To say the two of them were sore was an understatement. All day they had sparred, breaking only in the mid-afternoon for a quick but silent meal.
Fenris had recognized the look in her eye when they started the fight. He had only seen it once before when he joined her on a job. Hawke and Carver had an argument before heading off for the job and the younger stormed off but not before yelling at her that he hated her. She had thrown herself recklessly into the battles that day; fighting with a fierceness she usually did not have as though each enemy she killed would somehow erase Carver’s words.
When she asked to spar he noticed the same behavior. Her attacks became increasingly choppy, the look in her blue eyes distant. Fenris quickly understood she was not fighting him but the memory of whatever Gamlen had done.
Part of him envied her. If she wanted she could march to Lowtown and kill Gamlen without trouble and that would be that. His demons were not so easily killed. Danarius was still out of reach and until he could rip the life out of the magister, he was resigned to carry them.
Fenris looked toward Hawke, who was sprawled on the floor again, spread in front of the fireplace, seeking its warmth. Her hair was still braided; snaking out on the floor like it was trying to escape. He could see her brow furrowed as she stared at the ceiling, a dark look on her face; a bottle of wine more than half gone next to her.
When they sat down to dinner (bread, cheese, and preserved meat) she had avoided looking him in the eye. He could practically feel the shame and embarrassment radiating off her. She was mortified at how she acted. Halfway through the meal she broke into apologies, fear tainting her voice. Fenris accepted the regrets and told her she needn’t explain. She had remained silent for the rest of the meal.
It was unusual for her to be so quiet; Fenris thought nursing his own bottle of wine. He had grown used to her ramblings, her incessant questions, her amazing ability to draw him into conversation whether he wanted to talk or not. To have her silent like this felt unnatural.
Almost as though Hawke could hear his thought, she shifted. “Fenris,” she sat up and was looking at him with an unreadable expression. “Is it all right if I,” she hesitated looking down. “I mean, would you mind if I,” Her words seemed to get lost.
“As you once told me,” Fenris said softly. “You do not need my permission to speak,”
She wrapped her arms around her legs, reaching for the bottle and taking a long drink of the wine. “I’m so sorry about earlier,” Her blue eyes darted to where she had split his lip. A healing potion had taken care of most of their injuries but it hadn’t seemed to help assuage her guilt. “I didn’t mean to attack you like that,”
“There is nothing to forgive,” Fenris repeated, doubting if she would believe him now any more than she did the first few times he said it.
Hawke shook her head. “I just couldn’t get it out of my head,” she grimaced looking down. “What he did,” He watched her wrinkle her nose. “Or technically what he tried to do,” She took another sip from the bottle.
Fenris merely looked at her.
“Damned bastard blamed me for it too,” she growled darkly. “Told them I attacked him,”
Told who, he wondered but didn’t ask.
“You know what bothers me the most,” Payton looked at him suddenly. “They believed him. What kind of person do they think I am in order believe Gamlen’s bullshit story!” Her grip on the bottle neck tightened, her eyes dropping to his healed lip. “I guess I am a pretty terrible person.”
He stiffened; the thought was absurd. True she could be ruthless if given a proper reason but she saying she was a terrible person was a blatant falsehood. “Do not use the match between us today as a gauge, Hawke. You were not yourself,
“Wasn’t I?” she whispered bowing her head. “That’s all anyone ever wants me for these days, my ability to fight, the fact that I don’t stop until I get the job done.”
“If that were the case and you thought I was an enemy needing killing, you did a poor job,” Fenris retorted, half pleased to see the wry smile on her lips.
“I didn’t think you were an enemy,” Hawke said quietly. “I thought you were Gamlen,”
A sneer crossed his face. “I think I’d rather be an enemy,” He was rewarded with a soft laugh from her.
Payton took a drink from the bottle shaking her head. “Part of me still can’t believe he did it, he’s my uncle for Andraste’s sake,” She closed her eyes and he watched a myriad of emotions he didn’t know how to name play across her face. “I wish I could believe he just forgot he had come back to the shack, that somehow he thought he was at the Blooming Rose,” A grimace crossed her. “Though I’m not sure that makes it better,”
She took another long sip. “I should have been using the desk,” she reasoned away. “If I had been writing at the desk rather than on the bed maybe I would have gotten way before he tried anything,” Biting her lip she frowned. “Or at least I could have threatened him with my blasted daggers,”
Fenris could see tears glinting in her eyes as he listened.
“Damned man stumbled in drunk, sloshing and mumbling about money. I thought he was mad at me for hiding the general house fund again so he wouldn’t drink away our food money.” Snorting bitterly, Hawke took another drink. “I just ignored him, told him to sleep it off.” Her eyes stared off into nothing, lost to the memory in a way he knew all too well.
“Took it the wrong way, I guess.” She whispered. “He grabbed me and tried to push me down,” Payton shook her head as though the movement could deny what happened. “Luckily he pushed me right off the bed, unfortunately he fell down as well, right on top of me,” Letting out scoff she rubbed her head. “Maker, you wouldn’t think to look at him but that man has muscle like you wouldn’t believe. I always thought it was all blubber, with how much he drinks it seems like it should be,”
Fenris’ mind traitorously pointed out that Gamlen worked as a dock hand unloading cargo ships; the work in of itself would build strength. He had noticed the muscle definition on the man the first time they met but Fenris could understand the assumption Gamlen was weak. The man acted like a petulant child denied his favorite toy.
“Bastard wouldn’t get off, managed to smash my wrist into the bed post,” Her thumb ran over the fading bruise. “He wouldn’t listen,” Payton said between clenched teeth. “Kept muttering that I’d like it and I shouldn’t fight so hard,” She closed her eyes. “Tried force my,” Hawke hesitated, the word catching. “My legs open,”
Part of him wondered if fighting to break free was worse than being forced to hold perfectly still. He supposed the one difference between the two was with fighting there was a chance of escape.
“If I hadn’t hidden that knife under the bed frame,” Her voice shook. “I had gotten into the habit of that in the army, you never knew what the next attack might be, best be prepared,” Payton drank the rest of her bottle of wine. Wiping her mouth she continued. “I nearly took off his fingers,” the words were laced with bitter amusement. “It was enough to get him off of me. I remember standing there, staring at him, listening to his drunk ramblings.” She hugged her knees tighter to her chest. “Called me a stupid whore, threatened to make me pay,” A harsh smile spread on her lips. “I have to say breaking his nose was the most satisfying thing I think I’ve done since I cleared the slavers out of the Amell estate,”
Fenris longed to feel the same satisfaction.
“He howled,” she said amused. “Screamed like I actually did cut his fingers off,” Biting her lip, she stared into the flames. “Mother and Carver arrived home with Mutt a few minutes later. Gamlen was sitting at the table, shouting at me. When they came in,” She dug her fingernails into her arm. “When they came in Gamlen claimed I attacked him. Said I punched him and threatened him with my knife when he caught me trying to sneak away with the money for the Deep Roads trip, told Carver I said I was leaving him behind,”
Payton sighed. “Carver hit the roof, mother started crying. She said that I was heartless for trying to leave without saying goodbye, how could I do such a thing to Gamlen, how,” Her voice caught. “How could she have raised such a daughter?”
He could see the hurt on Hawke’s face when she recalled what Leandra had said.
“Carver just went on and on about how all I wanted was the glory for myself, how he wouldn’t be surprised if I was just going to run off with the money and leave them there penniless with Gamlen.” Payton swallowed hard. “Shouted that if I was so determined to leave, go, and he hoped a darkspawn guts me before I come back,”
Fenris raised his brow. He had seen Carver’s temper flare before but that was an awful thing to say, even when angry.
“I just,” Hawke let out a long sigh. “I had to get out of there,” She whispered. Closing her eyes she shook her head. “I couldn’t get it out my mind. How could he do that?”
Fenris was unsure if she meant Gamlen or Carver.
“Am I really such a horrible person that both my family members can easily believe that I’d run off without saying goodbye or refuse to take Carver along for some petty reason like glory?”
“You are not a horrible person, Hawke.” Fenris said firmly, his mind turning to the Fog Warriors and what he did to them. “If anything you’re the opposite,”
“I attacked you, Fenris.” Her blue eyes implored him with self-imposed guilt. “I could have killed you,”
Fenris let a small smile creep across his lips. “I doubt that,” Hawke stared at him, seemingly unable to comprehend where he found the humor. “You would have had to win first and I don’t believe you did,”
She started to object and then stopped. Finally a chuckle escaped her. “How do you do that?” Payton asked.
He smirked. “Skill, years of practice, fierce determination that no one who calls themselves a warrior should be bested by a rogue in close combat,”
Her light laughter seemed to brighten the room. “No,” Hawke smiled at him. “You always seem to make me laugh. How do you do that?”
“Skill, practice, and fierce determination,” Fenris paraphrased pleased when it earned him another laugh and a full smile.
“You’re incorrigible,” Amusement laced her words.
He watched her lay back down, folding her arms and using her hands as a pillow.
“I have to say, you’re better than Varric,” she stated idly.
Fenris’ brow furrowed in confusion.
“All it takes for you to get me to spill my guts is a good bottle of wine and just sitting there. If Varric was half as good at getting me to talk he’d probably have my whole life story plastered over Lowtown,” She huffed, blowing a piece of hair out of her face. “Blasted dwarf keeps trying to make me into a legend. I overheard him telling someone the other day that I apparently killed an ogre with my bare hands,”
Fenris chuckled. Even he knew by now to take the dwarf’s stories in stride knowing that somewhere in them there was a grain of truth but most of the story was padded with details that never happened.
A comfortable silence passed between them again as Fenris nursed the bottle in his hand. His mind kept turning back to Danarius and the memories her recounting stirred in him. Broodingly he glared at the fire, trying to drown out his thoughts; because of this it took him several minutes to realize Hawke was staring at him.
“What?” he asked, shifting under her gaze.
“I finished raising the money for the Deep Roads,” Payton started, chewing on her lower lip as she thought. “We’ll probably leave at the end of the week,”
He supposed it made sense; they only had a limited time after a Blight that the Deep Roads would have fewer darkspawn. Something tugged inside him at the thought of her in an underground maze with the cursed creatures.
“Varric says we’ll be gone a few weeks,” Her blue eyes bore into him. “Will you be all right?” He blinked, unsure what she meant. “I mean,” she gave a look around the room. “Danarius,” He clenched his fist at the name. “What if he comes for you? This is his mansion isn’t it? He has to know you’re here,”
Fenris looked at her, trying to understand the warm feeling spreading inside him knowing that she was concerned for him. “Would it surprise you to learn that it isn’t in fact his mansion?” Confusion blossomed on her expressive face. “It belongs to a Tevinter merchant who has evidently given up on the place,”
“But when we met,” she trailed off.
“I had received what I thought to be confirmed rumors that he was here, inspecting his holdings,” Fenris said darkly. “I have found no evidence that the merchant sold the property. Perhaps he is dead, perhaps Danarius killed him,” He looked at her. “Either way, if Danarius is aware of my presence, he has done nothing,”
“I’m not sure if that’s a good thing.” Hawke voiced.
“Neither am I,” Fenris found himself admitting. “Tell me,” he focused on her face. “What do you do when you stop running?”
She raised her eyebrows and then shrugged, offering a smile. “You start over. Make a new life,” The soft look on her face stirred something in him. “Isn’t that what you want?”
“I don’t know how,” Fenris bowed his head. “My first memory was receiving these markings,” He stared at the lines marring his skin, holding his hand out and turning it over in examination. “The lyrium being branded into my flesh, the agony wiped away everything,” Closing his hand into a fist, Fenris let his hand drop to his lap. “Whatever life I have before I became a slave,” he shook his head. “It’s lost,”
“You don’t know who you were?”
“Fenris was the name Danarius bestowed upon me, his ‘little wolf’,” Fenris spat, the emotions and memories churning in him. “If I once had another name or a life before, then it was taken from me,”
A terse silence passed.
“Do,” her voice was crisp and full of hesitation. He met her eyes. “Does hearing your, the name Fenris bother you?” He blinked. “Did you ever think to go by a different name? One that he didn’t give,”
He thought a moment, mulling her question over. “No,” Fenris finally decided. “It may or may not be my true name; odds are that I’ll never know for sure.” He shook his head. “Fenris is the only name I’ve ever known,”
“It’s a part of you,” He looked at her curiously, how she could understand such a thing. “No one really calls me Payton, not since Beth. Even father used to call me his little hawk; used to say it was an adept description, I swoop in and kill and fly away before getting caught. There are times I forget that I have a given name,” A flush spread over her cheeks. “I know it’s not the same,” she quickly said.
Fenris felt a rare smile spread on his lips; something she always seemed to have the ability to cause. Her rambles fell away and she gave him a sheepish grin.
Shifting, he watched her play with the end of her braid, the pensive look returning to her face. “I haven’t chosen who I’m bringing to the Deep Roads,” Hawke said quietly. “Being gone for weeks worries me,” Her blue eyes raised to meet his again. “Leaving people behind has never been my strong suit. Mother always complained that I have a habit of picking up strays,”
Sipping from the bottle, Fenris hid his amusement. Leandra was completely correct; he had witnessed himself how Hawke came to her friends aide, never saying no if they needed her help.
“Will you be safe?” she asked again. “If, if you don’t come with us to the Deep Roads you’ll be here in Kirkwall,” Hawke shook her head. “What if he comes for you?”
“Then he comes,” Fenris refused to acknowledge that he was nervous at the idea of running into Danarius alone.
Sighing heavily, Payton stood. “You’re as bad as Carver,” she complained. “That sounds exactly like something he’d say. I just,” She looked at him seriously. “I just worry.” Shaking her head again, she gave him a tight smile. “I’m going to head to bed,” Just like the night before she paused at the door frame. “Thank you,”
Looking back at him, she smiled. “Letting me stay, forgiving me,” her eyes flickered to where she had split his lip. “Listening to me ramble,” She met his gaze. “Believing me,” Giving a light shrug, she bowed her head. “Just thank you,”
Fenris watched her slip out, thoughts heavy. It had been years since he could count himself friends with anyone. Holding himself apart from the people he encountered had become a habit. Years of training engrained in him dictated many of his actions. Even now the things Danarius had instilled in him were instinctual.
Drinking the last of the bottle of wine, he stood. What would he do if Danarius came when Hawke was gone? Was he strong enough to confront his former master alone? What if he broke the way he did in Seheron? The thought chilled his blood.
Opening another bottle of wine, he half flung himself in the stuffed armchair he had just vacated. What if Danarius simply ordered him to give up the way the mage had ordered him to kill the Fog Warriors? Fenris flinched. Would he be able to resist the urge to give in? Could he stop the inevitable pull to obey?
A horrible thought flashed across his mind. What if Danarius came while Hawke was around and ordered Fenris to kill her? The wine tasted like ash in his mouth. She was a formidable woman but if he truly tried to kill her would she be unable to stop him. Fenris was more than reluctant to admit even to himself that the idea of attacking Hawke in earnest was nerve-wrecking. He had come to enjoy her company.
What ifs became the prevalent thought in his mind as he glowered at the fire. The idea of falling back into Danarius’ hands was terrifying. To be under his control again, a shiver ran down Fenris’ spine. Could Danarius wipe his memory the way that he had done before? Turn Fenris back into the obedient slave he had been, eager to please in every way possible.
He took another long sip of wine, praying to whatever god was out there that it would drown out his thoughts, his fears.
Cold had seeped into her, waking her from slumber. Opening two bleary eyes, Payton shivered. Why was she cold? Damned cold, how dare it wake her up. Grumbling, she shifted and then spotted her problem. The fire had gone out.
Sitting up, she looked to the pile of wood Fenris had brought to her room. Oh, she rubbed her eyes, brain slowly becoming more alert. She had meant to get more before retiring for the night but had forgotten. Wonderful.
Blowing a strand of hair out of her face, Payton scanned the room, searching for something she could burn. Unfortunately it seemed that Fenris had stripped most of the room already. The table, desk, and chair were the only pieces that remained.
Payton fell back on the mattress with a thump. She knew he kept a pile of ‘firewood’ in his room near the door. The bells from the Chantry chimed and she counted. Three bells, Lauds, three in the freaking morning, her mind grumbled. Fenris was certain to have gone to bed hours ago.
A shiver shuddered through her, causing her to pull her blanket tighter around her shoulders. What were her options? One, freeze the night away; immediately she dismissed it, there had to be a better choice. Two, break the table for firewood; that option came with the off chance it would cause Fenris to come bursting in thinking she was being attacked. Three, sneak into Fenris’ room and steal some wood as quietly as she could.
Choices, choices, she mocked herself, getting to her feet. She wasn’t sure if frightening him with the chance of an attack or sneaking into his room when he might be asleep would be worse; either way could end with disaster.
Leaving the blanket on the mattress, Payton tiptoed out the door, sliding into the hall as quietly as she could. Goosebumps ran down her arms; if anything the hallway was colder than her room. Rain pelted itself against the walls and windows giving her a symphony of soft noises to hide her footsteps in.
Fenris’ door was open a crack and she could see the orange gleam from his fire flickering. A loud clap of thunder exploded just as Payton touched his door, pushing it open. She jumped, nearly cursing aloud. Glaring up as though she could see the Maker and scold him, she shook her head. Stupid storm.
Warmth rushed to greet her when she entered the room causing her to shiver with the sudden temperature change. Her eyes darted about the shadows, looking for the elf. She could just make out Fenris’ form on the mattress at the other end of the room. Biting her lip, Payton snuck over to the pile of broken furniture pieces Fenris used as firewood. Reaching forward she carefully began to extract one piece at a time.
Thunder boomed loudly causing her to freeze, looking toward the bed with worry. Lightning lit up the sky, giving a flash of brilliant white light to the room. Her brow furrowed as she stared.
He was shaking; tossing and turning as though in the throes of a nightmare.
Against the voice of reason in her head, Payton set the wood she had gathered down and pushed to her feet. As though to enhance the tension she felt coiling in the pit of her stomach, the storm raged on; thunder rumbling, lighting flashing, wind howling.
Hawke bit her lip as she got closer. Empty bottles littered the floor near his bed causing her to glance toward the mantle. When she went to bed there had been six wine bottles there, waiting to be opened and shared; now there were only two. His chest plate and gauntlets were beside the bed and his greatsword right along the mattress, close enough that he could roll to his feet and grab it in one movement.
Wrapped in a blanket much like the one he had brought her, Fenris seemed unusually small. He had curled himself into a ball, his face tight in taunt lines. Every few seconds he would flinch and shrink into himself, shoulders hunching up. Her heart ached as she watched him. She could just hear a soft mumble coming from him, slurred words in Arcanum that sounded like begging.
Before she realized what she was doing, Payton knelt by the bed, reaching out to touch him. “Fenris,” she whispered his name.
He recoiled when her hand brushed his arm, not waking but clearly terrified.
Sitting back on her heels, her mind raced. She had never seen the elven warrior like this; she would reason none of them had. He had always kept himself apart from the others, always on guard, always watching as though he expected an attack. Maybe he was; the thought had never occurred to her. Maybe Fenris really was always waiting for an attack, waiting for the other boot to drop.
Payton had never thought much about what life would have been like for him as a slave. She knew abstractly through literature what it could be like but for some reason her mind had never connected the words and horrible stories she read to him. Fenris wasn’t a slave or an exslave in her mind; he was a warrior, a man, a friend.
Unthinkingly she lightly brushed the hair out of his face. Instead of cringing or waking, he unconsciously leaned into her touch. Payton’s heart hammered in her chest as she repeated the motion. His murmurs stilled at the simple comfort she was trying to offer.
She hesitated, glancing toward the firewood she had set aside and then to the door. Payton could easily sneak out and return to the room he let her have; most likely without Fenris ever the wiser that she had seen him. He was an intensely private person and had a habit of biting out cruel remarks when uncomfortable; a not-so-subtle way he kept everyone at a distance; and anyone seeing him vulnerable would be threatening to him.
Looking back at him, Hawke swallowed hard. His face twitched, brow furrowing and he drew back, lost in the nightmare. He had been there for her when she needed him, whether it was for sanctuary, battle, or simple listening; despite any reservations Fenris had, he had never turned her away.
Biting her lip, she moved slowly. Praying to the Maker he would not kill her on sight if he woke, Payton slid onto the mattress, sitting against the wall for support. Heart pounding, she lightly brushed her fingertips through his hair. He was stilling again. Payton repeated the action, tangling her fingers in the soft white locks.
Fenris leaned into her touch.
Memories stirred in her as she sat there, gently stroking his hair, running her fingers through the white strands. Her father had done this for her when she was young after a nightmare or to get her to go to sleep. He would sit much like she was now and instruct her to close her eyes. She would snuggle her head on his lap and obey, listening to him talk to her, sometimes he would sing, other times he would tell her wild adventure stories all the while lightly brushing his fingers through her hair until she fell asleep.
Closing her eyes, Payton leaned her head back against the wall. In the back of her mind she could hear her father’s voice, singing softly to her. A smile tugged on her lips as she lost herself in the song, remembering the peace and safety she had always felt when her father was around.
Sleep started settle on her as she nearly nodded off. Jerking, Payton blinked rapidly. How long had she been there? The fire in his hearth was still burning but seemed less bright than earlier. She stopped her ministrations, shifting to get up and leave. The murmurs were back before she had even managed to stand.
Looking back at Fenris, her heart went out to him. He had tensed again; his brow furrowing. His nightmare was returning.
Payton faltered, glancing toward the door and then back at him. It was a foolish decision, she knew but she couldn’t help it. She shifted back against the wall, running her fingers lightly through his hair again.
She knew if he woke there was more than a fair chance that he would be angry, quite possibly horrified at the idea she had seen him so ‘weak’; but she couldn’t bring herself to leave knowing he would fall back into whatever nightmare was plaguing him.
Leaning her head back against the wall, Payton shut her eyes listening to the sound of the rain. Part of her wondered how many times he had ever been comforted like this—or if he had ever been consoled like this. With no memory before his marking and no mention of family, she realized he might not have a single memory of someone caring for him If that was the case it was no wonder he was always so hostile with everyone.
Was the cruel hand of the magister the only one he knew? Her thoughts whirled around in her head. Running from hunters and a crazy magister was not exactly the best way to make friends. He had alluded to being on the run for so long he hardly knew how to sit still. In group settings he was often quiet, snappish at times but she occasionally saw that dark humor bubble out in witty retorts.
Other than the mages the only person she had seen him actively try to steer clear of was Isabela. The pirate had made it plain that she liked what she saw and had made a habit of trying bump into him with ‘accidental’ touches. Fenris had always reacted badly to them, growling threatening words or standing perfectly still, unsure what to do. Had anyone ever cared for him without wanting something in return? Payton looked down at his sleeping form. Did he even know the difference between a friendly touch and abuse?
Gradually a troubled sleep claimed her, her thoughts and worries about the man who was quickly becoming her closest friend turning like the tide in her mind.