Author's note: Ooops...sorry folks, forgot to put this in when I first uploaded this. This story is sort of a parallel to my other two stories A Passing Glance and Who Ever Loves. I always thought that Hawke's oldest friends would notice if something changed in Hawke's behavior. The game doesn't give you the chance for others to ask except for Aveline unless you're in a romance with someone besides Sebastian. So I thought Varric and Aveline would meet up and exhange notes on what's going on with Hawke and hopefully do their best to help her. (However ineffectual or misguided those attempts might be.) My story Kiss and Tell takes place between chapters 3 & 4 of this story just for purposes of Continuity.
It's Not Gossip, it's Gathering Information
You could always hear Aveline coming, Varric mused to himself, something about the rhythmic thump of her boots under the weight of plate armor. She'd liken it to the inevitable triumph of the law over chaos, but really it was unlikely that a warrior of her height and skill, in full plate armor, would also be light on her feet. Aveline was many things, graceful, intelligent and strong, but stealthy she was not.
"Aveline," He greeted her just before she appeared in his doorway, a slight grin tugging at his lips at the thought of her irritated expression.
"Varric," Sure enough Aveline was frowning, her brows wrinkled with annoyance. "Was there some reason I had to come down here to talk? My office isn't good enough unless you're plotting to steal this place?" She gestured at the more than slightly decrepit tavern around them. Varric's rooms were better than most but they were still rooms above a seedy tavern.
"Too many ears up at the keep;" Varric used his foot to shove a chair out from the table, offering her the seat. "I don't want this conversation getting back to anyone."
"Anyone or someone in particular?" Aveline returned sitting back in the chair and regarding him suspiciously.
Varric avoided the question by asking another. "How's Hawke?" He then disguised his concern by taking a gulp of what passed for ale at the Hanged Man.
"How would you think?" Aveline shook her head. "Her mother was murdered." The guardswoman wondered to herself precisely how Varric expected Hawke to act.
"I know that Guard Captain." Varric's retort was tinged with irritation. "But… lets face it, given any sort of delicate situation if Hawke can make a joke or a sarcastic comment without completely offending someone she will. So forgive me if I'm a little concerned about her just glossing over the whole thing and ignoring it." He shook his head. "Bartrand betrayed us both." The dwarf stared at Aveline. "You know what Hawke wanted to know when we got back to Kirkwall? She asked if I was all right. She offered an ear if I ever wanted to talk."
Aveline smiled slightly. "That sounds like Hawke."
"She was going to have to go home and tell her mother that she didn't know if Bethany was alive or dead. But either way, her baby sister wasn't coming back." Varric elaborated. "So Hawke was having a major crisis of her own but she was concerned about me." He regarded Aveline pointedly. "You see why I might be worried about the current situation?"
The guard captain shifted uncomfortably and frowned wondering how much of her conversation with Hawke she could repeat to ease Varric's mind without betraying a trust. Finally she began to speak slowly. "I…admit to similar concerns." She offered without going into detail. "Hawke came to see me…perhaps a week ago. Of course I wanted to know how she was."
"I'll bet you two gold to a copper she gave you a smartass remark." Varric interjected.
"No bet." Aveline retorted dryly. "We both know her well enough to know when sarcasm is a given." She sighed without realizing it. "Hawke…admitted…she's not…" Exasperated with herself and fumbling over her words Aveline spread her hands in surrender. "I'll just say it. She's not fine. She's pretending she's fine. But we talked and she knows…she knows she's not alone in this."
"That's good." Varric nodded slowly. "I caught her on the street up in Hightown the other day, dragged her back here and got her drunk." He eyed Aveline shrewdly wondering how well the woman knew Hawke. "You could say it was an…illuminating discussion."
Aveline rolled her eyes. "Varric, you know I don't like it when you beat around the bush."
"Let's just say that Isabella let something slip about the morning after you hauled all of us out of Hawke's house." Varric parried. "And a few things Hawke said when she was drinking…"
"Are leading you to wonder if the only thing wrong with Hawke is that her mother was murdered." Aveline finished. "I can't speak for Hawke. But I spoke with Vael that morning. Isabella was there."
"Isabella said Choir boy is playing a deep game." Varric frowned. "You know I can't figure him. He looks and acts perfect. There's got to be something wrong with him."
"Oh there's something wrong all right." Aveline snorted derisively. "He's an indecisive idiot who can't see a good thing when it's right in front of him."
"Ah." Varric shook his head. "So Isabella wasn't exaggerating."
"If she said that Vael admitted that he has feelings for Hawke then no." Aveline shook her head at the idiocy of men. "But he won't say anything to her until he's made a decision about Starkhaven."
"I guess I can understand that." Varric took a sip of ale, considering the archer. "If he told her but then didn't leave the Chantry…it wouldn't exactly be helpful."
"That's an understatement." Aveline shook her head. "I'll admit he has a good heart but so do a great many fools." She tilted her head at Varric. "Did you know he calls her Solara?"
"Solara." Varric frowned trying to place the name and took another sip of ale to cover his surprise. "So Choir boy calls Hawke by her given name, that's interesting." He looked at Aveline. "Isabella said when you two got there that he was in bed with her."
Aveline sighed. "Oh he was, breeches still on, holding her as if he had every right to be in her bed. Which, since according to him she asked him to stay, he did."
"Breeches on," Varric snorted into his ale. "What's wrong with that boy?"
"At a guess I'd say an excess of conscience." Aveline said dryly. "So I've shown you my cards. When do I see yours." She challenged him.
"Patience Guard Captain." Varric grinned. "I've been assimilating information."
"Looks to me like you're swilling ale and gossiping but call it what you want." The warrior shook her head.
"A rose by any other name Guard Captain." Varric grinned. "Now, from what you've said, Choir boy is in love with Hawke, to the point where he's risking blue balls nightly to be a friend to her. Though, I have it from Bodahn that those interludes have ceased, but apparently Hawke is still having nightmares. Hence my getting her drunk the other day, I guarantee she slept dreamlessly."
"She didn't say anything about nightmares to me, but she looked tired." Aveline interjected. "As I recall she looked about the same after the expedition. And the first four months we were in Kirkwall I'd wake up at dawn and she'd already be ready for the day."
"So each time she's lost family she has trouble sleeping." Varric sighed. "That's not easy."
"I think that's why Sebastian was so adamant about us leaving." Aveline offered quietly. "He made the point that of all of us, he's the only other who's lost family to violence. So he knows how she feels."
"Choir boy acts so perfect I forget that little display of temper we were treated to in the Chantry courtyard." Varric grinned. "But, to return to my point—"
"Oh you had one?" Aveline interrupted, "I thought you were just running your mouth again."
"Yes I had a point." Varric sighed as if much put upon. "When I was getting Hawke drunk, I was also getting her to talk." He held up his hands as if to ward off an attack. "Apparently the reason she doesn't drink more than a tankard is she gets…mouthy. And indiscreet. So she let a few things slip."
"Damn." Aveline grinned. "She's always sarcastic but she's never let a confidence slip in the time I've known her. And she never talks about herself. The woman listens too well…so no one ever asks."
"Oh you've noticed that too have you?" Varric grinned at Aveline; the woman was positively animated, green eyes sparkling with anticipation. For all that she'd known Hawke the longest; Aveline was still hungry for information on her friend. "So I'm guessing you know that Hawke was at Ostagar." When Aveline nodded soberly Varric continued. "Apparently she and her brother were just ahead of the horde when they left. She wouldn't leave without him and it took a while for them to find each other."
Aveline nodded. "Carver was a warrior, used a blade like Fenris, two handed." She explained. "Hawke wouldn't have been stationed with him. Though as they were both from Lothering I'd bet it was the battle that separated them more than geography."
"Let's just say that having seen the Darkspawn up close and personal it's even crazier that Hawke wanted to go into the Deep Roads." Varric shook his head. "Especially after what happened to her brother. But from what she said when we were down there, the Expedition was the best way to come up with enough coin to protect Bethany. Sunshine ending up as a Grey Warden did the trick but it wasn't exactly what Hawke had in mind."
"So she told you about Ostagar and running from the Horde, which wasn't fun for anyone involved." Aveline shrugged. "Did she tell you that Gamlen practically sold her and Bethany into indentured servitude? It got us all into the city but they had to work off his debt."
"She said the work in that first year wasn't the best." Varric shook his head. "She didn't mention Gamlen or being stuck for a year."
"Then you didn't hear it from me." Aveline scowled. "I can't believe she'd tell you about Ostagar but not Gamlen."
"Hawke doesn't talk about things she considers personal." Varric kept his voice mild as he sipped his ale. "That makes what she talked about after Ostagar all the more intriguing."
"Now you're just being a tease." Aveline hadn't lost her scowl.
Varric grinned. "Would I be so cruel Guard Captain?" He shook his head. "No, not about Hawke. Donnic maybe, just to mess with you, but not Hawke."
"Well then get on with it already." The woman shook her head impatiently. "Some of us work you know."
Varric chuckled. "I dare you to say that to Hawke." He pointed a finger at her. "But I'm getting away from the point." He took another sip of ale and watched Aveline's green eyes narrow with impatience. "I asked what she thought of a few people. Fenris…Merrill," he laughed abruptly, "Hawke thinks if those two slept together it would solve some of their problems."
That got Aveline laughing as she pictured the moody elven warrior and Merrill. "Truly the wisdom of ale talking there." She shook her head.
"Well, I asked about Isabella and got a grin and a shake of her head." Varric smiled. "She likes Isabella well enough but she knows the pirate is up to something. Hawke has a theory but she's keeping her cards close right now."
"What did she think of Anders?" Aveline grinned. "I've never dared ask."
Varric snorted into his ale at the thought of Aveline gossiping with Hawke. "I'll pay you ten sovereigns if you'll ask her." He said once he'd caught his breath and mopped his face. "It would be worth it to see both your reactions."
"Now I'm not certain I want to hear this." Aveline shook her head but gestured for the dwarf to continue.
"She laughed a little bit and said the only person she'd ever even heard of being more paranoid, albeit with a different cause was Loghain Mac Tir." Varric grinned. "She was willing to admit that Anders had a point about the Templars, but not every Circle is like Kirkwall."
"I could have sworn she found him attractive." Aveline offered her opinion after a slight internal debate on whether or not she'd be laughed at.
"I would have agreed with you on that, and I think she does…she mentioned that given half the chance he'd flirt with her, but she got the impression that if she slept with him Anders would take it more seriously than she would." Varric shrugged. "Then she mumbled something about a drought." He frowned still thinking that over. "I'm still trying to figure out what that means."
Aveline began to chuckle and Varric regarded her in bemusement as the quiet laugh grew into a roar. When the warrior had finally calmed Varric drew her a tankard and slid it over. "Obviously there's a joke I haven't quite gotten. I'm a dwarf Guard Captain, I don't do farming analogies."
"Drought." Aveline gasped out shaking her head. "Varric she doesn't mean farming."
"I take it you've heard the reference before." Varric replied his voice dry as dust. "Let's have it."
"In the time you've known her…have you ever seen Hawke with a man?" Aveline grinned.
Varric thought about it and began shaking his head, a smile creeping over his face. "Only a Ferelden would use drought as a term for a period of… abstinence."
"Well what do you call it in Kirkwall?" Aveline grinned.
"This is a merchant's town, lots of ships. Sailors call it the Doldrums." Varric grinned back at her. "So…Hawke basically told me she hasn't gotten any in a while—"
Aveline shook her head. "It's been at least four years." She told him bluntly. "No wonder she thought Anders looked good." She took a sip of the ale he'd given her and made a face but kept drinking.
"Four…" Varric whistled in shock. "Maker help her. No wonder she's…sarcastic."
"Honestly… I think that's why she was willing to help me with Donnic." Aveline shrugged. "We were both, to use a Kirkwall analogy, in the same boat."
"No wonder she just chuckles over Isabella's antics. If she took them seriously she might just beat the tar out of Rivaini." Varric shook his head. "Of course her not taking Anders up on his flirtation might have something to do with Choir Boy."
Aveline took another sip of ale and regarded it dubiously. "How much of this had she had before you asked her about Vael?"
"Oh…enough to get her pleasantly tipsy but not so much that she'll curse me for the entirety of daylight afterwards." Varric chuckled. "Do you want to hear this or not?"
"Will I be worried or will I laugh?" Aveline wondered with a sigh. "Either way best to be prepared." She lifted her tankard. "Out with it."
"So I ask her what she thinks of Choir Boy and her reply goes something like this…" Varric heaved a huge dramatic sigh and put his hand on his chin, closed his eyes and then opened them to drawl. "He's soooo pretty." Aveline began to giggle, a sound Varric doubted anyone but her husband had ever heard. It was fairly alarming to have a woman who was able to slice you in two giggling like a girl; flattering but alarming all the same. "Aveline, you're continuing that trend of scaring the shit out of me you know."
"So she's got a crush on Vael?" The guard captain asked once she'd managed to stifle her giggling. "And you think that's why she won't just break out of the drought or doldrums with Anders?"
"I'd say that's a big part of it." Varric said his face serious. "Of course it could also be that she can trust Choir Boy and she can't trust Anders." He shook his head. "I like Blondie fine but I wouldn't sleep with him even if he were my type."
Aveline frowned. "I know what you mean." She ran a finger around the edge of her tankard thoughtfully. "Hawke's family was on the run for a long time too… but I would have thought Anders would remind her of her father. But he's...unstable at the best of times."
Varric shook his head. "Would you believe Choir Boy does though? She was all about how kind and gentle and good he is. And how he let her cry all over him and he held her all night." He shrugged and looked at Aveline. "Even drunk she's too smart to come out and say she's in love with him."
"But you think she is." Aveline's frown deepened as she looked at Varric. "So what do we do?"
Varric shook his head. "For one thing, I told her what is said in my rooms stays in my rooms. That wasn't a lie, its part of why I wanted you to come here, the other part being Hawke's habit of going to see you in your office and Choir Boy's tendency of petitioning the Viscount puts him in the Keep too." He pointed at Aveline. "So you never heard any of this. The only reason I told you is you're her oldest friend and you can keep a secret."
Aveline sighed. "That I can," She agreed. "But what do we do?"
"Can't do much until Choir Boy makes a decision." Varric shrugged again. "Meantime, keep a sharp eye out, I'll do the same and we'll keep swapping information."
"Maybe something drastic will happen and he'll realize he can't live without her." Aveline suggested without much hope.
"Or maybe Hawke will make a move on him." Varric offered.
"Hawke? Our Hawke, move on a Brother sworn to the Chantry?" Aveline laughed mirthlessly. "Varric she's lost her entire family if you don't count Gamlen, and really who does? Do you really see her doing anything to jeopardize their friendship?"
Varric shook his head. "Pray." He advised with a sigh. "For rain or wind or whatever is applicable."
Aveline nodded. "We could just pray for Choir Boy to grow a pair and man up."
Varric chuckled shaking his head and lifting his tankard in a toast. "I'll drink to that."