Hawke was floating.
Floating, like during those short summers back in Lothering in the local lake when it was just warm enough. She felt almost pleasant, except there was a distinct dullness to it, like when her ears were underwater and she became sweetly unaware of the world. Nothing but water and sun and peace.
Hawke thought 'Bela would like it. She was a sailor, wasn't she?
Where was Isabela?
When she opened her eyes, it was dark. That lovely pleasant feeling was gone and instead her head felt heavy, as though she'd spent a particularly rowdy night at the Hanged Man. Her mouth felt and tasted like cotton, and when she tried to lift her arm to pull back the covers, she found that her limbs were just as limp and sore as her skull. She groaned.
Even that hurt.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a candle floating towards her and a familiar face.
"Aveline," Hawke muttered. She blinked at the light, wondered when Aveline had decided to look like Andraste. "Dead. Must be. Sorry I couldn't kill the-the Arishok. You're here now, too." Hawke would have flopped back in defeat, but she could only manage to look sorrowfully at Aveline.
Aveline almost sagged over with relief. Even though Hawke was muttering some nonsense or other, she was alive. Brilliantly, bravely, stupidly alive. "You're not dead, you bloody dolt," she muttered, panicking at the prickling at the back of her eyes. "Maker, you damned fool. You almost were dead."
"Not dead?" Hawke blinked in confusion. "Oh. You're not dead either?"
"Not dead. Alive. All of us are alive because of you." Aveline quickly lit several more candles and leaned closer to examine Hawke. "You were lucky. Even Anders didn't think you'd... well. It was a damned good thing we know two apostates because we were sure you'd be on the other side of the Veil now. How are you feeling now?" Asked Aveline.
Hawke looked down at herself, still covered. She had no idea what wounds she had, only that she couldn't move very well and the blankets felt like when Garrett accidentally rolled on top of her when she was asleep. "Like shit, I suppose. I don't really know." Hawke suddenly yawned hugely, tears forming at the corner of her eyes. "Mmm, tired, though. Did Anders give me the good stuff?"
"Merrill did, actually. Something to take the edge off. Do you think you can eat?"
Hawke tried to lick her dry lips. Aveline, seeing the motion, reached for a glass of water.
"Drink slowly," she warned, sitting on the bed to support Hawke as she rose.
Hawke gingerly grasped the glass and was raising it to her lips just as Garrett dashed into the room and threw himself onto the bed. Water sloshed over the edge and over her mouth and nose. Hawke inhaled some of the water out of surprise and gasped as her immense mabari crawled over her legs and happily licked her face.
Garrett licked her mouth, pressing forward so eagerly that Hawke fell back on the bed, trapped by eighty pounds of solid overjoyed canine.
"I can't breathe, you mutt," Hawke said, tugging feebly at his collar. "Maker, your breath is revolting. What did you have for dinner? Fish again?"
Chuckling, Aveline pulled much more firmly at Garrett's collar. "Down, boy. Your mistress is still healing and I don't think her ribs enjoyed your attention."
Garrett whined and tucked his head more firmly against Hawke's chest, his powerful body resisting Aveline's tug.
"I won't drop dead if you leave my side, you mongrel," Hawke growled. But if Aveline didn't know better, she thought she heard a bit of affection in those gruff words. Garrett allowed himself one last sloppy lick before crawling off Hawke's lap and curled up at the foot of the bed.
"It must have been bad if my damned dog is this happy to see me."
"Your dog is always that happy to see you," Aveline retorted, handing her a towel. "If you wanted to know, you were out for four days. It's evening now. Do you want me to fetch you a new shirt?"
Feeling more energized, Hawke waved off the offer. "It'll dry. Bloody warm in here."
"You had a bit of a fever. Anders said there was an infection, but he got most of it. He said the fever would be inevitable."
"Lovely." Hawke eyed her dog, who was watching her with barely restrained joy. "I can feel you moving the entire bed, you beast." To emphasize her point, she tossed the towel at his great head. "I don't remember any of it. Was it bad?"
Aveline hesitated. It'd been very bad, in fact. Anders had been more worried that the fever would finish the job the Arishok had left behind. Because thinking about it shook her far more than she wanted to admit, she instead pasted a smile on her face. "Not that bad."
Garrett caught the towel in his mouth and leaped up, charging back to Hawke, happy for an excuse to play with his mistress. "Bloody hell, don't you dare try to crush me again."
"Leave the dog alone," Aveline laughed, watching Garrett shove his nose under Hawke's chin. "You'll only provoke him."
Hawke scoffed as she grabbed one end of the towel. The mabari's tail began to wag furiously as he tugged the other end, though taking care not to pull hard lest he hurt his mistress. "Weren't you the one who was training him? Look at him, he's just a giant puppy. What kind of war dog are you?" She demanded, twisting the towel a bit.
Garrett woofed without releasing the cloth and shook his head, lowering his body down to the bed when he saw Hawke starting to look more flushed. He loosened his grip and looked expectantly at Aveline.
The captain of the guard gave him an affectionate scratch. "Good boy," she murmured. "I should get Anders and tell the others you're awake," she told Hawke.
"It's late," Hawke protested. "And I don't want to be surrounded by fawning fools."
"They won't fawn, you fool."
"Ha ha," Hawke snorted. She glanced at the cold plate on the nightstand, suddenly feeling hungry. "Though..."
Aveline smiled. "I'll have Bodahn warm something up for you. But a hot meal comes with the fools."
Hawke heaved a sigh, her hand absently going to stroke Garrett's silky head. "Very well. Bring them forth."
As Aveline left, she heard Hawke mutter, "Already have one fool here with me, don't I? At least you can't talk."
It seemed everybody had decided to stay at the estate as her room was suddenly filled with immediate friends. Anders checked her temperature and wounds, sternly instructed Garrett not to play with Hawke too roughly and told Hawke to stay in bed for another week.
"A week?" Hawke squawked indignantly. "It's a scratch, I'm not staying here a damned week."
Anders fixed her with a beady eye. "You were run clean through and your ribs are cracked and one lung was punctured. 'A scratch' doesn't quite cover the extent of abuse your body's taken. And you're damned lucky that fever didn't drag you before the Maker Himself."
"I've already been here a few days," Hawke protested weakly.
"Hawke, much as we love that fiery spirit inside, I think you should really listen to Blondie this time," Varric said, his eyes for once showing fatigue. "You won't die or lose a leg if you're in bed another few days."
"If it's boredom you're worried about, I can bring some of the better wines I found in Danarius' cellar," Fenris offered.
"And I can show you some of the games we played during the winter months," Merrill added. "Though I'm not sure if I could find a halaa and bring one here..."
Several eyes turned to stare at the elf, who only continued to ponder the logistics of bringing a wild beast into the Hawke estate.
"Well, you'll have Garrett as well," Aveline added, a faint smile on her face. "I'm afraid I won't be able to shirk guard duties much longer, but I'll come by when I'm off-duty. You're among friends, Hawke."
Hawke, her hand still on Garrett's head, asked casually, "And where is our favorite pirate?"
The silence was telling. Even Varric avoided her eyes until Sebastian hesitantly said, "I haven't seen her since you were wounded. I'm truly sorry, Hawke."
"Well, someone must have seen 'Bela," Hawke tried, trying to smile and finding that it was suddenly far more painful than having a sharp bit of metal shoved into her abdomen. "Is she whoring about the Blooming Rose? As I recall, she's paid up for the month..."
"Hawke..." Aveline had to force the words out. Of course it would be her, the bearer of bad news, especially to her closest friend, the captain thought bitterly, silently cursing Isabela. "Isabela is gone."
"Gone? What do you mean, gone? Was she hurt? Did some Qunari bastard take her?" Hawke heaved herself off the bed, her ribs screaming at the sudden movement. She ignored it. "I killed their fucking Arishok, didn't I? Don't tell me everybody got to see my guts for nothing."
"No, it's not that, Hawke," Merrill said soothingly, grabbing her shoulder to steady the rogue. "She, that is, I think she... left. Oh, dear, I don't mean it like that, but after you were wounded, there was so many things happening at once and when we got you back here, she stayed a while, but then she... she left." Merrill gulped as she watched the expression on Hawke's face freeze.
Her chest suddenly tight, like a great hand was squeezing the life out of her. Garrett whined as his mistress went deathly quiet, nudging her still hand with his nose.
Finally, she managed to speak. "Where?"
Varric only shook his head sadly. "My contacts said she just boarded a ship and left the same night you got hurt. Said it was headed to Antiva, but it was a cargo and passenger ship, it could stop anywhere along the trading routes before reaching Antiva."
"I'm sorry," Aveline said lamely because the look on Hawke's face was starting to terrify her. It was a mix of genuine hurt and betrayal, but what was more frightening was the brewing determination.
"You have the ship's itinerary?"
"Of course, I can ge- Wait. No, Hawke, no, you can't be thinking about going after her in your condition," Varric protested, alarmed.
"Watch me," Hawke growled. "Bodahn!"
The dwarf appeared at the door, his face filled with concern. "Yes, messere?"
"Get a ship. The fastest in port. I don't care how you get it, buy it, hire it, whatever the price, just get it. Make sure you put the best crew you can find in it. I need it done now."
"Messere, I cn find a ship, but you must rest-"
"Now, Bodahn," Hawke ordered, using a tone the dwarf had never heard from her before. Bodahn, still looking doubtful, only bowed and left.
"Hawke, you must rest," Anders protested. "The more you force your body to work, the longer the healing process will take. A sea voyage is hardly a stroll through Hightown."
More voices joined Anders's, pleading with her to stay until her body healed, but Hawke only stared down at her bandaged hands, wondering when she'd hurt them. Ah, she remembered now. When the Arishok's sword was still embedded in her and after she'd already slit his throat, sacrificing herself for that killing blow, she'd stared down at it in wonder, thinking how obscene it was, the melding of flesh and metal. She remembered feeling warm blood seeping down on her belly and her hands scrabbling weakly at the blade to pull it free, the keen edge slicing through her leather gauntlets easily. It'd been foolish, but she had been dazed and in shock, right up until she'd flopped down to the cold stone floor and mercifully passed out, the memory ending there.
But she could not remember Isabela after that even in the fragments she was able to conjure up. Thoughts of that occupied her from that point and throughout her time at sea.
And the most pressing question was if Isabela really had abandoned her so easily as Hawke feared.
The Rivaini captain watched the Champion leaning against the rail, her eyes intent on the dark land approaching them in the distance. It was still early yet, and still quiet, the skies grey and just starting to color. The morning fog obscured the coast, but any sea dog worth their salt knew the sight of Ferelden beach: cold and depressing. Not the least like the merry blue waters and white sand of Rivain.
But her eyes were on the Champion's tall, dark form. She strode to the Champion, her stride long and easy, each step landing soundlessly; a captain who knew every inch of her ship.
"You are from Ferelden, no?" She asked, stopping to stand by the other woman.
Hawke didn't take her eyes off the coastline. "Yes. A long time ago."
"You ran from the Blight?"
She nodded understandingly. "Many did. Sailors don't pay much attention to the ongoings on land unless they haven't been paid. But there were quite a few who weren't paying to ship cargo anymore."
Hawke glanced at her. "You mean shipping refugees off as slaves?"
"Yes. It was a bad time."
"I'm one of the lucky ones, then. Lucky there wasn't an outbreak on that blasted ship." Hawke shook her head, remembering the cramped quarters, surrounded by fleeing nobles as well as the poor and desperate. "How long until we reach Denerim, Cal?"
The captain, Calypso, thought for a moment. "Not long. Before noon, I suspect. You don't have to help with the morning duties," the Rivaini added. "You're paying us, after all."
Hawke simply shrugged and straightened, pulling a leather band from her belt to tie her hair back. She really ought to cut it, she thought idly, but it didn't seem quite so important anymore when she was on a ship and not under constant danger or being hied off on some mission or other that always ended in a fight. And who was going to see her? She hadn't seen Kirkwall or a familiar face in nearly a year.
"Show me more of those knots, Captain. I can at least tie those bloody sails down so we don't get blown off course."
Smiling, Cal walked with the rogue to show her how to tie knots. They were a good way to keep idle hands busy.
"Have you been to Denerim before, Champion?"
"No. And don't call me that. I don't want anyone to know I'm here."
"But the queen will certainly receive you as champion. It may help in your search," Cal pointed out, walking with Hawke through the noisy docks. The rest of the crew were unloading cargo and making their way to the city's bars and brothels.
Hawke snorted. "And I'll be mobbed by idiots and not get any actual work done. Anyway, the last one said she'd been headed here, to The Pearl. Do you know the way?"
"It's been some time since I've been here, I'm afraid, but I believe it's a nobles' tavern. I can ask for directions."
Hawke waved off the offer, spotting a few boys running towards them. "Wait here." Striding a few feet, Hawke saw a group of bellowing men wielding swords chasing them. She allowed the boys to pass, her hand whipping out to catch one no older than twelve by the back of his filthy tunic. He yelped in alarm, nearly falling on his back; only Hawke's iron grip kept him on his feet.
"Leggo, you bastard!"
"Shut your trap," Hawke said mildly as the men stopped before her.
The leader, a large man with heavy jowls, a growing paunch and a broadsword in his hand, pointed a meaty finger at the cowering boy. "That little shit robbed me," he panted, trying to catch his breath. "'Im and his mongrel friends. Hand the bugger over and I'll show 'im what happens to thieves."
"You let this little scrap rob you?" Hawke said, contempt evident on her face and tone. "Perhaps a better eye on your purse than your drink would do you some good." Ignoring the man, Hawke turned to the boy and shook him as though he were nothing but a puppy. "Do you know where The Pearl is?"
"Wha-?" The boy blinked through dirty blond locks. He'd been certain he'd be turned over instantly for a beating. "Uh, yeah. It's in the nobles' district."
"Take me there."
"Now, wait jus' a minute here!" The man blustered. "That shit needs to be taught a lesson! And I want my fuckin' coin back!"
"I told you, I don't have it!' The boy snapped and shrunk back as the man shoved his broadsword at him.
"You little liar! Come on, just hand 'im over. No skin off your nose what happens to a filthy brat like 'im." The man's friends made sounds of agreement.
Hawke only looked at him, her eyes icy. "The brat's my guide now and he'll not come to any harm, least of all from you. Now, move along." Her voice dropped and her eyes turned even colder. "If you want to make a scene, the only thing on display here will be your blood and guts all over the docks. Leave."
The man flushed nearly purple, his breath wheezing furiously. His eyes flicked to Cal coming behind Hawke, her hand placed on her scimitar, then to Hawke's fine leather armor and weapons that no commoner or even templar could have afforded. Finally, he lurched back, barking something rude, and stalked away with a last furious look at the boy.
"I'm going to release you. If you run away, I will not be pleased. Do you understand, boy?"
The boy nodded, his eyes wide. Hawke released him. "Take me to The Pearl."
As he led them, Cal fell into step beside Hawke. "You could have just asked for directions," she murmured. "It could have turned quite ugly there, Champion."
Hawke shrugged. "It seemed most convenient."
Cal simply kept her smile to herself. The Champion didn't like being called soft.
After carelessly tossing the gaping boy a gold sovereign and sending him on his way, Hawke strode into The Pearl. Her eyes swept over the worn, but well-kept tables and chairs, the gleaming bar and warm fire. A far cry from the Hanged Man, Hawke thought, noting the cleaner and better dressed whores and even better heeled patrons, who looked more like middle class to wealthy merchants and lower nobility. It was hard to imagine Isabela being comfortable here, and even harder to imagine that she'd met her cousin here.
Hawke turned from the door and to the bartender. He gave her a smile in greeting and tucked his dry cloth away. "Good afternoon to you, madam. What would you like today?"
"I'm looking for someone. A Rivaini pirate. She'd have passed through here not long ago." Hawke idly dropped a small sack of coins between them.
But the man did not take the coin. Instead, he eyed it doubtfully. "I am very sorry, madam, but I have not seen a Rivaini here. We've many travelers stay here and a Rivaini would have stood out, but I haven't seen any."
Hawke almost sighed with disappointment. "Are you the only one who works here,then?"
"I am here most days, but sometimes in the evening there's someone else here who takes my place. Her name is Bella."
Hawke's hand twitched and flexed before she forced it to relax. "Where can I find her?"
The man jerked his thumb over his shoulder. "She's the co-owner. She should be in the back. I'll take you."
Taking the purse, Hawke followed the man into the backroom. Opening the door, he stuck his head into the room. "Someone here to see you. Says she's lookin' for someone, a Rivaini."
"Oh? Send her in."
Hawke walked in, the tension easing slightly as her eyes settled on a pretty woman with red hair and brown eyes. She rose from behind her desk, coming around to greet her. "Hello. I'm Bella, the co-proprietor. And you are?"
"Hawke. I'm looking for someone."
Bella gestured for her to sit as she went back to her chair. "Ah, you're Fereldan! I wouldn't have thought it by the look of you, but do forgive me, I've been on my feet all morning." Sitting down with a grateful sigh, Bella waved at the ledgers on her desk. "You know, I was once a barmaid. Someone once told me I was meant for more, even offered to take me off during the worst of the Blight, but here I am, buried in books in our country's great capital. I wonder sometimes if I'd ended up somewhere else if I'd taken up on her offer, but alas. No point in dwelling on the past, yes?"
Hawke only nodded, her fingers twitching again as she remembered her own past. "Perhaps."
"Hm, you're looking for a Rivaini, is that right? We don't see too many pass through here. Those that do usually stick to the dock taverns and don't venture into the city, most being sailors."
"Most are pirates." Hawke smirked mirthlessly. "Rivain is infamous for it."
Bella gave her a conceding nod. "So it is. Is it a woman you're looking for? If so, there was one who came by, oh, about three weeks ago. She's known hereabouts." Bella smiled, the kind of smile that Hawke was becoming all too familiar with. "Lovely woman. I'm afraid I didn't even get her name."
Hawke's hand fisted tight over the purse, the coin edges digging hard into her palm. She couldn't even summon the urge to be angry, to be hurt. Instead, she only felt numb and a vague sense of cold amusement. "Did she have a piercing under her lip? And a golden necklace?"
"That sounds about right. She's the one you're looking for?" Her face fell. "Oh, I do hope she wasn't your..."
Hawke stood and dropped the coin onto the desk. "No. Not anymore. Thank you for your time."
Cal pushed away from the wall she'd been leaning on as Hawke walked out. "Did you find her?"
Hawke began to walk back towards the docks, the captain falling in step beside her. "We're done here."
"Where to next, then?"
Cal blinked in surprise, but kept her thoughts to herself. "Are we to leave now? The crew will be tired, eager for at least an evening on shore."
"Then let them stay the evening, but we set sail tomorrow."
"I told you not to call me that," Hawke snapped, stopping short when she felt a hand on her arm.
Cal's grip softened, her eyes meeting Hawke's. "You have been searching for a very long time, Hawke," she murmured, her voice almost purring her name. "If this is to be the end of your search, why not stay? Even for a little while. Enjoy the spoils your homeland has to offer."
"I want nothing from this place," Hawke said, her tone short. "My home is Kirkwall, now."
"And from what I understand, Kirkwall demands a great deal from you. Even now, word reaches that its people yearn for their Champion, especially without a Viscount in their precious Keep. Unless responsibility is your desire, I would invite you to stay here. Think of it as a... vacation."
Hawke's eyes seemed to darken as she took in the Rivaini's meaning. "And what would you suggest, then?"
Cal smiled. "I know the docks here. They're the same as any other place, but only a good captain knows the best spots."
The last time Hawke was forced to sleep on a ship, she'd been lodged in the hold of a filthy ship with countless other Ferelden refugees. The experience had not endeared her to ship life, but when one owned the ship, paid the entire crew's salary and commanded the captain's suite, she found the experience far more agreeable.
Cal shifted her head to Hawke's shoulder, her eyes settling on the dangling necklace Hawke held over them. The covers rustled as her hand cupped the necklace. "What is it?"
"Something I picked up in Rivain. A seer gave it to me," Hawke answered. Her fingers were still tangled in the leather string, but she let Cal tug it free. "She said it was meant for love and fertility."
"Ah, a Rivaini fertility talisman." Amused, Cal traced her thumb over the intricate smooth stone. "How whimsical. I wouldn't have expected you to buy such a thing."
"I didn't. The seer said it was meant for the one I was looking for. If I gave it to her, she'd stay by my side."
"Mmm, it's a lovely trinket. I'm afraid I don't place much stock in mystical trinkets, Champion." Smiling, she handed the talisman back to Hawke. With a lazy stretch, Cal rose from the bed, the dim candlelight turning her olive skin to bronze. She began to gather her clothes, slipping her shirt on and tugged her long raven locks free.
Hawke sat up, the covers falling to her waist, revealing her bare skin. "Cal."
"Hm?" Cal found her breeches and was lacing them up when she turned to Hawke. "Yes, dear Champion?"
"I want you to have this." Hawke held out her hand, the talisman on her palm.
Her eyes widening in surprise, the Rivaini sat down on the bed by Hawke, her hand closing Hawke's fingers over the talisman. "I'm afraid I cannot accept such a gift."
Temper flared in her blue eyes, but Hawke kept her tone mild. "Why?"
"We both know it was not meant for me."
"I thought you said you didn't take stock in silly mystical trinkets, Captain."
"And you would be correct. But this gift was meant for your Isabela. Give it to her, once you've found her."
Hawke reared back, her lips twisted in an ugly sneer. "She's left me. Do you understand? This entire fucking voyage was to find her because I couldn't let go and she's gone. In every port we've searched for the past fucking year, all I've found is former lovers, some lovers still in their beds after the bitch's left. It doesn't matter if I find her or not because for all I know, I'm chasing a fucking ghost. Here." Hawke thrust the talisman at Cal, her face a mixture of cold fury and determination. "Take it. I know there is no us, that we'll reach Kirkwall in a few days' time and probably never see each other again, but let me leave this behind. I'd like to hope I won't be forgotten as easily as she has."
Cal was silent for a long moment, her eyes on the talisman. Then, carefully, she took the talisman and wrapped the leather string around Hawke's wrist and brought her lips up against Hawke's to silence her protests.
"I won't forget you, Hawke," Cal murmured, her hands cupped around the talisman. "And I don't think Isabela has forgotten you either. Give it time. And give this to her. Sometimes silly mystical trinkets are meant for certain owners."
Hawke only turned her face away, her expression closed off. "I'm sorry to trouble you, then."
With a sad smile, Cal finished dressing and walked out on deck. The damp cold night air almost immediately chilled her, but she didn't hurry away to her cabin. She glanced up at the moon and surrounding stars, knowing from the position exactly the position of the ship and how long it would be before they made landfall. Feeling silly, and maybe just a little sad, she did something she hadn't done since she was a child: she offered up a prayer.
Then when sleep called to her, she strode away, alone.
A/N: This is a fill for a prompt over at the Dragon Age kink meme. I just realized that the actual prompt summary is a bit long and I don't think I can copy and paste it very well without giving you an extremely bloated AN, but the gist is this: Isabela/Hawke rivalmance, Hawke reluctantly spares Castillion to allow Isabela to have her ship, Castillion kidnaps Hawke, tortures her, Isabela finds her, super, SUPER guilt trip over the entire ordeal, Hawke will/almost die, etc. with some guidelines that are not required, but the prompt did ask for. So, yes, you already know straight off where this is headed. However, since the angst potential is already off the charts with that kind of prompt, I decided to build a back story to possibly explain why Isabela left for three years after the end of Act 2 and how Hawke coped with that.
If anyone is interested, a portion of chapter two was posted at the kink meme with the same title. As always, thanks for reading and please drop a review!