Author's note: This fic was written for the incredibly talented and all-round wonderful Hatsepsut. I gave her a prank war, and she... she gave me steamy Valen tailsmut. I practically fell off the chair. If you are a fan of sexy tieflings using all their assets, go read 'That Damned Tail'. I guarantee you won't be disappointed, although you may find yourself looking for either a certain demon-blood warrior or an ice-cold shower. I certainly did.
For the record - the shower? Not so helpful.
Anyway... on with the prank war.
Varric dealt the cards – three for Hawke, two for Isabela, four for Fenris, five for himself. Varric was winning as usual, but Fenris was doing nearly as well, especially considering that the three rogues at the table considered themselves honour-bound to cheat on every hand. It might have had something to do with Hawke slipping a few cards into certain parts of the deck.
She eyed the big, beautiful pot, which contained more of her money than she should have staked. Only a miracle would bring it back into her hands, particularly with nothing but a lousy Double Mabari.
"This has got to be the last hand," Hawke said, and tried not to think about every night she'd got in late and found her mother reading in the library. Hawke would ask about the book, Mother would ask about the cards, and they'd wander upstairs. Mother would tuck her into bed, kiss her on the forehead, and Hawke would fall asleep immediately.
It'd been hard to fall asleep, the past few months.
"Sweet thing, staring at your cards isn't going to make them change."
"You never know." Hawke shook a blonde curl out of her eyes, and turned her best toothy grin on Isabela. "Sometimes I stare at you, when the light's really bad, and just for a moment, you look like a..." she dropped her voice, evoking a fate too terrible to be spoken aloud, "like a lady."
Isabela's laughter startled a bat out of the rafters.
"When did Blondie check your eyes last?" Varric shook his head. "Or are you just getting better ale than me? Speaking of which..."
"There is no good ale." Fenris crossed his arms over his chest. "Are we going to wager, or just sit here?"
"You sound confident, Broody." The dwarf passed around full tankards; Hawke was thirsty enough to drink some of hers right away. "Hawke been slipping you the good stuff?"
"If by 'good stuff' you're referring to the way I've been replacing the contents of his tankard with wine while you were distracted – yes, I have."
"That's not the good stuff." Isabela could make one word do the work of several advanced volumes in tantric sex magic. The kind with really explicit diagrams.
Hawke didn't blush. She didn't even glance at Fenris, although a lesser woman would have betrayed herself ten times over by now. Yes, she'd always loved looking at him. She entertained certain fantasies about him – sometimes three times a night – which involved them both naked, that sinful voice of his, and maybe a pair of manacles. She'd made it clear that she was ready to play whenever he was.
Sadly, it was starting to appear that time would never come. She would have given up, if she didn't catch him watching her sometimes. Alternatively, she would have gone round to his house, taken all her clothes off and ambushed him, except that she knew how Fenris's ambushers tended to die. She liked her heart where it was, thank you. Well, maybe if he'd wanted to take it in a non-gruesome, non-fatal manner... she'd give that some consideration.
Fenris dealt – one card each. Hawke regarded the Dominance card. Well, she was in with a chance after all...
"Got anything worthwhile, Hawke?"
"You'll have to wait and see," she said.
Meant to say.
What everyone at the table heard, what actually came out of her mouth, was "Double Mabari with Dominance." Hawke covered her mouth with the cards, appalled.
"Well, what do you know? Looks like the genuine article after all." Varric pulled a tiny flask out of his sleeve and raised it in a wordless toast. "Hawke... Hawke, Hawke, Hawke. How many times have I told you never to let me buy your drinks? Especially when we're playing cards?"
"You never have." The words fell out of her mouth despite her best efforts. "Probably so you could play a dirty trick like this."
"You wound me, Hawke!" Varric sighed dramatically, as Hawke looking around the table. Isabela had a glint in her eyes that spelled trouble; Fenris was still and uncertain. "Maybe I never warned you, but you ought to have known."
"Never mind all that," Isabela waved her hand. "Important stuff. Hawke, why aren't you interested in me?"
"You're female and too aggressive." Try as Hawke might, the words came out anyway. "And I bet, without that corset to hold 'em up, your tits sag down to your knees."
Isabela pouted. "Do not. I could show you."
"Rivaini, you're squandering a priceless opportunity here." Varric leaned forward, a quill and paper appearing magically in his hands. "Be honest with me, Hawke. What do you want from Fenris?"
The elf shot to his feet. "I do not care for this line of –"
Hawke's hands leapt to her mouth, but not swiftly enough to stifle the urgent cry of "Sex!" Maker's breath, but Varric had gone too far this time. Nor was that all; she squeezed her hands tighter over her lips, but "Lts 'f schs!" escaped her anyway, audible even over the howling laughter of Varric and Isabela. She didn't dare look at Fenris as she pushed away from the table and bolted for the door. The heavy door of the Hanged Man, which she'd need both hands to open.
Hawke steeled herself and grabbed for the door as she kept talking. "– and then he'd take a Blade of Mercy and s-"
The door closed behind her and they never heard the end of the sentence – which wasn't to say it went unspoken. A Lowtown whore regarded Hawke wearily. "Cost yer ten bits extra for that sort of thing, luv. And you'd have to bring yer own turnip."
The potion wore off by the time she got home, which was something of a relief. Assuming any of them were still awake, she didn't really want to tell Bodahn exactly how her night had been, or traumatise Sandal and Orana.
There was only one response, of course.
Hawke lay away half the night thinking it out. Not just for the humiliation, of course, and not just because she couldn't stand to lose. She'd walked a bloody careful balance with Fenris, and if that evil dwarf had spoiled everything...
Well, she knew his weak spot.
She schemed and she plotted, and finally, when the sun peeked over the horizon, she fell asleep.
She'd make Varric regret every instant of it.
Orana knocked timidly on her door far too early the next day. "Mistress Hawke?" Taking the heart-rending groan as consent, she entered. "Mistress Hawke, I brought a tonic." A hand stuck out of the nest of blankets, and Orana put the glass in it. It disappeared into the pillows. "And you've a guest downstairs. I told him you weren't at home to visitors, but he said he'd wait until you were." The empty glass appeared.
Hawke croaked, "If it's Bran again, tell him I'm dead."
"It's Master Fenris."
Pillows flew everywhere as Hawke sat upright. "Fenris. Oh, Maker. Did he look – how did he look?"
"Much the same as usual, mistress."
Well, that was as helpful as a sword made of noodles... but she would have to face him sooner or later. "Would you tell him I'll be down soon, please?"
Orana nodded and whisked herself away.
It was not exactly soon afterwards that Hawke judged herself respectable and ready to face Fenris, but it wasn't too long, either. There was nothing to be done about her haystack of hair, her bloodshot eyes or her ringing head (whatever that potion Varric had slipped into her drink had been, the after-effects were nearly as horrible as the truth-telling), but her face was clean and she felt certain she could manage the stairs without falling over.
Even if she did have to hang onto the banister for dear life.
Fenris was reading in the library, of course; his lips moving slightly as he sounded out the words, so engrossed he didn't notice Hawke opening the door.
Maker, she loved to see him like this: sunlight falling on his hair, black eyebrows drawn together, green eyes intent, utterly unselfconscious. She really hoped it wouldn't be the last time – but she had no idea how he'd react to what she'd said under the influence. "Fenris?"
The elf looked up and rose to his feet in greeting. He always did that, and Hawke had always enjoyed the gentlemanly courtesy. "Hawke."
"What brings you here so early in the morning?" Hawke asked, attempting normality.
"It's past midday, Hawke." He took a deep breath. "I wanted to make certain you took no ill-effects of that potion. And..."
Hawke was smiling. He'd come to check on her. That had to mean they were all right and she didn't have to gruesomely murder Varric. "And?"
"... and what you said."
"Don't worry over it. I'm a young woman with a libido who finds you very attractive. You know that. I'm not about to get naked and jump you. I can wait until you get naked and jump me."
His lips twitched. "Your patience is exemplary, Hawke." More softly he added, "And one day, I hope... but –"
"I know," she answered. "So we're good, right?"
"Indeed." Fenris inclined his head. "There is one more thing. If I know you, you are readying some kind of revenge on Varric."
Hawke grinned. "You do know me."
"I would like to help, if I may."
Hawke swiftly thought over her plot. She'd envisaged it as a one-rogue operation, but having a gorgeous warrior with Fenris's particular talents along certainly couldn't hurt. "Well, here's the plan..."
Varric rubbed at his forehead. He hated the Merchant's Guild with a deep, unholy and abiding passion, only surpassed by the way he felt about Merchant's Guild meetings he couldn't bribe or wriggle his way out of. He usually spent the time scribbling notes for his latest Hard in Hightown serial. Hawke had certainly given him a few ideas... "– and then he'd take a Blade of Mercy and s-"
A shame about that cut-off final word. Had it been 'shoves' or 'spanks'?
"Atrast nal tunsha," the leader droned.
Varric stood with the rest of them and chorused just as dutifully, "Atrast nal tunsha." And that, thank the merciful Mother of Green Cheeses, was the end of it. He filed out with the rest of them, and made for the little hidey-hole where he always secreted Bianca on such occasions. No visible weapons were allowed in the meetings, but, dwarf politics being what they were, nobody was entirely unarmed. Bianca was just too big to hide.
Besides, it wasn't a nice place for a lady.
He was humming her tune when he sprung open the little cache –
- and found her gone. He reached in and groped around, just in case something had gone wrong with his eyes.
Varric found only a slip of paper. With shaking fingers he unfolded it – just a few lines in Rivaini's rough handwriting.
We've had some good times, haven't we? Some bad ones, too, but I was there to help you through it all. Always.
But the time's come to call an end to it. The bad times have outweighed the good ones lately, and I'm tired of you neglecting me and taking me for granted. Besides, I met someone else – a dusky goddess, a sultry siren of the sea, a woman who makes my cocking ring shiver. So, dear Varric, so long. I'm leaving you for Isabela.
Love and kisses,
P.S. The way I used to quake in a Rhyming Triplet? I faked it. Every time.
He hadn't meant to crumple the note. He hadn't meant to punch the stone wall and make his knuckles bleed. He certainly hadn't meant to curse so loudly that people in Starkhaven would be asking each other which syphilitic Rivaini whore the screaming dwarf had meant.
He knew where to find her, and when he did, the pirate would pay.
"I didn't take Bianca," Isabela protested – as if she would do anything else with an extremely hostile dwarf playing with a dagger and blocking her exit.
"Oh, of course you didn't." Varric had gotten over the incoherent rage; the time he'd spent waiting to ambush Isabela had cooled him to an icy, sarcastic fury. "Let me guess, it was all Warden-King Cousland's work?" He glared at her, as though he could force her to return his beloved crossbow with a sufficiently violent scowl alone. "I know your writing, Isabela! You've always coveted her!"
"Maker's saggy balls, Varric, I didn't write the bloody note and I didn't take Bianca. I would have if I'd thought of it, but I didn't." She crossed her arms. "You know who else knows my handwriting, is an excellent forger, and probably really wants to teach you a lesson about now?"
"Hawke?" Varric scoffed, dismissing the idea. "Hawke wouldn't do something like this. She loves me."
"Even after your little trick with the potion in front of her elf?"
"Oh, she wouldn't get all bent out of shape over a little thing like that –" Isabela was slowly shaking her head, wearing her best 'you moron' expression. She usually saved it for Blondie. "You mean, she would?" Slow nodding, this time. Not that he was in the habit of believing Rivaini... but this carried conviction. You didn't see it often, but Hawke had a nasty streak wider than the Bone Pit.
Varric shook his head. "I could almost be proud of her. Can't believe she suckered me so easily."
"I can't believe you interrupted me and a pair of perfectly good naked templars on something this flimsy." She narrowed her eyes. "I expect proper repayment, you know. Even for me, it isn't easy to talk those sardines out of their tins."
"You know, it's really Hawke's fault. You could help me get even – doesn't revenge give you such a nice thrill?"
"It's not as delicious as an Antivan milk sandwich, but if that's the best you can offer – wait." The pirate grinned at him – dangerous sign, that. "You want my help, I get three sessions with your chest hair."
"You're only using me for my pelt, Rivaini."
"And you're only using me for revenge."
"Well, not quite," Varric admitted. "You're a bit sneakier than I am, and you can get places I can't. Like high shelves. What do you say? Deal?"
Since they were both there, the afternoon had turned into a reading lesson. Fenris didn't really need the supervision anymore, and his handwriting was coming along nicely, but old habits died hard, and both of them enjoyed the peaceful time together.
Fenris had chosen a volume of poetry to read; he'd expressed a preference for the more formal and concise form several sessions ago. It had shocked Hawke at first – she would never have thought of Fenris as poetic – but she had to admit, Fenris reading poetry was a sound guaranteed to make even the most withered Chantry sister scurry off, looking for dry smalls.
"To be surrounded
and shaped by the circle
the strength of your arms. Clasped
against your heartbeat, held
as nobody has ever held me before."
Fenris paused a moment. His rich voice faltered just slightly on the next verse.
"There is danger here
I was taught. I have never
felt so safe."
Hawke sighed. "That's not the end, is it?"
"Not quite. I just – in so few words she expresses so much of what I f-"
"Mistress?" Orana stuck her blonde head around the library door. "Your friends Master Var-"
"Varric and Isabela," the dwarf barged in, followed closely by the pirate. "I want a word, Hawke."
"Only one? That's a first." She rose to her feet with one regretful glance at the book of poetry in the elf's hands. Time for that later, perhaps. "Which word would that be?"
"Bianca," Varric said.
"Pretty," Hawke nodded. "I don't see the relevance, though."
"Where is she?"
"You've lost her? Well, that was careless of you."
"Hawke, cut the crap. You took her. Where is she?"
Hawke shrugged, a graceful, careless gesture, and conceded. "I wrote the note – well, I took dictation. And maybe I embroidered a bit, but I still haven't the faintest idea where Bianca's gone."
Varric stared at her; her blue eyes did not even falter, or smile. He knew she was a first-class liar, but nobody was that good. Not even him. So... ah, yes. Behind her, Fenris was studying a little book with an air Varric recognised from certain card games. "Fine. Forgive my intrusion."
"Any time," and now Hawke did smile.
"Hawke?" the dwarf added, as she and Fenris escorted them to the door. "That crack about the Rhyming Triplet was a very low blow."
"That's the only way to hit a dwarf," Hawke told him, and did something with her mouth that showed all her teeth. You couldn't quite call it a smile.
"This isn't over."
Fenris always slept lightly; deep sleep was a luxury that neither a slave nor a fugitive could afford. The half-dreamt sound of a soft footstep woke him. Someone was here.
He kept his eyes closed, feigning sleep a while longer. To be awake when an intruder thought you asleep was an advantage of sorts. His hand crept to the short blade he kept tucked between his bed and the wall, just in case this sort of thing occurred...
It was gone.
Fenris suppressed the flare of panic – they had known where the dagger was, and they had taken it without waking him.
He was in deep trouble this time. If they had removed the dagger, his sword would not be within arm's reach either. While they could not take the lyrium from his skin – yet – it was not a great deal of help against arrows.
Fenris took a deep breath and tensed –
- and nearly choked on the unmistakeable mix of musk and salt that characterised Isabela. He had no idea why the pirate would come to his room at night – well, once he put it in those terms, it did make perfect sense for her. Removing his weapons in case he woke up violently – which he would have done – well, he wasn't afraid of her.
"Isabela," he growled, opening his eyes and spotting the grey shape in the shadows, well away from the moonlight seeping in through the crack in his curtains. "Get out."
"Fenris," she purred, coming towards him. "I'd so hoped you slept naked. Life's just full of little disappointments, isn't it?" She raised her palm to her lips and blew something at him – a dust that sparkled in the thin stream of moonlight. "Go back to sleep."
He tried to hold his breath, but the scent of it made him cough and he breathed in the dust. Almost immediately the room became black, and Fenris knew no more.
The elf cast a glance at the eggs she was cooking for breakfast. On one hand, they would burn if she left them unattended for any length of time, and neither Bodahn nor Sandal could be trusted; on the other, Mistress Hawke never yelled for her. Certainly not in such heartbroken tones.
She left the eggs to burn and took the stairs two at a time.
Less than three minutes later, she was running for the market.
Fenris had only a few things in common with Merrill. They were both green-eyed elves who followed Hawke – so much for the obvious similarities. One of the less obvious ones was that neither of them possessed a working mirror, once allowance was made for their different definitions of the word 'working'. Merrill's mirror didn't allow her to summon demons or perform other blood magic rituals she'd wanted it for, and Fenris's didn't reflect; it was nothing more an empty frame, its glass lying in shards outside his window to discourage anybody who might attempt to enter that way.
He didn't want a whole one. The only things he saw in a mirror were Danarius's cursed brands.
He frowned at the windowsill. The splinters showed the sky, and no change in their pattern. Isabela had not entered that way.
Fenris padded downstairs, drawing his shirt on as he went. Isabela had not returned his sword and dagger to their proper place; at a guess, he would find them either where he'd hidden Bianca (not much of a hiding place, but that had been Hawke's instruction) or not at all.
Fortunately, she had left both weapons in the little alcove, along with a note wrapped around the greatsword's hilt. It read: I still say you're compensating for something. Fenris let it fall, strapped the sword across his back, and left his house. Time to report to Hawke.
He was used to Hightown's passers-by staring at him, but the usual scrutiny of the tattooed elf with the big sword seemed rather more intense. There was also laughter. Well, Fenris had borne much worse in his time; nevertheless, he ducked his head and hurried on.
Orana nearly ran into him; Fenris caught her by the shoulders just before she would have gashed her cheek open on his gauntlet. "Master Fenris!" she gasped. "You too!"
"Mistress woke up in a terrible state. I – I need to run, please excuse me –" and she darted off.
Unlike Merrill and Fenris, Hawke did have a working mirror. It hung in the entryway, so she could check her appearance before she left the house. Perhaps she was somewhat vain, but Fenris considered that perfectly understandable. He liked to look at her, all laughing blue eyes and tumble of pale gold curls; why shouldn't she enjoy her own beauty too?
The scent of burnt eggs filled the house.
Fenris ducked his head as he passed the mirror, avoiding, as far as possible, the flicker of his reflection, barely visible out of the corner of his eye.
A flicker of black and blue.
Fenris turned and looked at his reflection. Large sword, black and silver spiky armour, green eyes, pointed ears and high-bridged nose. Sky-blue hair.
Part of him thought calmly: that was why people had laughed and stared. Another part, much less calm, was imagining all sorts of vivid and painful things he would do to Isabela – and to Varric, because he was certain the dwarf was as guilty as he was hirsute.
And then he realised: Hawke.
He rushed upstairs – ignoring Bodahn's confusion over all the fuss – and to her room, where the rogue was sitting by the window, a blanket wrapped so closely about her shoulder, head and body that all he could see of her was the doleful expression on her face. She didn't even look up. "I'm in a terrible mood, Fenris. Better go away."
"I am not a pretty woman, Maker knows. My nose covers half my face and my eyes are slightly crossed. My ears stick out, I have no figure to speak of, and I have fat fingers."
There was some truth in all of this, but the overall effect was certainly not unappealing. "Hawke."
"I had one beauty, one perfect head of glorious flaxen hair with the kind of curls poets write sonnets about, and what do they do?"
"They dye it blue," Fenris said quietly, and Hawke kept talking over him.
"They dye it blue – wait, how did you know?" She looked up at him. "Oh, Fenris, they got you too."
"Indeed," he murmured, "but I had less to lose than you. Let me see." He tugged the blanket back, and she let him, revealing curly hair of a rich, royal blue, gleaming like velvet in the sunlight slanting through the windows. He studied the effect with some care. "It is not ill-suited to you," Fenris decided, and could not resist the urge to touch one azure ringlet. It was as soft as it looked. "It is remarkably considerate of Varric and Isabela; the colour matches your eyes exactly."
"I have blue hair."
"And it becomes you. You have always been a striking woman; now it is merely more obvious. You might give some thought to keeping your hair thus."
Hawke snorted, but it seemed the awkward and heartfelt compliments had mollified her to a degree; at any rate, her sense of humour had returned. "Perish the thought. With my luck, Meredith will decide it makes me an abomination or something." She tossed her hair back – the play of light upon it reminded Fenris of the sea. "When I couldn't wash it out, I sent Orana for some bleach – or, failing that, some black hair-dye to mask it. Would you like some?"
"I may avail myself of your generosity, yes. I already possess a higher profile in this city than makes me comfortable; to be 'that runaway elf with the big sword, tattoos and blue hair' would be ludicrous."
"Mistress! Mistress Hawke, I'm back!" Orana's bare feet made little noise on the carpet, but the sound of her panting carried much better. "I found your dye!"
"Please, Hawke," Fenris said, as Orana scurried into the room. "Leave your hair as it is."
"You really like it that much?" She looked confused – and perhaps a little pleased.
"I... do," Fenris admitted, and added, "Consider also the reactions of Varric and Isabela. They intended this to tease, even upset you a little; would it not be amusing to watch their faces when they realise you like it?"
"It'd drive them up the wall," Hawke admitted in turn. "Right now, I am all for that." She crossed the room to her chest of drawers, and the hand-mirror that rested atop it. She frowned at her reflection. "It does have a certain something. What about you?"
"Disguises are somewhat ineffective... but black hair rather than white might make me a little less obvious."
Hawke laid her mirror down and looked at him intently. "Given your eyebrows, it might have even been the proper colour of your hair before Danarius did his evil magic trick. I'll confess, I'm curious to see you with black hair. I don't think the blue does anything for you – it clashes with your skin and makes your eyes look yellowish." She turned to Orana. "Ever done this before?"
The elf shook her head.
Inexperienced she might have been, but Hawke rather enjoyed it. She never touched Fenris; she had learnt long ago that the lyrium brands caused him pain, and a raised hand still made him flinch, in expectation of a blow.
But there were no brands on his scalp, and as Fenris sat fully-clothed in the empty bathtub and Hawke massaged the dye into his hair, the elf gradually relaxed until he resembled nothing so much as a purring cat. "You are... very good at that, Hawke."
"You'd never guess all of my talents," she said.
It surprised a chuckle from him. "I am certain. You have a knack for surprising me, Hawke."
"I hope that's a good thing," Hawke laughed, and patted his head gently. "Now, apparently, you just have to sit while the dye works. Twenty minutes or so."
Twenty minutes which passed quickly, as they discussed the proper course of action with regards to Varric and Isabela, and then Hawke insisted on leaving the bathroom – Fenris could rinse out his own hair, and a hot bath was not a luxury available in his dilapidated mansion.
Hawke was discussing the discreet procurement of several items with Bodahn (who was very surprised at her new hair colour) when Fenris came down the stairs – a Fenris whose dark hair was tousled and still damp, a few drops of water still visible in the shell of his ear.
The sight of him hit her hard – for an instant, she couldn't even breathe. Oh, yes, black hair suited him – with a warm rush of pure lust, Hawke stared at the point of his ear against the dark hair. She wanted very badly to lick the water droplets from it.
"Hawke, you're staring. What is it?" Fenris's eyes were wide and uncertain. For just a moment, the tattoos, symbols of all that had been done to him, were invisible, and Hawke thought she saw the man Fenris had been before Danarius had destroyed his life. It made her... it made her want to hold him close against all the troubles and pain of the world, as if she could protect him against the magister and his past – and anything else that might come their way..
That wasn't just desire.
"I... just realised something," Hawke told him, and tried to steady her voice against her epiphany. "You look very good with black hair."
Fenris laughed a little – that awkward sound she loved to surprise from him, which meant he didn't know how to handle her comment, but was not averse to it. "I assume all is in readiness for our next volley?"
"Change of plans on Varric; despite the whole blue hair thing, I'm not quite prepared to shave his chest yet. Got this instead-" she held out two tubes for Fenris's inspection – "and you can pick up the other bit in Lowtown today, while I go talk Anders into helping with Isabela. I might check out the Emporium while I'm there; you never know what Xenon has that could be helpful. Don't forget to choose the colour carefully."