A loud clap of thunder was what awoke him the next day. Groggily, Fenris opened his eyes, staring blearily at the window and the rain beating down on the glass. Would the damned rain ever stop? He wondered blinking the sleep out of his eyes.
Sitting up, Fenris stretched. Another day trapped in the blasted estate unless he dared go outside. Getting to his feet, he ambled to the cabinet in the corner where he stored what meager food supplies he had. He was running low on the food Varric had given him and had yet to buy more. Sorting through the items he snagged the remaining apple and a loaf of bread. Seems that buying food would be something he needed to do soon, by next week he’d be out.
Absently, he walked to where he hid his coins. After being on the run so long and stealing what food he need, the idea of purchasing it was surreal. He had only gotten halfway there when he heard a noise.
Fenris stiffed and put the food down, stealing over to his weapon, glancing at his armor near the fireplace. Something caught his eye causing him to momentarily forget the sound. Kneeling he picked up the blue piece of leather and turned it over in his palm, trying to remember where he had seen it before.
Memories from the previous night rushed back. Standing, leather and weapon still in hand, he left the room, giving the manor a hesitant once-over to insure there was no danger. The door to the room she was in was open a crack. Peeking through, Fenris saw that she was awake; righting the table she apparently knocked over.
Two blue eyes were suddenly on him. “Morning,” she called putting the things that had been on the table back.
He pushed open the door, taking her greeting as permission. Hawke was still clothed in the cloth ensemble, the white tunic now tucked into her pants rather than free like the night before. Her hair was cascading over her shoulders, the brown locks forming bouncing waves and loose curls. Fenris was surprised at how he wished she would wear her hair like that more often.
“Do you take that thing everywhere, or do just like showing your big sword off to me?”
Fenris felt his ears burn. If the pirate woman was there, she would have said such a thing because of the double meaning, purposefully trying to embarrass him but with Hawke he actually believed that the innuendo was accidental.
She was smiling as she laced her boots, insuring the pant leg was secure before tying them. “My head feels like crap,” Payton announced to him as though it was a good thing. “Do you have any water? That Orlesian wine left a funny taste in my mouth,”
Stepping aside, Hawke took the hint and went toward his room. Fenris leaned his weapon on the wall and pointed her toward the basin and pitcher he had filled the previous morning. He hated fetching the water from the pump outside so he had brought a barrel of it up as well.
Part of him realized he was staring, watching her splash water on her face, flipping her hair out of the way. She cupped her hands and sipped. When she finished she turned to him, her face somehow brighter.
“I’d say you’re unusually stoic this morning but I think this is the first time I’ve actually seen you in the morning,” she stated running her fingers through her hair. “Have you had breakfast?” A slow shake of his head was all she needed. “Do you want me to pick you up anything? I hadn’t gotten around to packing any food supplies in my bag and going out more than once in this weather sounds unpleasant,” As though to emphasize her point there was a crash of thunder loud enough to rattle the windows.
Fenris hesitated. He did not want her going out in this weather at all if only because the closest food store that would remain open at a cheap price was back in Lowtown. “I have food enough for the both of us for a few days.”
Hawke blinked, staring at him. At first, the nervous feeling he had turned into offense, thinking she was going to refuse because somehow his food wasn’t good enough for her but then he realized that she was wavering because she didn’t want to take advantage of him anymore than she already was.
“Here,” He broke the loaf of bread in half and handed her the larger piece. His hand hovered over the apple for a second, not sure if he wanted to give her one of the few pieces of food he could honestly say he liked. Deciding to buy twice as many apples as Varric had given him when he went for food, he handed her the red fruit.
She looked at the offerings and a soft smile bloomed on her face. Taking the food she straddled the bench, setting the bread down but keeping a hold of the apple. “I love apples,” Hawke confessed pulling a knife from the sheath hidden in her boot. “My father always said it was like eating a piece of the heavens,”
Sitting in his chair, Fenris watched as she cut the apple in half, not vertically like most but horizontally.
“A star,” she declared happily holding out one of the halves.
Confused, Fenris stared at her. “A star?” he repeated puzzled.
“Look,” she insisted. Leaning forward he glanced at the apple and then blinked in surprise; in the center of the apple where the seeds were sat a star. Payton put the piece in his hand and settle back on the bench. “I was five when my father first showed me that,” She bit into the other half, closing her eyes, obviously enjoying the crisp flavor.
“I have never seen an apple cut like this before,” Fenris mused before trying to give it back to her.
Shaking her head she gave him a smile that, if he was honest with himself, he was beginning to enjoy seeing. “Yours,” Hawke insisted. “I refuse to eat the heavens alone,”
Despite himself, Fenris chuckled. As she ate the apple, Fenris found himself watching her. With each bite her face seemed to take on a new expression, as though each piece really was a slice of heaven to her.
“You have no idea how much I’m enjoying this,” she professed. Silently he objected. “When running from the Blight we had very little to eat,”
Fenris looked at her questioningly.
“Carver and I had run been on the run for what felt like forever already,” The lighthearted look she had darkened for the briefest of seconds. “We had gotten separated on the battle field at Ostagar. Whatever Carver may say, I thank the Maker he stayed until we found each other; else I might still be there,” she reasoned. “I’d never have left without him,”
Hawke savored another bite. “By the time we got home to Lothering the darkspawn were less than a day away. We only had enough time to rest for the night before they attacked. Mother and Bethany a wagon prepared but when the darkspawn hit there was no time.” Shaking her head, she nibbled the apple. “At that point the only food beyond wild berries Carver and I had had was a loaf of bread and some stew when we stumbled home the night before,”
He remembered all too well the empty feeling in the pit of his stomach when he was on the run, scrounging along the road for food and having to make do with berries, leaves, and whatever game he could catch.
“You know about Flemeth, right?” she asked abruptly. Fenris nodded. “Not Varric’s version,” Payton countered. “But the real story,”
“She changed into a dragon and killed a mess of darkspawn and in exchange for getting you to Gwaren safely you delivered an amulet to the Dalish?” he ventured.
Carver had once spoken about it at the Hanged Man when he was pissed drunk. He had rambled about an ogre and the third Hawke sibling, laying blame at his feet, the darkspawn’s feet, but mostly heaping it onto Payton.
Hawke nodded. “Well, she basically fried any darkspawn we encountered but would disappear for days. We walked all the way there. The game had cleared away, frightened by the darkspawn.” Fenris watched her lick her fingers after she finished the apple, desperate to enjoy every last bit of it she could. “A large part of the berries and plant life was poisoned by dead darkspawn or burnt away. By luck we came across an overturned merchant’s cart filled with grain. It was rough and horrid but food nonetheless. Though, I swear, if I never eat grit again I’ll die a happy woman,”
“When we reached the docks at Gwaren we had to barter passage and were forced to eat moldy bread and gruel until we reached Kirkwall.” Breaking off a piece of the bread, she nibbled it. “If it wasn’t for the Red Iron we probably would still be living on that with how Gamlen gambles away his paycheck,” Her face darkened.
At the mention of her uncle’s name, Fenris tensed, recalling exactly why she had come to stay with him.
“Anyway, the first bit of money we could spare,” Hawke brightened again. “I bought us all the best meal I could. Carver and mother loved having fresh meat that night; first time in ages that we had something that wasn’t salted. I,” A dreamy smile was on her face. “I loved the apples,”
Fenris held out the apple she had given him. “You may have it if you wish,” part of him hoped she would take it just so he could watch the look on her face as she ate it.
Shaking her head, Hawke refused. “I wasn’t telling you because I wanted that piece back. I was just talking.” She gave him a cheeky grin. “I do that a lot,”
To be honest, Fenris was beginning to mind her rambling less and less; it was endearing in an odd sort of way. Her freedom to talk about whatever came to her mind was refreshing and often brought amusement at the paths her mind took.
A comfortable silence settled over the two of them as they ate. She finished before him and was playing with her hair and staring at the dying fire, a deeply pensive look on her face. Fenris couldn’t help but watch her, mesmerized at how her fingers ran through the hair, working out the knots with practiced ease.
Hawke then straightened looking at him. “Do you have my hair tie? I couldn’t find it with my things this morning. I used to lose them all the time, I thought I had gotten better but,” she shrugged.
Fenris spotted the item in question on the table where he must have dropped it after returning to the room. She smiled her thanks and picked it up. Her fingers flew through her hair, twisting strands over each other and soon a braid formed, snaking its way from the back center of her head down. Securing the end with the blue-dyed leather, she met his gaze.
“Do I pass inspection?” she teased.
His ears burned, realizing that once again he had been staring at her. Fenris was unsure what to do; he never had a guest stay before. Varric had come over a few times, mostly to drag him out to the Hanged Man and the dwarf rarely remained for more than a few minutes. Hawke had a habit of coming by and keeping him company for an hour or two and then leaving. Having her there longer seemed decidedly odd.
After several minutes of silence, Hawke stood. “I’ll get out of your hair,” she stated. “No need to interrupt whatever you have planned for today,” Thunder crashed outside, causing them both to look at the window which was getting pelted with water. “Thank you for breakfast,” Payton said with a smile. “And thanks again for letting me stay,”
Fenris watched her walk from the room. It felt strange knowing she was in the room next to him. The last time he had been in a house with another person was when he was still as slave. Living with the Fog Warriors they resided in tents and makeshift huts and until Kirkwall he had been constantly on the run. Most nights had been spent sleeping on a roof, in a tree, or wherever else he could find that was out of sight.
Standing, he went to his armor and began strapping it on. He was chagrin to realize that part of him wondered what Hawke would be up to. Fenris was becoming increasingly disturbed at how much of his thoughts were being consumed by the rogue next door.
Tossing a few of the scraps of wood Fenris had brought last night into the fireplace, Payton relit the embers, enticing a nice little flame to grow. The warm light bathed the room, brightening it ever so slightly.
Turning she searched for a candle to add more light. With both windows shining grey into the room due to the storm, she hoped to find another source of light.
In the corner near what probably used to be a bedside table she spotted an oil lamp, glass circling it. Edging around the shards, she picked it up, examining it carefully see if it was still useable. Pleased to find the only broken part was the chimney, she set it on the desk. Using a thick splinter from the ‘firewood’ Payton lit the lamp; smiling at the glow it gave the room.
Fishing her journal out from her pack, she settled at the desk. Before Gamlen had attacked her, she had been going over details for the Deep Roads. She hadn’t told anyone yet but with the money from yesterday’s job and the sale of the dragon parts she had raised the last of the funds she needed for the Deep Roads.
Turning to the page she had left off on, Payton picked up her graphite pencil. In one of the many talks she had had with Varric, the dwarf informed her that there was enough room for her to bring two people beside herself. When Carver heard that, he practically ordered her to take him while their mother loudly objected.
Leaning forward, readying to write, Payton froze. Her finger traced the mark that stretched across the page. She had been in the middle of writing when he had grabbed at her, causing the pencil to jerk, marking the paper with a jagged line.
Pressing her lips into tight lines, Hawke glared at it. She had thought he was joking around when he seized her arm. He had been angry when he found that she had moved the stash of spending money, trying to hide it from his greedy mitts; stormed off in a huff and she hadn’t seen him until when came home smelling of ale and vomit.
Giving her head a firm shake, she tried to focus. Deep Roads, Payton repeated. She needed a warrior, someone strong enough—her mind flashed to Gamlen pinning her under him, his surprisingly muscular form preventing her from escaping.
Damn it! Hawke closed her eyes and counted backwards from three. There were details she needed to get sorted out before telling Varric she had the money. Taking a deep breath in, she let it out slowly and turned back to the page.
A healer would be nice, she reasoned. Anders had made it clear that while he hated the Deep Roads, if she asked him to, he would go. Payton chewed on her lip. She didn’t want to make anyone do anything they didn’t want to. Unintentionally last night flew into her mind again. Shouts of no and how she almost begged him to get off her.
Anger and frustration burned in her stomach and she tossed her pencil down, closing her journal with a snap. How could she get any work done if all she could think about was her Blight-be-damned uncle!
Irritation boiled in her gut as she began to pace. Payton had known since meeting Gamlen that he was a second-class slime ball; his bright idea of getting them into the city, constantly nagging them that they lived under his roof and should put in more money to pay the bills, gambling away wealth that rightfully belonged to her mother, illegally giving the estate away to slavers, the fact he wasted half his paycheck at the Blooming Rose.
Despite all of that, she never thought he would attack her like he did. For over a year she had lived with the man. Payton wasn’t stupid, she had seen the times he stumbled home drunk leering at her.
It was one of the only times she ever was thankful Bethany was not there. However if Bethany had been, maybe Payton wouldn’t have ignored the looks like she did. Even she would admit she had always been far more protective of Bethany than herself; always on the alert for any danger that could harm her younger sister.
Payton turned sharply, storming toward her journal. Ripping the page with the mark out, she balled it up and threw it into the fire. She watched the edges of the paper blacken and smolder before the flames caught it. It wasn’t enough. Burning the page in an attempt to make the night before not happen wasn’t enough. She wanted to hit something.
Cursing to herself, she grabbed her leather jerkin. Pulling the white tunic top she was wearing off, Payton latched the armor as quickly as she could. Buckles and knots flew as she tugged on her gloves and bracers before sweeping her twin daggers up.
Walking out of the room she started toward the stairs and then stopped. Down in the main room was Fenris, dressed in his armor once again. He was in the center of the room, greatsword in hand, attacking air. For a moment Payton watched him, mesmerized by the fluidity of his movements.
Coming down the stairs, she couldn’t take her eyes off him. He moved with precision, each attack controlled but delivered with brutal force. Spinning around Fenris suddenly froze, looking very much like a deer caught by a hunter.
She offered him a tight smile. “Seems we had the same idea,” Payton watched his mossy eyes flicker to her daggers and then back to her face. “Would you like a better sparring partner or are you content with the invisible air enemy?”
His brow arched, lips turning up with the hint of amusement. “You think you can out match the,” he paused as though recalling her words. “Invisible air enemy?”
Drawing her daggers she came to a stop in front of him. “Afraid I’ll beat you?” Payton’s voice had more of an edge to it than she intended.
Fenris tilted his head slightly. “I won’t go easy on you,” he warned.
Payton grinned, satisfied at his response. “Good.” She rolled her wrist, gripping the daggers tightly. “Well?”
An instant later she was blocking his attack. Payton was still amazed at how fast he could move. Until she met him, she would have never thought to describe a warrior as agile. Yet here he was a contradiction in terms.
Strength was undoubtedly on his side, especially since they were not actually trying to harm each other. Payton leapt back, avoiding his blows trying to funnel her frustration into the sparring match. It was like an intoxicating dance as they moved around the room. A sequence of their blades clashing again and again echoed around them.
Gamlen’s face flashed in her mind causing her to misstep.
She began to lose ground. No longer attacking, her main object was to block and duck his onslaught. Her back found the wall when he swung to attack again. Locking her blades to an ‘X’ she trapped his, absorbing the brunt of his blow with a wince.
The sensation of being trapped gave her a moment’s pause, her mind jumping to the terror she had felt the night before when she tried to escape.
Enraged as though Fenris was the one who made her feel that way, she kicked out. He stumbled back, bringing his greatsword up just in time. His blade was now a shield, deflecting the flurry of blows directed at him.
Spinning in a move she loved, Payton slashed at him, altering the move so that she would not actually hit him. One of her daggers that would have hit his neck if she hadn’t changed direction was blocked by his sword while he had to simultaneously grab her wrist to prevent her other dagger from slicing along his abdomen.
With a burst of energy he drove her back, slamming her into the wall with determination. Her dagger slid down his blade to block. Payton couldn’t help but groan when he twisted the dagger from her other hand and threw it aside. Funneling as much strength as she could, she grasped her remaining dagger with both hands, trying to force him back.
Pushing harder against the locked blades, Fenris suddenly stopped. She could feel the cool razor smooth edge of her dagger teasing her neck ever so slightly. For a moment the two of them stared at each other, their breathing rapid.
“Do you yield?”
Blowing a strand of flyaway hair out of her face she huffed. “Yield,”
Fenris took a step back, releasing her. Raw frustration still turned in her, not because she lost, but because she still wanted something to hit. Stalking over to her other dagger, she picked it up and turned back to him.
“Again?” she requested.
He hesitated before giving a small nod.
Without warning Payton launched herself at him. Fueling each blow with as much force as she could muster, she was only vaguely aware at the look of surprise on his face. He backed up to accommodate her flurry, able only to block her because she was aiming at his sword rather than him.
How could he do that to her?
She blocked forceful blow from Fenris and jumped backwards.
The rotten bastard, how could he not realize he had attacked his own niece?
Whirling she lashed at Fenris, remembering to pull her attack in just time. There was little need to worry, he had seen her use that move on the battlefield often enough that he knew how to block it.
What sort of man was Gamlen to be so drunk that he laughed at the word ‘no’?
Raining attacks down, Payton was barely was aware Fenris was backing her into a corner again, using his greatsword more as a shield than an actual weapon against her barrage of swift attacks.
If she hadn’t reached her knife in time would he have actually done it?
Payton hit the wall with a thud, knocking the wind out of her. Blue eyes focused on the elf again. “Fuck,” she pushed way from the wall and moved to the center of the room. “Again,” the word came out as more of a plea than she had intended.
Fenris wordlessly restarted the battle, this time leading the attack with a swift blow she had to quickly dodge. Her daggers made a crisp clanging noise as she hit his blade, challenging him to attack again.
The damned bastard, she wanted to break every bone in his hand; one at a time.
Two steps forward, one step back, they danced around each other.
Gamlen Amell, how could she call that pig family any longer?
Her blows were getting sloppy and at one point Fenris would have hit her arm if he had not pulled at the last moment.
How dare he try to rape her!
With a surge of anger, Payton swung her dagger at him. He brought up his sword meeting her blade. In a split second she lost her grip, the dagger clattering to the ground away from them, her wrist aching with the exertion.
Using the distraction, he advanced on her again, swinging. Throwing herself to the side, she gasped when he managed to catch her other blade, forcing her to release it and leave her weaponless.
Letting out a string of curses that would make a sailor blush, she did something incredibly foolish: lunged at him. Her hand wrapped around his wrists, trying to pull the greatsword from his grasp. Startled, he reared backward. Tripping over tangled feet, he let out a grunt as the two of them hit the floor, his own weapon now out of reach.
Payton showered blows down, trying to punch him for all she was worth.
The stupid son of a bitch tried to rape her!
She caught him with a particularly hard punch across the jaw sending pain radiating up her hand. He growled, bucking under her causing her to fall forward. In one swift movement he flipped over and pinned her to the ground.
For a moment she fought wildly, trying to claw at him before stilling, his heated gaze catching her eyes. Incomprehension filled her. Gamlen had blue eyes not green. Breathing heavily reality slowly came back to her as she stared at the person holding her down.
Several strands of shock-white hair were sticking to his forehead. Two large mossy-green eyes stared unblinkingly at her. His lip was split she noticed abstractly. Blood was bubbling up through the wound.
Horror filled Payton as she realized what she had done. “Maker,” she whispered closing her eyes, shame replacing the anger. “Fenris, oh Maker I’m sorry,” How could she do that? Losing her head in battle was bad enough but while sparring with a friend—she could have seriously hurt him! Opening her eyes, she looked up at him. “I didn’t mean,” she fumbled. “Andraste’s ass,” She cursed.
How could she have done something so stupid? She squeezed her eyes shut, imaging how angry he must be. She was lucky Fenris didn’t rip her heart out for attacking him like that. He would never speak to her again. The idea of that in of itself saddened her more than she wanted to admit.
“Do you yield?”
Her eyes flew open. “What?”
Instead of judgment and condemnation in the eyes of the elf restraining her, she saw understanding. “Do you yield?” he repeated.
Nodding slowly, Payton watched the tension in him relax slightly as he released her wrists. Climbing off and pushing to his feet, Fenris offered his hand to her. Hesitantly she accepted, allowing him to haul her to her feet. She stumbled slightly, nearly falling into his chest when she stood.
“Again?” he stated, not breaking eye contact.
Her eyes flickered to the cut on his lip that she had caused and then back to his face. How could he ask if she wanted to spar again after she hurt him like that? After she let her anger take over?
Wordlessly he fetched the weapons, handing her daggers back to her and retaking his position in the center of the room. Payton stared at him. The barest hint of a smile was on his lips, encouraging her. Slowly she moved toward him, gripping her daggers tightly.
“Afraid I’ll beat you?” Her words from earlier came in his deep brogue, a touch of challenge in his tone.
A grateful smile crossed her face as she took her position across from him. Fenris gave the tiniest of nods, acknowledging her silent thanks.