So, I played Inquisition and beat it in about four days of serious grinding (if it weren't for tumblr reminding me, I probably would have forgotten to eat) and class skipping. If anyone is curious, I romanced Solas (HIGHLY RECOMMEND 10/10 ROMANCE) and if you're wondering…yes. Yes, I probably will write a fanfiction about the nerdy pinball head and my Inquisitor I love them so much

But of course, I can't possibly expect to start writing another fanfiction when I haven't finished this baby of mine! We're definitely on the home stretch here, so there's no rush to start another one just yet and I would hate to disappoint anyone by dropping Anach (which I would never dream of doing). So, just to be clear: There's another fanfic on the horizon for me – Femquisitor/Solas – and possibly a one shot of this Hawke and Fenris in Inquisition? Hmm. Certainly something to think about, considering I'm coming up on a big break soon and I was really looking forward to seeing a Hawke/Fenris reunion.

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

NSFW things therein! This is your only warning! There IS a sexual scene in this chapter.

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!


"The person that you were has died
you've lost the sparkle in your eyes
You fell for life into its traps
Now you wanna bridge the gaps
Now you wanna bridge the gaps
Now you want that person back

You don't know what you wanna do
You've got no pull to pull you through"

Wonderful, Gary Go


36. Cage

"I've been…thinking about what happened with Hadriana," he began, not looking at me. I only felt relief to see him, standing there, whole and uninjured. I had been so concerned that he had been attacked or had ran away that I didn't even know that I had been worrying so much until the relief nearly bowled me over. "I… took out my anger on you. Undeservedly so. I was not myself; I'm sorry." He still cast his eyes to the side; I wondered if he was embarrassed or if it was the post-freedom reaction of a slave.

I had issues with making eye contact, as well.

I couldn't respond with words – I only wanted to give him a hug, but I couldn't do that, either. I was irrationally afraid that he was going to hurt me – that he viewed me as a threat.

I was just another mage, after all. Just another Hadriana, another Danarius. How close had I come to becoming Hadriana?

Too close.

"Are you not talking to me, again?" he said through a sigh, pinching his eyes shut after a long period of silence from me. "I understand."

No. You don't. It isn't because of what you said.

"I needed to be alone," he said, looking aside, beyond my head. "When I was still a slave, Hadriana was a torment. She would ridicule me, deny my meals, hound my sleep –"

My heart quaked at the familiarity – I could remember the starvation, the torture, the harsh words she lobbed at me like it were yesterday.

The stings of metal needles beneath my fingernails and in my spine, the shocks of magic hitting the conductors, the needle piercing my lips -

I reflexively lifted my hand to touch my mouth to feel for stitches and, of course, found none. I inhaled shakily.

Stop talking.

"Because of her status, I was powerless to respond, and she knew it," he said, the heat from earlier reentering his voice. "The thought of her slipping out of my grasp now… I couldn't let her go. I wanted to – but I couldn't."

Please, stop talking about Hadriana. I felt so close to a breaking point – after all the stress of the day…no, the past few weeks – I couldn't handle his anger on top of that. I couldn't handle the reality that the magical stone that I had spoken to had been so eerily accurate – I couldn't handle that what I had experienced wasn't real but still felt like it was.

"This…hate," Fenris said, "I thought I had gotten away from it, but it dogs me no matter where I go. To feel it again, to know that they were the ones who planted it inside me… it was too much to bear."

The hate. The fear. The pain. At least his is justifiably real.

"Bah," he said, turning away with a drooped head. "I didn't come here to burden you further. I should go." His back turned to me and I panicked.

Wait.

I couldn't let him walk out – I couldn't let him forget me again -

"Don't go." I placed my hand on his shoulder. His hackles rose at the sudden, unexpected contact and his markings glowed – in a short moment, he had forcefully shoved me against the wall, his face livid - and I shut down.

The menacing glow of the markings set me off – I was suddenly back in Tevinter, at the mercy of Fenris and his Master, feeling his kicks in my ribs and his crushing force on my broken bones. My mouth was sewn shut and my hands were pained from infection – I was a slave, and I could do nothing to protect myself.

I shut my eyes and waited, assuring myself that it would all be over soon – Danarius would get his fill and move on. I could not halt Fenris' attack, even if I truly wanted to face the repercussions of such an action.

Metal scraped against metal and I violently shook at the sound.

Just get it over with, I begged silently.

"I – I'm sorry," he gasped, taking a step back. My vision blackened and dulled, narrowed until only a thin pinprick of light was visible – the glint of steel, the smell of leather and musk – I winced, my back scraping against the wall as I slid to the floor, my head falling between my knees with my hands protecting my cranium.

Please don't hurt me.

My back still stung from the pain of the lashes; my head swam from the lack of food and restful sleep. I waited for the next blow – my head? My back? My hand? My shoulders hit the floor as I curled in on myself, protecting my soft parts from hard feet.

Please, please don't hurt me.

"Hawke!"

Please, please, don't-

"Hawke," a deep, rumbling voice growled; my shoulders were seized and I cried out in terror. "Open your eyes."

I couldn't get enough air – my lungs were screaming for it, my chest heaved but no relief came.

I've learned my lesson.

I'll be good.

I lost.

"Breathe, Hawke." The hands on my shoulders lifted me, pulling me from the ground – I cried out again, feeling exposed; my hands covered my face, protecting it from harm. Sharp metal poked me in the shoulder. "Breathe."

My lungs were on fire – I gasped in a breath and held it for a moment before releasing it, making an effort to slow down my panting. It seemed to work, for a time.

Master, please.

Shuddering, I futilely tried to cover every inch of my body unshielded, my shoulders concave. The arms holding me upright released me; I rolled against the wall, tucking my knees into my chest, ducking my head under my arms.

"Venhedis."

My vision slowly came back to me, spotted black from lack of oxygen.

"Hawke," Fenris whispered, sounding lost. "Stop."

I was so confused – was I not pleasing? Should I obey him and stop? Was that an order? Could I take orders from Fenris?

Everyone is above me. Everyone is master. Everyone was a threat to my happiness – because I would always be a slave.

A crack sounded as something struck a wall – I flinched and cried out, shaking.

Stop, he had ordered – but I didn't know how. I tried to focus on the present – I was no longer under the thumb of Danarius but Maker was it so hard to forget. It was so easy to revert to a slave's disposition – to try and please everyone, because everyone was above me and could hurt me.

Does Fenris always feel like this? Like all mages are masters that he has to struggle against?

The thought came from nowhere, entering my head like a rogue wayfarer – yet it crushed me to realize that yes, he had been dealing with these feelings for much longer than I had.

Is that why he's so ashamed that we had sex? Because he felt like he was ordered to please me?

The thought made me sick – I retched onto the floor, expelling the dinner I had just consumed.

I cried – I cried for what I had experienced, for what I was going through, and for the trauma that had just occurred; but mostly, I cried for Fenris - because he wouldn't cry for himself. I cried for what he had gone through, how he had struggled and came out stronger than ever before and how I had tried to change that and mold him into something different than what he was.

How am I any better than the magisters?

I heard a few loud thuds as objects hit the floor – I jumped at every collision, crying harder, hiccupping, unable to control myself.

Once you're a slave, you're always a slave.

Fenris must have felt like this for as long as he can remember, I thought. He can't remember a time of feeling uninterrupted joy, or shared love, or past freedom. I wanted to touch him and hold him but the fear kept me still – fear of being owned, of being possessed and used and thrown away at a whim.

I understood why Fenris never stayed, never got too close, always shrugged me off – he was afraid of giving himself to another mage.

He doesn't want to give his heart to me – doesn't want another mage to own another piece of him.

I could hear the rush of my blood in my ears in the silence of the room; some sound rang in my ear, dull yet shrill, shattering my concentration.

Footsteps sounded, falling away from me. There was a pause in his stride a few moments before the door to my house shut.

He left.

Hours later, my breathing finally slowed and evened. I lifted my head; my shoulders were stiff from hunching over, my temples felt full and my eyes were puffy. I felt shaken to the core – the attack had been so strong, so real –

I fell gracelessly back to the floor, weak. The stone chilled my skin, making me feel hollow and without warmth. I shivered, wanting to let myself slide under my bed, needing the protection, the reassurance of a bulk on top of me that would prevent anyone from seeing my huddled form.

Sorry, I wanted to say again, to call him back so I could explain myself – but, once again, my mouth couldn't open.

-C-

I awoke groggy and immensely uncomfortable the next morning, lying on the floor of my foyer.

Everything came to me in a rush and I sat up quickly, momentarily dazed before I rushed headlong into a panic.

What did I do? I could only imagine what Fenris thought of my little meltdown – a thing that hadn't happened for quite some time and never that drastically.

I wrung my hands – I needed to see him. I looked out of my window, seeing the sun rising in the sky – we hadn't planned to do anything today, we didn't have the chance. I wondered if he would be working for someone else.

Feeling like rubbish, I couldn't bear the embarrassment of how I had reacted to Fenris backing me into a corner – or, rather, against a wall.

I wished someone were around to tell me what to do, how to act and react – but I knew it was foolish to desire such a thing.

"I am my own person," I said aloud, my voice scratchy. My breath caught in my throat a little when my lips parted without resistance. Inhaling through my nose and trying not to collapse back down to the floor, I stood and climbed up the stairs so I could undergo my morning routine of washing my face and dressing, my neck aching from the hunched position I had held the entire night.

I figured he would be gone – it was nearly noon by the time I reached his not-so-abandoned mansion, feeling humiliated and hoping he wouldn't force me to tell him what exactly happened. I knew that I couldn't answer him – that I hadn't the words for my experience.

The morning was chilly, though the sun shone bright; the wind blew through the streets, hushing the murmur of the crowd around me. A few nobles and tradesmen nodded their heads at me, but I didn't acknowledge them as I made my familiar way through the stone streets.

I didn't know what I had expected when I reached Fenris' mansion, but it wasn't what I found – the front door hung wide open, jerking slightly with the wind.

Fear lanced me. "F…Fenris?" I called, my voice swallowed by the halls of the mansion. I quickly entered and shut the door securely behind me, my mind flying over a hundred terrifying scenarios that would explain why his door was left open.

He isn't this sloppy. Fenris was a hunted man who briefly checked every window and door periodically for intruders; he wouldn't be one to just leave his front door wide open.

I took a deep breath and wandered farther inside, looking all around me, waiting for something – anything – to happen. I prepared myself to turn in run or to leap into battle at any moment.

When after several minutes I found no attackers, I calmed a little, making an effort to breathe evenly.

An accident, I told myself, climbing the stairs. I didn't expect to find him in the mansion; he clearly wasn't there.

Yet, I was surprised again when I entered his bedchambers and found him out cold, face planted firmly on his table, two empty bottles of wine near his head.

I sighed. Fenris.

I didn't know how he'd managed to get this drunk so quickly – it was so sloppy of him.

He must have been really distressed, I thought, apprehensive. What exactly happened?

I couldn't remember much more than the fact that I had experienced a panic attack – I had sensory befuddlement during the entire ordeal. Maker only knew what Fenris thought of it all – or what he witnessed.

Rather than wake him up or set myself to cleaning, I decided to leave for home – but not without stoking the fire and locking his front door, first.

Returning to the estate, I was confronted with Bodahn at the door, who informed me that Orana had offered to make lunch and that I had more mail.

I glanced at my workbench, seeing a few odd letters – I answered one or two, scribbled a note to remind myself to write to Carver and then headed to the kitchen, startling the elf therein.

"Mercy, messere," she said, pressing a hand over her heart. "Forgive me, you gave me a fright."

"I'm sorry, Orana," I said, striding forward to see what she was making. "Do you need any assistance?" I asked, peering over her bony shoulder.

"Oh, thank you, messere, but I can manage this soup just as well on my own," she said, looking to the floor and smiling.

"Very well." I pattered around the kitchen for a while, taking a quick stock of the things we needed – I reminded Orana that she was free to go spend my money at the market for any food related items we needed.

I piddled away an hour or two scrubbing dishes and poking around the kitchen, possibly annoying Orana – though she never said so.

"Hawke? You here?" said a voice initiating from the great room.

I smiled at Orana, leaving her and her soup in favor of Varric's call.

"Hey Varric," I said jovially as I entered the room – pausing when I noticed the party waiting to receive me. I looked to Varric.

He put his hands up defensively. "It was just me and Blondie, I swear. But then we met Isabela, and then…Well, everyone else just wanted to tag along."

I had a sinking feeling that I knew what this impromptu meeting was concerning as I looked at each of my silent companions in turn – Varric, Aveline, Anders, Isabela – I couldn't quite make eye contact with Fenris, who stared into me from behind the rest. I sighed, wondering when and how he pulled himself out of his drunken stupor.

"Come on, then," I said, resigned. "Let's go to the study."

When we entered the room, Varric took the leather seat, leaving Anders and Fenris to stand while Aveline and Isabela took the other two chairs – Isabela's being behind my desk. I sighed and leaned against the hard wood of the corner.

"We, ah," Varric began, realizing that I wasn't getting any closer to speaking. "Went to the Emporium today, Blondie and I."

"Spent a decent amount of coin, too," Anders commented.

I stayed quiet, watching the group, consistently trying not to make eye contact with Fenris.

"Well, we bought a rock," Varric hedged, watching my face carefully. "And I suspect it means something to you. We were hoping you could tell us how to use it. The Antiquarian was less than forthcoming." Varric prized the glittering, familiar emerald stone from his pocket and offered it to me.

I held very still, not daring to touch the rock.

"Is this what you picked up that day, Hawke?" Varric asked, calculatingly quiet.

I nodded, looking back at him evenly.

"This little blue rock?" he asked, pushing it over in his palm.

"Are you blind?" Anders snarked. "It's clearly gray."

"What? No, Blondie, I have it right here in my hand. It's light blue, like the sky on a clear day."

"That's romantic and all," said Isabela, peeking around my shoulder, "but it looks blue blue to me. Dark and black, like the sea on a calm night."

"I think you mean brown," said Aveline, peering at Varric hands.

"Clearly, there is some kind of magic on it that affects the color," said Anders impatiently. "It makes the stone appear different to whoever sees it."

"Hawke?" Varric addressed. When I remained quiet, Varric spoke again. "We just want to figure out what happened. You aren't telling us, so we assumed that you can't…"

"Have any of you thought that perhaps she doesn't want us to know?" spoke Fenris. I made the mistake of looking over at him and his gaze once again captured me, holding me still as the room quieted in the wake of his words.

"It's green for me," I said finally, not looking away from Fenris.

Varric made eye contact with Isabela behind me and then he turned to look at Fenris, his eyebrows arched.

"So…" he said, turning his full attention back to me, "how do you use it?"

He pushed his hand closer to me as if intending for me to relieve him of it, but I vehemently refused, furiously shaking my head. Not again.

"Hawke?" Anders asked, stepping closer. "Are you feeling well?"

Varric didn't rescind the offered jewel. I swallowed, not taking my eyes from it as if it were a snake - I wouldn't allow it to bite me twice.

"I'm fine," I said, thin-lipped.

The room remained patient with me through my struggle – even Isabela, who had propped her feet atop my desk and made herself comfortable.

"You ask it a question," I said, regretting my words before they left my mouth. What if one of them tries? What if Fenris tries it? "No – you tell it why you're upset or confused."

I felt silly for thinking Fenris might have used the stone – he despises magic. He wouldn't subject himself to magic he knew to be volatile.

"And it gives you an answer?" Anders assumed. "Interesting. But also odd, considering…"

"I thought it would be more than that," Aveline surmised. "This dumb rock knocked Hawke out for days and kept her off her feet for weeks. It's a lot more complicated than "the rock answers a question"."

"Are you suggesting that Hawke is lying?" Fenris sneered.

"Not at all, Broody," assured Varric, maintaining the thin veil of peace. "We just think that there is more to this magic; I don't want it to come around and bite us in the ass later. We would rather solve the issue as it is now. I would never call Hawke a liar."

"But you would, apparently, discuss her as if she isn't sitting right here," pointed out Isabela. I shot her a grateful glance over my shoulder and she winked.

Fenris and Varric looked ashamed.

"I'll not have it." Aveline stood. "Hawke, if you're keeping something from us that we need to know, then I expect you to say something."

I made contact with the guard captain's intimidating stare.

"Nothing important," I said, dropping my gaze to my hands.

"Don't bully her," Fenris warned, adopting an aggressive stance. "She doesn't need it."

Aveline raised a hand and shook her head. "Don't, Fenris. Just don't. If we need to know, then we need to know."

"What Aveline means is that we're just trying to help you," Anders addressed to me.

My hands grasped one another so fiercely that the tips of my fingers were turning blue, but I couldn't relax – only continued staring down at my knuckles.

"I think…" Isabela said slowly, "I agree with Fenris. You three sort of look like a new, pathetic gang of bullies."

Anders sighed and rubbed his eyes. "We're pressuring her, aren't we? Maker's breath, let's just go."

"Hold on," Aveline said, voice hard as she held up a strong palm to prevent Anders from leaving. She walked around Varric to face me, dipping her head to my level, metal armor clanking. Her eyes softened. "You're my friend, Hawke. I take care of my friends."

"Thank you, Aveline," I whispered. "But I can't."

Aveline sighed. "Very well, Hawke." She stood and turned around. "Off with you lot. We're done here."

"Wait a minute," Varric said, standing. "We're trying to help."

"You're not," Aveline said shortly. "This isn't happening – not today, not while I'm here. There is no danger; just Hawke, and Hawke doesn't want to go through with this right now."

"Shoo," added Isabela. "Lady Man-hands has spoken."

Aveline glared at Isabela, who smiled in return.

Anders walked out. I jumped when the door swung shut at his heels.

Varric sighed. "Come on, Broody. Aveline is scaring us out."

"That isn't it." Aveline crossed her arms. "My concern is for her well being; if she says she's done, she's done. That's that."

"Yes." Isabela dragged her legs from my desk. "You boys should be ashamed."

Varric gave Isabela and incredulous look. He shook his head and turned for the door. "Women," he muttered, smiling a bit.

After he left, Fenris waited.

He had no need of capturing my attention; he knew he already had it. His eyes were ringed black with sleeplessness or dehydration; he made no quick movements. His mouth opened – but his eyes flickered to the guard captain and the dualist, self-consciously aware of the fact we weren't alone. His face held a question, a promise.

My eyes fell as my face heated. I knew I would be hearing from him again.

His speckled feet walked out of my vision; the door opened and shut. I took a deep breath.

"Good," Isabela purred. "Girl time. Lovely, lovely girl time."

Aveline relaxed. "Whore."

Isabela sat on my desk beside me, knocking aside books and papers. "I was being serious! Everyone needs girl time, don't they? We could go hat shopping. What say you, Hawke?"

"We should tell Merrill," I said in a low voice, not particularly wanting to be caught alone at home by any lyrium-embossed elves.

Isabela clapped. "Yes! I'll go get her. Meet me in the markets in an hour."

She didn't give either of us time to respond – she hopped down and sauntered out of the room, ignoring Aveline's groan.

"Really, Hawke? You're going to make me do this?"

I shrugged. "I don't know, Aveline. I think I could use the opportunity to de-stress. It might be good for us – good for the team."

"You're killing me," Aveline said through a reluctant smile. "'Good for the team.' I suppose you can just throw around declarations like that and I'm obliged to listen because it's apparently 'good for the team'."

I smiled and walked to the door. "I'm sure Donnic wouldn't dispute you buying a dress or two.."

Aveline groaned again as the door shut.

I grinned, walking to the kitchen, trying to ignore the nagging fear of the unknown.

I filled two bowls with the completed soup that Orana had made and entered the dining room, startling her as she ate in silence on the opposite side of the table.

"Hey," I said, shutting the door behind me. "Do you want to go shopping with us today?"

"Shopping?" Orana sat back in her chair, looking at me confusedly.

"Have you ever been?" I wanted to secure her invitation before the intimidating Aveline could pop in and scare the former-slave away.

"I've been…for food and such." Orana recovered, sipping from her spoon. I pushed my second bowl to the spot adjacent to mine.

"Anything you buy today is my treat – a gift for agreeing to work here." I poured myself a glass of water, feeling as if I were drowning in luxury – no vinegar in my pure, sweet drinking water. "Perhaps you could get a new dress?"

Orana stared into her bowl, her cheeks pink. "I don't know, Messere…this dress suits me fine and I don't wish to trouble you."

I leaned forward. "I'm inviting you. This isn't a cruel trick, Orana. I want to buy you something nice as thanks for joining me in my home."

She looked at me weakly for a moment, then straightened herself. "Yes, Messere Hawke. I think…I believe I'll join you."

The door opened and Aveline entered.

"I see you didn't hesitate to tell me about lunch."

"Orana has just agreed to accompany us," I said cheerfully. The elf in question's head dropped.

"Marvelous," Aveline said dryly, apprehending her bowl of soup. "You let mine get cold."

I poked the bowl and heated it instantly – Aveline yelped and pulled her hand from it, rubbing her burned fingers. The liquid in the bowl steamed.

Aveline sighed and took her seat beside me.

"It's only the host's job to make sure their guest is satisfied," I pointed out, riding higher than I had in weeks. I tried to ignore the nagging pangs that came with thinking of Fenris – of what he would say to me about last night – what I would come up with to say in return -

"Right."

Orana giggled, covering her mouth. Aveline's mouth quirked on one side, not minding me picking on her.

I ate my soup in peace.

-C-

The market place was busy and bustling; I shrunk away from the crowd as Aveline searched for the other half of our party.

Someone poked me in the ribs and I swerved around to see Isabela – she pointed at Merrill, who cheerfully searched a jewelry station for enchanted rings, inquiring about the magical properties in each.

"So we both brought an elf," Isabela remarked, casting her gaze on an uncomfortable but smiling Orana.

"What's the plan?" Aveline asked, rejoining us.

I shrugged. I had no idea.

"We hit up these kiosks," supplied Isabela, "we round over to that hat shop-" she pointed – "and we end at the tailor."

"Good plan." I nodded before leaving them to approach Merrill.

I loaded up on new enchanted jewelry for my friends and bought Orana a few ribbons for her hair – Isabela tried all afternoon to convince Merrill to buy a huge gold piece for her neck, but Merrill continually argued the impracticality of such a clunky purchase – even if, perhaps, it was pretty and shiny.

I bought myself a new rucksack and paid for a tailored dress or two for Orana as everyone else tried on a ridiculous amount of hats – I caught Aveline laughing when Isabela tried on a giant purple affair with a ton of pheasant feathers, looking utterly ridiculous.

We bought expensive street food and filled ourselves before trekking back to our respective homes – we parted with Isabela and Merrill first, and Aveline left Orana and I once we reached Hightown; she blushed when I mentioned the pleasant green dress she had purchased and, flustered, bid Orana and I a good night.

Orana wasted no time in relieving herself to her room, her arms laden with her new skirts. I shut the door behind me as the sky rambled; Orana quickly reached beyond my line of sight.

I sighed, hearing laughing and barking from somewhere within my estate.

My family's home felt familiar and safe once again; I no longer feared the dark corners within its halls – I didn't fear Danarius because I knew he wouldn't come for me.

Why would he? I would be no one to him. If anything, I thought that he should avoid me.

I would never let him have Fenris again – and I would never forget the suffering he had caused me, even if it were fictitious.

It was real to me.

Retiring to my study, I resigned myself to answering neglected letters for the rest of the evening. My purchases were abandoned to the floor; I couldn't wipe the smile off my face when I thought of Aveline, Merrill, Isabela, Orana – my girls, there for me when I needed them.

Hours later, wrist-deep in ink and carrying heavy bags beneath my eyes, I pulled back from my desk. A chill raced down my spine and I rubbed my arms, disgruntled with my lack of planning and the dead fire.

I had returned to my penning when a knock hit my door.

"Messere," said Bodahn, wavering in the door frame. "Sorry to intrude, but you have a visitor. His in the sitting room. Shall I send him up? My, but it is chilly in here."

"No, you're right." I packed up my ink and adjusted my robe. "It's too cold in here. I'll be joining him down stairs."

Bodahn walked with me to the stairs when I asked him to give me privacy with my guest; Bodahn departed graciously with a promise to restrict Sandal and Muffin from my affairs.

Fenris stared into the fire, his hair dripping with rainwater. His sword balanced against the wall and I wondered if he planned to be in my home for some time. My eyebrow raised.

"I must confess, Hawke," Fenris began, his head lowered. He didn't turn. "I am completely out of my depth."

"I'm sorry," I interjected hastily, looking at the floor.

"When I think I've finally gotten a grasp on you, you slide out of my hands." He turned his head to me, his eyes tracing the floor as he turned around. "My instincts dictate me more often than I would care to admit – I don't have much else in the way of experience to fall back on… and I have no experience at all with dealing with this.

"I don't know why you're avoiding me." He stepped forward and my knees lost a little constitution. "You dance around us, keeping secrets and being difficult and I want to know why. Why have you changed?"

I backed up and he mirrored my slow steps until I was, once again, against a wall – the light from the fire cast Fenris in shadow as he kept a respectful amount of distance between us so as to not incite panic in me again.

I witnessed the dull anger glinting in his eyes and trembled.

His eyes softened. "What have you been keeping from us, Hawke? What happened?"

My eyes closed and I tried to keep myself from shutting down as he took another step closer.

"Last night." He waited for my eyes to open again. "You said Domine. You – called meDomine."

The word sounded strange in my head, not belonging in my vocabulary. "What?"

"Master." The title, spat like acid from his lips, made me flinch. "You called me Master."

My mouth dropped and my mind blanked – I remembered panicking, being afraid, falling into memories – I had no explanation, no excuse ready to sway him away from me -

His fist slammed the wall beside me and I shrieked, covering my face. "Hawke."

"I'm sorry." I stood, leaning heavily against the wall, crying, trying not to collapse again, fighting the memories, fighting -

"Stay with me, Hawke," Fenris commanded, sounding so close to me. Tears slipped through the cracks of my fingers. "Tell me why."

"I don't – I don't know." My voice crackled. "It doesn't matter."

"No," he said angrily, his hot breath hitting my skin. "It matters, Hawke. You…why? Help me understand. I need to know. What did that stone do to you? What aren't you telling us?"

I cried harder, wanting to sink, my knees were so weak – but I wouldn't give in again, I wouldn't leave Fenris here to watch me fall apart – he would leave again -

He grew frustrated at my lack of answers. A few minutes passed as he patiently waited for me to collect myself. I grew brave enough to drop my hands and gasped when I saw he was so close, his face only inches from mine.

Fenris looked me in the eyes, watched a staggered tear race down my cheek to my neck.

"Why are you afraid of me?" he asked, voice quiet.

"I'm not," I lied, sniffling.

"Don't lie to me." He touched my face, his other hand firmly against the wall beside my head, keeping me trapped. His thumb swiped away a wet trail on my cheek and I leaned into his touch. "You're trembling."

"I'm not afraid of you." My voice sounded stronger.

His hand fell from the wall and he grasped my hand, the points of his claws scratching lightly against my bare skin.

"Can I kiss you?"

I looked from our hands to his face, where he watched me carefully. I was surprised that he'd asked, instead of just kissing me.

It's not like I would say no… would I?

I nodded.

"Do you want me to kiss you?"

I wondered why he was asking me, getting so much reassurance – it couldn't be that he was timid and needed the reassurance -

Then it clicked: he wasn't doing it for him. He was doing it for me.

He wanted to make doubly sure that doing this what I wanted, and not just what he wanted – because he knew that I subconsciously called him Master and was doing everything in his power to shake that image instead of just taking like Danarius would.

I nodded, slower this time.

He moved closer; his lips almost touched mine. I stopped breathing.

"Are you frightened?" His voice came out in a whisper; his nose brushed mine.

After a long pause, I nodded, feeling tears welling up again.

Weak.

"Of me?"

I nodded again, looking down, away from him. His hand captured my chin and brought my face back up.

"Why?"

I looked away, his hand dropped.

"Look at me, please," he begged. I complied; his eyebrows were drawn, furrowed, with a deep crease between them. "Why are you afraid of me?"

"Because…you can be frightening." I barely made any noise with my reply; my back grew cold, pressed against the stone wall, cowering away from him.

His mouth quirked into a smile for a moment before his expression became drawn again. "Don't be afraid. I didn't mean what I said before in the caves. I'm sorry if I hurt you – I was upset, I didn't realize…"

I understand, I wanted to say, but my throat closed, gagging me.

"My life has taught me that mages are evil, yet your example doesn't match anything that I have learned – it is different for me to reconcile the idea of you being a mage and also my…friend. You shouldn't fear me, Hawke."

I knew that I had hurt him, accidentally referring to him as Master. I knew there was little else in the world that I could call him and wound him as much; sorrowful and wound tight, I could do nothing but look him in the eyes and try to make him understand my regret at not being able to be forthcoming just yet.

It was too hard to think about – and I knew there was a possibility that he might hate me if I told him the truth, and I couldn't face that.

"If there was anyone in the world worth protecting, it would be you," he said, leaning in and kissing me after the words left his mouth.

I didn't understand, even as his lips met mind – I didn't understand why I was worth protecting, worth suffering for – because I knew he suffered. He'd told me that touch stimulated the markings and pained him, yet he endured for my touch.

It made his kisses so much more treasured, more important.

Another tear slipped down my cheek as my eyes closed and my mouth opened to his, his hand cupping my neck, a pointed finger glancing my earlobe and causing a shiver to race down my spine.

My knees weakened but he held me close, pinning me between the wall and his chest, the metal plate digging into my skin. I smelled stale wine and earth mingled with his skin and the scent of oiled leather and I knew.

I knew that he needed me here, with him, in his arms. I didn't want to run away again, to retreat into my mind and leave him here, alone. He needed someone with him – I knew he deserved to hear the truth, I knew he needed the embraces, even if they hurt him – he needed the new memories we could build together; he needed someone to love him like I could.

And I could. The Maker had carefully embossed the design into the flesh of my soul, molding me with the type of caring that would send me through hell just to learn what he needed me to know.

I thought, as his tongue pressed between my lips, that perhaps the Maker had made him with as much care for me in mind – maybe, in going back in time to become what Fenris needed, he had become what I needed just as much; instead of just taking and taking like everyone else did, Fenris understood that I needed someone here, giving to me instead of stripping me of everything I was and demanding things.

A master, Fenris is not, I thought.

I wondered if he could ever care for me in the way that I cared for him, and if he realized more than I thought he did – if he had a rough idea of what I had endured through the enchanted stone.

He finally pulled back from me without putting any distance at all between our bodies; our breath collided haphazardly between us as we tried to calm ourselves.

"I'm sorry." He rested his forehead against mine. "For frightening you. For leaving – last night, and that night…"

I closed my eyes, remembering the feeling of waking up, alone in my sheets, feeling used and abandoned.

"It's frightening," I said, voice catching, "to think that it's so easy to be dominated by another person."

Fenris' brow furrowed again. I wanted to rub the crease out with my fingers, but they were numbed.

"I'm afraid." I swallowed away the doubt, my heart pounding in my chest. "I'm afraid that you'll hurt me, but I can't turn you away."

How many times had I referred to the past Fenris as being "mine"? It was as if I willingly sacrificed what little freedom I had earned to Fenris – but I knew I would gladly give it to him.

"I won't ask you," I said haltingly, "to give me your freedom or sacrifice any part of yourself for me. I feel like…I've taken enough of you already."

"Is that what you see this as?" His eyes narrowed. "That I'm giving up my freedom to be with you?"

"I – I don't want –"

"I'm here because I want to be," Fenris growled. "Not because I feel like I owe you anything. Nor you, me. I won't leave, Hawke. We've both done enough running away from this."

I pressed my lips together and blinked away fresh tears. Love is a cage, I thought.

I knew that Fenris had the key to my cage – and it would never be returned to me, no matter what he said.

"Can we start over?" Fenris' hand rested at my waist. "We can replace the drunken mistakes of the past."

"No," I said immediately. We couldn't replace the encounter that made him run – or the encounters that made me literally run. "Nothing can replace the past, Fenris."

His head drooped; I leaned forward and timidly met his lips with my own. I took a deep breath.

"We can do nothing but move forward," I said, leaning my head against his collar.

I took a step to the side, my hand capturing his. He followed me as I took him to the stairs.

"Come with me?" I asked, my voice breathless.

He followed me up the stairs silently; when we reached my bedroom, I kicked the door shut and untied my robe at my waist, letting it fall open. Fenris inhaled and unbuckled his gauntlets, dropping them one after another on the floor as I walked around him, dropping my robe and stripping off my under tunic.

I wore nothing but smalls when I crawled onto my bed and waited for him; my heart beat frantically as I thought of what we were doing, that he was here, with me – that he could possibly care for me as much as I cared for him.

He abandoned his armor and removed his jerkin; my eyes scoured his flesh, the strings of lyrium that I had never studied before, the beautiful swooping patterns and dots that decorated his skin.

He smirked, noticing my unabashed staring. He removed his lower jerkin to reveal that he wore no smalls at all – I blushed and laughed.

"What?" he growled, approaching my bed.

"I was just thinking." He knelt on the bed, grabbed my foot and pulled me towards him. I gasped at the sudden movement.

"Of?"

"How I would need to tell Isabela later that you really don't wear smalls." I giggled when he rolled his eyes. He leaned over me, pressing his chest against mine, letting his weight settle over me, his hardness pressing into my thigh.

My chest constricted; I tried to dampen the feelings of being trapped and powerless.

This is Fenris, I reminded myself, closing my eyes to try and block out the rising panic.

He seemed to sense my discomfort; he rolled over, pulling me on top of him, letting my chest fall against his. I breathed easier, the invisible bindings on my chest loosening.

"Thank you," I whispered, my head falling to kiss his chest.

Fenris rumbled low in his throat as a reply – I felt the vibrations with my lips.

He pulled me up, bringing me face to face with him again. I stared down at him, the ends of my hair glancing his cheek.

So, you've never…?

I swallowed, remembering his first time with me – his first willing time at all – I had been stupid and selfish, just taking from him without ever trying to imagine what he wanted.

There was still so much between us; things that couldn't be said, things we weren't ready to face.

But tonight, we would be content to be us.

I leaned back and pressed against his erection; he grasped my hips, pushing up against me.

I wondered if I would ever have wanted to start over with him – if I would do it all again, just to get to this moment.

Locking eyes with him, my answer came: yes.

I would suffer a hundred deaths, a thousand punishments if it would benefit him; I wondered if, perhaps, he would say the same for me. He sat up, situating me on his lap, letting me lead our advancements. I appreciated him giving me control so easily.

I couldn't hold off anymore; the aching in my sex begged for release. I pulled my smalls aside and let Fenris guide himself into me; I gasped as he slid home, feeling full and heated, my skin flushed.

Fenris kissed my neck, moving my hips with his hands; my fingers mindlessly traced the lyrium lines decorating his back, the shallow grooves passing beneath my skin.

"Mmm," he hummed, pressing his nose against my jaw. "Isn't this much better when you're not in a stupor from drink?"

I gasped out a laugh.

It's much better knowing that this is real.

One hand left my hip to touch me where we joined; he thrust up into me, hitting deep with each gyration of our hips – I was gone too quickly, my head thrust back, my lips open in a nearly silent cry as Fenris pressed his sweaty forehead into my chest, emptying himself into me.

We came down, catching our breaths, my arms linking around his neck. He indulged me, holding me close, resting his head in the crook of my neck.

I didn't want him to leave – I latched tightly to him in a brief flicker of fear, but Fenris made it perfectly clear he had no intentions of going anywhere.

The fire roared merrily, having been lit and fed by Bodahn a while before in preparation of my retiring to bed; Fenris sank against my pillows, letting me fall to his side, still clutching my arms around his neck.

"Hawke," he said gently, his hand running over my bare back. "I'm not going anywhere."

I bit my lip, withdrawing my arms slowly, not wanting to make him feel crowded. He replied by wrapping his arms back around me, tugging me closer.

"Fenris." My lips moved against the lines on his neck. "I'm sorry."

That I pressured you before.

That I can't tell you everything.

That I tried to change you.

"I know." I felt his lips curve against the skin of my temple. "Marian."

My heart stuttered; I curled further against him, not wanting him to see the dagger he had just thrown into my heart.

-C-

It seemed fitting that the first night I slept peacefully in my bed was the night Fenris stayed with me. His arms were warm, wrapped around me, his breathing even.

I awoke with the birds, as the sun rose, feeling more rested and comfortable than I had in weeks. The fire was on its last legs, barely giving off any light at all – I rose slowly, trying not to wake Fenris.

I wanted to touch his sleeping face, trace the markings on his naked skin, but I refrained, lest I wake him.

Knowing exactly what I wanted to do that morning, I threw on my robe – leaving my tunic on the floor – and happily traipsed down the stairs, tying my robe together to preserve my modesty (and protect the eyes of those living in my home) as I went.

I went to work immediately, mixing my ingredients into a bowl. The process took the better half of an hour, between grinding the flour down to a fine powder and getting everything mixed with the right spices.

I poured my mixture into a pan and went back to work to make a buttery icing for my cake, taste testing a little more often than was necessary.

The kitchen permeated with the smell of heaven when the door cracked open, bearing a confused and fully-armored Fenris.

Frowning and a bit disappointed, I perked up when he entered.

"What are you doing?" he asked, squinting through the morning light streaming in the windows.

"Baking you a cake," I said, dipping my finger in frosting. "Want to taste test?"

"Why?" Fenris looked confused.

"So you can tell me if it tastes right."

"No, I meant why are you baking me a cake?" he asked, amused.

I left my bowl and spoon, walking over to him with my finger raised, beholding the bit of frosting on the tip.

"Because I've always wanted to," I confessed, smiling at him.

He raised an eyebrow, but didn't question the declaration. "I've never had cake," he mused, looking at the oven.

I nearly broke down crying right before him at his statement; it completely ruined my mood. I dropped my finger and backed away from him before he could see the heavy weight he had dropped on my chest.

Another coincidence.

Fenris' lack of enjoyment in his life exhausted me; he would say things like that and suddenly happy memories of me sharing cake with my family on name days would become foolish squandering of wealth, shaming me. It hurt me to think that Fenris had missed out on so much in his life, that he didn't even remember his family – his sister, whom he was so fond of -

I covered my eyes with my free hand not dipped in frosting.

Fenris cleared his throat. "I've been meaning to ask you if you would stop trying to clean my mansion behind my back."

"No," I said quickly, with confidence.

"Why not?" he asked, growing cross at my obstinate response.

"Because I want to do that for you." I leaned my back against my kitchen counter. Fenris huffed.

"I don't want you cleaning my house." His eyes narrowed angrily. "It isn't your responsibility."

"I never said it was. I just said that I wanted to clean it."

"I'm saying 'no'," Fenris said, his voice rising, making me flinch. "I will not have you cleaning my house like some groveling slave."

I shrunk, feeling small before his anger. I felt like I had broken the rules – that I had given the master back talk – and I startled myself when those words came to mind.

I realized he didn't want to feel like he was my master – that he still felt upset over my utterance of "domine" the other night, that it was far too close to home for either of us to be okay with. I also didn't want him to be angry with me, a part of me still disquieted at the thought.

"Okay," I said quietly, staring at the floor.

Fenris groaned. "Hawke."

I didn't look up; I heard him pace the floor for a moment, coming closer to me – but then he backed away again, walking out of the kitchen and out of my front door.

I wiped my finger on a rag and pulled the cake from the oven; I tossed the cake and the pan directly into the trash.

Too late, I wondered at what he had said to me the night before – domine.

I'd never before heard that word in my entire life.

A side effect of the magic?


Hopefully everyone missed the unintentional Star Wars reference in there. –shifty eyes-