Danarius' Designs Part 3:
Rating: PG-13 for violence and sexual references.
Pairing: Fenris/mHawke (but it's not particularly overt here) and other references.
Spoilers: This text contains Act III spoilers for the quest "Alone" and Act II spoilers for "A Bitter Pill." Generally speaking, it involves all Fenris content along the Friendship romance path.
A faint odor of sweat and sewage trailed Hawke and Fenris along their route to Hightown and thus their respective estates. Hawke, under normal circumstances (if anything in his life constituted "normal circumstances") would have gladly groused about his sodden state, but the unwelcome flavor tingeing his lips plus the tension of unpleasantly damp undergarments were a meager price for Danarius' destruction. That wasn't to suggest that Hawke was happy to pay, but he maintained a rudimentary check on his admittedly exaggerated sense of entitlement.
Fenris kept his eyes on the far depths of the adjacent alleyways, scrutinizing the darkness for any sign of dangermembers of the Coterie who might not appreciate that day's personal significance. He took such routes brazenly when wandering alone, welcoming the opportunity to rid the streets of various predators, but Hawke's inclusion warranted atypical caution. Conveniently, the practice also kept his mind from lingering too long on events of the day. The mage had a strange effect on the nerve-wracked elf; safeguarding Hawke required care and composure, but his nearness had an effect Fenris did not dare to acknowledge and indeed found preferable to ignore.
Despite the rather mixed outcome, Hawke retained a calm smilea subtle distortion of flesh that nevertheless spoke volumes. He kept his eyes on the path to watch for jagged stones or shards of broken glass, and from afar, he looked as though a penitent. He marveled at how much longer the journey felt without shoes. Hawke had no idea how Fenris managed it, every movement an unprotected step into a treacherous and unfamiliar dark. All that, Hawke thought, and Fenris too lacked footwear.
It wasn't long until the two of them stood afore the doorway of Hawke's sizable estate. Whether it was simple luck or rare sensibility on the part of the Coterie, neither Hawke nor Fenris had been subject to an interruption of their shared silence. Hawke was obliged to break it, but was saddened by the need. In a city like Kirkwall, there was no music like peace.
"I'm much obliged for your help, Fenris," Hawke said, nodding to his guide. "Despite my best efforts, Kirkwall remains a poor host once night falls."
Fenris ran a thumb against his opposite palm, rubbing at the markings which ached far more than the lyrium would warrant. "You don't have to thank me," he replied, his voice dimming to a near-murmur. "A night like this, I'd have done it even for Merrill."
"Even so." Hawke fiddled with his belt, withdrew a brass key, and inserted it into the lock. With a deft turn and a pronounced click, the bolt slid aside. Hawke returned the key to his person and laid his fingers upon the door's bulky handle. Like Hawke's hand, it had roughened with age, taking dents and scars despite regular maintenance. Hawke sighed lightly and pulled the door agape. "I'm sorry for this evening, Fenris."
"Don't be," Fenris asserted sharply. "I
. It's fine. He is gone
at last. I could not ask for more."
Hawke shook his head. "Not thator at least, not only that." Despite his words, he kept his bearing tall: Hawke had a pride that never quite escaped his features. "Do you understand why I engaged in discourse and bade you speak?"
"I assume to gather information you would not get from me. Not voluntarily, anyway." The tone came flat, but bitter.
"I'm disappointed to find that is your perception of my character," Hawke replied, though he couldn't deny there was a substantial measure of accuracy to Fenris' assessment. "No, Fenris. It's a matter of doubt."
The tips of Fenris' ears began to burn in annoyance. "Did you somehow think I did not have enough?"
"Too much, of course," Hawke countered smoothly. He longed to offer a comforting hand, but knew better than to make the attempt. It was a mistake he'd made before. The door continued to enjoy his touch instead. "Most people, Fenris, spend their entire lives regretting things they've done, decisions they've made. They yearn for a chance to go back, to revise their strategies, to choose the better path. Today, you were given an opportunity, rare and precious, to reconsider the choice you once made."
Fenris clamped his teeth together. "You heard what Danarius said. He had no intention of honoring his so-called 'deal.'"
Hawke nodded. "True, but you believed that the offer was genuine."
In response, Fenris sighed openly, running his armored fingers through his roughly-cut hair. "Yes, I suppose I did. Unwise of me, I know." He tried to make the comment even, blasť, but his humiliation was obvious regardless. It was terrible to think that, despite everything, he had still been susceptible to Danarius' rhetoric.
"You are an honest man, and assume the same of others," Hawke replied. "Scarcely a failing on your part. Forgive your trust and listen, for my point was this: When you ran, you believed your fate was set. The moment you fled your master's grip, you thought you were gambling not just your freedom, but your life. You never had a reason to pause, to reflect on whether the fight was worthwhile, because it had stretched beyond values to survival."
"And I was satisfied with that, Hawke. If you recall."
Hawke blinked languorously. "Then you should be elated now."
Fenris' mouth bent into a subtle grimace. "Oh?"
"Yes, because as it happens, you were fighting for your happiness as well," Hawke explained, keeping his feet firmly planted on the stone that lay afore the ingress of his home. "For what you truly wanted. You were offered every temptation, and it still was not enough to turn you. Now you can be satisfied, always, that your decision was the correct one, not only in principle, but in practice.
Do you realize how valuable this was? The gift of certainty, of faith in your own judgment?"
That was enough to warrant a sarcastically raised eyebrow. "In my judgment? I
wouldn't go that far."
Hawke's lips were pressed into a thin line, his brow severe. "Some time, if you have the inclination, you should consider those to who m you speak. Did you ever hear how Aveline lost her first husband, the Templar Wesley? Were you listening when Anders gave his rationale for joining with the spirit of Justice? What about Merrill, who surrendered a life she cherished for a calling no one else supports? At times, Varric wonders why his brother betrayed him. Sebastian uses prayer to calm his own uncertaintieshis obligations as a prince versus his devotion to his Maker. I once heard Isabela wax unusually poetic about the blood spilt over jobs she did for coin. I
have also speculated about choices I have made and price those close to me paid. You, conversely, can be content knowing that, even taking into account all you've learned since your time in Tevinter, you made the right decision from the start."
Fenris looked off to the side with uncertainty that bore its own frustration. "That, I fear, is rather easy for a lord and Champion to say." He couldn't bear to admit it, but Danarius' words had not fallen completely on deaf ears. Laganum. Pompam Leonum. The life of no accountability.
Hawke's grip on the door handle tightened considerably, causing his cold knuckles to whiten. "This" he said, indicating the estate with a curt jerk of his head, "is a rather empty home. A simple matter to forget, of course, so overwhelmed am I by my lust for material things. Bartrand and I are not so different, it seems, having traded our brothers for gold. Do you think, perhaps, that ever comes to mind while I am dining alone?"
"I'm sorry," Fenris said, his posture softening. "That isn't
what I meant." He wanted to clarify, but figured that Hawke would piece it together, and any additional phrasal clumsiness was probably going to end poorly.
A thin jet of warm air escaped Hawke's nose. Thankfully, it was a gesture of amusement. His smile came oddly. "Did you know, back when I lived with Gamlen, I considered asking to you to rent me a portion of the mansion? I couldn't bear the Lowtown tenements. Or Gamlen, for that matter. Upon reflection, I might actually be that insufferably shallow. An apology isn't necessary."
Fenris stared at Hawke in suppressed bafflement. "I know you aren't. We all know you aren't. If you were, you'd have
different friends. Or at least be better friends with Sebastian."
"Mm," came Hawke's succinct reply. His eyes passed over the still-ajar doorway. "Well, either way, I should retire for the night." He tilted his head slightly. "Promise me," he began softly, gently brushing a few flyaway hairs from Fenris' vision, "please, promise me that you won't do anything"
"Rash." Hawke's face had regained its sobriety. "You are not stupid. Just take the time to think." With that, he pushed the door the rest of the way open and made his way inside.
"Hawke, wait" Fenris interjected, tracing Hawke's footsteps. He placed a hand on the solid wood panel. "There's something I have to say!"
Hawke turned around and gazed at the man standing on his front step. "No. Not tonight. Take the time to think." His breath came even, calm. That, unlike his chest, he could control. "I will come by tomorrow. Tell me then, if you still wish to speak it."
"This day was a long time coming, but neither of us has had enough time to come to terms with it." Hawke considered that a generous statement, given that he thought that he was quite comfortable with how things had progressed. "I do not want youin the spirit of the momentto do anything you will regret. If the matter is not urgent, let it wait, that you might be surer of it."
Those words made Fenris' heart constrict. He caught Hawke's implication, and though it was not precisely welcome, he could scarcely argue the point. "T-tomorrow, then."
Hawke smiled and nodded once. "Tomorrow. And goodnight."
The door closed, separating the two. Fenris' hand was still lying on the wood, the metal claws scratching thin lines into the varnish. He bit his bottom lip nervously, visualizing himself throwing open the door, speaking his lines, and then
. But the dream was a foolish one, he knew, and unlikely to impress. He stood at the doorway regardless, just in case Hawke were to reconsider. It took some time for the finality of Hawke's gesture to permeate his hope. "Right
," he mused. "Tomorrow." He didn't relish the thought, alone with himself until sunrise. Danarius' death should have pleased him, but the deed felt
painful yet unreal. A challenge to face alone, unfortunately.
Hawke sucked on his lip pensively, staring at the stage-like overlook of his estate, the vantage from which he had once watched Fenris depart. The sight steeled him, legitimized his urge to prevent a repeat performance. His dick, on the other hand, seemed much more confused and unsatisfied by the result and vacillated between rallying to attention and wilting in despair. Hawke resented the desire and blamed it for his impulse to thrust open the door and call out for company he had dismissed only moments prior. He was, however, a grown man and knew hormones were not the excuse they'd been in years prior. He wrung his hands, still slick with grimy water, and glared at them in discontentment.
"Orana!" he called brusquely.
"Coming, master!" The return sound came from the kitchen, which was unsurprising. Orana divided her spare time evenly between the strove and the lute. True, she used Hawke's lessons in literacy to record tunes and recipes, but she was otherwise uninterested in most literature. (Isabela's novellas were the commonest exception, but Hawke did not see fit to inquire into the matter.) With professional speed, she skittered into the foyer, her bun somewhat disheveled and her fingers stained from berry juice.
Hawke raised an eyebrow. "Baking?"
"Tarts," she answered plainly. Her eyes were turned to Hawke's damp clothing, which was dripping brackish water onto a rug she'd cleaned a mere two days earlier.
." That warranted a smile. Hawke suffered a secret sweet-tooth. "Glad to hear it." He handed his mage's staff to Orana and began to unfasten his belt.
Orana planted the butt of the staff on the floor and leaned against it wearily. "Master."
Her glare was just shy of condemnatory.
Hawke pressed a hand to his chest defensively. "I was pushed in, Orana."
She looked to the side and sighed.
"And I will eat dinner before I touch the tarts. All right?"
Orana relaxed her posture slightly. "Master."
Hawke began cautiously unfastening the closures at the neck of his robe. As he did, he glanced at Orana critically. He had expended considerable effort to lessen her servile tendencies, but there were times he wondered whether that had been, strictly speaking, wise. "Would you be so kind as to prepare some hot water?" he asked, folding the shawl-like portion of his raiment and placing it in Orana's outstretched hand.
"Good thinking, master. I'll need to start the wash before they dry or else they'll discolor. It's no trouble. I'm happy to clean them, again."
Dipping his head slightly, Hawke broached, "Ehm, and for a bath as well, perhaps? I'd like to get some of this
"I know. We don't want your sheets stained, either," she answered with a nod. "Any more than they already are. Master."
Hawke looked as though he'd just swallowed a live frog. "Mistakes are made in the absence of clean socks."
Orana, please run the water."
Fenris walked a meandering path back to the mansion he called
well, not quite "home," but something of that nature. His bones ached, as if he bore a skeleton of wrought iron within, the joints afflicted with an ancient, painful rust. He shoved the door open with his shoulder, having lazily unfastened the latch with his opposite hand.††Inside, the estate smelled of mildew and decaying mortar. Things Fenris did not realize could degrade, such as wood and parchment, had turned gray and in some cases added their material to the growing mats of dust.
He knew, logically, that he hadn't been rejected. Hawke had been correct: impatience had not availed him well in the past and was unlikely to benefit him in the future. Fenris understood, and respected, Hawke's decision. That said, he wasn't above responding with the indulgence of self-pity. He made it all the way to the stairs before sloughing his sword from his back, settling roughly on the steps, and crossing his arms angrily. He ran his toes over the verge of the step, massaging his foot in an attempt to work away the soreness.
Fenris cursed under his breath, but the specific wordsfor want of an audienceweren't particularly important. It was just another indication of a displeasure that fed upon his shame. Unable to kill it, Fenris had made a point of burying it, masking it, clouding it, stifling it with his hate. Under normal circumstances, the strategy worked adequately well. In light of recent events, however, his methods buckled under the weight of his humiliation. Fenris had yearned to kill Danarius with a rage like thunder, but the magister's blood had not come cheap.
He could stand Aveline knowing more of his past, the expanded, more personal account. She was kind and levelheaded, the kind of person who could outclass him in every aspect, yet would regard him as an equal. Varric, for all his artful levity, was likewise sympathetic, and though not famed for his discretion, practiced it earnestly when warranted. Hawke, however
. The very concept made Fenris feel edgy, almost nauseous. It wasn't even what they'd shared, but how much he'd lied when they did.
And Hawke had called him an honest man. Not, Fenris thought, very likely.
Breath hissed from behind Fenris' teeth. "Gn'gh, Hawke, if you'd even known the half of it
." Fenris sighed disgustedly. Hawke had insisted that he wasn't stupid. Another mischaracterization, Fenris suspected. He shed his left gauntlet and set it on the step. When he went to remove the other, he his eye caught the thick band of red fabric, a gift that could not possibly have more value if it were made of gold brocade. Even in the darkness, it was unmistakable.
He closed his eyes as he removed the second gauntlet and set it adjacent to the other.
Fenris managed to ignore it for approximately ten successful seconds. Sadly, his eyes were given to wander, and its color had a particular allure. He bent over and tugged the piece loose, taking hold of it as a free flag of blazing crimson. A gift, Fenris wagered, given in ignorance. Undeserved.
Except, Fenris recalled, Hawke had not seemed surprised by anything Danarius had insinuated, or what comparatively little was stated outright. Varric's reaction, and Aveline's, had been similarly cool. There was no shock, no revelation. Embraced by the humid air of a summer's dark, Fenris slowly realized his silence and evasion had been pointless. The truth was obvious anyway, written into his skin beneath the whorls of lyrium. The thought should have been a comfort, but it wasn't, not in the slightest. They had coddled him, he thought, and he hadn't even noticed. His skin felt hot and his gut twisted. Mortifying. Mortifying, that they'd already known. Worse that their meeting had validated everything.
No wonder Hawke had told him to leave, to think, Fenris concluded. Much became clear that way, including past errors. "He would have helped you," Fenris seethed, if only to himself, "if you had just told him."††It was easier to imagine Hawke excusing foolishness than deceit, though even the former felt like an imposition on Hawke's magnanimous spirit.
"Dammit!" Fenris barked. "Dammit, dammit, dammit!"
He slumped over dramatically, laying his chest on the platform at the turn and gracelessly pressing his face into the resident dust. His legs trailed down over the descending steps. He wanted to vent his frustration somewhere, but it was far too dark, he was much too tired, and there was no point. Danarius' destruction should have marked the beginning of a new lifeFenris always believed it wouldbut he already longed for Kirkwall's yesterdays, the years where single-mindedness was an asset and he believed his secrets safe.
Wrongly, of course, but genuinely.
He could apologize, he knewcome clean and elucidate everything, rationalize it to a man who valued rationality. Unfortunately, an explanation would require far more background than Fenris had any inclination to give. Hawke knew the basics, not the details, but the details tasted like acid in Fenris' mouth.
He sneezed halfheartedly, sending a small puff of dust away from his nostrils. He considered dragging himself to the derelict frame he called a bed, but he was not cold enough to sufficiently mind the stone. Apathy overtook his want of comfort, and he slid into sleep in defiance of his heartache.†††
To be continued.