An Evening with Varric
Marion coughed and braced her hands against the ground, forcing her aching body to respond. Rubble and dust fell around her. She dodged quickly to avoid a fist sizes chunk of stone that fell from above her. Only her rock armor had saved her from being crushed. With a careful wave of her staff, which she was relieved to see was still in her grip, she disengaged the armor. Her natural Lyrium levels were already dangerously low. She stood slowly, experimentally, checking herself for wounds. Her leg smarted, but she knew it was only bruised. Otherwise she was unharmed.
She forced words out through her dust clogged throat, trying to be heard, but in reality only managing a strangled whimper. "Varric? Fenris?" she spluttered.
"Hawke!" the cry was very faint. She darted towards the sound, weaving through the rubble. Why oh why had they chased those bandits into the derelict building? She knew the think was likely to come down at the slightest provocation, and using fire magic inside had not been one of her better ideas. She abandoned her staff for the moment, grabbing a large hunk of building with both hands as she hauled it free. Beneath it she saw that her elf companion, Fenris, had been trapped.
"Oh Maker, Fenris," Marion gasped, her staff in hand once more. Her palms already glowed with pale blue light of healing magic. The elf was in rough shape. Broken bones, torn flesh. She also knew that Fenris felt his wounds more acutely than most, thanks to the Lyrium that his old slave master had viciously tattooed under his skin. Fenris would never admit this weakness. "Come on, please," she breathed, forcing her magic to be its most potent. Fenris was barely breathing.
A few moments later Marion slumped back, exhausted from channeling so much power, even if it was healing magic. Sweat beaded on her brow and mingled with dust, making her pale skin muddy. Her bright eyes flicked over Fenris' still form. At least his breathing was more even. She knew he still had a lot of damage, but that would have to be sorted out by Anders. She was out of strength,
"Hawke!" the urgent call made her turn. She felt an instant surge of guilt. In her concern for Fenris she had forgotten the second companion she had brought on her nighttime excursion. In fact, he was the very man who had gotten her the job in the first place.
Varric slid expertly down a wall, which leaned awkwardly so that it was practically horizontal. He hurried to Marion's side, looking down at Fenris' prone form. "Is he gunna make it?"
"I think so," Marion replied hoarsely. "Were you hurt?"
"Not bad," said Varric, extending his arm towards her. His forearm was bloody.
Marion gave the wound a very quick glance. "Here," she said, ripping her robes and winding the tattered bits around Warric's wound. "This will have to do for now. I've got no magic."
"That's fine," said Varric stoically, allowing himself to be bandaged without a flinch.
"Do you think you can help me carry him?" Marion asked, looking worriedly at the fallen elf.
"No problem," Verric replied stoutly. "I may be short, but this guy probably weighs two pounds soaking wet." he strode over and slid his forearms under Fenris' armpits.
Marion willingly took Fenris' legs. Though her limbs shook, still worn out from having used all of her natural Lyrium stores, but she bit down on her lip and forced herself to lift and carry her companion. "We'll go to Fenris' house. It's nearest," she instructed.
"Alright," Varric replied, and the two began their painfully slow trip through the rubble and debris.
Once they were free of the fallen building Marion and Verric had to be careful. The city guard was already gathering and the job they had been on was: "not, strictly speaking, completely legal" as Verric had explained when he had offered it to her. She guessed that even Avaline would not be eager to help them out of this jam. The guard captain looked the other way so many times that Marion wondered how she didn't get a crick in her neck.
She and Varric managed to manhandle Fenris down a few quiet by-streets and into the back door of the mansion he inhabited. Then they hauled him up the stairs and lay him on the large, once lavish fourposter that stood in would-be majesty in the corner. Marion felt like collapsing then and there, but instead she turned to see what sort of medical stores Fenris kept. "Can you send someone to find Anders?" she asked Varric as she strode from the room to begin her search.
"Right," replied the dwarf, heading back down the stairs.
Several minutes later the two reunited in Fenris' room. "I sent a street urchin after Blondie," Varric explained as he watched Marion begin to work on the injured elf. "Children are usually fast, and a hell of a lot easier to bribe than adults. They don't ask questions. Don't look a gift Nug in the mouth"
Marion did not reply. Her focus was on her charge. She bound his ribs, set his arm, stopped the bleeding from a gash in his forehead. All the while she used her lightest, gentlest touch, knowing that even the slightest physical contact could cause the elf discomfort if he wasn't ready for it. She heaved a sigh and stood back from the bed. "I think that's all I can do."
"How's he doing?" asked Varric, who stood behind her, not so near as to get in her way, but near enough that she sensed his constant presence.
"I think he'll be alright. Especially once Anders gets here," Marion flexed her wearied limbs slowly. "That was an adventure I am not eager to have again," she gave her companion a wan smile.
"You said it," agreed Varric. Then he turned away from her, as though trying to conceal something. He failed. She heard him let out a faint grunt and saw him sway slightly.
"Varric?" Marion asked urgently, rushing to his side. Once again she felt deeply guilty for ignoring her second companion in favor of Fenris. "Are you alright?" she asked, kneeling at the dwarf's side.
"I'm fine," Varric said, trying to shoo her away with a vague motion of his hand.
"No you're not," Marion said, her green eyes wide with concern, "you've bled right through your bandage! Sit!" she commanded, ushering Verric to a somewhat aged, but sturdy chair near the cold fireplace.
"Really, Hawke, this is nothing," Varric assured her as she hastily removed the makeshift bandage, which was slick with his blood, and soaked through.
"Varric, you're bleeding a lot," she said firmly. She stopped, looking him in the eyes with the steely glare usually reserved for her foes. "Are you dizzy at all? Light headed?"
"No," Varric chuckled. "I'm a dwarf, Hawke. We're made of stern stuff. I'm alright, I promise you."
Marion ignored his protestations, handing him one of the clean bandages left over from seeing to Fenris. "Hold this to the wound. Keep the pressure on," he instructed.
"Always do," the dwarf grinned impishly.
She shot him a glare as she stood and gathered other supplies. "I said pressure!" she scolded when her unwilling patient lifted the white cloth to check his wound.
"Sorry," he said, giving her a mock-ashamed expression.
She loaded her arms with what remained of Fenris' meager healing supplies, then bustled back over to Verric, who was watching her with one eyebrow raised, a smile playing faintly on his thin lips. She noted mildly that when he smiled his eyes wrinkled at the corners and seemed to sparkle with an almost fey-like glint. She tried to scowl at him, in her best impression of her mother, but it was difficult. "Alright, let's see," she said, kneeling beside the chair.
"Look at you, Hawke. Fussing like a mother hen," chuckled Verric.
Marion was about to retort, but instead chewed her already severely gnawed lip. The wound was a deep one, almost to the bone. Valuable forearm muscle was torn. "I'm going to have to sew you up," she said quietly, "it'll never mend without help."
"Go on then," Varric was still upbeat. She met his eyes and they still sparkled. She felt slightly more heartened. Yet she felt like there was a stone in her chest as she carefully dabbed the wound clean with a damp cloth.
"I'm sorry Verric. I shouldn't have ignored you." Marion said guiltily.
"You keep apologizing. You forget that I was the one who got you the job that dropped a house on us."
"Still," she muttered. Then she stood and fetched a needle and thread from a pile of mending that Fenris was never going to get around to. She tested the thread and she had enough magic to sterilize her small tools before she knelt beside the dwarf again. He gazed calmly back at her. She did note that he wasn't as talkative as he normally was, however. "You ready?"
"I love it when you hurt me," he gave her a winning smile.
She couldn't fail to smile back. It was like a yawn, Varric's smile. She saw it, and trying to prevent her own smile in response was like trying to prevent the sunrise. Then she looked back to his arm. He put aside the bandage, which he had dutifully holding in place, per her instruction. Steeling herself she began to stitch the ragged edges of the wound together. She tried to keep her motions smooth and even, as well as a quick as she could. Verric offered no sound, nor did his face seem to stir from an expression of calm acceptance. After two neat stitches she heard the faint squeak of leather and glanced over to see that his gloved free hand had balled into a tight fist. Still his face showed no sign of pain, even as he joked, in a mildly strained voice, "your stitches are so neat. I think you're in the wrong profession. Forget Hero-ing. Take up a job as the village seamstress."
"Or sawbones?" she remarked, giving him a wicked smile just to pick up his spirits.
He chuckled, "Blondie has that one covered, I think."
"He doesn't have my delicate touch," Marion joked, snapping the thread after she had carefully tied off the end. Now the wound was a long, puckered line down his arm. Almost like a mountain range on a map. She pressed a cool cloth over her handiwork. "There we go."
"Very nice," Verric commented, "I'll have to tell my friends. Soon people will be lining up for blocks just to be stitched by you."
"People will be cutting their arms open so as not to miss out," Marion said, re-wetting the cloth and setting it back onto his arm. She glanced at his other hand and noticed that it was still locked in a tight fist. Her heart gave a sad little flutter. How had she let her friend bleed so long? Slowly, almost without thinking, she reached her own hand over and set it atop his. Her touch was gentle, like a bird alighting, but her slim fingers closed over his gloved knuckle. He didn't comment, or even glance over, but his hand relaxed beneath hers.
"So," he asked, "what shall we talk about?"
Marion realized for the first time how close she actually was to him. Kneeling there in front of the chair. She could practically smell his breath. "We need to rehydrate you," she said, by way of changing the subject. "I think all Fenris has is alcohol."
"I see no problem with this," Varric grinned.
Marion stood, giving him a playful glare. "Water it is. You lost a lot of a blood. Dwarf or no."
"You worry too much," said Varric, bracing himself to stand. He didn't make it far before collapsing back into the chair with a sound that was half groan, half laugh. "Oouf. Oh sure. Now I'm lightheaded. Just to prove your point. Did you drug me?"
"Of course," Marion said, as he held out his good hand to accept the cup he held towards him. "Now drink this poison all gone."
"Yes ma'am," Varric made a mocking toast and downed the water in one gulp.
"It's not ale," Marion scolded, folding her arms. "Go slow, you'll upset your stomach."
"I've never been drunk under the table, and certainly not when the drink was water," he retorted coolly.
Marion refilled his glass, her mouth twitching into a smile again. "Have you ever been hurt like this before, Varric?" she asked, sitting down on the floor in front of his chair.
"What on this arm?" he gave her a puckish grin before taking a swig of water and continuing. "I know what you mean. Of course. Loads of times. I am in a dangerous line of work. Here, see?" he set down his cup and pulled the hem of his tunic free from his belt.
"Oh no!" chortled Marion, "don't undress please! I'll go blind!"
"Very funny," Verric snorted, but he gave the tunic another tug and exposed a long scar on his side. "There you are. I almost died that time. This little cut on my arm is nothing to that. So there, miss Hawke."
Marion reached forward and touched the scar with her fingertips. "Must have been a deep cut," she said quietly.
"Oh it was. Bianca feared the worst," he reached over and patted his beloved crossbow, which rested on the floor beside the chair. He pulled his tunic back down. "How about you?"
"Oh, I have a few scars," Marion pulled up the sleeve of her robe and aimed her elbow at the dwarf.
"Not bad," he said, eyebrows raised. "How'd you come by that one? Fighting that ogre perhaps? Facing a dragon?"
"Carver did it to me. With a sharp rock he found when we were little. He was pretending it was a dagger, and it was my turn to be the darkspawn."
"Ouch," Varric grinned crookedly. The corners of his eyes wrinkled again and Marion felt her heart lighten. "If I tell the tale I think perhaps you will have been the one doing the fighting, and the darkspawn will have been real."
"And of course, I fought them off with only a sharp rock," Marion added gleefully. Getting into the tale herself.
"Well of course," Varric chuckled. Then he winced faintly and looked away from her.
"You don't have to do that," she said, moving to look him in the face.
"What?" he asked, meeting her gaze, once again in control.
"Hide your pain."
She expected him to have a witty retort for this as well, but instead he looked at her face on. His eyes were small, but intense. Pale brown, almost gold, she thought. His eyebrows came together slightly as he seemed to consider her. "You do too," he said after a moment.
"What are you talking about?" Marion looked away hastily. She suddenly felt exposed. As though he had read her mind somehow.
"I know you blame yourself for your sister's death."
Marion felt a jolt, like electricity, rush through her. She gnawed her raw lip uneasily. She couldn't look him in the face, but then his good hand was under her chin. His fingertips touched her skin and she followed his guiding gesture upward until she was meeting his gaze again. She felt the distant threat of tears, which she had refused to cry, tickle her throat. "Carver does. Carver blames me. So does my mother."
"And you've just been taking all this blame on yourself?" he asked, a concerned look in his expressive eyes now.
"I have to. It helps them. Helps Carver and Mother to have someone to blame."
"And now your brother is a Templar. He hunts apostates. What are you?"
"I think Carver always hated the way Father looked at Bethany and me. We were his brave mages. His wild, free girls. Carver has no magic. He feels so far from our father." Marion admitted, with a slight shrug. "I know you don't like him much, but he is a good brother. He'll keep the other Templars off my back."
"Well, it's good you have that arrangement," Verric said, though he still wore a slight smirk.
Marion moved to bind Varric's arm with a clean, white strip of bandage. "You'll have to keep this clean and dry now," she instructed.
"Yes, doctor," the dwarf nodded sharply. The corner of his mouth was still turned up.
Marion glanced up from her work at the fond, somewhat weather-worn features. She was always so at ease with Varric. With Fenris, with-whom she had been cultivating a very tentative relationship, she felt on edge. Like any moment he might snap, realize she was a mage, and slaughter her. Varric didn't really have prejudices or pass judgments. True, he was not fond of Carver, but she always suspected that was because Varric was offended on her behalf for her brother's blatant dislike of mages. Besides a sharp tongue and a dirty mind, she had found Varric to be stalwart, brave, and true.
"You're creeping me out now," his voice woke her from her reverie.
"Huh?" she shook her head to clear it.
"You're staring at me like you're completely lost in some other world," Varric pointed out. "Did you take a blow to the head that I should be worried about?"
"No. I was just pondering things," Marion said evasively as she tied off the bandage end.
"Oh really?" Varric raised an eyebrow again. She knew a snappy retort was on its way, but before her companion could come up with one, Anders strode into the room, concern visible on his youthful face. "That boy you sent took three tries before I could understand what he wanted!"
Marion showed her healer friend the extent of the elf's injuries. Soon Anders was at work, the blue light of his healing magic filled the room. Marion spoke quietly to him as he worked, telling him what happened, and where Fenris' worst wounds were. Finally the healer stood back, heaving a sigh. "I think he'll manage from here on. He might be out for a while. I can watch over him tonight if you like. You look beat"
"Thanks, Anders," Marion smiled wearily at her friend. Then she remembered something else. Varric had risen from the chair and stood, watching over the two mages as they worked. Bianca leaned lovingly against his leg. "Anders, Varric is hurt too. Can you heal him?"
The dwarf stepped back, holding his wounded arm away from them, a firm expression on his face. "Oh no. Hawke did such a wonderful job with this arm, no way I'm letting you get rid of her handiwork, Blondie."
"Varric," Marion felt her mouth twitch into an admiring smile in spite of herself. "Come along now. Anders could make it so it doesn't hurt any more."
"Maybe I'm done hiding my pain," Varric retorted, sticking out his impressive jaw like a strong willed child.
"At least let me-" Anders knelt and slipped a loop of cloth, with precise quickness, over Varric's head and under his injured arm to form a sling.
"Thank you again, Anders," Marion smiled, touching his arm. She knew that her fellow mage fancied her, but she already felt enough turmoil at her own identity without bringing another magic user into the mix. Especially not one with such extreme ideas. Anders liked to stir things up, where as she liked to keep a low profile. Still, she was fond of him as a true friend. "I'll be by first thing tomorrow to check on him."
"Alright," the blond mage dipped his head in goodbye nod. "See you then."
Marion and Varric walked quietly out of Fenris' decrepit mansion and onto the quiet High Town streets. The lanterns were lit and white moths congregated, silently fluttering to and fro. No one was about except the occasional guard, who little noticed them. Marion, even in her tattered mage robes, still had the bearing of a noble. She wasn't sure how or why, but even her friends commented on how she carried herself. Varric glanced sideways at her, then, still smiling that same impish grin, he stuck out his good arm. "M'Lady?"
Marion chuckled. He cut quite a figure, standing straight as he could, arm held out in gentlemanly fashion, awaiting her response with his eyes twinkling like the lamp flames. She couldn't help herself. With a feminine giggle she lay her hand delicately onto his arm and they began to stride down the street like proper nobles. Never once did Varric falter in his fashionable posture, though he was unable to put his injured arm behind his back where it belonged.
"So M'Lord Varric," Marion began, in her best impression of a regal voice. "Hast thou ever loved a lady besides beautiful Bianca?"
Varric considered, sucking on his teeth the way nobles sometimes did. Marion had to put her free hand over her mouth to stifle the huge smile that was spreading there as the dwarf strutted comically along at her side. "Yes, I have indeed, once. Now, however, the glorious Bianca is the woman for me."
"Is she? The only one?" Marion asked, her put-on accent slipping fractionally.
Varric didn't answer. He was quite for a moment, though he maintained his straight-backed walk, arm out at a perfect angle for her to rest her hand upon. Marion noticed that his face was shadowed by her and wished she knew what his sparkling eyes were doing. She changed tact, "who was the lady you loved before Bianca?" she asked.
Verric stuck his jaw out to the side, making a show of pondering again. He was back to his same old, playful self. "I do not recall her name," he claimed haughtily. "As I recall she was a terrible cook. Burnt my soup one too many times, so I had her thrown on the stable's dung heap."
Marion giggled again, pretending to fan herself with her free hand, "My goodness. I did not know you had such a temper, my dear Varric."
"Indeed I do, M'Lady Hawke. You would not believe. You so much as steal my spoon at dinner and you will soon find yourself suspended by your nipples over a tank of fire ants."
"My goodness," Marion faked a swoon, "such talk! Oh, my delicate ears!"
The two joked and put on airs all the way back to Marion's house. They stopped at the door and Varric finally relaxed his posture, letting his arm drop from beneath her hand. They stood for a moment, in the faint light of the lamp left out by her mother, knowing that her adventurous daughter was often out to all ours. Neither Varric nor Marion seemed eager to move on. She shuffled her feet and Varric wasn't making eye contact. Finally he cleared his throat, bending at the waist in a stiff bow, "well...good night then, M'Lady Hawke."
"Varric." he stopped, already turned half way from her. He turned back, looking her in the eye. They both knew what they each wanted. Varric took a step towards her. She bent down. He wasn't going to stand on tip toe for her and she couldn't blame him. Their lips met. Hers were full, his thin, but he combination seemed perfect, meeting flawlessly in the cool, dark evening. The kiss was long, but seemed somehow pure, Marion thought. He didn't try anything, and neither did she. It just felt blissful and right. Finally she stepped back, with what she could only imagine was a stupid grin on her face. She grinned even more when she saw that Varric had reached down to his crossbow and appeared to be covering Bianca's view of their kiss.
"Would you like to come in?" she asked timidly.
His eyes glittered, but he shook his head, "I think not. I would sooner taint a perfect rose than you, my dearest Hawke. A gentleman, be he dwarf or man or mage, does not take advantage of the passion of the evening."
She knew he was being over-the-top as always, but she appreciated what he meant. She felt herself blush slightly, "well then," she dipped a curtsy "I bid you goodnight, Varric."
"Good night, Hawke," he said, smiling again, and taking her hand to kiss it. At first she thought he was play acting again, but as he delicately touched her hand with his lips she knew that a more earnest gesture had never been made. Then he strode off into the city darkness, waving over his shoulder as he would to any old friend when they parted ways.
Marion smiled, still feeling the warm blush on her cheeks. She touched her fingertips to her lips, remembering the kiss. Then she turned and walked into her house.