Chapter 23 - Full Circle

Cass was sitting at her dressing table, when Fenris walked into her room a few nights later. She was busy disentangling her long hair, cursing when it got caught in the ribbon that had held it back during the day.

"Let me help you." He stepped behind her, a faint smile on his face and carefully let his long, slim fingers trail through the tangles. "There." He put the ribbon aside, but didn't let go of her hair, burying his hands in the long tresses, breathing in her scent. Cass closed her eyes and leaned back into his touch. Tentatively, he began to massage her scalp, lightly at first, then with more pressure. Cass sighed with relief. She had missed this so much, the feeling of being touched, the tenderness.

She heard the tiny hitch in his breath at her sigh, and looked up at him over her shoulder. His eyes were fixed on her, pupils blown wide. Slowly she stretched out her hand, cupping his face, and pulled him down for a brief, shy kiss. His lips were soft and sweet, and Maker, he tasted so good. Without thinking, Cass let him drag her up into a loose embrace, her lips joining his in a second, deeper kiss.

His hands ghosted over her neck and down to her breasts, hesitant and restrained, but her body's reaction was so urgent he had to feel it, even through the fabric of her gown. A shudder ran through him and his hand firmly closed over her breast, gently kneading until she was trembling just as much as he was.

And then he pulled back. "Cass. Let's not rush this." She gasped in protest, but he smiled, his rare, true smile. "We have time. I'll see you tomorrow."

Cass leant back against the wall with a frustrated sigh that soon turned into a sad little laugh. Fenris was right. They both needed time to think.

All night long she tossed and turned on her sheets, unable to find peace, tormented by doubts and regrets while she was awake and by passionate dreams whenever she fell asleep.

In principle, she agreed with Fenris. For the first time since they had met, there was no need to rush things, to tumble into each other's arms at the first provocation. For the first time, they could actually think about this, make sure it was what they really wanted. And she wasn't certain of her feelings by any means.

The wound left by Nathaniel's departure was still fresh. She remembered every little thing about him, the way he'd smile at her in the mornings, his kisses, the confidences they had shared. For almost ten years, Nathaniel had been everything to her, friend, lover, partner. Cass knew that most people would think her heartless and indecent for even considering being with another man so soon.

Yet at the same time she was lonely, desperately lonely. She'd gotten used to a presence at her side, someone to hold her during the day and to warm her bed at night. Someone to share her life. She was so very tired of being alone. Her body craved tenderness, stimulation, the rush of arousal. Cass was a passionate woman who had always enjoyed a man's touch.

And this wasn't just any man. She'd loved Fenris for longer than she could remember. He had waited patiently all those years, never criticizing her decision to be with Nathaniel, never trying to come between them. He was her son's father. And she still wanted him with an almost frightening intensity.

Cass sighed. She could think of little else but his kiss, of the way her body had responded to him. Maker, how could he be so calm, so controlled? When she saw him at breakfast, he smiled at her tired face, his expression serene. Nothing in his words or his demeanour indicated that he even remembered the night before. Only a slight flutter of his eyelids betrayed his agitation when he touched her hands as he passed her a plate of fried eggs.

He spent the morning teaching Mal how to fight, using a small wooden sword. Cass envied him the vigorous physical exercise. She watched them for a while, but then decided that seeing Fenris roll gracefully around in the dirt did nothing whatsoever for her peace of mind.

It was worse at lunch, and even a brisk walk in the afternoon didn't help her clear her head. Neither potion-making nor reading her favourite book was enough to distract her. Fenris seemed to be everywhere she went, and whenever their eyes met, it was like a jolt straight to her core.

As the day went on, Cass realized she had been fooling herself. There was no way she could approach this rationally. Her mind, sharp as it was, wouldn't help her solve this problem.

Finally it was evening, and he knocked on her door. The moment their eyes met she knew there would be no more talking. Without a word she walked over to him and put her arms around his neck. His hands settled on her hips as if it was the most natural thing in the world. And then his mouth found hers and Cass stopped thinking, stopped trying to make sense of it all. There was just him, his lips, his hair, so soft and silky in her hands, his hard body pressing against hers. When her fingers touched his sensitive ear, he growled, a low noise deep in his throat, and easily gathered her up in his arms. A few quick steps took them to her bed.

Lying back on the sheets, she looked up at him, feasting her eyes on him as he threw off his tunic and leggings, his body just as beautiful, just as perfect as it had been ten years ago. He followed her onto the bed, perched above her like a magnificent predator, lithe and sleek and dangerous. And all the time his eyes were fixed on her face, drinking in the sight of her, taking note of every sigh and quiver as he pushed aside the fabric of her dress, baring her to his touch.

Fenris was still controlled, taking it slow, his hands trembling only slightly as they mapped out her body, caressing every inch of her soft white skin. She raised a hand and touched his chest, marvelling at the smoothness of his skin, its subtly different texture, the hardness of his muscles just under the surface. It felt so good to explore him without urgency, to take in all the little details, the way his stomach tensed when she ran her fingers along his hipbone, the choked little noise from his throat when she finally took hold of him. He sighed with pleasure as she stroked along the length of him, but when she increased the pressure he caught her wrist and shook his head.

"I've waited for so long, Cass. I need you, all of you." His words, spoken in that deep, vibrant voice of his, made her shiver with anticipation, and when he slid between her legs, she was ready for him, eager to feel him deep inside her.

"Fenris, please!" He smiled at her impatience, but he didn't hesitate any longer, burying himself inside her to the hilt in one long thrust.

She couldn't even scream. It was so good, so incredibly perfect, the way he filled her, completed her, made her whole again. When he began to move, she matched him stroke for stroke, every inch of her responding to his proximity. On and on he thrust, reducing her to a shuddering mass of sheer helpless need. Her magic surged up, and she held on desperately, keeping it just below the surface, trying to force it back. Fenris tensed when he felt her power tug at his skin, ready to be unleashed.

"Let go. Do it." His voice was rough. "I can't tell you how often I've dreamed of this."

"I won't be able to stop it," she gasped. "If you want to stay in control-"

"I trust you, Cass. With all my heart." The look in his eyes was so intense, so open that Cass had to swallow, but then she nodded.

The surge of magic hit them both with a primal force that exceeded all their expectations. Cass' powers had grown considerably since Kirkwall, and even then their encounters had been mind-blowing. Now she could see bursts of raw energy race along his markings, his head snapping back in a rush of pleasure so intense that it must have bordered on pain. Cass had already been close before. Now, with the added stimulation of magic, the heat inside her exploded in a white-hot flash of light and pure, ecstatic joy. The flare engulfed them both, blinding, overwhelming, ungovernable, obliterating all thought and emotion.

But once it was over, Cass was surprised to discover that she could gather her magic back to her and wrap it around both of them like a warming blanket, enveloping both their bodies within the energy they had created. It was the most extraordinary feeling, a soft, sweet tingle completely unlike the wild rush that had come before. Fenris kept very still in her arms, and she realized he could feel it to, this closeness, this warmth. Neither of them spoke until the feeling had finally subsided. They fell asleep almost immediately.

When Cass awoke, the room was nearly dark, only a few dying embers glowing in the fireplace. Without thinking, she crept closer to the warm body next to her and curled up against his chest. It was then that it registered. Smooth, silky skin, the raised pattern of the tattoos easily traceable even in the dark. Fenris. Not Nathaniel. Her body went rigid.

"Shhh, Cass." He was awake. "What's the matter?"

She shook her head, her throat too tight to speak. Fenris sighed and gently pushed back a strand of hair from her face. For a long time he just held her, waiting for her to stop sobbing.

Finally he pulled her up so that he could kiss her forehead. "Cass, please listen to me. I'm not asking anything of you right now. But it does you no good to lock yourself up here. Come with me to Denerim, Cass. I don't know if I can make you happy. I'm not even sure whether we can make it work at all. All I know is I love you."

Catching her gaze, he sighed and kissed her. "Maybe in time we can build a life together. You, me and Mal. Please?"

Shaking with emotion, she nodded and let him pull her into a firm, sure embrace. There were no words that could express everything she was feeling. Grief, love, pain, guilt, relief. In the end, she settled for hope.

* The end *

Many, many thanks to all of you who have stuck with me until the end, reading and reviewing, faving and alerting. I'm hugely grateful to all of you; your support means a lot.

And the biggest hug of all to zevgirl who has helped me find my way through yet another story. You are the best beta I could wish for!