With the trouble brewing in the city and the riots about the Qunari poison, logic told Aveline that she should have simply sent Hawke a letter; a personal visit was a waste of time when all she needed was to see if the woman would hunt some bandits. Maybe she was just procrastinating, the redheaded Guard-Captain admitted silently; or maybe she was simply longing for the old days when there wasn't quite so much paper work.
Marching down the stairs and into the basement of the Amell estate, Aveline went over the roster for the night's guard shifts again in her mind. One of the night watchman had a baby early that morning and requested to remain home with his wife; she would have to find a replacement. Maybe Brennan would be willing to take it.
Distracted as she was, Aveline nearly walked straight into a sheer-violet shield that blocked the doorway directly adjacent to the foot of the stairs. Startled, her hand immediately stole back and rested on the hilt of her blade, ready if there was danger. Before she had a chance to examine the wall of magic blocking her path a yip of greeting came from her left.
"Shepard." Aveline greeted the bouncing mabari. The dog nudged her hand. "I've no mutton for you, boy." She said when he whined. "Where's your mistress?" Intelligently the large dog looked to the shield.
Within the center of the room that the shield had blocked off was Hawke, standing in front of a training dummy. Her left hand was flexing around the hilt of her sword as though trying to get a feel for the blade. The woman's raven-black hair was pulled away from her face and hung down her back in a loose braid but something looked odd about and Aveline couldn't quite put her finger on what.
The mage was staring straight ahead, taking in deep breaths, exhaling slowly. In a split second, Hawke launched herself forward, a blaze of ice cascading down her weapon as she moved. The moment she left the stone in the center of the room, Aveline could see it light with an eerie green glow, shooting lines out toward platforms that were engraved with various markings.
All at once the room became alive with movement; mannequins running on a track and actually firing randomly at Jaya, a feat the Guard-Captain knew had to be attributed to Sandal for there was no one else who could have possibly enchanted such an obstacle course.
Hawke's form was flawless as she moved about the room, parrying here, stabbing a second 'attacker' who leapt (or swung as was the actual case) from the rafters. Spinning, fire flying off her free hand across the room at a third mannequin while her blade sliced into the first; everything was like a fluid dance. Each hit caused the training dummies to glow a light purple as though a shield had been cast around them, a rune on their stomach burning brighter.
Aveline watched in amazement, wondering if she should have asked for Hawke's help designing the training course for her own men. It wasn't until she saw Hawke get hit with a volley of fire erupting when the mage's footing hit another glowing stone on the floor that Aveline realized that Hawke was using her off hand to attack. The mage had automatically started to cast a shield against the flames but had moved the wrong hand, causing her to get thrown back.
"Hawke!" Aveline instinctively shouted, concerned that the woman might have just burned herself badly. As though an answer to her call, the movement in the room stilled, the fire spout stopped and the mannequins seemed to freeze.
Hawke was in the corner of the room where the fire had pushed her, her hand pressing a glowing blue stone on the wall. Jaya stared at Aveline for a few seconds before the violet shield preventing the Guard-Captain's entrance into the room came down. Calmly the woman walked toward Aveline, seemingly oblivious to the burn on her shoulder or the concern on Aveline's face.
Jaya brushed past her, heading toward a bench that was pressed into a small alcove under the stairs where a canteen, scabbard, and towel sat seemingly waiting for their owner. Sheathing her blade, Hawke picked up the towel, pressing it to the burn on her shoulder.
At a loss for words, Aveline took a step forward; noticing several other things about the room. The first was a small pile of obliterated mannequins, shoved off to one side, scorched, frosted, or shattered. Whether they were all from that day or simply an accumulation, Aveline didn't know but either way, with the schedule Hawke frequently kept, the Guard-Captain had to wonder if Jaya did anything besides train and run around the city.
The second was how exhausted Hawke looked. As the mage healed her shoulder with an elfroot potion, Aveline could see that the woman's face was far paler than she remembered Hawke being, the scar across her nose somehow standing out all the more prominent. Dark circles rimmed Jaya's eyes and the normally vibrant blue was dull.
"When you said you had turned your cellar into a training room I hadn't thought it would be quite this elaborate." Aveline was at a loss of what to say, all thoughts of why she was actually there fleeing as she studied Hawke.
Satisfied that the wound was healed, Jaya tossed the towel aside, rotating the shoulder as though to test the raw looking skin. "What do you need?" was the only response Aveline got.
Aveline frowned but dismissed any concerns she might have felt. Hawke was always abrupt and to the point, even more so than Aveline herself. The only person Aveline could ever remember Jaya actually talking with about something other than fighting or the job at hand was Fenris. Now that she remembered, she needed to pay that elf a visit.
"Some bandits attacked a few caravans coming into the city." She replied before she became too distracted by her ever growing list of things that needed her attention.
Nodding, Jaya rose to her feet, picking up her sword. "I'll take care of it."
She followed Hawke out of the cellar, careful not to trip over the dog who tried to beat the two women into the estate. "It can wait a day or so if you had plans." Aveline stated, surprised that Hawke was shrugging into the heavier version of her armor, clearly intending to head out immediately. "We aren't due for another merchant train to enter the city until the end of the week."
Jaya barely winced when she attached her pauldron on her recently injured shoulder. "Any specific location or simply along the road into the city?"
"Main road into the city, closer to the Wounded Coast than inland." Aveline answered. "I'd suggest that a warrior in the group would not go amiss." At Jaya's inquisitive look she elaborated. "Accounts are shaky at best but we were told when they hit, they hit hard; swarming from all sides, coordinated."
Hawke slid a small dagger into her boot. "You, Isabela, and Varric then?" One was better at subterfuge, the other at damage; both were assets in strategized attacks.
Aveline stalled. Could she take the time to join Hawke? It had been almost a year since she had managed it; perhaps the last time was when they had hunted the man who murdered Leandra. But there was so much she needed to do; the roster, the riots, she had a mountain of paper work that needed to be done, and Seneschal Bran had been bothering her to spend money on ceremonial army.
Sensing Hawke was still waiting for answer, Aveline felt a burst of impulse fill her. Maybe a break was just what she needed, a bit of nostalgia of the days when she and Hawke would fight side by side, dealing with idiots the only way they seemed to listen. "Very well." She agreed.
Taking her weapon, Jaya headed for the door. "Shall we?"
Varric eyed the stiff gait of their fearless leader, noting not for the first time since Hawke had come to the Hanged Man to fetch him and Isabela for a job that something was off about her and he couldn't quite put his finger on what. The determined stride and to the point attitude seemed the same and the mage's foolish habit of taking the lead still hadn't changed. Maybe it was the new armor that made her seem different.
"Psst," Isabela nudged him. "I've got some of it written down now."
He raised his brows, wiggling his fingers in her direction. "Give it here." He demanded with a grin.
The pirate smirked at the Guard-Captain's back. Isabela pulled several small folded pages from her shirt, passing the skin-warmed papers over, winking at the dwarf suggestively. Biting back a laugh, Varric smoothed the paper, skimming the writing.
"'Her breasts strained against the leather jerkin like two wild stallions corralled against their will.'" He read aloud, chuckling at the imagery.
"Sshh." Isabela giggled.
Varric simply grinned, continuing. "'She pounced—the smooth moves of a jungle cat—and locked her thighs around Donnic's waist. He—'"
Aveline suddenly stopped, whirling around to face them. "What?!"
"Nothing." Isabela said quickly stepping in front of Varric so he had time to stash the papers out of sight.
"What is that?" Aveline was not fooled.
Not one to miss a possibly dramatic moment, Varric immediately supplied: "Isabela just thought she'd celebrate your love affair with a…written dedication."
"It's 'friend-fiction'!" Isabela announced. "I do it out of love."
Aveline groaned, rubbing her head as though she had a sudden headache. "I will never, ever be clean again."
Ahead of them Hawke abruptly stalled. Her head was tilted to the side, listening. Just as Varric was about to speak, her hand threw out, magic sparking from her fingertips. A shield flickered into view seconds before something hit it and exploded. Despite the protection, the shockwave sent them staggering back slightly.
"Well, well, well," a bandit appeared from the hill above them. All four of them had their weapons drawn in less than a second. "Who knew we warranted the attention of the Guard-Captain herself."
Varric discretely aimed Bianca when another appeared, crouched on a rock and leering at Aveline. "Come to put a stop to us, slap us on the hands and scold us for our naughty, naughty ways?"
"Behind us." Isabela muttered.
The dwarf became aware that Aveline hadn't been exaggerating; the bandits really did swarm out of nowhere. Varric was immensely glad that Hawke had not lowered the sheer-violet shield that protected the four of them yet.
"I have to wonder," one of the men behind them shouted. "Does Knight-Commander Meredith know of this mage you're with?"
Jaya's grip on her sword tightened but she gave no other hint of the man's words affecting her.
"I bet we'll get a pretty price for turning in an apostate." One of the only female bandits said nonchalantly. Her eyes narrowed at Aveline. "Or a better one for informing that the Guard-Captain isn't as clean as she pretends to be."
"Why is it no one ever seems happy to see us?" Varric bemoaned sarcastically with a shake of his head.
"This can be easy or this can be deadly." Hawke stated, eyes shifting from person to person as she formed a plan. "Submit to justice or meet the Maker. Your choice."
The bandit leader sneered at her. "There's four of you and fifteen of me, your odds are not so great, mage." The leader motioned to the group that had circled them.
"I've had worse." She said dismissively. "So what's it going to be?"
Varric spotted a movement in the brush near Isabela, the sunlight glinting off of a dagger. Releasing a bolt before the man could attack, Varric was once again grateful for Hawke's amazing reflexes.
The shield disappeared just as he fired, instinctively reacting at the sound of his crossbow fire. Hawke thrust her free hand forward and an ice spike shot up, knocking the hidden bandit from the brush and directly into the path of the arrow. Gurgling the man went down, arrow protruding from his neck. Without a seconds' pause, she swung her sword around, decapitating the man closest to her.
"Kill them all!" the bandit leader exclaimed.
The bandits swarmed them, more appearing from the hillside.
Aveline smashed her shield into a group of three, knocking them back so that Varric could clear a couple that had surrounded him. Isabela disappeared into a puff of smoke, darting through the shadows she made to kill from behind. Hawke funneled magic through her sword, parrying and slicing the bandits that dared come close enough to attack her.
"Oo, clumsy!" Isabela shouted as one of the bandits stumbled allowing her to kill him.
"From stealth! Look behind you Hawke!" Aveline grunted blocking two bandits.
Jaya spun, barely missing being stabbed in the back. Instead the blade sliced through the air and caught on her braid, cleanly cutting it off. A blast of energy sent him and two others flying. Varric was thankful not for the first time that she was on his side. Conjuring a ball of fire in her palm, she heaved it toward the hill that housed three more archers. The sound of them screaming drowned the battle field.
Numbers thinned until only three remained. Recklessly, Hawke charged forward, startling Aveline who had been about to do the same. The clang of Hawke's weapon reverberated about the field. A crushing prison had enveloped an enemy mage and she was fighting the other two without pausing.
Varric fired Bianca. His heart jumped into his throat when he saw Hawke fly across the path, her blade impaling one of them. The arrow imbedded itself into her arm. Hawke didn't even grimace as she broke the arrow off and immediately attacked another bandit in one fluid movement. Without stopping, she dropped the spell and shoved her sword backward into the enemy mage's gut. She held it for a moment; her breaths were sharp and silent. Wordlessly she withdrew the blade, the man falling to his knees and then the ground, dead.
The three of them stared at Hawke in shock. She had never been so foolish to run head first into battle. Nevermind being extremely dangerous when they had a ranged fighter in their group, Hawke lacked the proper armor to withstand direct assaults.
Varric felt his stomach churn as she tugged the arrow from her arm, thankful that he hadn't been using the poisoned arrows Isabela had given him the week before. "You all right, Hawke?" he questioned hesitantly.
Blood was staining the fabric of her sleeve. "Fine."
He frowned but his concern as sated. It was Isabela who found her voice next. "Your hair!" she cried out, moving toward the mage.
Hawke jerkily reached up, touching the tips of her now shoulder-length black hair, the rest of her braid snaked on the ground where it had fallen. "It's just hair." The mage avoided Isabela's touch, side stepping the woman's attempt to stroke the shortened locks.
Isabela huffed at the rejection, pouting for a second before looking to the ground. "Where's that scarf you always wear? We can be twins."
Varric could have slapped himself for not noticing before. Ever since she had gotten that decorative red cloth she had worn it, as a headband, hair tie, even once as an actual scarf. This had to be the first time he had seen her without it.
Jaya took another step away. "I left it at the estate."
His brow furrowed. Why did it seem so odd that she would forget it? There was something about that scarf he was forgetting.
Isabela sighed, acting as though Hawke once again stopped her fun. The pirate looked at the bodies. "Can we get their stuff now?"
"No." Aveline said firmly causing Isabela to pout. "Some of the things are stolen and will be returned."
"You're no fun." Isabela complained.
Hawke looked at the two of them as they bickered, her face impassible.
Aveline ignored the pirate, noticing something on the leader's clothes. "Varric, do you recognize this crest? I'm beginning to wonder if these bandits might have been part of a larger group."
As he went toward the Guard-Captain he hid a smile; noticing that Isabela was attempting to discretely loot the bodies that were out of Aveline's view. Isabela grinned and pressed a finger to her lips. None of them paid any attention to the fact that Hawke had left, walking back to the city alone.
Anders was staring at the door again, as though his will alone would make her walk through it at any moment. The only reason he had come tonight was the hope of finally tracking the elusive mage down. He needed her help sneaking into the Gallows. Ser Alrik must have been sloppy and left proof of his 'Tranquil Solution' somewhere.
Hawke had grown exceedingly hard to track down in recent days and it was starting to frustrate him, nevermind the pressure Justice had continued to level as he vacillated, waiting to see if he could garner her help.
It wasn't that Justice had a problem with Hawke or at least not a direct one; unlike most of the people Anders would call friend. Hawke was the one person Justice rarely objected to Anders spending time with simply because the woman always seemed to act the way the spirit would: single minded determination; once a task was decided upon there was little hesitation or time wasted talking. The only think Justice disliked was the feelings that Anders had for Jaya; thinking romance, even an imagined one, was useless.
When he had met Hawke, Anders had been instantly attracted to her. For the most part it had been easy to ignore her unintentional lure; after all she wasn't a particularly social person. It had taken forever for her to start coming to the Hanged Man for games once a week and even then she mostly sat in silence, watching the game and rambunctious behavior but never took part. But Anders had fallen in love with her one of those nights when he had seen a small smile fleet across her lips.
The smile had transformed her face, causing her azure eyes to sparkle; making the scar across her nose to crinkle cutely, and the angular nature of her face to soften. Those smiles had been worth driving Justice to distraction for spending hours away from his 'duty' to the mages. He had lost count how many times he had made excuses just to see her, to work with her, hoping that he could once again catch a glimpse of her rare smile.
Varric nudged him from his thoughts, motioning to the growing pot in the center of the table. Anders shook his head, sparing a glance at his cards before he folded, refusing to lose any more of his coin to the two cheating rogues at the table.
Absently his amber eyes drifted to the door again. He tried to remember the last time she had come to a game at the Hanged Man; though he hadn't been at the games for quite a while he had assumed she had continued to attend.
"Hawke's not coming, Blondie."
Anders blinked looking to the dwarf on his left. "What?"
He repeated himself, idly sipping the Maker-awful liquid that passed as ale. "She hasn't been to a game in a while."
Cursing his luck, Anders tried to pretend he hadn't just come looking for Jaya. "Do you know where she is? I've been trying to find her but she's never at her estate."
Varric squinted, throwing in his cards as Isabela won. "Last time I saw her was a week or two ago; we hunted some bandits on the Wounded Coast." He seemed surprised at his own answer. "Has she been by since, Rivaini?"
Isabela shook her head. "She hasn't been by here." She answered, leaning across the table to sweep her newly earned pot toward her, making sure Anders got an eyeful. "Anyone else notice she and Fenris stopped coming at the same time?"
Anders' clenched his mug at the mention of the white-haired elf.
"Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" she said suggestively.
The blonde mage scowled at the implication, jealousy burning bright for a moment. It frustrated him that Hawke; a powerful, self-assured mage had taken to the bigoted warrior. The fact Fenris had somehow managed to earn more smiles from Jaya than Anders ever had only made him hate the elf more.
"Oh, is this a guessing game?" Merrill asked happily.
"Shut up, Bela." Anders ground out before the Dalish elf could start guessing. The pirate chuckled, only encouraged by his demand.
Varric seemed further distracted. "Has she asked for anyone's help recently?"
"I'm sure she gets plenty of help from Fenris." Isabela rolled her hips provocatively.
Anders glared at her, trying not to respond because he knew it would only encourage her. "She came by last week," he tried to remember, it had been a bit of a haze; Justice had him working all night and when she arrived seeking help with some mess going on with the Bone Pit; he had teased her that she owed him one for asking for help again.
"I ran into her in Hightown." Merrill announced, accidentally knocking over the small pile of coins Isabela kept sneaking the elf's way.
After a moment Anders snapped at her. "And?"
"We fell over." Merrill stated frowning at her cards. "We weren't hurt though. Her hair was short! She looked so different. I asked her what she did with her hair but she never answered me. Sometimes Dalish will cut their hair when they are mourning. Do you think she is mourning?"
"Mourning what?" Anders asked, annoyed at the elf. Justice's dislike for her didn't make it any easier for him to be in the blood mage's company. "Hawke barely slowed after her own mother died. Do you think she randomly got sad and decided to lob off her hair in protest?"
"It got cut in battle, Kitten." Isabela informed pulling a card from the deck.
"Besides," Anders anteed. "If something was bothering she'd come to one of us."
Merrill was quiet a moment, clearly still deep in thought. "Are you sure?" her voice was timid but for once bereft of the innocence that normally tinged it. "Hawke doesn't talk to anyone unless it's about a job."
The group shifted uncomfortably at the table.
"That's not true!" Anders attempted to object but the dark seed of truth turned in him, wondering if the elf was right. "We see her plenty of times outside of asking for her help."
Isabela smirked. "I'm sure she and Fenris—"
"Shut up, Bela!" Anders exclaimed, moaning.
"Varric?" a voice from the doorway caused the dwarf to pause mid bet.
"Choir Boy?" Varric blinked. "What are you doing here?"
"I'm searching for Hawke."
"Seems everyone is after our infamous leader," Varric said laughing. "Damned woman has the thrall of a good pint of ale."
"She was not at her estate nor with Aveline." The Starkhaven man informed. "I was hoping to find her here."
Isabela wagged her eyebrows, mouthing Fenris' name to Anders.
Anders glared at her; his grip on his stein had been hard enough to dent the metal. Sometimes he wanted nothing more than to send a zap of magic at that blasted pirate, the ideas she could plant in people's heads.
"Not here." Varric affirmed unnecessarily. "Did you try the roof of her estate? I think her mother had a garden up there. Or Broody's? They might be working together on something. He hasn't been around much either."
Merrill smiled. "That must be where she and Fenris have been, working on jobs together."
"Aye, kitten," Isabela winked at Anders. "That must be what two adults do at night to relieve tension," Anders jerked, glaring hotly at the pirate, hating how she knew exactly which strings to pull. "Working on 'jobs' together.
"Fenris isn't with her." All eyes swung to Sebastian. "I've just come from him." He explained. Isabela pouted her teasing deflating much to Anders' relief; picturing Jaya with Fenris nauseated him. "But he says he hasn't seen her in near a month."
"What do you need her for?" Merrill asked, accidentally flashing her cards to everyone at the table. The occupants of the room looked at her, frowning. "What? Did I say something wrong?"
"That's a horrible way of phrasing it." Anders shot, uncaring if he offended the Dalish mage. "You say that like the only reason we talk to her is when we need her to do something for us."
Merrill blinked. "Isn't it?"
"Kitten," Isabela started, even her tone hesitant.
Varric grimaced. "As blunt as Daisy is, she has a point. You wouldn't have gone through this much trouble if you didn't need something. Anything wrong?"
"Bandits have been showing up dead left and right all over the city. Nests of them rooted out and brutally slaughtered." Sebastian said in his thick brogue. "The Chantry has been flooded with the less than law abiding looking for sanctuary for fear that whoever is killing the bandits will come after them next. Many confessing sins outside of the confessional and frightening people away; they are not threatening anyone, but we are overrun."
"Sounds like something for Aveline to deal with." Anders muttered.
"Aye." Sebastian responded. "Only she cannot arrest someone who has been granted sanctuary until they step outside of the walls and they will not step outside until they are promised not to be killed like the others. At the moment she is caught in a meeting with the Seneschal and the Knight-Commander over the situation. She had no idea who is killing the bandits and was hoping Hawke might have some answers."
Anders frowned. "Do you think we should look for her?"
"I have left word with her Manservant." Sebastian informed shaking his head. "I simply came to see if she was here."
"Well, mission accomplished." Varric stated. He motioned to an open chair. "Care to join us heathens in gluttony and greed?"
Sebastian laughed. "I should get back to my duties."
Isabela huffed. "Are we going to play? I think I'm going to win."
"I fold." Anders threw his cards toward the pile, ignoring Sebastian's bid of goodnight. The blonde mage reached toward his mug and sipped the liquid within, ignoring Justice's objections to it. "Don't think I didn't see you steal those cards, Isabela."
"Who me?" she batted her eyes at him innocently.
Anders waved his hands at her. "Cease with your lying, woman. You fool no one."
Fenris was unsettled, Sebastian's visit weighing heavy on the elf. Part of him wanted to brush off the archer's concerns, believe what the Chantry Brother had and Hawke was simply at the Hanged Man. It should have been easy enough to convince himself of that, after all it was the night the group got together for Wicked Grace and drinks. But somehow he knew she wouldn't be there.
For a month, four weeks, twenty-eight days, Fenris had tried to put Hawke out of his mind. He accepted Aveline's request to help train her men in a hope to keep the raven-haired mage from invading his thoughts but it hadn't helped. The night he shared with Jaya Hawke haunted him.
For near a week after he left her bed in the middle of the night, slinking away ashamed and bitter that once again his attempt at freedom was being taken from him, he lay drunk in his stolen manor. Empty bottles littered the room he was currently pacing in, evidence of Fenris' desperate attempt to forget that night.
The irony was not lost on him. He had left Hawke because of gaining and then losing his memories, the anguish that it had brought causing Fenris to flee. Now, even as he still tried to remember his past Fenris was trying to forget that night; forget her touch, the way she melted into his arms, how it felt when they kissed. His lips tingled, longing for one split second to be pressed against the raven-haired mage, to hear the way Jaya moaned his name.
Sharply shaking his head as though the action could rid himself of that night, Fenris glowered, pacing faster. The night was nothing, he repeated his mantra, just a moment when two people, how did Isabela put it, blew off steam together. It meant nothing.
Like usual the mantra did little to help him. Hawke's face still burned brightly in his mind, the look in her blue eyes when he left. What had the mage done to him? Why could he not put her from his mind? Growling, Fenris swept his arm across the mantle, shoving the empty bottles lined there off and listening to them crash and shatter on the floor. Ever since he had gotten sober the world seemed off kilter, like something was missing.
Perhaps because something was.
Fenris had expected her to appear at his door, requesting his blade like before, to reaffirm that she had no more attachment to that night than he did. He knew she still took jobs thanks to Varric and Isabela insisting to visit him. Each day, despite himself, Fenris had found himself hoping, praying, that he would see her coming around the corner to fetch him for his aid on whatever job she had agreed to do.
Only she never came.
It had been the longest time since the Deep Roads that he had gone without seeing her. Something churned in his gut over that thought. More than once he had considered spying on her or at the very least going to the Hanged Man to passively show her that, while he could not have a relationship with her, he was still there if she needed him. Perhaps she was keeping her distance because she thought that was what he wanted; it was a logical conclusion; perhaps she wasn't coming by because she had thought he didn't want her to.
Sebastian's visit earlier suddenly wafted through Fenris' mind. The Chantry Brother had been searching for Hawke to get help with finding a new vigilante that had been killing massive amounts of criminals in recent nights; but what if it wasn't someone new hunting the bandits at night. What if Jaya was hunting them?
Jerking as though that thought fueled him, Fenris got up and swept his blade onto his back as he headed toward the door. Sebastian was not the first to bring up idle concerns when it came to Hawke. Varric had mentioned it off handed the last time he had stopped by the manor; Isabela had commented when the two last talked, the pirate idly wondering if there was a reason Fenris was never with them on jobs anymore; even Merrill, who had run into him in the Lowtown market, had asked if he knew why Hawke was acting so strangely.
Half storming into Hightown, his mind raced through the possibilities of where Hawke could be. Taking a back path toward Lowtown, he kept to the shadows, hoping he could find and observe her; trying to convince himself that his pull toward this mage was because of concern for her safety, not for any feelings he might have.
A spell hit the wall near him, causing Fenris to recoil, retrieving his blade. Peering into the alley he blinked, stunned at the sight. She was alone in full armor, hair pulled back from her eyes, a spell in her hand. A group of thugs surrounded her, out numbering Hawke badly but she barely seemed to notice. Her spells blasted the never ending supply of enemies, her sword slicing into those that got too close.
Cursing in Arcanum, Fenris drew his blade, launching himself into the fight. The same unison they had gained in battle over the years fell into place. Her magic decimating all that came near her and his greatsword killing those that dared to attack her. When the battle ended she stood next to him panting slightly, staring at the ground. His tattoos remained lit as he took in the sight.
There was a gash on her bicep that was bleeding. Her leather armor had a cut around her ribs that was stained red. Along her forehead was a graze that had left a trail of blood going down her cheek. He was stunned to see that her long black hair was cut to her shoulders and pulled into a loose ponytail. Something in him twisted, noticing that along with the shortness of her hair, there was one other drastic change about her. The red scarf that she had worn every day since it was given to her was not holding her black locks back.
In one movement she sheathed her sword and started to walk away. Blatantly ignoring him and the help he had given.
"What do are you doing?" He hissed.
She didn't answer him.
Fenris hurried after her, racing down the stairs trying to catch her before she disappeared into Lowtown. Grabbing her by the arm he forced her to face him. "Do you have a death wish?" Something stabbed at his heart when he looked at her for the first time since the night he had left her.
Her eyes were dead, two blue orbs of numbness. "I did not ask for your help." Her words were slow and deliberately spoken.
"You could have been killed."
"I had it in hand."
Fenris felt his temper spike. He squeezed her arm at her injury, taking no satisfaction in her murmur of pain. "I see that." He snarled.
Jaya pulled herself from his grasp. "What do you care?" He blinked. "Go away." She started to turn.
"No." She froze at the word. "I will not go away." He circled her so he could see her face again. "Not until you tell me why,"
He motioned behind her towards the litter of dead bodies she had left in her wake. "You went out at night, alone, and sought bandits."
"What do you want from me?" She sounded defeated.
"To know why!"
Hawke looked at him with empty eyes. "This is what I do, Fenris. I slit throats and loot corpses. I pick up odd jobs my friends need me to." She stated as though she was talking about the weather. "I'm a weapon waiting to be pointed at the next target."
Fenris flinched. Those words were far too close to ones he used to describe himself. "You are not a weapon."
Turning away from him, Jaya looked at the death she had left. "I'm not a fool, Fenris. I do not lie to myself any longer."
"Your friends—" he started to object but she cut him off with a dry laugh that almost sent a shiver down his spine.
"Friends? What friends?" she demanded hollowly. "All they want is for me to take care of their problems for them. Just so long as their weapon keeps working they don't care."
Fenris once again opened his mouth to rebut her statement but Hawke wasn't finished.
"It hasn't changed since the moment I was born. My family needed help protecting themselves so I became their weapon, the small blade that no one suspects until it was too late. Aveline needed help to get her away from the Blight, another weapon between her and the darkspawn. Varric needed me for protection in the Deep Roads, weapon." She listed. "Anders needed help with the rescue of an apostate, Merrill protection in the city, Sebastian to kill avenge his family, Isabela help against people who wanted to kill her, and," For the first time since he confronted her emotion seeped into her face. "And you need help against Danarius."
"Hawke, you're wrong. You have people who care about you."
"Do they?" she challenged blankly, turning to face him.
His heart ached at the blank look on her face. He would give anything to see the spark of life in her eyes again.
"When was the last time you ever saw someone talk to me unless they wanted me to do something for them?"
Fenris' mind raced, desperate to bring up a memory that would prove that she was being ridiculous only he couldn't. All of them, even the abomination who stared at Hawke lustfully, rarely sought Jaya out unless they needed her help with something. If it hadn't been for the weekly Wicked Grace game, Fenris wondered if she would have ever socialized with the group at all. It was at those games that the two of them had grown closer, neither particularly friendly people and both horribly uncomfortable in the loud and rambunctious group.
"I've accepted what I am, Fenris." Her voice drew him from his thoughts. "So I ask you, what do you want from me?"
What did he want? He wasn't even sure. "Hawke," he whispered only aware that he had spoken out loud when the first emotion he had seen her with spasmed across her face. Pain, sharp longing, she quickly buried it behind a mask again. "Jaya,"
"Don't." the word was ground out laced with all the unexpressed feelings she had. "You don't get to stand there looking at me like that." Without warning she suddenly lashed out at him, shoving him. "Stop looking at me like that!"
Fenris was stunned for a moment, allowing her fists to shower him with hits before he deftly grabbed her by the wrists and stopped her. She struggled against him, kicking him. In two steps he pushed her against the wall, trying to still her movements. The moment his body pinned her she froze, staring somewhere around his shoulder.
He became acutely aware that this was how it had started all those sleepless nights ago; he had pushed her against the wall and she hadn't been afraid; instead she hesitantly kissed him. Her breaths were coming in short gasps as though she had just exerted herself. Meeting his eye, she trembled, raw emotion flooding her face in a way that almost physically hurt him.
"Did it mean nothing to you?" her voice shook. "Was it a mistake to you?"
He swallowed hard. Was that what she thought?
"Did it mean nothing?"
Fenris flinched, releasing her and taking a step back. The heartbreak that tore across her features nearly killed him.
Taking his silence as affirmation the empty mask dropped over her. "Then there is nothing more to say." She said curtly. She started to leave again but unwillingly he blocked her path once more. "Step aside." her voice shook.
"You're going to get yourself killed." He reasoned. Yes that was why he was so determined to stop her.
A single tear ran down her face. "Who cares?"
His green eyes widened. "Damn it, Hawke. Stop this! Why are you acting like this?"
"Because it wasn't nothing to me!" she exclaimed looking up at him with fiery blue eyes. Shaking her head, she looked down, trying to stem the flow of tears. "That night meant everything to me, Fenris." Biting her lip, she seemed to be fighting her emotions. "I understand that it must be difficult for you to gain everything, only to lose it all again. But I can't," her voice cracked. "I can't pretend like everything is all right, I can't pretend that seeing you walk away wasn't the most painful thing I've ever experienced."
He took a step back. "Hawke," he tried but then realized he didn't know what to say.
"Ever since I met you I started to hope, maybe someone could care about me beyond their use for me. You understood what it was like, to be ignored until someone needed you whether you wanted to help them or not."
Fenris flinched violently at the comparison. He had always felt an unconscious sense of camaraderie with Hawke. Was that the reason? Did he subconsciously sense that the woman was as much trying to find who she was outside of the deadly skill she possessed as he was?
She bowed her head, several strands of her newly short black hair fell in her face, escaping the ponytail she had tied them in. "I had thought that I could be something, someone different."
"Hawke." Her name strangled itself from him.
"I thought someone could love me."
Fenris took a step back as though physically struck. Suddenly she looked up at him. She was across the space between them in less than a second, pressing her lips to his. Her hand slid along his neck as she funneled her passion into the kiss. Fenris felt warm and cold all at the same time, the familiar sort of panic pushing through the pleasure.
Hawke pulled away looking at him, searching his face. "Tell me you didn't feel anything," she demanded. "Tell me that kiss meant nothing to you."
Fenris opened his mouth and then closed it, unable to form any sound. "Hawke," his voice sounded strange even to his own ears. "It wasn't nothing to me."
Her lower lip trembled. "But you still aren't going to stay."
He bowed his head, regret and shame filling him once again. "I can't."
She turned her head away, tears now flowing freely down her cheeks. Working something out of her pocket, she handed it over to him. "I will keep my promise." She said quietly. "If you need aid against Danarius, I will be by your side." Hawke looked him in the eyes, her emotionless mask reforming over her face. "Beyond that," she took a step back. "There is nothing more between us." And with that, Jaya Hawke walked away.
Fenris didn't know how long he stared after her, unable to move, stop her, call her back, anything. He wanted to shout at her, make her understand that it wasn't that he didn't feel anything for her; he felt more than he could possibly express. But he couldn't be with her; not while Danarius lived, not with the demons haunting his step.
He finally looked down at what she handed him and immediately felt his heart wrench in his chest. In his hand was the red scarf he had given her after she returned from the Deep Roads, something he had seen her admiring and for some reason felt the need to purchase it. The scarf she had worn every day since. The scarf that had been missing from her hair as though she had accepted what she used to know: she was nothing but a weapon.
Closing his eyes, Fenris crumbled the scarf, wanting to toss it aside as though she meant nothing to him. But he couldn't. Fumbling, he tied it around his wrist. As he walked back to the manor he stole, Fenris slowly began to realize what he had walked away from.
It was in that moment he finally understood how he had broken her.
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