I own nothing but borrow indiscriminately. Non canon for story purposes – in response to a review, they have never been together before the events of this story. Rated M for adult themes and sexual content. FemHawke/Fenris. Thanks to my lovely beta, Midsummer.
When he'd referred to Merrill as 'that elven whore' he'd only been half listening to himself. After nearly a bottle of wine the flow of words had simply become a means of venting his bitterness and frustration onto the nearest easy target. And she'd said she liked to hear him talk, so he was talking.
Hawke had come late in the evening to visit as she was wont to do recently and he hadn't even realised he'd been listening for her footsteps until the mansion door had opened and he'd heard her ascending the stairs. He has learned to relax in her company, even to smile, albeit faintly, at her gentle teasing. But in the early hours he finds himself descending, as he often does, into morose recriminations and sour rantings. Generally she listens in silence until he is exhausted and has to excuse himself with weary apology but tonight he wants a reaction. Today she has needled him by letting a group of blood mages go free despite his opinions and he is unreasonably bothered by this. If he cared to look deeper he may even say hurt, but he does not. He knows Merrill is her friend but the slap, when it comes, still surprises him.
He licks the blood from the corner of his mouth and smiles without humour. She is breathing heavily, cheeks flushed with outrage.
"You remind me of my master." He runs his thumb across his lower lip slowly.
She stares at him in shock for several moments and then her eyes widen.
"Are you getting off on this?"
He continues to smirk at her until she shakes her head and turns to leave in disgust but not before he notices that her eyes are suspiciously bright.
This confuses him.
She does not speak to him for several days except to issue curt orders and he watches her carefully. He knows that he finds her beautiful, a warrior angel, quick, fierce and unrelenting in battle. Carving her way through their enemies, her face bright with exhilaration, he is unable to suppress a snarl of joy in response to her triumphant howl at the battle's end. She catches sight of his blood-smeared face and an expression he cannot fathom flickers as she turns from him, sheathing her weapons with more force than he thinks necessary, and strides away.
Her kindness disconcerts him.
He finds it hard to reconcile the gentle touch to the arm of a bereaved mother with the savage blows she deals to the raiders marauding the coast. He watches her run her oddly delicate hands over the arm of the apostate, checking for wounds amongst all the blood and feels...jealousy?...perhaps, but also curiosity and a pang of longing. He has not been touched in so long. The slap, painful though it was, he remembers as a connection, even a blessing. His master used to punish him for minor transgressions out of simple cruelty and boredom. All the touches he remembers receiving are savage and he wonders how he would respond to any other.
Perhaps I deserve no other.
He calls on her eventually, one evening, out of sheer loneliness and a want he will not even admit to himself and he finds her sitting staring into the fire, glass of wine in hand. She looks up as he approaches and smiles warily, the firelight playing on her face. She relaxes as he moves to fetch a chair and gestures with her glass. He shakes his head, does not want to give his demons easy access to his tongue again, sits down. Leaning back he hisses softly in pain as a wound he received earlier presses against the hard wooden back of the chair.
"Are you injured?"
"Let me see." She pulls her chair closer.
"I told you I'm fine." He feels oddly anxious at her proximity and flinches as she stands suddenly and moves behind him.
"Stop being so damn stubborn. Let me see."
He's too tired to argue and lets her press him forward, hands working at his tunic. She cautiously lifts it and he winces as the stiffened material pulls away from the raw wound on his back. He hears her tut in annoyance.
"This will fester. Come with me." The small, strong hand on his arm brooks no argument and he lets her lead him upstairs to sit on the edge of her bed whilst she fetches water and dressings.
"Tunic off." The wound throbs but not as much as his markings. He's simply disregarded it as he has so many other injuries but he can hear her grinding her teeth in annoyance and wonders how bad it really is. She is gentle but he still flinches at the warmth of the water. Her cool fingers applying the dressing brush against a tattoo and he tenses.
"Did I hurt you?"
He feels her hands return to the task of applying the bandage, her fingers again feathering over a brand, by accident or design he is unsure and he sighs and allows his eyes to drift closed.
"I am hurting you." She says, hands stilling. "You can just say, you know."
"No, your hands are...soothing to my markings. Like water on a burn. No-one has ever –"He stops abruptly, remembering where he is and inwardly cursing himself for letting his guard down. He moves to stand but she quickly seizes his shoulders. "No. I haven't finished with the dressing. Sit down, Fenris."
He sits almost against his will and certainly against his better judgement and her hands return to his back, taping and smoothing. You want to be petted like a damn dog he tells himself with disgust but still he cannot bring himself to leave. There is a pause and he feels a gentle touch at his neck.
"Do they hurt all the time?" He is silent for long moments.
"Yes." He feels her fingers begin to trace the lines and whorls across his back and he shivers involuntarily, letting his head drop forward. The pain recedes where she touches and instead of the hollowness underneath he feels...comfort.
"How do you cope with the pain, day after day?" There is another long silence until, wordlessly, he shows her the myriad small shallow cuts across his biceps and forearms. He feels her fingers pause in their ministrations as her eyes move over them. He thinks he loves her for her silence at his admission, his secret shame, and he groans softly as her fingers begin once again to ghost over his back.
"Does this help?" Yes. Don't stop.
It could have been minutes, perhaps hours later, he has lost all track of time, drifting, her fingers soothing, her voice murmuring nonsense, when he comes to himself finally. Shaking himself he stands and grabs his tunic, ignoring her start of surprise. He wants to say so many things. He does not know how.
"I must go. I..."
He feels her touch ghosting over him as he departs.
She says nothing when he shows up again the following evening, a question in his eyes. She simply leads him upstairs, climbing behind him onto the bed to start the gentle tracing again. After a while she turns him onto his back, his eyes closed and moves her fingers over the marks on his chest, the scars on his arms, and later he leaves less abruptly and this time with a nod of thanks.
He visits her most nights over the coming weeks and she has noticed things appearing on her writing table when she comes down in the morning. A bottle of wine, scented armour oil and once a delicate woven gold bracelet which looks of elven origin. She wears it but does not mention the gift, even though she knows he has noticed, just as she does not mention the moisture gathering at the corners of his eyes on occasion as she touches him.
Merrill remarks glibly that he does not look as grumpy as usual and when he scowls at her it is lacking in his usual venom. He finds he doesn't mind her prattle so much any more.
What he does mind, however, is the way Anders is looking at Hawke because this makes his brands burn more fiercely and his fists clench, but he says nothing and simply brushes imaginary dirt off his feet whilst glaring at him murderously. Anders, of course, notices nothing different in his behaviour and this annoys him even more.
Then Hawke's mother dies.
She disappears to her mansion asking the others for space to grieve and he nearly strikes Anders for starting after her, hand outstretched. Don't touch her, you filth. Mages did this to her. He watches her departing back, her weary posture and feels an ache in his chest which is almost but not completely new. He comes to see her that night, striding past the helplessly protesting dwarven and elven servants, pushing open her door with a hand that is trembling slightly with fear and a desperation bordering on despair. Be there and unharmed. He almost thanks the Maker out loud when he sees her curled on her side in the centre of her ridiculous bed and comes to kneel on the floor, peering into her swollen face.
She opens her eyes slowly to see his face close to hers, impassive, and turns her head into the pillow. Leave me alone. I can't give you anything tonight, Fenris. There's nothing left. She feels the tears begin to soak into the sheets once more and hears him shift slightly. She thinks he has left and starts when the bed suddenly dips behind her and she feels him move to lie under the covers. His hands briefly rest at her waist, pulling her against him and then gently, gently, she feels warm fingers begin to trace patterns at her neck. She breaks down completely when she realises he is tracing his marks, his pain onto her and knows also his comfort at her touch. Finally, after the tears stop and her body is exhausted she feels his lips softly touch her shoulder as she drifts slowly into sleep.
When she wakes in the morning he is still there, his chest pressed against her back, arms loose around her waist, his face buried in her neck. She feels wrung out and calm. He wakes at the change in her breathing and his grip tightens briefly .
"Thank you." He murmurs into her hair.
"You're thanking...me? Last night. I'm not sure I would have made it through without..." her voice catches slightly. "I'm glad you came."
"I wanted to. I think I needed to show you." He stops and swallows, unsure how to continue. "I was marked for violence, Hawke. For destruction. It was all I knew." His hands begin to trace patterns across her breasts, making her arch into his touch.
"You made me gentle."
He strokes her nipples gently making her gasp. She can feel his erection against her thigh, reaches a hand back to stroke him through his underclothes and feels him tense. He buries his face into her hair with a stifled groan.
"Perhaps this isn't the best time." He murmurs unsteadily and she turns to press her chest against his, grasping his face gently between her hands.
"I think this is as good a time as any."
He slants his mouth against hers, then, and feels her roll against him hard, pressing her pelvis to his. They strip each other languidly, exploring each new area of revealed skin with fingers and mouths. She guides him gently, delighting in his smooth skin, smiling at his responsiveness. If his touch is hesitant and slightly clumsy at times she makes no complaint, watching him, arching under his hands. When he enters her it is slowly and carefully, both of them shuddering at the sensation, mouths joined. He stills for a moment, sheathed in her, resting his forehead against her breast whilst her fingers resume their endless tracing along the brands on his back. As he breathes she reaches a hand up to tangle in his hair. He meets her gaze, green eyes brilliant and unsure.
"I don't want to hurt you."
"You won't." She captures his lips with hers, soft and warm. "You don't know how to any more." He begins to move finally, thrusting slowly, finding an easy rhythm which makes her breath come faster.
In the end he forgets to be gentle, urged on by her soft cries, the velvet of her, her thighs tightening around his hips. When they both reach their completion with hitching gasps she holds him fiercely. He murmurs in her ear, broken words in Tevinter, and feels the joyful sting of her nails digging into his back.
Later, in the mirror, these new marks on his body, her marks, will make him smile.