Anders declined the wedding invitation, though he did send a gift. Surprisingly, Fenris did show up at the Chantry- on time and everything. He even managed to charm the socks off of the other guests with his exotic looks and a calm politeness.
Hawke, Varric, and Isabela of course made a beeline for the long table set up with food and spirits the moment the official vows were over with and everyone was encouraged to "drink and be merry".
"That's an order I have no problem following from Miss Captain of The Guard," Isabela chuckled, wagging her goblet under the server's nose when he didn't give quite enough wine.
"Good grief, I think every single member of the Guard must have contributed a dish," Hawke said around a mouthful of delicate pale cheese. She was methodically filling her plate with everything in reach while Varric looked on in a mixture of amazement and humor.
"Maker's breath, Hawke, where do you put it all?"
"Tell me about it," Isabela huffed, eyeing the loaded plate with envy.
"Seriously?" Hawke rolled her eyes, cramming half a croissant into her mouth. "Unlike you lazy turds, who only fight if I come looking for you, I get into scraps pretty much every day. It's nonstop exercise. I'm always hungry."
"Trust me, we've noticed," Varric drawled. "But you're packing it away like you're facing a famine."
"I skipped breakfast," Hawke admitted, scowling at Isabela. "Because someone had to drag me out for some last minute shopping."
"It's not my fault you're impossible to shop for!"
For the fifth time since arriving Varric reminded himself to stop staring like a bugeyed idiot. "You look nice," he said, trying to make it sound as casual as possible.
It worked a little too well. Hawke barely acknowledged it as a compliment at all, seeming to read it more as friendly reassurance. "Yeah?" She held her plate away from her to look down at herself skeptically. "Well I feel like a complete twit. You know this is probably only the second time in my life I've worn a dress? And these shoes, don't get me started on these demented torture devices. I am going to fall on my ass in front of everyone-"
Isabela elbowed her sharply in the ribs, almost causing her to double over and spill her plate. "He said you look nice. Say thank you, you prat."
"Oh. Uh. Thanks." Hawke hesitated, cheeks going ever so slightly pink. She looked at herself again, this time with less contempt and more timid concern. "It doesn't, uh, look weird on me?"
Varric managed to swallow. "Nah," he said, ever-so-suave.
Yep, way to sweep her off her feet, you sugar-coated charmer.
Someone kill me.
Isabela was giving him an exasperated look that suggested she was considering the idea. "Right. You two enjoy stuffing your faces. I'm going to go tease the bride for a minute. Don't you two forget to go up and say hey, too, or they'll think you only came for the food." With a teasing wink, the rogue sashayed off.
She had, of course, managed to find a dress both expensive and yet revealing as hell. She was only going up to Aveline in order to enrage the woman, Varric was sure. Several of the men in the room were following the pirate with hungry eyes.
Which was fine; it meant few of them had noticed Hawke. Admittedly, the awkward way she carried herself probably weirded a few of them out. It was obvious she wasn't used to the dress shoes, and even all dolled up, she stalked like an assassin instead of slinking like a lady. It was like someone had dressed up a fox and let it loose in the room with a bunch of puffed-up peacocks. Varric found the oddity strangely endearing.
The dress was a lot more refined than Isabela's; they'd clearly gone shopping for it in Hightown to find something suitable for the esteemed Champion of Kirkwall. He shuddered to think of the cost.
The fabric was something very like silk, which meant it clung to the shape of her body in rather distracting ways at times. The dark blue went nicely with her eyes, and the sheer sleeves showed off a hint of the strength in her arms while the low cut to the back made thinking a little difficult whenever Hawke briefly turned away to survey the crowd.
Varric was in hell. They'd been at the Chantry for less than two hours, and half the time he opened his mouth around her something idiotic came out. His descent into brain damage had started approximately two seconds after she'd walked through the door and he'd gotten his first look at her.
It was a good thing he'd left Bianca with the doorman, he reflected. She would be burning a hole into his back with jealousy by now.
"Have you seen Merrill?" Hawke looked around for the other woman. "She kind of looks like a plant. But in a neat way. It's hard to explain. Isabela thought she'd look good in some gauzy green thing that looked hideous on the shelf but somehow suits Merill really- What? What is it? Did I spill something on this ridiculous dress?" Hawke brushed self-consciously at her chest.
Damn it. There was no way she was doing this on purpose. Why did women always automatically assume they'd spilled something onto their breasts? Admittedly, Hawke's were just big enough to catch anything she might drop- All right, stop right there, you horrible little pervert.
"You got it," Varric lied, staring at his biscuit as if was the most extraordinary culinary thing he'd ever beheld. He was not about to admit his eyes had somehow become firmly attached to his friend's bosom, regardless of the frantic pleas of his brain to divert their attention somewhere less humiliating.
"So, congratulations, you two," Hawke said, clasping Donnic's hand in a firm grip. "I hope you take care of each other as much as you do this city."
"Thank you, Champion," Donnic said, smiling from ear to ear. Then he flinched, trying to tug his hand free from Hawke's suddenly crushing grip. "Er-"
Hawke smiled up at him grimly. "You're a good man, Donnic, so I'm assuming it's pointless to say something so trite as 'hurt her and I'll break both of your legs'."
"I think you just did."
"Oh, stop it," Aveline interrupted, and Hawke released the groom. "Thank you for coming, Hawke. It means a lot to me."
"Any drunk and disorderlies yet?"
"None so far, though I'm keeping one eye on Ser Jac. I think he showed up hung over." Aveline glanced around the crowded chantry. "Isabela seems intent on embarrassing me as subtly as possible. She's hit on almost everyone here, but she doesn't stay in one place very long."
"You look fantastic, by the way," Hawke put in with a little smile. "Though I seriously never thought I'd see you in a dress."
"They're impractical," Aveline said as if the fact was obvious. She smoothed down the front of her simple white dress a bit self-consciously. "But thank you, Hawke."
"She's stunning," Donnic corrected, all of his attention firmly fixed on his new wife.
Aveline smiled back at him.
"I'll take that as my cue to leave before the smooching gets underway," Hawke drawled.
"Speaking of smooching..."
Hawke barely bit back a startled yelp. Even Donnic jumped. Isabela had appeared out of nowhere just behind the Champion.
"Isabela, don't do that!"
"Pardon us, many happy returns and all that nonsense," Isabela murmured, flashing a careless smile towards Aveline before steering Hawke firmly into a secluded alcove.
"Whoa, uh, wait a minute," Hawke protested, turning quickly to ward the other woman off with waving hands. "I'm not sure if I sent some kind of confusing signals, and I think you're great, but-"
"You are so thick sometimes," Isabela huffed, giving her friend a shove. "I didn't drag you back here to molest you, idiot." She grabbed Hawke's wrists and forcibly lowered them. "Stop that. This is about Varric."
Hawke went still. The room had suddenly become impossibly warm. "Uh. Varric? What about him?"
"Okay. I'm going to spell this out for you even if you aren't nearly as deep in denial and brain damage as he is." Isabela leaned in close, trapping Hawke's hands between them, and looked her right in the eye. "He. Likes. You. A lot. Also, he hasn't been able to take his eyes off you in that dress for more than ten seconds. Did you get all that? Should I speak more slowly?"
Hawke's face was roughly the shade of a tomato. "Uh-"
"Don't 'uh' me! What are you going to do about it?"
"What are you, the team match maker?" Hawke muttered, gaze lowering as she struggled to regain her composure. "Did he say something... to you?"
"No, I'm just not blind." She released Hawke abruptly and took a step back. "Are you going to answer me or not? I said 'what are you going to do about it'? Because I'm beginning to think he's never going to dig up the gonads to make a move. It's just..." Isabela made a strangling motion. "Watching him makes me want to throw things at his head! He's impossible! You're not much better, sweetie, even if you are a bit more subtle. If you exclude your 'friendly habit' of taking him everywhere, I mean."
"You are such a meddler," Hawke complained, but her mouth was starting to twitch into something very like a shy smile.
"Yes, well, I do what I'm good at." Isabela made shooing motions. "Now go home."
Isabela made exaggerated pantomimes with her hands. "Gooo hooome." She offered a slow wink. "And have Varric walk you home. You can have a nice long chat and see what happens. Or don't chat. Sometimes words get in the way. You'll figure it out. Go. Now. Why are you still here?"
Hawke laughed outright. "You can be such a marvelous bitch sometimes, 'Bela."
The pirate bowed mockingly. "Why, thank you."
"Well, that's it," Varric muttered to himself, glaring into his fourth cup of wine. "Game over, old man."
He'd seen the whole cozy little scene from where he'd been lurking by the buffet table. Hawke had seemed flustered at first by Isabela's flirtatious advances, but she was smiling widely by the end of the conversation. There was no way Varric could compete with someone as straightforward and sexual as Isabela.
A small germ of resentment ate at his gut. After the woman had sat there and tried to convince him to make a move before it was too late, this was her idea of showing him what a pathetic coward he was? By moving in for the kill herself?
He downed the rest of his wine in one go, but it tasted like vinegar. It was time to get gone. He wanted to get Bianca and go shoot something. Or perhaps just drink rotgut until he passed out.
He looked up quickly, caught completely off guard.
Hawke smiled at him, though there was a nervous tension to her eyes. "Feel like pretending to be a gentleman long enough to walk a girl home?"
Varric glanced past her, but Isabela had disappeared into the crowd. Was Hawke playing hard to get? "Of course," he said. He offered his elbow, and she took his arm with a quick little grin that made him feel clumsy and awkward for a few dangerous moments.
As they stopped to gather their weapons from the doorman, Varric thought he caught a brief glimpse of Isabela shamelessly flirting with a red-faced Fenris. What the hell?
He debated whether or not to point the indiscretion out to Hawke, but let it pass. She knew what a flirt Isabela was. Perhaps Hawke had never been interested in a conventional relationship. Which meant he never would have had a chance regardless.
He held open the door for her and they both nearly stumbled down the chantry steps, caught unawares by the cold air. "I think you're drunk, Ser Dwarf," Hawke laughed as they steadied each other and began their careful descent.
"Only a little. You're the one who smells like a winery."
"Oh, please. I barely had three glasses." She shivered, tightening the flimsy shawl around her shoulders. "If I'd known the evening was going to get so chilly, I'd have brought a proper coat. This thing is like tissue paper."
Varric paused to shrug out of his own overcoat. The silk shirt underneath wasn't much protection from the cold, but it was still better than the back-baring dress Hawke was trapped in. She flushed when he offered it. "I wasn't trying to suggest-"
"Yes, I know," he drawled. "This is me being nice. It happens occasionally. Try not to faint."
She smiled and took the coat, draping it over her shoulders like a small blanket. "Thank you."
They continued on in silence, breathing the cool air that spoke of a winter not far away and enjoying each other's company. There were few other people out at such a late hour, especially with the crime that tended to crop up at night. Hightown was a little better off, if only because of the proximity of the city Guard and the Champion. Still, it was a little miracle in and of itself when they reached Hawke's door without being accosted. Varric had been secretly waiting for such an attack. A dwarf and a lady in a dress must have looked like easy pickings. Either the criminal underground had learned to recognize Hawke by sight, or they were off creating mischief elsewhere.
Hawke returned Varric's coat as they stood on her doorstep. "It didn't occur to me to ask if you were even done with the party," she apologized. "Are you heading back?"
"No, Bianca and I are headed for the Hanged Man for some more rowdy company." And lots and lots of Help-Me-Forget Rotgut.
Hawke didn't go inside, but dithered for several moments on her stoop, visibly conflicted about something. Varric paused in the act of turning away. "Something on your mind, Hawke?" A second later he wished he'd kept his mouth shut. She might want to talk about Isabela. Maybe he could feign food poisoning.
The door opened abruptly, and Bodahn stood silhouetted in the light from inside. "I thought that was you, Messere," he greeted cheerily, blind to the awkward tension. "I was just getting ready to turn in for the night when your dog started-" Obviously impatient for attention, the big mabari prancing behind him bulled past the startled manservant and threw himself at Varric in a full body tackle that knocked the dwarf on his ass. Bianca rebounded off the street and cracked him just behind the ear. For a moment he saw stars.
"Rex, no! Bad dog!" Hawke scolded.
"Oof," Varric complained weakly, fending off a slobbering tongue. "It's okay. I guess it's been awhile since-" He tried to rise and fell back down with a thump, head spinning. "Ouch."
"Shit." Hawke crouched quickly by his side, holding his elbow to steady him. "Are you all right? Back off, Rex!"
The dog, sensing its mistake, retreated, looking suitably chagrined.
Hawke's fingers tested Varric's aching head delicately. "I can already feel a knot forming," she tsked, concerned, and squinted at her fingers in the dim light. "I can't tell if it's bleeding, though. Come inside for a minute, and I'll put something cold on it."
She helped him to his feet and led him inside, holding his arm firmly to keep him steady. Staggering slightly, he was forced to lean against her side. It took his addled brain a few moments to realize what the weight just against his temple was, and he spent the agonizing years it took to reach the couch trying to pretend he hadn't noticed. If Hawke knew she was practically shoving her boob into his face, she certainly didn't show it.
She sat him down and had Bodahn fetch a cold wet rag. "Stop moving," she snapped when Varric flinched away from the touch of the cloth to his head. "You big baby."
"I've had arrows to the leg that were less painful," Varric protested, but obediently held still, clenching his teeth.
Hawke noticed Bodahn fretting silently in the corner. "I can handle it from here," she said. "You can go. I can always fetch Anders if it looks serious."
"Then good evening to you, Messeres," Bodahn mumbled, excusing himself.
"You just wanted me helpless and all to yourself," Varric teased.
Hawke chuckled, dipping the cloth in a bowl of water and gingerly placing it against the knot again. "Don't worry, you're safe with me. Rex and Bianca are chaperoning."
Varric arched a brow at Rex where the dog sat panting by the fire and eyeing the dwarf with friendly curiosity. "See if I invite you to the Hanged Man anytime soon." Rex tilted his head and whined softly.
"Would you stop teaching my dog to gamble? You're so terrible."
"You have no idea." Varric glanced at her sideways. She'd eased herself onto the couch beside him to better reach the bump on his head, and this put her in alarmingly close proximity. He could feel her body heat and smell the faintest hint of a subtle perfume. Her body was a mix of strength and soft curves wrapped in a silk dress that, as his brain was only too eager to remind him, dipped down rather far in the back and displayed a bare back his fingers were suddenly itching to touch.
He swallowed hard and redirected his gaze to the portrait of Leandra hung over the fireplace, hoping her serene gaze would help him remain a gentleman. His head was already feeling much better; just a bump, after all. He really should go.
Any minute now.
Hawke put the cloth aside and tested the bump again with a light touch. "Does that hurt?" she asked quietly, still far too close for comfort.
Varric could physically feel his self control crumbling around the edges. "No."
Hawke's fingers moved on from the bump as if searching for any further injuries, pausing to toy for just a moment with a lock of his hair before the hand fell onto his shoulder.
Varric stared straight ahead, unaware his fists were clenched on his knees.
"Are you ever going to kiss me, or am I going to have to pin you down and do it myself?"
Varric turned his head quickly, wildly certain he'd taken a harder hit to the head than he'd thought, and now his ears were playing tricks on him.
But Hawke's hands came up and cupped his face, and then a soft warm mouth was on his.
He wasn't sure how it happened, exactly, but in roughly two seconds he had one arm around her, dragging her up against him, his hand splaying across a deliciously bare back. His other hand had somehow gotten tangled in her hair and he spent the next few minutes quite thoroughly trying to kiss the air out of her lungs while Rex looked on with frank interest.
Hawke made an inarticulate noise and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "Why didn't you say anything?" she gasped accusingly when they finally broke apart. The way her chest was heaving for air against his made it difficult for Varric to think up a coherent answer.
Because of Sebastian. Because why would you look twice at me? "Because apparently I have a cowardly streak," he finally said dryly, savoring the way she shivered when he ran his fingers up and down her spine. "And according to Isabela, I can be a little thick. You could've just thrown yourself at me and saved us both a lot of trouble."
She laughed breathlessly, pressing her cheek to his briefly, fingers clutching almost desperately at his arms. "Oh, Isabela. She must have been going crazy watching the two of us." She started to run her hands through his hair, and pulled back hastily when she sensed him wince. "Sorry. Does your head still hurt?"
"Only a little."
"Hmm." She studied him almost thoughtfully for a moment, then pressed her hand against his chest and lay a soft kiss against his temple. "How about now?"
"Less," he murmured, a smile pulling at his mouth.
She placed another kiss on his forehead. "And now?"
"I think it's fading."
She kissed him on the mouth again, slowly. "Now?"
"I'm cured." He grinned, cupping her face in one calloused hand. "Maybe we should bottle Hawke Kisses and have Blondie sell them for a few sovereigns."
"Nope. This is a limited offer." She turned her head to kiss his palm briefly. "Hawke Kisses are Varric Tethras exclusive."
"See, damn it, stuff like this is why you keep turning me into a babbling idiot," Varric protested a little weakly, tugging her in for another kiss.
She laughed against his mouth.
Isabela, predictably, took full credit.
"I knew it all along," she boasted the following afternoon, indicating the pair and their joined hands as everyone who was so inclined settled in for the day's game of Wicked Grace. "I expect free drinks all day."
Varric gave her a tolerantly amused look, using his free hand to slide Bianca from his shoulder to rest against the wall. "For what, pray tell?"
"Excuse you, who's the one who did all the work?" The pirate splayed her fingers across her breasts. "Me, that's who!"
"Right. Forgive me, O Queen of Matchmaking. I'll buy you one," Hawke relented. "You want more, you win it with cards."
Isabela sulked. "Cheap-ass." She jabbed Fenris teasingly in the ribs as he began to carefully shuffle the deck; a skill he'd only recently learned. "Now that they've finally decided to become attached at the hips, do you think now's a good time to air out some other peoples' dirty laundry?" She gave him a very non-subtle stare.
He coughed, looking intently at the cards, shoulders hunched. Hawke noticed with interest the flush creeping up his neck. "Varric," the elf said quickly, "do I deal to the left or the right?"
Isabela rolled her eyes, but let it drop. She caught Hawke's eye across the table and leered openly. "So. Details. I've never had a dwarf in the sack-"
"And that is the end of this particular conversation," Varric declared loudly, overriding her.
"What conversation?" Merrill came hurrying over, still flicking crumbs from her lunch off her clothes. "Ohh, did I miss something juicy?"
"Juicy?" Hawke repeated, stifling a laugh.
"Isabela says all good gossip is 'juicy'." The mage seated herself beside the pirate. "I don't understand what that means," she admitted as an aside. "It sounds a little... unclean."
Varric snorted into his tankard. "It usually is, where Isabela's concerned."
Isabela flicked a crust of bread at him. "You'll pay for that."
Cassandra Pentaghast stood in silence for several tense moments after the story of Kirkwall's fate was finished. Arms crossed loosely across her stomach, she gazed down at her captive with an expressionless face, mulling over all that she'd been told. "This is not what I expected," she finally said. "The Champion is not the person I thought she was. Some of what you say does... shed some light on certain things, however. Like there being a member of the Hawke family in the Wardens. And why we have been unable to find that damned big-mouthed dwarf, Varric Tethras."
The storyteller's mouth curled upwards in a teasing smile. "Sorry, love. I'm not so good with words as he is. If you ever do manage to find Hawke, that's where you'll find Varric, though. He's the only one who stayed by her side when the rest of us went our separate ways. Maybe you can see if he tells a different version of the story when you find him, though I get the feeling it'll be too late by then."
Cassandra's eyes narrowed. "If you've lied to me..."
"I wasn't lying. Balls, I'm probably taking less liberties than Varric would. The little bastard was never able to keep too much truth in a story if he could help it."
Cassandra eyed the pirate with distrust, fingers rubbing together by her side in an old forgotten habit. "...Very well," she said at last, grudging. "I suppose I don't have much choice. And some of what you've said matches up with other inquiries we've made with the Templars and what Guardsmen that are left.
"Lovely." Isabela rose to her feet in one quick move. "I can go, then? Not that this hasn't been fun."
The Seeker ignored the sarcasm, waving a hand in dismissal. As Isabela passed by, Cassandra found her eyes wandering the empty walls of what had once been the Hawke estate. The tale of the Champion weighed heavily on her mind, twisting it with the implications of the past and a possible darkness in the future. This mess was the Champion's fault, and yet by all accounts it seemed as if destiny had been thrust upon her. She'd not gone out of her way to actively destroy the Chantry, as had been initially suspected. She'd simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time, and had been forced to make difficult choices to save herself, her friends, and the city she'd made her home.
And yet despite the political and religious reasons behind the inquisition, Cassandra found her mind lingering on the brief mentions of the Champion's clumsy love life. She had always been a bit of a romantic at heart herself, though she kept that side of herself a closely guarded secret.
She heard the pirate pause just at the door, but continued to stare at the wall, refusing to turn and meet that steady dark gaze. "Do you really think they're still together? Tethras's life is going to be that much harder if he's foolish enough to stick with a woman being hunted by the Chantry."
Isabela's chuckle was low and warm. "If you'd seen the way they used to look at each other, you wouldn't be asking me that. Trust me, Seeker, if you go after Hawke, you'll have to get past that little liar, and good luck with that. Assuming Bianca doesn't get to you first."
Cassandra turned with a frown just in time to see the pirate disappear through the door. She stood for several moments, musing over the woman's parting words. She wiped the smile hastily from her face when she felt it threatening to emerge. "Sap," she accused herself quietly, embarrassed, and strode out into the night to report her findings to Sister Nightingale.