“What are you doing? Run up the middle!” Hawke’s bellow at the television was greeted by a thump on the wall behind them. While Fenris turned towards it, Hawke waved a hand and tried to shake away the interruption. Still, he lowered his voice a touch while he continued to yell at what looked like a rebroadcast of some old football game. Fenris had no idea who either the Wyverns or their foes, the Griffins, represented. Though, there was a chance Hawke didn’t either.
They were both down two beers and more than a fair share of shots taken straight from the bottle. While it surprised no one how easily Hawke tucked it back, it was Fenris’ iron stomach that’d catch a few curious looks. Like when they first met, Fenris in a foul mood over…he couldn’t even remember. Hurling what money he’d scrounged up at a bartender and insisting on the strongest stuff in the place.
When a burly man with all the bulk in his arms and chest wandered over, even in his inebriated state, Fenris tightened. He assumed a bouncer or regular who served as one wandered over to dump him on the street. But Hawke stuck out his big hand, cheered Fenris for taking on so many shots while remaining upright, and the two struck up a long conversation.
“What?” Hawke’s eyes turned from the game that faded to a commercial about soybeans. The bright blues were sizing up the scraggly man huddled to the bed closest to the window. They both decided to stake their claims by sitting on their beds for the evening, Hawke insisting on the one near the door.
Fenris ran a palm roughshod over his smooth cheek. What would a thick bramble of hair there feel like? Flinching at the pointless thought, he muttered, “Nothing.”
“No, no. It’s not ever nothing when you get that look in your eye,” Hawke explained with his beer bottle. It had to be empty or close enough, but he kept it in his fist as much for emphasis as anything.
“Like you’re smiling but not. Not on the mouth bits anyway.”
Fenris blinked at the thought, fingertips grazing his flat lips. He didn’t know he did such a thing. For a beat, his green eyes cut over to Hawke before failing to focus on the cheap tv screen. “I was thinking about how we met.”
“Oh,” Hawke guffawed. While Fenris was huddled up tight, his legs in a cross, Hawke was practically splayed over the bed. He stacked all the pillows up under his head to aid in his view of the game, but the rest of the man looked like a starfish. “That was hilarious.”
Fenris whipped his head over in confusion, not finding the old situation all that humorous. He had to wait for an explanation as Hawke was sucking down the last drops of their beer. Swiping his hand over the bramble of black beard, Hawke chuckled. “When I found this tiny guy huddled over on avenue…avenue something or other, shrieking every curse word that’d get your mouth scrubbed with soap at a tipped-over bike.”
Maker’s sake. Fenris’ jaw dropped. How did he forget?
He hadn’t been in the city long, maybe a few weeks at most, and the first job he took to keep from starving was running food out to lazy trust funders that never tipped. Not that he could complain about it, or the long hours, or whenever the boss needed petty cash and took it from the delivery crew’s paycheck. Fenris wasn’t technically supposed to be here, a fact that kept him in the shadows and silenced. Didn’t matter what abuse was heaped on him, he had to take it or risk…
Far worse if they sent him back.
In dire straights, half-starved, fully exhausted, the chain on the cheap bike he still had to make payments on snapped. With pad thai leaking all over the sidewalk from the tumbled bike, Fenris unleashed all his fury upon the metal tubes. He had no plan, he had no hope, all he had was the breath in his lungs. Last thing he ever suspected was a random stranger to wander up and fix the damn thing.
“I’m surprised,” Fenris said, his fingers digging at the polyester bedspread, “that you even dared to approach a man like that.”
“What were you screaming? It was that…that guttural one with the v.”
“Venheedis?” Fenris asked tipping his head.
Hawke snapped his fingers, “That’s it! I almost wanted to ask what it meant, but you didn’t seem to be in an explaining mood. Damn near kicked me when I approached.”
“Sorry,” Fenris blanched. How did he forget that was Hawke? The mountain of the man shrugged, as if a stature as scrawny as Fenris’ could be any threat to him. “Why did you stop?”
While he never forgot the random passerby that did him a good deed, Fenris couldn’t understand why. He’d also been in such a state, he’d barely glanced at the man’s face. Fenris was well trained in not meeting someone’s gaze in his previous life.
“Figured it was the chain, the way the wheel was spinning all woo-woo-woo,” Hawke tried to twirl his beer in the air but the alcohol dulled his usually sharp reflexes. The empty glass tumbled from his fingers and bounded against the carpet. Both men watched it fall, before Hawke resumed explaining. “Used to fix ’em when I was younger. My brother, Maker’s sake, he was the worst with his shit. Thought he was some kinda DMXer, always ramping his bike. Then throwing a shit fit when he’d dent the frame and demand a new one.”
Silence thundered into the room, blanketing over the light air like an avalanche of snow. Fenris fiddled with his hoodie string, yanking it back and forth in his fingers while Hawke did what Hawke drifted inward. He never talked about the family issues, whatever they were or had been. A few in the group knew he had siblings, twins, but not much more. Sometimes merely mentioning a sister or brother shut Hawke down.
“I always thought we met in the bar,” Fenris confessed, needing to find any change of subject. “And, truth be told, was confused about you approaching me even then.”
Hawke chuckled, “I do always seem to bump into you when you’re about to rip someone’s throat out. For a time I thought that was your default setting.”
Shrugging, Fenris glared at nothing. He was a bundle of knives haphazardly knotted together with leather. It could lash out at his enemies as readily as it’d cut him. No wonder he was always running from job to job, hoping to hide and struggling to stay out of trouble.
A thought rolled inside Fenris’ gut as he took in the man who kept allowing the jumble of blades in his life. “And now?”
“Don’t get me wrong, you’re a prickly sonnofa when you want to be. Which seems to be most times of the day, and night.” Hawke laughed to himself, a sting rising against Fenris’ cheek at the truth. “But,” Hawke continued, “you’ve got your reasons and…there’s more under there too.”
The sting transformed into a full on blush, Fenris fumbling with his hands to grab onto anything to support him. It was as if Hawke’s brash tongue stripped him to the bone. Fenris despised being exposed, even in the safest of places.
As Hawke gathered up the mass of bottles they’d swam in and moved to tuck them into the bag for returns, Fenris glared down at the man’s phone. It’d been left off, or on silent mode, but Hawke would occasionally check it and frown. At first, he feared it might be Varric giving the man shit for missing his big moment. But as the missed calls and texts continued on into the third and fourth quarter, Fenris knew who it really was.
The reason Hawke could never truly be safe.
Biting on his lip, Fenris plunged into the mix of gin and beer sloshing through his veins to ask, “Have you told Anders about me?”
That tripped up Hawke, the bottles tumbling the last centimeter or so to the table. They twinkled like bells as Hawke pinched his fingers against his chin hairs and tugged on them. “Pretty sure he knows you exist.” Those blue eyes drifted back to the phone. “Damn sure.”
“No, about my being…illegal.”
Hawke reared back at the thought, his fists tugging on the beard. For how often he mangled it, it was a wonder any fur grew there never mind the lush mane. “I dunno. You told Izzy, right?”
“More she determined it on her own,” Fenris coughed out, not happy about her snooping, but he trusted her with the fact. As far as anyone trusted Isabela.
“Maybe, maybe not. Not like anyone cares. Not in our group.” Hawke was stumbling from the awkwardness, his rosy outlook on life crumbling.
While Fenris could agree with Varric not caring, Isabela barely noticing, Aveline looking the other way, even Merrill either unaware or considering it too impolite to mention, the abomination was another story. Hawke plummeted to his bed, the frame creaking at the weight and nearly burying the man in the bendable middle.
“You don’t think Anders would…” Hawke scoffed, “I know you two get on like cats in a river, but he’s not like that.”
“Selfish, prone to fits of judicial ramblings, sanctimonious?”
A snort broke from Hawke’s nostrils as he scrambled to free himself from the bed. “Okay, sometimes he’s those things. Especially when he’s on twitter.” At that, the man shivered. “But he won’t turn you in, or call you-know-who on you.”
“How can you be certain?”
“Most days he’s not so bad, I swear. I know you don’t see it, cause the cats and…
“In a river, yes,” Fenris sighed, not in the mood to correct the idiom.
“Look, whatever beef you two have. Whatever fights you start…” Hawke twisted his form around to sit on his bed, his feet burrowed into the carpet. He stared so deeply at him, Fenris’ first instinct was to turn away. But he held the stare long enough for Hawke to finish, “I won’t let him. I promise. I’m good at talking Anders down from whatever new flight of fancy he has.”
Fenris nodded, wanting to accept Hawke’s words as gospel. But to place his full trust in another person…to rely on someone outside of himself for protection. The last time Fenris did such a thing he wound up nearly dead from heat stroke and dehydration. Before that, the scars were worse.
A tinny cheer rose from the tv, both men returning to the old game. The final score flashed on the screen as footage of the crowd hustling out of the stadium rolled below. With a wide stretch, Hawke pivoted his neck back and forth and sighed, “Maker, is it really that late? Sleep sounds good. Shit, ain’t you been up since 5?”
“Four,” Fenris answered.
Hawke killed the tv and underhand tossed the remote at the dresser. It skidded a touch but landed right where it began. Rubbing his hands over his cheeks, Hawke muttered, “Shoulda told me to shut that thing off so you could get some sleep. You have to be exhausted.”
He was when he stepped out of work reeking of fry oil and sweat. Traveling for two hours in a broken-down truck seemed a waste of his time and a greater drain on what few reserves Fenris’ had. Then he spotted Hawke grinning from the front seat and telling him to hop in. Two hours alone with the busy man was a better shot of adrenaline than any coffee shop could manage. He hadn’t anticipated those two hours turning into twelve.
Without a care, Hawke wrenched off his plaid shirt. Even in the unforgiving fluorescent light beaming on him, Hawke’s skin glowed. The raw power flowed from bicep to tricep, across pectorals and even rumbled in his abs. Fenris should have anticipated the tufts of black fur decorating Hawke’s chest. The line down his flat stomach was so thick it looked like it was drawn on by marker pointing towards his crotch.
When the sound of a zipper drawing straight down filled the air, Fenris’ icy sheen burned red. He whipped his head away, unable to watch Hawke strip down to his underwear. Boxers, briefs, or the hybrid? Izzy liked to play that game, often with Merrill lost as to what they were doing. Fenris assumed he’d never learn the answer and now, with the temptation a head-turn away, he was terrified to look.
Focusing on himself, Fenris reached under his hoodie’s wrists and undid the button on a cuff. As he laid the first down on the table, Hawke exclaimed, “No way. Those come off?”
Fenris turned from the spikes of stainless steel on leather to find Hawke’s lower half eclipsed by the bed. He breathed a sigh of relief, when the damn fool rose from whatever squat exercise he was performing. Despite his protestations and orders to them, Fenris’ eyes copied the fastest picture it could of the man’s hips hidden below a thin sheet of cotton. His thighs were in even more stark relief than Fenris thought possible, flexing against the taut legs of the underwear. And, if he closed his eyes, he could see the bulge amplifying the curves below.
“You thought I slept in them?” Fenris coughed out, struggling to come up with a reason why he couldn’t stare in awe at the nearly naked man in his hotel room.
“I figured you were born with them. Or cursed with ’em.”
With a chuckle at the thought, Fenris added his other cuff to the first. He reached to tug off his charcoal-black hoodie and paused. While he didn’t despise his body, it wasn’t the envy of a gym rat’s the way Hawke’s was. The legs were certainly scrawnier, as were his arms. There was no chance he could stand Hawke’s crystal blue gaze wrinkling to disgust if he stared at Fenris’ ropey form.
Hawke read Fenris abandoning his plans to disrobe and asked, “Are you gonna sleep in that?”
Shrugging, Fenris muttered as an excuse, “The sweater’s comfortable enough, especially in this frigid room.”
“I’m more concerned about those jeans plastered to your legs. Won’t they cut off circulation or something important?”
Fenris gulped, his eyes casting down the black skinny jeans suckered to him. While at home he’d certainly shrug them off, as his hand brushed against the belt, Fenris thumbed the reason he couldn’t strip down. He’d rather Hawke laugh at his chicken legs than get even a glimpse of Fenris’ excited state.
“It’s fine,” Fenris snarled, scrabbling at the far end of his bed. He yanked back all the sheets and worried his way underneath, keeping his back turned to the nearly naked man left standing alone by his bed.
“Okay,” Hawke shrugged. “Just don’t want to have to amputate a foot or something in the morning. Messy stuff.” With that bit of wisdom, Hawke pushed the overhead light off. A hazy darkness swept over them, not the impenetrable kind Fenris preferred. This was amplified to a grey indigo by the snow piling up outside. Every time the splayed neon woman stretched her legs, a red and orange heart would crawl across their carpet.
He tried to pay it no heed, Fenris screaming at his brain to power down. Then he heard Hawke bouncing into bed. The man must have to sleep on his back, or maybe stomach judging by the rustling sounds. Not content yet, Hawke punched the pillows into the proper fluffiness. In time, even that fidgeting gave way to nothingness.
As a gentle quiet filled the room, Fenris breathed through his nose trying to count the beats. This would all be over soon. Hawke would return to his best friend’s side, the pair would eat all the waffles in the place and laugh at the blizzard. Fenris would keep being nothing more than that odd man who orbited Hawke’s golden sun.
“Night, Fenris,” Hawke called, his voice heavy with sleep.
A swell of warmth piped through Fenris at the thought of an exhausted Hawke mumbling his name before slumber. Another aspect of the man Fenris never thought he’d get to experience. “Goodnight,” he whispered, trying to fall to the dreams that awaited him.