A/N: Bringing this monster back again. I have 11 chapters to post and I still haven't written chapter 12 from last time... Maybe eventually...?
Isabela is a liar.
Hawke knows it the moment she meets her. She knows Isabela's type. She's never trusted it. The warm and charismatic hide knives behind smiles. Hawke prefers treachery to be up front. She may have to work with Isabela but they don't have to be friends. Isabela flirts. Hawke pretends to not notice.
Viktoria Hawke is an icy bitch.
Aveline and Varric may like her but Isabela isn't impressed. Hawke doesn't speak unless she has to. A smile would crack her face. She can't take a joke. She's not that great in a fight, despite her exaggerated reputation. She's sanctimonious. She doesn't flirt. Isabela can't get a scent off of her. Hawke's a ghost.
She's tall and slender. Her hair is long and black as coal. She's pretty. Even with the scar across the cheeks and bridge of nose. Not one Isabela would mind having a tumble with. Tumbles don't mean anything.
Sod it. If she gets Hawke into bed, she gets Hawke into bed. It might be fun. No use in letting a terrible personality ruin a perfectly shallow thing.
They're at the docks. The sun is magnificently hot but Hawke doesn't seem affected. She turns her head in Isabela's direction, not breaking the conversation she's in with Aveline. Isabela studies the long black coat she wears. There is loose thread along the seams of the shoulder; the red sash around her waist is bright as blood. Hawke is hard. Her pale blue eyes are cold and sharp like a knife.
"So, you're an apostate." Isabela says.
"It's late, Isabela. Shouldn't you be drinking yourself into oblivion?" Hawke stands before a rectangular wooden table, worn and gray with wood that splinters in every direction. It's another 'abandoned' warehouse in the docks. It looks like every other one used for nefarious purposes. Varric uses it to hide some of the items he'd prefer the city guard stay away from. He's shared the space with Hawke and Isabela who collects more questionable items: poisons and pricier goods that don't belong to her. Hawke comes here to get away, to have some peace and quiet. To make traps.
Hawke focuses on the trap in front of her. It's more complicated than she's used to making but it will be more effective because of it. She does need to concentrate. Isabela needs to go away. "Unless there's something you need help stealing?"
"Not tonight." She perks. "Would you be game?"
Isabela tsks with disappointment. "I'd hate for you to not be dreadfully dull."
Hawke studies the mechanism, looking at the pressure plate. Isabela comes closer. Her hand is set to touch on the table. Hawke flicks her eyes in her direction. Her gaze strikes Isabela like a warning. Isabela shifts her attention to something else. She lifts the staff that Hawke has leaning against the wooden railing. It is tall and ominous looking. Her fingers tread along the smooth dark wood. "Don't touch that."
Isabela looks at Hawke, grins and touches it. Her hand slides up until she's gently cradling the skull mounted on the end of the staff. "This thing smiles more than you do."
"And it will have more teeth than you if you don't let it go." Hawke abandons the trap for the time being and looks at Isabela. She wishes that Varric hadn't shared the warehouse space with the Rivaini. She's a nuisance.
"You talk the talk, Hawke but you don't walk it." Isabela rolls her eyes and sets the staff aside. "Come on—you wouldn't risk bruising this ass," she slaps it, "or these." She cups her breasts and laughs when Hawke scowls. "You're no fun whatsoever. Not even so much as a blush? Hawke makes Hawke a boring girl." Hawke takes the staff, brings it to her side of the table and returns her attention to the trap. "You're the first person I've met that can take their eyes off me. All of me."
"What of it? You're not that pretty."
"How you wound my tender feelings! I am that pretty." Isabela says. "You're just being difficult. You're a strange apostate." This subject again. Hawke narrows her eyes on the trap, reaches out to touch a spring but stops herself. "What's your story, Hawke? I'll bite. I'll even let you pick where." Hawke doesn't react. "Here you are making traps all by yourself in the middle of the night. Carver's at the Blooming Rose again, he's becoming a regular along with your greasy uncle. Anders is ranting passionate speeches no one gives a damn about somewhere, while the Kitten is no doubt fumbling her way through whatever patch she got stuck in this time, just begging someone to understand that blood magic really isn't all that bad."
"Do you have a point?"
"Sure—in there somewhere. You're not like your brother. You're not like other mages I've met. You don't care about the politics. I can't say that you ever make expressions but you seem to tire of Anders and Merrill. All mages have something to say about their plight. You say nothing. You sit in warehouses in the middle of the night and make traps. Shouldn't you be summoning demons or performing some other voodoo? Reading books… or… making charms… whatever it is you apostates do."
"I don't care about any of that." She was born with magic. It is something she must live with and work around. She could no more pick it than her hair color. It is a curse, a weapon, nothing more. "I need coin for the Deep Roads expedition and I aim to get it. Athenril wants traps, I'll make her traps." Hawke had initially stopped working for her but if there's coin to be made she'll do what it takes to get it. With Gamlen and Carver spending everything they get their hands on she must resort to sketchier means. She must get her mother away from Lowtown and back into the Amell estate. It means little to Hawke but everything to her mother. They've already lost Bethany. Hawke bites her tongue.
"Where does an apostate learn to make traps?"
"From the same people that taught you to make them." Hawke's irritation finally creeps into her voice. "And from books. Diagrams. Where do you think? Do you think I know nothing outside of magic?" Isabela raises her hands in surrender, a sardonic smile on her lips. "You've already stowed whatever it is you meant to stow away for the night so why not go and leave me in peace?"
Isabela scoffs. "And I thought Aveline had a stick up her arse. Well, no sense in wasting a perfectly good evening on you. I'll leave you to your traps, Hawke." She brushes past her and flicks a finger at a small spring. The trap stirs and claps its razor sharp teeth shut with a loud bang.
Hawke clenches her jaw. "I would have found it. You distracted me."
"I just saved your hand. Not that you ever use it for anything fun." She looks up to Hawke's face and saunters away. "Study your diagrams more closely. I'll stop…distracting you."
"What do you think of Hawke?" Isabela asks.
It's night and they're at the Hanged Man. Music flows merrily through the establishment. The usual drunken, leering men are out, as are the women who are eager for a good time, or at least some free drinks. Isabela keeps a close eye on Merrill—there are always men to watch out for, who will think to take advantage of an elf nobody might care about. Merrill's so damned naïve that it takes Isabela's vigilance and Varric's coin to keep her out of trouble.
Merrill ponders the question and takes a careful look over in the direction where Hawke sits with Fenris, Varric and Aveline. "Oh, I shouldn't say. Aveline or Sebastian will wash my mouth out with soap and I don't much like the taste of it. Does anybody, I wonder?"
Isabela sneers. "From the smell of this place you'd think some were bloody allergic." She looks to Varric's table. There's a card game going on. Aveline looks stony, as she usually does. She's piss poor at cards. Fenris broods and Varric looks the way he does when he has a trick up his sleeve. Hawke is smiling. "Did you know she did that?" She asks Merrill. "Smiled?"
"Oh my! That is a smile, isn't it? She's never turned it at me." Her cheeks redden. Isabela smirks. Merrill, flustered with Hawke. How adorable. "I don't understand Hawke. Why spend so much time with Fenris and Aveline? They don't even like mages."
"She certainly doesn't like you," Isabela says. The looks she directs at the Dalish elf are murderous at times. Anders receives better treatment but not by much. Isabela takes a long drink of her beer. "Which is impossible. Who can resist your charms?"
"Charms? I haven't made any. I was never very good at them and I don't see much point. They're a waste of time. That task has always been delegated to tranquil—" She stops when she sees Isabela's amused expression. "Oh! You didn't mean actual charms, you meant—Oh." She laughs and her cheeks redden further. "Isabela, why do you go and say such things? I can't find one person who finds me charming at all." She touches her cropped hair nervously.
"Varric adores you and so do I. The rest? They can bugger off." The way all of Kirkwall and some of the companions they spend time with can get their knickers all twisted up about a bit of blood magic irritates Isabela to no end. Aren't there enough reasons to fight and hate each other without throwing another thing into the mix? Merrill's sweet. It's all that should matter.
"Hm. When I first met Hawke I thought we'd get along, mage solidarity or what not. But she doesn't like me and Anders doesn't like me. It's all terribly lonely."
"Lonely around me? Am I not enough?" She jokes, pulling out a pout before grinning. "I can find you a bed partner. At the Blooming Rose?"
Merrill laughs nervously, clears her throat. She wipes at a dirty spot in her glass. "Have you ever noticed that Hawke goes out of her way not to use magic in a fight? Sometimes I wonder if she's very good at it. She was never in the Circle—so maybe she's never learned much? Magic is a gift but she doesn't act that way at all. I prefer Carver." She whispers the next: "He's so handsome."
"He certainly is," Isabela says and considers the younger brother. His looks aren't lacking and his arms! Swoon. But he's a little boy who bitches constantly about Hawke. Not that Isabela blames him. It must be tedious to have such a hard ass for an older sister. His skill with a sword is certainly impressive—she wonders what other talents he may have. "He is a bit daft."
"Is he? I hadn't noticed."
"Is there anything you do notice, Kitten?" Isabela asks warmly.
"Some things! I can't think of any right now…" She looks again towards Varric's table. "I think Fenris likes Hawke. Strange, isn't it? She's an apostate. He keeps looking at her when she isn't paying attention."
"I'm sure he'd like to enjoy her for a night. I'm not a fan of hers but I wouldn't mind the same." Isabela remembers their first meeting and how grudgingly Hawke had agreed to help her. She had thought the fight in the chantry might be followed by a passionate night in the sheets. They're both attractive so why not? Isabela had extended an invitation but Hawke hadn't taken her up on it. It was surprising at the time but Isabela has learned to be disappointed in her.
"What do you think of Hawke, Isabela?"
"I think she's a pompous, boring idiot."
Merrill's green eyes go wide as if she's just been told that Aveline eats elven babies. "And you'd still go to bed with her?"
"Oh, don't be so scandalized. Maybe she's good for one thing. Sex doesn't mean anything, Kitten. Sometimes you have to make the best of things. Or people." Isabela looks to the table where Hawke is throwing a card down, her smile is fuller. She looks in Isabela's direction. The smile falters. She turns back to the card game. "I can't imagine she'd be any good, though. She'd just lay there. What a cold fish."
Hawke hears nothing behind the door. If Aveline were present she'd make a joke. Hawke slips the envelope under Isabela's door. She's taken a handful of steps when the door flies open. Reflex makes Hawke look back. Isabela leans on the doorframe, barefoot, the bandana gone from her head. The left strap of her dress, shirt, whatever it is, hangs down along her arm. Black tendrils spill over her face and onto her bronze shoulders. Hawke doesn't realize she's staring.
"Like what you see?" Her amber eyes dance. "What's this, Hawke?" Isabela waves the envelope, spinning it and letting two gold sovereigns fall into the palm of her hand. "I don't charge for conjugal visits. The very idea offends me."
Hawke doesn't know whether Isabela is joking or not. It's Isabela's nature to not take anything seriously. Hawke hadn't anticipated she'd be awake. It's so early the sun is on the verge of rising. The plan had been to leave the coin and depart unseen. "Athenril liked the traps. You helped. I only gave you what you were due."
Isabela sashays over, her hips swinging sensually. Hawke notices and focuses on the floors of the Hanged Man hallways, the straw that's littered throughout. Walking barefoot isn't advisable but Isabela can do whatever she likes. She ought to know more than anyone how dirty the Hanged Man is. "A simple 'thank-you' would have sufficed."
"You, take a thank-you over coin? I'll believe it when I see it."
Isabela's eyes drop for an instant but her playful smile doesn't change. "Right you are. Well, a fool and their coin are soon parted. I'll happily take this. Thanks, Hawke. You'd have pocketed it if you were smart. Aren't you trying so desperately to collect coin for your expedition? Throwing coin away for stupid, noble ideas isn't going to get you there any faster."
Hawke shrugs. "If I'd left it home Carver would spend it at the Blooming Rose."
"Now that is a fine idea!" Isabela crosses her arms gently, her bosom pressed together in all its glory. "There's a man who knows how to have a good time. He could teach you a thing or two. You're not here to screw me silly so why not I find a perfectly willing partner at the Rose? You've provided the coin for a few dances." She jangles the gold pieces cheerfully in her hand.
"Save the coin. Buy one of those silly hats you're always going on about." Hawke went into the so-called amazing hat shop in Lowtown. She didn't find it so amazing. So many elaborate Orlesian styles. They aren't to her taste.
"I'll always take sex over a flashy new hat."
"No surprise there. What's the matter, Isabela? Can't give it away anymore?"
Isabela laughs. "Ah, Ser Man Hands has been a naughty influence. You're asking for a spanking, Hawke, and not the fun kind." Isabela slips the coin back into the envelope and gives it back to her. "Keep your coin, Hawke. You need it more than I do." Hawke doesn't take it. "I don't want it. I don't want anything from you."
Isabela smiles. "No, this is." She flings the envelope across the hallway. "Have fun playing fetch, Hawke." She winks and blows a kiss. "It won't be the first time."
Hawke turns to the envelope and hears the door to Isabela's room slip shut. Hawke looks to the door and to the envelope. Hawke walks over, kneels and picks the envelope up. It's grimy to the touch. The weight of the gold coins is heavy in her hands. She frowns and considers slipping the coin beneath Isabela's door again but there's no use. She'd likely find some way to get rid of it. She doesn't see why Isabela has to be so stubborn. She hasn't said anything that's untrue.
She goes to Varric's room and picks the relatively flimsy lock. He'd once told her that she was welcome at any time and she'd taken him up on his offer. She likes Varric's space. The colors of the room are uniquely him. There is a warmth that makes her feel at ease. He's never given a damn about her being or not being an apostate. It's refreshing. She takes a seat at his hexagonal table and watches the fireplace for several minutes. There's an open bottle of wine on the table and she pours herself a glass. She has a sip, picks up the bottle, stands and goes to Varric's bed. The bed is massive, enough for three or four humans. Hawke wonders if he ever has company. She prods him with her boot and he starts suddenly, taking hold of Bianca who sleeps cushioned on the pillow beside him. He points Bianca at Hawke's chest. Hawke's eyes widen. "So Bianca's the tart that has taken the coveted spot at your bedside! Varric, you pervert!" She grins.
He blinks. "Hawke? What the blight are you doing?" He wipes at his eyes, yawns and puts Bianca down gently. "Do you know what time it is?"
"Time to drink," she offers him the wine bottle. He looks at her skeptically and scoots over. His hairy bare chest is a spectacle. Varric notices her noticing and finds a shirt to the side of the bed to pull on. "Oh, you don't have to get dressed on my account. I want to brag to all the ladies of Kirkwall that I have seen Varric in the state of undress."
Once Varric has a shirt on she takes a seat at the edge of the bed. "You nearly killed me, dwarf. How would you have told my story then?"
"Hawke was renowned for her beauty and strength but not her intelligence. All of Thedas wept when she walked into the belly of a dragon while on her quest to find a nice, dark place to lie down.'" Varric waves the story away. "Seriously, Hawke, why are you here? Not that I'm complaining. How many men have a beautiful woman to wake up to?" He drinks from the bottle. "With wine!" He laughs. "Early morning? Late night?" he looks at her face. "Late night."
"Isabela's angry with me."
"Isn't she usually? What'd you do now?" He asks. "Save an orphan from starving?"
Hawke smiles at the joke. She doesn't know if the statement is unfair. It'd certainly keep in line with Isabela's record. Anytime Hawke offers assistance Isabela is unhappy. Then again, hadn't the pirate saved a ship of would-be slaves? She couldn't be all bad.
Varric takes another drink of the wine while Hawke muses over Isabela. He situates himself into the pillow. "I've gotta give it to you, Hawke. You're a good kid but you've got a knack for pissing people off. Did you shoot her down again? Where do you get that resolve?"
Hawke shakes her head absentmindedly at him. She has another sip. The wine is dry, too warm. It leaves her parched. "Where do you? You've managed to resist her wiles."
"Bianca's the only girl for me. You know that. So, what did you do?"
"Nothing." Nothing that hadn't been done or said before, anyway.
"Uh huh." He looks at her skeptically. "How is the quest to collect coin for the expedition?"
The change of subject agrees with Hawke. She sits up straighter. "Bloody brilliant. Every ten sovereigns I manage to scrape together Carver spends seven of at the Blooming Rose." Hawke is frustrated with him. Talking with him hasn't done anything to improve the situation. Gamlen isn't any damned better about it either. She won't take the matter to her mother. The less she knows about both of their brothers' activities, the better. It isn't as if Hawke is without her own vices. Leandra would be disappointed at how Hawke's chosen to earn coin from time to time. When times are desperate, as they often are, Hawke's nothing but a thug for hire. "He managed to get girls into bed in Lothering without paying for it."
"Can't say it does anything for his surly mood, either. He and the Elf, making women all over Kirkwall swoon. Not that you don't have a talent for that yourself."
"Brooding or making women swoon?"
"Both, now that you mention it. I meant making women swoon."
"Until I open my mouth?"
"I didn't want to say it…" Varric thinks, frowns. "What is your problem with Rivaini?" Hawke scoffs. "I'm curious. She's easy on the eyes, a good drinking partner, friendly… really friendly if you want that kind of thing." Hawke smirks. "You can't miss the way she hits on you."
"She hits on anything with legs. They don't need legs. There was a peg legged pirate the other day she couldn't stay away from."
"Hey, there's something to be said for those peg legged pirates. You can always hear them coming," Varric smiles and finishes his wine, setting it aside. "It's saved me trouble. Out with it, Hawke. You woke me up, it's the least you can do."
"I don't trust her." Hawke thinks to what she knows of Isabela. She's always got her hands in the pot, she's always crossing boundaries. She has no sense of self-control. What would Hawke be without self-control? What would Anders be or Merrill? Not that they have much of it. That lack is dangerous. How much self-control can a mage really have? It troubles her. She gives a gentle shake of her head. "You know Isabela. Do you ever think of that story she told us about whatever relic and Castillon? She's lying."
"I can't say it's impossible. So what if she is?"
"It'll be trouble. She will be trouble."
Varric lifts his hands at her with amused exasperation. "So are you! Who doesn't love trouble? It's great story fodder."
"I've had trouble hound me my entire life." Always having to look behind her for anyone eager to turn her over to the templars or do the dirty work of ending her themselves, always worrying for her family and what someone might do if they found out they'd been hiding her. Having the power to wield a destructive force but not being able to use it to save those that matter. Yes. She has enough trouble. "I don't need to add her to the mix." She sighs. "She can be so selfish." Isabela regards any act of kindness as sacrilege. It's always about what she wants with little thought to anything else. It isn't how Hawke was raised. All of her family had to make sacrifices without complaint. Well, aside from Carver.
"Ever think she had to turn out that way? How much do you really know about her?"
Hawke shakes her head. She thinks of Isabela. She doesn't know many details. Even if she asked she doubts Isabela would provide straightforward answers. Hawke knows they aren't due to her. "It doesn't matter." She gets to her feet and finishes the wine. "Thanks for the talk, Varric. And the wine. Sorry for waking you. I appreciate you not killing me. There's always next time if templars don't beat you to it."
Varric waves her away and Hawke sends another smile in his direction before departing and heading down the stairs to the tavern. There are no customers. She's never seen the Hanged Man so emptied. It looks more depressing and dirty than usual. She finds Corff at the bar and turns the coin over to him. "Apply this to Isabela's tab. Don't mention it was from me."
Corff nods, wiping the glass he holds. "I'll tell her it's on the house for her good business."
"Good." Hawke taps the bar and exits into the morning. After being in the darkness for so long, the glare of the sun hurts her eyes.