Snowy Embrace

The Truth

It could have been worse. Fenris snorted to himself at the thought. Outdated decor, the lingering stench of bleach, unexplainable stains, and beds that bowed in the middle was luxury compared to the places he’d bunkered down in before. His eyes swung over to the man juggling a couple plastic bags in his hands. Too much time around Hawke must be giving him airs.

“Maker’s hairy buttcheeks, it’s cold in here!”

To a point.

Shaking his shaggy head, barely feeling the chill, Fenris wandered over to the giant A/C unit that took up the underside of the window. While prodding at the controls, he had a lovely view of a neon sign across the parking lot. Some of the letters went dead, so all he could make out was “Kn__k__s.” Though, judging by the neon woman splaying her legs with every rotation of the lights, he didn’t have trouble guessing the establishment’s purview.

While a blast of heat rattled out of the vents, Fenris turned to watch Hawke strip off his jacket. Despite the winter blizzard, he had his blue plaid’s wrists unbuttoned and rolled up to the elbows. A forest of black hair covered the forearms tugged taut from the bulging bags. Fenris frowned and shook away his noticing.

After depositing whatever he had to grab from the mess-strewn back of the truck’s cab, Hawke dug out his phone. It was a notorious piece of technology, somehow surviving even the worst of Hawke’s impromptu decisions that could include such feats as leaping off a waterfall because it was there. Tucking it between his shoulder and ear, Hawke popped his lips a moment while fishing into the sack.

Whoever he was calling must have picked up as Hawke’s attention fully fell from the bag. “Varric?”

Ah. That made sense.

“Hey, so…funny story. No, not that. Or that one. Or even…Maker’s breath, how did that happen?”

As Hawke fell into nodding along with Varric’s tale, Fenris tugged up the remote left on the empty dresser. Wasn’t even a flat screen. How ancient was this place? He flipped through a few channels, not listening to anything, nor caring what was on, when he paused at weather. It showed half their state blanketed in white triangles. The meteorologist was flapping his suit coated arms around as if bees were attacking him.

An uproarious laugh shook Fenris from the dreaded inches count. Looked as if they might even head into the brag-worthy ten range before the night was over. He watched Hawke tenderly cupping the phone to his ear, cheeks bright red as he laughed his guts out. That was Varric’s pull over the man, always got him in stitches.

“That’s bloody amazing. How’d they even get an emu on a motorcycle?” Hawke’s striking blue eyes rose from the ether to catch his. Fenris had been so absorbed in watching Hawke unawares, he was exposed when the man glanced up. His lips twitched, Fenris realizing too late he wore an idiotic smile upon them. Snarling, he turned back to glare at the tv, leaving Hawke alone with his phone call.

“Listen, I’ve got bad news. We aren’t gonna be able to make your signing.” Hawke gritted his teeth the whole time, the man despising letting anyone down. Glaring towards the carpet, Fenris picked at the drawstring in his hoodie, knocking it about like a cat. His stomach churned with guilt, a sensation he did not enjoy.

“Well,” Hawke continued with his one-sided conversation, “for starters there’s a killer blizzard going on outside. Look!” And the fool yanked his phone off his ear and held it to the window.

Without Hawke’s luscious hair in the way, Fenris could hear Varric’s tinny voice sighing, “I can’t see it, Hawke.”

“Still, point being, death storm. Pulled over to a motel for the night. Got to be safe and all.” Hawke glanced up to shrug at Fenris, as if to apologize for his having to check-in with Varric. Suddenly, he cupped a hand to the phone and tried to speak in a whisper. There was nowhere in this thin-walled room where Hawke wouldn’t be overheard.

“It wasn’t exactly planned. No, not by… Anders—”

If Fenris had hackles they’d be rising from his tailbone to his neck. He should have known, of course the abomination would be there. Hawke was planning on attending. The fact that Anders was also Varric’s friend did little to soften Fenris’ assumption the man was up to nefarious plans.

“Yes, if I’d left earlier like you suggested I’d be there. But I was busy…killing dragons,” Hawke shrugged.

Fenris whipped his head over in shock, watching the grown man huddled tighter to his phone as if he had to apologize to a teacher for being truant.

“Nearly got the high score this go around and lost track of time. Once we hit the road, well… Never thought the blizzard would catch up so fast. Damn weather, someone needs to do something about it. Look, just wanted to say we’re fine, hunkered down, no one’s bleeding or nothing. And, if they get the roads cleared up, should catch you guys tomorrow.”

Hawke gulped a moment, his eyes canvassing to the ceiling. “Can you put Varric on again?” His toe tapped during the phone passing on the other side. When his eyes lit up, his jaw dropped but a groan bounded out instead. “Izzy. Yes, all cozy in here. I’ll tell him. Look, I’m gonna run out of juice soon…”

A blush rose clear over his face, even managing to burn under the burly beard. Hawke’s eyes whipped up to Fenris and he stammered, “No. No I will not. Just, tell Varric I’ll meet him at the same pancake place. The one that does waffles instead. Waffles are far superior!”

Hawke struck a proud pose as if he had to defend waffles honor. It seemed natural for the man’s chest to inflate to barrel standards, proud and regal as he pulled in his muscled but not thin gut. “Goodnight, Izzy. And no, I will not do that either!”

With that he silenced his phone and tossed it onto the table. Shrugging his meaty arms wide, Hawke brought them in for a loud, solitary clap. “Well, guess we got the whole night to ourselves,” he threw out, then grimaced. “Two beds,” Hawke jerked his chin to the at-best full sized ones sitting side-by-side. “Nice to know we weren’t lied to.”

Fenris released an arm holding his chest. “Why didn’t you tell them we’re delayed because you were waiting for me to get off?”

At that, Hawke coughed as if surprised he’d been caught in a lie. His wild eyes snapped over to Fenris, then swung down the man’s bundled up frame a moment before returning to his face. “Didn’t seem pertinent. Besides, I was playing Dragon Warfare while waiting for you to call. It’s still the truth.”

“If you had gone with…” the abomination’s name died on his tongue, so he chose, “Isabela and Aveline, you’d be there instead of trapped here.”

“You ever been in a car with Isabela and Aveline? Especially Izzy’s tiny sports one? Those two’d nearly come to punches over a blown stop sign, meanwhile my legs are nearly impaling my ribs as I’m crammed in the backseat.” Hawke tried to mimic such a pose by scrunching down in a squat. It was both hilarious and intriguing. Even with the baggy jeans, there was no hiding the man’s thigh muscles.

Shaking off the thought, Hawke returned to the bags he dragged through snow already climbing up the doors. Curious, Fenris asked, “What is in those?”

Spinning in place, Hawke shouted, “Catch.” An amber bottle hurled through the air in a perfect spiral, Fenris fumbling to do as commanded. He tucked the errant glass into his gut, breath held until he was certain it wouldn’t drop and shatter. With a gulp, he looked up at the man who managed the throw, his hands both in the air to celebrate.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise, he had been a first draft pick. Not that Hawke liked to brag about such things, or even talk about them with anyone. He walked away from it all six months in. Best Fenris could find from a google search it was due to ‘family issues.’ And most who met the effervescent mountain of a man never had a clue who he could have been.

With a quick pop of his thumb, Hawke hurled the bottle cap onto the table and took a long drink. Fenris had to unearth the hem of his hoodie for leverage, the damn carbonation clinging to the cap. When he finally got it off, an explosion of foam was what he got for his trouble. He raced to try and suck it down before it coated the carpet, bubbles of beer dribbling down his chin.

A snarl at the mess Hawke caused rose in his gullet, but as he glanced up to find the man with a beer perched to his lips but his eyes consuming Fenris, the anger faded. “Do you always carry beer in your truck?”

“Old college secret,” Hawke winked at him, answering the question with another drink. “Ahh,” he wiped off the spritz of beer swimming in his beard and glanced over, “though these were ones Varric requested special. Way to top off his first signing.” The regret stung in his voice. Hawke had been looking forward to this. He was gonna stand behind the famous new author and play at bodyguard. Even got a pair of sunglasses to look the part.

And Fenris ruined it all.

Watching the slosh of his half-beer, Fenris spoke, “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” Hawke chuckled.

“If you hadn’t have brought me, waited for me…” Fenris frowned. Hawke was insistent that everyone had to be there. Fenris gave him some mealymouthed maybes, but even with the real excuse of work, Hawke bent himself like a paperclip to fit him in. And look at what it got him.

The big man shrugged, “Not as if you can control the weather. Shoulda checked it before.” He fished up his phone and wafted the screen back and forth. “Though this hunk of junk only updates once every ice age. Pain in my ass most days.”

Fenris wouldn’t know having managed his life without one. It shocked the rest of their group, even Aveline was well connected technologically speaking. But after what he escaped, the last thing Fenris wanted was a private connection anyone could hack and use to find him.

“So,” Hawke waggled his nearly empty beer bottle at him. “We can either stand here, staring out the window at the snow piling up. Or…”

“Or?” A trill ran up Fenris’ spine at the tone in Hawke’s voice. He couldn’t be sure if it was terror or anticipation.

Yanking a brown bag out of the plastic sack, Hawke freed its contents to reveal a long blue bottle of top shelf gin. “We get into Varric’s good shit.”

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