SUMMARY: Anders has been locked away since Hawke found out about his plan to sabotage the Chantry. However, when the team finds out Hawke is being targeted by Crows, they launch a full-scale investigation with the help of her cousin, Alethea Cousland. In the process, Bethany is released into the custody of Cousland for their journey to Antiva. Hawke, suspecting Danarius to be behind her assassins, wants to make sure everything goes smoothly in order to save Fenris from worrying. When they try to find a suitable healer to replace Anders, they stumble upon adversaries who severely injure Varric. Knowing that the dwarf is on the brink of death, Hawke hastily makes the decision to slip into the Templar cellars in the middle of the night to release Anders the night before the team takes off to Antiva. Varric is saved, but Fenris and Hawke get into t a big argument, with Fenris accusing Hawke of no longer trusting him...
Chapter 36: Our Demons
It was cold in this room. In this foreign bedroom on board the Queen's Pearl, the only heat came radiating off those fiery, glaring green eyes that burned hotly in this dimly-lit room. Hawke swore she could feel the smoke rising from those dilated pupils, and she wasn't quite sure what to do. Minutes ticked by as she and Fenris stood there, staring angrily at the other. Millions of thoughts and unspoken insecurities hung in the air. Never in the many years they had been together had they ever been in a room so overflowing with anger, pain, and ... awkwardness. All that had been left in silence unraveled like silken ribbons on a little boy's Satanalia gift. Words failed the great Eden Hawke. Her lips were dry – there was nowhere for her to hide.
"You... think I don't trust you?" She finally asked quietly, if only to break the silence.
"What would you have me believe?" Fenris answered quick enough. He did have a point.
Her chest throbbed and she felt as though a thick blade had been twisted into her heart. She had no idea what this conversation with lead to. She wished she could go back in time to at least warn herself of this impending quarrel. But then again, how would she have prepared for this anyway? Freeing an apostate was a completely irresponsible, sporadic decision and she understood how Fenris felt... But why did that matter? Fenris' views were a little more than skewed to begin with.
Hawke felt her teeth grind uncomfortably and her jaw tense. Her fist trembled at her side.
"I would have you believe that I did what I thought was best!" She was irritated at herself, tapping her foot erratically, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you beforehand. I thought it would worry you, but now that I'm thinking about it – and now that's we're having this conversation – I regret not telling you at all! There, are you satisfied?"
"'Satisfied' would not be the word I would use to describe my current disposition." He growled.
"What do you want from me, then?" She angrily thrust her hands in the air. "Am I to kneel on the floor and beg you for your forgiveness? I did what I thought was right, Fenris! I don't have to ask you for permission for everything, and I never have! I've led us to countless battles – countless victories - and I act based upon what is best for us, as a team. That's what I do – it's what I've always done! Maker, I don't know what's gotten into you all of a sudden!"
"Do not speak of me as if I am untamed and heartless!"
"That's not what I meant! You're pulling accusations from out of nowhere!" She huffed. "This is too sudden a change! You've never commented on how I did things before! This is just because Danarius concerns you personally, and all of a sudden you're too paranoid and afraid of every little thing! If you're going to be a critic, why did you ask me for help to begin with? You could've just covered up and kept silent about it like you do everything else! If you want to deliver Danarius to his deathbed yourself, I assure you I won't rob you of your glory!"
"It is not glory I seek, Champion." He retorted.
"Is that right? Chasing vengeance on those who wronged you while keeping secrets from me - How the fuck am I supposed to help if you keep all your problems behind lock and key? You're no better than Anders!"
"You will not compare me to him." Fenris snarled through his teeth. "I am nothing like your pet."
"He is not my pet! Anders is a person, just like you! You can't tell me that I'm treating you like an animal and then call Anders my pet! You can't bitch and moan about being mistreated as a slave your entire life but then turn around and treat someone else the same! Anders is not himself because of that monster inside him! He deserves help from someone who cares!"
"If you care about him so much, why don't you run back to him instead?" Fenris spat. "Instead of slipping out in the dead of night, just go ahead and run to him next time. If you're so willing to risk your life for the abomination, I'm not stopping you! Go on and tend to him!"
She hated this vile, aggressive animosity. His words sounded so nasty and spiteful.
"Don't be a jealous ass, Fenris." Hawke told him angrily. "I don't need you scowling the entire time we are here! We're going to be stuck on a ship the next few days with each other, I would like it if you kept your jealousy under control!"
"It is not jealousy that we are speaking of; it is your lack of cooperation. If you're so tied up in the problems of others, then allow me to make my own decisions. I can't have your mind occupied by other concerns. Danarius is my problem to begin with, I shall deal with him myself." Fenris replied sternly. "You know this is of utmost importance to me; I used to desire nothing more than Danarius' rotting head at my feet, but now things have changed. Maker-be-damned if you don't let me do this my way, I will not risk the lives of you or our companions due to your recklessness!"
"Did you even think things through when you went to break the abomination out? What would've happened if it didn't work out the way you thought? How do you intend to lead us if you are behind Templar bars? Or worse, dead?" He stared at her intently, waiting for her response.
"Fine! I'll admit breaking Anders out was a hasty decision," She breathed hotly. "But that aside, I have never led you to believe my tactics were unreliable otherwise. You have followed me all these years, have you not? I thought this was what you wanted – us helping you go after Danarius and ridding you of these nightmares once and for all! What changed? Does having Anders on board make you so uptight and angry that you are incapable of thinking rationally?"
"Do not mention rationality to me, Hawke." He fumed. "After last night, you have no grounds to use that term. Jealousy and the mage has absolutely nothing to do with this,"
"I know it was a risk retrieving him, but it was a risk I was willing to take. We will defeat your magister and you will see. It's in the past now!"
"It's not as simple as that." He told her gloomily. "It's never as simple as that."
"Then what is it?" She asked impatiently. "Your incessant need to pick at this issue further is damn bloody aggravating. It is done, so let it be! I realize last night I might've been irrational, but it's the past. I am fine, see? Whether you like it or not, I'm still making the decisions. I will welcome any insight you have but I'll have you know that I've never needed guidance for every decision I make, and that's not about to change."
"This concerns me more than it does you." Fenris frowned. "You are treading in a domain you are unfamiliar with. Tevinter is nothing like Kirkwall. My 'insight', as you call it, is invaluable. It is not optional."
"I'm not going to run everything by you just because you're getting a little antsy." She rolled her eyes.
"Do you care to test that, Hawke?"
"I'm in charge. That's final. This discussion is over, Fenris."
"This is my problem. We do this my way." He seethed. "You are mad, woman, if you think I'm going to let you decidehow I get to handle this."
"If certain events demand your expertise, I will ask for it." She repeated, trying but failing to control her boiling rage. "Until then, this is how we're to do things. End of story."
Her nostrils flared up in fury, her stubborn gaze unblinking. But Fenris was not phased by this. Normally, he would've let things go. But this was different. This was his problem, and she was making it worse. He had to stay his ground:
"No. I want to make the decisions from now on. This is one mission in which I request – no, I demand - you let me decide where we go from here."
"Why? So you can throw Anders overboard the moment I consent?"
"Oh believe me, Hawke. I would not need your consent for that." His words lingered in the air, filled with dark promise and contempt.
"I am not letting you hold the reins, Fenris." Hawke repeated. "You may think I have a attachment to Anders, but that has nothing to do with why I freed him last night. Tactically, he gives us a advantage. He is on our side, and I'd rather it stay that way. He's willing to help his friends, and Varric needed him last night. I made a difficult decision under life-or-death circumstances. It was a risk I was willing to take. You, on the other hand, have an attachment to Tevinter and are clearly not suited to make decisions that can affect - "
"And you are?" He spat. "You secretly rescued a abomination from the Templar dungeons without telling any of us! Who do you consider your allies, Hawke? Anders or us?" Fenris snarled, his face contorted and his hands waving around like a madman.
"Oh, don't be ridiculous!" Hawke exclaimed. "There is not need to be so dramatic! Anders is on our side – how many bloody times do I have to tell you this? There are no sides in the matter! There is no choice to be made!"
His voice rose. "I am not going to - "
"Maker's flaming ass! Alright you two, break it up already! Aren't you tired of all this bullshit?!"
Both Fenris and Hawke jumped at the loud, crashing racket of the door bursting wide open, followed by the hollow resonance of wooden chips flying down to the floorboards.
Varric's boot emerged from the doorway, Bianca closing in behind him.
"You two are both being fucking stupid, and I can't listen to any more of this nugshit!" The dwarf admitted, kicking the door closed with his boot again.
"Varric, what are you doing?" Hawke demanded, on hand clutched to her chest. Her heart was still pounding adrenaline. She glared at the dwarf. This was her private quarters, and she had been having a personal conversation. Now would've been the worst time for someone to come barging in. Damn her nosy-ass friends, is she didn't love them so much...
"Mind your own business, dwarf. This has nothing to do with y-"
"Shut up, Fenris." Varric snapped, grabbing a chair to sit on.
Hawke's eyes widened. That was the first time Varric ever called Fenris by name, let alone been snippy to anyone.
"You've got a good thing going on, and I can't let you two ruin things again. I'm not picking up any of the pieces of your spat. I'm sick and tired of this!"
Varric ignored the dirty looks they were giving him. Despite his injuries being treated, Varric was still limping. Hawke swore she saw him cringe as he sat down. But Varric settled down just fine on his own and waved Hawke off when she softened her resolve and tried to help him.
"So let's get the mushy and gooey stuff out of the way first, okay?" He frowned – Hawke rarely saw Varric this serious. "First of all, you two have found something I know for a fact most people search for their entire lives – love." Fenris and Hawke exchanged looks. "And now that you've – don't interrupt me, Hawke - now that you've found someone who loves you in this blasted, nug-infested world, you're fucking it up over what? Who has the most power? Over which one of you is in control? Well, I hate to tell you this folks, but that's not love. Love is trusting someone enough to tell them what's really bothering you - and you know what? That's what you're going to do. Right now. "Hawke?" He motioned to her to get started. "Ladies first."
"Varric - "
"I'm not leaving until you two have this sorted out. The others are worried for the both of you, and you two are the only ones that know how to fix this. You know deep inside what you really are mad at each other about. Go on, Hawke. You've always been serious when it matters most – don't let that change now."
Hawke sulked. Stupid, stubborn dwarves. She would have to get a shovel and put on twenty extra pounds if she planned on even making Varric budge out of that chair. Fenris shifted uncomfortably beside her.
Varric tapped on the wooden arms of his chair. "So here I am. You're going to have to throw me out on my ass if you want me to leave this room, Hawke."
Oh, Varric. Hawke's expression changed. She could never throw him out of her room (least of all with that injury); Varric was as good as family to her. How long had he stuck it out with her? Through thick and thin, through blood and dragonfire - Varric had been there since the beginning. He rarely expressed any imposing opinions of his own. Now here he stood, limping before her. And he was – for once – irritated and insistent with her.
Varric had a good point: if she was bothered by something Fenris said or did, why didn't she just come out and say it to begin with? What did she have left to lose? Fenris only wanted to protect her, didn't he? Why was she so afraid of telling him how she felt? Deep down, she always knew that answer. She knew this was a problem that would eventually resurface – it had broken them apart the first time around, hadn't it?
She took in a uneasy breath and looked into those magnificent, green elven eyes. She could see Fenris' frustration and hurt, and it tore her heart to pieces. She hadn't even thought out legitimate plans when she slipped away last night. She was too busy thinking of all the ways she could get caught and brainstorming a plethora of methods to sneak into the Templar Tower undetected. But now the idea of Fenris waking up to not see her sleeping peacefully beside him pained her too much for words to express. She ought to have known how that felt - waking up and realizing that your lover was gone. She, better that anyone, should've known.
"When you told me you wanted to run away and take care of things yourself, I felt the past come back to haunt me." She spoke quietly, not meeting his eyes and instead looking to the floor. "You were right; I have trouble trusting you after that. I poured my heart out to you, Fenris, and I didn't know you weren't ready for it. It broke my heart the first time you left and I never want to feel that hopeless and desperate again."
She expected Fenris to interrupt, but continued when she realized he was listening intently: "But now that I have you again, I'm afraid it'll happen again. I mean, wasn't Danarius the reason why you left in the first place? I don't want that to happen again. I don't want to lose you, so I wanted to organize and fix every hole in our plans – even if it meant taking a risk to free Anders and save Varric. That way, you can be reassured that this – what we have together – will last. When you close yourself off from me it is equivalent to telling me that I'm not reliable to you. But you can rely on me. You can rely on me and your friends. Because even though I know you find it hard to believe this, we care and trust you."
Fenris opened his mouth but no words came out. He did not know what to say in response. He shot a look at the dwarf, equally uneasy at venting out his feelings to an outsider as she had been. Varric playing their mediator was annoying, and uncomfortable. But when the dwarf gave him a friendly nod, Fenris replied quietly:
"Hawke, leaving you was the hardest thing I've ever done." He let out a deep breath. "I realize that... I have trouble trusting others. My past impedes my judgment, but it was never in my intention to imply that you were reckless, ill-suited leader."
"That makes one." She snorted.
"I... I've never wanted to protect anyone but myself. For the longest time, my survival was the only thing that mattered. But meeting you, and everyone else, changed all that. I don't want any of our allies to come in harm's way. I have... come to care for them, just as you do."
"I'm touched, Broody!"
Fenris ignored Varric, feeling it would be best if he just remained honest with Hawke while imaging Varric wasn't there at all. Otherwise, he wasn't so sure he'd be able to continue being completely vulnerable and honest with her in his presence.
"Now we're heading right into the eye of the storm and we've already got a limping dwarf!"
"I've suffered worse." Varric smiled reassuringly.
"And about last night... I know you only wanted to help me, but in the back of my mind the abomin – Anders – has always occupied a part of your heart that I cannot touch."
"I've told you before, I don't feel the same way towards him than I do you." She gently touched his arm. "And if I'm to be honest, I don't think I ever have."
"I'm not a exceptional liar, Hawke, but it wouldn't be truthful of me if I told you I'm glad you brought Anders back. Going back to Tevinter reminds me of many things I tried for years to forget – memories that plague my dreams. Betrayal was one of the first words I can remember learning; Unfortunately, Trust is not." He spoke in a calmer tone. "I know you were only trying to patch up a hole in our plans as quickly and efficiently as possible. I... I didn't mean it when I said you were unreliable. Maker help us, I'm the one who asked you to help me take care of Danarius!" He tossed a weak smile towards her. "I was just surprised. I find myself worrying for your safety more than my own, and it was confusing at first. But now, I only want to keep you safe from him. I know I'm being paranoid. But I can't make sure of your safety unless I prevent harm from coming your way at any cost. I realize now that it is rather hypocritical for me to think that way..."
"If you're worried about our safety, then fight alongside me. We've lived years in Kirkwall fighting danger and cheating death." She reminded him. "I find my strength lies not in my blades, but in my allies. That's why I thought – even though he was extreme in his actions – Anders still accompanied us for many years and deserved more than a cold cellar."
"Anders is not a subject I wanted to discuss. I was worried to death when I found you missing this morning. I thought you had been taken. I went around town looking for traces of your presence since the break of dawn. And to find out about – when I saw you together with - I was beyond infuriated when I heard what you had done. I wished you had told me what you were planning, even if it meant waking me in the middle of the night. But now that I think of it rationally, were I in your position I wouldn't have disclosed my plans either given my feelings on mages. I … I understand why you weren't able to trust me."
"Even if my decisions may not reflect them entirely, you know I value your opinions Fenris. ."
"I will keep that in mind. Perhaps I will try harder to place my complete trust in you, so that you can do the same to me."
"I think I can agree to that. I'll tell you the next time I have spontaneous plans in the middle of the night?" She suggested with a smile.
Her hands gripped his arms tightly, her fingers lightly brushing against his skin.
"I can agree to that." She smiled.
"See?" Varric clapped loudly, startling them both. They had nearly forgotten he was still there. "How hard was that, ladies and gents? Honesty is the key. It always will be."
"Do not think we will not remember your eavesdropping, dwarf." Fenris growled, dreadfully embarrassed to have Varric listening in on this very intimate discussion.
"Maybe next time you shouldn't yell so loudly." Varric suggested as he jumped off the chair.
"Are you sure you should be walking around so much?" Hawke asked cautiously, opening the door for him. She frowned at his disposition and helped him out the door, supporting his arm as he crossed the threshold.
"Don't baby me, Hawke." Varric told her as he walked out, waving her off. He gave her a wink. "You know I'm better than that."
"Well, that was before your aiming arm got pierced by a hail of arrows."
"Say what you will, Champion." He winked. "Your dramatic graces will be recorded in my books either way, so how about we call it even?"
Fenris groaned and Hawke shook her head, watching Varric stumble down the halls, his chuckling echoing down the corridor...
To be honest here, I really hadn't expected it to go that well. All I knew was that those two going around in circles was driving me - and probably most of the others - a little crazy. Rolling eyes and turning a blind eye for years on end was getting tiresome. They clearly needed a push, so there I was. I guess Hawke and the ol' Broodfather really were meant to be. Ah, but that sounds too mushy to be me, doesn't it?
But honestly? There's really no better way to explain it. If those two could put aside their differences for each other – especially Fenris' hate for the mage - then it symbolized how much they meant to each other, and how far they were willing to go. I've got to commend ol' Broody for his honesty though. I didn't expect him to explain himself in front of me without throwing a hissing fit. I thought all I would be able to get out was a few grumbles and threatening glares before I was ushered out the door. Why, I remember back in the day how hard it was just to get him to talk about himself during a game of Wicked Grace! It's amazing how much he changed, that Broody... I'd like to say that it was all because of our growing companionship, but I'm sure Broody would've given me the stink eye for that mushy crap anyway.
As for Hawke – she's been in charge for so long it was good to have someone challenge her authority once in a while to bring her back to her senses. For all her joking and sarcasm, she tended to get too emotionally involved in matters that didn't really require so much dedication. But that's why everyone loved her I suppose. Her dedication and determination won over our hearts. That's also why Broody arguing and yelling at her had its good intentions too. He had a point, after all - Saving Blondie was good and fine, but she really put her ass on the line for the healer.
Now I'm not saying that it wasn't worth it – Blondie saved my life that morning - but breaking into the Templar headquarters by her lonesome self had to be one of the single, most reckless mistakes I had ever seen her do. I wish I could say that it could've been worse, but freeing Blondie probably was one of the things she regretted the most. But then again, because of him I'm still here, aren't I? He saved my life that day. It would've been a fair exchange were it not for Blondie's... well, you know.
But if Hawke was given the chance to live her life over again, I bet all my chest hair that she'd say nothing would change; Her decisions would remain the same. She still would've risked her life to save Anders. She still would've fallen in love with Fenris and risked her life to save him too. Anders still would've suffered until his last breath, and what he unleashed in Kirkwall would've spread over Thedas like a plague. Nothing would change. So I suppose saying that she 'regretted' freeing Anders from the Templar prison is a lie. Because in the end, she didn't regret it.
Life's too short to look back on the past. You only live once, she told me.
And of course, that was on the day the baby came.
And right before she left us.
"That was... unexpected." Hawke told Fenris as she bolted the door. Thankfully, the lock still worked and all that got dented were the front panels. Nothing a few gold pieces couldn't fix once they landed in Antiva. The door could use another coat of paint anyway.
"I never thought the day would come where I would require the assuring words of a limping dwarf to calm myself." Fenris told her.
There was a small ice chest in the corner of the room, and Fenris had rummaged through it to find what Hawke assumed was his special stash. He grabbed a bottle of red wine and wasted no time pouring himself a glass.
"Well, now that we've thought about it, I suppose we can agree this was entirely a waste of time and we were being incredibly stupid." She fetched herself a small goblet from the cupboards. "I promise to consult you on every decision I make, so let's put this behind us. Care you share some of what you're haivng?" She smiled, giving him her golden cup.
Fenris was in the midst of savoring the familiar taste of the rich ambrosia. The individual pieces of the silver gauntlet gleamed as his long, lovely fingers beckoned her closer. It was strange how such a simple motion could look so seductive when he did it. Even the straining muscles on his stretched neck looked delectable.
His arm reached over to grab her firmly – confidently - by the back of the neck. She yelped before sensing his wet, cool lips against hers. She could feel the chilled metal of his armored claws scraping against her skin. His tongue came to slowly lick her lips apart. She could never play 'hard to get' with this elf for long – he was too irresistible and he knew exactly how to get what he wanted. Call it her more submissive subconscious, but Hawke was just about willing to do anything for this man – an idea that both thrilled and scared her.
She tasted the sweet, tannic flavor on him. The intoxicating, dulcet drink on her taste buds came in a wave of the hot, ambrosial wine washing inside her. She let out a soft, muffled cry against his lips, and then he pulled away. She swallowed, face flushed and trying to catch her breath.
Fenris bent down to trail kisses down her chin, his grip on her neck still firm.
"Or... you could just feed me like that every day." She purred. "I wouldn't be opposed to it."
"Do you know how worried I was when I realized you were gone?" He breathed. She could smell the scent of the aged red wine in the air.
"I'm sorry," She whispered, the sinews in her chest twisted into a sour tremble at the thought of Fenris waking up alone again.
"I thought you had been taken." He murmured.
"You thought I was kidnapped? In my own home?" She snorted, a hand rising to run through that soft, irresistible, snowy hair. He smelled of cinnamon again – how utterly delicious. "I'm not a princess, Fenris. I don't need you to rescue me every time there's a small incident. I'm no damsel."
"You could've fooled me. I don't consider being targeted by a magister a 'small incident', Hawke." He pulled away, eyes flashing dangerously. "And neither should you."
"That's not what I meant." She assured him. "But be honest, Fenris: You didn't really think I had been kidnapped, did you? Why would they kidnap me when you were sleeping right there beside me?"
"Danarius is not exactly the most merciful person in the world." He told her glumly. "He would take you from me just to see me crawl back to him of my own volition." She pursed her lips, her smile fading.
"Well, that won't happen." She told him. "I promise."
"That is my line." Fenris shot her a hopeless smile.
He took his gauntlets off, the silver plating scratched and unpolished. It made a heavy clunking noise at it hit the vanity table, the dirt and grime immediately marking the white lace tablecloth. She watched as his long fingers twirled around the metal screw to pop open the wine bottle again. Every move he made seemed too much like a well-choreographed dance that she was beginning to wonder if this was a mannerism he had picked up as a slave for Danarius, or if this was just purely natural. She had heard numerous horror stories of the lavish parties Magisters would throw. Save for humiliating their slaves in front of guests, Hawke had always wondered what such events would be like and how it differed from the rest of the parties she had gone to before.
Fenris reached for her goblet and she handed it to him reluctantly.
"And here I thought you were going to deliver every drop to me personally." She let out a loud, deliberate, disappointed sigh.
He rose a brow. "If that is your wish, I suppose we could come to some sort of arrangement." He told her, reclining against the vanity and shooting her one of his irresistibly handsome, amused smirks.
"Oh?" She piqued. "And just what did you have in mind?"
He handed her the filled goblet. "If you manage to best me in a physical duel before we hit to docks, I will personally serve your ever need, my lady."
"Oh?" She rose a brow, gleefully smirking. Her arms crossed her chest, smug. "Now this idea, I like."
"We have yet to arrange some decent sparring sessions. I think all of us could do well with some new techniques and training."
"My thoughts exactly." She shifted her weight. "Actually, I was going to ask Zevran to help me."
Fenris' frowned. "Why would you ask that lecherous sellsword for help?"
"Training with him will be beneficial. We work well together, and I think he has some useful tactics and techniques I might otherwise miss out on if I don't take the opportunity to learn now."
"I don't think I need to tell you my thoughts on this." Fenris turned away, taking a long gulp from his goblet. "But in case it's not clear: He's been trained as an assassin most of his life; his type doesn't know how to do anything else. They rely on sneaky, underhanded tactics, both in battle and in conversation. And I don't trust him."
"I think your opinion of him is apparent. But I can take care of myself, Fenris. Besides, you don't see me giving you the stink-eye for training with Aveline all the time!"
He rolled his eyes. "Aveline is married, for one. She and Donnic have a wide plethora of weaponry at the training grounds that I like. Besides, you know I've said time and time again that she's more like the sister I never wanted..." He grumbled the last part.
"My point is: I trust you." He told her. "But I don't trust him."
"He's a flirt, I'll give you that."
"Do not egg him on, Hawke." Fenris warned. "I don't need another would-be suitor on your doorstep. You have too many of those already; I don't know how many more I can take before I go on a murderous killing spree." Anders being at the top of his list, of course. But Hawke didn't need to know that.
"Oh, you're being silly again." She rolled her eyes. "It's just Zevran. He's like a male Isabela. Besides, Zevran knows how I feel about you; it's just training. It's not like we're going on a romantic boat ride and candle-lit dinner! Honestly elf, you're starting to sound like my father!"
"Preposterous. If I were you father, I'd forbid you from seeing him at all."
Hawke stamped her foot as she shouted with a high-pitched tone: "How could you say that? We're in love, daddy! You wouldn't understand because you're too old! No one understands me! I hate you! I hate everyone!"
Try as he might to hide it, Fenris laughed at her comedic antics – he actually laughed!
"You foolish, jealous man!" She shoved his playfully.
Fenris sighed, scratching his head. "Honestly, will you ever learn to take heed of my warnings?"
"I am taking heed of your warning; I'll be careful. But this is just training. From one capable warrior to another." Hawke told him. "That's all this is. Don't over-think it."
"What if he tries to plant a blade in your back? How do we know he was not hired by Danarius? He may be your cousin's friend, but she does not know him completely!"
"He was – and still is – a Grey Warden! He fought alongside her during the Blight! They slayed the archdemon together! How vile a creature can he be, hm? And if he can help us get to Danarius, then who am I to judge his character?"
"He was a Crow. He is paid to kill. We don't know anything about him. Killing Danarius is not as important as preserving our lives."
"Never thought I would hear those words from you." She muttered.
"You are more important."
She couldn't help but flash him a large, goofy grin before kissing him lightly on the jaw.
"You are sweet," She whispered. "I will be careful. I promise. Besides, Zevran may be stealthy, but I have survived far worse. If he's going to come at me, I'll be ready."
"And if he decides to, Maker forbid, woo you into bed?"
Hawke burst out laughing. "'Woo' me? Oh Fenris. You are too much!"
"Fine, fine. I give up. Maker, I do sound like a overbearing jackass, don't I?"
"You do not." She shook her head.
"Well, that's a relief."
"It takes two to dance, Fenris." She smiled. "Will it make you feel better if I told you I'll punch Zevran in the nose if he tries anything? Shall I promise to carry a whistle whenever I'm without you?"
Fenris sighed in defeat. "I understand. I'll let it go. Let's change the topic."
"How about another glass of this wonderful wine?"
Despite a lovely evening of festivities, wine, and seafood delicacies (much to Fenris' chagrin), Hawke had decided to retire early that evening. She planned to keep her word on getting some serious training done. She refused to allow this vacation to Antiva and Tevinter misguide her, both for her own sake and that of her companions. Fenris was approving of this and followed her back to the cabins, ignoring all the catcalls and whistling as the two of them left early that night.
The next morning Fenris woke early, kissing Hawke chastely on the cheek before leaving to get some fresh air. He had found the constant moving on board the ship to be uneasy and had trouble falling asleep. Perhaps later he would ask Hawke to give him more of that magical sleeping drug she possessed. Of course, he had been trying hard not to use those kinds of medicinal potions often, disliking the idea of getting addicted to it.
The cabin Hawke and Fenris shared was the largest on board the ship, courtesy of Isabela obviously. Of course, the pirate only offered the room in hopes that he and Hawke would 'consummate their love' on this ill excuse for a vacation, but Fenris refused to go along with the pirate's plan. He did not like being controlled and manipulated by others, least of all by the likes of Isabela.
The sunlight streamed through the large window panes on the side of ship. Fenris felt the warmth down to his bones the moment he entered the winding hall from his cabin. Despite feeling that familiar quphoria of having sun-soaked toes, Fenris still had to raise a arm to shield himself. The curtains in his room had prevented harsh light from entering the bedroom so he had to adjust himself to the brightness as he headed to the washroom for his routine morning shower. Thank the Maker there was clean water on board the ship – it was rather hot in the cabins.
He groggily shuffled along the halls, his hands running along the sleek, mahogany walls. It was one routine after another every morning: Fenris would touch something close with his fingers first – something physical and familiar. For the longest time, that was the only way he could know for sure that he was in reality. One of Danarius' favorite games to play were tricks on Fenris' mind. It was far worse than any physical torture Fenris had to endure. Never had he felt more naked and vulnerable than when Danarius chose to pick at his mind.
His visions and dreams could sometimes go on for days on end. In these illusions, Fenris would be with his mother again, her arms scooping him up warmly and kissing him on the cheek like a young babe... Danarius favorite pasttime would be finding new way to torment his subjects, and Fenris was not any different. Once he was wrapped in the sweet comfort of his mother, Danarius would smash those dreams of dreams into pieces, setting the visions ablaze with magic, madly cackling as Fenris regained himself – frantic, confused, and in despair. Once Danarius had even allowed Fenris to run free from the magister's palace on purpose just to have him taste the freedom before swiping it away before his very eyes. Fenris would be forced to kill those he cared for, and to set flames to homes of those who were most undeserving of such cruelty.
Just to spite his slave, Danarius once ordered Fenris to slaughter an entire family – even the newborn children. And try as he might, the leash a magistrate had was not easily broken, and Fenris was forced to oblige time and time again. Only in his dreams was he able to escape reality – if only for a little. Sometimes Fenris could faintly hear the sound of a mabari and children laughing around him, and when he opened his eyes he was greeted with a hazy outline of a woman walking towards him, asking him to wake up as her melodic laughter filled his ears... like a goddess beckoning him and tempting him with an eternal paradise that only existed in his mind...
Then Danarius would awaken him with the abrupt sound of a whip.
Fenris' eyes snapped open. His heart was pounding. Sweat dripped down the side of his jaw, and it had little to do with the sunbeams washing down his back from the windows. He let out a deep breath uneasily. The ship rocked steady back and forth. Fenris stood in the middle of the hall, looking at his toes. He had spent too many years of his life living in illusions and trying to figure out what was real and what was not. Once he had escaped from Danarius (and made sure it was real), he had made it a habit to reach out and touch something familiar every morning.
At first, it was his sword. Then, it was the pillow he slept on every night at the mansion. Then, it was the Book of Shartan that he read every night. But now... Ever since that night, he did not trust his books or soft pillow to reassure him of reality as much as he did one other thing: Hawke.
After that night with her, all he desired was to touch Hawke every morning he woke – just to feel that overwhelming assurance of what was real and what was not. He had known from the day after he left her, in a fit of panic and aggravation, that she had become his reality. That night when he was free to explore her – to touch her wherever – to study the geography of her body. There was a sense of wholeness that he had felt when she kissed him, when she touched him, when she leaned against him... That moment she broke into his thoughts and offered clarity to his otherwise confused thoughts. She proved to him that she was real – not a figment of his imagination. She was a constant in his life; She was around him nearly every day. If he was able to touch that soft, peachy skin against his each day, he would know that he was not dreaming – that he was not living in one of Danarius' poisonous illusions. He would know that she was there, and so was he – and that they were together, in a world that was... real.
When he woke in the morning, Hawke would still be there. Her skin, flushed and rosy, even as she slept... Knowing that she existed – knowing that she was the anchor in which he knew for sure that he was not being manipulated by a magister in a dream world - he felt tacky for admitting that it was the best feeling in the world but he would be lying if he denied it. Fenris blinked several times. His heart had been pounding so hard it pained his chest.
Slowly, he made his way down the hall and walked into the bathroom. He needed to gather his thoughts. Today was the start of a new day – a day of training and preparation. Every moment from now on counted towards something. He couldn't afford to daydream any longer. Every day he ventured closer to Tevinter – to Danarius – to the end.
His toes hit the cold, wet tiled floors, but Fenris suddenly stopped dead in his tracks:
"Well, this is awkward." Anders stopped dead as he spoke, his hand halfway reaching for the scissors near the sink.
"If you're going to try killing me with that thing, hurry up and get it over with." Fenris snarled, enraged that such a warm morning could be ruined so quickly. He had enjoyed thinking about touching Hawke's skin and ending Danarius once and for all, but now... If Anders was going to give Fenris a reason to pummel the mage into a bloody pulp on the washroom floor, Fenris was more than willing to oblige.
"It's a pair of scissors, you paranoid fool." Anders rolled his eyes and looked back into the mirror. "I'm cutting my hair. You can wait outside if you don't want to be in here."
"Just hurry up." Fenris barked, turning back to wait outside the open door.
"Grooming isn't something you can do in just seconds." Anders told him. "It takes time."
"How long are you going to be then?" Fenris asked irritably.
"I don't understand what the problem is," Anders huffed. "I'm not in your way. There's another sink and stall over there. It's not like you've got anything I haven't seen before."
Fenris glared at Anders in return. "You'll be lucky you're able to see at all, abomination." Fenris replied.
"Don't vampiric vultures like you usually only come out at night? Why are you up so early?"
"Some of us have work to do." Fenris replied shortly. "I ought to ask you the same, though I care little for your answer. You shouldn't even be here."
"I am here because Hawke wants me to be." Anders glared back.
"Hawke rescued you out of a sense of duty, and because you are a healer," Fenris replied coolly. "You are lucky she finds you useful enough to break out of the prison you belong."
"Risking her own life?"
Fenris hated the smug smirk Anders wore. He frowned. This abomination with playing with his mind, and Fenris did not take well to it. Anders was trying to plant seeds of insecurity within him, but Fenris knew better.
"We needed a healer and unfortunately you were our only choice." Fenris told Anders, trying to calm the adrenaline pumping through his veins. "We tried to find a decent healer, but were unsuccessful."
"She risked her life to save me, and it bothers you, doesn't it? I can tell."
"You are convincing no one but yourself." Fenris replied; he was not gloating either. "Believe what you want. Hawke believes you were the best option. That is the only reason you are here, and the only reason she risked her life to save you – she did it to save the dwarf, and to save the rest of us from your kind when we reach the Imperium."
"It is your problem that landed us here in the first place!" Anders accused. "Just let me finish up and I'll leave, alright? It's early in the morning and I don't need to deal with you!"
"You have no one save for the mages in Tevinter to impress. We all know what you've done, or attempted to do." Fenris snorted.
"You know nothing." Anders frowned, tying his hair and muttering. "You know nothing about me."
"I know enough." Fenris frowned. Anders turned abruptly, angrily gesturing in the air. "Like what? What has Hawke told you? That I tried to kill other people? How is that any different than what you're about to do? How is that different than what we've all done? We've killed numerous vagrants, bandits, soldiers – I've lost count! But at least my reasons are justified!"
"Justified? That is not the way others would see it." Fenris seethed. "I travel across the seas to hunt those who would bring me back to Tevinter in chains. I embark on a perilous voyage to fight for my actual freedom from wretched mages. Meanwhile, you stand here trying to justify the killing of innocent citizens for the sake of your 'freedom'! It is a slap in the face for all slaves, and you've done nothing but prove my point: No mage can be trusted."
"And what of Hawke? What of Bethany? Do you think they cannot be trusted either? Try talking to Hawke about this, and I guarantee she'll - "
"She and I have since come to an understanding. What goes on between us is none of your concern either way."
"Don't think I can't see right through you! All you've ever wanted was revenge! You're just using her to achieve it! You have nothing to offer her except for your demented past and-"
"I am not the one trying to convince myself that Hawke still needs me." Fenris replied. "She can make her own decisions. I asked her for help; she willingly gave it. What happens when we come back to Kirkwall will be up to her. Not you, and not me either."
"Mages are chained too. Mages yearn for freedom just as slaves do." Anders whispered. "Hawke believes this. Hawke knows of their plight."
"But she also understands that the Circle exists for good purpose. You obviously do not."
"What would you know?" Anders glared. "You've only ever forced your own opinions on her! She has no choice but to agree because she doesn't want to argue! You don't know anything about her! She's been with me for so much longer! She – I - I loved her!"
"Do not bear your heart to me, mage." Fenris snarled. "Unless you would have me rip it out, along with your annoying voicebox."
"You wouldn't understand my plight." Anders replied bitterly, rinsing the blades of scissors. "No one understands. Not even Hawke. But at least what I do, I do not do out of revenge and anger."
Fenris snorted. This mage was all over the place. One minute Hawke was his only hope, the other minute he claimed even Hawke did not understand his plight. On one hand, it was interesting to watch him change his attitude from one view to another, but at the same time Fenris wondered if the most dangerous passenger they would come across on this journey was not Danarius, but rather Anders. The idea made him laugh – compared to Danarius, Anders was just an ant Fenris could squash underfoot.
"You want retribution for the plight of all mages. I see no difference. Ask the abomination inside you what it is that drives him to commit mass murder. I warrant loud shouting and ballistic fireballs are all he will be able to conjure up. That should be a viable answer for you."
"I don't want to have this conversation with you," Anders scowled. "Hawke would not want that."
"Do not use Hawke as an excuse."
"How long do you think you can keep this up?" Anders asked, sneering almost. "How long can you keep up this facade before you start to poison her with your bitterness? How long will it take before you realize you have nothing to offer her except your hatred for the world?"
"Long enough." Fenris fumed. "Long enough to keep you as far from her as possible."
"We're on a ship in the middle of the sea." Anders reminded. "If I want to talk to her, who are you to stop me? You do not own me, nor do you own Hawke."
"I doubt you'll find common ground to discuss with her either way." Fenris replied. "Regardless, Hawke has made her decision. Let's leave it at that – before I rend your rescue pointless."
"Fine. Threaten me all you'd like. I don't care what you think. I don't care what you are going to do after all this is over." Anders walked towards the door, stopping for a moment to stare eye-to-eye with Fenris, his daunting, unblinking eyes serious and intense. "But since we're here alone, I might as well come out and say it: I don't care if you kill Danarius or not. I don't even care if you die out there while in the midst of battle. But I cared for Hawke – Even if you don't believe an 'abomination' would be capable of such. I loved her and I still do. So if you break Hawke's heart again, I will kill you. That's a promise."
"That won't happen," Fenris frowned. "Although you are more than welcome to try."
At noon, Hawke's boots scraped against the floorboards on the open upper deck.
The cabin's quarters were unsurprisingly empty. The weather was quite nice today, and even the stern guards-captain was running her fingers through her ginger hair and taking in the deep blue scenery. The clouds swam in the bright azure sky, overlapping the sun every few minutes. Otherwise, the bright light cast itself on the creaking ship, providing some much-enjoyed warmth to balance the salty, cold winds out at sea. There was a faint outline of their homeland in the distance.
Hawke greeted the pirate with a short head nod as she neared.
"Where's Zevran?" She asked.
"I reckon he's enjoying the view above." Isabela pointed with her thumb.
The pirate was wearing a bright yellow bikini that complimented her tanned skin quite nicely. Her body completely bathed in sunlight while Varric sat opposite of her, under a nice parasol that partially blocked out the sun. A quill and his prized notebook were right beside him. His cards were sprawled across the table, the game of which he was playing long forgotten given the number of empty glasses present at the table.
Isabela was recalling another gripping tale she and Warden had in the past to the dwarf, who chuckled at the comedic display as he wrote down Isabela's words in his thick leather journal. Varric teased Hawke for waking up so late, to which the Champion responded by rolling her eyes and arguing that she had too much to drink the previous night. But then again, it's not as though they needed to go grocery shopping or scavenging for jobs anyway. They were in the middle of the ocean. Even enemy ships wouldn't have the chance to sneak up on them without their noticing.
Near the bow of ship, Alethea was telling Fenris about Fereldan's lack of decent beaches as they took in the vast ocean scenery. Even the thin, pale queen had taken it upon herself to dress in bright, fun colors, donning a revealing outfit the shade of a eye-popping aqua and light purple. There was a single red stone in her right ear gleaming under the sunlight (Strange, Hawke never noticed this). Meanwhile, Fenris did not seem the least bit interested in Alethea's jabbering about the art of eating certain raw, rare aquatic delicacies. As a matter of fact, he looked just about to throw up. Luckily, Aveline ventured forth to help redirect Alethea onto a different topic of discussion.
Hawke noted neither Bethany nor Anders were around and wondered where they were aloud. Varric explained to her that their healer had actually woke up early to clean the ship and was retiring in the bottom cabins somewhere. Isabela offered to deal her in the next round, but Hawke politely declined and proceeded up the stairs to the large lookout deck above. Isabela gave her a ambiguous wink as Hawke climbed up the stairs.
When she reached the top, she spotted Zevran at the end of the deck immediately. No one was there but him. The Antivan stood motionless, gazing into nowhere in particular. A spyglass was clipped to his belt at his side. His arms were locked across his chest. He looked solemn, and that was not an expression he wore often. Then again, Hawke hardly knew the man to begin with so for all she knew this wasn't all that surprising. If he was having a private moment deep in thought, she certainly didn't want to interrupt. Besides, she was still not sure which manner to address him was most appropriate. The fact that he was a Grey Warden fighting alongside the Hero of Fereldan – her cousin – certainly elevated him to a higher status.
But the exotic, dark-skinned assassin turned to greet her, his expression transitioning as fast as Hawke could blink. (Whether this was a advantageous quality of his remained to be seen.) Relieved, Hawke waved back at him, clad in leather armor and her red sash. There was a slight involuntary sway to her hips as she made her way towards him. Her silver shoulder pauldrons gleamed under the sun and her hazel hair curled into elegant, bouncy swirls. The sound of her leather, wooden-heeled boots against the glossy floors of the ship rang hollow echoes.
"Do you have a minute?" She asked.
"For you, Champion? I have two!" Zevran winked. "You are a sight for sore eyes, my lady."
His lips curled as Hawke propped her elbows against the mahogany railing. Up above, the soft billowing of the white and black sails whistled against the wind.
"So... in regards to a certain proposition I mentioned to you..." She started.
"Oh? Have you reconsidered my offer for you and your lover to -"
"No, no." She stopped him, though the idea of a threesome with Zevran was... intriguing. "As flattering as it is, I would have to decline. I came to you for other reasons though."
"Well then, to what do I owe this dubious pleasure, bella signora?" He asked, not even slightly offended.
Hawke liked the carefree and casual nature of this elf. But his easy transition from solemn to carefree disturbed her. Fenris was right; there was far more than Zevran let on. But that was none of her concern. Who did she know in Thedas who didn't have a dark past anyway?
"I want you to train with me – be my sparring partner, my mentor – whatever you wish to call it."
Zevran's smile was replaced by a short pause. His fingers rose to his chin before he nodded understandingly, slowly walking around her, as if examining if her body was fit. She didn't care though; she was pretty confident in her physique.
"You want me to train with you? How so?"
"Improve my skills," She told him. "I can take care of myself, but this journey is perilous - or so I'm told. I'm sure it won't be easy. I've never been to Tevinter so it's best I'm prepared. Your style is similar to mine, yet you are so much faster and more agile. Alethea said that you and Fenris make a indestructible team. If you could teach me what you know, I would benefit from learning the same techniques."
"Si, I can do that." He replied with a twinkle in his eyes. "I would be honored to help hone your skills, champion."
She shot him a look. How come everything Zevran said made it seem like she was asking him for more?
"I want to be faster, and stronger." She clarified, clearing her throat.
"Sventure di un guerriero!"
"Does this mean you will teach me?" Hawke asked. "You're a Grey Warden who helped Allie destroy the Archdemon. I presumed this was a golden opportunity. I know we agreed to sparring, but truth be told when I asked we had been drinking, so..."
Zevran nodded, and then his eyes caught Fenris' from down below. Hawke waved, and Zevran followed suit. But Fenris did not wave back to either of them, despite making firm eye contact. Zevran took a second before turning to ask Hawke: "Does your elf friend know that you desire to train with me?"
Hawke rolled her eyes. "Don't worry about him; he's always like that. I told him about our discussion, but I don't need his permission to do what I want."
"Ha! I seem to recall similar words being spoken by Alethea." Zevran chuckled. Hawke blinked. Strange, did Zevran always call Alethea by her first name? Hadn't it always been 'Warden', or 'Warden-Commander'?
"Somehow, I do not see our beautifully-tattooed friend being particularly happy with me helping you with your stretches."
"Perhaps that has to do with the fact that you make everything seem dirty." Hawke reminded. "I already informed him that we will be sparring, Zevran. You're not honestly going to turn me away, are you? Don't tell me you're scared!" She chuckled at the last bit.
"There is no problem, Champion. I would be happy to oblige." Zevran smiled, eyes twinkling. "How could I turn down such a lovely lady?"
"Should I be scared?" She jested confidently, or at least hoped she sounded boastful. "I wasn't a Grey Warden. I'm not a skilled warrior capable of ending the Blight."
"Well, as luck would have it – neither am I." Zevran laughed. "Wardens are not the celebrities the world makes us out to be. Despite what many believe, we are not demi-gods. We must all train. Fortunately, skill is a matter of perception and constant vigilance. There is a certain mentality to be had with your footwork, and a certain motivation to grow."
Hawke smiled, pulling out her daggers from her back. "I've been dying to try out these new blades. An impromptu lesson sounds nice. Just go easy on me, if you will."
"That should be my line, Champion." Zevran smiled, grabbing his own set of brilliant, silver blades. His twin knives were carved with a elvish design, and lined with assorted, colorful gems on one side.
"I've tried studying your techniques, but I've yet to practice them. It's hard to experiment new things on a motionless dummy at home." She admitted. This was especially true because every time Hawke tried training at home, she was always interrupted by either Orana freaking out about house dust or one of her allies requiring assistance.
"Agreed. We are alike in style. Ours relies heavily on our speed and reflexes. What good will it do if your target is motionless and not threatening? " Zevran nodded. "When I learned to use my blades, I was very young. I trained with, or rather... on living targets. But I digress! Training outdoors is good for us. I learned to adjust myself according to the wind and sun. Reflections and heat cause discomfort and inaccuracy, and very serious mistakes to your footwork."
Hawke appreciated Zevran's seriousness. She was excited to learn new things, and couldn't think of the last instance where she had picked up new techniques. Call it her warrior's blood or whatever, but improving her finesse was something she hadn't sought to do for a long time. Getting back on this old horse was a cause for celebration in itself.
"Well, the first thing to learn," Zevran sheathed his weapons at his side, twirling the knives like light tassels. Hawke lowered her weapons to her side. Zevran reached over to readjust her stance. "You'll need to relearn the stances." He told her. "I have seen your moves, and they are strong ones. Although your technique is brutal and effective, it can be improved to become more cunning and deadly if you allow yourself the time to plan ahead in battle."
"Well, I try to plan as much as necessary." She defended.
Zevran adjusted her position accordingly by lightly tapping her foot.
"But my instincts tend to kick in halfway when the going gets tough... any plans I've made go out the door once that happens."
Zevran nodded. "I understand. Here."
His hands moved towards her elbows, shifting her stance appropriately. Hawke felt like a mannequin at a clothing shop, being rearranged in the proper position for customers to see. She felt Zevran's feet nudge at her heels, spreading her legs further apart for balance. His palm gently pressed upon her stomach, pushing gently. As he leaned in close behind her, she wondered how this short elf was able to take down the archdemon. The images of a glorious, fiery battle were already being painted in her mind.
"So, if you take a deep breath, Champion, you can readjust your-"
"WHOA-HO-HO! What is this?"
Zevran and Hawke turned to greet their guest.
"Varric!" She smiled. "Come to join? Are you sure you're alright to walk around so much?"
The dwarf rose a brow. "Join... in what? Should I even bother asking what's gong on here?"
"It's not what you think." Hawke rolled her eyes. "You know that."
"Yes, of course it's not." Varric smirked.
"I warrant some training ought to do us some good. But I don't know how Broody's taking it. He's been scowling ever since ol' Antivan hit the brig this morning." H
awke huffed. "I already told Fenris about this. Besides, I was thinking - "
"Uh-oh. That's always dangerous." Varric smiled.
She glared at the dwarf. "I was thinking I could ask Zevran to train me in his techniques."
"Why, I don't know whether to be offended or relieved! I'd say you could've asked Bianca and I for some help, but then again I'm to too fond of anyone holding my precious lady."
"I'm well aware." Hawke rolled her eyes. "Besides, I wouldn't want to hold that thing anyway. Last time I held it I nearly poked someone's eye out."
"So the assassin was your first option?" Varric rose a brow. "You sure do have a thing for elves, don't you?" The dwarf winked.
"You are both terrible." Hawke told them, though she couldn't help but reveal smile.
"Hey, don't look at me like that. I thought you were enjoying the scenery from up here." Varric told her. "I was going to keep you company, but I guess the view up here is entirely different from what I was expecting." He chuckled, twirling the quill between his fingers.
"I swear to the Maker, Varric..." Hawke told him. "If you turn this into some sort of strange, far-fetched love-triangle I will personally strangle you in your sleep!"
"Nice to know you'll be working on your skills then." Varric let out a laugh as he proceeded down the stairs. "You'll need it, Hawke."
Hawke rolled her eyes as she watched the dwarf disappear again. She then turned to Zevran and apologized.
"Shall we continue?"
"Is that your natural hair color?" Alethea asked Fenris pensively, hand under her chin.
"I don't know..." Fenris answered dully, long used to the question. The subject of his hair color had become so popular a topic that it seemed to be a rite of passage for new acquaintances to ask.
"It isn't." Isabela answered for him.
Fenris shot her a dirty look.
"Do you ever wonder what color it was before... you know?" Alethea asked.
"No, I don't know." Fenris replied, already growing tired of the subject.
"It was probably black." Isabela nodded.
"And just how would you presume to know that?" Fenris replied irritably, arms across his chest.
"Well, you've got black eyebrows and your roots are black... downstairs." Isabela smirked.
Alethea's mouth dropped. Fenris glared at Isabela, and Alethea then insisted he show them, to which Fenris rolled his eyes and feigned ignorance under Andraste's mercy. His eyes immediately caught Hawke's outline from the top deck, along with that of the assassins'. Strangely, he was not feeling too anxious about their training. If he wanted to pursue Danarius he would have to trust Hawke and his companions completely. After years of being in her service, only now did he begin to understand how important a factor this was to their companionship.
"You aren't worried about Hawke being with him up there, are you?" Aveline's voice interrupted his thoughts. "I don't think I need to remind you that she's still a independent woman, even if she can be reckless. Hawke manages to balance everything out in the end."
"I'm not worried." Fenris grumbled to the knight. "And I don't need your assurance either."
"Just trying to help," Aveline shrugged, her armor clunking.
"Aren't you going to change into something more suitable for the weather, Captain Vallen?" Alethea asked inquisitively. "Aren't you hot under there?"
"Ha! I'll give you my entire pot of gold the day I see Captain Man-Hands in anything less than a bulking silver chestplate!" Isabela exclaimed, laughing.
"Shut up, whore." Aveline frowned.
Loud cawing echoed the air above.
"Ah!" Alethea exclaimed, her hand blocking out the sunlight. "It's Lucian!" She whistled. "
He brings a message." Fenris noted as the large black bird propped himself on the queen's tiny shoulder.
Lucian retracted his wings and stretched out his talons towards Alethea, a white parchment clenched between his claws. His beady black eyes stared at Fenris and the creature cutely cocked his head to one side to greet the elf, letting out another loud caw.
"I forgot you had this beauty." Isabela petted Lucian's silky, jet black feathers. "Every pirate's best friend is a parrot... but we? We have this lovely darling! I love it!"
Alethea unrolled the parchment from Lucian's claws, careful not to cut herself on the talons.
"Whose the secret admirer writing to you?" Isabela smirked.
"An acquaintance from the Wardens in Antiva." Alethea answered with a smile, reading the small letters sprawled over the yellowed parchment. "I've been asking around for this Avery fellow for a while..."
"What does it say?" Fenris asked eagerly.
"Our friend Avery was not very easy to persuade." Alethea told him. "Fortunately, we were able to get a name from him. Tell me, Fenris: Does the name 'Silas' ring any bells to you?"
Fenris frowned and shook his head.
"Well, he is our famed assassin." Alethea told him. "Word is, he's a excellent sniper and has quite the bounty on his head. But he works for some of the most powerful magisters in the Imperium - "
"So the mages can just pay the coin to get him out of trouble. They know we'll have trouble touching them in Tevinter." Aveline nodded understandably. "But he's still a hired sword. Who does he work for?"
"I tried finding that out the moment I heard he was a sellsword." Alethea told him, crumpling up the tiny parchment, tearing it into pieces, and throwing it into the winds. "But he's a slave."
"What?" Fenris' jaw clenched tighter.
"And even better: Guess who he works under?"
"Danarius!" Fenris snarled. "So we were right from the start! It is Danarius!"
"Eden needs to know." Alethea told him.
"I will tell her," Fenris told her, turning to look at Hawke's shadowed figure leap across the top deck to assault Zevran from the sides. From the looks of it, she missed her target. "Later." He mumbled, turning back to Alethea.
"Got any brilliant plans, Fenny?" Isabela asked him, her arm propped up on his shoulder. "Knock on the door of the Imperium magister's doors?"
"Don't be stupid," Fenris replied irritably, shaking her off. "Danarius has more slaves and servants than we can count. There's no way we could get close to him without risking getting caught by his dogs. Believe me, I've considered it many times before."
"Silas isn't in the Imperium right now, as our luck would have it." Alethea replied smugly. "He's in Antiva. He is visiting his fellow Crow acquaintances, or so I'm told. Lucky us – that's where we're headed."
"He's a slave... but also a Crow?" Aveline crossed her arms.
"It's not unheard of."
Alethea stared off into the distance, her eyes gazing pensively into the seas. "Either our friend Silas did something to piss off the big guys in the Crows - enough to land himself a lifelong living of servitude - or he was born a slave and his magister trusts this slave so much that the possibility of getting assassinated by his own slave someday is extremely slim."
"Danarius trusts no one." Fenris snarled.
"Well, there's only one way to find out." Alethea ignored Fenris' cynicism. "We're all gathering at Antiva, so I'd say our plan is going well."
Something told Fenris that Alethea had been carefully orchestrating this all along. All the pieces were fitting too perfectly, and that only made him more nervous, which in turn irritated him to no end. "
It's too big a coincidence." Fenris cut in. "It has to be a trap."
"You know your former master better than any of us."Aveline motioned. "If he's expecting us, then there's no doubt he'll lay a trap. But if anyone knows what his plans ought to be, it's you."
"We'll be prepared." Alethea nodded. "Tell Eden and talk it out with her."
"Rest assured." Fenris replied.
"Where will he be in Antiva?" Isabela wondered aloud. "It's not exactly a small country. Even Zev probably hasn't been to every rocky crevice there."
"Lucky for us, our friend Silas will be waiting for us at Antiva City. "
"What?" Fenris' tone rose three octaves. "He knows of us? Of me?"
"Calm down." Alethea's hands rose. "As far as I'm concerned, he doesn't even know we're coming. We won't burst in looking for him either: It'll all be incognito. He's going to the Summer Festival held at the Altomare Maniero." Alethea purred at the Antivan words with a surprisingly natural accent.
"Oh! That sounds almost too fun to be true!" Isabela grinned, shifting her weight. "What should we wear? Ooh, I've got this new swimsuit!"
"Honestly, wench!" Aveline exclaimed.
"So what - "
"Oh come off it, Captain. You've got to let those tits come out a play sometime."
"What will-" Fenris opened his mouth to ask for more details, but Alethea and Isabela had changed the topic rather abruptly to swimming gear now, with Aveline barking at the pirate wench for saying such crude things again. Fenris rolled his eyes and starting walking away from their trivial conversation and gossip, shaking his head solemnly as they shouted after him. There was no more for him to say – he had gotten the information he needed anyway. He wasn't the least bit interested in getting caught up in idle talk revolving around feminine skin products and the latest Orlesian fabrics. He would rather have a drink with Varric than talk about things he was not even remotely interested in.
"Hold on, Fenris!"
He heard the metal scraping against the Guard-Captain's spaulders. Her hand firmly stopped him when it reached out to clench his shoulder. If there was ever a woman he thought was capable – no questions asked – of beating him within a inch of his life, Aveline would be his first choice. Even he found her figure intimidating at times. Gold lined the rich red Kirkwall insignia melded professionally into her silver chestplate and it's gleam was so bright under the scorching sunlight that it almost blinded him the moment he turned to greet her, which only served to incur his agitation more.
"What?" He asked irritably.
"About the favor you asked of me." She replied. His ears perked up at her words. "Now's as good a time as any to tell you: I checked and cross-referenced the information you gave me." She told him. "And I got the report before we left the docks. It wasn't easy, but it's funny how much you can find out with a bit of a push." She smiled to herself.
"And? The results?" He asked eagerly.
"I found her."
"Are you certain?" He asked, alarmed and nervous all at once. "Are you certain it's her?"
"An elf matching your description who lived in the town you named, and is now traveling on the ship you named. She's headed for Antiva City too, and I've arranged to send word to her when we dock. I haven't told a soul about it. Only you and I know." Aveline stated. Her face red with irritation.
But Fenris was not satisfied. He flung his hands in the air. "And? Was she with anyone?"
"She's on board a ship heading towards the same place we are." Aveline huffed. "I could hardly find this out now, can I? I warrant there's more than one person on the ship."
Fenris slammed his fist hard against the wall, startling even Aveline. A few of the ship's hired workers looked up abruptly to see what the commotion was about. Fenris irritably huffed: "I need to know if it's a trap!"
"I did as you asked, Fenris." Aveline frowned, turning away. "Now it's up to you."
"Venhedis! Fasta vass!"
Fenris cursed as he walked impatiently to his room. All the pieces were lining up too perfectly. Everything was converging at one point. Things were getting complicated. He would have to talk to Hawke tonight, and not just about this Silas assassin. Why did he get the feeling that – in Varric's words - "a shitstorm was brewing"?
In between my dreams, there is this empty gap of silence that feels strangely calming. Suddenly, there's this sense of refreshing clarity. For that brief moment, everything makes sense again. But then, darkness descends. And I'm falling again.
All my cards have folded. I've tried hiding the truth in attempt to shelter you. But with this beast inside, there's nowhere I can hide. I'm too afraid to let you get too close to me, even if I want can't help being attracted to you. This darkness within me is where my demon lurks. You, who were once my only light, have also faded – nipped in the bud by none other than myself. I'm aware I have dug my grave in this ill-constructed masquerade. No matter what we do, I will rest within the pit of my own demons. I never intended to let you down, but I am eternally void-bound. It's woven into my soul. I feel it in my bones.
Hawke... I am sorry. I am so sorry.
It took too long for Fenris to wait until Hawke was done training. He had spent ten minutes explaining to Varric what had happened – after the previous night he felt a odd closeness to the dwarf. To his relief, Varric did not comment on Fenris' increased openness to conversation. Regardless, Fenris spent the rest of his time sipping the red wine he poured at the bar and retiring to his room to wait for Hawke. Whether it was the alcohol getting to his head remained to be seen, but after an hour of sitting around and thinking of how to go about discussing Varania to Hawke, Fenris was getting impatient and decided to march up to the deck to pull her aside - The training could wait.
When he got to the deck, he noticed that between his idle talk with his other companions, Zevran and Hawke had disappeared entirely. They were no longer where he last saw them.
"If you're looking for Hawke, she and the Antivan went to the lower floor training rooms." Varric explained. "Good luck, elven paramour."
Fenris shot Varric a dirty look before heading down through the lower decks. The musky scent of unwashed, torn, moth-eaten cloth mixed with dust and occasional salty seaside draft from the windows made for a strange setting for the senses. Nevertheless, the hay and old sparring mats set up in the lower floors of the ship made for a perfect training ground. There were mannequins and red target mats propped along the far wall, and the windows provided ample sunlight for the morning trainee. With a little dusting and sweeping, the lower expansion was actually quite nice despite it's simplicity.
Fenris slipped inside unnoticed easily, ironic considering the company he was in. However, both rogues were locked heavily in combat, both looking a little worn down. Perhaps the training was actually proving to be helpful.
"I hope I'm not too much for you." Hawke told the assassin smugly, holding her wooden weaponry tightly. Sweat beads dripped down the sides of her flushed cheeks.
"You are strong." Zevran nodded. "But... if you don't mind my critique..."
"Go ahead. It's what I'm here for." Hawke motioned, lowering her weapons and turning to wipe the sweat from her forehead with a spare towel.
"You lack a consistent form – and proper composure under pressure. It isn't too obvious because you make short work of your aggressors, but against a more skilled and equal foe like myself, it becomes more of an issue. I can see your flaws if I look closely, and if I manage to get close enough. It is... more or a mental issue than a physical one. To be frank – you panic easily under pressure."
"Ouch," Hawke scratched her head sheepishly. "So? What's your fix for this? Meditation?" She joked.
"Here," Zevran reached over to her, a smirk on his face. His dark, tan skin brushed against her shoulder as he adjusts her grip. "This is better. Let's try this. " He told her, his voice right in her ear, with that exotic Antivan purr that Hawke was sure resonated in many innocent, naive hearts.
"Hawke." Fenris spoke slightly louder than normal, startling her. Both Hawke and Zevran turned to look at the lyrium warrior. Amusing that neither noticed he was here; They were either too involved in their training, or Fenris had drastically overestimated their abilities.
"I need a private word with her," He told the assassin, trying not to sound too abrasive. He was supposed to trust Hawke – and he gave her word to play nice, no matter how much he disliked seeing Hawke and Zevran getting 'touchy' during these training sessions. Yet every finger Zevran laid on her make Fenris twitch. He himself didn't even understand why he was being so needlessly possessive.
Hawke shot Zevran an apologetic look before slipping away to the side.
"He's just giving me some tips on training." She explained. "We were talking about it at first, but we figured some serious hands-on training would be more useful. Please don't tell me you're here to be my annoying, over-protective, jealous lover."
"I am not." Fenris reassured, though the imagery of Zevran poised behind Hawke and readjusting her stances and grabbing her waist was not easy to digest at the moment. Hands-on, indeed. Fenris frowned, and turned back to Hawke. "I'll get to the point: I didn't tell you before, but I followed Hadriana's lead. Everything she said about my sister was true. She's not a slave: she's a tailor. I had Aveline look into the matter for me, and we asked Varania to meet me in Antiva."
"But what if it's a trap?" Hawke blurted.
"My thoughts exactly." Fenris sighed loudly. "The more it seems Danarius doesn't know, the more it feels as though he does! I need you to come with me when I go, Hawke. I need you by my side to do this."
Hawke pursed her lips and frowned, pensive. "Where is she meeting us? Have you set up the meeting already?"
"We get off in Antiva City. There will be a bar nearby – Aveline knows the name of it. We'll be staying at the inn right in the same area. Aveline helped me arrange everything. Varania will be there during the day for at least the next week. With the speed we're going, we'll be in Antiva City within three days."
Eden nodded slowly.
"So you will come with me to meet her?"
"I'll go in first."
"What?" He shot her a look.
"I go in first." She repeated.
"To meet your sister and scout out Danarius?"
"You don't know what he even looks like, Hawke."
"Well, I have an idea..."
"That doesn't help at all."
"Robes. A bunch of underlings. Old." She listed, counting off on her fingers.
Fenris sighed. "So... you imagine him to look like the late Viscount Dumar?"
Hawke giggled. "Just let me go in first, and I'll send word that everything is in order." She told him.
"I'm not sure this is a good idea. If anything were to happen-"
"You'll be right outside." Hawke responded.
Fenris gave her plan some thought, his fingers nested under his chin thoughtfully. "Fine," He answered. "We'll have to discuss this in detail with the team too."
"I'll have Isabela and Zevran with me."
"Why him?" Fenris tried to refrain from growling the name.
"Because I'm most natural with laid-back friends." She told him, shooting him a look. "Not ruddy stern, stick-in-the-mud 40-year-old antsy, crazy-possessive elven ex-slaves."
Fenris' lips thinned.
Hawke blew a strand of her hair off her face irritably. "Fine, I'll take Alethea and Isabela instead. Is that better?"
"Hopefully, they'll refrain from distracting me with their needlessly-detailed escapades in the bedroom." Hawke muttered. "I've had enough of those stories to last a lifetime."
"I know what you mean." "
Now if you don't mind, I must get back to training." Hawke told him, turning to see Zevran examine her blades on the table. "I don't want to make Zevran wait."
"Fine," Fenris cleared his throat. "Thank you for understanding … about my secrecy."
"It's your past, Fenris. It's as mysterious to me as it is to you." Hawke answered.
"Well, your help means a lot to me."
"And you shall have it." She smiled, turning back to the training grounds. "Hopefully, Varania will know something about your past."
She nipped him affectionately on the cheek before leaving, a gesture of public love that he was still trying to get used to, but delighted him internally immensely anyway.
"Now, let me continue training, and I'll meet you back at the room in a hour, agreed?" She turned to wave to Zevran, letting him know that she was coming back. But Fenris did not like the way Zevran looked at her – and Fenris – with that strange twinkle in his eye. What was the Antivan scheming now?
Fenris nodded to Hawke, begrudgingly, before adding: "But if he so much as tries to touch you -"
"Fenris!" Hawke groaned. "You keep bringing this up. If you're not going to listen to me, I'll just start flirting with him to lay rest all your suspicions! You're being so ridiculous!"
"What?" He barked loudly.
"I was joking. Calm down."
"I did not find it funny in the slightest." He looked at her sternly, arms crossed.
"You're such a sour-puss." She told him.
"Joking aside, need I remind you that your flirting always comes with grave repercussions?"
"Oh please," She rolled her eyes. "Zevran knows I only have eyes for you."
"'Knowing' and 'caring' are two completely different things. Even the most eloquent man can be caught off-guard by a beautiful woman."
She beamed in delight. "Stop, you're making me blush."
Fenris rolled his eyes. "I'm just making a point, Hawke. There are men who will not think with their heads in the presence of an attractive woman. You know this. If you give him the incentive, he might take it – then you will have a problem on your hands if I'm not around. This is no joke. Do not make me repeat myself."
Hawke laughed. "Zevran? Be a problem for me? Ha! You don't think I can best him in a match? I'm offended, Fenris!"
"You're taking lessons from him. What do you think?"
"I think if I'm strong enough to best a 200-pound hulking behemoth-of-a-qunari, then neither you nor Zevran will pose as a threat to me." She scoffed.
"If you ask me, that fight has given you a rather inflated ego." Fenris crossed his arms. "Need I remind you of the several agonizing weeks it took for you to recover?"
"I'm stronger now because of it." She told him proudly.
"I too was trying to prove a point." She wrinkled her nose. "Whatever happened to trusting me? You know I only have eyes for you. Have I ever led you to believe otherwise? I only mentioned Zevran to show you how ridiculous you sound! I mean honestly, elf! Are you expecting Zevran and I to somehow fall in love or shag each other during this disgustingly stuffy, sweaty training session?"
"I... I know it's ridiculous. I just do not like the way he looks at you."
Hawke rolled her eyes again. "You're so insufferable."
"The feeling is mutual." He replied with a frown.
"Perhaps that is why I love you." She told him, cheeks slightly flushed. Then, she paused before adding with a devilish grin: "Although, if you continue to be so insufferable, I might just take Zevran up on his offer just to make these suspicions true to spite you."
"You absolutely will not." Fenris snarled.
"Oh?" She giggled at his reaction.
Fenris took one look at the Antivan in the background before grabbing hold of Hawke by the neck and smashing his lips against hers. She yelped softly at this sudden evasion. Her hands initially pushed against his chest in alarm, but seconds later rested snugly against him. His tongue nudged her lips apart easily. He grinned at her acceptance before pulling away.
"Flirt with anyone, and I would have you - right here - until you begged me for mercy." He whispered.
Her heart skipped a beat. "How unfortunate for you: I've never begged for mercy in my life." She replied as calmly as possible.
"Do not push me, Hawke." He warned her.
"Or I will not hesitate to strike you."
"You keep saying that, but I can't imagine it happening." She smirked. "What will you do if I refuse?"
"Mark my words, woman. I will put you to your knees." He promised darkly. "And when I'm done, you will hate how much you love it."
She gulped, freezing up at his words. Honestly, she thought he was alluding to their duel. But... my, my, this sounded dangerously promising, didn't it?
"Flirt with him, and I will drag you back to our room in chains." He told her darkly.
"Kinky." She winked, walking the other direction.
Fenris shot her a look as she walked away.
Yes, that thought was an interesting one, wasn't it?
A/N: I don't want to lie, but after the last chapter I almost halfway gave up on this. The only thing keeping me from giving up on it is the fact that this is longest fanfic I've actually published and I want to at least finish ONE story in my life.
This chapter was written, like all the others, in pieces. I sewed it together with other ideas, and it probably sounds really hashed and nonsensical. At this point, I just want to see where it goes...
In other news, I got Reaper of Souls at last and all I've been doing is fawning over Gideon Emery's voice. XP