Since Bioware decided not to fulfill promises of a DLC to finish Sebastian Vael's story I, like many, was left with a game that felt incomplete. So here's my version, with a rogue F!Hawke, Aeryn. Shelter is the in-game portion, timelines adjusted for Varric's narrative streamlining and while certain things are out of canon all along, it'll be going totally AU sometime around Act 3. Should it ever get there. ;)
First chapter...or section, anyway, begins in Act 1, after Hawke fulfills Sebastian's mission, a day or so before she, Fenris, Anders and Varric leave for the Deep Roads. My headcanon says that Leandra and Bethany are solid Chantry believers, so they have been attending since they first arrived in Kirkwall, dragging Hawke with them.
"Was it a true story?"
Aeryn glanced up as he quietly stepped to her side at the back of the Chantry. Are you come to chastise me, Brother Vael, for a story you eavesdropped on…in a tavern?" For once, Sebastian thinks, her eyes are amused instead of wary and guarded when looking at him.
"I..Not chastise, Mistress Hawke." He smiled and almost got a smirk back. "I was just curious."
She couldn't help a little smile, then. Aeryn tilted her head, trying to feel him out under the bland calm the Chantry laid on him. "It was a tale told in a tavern to folk interested in being entertained."
"So, no, then?"
Ah, persistence. Too bad that wasn't a sin. "I've no need to confess, Brother Vael."
He wanted to sigh, but that had been trained out of him, too. Her sister called him Sebastian. Her mother called him Sebastian. Yet Hawke refused to address him any other was but in the formal language that set him at a distance. Which is where he should stay, of course. "'Twas a fine tale, Hawke." Her name, he knew, was Aeryn. He never heard anyone but her mother use it, and rarely at that.
Aeryn sketched him a courtly bow. "My thanks, serah." She wanted to ask him. Twenty years of being told that the Chantry was never to be trusted with her family secrets had kept her tongue still. The fact that her mother and sister couldn't seem to stay away from this Chantry seemed to be moot. And Sebastian Vael was different in a way that made her nervous. She wanted to trust him. Something in his eyes, the way he never pushed against her boundaries but stood just next to them. Like he was looking in a shop window. Hoping to see...what?
Sebastian watched her as she contemplated. Hawke seemed different this afternoon. There was suddenly something new in her face, as if she had been weighing an idea and was hesitant to proceed. Then, "Are you…often in Lowtown?" It seems a bland enough question. But he could tell from the shift in her tone that she was leading to a point.
"Yes. I assist Lirene from time to time." That had been where he had come from the night before, when he chanced to hear her telling her wild tale of how she had made her first kill. He had dropped in to the tavern, to escape the rain and had been almost drawn to the steps leading to where Varric Tethras held court. Once upon a time, he'd have been eager to gain entrance, to be a part of her crew. If he was honest, there was a part of him that yet felt that way and why the laughter of the card game had pulled him in close.
Aeryn looked directly into his face, holding his eyes with her own serious grey gaze. She leapt. "May I make a request of you, Brother Vael?"
Anything, his traitorous thoughts nearly escaped his lips. He bit it back and bowed slightly, "Of course."
"I am leaving tomorrow." Leaving? He had to think to catch the next words of her request.
"The journey may take some time. Perhaps as long as two months." Aeryn glanced down and then towards her praying family. She had to ask. They would come anyway. She started back nervously when Vael held an inquiring hand out to her. "They will want to attend the Chant, though. I cannot count on my uncle to accompany them, nor can I require my friend in the guard to take time from her duties. The only two I would trust are coming with me." She looked back at him, searching his face…for what he wondered. "Might I ask…could you on occasion." She let her words peter out and shook her head.
This was a foolish idea. She started to back off.
No! He touched her gauntlet to stop her. It had been charming to see her at a loss for words, but it seemed sure to throw her walls back up. "I would be pleased to offer my escort to your family. Aeryn…" She jerked gracelessly and Sebastian was a little startled to see her eyes flash at his familiarity with her given name. Then the lines of her lips relaxed in relief.
"Thank you," she whispered. He couldn't help the arch of his eyebrow. "Seb…Brother Sebastian." His name felt nice on her lips. Hers had sounded lovely on his.
Her crooked smile flashed and oh my. That's a dimple. His eyes lingered on the dent in her creamy skin and he missed the shift of her glance that indicated they were no longer alone.
"Good evening, Brother Sebastian." Leandra Hawke had a warm voice like her daughter's, but it is trained in the polite tones of the nobility. "We missed you in the Chant?"
"I've a bit of a cough from the damp last night, my lady." He bowed over her hand and smiled at Bethany, who blushed becomingly.
"We should go, if we want to be back at Gamlen's by dusk, Mother." Hawke had pulled her hood back up over her gleaming hair and hidden her face. The shadows seemed to cling to her as she stepped towards the door, eager to be away from the Chantry and the sudden intimacy that had built between them.
He touched her arm again, drawing her back from the shadows for a moment. She tilted her pale, heart-shaped face up to him in question. "I will pray for you, Aeryn."
She closed herself off in the manner of a noble born at the thought. "Thank you for your assistance, Brother Vael." Turning quickly, she swept through the door into the gathering gloom, leaving Leandra and Bethany to trail down the steps behind her.
"How long did you say Mistress Hawke would be gone?"
"Not less than a month, no longer than two." The worry that had permanently creased her brow lightened briefly. "You can be less formal, Brother Sebastian. She can't hear you." Amused, Leandra Hawke sounded very like her elder daughter.
He felt a blush edging at his cheek and nodded to deflect her eyes. "Yes, my lady."
"Not yet," Leandra cautioned.
"That it isn't written makes it no less true, Lady Amell." Oh, thought Leandra as she blinked at the warmth in his tone. Well, Brother Sebastian did have a way about him, indeed, Leandra admitted to herself.
"Aveline says that if Aeryn isn't back in a week, she will take a branch of the guard to meet them on the road."
"I will add the Guard Captain to my prayers, then." Sebastian wished that sounded less ineffectual to his own ears, but Leandra nodded her thanks.
It was three days into the second month when he was finally able to get back to Lowtown after a torrential downpour had kept everyone inside for two days. Too much wet for him to believe that Leandra and Bethany might care to brave their way to Hightown. But the rain had stopped last night and he had tried not to appear too eager to check on them when he left the Chantry after morning prayers. He was only keeping his word to a parishioner.
He caught sight of her in Lowtown's Market District, but at first he couldn't be sure. The short dark red hair was ragged around her ears, the frame was too thin and her skin had the unhealthy translucent sheen of a prisoner kept too long in the dungeon.
He loped a few steps to catch up with the woman and laid a hand on her shoulder. "Aeryn Haw…?"
She turned on him like an adder, knives gleaming, and shoved him into the cut-off behind the tailor. He drew on all his training, archer and priest, to make himself absolutely still against the blade at his throat.
It was Hawke. But her eyes were cold, glinting like the steel in her hand, too large in her thin face. "How dare you!" She hissed.
Bewildered at her reaction, he asked "What has happened, Hawke? Was it so terrible?" It occurred to him that perhaps she had contracted the Blight, the change in her was so great.
"You dare ask me...? I trusted you." He could hear the sorrow, ragged and sharp in her voice and everything in him longed to fix whatever it was that he had done. Maker help me.
"What have I done?"
"My sister. My baby sister. You fed her to those wolves."
Bethany? He was utterly lost and the pain in Hawke's voice made him ache to reach out to her, but, well, daggers. "What has happened to Bethany?"
"Templars happened to Bethany, you bastard." Hawke let ice form on her words.
At a loss, Sebastian could only repeat, "Templars?" Confusion caused him to swallow and he felt the blade bite at his throat. "Why would... Bethany was an apostate?"
Through the haze of violence, even Hawke could hear the confusion in his voice. She pulled back from where she pressed him, though she kept the knives between them and allowed him room to breathe. "You didn't know." It was a statement more than a question.
Sebastian ignored the twinge that her distrust caused him. "You believed I turned her in?"
Hawke snapped. "If you had known, wouldn't you?" Sebastian remained silent. The 'I don't know' ratcheting in his head. But in his silence, Hawke had her answer and gave him a small, cold smile a league away from the warmth he had seen once. "Excuse me, Vael. My mother requires my assistance."
He recovered enough to ask, "Is Leandra unwell?"
"She has been prostrate with grief since I returned to find them dragging Bethany off to the Gallows."
"I will come and…"
"You will not." Her knife was between them again. "I need no escort from your Chantry." Her voice, bitter and brittle, cracked the last words like a curse. She twirled her daggers up to set them back into their scabbards and turned to stalk away.
It came to him to ask, "Is Bethany…is she alright."
Hawke stopped, reluctantly, though she didn't turn back. "We don't know. We don't know who to ask." She ducked out of the cut before she could hear him promise to ask Elthina, leaving him with a trickle of blood sliding down his throat to stain the white of his armor.
All Elthina could tell him when word came was that Bethany Hawke had survived her Harrowing and that she would not be allowed contact with her family until a time of the Knight Commander's choosing. But at least he had that much to share with Leandra, still collapsed into her grief. She grasped his hand when he told her and thanked him in a rasping voice for his kindness.
The first words out of her mouth are to thank Vael. Hawke held that poisonous thought to her and let it chill her heart. She left the bedside.
She hadn't even acknowledged him, Sebastian thought as the door to Gamlen's closed behind him. It was better. Somehow, their chats in the Chantry, if wary on her part and curious on his, had been a temptation. He hadn't a right to want the connection that was now severed. He shouldn't have wanted to hear his name on her lips, or to see that flashing dimple again. Or to feel how his whole self had been concentrated in the brush of his fingers against her arm.
He heard through the gossiping women visiting the Chantry that Hawke had purchased the Amell estate and moved her household. Leandra began coming to hear the Chant and to pray, but her daughter never came with her, leaving her escort to a dwarven servant.
He caught glimpses of Hawke prowling Hightown with a handful or another of her companions. She regained herself slowly, her color improving. She let her hair grow out and within a year it brushed her shoulders and she began wearing it pulled back and up.
He visited the Viscount, badgering him for his support and saw her chatting with Seamus Dumas, all warm smile and light flirting. He stood still in the corner of the landing as she lightly laid a hand on Seamus' shoulder and charmed an answering smile from the lad before she left, slipping gracefully down the steps. Never once had she so easily chatted with him and he recalled the bitter way she spoke of the Chantry and the way she had hovered by the doors, quick to leave, never relaxed.
He had stopped wearing his robes, unless he was assisting with the Chant. He was away more often than he was in the Chantry, running around the Free Marches on a hunt for allies. On one of those rare occasions, he found himself speaking with Leandra and asking about her daughters.
"She is punishing herself. And me." Leandra smiled sadly, sussing out who he truly asked after. "I insisted that Bethany not go on the expedition. It never occurred to me to ask that Aeryn not go either." She looked down and laid her hand over eyes briefly. "And, too, she does not like the 'trappings' that have come with her new station, she is rarely home."
Sebastian felt the pull to counsel. "It is not your fault, either, Leandra."
"I was the one who insisted on Kirkwall. We could have gone anywhere, but we came here. She had to sell herself out as a mercenary for us to even enter the city. It just…emptied her out." Leandra paused for a minute, her gaze in the past.
"You can't imagine. She was such a merry little child. Bethany was sweet and biddable. Carver was loud and hyper. Aedan was a light-heart. Light-fingered as well," she chuckled ruefully. "She'd just charm her victims, drop their goods in their hands with a guileless smile and bat her big eyes. And they'd just laugh her off, often giving her a copper for their trouble."
"She would sing as she worked, sing as she played. She even hummed little ditties in her cot." Leandra looked up at Andraste, "She was the one who started to teach the Chant to Bethany and Carver." She was silent, as she gazed on the Beloved.
"When did she change?" Sebastian thought he'd kept the (foolish) hungry curiosity out of his voice until Leandra looked at him and he caught the spark of pity in her eyes.
Hesitantly, she continued. "One day, she was just eleven, and we had to move very quickly, because of, well..." Sebastian nodded, understanding. "And it seemed like a candle had been snuffed out. Oh, she would sing if she was asked and she smiled all the time, but it was so different." Leandra paused. "I thought it was just, girls change as they get older, you know. It eased after we came to Lothering. But then one day we came home and she'd cut her hair short and it began again. More and more she was like she is now. Wearing a mask for everyone, a merry mask. Playing with words, quick with a joke and all the time watching from behind her own eyes, cold and fair."
"I asked her father once if he thought, perhaps, if she had magic after all. She's so good at slinking into shadows and such…It seems like magic. And I worried that a…that something had gotten to her. But Malcolm promised he could tell. He spoke with her and she was better for a bit. But he died and then she ran off to the army when she turned eighteen. "
A sister carrying the incense past them woke Leandra from her reminiscing. "I have talked your ear off, Brother Sebastian. You shouldn't have let me." He could hear the caution in her voice and he wanted to heed it. But instead he recalled that dimple and the truth of that smile. He wanted to heed the warning, but his dreams recalled the whisper of the one time a girl had said his name.
A month later, he spied her in the marketplace with her elvhen companion, the one with the shining tattoos. She had a soft, fond look on her face and she reached out to push the elf's hair out of his face and was rewarded with a smirk. She smiled back and patted him on his spiky gauntlet before they turned down the steps into Lowtown. That dimple had flashed easily for another. He shouldn't care. He had taken vows. And then the letter came that took him out to the Marches to track down leads on the murders.
Sebastian reeled with the knowledge. It just couldn't be the Harimanns.
Maker preserve him. He had played with Brett and Flora. He had mocked Ruxton and kissed serving maids to make the prude blush. He had eaten at their table and cleaned out their stable, once, when Lady Harimann had caught him with his hand up the assistant cook's skirts.
He fully intended to smash into the hall and demand answers, but when he stopped in their courtyard, the estate felt…wrong. Terror crawled along the back of his neck and he found himself backing away, praying.
He passed Hawke's estate on his way back to the Chantry and something made him stop and knock. The dwarf that attended Chant with Leandra opened the door
"I'm sorry, messere." Bodahn replied to his inquiry. "Mistress Hawke is away attending to something along the Coast. I will take your message, though."
A week passed. Two. He knew she'd returned because he heard that she fought with mercenaries in an alley filled with poison that had something to do with the Qunari. He prayed for her. He was always praying for her. Sebastian tried to make himself go back to the Harimann Estate, hesitating everytime.
Night after night he spent on his knees. Elthina returned from Orlais and he was talking with her when Hawke, Varric Tethras, the elf and a tavern wench with too much jewelry and not enough pants trotted up the stairs. Hawke slid a finger over the bound Chant on the lectern before mocking his surprised acknowledgement. "Don't stop on my account. I love to eavesdrop." It sparked a bit of good natured banter between her and the dwarf before he interrupted.
They left the Chantry together, though it had taken a fair amount of convincing during which she had nearly ignored Sebastian. Elthina's insinuation that little Hawke did was of value had set her teeth on edge, but it had pushed her to accept the task. Sebastian wasn't sure if he was grateful.
While they walked, Tethras asked, "Why are we doing the lost prince's dirty work, again?"
Hawke arched her eyebrow at him, "My mother likes him." For all the world as though he wasn't trotting along after them.
"What we do for the fair Leandra." Varric grumbled.
"And her wicked daughter," the wench, called Isabela, added.
Fenris threw in, "Who owes me two sovereigns for Wicked Grace."
Hawke chuckled, "I'm good for it, Fenris. Don't I always pay up straight?"
Just then, they reached the Harimann's dooryard. Sebastian felt the wrongness crawling up his neck. Fenris stopped dead and growled, "Hawke."
She looked hard at the elf and snapped at Isabela. "Go get Anders." Her voice had gone deadly serious.
When the mage (which was clearly what he was) Anders, arrived, they entered. And the creeping got stronger. Hawke and Anders exchanged talking glances when the shades attacked. He couldn't believe how casually they strode through the mansion, taking the horrors in stride and rifling through chests, pocketing trifles and reading bits of Flora's diary.
Seeing the demon that had enthralled Lady Harimann was…he'd run out of words for awful and strange by then. Obscene, perhaps. And then Hawke chatted with the creature and it was clawing through his thoughts, through ambitions and dreams he believed long lost to the past.
Sebastian made it through the fight on adrenaline, he thought. At the end, Hawke had smacked him on the chestplate and quirked a smile at him. "Nice work." But he just looked at her. Five seconds ago that thing…those things had…and Lady Harimann was bleeding out at his feet.
He smiled back. That seemed to be what was expected of him.
Hawke, Isabela and Varric walked him back to the Chantry. Anders and Fenris had peeled off in opposite directions. Sebastian tried to thank her for her aid only to be met again with a smirk and a glancing regard as her eyes travelled upwards. "I can think of other ways to repay me."
He felt himself blush and heard himself stammer something as he retreated. He caught Isabela's laugh, "Oh Hawke. That was naughty!" Delighted, it seemed, at his embarrassment.
He stopped at Hawke's reply. "He'll recover." After a pause she added, "That was rough, for him, I think. He knew those people. I wanted to give him something else to think about."
"I imagine it worked."
And it did. For that night, his subconscious lingered on ways to repay her, that would live up to the smoky tones her voice had used, light kisses and gentle strokes and then heated reminisces of other things long past. He was up early for prayers and then spent the day in the gardens, weeding herb patches to distract himself from the morning's evidence of his lack of self-control.
The next night, though, demons scraped at his prideful and ambitious heart and he had to fight from running to Elthina, from begging to have his vows renewed and his choices taken from him. Instead, he lit candles and knelt, the edge of the carpet digging into his knees.
That day Sebastian spent at the rail, fasting and reciting the scraps of Chant that he could grasp in his shattered calm. Elthina had offered to hear his confession, but he was not ready to share with her what had occurred to him at the Harimanns. He knew that he should, but doubt and shame bade him be silent.
Hours passed. He could tell by the changing rhythm of the Chantry that evening was drawing in and he had gathered the scraps of his poise as much as he was to be allowed, it seemed. Sebastian had just stood, to stretch and perhaps find something to relieve his day-long fast, when Hawke slipped up the stairs. She pushed back her hood as Sebastian looked up, revealing her newly-shorn hair.
She looked him over, observing this time, not leering. He looked tired and wan, pale under his tan. His eyes were dull. "I came to apologize." She spoke quietly, gazing out over the Chantry floor before looking up at him, eyes solemn. "I forget not everyone meets with such things so often." Her lips twisted in regret. "We expect demons, these days."
He whispered. "I can still hear it. Telling me how it can give me what I want."
She frowned. Even metaphorically, she felt the turmoil in him. "Don't let demons drive you from your rightful place."
He grabbed at that, someone to tell him what to do. "What is my place, Hawke?"
She didn't indulge him, though. Shaking her head she replied, "I'd say your people need a leader. But I'd do them no favor sending you to them with doubt in your heart. Only you can decide that."
He sank back to his knees and laid his head against the cool wood of the rail. Closing his eyes he breathed in the ever present smoke of incense and the eternal flame. Once it had calmed his soul. Now?
He heard her drop down beside him and it was her scent he breathed. The heat of the day drew out an aroma of almonds to complement the leather of her jerkin. Glancing at her, he found her balanced on the balls of her feet, graceful and nonchalant, but soft concern on her face. In her hands, was a long thin package, wrapped in brown cloth.
"Found it at Harimann's. Varric said it was a Starkhaven mark."
Sebastian knew what it was as soon as it was in his hands, but he flipped back the cloth anyway. "This…this was my grandfather's bow." He touched it reverently, drawing a finger down the inlaid arc. Hawke watched his fingers and a slight smile touched her lips. "He said he'd give it to me the day I could draw it." He continued and she listened to his tale, his accent thickening as he spoke of the man he had admired so. She admitted to a little envy, that he could recall such stories with his family, that he had a relic. Bethany had Father's staff, but she had nothing. It was hard even to recall his voice or the exact amber shade of his eyes. And Sebastian spoke of grandparents and cousins and it seemed odd to her, the idea of family extending past the little knot of people she had spent everyday of her life with until she'd turned eighteen. Gamlen had hardly extended that, he only barely seemed like kin.
"It's a useful thing." She gently broke into the reverie he'd fallen into at the end of his story. "Better to launch arrows at your enemies than your family." The teasing crooked grin she gave him felt like balm against the lashes of his conscience battered soul and he couldn't help but laugh.
"Is nothing sacred to you, Hawke?"
The frown that crossed her brow was fleeting. "Many things." She kept her voice light, though, as she stood to leave. "You are quite skilled. It's in good hands." He felt the loss of her warmth far too keenly and turned to watch her go. He tried to think of something beyond thank you to say. To make her stay. And as if reading his thoughts, she paused at the top of the steps.
"If I called upon you, could I expect you to come?" Hawke hesitated to do this. In the end, though, he needed to know what lay out there for him. He needed to learn combat and how to react in a fight, not just how to aim with dead-eye precision. He couldn't make a choice if he didn't know that part of the war he would have to fight. And, she admitted to herself, she was curious as to how he made her react. Somehow she wanted him to walk with her for a while, but it was sure to make his choices more difficult.
He could tell that this was a loaded question. Answered one way, it would mean that he'd not see her again, that she would accept his withdrawal from her overture. She would leave him to the Chantry, to follow Andraste's silent road. To follow her, to be counted among her companions would mean a far different path. He should not answer. But, his inner self argued, now you owe her. It would be dishonorable to not attend. To give himself a moment he clarified, "Come and fight? With you?"
She dropped her head in a nod. "Yes." Even the dim light of the Chantry gleamed off the mahogany of her hair. A wholly different path.
Sebastian leapt. "If you could use me, I would come."