Another short one because it's a bit of a...inbetween chapter type thing. I didn't want to jump straight from the Wounded Coast back into the affairs of Office, there needed to be some kind of break there. Though the result is a bit...soppy.
I really don't know where this one was going because I had to fight so hard to stop it becoming depraved. I want to keep this fic at a T rating if I can, but because of their interactions here, there will end up being smut in it's companion set of one-shots. Though my attempts are rather pathetic so far. It's probably safe to say that at the end of this chapter there is some 'offscreen' bouncybouncy :3
I've also been taking part in the BSN Asunder writing challenge, so writing and rewriting and then sourcing a beta for that took away time from this. Once the winners have been announced (I won't be among them XD), I'll stick my story on here. It was fun. I might even be willing to continue it, as it contains Riffen, the 'slimy' senior enchanter from the previous chapter when he was younger.
Hawke had been right in her estimation. By the time they had reached her estate in Hightown, the sun had long since set. The sky was filled with pale white clouds which glowed in one fixed spot and hid the bright moon. It had also begun to snow. The first snow of the season seemed to buoy Hawke's reflective mood, she was almost childish in the way she attempted to catch the large flakes on her tongue or on the palm of her gloves. Every year was the same, her childlike glee was something Fenris found enjoying to watch, even if it did bemuse him. He knew that if enough snow fell, she would be out building snowmen, snowdogs and, much to Fenris's (and the late Leandra's) alarm, snow ogres. Though how she had managed to build one life-sized and fairly detailed without any form of assistance was a puzzle in and of itself, even more confusing was Hawke's delight in attacking it with her blades, giggling with juvenile delight. When asked, she just smiled and cryptically answered "for Carver." Though whether it was a form of revenge, or just a tribute, Fenris didn't know.
Without truly seeing anything, Fenris leaned on the landing banister and stared out the window into the darkness. Frost had formed on the edges of the panes and the occasional flake caught the light as it floated past. Hawke was in the bath that Bodahn had already taken the liberty to draw for their return and he had laughed as she hugged the dwarf and planted a loud kiss on his forehead for being so thoughtful. Bodahn's face was priceless, though he was less impressed with the smell of his mistress. As always, Fenris had let her go first, knowing that she never lingered for long. It was still long enough for his thoughts to track back to the battle, however, and he frowned at the memory of Hawke blindly charging for that Magister. She was still so reckless, did she learn nothing from the previous battles against them? He was just glad that the woman had chose to flee instead of fight.
The sweet scent of soap floated to him as the door to the bedroom opened, a flushed looking Hawke padding barefoot from the room. She was humming dreamily to herself as she rubbed the towel over her head, a blissful smile on her face. The sight of her so content caused Fenris's thoughts to momentarily flee and he couldn't help but run his eyes over her. Her soft gown stopped at her knees and he couldn't help but scowl at the blooming purple bruise that had formed where the dagger had torn a hole. Though the wound was gone, the bruise lingered - just like the one where the mage had healed his thigh.
"Andraste bless that dwarf! I really don't pay him enough," Hawke was talking mostly to herself, still smiling as she drifted towards where Fenris stood. "Remind me to give him a pay…" she paused, cutting her self short and her soft expression turning confused as to why Fenris was glaring at her. She blinked at him dumbly for a split second before smirking playfully, "alright, I give up. What have I done now?"
Almost apologetically, Fenris sighed, his eyes drifting down to the bruise again. "You should be more careful, Hawke," he sounded more disappointed than angry. Seeing her wounded like that was bad enough, he couldn't begin to imagine watching anything worse happen to her.
Though she knew it was only concern that he was expressing, and she found it hopelessly adorable, she pouted. "I'm a big girl Fenris, I can look after myself." She grinned at him and stepped closer, hoping bring his mood up to somewhere near her own. Instead, all she got was a glare. She couldn't help but look hurt.
"I'm serious Hawke. I can't…" he cut himself off, unable to hold her gaze. I can't bear to see you hurt.
He didn't need to finish, she understood perfectly by the way he stood, utterly defeated. With a resigned sigh, she closed the gap between then and reached out a sweet smelling hand to cup his chin, turning him to face her again. Her smile was warm and reassuring but her eyes were sad. "Do you know why I didn't want that mage to get away? Do you know why I wanted those slavers dead so badly?" Her hand trailed down to his shoulder, her thumb making small circles on the fabric of his tunic. He shook his head, not quite understanding why she was asking. She frowned, her eyes drifting down to where those pale lines of lyrium disappeared into the shadows of his collar. "I wanted to send a message to the Imperium. I wanted them to know that they cannot simply get away with putting a bounty on my head. And they absolutely cannot have any 'interest' in you."
Hawke hadn't told him the details about what she had heard during her reconnaissance mission, she had been too wound up before the battle and too drained afterwards, but now he was beginning to wonder what exactly she had learned. Obviously, the slavers were gunning for her - this wasn't a surprising fact considering she sided against the mages. The puzzle came from this interest in himself. Word had obviously reached the Imperium that Danarius had perished at the hands of his former pet, and while Fenris had a strange curiosity as to what implications that might have had on the senate, he didn't relish the thought of having any other Magister wanting to claim him. Before he had the chance to ask her, however, she sighed.
"I suppose it's not a terrible thing she escaped. I mean, she saw Kirkwall's finest cut through all of her men and her commander with hardly any trouble. And I'm fairly sure she knew that she'd be dead if she hadn't reached that ship." She was staring at the ceiling, a finger idly tapping on her lips as she considered this. "Is it too much to hope for that her account might make the Imperium think twice?"
"If I know one thing, it's that the Imperium isn't usually willing to relent so easily."
He sounded bitter to Hawke's ears, and resigned. She frowned at him but he didn't see it, he was looking at a nowhere point just past her left shoulder. Inwardly, she cursed herself for bringing it up so she closed the gap between them and let a sly smirk creep across her face. "Then let them try. I'm more than willing to send them packing like I did the Qunari." Her smirk turned into a gregarious grin when he met her eyes, a single black brow arched sceptically before a low chuckle escaped him. She was reminded then of how much she loved that sound, and she trailed a hand up the front of his tunic with a low hum.
All at once, she stopped, frowning in thought. Then she sniffed, taking a deep breath in before exhaling in an undignified snort, pushing Fenris away in disgust. "Fenris, you stink," she laughed, throwing her towel at him before pointing in jest at the bedroom door. "Go and have a bath while the water is still warm. I'll banish you to the spare room otherwise."
After Fenris had been forcefully directed (not ordered, never ordered) into the bedroom where the bathtub awaited him, Hawke had wandered down the stairs and padded softly over to the inner door. The key was already in the lock and she turned it, smiling faintly as she heard the faint click, locking out the harsh Satinalia weather in favour of the cosy warmth of home. She paused by her hound, crouching down to his level and massaging his ears as was per the normal night time ritual. She deviated from the usual routine, however, as she took a detour over to what was normally her writing desk.
When not dining formally, herself and Fenris had taken to eating there, and considering they ate formally so very rarely it had become a regular dining table. The chairs, which were two soft armchairs that had been relocated from what was a 'mens drinking room', had been placed at one end and the space on the table in front of them was now bare of writing equipment. The only thing that sat there was an open bottle of red wine and two goblets. There was just enough wine to fill both goblets, so she poured out what was left and rested the bottle on the floor to show Bodahn it was empty. Picking up a goblet in each hand, she steadily made her way back up the stairs, careful not to spill.
The door was pushed shut, but not fully closed. The servants were in bed and only Hawke was about, she couldn't help but let a small smile creep onto her face at the thought that Fenris trusted her that much. It was still such an alien feeling, that he was there and wasn't going to flee. That he reassured her in such small ways, even without knowing he was. That he was subconsciously letting her in more than he knew how to do. With the point of her elbow, she pushed open the door and entered, closing the door behind her with a foot until the catch caught.
Fenris lazed languidly in the copper tub, one leg dangling over the edge and the back of his head resting on the raised back edge so that he was looking at the ceiling. It was a tantalising sight, but Hawke merely smiled at the fact he was content - it still amused her that she was at her happiest when he was. She stared at the top of his head for a moment, slightly alarmed at the difference she saw - his now damp snow-white hair had been bordering on a dirty beige-grey when she sent him to wash. Did they really accumulate that much dirt, or was it just more noticeable because of his hair colour?
"Should I be concerned that you're just standing there, Hawke?" The soft, calm baritone snapped her out of her thoughts and she gave a faint laugh, her eyes tracing down the edge of the (expensive) beaten metal bath only for them to start following the elegant, winding trails of blue-white lyrium that wound down Fenris's exposed calf. She couldn't help but find them beautiful, even if the concept and their conception was ugly.
Softly she wandered towards the bed, lowering a goblet to him as she drew near. Wordlessly, he took it, resting his forearm on the side of the bath but still looking at the ceiling. Hawke figured he was just enjoying the warm water. For her own comfort, she grabbed a blanket before sitting on the side of the bed, leaning against one of the solid wood posts. Careful not to spill her wine, she wrapped the blanket around her shoulders and settled with her head against the post and a faraway smile on her face.
The silence was comfortable, just the gentle cracking of the fire in the hearth. Hawke had settled on staring at Fenris's toes without really seeing. She had already admired his feet before, and worked out that he would need shoes that were almost two inches longer than her own, seeing as his toes began where hers ended when she compared them. She had told him they wouldn't be practicing dancing for the ball until she bought him shoes. That wasn't entirely true, she had decided that they would both practice barefoot until correct footwear was attained. But right now, her mind had wandered to other matters. "How are you with shortswords, Fenris?"
The question seemed to come out of nowhere and caught him by surprise. Blinking at the ceiling for a moment before tilting his head back down to look at her face, only to find her unfocused gaze on his feet and offering no clue as to her meaning. When no answer was forthcoming, she continued, still not meeting his gaze. "I know you're a master at greatswords, and I've seen you decimate a training dummy when I gave you my daggers - even though you lacked my finesse." She met his eyes then, a teasing grin on her lips. "But I don't think I've ever seen you with something like Aveline used to wield before she got attached to that axe I gave her for her nameday."
He considered this for a while, taking a sip of wine as he scoured his brain for any possible memory of using a shortsword since his initial escape. He had reversed some of the slaver's own swords on them in defence at times, did that count? Eventually, he shrugged, causing the water to ripple. "I can't imagine them being much different than daggers or greatswords, the grip and balance are different but I don't see them being difficult to master." He frowned then, tilting his head to catch her eye, which had drifted off to one side and was now gazing off into vacant space. "Why do you ask?"
Obviously lost in thought, Hawke's attention focused on the question, her eyes meeting his momentarily before they dropped to her wine. "I was just thinking that you can't have your greatsword with you at the ball, but I don't want you unarmed. I'll feel vulnerable enough with just my knife, and skilled as you are at unarmed combat, I will feel much more comfortable if you had something."
It made sense. Hawke had been receiving death threats more and frequently of late and given some of the more extreme nature of some of the notes, it seemed logical that whoever was sending them might use a public event to prove a point. Even so, Fenris was concerned that she had been thinking too much on the events of the day and the all new threat that had presented itself. Even when she smiled, she looked tired and worn; her shoulders sagged under the weight of that blanket and she just looked…small. He hated seeing her like that. He downed his wine in one gulp and reached down to put it on the floor. "A shortsword will be fine, Hawke. I doubt it will serve any other purpose than decoration, however."
This made her smile and, seeing that he was making moves to exit his bath, she shrugged out of the blanket to wander to the dresser. One hand still cupping her wine, she hooked her free hand under the lip of the drawer and pulled it open with a groan of protest from the aged wood, then she reached in and grabbed a fresh towel. She drifted past, handing the large towel sheet to him as she past without a word before standing and staring up at the window with her back to him.
Fenris watched her curiously, patting himself dry and feeling the bite of the chill on his skin in comparison to the warm water of the bath. He saw her shiver and pull herself inward, she was only wearing that soft but thin robe after all - not exactly enough for the weather. The snow had stopped, the sky had cleared and she was bathed in that extra bright moonlight that only seemed to happen when it was bouncing off fresh snow. It clung to her curves, fluttered through her hair. She was just…beautiful. And sad. With a heavy sigh, he cinched the towel around his waist and padded silently over to her, one hand finding her shoulder, the other her waist.
Her instinct was to lean back into him until she could feel his chest against her back, causing his arm to slide around her waist and the other to drape at a strange, yet comfortable angle over her chest. He smelled of soap, yet the musky scent of armour oil and leather never seemed to leave him. It was just undeniably him, and Hawke found a deep solace in it. It was something she once feared she would never have, now she feared that she would lose it just like she had lost almost everything else. The fingers of her free hand found the hand that rested on her stomach and entwined with his, a barely audible sigh of content escaping past her lips.
In that moment of blissful silence of simply sharing body heat with Hawke, Fenris had simply buried his face into her hair and never wished to leave it. Time slowed between them in that simple, complex embrace. Nothing needed to be said, and neither wanted the moment to end.
A slight shift of Hawke's position roused Fenris from his trance-like state and he responded by letting his nose slide along the back of her neck until his chin rested on her shoulder. With a feather light touch, he planted a series of kisses on her skin, pleased with the contented hum he received from his attentions.
"I was wondering something." Hawke's hushed voice caused him to pause and he tilted his head so that he could just see one of her eyes through her hair. "Would you miss Kirkwall, if we left?"
He frowned in thought, shifting his grip on her slightly but still keeping her close and ignoring the growing bite of the cold night air on his back. He studied what little expression he could see, but gleamed nothing from it. What was troubling her? "I've never really thought about it."
"But do you consider it home?"
"Hawke," a sigh was heavy in his voice, squeezing her hand gently, "I have never considered anywhere 'home'. Kirkwall has been the place I have stayed the longest, true, but I would not miss it."
"So…if I were to suggest we…"
"Do you wish to leave?"
"No." She cut in, far too fast to be genuine. "At least, I…not right now. But I cannot see a future here. Even with me here trying to glue things back together, things are falling apart. I don't want to be here when it breaks." She was looking out the window again, her face etched with worry and confusion. "Everyone has their lives to lead, and I cannot bear to stay in office. Today was enough to make me realise how much a stagnant life that is."
Fenris couldn't argue that the day had been satisfying. Doing something other than just watching Hawke conduct the affairs that passed through the Viscount's office was draining in a different way than fighting was. As much as he wished to leave running and fighting behind him, he found himself missing it despite himself. "What did you have in mind?"
"You've never been further south than here, have you?" He answered with a simple shake of the head that Hawke felt, rather than saw. She allowed a sly smirk to cross her face as she looked sideways at him, catching his eye. "Then I shall show you my homeland. I think you'd like Ferelden, if a city elf like you can stand all the countryside." She broke out into a triumphant smile as his laugh rumbled against her back and he squeezed her close in mock admonition.
"Feeling homesick? Or are you just eager to have me traipsing through dirt like a Dalish?"
Hawke could hear the smile in his voice and chuckled at the though of dragging Fenris around all the backwater villages she had lived in as a child. But the thought plucked at a long-forgotten memory and she fell back into a thoughtful state. "As amusing as the thought of you in Ferelden clay mud up to your knees is, you're closer to the mark than you think." She frowned then, squeezing her eyes shut for a brief moment. "A year after we left, they began rebuilding Lothering. I'm sure you've heard the tale of how it was destroyed and I ended up here from my official biographer." Though how much of the tale Varric told to the public was the truth, and how much was gross exaggeration was questionable - she knew that he had told the bare truth of what he knew to Fenris. She had sworn never to recount that tale again after she had told Varric, and while he knew the truth, he never stuck to it. The Champion had to be larger than life, but telling his crowd-pleasing epic to Fenris wouldn't have ended well. "I lost a lot there, but part of me still wishes to return. If only to close that chapter of my life for good. Besides, I'm pretty sure King Alistair was hinting heavily at me returning. Might pay to stop by in Denerim. It's probably the smallest city you'll ever likely to set foot in."
He chuckled slightly and Hawke felt it as a brush of warm air on her neck, rather than hear it. He placed another kiss on the side of her neck. "Then we will go to Ferelden. When you are ready."
"I expected more reluctance than that."
"Why? There is only one reason why I remain here, and if that reason leaves for Ferelden then I shall follow her without protest."
Hawke was dumbstruck, blinking blankly at his words and their meaning and going slightly limp in his arms. She didn't notice him take the goblet from her hand or place it on the trunk in front of them bed, though she was vaguely aware that his hold on her had changed. She was smiling distantly without knowing it. She had heard him say similar things before, but every time it seemed to take her by surprise and leave her floundering. He seemed to enjoy doing it too, as he took the opportunity to slip a hand inside of her robe while his lips trailed her jaw line. His touch roused her from her stupor and she turned her head sharply to catch him unaware, her lips crashing into his with surprising force considering that he distinctly had the advantage of position.
She twisted in his arms, fighting for position while unwilling to break contact. He gave ground, letting her turn to face him enough so that he could deepen the kiss. She let him take the lead, forgoing their usual struggle for dominance over the simple enjoyment of the moment until they came up for air. She ran a gentle finger along the lower edge of his ear and down his jaw line, a faint smile on her face. "I suppose that's a good thing," she said, finally commenting on his remark. "Because I could never leave you behind."