielded, pupils dilated with wonder and curiosity. The activated markings cause Hawke's skin to prickle, and he struggles to remain still even as his magic surges forth with uninhibited lust for the lyrium. He remembers the way Fenris gasped under his touch during the massage and feels just an inkling of what Fenris must have endured as Hawke sent his magic through those tattoos. Those markings are having a similar effect on him now, rushing through him with a flush of heat and pleasure.
Fenris shifts, uncurling his spine and leaning forward slightly. When his lips brush Hawke's, the mage groans and opens to him, parting his lips as Fenris slides a questing tongue against his. Apparently, he has said the right thing after all. A wave of dizziness leaves him lightheaded, and his hands grab onto Fenris's armor, anchoring himself as Fenris plunders his mouth like a man starved. Spiky fingers delve into Hawke's hair, scraping gently against his scalp and he gasps into Fenris's mouth, begging wordlessly for more.
Tender lips slide down over Hawke's jaw, tongue caressing the racing pulse jumping beneath hot skin. Hawke is shaking, overcome with arousal and emotion both. Fenris rolls his hips forward, and Hawke can feel the elf's erection slide against his own, so tantalizing behind stretched cloth. His fingers skitter up Fenris's back and fist into short, silky locks, and he thrusts up helplessly, consumed with a desire that has been suppressed for far too long.
There is a deep chuckle, a sudden vibration against his neck, and Hawke goes still. His mind fights to overcome the heavy cloud of pleasure fogging his thoughts, and the hint of a question breaks through.
"Wait a minute. Is this your revenge?" Hawke feels the smile against his collarbone and chokes off a wild laugh, a surge of joy pressing back the darkness even more successfully than the lyrium.
"Perhaps. It certainly seems to be having an effect, does it not?" Fenris raises his head, and Hawke sees the smirk, the mirth in the depths of wide, emerald eyes. The sight of Fenris being playful is more than he can bear, and he pulls the grinning mouth against his own and just… devours him. The fear of rejection disappears beneath the raw energy sparking between them, and Hawke suddenly cannot get enough of tasting Fenris, caressing that smooth caramel skin with its ridges of tattoos, hearing those low moans that make his length jerk with need.
He pulls at Fenris, shifting his knees apart and cupping the elf's rear with his hands. They begin to rock in the small space the rocks allot them, pelvis against pelvis, erection against erection. Dimly, he knows that their clothes will suffer for this, that their actions will be on display for the others to see later, but strangely, this only arouses him more. His fingers dig into Fenris's buttocks, and Fenris bucks sharply into his lap with a gasp.
If this is a dream, he doesn't want to wake. If they die here, if the rocks collapse around them, then at least he will have this, this physical acknowledgment of his love for Fenris. He is deliriously happy, and he wants to ride this wave of joy forever.
Forever ends far, far too soon. Above the delicious sound of their moans comes a shout from across the barrier surrounding them. Fenris jerks, twisting so fast that he bangs his head against the rocks above them and curses loudly. The light of his tattoos dies, plunging them once more into darkness. Hawke groans in frustration, his erection already going flaccid as they hear Varric calling to them.
"Hawke, we're back! Are you okay?"
Hawke sighs and yells back. "Yes!"
Voices rumble through the stone, and Anders shouts. "Hawke! Cast a barrier around you! We're going to move the rocks!"
Hawke pulls Fenris back against his chest and murmurs a few words while gesturing with one hand. A faint light shimmers around them in a translucent sphere. Fenris gasps and flinches against the magic's effect on his markings. This is not healing magic, with its soothing warmth; this is a harsh power, strong and forceful. It isn't painful, but the close proximity of the shield to Fenris is as uncomfortable as needles scraping against his skin.
"I'm sorry," Hawke says softly and wraps an arm around Fenris, his other hand moving to the nape of Fenris's neck, where he begins to stroke the tender skin in soothing circles. Fenris relaxes slightly, resting his forehead on Hawke's shoulder. An ache forms in Hawke's chest, a different warmth than he was feeling earlier. He can feel Fenris's trust, so difficult to give in the face of the magic he hates, and it is a gift worth more than any number of sovereigns.
The rocks around them begin to shift and fall away. Light from torches penetrate the darkness and faces begin to appear, faces with slanted eyes and pointed ears. Their rescuers are the Dalish; Varric must have gone to them because they were the closest to the caves. The elves have long poles and ropes, and with the help of Anders's magic, they slowly remove the pile of stone, piece by piece.
Once the barrier is decimated and Hawke lowers the shield, Fenris stands, using Hawke's shoulders to support his shaky legs. The loss of weight on his thighs is both a relief and a disappointment. Already, he misses the closeness, the connection that was made. Anders walks over and offers his hand, pulling Hawke up with a strength that Hawke often forgets Anders has. The blood rushes back to his legs, and Hawke grimaces at the prickling pain.
"Fell asleep, did they?" Anders smiles and casts a rejuvenation spell that cools the discomfort. Varric walks up and grins at Hawke.
"I'm starting to think you're one of Anders's cats, Hawke. You must have nine lives to keep surviving these kinds of incidents again and again."
Hawke gives a weak laugh. "I think I'd prefer to not have any more incidents at all, thank you very much." He glances over at Fenris, who is brushing the dust off his armor. "This one wasn't so bad though."
Varric gives him a shrewd look but wisely says nothing. Hawke approaches the Dalish and thanks them profusely for their aid, promising to return the favor by helping them in the future. Finally, after what seems like hours, they exit the caves under the gloomy sky, the wind still bitingly cold as it ruffles their hair.
"I'm so glad to get out of that hole, I don't even care that it's cold," grumbles Anders. "Please tell me we won't have to go on any more underground adventures, Hawke."
"Depends on the amount of money involved," says Hawke, flashing him a weary grin.
They arrive in Kirkwall just as the night lanterns are being lit, and Varric and Anders head home amidst glorious thoughts of a hot bath. Fenris and Hawke take the mostly deserted streets to Hightown, walking silently side by side. The awkwardness that had grown between them over the past few years has been replaced by a quiet understanding. Hawke can sense that Fenris hasn't quite reached the point of openly declaring his feelings, but it doesn't matter. He now knows there is hope, that even though the elf is dealing with demons from his past, Fenris does care for Hawke. It is enough. Hawke is a patient man.
A sliver of moonlight breaks through the clouds and reflects brightly off Fenris's hair. Maker, but he is beautiful. Fenris offers him a shy smile and clears his throat.
"Sleep well, Hawke. I will see you, tomorrow?"
He wants to see me tomorrow. "Of course. Maybe we can do something other than these endless petty quests?"
Fenris's lips quirk in that endearing way Hawke loves. "That would be greatly appreciated." He turns to his house but then hesitates for a moment, bare feet swiveling back to Hawke. He darts a quick glance from beneath errant locks of hair and then leans forward quickly to plant a soft kiss on Hawke's mouth. By the time Hawke opens his eyes, savoring the kiss for as long as he can, Fenris has disappeared behind the closed door of his mansion.
Hawke walks the short distance to his own home, his heart a light, feathery thing beating rapidly in his chest. He pauses at his door to look up at the sky, where the clouds have finally parted enough to reveal the moon. It no longer resembles a sickle, but instead, a wide gaping smile to match the one on Hawke's face.