Disclaimer: I don't own anything owned by Bioware etc. Also, the songs that I use as chapter titles aren't mine and belong to their respective creators and such.
A week had passed since Hawke's last bulletwound, and Varric had finally decided to put him back to work, making runs along the Wounded Coast. The hottest month of the year was certainly living up to its name, and James was spending more time wiping sweat from his eyes than actually working, "Maker I hate this place."
"Cheer up, Hawke," Merrill comforted, "It'll be alright."
"Yeah well I just don't see why Varric couldn't bring his lazy ass up here and pick up a box. It must be filled with snakes or poison or more explosives," he muttered.
"Varric has other business. He would rather be here than dealing with business," Merrill said.
"I just find it odd that he sent you and stayed home."
Merrill paused, "What help would I be in Hightown? And besides, I don't see Anders here," she countered.
"He doesn't do beaches," James said.
"Isn't this a coast?" Merrill asked.
James shrugged, "That's exactly what I said."
"You know you're wasting a lot of breath talking," Isabela said, "The sooner we get this done the sooner I can get back to the Rose."
James wrinkled his nose but trudged on, the two women following him, "My sister used to work at the Blooming Rose."
"Really?" Isabela asked, "From the way you act I'd figure any member of your family would never be fun enough to set foot into a brothel. What's her name?"
"Bethany," James said, "And I have been in brothels... a lot of them."
"Where?" Isabela asked with a suspicious look.
"Shut up," James muttered, "Just because I'm not paying a whore's bills doesn't mean I'm a prude. I've had sex."
Isabela laughed, "What does that have anything to do with being a prude? Varric's told me all about you. You're Mr straight and narrow, so to speak, always doing the right thing."
"You act like that's a bad thing," James said, "I see no reason to extort or threaten people just to get what I want, Maker forbid I kill someone without necessity. Somehow most of my fights are on behalf of all of you."
"Even though that has nothing to do with either of us," Merrill said, "We do appreciate it."
"Speak for yourself. I think he's a bratty little pissant," Isabela said.
James shrugged at the look Merrill gave him and pressed on, "You can't please everyone all the time."
Merrill was so glad to be back that she went straight to the Hanged Man, up the stairs and into Varric's suite. She'd planned to wait for him there, but found the door already unlocked. Varric was on the couch, a halo of blue cigar smoke above his head. He saw Merrill and his face lit up with a smile, "Daisy," he greeted.
When she sat down beside him, he continued, "How was the job? Anything unexpected?"
"Isabela and Hawke don't get along, but I don't think that's what you meant. Hawke is doing everything just the way you told him to," Merrill assured him, "Can I stop spying now?"
"Don't call it spying; it's just being concerned with an investment," Varric said, "I want to keep an eye on him. That man he's worshiping in the sewers is bad news. I dug up some intel and-"
"Varric," Merrill said patiently, "I am here with you, alone at a time of day when we can expect absolutely no visitors and all you can think to do is gossip?"
"And smoke," Varric said with a smile, "Ok fine, enough girl talk, what did you have in mind, Daisy?"
"Well," Merrill said, "It doesn't involve talking, and there's definitely no smoking."
Varric gave her a playfully suspicious look, "The only no smoking joint I know of is the Chantry."
Merrill laughed, "Oh Varric," she said, feigning frustration before throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him.
Bethany sat in one of the Chantry's upper pews, staring at her hands as she contemplated the situation she'd gotten herself into, "I should have listened to James," she whispered, looking up at the statue of the Maker, "Is this your way of punishing me? Is it because I'm a Mage? Or is it because I was a whore? I hope it's the latter, because that I can change."
When no response came, she sighed and rose, lighting one of the small red pillar candles that looked like it had burned many times before. Bethany heard a small noise and glanced up to see a woman climbing the stairs, safely out of earshot but close enough to see if Bethany muttered the curse word that she wanted to, "Maker's blessing, sister," Bethany said, trying to duck past and avoid the sister as Sebastian had instructed.
"Hold, child," she replied, "I am Sister Patrice."
"Pleased to meet you."
Patrice didn't smile, "I don't believe I've seen you before. What is your name?"
"I am," Bethany hesitated, wondering if she should use an alias, "I am..."
"Leliana," she blurted, thinking of the Chantry woman she used to visit back at home in Lothering.
"Leliana?" Patrice asked, eyes narrowing for a moment, "That is an Orleasian name."
Bethany nodded, "Yes it is. My mother had many Orlaesian friends. She named me after one of them. It is the seat of the Divine after all, isn't it?"
Patrice was unamused, "Are you one of the Lowtown volunteers?"
"Yes, the Docks too," Bethany said.
Patrice shivered, "Where those hornhead heathens are squatting," she muttered, "The Viscount made a mistake welcoming their kind, like casting pearls before swine... or oxen."
"The Qunari?" Bethany asked, "Do they leave their compound? I've often wondered. Back in Ferelden there was a Qunari, a murderer that-"
"They're all murderers, child," Patrice said, "Murderers, liars, sinners, heathens."
Bethany smiled nervously when Patrice took her hand, "What are you doing?"
"Come, there is something I want to show you," the woman whispered, leading Bethany down the stairs and into the eventual darkness of the Chantry's basements.
Bethany kept up with Patrice's hurried pace, frightened by the spark in the blonde's eyes and the eager smile on her drawn face. It was the same face she'd once seen on Carver when they were children.
He dragged her outside to show a bird he'd shot and killed with his toy gun, so proud. Even then, death had been simple and easy for Carver, such a little soldier he had been. James and Bethany felt no such certainty. Malcolm had always taught them that magic must serve "What is best in me, not that which is most base," and yet it seemed that the opposite was true for Carver. What was a mage's weakness was his strength, instinct and animal rage.
Not far away, in the Hightown Estates, Carver was indulging one of his less noble compulsions, falling-down drunk in front of Fenris' borrowed mansion and begging for the elf's heart.
"I wish I could make you understand," Fenris growled.
"So let me in and try!" Carver called through the heavy wooden door, his voice slurred by alcohol and tears.
Fenris turned away, leaning against the locked door, "I've told you a dozen times. I don't love you. I don't need you, nor do I want you."
"But that's a lie," Carver said, his muffled voice sounding more desperate than argumentative, "We both know it is."
"I want you to leave," Fenris said, and that at least rang true.
Carver was quiet for a moment, "Well maybe I will," he said, "Maybe I won't ever come back."
Fenris swallowed, "That's how it should be," he said.
"Your heart's a mess," Carver said, "You don't want anyone close because you're afraid of getting hurt. You won't even give me a chance. You told me what Denarius made you do. I can help if you'd just-"
Fenris moved away from the door as if it were suddenly hot, stepping quickly out of earshot before the argument could continue.
After a few moments of silence, Carver sank to the ground against the door, too devoted to leave and too drunk and forlorn to try and force his way inside. Carver Hawke's heart was broken and even though he was an adult, all he could think to do was cry.
"Come on Carver; get up," James said.
Carver tried to jerk away, over balancing and falling to the ground, "Fuck off. I don't need your help. I don't need you."
James was patient as he hauled his younger brother up, Anders commenting from over his shoulder, "Unfortunately for all of us, you do need someone and he's the only idiot willing to help you up out of your own puddle of piss and despair."
"What's he doing here?" Carver asked, scowling at Anders.
"He's a friend," James said, "So be nice."
Carver leaned against James, "I didn't piss myself," he muttered.
James smiled, "Technically you just went on the stoop and fell in it. Don't worry, though; I hear there's a quiet dignity in stumbling into your own puddle of humiliation."
Anders chuckled and Carver remained quiet, "What are you two fighting about anyway?" Anders asked.
"It wasn't a fight and it's none of your business," Carver snapped.
"Mother says Fenris broke his heart," James said.
Anders shook his head, "A lot of drama for such young men," he said, "You'll have your entire lives to hate each other."
"Go tell Fenris that, magey" Carver muttered, "I'm the one trying to fix everything."
"By shouting at him in a drunken stupor?" James asked.
Carver scowled, "You know this is your fault anyway," he said.
"His fault?" Anders repeated, dumbfounded, "How in the Maker's name is this his fault?"
James held up a hand to quiet Anders, "He's probably right. Even if he isn't, it isn't worth arguing over. Lets just get him home before-"
Carver leaned over and vomited-in the loud unceremonious way of the very drunk-and passed out. Anders placed a hand over his mouth and stumbled away, "Maker!"
James sighed, "What no one's ever vomited in your clinic?" he muttered, hoisting the heavy younger Hawke.
"No vomit I've ever smelled burned like that," Anders said once he'd gotten himself composed, "It smells like the ass end of a drunk dragon."
James chuckled, "Would you mind helping me? Because he weighs as much as the ass end of a dragon too."
"What an adventure," Anders said as he bent and lifted Carver's feet, "You Hawkes never disappoint."
"If you think whiskey vomit is an adventure, you'll faint when you see Uncle Gamlen in a few."
They managed to lug Carver back to Lotown without attracting attention of the guard-likely because the only officer who saw them was Aveline. The stairs up to Gamlen's door seemed endless.
James was able to sneak away before Carver woke, leaving him with Leandra, "I wish he could find a hobby that didn't involve hitting me of terrorizing Hightown."
"Perhaps he'll take up Macramé. I hear it's very rewarding," Anders suggested, "He could sell what he makes on the street."
"As adorable as all of that sounds, I don't think he's the crafty type."
"What do you suppose he did?" Anders asked, "To make the elf react that way? I've seen how he treats you but from the way you described Fenris I think he could hold his own."
James smiled, "The more I think about it, the more I think that Fenris is afraid of closeness. He risked a lot asking for help with Denarius and that was just about all he was willing to give up. Anything more personal than his shoe size you might as well have been asking a wall."
"I thought you said he doesn't wear shoes."
James scowled playfully, "You know what I mean."
Anders chuckled, "Kirkwall's full of people that are afraid of themselves," he said, now serious, "Seems like a waste when there's so much else to be afraid of."
A/N: I know it's short, but it's leading up to things so it's mostly a chapter of transition and foreshadowing. Thanke for the follows and reviews! See you all in Chapter 8!