So... I decided to finally put in an author note here, six months after beginning the story. Didn't have one when I first posted it, mostly because I've never written a fanfiction story before; in fact, outside of schoolwork, this is the first story I've ever written. And it was originally only meant to run for the first three chapters, just a little snippet of an idea I had one day which refused to leave me alone. I wanted to see what I could do with it, so I had a go and posted. After getting over the shock and (very pleasant) surprise of being asked for more, I decided to try and take the story further, and... it sort of grew from there. A lot. And will continue to grow, unless fell circumstances prevent me completing it (e.g. untimely, tragic death at a young age, or possibly just a massive head trauma rendering me incapable of coherent or complex sentences. Or a lot of flaming, heart-and-soul crushing reviews. Or if the machines attempt to take over and enslave or kill all organic life-forms, as usual. Or something). Otherwise, I plan to see this through to the end now.

This is a fanfiction devoted to the relationship between the utterly, preciously adorable Merrill and the lovably sarcastic (female) Hawke, since they are my absolute favourite pairing, I love both of them to pieces and, while the in-game romance is sweet and lovely, there is simply not enough of it to satisfy me, so I wanted to try and expand on it. So it's much, much more focused on their growing relationship rather than recounting all the events and quests in the game. It will have some, of course, but mostly I'm just trying to add more romance stuff to satisfy myself and supplement the game, I guess. As this story formed in leaps and bounds without a story plan to speak of when I began writing it, the chapter lengths vary, at least at first. So bear with me and take your time (because it has gotten quite long now, I know). I've never really been a fan of first person stories, strangely enough, but this story is in first person present tense (it wasn't going to be, but then it somehow ended up that way... like I said, no story plan, but it seemed to work, so I went with it) and switches POV from Merrill to Hawke.

Oh, and in case you haven't noticed yet, this story is rated M. There are (tasteful) love scenes and various adult themes. There is also a depiction of attempted rape and quite a bit of violence, as hopefully you gleaned from my story summary, which also has trigger warnings. But I will place them here again to be sure. This is a hurt/comfort story as much as it is a romance. In fact, the hurt/comfort genre tag is listed first in my story to make certain you are warned that violence in various forms is a feature of this story. The world of Dragon Age is a violent one, and such things do happen. They are alluded to in the game, heavily implied and spoken about if not shown outright. If you read on and are upset by the scenes depicted in my story, I'm sorry. I did the best I could to warn of such content. You need not read my story. It isn't mandatory.

That's about it, really, except to say I hope you will enjoy reading this story as much as I enjoy writing it.

I am writing it for myself, really, and choosing to share it with you, so please bear that in mind if you feel the need to send me a message or post a review. Please be kind, and if you can't be kind, be constructive. If you can't be either, frankly I'd rather you didn't say anything at all. Just leave it be. Again, you do not have to read my story. I've stated quite clearly what it is about.

Also, standard disclaimer - Bioware owns the Dragon Age world and the wonderful characters who live in it. I just play with them.

Thanks for giving this story a chance,




xxx M xxx

By the Dread Wolf! If I'd known I was going to get so lost on my way home from the market, I would have left four hours earlier! But, since I was only there for an hour, that would have meant I would have left before I arrived, in which case I may as well have just stayed home, and I did so want to see the night market, with all the lanterns and torches and people wandering around bumping into things. It wouldn't have been just me for a change. Ah, well, at least I got to see it, and now I see the Hanged Man, so I think I know where I am. Thank the Creators! It shouldn't take me too much longer to get home from here. My feet are killing me. I wish I'd worn shoes with soles, now.

It is a hot night, so I am not wearing my chainmail, just a long tunic, and I left my staff at my house. I didn't want to bring it with me just to go to the market, after all. I hardly think I'll need it, though. Varric has told me I shouldn't walk alone at night, but I'm not worried; nothing ever happens. I'm thinking about Hawke, as usual, as I make my way home; I can't seem to keep her out of my head! Not that I mind, of course. I like thinking about her, but when I'm with her, it gets awfully distracting. I look at her and think about the things I've been thinking about her, and then I blush like mad and babble like a fool, stumbling over my words like a da'len who hasn't quite mastered talking. She's so beautiful and clever and good, and she says the funniest things! I wish I could say funny things too. I mean clever things, not just rambling, foolish things that make everyone laugh at me. That's really not the quite same thing. It seems to happen a lot when I'm around Hawke, unfortunately. She must think I'm such an idiot.

As I pass by the Hanged Man, I see a group of humans, all men, loitering outside. One of them elbows another of his fellows and points at me, and his friend looks over and sneers. He puts his hands behind his ears so that his two first fingers on either hand stick out above the curved rims, and he makes a face and jeers; "Hey, little sharp-ear, a pretty little knife-ear!" I pick up my pace nervously. I can handle myself in a fight with Hawke and the others, but we are usually out on the Wounded Coast, or inside, or underground, somewhere where there's no witnesses to our use of magic. Apart from whoever's attacking us, of course, but, well, they usually aren't very chatty by the time we're through with them. Here, alone, I can't risk it; I don't want to end up in the Gallows. Or headless, if the Templars catch wind of my blood magic. They'd cut me down on the spot, if they knew what I was, and I'd really rather they didn't. I'd look pretty silly without a head.

I turn into an alley, and find myself staring at a dead end. Oh. Well, this isn't right at all. If only I had thought to bring my ball of twine. I hear a harsh bray of laughter behind me and turn to find the group from the outside Hanged Man blocking the alleyway, nudging each other and looking at me. I try to keep walking past them, but they surround me, all of them staring like wolves stalking a halla. Suddenly I'm filled with dread and terror, I look wildly around for an escape but there is none: they are all around me. I reach for my well of power but realise I can't take them all, not without my staff; some are sure to escape and run for the Templars. I hesitate for an instant, and in that instant I'm lost, as one of them grabs me from behind and drags me deeper into the alley, the others following and laughing.

The man holding me has his hand over my mouth, and his other hand grasps both my wrists tight, twisting my arms up behind my back, hurting me. His breathing is hot in my ear as the other brutes quickly gather around me, closing us off from the view of the street. Not that anyone passing by would risk their necks taking on a pack of thugs just to stop them from having their fun with some elf girl. I struggle as hard as I can, but the shem grasping me is big, and he has no trouble holding me still as he drags me to the ground, still gripping me from behind. The one who taunted me in front of the Hanged Man steps forward from the rest of the group and gives me a swift, vicious kick in the ribs. Pain explodes in my side, and I cease my thrashing, trying desperately to breathe in enough air with my mouth still covered.

"Pretty little knife-ear," he snickers. He kneels across my body as the brute holding me laughs cruelly into my ear. "Nice piece of fresh meat! Just the way I like it, young, tender and juicy. Time for a taste, eh, boys? Get an eyeful of this!" He puts his hands to the neck of my tunic and rips it open right down the front, exposing my body to all eyes. "Oh, yes, we've lucked out tonight! Just look at that," he sniggers, running his hand over me. I flinch and try to struggle again but my arms are still pinned behind me, crushed against the shem restraining me. With one filthy hand still wandering over my bare skin, the man before me takes a knife in his other and cuts away my underclothing, and I whimper in shame and fear. My body is now completely exposed, naked and utterly vulnerable. The beasts all laugh and hoot in appreciation, and the man on top of me starts unbuckling his belt. "Me first." The one behind me still has his hand over my mouth, and he moves his other hand to grip me around the chest, hand on my breast, fingers grasping, groping, bruising my flesh, and it hurts, it hurts so badly... The man above me forces my legs apart with his knee and starts pulling down his trousers. Oh, Mythal, no, please... I can't stop myself and I wail in helpless terror, but the sound is muffled by the rough hand clamped over my mouth. The bastard holding me gives another malicious laugh as he grips my breast even more tightly, more painfully. The hand on my mouth slips a little and I twist my head quickly, sinking my teeth into the meaty flesh of his hand. He curses and pulls it violently away and I take the chance offered, drawing one sharp, desperate breath.

I scream her name. A futile hope, I don't know where I am, why would she be near, how could she hear me? Yet, in my desperation and fear, I call for her to save me, even as I know it's hopeless. The brute who is about to take me snarls and backhands me viciously across the face, so hard that for a moment my vision goes black, but I manage to cry out once more before the other slaps his hand back over my mouth, one more time, just one word:


And suddenly she is there, a whirlwind of death as she slashes the throat of the one who hit me, then turns her blade on the brute holding me down. She pulls me to my feet without looking at me and stands protectively in front of me, dropping into a battle crouch, shielding me from the remaining men, her eyes never leaving them. One of them starts toward her, his face twisted in anger, but she snarls something at him, as fierce as Fen'Harel, and he stops in his tracks. I don't know what she said, my mind isn't working properly, did not register her words, but whatever it was, it's effective. She is dressed only in a light, short robe, as though ready for bed; no chainmail or armour, not even boots, and she hasn't got her staff, either, her only weapon is her belt knife, but the men freeze, then begin to back away. Perhaps there was something in her face, her fierce eyes, that promised death. The men leave us at a run, scrambling over each other to get away from her.

She turns once she's sure they're gone, and looks at me. Her brilliant eyes are blazing like blue flame as they gaze into mine, concern and fear and rage warring unrestrained over her beautiful face. Her short, night-black hair falls across her eyes. I realise she is saying something, and my mind struggles to process her words.

"Merrill? Merrill, are you alright? Are you hurt?"

I don't answer her. I can't speak, I can't move at all. I'm frozen, clutching my ruined tunic to me, trembling. Hawke notices the condition of my clothing, and she makes a sound, like a cry of outrage and distress combined. She quickly takes off her robe and pulls it over my head, taking the remnants of my tunic from my hands and letting it fall as she dresses me in the clothes off her own back.

"Hawke," is all I can manage to say as she hugs me close. It's all I ever want to say again. Her arms are tight around me, her hand is stroking my hair. This is real, she's here. Everything will be alright now. I suddenly find myself sobbing, quiet sobs of relief, at first, but they come harder and deeper and I can't stop. I suppose I must be in shock. Suddenly my legs won't hold me anymore, and I sink to the ground. She follows me down, she doesn't let go, cradling me against her and stroking my back soothingly. I cling to her. I can't stop shaking, can't stop my tears. She lets me cry into her shoulder, rocking me gently and murmuring soft reassurances, telling me I am safe now, that she will never let anyone hurt me like this again, never.

Eventually my sobs subside, and she strokes my hair back from my face. She smiles gently at me. "You're safe now, Merrill, I promise."

I look up at her. "I-I know, Hawke. You're here. M-ma serannas, lethallan." The tears have left a tremor in my voice, but I feel calm now, safe. No one can hurt me.

Hawke is here.

My hands are warm against the skin of her back, and I blush fiercely, suddenly realising that she is dressed in nothing but her underclothes as she presses me against her. She seems aware of this, but she doesn't seem to care at all. Her concern is only for me as she stands, pulling me gently to my feet, never letting go of me once, holding me close and safe.

"It's over now. My house isn't far: let's go and get changed, and I'll take you back to the alienage. I will stay with you at your house tonight, if that's all right? I don't think you should be alone."

I nod gratefully, unable to speak, and she looks down at me, her soulfire eyes tender and fierce and caring and sad all at once. Keeping one arm wrapped around me, she lifts her other hand and tenderly wipes away my tears, then leans down and oh so gently kisses my forehead.

"I will always keep you safe. I promise."