The day had been productive, with yet another group of bandits wiped out. He should be tired, but he was not. Instead, he was restless, uneasy, as he stalked towards the small campfire. Dusk was ever so slowly giving way to night, the first few stars glimmering above the horizon. Hawke sat on the ground near the fire, her knees tucked up to her chest as she stared absently into the flames.
The weight of the book he carried felt heavy, still almost forbidden, in his hands. He shouldn't be bothering her with this. She had wasted enough time on him as it was. Isabela, despite appearing deep in conversation with Aveline on the other side of the camp, gave him the briefest glimpse of a smirk and a raised eyebrow. He scowled, too close now to turn back without looking more a fool.
"Fenris." She turned her head slightly to look at him. "What can I do for you?" Her eyes were rimmed with smudges of purple, nearly black in the fading light. When had she become so tired? How had he not noticed?
He shifted the tome behind his back. "Nothing. Just coming to sit by the fire. May I join you?"
"You don't need my permission, surely. Sit."
A log shifted, sending a few errant sparks chasing into the grass near her feet. Fenris settled himself down awkwardly, suddenly aware that he had nowhere to put the book down without it being obvious. After a moment's hesitation, he placed it down on the ground next to him on the side away from Hawke, hoping it was obscured from her view.
"Good day, today." Her voice was quiet, but it carried easily in the evening hush. She continued to watch the flames, her chin resting on her knees.
"Yes. It is satisfying work, at least."
They sat in silence, the stillness broken only occasionally by the plaintive call of a bird or the crackling of the branches settling in the fire. Whatever reason was keeping Isabela and Aveline away, he was thankful for it. The pool of light enveloped them now, with only darkness beyond. Hawke glanced at him again, swivelling her body slightly but not bothering to lift her head.
What had happened to make her look so weary? Was it because of that… abomination? His anger and jealousy—yes, he could admit that now, at least to himself—surged through him with alarming speed. He balled his hands into fists and his voice was tight when he spoke. "Is everything all right? You look tired."
She gave a small shrug. "I am tired, I suppose. The last few months have been difficult. It seems like everyone has something they need done right now. It doesn't help that Anders has been run off his feet at the clinic, so I haven't seen much of him lately."
"Why don't you get some rest? I will take your watch, as well as my own."
"Thank you for the offer, but I couldn't do that." She lifted her arms up over her head and stretched. "Aveline's on first watch. Did you want to work on your reading a little before I turn in?"
Was he that transparent?
"I… did not want to presume. If you are too tired..."
"I don't mind. We can sit over there, if you wish a little privacy." She gestured towards a massive tree, its branches laden with blossoms, slightly uphill from their campsite. "Let me fetch a lantern." She rose gracefully with another stretch and made her way to her tent.
Fenris stood up as well, brushing the dirt from the seat of his trousers before picking up the book. Although his reading had dramatically improved over the past few months, he couldn't deny that he still felt extremely self-conscious about the whole process. He walked slowly up the hill, the sweet scent of flowers growing heavier. The moon was a buoyant globe drifting overhead, its light trickling through the branches to cast patterns on the ground as he settled himself at the base of the tree. Looking down over the camp, he could see the bobbing light of Hawke's lantern as she walked, stopping briefly by the fire to exchange words with Aveline. He opened the book in his lap, sliding out the slip of parchment that he was using to mark his place. He flushed a little at the scrawled words that covered it, folding it in two and sliding it between the last page and the back cover.
"Ready?" Hawke's voice startled him and he flinched.
"Yes. Thank you."
She smiled, setting the lantern down near their feet and plopping down next to him. She was sitting too close; he could feel the warmth of her body next to his, though she was careful not to touch him. Despite the overwhelming floral fragrance that hung in the air, he could smell the delicate scent of the soap she'd used to wash with earlier. They had all been grateful for the shallow creek that threaded through the hills here, allowing them the precious opportunity to bathe and remove the reek of blood from their skin. The scent brought a memory with it, a night so long ago now when he'd buried his face in her shoulder, their bodies eager and wanting. He forced himself to take a breath. That was over now. He had walked away, she had… the apostate. There was nothing between them.
"If you don't start reading soon, I'm going to fall asleep." Hawke leaned back against the trunk of the tree with another smile.
"Of course." He cleared his throat and began to read, tracing along each line with his finger. Having read several books of history, they had moved on to poetry, and Fenris had been surprised at how much he had taken to the form. The language and imagery were like fragments of memory—moments of sadness, of wonder, of beauty. Every so often, Hawke would stop him to correct a word, leaning across his body to point out a particular spelling or pronunciation. She was pressed lightly against his side now, and he struggled to ignore the sensation, focusing only on the words on the page. He leaned forward, bent over the book in the pale light of the lantern, when the gentle touch of her hand on his arm made him jump.
"Hawke, you know I do not—"
"Shh… look!" She pointed up into the branches of the tree.
He looked up and stopped, her hand forgotten. "What are they?"
Above them, hundreds of the delicate creatures—were they butterflies?—were darting in to perch on the blossoms, their wings a phosphorescent lyrium blue in the moonlight. The entire canopy was faintly illuminated, as more and more of them fluttered down to rest like jewels amidst the leaves.
"They're moths, I think, but I've never seen these before. They certainly didn't have them in Ferelden, anyway. They're so beautiful." Hawke gazed up, transfixed.
"They are… incredible." Fenris watched one flutter just over his head, like a star close enough that he could have plucked it out of the air.
"Oh! I'm sorry." Hawke pulled her hand away, suddenly realizing it was still resting on his arm. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."
"It's fine. Thank you." He hated these walls that had grown up between them; it made him long for a bottle of wine to lose himself in, to pretend for a while that he was not the one responsible. He shifted imperceptibly away from her. "Perhaps I will continue reading now."
She nodded, her eyes lingering on his face until he began to read once more. He glanced at her briefly once he had finished the page, but she didn't notice; she was staring up into the blue glow filtering through the leaves, her head resting against the tree trunk. As he continued to read, the ephemeral light from above diminished, wings dimming and the shadows on the grass returning. Hawke yawned—she was pressed next to his side once more—her corrections a low murmur. Only a few pages later, her head began to droop against his shoulder.
He should move, wake her up. But, he did not. Instead, he closed the book, laying it on the ground, as he turned his head to breathe in her scent. After a long hesitation, he rested his cheek against the top of her hair, trying not to tremble.
He wasn't sure how long they sat there; it seemed like only a few minutes had passed when Aveline came quietly up the hill.
"She's exhausted, isn't she?" she whispered.
Fenris gave a small nod. "She does too much. I will be taking her watch tonight." He spoke softly, hoping not to wake her. "Can you carry the lantern?" He stood up carefully, lifting her easily into his arms. She stirred slightly, but didn't wake. "I will take her to her tent."
Aveline lifted the lantern and started back down towards the camp. He would have to come back for the book. Hawke shifted, nuzzling her face into his neck, and it made his throat feel strangely dry and tight. She'd lost weight since he'd last held her. He blinked and strode off after Aveline, chasing his thoughts away with a growl.
Her tent was the furthest away in the half-circle that surrounded the camp fire, and he knelt carefully at the entrance, adjusting her position in his arms so he could move forward on his knees. It was awkward, but he managed to inch up to the edge of her bedroll without dropping her.
"Sleep well, Hawke," he whispered, laying her gently down on top of her blankets.
"Mmm…" She reached up, her hands threading through his hair as she pulled him down and kissed him softly.
A shock ran through him at the contact, and he froze. Her mouth was so warm on his, the taste of her flooding back, along with a host of other memories. The cold solidity of the wall behind him as she had pushed him up against it, her mouth bruising his as she'd claimed him. Her lying breathless and naked on the bed, eyes hungrily watching him undress. The heat of her skin, burning and overwhelming his senses as he'd taken her, seeking his release with a wild sense of abandon.
Without realizing what he was doing, he was kissing her back; a rush of desire sweeping through him, strong and relentless. He never should have walked away. Everything was on fire and there was nothing but her as her tongue teased his lips. He opened his mouth, allowing her entrance and biting back a low moan as his tongue met hers. She broke off the kiss with a happy sigh, her eyes still closed.
"Anders…" His name was barely a breath as she rolled over on to her side, but it ripped his heart from his chest all the same.
With an angry scowl, he backed out of the tent and walked back to the fire and Aveline. "Go and rest. I will take Hawke's watch and my own before waking Isabela."
Aveline gathered up the armor she had been cleaning. "I've built up the fire for you. Here's hoping it's a quiet night."
When Aveline had vanished into her tent, Fenris stomped back up the hill to retrieve his book. Anger pulsed through him, and the familiar pain of his markings beginning to glow coursed across his skin. He welcomed the pain, forcing them brighter, enjoying the burn. He deserved this. He'd always known that there was never any chance for happiness; he'd just been fooling himself.
He scooped up the book at the base of the tree where it was partially covered in what appeared to be leaves. These had not been here before. Crouching down, he picked one up, turning it from side to side.
Not leaves, the moths.
The ground was littered with them, brown and lifeless, their bodies crunching beneath his boots. He stood there for a long moment, his anger bleeding away into a profound sense of loss. What was the point of having something so beautiful only to have it fade so quickly?
He made his way back to the fire and sat down, the urge to drown himself in wine impossibly strong, but he had none here. Carelessly flipping open the book's back cover, he yanked out the scrap of parchment and made himself read the words he'd written, all probably misspelled. He would not make this mistake again. He would make himself hurt until he'd learned his lesson.
Harsh violent beauty
Dance of blades
A conflagration in her touch
Carving channels through my flesh
Into unknown lands, I tread
Chasing visions of her loveliness
Satisfied by the bitter ache that now filled him, he crumpled the parchment in his fist before tossing it into the fire, watching as the flames hungrily consumed it all. With a growl, he threw the book in, too. It burned quickly; after only a few minutes, there was nothing but ash. Fenris buried his face in his hands, wishing he could throw himself in as well.
He was a fool.
A/N: This is for Hatsepsut, who had asked me to write some smutty Fenris, but I just haven't been able to get the muse to cooperate. As soon as the image of the tree filled with glowing moths came to me, I knew right away that it was going to be for Fenris' story. I hope you like it anyway. :)
Super special thanks to the speedy Josie Lange for giving this a look over with her beta stick. I really appreciate it!