The sun was setting in the sky and Fenris was in an alley, pacing back and forth; every so often glancing toward the door to the Hanged Man. He had spent the better part of the day searching for Hawke. Combing Lowtown, Hightown, the Docks, the Undercity, he even went to the Chantry and Keep, desperate to find her. Hours it took him to come up as empty as he had been when he started.
It had been late afternoon when he finally given up; sharp hunger pains and lack of success sending him trudging back to his stolen estate. Luck or the grace of the Maker, Fenris would happily attribute it to either when he ran into the small errand boy; he was one of Varric’s urchins and the boy delivered a message about a meeting tonight at the Hanged Man to decide on details for the Deep Roads.
Hope had flared in him. He would go early and catch her, pull her aside and talk to her. Tell her he didn’t mean what he had said. Only that wasn’t what happened.
Fenris turned sharply on his heel, glowering at the door as though it had been the one to offend him. He had been there for over an hour, watching for her, waiting. The other people she traipsed with trailed in, Aveline first followed by Isabela and the blood mage. Shortly after that the abomination arrived.
When she came into sight she was walking beside her brother. He was talking, or ranting as it seemed, about something. Her head was bowed, listening mutely. She wore armor he had never seen before; unusually dark leather that fit her perfectly. Her hair was back in the braid, twisted up and out of her way.
Somehow seeing this caused him to freeze.
Fenris had started forward, started to go to her, to talk with her but something in him stilled. He ducked into the alley when she looked in his direction, pausing before going into the Hanged Man.
What possessed him to hide?
All he had wanted to do all day was speak with her and now he had let the opportunity pass him by.
Growling, Fenris spun on his heel. Questions plagued his mind. How was he to explain? How could he ask forgiveness for his temper? What would he do if she did not forgive him? What would he do if she told him to leave?
Why did it matter what she thought? She was nothing to him. Even as he thought it, he knew it was a lie. How did this rogue have such a hold on him? He wanted desperately to go in just as much he wanted to flee. Part of him reasoned that he should, turn and leave Kirkwall, leave all this struggle, these unfamiliar feelings behind. He had survived well enough on his own before, he didn’t see why he couldn’t do it now.
“Venhedis,” he cursed.
He was no coward.
That thought alone pushed past the fear that was pulsing through him. Marching toward the Hanged Man, Fenris pulled open the door. She was holding a meeting for who would go to the Deep Roads; perhaps he could just slip in, show her that he wasn’t leaving, that he wasn’t going anywhere; perhaps that would be enough.
Climbing the stairs, Fenris stalled outside the door to Varric’s room; loud sounds of chatter wafted from within.
“I’m fine, Anders,” Hawke’s voice sounded closer to the door. Hints of irritation colored her tone. “It’s just a scrape,”
“It won’t take a minute,” the abomination tried to insist.
“So help me, if you come near me again, I will chop off your fingers and feed them to you!” she snapped causing a smile to creep across Fenris’ face. “Sit back down,”
Scrape? Fenris reared slightly. Hawke was injured?
“Where were we?” Hawke seemed flustered.
“You were asking if any of wanted to go to the Deep Roads.” The lilt of the Dalish witch’s brogue rang out.
“Thank you, Merrill. As I was saying, anyone who—Carver, shut your mouth, I already know you want to come.”
“Shouldn’t we be waiting for Broody before we decide?” Varric asked.
For a moment Hawke didn’t answer. Fenris took a step toward the door and then hesitated again.
“I don’t think he’ll be coming,” Hawke finally answered.
“He’s lucky he wasn’t arrested today,” Aveline barked.
“Arrested?” Hawke mirrored his own thoughts.
“I had no less than five reports of a wild elf with a greatsword tearing through Hightown, storming the Chantry, barreling through the Keep. I don’t know what his problem was, but he has got to learn to be more discreet.”
“Did something happen, sister?” Carver asked. “What makes you think he won’t come?”
“Nothing happened.” Hawke’s voice was emotionless.
Fenris took a step back. What happened didn’t even affect her? The idea of turning and leaving was flitting across his mind.
“Ooo, I see a blush.” Isabela cooed. “I think you’re lying,”
“Whether I am or not is none of your business. If we can just get back on—”
“Why would Hawke lie?” Merrill asked innocently.
“Well she did disappear for a few days,” He could picture Isabela wagging her eyebrows, implying all sorts of lurid things with simple gestures.
“Not everyone is you, whore.” Aveline bit. “Some people have perfectly legitimate things to get done, none of which requires a bed,”
“I know how to do plenty of things without a bed, I’ll have you know,” Isabela purred.
“And somehow they’re all the same, aren’t they? You bent over with a man above you,”
“At least I have men, man-hands.”
“A sovereign on Rivaini to win,” Varric’s voice could barely be heard over the two arguing women.
“No bet,” Anders responded.
“Hello! Does anyone—”
“I feel like I’m missing something,” Merrill said happily. “Is it dirty again?”
“Not when it comes to man-hands, kitten,” Isabela retorted.
Before he realized what he was doing, Fenris moved forward. Standing in the doorway, he stared at the antics in the room. The group of people Hawke called friends was gathered around the table.
Aveline and Isabela were on their feet, shouting across the table at each other. Varric was at the end of the table, leaning back in his chair amused with the abomination near him; conspiratorial whispers passing between them. Merrill was near Isabela, completely entertained by the show while Carver had forgone a seat and was leaning stoically against the wall, arms crossed.
Hawke was standing closest to the door, her back to him, shaking her head, still trying to reign the eclectic group in. “Does anyone care that we’re leaving the day after tomorrow?”
“Slattern!” Aveline growled.
“Ooo, man-hands has learned a new word, I’m all aquiver,”
“You,” the red-haired woman clenched her fists.
“Is this how you soften all your dates up or am I special?”
“Elf!” Varric boomed causing Fenris to jerk slightly, unprepared to have attention called to him. “Was wondering when you’d show,”
Fenris looked at Hawke, hoping for some sign of...what? Acknowledgement? He wasn’t sure what he was looking for. At Varric’s bellow, Hawke’s shoulders stiffened. She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye, not moving.
“Pull up a seat,” Varric waved his hand toward any of the empty chairs along the table, barely audible over the two women bickering. “This may take a while,”
Removing his greatsword so he could sit, Fenris felt his heart catch in his throat when Hawke finally faced him. Her face was drawn, pale even. His eyes darted to a white cloth on her arm. When could she have been hurt? Were there more injuries she was hiding?
“All right, that’s it!” Hawke grabbed one of the many smaller knives she carried and threw it on the table, embedding it in the space between Isabela and Aveline. The two women stopped and looked sharply at Hawke. “I’m in no mood to listen to the two of you argue, so let’s get this done and then you both can go and beat the crap out of each other for all I care,”
Aveline looked suitably embarrassed while Isabela pouted as though Payton had just taken away her favorite toy.
“Varric, how long did you say we would be gone again?”
“For a couple weeks at least, maybe longer.” The dwarf answered readily.
Hawke nodded, looking at each of the people in the room except Fenris. “Some of you have responsibilities that the rest of us don’t,” She gave a pointed glance at Aveline and Anders.
“If you need me, Hawke, you know I am there but,” Aveline wavered. “I hesitate to leave the city for so long. You can take care of yourself, the city, as it seems, cannot,”
An accepting smile was on Hawke’s face as she gave the woman a nod but Fenris could see it did not reach her eyes. “I understand, Aveline. Go,” she waved her hand at the woman. “Go play Guard and kick the bad guys’ assess for me while I’m gone,”
Aveline looked intently at the rogue. “See me before you leave?”
“What about the rest of you?” Hawke asked. “I won’t make any of you go if you really don’t want to. The trip will be long and fighting darkspawn is no picnic.”
“Can you have a picnic with darkspawn? Do they eat?” Merrill asked.
“What a fabulous plan,” Isabela clapped. “We’ll distract them with tasty food,”
“Maybe that’s why they attack all the time, they’re hungry.”
Fenris watched Hawke rub her head, the stress written clearly on her face. After several more minutes of hearing how Isabela and Merrill planned to feed the darkspawn, Hawke finally snapped.
“People, back on topic!” Hawke closed her eyes. “Anyone who wants to or thinks they can take the time to come along, stay and we’ll discuss the details. The rest of you,” She pointed to the door. “I’ve paid for a round of the good stuff with Corff; he knows you,” She waved her hand. “Go, fetch, enjoy. And Isabela don’t you dare try to convince him to put more on my tab,”
Isabela pouted. “Come on, kitten.” The pirate stood, tugging on Merrill’s arm. “I’ll teach you how to charm two pints for the price of one out of men.” Isabela dragged the Dalish elf out, winking at Fenris as she went, giving her hips a sultry sashay.
Aveline stood. “If you need me,” was all she said before sweeping out.
Anders looked sullen but stayed in his seat. “I don’t want to go,” he announced as though it was something to be proud of. “But,” the abomination looked at her. “I don’t want you in the Deep Roads without help.”
“Hey, she’ll have me.” Varric objected.
“And me,” Carver chimed.
“I don’t know who I’ll have,” Hawke quickly retorted, earning her a glare from her younger brother. “I appreciate the thought, Anders.”
The look the mage gave her made Fenris’ blood boil. Weeks alone underground with the abomination, he loathed the idea.
Her eyes drifted toward him, for the first time since he came in, she looked at him. Her eyes were guarded, her face emotionless. It was wrong, he decided, seeing nothing expressed there. The entire time he had known her, the woman’s thoughts and emotions could be read but now there was nothing.
Abruptly she turned. “I’ll inform you of my decision in the morning,”
“Sister,” Carver straightened, taking a step toward her.
“Carver, I’ll think about it.” Hawke’s voice sounded weary. “You know what it would do to mother if something happened to you down there.” Her head bowed. “She still hasn’t forgiven me for Bethany. How long do you think it would take her to forgive me if she lost you as well?”
“Longer if she let you go and you died without your trusty brother at your side,”
“You hate being at my side.” She retorted.
“I hate being in your shadow not at your side.” Carver stated. “Let me go if only to keep you safe.” A cheeky grin that mirrored the one his sister often had spread on his lips. “Besides, when have you ever done anything just to please mother. Don’t start now,”
“I’ll think about it,” was all she said. Yanking the knife she had thrown out of the middle of the table, Hawke slid it back into the sheath on her thigh. She gave a curt nod to the dwarf and turned toward the door. There was a slightest bit of hesitation; her blue eyes lingered on Fenris for a moment before she left.
Something in him ached at the look she had given him. Empty, guarded, it was wrong sitting on her face.
“How about that ale?” Varric asked turning to Anders. “Will Justice let you drink?”
Fenris stood abruptly, securing his greatsword to his back.
“How many times do I have to tell you, Justice doesn’t control me.” Anders complained.
Without a word, Fenris walked out of the room, barely aware of the eyes glued to his retreating form. He reached the bottom of the stairs, catching sight of Hawke just as she left the building. Part of him had hoped that just being there would show her, that somehow she would just know that he was sorry for his words; for his actions; only that hadn’t been the look on her face.
Dusk was settling on the district as he burst out the door. Fenris glanced down each of the three paths she could take. Would she have headed to Gamlen’s shack? Could she have gone to Hightown? The roof of the building at the docks that she had showed him?
His heart pounded in his chest. At random he picked a direction, hurrying down the path. Halfway toward the docks he heard the sound of battle. Mind flashing to the wounds he had already seen on Hawke he panicked. Barreling toward the noise, he drew his weapon.
Hawke was fighting a sword-for-hire, his longsword bearing down against her twin daggers. In a fluid movement she parried another man’s attack, backing up with her weapons blocking the two men’s swords.
“Still fighting, little bird?” cooed a man with a crooked nose.
She shot the man a grin that Fenris recognized immediately. Hawke threw herself forward, cartwheeling over the blades pointed at her. Swiftly she stabbed one of the men through the chest, ducking as the other attacked. In one fatal movement, he stumbled, allowing Payton’s dagger to gut him.
“GET HER!” Broken Nose shouted and five more men dropped from rooftops.
Throwing himself into the battle, Fenris slammed into one of the men who cornered her. With the ease they had learned over two weeks of battling together, they flowed. Her fast flurries, his brutal blows, they were a deadly combination.
Out of the corner of his eye he spotted Broken Nose start to run, realizing winning was impossible. In a spinning leap Hawke moved, the dagger from her thigh holster out and thrown before he could react. The man let out a gurgling sound, the knife impaled in his throat. Without pause, she attacked the next man. One by one the men dropped.
Just as the last men collapsed on the ground, his heart outside his chest, Hawke spun toward Fenris, her daggers posed up, readying for an attack. Then she froze, realizing the only live people in the alley were the two of them. Unmoving, she looked at him somewhere in the vicinity of his chest, breathing heavily.
It felt like eternity, her standing there, staring at him. Suddenly Payton moved, sliding the weapons into their holsters on her back. She walked over to the man who had seemed to lead the group, kneeling down. Her eyes lingered for a moment and then she shook her head, yanking her dagger out, wiping it on the man’s clothing before sliding it back into its sheath.
She straightened and took a step toward the way out of the alley but stopped, indecision hovering around her. Her head turned back ever so slightly as though to look at him but not finishing the movement.
He waited for her to speak, to face him, to leave, to do something but she didn’t. Stepping forward, Fenris acted. “Hawke,”
She didn’t move; her breaths audible.
“What I said,” Fenris hesitated. “Earlier,” he needlessly elaborated. “I acted out of anger,” the excuse sounded inadequate. “I said things I did not mean.”
The silence was more torturous than if she had yelled at him, ranted, even if she had attacked him. But she didn’t. She wouldn’t even look at him.
“I am sorry.”
Her head bowed.
“Hawke,” his heart ached as he took a step toward her.
Why this rogue mattered to him so much, Fenris did not know but the idea of her believing his thoughtless words of anger, the idea of her leaving for the Deep Roads thinking he wanted nothing to do with her.
The sound of her given name caused her to look back at him sharply. He saw the pain radiating in her eyes, the fear, the uncertainty. Had he been the cause of that? Had he put those emotions there? In the two weeks he had known her, Fenris had never seen her uncertain of anything; anger, confused, frustrated, even anxious but never this trepidation.
“I am sorry,” Fenris repeated taking another step toward her. “I took my anger out on you, undeservedly.”
She said nothing, only looked at him.
Fenris ducked his head, trying to hide from the truth. “I thought you were mocking me, planning to hurt me.” His words were almost too soft to be heard.
“By holding you while you slept?” her voice was emotionless as though she was saying nothing more than a simple fact.
He closed his eyes in shame. Hawke had never been vindictive; to assume her such had been unworthy of her. How could he explain why he reacted the way he did? How could he tell her that for a little while he thought her no different than the people who hurt him?
When he had learned she had invaded his privacy, seen him have nightmares Fenris had been ashamed, terrified that somehow she knew the contents; somehow she knew the duties that Danarius had him preform, the duties that haunted him. He had lashed out at her, fearful that she wanted to use him like that, to force him.
“I’m not him, Fenris.”
Her declaration caused the elf to jerk, looking into her vivid blue eyes that seemed to glow in the twilight.
“I’m not Danarius.”
“I will never take pleasure in someone’s pain. I will never use you or toy with you,” Each statement rang with truth and promise. “Your past, the pain, the people, I won’t pretend that I know or can even begin to comprehend it all. But don’t put me in that category, don’t put me with him.” Emotion was seeping back into her voice and her face. “I would never intentionally hurt you, Fenris.”
He bowed his head, unable to grasp why, beyond all reason, he believed her.
“When I stayed with you during the night it wasn’t because I was seeking to exploit you. It was because it calmed your sleep, it gave you a few moments of reprieve from the memories that dog your every move,” Payton vacillated. “I know in your life that you can’t remember a time when someone touched you without the intent to harm. Because of that I understand how threatening you found my actions,”
She understood. Tension began uncoiling in him. She understood.
“But the world isn’t black and white, Fenris.” Hawke said softly. “There is no easy way to distinguish good guys from bad; no simple formula.”
Fenris looked sideways at her.
“My father saved the lives of a school house once; twenty children rescued when a fire trapped them. Bethany trained with the medic and used her powers for healing; she saved a man his leg when he walked into a bear trap, a group of miners owe my sister their lives because she used magic to dig them out after a mine collapse. Anders has saved the lives of hundreds of refuges, hundreds of people who no one in this damned city seems to care about.” She paused. “All those lives saved, all the people they helped, all the difference they made, you condemn in your world without mages.”
His mind turned over her words.
“Mages have the ability to do great evil,” Her eyes dropped to the death around them. “But so do I,” Fenris followed her gaze. “So do any of us,” She shook her head. “Do not hold all mages responsible for the actions of some,”
His thoughts blazed for a moment. “It doesn’t take all mages, only the weak ones.” He spat. “The moment mages are left to govern themselves, they make themselves magisters.”
“My father didn’t.” she stated firmly. “Bethany didn’t.”
Fenris glowered, looking away from her.
“You can’t push people into categories and say that it works. All blood is red but not all red things are blood,” she challenged. “Normal people kill and hurt just as much as mages can.”
“Normal people do not attract demons that try to possess them,”
“And that makes it right to kill thousands of people? Because that’s what you said you wanted, mages to be wiped from existence.” Her biting retort caused him to still. “There are mages who go their whole lives without falling prey to a demon. Many of them, in fact,”
Fenris shifted uncomfortably.
“If you could, would you raise an army and march on the Circles? Root out every mage and apostate, try and remove magic from Thedas?” Hawke asked quietly.
He frowned, unwilling to admit the merit in the idea.
“You are aware that also means tracing lineages and insuring that no one who ever spawned a mage could produce a child again for chance it would have magic. Only there is no guarantee that would work as magic has popped up in families with no history of it before,” She said. “Magic is a part of the world, Fenris. Whether you count it a curse or a blessing, it’s as much a part of Thedas as elves or dwarves, humans or qunari.”
“What do you want me to say, Hawke?” Fenris asked painfully. He was stunned to see the glimmer of tears shining in her eyes.
“I want you to say that I wasn’t a mistake!” emotion burst out of her. She looked down, almost ashamed. Her voice dropped. “I want you to tell me that my father’s life meant something to you, even in an abstract way.”
He stared at her not understanding.
Swallowing hard, she met his eyes. “In your idea of a perfect world he would be dead and I never would have been born,”
Fenris felt something in him jolt. Did she really think he wished she had never been born?
Taking a step toward her, he started in a low voice. “I did not know your father, Hawke. I will never be able to judge what manner of mage he was,” He took another step toward her, tugging the red ribbon out. “But I know this; he was a man who fought for what he believed in and for what he wanted. He raised you to do the same. No matter my feelings toward magic, I could never regret that.”
She looked at the ribbon, recognizing it instantly. Her lips parted in surprise and she reached for it. When she started to pull it away, he stopped her, their fingers tangling, the red ribbon between them.
“Forgive me,” he implored staring intently at her.
Her breath caught at the contact, gaze frozen on their interlocked hands.
“Hawke.” Fenris whispered.
She didn’t move.
Her eyes shot to his face.
“Forgive me,” Fenris repeated.
Slowly she nodded. The relief that flooded him was nearly palpable. She forgave him. The words caused something in him to soar as though a heavy weight had been lifted. Warmth spread through him. It was strange; an overwhelming feeling of peace, serenity almost; as though the knowledge of her forgiveness had touched something deep inside him.
“I should go,” she said softly after a moment. “I have a trip to get ready for,”
Unintentionally, Fenris tightened his grip on her hand, preventing her from pulling away. “Hawke,” he hesitated. He was somewhat unsure why he stopped her, why he was unwilling to let her go.
Payton peered at him.
“My blade is yours should you require it,”
A smile blossomed on her face, lighting up her eyes. It was worth it, Fenris decided. The risks, the dangers, the problems; it was worth it. For that smile, it was worth anything.
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