The rhythm of her voice matched her footsteps perfectly as they kicked up the fine, choking dust of Kirkwall's Lowtown streets.
"For the record, this is your fault!" grunted Anders, keeping frantic pace beside her.
"Less talking, more running!" Varric advised, double their pace and keeping speed as they dodged into an alley.
"I couldn't just let it go!" Hawke's foot caught a dip in the packed dirt and she stumbled, but Anders caught her around the arm and kept her balanced; she did not miss a step.
"I appreciate it, Hawke, but it was really fine." Merrill hardly seemed winded, her lilting sprint almost relaxed as they whipped around the next corner, clank of armor and angry shouts too close behind.
"Was not," she panted. "Racist bastards know you're under my protection, and—"
Hawke grimaced as the arrow whistled past her ear. "Shit."
"We've got that part, Hot Stuff. Now do you have a plan?" Varric tugged Bianca from his back and returned fire—a warning. They all knew what would happen if a bunch of Templars just went 'missing' while chasing down such a well-known face. Hawke had a tidy sum up in Hightown, but not enough to cover that.
"Don't die." She gave a quarter turn as the Templar archer fired again and waved a palm. The fletching caught flame just so and the arrow drooped mid-air, curving right for the dirt behind them, where it stuck point-down; no one could quite prove what had happened. Hawke grinned and turned her feet forward again.
Not that anyone present was under any illusion as to exactly what had occurred. She just had deniability this way.
The four skittered around another corner, heading for the salt-tang of the docks, all hard breaths and aching feet.
"Hawke, you know Meredith is just waiting for the opportunity, and even if she decides she can't touch you yet, her Templars think they have the power to just—"
"Sorry, Anders—not to interrupt, but I think they might be trying to cut us off just ahead."
Varric groaned. "Well, at least you're familiar with the city now, Daisy."
Hawke bit her lip. "I can't say I'm inclined to be introduced to the Knight-Commander today. On three, we'll double-back into Darktown. When I give the next signal, we'll split up—Anders and I, Varric and Merrill."
The mage slowed her pace just a touch and the others followed suit.
"Damn it, Hawke, you're actually enjoying thi—"
She grinned. "THREE!"
It was a sharp, mad dash at a nearly ninety-degree turn to leap over the low wall, stumble down the last few steps, whip around the final corner, and duck under the low-hanging rafters. If the Templars were too stupid to put two and two together to realize where the group had gone, all they would have to do was follow Hawke's whooping laughter to the passage.
"Some days I'm not sure why I let you get me into these messes," muttered Varric.
Hawke's grin had not waned, her teeth bared like a madwoman; a few strands of hair had come loose from their tie and completed the picture, sticking to her cheeks and whipping in the heavy Darktown air. "Well, you'll have plenty of time to think it over and have an answer for me at Wicked Grace tonight."
"Hawke, I'm a little confused about where—"
"Aaand, NOW." She dodged suddenly into a narrow passage on the left, toward the Clinic, leaving the other pair to take their chances ahead, or in one of the corridors to the right.
"Just follow me, Daisy. We'll figure it out as we go."
"That's the spirit!" She called over her shoulder. She could practically hear Anders rolling his eyes, and it seemed Varric could not quite help a chuckle.
"See you on the other side, lovebirds!"
She wrinkled her nose. "Lovebirds? It's because I'm a HAWKE, isn't it?"
The chuckle became a distant cackle, and the mages skidded to a halt, catching their breath against the dusty stone of a dark corridor.
Anders took her hand. "It won't be long before the Templars are in range again."
Precisely on cue, there was a warning shout and about four pairs of armored boots behind them.
"Andraste's ass." And they were off again.
Hawke made an impressive vault over a rickety fence alongside one of the rough-hewn stairwells. She gritted her teeth against the shock that raced up her shins upon impact, but regained her balance and darted back along another corridor, Anders close behind. "Can't lead them to the Clinic," she panted. "Cellars were the best bet, but the entrance is too close."
He regained pace alongside her. "So…?"
Hawke's eyes scanned the walls ahead and alighted on what would have been a rickety door—were it not for the fresh hinges. "This one!" Her pivot and glide into the entryway—shoulder-bash against the frame and all—was utterly magnificent.
"Not that door!"
It was too late, of course, and Anders was left muttering about the Carta as he raced in behind her, readying an arcane bolt in his palm.
Fortunately, Hawke seemed to have the same idea, flames curled around her hand, flickering between her fingers, lighting her face and casting dancing shadows on the walls and beams around them. "Huh," she grunted.
With no immediate danger, Anders let his magic subside shaking the faint tingling out of his hand, and turned back to latch the door securely. Strange that it had not been locked in the first place.
"I think this is another part of the estate cellars—a second entrance."
Anders' brow furrowed. "It was left unlocked. I thought you had explored the tunnels thoroughly—surely you would have noticed a second passage into Darktown."
Hawke shook her head, gesturing to the uneven floor, the dust and soil and stone loose underfoot, and to the beams, the light reflecting off pale contours in the wood. "This is new—fairly new, anyway."
He squinted around in the semi-darkness, and—there, indeed—was the answer. He gestured to the far corner, where he could sense the sharp tendrils of sigil-based magic, the air wavering slightly around the edges of what must have been a door. He approached, tracing his fingers along the seam in the stone. "It was concealed."
Hawke raised her hand, casting better light behind him. Her eyes fell on rope and chain that littered the floor. "Probably a holding area," she mused.
Anders found the hole in the sigils—like a sucking vortex amongst the bright edges of the spell—and had the door open in only a moment. "Sloppy," he muttered. "They certainly didn't have a very good mage. Or at least, not a very highly paid one."
She chuckled. "Well, we can't all have your skill in Spirit magics."
He huffed. "I'm not even that—"
"The tracks cross the dust. They went this way!"
Hawke's flames winked out immediately and Anders pressed her through the door, sealing it behind them.
"Think you can fortify that?" she whispered.
"Already on it. Best I can."
They could hear the Templars rattling the lock.
Anders' fingers twitched as he focused all of his energy into the gap, stringing the sharp sigils together, weaving them one into another. True, Spirit magic was not his area of expertise, but since Justice… well, he had noticed a greater sensitivity in that area. He exhaled, as though extinguishing candle, and the sigils wavered, their light softening. One learned certain things about disguising the traces of magic while one spent years on the run from the Templars. Hopefully, it would be enough.
With a crash, their pursuers clanked into the empty chamber, and the mages' next breath caught in their throats.
Hawke willed herself from touching her magic, even to prepare for the worst. Her hand shot out to grab Anders' instead, and he gave it a reassuring squeeze, though she could see the tension in his jaw, feel the thrum of a racing pulse between her fingers—whether his or hers, she was not sure.
"They're cleverer than we thought, that's how! Bloody apostates have a head-start now, thanks to you."
"But the tracks—"
"They're mages, Darnell!"
"Shut it, recruit."
The argument continued out the door, until the only sound was the faint creak of old timbers sagging under the weight of the city above, and the simultaneous puff of breath as Hawke and Anders released the breath they had been holding.
A low chuckle started in Hawke's throat, and she squeezed Anders' hand triumphantly. He shook his head, but the laughter was contagious, and soon, Hawke elbowed him in the ribs, both hooting uncontrollably, and Anders scooped her up in his arms and they positively crushed one another in an embrace.
"Oh, Maker," Hawke gasped between chuckles. "'They're mages!' What does he think we can do, erase our tracks behind us? Make new ones appear wherever we want?"
"Andraste's knickers, I have no idea! But, darling, you really—" He broke off into peals of laughter. If this was what happened when she pissed off a couple Templars, she really ought to do it more often, she thinks. "—you really can't—"
She stopped his mouth with a kiss.
Whatever Anders had been about to say was quite forgotten in tangled limbs and groping hands.
Hawke let herself lean solidly against the wall, tangling her fingers in Anders' hair and caught him around the waist to pull him flush against her. The kiss became a dozen shorter ones, peppered with gasps, lips catching between teeth, one of Anders' thighs nestled right between hers.
He smelled of dust and the electric tang of lyrium, the spicy traces of tea and the faint, pleasant mustiness of his coat.
Anders could do little more than hold her close, fingers lacing through her hair, a hand caressing her cheek. He found the leather tie holding back her hair and unwound it with a delicate touch, the cord woven between his fingers alongside her dark tresses. Hawke sighed against his lips.
She tasted of magic, hot and bright on her tongue; he could feel it buzzing beneath her skin, a delicate song in her blood.
He hissed as she slipped a hand beneath his coat. "Mm… Think we can make it upstairs, love?"
Hawke groaned and knocked her head against the wall with a dull thump, and Anders was fully prepared to simply resume when she danced away and sprinted for the door. "Race you," she called over her shoulder, hair streaming loose and dark behind her.
Apparently she was now quite rested, and dodged her way through the cellar with ease, Anders heaving a put-upon sigh and running his tongue absently over his lips as he raced after her, her thunderstorm-sweet taste lingering on his mouth. He wound the cord from her hair around his wrist, and tucked it in place.
They entered through the kitchen trapdoor in a triumphant tangle of impatient limbs (neither cared at this point who won, so long as they weren't interrupted, stealing kisses on the cheek and teasing touches as they ascended the ladder) and crept through the foyer to lock themselves in the library.
Hawke pressed Anders against the door and claimed his mouth again with a grin.
He relaxed, quite content to simply let his hands glide over her shoulders, leather and sweat-soaked linen as she hummed, gliding her tongue along his. Her hand dodged into his coat again and she raced clever fingers down his robes.
Hawke moved to press kisses along his jaw, stubble prickling her lips as she went. Every other gentle kiss, she nipped at the skin, sneaking careful peeks at the way his eyes fluttered shut as she slipped her hand behind and grabbed his ass with a mischievous grin. "Dammit, Aldis—" The rest of that sentence died in his throat as she touched her magic and pressed her mouth to his, sending the lightest of sparks across her tongue and his mouth tingled, a heady rush of adrenaline sending the room spinning.
She chuckled and pushed the coat from his shoulders, and before Anders could protest and ask just when she'd had time to undo the buckles, tugged him over onto the couch with her. There was a fire already going in the grate and the shadows danced over the planes in Hawke's face, blue eyes glittering. With a wicked grin, Anders traced his hand town below her waist and pressed his fingers between her thighs.
"Ah…" The sound caught in her throat and her fingers tightened on his shoulders.
"Why don't you just wear robes?" He lamented, guiding one of her hands down to the hem of his. "It makes things much easier."
Hawke opened her eyes, biting her lip when Anders pressed harder, a challenge lighting his amber gaze. "I did think of that, as it happens."
He arched his brows. "Oh?"
His fingers played over the juncture, dipping in a steady rhythm—first too light to bear, then almost too hard to be satisfying.
She groaned. "Got advice."
Anders bent his head, relishing the warm thrum as he accessed his magic. "Do tell." But before she could, he blew a frosty breeze across Hawke's neck, earning a desperate gasp as she focused on the sensation.
"Isabela—" He twisted his fingers in a tight circle right where he knew her clit would be, the bastard. "Laces," she gasped. "All the way."
Anders cocked his head, intrigued, and moved his fingers to find the laces of her breeches. He took his sweet time, though they both knew he could have had it done in seconds, a lazy smile in his eyes, relishing each tug of the coarse leather and the gradual madness causing Hawke's fingers to twitch against his thigh. It turned out that the lace went much lower than usual, tucked discreetly inside the pants, rather than lacing up, visible, on the outside as the laces near did near the waist. The result was a section of leather that could be removed from the crotch area—
There was a sudden jolt as Anders' hand was tugged lower. He met her eyes with his best chastising look. "Now, Aldis, using force magic to get your way is very rude. You wouldn't want me to go, would you?"
Hawke caught him around the waist and he laughed. "All right—all right—I was joking. He nuzzled her cheek. "But no more."
Her lips puckered into a pout. "Where's the fun in that?"
"Where's the fun in having it done and over with in two minutes?"
"Point taken," she muttered, but slipped both hands under his robe for good measure.
He chuckled and removed the last of the leather, pressing his fingers gently between her lips there, and she sighed, voice climbing into a higher register, pressing her hips off the cushions.
As he bent down to nuzzle her clit, her hands dragged the hem of his robe up around his waist with them, and he mirrored the trick she had done with her tongue, sending the lightest of sparks dancing through his fingers to her sex.
The cries she made were magnificent.
Hawke's back arched, breath caught in her throat as she moaned, brow furrowed as if in deepest concentration. Anders fingers slowed and he eased off the electric tingle under his skin, hardly any fatigue manifesting behind his eyes as he traced lazy, gentle circles while his lover caught her breath.
It was not long before she took his hand, resolute. "Now. Before I really do get impatient, you marvelous bastard."
He chuckled. "As you say, darling."
No sooner had he shifted to lay with her than Hawke had greedily captured his lips again, breath hot on his mouth, his cheeks. "I love you, you know."
Anders rested his forehead against hers. "More than I deserve." He kissed her again before she could protest, and they pressed together, molding one into another until they were most inseparable, hot breaths and canting hips, fingers wound in curls and nails tight against skin. So close, they could feel the Fade they each carried beneath their skin, racing with their blood, curling like mist between them, a heady buzz of color and sound that might have been half-imagined; but the magic as it hummed and breathed was undoubtedly as real as the flesh peppered with kisses and sighs.
They found themselves curled together some time after, not entirely sure how long it had been. It might have been only a moment or two.
Hawke nuzzled Anders' collarbone and pressed a kiss there.
An idle smile graced his features. "Maybe we ought to leave this part out when we recount the tale tonight."
"Varric would probably like it."
The mage shook his head. "You're probably right. But… let's keep it to ourselves for now, shall we?"
Hawke shrugged. "When he accuses us of holding out on him, you get to take the fall."
Anders chuckled and kissed the top of her head. "I think I can live with that."