It didn't take long for the story to spread throughout Kirkwall, and, for all Hawke knew, the rest of the damn continent. She was used to getting stared at and whispered about, but this was a new level of uncomfortable. Especially -
Hawke stormed over to the usual table in the Hanged Man, seeing her favorite dwarf sitting by the fire with the very person she'd been looking for.
"Hawke," he greeted, hands folded delicately over crossed legs. "Something you need?"
She folded her arms across her chest. "You spent a lot of time with the Qunari in Seheron. Notice anything different about these ones lately? In how they treat me?"
"Ah, so you noticed." He smirked and leaned back. "I thought you might."
"Okay," Varric said, putting down his ledger, "what did I miss?"
Hawke resisted the urge to comment on her disbelief that the dwarf was actually doing work and instead tried to articulate the source of her irritation.
"Compared to the one-word grunts that they call answers I got before, the Kithshok are practically chatty nowadays. And the ones that wouldn't so much as look me in the eye before," Hawke frowned as she explained, "now they give me this kind of... nod. Like they approve all of a sudden."
"They do." Fenris fought down a chuckle, and Hawke wanted to deck him a little for being so smug. "I took the opportunity to speak to a Sten earlier. It seems your... stunt was seen as offering yourself to the Arishok as a breeding female."
She prickled. "As a-!"
"And," the elf continued, "as the Arishok is the strongest and most accomplished male, the Qunari find your actions a display of good judgment. Consequently, you have risen quite a bit in their estimation."
Varric was nearly howling with laughter as Hawke's legs gave way and she collapsed onto the bench.
"For as long as I live," she sighed, chin in hand, "I will never understand the Qunari."
"Cheer up, Hawke," Varric said, hiccuping a little and dabbing at his eyes. "So what if the Arishok thinks you want to bear his scary, enormous babies?"
She glared. You're not helping, that look said.
"Tell you what." He leaned over and patted her hand. "If it makes you feel better, I'll send someone to your house tomorrow after lunch to quiet down your mother. Like the bet I promised."
She raised an eyebrow. "Is it a male whore?"
He paused, and Hawke knew she'd hit the nail on the head. "Well, if you're going to be picky, then no. I'll find someone nice and upstanding-looking to pay you and Leandra a visit."
"I appreciate it." She stood to leave, and Varric stopped her, reaching into his satchel.
"Hawke, wait." He handed her a slip of paper, and at first she was confused to recognize her own handwriting. Until she saw what it read.
One very girly gown. Custom tailored to the winner's specifications.
"Wear something nice," he said.
She could feel Fenris' smile on her back as she stormed out to the nearest seamstress.
Hawke stopped by the hallway mirror for the upteenth time, turning her head left and right to inspect the job Orana had done on her hair. The elf had been all too happy to pull the unruly reddish curls into braided submission, and Hawke had all but fled when her maid mentioned how nice some little white flowers from the garden would look woven in just here and if her mistress would only let her -
As she tugged her dress (now bringing the grand total she owned to two, which was two more than she ever thought possible) into place, her mother stopped behind her with a knowing smile. "Mairead, you've fixed that thing so much in the last hour. If you keep it up, you'll wear holes in the skirts." She brushed a few stray dog hairs off of the blue silk, her smile only broadening. "Expecting someone?"
Hawke froze. "No." A pause. "Maybe."
She sighed, blowing a few loose curls out of her face. "Look, if someone comes to the door, just let me get it."
"Whatever you say." Leandra took a few steps toward the library before looking back to take in the rare sight of her savage daughter – in a new dress, of all things – primping in the mirror. "Introduce him to me sometime."
"All right, I'm going, I'm going."
As soon as she was out of sight, Hawke let out a breath of relief. Damn it all if Varric's plan wasn't working. Her mother was in a better mood than ever, and hadn't shown her any portraits of eligible bachelors since the heart attack she'd nearly had when her daughter's gown had been delivered this morning. If this kept her mother quiet for even a week, she swore she'd keep this guy Varric sent over on retainer.
As she took a long last look in the glass, she felt a tiny swell of feminine pride bubble up in her chest. She straightened, admiring her reflection with a turn or two. She still adamantly preferred her leathers, but there was no denying the aesthetic appeal of the dress on her curves. It made her look... softer. Gentler. And the sea-colored fabric brought out the bluer tints in her eyes.
The Arishok would pitch a fit to see her dressed like a woman, she thought to herself with a chuckle, but choked on it before it could escape her throat.
Where had that come from?
She splayed a hand over her stomach, calming the fluttering in her abdomen. Sharp yellow eyes rose to the forefront of her mind, and a tingle of searing heat ran through her hands where they had touched him.
Red and gold and bronze and warm.
She spun as she heard her name called in his voice, heart pounding. Instead, she looked down slightly to see her manservant standing at the entryway.
"Didn't mean to startle you messere," Bodahn said, raising his hands apologetically. "Should've announced m'self earlier, I suppose."
"Ah, Bodahn. It was nothing." She cleared her throat. "You need something?"
"Someone at the door for you," he said, not getting to finish before Hawke bolted for the front hall and paused to smooth out her bodice, opening the door with a ladylike smile to greet -
She stared up in disbelief. "Sebastian?"
"Hawke." He blinked in surprise at the yards of skirt billowing around her legs. "You look lovely! What's the occasion?"
"I own a dress now. What brings you here?"
"I was sent here, actually." He tilted his head as he paused, a curious spark behind his eyes and the hint of a smile on his lips. "Varric mentioned your sudden interest in joining the Chantry."
Hawke was going to strangle that dwarf.