I Know Something You Don't
Varric knew he was grinning, which would surely tip off Aveline that something was up. With an effort he straightened his face. As he heard the tell tale thump of Aveline's boots the grin threatened to spread again and he took a drink to hid his face as the Guard Captain entered his rooms.
"Aveline." Varric put the mug down. "Let me get you a pint." He hurried to pull a tankard, putting his back to the tall woman. By the time he turned around he'd gotten his expression under control again.
"Varric." Aveline sat and regarded the dwarf. "You seem…lively." She observed wondering what was going on. For the last three years Varric had been, to all outward appearances, his usual jovial carefree self. But when she and he had their little conspiracy sessions in his rooms, his cheerful mask dropped and he was simply a good friend concerned about another friend. She'd thought he was past pretending to be an idiot around her, at least in private.
"Oh, I'm feeling a bit more chipper these days." Varric admitted, allowing himself a small smile. "Things in Hightown are looking up at least."
"Looking up?" Aveline blinked at him. "The Grand Cleric had to practically break up a brawl in front of the Chantry and send Orsino and Meredith their rooms like children." She reminded him.
"Bah!" Varric dismissed the incident with a wave of his hand. "Don't bother me with trifles. I know something…which I believe will make our mutual endeavors…moot shall we say."
Aveline took a sip of her ale and regarded him thoughtfully. "Something to do with Hawke I'm guessing?"
Varric looked at the Guard Captain suspiciously. For someone who was worried about her friend and concerned about the state of Kirkwall Aveline seemed almost relaxed. Her overall attitude was not one of tension and alarm as was her usual state when she came to talk with him about Hawke. "You know something I don't." He accused.
Aveline tilted her head back and forth vaguely. "I might. I know many things." She parried. "Some of them I've only learned recently and ethically…" She paused. "I can't talk about until I know what you know."
"So you need to find out if what I learned has anything to do with what you learned before you can verify my information or elaborate on it." Varric said with remarkable aplomb.
Aveline felt like applauding. He might pretend to be a fool but the dwarf was damned intelligent. Instead she just nodded and smiled slowly lifting her drink in a silent salute to his brains.
"All right, I'll show you mine, but if mine has nothing to do with yours I at least want a hint." Varric frowned. "It just occurred to me that what I just said sounded vaguely salacious." He shuddered. "Lets just move past that shall we? I like all my parts in working order and since I meant no offense…" he eyed the warrior woman with exaggerated apprehension.
"None taken," Aveline nearly grinned, "Now, to your tale."
Varric smiled wickedly. "Last week I had occasion to go to the market in Hightown. Much as I hate the place there are certain things that one can only find there." He took a sip of ale. "I was considering if I should call on Hawke," the dwarf made a face, "ugh, I think Hightown has contaminated me. Listen to me talk! I'm like some smooth tongued… bard. Yeesh."
Aveline chuckled. "I'm sure it will wear off soon. Spend more time in Lowtown to counteract the effect."
Varric shuddered dramatically. "Pray for me." He begged with a theatrical flourish before continuing his tale. "Anyway, I was going down the street towards Hawke's house when I remember I have to see someone…somewhere else."
"Meaning you had business with someone who'd just passed you a note." Aveline surmised and rolled her eyes. "Whatever Varric, get on with it."
"Please, my lady, these things have their own pace." Varric smoothed an imaginary wrinkle from his coat.
"Yes, they proceed apace like snails." Aveline snorted.
"Well, I'd turned around and was cutting through one of the archways when I thought I saw something white and shiny." Varric spread his hands. "White and shiny means Choir Boy so I look in that direction." He paused to take a sip of ale as if considering what to say next, waiting for Aveline's inevitable prodding to continue.
"And?" Aveline knew when Varric wanted a prompt for theatric affect and when he truly needed prodding but it did no harm to humor the dwarf.
"Well I definitely see Choir Boy, but he's not behind me like I thought." Varric shook his head, his expression still slightly bemused over what he'd witnessed. "He's in the alley between two houses, nicer than a Lowtown alley but still, not where I'd expect to see Choir boy." Before Aveline could prompt him again Varric grinned. "But that wasn't too surprising because he's always trying to help someone. No, what the big shock was what he was doing in the alley."
Aveline restrained a sigh, hearing her cue. "What was he doing?"
His grin spread wider. "He had someone backed against the alley wall." The dwarf's smile was distinctly wicked now. "And she wasn't resisting at all, which was something of a surprise considering who she was."
"Oh?" Aveline tilted her head waiting for the rest of the story.
Varric shook his head. "Choir boy has hidden depths, he was pressed against her like he had every right to be there; he had one hand on her hip and the other on the back of her neck." He gave a low whistle of amazement. "And I'm in the street, staring down this alley and neither of them notices me, thank the Maker, because he was kissing her like a man who…well like a man who's spent the past ten years in the Chantry."
"Interesting." Aveline's voice was mild, belying the sparkle in her green eyes. "So are you going to tell me who Vael was kissing in an alley?"
Varric chuckled, delighted with himself. "Let's just say the Champion looks good mussed up from being kissed and leave it at that shall we?"
As if to be certain she had heard correctly Aveline said slowly. "You saw Sebastian Vael kissing and 'manhandling' the Champion of Kirkwall in an alley in Hightown. The woman who is so private she makes me look like a loudmouth, and wrinkles her nose at kissing couples all over Kirkwall, forgot herself so much as to allow Vael to drag her into an alley for a make out session?"
Varric laughed again. "I certainly did Guard Captain."
Aveline smiled slowly. "Well you certainly saw something interesting." She said quietly. "In fact I can honestly say I haven't seen anything to compare to that."
"And?" Varric prompted, eyes gleaming.
"I was told something that explains what you saw." Aveline grinned openly at him. "And if you drop by Hawke's estate unannounced you just might learn…a few things."
"I'm corrupting you." Varric accused. "You're turning into a tease Aveline."
The woman laughed in genuine amusement. "That's not what Donnic says."
"Oh Maker!" Varric exclaimed, covering his eyes. "I'm going to have to use an ice pick on my eardrums and wash my brain with soap to unhear that!"
Aveline shook her head at his antics. "Don't use the ice pick and soap just yet. I think you'll want to hear what I was told. Mind you it was in confidence but I didn't promise to lie or hide anything."
Varric nodded. "I'm guessing the reason I wasn't in on it wasn't lack of friendship but…worry about my hobbies?"
"If you start telling tales about this it would be bad, at least until it's out in the open." Aveline told him.
"I understand." Varric smiled. "So let's hear what you have to say."
Aveline smiled slowly and took a sip of ale. "A couple of weeks ago Hawke came to my office. She started out by telling me about an errand Elthina had wanted her to do, and that she'd specifically requested that Hawke take Sebastian along."
"Must be nice to be Grand Cleric and order people to do something we've been scheming to make happen for three years." Varric grumbled. When Aveline would have paused he shook his head and gestured for her to continue.
"So Hawke did as Elthina asked, and Vael wound up getting injured." Aveline frowned as Varric interrupted again.
"Wait; was this the thing in the Viscount's audience chamber? Isabella was saying she'd met Leliana from the Hero of Ferelden's story, apparently she knew her from back then." Varric asked curiously.
"I believe so." Aveline said repressively. "Hawke was more concerned about first being stuck with Vael for the job." She shook her head. "Then apparently Sebastian pulled a Hawke and didn't mention he was injured. He collapsed after they'd talked to Elthina." A smug little smile pulled at Aveline's lips. "Of course Hawke was mad as a wet cat because he hadn't told her she was wounded."
"This seems like sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander." Varric's own smile was a bit smug as he recalled all the close calls Hawke had while he'd been unable to help.
Aveline's smile spread to a wicked grin. "Well, and this is from Hawke's lips, she 'panicked'." Aveline chuckled. "She mumbled that bit too so you know that had to sting."
Varric took a sip of ale grinning all the while. "I would have paid to see that. Her panicking or telling you about it; either would be worth the coin." He elaborated at Aveline's curious look. "Please go on."
Aveline smiled. "Well she glossed over quite a bit, but apparently she took him back to her house and took care of him." The warrior took a sip of ale and sighed appreciatively. "And apparently when he woke up he was quite insistent that they talk."
"I take it whatever the problem was it has been solved?"
Aveline tilted her head. "After what you saw, what do you think?"
Varric grinned. "Well that's great…but what does she see in him?" He shook his head still smiling. "He's all right but…really? I would have pictured Hawke with a male version of Isabella, or Maker, even Rivaini herself. But Choir Boy?"
"Well apparently she has a penchant for archers, though she admitted until Sebastian she was seriously rethinking that." Aveline shook her head. "Remind me to tell you about seeing him right after she said something about the attention of a Master Archer."
"Duly noted." Varric tapped his temple as if to pin a reminder and gestured for her to continue.
"You know how she was raised?" Aveline asked taking a sip of ale. "Bethany mentioned it to you surely?"
"She did, and don't call me Shirley." Varric deadpanned.
Aveline groaned over the bad joke and took a gulp of ale to fortify herself against Varric's sense of humor. "Well apparently being the girl who's seen every town in Ferelden and then some she didn't really ever become infatuated with the rough types or the 'bad boys' as she called them. She said she always liked the nice boys, the ones with a normal life, the ones that could be counted on. Or, as she pointed out, the ones she couldn't ever have because of who she was."
"That makes an odd sort of sense. She'd feel safe with him wouldn't she?" Varric said thoughtfully.
"Oh you're going to kick yourself on this one too." Aveline told him leaning back in her chair. "You and I are apparently the most unobservant friends in the world."
"Hey!" Varric began to object.
"Don't object until you hear what she told me." Aveline held up a hand. "You wouldn't think Hawke was a romantic would you?" She waited as Varric considered it and then slowly shook his head, while making a 'so so' motion with his hand. "All right maybe you give her more credit than I do, but then you didn't meet her right before she killed an ogre."
"True, I just got to see her delve the Deep Roads with her sister and a crazy apostate." Varric retorted dryly.
"Hawke says she fell in love with Sebastian at first sight." Aveline blurted out the news.
Varric blinked, opened his mouth to speak, shut it, and blinked again taking that in. The dwarf finished his tankard and held up a hand as if to stop the conversation while he pulled another pint of ale. Taking his seat at the table again he gulped half the pint, shook his head as if to clear it and then looked at Aveline. "All right. What?"
Aveline steadily repeated what she'd just said and took a large gulp of her own ale. "Oh and she thinks he's handsome too, as well as all the other sterling qualities I won't repeat."
Varric sat back in his chair and shook his head. "You're right. We are unobservant." He observed. "How many times did we see them talking and just think it was nice that Hawke had a friend close to her own age." He shook his head again. "I feel like a papa who just got told his daughter's getting married and he still pictures her in pinafores and braids." He sent a sharp look at Aveline. "He is going to marry her right? I swear if he got some idea that Solara Hawke isn't good enough I'll—"
Aveline held her hands up to ward off Varric's sudden urge for violence. "According to Hawke they will marry. She didn't say when though."
"Hopefully before she's up the duff." Varric muttered. "Or Bianca and I will be having a sharp word or three with Choir Boy." He tilted his head. "I don't have to think up a new nickname for him do I? Hawke's Boy Toy doesn't have the same ring to it."
Aveline chuckled. "I don't think that would be accurate nor will it be necessary."
"Oh?" Varric eyed her thoughtfully. "Care to elaborate on that Guard Captain?"
"It goes with that reminder." Aveline grinned anticipating Varric's reaction to the new tidbit she was about to impart. "So Hawke makes a comment that having the attention of a Master Archer is all that she imagined it could be."
"Go back a bit, because I don't understand that bit." Varric made a counterclockwise motion with his hand, frowning impatiently.
"Hawke likes archers. Likes them because of all the concentration needed to pull, nock, aim and fire and actually hit what they're aiming for creates a certain focus and intensity she finds appealing. She said she always wondered what it would be like to have that focus on her instead of the target. And then she said until Sebastian she'd pretty much given up the whole notion." Aveline summed up Hawke's explanation as neatly and as politely as she could.
"Got it. Champion likes intensity." Varric grinned. "Well Choir Boy has that in spades, plus he's the best I've seen with a longbow."
"Exactly. Hence the attention of a Master Archer comment." Aveline replied. "Well she didn't see Sebastian standing in the doorway." She frowned. "His entire demeanor is different around her now Varric. His posture is the same, but his expressions are slightly different, as if everything in his world is centered on her, not the Chantry." She tried to explain.
"All right, so Choir Boy overheard the comment." Varric grinned. "Did he blush? Tell me he blushed pretty please Aveline?"
Aveline shook her head. "I keep trying to tell you you're in for a shock." She sighed. "And you keep setting yourself up for a bigger one." She leaned forward, her voice lowered. "Vael says, and I quote 'don't think I'll let that 'master archer' comment slip by again Solara. You put me off once already. I'll have an explanation tonight'." Aveline tilted her head and looked at Varric who looked slightly stunned. "Would you like to hear what she said?"
Varric nodded, obviously still taking in the image her words had created.
"She just smiled and says to me really quiet, 'Oh yes, he is every inch the Prince when he decides to be. I'm afraid you've mistaken deliberation for lack of command,'." Aveline looked at Varric. "So I don't think it's Hawke that has the toy in that particular relationship."
"Suddenly what I saw in that alley takes on an entirely new connotation." Varric took a swallow of ale as if suddenly too warm. "No, I don't think I'll be changing Choir Boy's nickname any time soon."
Aveline grinned. "Well just think, when she's Princess of Starkhaven you'll be able to say you knew her when she was just a Ferelden refugee."
"I suddenly feel like a stroll up to Hightown." Varric grinned. "Maybe visit an old friend and see how she's doing. Would you like to walk up with me Guard Captain?"
Aveline smiled. "I'm going that way." She tilted her head. "Mind if I bring Donnic along next week? He was saying something about missing Diamondback with you and Fenris."
"You and your stalwart man are always welcome." Varric grinned. "I'll be nice to just talk and exchange gossip instead of plotting to help our friends won't it?"
"I thought it was information gathering?" Aveline teased.
"That's what I said. Gossip." Varric grinned as they left the tavern.