Birds chirping for the first time in days woke him the next morning. Sun was peeking through the window casting shadows on the floor. Fenris shifted and then froze, heart pounding in his chest.
Someone was touching him.
There was a hand resting on his head near the nape of his neck.
In one fluid movement, Fenris acted. His tattoos burst into life as he clamped down on the person’s wrist, yanking them forward while simultaneously moving. Shoving the intruder to the floor with a thud, he straddled the person, pinning them down by the throat. He clawed his other hand, raising it, readying to plunge into the unsuspecting person’s chest.
Startled blue eyes stared back at him, hands tugging at the one wrapped around the throat.
Startled blue eyes that he knew.
“Fenris,” his name fell from her traitorous lips.
His glare made her silent. What was she doing? Here in his room? Touching him! Fenris’ thoughts became turbulent as he tried to slow his rage to understand. “What are you doing here, Hawke?” each word dripped from his voice with deadly venom.
She swallowed hard, her throat moving convulsively beneath the hand he had yet to move. “I can explain,” her hand tugged at his, trying to remove it from her neck.
Fenris glowered. He had trusted her. He had let her in; into his home, into his life! He had told her things he never shared with anyone!
“Fenris,” the pleading sound in her voice grated on him. “You’ve been having nightmares and I just wanted to help,”
“Help?” he snarled, unintentionally tightening his grip on her throat.
Hawke drew in a sharp breath, fear entering her face. “Fenris, please,”
He hovered for a moment, rage boiling within. With a growl, he let her go, getting to his feet and moving away. She shifted, sitting up, her hand to her throat, hair falling down her shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” she whispered.
“Sorry?” he snapped looking at her sharply. “It’s an easy thing to say afterwards, I’m sorry,” he mocked. “As though apologies right the wrongs committed,”
Frantically, he began to pace, trying to control the bitter anger he was feeling. How could she do this to him? “I let you in,” he snarled. I trusted you, his thoughts added silently. Gesturing madly toward the bed, Fenris looked at her. “And this is how you repay me?”
“It’s not what you think,”
“What do you know of what I think?” Fenris retorted. “What were you doing?”
“I was trying to help,”
“With what?” He ground out.
She ducked her head. “Your nightmares,”
His blood ran cold. “What?”
Two blue eyes shot to his face before dropping to the floor. “I didn’t mean to, it just,” she wrung her hands. “The first time I came in here because I needed firewood and I saw you having a nightmare. I tried to wake you but couldn’t. By accident I ran my fingers through your hair. My father used to do that for me when I had nightmares. It seemed to calm you,” The information flooded out from her. “You seemed to sleep easier, so I stayed. I didn’t mean, Maker, Fenris, please understand I didn’t,” She stalled, unable to continue.
Fenris clenched his hands as he processed all that she had said. “The first time?”
She bit her lip, closing her eyes and gave a small nod.
His markings flared. “How many?” Fenris ground out, watching her wince. “How many times have you been in here?”
“Last night was the third,”
Rage exploded in him. Third? Three nights she had done this! Letting out a string of curses in Arcanum, he whirled around, slamming his fist into the wall lest he hit her. Three nights she had snuck into his room and—what, watched him while he slept? Reveled in the fact he had nightmares? It did not make any sense to him.
What was she planning? What use was the knowledge of that he had nightmares without knowing the content? Was she planning on mocking him sometime in the future? Using his weakness against him like others before her?
How dare she! How dare she use him! How could he have let her? How could he have let someone get so close to see him vulnerable? How could he have not woken! How could he have trusted her? Her! Had he not learned that she was the product of a mage? Hadn’t he learned by now that nothing good came of magic!
Somehow she had tricked him. Somehow she had managed to convince him she cared. It reminded Fenris all too much of his early days with Danarius; how eager he had been to please the man. How the mage had convinced him that he cared for Fenris. Now he had fallen into the same trap. He believed he could trust her, he had wanted to trust her.
“Fenris,” her voice came from beside him.
Turning sharply, Fenris found himself face to face with her. A dark whisper entered his mind, taunting him, goading him to push his hand into her chest and crush her heart. Destroy the woman who had made him trust.
He scowled at her. “Please what?” his voice dripped with animosity. “Please let you explain how you enjoyed seeing me weak?” She started to object but he ignored her. “Please let you tell me how you planned to use me? How laughable you found gaining the trust of the runaway slave? Please give you a moment to try and excuse molesting me in my sleep?”
“It wasn’t like that,”
“Vishante kaffar,” he spat at her feet. “I should have known better. If there is one thing I’ve learned, magic spoils everything it touches.” Fenris clenched his fists. “Better mages be drowned at birth than allow them to pollute the world,”
A look he had never seen before crossed her face and she took a step back. “You would condemn innocents just to prevent the possibility that they might cause pain?”
“What do you know about pain?” He shouted at her.
“What would I know of pain?” she repeated softly. “I was six when I learned why we were always moving, always running. I was six when my father told me why Templars chased us and what could happen if he wasn’t careful. I was six when he explained that I might be a mage and the things that haunted my nightmares might be demons trying to use me.
“What could I possibly know of pain?” Her voice shook. “What of the pain of a child learning that if her father slipped she would have to kill him lest he kill her? Or the knowledge that one wrong move, one wrong choice, one misspoken plea on her beloved sister’s part and the child would have to slay her best friend?”
Hawke took another step back. “Of course in your world, my father would have been killed at birth or at the very least the moment he showed magic.” Her blue eyes leveled at him “I would have never been born,”
Fenris glared at her.
Slowly she shook her head, swallowing hard. “I didn’t come in here to hurt you, Fenris.”
He scoffed at her.
“I did it,” Hawke whispered. “Because you were hurting and you needed help,”
“I don’t need your help,” Fenris snarled heatedly. “I don’t need you,”
She stared at him with an unblinking gaze; the hurt written on her face was quickly tucked behind an unreadable mask. “What do you want me to say? Do you want me to grovel for forgiveness? Get down on bended knee genuflecting until you believe me?” A steely look entered her face. “I’m sorry I hurt you, Fenris. I’m sorry you feel like I used you.” She pursed her lips. “But I’m not sorry for what I did,”
The eerie blue glow of his tattoos flickered.
“I will never apologize for helping someone when they are hurting. Especially not someone I care about,”
Fenris flinched at the look on her face. No, his anger bubbled, no! He would not believe her lies! “Get out of here, Hawke.”
She bowed her head. Turning, the rogue headed for the door. Each step the dark voice goaded him. She used you; made you trust her. Do you think she won’t do it again? Do you think she won’t be waiting for a moment of weakness?
“And Hawke,” he growled. She stilled looking back at him. “Don’t bother coming back,”
Stumbling into the room he had lent her, Payton blindly went for her pack that was sitting on the chair. She had known better. Both journals were stuffed into the bag. She knew she shouldn’t have acted on impulse with Fenris. Rushing to the table, she cursed when it toppled to the floor with a thud, sending her things flying. She knew that he would misunderstand her actions and it would result in him raging at her just as he had.
Getting to her knees, she scrambled for her things. She had deceived herself. She had completely deluded herself into believing he would be all right; that he would explode but then somehow understand what she had done was not out of malice.
Cursing at the deck of cards now scattered, she gathered them as quickly as she could. The first tear that ran down her face hit the back of her hand. She stared at the water drop, horrified.
Blinking rapidly she stood. Forgoing her full armor, she fastened the vest on followed by the bracers and gloves. Her skirt and shoulder pads were awkwardly shoved into her bag. Forcing the flap to close, she stood.
What had she done?
Yanking her boots on it was a miracle she could lace them.
Her actions, the trust she had broken just cost her a friend. The pain that spread through her burned.
What had she done?
Securing her daggers, she picked up her pack. As though the Blight was chasing her again, she fled down the stairs and through the main room. Payton stalled in the foyer, hand hovering over the knob.
This was the part of the story where Varric would say Fenris came running, charging to stop her. If this was one of his stories, he would tell it that the elf would catch her just before she left, telling her he didn’t mean it.
But this wasn’t a story.
Turning the knob and walking out felt like getting punched in the gut. Sunlight poured down on the wet street, mocking her with the cheery morning. Her feet moved, taking her in a random direction.
How had it come to this?
Automatically she avoided the giant puddle at the bottom of the stairs leading toward Lowtown.
How had the simple act of comfort managed to screw everything up so badly?
Halfway down the path she turned toward the docks.
Fenris had trusted her. The man never trusted anyone and he had trusted her. And she…her steps slowed.
What had she done?
Biting her lip, she headed toward building at the farthest end of the docks, one of the few that stretched that far beyond the city. A little hide-away she had found shortly after moving to Kirkwall. The roof was accessible by a pile of crates that never moved and she had taken to sitting up there when she needed to think. She hadn’t been there since Fenris showed up.
“Well lookie here boys,” she would have walked into the owner of the voice if he hadn’t spoken. Looking up she clutched the strap of her pack tighter. “Seems we have a little bird out for a morning stroll,”
Out of the corner of her eye she noticed movement behind her. A quick cursory glance over her shoulder counted three. “Unless you want to end up with a bad case of dead, leave me alone,”
One of the men behind her whistled. “This little bird has spirit,”
“I like spirit,” another said in a sickening tone.
“If you cooperate, little bird,” the man in front of her cooed. “We promise not to hurt you too much,” He traced her cheek with hand that smelled of fish. “We’ll even leave that pretty face of yours alone,”
Spitting in his face, Payton grabbed the hand and brought it down hard over her knee, satisfied when she heard the sound of it breaking. Spinning, she flung her bag out, catching one of men who started rushing toward her when his friend screamed in the gut. She landed a punch on another before going for her daggers.
“Bloody bitch broke my hand!”
“I’ll break whole hell of a lot more than that,” she rolled her wrists, swinging the daggers in a menacing fashion. “Now are you going to let me by or are we going to have a problem?”
“GET HER!” the man holding his wrist demanded.
Two of them charged her. Swordsmen they were not, as one ran his side directly into her waiting blade. The other managed to dodge just in time. Wisely the third picked up a weapon, which happened to be a hunting knife. He swiped it at her, trying to catch her off guard.
Blocking it easily, she locked his arm in the extended position and sent his knife scattering. Slamming her head backwards, she felt it connect with his nose, forcing him to stagger away, hands cupping around the squirting blood.
Strong arms circled her from behind, locking her arms to her side. Fighting, she tried to turn her dagger around to pierce the man in the leg but the man whom she had stabbed took them from her.
“Let’s see how the bird fights without her weapons,” he jeered.
Payton huffed, squirming until she moved her hand behind her. Clamping down she heard the man who held her let out a squeak, his grip loosening. Keeping a hold of the man, she spun around, giving the flesh a vicious squeeze. She spotted movement in her peripheral vision. Moving just in time, the man with her daggers impaled the other.
He let out a cry when he realized what he had done. Dodging back, Payton looked at the men. Broken Wrist was on his feet, a hunk of wood in his good hand. Broken Nose was looking in open horror at their dead friend. The man with her daggers had murder in his eye.
Letting out a war cry, the man who had her daggers lunged at her, swinging madly. She threw herself to the side, skidding on the floor out of his reach. Using the momentum, she threw her weight, springing to her feet in one fluid movement.
Broken Wrist was attacking now, using the wood like a bat. Ducking under the swing she stuck her foot out, causing him to trip and crash to the ground.
The man with her dagger caught her from behind, one of the blade slicing a thin cut along her arm before she could dart away. Use her daggers to injure her? At his next attack she sidestepped the blades, grabbing his wrists and giving him a good shove. Unbalanced, the man teetered and collapsed, his hold on her weapons releasing automatically.
Spinning in a circle, hair fanning out around her, she gutted Broken Wrist as he came at her again. A look of surprise filtered across his face before the life left him. Turning sharply toward the remaining two she glared at them.
“Neither of you need to die today, make a choice, now.” She demanded.
Stab Wound backed up and then ran. The man with the broken nose looked at her and then to his two dead friends. “You’re crazy,” he whispered. “You crazy bitch. You killed them,”
“And you with them if you don’t leave, now!” her eyes blazed.
He scrambled to his feet and fled, still muttering about how she had killed them. Looking down at the dead bodies she nudged the one she hadn’t killed with her foot. The man appeared to be stabbed through the heart.
Shrugging, Payton picked up her pack and continued to her destination. Death hardly bothered her anymore; it wasn’t that she was a sociopath or anything, but when someone asks for it like those men, she didn’t bother feeling sorry.
Hoisting herself onto the crates, she scaled the wall onto the roof. Kirkwall stretched behind her, the imposing city filled with problems. In front of her was the Wounded Coast, the soft call of gulls, the sound of waves crashing.
Dropping her pack to the ground at her feet, Payton closed her eyes and took in a deep breath. Salt water mingled in the air, tangling with the smell of the rain. It wasn’t like Ferelden. Ferelden smelled of earth, of rain, even of dog. But this was the closest she could get without traveling up Sundermount.
Perching on a crate she had dragged to her spot a year ago, she pulled her knees to her chest, wincing when she touched the new cut on her arm. Those men should never have gotten that close to her; if she had been paying attention she would have spotted them and simply dodged them or waited until they left. She knew at least three different routes to this spot and she could have backtracked and took any of them.
This was just turning out to be a fantastic day and it wasn’t even noon yet. In the short space of time since the sun rose she had angered a friend, quite possibly lost that same friend, had her heart feel like it had been shattered, been attacked and killed two people. Oh yes, she could scarcely wait to see what would come next.
Swallowing hard, she rested her chin on her knees. Had she lost a friend? Was Fenris out of her life forever now? He had defiantly sounded resolute.
Payton closed her eyes, Fenris’ face popping into her mind. How cold, how angry he looked when he told her not to bother coming back… She never wanted to see that look on anyone’s face ever again.
She had known; she had known he would react badly if he ever caught her. He was proud and she had known that. He saw having nightmares as weak; something a person could exploit. He believed that was the reason she had stayed with him each night; that she wanted to use his restless nights as leverage in some twisted way.
All she had wanted to do was help him; give him a reprieve from all the pain he had experience; all the hate that hounded his steps.
Now he was leaving.
Her eyes flew open, a sick feeling spreading in the pit of her stomach. Was he leaving? He had only told her to go. Even as she tried to hope he would stay, she knew he wouldn’t. He had a very strong fight or flight instinct and after what was said, he would lean toward flight. There was nothing for him in Kirkwall any longer.
The very admission made her heart ache.
On the first visit she had made to him after helping him clear the estate, he had said to her that he could see himself staying in Kirkwall for the right reason; that perhaps making a stand with allies would be better than running. He had looked at her with those eyes, his lips turned into that witty half smile of his; teasing her.
Had she sent him running? Had her attempts to make his life better in fact made it worse? He had survived this long without anyone, could he continue? Would driving him from Kirkwall or simply separating him from the protection numbers brought be his undoing? Would Danarius swoop in and recapture him?
Payton shivered. All she had wanted was to make his life easier; her feelings for him aside, she wished he understood that. She wished he understood that she wasn’t like the people he met before; she didn’t want anything in return beyond friendship.
Slowly getting to her feet, Payton slid her pack onto her shoulder. Nothing she did now would change the facts. Fenris wanted nothing to do with her.
Burying her pain behind a mask, she set out toward Lowtown. She had a trip to the Deep Roads to plan.