"Get up, you useless, slant-eared mongrel!"

Hadriana's voice resonated in the cellar and pierced his ears like poison.

Before he could even react to the cell doors being opened, an unpleasant wave of icy cold water came pouring down his skull, making his head throb uncontrollably.

He instinctively tried to shield himself but the sound of metal chains tugging at his wrists reminded him that he was bound to the stone wall.

He had forgotten about the previous nights' transgressions - and the punishment that had yet to come.

"Well? Didn't you hear me? Get up!" Hadriana slapped him across the face, hard, shrieking like the cruel banshee she was. "The master wants to see you immediately! Hurry up!"

She motioned towards the two guards to let him loose of his bindings, and looked as smug as ever.

She loved this. He knew she did. And he loathed her.

The two burly men behind him forced Fenris onto his knees before her. He heard the faint footsteps outside get closer to his cell. When the shadows coming down the cellar steps emerged into the dim torchlight, Fenris found himself trembling.

"So..." Danarius emerged from the shadows. "My little pet... what would you have me do to you?"

"Master, I-"


One swift step forward and Danarius had him by the hair. Fenris inhaled sharply, not daring to gasp audibly.

"You will speak when spoken to! How many times do I need to repeat this? You answer when I tell you to. Do you understand, little wolf? Hm? Speak!"

"Yes," Fenris tried to nod. "Yes, master."

Danarius clicked his tongue. Fenris hated that sound - that sharp, whistling pitch from Danarius' tongue denoting how angry his master was with him. Nothing pleasant ever followed that noise.

"So, speaking of your insubordination - you thought humiliating me in front of my guests last night was funny, did you?" Danarius asked icily.

Fenris shook his head.

"I told you to be careful with Mistress Devera's wine, did I not?"

Danarius traced his fingers around Fenris chin, outlining his jawline with his fingertip slowly.

"Yet you still managed to drop the entire bottle in the kitchen!" Without warning, Danarius wrapped a fist around Fenris' throat. His eyes gleamed cruelly. "And now my gift to her is wasted! I paid quite a pretty sum for it too. You know that, don't you pet?"

"I... didn't mean to," Fenris coughed as Danarius tightened his grip.

"Oh? You didn't?" Danarius taunted, softening his voice for his pet.

Fenris shook his head.

He knew Danarius was pissed.

But it was all temporary. After this, Fenris would probably receive a brutal beating before things went back to normal and Danarius had him released.

Of course, he could've told his master the truth: that Cassia had, in fact, dropped the bottle, not him. But Fenris voluntarily confessed to receive the beating in her stead. Cassia could not have handled Danarius' lashes. He could.

Out of the corner of his eye, Fenris could see the delight in Hadriana's wicked smile.

Oh, how he loathed that witch. She was worse than his master in more ways than one.

Hadriana tried so desperately to get on Danarius' good side. Not only did she fancy herself as Danarius' favorite pupil, she openly expressed feelings for Danarius himself. So it came as no big surprise that Fenris was often the victim of her rage and jealousy. Whether Danarius was aware of her affection for him or not was another story entirely.

Still, Fenris had to follow his master's orders, which included listening and obeying Hadriana's orders. And she often overstepped her privilege. Angry because Danarius shared his bed with Fenris over her, Hadriana delighted in tormenting Fenris even more than Danarius did.

He could tell that she was just itching to whip him in Danarius' stead.

"What's this? Are you gazing off into your own world again, little wolf?" Danarius' facial hair lightly prickled on Fenris' cheek. The magister mused: "Do I need to teach you how to properly respect me again, Fenris? I can't help but notice you've barely greeted me at all this morning. Where are your manners?"

"I'm sorry... Master." Fenris croaked under the pressure on his throat; he could hardly breathe.

His throat hurt and felt dry. He suddenly realized how parched he was and remembered Hadriana had neglected to send him any water in his captivity. His head felt like it was exploding, and he knew all the blood was being cut off from his brain.

Pulsing cold and burning hot flashes flooded over him.

As soon as Danarius let Fenris' throat go, he immediately proceeded in coughing and taking in deep breaths until he felt his vision and heartbeat regain normality. Fenris' head throbbed like someone was taking a hammer to his skull. He tried to massage his temples but the guards behind him refused to let his wrists go.

"Now," Danarius spoke with his back turned to Fenris. "Let's talk about your behavior last night, Fenris. It was, simply speaking, indictable."

Danarius petted Fenris atop the head like a dog. Fenris remained silent and held his head down.

His punishment was coming. He didn't dare speak another word.


"Yes?" She answered him sweetly but Danarius held his gaze to his slave, grinning with a malicious intent Fenris was all too familiar with.

"Take your guards and leave us."

She paused, taken aback: "But, my lord-"

"Do not make me repeat myself again." Danarius growled in a low baritone, agitated.

Fenris saw Hadriana scowl and snap at her guards. They immediately let go of Fenris' wrists and walked with her out the cellar. She slammed the cellar door shut and stormed up to her own chambers.

Danarius paid little attention to her rage. When her footsteps faded upstairs he turned his attention back to Fenris, lips curled into a dangerous smile that made his slave shudder.

Even unbound, Fenris did not dare move without consent.

Danarius caught Fenris by the chin, bringing him to eye level.

"It's such a shame that you would wound me with your disobedience, Fenris. Perhaps I've been too lenient on you." Danarius spoke softly into Fenris' ears. His words were fierce, promising retribution: "I, who have clothed and fed you. I, who have treated you to a higher existence than you deserve. I, who have made you the strong warrior you are today. You don't even remember the day you came to me, do you? Begging and pleading for me to take you under my wing. It annoys me that I have to constantly tell you how easy you have it compared to other slaves - how easy I make your existence."

Fenris swallowed, but kept silent.

"Alas, maybe you do not deserve the clothes and respect I've given you." Danarius spoke softly. "If that is the case, I'll have to take them away and teach you a lesson."

"Yes, master." Fenris hung his head down.

It did not take long for Danarius to get Fenris unclothed and on his knees.

Those long, thin fingers ghosted over Fenris' chest lightly. It was almost a tickling feeling, but the gravity of the situation was enough to keep Fenris from fidgeting under Danarius' bony fingertips.

Fenris' chest heaved slightly, and Danarius watched his well-toned muscles expand and contract with a certain lust in his eyes.

Danarius' lips brushed against his cheek as he whispered:

"Don't you know why I keep you at all my festivities? It's certainly not because I am in need of a bodyguard. You can speak, pet."

"My markings." Fenris answered quietly.

"Yes, your markings..." Danarius' cold fingers slid up and down Fenris' chest, the tips tracing over the lyrium on his skin. There was a slightly burn every time Danarius touched those intricate, blue lines...

"Your markings are a symbol to my guests." Danarius explained. "They are a symbol that I am a magister to be feared and respected. Tell me, what would one think if the specimen of the 'magister to be respected' acted like a disobedient, feral dog, hmm? What impression would that send to my guests? And better yet, what do you think that shows other slaves?"

"I am sorry, master." Fenris replied quietly.

"'Sorry', indeed." Danarius smiled darkly. "You are such a lucky boy, dear Fenris... Oh, my dear, dear little wolf..."

The magister's palms petted Fenris gently, once again admiring the well-toned flesh on Fenris' tanned body. Slowly his fingers slipped down further across Fenris' stomach until stopping to suddenly grope between the elf's legs. Fenris grunted at the sudden intrusion. Still, he was hesitant to turn away from his master, for fear of something worse occurring.

"Let's begin then," Danarius said, pleased at Fenris' compliance.

Fenris gritted his teeth and tried to focus on something else, anything else.

It would help him get this over with quicker. If he didn't obey, he knew how easily Danarius could wipe his memory again. Yes, it would take resources from his reserves, but Danarius had plenty of materials to make such experiments daily.

"You know how much it pains me to do this to you, don't you?" There was a hint of sadness in Danarius' voice. "But I have to set an example for all the rest of my slaves. You gave me no choice, after all. You understand this uncomfortable position you've put me in, don't you?"

"Yes, master." Fenris replied in a almost golem-like manner as he knelt on the cold stone floor. "I apologize."

"As do I, pet."

Danarius unhooked one of the many, many weapons from the wall of the opposite side of the dungeon. This time, he took out a long, black whip. Even in the dimly-lit dungeon Fenris could see the gleaming needles at the end of the tails.

Fenris felt a shudder start down his spine. This wasn't his first time getting punished, but he still had to ease his way into it every time it happened. He was often whipped for speaking out of his place, disobeying orders, or making mistakes that angered his master. He would then, like last night, get hauled into the cellar until Danarius felt better and saw fit to let Fenris go about his regular duties, but not without punishment of course.

His master shifted towards him, one hand raised and glowing purple. Fenris suddenly found himself chained to the stone wall again. The magic-enhanced metal floated in the air, simmering into his flesh.

He was now completely naked, and vulnerable. He knew what was about to happen. The anticipation made his drop beads of sweat.

"Be a good little pet for me, Fenris." Danarius whispered into Fenris' ears from behind. "You know this is your own fault for being such a disobedient slave."

"Yes, master." Fenris said quietly.

Danarius stepped back and raised his arm to bring the whip down on Fenris' bare back.

There was a hungry gleam in the magisters' eyes. He intended to draw blood.


Fenris bit his lip and felt the fiery sensation on his back instantaneously.

It burned against the cold cellar atmosphere, from his shoulder to the bottom of his back, one lash seared throughout his body, and he closed his eyes, telling himself to endure it.

Cassia would've screamed. Fenris told himself. I can take this. She would've passed out by now.

"What's this, now? Have you forgotten how to count, Fenris?" Danarius asked, sneering delightfully. "Or do you desire my ire indefinitely?"

"N-no, master." Fenris shook his head in a panic, feeling angry at himself for forgetting. "I'm sorry. I will count. Please forgive me, master."

"Good," Danarius smirked, but Fenris could not see it.


The magister brought down another lash. This one was horizontal, from one side to the other. Fenris felt all of it, from impact to end.

"Two." Fenris tried to sound strong, but he had not eaten or had anything to drink since last night and his throat was getting parched. On top of that, his master's magic was draining him quickly. He felt weaker with each lash.

Danarius clicked his tongue. "You must think me a fool, Fenris. Last I checked, we don't start counting at the number 'two'."

Fenris burned with anger and desperation at the same time, cursing at himself for thinking he could pull the wool over his masters' eyes and get away with one lash less. Hw should've known better. Danarius was not in a lenient mood today.

Oh, how he wished someone would come to whisk Danarius away on an important business just so he could be left alone to deal with the burning sensation taking over his senses.

Best get this over with. The quicker, the better.

"You useless little wretch, Fenris." Danarius clicked his tongue. "We are going to start over, understand?"

Fenris could only nod. And with that, his master proceeded in giving him a proper lashing.



Fenris hadn't even asked how many lashings he was to receive this time. He didn't dare ask.

Would knowing help lessen the pain? No. It seldom ever did.



The pain was searing across his back. New wounds were colliding with old ones. Fenris knew his master was using some sort of magic to inflict greater pain on him. Danarius would not be satisfied until Fenris cried out in pain and was bleeding in agony.


"Three." His wounds intersected with one another and it only made the pain greater. Fenris bit his lip and endured the pain, not wanting to give his master the satisfaction of hearing him in pain.



But he could not withstand his primal urges. As he recited the number, a quiet groan escaped his lips and he began to feel more humiliated by the second.

Soon. It will all be over soon.

The burning pain licked at his back cruelly. He gritted his teeth and barely contained the anguished cry that rumbled deep from his throat.

He knew it would be a long while...



Fenris' rugged breathing echoed loudly thoughout the chamber. He could barely stand. The chains holding his arms in mid-air was all that kept him up. His energy was drained and it would not be long before he would inevitably pass out. He had done so before and Danarius hadn't been any less merciful.

But the lashing had stopped, and Fenris wonder if his master had finally tired himself out. After all, lashings were normally doled out by Hadriana or another one of their guards. But he had learned from experience that being hopeful for the end of his punishment often prolonged it instead.

"I think that's enough for you." Danarius said in a slightly heavy tone. He too, was slightly out of breath, which was an odd source of comfort to Fenris.

Danarius set the whip aside and looked down at his slave with a hunger that Fenris was all too familiar with.

"You know that it hurts me just as much as it does you, pet..." He murmured to Fenris softly, finger running through Fenris' hair lightly. "But I had no choice. You know that, don't you?"

Fenris could already feel the warm, slow burn on his back from the lyrium in his skin trying to heal his wounds. It would burn for another three days until it healed. Fenris would desperately need to apply some cool healing salve when he returned upstairs.

Danarius slowly unbuckled his trousers before him. Fenris remained still.

The magister ran his fingers some more through Fenris' silky, white hair affectionately.

At times Fenris would find this stroking to be comforting. Even as Danarius leaned forward to kiss him upon the lips Fenris accepted without struggle. Slowly, those dry lips trailed down his neck and Fenris felt Danarius' hands roaming between his legs again.

But he did not resist. He knew that Danarius would punish him for many more days if he did. Besides, this latter portion to his punishment was fairly tame compared to the pain of his lashes.

In fact, over the course of many years Fenris had learned to enjoy it. Perhaps it was out of desperation. Perhaps he wanted to feel something other than pain and humiliation. Either way, he had conditioned himself to take pleasure from Danarius' lust. It was far better than struggling against his masters' advances and enduring more torture.

Danarius always had a fondness for him over all other slaves - and the affection only grew once Fenris became Danarius' most-prized experiment. Sometimes Fenris could change Danarius' moods if he played his cards right - and the times they spent in Danarius' bedchambers were not altogether unpleasing.

But to say there was a mutual love between the slave and his master would've been a great misconception. However, there were many times Fenris thought Danarius harbored a deeper love for Fenris than he let on. Many times when Danarius was in a charitable mood Fenris would feel a sense of enjoyment and relaxation when Danarius showered him with affection instead of foul, crippling insults.

This love-hate relationship between them was strange. The cycle of hating his master and then loving him was never-ending.

"You should be glad, pet." Danarius grinned into the nook of Fenris' shoulder and neck. "Poor Hadriana could never hold my attention as much as you. I saw you glare at her when she walked out. Are you jealous?"

"No, master... Ah..." Fenris swallowed and breathed heavily, feeling Danarius stroking him gently in his hands. This perverse pleasure was the only feeling that could detract him from the pain nipping at his back. For that, he was glad. Although he certainly did not enjoy being tied down and handled in such a manner. This was purely for Danarius' satisfaction - a fact that was made known once Fenris felt his masters' hands slip away.

He groaned in frustration, unable to reach release. Danarius chuckled at his helpless captive.

"Come now, Fenris." Danarius coaxed as he grabbed Fenris by his silky locks, smirking. "If you're good, I'll even let you finish in my hands. You would like that wouldn't you, my pet?"

Fenris did not reply. Instead, he felt himself being released from his bindings. But his legs gave way and he landed directly on his knees, on all fours in front of his master like a dog. The chains on his wrists clattered and clinked as he moved to stand. The blood rushed steadily back to his arms until he regained his sense of feeling in them.

Still, he remained kneeling before his master, knowing what deed was being asked of him. He dared not hesitate, for his master would become frustrated if he did so. Instead, he leaned forward to grab Danarius' erect member.

"Good boy," Danarius' voice echoed as Fenris tasted his master's flesh around his mouth.

Danarius ran his hands through Fenris' hair and inched his slave closer. Fenris compliantly took his master's erection deeper down his throat. A few times Danarius thrusted harder, Fenris choked. He tried to focus less on the pain on his back as Danarius neared climax. Fenris closed his eyes and tried not to gag, but it was hard not to with Danarius forcing himself in and out. Fenris knew that after he was done, Danarius would finally allow him to back upstairs in their richly decorated quarters, where he would remain by his side until he acted out again.

Fenris awoke suddenly from his nightmare only to find himself alone in a cold and dusty room.

The covers of his bed were tangled around him – from his thrashing about, no doubt. His snowy locks got caught in his eyes. He whisked the strands away from his face, noticing that he had been sweating in his sleep. Not only that, but the lyrium markings on his half-naked body was scorching in a glow and his heart was pumping so loudly it felt like it was about to pop from his chest.

Fenris ran his hands through his hair, trying to gather his breath.

He looked around at his surroundings: Spider webs and dust covered the mansion.

No one. There's no one was here anymore save for myself.

It took him a moment to regain his thoughts: Danarius' abandoned mansion. We - Hawke and I - we cleaned it out. You live here now.

His heartbeat steadied eventually.

He will be back though. He always comes back, one way or another.

But for the moment, Fenris was alone.

No one was there to assassinate him.

He loosened the grip he had on the sword next to his bed and let our a sigh of relief.

At least his escape was real. That eased his mind immensely. Danarius had yet to take him back to Tevinter and wipe his memory.

He was still himself, whatever that meant.

He was about to lay back down when another thought hit him:

Hadriana. Yesterday. She's gone. She's finally fucking gone.

Which meant he was that much closer to getting rid of Danarius.

Fenris was now permanently awake. He got up and went to wash his face, only to come back to the bedroom, make his way towards the window, and pull back the curtains slightly to peek outside. Droplets of water from his hair hit the windowsill. Tap. Tap. Tap.

It was still dark out.

"A few more hours until dawn." He murmured to himself.

His voice was oddly unsteady, no doubt still regaining his posture from the nightmare he just had.

Well, it wasn't so much a nightmare as it was a horrid memory he tried many times to forget. Normally, his nightmares seemed far less realistic than that one. In fact, he would rather endure many absurd nightmares than relive the horrors of the past. But whenever he slept, all that he seemed to 'dream' were remnants of a past he left behind.

Although he was not tired, he went back to bed and rested against the pillows with his arm over his head.

He gazed up at the empty ceiling tiles above him, pensively in thought:

This rage. When will it leave me? Hadriana is gone. But it is not. When will it be sated?

When he had finally caught up with Hadriana, she had begged him for mercy.

Oh, the look on her face was priceless. He wouldn't have traded a hundred gold coins to miss it. She was scared out of her wits, and he loved it.

How long had he imagined her begging for her life before him? That woman had gotten the best of him so many times before. To him, she was even worse than Danarius. All of the things that she did to him were indescribable, unimaginable – torturous.

Hadriana had made his life a living Blight.

Fenris closed his eyes, laying an arm across his head to block out the rising sun seeping through the window as his mind raced through the past again:

"Digusting, vile creature."

"Lick it. Lick my boot, you useless dog."

"Now tell me what you are. Say it!"

Just those memories alone had Fenris trembling in anger. And they weren't even that bad compared to others...

But she was dead now. Hadriana would never be able to lay a finger or speak another demeaning word to anyone else, ever. And Danarius lost a promising student.

"You did the right thing. She deserved what she got." Hawke's fingers traced over the stubble on his chin as she looked into his eyes.

Even if he regretted killing Hadriana, it was too late to go back now. Her cold corpse was rotting in a cave somewhere. There was nothing he could do different. There was nothing he wanted to do differently.

Now he could only look ahead. Now his primary focus could finally be shifted to Danarius.

"The queen is gone. Only your king remains." Hawke giggled, capturing his black rook on the chess board.

Fenris frowned, teeth clenched. He rose, sitting up on his bed. It creaked weakly as he shifted his body weight.

Focus, you fool. He told himself.

Danarius - his former master. Danarius, who would stop at nothing to bring Fenris back to Tevinter in chains because he still considered Fenris his property.

That was his focus.

Fenris thought of his dream again - a memory from a time long ago when he didn't know any better. The memory of Danarius tormenting him, and then expressing his perverse inclinations towards Fenris.

The thought made Fenris shudder. He couldn't think of the past for long. It always made him angry.

He was angry at himself for not taking action sooner. He was angry at himself for convincing himself of Danarius' love. He was angry that he became so complacent and believed all of Danarius' words like a child. He couldn't believe he once harbored any sort of affection for Danarius. He knew the 'love' he had persuaded himself to feel was just an illusion to make time pass by faster in the Imperium.

And it had left him feeling humiliated and stupid.

The idea that Danarius was doing the same thing to other slaves made Fenris feel both uncomfortable but also oddly relieved. For the time being, he was shielded from Danarius and free to do as he pleased. But the idea that others had suffered in his place made him uncomfortable.

As long as Danarius existed - as long as Danarius was behind him, nipping at his back - Fenris would never be free.

Danarius needed to be 'taken care of', in Hawke's terms. There was no other choice.

How many times had Fenris tried to hire his own mercenaries and assassins to kill Danarius? Too many to count, and each time the magister had anticipated them.

Of course Danarius was still alive. A magister of his caliber in the Imperium had both connections and money. Danarius could see assassination attempts from miles away. Fenris had neither the money nor the connections.

Well, he had no money anyway.

His connections were on the rise though.


His mind lashed out at him. The rational side did, at least.

No, don't go there. Stop thinking about it, you fool! Fenhedis. He gritted his teeth. Last night... What I said to her...

She's a distraction. He told himself. She can help, but there are dangers to letting her too close to you. You know that, don't you?

But he needed her connections and her help.

Fenris needed Hawke to help him take Danarius out - plain and simple. She had resources and connections that he didn't. Until Danarius was taken care of, he couldn't be tempted by entertaining himself with other frivolous thoughts...

Except it wasn't that simple anymore.

He and Hawke often exchanged certain glances that weren't altogether unwelcome. They travelled together, exchanged battle tactics, comforted one another, and flirted - a lot.

At first, he was embarrassed by her blatant flirtations. He thought she was making fun of him. But then she told him she was being serious one night when they were drinking, and he found himself seriously considering the idea.

It's too dangerous. She has no idea.

He never thought he would ever find someone to be completely infatuated with in Kirkwall. But there was a mutual attraction from the beginning; she was sarcastic and humorous, a trait he found oddly relaxing and entertaining. He tried to tell himself to stay away, but it was undeniable that she lingered in his mind more often than he cared to admit.

Slowly and steadily, he started flirting back. And she reciprocated every time. Now she had become one of the most precious thing he cared for.

And he wasn't about to lose her.

Fenris closed his eyes and swallowed, trying to repress his memories of hurting her. But the images were burned into his mind and he could not get rid of them.

Hawke... I'm sorry.

Every time he closed his eyes all he saw were her daunting green eyes – hurt and confused, but desperately searching his for a sign of love that he was not ready to indulge. His own feelings were just as mysterious to him as they were to her.

He couldn't find the words to explain his predicament to her. It was complicated, and she didn't need to know the details. It would only worry her, and then she would - as usual- try to fix it as soon as possible. He didn't have the heart to tell her just how complicated this was:

Danarius wasn't just another slaver to deal with. He wasn't just some mercenary or assassin she could stab in the face. He was power. He was money. He was a Tevinter magister. He had men serving under him. He had power in the form of nearly an army. He had methods of catching Fenris off-guard that did not involve physical assaults.

There was a reason Fenris had that dream last night. He put it there.

Get out of my head, Danarius. Fenris glowered at nothing or no one in particular. Fuck off.

But instead of explaining himself to her, Fenris ran like he always did when things got heavy-handed. He could not risk Danarius finding out about Hawke. Not after he tried so hard to shield her from his thoughts.

A part of him had hoped Hawke would hate him. He wished she had thrown a vase at him last night when he told her he was leaving. He desperately wanted her to loathe him, because the fact that Hawke still loved him pained him greatly. He hated seeing her gaze at him with those sad eyes. But he could neither encourage nor hinder her feelings for him.

He laid in bed, one arm over his forehead again, and closed his eyes.

There was no stopping the memories from flooding back:

"Is it the markings? Do they hurt?"

He was startled by her voice. He didn't know she was awake.

"Yes, but..." Fenris stopped short, wondering if she would think of his any less for being scared by a mere nightmare (if they could even be construed as such). In reality, what he experienced was a cruel reminder of his past. If anything, it motivated him to finish what he started.

What was he doing? His freedom was hard-earned. And now he was throwing it out the window by indulging in idle pleasures. If he wanted to remain free, he should be taking measures to ensure he stayed free.

This was too dangerous. It was too close. They were too close.

You're playing with fire.

It can't happen again.

His heart ached. His head hurt. He felt hot with internal turmoil. His head was spinning thousands of ways to diffuse the situation - to make things work out. But none of them seemed plausible. He was never good at planning ahead anyway. That's where Hawke came in to begin with. She was going to help him solve his troubles.

But now...

"Last night..." He swallowed. "Last night was the best I could have ever dreamed, but..."


The alarm in her voice was apparent. It made his heart jump wildly. He wanted to console and comfort her - to kiss her pain away and tell her everything was fine.

Tell me I'm just making a big deal out of nothing. Please...

But this was a big deal. He could no longer pretend it wasn't. He had already gone too far, and now she was in danger.

You idiot. You fucking idiot.

He couldn't believe he had indulged in something this adolescent before tying up loose ends. It had been incredibly irresponsible of him, and now he was angry at himself for letting it happen.

He had to explain this to her, but without divulging too much information. She couldn't know that Danarius could plant himself in his thoughts to gather information on them - to use Fenris' own friends against him. Hawke would understand if he explained himself, right?

But there was still that girl. The girl from his visions. Who was she?

Calling out for him. Her silver-blonde hair blowing in the wind as she smiled at him.

She touched his face - a gentle touch.

His arms were around her waist as he pulled her into a warm embrace.

She leaned in close, arms wrapped around his neck, his name coming out from her rosy red lips in a whisper.

What was his name? What was his name? Why couldn't he remember?

And then she was gone. In an instant.

No. He couldn't tell Hawke. He couldn't tell anyone. There's too much at stake.

He had to tell Hawke something else. Quick.

"I have to leave." His words trailed off, realizing that he had to put his foot down. The next words had to be clear-cut, not matter what. He couldn't look her in the eyes as he spoke: "I cannot do this, Hawke."

"What do you mean?" Her unsteady voice couldn't hide how surprised she was, even tough she tried to mask it with a playful tone. When Fenris didn't reply, she knew he was serious. He usually was.

"Hadriana was only just a peon under Danarius."

"So? We'll take care of him like we did her." She told him, quick to respond.

"I can't... I can't let you get in harm's way." Fenris replied quietly.

"What are you talking about, Fenris?"

Just give her a general idea. No details. Danarius can't know about her.

"You... you mean too much to me." He confessed. Even telling her this was dangerous. But he wanted her to know. maybe it would give her some solace.

"I can handle myself." Hawke stated in a matter-of-fact tone. Her voice was serious and stern. She was quickly regaining her assertive tone.

At least he would rest easy knowing that she was quick to recover.

"Please Fenris, you don't have to leave. That is no answer for the situation. Explain to me what is going on and we can figure this out together, like we always do."

He had always liked her determination. But he couldn't back away from this. He had made up his mind. This was the best choice.

But looking at her face as she tried to retain that strong posture and stubbornness was almost too hard. Almost.

He turned away from her. He was never good at giving speeches. He was a man of few words, after all.

How many hours had he spent lying beside her until he convinced himself that this was the way things had to be? He had prepared for this more or less. But he couldn't do it while looking at her. He had to turn away from those rosy cheeks, quivering lips, and gleaming olive eyes in order to do what he planned.

This is not easy.

So? Quit being a child!

"I can't." He started. "Hawke … being with me will not be a walk in the park."

"I'll say." She huffed.

"I have to leave. We can't continue this. I indulged the idea for a night, but - "

"Now you realize it was a mistake?" She fired back defensively without hesitation.

His heart jumped in alarm at her accusation. He could tell she was hurt and angry at him, and he didn't blame her.

"What? Was I not a good enough lay for you? Did you realize that there are better fish in the sea?"

There was a spiteful bitterness in her voice that he absolutely hated hearing. It was like poison. But he preferred it this way. It was almost better having her angry.

"Hawke - No, I - "

He turned to spare another glance at her. She wasn't even dressed yet. How could he stare at those voluptuous hips and not want to spend another two hours with buried deep inside her?

Unfortunately, he had plenty of self-restraint if nothing else.

"Then what is the matter?" She huffed, getting out of bed to throw on her robe. "Because I can't think of any other reason for you to fuck me and leave."

Oh, and here came her love for foul-language. Fenris would've smiled were it not for the severity of their situation. He liked so much of the little things about her - the foul-mouthedness, the stubbornness, the relentless help she was willing to give...

There was so much about her he had come to enjoy - like spending time with Hawke on those missions, on those long treks in the forest – on the bed. Especially on the bed.

He took too long of a pause to pick off where he started, and by that time Hawke had started to talk instead.

"Fenris, what is the matter? Please tell me. Do you... not like me anymore?"

"Hawke, no... I ... Nothing could be further from the truth, Hawke."

Please, believe me. If nothing else, believe this.

"Then let's work through this - whatever it is."

Her eyes glittered with hope in the dimly-lit bedroom.

No, he couldn't have that. He couldn't bear it.

Her hand touched his shoulder ever so slightly, and he could barely contain himself. He longed to take her in arms, hold her, kiss her feverishly and sweep her off her feet. Maker, he wanted to throw her in bed and...

"Stop. Please Hawke..."

He wrung her hand off of him, and immediately regretted it when he saw the hurt look in her eyes. But it was too late for him to take back his actions. He had stopped himself before everything would get out of control but unintentionally upset her in the process.

"Hawke, listen to me: I do have feelings for you. Someday, when everything is dealt with, we can - I just -" He paused, trying to place the right words together. "Things are too hectic. Everything is too ... it's all going too fast. I have other matters to take care of before we can... continue this."

"You're being dramatic." She rolled her eyes. "We can track Danarius if you want. I prefer to have his walk into a trap we lay out for him, but we'll make it a priority if it's urgent for you. You're clearly worried about him."

"No!" He told her hastily. "He - Danarius has methods. He has people. There's always people watching - looking for me."

"We've dealt with them in the past." She argued. "And we can continue doing so. It's not that big a deal, Fenris. You're just anxious because of that nightmare. I prom-"

"That's not what I meant." He told her. "There's always a few that slip through the cracks. I can - "

"So? We'll try harder to eliminate them all next time." She gritted her teeth.

"It's not that simple."

"How is it not simple? He sends people to kill you, we kill them instead. Eventually he'll run out of guys and come to us in person. And that's when we strike." She explained. "Or we use you as bait to lure him over. That'll probably be better, in fact!"

"That's not what I mean, Hawke." He frowned. "Look, I can't explain it but -"

"Then fucking try to." She gritted her teeth. He could tell she was fighting back from snarling at him angrily.

"Hawke, I have to do this. I have to get away for a while."

"You're being a dramatic prat! You know that?" She told him angrily. Her fists were balled up at her sides. She would've used a uglier term to describe him; he could tell she was biting her tongue on lashing out at him. It only made it hurt worse. "You owe me an explanation at least! Where are you even going to go?"

"I don't mean - I'm sorry. I truly am. But I... I have little choice in the matter..."

"Bullshit, Fenris." She told him. "You're running away without explaining shit to me."

"Hawke, I can't ..." He swallowed. "I... I enjoyed everything we had."

"'Had'?" She was trying to trick him into making a promise he knew he might not be able to keep. He couldn't - He couldn't lie to her.

"Being with you... it was better than anything I could ever imagine. But right now, I - I'm not ready. It's complicated."

"We're both adults, Fenris." He could tell she was trying to remain vigilant but calm.

"Yes, we are." He breathed. "So let's be reasonable. As long as there's a possibility for you to be in harm's way-"

"I'm constantly being bombarded by requests to venture out in the woods to kill shit. I'm pretty sure one more dangerous mission wouldn't be too much to handle." She rolled her eyes. "We will take care of Danarius, Fenris. Please -"

"I can't let you be a part of this anymore, Hawke." He told her. "It's my problem and I realize now the fewer people I have involved, the better."

"Well, it's too damned late for that." She rolled her eyes.

"Forgive me. But his circle of acquaintances run deeper than a few assassins and mercenaries. You have no idea what he's capable of. In the long run, it's better to end things while we're ahead."

"So you're going to dip out and run from me?"

"I'm not running from you Hawke. I would never dream of it." He told her, his eyes pleading for her to understand. "I just... I don't want to play with fire. I'd rather not have you become a victim - another hostage he would use against me. I wouldn't wish that on you, or any of our friends."

"Oh, how valiant of you." Her tongue was like a dagger, poisoned with sarcasm.

"Hawke -"

"You need me, I need you. Nothing should come between us, unless you let it. The only person letting Danarius come between us is you."

"You do not understand," Fenris replied. "Danarius has power – more power than we could handle together. If he comes after me, he'll come after you too. Just by telling you - just by tonight's actions alone - it gives him knowledge. Chances are he knows how much I value you. I guarantee he intends to take advantage of that. You cannot be safe as long as you are associated with me."

"Be reasonable, Fenris."

This conversation was dragging on for too long. He had to go, before he regretted it.

Every second matters.

"I'm sorry." He turned his back to her and started walking. "Please understand."

Nothing pained him as much as that day, when he walked away from the woman he loved, all to protect her.

He dared not look back, and he dared not say anything else to her.

Not even a farewell.