Barris was unlucky at cards. He had neither the temperament for cheating, nor the patience for counting the deck. But Barris didn’t mind. He had learned long ago that a poor card player was welcome in any game. The key, Barris found, was not to drink too much, not to wager too much, and not to take the teasing too seriously.
“You’d better step up your game, templar,” Robert said, glancing over at Barris. “And I mean it this time. Final round is for high stakes players only.”
“This is my final hand, Trevelyan,” Barris assured Robert.
The Tevinter mage - Dorian, looked up in amusement. “You said that an hour ago.”
True enough, Barris thought. He supposed that he ought to have quit when Ser Cullen had. After one round, the commander had excused himself from the game and gone off to bed. Ruvena had given up one round after Cullen left, a scowl upon her face. Barris might have left then, too. Or he could have quit when Lieutenant Krem returned to his chair beside the bard, or when Cassandra and Leliana headed off, or when Vivienne left to talk to some friend, or when Sera and Morris went looking for more food. Barris probably should have quit playing when the Dalish elf had revealed that she’d known how to play Wicked Grace all along. Coll had merely feigned ignorance long enough to learn everyone’s tells. Right now, she was taking Barris for all of his coin.
“Sure, this’ll be over soon, templar,” Coll said, elbowing Barris in the ribs. “You too, Vint,” she added, looking over at Dorian. “Better have something good or you’re out.”
“Fasta vass,” Dorian replied.
Barris didn’t know what that meant, but it didn’t sound complimentary. Dorian had not been nearly as calm about his losses as Barris. But then, Dorian also had drunk a great deal more wine than Barris had.
Dorian caught Barris looking at him, and Barris quickly looked back to his cards. This entire night had been surreal, Barris thought. Less than a month ago, Barris had been considered a rising star in the Templar Order. He had been a war hero, a respected minor lord of Ferelden, and he’d never once set a foot out of line or offended against propriety. Now Barris sat playing Wicked Grace with a Tevinter mage, a qunari spy, a dwarven novelist, a Dalish elf, and Robert Trevelyan. Barris wasn’t certain who among this crew would have drawn more disapproval from his former associates - or his father.
Probably the mage, Barris mused. As a Tevinter magister… No, not a magister. Dorian had corrected Barris on that assumption about five minutes into the game. Dorian was a - what was the word again? Ah yes, an ‘altus.’ Either way, Dorian wasn’t at all what Barris had expected of Tevinter mages. Dorian wasn’t wearing bloodstained robes, for a start. He hadn’t once tried to enslave any of the present company or raise a demon. Instead, Dorian reminded Barris of a dandified Orlesian soldier: well-spoken, well-bred, well-groomed, and entirely too aware of his own good looks.
In fact, Barris thought, looking around the table, none of these people were what he had expected. Coll was clever and funny, Iron Bull was like any other mercenary captain Barris had ever met: equal parts hard-ass and mother hen. Robert Trevelyan had turned out to be a lot less devious than his reputation suggested, meaning that only Varric Tethras lived up to rumor. But then, considering that Varric had written his own rumors, that was to be expected.
But then, what did rumor matter? If Barris had listened to rumors and followed orders back in Therinfal, he’d be a red templar by now. The ‘notorious’ Robert Trevelyan had saved Barris from that fate. Barris felt quite grateful to the rogue. Actually, Barris felt quite grateful toward all these people, every odd one of them. Instead of dying a slow death as a monster, Barris was a proud officer of the Inquisition. He was having a marvelous time of it, too.
It seemed heresy suited him just fine.
“Good hand, Barris?” Dorian asked.
“Uh…” Barris realized he’d been smirking to himself. He wiped the expression off of his face and took a look at his cards. He’d entirely forgotten what he had. Oh, that’s right. Rubbish, that’s what he had.
“Sweet Mythal, templar!” Coll groaned. “Don’t tell him what you’ve got.”
“I didn’t,” Barris said, looking up in confusion.
“It’s written all over your face, boyo,” Coll said, waving her tattooed fingers at her own tattooed face. “Creators help you eejits. But ‘tis your loss. For there’s the Angel of Death.” She threw the card down on the pile in triumph.
“Come on,” Bull said. “That’s the fifth time someone’s called before I got a good hand.”
“You have a shit hand,” Robert observed.
“I know, right?”
Barris set his cards on the pile face-down. There was no point in showing his cards. They’d been even worse than Bull’s. Dorian chucked his cards on the table in disgust. Varric, however, quietly turned his cards around and fanned them out wide. There was a pause, and then…
“Go on!” Coll shouted.
“Never discount the dwarf,” Varric said, smugly. He placed the cards neatly on the table.
Barris supposed not. For Varric had all the high-ranking songs: Mercy, Twilight, Autumn, and Temerity, too.
“I thought you had bollocks!” Coll cried.
“I do have bollocks,” Varris replied, gathering up the deck. “I also have the best cards. Pay up, Elfroot.”
“Elfroot?” Bull frowned.
“Nickname,” Varric said.
”‘Circles’ was better,” Bull said.
”‘Circles’ was shit,” Varric said.
“Better call her ‘Nettles,’” Robert suggested. “Or ‘Rashvine,’ or…”
”‘Elfroot’ is grand,” Coll said, imperiously. “Only I’ll be winnin’ all that coin back from you, I will. Deal again, dwarf.”
“Far be it from me to deny such a gracious request,” Varric said. “Who else is in?”
Barris looked to his markers. He had one wooden chip left. “I’m out,” he said. And he meant it this time.
“I’m out as well,” Dorian said.
Barris looked over, and for a moment, he and Dorian locked eyes. Then, quite suddenly, Dorian fell to the floor.
There was a pause as everyone at the table stared at one another. Then they looked looked over the edge of the table. Dorian sat on the floor beside his chair, apparently stunned. Then he burst out laughing. He had a very loud laugh. Half the tavern looked over in surprise.
“What happened, Vint?” Coll wanted to know.
“Do you know, I’m not sure,” Dorian replied, reaching for the table. “I think the chair moved of it’s own - thank you - of it’s own accord.”
Bull tried to help Dorian back into his chair, but the mage insisted on standing up. He swayed on his feet, his eyes unfocused.
“Whoa there, Sparkler,” Varric said, as Dorian leaned over the table. Without thinking, Barris stood and gripped Dorian by the arm.
Alright, that was strange, Barris thought. He should add ‘well-muscled’ to Dorian’s list of unexpected traits. The mage had rather brawny arms by the feel of them. Dorian must be as fit as a templar. Then again, Barris supposed he should have guessed as much by looking. Dorian’s armor left little to the imagination, after all.
“Ah, thank you,” Dorian said, leaning heavily on Barris.
“Don’t mention it,” Barris replied.
“Think you can make it back to your room, Vint?” Iron Bull wanted to know.
“Of course,” Dorian said, standing tall. He swayed backward this time, and Barris steadied him yet again.
“You’re dead scuttered, lad,” Coll observed.
“I only had the one drink,” Dorian told her.
“One bottle,” Coll corrected.
“And a dram of maraas lok,” Bull added.
“Oh yes,” Dorian said, looking up to the rafters. He seemed to be picturing all those glasses lined up above his head.
Barris sighed. He could see where this was going.
“I’ll get him back to the library,” Barris said.
“You sure?” Varric asked, but he sounded relieved that he would not have to deal with it. Around the table, Coll, Robert, and Iron Bull did not look up from their cards.
“Yes, I’m sure,” Barris said.
After all, Barris thought, both the Templar Code of Chivalry and the etiquette of Ferelden knights were quite clear in such cases. They dictated that Barris ought to help any incapacitated person get safely home. Of course, Barris had never heard of such courtesies being extended to a Tevinter mage. But then, he reasoned, that was all the more reason to help Dorian out. Chivalry should extend across borders, or else it was just another form of prejudice.
“Come on then,” Barris said. He tried to help Dorian navigate the space between the table and the chair.
“I’m fine,” Dorian said, trying to wave Barris off. “I…” Dorian bumped the table and sent his empty wine bottle crashing to the floor.
“Alright, fine,” Dorian muttered. “Help a man out, Barris? There’s a good fellow.”
Barris gripped Dorian by the elbow and helped him stumble away. The crowds had thinned, leaving the room clear, but the tables full. Varric and Coll looked up to call out farewells, but Robert and Iron Bull remained engrossed in their cards.
“Who do you think will prevail?” Dorian asked, looking over his shoulder. He was so busy looking back at the game, he nearly ran into a pole.
“I think Ser Cullen did, by leaving early,” Barris remarked.
“Ha!” Dorian laughed loudly. Barris felt his stomach knot in response. When Dorian laughed like that, Barris could feel the sound in his own belly.
“No question about that,” Dorian agreed. “Cullen’s the most sensible man of the lot. Possibly the handsomest, too.”
Barris tried not hear the speculation in that sentence.
“Then again,” Dorian added, turning to look at Barris, “You’re rather handsome yourself. Is that a templar thing?”
Barris wasn’t quite sure how he ran into a table, but he did. The people gathered around it looked up in surprise.
“Sorry,” Barris said, dragging Dorian away. “Sorry.”
“You’re my escort home?” Dorian giggled as he spoke. “You’re a drunk as I am!”
“No, I’m not,” Barris said. He felt his face heat. He shooed Dorian toward the tavern door.
“You’re not my escort, or not drunk?” Dorian wanted to know. He rammed into the doorframe, wincing at the impact to his shoulder.
“I’m neither,” Barris said, holding the door open.
“What a gentleman,” Dorian said, looking up with a grin.
Barris shot an apologetic glance back at the table they’d just passed. A few of them gave Barris sympathetic looks, while the others had gone back to their drinking. Across the tavern, it seemed the Wicked Grace game went on in earnest now that the weaker players were gone.
“Goodnight,” Barris muttered to no one in particular.
Barris turned, only to realize that he’d lost Dorian. Barris stood in an empty doorway, which opened onto a deserted courtyard.
“Oh, blast,” Barris said. He hurried out into the night, letting the door swing shut behind him.
Thankfully, Dorian had not gone far. The mage staggered along the cobblestones, stumbling over what looked like a deflated paper lantern. Dorian stomped on the thing, and it sputtered up a little puff of golden dust.
“Ha!” Dorian laughed. Barris shook his head. That sound was far too clear and bright for nighttime. Dorian had a daylight kind of laughter.
“Ah, look at that!” Dorian said. He lifted his chin and waved his arms wide.
Barris looked up. The bright band of stars known as Alindra’s River spanned the heavens overhead. The stars seemed brighter and closer here at Skyhold, Barris noticed. On a night like this, it looked as though the whole castle might be turned over like a bowl, pouring everyone out into the endless sky. Feeling sudden vertigo, Barris looked back down. His eyes landed on Dorian.
“Beautiful night,” Dorian said, dreamily.
“It is, rather.” Barris agreed. He then realized he was looking at Dorian as he said that. Barris looked down at the castle grounds instead. They were strewn with debris and discarded lanterns. That sight was rather less beautiful, Barris thought. He was glad he wasn’t on the cleaning crew.
“That was a lot of fun,” Dorian said, staggering forward. “Didn’t you have a lot of fun? I usually… Damn lanterns,” Dorian stomped another one into golden dust, “I usually stay out a bit later than this. But still, it was a nice evening. Good wine, good food, good company…”
Dorian turned and smiled at Barris. Even by starlight, Barris could see a spark of interest in the mage’s eyes.
Barris quickly looked away. It didn’t mean anything, Barris told himself. Dorian had been flirting with Barris all evening, but then, Dorian had been flirting with everybody. Besides, the man had an entire bottle of wine in his belly. His smiles shouldn’t be taken seriously at this hour.
“Let’s get you to bed,” Barris said.
“Alright,” Dorian said, gamely. Barris did a double take.
“I didn’t mean…”
“I know,” Dorian said. He took a stutter step as his foot hit the stairs up to the great hall. Barris held out a hand to steady Dorian, and Dorian began climbing carefully, concentrating on each step.
“I do worry about little Kate though,” Dorian said, about three steps in and without preamble. “She never came back after that whole prince thing. I hope she’s alright.”
Barris was certain that ‘little Kate’ had been just fine. This was the Inquisitor they were talking about, not a lost child.
“I imagine a great many people wanted to talk to her,” Barris said.
“Yes, but that’s just the… Oops!” Dorian slipped on a step, and Barris caught him by the arm, “That’s just the - Maker, who made these stairs so steep? That’s… Oh, not that direction! Hullo. I’ll break my neck if I go that way. Hmm, what was I saying?”
“No idea,” Barris said. He focused his attention on guiding Dorian up the flight of stairs, rather than off the edge of them.
“Damn Sera and her questions though,” Dorian said, wrinkling his nose. Barris paused. That’s right. Dorian’s history… Was none of his business, Barris told himself.
“Bull, too,” Dorian added with a grumble. “Damn tease.”
“You seem not to, um, care for Bull much,” Barris said, studiously keeping his eyes on the great hall ahead.
“Still haven’t made up my mind.” Dorian said.
Barris decided that was none of his business, either. So instead of thinking about Dorian’s past history or future plans, Barris concentrated on getting Dorian into to the great hall without further incident. Just inside, a fire burned low.
“Come on then,” Barris said. He started to lead Dorian toward the library door.
“No, no. That way,” Dorian pointed at the opposite door, the one that led to the gardens.
“But I thought…”
“That I slept among the books? No!” Dorian laughed. “My room is just down from yours.”
“It is?” Barris asked, startled. He wasn’t sure which surprised him more - that a Tevinter mage lived down the hall from him, or that Barris hadn’t noticed it. But then, Barris had kept a busy schedule all week. He’d scarcely been inside of his rooms except to sleep.
“I hope to get better quarters eventually,” Dorian said, yawning. “I have to share with Sera and Varric and Robert at present. They snore. All of them.”
“Then why aren’t they escorting you home?” Barris wanted to know.
“Last call?” Dorian shrugged, and nearly fell to the floor. Barris caught him, then paused. Then - knowing he would probably regret it - Barris looped Dorian’s arm over his shoulder.
Barris regretted it. Dorian smelled of sweet wine and cologne and leather. It was a good smell. Furthermore, Barris could now feel the skin of Dorian’s bare forearm - and why did the man only have one sleeve on his armor, Barris wondered? Barris kicked open the door to the gardens, trying not to notice the way that Dorian’s armor didn’t entirely cover his chest muscles either.
“Ah,” Dorian said, waving out at the moonlit courtyard before them. “Here we are! This is my favorite view in the space. Aside from the mountains. And the lake. And the training grounds. Do you know, my favorite part of the day is when all you templars strip down to your undershirts for your sword practice? I can see you perfectly from my window in the library – Ow!”
Barris had stumbled at that last statement, running Dorian into the doorframe.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“No permanent harm done,” Dorian said, though he clutched his head with his free hand.
They stumbled into the cloistered walkway, then down the hall. Off in the garden, Barris saw a movement. It took shape a moment later as two people trying to fit on one bench - lengthwise, it seemed. Dorian chuckled low.
”‘Tis the night for it,” Dorian murmured.
Barris ignored that as best he could - both the couple, and Dorian’s comment. Instead, he focused on leading Dorian to the stairs. Really, this short walk was taking much too long.
“You didn’t go home with that Ruvena girl,” Dorian said, suddenly. His words came right by Barris’ ear, and Barris made the mistake of looking over at Dorian in surprise. Dorian’s face was right beside Barris’ own. Barris flushed and looked away.
“Uh, no,” he said.
“But you invited her,” Dorian pressed. “To the tavern.”
“Just company,” Barris said, shrugging. That didn’t work so well with Dorian on his shoulders. They’d reached the stairs now, and Barris concentrated on leading Dorian up the flight of them.
“I owed Robert a drink,” Barris went on, filling the awkward silence with muttered words. “For all that business at Therinfal. And I owed Ruvena a drink because she covered a shift for me. Wanted to pay them back.”
“Honest man,” Dorian said. That sounded like a question. Barris didn’t answer.
“I imagine Ruvena wanted to go home with the commander, though,” Dorian said. “That’s the impression I got, anyhow.”
“I wouldn’t know,” Barris said. As a rule, he didn’t engage in gossip about his fellow officers.
“And I suppose Cullen returned to his rooms alone. Pity.”
Barris said nothing. He got Dorian up to the second level of the courtyard, where a balcony ringed the space and upper rooms lined one side of the wall.
“Which is yours?” Barris asked.
“This one here,” Dorian nodded. Barris helped him stumble over to the door, and Dorian pushed it open. Or at least, Dorian tried to push the door open. He nearly fell over the threshold. Barris, quite uncomfortable now, opened the door and helped Dorian stagger the last few feet to his bed. Dorian sat heavily on the edge of the mattress, then fell back against the quilts and spread his arms wide.
“A beautiful night!” Dorian announced to the ceiling.
“You are completely drunk,” Barris said. It was an unnecessary observation, but it brought a smile to Dorian’s face. The door swung shut behind them, leaving them in darkness.
“Um,” Barris said. “I should probably go.”
“Probably,” Dorian said. In the dark, his voice sounded lower, more intimate. Barris felt his stomach knot yet again. Knots on knots now. Barris turned for the door.
“Do you want a nightcap?” Dorian asked, as Barris’ fingers found the door handle. Barris went very still.
“I assume that’s not a hat you wear to bed.”
“Ha!” Dorian laughed. The sound was bright in the darkness. “No. It’s a drink, my friend. Last drink of the night.”
With this, a light appeared. Dorian held a ball of unburning flame in his hand. He let it roll along his fingers for a moment, then gave it a little flick. The light shot up into the air and hovered among the rafters, lending the room a firelit glow.
”‘A hat you wear to bed,’” Dorian chuckled, seemingly transfixed by his summoned light. “Only Fereldens…”
Barris didn’t know what to say to that - either the insult to his countrymen, or the invitation.
“I think we’ve had enough drinks,” he suggested.
“I have,” Dorian said, glancing over at Barris with a sly smile on his lips. “You haven’t.”
Barris swallowed. What should he make of that? What should he make of Dorian in general? Because the more that Barris thought about it, the more that Dorian reminded Barris of…
Barris took a step back.
“I’ve got to get to bed,” he said, completely flustered now. “I’m leaving for Crestwood at dawn, you see, and…”
“Oh?” Dorian rolled to one side and propped his head on his hand. “So am I!”
Barris blinked. “You’re going to Crestwood, too?”
“I am,” Dorian nodded. “Fairly hush-hush mission from what I can gather. Seems Leliana and the Inquisitor have hand-picked the crew.”
“Captain Cullen asked me to come,” Barris said. “Got the assignment just this afternoon, and I…”
Barris stopped there. What in the Maker’s name was he doing? He’d been so unnerved that he’d completely forgotten himself.
“We really shouldn’t discuss it,” Barris said, stiffly.
“Shouldn’t we?” Dorian asked, raising a brow.
“Um, no,” Barris said. Dorian shrugged and sprawled back on the bed once again.
“Ah, well. If we aren’t going to speak about our mission, how shall we occupy our time until morning?”
“Sleeping?” Barris suggested.
Dorian pursed his lips and slanted a glance at Barris, as if they were actors in some play and Barris had just flubbed his lines.
“What?” Barris said, defensively.
“Such restraint,” Dorian said, closing his eyes. But his lips curled in a smile - his fine mustache curled, too. And for one moment Barris considered…
Well, obviously Barris didn’t consider doing anything right now. The codes of chivalry were clear about this. Dorian was entirely too drunk, and Barris wasn’t about to indulge in a nightcap or anything else with the man. Instead, Barris would leave Dorian alone to sleep this off. But perhaps another night…
No, Barris thought, shaking his head. That would never work. Dorian might be a friendly sort of fellow, but the two of them came from entirely different worlds. This man was a mage from Tevinter. There were several complications in that. For first, Dorian was Tevene. And he was a mage. And he was a man, for the Maker’s sake. Barris could only imagine what his father would say.
Strike that. Barris knew exactly what his father would say. He’d heard it years ago.
Five years ago, to be precise.
“Damn it, boy! Your own training partner? What were you thinking? Your mother was fit to be tied, she was so shocked. And don’t expect me to write to your Knight-Captain, either. I think they’re right, sending your ‘friend’ off to Brynnlaw and you to the ass-end of the Bannorn. Maker’s balls, if you’ll take either, then why not stick to wenches? If I’d have thought it would keep you honest, I would have engaged you to the arl’s girl and found someone else for your brother.”
As if it was that simple, Barris thought with a frown. As if anything was as simple as his father or the Chantry had wanted it to be. But it didn’t matter now, Barris supposed. What mattered now was that it was nearly midnight, and he only had a few hours left until dawn.
Though Dorian’s eyes were still closed, Barris gave the man a formal bow.
“Good evening, Messere Pavus,” Barris said.
“It’s Altus Pavus, actually,” Dorian murmured dreamily. A moment later, a soft snore escaped him.
Dorian’s summoned light shuddered among the rafters, wavering with each snore. Barris gave Dorian one last look. He briefly considered trying to tuck Dorian’s legs up on the bed so that the man didn’t fall off in the middle of the night. But as that seemed to invite all sorts of embarrassing scenarios, Barris decided against it. Barris turned his back on Dorian and left the room, satisfied he’d done his duty for the night.
Barris remained unsatisfied in certain other respects, but oh well. That was chivalry for you.
“Oh sweet Maker!” Hawke screamed.
She threw her head back, mouth open on a gasp, breasts heavy and full and slicked with sweat. Anders licked her nipple, causing Hawke to buck once again. The orgasm crashed on and on… Anders’s cock pulsing deep inside of her, his thumb at her clit, and that extra punch of magic shuddering down every vein. Arcane energies tangled and teased and shot jolts of pleasure down Hawke’s every nerve, along every fingertip…
Hawke came back to earth with a crash. She felt as if her heart had been blown out of her chest. Hawke pressed a hand to the spot between her breasts, then looked down at Anders. Her breath caught in her throat.
He was stunning. No, more than that. He was beauty itself. Like a sunrise in winter or a Chantry painting or one of those poems Hawke’s mother used to read. With his eyes closed in ecstasy, with his lips parted on a breath, he embodied loveliness. Then his eyelids fluttered open, and Hawke found herself looking at Justice.
Hawke recoiled from those glowing-blue eyes, then quickly tried to cover for it. She ducked her head away, curled up and laid her cheek on Anders’ chest. Anders didn’t seem to notice her reaction. He placed his hand on Hawke’s back and ran his fingers down her spine. Hawke trembled as the last of the aftershocks echoed through her.
“Holy fuck,” Anders gasped.
Hawke figured that was about right. As far as fucks went, this seemed pretty holy - right along with the vague sense of guilt and disappointment following after. Hawke didn’t often go to Chantry, so she figured bedding Anders was as close to the Maker’s bosom as she was ever likely to get.
“I didn’t think you’d actually…” Anders gasped, “That we’d actually…” He trailed off there.
Hawke didn’t answer. She hadn’t thought that they’d start things off with roll in the blankets either. But she couldn’t say she was surprised. After traveling through the rain and the muck all afternoon, the tension between her and Anders had grown too much for Hawke to resist. She hadn’t been able to bear that wrecked look on his face. She’d had to try and reach him in the only way she knew how. So Hawke had kissed Anders the moment he had turned to her and said, “Here’s the – Ooof!”
He hadn’t even been able to show her around the cave, because Hawke had shoved Anders up against the slimy rock wall and mashed her lips to his. Then Anders had turned Hawke around and pushed her up against the wall instead. He’d lifted her legs up, and then there had been a carrying, stumbling sort of race into the darkness. They’d managed to fall on a bunch of blankets on the floor, just as Anders had ripped Hawke’s small clothes free. Their armor was still strewn all down the tunnel.
It probably wasn’t the best strategy for laying low, now that Hawke thought about it. But then, she hadn’t really thought about it. She’d been more interested in seeing if sex with Anders was as good as she remembered. Turned out, it was better. Two powerful mages made for some pretty spectacular orgasms, after all.
And a pretty fucked-up everything else, Hawke supposed. Maker damn her for a fool, why had she done this to herself? Why had she done this to Anders? She knew it was a mess, and yet… Hawke wiped away a tear before it could fall onto Anders’ skin.
Hawke rolled off of Anders and lay on her back, looking up at the ceiling. She felt cold where she’d been hot and sweaty before, but she didn’t bother to reach for a blanket. The air felt invasive, and somehow, Hawke felt she deserved it.
Anders turned to her, a wondering smile on his face. His eyes were open now, returned to that blessed shade of brown. Hawke sighed in relief. Maker, she hated the color blue. Oh sure, it was kinky-hot to see Anders throw back his head and glow - actually glow - as he came. But that orgasmic light display had also served as a reminder that Anders didn’t belong to Hawke alone. There was a third person in this bed, and Hawke just wanted to kick Justice the Void out.
The feeling was mutual, undoubtedly. Justice probably hated Hawke as much as Hawke hated Justice. But Hawke couldn’t do a damn thing about that Fade-spirit squatter. So she contented herself with pretending that Justice didn’t exist.
Justice didn’t return the courtesy. Judging from the way that Anders suddenly frowned, that spirit was probably whispering to Anders even now.
“We shouldn’t have done this,” Anders said at once.
Hawke flinched. Yep, that was Justice talking. Had to be.
“Well, of course not” Hawke said, angrily. Of course they shouldn’t have done this. But that was supposed to be her line, not Anders’. Or Justice’s. Or whatever.
Anders frowned. “What do you mean, ‘of course not?’ You wanted this as much as I did.”
“And now I regret it as much as you do.” Hawke felt rather brutal right now, so surely that’s why she said it like that. Anders sucked in a breath.
“If you were looking for restraint…” Anders began.
“Pfft,” Hawke cut him off with a snort. “The only time I ever wanted restraint in bed was that time I brought home a pair of handcuffs. Hmm, never did return those to the guard barracks. I wonder if Aveline noticed they were missing…”
“That’s not what I meant, Hawke.”
“I know. You never did appreciate my puns.” Or rather, Justice didn’t appreciate Hawke’s puns. Hawke was certain that Anders wouldn’t be such a spoilsport. With that thought, she sighed.
“It doesn’t have to be all serious, Anders,” she told him. “It can just, you know, be.“
“I don’t regret the sex,” Anders told Hawke, evidently not picking up on her bit of advice. “It’s just that we did this all out of order.”
“Out of order?” Hawke said, raising a brow. “What? Pants off, bits together is backward or something?”
“No,” Anders said, shaking his head against the blankets. “But Hawke, we should have talked first.”
“Talked,” Hawke snorted.
“Yes, talked,” Anders insisted. “For months I’ve been thinking of you - longing for you. I just wanted to tell you… To make you see…”
Hawke’s heart had started beating faster as Anders spoke, but then he suddenly trailed off. Hawke felt like her heart had been lead to the edge of a cliff and now teetered on the edge.
“Um…yes?” Hawke prompted after a moment. “You were saying?”
But Anders didn’t seem able to formulate words. Either he couldn’t remember what he wanted to say, or Justice was talking to Anders again. Hawke hated those exclusive conversations that Justice and Anders had inside of Anders’ head. That was a party that Hawke never got invited to. She felt her temper rising.
“Whatever, Anders,” Hawke shrugged. The movement wasn’t all that impressive when she was lying down.
And this was why Hawke always went and raided the pantry after sex. Food was better than pillow talk. Also, more satisfying.
Hawke sat up and reached for her tunic. She pulled her shirt on, wiped between her legs with one of the blankets, then looked around the cave. She’d been so busy trying to get Anders out of his clothes, she hadn’t bothered to take a look at their love-shack.
“How long have you been down here?” Hawke asked, waving a hand at the cave. Anders let out an exasperated sigh and placed his hand over his face.
“A week,” he said. “And before you say anything, I know it’s in shambles. But smugglers aren’t the cleanest lot. I stockpiled food and added lanterns. That’s as far as I got.”
“Hmmm,” Hawke said. She stood and started padding around in her bare feet, her tunic only just covering her bare bottom.
“I’m more worried about the defense,” she said. “It isn’t the worst cave we’ve ever camped in, but it’s close. Lanterns are okay, but there’s no second exit. And a boarded up wall as a barricade? Shit sort of door. Anyone could have walked in on us as we were… you know.” Hawke blushed, but turned her head away so that Anders couldn’t see. “Better rig up some traps before next time,” she concluded.
“Next time?” Anders sounded stunned. “You’re planning on repeating that performance?”
“I don’t usually double-orgasm, so maybe not that performance,” Hawke said, strolling around the perimeter. “But how else are we going to pass the time?”
She said it to shock him, and it worked. Anders made a sort of strangled sound his throat. While he was distracted, Hawke wiped the last tears from her eyes eyes, then turned to inspect the one lone table and chair. Beyond a few barrels and Anders’ sleeping roll, that was the only furniture in the place.
“Nug warren in the corner,” Hawke pointed out. “Huh. There’s a draft here, and… Ah! There’s your backdoor. Gotta crawl for it. These smugglers weren’t so stupid after all. Hmmm… Rusted armor, crappy treasure… and a barrel of chasind sack mead. Well then! Definitely not so stupid. That’ll go well with the sandwiches I brought. I have some in my pack if you’re hungry.”
“That’s right,” Anders chuckled. “You and your appetite.”
“Considering how much energy you take out of me…” Hawke returned from her perusal of the cave to find Anders lying on his back, his hands folded behind his head. He was looking at her with a familiar expression - half smug, half amazed. Hawke felt her face flush.
“What?” she asked.
“You,” Anders said.
Just like that, the empty spot in Hawke’s heart filled again. And there was that connection she’d been hoping for, Hawke thought. She brushed her hair out of her face, ready for more compliments. But to her disappointment, Anders’ smile faded.
“Hawke,” Anders said. Hawke cringed at his tone.
“We need to talk,” she muttered to herself, as Anders said aloud: “We need to talk.”
“Why?” Hawke demanded. She knew she sounded whiny, but she couldn’t help it. Whenever Anders said that, what he really wanted to do was lecture Hawke about all the things that were wrong with him - the things that made him blighted and horrible and dangerous. But that didn’t sound like Anders to Hawke’s ears. That sounded like Justice talking through Anders, and Hawke didn’t want to hear it.
“Hawke, I’m serious,” Anders said, rising to his knees.
“Justice always is,” she muttered.
It occurred to Hawke that Anders was kneeling in a nest of rumpled blankets, and he was still semi-hard. The pose should have made him look ridiculous. But no. Anders looked like an illustration for the cover of the Blooming Rose Weekly. Hawke found herself staring.
“Hawke,” Anders said. “We have to talk.” Hawke shook herself and returned her eyes to Anders’ face.
“What about?” she asked, growing angry now. “About the fact that you blew up most of Kirkwall? About the fact that you never wrote to me?”
“How would I have written to you?” Anders said, looking confused. “I had no idea where you were.”
“Oh, I’ve got it!” Hawke went on. “Maybe you want to talk about the fact that we’re both fugitives now and we just fucked in a cave. Let’s not forget that.”
“It’s the cave part that has me concerned,” Anders said. “Because even after everything that happened, we…” He waved a hand at the blankets with a significant look.
“Are you calling me easy?” Hawke went on the offensive, because that seemed a safer route than any other path. “Okay, first of all, that’s like the nug calling the mabari muddy, Mr. ‘Everyone was Kissing Everyone in the Ferelden Circle.’”
“Everyone was kissing everyone. Except the templars. But that’s not the point.”
“No, the point is, of course I want you after all this time. I mean, we were practically married all those years…”
“Not actually married,” Anders said, softly. Hawke regretted bringing that up at once. The fact that they couldn’t get hitched in a Chantry had always been a sore subject.
“Well, why wouldn’t we have sex?” Hawke wanted to know. “We needed to get it out of the way. Otherwise we’d both be thinking about it obsessively. Or at least I would be.”
“Is that what that was?” Anders gaped at her. “‘Getting it out of the way?’”
“No,” Hawke said, sulkily. “It might have been more than that.”
“Might have been?”
“Ugh, what do you want me to say, Anders? That I haven’t had anyone but you? I haven’t. That I’ve been desperate for it? Yes, I was. Am. Still am, actually…”
“Hawke, this isn’t about that.”
“No. We need to talk about what’s going on out there.” Anders waved a hand at the tunnel - the one that led back to rainy Crestwood.
Hawke frowned suspiciously. “I assume that’s not an opening gambit about the weather?”
“No,” Anders said, clearly exasperated. “I mean, what are you even doing here? I didn’t send for you. Carver didn’t send for you…”
“So I’m not wanted, is that it?”
“No! You’re very much wanted,” Anders waved a hand at his lap.
“By your dick? Oh, thanks for that.”
“I only meant…”
“For your information,” Hawke said, folding her arms over her chest. “I was invited here.” The movement raised her shirt enough to show off her privates, and Anders’ eyes flicked there before returning to her face.
“By whom?” Anders wanted to know. He looked down at her crotch again.
“By Stroud,” Hawke said, feeling smug when Anders’ eyes shot up to her face in surprise. “And Varric.”
“Varric?” Anders’ brows furrowed.
“And the Inquisition,” Hawke added, sticking her nose in the air.
“The what?” Anders asked, frowning.
“Andraste’s tits, how long have you been in this cave?” Hawke said. She felt she needed to sound incredulous, even though she’d only learned this stuff about a week ago herself. But it made Hawke feel better if she had some information that Anders didn’t.
“You remember the Divine’s peace talks? All those mages and templars who went to try and fix your shitty war? Well the conclave blew up, the Divine got murdered…”
“I heard that part,” Anders said.
“Well some of those people stuck around to ‘inquisit’ what happened there. They’re the Inquisition now.”
“Historically, the original Inquisition became the Chantry,” Anders said, suspicious.
“Well yeah,” Hawke said, as if she’d remembered that. “That, too. Anyhow, the rebel mages joined them.”
“The rebel mages?” Anders looked astonished. “The rebel mages joined the Chantry?”
“Ugh,” Hawke said rolling her eyes. “Look at you, with your hard-on for the rebellion.”
“I’ve got a hard-on for you, damn it all…” Anders searched around among the blankets to find his small clothes. He began stabbing his legs into them.
“The rebels didn’t join the Chantry,” Hawke told him. “They allied with that heretical Inquisition-thingy. Same group that Varric joined. They’ve got a Seeker and some templars or something. But they take orders from a mage.”
Anders sneered. “Probably some arse-licking Loyalist.”
“Probably,” Hawke agreed.
“Let me guess,” Anders said. “That’s who you’re waiting for? You’re meeting Varric here with his Loyalist mage?”
Hawke lifted her chin defiantly. Anders’ eyes flashed blue.
“So that’s it then?” Anders asked, and his voice dropped again to Justice’s register. “You’re leaving me to join the Chantry? Were you planning to sell me out, Hawke? Mete out your revenge? Let the templars take me, and the Champion returns to Kirkwall, a hero?”
“Oh fuck that!” Hawke said, her hands clenching to fists at her sides. “Don’t be such a little bitch, Justice.”
Then Hawke remembered that she was ignoring Justice and shook her head. “Okay, first of all, the Inquisition doesn’t even know about you. Secondly, would I ever sell you out? No. Don’t answer that. But the answer is that I wouldn’t.”
Anders looked at Hawke, his eyes fading to a wary brown. “So if you’re not here to capture me, then why did you come?”
“Because you had your dick in me” Hawke said, smiling sweetly.
Anders frowned. “Hawke…”
“Fine,” Hawke sighed. “Stroud sent me a letter, saying that the Wardens had sent Carver to kill you. Stroud would have come and kicked your ass himself, only he’s got to take a bunch of Wardens into hiding. Something about defying orders for the sake of his men. Good for him, I say.”
“That sounds like Stroud,” Anders said, consideringly. “But why involve you?”
“Uh, because I fix shit?” Hawke said, flipping her hair. “Stroud wanted me to make sure that you and Carver didn’t kill each other. Or… yeah, I think that was supposed to be my job. Making sure there was no killing. Or was I supposed to kill someone? I’d have to double check the letter for the details.”
“You don’t remember what you were supposed to do?”
“I got distracted. See, just as I got to Ferelden, I got a second letter from Varric. I’m supposed to meet with him and his new friends here in Crestwood. Rendezvous in about, oh, four days or so. The Inquisition needs information on Corypheus. “
“Corypheus?” Anders blinked. “Why does that name…?”
“Darkspawn magister,” Hawke said. “Found him in a weird upside-down prison. Had to defeat him to get ourselves out of said prison. You know, if I’d been thinking, I would have kept a list of all the people we killed over the years. It’s sort of embarrassing when someone attacks me to avenge their brother or whatever and I can’t remember a thing.”
“What does the Inquisition want with Corypheus?” Anders asked, ignoring everything else Hawke said.
“They want him dead,” Hawke said. “What else would they want with him? Oh, right. Those kooky Wardens wanted to make Corypheus their pet or something.”
Anders looked at Hawke and frowned. “The Inquisition wants Corypheus dead? But he is dead.”
“Ah… No,” Hawke said. “That’s the problem. Turns out we killed him too quickly. Corypheus showed up very much alive, and bedragoned as well. He killed a lot of the Inquisition’s people, and thus, they wants him dead. Dead again, I should say.”
“But he was dead,” Anders said. “You’re as much a healer as me. You know that his body had no life-force left in it after we got through with him.”
Hawke shrugged. “I guess a beheading isn’t what it used to be? Either that or he wasn’t really dead. Or he wasn’t really alive in the first place. Or maybe he’s become undead? Ooh! Ooh! Or he has an evil twin! Maybe that explains… Anders?”
Hawke stopped there, for Anders had gone very still.
“The Calling,” he murmured.
“The what now?” Hawke said.
“When we fought Corypheus before, he could influence Wardens with something like the Calling…”
“The Calling?” Hawke asked. “You mean that ‘when you’re about to die’ feeling that you Wardens get when the blight is about to take your body?”
Anders looked to her in surprise. “How did you know about that? That’s a highly guarded Warden secret.”
Hawke shrugged. “Carver whined about it once when he was visiting. And drunk. I may have helped him with the drunk part. So what’s this about the Calling now?”
Anders continued to frown, but he answered Hawke all the same: “Do you recall how Corypheus got into my head? As we were searching his prison…”
“He possessed you,” Hawke said, shuddering to remember it.
“He didn’t possess me,” Anders said. “He made me hear the Calling. Or something that sounded like the Calling. I thought I was dying. And Justice thought I was dying.”
Right, Hawke thought. Justice had taken over Anders and possessed him. Fade-rat bastard.
“And Justice attacked me,” Hawke said, scowling. “Yeah, I remember that. It was hard to kick your ass without leaving any lasting damage.”
“I still have a scar on my thigh.”
“But I kissed it and made it all better,” Hawke reminded him.
Anders didn’t smile. “That’s the connection,” he said. “Not the real Calling,” his voice dropped as he spoke. “But Corypheus’ song…”
“Anders?” Hawke said.
“Not the Blight-song, not the truth. The servant used them, used them at his behest…“
Anders eyes went fully blue, and fractured blue lines flickered out across his face. He looked like a statue now, all cracked and ready to break.
“The mages lie dead in their own blood. The demons set free by trickery and deceit! He USED them!“
Smoke began to rise from Anders’ body - blue and black and thick.
“Anders!” Hawke cried, dropping to her knees before him. “Anders,” she said, shaking him. “Anders, stop it!”
Nothing happened. Hawke felt panic rise within her as smoke curled around her fingers.
“Corypheus is his master! Defiling duty, slaughtering sacrifice! Turning truth hollow, honor perverted!
“Fuck, fuck fuck…” Hawke whispered, her fingers clenching Anders’ shoulders. This was where Justice went from an annoying guest to a terrifying conquerer. And Hawke could no longer ignore the spirit’s presence. She placed her hands on either side of Anders’ face, licked her lips, and looked right into those glowing blue eyes.
“I will stop them!” Justice was roaring. “I will end ALL of them!“
“Uh, Justice?” Hawke said. She hated the way her voice broke a little. But at least Anders stopped shouting.
“Yeah, hi Justice? This, um… Hawke?” Oh Maker, she sounded like such a fool. “Right so, I know you don’t like me, and I sure as the Void don’t like you. But I need you to give Anders back to me, okay? I need…”
Anders’ face contorted in rage, and he bared his teeth at her. Even his teeth were glowing now! Hawke tried a different tack.
“Okay Justice,” she said, forcing her voice to remain steady. “I got the message, okay? There’s something unjust out there and you want it fixed. And that’s what I do, right? I fix things. You know that. So I’m here and I’ll do whatever justice-y thing you need. You don’t have to possess Anders to get things done anymore. I’m here. I’ll help with the justifying. You don’t need to take him over. I’ve got it, alright? I can do this duty-and-honor shit for the both of you…”
Hawke hardly knew what she was saying anymore: just babbling anything that might bring Anders back. On the inside, however, Hawke was screaming a very different sort of litany:
I hate you, Justice! Hawke thought angrily, I fucking hate you! But aloud Hawke kept crooning:
“It’s alright, Justice. We don’t have to fight, you and me. Just go back where you came from. Just go to sleep or… or whatever it is you do. Fade away? Okay, bad pun. I’ll stop making them if you’ll just go away…”
“Hawke?” Anders rasped. His voice sounded thin and hoarse.
“Oh thank the Maker,” Hawke sighed. She rested her head on Anders’ chest as all the blue light faded out of him.
Damn it all, Hawke thought, as tears stung her eyes. Why couldn’t she fix this mess? Why couldn’t she get rid of Justice for good? What was the point of both her and Anders being healers if they couldn’t cure Anders of this thing inside of him?
“How long was I gone?” Anders asked, quietly.
No wondering what had happened, Hawke noticed. No wondering what he’d done. Just ‘how long’? As if he knew there was no point in asking those other questions. Fucking hate you, Justice!
“Just a second or two,” Hawke said.
Anders nodded. “It’s been longer and longer each time,” he told her. He paused, then added:
“It’s worse when you’re gone.”
Hawke felt like guilt had balled a fist and punched her in the gut.
“Well, I’m back now,” Hawke said, forcing a smile. “So stick with me, alright?”
Anders drew back a little. “Are you, Hawke?” he asked. “Are you back?”
Hawke didn’t know how to answer that. Was she back? As in, back to stay? Maker, she hadn’t decided that yet. She hadn’t planned that far ahead. She never planned that far ahead. Even when she and Anders had lived together, she’d been taking things day by day. Maybe she should tell him the truth? But a flicker of blue shot through Anders’ eyes, and Hawke found herself lying:
“Of course I’m back.”
Anders swallowed. Then he nodded. And because she couldn’t heal him with magic, Hawke took Anders’ face in her hands and kissed him deeply. His lips were soft, and Hawke kissed him until she had to break away to breathe. When she let Anders go, he wrapped his arms around her and drew her close again. They tumbled back onto the blankets, Hawke laying over him, Anders gazing up at her. Anders’ eyes were brown now, and the expression in them was so intense, so searching, that Hawke found she had to say something:
“So, um… about that Calling thing…”
Anders flinched. Ooh, bad subject, Hawke realized.
“I’ll tell you in a minute or two,” he said. “But for now, love…” Anders reached up and brushed Hawke’s hair from her face. Short as her fringe was, the hair felt right back down over her forehead again.
“It’s okay, Anders,” Hawke whispered. “We can figure this out as we go. We don’t need a plan or–”
Anders pulled her to him, cutting her off with a kiss. It made Hawke’s head spin, made her utterly breathless.
“We’re going to make this right,” Anders told her. Hawke hadn’t even realized he’d stopped kissing her until she heard his stern voice, felt his breath against her lips.
“Of course we will,” Hawke said, opening her eyes.
She didn’t believe that for a second, but it seemed the right thing to say.
“I didn’t mean you…” Anders shook his head, his nose brushing her nose. “We will make it right. I promise.”
“Okay,” Hawke said, because what else could she say when Anders looked at her like that? What else could she say when she found herself naked on the floor of a dirty, nug-infested cave, ready to kiss Anders some more? Really, what could she say?
“It’s okay, Anders,” was what Hawke said. She brushed his cheek with her thumb. “It’s okay,” she said again. Hawke spread her legs to straddle him, her bare crotch against his belly.
“Hawke,” Anders whispered.
But Hawke didn’t give him a chance to protest. She kissed him again, reaching down to slide his penis free from his unbuttoned small clothes. She slid herself back, his crown against her folds. Anders groaned.
“Is this…” Anders nipped at her earlobe, “Is this what you really want?”
Hawke paused. Was this what she wanted? Well… no. But because of Justice, Hawke never got what she really wanted. So why expect that to change now? Besides, what else were she and Anders going to do until Varric got here? Count the nugs in the corner? Go out dragon baiting in bandit-infested hills? Have another three-way conversation with Justice the killjoy? Fuck that. Quite literally, fuck that. There was no way of knowing what would happen to them in a day, much less a week or more. Better to live in the moment, right? Better to enjoy whatever time they had. So if Hawke considered what she wanted now - as in right now…
“Yes, Anders” Hawke said. She slid herself down over him, causing his breath to hitch. “This is what I really want.”