It was becoming a common occurrence. Feeling rested, truly rested, had been something he had done without for ages. Now, two nights in a row even, Fenris awoke feeling as though he had slept peacefully. So often his nights had been wrought with nightmares, half lidded sleep, always alert for the chance he could be caught. Alcohol dulled the dreams but did little to stop them.
Gathering up the bottles he had fetched after Payton went to bed, he put them in the corner, not necessarily trying to hide them but he didn’t really want her knowing how much he drank. He completed his quick morning routine, pausing only once when a particularly loud clap of thunder sounded.
He could see that her door was open when he went to find her. Hovering in the doorway, not wanting to intrude, Fenris found her sitting at the desk that had remained as one of three pieces of furniture in the room. She was bent over a book of some kind only this one had blank pages that she was filling with her own writing.
A smile stole across his lips as he saw she had left most of her hair down. True to her word, she had gathered the strands that were most likely to get in her way and secured them back with the same clip she was using the day before. On closer inspection, Fenris realized that the clip was actually in the shape of a hawk swooping down toward prey.
Idly she glanced up and then let out a gasp, her hand going to her chest. “Fenris!” she exclaimed. “You startled me,”
“Unintended,” he said watching her smile. “I came to ask if you would like to join me for breakfast,”
“I’d love to,” She turned to the book she was writing in and moved a ribbon on the page, the edges of it sticking out beyond the end of the book. Shutting the book, Hawke stood and blew out the lamp that she had placed on the desk. “Shall we?”
Fenris stepped aside to let her pass. She entered his room ahead of him and immediately plopped down in what was quickly becoming her spot in front of the fireplace. Shaking his head, amused, he brought over the bread that Varric had given him the day before. There had been two more loafs in the bag he discovered.
Without thinking, he sat on the floor across from her, stilling when he saw a smile bloom across her face. He realized, a moment later, that she was smiling because he had joined her on the floor rather than sit on the chair away from her. Ducking his head, Fenris quickly broke the bread.
“Did you know you have food in the pantry?” she suddenly asked part way through her half of the bread.
Fenris paused and looked at her, bewildered. He vaguely remembered her saying something to that effect the yesterday. Finally he shook his head in answer to her question. He had barely looked in the pantry when he ‘moved’ in.
“It’s not much,” Hawke said between bites. “Enough for one or two meals at most,” She stalled looking rather embarrassed for a reason he couldn’t fathom. “I was wondering if I could make us supper tonight?”
Fenris stared at her. No, he couldn’t have heard that right. Did Hawke just ask if she could make dinner?
A flustered look appeared on her face. “Don’t get me wrong,” she began quickly. “Bread, meat, even the cheese the other day, it has been a wonderful change from the grub that I normally eat at Gamlen’s,”
Fenris found hints of amusement creep into him at how worried she was that she had offended him.
“It’s just,” Her words slowed. “The stuff I saw down there is enough for some stew,” a small smile danced across her face. “I even saw enough supplies to make the biscuits that mother taught me,”
“If you wish,” It made no matter to him if she used the items; he hadn’t even known there was anything down there beside the wine.
Payton beamed her thanks at him.
Bowing his head, Fenris tried to hide the half smile that was on his lips. Despite what she had told him before he was still having a hard time picturing her cooking. The image of her in the kitchen elbow deep in dough floated in his mind.
He had been to the kitchens in Danarius’ estate a handful of times and seen some of the food preparation. It wasn’t that he didn’t think she had to skill to create food; it was more that the only thing he had ever seen her excel at was fighting.
Fenris bit back a chuckle when the picture in his mind changed to her charging at the dough with her daggers. He didn’t really know what went into making a meal. The most he ever did while he was on the run, besides steal, was hunt and roast wild game.
Unwillingly his mind turned to the Fog Warriors. A small frown replaced his amusement. He had seen the stews they made. Giant cauldrons bubbling over the fire with things he had never seen before tossed in at random. It had been hearty, good even, but he had no idea how to replicate it.
Eating the last of his bread, Fenris glanced at Hawke. Two bites later she finished, brushing crumbs off. Getting to his feet, he went toward his sword, readying for another day. He paused as he strapped it onto his back, realizing she was staring at him.
“Do you really do the same thing every day?”
Payton had a barely hidden look of curiosity on her face. “Every day you spend practicing with your sword,” Her blue eyes flickered to the blade and then back to his face. “Don’t you ever get bored doing the same thing every day?”
Fenris shifted uncomfortably. It was an odd question to him. “What else would I do?” he finally asked.
She shrugged. “I don’t know,” the rogue admitted. “Knit, read,”
“Write,” she didn’t seem to notice. “Learn wood carving,” She cast a glancing look around the room. “Clean the damned place,”
“Find something you enjoy doing, not just something you’re good at,”
“Am I a servant to be forced to clean?” he growled. “But of course what other use do I have?” he mocked, the bitter hurt that she would suggest such a thing burning in him. “Do you think of me a slave, Hawke? That I should scurry about in the shadows to make this place habitable for the next mage or slaver that comes?” Fuming he glared at her only to realize she wasn’t glaring back.
A distinct look of surprise followed by hurt fluttered across her features before he watched a mask hide both emotions.
“I don’t think of you as a slave, Fenris.” Her words were quiet and ringing with truth.
Fenris stared at her. Everyone thought of him as a slave or servant. On his ‘travels’ he had frequently been treated like one whenever he entered a town or city. The looks people gave him, the distrust, the disgust, it was always there. Except in her, that stupid annoying voice that sounded like Varric poked him.
Hawke had never looked at him like that. She had never said veiled comments about where he ‘belonged’, never treated him with any less respect than she treated others—he knew that. More than once he had even seen her reply scathingly to anyone who dared refer to him as her servant when they traveled together.
Closing his eyes, Fenris felt the bitterness ebb away. Find something enjoyable to do, she said. The concept of doing something for the sake of doing it rather than because it was necessity was foreign. Slaves don’t have time for hobbies. Slaves don’t have time for anything but their duties.
He looked back at her. Maybe that was her point, he wondered. He was free but he still acted the slave. All he did was ready himself for the next mission, prepare himself for the next time hunters came, there had been nothing else for him.
“What,” the word came out before he could stop it. Hawke glanced at him. Knowing he now had to continue, Fenris swallowed hard. “What do you do?” She tilted her head to the side as she looked at him. “For fun?” he needlessly elaborated.
Payton licked her lips, an embarrassed blush teasing across her cheeks, drawing attention to the small smattering of freckles on her nose. “Draw,” she admitted softly. “I sketch,”
“Draw,” he repeated.
“I was never able to capture things with words, Bethany was good with that. She could write stories down like Varric,” She shook her head, lost in thought for a moment. “Instead, I draw them. Pictures of places, people, the things I see,”
Fenris saw a lightness enter her eyes as she thought about it. Even talking about drawing seemed to make her happy. It confused him. Doing something for the sake of happiness sounded like a wonderful concept but he didn’t understand.
“Would you,” she hesitated when his eyes bored into her. “Would you like to see some?” Hawke offered. “They aren’t great or anything but…”
Without meaning to, Fenris nodded. He watched her get to her feet and brush by him. Following silently to her room, she fetched a different book than she was working in before off the table. It was bound in leather and had a buckle to keep it shut. When she turned back to face him, book in hand, he saw a marked about of vulnerability in her face, as though she was nervous about showing him.
Payton handed it over to him. “Just promise me one thing,”
His eyes were on her again.
“Don’t tell Varric I draw.” She bit her lip. “If he or Isabela catches wind of it, my art will be littering Lowtown before the end of the night,”
Giving her a small nod, Fenris looked at the book in his hand, unsure exactly what to do. He had never thought to look at art. He, of course, knew it existed and had seen many paintings before, most of them in the Chantry or decorating rooms of importance in Danarius’ mansion. But art was just another, well, thing to him, it served no purpose.
“I’m just,” she motioned to the doorway, a marked blush on her face. “I’ll go start on the meal, it’ll take a while to make,” Like a scared deer, she skidded around him and he watched her disappear down the stairs.
Fenris looked back at the book. Finally he turned on his heel and went back to his room, removing his sword and gauntlets before sitting down in his chair.
The book’s leather was worn but seemed to hold. The covers were stiffened by a piece of wood wrapped in the brown animal skin. Unbuckling the book, he opened it and then rotated it to face the right direction.
A field with rolling hills and a stream stretched on the page. There was a figure in the distance near a tree, a dog leaping in the air toward a stick the person was holding. Though done in gray, the picture was vibrant. Details one never thinks about were captured. Somehow Hawke had captured a gentle breeze blowing the grass and leaves of the tree, a scattered few bugs, even the stream appeared to be moving.
The art felt alive.
A picture of Hawke’s mother smiling followed, then her mabari, Mutt he recalled the animal’s name, rolling on his back, tongue hanging out. Innocuous things were drawn, two people huddled by a fire, the back of youthful looking man swinging a sword, an image of the night sky causing the shadowed person in the drawing to look small.
It was only a handful of pages in when he noticed the art changing from scenery to primarily focusing on people. At first the people were simple, several pages devoted to multiple angles of a single person’s head with about three or more heads per page.
Fenris stopped when he came upon a picture with another person he recognized. Carver stood staring heatedly out. His face was more youthful and held less lines but it was him. What gave Fenris pause was that Hawke somehow managed to capture her younger brother perfectly in the eyes. The snarky attitude, almost daring the viewer to comment that he was lesser than his older sister shined clearly off the page.
Another drawing, this one of a girl he had seen in the art before—it occurred to him that she might be Bethany. Her face bore many features that were similar to Hawke’s mother. The girl was gazing with the same tiny head tilt he often saw Payton doing. Loose curls were depicted framing the girl’s wide-set face and she conveyed questions in her features.
Fenris didn’t know what to make of it as he continued going through the book. As much as Varric could capture a story in a few simple words, Hawke had managed to capture life; a fragment of time drawn onto a page.
Campsites with men dressed as soldiers, a group of people laughing, Fenris wondered if she was drawing Ostagar. He knew she had been there and even on the run he had heard of the way the darkspawn decimated the armies.
There was a picture of Carver leaping in the air with his sword, a ghoulish creature beneath him, the monster seconds away from dying. A man with a full beard and hair pulled into a ponytail; lines around his face, darker skin, his eyes held a heaviness mingled with determination, a Grey Warden insignia on what showed of his armor.
It was here Fenris noted the pages became dirty; the edges on a few ripped, spots looking like dried blood staining the parchment. The girl he was now certain was Bethany was drawn with a staff, looking fierce, a spell in her hand, hair fanning out as she attacked. Aveline appeared in the following piece, helping a man to his feet. A dragon swooping down on one page with the image of an old woman he assumed to be Flemeth on the other.
He stilled at the following page. It depicted pain. Bethany was in the arms of Leandra, limp. Leandra was weeping. Many of the pencil strokes were harsh, as though Hawke had dug too deeply on the page.
The next sketch she drew was of docks, large ships floating in the water, he could spot Carver, Leandra, and Aveline in the picture. Soon after Fenris started seeing places he recognized. The Gallows, Lowtown, the Hanged Man.
Fenris found himself amused as she began to draw her life in Kirkwall. Gamlen and his shack, her dog by Carver’s feet as the man slept.
He nearly laughed the first time he saw her draw Bartrand. In the upper corner above the realistic looking face was one far more childlike, crossed arms, sour look, dressed in a nappy and bonnet. Words were written tightly near it.
Varric was on the next page, a quick detailed image of Bianca in the corner. There were simple pictures, a fast sketch of a friend, and then elaborate ones, merry moments in the Hanged Man with Varric, Carver, and even Aveline. Isabela was drawn in a few places.
An image of the abomination in his clinic followed and, much to his chagrin, the mage’s face popped up frequently in her art, sometimes a close up of his face as though attempting to capture an emotion, other times of him attacking. More than a few showed the mage looking out with barely veiled desire, something Fenris had seen him direct at Hawke on more than one occasion. For reasons he could not understand, it annoyed him.
Flipping the page Fenris froze. His own face stared back at him. The image was of the first night they had met. His face was looking sideways, hand clawed as he turned to look at the viewer. His eyes were narrowed in fierce determination and he seemed to glare out from the page, issuing a challenge to anyone who looked.
As he continued, Fenris saw his face turning up more and more amidst ones of Varric and Carver. It was then he saw it. It was one of the sketch types that she seemed to frequent, a single person in the middle of the page (though there was some cramped writing in the top corner). At first, he did not recognize it was of him.
The lone figure was standing, his back straight, shoulders squared. His head was held high and wind seemed to be dancing in his hair. The corner of his mouth on the page were turned up in a defiant smile, eyes calm.
For what seemed like forever he stared at the page, unsure what he felt while looking at the man. The man she had sketched didn’t seem to be afraid that he had hunters chasing him, that a Tevinter magister wanted him back. He was strong, independent, free.
Was this how she saw him?
Stupid, stupid, stupid, Payton cursed herself as she kneaded the dough on the counter. What had she been thinking? That look on his face as she had been rambling, Maker, she never wanted to see him look at her like that again.
She hadn’t meant to offend him. It was just the idea of doing the same thing every day that nauseated her. It was one thing when the repetitive thing was a job, money had to be made but to do it simply because, she shook her head. How could she have suggested cleaning to him? She was certain it wasn’t one of his duties while…being slave, but the connotations were clear.
Payton punched the dough in front of her. He was upstairs now going through her sketching journal. No one had looked through it since Bethany died. Bethany had been the only one interested in her art; she often would sit for Payton and let her practice drawing people and emotions.
Blowing a strand of hair from her eye, she sprinkled a small amount of the remaining flour over the dough. Her cooking skills were not amazing, she knew, but she understood the mechanics of how to cook.
At Gamlen’s, her mother would stretch their food budget as much as possible, thickening the stew with whatever they managed to bring home. Once the work with the Red Iron was done and she had started going outside the city, she had started hunting. It wasn’t much, a few rabbits, a couple squirrels, once she had killed a fowl. The meat was nice, fresh, significantly better than the salted and dried meat they often consumed.
When rooting through the kitchen the day before, Payton had found meat in the ice box. It was unsalted and had only been kept fresh due to runes engraved in the box that held it. Twenty minutes it had taken her to sort through all the food, tossing the rotting and spoiled pieces away and setting the usable ones aside.
Stew was easy, she reasoned. Throw pretty much anything into stock and cook it and viola, a meal. Payton had briefly toyed with the idea of making trenchers; her family had cause to try it a few times when she was young. Some were simple bread bowls others intricate designs meant to hold soups and meals. But she had no idea how to make them other than with bread.
Thunder crashed loudly outside causing Payton to look toward the window. Would this storm ever break, she wondered. It wasn’t that she minded; to be honest the storm’s delay gave her more time to consider who she was bringing with her to the Deep Roads. Not that she had spent much time doing that the last two days. Any time she tried, she became distracted; or let herself be distracted as was yesterday’s case.
She sighed, thinking of the morning. Like the previous day, she had awoken before Fenris; whether it be grace or luck she was unsure. At some point during the night, Fenris had shifted and his head was in her lap. It had taken her nearly five minutes to get up without waking the elf.
Part of her knew she couldn’t keep doing it, sneaking into his room to comfort him simply did not result in a good night’s rest for her. Despite her days in the army where she learned to catch sleep where ever she could, slumbering while sitting was unpleasant.
Starting to hum, she tried and failed to ignore her whirling thoughts.
Her feelings for Fenris troubled her. It wasn’t that she objected to the idea. A small smile teased her lips as she pictured the raw passion that the elf might unveil if he cared to. His lips pressed against hers, hungry for—Maker, what was she doing? He was unobtainable, held himself at a distance from everyone; a bundle of sharp nerves and problems. The last thing he needed was her fantasizing about how much she wanted to kiss him.
A blush burned her cheeks. How had it gotten there already? She had gone from realizing she was falling for the lanky elf to daydreaming about his possible kissing prowess. She needed help.
It made sense, she supposed, on some level; her attraction to him. Since Fenris had walked into her life, aglow and bitter, he had consumed much of her thoughts. Of all her new friends, he was the only one who needed help but didn’t dare ask for it. Even when Anso had hired them and Fenris discovered that Danarius might still be in the city, he hadn’t asked for help, she volunteered.
So much of her thoughts seemed to be revolving around Fenris as of late. Without meaning to, Payton had managed to include him in almost every one of her group excursions. At first she had made the excuse she needed the extra blade, especially when Aveline was too busy to come and Carver was being a brat. Then she pretended she invited him along so that he would gain coin. But for the last week she went out of her way to get him to come with her, seeking his presence, even his sharp opinions.
He had become a constant in her life in the fortnight since he arrived; a figure in the background lending her support wherever she need it; even if all she needed was an ear to listen. Or a place to stay…
Sprinkling more flour, Payton frowned. Beyond Fenris, there were very few whom she felt openly comfortable with.
Sebastian got on her nerves in the exact opposite way that Isabela did. While Isabela was crass and made everything into sexual jokes (the blasted pirate was still trying to get Payton to sleep with her); Sebastian seemed nothing more than a little boy unaware that his actions have consequences. When she and Carver brought him word of the deaths he requested, he faltered; at first she was certain he was going to skip payment. Now he constantly rattled on about Chantry teachings; he was a hypocrite and didn’t seem to know who he was let alone what he wanted.
Anders, Payton punched the dough a little too hard. He frustrated her; everything was so dramatic with him; ugh. The moment he heard that Bethany and her father were mages he clamped down and at every turn was trying to get her to rally behind his cause. It wasn’t that she disagreed with the concept, Circles were not being used right her opinion and something needed to change; setting every mage in Thedas free seemed entirely too foolhardy. Mages were dangerous; her father had instilled that in her from day one. Of course it also didn’t help that Anders, despite saying that a ‘relationship with him was impossible’ or some such nonsense, looked at her with such puppy lust. Half the time she felt like he was undressing her with his eyes; it was uncomfortable.
Merrill made her uneasy, so innocent and yet dealing with such dangerous things, if not for Varric’s request, she would have either killed the elf or turned her to the Templars; blood magic was nothing to be screwing around with.
Varric, she smiled lightly. Varric she liked, his humor was a perfect mirror to her own. But the dwarf was always looking for a story, a new yarn to weave. More than once after she told him about some exploit of hers, she would hear it being retold in a much grander fashion. One of these days she would have to have a talk with the dwarf, killing a dozen darkspawn with her bare hands when they interrupted her bath, she had yet to get him back for that one.
Aveline had been her confidant until the woman joined the guards. It wasn’t that Aveline wasn’t her friend anymore; the red-haired warrior still remained a steadfast companion. Aveline was just busy. Her guard duties had been the start of it, then came the mysterious pouch, now she was in line to become Guard Captain. It was good for her, it made her happy and by default Payton was happy for her, but she missed the nights where she and Aveline would comb the streets talking and killing bandits. It still happened on occasion but mostly the woman just floated her the information and Payton would slaughter the fiends on her own.
Carver was her brother. That in of itself made talking to him difficult, especially when what she really wanted to do was smack the brat across the back of his head. Bethany used to be such a nice mediator, calming Payton down when she got annoyed and gently defusing Carver when he became pigheaded.
She hadn’t realized how much she missed just being able to talk to someone until Fenris joined their group. At first he was…Payton searched for the right word. Prickly, she settled on. Sharp, snide almost, but beneath his biting comments she recognized a carefully veiled intellect. While saying the first two jobs he came on had ended with them arguing might be an understatement, she had enjoyed the look of surprise on his face when she came by the following day to drag him out again.
His opinions were honest when given, no hidden agenda, no fishing for stories or nauseating innocence. When expressed, his thoughts were simple statements of facts. The only time he would ever outright try and change her opinion was when it came to mages.
It had been accidental, the first night she went into his house and shared a bottle of wine with him. She had walked him back to his estate because she had much on her mind and hadn’t wanted to return ‘home’ yet. When they arrived at the mansion she had inadvertently followed him in which led to an invitation to stay.
Shortly after it became a ritual that she looked forward to, way to unwind away from all the pressures others put on her. No one needed her to solve their problems when she was here. No one was rallying for her attention, no one sought her blade. Here she was simply Payton Hawke, a sarcastic rogue with a quirky personality. She enjoyed that.
Fenris was so undemanding; unobtrusive. He didn’t require her to carry on a conversation, they could and have sat in silence and it wasn’t awkward. He had a way of making her open up to him. She loved to see the smiles he saved just for her. Fenris was a friend and she could easily see how she had started to fancy him.
Fenris was soft underneath that hard shell. He was funny. Fenris was—her eyes widened comically. Fenris was in the doorway staring at her!
He stood there gazing at her, his eyes twinkling as though he found something amusing. Her sketching journal was in his hand and, while he was armored, he did not have his greatsword with him or his gauntlets she noticed.
“Fenris,” she greeted. Her eyes darted around the room, her hands frozen in the dough she was kneading. “Um, hi,”
“You have talent,” he said quietly and it took her a moment to realize he wasn’t talking about cooking.
“Thank you,” she blushed. For some reason his smile grew. “It’s just a hobby, really,” she tried to dismiss.
He walked into the room. “Hobby or not, you are quite good,”
Payton couldn’t help but beam under the praise. He was hesitating, that all too familiar look on his face. One of these days, she promised herself, he will ask questions freely without fear of reprimand.
“If I may,” Fenris opened the book to a page his finger was saving.
If anything her blush went deeper. The page was one of the many drawings of him. He tapped something that was in the upper corner that she quickly recognized as her own cramped writing; this must have been one of the pages she went back over and had a thought on.
“What does this say?”
Biting her lip, Payton squinted at the writing. It was smeared slightly and she could defiantly understand how he had a hard time reading it. “We let our souls show when we think no one is watching,” the words caused her to hold back a groan of embarrassment. She remembered going back and writing that. The sketch had been one of the first of Fenris that she had been truly satisfied with, happy she had finally captured the spirit she saw in him.
Fenris turned the book back to him, looking down at the page. For what felt like forever, he stared at it, his face bowed in such a way that she could not read it. When he looked up, she felt her heart flutter at the gentleness gazing at her.
“And this is how you see me?”
Payton blinked, eyes flickering to the page and then back. She didn’t see any difference between the man she drew on paper and the man in front of her. “Um, yes?” she answered hesitantly.
Once again he was studying the page.
“I hope it doesn’t offend you,” she said nervously. His eyes were on her again. “I draw all of my friends. I mean, if you really wanted me to I could try to stop but sometimes I will doodle and—”
“You have not offended me,” for the first time since she knew him, he interrupted her.
Fenris shook his head. “What you drew,” he began. “People have rarely see me as anything but a slave.” Payton started to object but he continued before she could. “Those that do often describe me as,” He frowned but his eyes were still light. “Brooding,” Fenris lifted the book. “This is not what they would see,”
“It’s what I see,” she admitted softly.
He looked at her silently, eyes roaming her face as though searching for some hidden lie. Payton bore the scrutiny; his looks were something she had gotten used to since befriending him. Going back to kneading the dough was the only thing she could think to do while he stared; determined not to look at him lest she loose herself in that intense gaze.
Was it a mistake showing him her art? She had only meant to encourage him to think beyond fighting, beyond surviving. When at Ostagar her art was one of the few things that kept her sane. Most of the men would spend the night getting drunk, singing songs, pretending there wasn’t a war that was about to be fought. She would sit with them, listening, laughing on occasion but mostly drawing. It had been her reprieve.
It hadn’t occurred to her that he might be uncomfortable with the idea she sketched him. In her defense she had pictures of all of her companions. Payton only hoped that he didn’t notice how many of the drawings he occupied toward the end.
“You have flour on your nose,” His deep brogue pulled her from her thoughts.
Hints of a smile sparkled in his eyes as he repeated himself. Embarrassment flooded her and she flung her hands up to her nose only to realize she now had spread dough on her face. She let out a little squeak, horrified.
With a mild chuckle, Fenris walked toward her. Payton froze as he hesitantly reached out and brushed the flour and dough off her face. She wasn’t certain, but his fingers might have lingered a little longer than necessary.
“Would you like some help?” He motioned. She looked down and then back up. He was offering to help her cook? “I know little of food preparation,”
Breaking off a chunk of the dough she scooted over on the counter. “Just imagine it’s someone you’re really, really mad at.”