When not at Bianca’s bedside, Varric has been sitting at the table watching her and Isana through the open door. He’s slept very little and has only picked at the food his friends brought him. He’s been quiet and withdrawn dealing with an enemy he can neither charm nor shoot: doubt.
Finally Bianca stirs and wakes up. He watches Isana hug her mother and help her out of bed. She leans on Isana for a moment, gathering her balance and working some stiffness from her limbs, her back to the door. Her once waist-long, crimson hair is now mid-back in length. His hands clench at the memory of running those locks between his fingers.
Varric rises to his feet, and stands there as uncertainties continue to haunt him. He looks down at the crossbow sitting on the table. Unconsciously he strokes Bianca’s stock, finding a whisper of courage in her quiet strength. He returns Bianca to her sheath on his back and takes a couple of deep breaths.
“This is it, Tethras, the moment of truth,” he mutters to himself before beginning the longest walk of his life, the three yards to his lady’s room.
Bianca quietly moans in her sleep, her grip on Isana’s hand tightens.
“Mom,” her voice is quiet and full of hope. Bianca groans again and opens her eyes; she smiles weakly at her daughters beaming face. Not waiting for to sit up, Isana throws herself on her mother hugging her with all her might.
“I was so worried,” the girl cries, trying to blink away her tears.
“It’s ok, baby. I’m fine,” Bianca soothes, stroking the child’s hair. “Help me up. I feel stiff.”
“Yeah, the healer said that would happen,” she detangles herself from Bianca and helps her get out of bed. Standing on uncertain legs, the red head looks at the scars circling her wrists. “The healer also said there would be some scarring. She’s…she’s not really a healer, but she knows some healing spells.”
Bianca sighs sadly, and then stretches. “At least I’m still alive. It’s good you got me out of there when you did. For a moment there I thought I saw Varric.”
“You know,” Isana chuckles nervously. “It’s funny you should mention that.”
“Hello, Beautiful,” Varric greets from the door. Bianca straightens as if a shot of lightening went through her spine. She’s afraid to turn around only to find that her mind is playing a cruel and painful trick on her. Slowly she turns her head a quarter of the way, but not enough to where she can see over her shoulder. Bianca takes a breath, and musters her nerve before turns quickly. Disbelief dances in her eyes as she brings her hands to her mouth in an attempt to hide her surprise.
“Varric,” she reaches out and takes a shaky step towards him.
“This is real,” he says to assure her as much as himself. “I’m here.”
“Varric!” she rushes to him, wrapping her arms tightly about his neck. He buries his face in the crook of her neck and holds her tightly. They cling to each other as if the other would disappear if they let go. “Oh, Varric,” she cries into his neck.
Despite all the things he thought about telling her and everything he’s ever wanted to say to her “I’m here,” are the only words the silver tongued storyteller can find to say. He’s barely aware of his friends moving in behind him, eager to see this reunion.
“My love,” those whispered words falling from her lips banish every doubt he’d been battling since he received her letter. Tears escape his tightly closed eyes and he nuzzles her neck, breathing in her sweet forgotten scent. “I’ve been so lonely without you.”
“I’ve missed you too,” he holds her a little tighter. “Ancestors how I’ve missed you,” suddenly he sweeps her up in his arms.
“What are you doing,” she gasps.
“I believe the healer said you needed to stay in bed today.”
“But I…oh,” she stops as she understands his expression. “Well, if that’s what the healer says,” she drapes her arms about his neck and gazes longingly into his brown eyes.
“Maker’s breath man, I meant for her to rest,” Bethany exclaims in exasperation from the doorway.
“Don’t you worry your scrawny, little ass about it. I’ll get some rest in a few hours.” She never takes her eyes from Varric.
“Scrawny,” Bethany isn’t sure if she should be offended or not.
“Only a few hours,” Varric begins carrying her back to the bed.
“I figured life as a merchant would have made you soft,” she teases.
“With you in my arms, Beautiful, nothing stays soft for long.” He can hear the bedroom door close, but is so enraptured with the blue eyed woman in his arms that doesn’t know nor does he care if they’re alone.
“I like the way you think merchant,” she purrs, frees his hair from the ponytail and runs her fingers through his shoulder length golden mane.
“Dirty minds think alike, thief.” He lays her on the bed and turns away long enough to set his beloved crossbow on the small nightstand. When he returns his attention to his lady she’s on her knees on the bed. She grabs his coat and pulls his lips to hers. His sounds of surprise are muffled by her mouth as she pushes his coat off his shoulders and onto the floor. The instant his arms are free of the fabric he cups her face and returns her ravenous kisses. With lips still locked he pulls off his gloves and tosses them aside while she feverishly unties his sash and lets it join his coat on the floor.
Their lips part long enough for Bianca to pull her sleeping tunic off over her head. She grabs Varric by the shirt, pulls him towards her and they tumble back onto the bed. His left arm keeps him propped up while his right hand becomes reacquainted with the smooth plains of her abdomen. When his fingers brush against a scar on her chest he pulls his lips from hers, a somber and sorrowful expression on his face.
“I’m so sorry Beautiful,” he whispers, unable to take his eyes from the wound he gave her all those years ago. She places her hand on his, and presses his palm flat over the scar. He can feel her racing heartbeat.
“Varric,” her voice is soft and soothing; he pulls his eyes away from their hands and gazes into her fire blue eyes. “When I woke up I knew you still loved me and that you believed I wasn’t the spy they were looking for. You saved my life, no one else in that room would have missed.” She brushes his hair back behind his ear. “You bought my freedom with your own by remaining trapped in Kirkwall to a guild that abused you and a family that didn’t appreciate you. This scar is the one thing I have of you that no one can take from me.” She cups her hand behind his neck and pulls him down for a long, passionate, soul healing kiss.
“Are you alright, Sweetness,” Isabela refers to Bethany’s pale complexion and sunken eyes.
“I still feel wore out.”
“Why not get a room and sleep some more,” the pirate finishes for ale and contemplates getting another.
“We aren’t a tavern you know,” Rafino’s grumpy voice carries across the lobby. “We do use those rooms.”
“And business is booming I see,” Isabela refers to the near empty establishment.
“Coin is coin, right,” Bethany interjects, trying to keep the peace. “I’ll pay for a room.” She heads towards Rafino who is behind the bar manning the books.
“Well, we usually charge seventy-five silvers for a premium service,” he begins.
“Here’re two sovereigns,” she places the gold coins on the counter and waits patiently for a key.
“Here you go gorgeous, it’s the third room on the left upstairs. It even has a washroom en suite.”
“Thank you,” she stifles a yawn and heads up to the room.
“Hmmm,” Isabela looks about the room and at the group of prostitutes hovering in the corner. “Maybe I’ll get one of my own.”
“You’ll be happier with one of the dwarves,” Isana offers. “Or so I’ve heard,” she quickly adds.
Isabela laughs and saunters over to have her pick. Fenris makes a disgusted noise before turning his eyes to the door Bethany disappeared into.
After a moment of silence, Isana speaks. “I don’t need a babysitter,” she keeps her attention on the book she’s writing in.
“I’m a big girl. If you want to go…go,” she continues to write. After several moments of contemplation Fenris follows Bethany path up the stairs.
Once she’s alone, Isana flips to the back of her journal and pulls out a folded sheet of yellowed parchment which has been carefully concealed beneath the endpaper. She runs her fingers over the ancient dwarven runes warning travelers about the perils ahead. She doesn’t unfold the paper for she knows what it is, instead she flips it over in her hands and wonders what is so important about this map that her mother was willing to die rather than give it up. She sighs and hides the map back in her journal.
Bethany fills the tub with warm water and strips down to her tunic and leggings. She stands in the room, brushing her tangled hair. She turns quickly when she hears her door open.
“Fenris,” she gasps, dropping her brush.
“I have been thinking of you,” he stalks towards her like a predator closing in on its prey. “I have been unable to think of little else,” he’s made his feelings known, and now he leaves the decision to her. “Command me to go and I shall.” His heart is in his throat as he waits for her response.
“Please stay,” she whispers, a bright blush racing across her cheeks. He pushes her back against the wall, claiming her lips with his. She returns his kisses with equal vigor, but far less skill. He grabs her soft, dark hair as he begins kissing her neck. She quietly moans his name, but doesn’t touch him, something he soon realizes.
“Bethany?” He wonders if he moved too fast, was this not the relationship she sought.
“Can I touch you,” she breathlessly asks. Confused by her question, he pulls back to look into her chocolate brown eyes and studies them, wondering where that question came from. Suddenly it dawns on him, he’s always had an aversion to people touching him and she is so eager to please him that she will find ways to do it and keeping the physical contact to a minimum. His lips curl into a grin at her tender gesture.
“In all of Thedas, yours is the only touch I crave.”
She suddenly throws her arms about his neck and kisses him like one of the characters in the books Isabela sent her. Fenris is caught off guard by her enthusiasm and nearly topples over under her affection. He barely makes it to the bed and falls onto his back with Bethany straddling him.
Being beneath a mage has never brought Fenris pleasure before, but with her it drives him wild with the need to touch her. When her tongue traces the shape of his ear, he growls with pleasure, and suddenly finds can’t get undressed fast enough.
A few hours later, Varric wakes to find Bianca in his arms. He brushes a few stray strands of her red hair behind her ear and can feel her smile. Reluctantly her eyes open and gazes up at Varric.
“I was afraid this was all a dream. That I would open my eyes and you would be gone,” she confesses, her fingers drawing random shapes in his chest hair.
“That’s supposed to be my line,” he chuckles.
She rests her head on his chest and spends a few moments listening to his heartbeat. He just holds her and savors the feeling of having her near again.
“Varric,” she has a question that she needs to ask.
“How did you find me?”
“I got your letter, asking for help,” he’s confused by her question and it’s evident in his response.
“What letter, I didn’t…” she makes a frustrated sound “Isana,” she growls. “That girl has been forging my handwriting for at least a year.” Suddenly her eyes widen. “Varric, is it safe to be together?”
“I have people watching. If I was followed, they will either get word to me or take care of it.”
Contented with his answer she snuggles against him once more. She listens to the sounds of his heart beats for several moments, enjoying his closeness, until a question demands her attention. “Have…have you heard from Gerav,” she asks, but isn’t sure she wants the answer
He sighs heavily, it was the one question he knew would come up, but was hoping it wouldn’t. Varric sits up and struggles to look his lover in the eyes.
“I’m…I’m sorry, but he’s dead, and has been for years.”
A heartbreaking gasps escapes her lips and her eyes begin to tear, but she manages to ask for the details. Varric runs his hands over his face, this isn’t a tale he wants to tell her. Usually when he tells tales of the Champion of Kirkwall he plays up some of the details, and might even make some of it up, but with this story he always glossed over Gerav’s death. Now as he spins his narrative he’s very careful not to exaggerate, he just gives her facts about her brother, the group he fell in with and his demise. He does embellish how her brother seemed to fight his madness, and that Gerav didn’t want to hurt Hawke or her friends, but the rest of the crazed Carta members were insisting. She wipes the tears from her face only to have new ones take their place as she listens to his words.
Once he’s finished talking she takes in his words and catches one detail that was not shared. “Who killed him,” she sniffs.
“Beautiful,” he doesn’t want to answer that question.
“Who,” she loudly presses. He can’t look at her as he confesses he was the one to deliver the killing blow. Her sorrow turns to rage as she grabs the crossbow off of the nightstand. Varric struggles with her to keep the weapon pointed away from him.
“Bianca, there was no choice,” he argues, still fighting for control over the crossbow.
“You killed my brother,” she rebuts, tears still flowing down her face.
“He had Blight! There was nothing we could do,” he’s quick to grab the handle that activates the bayonet to keep her from stabbing him.
“He was my brother, my baby brother!”
“I know,” he shouts back, which seems to stop her struggling. “And that’s why I can do this.” Her fury turns to panic as he aims the weapon at his chest, her finger still on the trigger.
“What are you doing?” He hates the fearful tone in her voice as he places the muzzle flush against the skin.
“I killed your brother. I almost killed you. You deserve your revenge,” he lets go of his beloved crossbow, leaving his fate in in his lover’s hands. If she pulls the trigger the bolt will go directly into his heart, killing him instantly. “And I will not stop you.” He holds his arms out in a gesture of surrender.
She rests the butt against her body, her face hardens, and she stares into Varric’s light brown eyes. He’s at peace with his decision; he got to hold her one last time. Her hands tremble as she tries to cling to her anger, but her fury melts away at the knowledge that she can’t kill him. Her shoulders slump as she confesses that she can’t do it.
He gently removes the weapon from her hands and leans it against the nightstand before holding her close as she grieves the loss of her brother.
Fenris watches Bethany sleep, the peaceful look on her face and her small smile have a calming effect on him. He pulls on his gauntlets and picks up her red scarf from the floor. A devilish grin spreads across his lips as he ties the favor around his left gauntlet. His grin soon fades as he begins to wonder if he should have done this in the first place. Since the ritual he can only recall three he’s willingly taken to his bed, and while she is not the most skilled of lover, she is the most thrilling.
He gazes at the lantern on the mantel, his mind drifting back to the sensation of her touch. He found it endearing that she tried to hold back her mana, prevent it from overwhelming him while she is in the throes of passion. He had to coax her into releasing the mana that was building. He’d experienced that surge before when he was a slave, and while it had always been a painful experience, with her it was warm and enveloping, as gentle as her soul. His markings glowed in response to her touch, sending a pleasant tingle through him. They’d never done that before and he cannot explain why they did it now. He closes his eyes and recalls how her magic called to his lyrium, and how his lyrium sang in response. Within the euphoria were all his memories of his past. Faces, names, relations, emotions all of it came flooding back only to fade before he could grasp them.
He turns to see Bethany sitting on the bed, her knees drawn up to the chest. She reminds him of a frightened child.
“Is everything alright,” her brown eyes plead that that he says yes.
“There was a moment when all the memories I lost came back,” he confesses
“You mean from your life before…the ritual?”
“Yes, but they’re gone now and I don’t know if I can get them back,” he sits on the edge of the bed and keeps his eyes on the floor. She makes no move to touch him. “It scares me,” he confesses. He despises this weakness and doesn’t know if he the courage to face it or her.
“Does this mean,” she takes a breath, she has to ask this question. “Does this mean you’re leaving?”
His green eyes lock on her face. She’s terrified to lose him and it’s evident in her eyes. This unknown frightens him, but he’s so tired of running…of being alone. He crawls over to her, pinning her with his weight, kissing away that horrible, fearful look in her eyes.
“I will stay with you for as long it pleases you,” he kisses her with all the sincerity and passion he feels.
“Stay with me forever,” she requests when their lips part.
“As you wish,” He smiles down at her and gently traces the round shape of her ear with one gauntleted hand. A bright blush creeps across her cheeks and he questions the reason.
“Can…can we do it again,” she chews her bottom lip, waiting for his response. He chuckles, pins her hands above her head and nuzzles her neck.
“Your wish is my command,” his voice is thick with lust as his hot breath brushes past her ear. She moans his name and writhes beneath him.
The sound of Bianca’s arm locking into place pulls Varric from his slumber. He bolts up upright, adrenaline coursing through his veins. He looks over and sees Bianca in the arms of his lady. She sits in a small old chair, her feet propped up on the nightstand as she carefully studies the weapon she thought she’d never see again.
“I see you’ve made some modifications,” she runs her fingers over the red lyrium he has embedded into the crossbow. He enjoys the sight of her wearing nothing more than his coat and a smile.
“I’ve been calling her Bianca.” He savors the surprised and joyous look on her face. “Since we’ve been apart she’s been the only lady in my arms.”
“In fifteen years, you’ve never been with another?”
“I told you that you ruined me for all other women,” he shrugs. Her laughter lights up the room.
“Well, then. Let me ‘ruin’ you some more,” her eyes are mischievous and her grin is suggestive. He returns her smile and watches her set the crossbow down. She suddenly gasps and grabs her chest.
“What,” he asks; wondering if there was an injury that needs Bethany’s attention.
“Something poked me,” she reaches into the coat and pulls out a folded letter. She unfolds the paper and reads the words she wrote to him over a decade ago. Her expression softens, she’s touched that he kept this letter.
“It cost me fifty sovereigns to have the Circle cast a preservation spell on it. They said the letter should last a hundred years, twice as long if I stopped carrying it around.”
“It was clever of you to only keep the last page,” she replaces the letter into his coat.
“That’s the entire letter,” he says. “There were no other pages.”
“Did you ever get my second letter,” she asks.
“What second letter?”
“When we parted,” she sighs. “I wrote this letter,” she taps the coat to indicate the letter she just put away. “Then eight months later I wrote a second letter letting you know that I had given birth to a daughter.”
“Isana,” it’s more a statement than a question.
“Isana.” She then watches the dance of expressions on his face as his mind does the math. He gets out of bed and paces as the implications begin to set in.
“I’m a…I’m her…she’s my daughter.”
“Yes, and I’ve been telling her about you since she was old enough to ask.”
His mind is races with the news and suddenly her greeting and attitude begin to make sense. “Wait. You were pregnant when I shot you. Great sodding Ancestors I almost killed you both. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I tried Varric. I tried so many times to tell you, but something always came up. Besides if you knew I was pregnant you wouldn’t have been able to shoot me and we would all be dead.”
“Did Gerav know that I was the father?”
“That son of a bitch,” he punches the wall in anger.
Startled he looks at her, genuinely confused by her angered reaction.
“That’s my mother too.”
“I’m sorry Beautiful, but if I had known…nothing would’ve kept me from you.”
“With the Dwarven Merchant Guild watching you, maybe he did us a favor.”
“The Guild wasn’t watching me. Gerav said the Carta was watching me in order to find you,” a sense of dread fills his belly.
“He told me the Dwarven Merchant Guild was watching you in order to get to me,” she’s confused by the turn of events.
“What the sodding blazes was he getting at?”
“Why did my brother want to keep us apart?”
“I don’t know. Maker help me I don’t know.”
“Where’s Fenris,” Isabela asks when she approaches Isana. The girl looks up from her bowl of stew and gestures upstairs with the spoon.
“He’s with that dark haired girl,” the teen adds.
“About bloody time,” she sighs. “They’ve been wanting to jump each other for weeks now. I don’t know why they took so long.” Her eyes then move to Varric and Bianca’s room. “Are they still at it?”
“It’s been fifteen years for Mom, I don’t know how long for…for Varric. So yeah, I’d say they’re still at it. Look, I gotta get out of here for a bit.”
“It probably isn’t safe for you to go alone,” Orez scolds as he picks up the empty bowl.
The girl rolls her eyes. “I don’t need a babysitter.”
“How about a partner in crime,” the pirate winks. “Come on there must be something you do for fun.”
“Well, the merchant area is having this festival. I’m sure we can get into trouble out there.”
“You need to lay low and stay out of trouble,”
“Then come with us,” Isana suggests.
“Isana,” Orez warns.
“An hour, and then we’ll come back. Come on, the festival is only once a year, and you can get something for Rafi. I know your anniversary is coming up.”
“Ok, but only for an hour, and then we come back here,” he relents.
“With you and I looking out for her, what could possibly go wrong?”