Author's Note: Warnings for mentions of past child abuse. Thanks as always to mille libri for her beta excellence, but all mistakes and grammar fidgets are mine.
Steal Away Home: Chapter 6
Sebastian had barreled around the corner and given Aeryn the rundown on Roget, Perri and the others, then pulled himself up to the balcony overhead, for a decent vantage. He'd not seen Aeryn watch him jump up and reach for the railing, swing and then haul his long, lean body over the wrought iron with his innate sense of grace. Turning away from her archer then, with a picture of him that would stir her blood later when she wasn't so focused elsewhere, Aeryn made a mental note that wyvern leather, in a lovely chocolate brown, would suit him very nicely when she looked up the armorer that Meridan had recommended. Then, drawing up her hood, Aeryn disappeared into the shadow to wait.
Watching, he knew where she was, in that point where the shadow was just a little too unnaturally...thick...for lack of a better word. Business, Aeryn had said to Isabela. And it occurred to Sebastian that he had never seen her at her work, in this manner.
Battle, yes. Desperate, to the bone, endless fights. Scraps and alley brawls. The precise and elegant nature of her in motion against an enemy. The way she and Fenris dove into a pack of slavers like it was a game and a rare treat. That one horrible, nightmare inducing moment when he had triggered the empty weapon at her heart. All of these, Sebastian had seen. Some of those facets he had to admit he admired. But this was a job. One with a personal connection, but just a job. She was distant and cool, but not empty, taking in his information and glancing at the others to make sure they were in position before he'd looked up and decided to chance the balcony's strength.
Roget had blustered into the alley from the brothel's side door. Sebastian was meant to be covering the alley entrance, in case of outside interference, but he had watched Aeryn instead, unable to resist the curiosity and knowing, too, that Fenris was blocking that way. Aeryn had allowed the man to grab her wrist, used it to twist him into her body. She'd spoken, Sebastian could just hear the murmur, but she'd turned the soft, low voice into a lure, to draw Roget so close to her that he forgot his danger. Isabela had hit the second in the throat with one of her curved throwing blades. The rain had started to fall.
The black hood hid the gleam of Aeryn's mahogany hair from the light of the one torch that sputtered at the alley's mouth. Sebastian couldn't see her face, certainly not her eyes, just the lithe, dangerous grace of Aeryn's form as she reduced a master thief to a wreck in three sudden moves. From his vantage, Sebastian saw the man's hand move, but it was Varric who covered that angle and the dwarf's bolt had ruined Roget's attempt to fight back. Had Roget had seen her eyes, and what had they told him as the villain died, had Aeryn been anything to him but a faceless, anonymous embodiment of Death? Because that, Sebastian realized suddenly, was what an assassin - a good one - was.
And it was over. Aeryn held the man, just a moment, ensuring his demise, and then let the body slump to the ground besides Perri's pitiful form. She wiped her knife on his jerkin and resheathed it, standing. And Sebastian caught just a glimpse of her face, then, in a flash of lightning.
Eyes as cool and impersonal as any wolf's peered at him from under the hood. Then the flash faded and when he dropped to her side and looked carefully as she pushed back her hood, Aeryn was herself again, a soft glow in the grey depths and a wry twist on her lips.
"Well, that's that. To be honest, I rather expected more. Hmph." She rifled through the villain's pockets. Bit of gold, a few trinkets. Nice dagger. Not a bad start to Macie's hoard.
"Hawke." Fenris' deep warning was all the time she had to school her features into light distress.
"Now, then. What do we have here?"
Ser Oswald was walking up with two other men, one just a bit younger, but with more elaborate insignia indicating his rank. The other guard appeared to be a fairly new recruit, with an eager look about him.
"Oh, Ser. I just came to speak with this man and he and his...lady... attacked me. I am afraid that I was forced to defend myself." Holding her wrist up in the light at the angle that would show its delicate structure most clearly, and the bruising redness where Roget had grabbed her, she heard Sebastian's hissed breath.
Oh, the wicked little deceiver. Sebastian knew for a fact that Aeryn had been wearing her bracers when he'd gone into the brothel.
"Now, Mistress, I did warn you Roget was a mite touchy." The guardsman's mouth twitched as he looked the corpses over. "Ah. Poor bastard. Scared you badly, did he?"
"Terribly." Aeryn bit her lip as she glanced away sadly and Sebastian saw the younger guard reach out as if he thought to console her, before remembering himself. Swallowing a smile, the archer heard Varric clear his throat and next to Fenris, Isabela shook her head at Merrill, who was about to speak. The elf subsided with a small huff of breath.
The Captain was watching this play with some amusement just barely visible on his handsome, lined face. He ran a hand through crisp blond hair and bowed. "Mistress Hawke, I am Captain Aidan. I am...troubled that you encountered such a distressing event. Ah, in an alley. Behind a notorious brothel."
"Is that where we are?" Wide, innocent gray eyes blinked. "Oh dear, Ser Oswald. You might have mentioned..."
Ser Oswald coughed. "My apologies. I thought you might just send the villain a message."
Indicating the bodies at their feet, Aiden spoke, "Well, plain enough she did, guardsman. He seems to have received it. Just you, then? Not your companions?" The bolt was still in Roget's wrist.
"Well, my friend here did take the message into the place. Goodness me, a brothel. No wonder you were such a long time." Aeryn tsked and was pleased to see Sebastian blush, just a wee bit. Purely for effect. "But, no, I'm afraid I alone am to blame for this...mess." Aeryn's voice dropped from the slightly breathless tone she'd affected and gazed at the Captain levelly. If there were repercussions she wanted them on her shoulders. "I will make a statement, if you require it for your records."
Aiden stared back at her, assessing, then shrugged. "No need, my lady. He quite clearly attacked you, no doubt judging you by his own standards. You see, Roget here was something of a thief."
"Oh? Gracious. No wonder he was so violent towards my young friend. Ser Oswald did mention the little girl to you?"
"Yes. He obviously thought you meant him harm and sought to keep you quiet. Terrible thing about thievery. It does bring you into contact with all sorts of wicked persons. Makes you properly paranoid."
"It's so true."
"I hope the girl has found herself a better group of friends."
"If she lives, I can almost guarantee it. I don't suppose there are any healers in Amaranthine, perhaps at the Chantry?"
"No, my lady. I'm sorry. Closest would be the Vigil. We have a surgeon and a barber, plus an apothecary. A couple of hedge witches out in the country. But no proper healer."
Well, there's that. Aeryn hoped Bethany was managing. "Ah, well. May we go now? I'm afraid I'm rather in need of a cup of tea." Sebastian set a supporting hand at her elbow and got a sweet smile.
"Of course. I hope the rest of your stay in Amaranthine will be uneventful." Captain Aiden put a note of warning in his voice and Aeryn acknowledged him with a neat curtsy.
"Thank you, Captain." You and me both, Captain. "Fare you well, Ser Oswald." The guard gave her a small salute, setting his hand over his heart.
"Lady..." The young guard set a restraining hand on her sleeve and Aeryn glanced up at the…oh, very young man in surprise.
"Please...if this terrible thing has upset you too much, don't hesitate to seek guidance from Andraste and our Maker. They will comfort you in this darkness."
Oh, dear. "Ah. I will certainly seek out my priest, ser. Should I need comforting. In the dark," she couldn't help but add, piously. Isabela spluttered behind them and Sebastian looked to be trying very hard not to turn the shade of a ripe tomato. "It's very kind of you to remind me," Aeryn did her best to be utterly sincere and the fellow nodded earnestly.
"That's enough, Mort." The captain spoke as if he was resigned to his man's religious blandishments. Sighing, he said, "Come on, let's get these blighters cleared away before the girls see them and start screeching."
Aeryn led the way out of the alley and through the glistening streets of Amaranthine. Isabela and Merrill were chortling madly by the time they got to the edge of the square, Varric's deep laugh joining them. Even Fenris had a half-smile on his lean features.
"You ought to be spanked, talking to a pious man that way," Sebastian whispered into her ear, his hand set warmly in the small of her back.
She sent him a coy look from under her lashes. "Are you offering?" Sebastian hmphed and she smirked. "Anyway, should I not turn to you if I'm troubled? I'd hate to have to shock some other poor unsuspecting religious man with my dangerous ways. I've only just gotten you broken in."
"You will keep your wicked tongue between us, if you've a thought for what's good for you." He almost managed a repressive glower trying not to laugh outright at the expression any poor priest or mother would likely wear while trying to maintain an impassively compassionate voice during any confession Aeryn might be tempted to give.
"Oh, my. Threats." That earned her a low growl. "I promise to keep my wicked tongue all for you, my darling priest." The pink tip of said organ flicked out, briefly. Sebastian's hand skirted down to her backside to give her a swat and Aeryn chuckled. Oh, despite the grave matter that led them here, it was a thrill and a release to have performed a service to Amaranthine by ridding them of that lout. She hadn't felt this loose and free in longer than she cared to remember, actually. Maybe Alistair would have a few jobs of this sort lying around waiting for a willing hand. A lovely way to spend a winter.
By the time they returned to the boat, though, their mirth had dissipated in light of what might greet them. Aeryn went right down the hatch to the small cabin Sebastian had carried Macie down to at Bethany's order. Aeryn took a breath at what she saw when she pushed open the door.
The young girl was clearly recovering, though her eyes were still closed. The swelling and bruising to her face had subsided and Macie had regained a bit of her color. Bethany was sitting half asleep next to her on the wooden chair that had sat outside Anders' cabin, a book open in her lax hands and a few scattered potion flasks discarded on the table.
Sebastian whispered a prayer of thanks behind Aeryn as she crossed the decking to close Bethany's book. The sisters smiled softly at one another and Sebastian was struck again by the similarities that their disparate coloring usually hid. Bethany shot a questioning look at Aeryn and received a feral smile in return. It sent a smug note of satisfaction across the mage's lightly tanned face.
"How is she, then?"
"Better, thank the Maker. It was touch and go for a bit. I missed a bit of bleeding. One of her lungs collapsed. But it's fixed and she's actually sleeping as opposed to being unconscious."
"Well done, sister Beth." Bethany flushed a little at Aeryn's praise. "You should to go to bed if you can leave her. Oh...wait. She ought to eat, right? What do you want made up? Broth? Blanc mange? I can send someone out for ice."
Bethany nodded. "Broth, I think. I don't actually know anyone who likes blanc mange. Honey water. Maybe a nice custard for tomorrow, good and eggy. She needs feeding up."
"Easy enough. Actually, I've got a bit left from the chicken carcasses I boiled up for stew yesterday. Do you think she'll wake soon?"
"I don't want to leave her alone, though." Bethany put her hands behind her hips and stretched out her back and Aeryn slipped behind her to rub her shoulders, finding the tension and smoothing it away expertly. The younger sister sighed under the firm hands. He noted that there were familiar dark smudges under Bethany's golden brown eyes and a look of pallor and hollowness in her usually rosy cheeks Sebastian recalled seeing occasionally on Anders' face when he'd pushed himself too far.
Sebastian cleared his throat. "I'll stay." When they glanced up at him with twin surprised looks, he shook his head, amused. "I did assist with healer hall at the Chantry fairly often. I can manage to sit at the child's side and feed her a bit of broth."
"If you're sure..."
"Go and take your rest. I'll wake you if she seems to be uncomfortable." He flapped his hands in scooting motions and Bethany giggled softly.
Aeryn turned to him and watched as Bethany gathered her things and then left. Sebastian unbuckled the vambrace and his chestplate, the mail surplice and finally his jerkin and stacked them neatly, leaving him in his linen tunic, one of the ones she'd sewn before they left Kirkwall. The charcoal color suited him, too, though not so well as the russets and browns and blues. She'd noticed that the higher born men about Amaranthine were wearing a new style of long coat over more tailored waists as opposed to the doublets that had been popular in Kirkwall. Aeryn would have to see about outfitting her prince more suitably once they came to Denerim. No doubt Alistair's staff could point her to a decent tailor.
Noting her observation, said prince sent her a warm look from beneath his lashes. "Come here a moment, mo chridhe." Aeryn swayed closer and Sebastian caught her hand and pressed a kiss to the bruised wrist. With the other hand, and clever fingers, he twisted open a small jar of the elfroot salve Bethany had been using on Macie and rubbed a dollop of it into Aeryn's fine skin, soothing the purpling mark away. "There, now. That's better. And maybe next time leave your bracers on?" He put just a hint of an order in his tone. She risked herself too easily for his taste.
Shrugging, Aeryn rotated the joint, glad to have it healing. "Just in case I needed a bit of support for my claim." Sebastian snorted and she flashed her saucy smile at him.
"You're a wicked lass."
"Your wicked lass, though?" The husky whisper and downcast lashes had him pulling her close again.
"Oh, aye. And never you doubt it." He bent his head down to kiss her thoroughly before clearing his throat and setting her back. There was a little girl in the room with them, after all. "Off you go, leannan. Do you not have things to be doing, then?"
Sebastian's handsome face, lean and arrogant, was relaxed, the hauntingly blue eyes seemed clear. She couldn't tell. She'd have to ask.
Pensively, Aeryn questioned in a soft tone, "Are you well, my love?"
Sebastian blinked. Why would he not be? "I…think so. Why?"
Aeryn gave him a wan little smile and tipped her head, letting her bangs fall over her face. "Well, you've walked into a brothel and had some business with whores, drugged some cuthroats, then watched me kill a man in cold blood, tell a number of lies, and do a bit of corpse rifling, then humored me in a bit of irreverence. I can't imagine a more different night than your former life. I suppose I'm..." She paused, shrugging nonchalantly but with a still watchfulness behind her silvery eyes. "I just wanted to be sure that it wasn't more than you were comfortable with."
Aeryn startled a little at the sweetness of Sebastian's smile when he drew her to him and tugged her down to sit on his lap in the low wooden chair. The lilting voice rumbled against her cheek. "I gave a blessing and provided a bit of rest and quiet to a woman who needed them. Not to mention received a reminder as to why my rakehell's life was empty despite my desperate excesses. I put out of harm's way men who might have died tonight. I stood watch over my love while she destroyed a man who was a child beater and a womanizer and a murderer, no doubt. I listened to her take responsibility without any regard for consequences to herself. I watched her take a bit of ill-got coin from a cruel thief to help a young girl start over. I did remonstrate wi' you over your irreverence, and the Maker knows all piety takes a bit of time to take root. And now I'll give rest and respite to a healer and watch over one of the Maker's children. Go and make your soup, à ruin. I'm well in my soul." Sebastian took her face in his hands and kissed her softly, set her back on her feet and then settled his long frame into the chair looking perfectly at peace.
Aeryn's eyes were glowing when she left and it made his heart skip. She'd truly been worried. Now and again they would sneak up on these hard things, the differences between them. But, Sebastian thought, not as often as they used to. Aeryn trusted him now, to tell her the truth if he was having difficulties reconciling his heart. He trusted that she would show him enough of the emotions she actually felt to not hate the masks she wore so easily. He'd be lying to himself, though, if he said that the ease with which Aeryn switched between killer and the gentler friend and lover didn't yet concern him.
The ship rocked quietly in its mooring as Aeryn trotted down to the galley. The crew was mostly still ashore, but Isabela had sent the cabin boy out to gather them up. They had decided to stay in port until Macie woke and could give her own opinion about whether or not to come with them. She brushed the runes that would heat the pot of stew and stoked up the fire to reheat the broth. Sandal had done a bit of crafting, making the kitchen a bit more efficient, before they had set Bodahn and his savant son off at Cumberland.
She carried Sebastian a tray, with the broth and honey-water for Macie, some toasted bread, and a pot of tea. Aeryn watched his long fingers, rough with calluses but gentle and careful while dealing with the injured child as he rearranged the blankets. He spoke soothingly, half unconscious of himself, in the Starkish cradletongue that he often used with her, and Aeryn couldn't hide the soft smile it brought to her lips. Nor could she stifle the sudden ribbon of longing and sweet hope that curled up warmly just under her heart. Sebastian would be a lovely father someday, if she could ever bring herself to risk it. Oh. What a thought. Because Aeryn was, if she was honest with herself- just a little- afraid of it.
Aeryn excused herself after a few moments and left him to his ministry, going back to finish preparing a meal for the rest of them.
Sebastian went through his evening prayers, doing his best to be sincere about Roget and Perri and wishing he had gotten Dovey's real name, and was leafing through the book of medicinal spells that Bethany had left behind her, before he noticed that there were bright black eyes watching him suspiciously.
"Hello, Macie. D'you remember me?"
"You belong to that sharper that I did a job for. You're her man." The girl's voice was harsh as a crow's, remnants of sleep and the bruises that had ringed her throat not long before.
"That's right. My name, actually, is Sebastian. It's nice to see you awake again, lass. Are you thirsty at all?"
"Hmph." The young girl struggled to sit up and Sebastian laid a cautioning hand on her shoulder.
"Dinna be in a hurry, hmm? Let me help. Little sips, though." He adjusted the pillows carefully and soon had Macie better situated. When he offered her the tumbler of sweetened water, she sniffed it and then let it just touch her tongue, tasting warily before she took the smallest of sips.
Glancing around surreptitiously, she took in her surroundings. "Where's Roget?"
"He won't be troubling you again."
There was something unsettling and cool about her gaze. And pure disbelief in her voice. "You done for him? Really? You're no killer." Macie shifted uncomfortably.
"I've done my own share, Macie, but it was Aeryn who saw Roget dead." Understanding flashed in her bright gaze and she twitched again.
"Are you hurting, a nighean?"
From under dark brows the girl glared. "No. I need to use the pot."
"Oh. Well. I can help you or if you'll wait, I'll get Aeryn."
"I'm good. Just..."
"Sit up and stand. If you're okay, then I'll step out."
Macie was wobbly as a fawn, and disturbed by it, clearly used to being reasonably steady and graceful. But she was standing and Sebastian left her to it until he heard the rustling of the mattress that let him know his patient was back in bed. He stuck his head in, and besides being a little pale, she looked to be fine.
"There's a bit of soup, if you're hungry." The girl nodded but when she took the spoon, her hand shook so badly it slopped. "Never mind, let me."
"Sure and you are. But it'll save the washing if you let me." Macie slurped at the spoonful Sebastian held for her, looking surprised that it tasted good. "Alright, then?"
"Looks like pond water."
"Aye, but Aeryn made it, so it tastes good. I think there was some mention of custard for you tomorrow. You'll have to save me a bit. She uses nutmeg and I'm partial."
She blinked at him, wary again even as she took another spoonful. "I'm...I don't have to stay. I got a place."
Sebastian nodded. Aeryn had warned him to assure Macie that she was free to leave as soon as Bethany said the girl was fit. He'd left the door open behind him when he came back in. "I imagine it's still there. Or, you could come wi' us."
"Well, that was before she got you into a bit of a spot now, wasn't it?"
Macie took another slurp at the broth. "He said he was gonna teach me. 'Cause legit jobs wasn't the right kind for someone like me, but I'd remember after he..." She veered away from the memory.
Holy Andraste, help me. Sebastian slowly set a hand on her shoulder and it twisted in his gut to see the way the girl's eyes snapped and watched it the whole time. She didn't flinch away though. "It won't happen again, Macie. I promise."
She didn't believe him and deflected the comfort. "You talk funny."
"I'm foreign." Sebastian didn't bother to hide the upward tip of his lips but for some reason his amusement made the dark brows on Macie's foxish little face draw in and down. Like some odd combination of Aeryn and Fenris, it dawned on him. That's what was so unsettling. Macie reminded him very much of the untrusting Aeryn Hawke who had first come to his Chantry so many years ago. The one he had lured into talking to him, one small word at a time before she'd finally relaxed enough to ask him to watch over her mother and sister.
"I don't need charity. I can do for myself." Sharp little chin in the air and Sebastian had to fight not to smirk at the resemblance now.
"I imagine if Aeryn's decided to let you come with, she's more than one job in mind for you once you're up and about. We're a busy crew."
The broth was gone, finally, and Macie blinked her narrow black eyes at him, blearily, looking suddenly exhausted.
"Tired, then?" The girl looked a little panicked. "It's alright, Macie. When I was sick for a bit, not long ago, I got tired fast, too. Lay back and sleep. I imagine the healer will be in to see you in a bit. And she'll have you up and about in no time."
"You gonna be around?"
"I'll stay if you'd like, a nighean."
Macie looked younger than she had before when she nodded, such a small movement that he almost didn't catch it. Scared and small and not as brave as she wanted Sebastian to think she was.
"Here I'll be, then."
The new cook Isabela had hired on showed up about halfway through Aeryn's supper preparations and she ended up giving the tall, brawny Fereldan named Gerte, a tour, making an inventory of ingredients and then sitting down with her going through menus and highlighting the things Aeryn's companions and the ship's crew were fondest of. And a reminder that there always had to be some main course besides fish, else Fenris would turn his nose up. Gerte seemed well capable, but Aeryn was reluctant to turn over her kitchen duties. She'd relied on the chores to fill her ship days with something besides waiting and relaxing. "I'll have a few things to be making up while we have a convalescent," Aeryn reminded the cook, who shrugged and told her to make herself free of the galley.
Aeryn peeked into Macie's cabin, with another tray, loaded this time with soup and more bread, only to find the girl still asleep and Sebastian clearly meditating. But the broth was eaten, so Aeryn switched out the trays quietly, trying not to disturb either of them. She glanced toward Sebastian, though, when she felt his eyes on her.
"She woke for a bit. The soup was a hit."
"Does she seem alright?"
"Aye. A little frightened and worried. She, ah…she wanted me to stay by her, while she slept." Sebastian ducked his head, looking a little sheepish and Aeryn kissed the top of his head, fondly.
Can't blame the girl for that. "Oh? Well, I can't imagine anyone I'd rather have watching over me, my love. Stay, if you'd like. Do you need anything?"
Sebastian considered for a moment and then nodded. "That book of tales I borrowed from Varric. I'll read to her a bit if she wants, later. And perhaps my weapons kit. I can trim feathers while I sit."
"I'll drop them off on my way to the bath," Aeryn assured him and hauled the tray up. His question stopped her before she reached the door.
"Aeryn, are you going to keep her?" He watched the uncertainty play across her face in the faint light of the brazier.
It was Aeryn's turn to ponder. "Haven't decided. I imagine we could find her a place in Denerim, if she wants to come away from Amaranthine. And I…" She shifted the tray in her arms before she asked, "Do you want to? What can I teach her besides thieves' tricks and knife play? You and Beth and Varric will be in charge of her education if she comes along. She's likely past my basic teaching skills, besides some languages."
Sebastian glanced down before fixing her with his blazing eyes. Aeryn noted it with a sinking feeling. Oh, this was important to him.
"I think…I think I'd like to have her along." Holy Andraste, let her see. Macie needed someone. Why not them?
"Why?" Blue eyes searched her face and she realized he was hesitant to tell her. "Come on, love."
"She reminds me so of you...what I suppose you to have been like."
Really? Aeryn looked skeptically at Macie with her tanned skin and freckles and the shock of black hair and her pointy little features in a still childish face. "I suppose, maybe a bit around the chin?"
"No' that. Well, aye, that too. But the way she's quick and small and...and some of her mannerisms. She's fierce and guarded."
"I wasn't like that. Not until... I could have been. I look at her and see what would have happened if..." she paused, knowing how Sebastian hated it when she defended her father, "if Father hadn't hidden so well. If he'd been discovered and I'd...I could have been Macie." Been a child thief and ended her life young on a gallows somewhere. Or...not. But Aeryn pushed aside that thought.
Sebastian nodded slowly. "Leandra told me once...that you were her lighthearted child." And recalling it did not help Sebastian find a reason to forgive Malcolm Hawke. He'd been responsible for the change.
Suddenly shy of his intense gaze, Aeryn slipped out of the door whispering that she needed to check on Beth. Sebastian watched her go with a sigh and readjusted Macie's pillows. A few minutes later, when he'd turned back to the door, his kit and his book were sitting by the door. Aeryn had come and gone as silently as one of her shadows. Sebastian resisted the urge to swear, loud and vocally, but it was a close thing.
Bethany was still dead to the world. She'd always been a deep sleeper, much to Aeryn's relief in past times. It had made it much easier to sneak around when the sisters had shared a room. Settling into the shadows, Aeryn watched Bethany sleep for a while. She hadn't the right really, any more. Too many years had passed since Aeryn had been the only line between Bethany and the horror-filled threat of imprisonment and Tranquility. Despite the tales their father had told her, despite everything Aeryn had been able to do, it was Bethany herself who had wiped out the line, crossed it like it meant nothing. And her little sister had done well enough, held her own in the Gallows. Even found love. Aeryn hadn't asked much about Cullen, fearing to bring up a sore subject. A little guilty in the face of her own romance. But Bethany seemed to be holding up. The hollows were gone from her cheeks, now, replaced by a soft, rosy flush, her walk in the Fade seemingly undisturbed and Aeryn twitched the blanket back into place over her sister's feet before padding out quietly.
Aeryn hadn't found Varric and Fenris topside as she expected, since the rain had stopped. The two were in the captain's cabin, heads bent over a game, instead.
"So, is your apprentice raring to go, yet?" Varric asked as Fenris slid over on his bench to allow her to sit down.
"She's not my apprentice, Varric. But she's doing well enough." Dropping down beside Fenris, Aeryn fiddled with his discarded cards and sniffed when the elf smacked her fingers. "If we keep her, could we not try to see if Macie might not find a more legal career than I managed?"
"There's nothing wrong with the storied and honored profession of thief and mercenary." Varric eyed her speculatively over his broad nose. "You know, if the whole Starkhaven thing doesn't work out, you could always try coming back here and taking over the Guild. Poor wretches, they'd be eating out of your hands in weeks."
Aeryn felt Fenris go a bit stiff next to her and glanced at her partner curiously before answering Varric. "You're a scoundrel, too, you know. Why not do it yourself?"
"Nah. Ferelden isn't my place and I know it. But you, Hawke? This is your home. You fit here, like you'd slid into a glove."
Hesitating, Fenris spoke. "He is not wrong, Hawke. I've seldom seen you so at ease in a place."
Cocking an eyebrow at him, Aeryn reminded her partner, "You've seen me in Kirkwall and in Orlais and on this bloody boat. I'd be hard pressed to think of less comfortable locations. I don't want to be a thief master." No. I don't. Not now.
"Queen of Thieves has quite a ring to it."
It did. And once upon a time...Aeryn glared at the dwarf, wondering why he was dredging up her childhood fantasies. "It also has a definite and short life span to go along with the glitzy title as we so recently proved. Anyway, it's a pointless thought. Sebastian is bound for Starkhaven."
Varric shrugged. "Yeah. But things...don't always go to plan."
"Well, we'd know all about that. It's not for me, Varric and even if it was...it's not just me, now, is it?" For Sebastian Vael was many things, ex-priest, master archer, and exiled prince, but he was never a Thief Master's consort. "You two should hit the hay. It's late."
Macie slept until Bethany came to check on her. The mage's gentle hands had woken the child but Macie had seemed to take to Bethany, so Sebastian took the chance to bathe and slip into bed. Aeryn was waiting for him in the cool dark and welcomed him to her with scarred, loving little hands and warm, scented kisses before they'd slept.
Sebastian had been so tired, he hadn't expected to dream, much less...
Again. And again. And again. Until you learn, boy. Until you manage to make yourself into a Vael. Until you learn some control. You're a disgrace, boy. You will never be a prince of Starkhaven.
And again, Geordie. Blast you. Give me the belt, if you can't make an impression on him.
You worthless, heedless sneaking brat, you will learn if I have to take every piece of hide off those shoulders.
Aeryn woke to a largehand shoving against her shoulder, knocking her half out of the narrow bunk as Sebastian pushed away. He'd lost the blanket in the night, the linen sheet flung over her but it wrapped around his legs, leaving him lying on his back in the chilled cabin, sweating and whimpering. "Stop...please, Maker. Stop."
It wasn't a strained back bothering him tonight, then. "Sebastian. Love, wake up." She reached for him as he shuddered.
"I'll be...I won't...For the love of Andraste, Father, please..." His voice sounded strange, strained and flat, without the usual brogue. Sebastian arched away from her hand, trying to twist away from what was happening in his head.
Oh, a dream of that. Aeryn sat up and stroked her fingers into his rough, sweat-dampened hair. "It's over. Sebastian, love. I'm here. He's not. I've got you. I won't let go." Aeryn sat up and stroked her hand over his rough, damp hair. "Shh. Sebastian, my love, you're alright. It's over long ago." She grabbed the woolen blanket up to lay across his cool body knowing he was always more likely to dream poorly when he was cold.
"Make him stop." He pleaded in that curiously formal accent, so unlike his warm lilt, and useless rage welled up in her again. Bastard. Maker forsaken evil wretch. She'd have sent Simeon Vael to the Void, herself, and done it with a smile.
"I would. Sebastian, I would. I would have made him stop, my own. I wish I could have. Come here." Aeryn tugged his lean body over off of the old scars, and with a moan so close to a sob he huddled against her, wrapped his arms around her waist, clinging as if he'd been drowning, ruddy head buried in her lap and his shoulders shaking. "Shh. I've got you. I love you. I won't let go." Curling close around him, Aeryn laid kisses to his temple and set to rubbing away the gooseflesh across his skin until he warmed under her hands. Sebastian didn't truly wake, but relaxed finally under her touch, seemed to slip into easier sleep.
Aeryn sat with him,staring into the dark, holding Sebastian safe, tracing her hands over his shoulders, feeling his heartbeat beneath her fingertips and turning over black-hearted thoughts like rocks until the gilt edge of dawn showed through the porthole.