Tale of the Stranger (or How I Met Selena Hawke)

Chapter 21

So just when I really need Garrett to be home, he's out at the Hanged Man trying, badly, to drink Varric under the table. Seems my boys have been keeping things from me, dealing with things like Feynriel and Bartrand without telling me. So Anders and I went to the study, curled up on the sofa, sharing a bottle of Starkhaven single malt. Anders more so than me.

“It's so weird, getting drunk.” Anders sighed, swirling the amber liquid in his glass before drinking it down. He gasped at the sudden heat and I had to laugh.

“What about last time? At the Hanged Man, after...you know?” I asked, curling my fingers into the hairs at the nape of his neck, causing him to shiver.

“I begged him.” he said matter-of-factly. “I told him I needed to forget what I'd seen and it was either booze or too much lyrium. Since too much of that might kill me, he agreed.”

“Oh, love!” I exclaimed, pulling back. “I'm so sorry! If I'd known-”

“No! Please! It's...it's all right.” he cried out, turning slightly to face me, taking my other hand in his. “It was my own stupidity, really. And in the end we both got who we wanted didn't we?”

We both broke out in knowing grins, remembering our times with Garrett. Oh my! I leaned down to the floor to grab the whiskey bottle and pour more shots, mainly to cover the heated flush that crept up my cheeks. Handing his to Anders I could see a similar shade to his own face. We both drank quickly, trying to calm this anxious need to progress from where we were.

I leaned back, setting a throw cushion on my lap and patting it for Anders to rest his head. He grinned, shucking his coat before lying down, back to me, cheek resting on the pillow, hand on my knee. I carefully pulled away the tie in his hair and ran my fingers through it. I could feel the groan he emitted more than hear it. It sent a deep shiver through me.

“How are you feeling, Anders?” I asked, still concerned for my friend.

“It's strange,” he began in a hushed tone. “I feel...empty. But more myself than I've felt in years.” He paused for a few moments, fingers idling brushing my knee, breath a soft, warm breeze against the leather. “What...where do you think he went, Selena? Is he...dead?”

My fingers stilled in his hair and he shifted to look up at me. I closed my eyes, trying to remember that moment when green met blue and how it felt. “I don't think he's dead, Anders, if that is even really possible. When I touched him- you- it felt as though he was being pulled inside of me, then back out again. I think this...whatever it is that's inside me sent him back to the Fade. I think it sent him home.”

Anders sighed, reaching up to cup my face. “Maker, I hope so. I never meant him harm, you know. He just couldn't stay in Kristoff's body. It was falling apart! Quite literally, you know. He shook my hand one day and I came back with eleven fingers!”

“Eww!” I laughed, smiling at his cheeky grin. “Nothing like that better happen when we're having sex!”

His eyes darkened and his smile changed, softened. His thumb brushed across my cheek, sending a shiver along my spine. “When I make love to you, the idea of missing digits will be the farthest thing from your mind.”

“I'm going to hold you to that,” I replied softly, brushing a few stray strands from his forehead. He smiled, his thumb drifting down to slide along my lip before turning to lie on his side once more.

“It's funny. If I were really my old self I would have had you naked on the floor long ago. But now...now I want to wait. I want to talk to Garrett first. And if he says he can't handle the thought of the two of us together, I'll abide by that. It'll be hard, don't get me wrong! But it would be something I would have to do.”

I leaned down to kiss the edge of his ear. “You are well and truly in love, Anders. Something I don't think you've ever really felt before, for all your experiences. This is the man that is a part of your soul and you are treating him, and your love, with the respect it deserves.”

"Oh,” he said softly, for once at a loss for words. “You don't mind?”

“Of course I don't mind, you big ninny! I love you both too much to ruin what the two of you have. And if that means keeping my distance in the romance area, then so be it.”

He sighed and burrowed slightly into my leg. “I think all this talk and whiskey is going to my head. Feeling a little...light headed.”

“Then just rest, love,” I whispered, returning to petting his hair. “We''l talk to Garrett when he gets home.”

We slept that way until the early hours of the morning, my hand in his hair, his clutching at my calf. I woke to the noise of a very inebriated Hawke trying desperately to be quiet. Anders, thankfully, woke more slowly, sighing and stretching like a cat when I gently shook his shoulder.

Garrett was muttering something about buckles in the foyer and I suppressed a giggle. He seemed to be having issues with using his thumbs and for some reason I found that funny. I have an odd sense of humour.

I wiggled out from under the mage and padded quietly into the hall. He was seated on the floor, trying desperately to yank off a boot that was barely half unbuckled and I couldn't help but laugh. He looked up, first in surprise, then with a sheepish grin and gestured to his foot as if that would explain everything.

I walked up and knelt at his feet, taking the offending footwear in hand and finishing the buckles before yanking it off. “You're so lucky I love you, Garrett Hawke. I wouldn't do this for just anyone.”

"Yes.” I heard Anders add behind me. “Very lucky. You have no idea how much.”

Garrett's bleary eyes looked from me to him and back, mouth open to ask, but I just raised a finger for him to stop. “Not right now, love. You're not sober enough to deal with this kind of talk right now.”

His brows scrunched up as though to argue, but instead of words, he hiccuped, loud and high almost like a small girl's. We laughed at his embarrassed grin and I quickly divested him of the other boot and pulled him to his feet.

“Come on. Off to bed with you and we can talk later, okay?”

He wrapped an arm around my waist, nearly pulling us both off balance and reached out to take a hold of Anders' hand. “Don't want to sleep alone. Not ever again. Please? I need you. Both of you.” His eyes began to tear and I looked back at Anders in concern. I had a feeling just what it was that was upsetting our Hawke so badly and if I was right, he was going to need the contact. Anders nodded and moved towards the stairs, pulling Garrett along behind him. I moved to take Hawke's hand and followed along behind my men.

In the large master suite, Anders set about getting Garrett out of his armour while I ran along to Anders' and my rooms to fetch sleeping clothes. Because sleeping in leathers had not been comfortable, even with a gorgeous apostate in my lap.

I returned to find Garrett already tucked into the middle of the big bed and handed Anders a pair of linen sleep pants. Though the prospect of watching him strip was appealing, I turned away and quickly changed into a long silk nightdress. If I could see what I really wanted splayed out before me, I might not be able to stop myself from taking it.

When I turned back, Anders was standing right there, so close that he was almost breathing in the scent of my hair. For all I know, he might have been. “Maker,” he said softly with a shudder. “Why does this have to be so hard?”

I glanced down at his very noticeable bulge with a mischievous grin. “Very hard.”

He chuckled and took my hand, leading me over to the bed. We climbed in to either side of the large warrior already there and curled up into his sides, our hands up over his chest, fingers twined. In time, we joined him in sleep.

I woke up expecting a dark cave and the scent of cold stone, hands trapped and strange voices. When it came to me that I was free, I reached out to touch someone, anyone, only to find nothing but warm sheets beneath my hands. I felt that momentary unconscious bit of panic before my conscious mind could kick in and tell me not to be stupid. I opened my eyes to see that the bed was empty, though relatively recently, judging by the heat that lingered.

I smiled. It was nice of them to let me sleep, though misguided. I hated waking alone, knowing that I had gone to bed with a warm body beside me. Chock it up to stress or something, I don't know.

I fought to make my way out of the tangle of sheets and rushed back to my own rooms to splash some water on my face, run a comb through my hair and find a house robe. Wouldn't do to look like a complete urchin.

Once I was ready, I followed the sounds of voices down to the kitchen. Three manly voices, two chuckling and/or mildly swearing, while the third sounded like it was coming through a gag. Or a mountain of food.

I walked into the room to find Garrett and Bodahn trying to work around each other, cooking eggs and bacon and baking bread, while Anders was sitting at the table, plate before him heaped with food, and shoving it in like someone was going to take it away at any moment. Bodahn was smiling, working the eggs and meat in the pan with a steadied, practised hand, while Garrett...well, Garrett was covered in flour from head to foot, kneading a ball of dough as though he held a personal grudge. I couldn't help myself. I laughed.

“Ah! Mistress!” Bodahn cried, looking up at me with a smile. The others turned as one and grinned at me as well, though with Anders' mouth full of food it looked more like a chipmunk face than his own. “Sit! Sit and I'll fix you a plate. Sandal has gone to fetch the daily pastries order and the eggs will be done momentarily. Would you care from juice this morning, or perhaps a cup of tea?”

“Juice, please Bodahn, and a couple of sweetberries.” I said, taking a chair next to Anders so that I could have a good view of Hawke attempting to kill bread.

“Of course, Mistress. Coming right up!” the dwarf fetched a plate and slid a few eggs and bacon pieces upon it before setting it in front of me, placing the remainder from the pan on top of what was left in front of Anders. He smiled gratefully at the dwarf and continued eating. Garrett set the bread dough aside to rise and did his best to clean up, though really he just brushed the flour around, and came to sit with us at the table. He looked at me with that grin that screamed he knew a secret and I knew he had already probably spoken with Anders. Well, at least he doesn't look upset.

As Bodahn set down a cup of juice in front of me, I turned towards him. “Where is Leandra this morning?”

“Mistress Amell is at her weekly meeting with Gamlen. But she sends her regards.” he replied, shuffling away to tidy up and leave them to their breakfast. I couldn't help the shudder that took me, though thankfully Bodahn didn't notice. Even with Quenten dead and burned, I couldn't help remembering how sick and depraved he had been, and how close Garrett had come to losing his mother. When he reached across the table to take my hand with a mild look of concern, I gave him a reassuring grin. He knew how I felt and didn't need to be worrying over it.

“Okay, I've got to know,” I started, turning my head towards Anders without taking my hand from Garrett's. “What is with the nonstop eating, Anders?”

He grinned, a bit embarrassed, dabbing at his mouth with a cloth napkin. “I never realized just how much Justice dampened my appetite. I just can't seem to get enough to eat.”

“Good. You're nothing but skin and bone and need fattening up,” I said jovially.

Garrett let loose a bark of laughter. “I think she's trying to tell you she needs cushioning, old boy.”

“Old?” Anders cried in mock outrage. “I'll have you know I'm only four years older than you!”

“Hey! If anyone's old at this table it's me,” I interjected. “My old body was your mother's age!”

“Hmm.” Hawke waggled his eyebrows. “I've always wondered about older women.”

I squeezed his fingers and giggled. “You've already had this one, so just stop.”

“Speaking of which...”

Anders and I both looked to Hawke, suddenly anxious, but he seemed to be...well, happy. He pulled my fingers to his lips and brushed them across the knuckles. “Anders explained to me what happened to the two of you yesterday. First thing I need to do is ask if you're all right. I know that green...whatever it is that you do can take a lot out of you and it has me worried. Although, I do have to say, that silk thing you have on makes me think that you look to be absolutely amazing.”

“I'm all right, Garrett. I passed out for a few minutes after it first happened but I'm good now.” I reassured him.

“What?” Anders exclaimed, concerned. “Why didn't I know this? Why didn't you tell me?”

“You were justifiably panicking, Anders. You probably just didn't see.” I tried to console him, reaching out with my other hand towards him. He grasped it like a drowning man.

“It's all right, Anders. Really, it's okay. Ella was there and I wasn't out long.”

He nodded but still looked upset with himself. There really wasn't much I could do about that except maybe distract him later. I turned my attention back to Garrett, who was frowning slightly. “I'm fine, Hawke. Okay?”

He nodded and slipped on one of his more mischievous grins. “Anders also told me about what happened in the clinic.”

I couldn't help the blush that crept up my cheeks and I looked away, down at the table. Garrett wasn't having any of it, however, and put a finger beneath my chin, tilting my face to look him in the eye.

“I wanted to thank you.” I looked at him in confusion.”For waiting,” he explained. “For taking my feelings into account and waiting until you had both spoken to me before getting together. As much as I love the thought that the people I love the most also love each other, the idea of the two of you doing something like that behind my back makes my heart ache. And I'm a horrible hypocrite because that's pretty much what happened between the two of us and poor Anders had to learn about it after.”

The blood rushed from my face when I realized that Hawke was right. We had come together without Anders prior knowledge or consent. My stomach seemed to fall to my feet, but Anders gave me a reassuring squeeze. “It's all right, love. I understand that sometimes, with a person you love, the moment comes and you can't help yourself. It's not like I was kept in the dark or suddenly lost him to you, and he certainly won't lose either of us.”

I sighed in relief and nodded. Then an idea dawned on me. “Wait! But then what about us? If we were able to hold back-”

Anders laughed, just a bit huskily, sending a quick shiver down my spine. “Oh, trust me, had I not been feeling as though my insides had been scraped clean, we would have. Right there. On the floor of the clinic.”

Oh my. The dark heat in his eyes sent a flush everywhere on my body and a quick glance at Garrett showed that he held the same heat. For a moment I thought the two of them were going to have me splayed across the table for all to see. Not that, at this moment, I would be adverse to that. But Anders released my hand and stood, leaving us at the table. He stopped in the doorway and turned his face towards us. “When we come together, love -and it will be soon. Believe me- I don't want it to be something forced or planned. And right now, I'm still trying to figure out how I feel with...Justice gone. But when I come for you, remember this. It will be...glorious.”

I watched his retreating back until it was lost out of sight around a corner as he retreated to his clinic, Garrett brushing at my knuckles with his thumb. And all I could think was well...fuck.

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