BIG OL AUTHOR'S NOTE: If you are looking for a story that is just the events of DA2 parroted back to you and all the stuff you already know, you probably won't like this story. It goes VERY off canon in some places, and my personal bias for the characters plays a part in how they are presented in this story. If you liked my Garrus/Femshep story, you will probably like this as well. For the best experience, IMO, you should read the chaps on my website. Link is in my profile.
Thank you to my beta readers, Banejelerp and Mythlover20 who I wouldn't have been able to do this without. Their moral support and all around awesomery is the only reason this story got written.
Also: All characters, themes, scenery, voices, and ovaries belong to Bioware.
It was just another day for the Merchant Prince of Kirkwall.
Varric had been watching the two Amell children for weeks now. Though by 'watching' he meant, of course, paying other people to watch them and report back. It wasn't so much the mage girl, Bethany, he was interested in — though truth be told, it was always good to have knowledge of a powerful mage desperately hiding from the Templars. No, in fact the other one, the brother everyone seemed to call "the Hawk," was the one Varric had his sights set on. He had first heard about him from Athenril, an old acquaintance with her fingers in every pie concerning smuggling in the city. She had assured Varric that the boy — while an enigma in and of himself — was a force to be reckoned with; mysterious, deadly, and utterly silent.
"I'm telling you," Athenril had said to him. "I have the best hearing in the city, and yet even I don't know he's near until he's already upon me."
"Nobody is that quiet," Varric had replied.
"Tethras," she said with a defeated exhale, looking down at her feet, "if this boy had wanted me dead, I would have been just that."
Varric had to know more.
He watched Bethany and her mysterious brother meander down the Hightown streets. The girl seemed delightful enough. She had curves in all the right places that moved in all the right ways as she walked, her hair was black, her eyes were bright blue and smiling, and she paid no real attention to those around her. The Hawk, on the other hand, was a severe, lithe little man. If Varric hadn't known better, he'd say the lad couldn't have been more than sixteen. He was only slightly taller than his younger sister, but his shoulders were narrow and his limbs were lean. It was immediately obvious how he had earned the unusual moniker; a brown mask that covered the bottom half of his face was pulled tight against the bridge of his nose, giving his silhouette an avian point. His hood of the same color came down over his brow, revealing little else of his face other than the severe golden-amber of his eyes. It was odd to Varric how such a bright, warm colour could look so fierce and frigid as it did framed in the Hawk's face. His sister's obliviousness was only amplified by the hyper-awareness that he seemed to possess; his eyes were always moving, always observing.
However, the fact that the boy had done a rather good job of making himself look imposing was irrelevant, and whether or not he had the skill set Varric needed him to have was yet to be seen.
"Okay, there they are," Varric said to the copper-haired urchin he'd hired. "You remember what to do?"
"Yeah, I remember alright. Didn't you say one of them was a mage, ser? What do I do if she magics me to death?"
"Don't be a fool, boy," Varric chastised, tossing him the agreed upon gold piece. "She wouldn't show off her magic in Hightown, not with a Templar on every corner. Now go. And don't forget to meet me back at the Hanged Man for the other half of your payment."
"Yeah, alright," the urchin agreed with a reluctant nod. He watched the kid settle himself in the middle of the square to wait for the siblings to pass, so Varric decided it was safe to get to his hiding place in the dark alley. Once the boy stole Bethany's coin purse, they would no doubt chase him down the alley so Varric could play hero.
Why earn gratitude when you could just as easily buy it?
"Hey!" he could hear the girl shouting from around the corner. "Come back here, you mongrel!"
Sure enough, the urchin came barreling down the empty alley. Varric pulled Bianca off his back and loaded an arrow. She settled into her comfortable spot on his shoulder and he waited for the boy to come into his sights.
The mage came sprinting around the corner, quite a ways behind the urchin. Varric figured it was hard for her to run in the robes she had on. He had to wait for her to be able to see his heroic rescue, else what good would it be?
That thought alone was the undoing of his plan.
Before he could even draw a proper bead on the kid, a cloud of smoke exploded in the middle of the alley. The boy kept sprinting, aiming to run straight through it, but he never came out on the other side. Instead, Varric heard a terrified wail come from the midst of the smoke.
When the fog had finally cleared enough for Varric to see, the Hawk had the boy in a strangle-hold, pressing a curved blade against his throat.
"Andraste's flaming girdle," Varric cursed softly to himself.
"Please, don't kill me," the urchin wailed, dropping the coin purse in the street. "I didn't mean no 'arm, I promise."
"Oh, let him go," the breathless mage said as she finally caught up to the pair.
The Hawk didn't say anything.
"Oh, come on. Just let him go," Bethany demanded again. "We have more important things to worry about."
The man scoffed and shoved the boy in the direction he had been running. The red-haired street rat stumbled a little before sprinting his way out of the alley.
"Well," Varric said, coming down from his perch and putting Bianca back in her place on his back. "Nothing like another man to ruin a daring rescue."
"A what?" Bethany asked. The siblings turned around to look at him. Bethany tilted her head to the side, but the Hawk's eyes just narrowed, scrutinizing the dwarf in front of them. The weight of his furious gaze indeed made Varric feel like a carcass ripe for harvesting. It was then that Varric realized just how appropriate the assassin's moniker was.
"A, uh…" he cleared his throat. "Another man. Here I thought I was going to rescue the damsel in distress when I heard you cry out, but it seems that your rather swift brother took the wind out of my sails."
The mage stifled a laugh, and the rogue shot her a cold glare in turn.
"Honestly," she said. "Aren't you sick of that yet?"
The Hawk gave her the sign for 'quit', running the flat of his hand across his neck.
Varric squinted. "I feel an awful lot like I'm being left out of a joke."
"It is, indeed, a joke," Bethany scoffed. "Apparently, you are not allowed to be in on it."
"I can live with that," Varric said, bending down to pick up their coin purse from the street. "All families have their secrets."
"Some more than others," Bethany mumbled before thanking the dwarf for handing her back the purse. "And you are?"
"Forgive my manners," he said with a dramatic bow. "Varric Tethras, Merchant Prince of Kirkwall."
"Tethras? Are you by any chance related to Bartrand Tethras?"
"A true—yet nonetheless unpleasant—relation I assure you."
She shared a meaningful glance with her brother.
"A pleasure. Bethany Amell," she said, holding out her hand. Varric kissed the back of it in greeting. "And this is my, erm…"
"The Hawk," Varric helped. "I've heard plenty about you."
"Not enough, obviously," Bethany said, sinking into a hip.
"I don't follow," Varric said, looking between the siblings.
"Oh, come on," she urged. "You can't keep this up forever. He's related to Bartrand; maybe he can help us."
The Hawk sighed and, with no small amount of reluctance, pulled down her hood and mask.
Her black hair was tied back into a low pony-tail and her face, though still severe, was just as becoming as her sisters. Whatever curves she had were concealed under the long sleeved wrap-tunic and pants.
"You know, that's how you catch flies," she said as she crossed her arms.
That was when Varric realized his mouth was open.
"Apologies again," Varric said with a laugh. "I'm rather unused to being surprised."
"We'd gathered that much."
Varric led them back to the Hanged Man so the three of them could talk privately in his personal quarters. He was glad to see the urchin wasn't waiting for him.
"So," Varric began once they all had taken a seat, "I have to know: why are you pretending to be a man?"
The Hawk had again donned her hood and mask before walking through the city and, despite Varric's assurance that their privacy was protected in his room, she didn't remove them on the chance someone would walk in. Even when she spoke, it was soft enough to conceal her voice.
"I'm not pretending," she said. "People assumed and I never corrected them."
"Besides," Bethany added, leaning on her elbows. "I hate to admit it but her stupid plan works quite well."
"Plan…" Varric said, looking to Hawk for clarification.
"Back in Ferelden, we couldn't get anything done unless our brother was with us."
"There's another one?"
"Was," Bethany added. "There was another one. My twin brother, Carver."
"Oh… I'm sorry for—"
"Don't," Hawk interrupted. "It's over."
Varric cleared his throat when the silence grew awkward.
"Anyway," Hawk continued, "when we got here, everyone just started spreading the rumor that I was a man, and people started obliging us."
"It's true," her sister confirmed. "When I go anywhere without her, no one even makes eye contact with me."
"They probably would if your breasts didn't flounce about like tassels in the wind."
"They do not flounce," the mage said, looking down at her chest, then back up at Varric. "Do they?"
"I uh…" He coughed into his hand. "I refuse to answer on the grounds that my answer may incriminate me."
"That means yes," the rogue said.
"So," Varric interrupted. "You said I might be able to help you somehow? How do you know Bartrand?"
"We heard about the venture he's planning for the year's end," Bethany explained. "By that time, we will be out of Athenril's employ and figured we could try to get in on the expedition, but he would have none of it. We need the money to get rid of Carver's—"
"Still your tongue, girl," the Hawk snapped. "He need not know all our secrets."
"Honestly, 'Nara, if he already knows your secret what is the point in hiding the rest?"
"Knowing I am a woman is hardly the same thing as being able to put us in danger."
"Must you mistrust everyone we meet?"
"Ladies, please," Varric said, putting a hand up for silence. "I believe I can fill in the blanks."
Both the girl's faces snapped to the side to look at his.
"You were not only running from the darkspawn, but once your brother died, you knew whoever was going to be coming for him would eventually come for you. So upon arriving in our fair city, the lot of you took up your mother's maiden name to protect your identities."
"You are quite well-informed," the rogue said, a sharp edge in her tone as she stood and pressed her palms flat on the table.
"Calm your tail-feathers 'the Hawk'," he said with sarcastic air quotes. "I take it upon myself to stay well informed. It wasn't difficult to research the young Lady Amell and with it her mysterious disappearance and rumored marriage to a Ferelden."
"And why, pray, were you researching my family at all?"
"Like I said," he added, resting his chin on his knuckles. "I take it upon myself to stay well informed."
Hawk pushed off from the table and started to pace. "Bethany, go wait outside."
"Just do it!"
Bethany exhaled and her shoulders slumped a little before sending an apologetic glance toward Varric. Once the door closed, the Hawk exhaled and rubbed her eyes as she continued to pace.
"I am wary to trust you, dwarf."
"As well you should be," he said with a careless wave of his hand. "I am exceedingly untrustworthy."
She continued as if she was more talking to herself than addressing him.
"If you can figure out so much over the course of a few weeks, it's only a matter of time before Darrin and his men do it, too." She pulled her hood and mask down around her neck and raked her fingers through her hair, forcing jagged strands to come loose from the ribbon holding it back.
"Do not worry your pretty head over it, my dear," he said, leaning back and resting an elbow on the arm of his chair. "Information is part of my business."
"And what exactly is your business, Ser Tethras?"
"An easier question would, of course, be 'what isn't my business.'"
"Now, you listen to me," she threatened, gripping the arms of his chair in her hands and looming over him. "I have spent my life trying to protect my family. If you in any way jeopardize that, I will string you up before—"
"Yes, yes, you are very intimidating and I am shivering in my boots, milady," he said with a smile, waving a careless hand. "Now, if you want my help with Bartrand's expedition, I have a right to know with whom I am involving myself."
There was a long, tense silence as they looked at each other, but Varric knew defeat when he saw it. Her eyes softened in her sharp face, and eventually she lowered her head with a sigh.
"I need your word that you will keep what I tell you to yourself."
"What is the word of a man you do not trust?"
"At least if I have your word, I have reason to gut you should you betray me. If I do not take your word on it, only I am to blame when you inevitably turn on us."
"Inevitable, is it?"
"Your word, dwarf."
"Very well. I swear on my life as a gentleman that your secrets will not pass my lips."
"Thank you," she said softly before falling back into her own chair. "What is it you wish to know?"
"Who is it that you are hiding from?"
"All I know is his name is Darrin. My brother is… was… quite the gambler. He developed the terrible habit shortly after our father died, and before we even realized how severe the problem was he had already accumulated an outrageous debt." She cleared her throat and let her eyes fall down onto the table in front of her. "I told him that it was his problem and that he would have to solve it himself. You have to understand, I was already pilfering wherever I could to feed Bethany and my mother. I suppose it didn't matter in the end because before any resolution was to be had the Blight was upon us."
"And you had to run."
"Yes," she said, looking off to the side. "That's when he died. We were overwhelmed and very tired. He charged the ogre before I could even formulate a plan."
"That hardly seems like anyone's fault but his own."
"It was my job to protect him," she snapped, but soon thought better of it. "He knew the creditors would come for us and managed to tell us as much before he breathed his last. Since my mother was already known here as Amell, we decided to go by that surname to protect ourselves."
"And what is your real surname?"
"Ah-ha," he said with a knowing smile. "I see now where you got the nickname."
"Most of my acquaintances in Ferelden called me Hawke. The clothes were needed for my craft. People naturally started seeing the likeness."
"How long do you have left in Athenril's employ?"
"How much does she pay you?"
"She… wait, what?"
"A year of service was the agreed upon price for getting us into the city. We were merely refugees, and our uncle had squandered whatever fortune was left to the Amell name."
"Ah yes, I'm rather familiar with Gamlen and his… particular character."
"You and all of Thedas, it seems."
"Still… a year of servitude? How have you been living if Athenril doesn't pay you?"
"We work for her during daylight hours, mostly. I do what I can at night, but there are only so many hours in a day." Hawke obviously grew uncomfortable under the weight of the conversation and shifted in her chair. "Well, you have certainly learned more about my family than I ever intended to reveal to you. Now, will you help us or not?"
"Madame, I am offended by your assumption. Of course, I will help you. I have been looking for someone with skill sets such as yours for several months, and you came highly recommended by Athenril."
"Wait, you were looking for help?"
"Aye, so it would seem. Bartrand's expedition is obviously something I'm involved in, but I don't exactly trust my brother to head such a feat without it becoming quite the disaster. No, I would rather have men of my own. Men that I trust."
She quirked an amused brow in his direction.
"Though… I'm obviously a little lenient on the whole 'men' aspect of it."
"Well, if you can get us into that expedition, you have yourself a deal."
Varric held out his hand and Hawke shook it.
"You shake hands like a man," Varric said with a laugh.
"Funny," she said, giving him his first glimpse of her smile. "I was about to say the same about you."
"Hawke, my dear, I think we are going to get along just fine."
Varric warmed to the rogue almost immediately, though, as he expected, the reverse took a few weeks longer. In the end he won her over more easily than he had originally anticipated, finding that when her true personality shone through the severity, they were actually quite alike.
The weeks melted away as Hawke worked for Athenril by day and planned for the expedition with Varric at night. Whenever he would catch wind of a job that needed doing, he would pass it her way. Together they would get it done, saving what coin they could where they could.
"Tell me, Sunshine," Varric asked as he walked through Lowtown with Bethany. "Has Hawke always been so…"
"Cold? Untrusting? Vicious?"
"I was going to be much more charismatic about it."
The girl laughed. "Do not be deceived by the way she glares. I can assure you there is no one in Thedas more generous and kind, but we have all been betrayed before. She is simply…"
"Careful," Varric added. "That I can certainly understand."
They made their way to the Hanged Man where they had agreed to meet Hawke once her business for Athenril was done.
"You know," Varric teased as Hawke came into the room that night, "I'm almost ashamed that I didn't think of this gender swapping thing sooner."
"You didn't think of it," she said as she pulled down her mask.
"I would have, and as such I deserve all the credit. Regardless, it is surprisingly successful."
"It's discouraging," Bethany said, leaning her chin on her fist. "I can't seem to get anything done until you show up and glare at someone."
"Well," Hawke said, taking her seat and leaning back to put her feet on the table. "It would probably help if you stopped dressing like you work at the whore house."
"Some of us are not ashamed of our sex."
"And some of us like to be productive members of society. To each their own, I suppose."
The girls smiled wickedly at each other. Originally, their jabs to each other made Varric a little uncomfortable and awkward. However it wasn't long before he realized that it was simply good-natured ribbing, and Varric was always happy to involve himself in that.
"Regardless," he added, "even I am surprised to see how quickly the rumors have spread."
"What rumors?" Bethany asked.
"Have you not heard what they say?" he crowed, standing up. "The Hawk: a demon from hell, the deadliest rogue to pick up a dagger, an omen of doom to all who see him walk by, women swooning at his feet as he passes!"
"You wretched dwarf," Hawke said, smiling and pounding a fist on the table. "Those are all your rumors."
"Perish the thought, serah! I tell only tales of truth!"
"Yes, like that dragon you killed the other day," Bethany added. "I believe it was 'a hundred feet tall,' wasn't it?"
"It was a hundred feet if it was an inch!"
"Sometimes I wonder at whether or not you actually believe your own nonsense," Hawke said with a smile.
"If you do not believe your own lies, how do you expect to convince anyone else?" When the girls didn't laugh, but merely looked at him like he was a fool, he continued. "All I'm saying is that the 'dark silent killer' thing is really working for us. I daresay we'll be able to take on groups of men with your reputation alone, soon enough."
"We cannot count on all our enemies being as superstitious as you suppose them to be," Hawke added.
"Did you see the way those smugglers cowered when you came out of the shadows last night? Took all my strength not to piss myself laughing."
"Would that I could end all our battles with a cold stare."
"Varric" Hawke shouted, planting her leather-wrapped feet firmly on his bare chest as he snored. She bounced up and down on him until he roused.
"Fffmhhhuh? Mmmwhat — what? What's happening?" he murmured, rubbing his eyes and failing to focus them on whoever was rudely interrupting his dreams. "Andraste's flaming ass-cheeks, Hawke. Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"It's the middle of the day, Lazy Bones."
"Exactly. You should know better than to wake me before the sun goes back down."
"If you didn't stay up all night swindling drunks out of their money, maybe you could wake up at a decent hour."
He ran his hand down his face and peered at her with one eye through his fingers.
"Is there a reason you're still on top of me, you daft human?"
"It's been a year," she sang, bouncing on him again and making him grunt against the weight on his chest.
"A year of what?" he asked, putting his hands on her knees and shoving her off of him. She landed on her feet at the edge of his bed in her usual, avian crouch.
"Since I arrived, you twat," she said. "I'm free!"
"No shit?" he said with a grin, hoisting himself up on his elbows. "Has it already been six months since we met?"
"Afraid so, my friend," she said with the tilt of her head. "How I've survived six months of your ugly mug, I'll never know."
"It is a feat, indeed. Most women succumb to their deep-seeded desire by now."
"Your ridiculous, undeserved ego aside, now that I'm free, we can talk to Bartrand about starting the expedition. You don't have to keep stalling him anymore."
He rubbed his eyes with the side of his hand. "Ah-hah, so that's why you've come at this ungodly hour of the morning."
"Good lord, man, it's two hours passed noon!"
"Now, if you would get your hairy ass out of bed, we could get a move on."
"Well, I would, but I'm pretty sure you don't want to see aforementioned hairy ass. Situation being what it is, I recommend you leave now."
Realization dawned in Hawke's eyes followed very quickly by amused disgust.
"I love you, too, dear. Now get out."