Acquiescence - Chapter 2
Hawke sits before the mantel in a favored armchair, leaned forward over her lap with head rested in hand and dark tresses of hair weaved firmly around her fingers. A tumbler of half-finished brandy hangs forgotten between her knees, the heat of the liquor having proven ineffective in her attempts to chase away the deep-seated chill which has persisted since her retreat home. A small fire sputters in the hearth before her, its blaze the only source of light to permeate the otherwise sombre darkness which has descended over both the bed chamber and its single inhabitant. Her expression is blank as she stares into the flames, red-rimmed eyes swollen from equal parts exhaustion and sorrow.
Somewhere off in the distance the Chantry's bells chime, ringing in the beginning of the first hour of the new day with uncaring conviction. Their tolls reverberate off of the room's high walls, the sound a callous reminder of a morning which is soon to come. The long beared burdens of a city in decay will reawaken with the rising of the sun, its first rays their signal to settle themselves upon the so-called "Champion's" shoulders once more, their presence an unsympathetic counterpart to the new weight of the night's events.
Hawke curses under her breath at the flash of images which resurface to assail her mind, her eyes screwing shut against their onslaught and the appearance of fresh tears as she pulls back to sit straight in her chair. A flash of gold, an amorous smile, the sound of falling metal. No, she won't relive it anymore, she refuses to. There has already been more than enough weeping for one night.
Her hand falls from her face to rest at the top of her breast, the jump and pull of muscles under her touch working to loosen the knot which has lodged itself in the base of her throat. A few moments pass before her lids reopen to glare into the fire, its orange hue glinting in her gaze. Her mouth thins, lips pulling taut as she lets a calming breath through her nose. There is too much at stake for her to crumble now. Too many people relying on her, depending on her. She won't let herself falter because of him again, not when her melancholy can only be blamed on her own foolishness.
"You should have known better," a spiteful voice says, though its anger can not hide the unmistakable pity in its tone. "He left you, made it clear nothing else would come of it. He never once gave you reason to think otherwise."
"But the token -"
"Meant nothing. It was a souvenir for him, a trophy of-"
"Stop it," she says, teeth gritting, unable to accept the possibility. "Don't say that. Fenris was – is a friend. He – he wouldn't use me. It was the memories, he left because of the memories."
"Are you so certain? Or are you trying to protect yourself behind yet another lie? He seemed to be having no such difficulties when it was Isabela wrapped around his-"
"ENOUGH! He wouldn't!" she shouts to the empty room, brandy sloshing over the edge of its glass to drip onto her hand.
"He wouldn't," she repeats in a whisper, more defeated sough than affirmation as she falls back against the cushion of her chair.
Time continues to move in the lingering hush, the only indication of its passing the occasional peal of tower bells. Soon the second hour of the night has come and gone and the woman has not moved, though her mind has remained a chaotic whirlwind of accusations, grief and half-formed explanations.
In this time the fire has slowly died down to glowing coals, its embers gleaming to cast the hearth in shadows. Eventually she glances in its direction, stirring from her resting place and setting her liquor aside on a table. She drops to her knees before the mantel, gathering a few pieces of kindling at its side to feed to the cinders. There will be no sleep for her tonight, the flames may as well keep her company until morning.
A muffled groan from her chamber door makes her still as she stokes the blaze back into life. The noise was low, quiet enough so that most would have missed it completely - herself included if not for the hours she has spent in muted exile. She struggles to suppress a chuckle, amused by the idea that some Hightown thug is either brave or asinine enough to attempt a jump on her in her own home. And tonight of all nights. Andraste's ass, they truly must have a death wish.
Warmed iron presses into her skin as her grip tightens around the poker in her hand, putting herself on the defensive while ears strain for the first sign of a creak or shuffle to pinpoint the intruder's location. There, behind her and to the left. A footstep. Eerily light in its movement, so much so that she is only made aware by the subtle rustle of leather which accompanies it, but this is all she needs.
Tendons twist and robes sweep about her legs as she stands to face the trespasser in a flurry of movement, turning with impromptu cudgel sent swinging towards their neck. Metal strikes metal with a thunderous clang, and Hawke's eyes jump from dangerous slits to terrified saucers.
"Your reflexes are as precise as always, Hawke," the elf says with what she notices fleetingly as forced humor, emerald-green peering into cerulean blue behind a sheet of white hair. "though it seems I'm still too fast for you. I have to admit, I'm quite glad of that at the moment."
"F-Fenris -" she says, horrified as she sees where the man has managed to block the red-hot poker with the outside of his gauntlet and just how close she has come to striking him with it. The rod is thrown at the hearth, clattering against the stonework and bouncing in place before it settles.
"Maker's balls, what were you thinking sneaking in here like that!" she snaps, temper flaring at the warrior's sever lack of common sense. "I thought you were one of those Crimson Weaver bastards! I could have taken your damned head off!"
He lowers his arm, gaze held fast to Hawke's face, the intensity enough to send a painfully familiar tremble down her spine.
"I apologize. I wasn't certain you would be awake at this hour."
She turns her back on him with an irritated snort, unwilling to allow him a glimpse of the sadness she feels welling up to replace her ire. Desperate for a distraction, she takes hold of her discarded liquor and stalks towards the bar cart between the mantel and her armoire.
"So you think it better to stalk through my house in the middle of the night like some half-wit assassin? Not one of your more intelligent ideas." Glass clicks against glass as she pours a measure into the tumbler, adding to the brandy still left. Her hand shakes as she stoppers the decanter. She takes a generous sip, swishing the drink round her mouth, stalling for the time she needs to gain control over her racing heart.
"What's so important that you couldn't wait to speak to me until morning, anyway?" she finally asks, looking over her shoulder to find Fenris has stepped fully into the firelight, flames glowing against his armor. She glances down without thought, her stomach lurching as she catches sight of the red swatch still tied in place around his wrist. A flash of anger shoots through her, better judgment momentarily overcome by an intense desire to rip the blighted thing from his hand and cast it into the fire.
"I'm quite sure you already know the answer to that," he says carefully, voice unusually soft, gentle even. It catches Hawke off guard, pulling her focus from the token and to his face. Panic tears through her in an instant, the knowing look he wears making her want to cower like a guilty child caught raiding the larder.
"I'm no mind reader, Fenris," she manages to say with cool composure, staring off into the dark corners of her room. "You'll have to be a bit more specific. I'm not in the mood for guessing games."
"Blatant dishonesty is unbecoming of you."
"I assure you I haven't the foggiest idea what you're talking about."
"I know you were there, Hawke."
"There where? What do you mean? You're not making any sense."
"If you're just going to sit here spouting bunk, I suggest you go. It's late, I'm tired, and -"
Clawed fingers press into her shoulder, pulling her around to face him. She strains against his hand, glowering at how easily he has anchored her in place. Her mouth opens, demands for her release poised at the tip of her tongue, but the words are cut short by the appearance of a bottle in Fenris' hand. Heat unrelated to the fire rises in her cheeks as she gapes at the label, the sharp lines of her father's handwriting plain for all to see.
Hawke 9:07 Dragon
Her head turns towards the fire, unable to look the man in the eye. "Glad to see those reading lessons stuck after all," she says quietly, throat constricting around the shame she knows he can hear.
"You were there tonight."
"You saw Isabela and I together."
"And this has upset you?"
"Yes, alright? Maker's breath, are you happy now?" she snaps, ripping from his grasp with a furious jerk to shove herself away from him. "What does it matter to you anyway, Fenris? Does it stoke your ego to know seeing you with her hurt? To know that even after waiting for three damned years I was still enough of a bloody great fool to think I had a chance of being something more than an easy fuck to you?"
Silence stretches between them in the aftermath of her outburst, the only sound that of Hawke's heaving chest and short, shallow breaths. Unsteady arms wrap themselves around her middle, her free hand searching for purchase in the fabric of her house coat. She holds her chin high, stubborn pride refusing to allow any outward hint of repentance for her unintentional confession, regardless of the embarrassment which has turned her insides to lead.
Fenris only stares in response, mouth half-open and brows raising in shock. For all of a fleeting second there is a flash of something unreadable in his eyes.
"You – were waiting for me?" he asks tentatively, as though he is afraid to test the waters of continued conversation. "All that time?"
"That's what I just said."
A short pause, punctuated by the elf's further bewilderment.
"Why did you never say anything?"
"What exactly was I supposed to do, Fenris?" she asks in frustration, "Hound you until you changed your mind? Throw myself at you and risk pushing you farther away? In case you've forgotten, you were the one who left in the middle of the night with nothing more than a half-formed excuse, not me."
"An admittedly lamentable mistake on my part," he says with head bowing, almost too quiet to hear. "One whose severity I am just now coming to fully understand."
Hawke laughs, an abrupt, harsh bark. "'Blatant dishonesty is unbecoming of you', Fenris." she says, repeating his earlier observation with the smallest hint of venom.
His head snaps up, expression wounded. "My remorse for my past behavior is sincere."
Their eyes meet again, his pleading, hers shining with unspoken accusations.
"Then why did you lie to me?"
"I never lied."
She takes a step forward, jaw clenching. "That's a load of nug shit, Fenris, and you know it. You told me you couldn't stay, couldn't 'do this' because of the memories that came back when we were together. Forgive me, but I can't help but be a bit disinclined to believe that particular story now that I've seen you nailing Isabela to the wall like a Saturnalia wreath with no reservations."
Fenris reels as though she has struck him in the face. "Hawke... that is not -"
"Why couldn't you have told me the truth?" she demands, cutting him off. "Why not just tell me you didn't want me instead of stringing me along? And why in the name of the Maker would you start wearing that damned thing around your wrist the moment you leave if what happened between us meant nothing to you?"
"Because it did."
This time it is Hawke's turn to falter, her choler quelled in an instant by the sincerity she recognizes in his tone and the distressed twist of his features. When seconds tick by without her response, Fenris sighs, running a hand through pale locks of hair.
"I know it does nothing to excuse my actions, but I swear to you, what I told you that night was the honest truth."
He looks away, setting his gaze towards the fire. The lines of his face are cast into shadow, making him seem older, weary. His lilt is rough and doleful when he speaks next.
"I was a coward to run from the visions as I did. To run from you. There is nothing I have done in all my years that I regret more."
"Then why did you never say anything, Fenris?" she asks, her question lacking in her earlier vexation. "If you regretted leaving then why not say so?"
He turns from the hearth, visage smoothed. "Because I thought I had ruined any chance I may have had. You seemed happy, better off without me. I was certain you had moved on."
There is another break as his answer tumbles through her mind, bitter comprehension growing as the pieces fit themselves into place.
"And so you did too..."
"I - suppose so."
"How long has it been?"
"With Isabela?" She nods in conformation, unable to form the words. "Recent. A few months at very most."
"Are there – do you still see-"
"In truth?" He hesitates, eyes averted. She is uncertain which answer she dreads more. "No. Not once, at least with her."
"Oh." It feels as though someone has stabbed her.
"I don't know why, Hawke," he says, easily sensing the hurt in her voice, "but please don't blame yourself. None of this was your doing."
She ignores him, choosing instead to push ahead, to press for the one answer she still needs. Her chest has begun to ache again, lungs tight and stomach turned to knots. Despair begins to rise through her veins, its ascent a whispered promise of a breakdown soon to follow. She will be damned if he is still here to witness it.
"Are you happy, Fenris?"
His answer is delayed as his gaze moves over her, lingering while he searches for something she can not name. Finally he says simply, quietly, "Yes."
"Good. I'm glad then."
"You're - glad?"
"Of course I am." she says with a sad smile, her honesty marred by the catch in her throat. "All I've ever wanted was happiness for you, Fenris. I can't mourn the fact that you've found someone who gives it to you – even if that person can't be me."
"Hawke, I -"
"It's late," she says, pivoting to place her brandy on the table again, using the opportunity to wipe at her dampened eyes without his notice. "You should probably go, get some sleep. Hubert needs us to check in on the Bone Pit tomorrow and it won't do us any good if we're exhausted even before we get there."
"You still wish for me to join you?" he asks in surprise.
"Why wouldn't I? We're still friends, aren't we?" she turns, brow raised. "Or has this little talk changed that as well?"
"No, not at all," he says hurriedly, rushing to dismiss the notion. "I only thought you would want time."
"I appreciate the sentiment, but I'm a big girl. I'll be fine," then lower, under her breath and to herself as she walks towards her door, "It isn't like I haven't done it before."
"If that is what you want..."
"It is," she says, taking hold of the handle to usher him out. "I'll see you in the morning. We're meeting up with Aveline and Varric in the market at ten bells."
The elf crosses the room to leave but pauses just before the doorway, his attention snagged by the bottle still clutched in the talons of his gauntlet.
"I should return this to you," he says, offering the wine to her with an outstretched hand.
"It was meant to be a gift. Keep it." she insists, all too aware of how pathetic the gesture must seem to him without the proper explanation of its back story, though she can not find it in her to make mention of it now.
"You have my thanks, then," the elf says, the gratitude he shows, to his credit, appearing genuine. He pulls the bottle back, wrapping it in his arm and resting it against his breastplate, red swatch vivid next to its olive glass. "I – will see you tomorrow."
Her hand catches hold of his wrist as he moves to leave, fingers snagged on the token. Green eyes widen as recognition of her intent dawns, shining with astonishment and something akin to dismay.
"You know it isn't fair to Isabela, or yourself for that matter," she says firmly, a short "or me" added noiselessly in her head.
"Hawke, please -"
"Give it to me, Fenris."
He pleads with her wordlessly for a moment more, mouth twisting into a grimace as though he wishes to continue to argue the point when his entreatment fails. Instead he says nothing, watching in reluctant surrender as her fingers work to loosen the knotted fabric. The material slips free from its place on his armor, flowing like tinted water to rest in the palm of her hand.
"What will you do with it?" he asks, voice low, concerned, casting the trinket in the same regard one might hold for an injured bird.
"Burn it. Treasure it. Stuff it in the bottom of a trunk so I never have to look at it again."
"I don't know."
"Keep it safe," It is not a request, but an order. "Hold on to it for me. Perhaps in time I'll prove myself worthy of it."
Fingernails dig into soft flesh as her hand closes around the cloth, the suggestion of such hope as painful as her initial discovery. Eyes burn, and this time she is unable to hide the tears which come before he sees. He starts to reach out to her, hand moving as though to cup her cheek. She shirks away, not trusting herself to let him leave if he touches her.
"Be good to her. Treat her right," she says, as much an instruction as a warning. "And Fenris? Promise me something."
"If you do decide to leave, to join 'Bela's crew, come say good-bye first."
"Just promise me."
White hair casts itself in his face as he bows his head. "I promise."
"Thank you. I suppose this is good-night then."
"Until tomorrow, Hawke," He steps out of the room, stopping to look over his shoulder at the top of her stairwell, flashes of emerald catching in the light from her chamber. "For what it's worth – I am truly sorry."
"So am I, Fenris."
The hatch clicks into place behind her, shutting out the patter of the elf's feet as he descends the stairs. She falls back against the door, sliding down its carved surface until she rests at its base, the prospect of crossing back to her waiting chair a distinct impossibility. Tears begin to run with abandon while ugly sobs break free from her throat as her head drops against her knees. Her body shakes with the force of her cries, arms wrapping themselves around her legs in a desperate attempt to remain grounded in the renewed storm which crashes and pulls against her like waves on a rocky shore.
She will not surface for some time.
Hours later the room has fallen into silence, Hawke's head pillowed in her arms as she sleeps on the floor. She tosses and turns in her slumber, brow creasing as she struggles against some unseen adversary. There is a whisper of air, mouth moving to turn the breath into a murmured prayer.
A hand moves against the other, fingers tracing down the opposite palm until they find themselves at its base. Her contorted features relax, the twist of her lips gentling to a contented smile as she nuzzles her nose into the token she wears about her wrist, its bright crimson brilliant against the pale glow of her skin.
A/N: I've had quite a few people review and message me about updates for this story, and just wanted to clear the air. This chapter was, unfortunately, the last chapter to this particular fic. I chose to leave it open ended and a bit raw both for the emotional impact as well as to allow my lovely readers the option to decide for themselves what they think would be the most likely outcome between Fenris and Hawke. However, I do have my own ideas and speculations about where their relationship ended up afterwards. If anyone is interested in a quick, cliff-notes style synopsis of what I think happened next, please feel free to PM me. I won't be adding any new content here, in consideration of those readers who are satisfied with the bittersweet ending Acquiescence currently has.