It had been a simple request at first. He was good at sneaking, lithe and silent, and she trusted him to get the job done. All she wanted was to send a message to her sister – a message that would not be poured over by the templars before it got to her, a message that could be completely honest without getting everyone into more trouble. Fenris agreed to the task, and even scouted the route out in advance to ensure he would not get caught. Bethany had waited up for him, and they had not exchanged words other than a quiet thanks and a murmured good luck. He did not stay for more than a minute.
A few weeks later, Hawke approached him again, scroll in hand and eyes wide and mournful. From Mother, she had said. Fenris agreed to go again, and once more few words were exchanged between him and the younger sibling. She had never been one to waste words around him – in fact, he could not remember a time when they had ever conversed, save for a few words in battles alongside Hawke. But even he could tell that she was withdrawing into herself. Perhaps, he had wondered, it was something they taught mages, to help control their powers. Anders was quite the extrovert, after all, and look where that had gotten him!
He never comments on that, though. He is not completely tactless.
Life goes on.
It becomes like a ritual, over the next few years. He invariably finds her waiting, that calm look on her face belied by anxious eyes, hands always folded neatly together. He finds this reassuring, somehow, though he has never feared her. They rarely speak, though she will sometimes stop him for a few seconds longer, asking after Varric or Isabela. He always leaves within a minute. Their silent accord suits him well.
Life, for Fenris, continues in much the same vein. The house he has taken fills with dust and occasionally someone will comment on it – Merrill offers to clean, once, but his sharp glare sent that idea packing. It is not that he enjoys living in squalor – it is simply that this is not his home, and never will be. Why should he treat it so?
In the meantime, Varric comes to him every month or so with news of the Imperium – though never of Danarius, who seems to have evaded him once more – and his days, when not accompanying Hawke on a slaving operation shut-down or playing Diamondback with Varric at the inn, are often spent training or meditating. He learns to read, though writing is still beyond him, and Varric teaches him math in relatable terms – such as how many slaving groups they had killed.
The notes pass between the sisters sporadically – words that cannot be uttered to templars, he assumes, personal woman-gossip or some such nonsense. He pays the content no mind. He is just the messenger.
It is dark when Hawke brings her mother's body home. Wrapped in an old curtain they had found at the house, the woman is lovingly lain to rest in the hallway before the defeated adventurer slumps into a chair by the fire. For the first time in a very long time, she does not know what to do – but her friends do. Varric sends Merrill to find Leandra's brother, and Sebastian heads to the Chantry to set the funeral plans into motion, whilst Isabela crosses to the desk to begin penning the sad news to be distributed to the town officials, and Fenris… well, Fenris climbs rooftops. It was only right, he knew, that she should know tonight rather than in the Circle gossip tomorrow, or worse – an impersonal vetted letter through the Templars. There had been no planned meeting point, but he knew where she would be.
He is silent as he drops down from the high windowsill, moving silently through the bunks until he finds her. She looks utterly at peace in her sleep, and for a moment he is loathe to wake her. It must be a terrifying burden to bear, he thinks. But this news should not wait. Gently, he nudges her shoulder, just enough to pull her from deep sleep, before repeating the motion – he does not want to startle a mage awake, but time is of the essence.
Her eyes slowly blink open, focusing slowly before widening. "Fenris?" Her throat is clogged still with the effects of sleep.
"You must come with me," he whispers.
"I must ask you to trust me. I… know that must be difficult."
"Not at all," she frowns, legs swinging out of bed. "Why wouldn't I trust you?"
And that has him reeling slightly, like miscounting the steps to Lowtown and having the floor rush to meet his foot.
She wears only a cloak over her nightrobes, and it is not a warm night. After much internal debate, Fenris decides that the most efficient way to get out of the Circle is to carry her. He regrets this move when she shivers against him as they tiptoe over windy rooftops. But his feet are quick and they soon find themselves outside the estate.
"I… must warn you, this will not be easy."
She sighs against him. "I fear the worst."
And so you should, he thinks, pushing the door open. Inside the entrance hall, Varric and Anders exchange awkward conversation with a distraught Bodahn, and from within the main room can be heard Hawke's crying. But Bethany ignores all of this. She slides down from Fenris' back carefully, silent as the sounds of her sister's gutwrenched sobs ring through the house. Her eyes are fixed on the covered form. Varric moves, almost protective of the body.
"Don't look, Sunshine. You won't find a second of peace if you do."
At his remark, she sways slightly, nodding. Fenris means to pull away, to allow her space to grieve, but… but she should not be alone, not in this state.
Suddenly her sister appears in the doorway, face red and streaked, breath stilted.
"I'm… so-so-sorry…" she keens, and runs to her little sister, the pair clinging tightly to each other like survivors in a storm. Knees crumple and they wind around each other, their tears mingling as they weep. Their friends, duty done for now, retreat to the main room, though Fenris lingers at the doorframe, eyes still on the sisters. It is not until Isabela, carrying several envelopes, joins him in his vigil that he realises who he was staring at.
He gets her back into the Circle long before dawn, carrying her carefully in his arms. She is asleep, body overtaken by sheer exhaustion, and he struggles to get her back into her bed comfortably. She wakes, for a short moment, and the sorrow is painted all over her face. He hesitates for a long, silent moment, before pulling the blanket back over her.
"I… don't know what to say, but… I am here."
She squeezes his hand, her eyes already closing again. It is enough.
They meet often. He tells her of their little world, their band of companions and her sister's adventures. In turn, she teaches him about mages bound by watchers, and the kindness that springs in the darkest of rooms. He learns more about her, the girl overshadowed by a powerful sister and left behind by a mother and brother who had been taken too soon. He begins to believe that perhaps there is someone in the world with whom he could share his insignificant life.
Life goes on.
"Anders almost killed an apprentice."
She sits up at that, watching him carefully. "I cannot believe he would ever let that happen. He's fighting for us."
"He's fighting, alright. Fighting himself."
"Is Justice really that powerful now?"
"I do not doubt he has always been so. But it suited him to allow Anders to run around and pretend he was in charge." Shoulders tense, he shakes his head. "He had the gall, once, to claim that he could control that… demon. I did not realise how far I had believed him. Never again."
Bethany shivers, and he relaxes.
"I am sorry. I should not trouble you with this."
"It's fine, honestly. I just… worry. My sister probably stopped him, right?" He nods, and she smiles thinly. "Of course. Always putting herself in harm's way."
"Na via lerno victoria. 'Only the living know victory.' Hawke is no fool, but she can be… foolhardy, at times. I have often questioned her choice in companions."
The mage raises an eyebrow. "Including yourself?"
"Well, I'm not exactly a shining example of sensible decision-making," he admits with a wry smile. "After all, I seem to remember that on our first meeting I called you a viper."
"First impressions are rarely accurate," she points out.
"And I, for one, am glad."
The blush on her face brightens his day.
Life goes on.
The Arishok lies dead, and Bethany is waiting for him. It is a long climb, however, and he tires quickly. Crawling into the window, his arms finally give way. The mage rushes forward, pulling him in.
"Maker, Fenris, what happened to you?"
"Ah, then the news has not reached the gossips yet? Your sister risked all for love." He sounds approving, though exhausted. "It transpires that the relic that Isabela had stolen belonged to the Qunari. That was why they remained – and despite our best efforts, they were determined to take her back with them as well. For their own trial, I assume."
Bethany inhales sharply, beckoning him to sit down. The elf is cold against her, but she leans into him, supporting him. "No way would she stand for that."
"Indeed. She challenged him to a duel."
"The… the actual Arishok?"
"She won, you know. The Qunari left."
"And she's not… she's not hurt?"
"Only a little, and nothing that won't heal in time. Isabela left for her ship within the hour, and I surmise that Hawke will hurt most from that."
"What? Why? I don't understand."
"Neither does Isabela, I think," he chuckles, running a hand through his hair and letting out a long sigh. "But she will return, when she is ready."
"Fenris, explain it to me. Please."
He turns to look at her, surprised at how close her face is. Such eyes. "I, ah… it's a matter of… pride, I think. She still tries to hold Hawke at arms length, and this show of dedication has made her think. That is my theory, at least."
"Oh." She thinks on this, her eyes sparkling in the dim light.
"Well. Varric's theory." He swallows. "You know how he is."
"You still haven't explained how you got yourself into this state." She turns to regard his various scratches and scrapes. Eyes to get lost in.
"We fought many Kossith to confront the Arishok. I simply judged an opponent incorrectly and paid the price. Please, don't worry. I have been healed to the best of Anders' ability." He struggles to straighten up, muscles aching, but his arms are still weak and he slips, jaw smacking against her shoulder.
"Sorry." He reaches up to rub her shoulder better instinctively. She tentatively takes his wrist and he flares up, bright and blue, eyes finding hers.
"Oh! Sorry, I didn't mean t-"
He leans forward, wrist slipping out of her grasp as he presses his lips against hers. Soft and warm and the taste – is this what surprise tastes of? And then she sighs against him, a gentle palm placed on his shoulder, and it is as though a light has come on in the world and for the first time in a very long time, Fenris can see. He can -
- come on! Mother will be waiting, little brother! -
He pulls away sharply, hand clutching at his head, eyes wild. "Kaffar!"
Bethany looks dazed. "What?" But he is already retreating, shuffling into a ball. She reaches out to him but hesitates, not wanting his tattoos to flare up again. "Fenris…?"
"I… I can remember… I…" His breath hitches. "A sister… I have a sister…?"
"You have a sister? You can remember her? That's good! That's really good, isn't it?"
He nods, before shaking his head. "I… I do not know… I'm sorry, I shouldn't have…"
"Hush," she murmurs, gently folding him into her arms. Head on his shoulder, she smiles sadly. "It's alright. I'm here."
They remain til dawn.
He leaves with more apologies, and Bethany is haunted by his kiss.
The world collapses around their ears, and Hawke and Isabela stand hand in hand, braving the storm. A step behind, as ever, Varric and Aveline share a look that speaks of loyalty and thanks. Merrill murmurs a prayer to the Creators. And Fenris -
"Where are you going?" yells Aveline as he breaks from the group into a run, though he is already too far to answer her. Feet light on the ground, he flies down the steps towards the Gallows. Already there are templars and mages battling, casualties on each side. Hawke had made her choice, but it did not matter right now – he had made his. There was only one person in this whole sorry mess worth fighting for. Sword drawn, he charges into the building.
He owes it to Hawke, in a way. Though she would never call him up on it, he still felt a lingering debt of honour to the woman for everything she had done for him, from the very moment they had met over the still-twitching corpse of a slaver. She had given him closure and resolved his purpose in life, helped kill his greatest enemy and her master, taught him to read… and somewhere along the way had given him the chance to talk to an extraordinary mage who had taught him so much more. He owes it to Hawke to save her sister – it will be his parting gift.
Ahead of him, he can see her – a force to be reckoned with, she whirls around, hand already engulfed in flames ready to strike the next foolish person to assault her.
He stops before her, sword in hand. "I could not let them take you," he says simply, and she blinks. "I met my sister, in the end, and killed Danarius. I have nothing left, I thought. But that is… not quite true."
"I would spare you this fight, Bethany Hawke. You have nothing to prove to anyone. You are a warrior and a peacebroker in equal measure, and I would ask for nothing more than you would give me." He tilts his head slightly. "Would you start again with me?"
She is speechless for a moment, and he takes the opportunity to defend her as a templar seeks a lucky break – the man is left with one arm and a quick death, before Fenris looks to his mage for an answer.
"I… I would love that," she whispers finally. "But how do we get past everyone?"
"Leave that to your sister," he says with a wry smile, before jerking his head to the door. She follows his lead.
They stop at the archway of the Gallows. At the bottom of the steps, Hawke stares at her sister, some desperate plea to join forces already on her lips. His hand finds hers, fingers lacing together, and Bethany turns her head to smile briefly at him. Below, her sister freezes – an unforeseen development. Isabela rests a hand on her shoulder gently, and behind her Varric is chuckling. Hawke raises her hand – a farewell, she realises, as her sister and her friend return the gesture before breaking into another run, disappearing into the smoke as the sound of battle draws closer.
"They look good together," murmurs Isabela, "and you know they'll look after each other."
"I… yes. I guess it was just a surprise…"
"I know what you mean." She nudges her, the moment passing. "Come on."
Hawke grins. "Unavoidable destiny time?"
"Always, with you around."
The group plunge into the fray, and into the history books.
In the ashes of the fight, a letter smoulders.
I do not know whether you will ever read this. Perhaps you are dead – no, I think you are blessed to live on through these tumultuous days. Blessed and cursed. But I hope this reaches you.
Even as I write, panic is spreading through the Circle. The apprentices are all crying out for help, but I have to finish this letter. With Carver, I never got the chance to say goodbye. I hope that I still do get that chance today, but this is just in case.
Should we never see each other again, never doubt that I love you. I hope that you and Isabela are happy together, finally. And if I never see you or our dear friends again, tell them all that I miss them… especially Fenris. I love him, you know. Did you know that he still came to see me long after we stopped writing to each other? I have struggled inside here, but he has given me hope – hope that I can one day be happy again, even though we have lost so much, and hope that one day, others like him may also see our point of view. My powers come from the Maker – it cannot be His will that I should be punished for them. But I do not want to harm people to prove myself. I hope that it does not come to that, though my hope is hollow.
I hear fighting. I'm sorry. May the Maker bless you and keep you. And may we meet again, dear sister.