Tap tap tap

Hawke paused in the act of brushing her teeth, turned off the faucet, and tilted her head to listen.

Tap tap tap

Rolling her eyes a bit, she quickly rinsed out her mouth then padded barefoot to her bedroom door. She opened it and said, "It's already half past eight, Mother. I expected you at the crack of dawn."

Leandra smiled without shame and moved past her daughter, nestling in the comfortable armchair by the bed.

"Yes, I restrained myself admirably, didn't I?"

Hawke headed to her closet, shedding her robe and nightclothes casually as she went, leaving a trail behind her. Leandra eyed the discarded clothes disapprovingly but resisted the temptation to pick them up.

Hawke's disembodied voice came from inside the closet. "I'll go ahead and assume you're here for the debriefing."

"You assume correctly."

"What if I told you that I haven't really… processed everything yet?"

That was unusual, Leandra mused. Her daughter was not a contemplative sort of woman, this she knew. She'd been an impulsive child and a rash teenager; only with adulthood and the accompanying tragedies that had befallen their family did some of that impulsivity get reined in. Even so, Marian was still quick to process and react, her active mind constantly at work. That she was now taking the time to reflect, after her decision to…engage the Arishok socially, meant something. Leandra wasn't sure exactly what it meant, but it was a break from Marian's usual routine.

Leandra said slowly, "Hmm…can you give me an impression of how the evening went?"

Nothing was heard from the closet for a moment. Hawke emerged wearing jeans and a bra, a colorful top still in her hand, a thoughtful look on her face. She pulled the top over her head and used one hand to pull her tousled hair out from under the neckline.

She looked at Leandra then and smiled softly, remembering the feel of the Arishok's warm, dry lips against her own. "I think… it went well."

Leandra cocked an eyebrow. "I hope you don't expect me to be satisfied with that."

Hawke sat down at her vanity and started brushing her hair, eyeing her mother's reflection. "Believe it or not, it was surprisingly…normal? For a first date? Given that he's who he is and I'm who I am. We ate dinner—which was fantastic, by the way—I pestered him into talking about himself, which he did, more freely than I could have hoped for." She paused her hairbrush mid-stroke. "I, uh, kissed him."

Leandra crossed her arms over her chest, eyebrows disappearing into her hairline. "Oh, reeeeally?"

"Yes, reeeeally," Hawke replied, mimicking her mother's expression. "You know me, I couldn't resist the urge to at least try."

She suddenly wanted to articulate for her mother just why she found the man so damned appealing. It wasn't just the physical aspect, although Maker knows that didn't hurt.

Continuing to slowly drag the brush through her hair, she said, "When I'm with him, I can feel that he's completely present in the moment. I'm not an expert in the Qun, by any means, but it has something to do with that, I think. Not fretting over things in the past or worrying about what's to come; just being there in the moment, not struggling against it. That's not to say that I know him inside and out already, not by any means. It's just…there's nothing hidden or obscured. He's the Arishok and he has nothing to hide."

Setting the brush down, Hawke turned around in her chair and tilted her head slightly as she looked at Leandra. "I think you can understand why that would be something I can appreciate."

Leandra knew immediately to what her daughter was referring—her relationship with that damned Anders. That man—though she was loathe to refer to him as such—had broken her daughter's heart in ways Leandra didn't even fully comprehend because Marian had never divulged the details regarding the end of the relationship. She could vividly remember the utter helplessness she'd felt in the weeks after the mage's disappearance; Marian had been beyond distraught, unable and unwilling to speak of him, much less tell her mother what had happened. Even now, her heart clenched in remembrance of the desperate fear that somehow she was going to lose her eldest daughter after losing her other darlings in such a short span of time.

Of course Marian appreciates the Arishok's immediacy, Leandra realized. Anders had been nothing but hidden motives and fruitless struggle; the Arishok was resolute, centered, and supremely self-aware. She could see how those characteristics, combined with the Qunari leader's undeniably powerful physical presence, would draw her spirited daughter in like a lodestone.

She smiled softly at her daughter. "I think you're in danger of becoming smitten, my love."

Hawke swiveled back around to look in the mirror at her reflection. She stared herself down.

Ruefully, she said, "You might just be right about that, Mom."

An hour or so later found Hawke trudging up the outside staircase leading to Varric's apartment over The Hanged Man. She needed his help and the only forms of payment that the insatiably curious dwarf ever accepted were breaking news, wild rumors, or unfounded speculation. Usually Hawke was all too willing to share whatever tidbits of gossip she'd picked up around the city but this time, she knew exactly what Varric would want to know and she was strangely reluctant to share the details of her date with the Arishok.

Hawke took a deep breath, set her shoulders back in a more confident posture, and knocked on the door. Never let it be said that Marian Hawke backed down from a challenge.

The door opened and Varric stood there in all of his stocky, stubble-cheeked glory. He paused for only a moment before grinning widely.

"Hawke! To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure?" He bowed smartly and made a smooth gesture for her to enter his abode.

His gentlemanly behavior instantly rankled and she deliberately checked him with her hip as she entered. His grin only grew wider of course; for a man who was not a blood relative, he could often surpass even Carter-levels of irritating.

Hawke situated herself in the overstuffed arm chair in the living room, stretching out her legs and plunking her feet down on the coffee table. The more gentlemanly Varric behaved, the more Hawke played the Fereldan rube.

Lacing her fingers behind her head, she said, "Maybe I'm just here for the sparkling conversation." Glancing around idly, she asked, "Where's your better half this morning?"

She knew Merrill, Varric's long-time partner, wasn't in the apartment because if she had been, Hawke would've already been barraged with queries and comments about this, that, and the other thing, without there being any hope at all of a rational train of thought to follow. She actually enjoyed the elf girl's ramblings a great deal but she wasn't sure if she could muster an appropriately enthusiastic response this morning.

Varric was in the kitchen, pouring two cups of coffee. He and Hawke both took it black as night.

As he walked over to the living room and handed his guest a mug, he replied, "Left for the museum before the sun was up. They're still setting up the exhibit for Elven History Month."

Merrill was the curator for a small local museum and she was passionately devoted to her job. Varric never complained about the long hours that his lover spent away from home because he knew the job had been Merrill's saving grace. Though you'd never guess it from her sweet , bumbling ways, Merrill was a former blood mage, now in recovery for over a year.

"Keeps her busy and out of trouble, I suppose," Hawke said lightly before swallowing down a scorching sip of dark roast coffee. She tapped her fingernails on the mug for a few moments then decided to get down to business. Varric already knew she'd come with some purpose in mind, so she might as well assuage his curiosity.

After clearing her throat delicately, she said, "So, as it turns out, I might very well need your assistance with the job I'm doing for the Arishok."

"Oh?" Varric oozed delightedly. "Do tell."

After quickly recounting for her friend the sad tale of the Arishok's lost book, Hawke said, "I have my own contacts on it, of course, but I'd been counting on Isabela's, uh, special brand of knowledge to be at my disposal. Unfortunately, she's been completely incommunicado for over two weeks now, no dirty voicemails, no sext messages, nothing. Has she been in contact with you?"

With a quick shake of his head and down-turned lips, Varric said, "Nope, same as you. Said she'd be on a big job and needed to stay on the down-low until it was finished."

He felt a brief pang of worry for his friend then mentally shook himself. If anyone could take care of herself, it was Izz. If she were here, she'd slap him upside the head for even doubting her. Of course, then she'd lay a big, sloppy kiss on him until he had to shove her away.

Hawke continued. "So, that's where you come in, my dwarven savior. Your contacts are nearly as colorful as Izzy's and I would be ever so grateful if you could put in a few calls. I really don't think the Arishok is the kind of man that I want to disappoint."

Varric lounged back in his chair, a satisfied air completely engulfing his small form. "Hawke, of course I'll help you with whatever you need. How could you even doubt for a minute that I would come to the aid of a dear, dear friend?"

Hawke pinched the bridge of her nose. "Maker, you're laying it on thick this morning. Alright, Tethras, what's this gonna cost me?"

He instantly sat forward, eager as a Mabari pup, all magnanimity vanished into thin air.

"I want details."

Hawke eyed him suspiciously. "Details. About what precisely?"

Varric said reprovingly, "Let's not play games—we're past that. I want details of everything you do with the big guy and this will, of course, apply retroactively to anything done and/or said up until this point in time."

Hawke snorted, unwillingly amused. "Okay, Varric? You're skeeving me out a little bit here. How detailed are we talking about?" She hurried to add, "Not that there's anything to be detailed about yet?"

Varric clasped his hands behind his head, smiling smugly. "How about we just start at the beginning and we'll play it by ear?"

Hawke slumped down in her chair and groaned. She'd sold her soul to a short, hirsute gossip demon.

A short time later, her soul purged of all secrets, Hawke arrived at the mansion formerly owned by a crazy Imperial magister and now currently occupied by her friend. The wildly overgrown yard and bright orange eviction notice on the front door made the home an appalling eyesore in the upper-class neighborhood. She knew too well that Fenris reveled in disrupting the lives of his hoity-toity neighbors in whatever small way he could; not a single blade of grass would be cut as long as he had anything to say about it.

Hawke keyed in the code on the lockbox secured on the front door knob, plucked the key from within and let herself in as nonchalantly as possible.

She lightly ran up the stairs, making as little noise as possible. The door to Fenris's bedroom was open enough for her to slide through without having to open it further.

Fenris slept on his stomach, completely ensconced in the luxurious high thread-count sheets that Danarius had furnished all the beds with. Only the back of his silvery head and one tanned, muscular leg peeked out from the linens.

Hawke kicked off the ballet flats she was wearing, draped herself next to the lithe form on the bed, and idly carded her fingers through his tousled strands.

Speaking in an overly loud and cheerful tone, she said, "You know, one day I'm going to come in here and you're not going to be alone and it will be the happiest day of my life."

At the sound of her voice, Fenris's whole body jerked and his head shot up. The lyrium implants under his skin showed faintly blue in the still-dark room. As his eyes made out the blurry, smirking visage of Hawke, the blue glow faded. He turned onto his back, baring his sculpted chest and abdomen to the smiling woman next to him.

Feasting her eyes on the male specimen before her, she teased in faux-desperation, "Oh, Fenris. Can't you give up this whole 'only attracted to men' silliness and just let me love you?"

Fenris gave a long-suffering sigh. "Did you come over here at this unholy hour just to sexually harass me for your own amusement, Hawke?"

Hawke perched her chin on one hand and walked two of her fingers from her other hand up his chest before booping him on the nose. Fenris scrunched his nose adorably then glared at her, also adorably.

"First of all, love, it's almost noon. And secondly, yes."

The elf snorted, shook his head, and then sat up to stretch. Hawke, still lying comfortably on the bed, smiled as she watched the muscles moving under his olive skin.

"I should come over here every morning. What an inspirational start to the day."

Used to Hawke's ogling, the elf paid her no mind; he stood up in all his boxer-brief-clad glory and padded into the adjoining bathroom, closing the door firmly behind him. Hawke rolled on to her back, clasping her hands behind her head, patiently waiting while he completed his business.

After he came out of the bathroom, she chatted casually with him as he got dressed in his usual black t-shirt and jeans. His replies, as usual, were short and sardonic; she was well-accustomed to carrying the conversational load.

Fenris sat at his desk and turned on his laptop. When he'd made it clear that he had no particular interest in moving out of the mansion, Hawke had pulled some strings to get the utilities in the house turned on. Isabela contributed the questionably-obtained laptop and a short lesson in leeching Wi-Fi from the neighbor and Fenris was set. She didn't know what he did on the extranet but she'd pay good money to see his search history.

Hawke switched to lying on her stomach, facing in the direction of where Fenris sat at his desk. She fiddled restlessly with the rumpled sheets. Casually she offered, "So, my date with the Arishok went well last night."


"I, uh, might be going out with him again."

Fenris looked up from his computer, dipping his eyebrows in slight disbelief. "Really?"

Hawke nodded slowly. "Mm-hmm. That's sort of why I came to see you, actually."

"I fail to see the connection."

She sat up, swiveling her legs around so she sat cross-legged.

"You're the only one I know with any real knowledge about the Qunari, Fenris. I want to get to know the Arishok better and I'd like to not make a gigantic ass of myself. At least, not anymore than I already have," she said wryly.

Fenris lounged back in his chair, crossing his arms in front of his chest. "So… you're coming to me for dating advice?"

Hawke scrunched her face up. "Yes?"

"Because when you think of healthy interpersonal relationships, I spring to mind immediately."

Hawke snorted. "I don't think either of us are really aces in that category, love."

She sprang up from the bed and came over to where he was sitting, perching herself on the desk where there was an empty space. She shifted around a bit, fiddling with some papers on his desk—restless maneuvering which didn't escape her friend's notice—before meeting his gaze dead-on.

"I…feel something for him, Fenris. More than I have for anyone I've been with since—"

She dropped her eyes, clamping her lips shut, unwilling to say the name.

Unable to resist Hawke's glum face, Fenris groaned and dragged both palms down his face. "Venhedis, Hawke, I don't know how you talk me into these things every single time."

A wide smile spread across Hawke's face and she leapt up from the desk to throw her arms around his neck. She released him quickly then said teasingly, "Just think, Fenris, once the Arishok is my boyfriend, we can go on double dates with you and Sebastian."

"That is, without a doubt, the most ridiculous thing you've ever said to me."

"Should I go with Mrs. Marian Arishok or should I hyphenate?"

"Please, PLEASE stop."