So, David Bowie is dead.

I'm not sure if I mentioned it, or if anyone noticed, but every chapter in this story has been named after a different David Bowie song. This story is something I have honestly not really touched in what? A year in a half? Two years? Well, Bowie's death has me back here.

Quote of the day:

"I don`t want to sound gloomy, but, at some point of your lives, every one of you will notice that you have in your life one person, one friend whom you love and care for very much. That person is so close to you that you are able to share some things only with him. For example, you can call that friend, and from the very first maniacal laugh or some other joke you will know who is at the other end of that line. We used to do that with him so often. And then when that person is gone, there will be nothing like that in your life ever again".

—Christopher Lee on Peter Cushing

It seemed like a long time since she and Hawke had sat together in front of the fireplace, alone.

The kids were asleep as they should have been this late at night, and as Merrill sat curled up in her cozy spot in front of the orange flame that was warming their home, she couldn't help but wonder what her children were dreaming about. Tamlen and Bethany as mages had a connection with the spirits of the fade, and through their magic could walk the world of dreams to live a second life where they could learn and love and live out every passion of their heart. She frowned at the realization that Malcolm was a different matter altogether. His only connection to magic was the fact that he belonged to a family of apostates. His dreams were hazy and easy to forget, unknown and lacking the lucidity that the rest of his family shared. The only saving grace was that as a boy who was not touched by magic, Malcolm would be safe from the demons of the Beyond, and from the whispers in the dark.

"You seem to be thinking too much, Ma'vhenan," Hawke said as he sat down beside her in front of the fireplace, breaking Merrill away from her musings.

She smiled when she looked at her husband, and suddenly felt a new warmth that wasn't coming from their fire. "I always think too much whenever we stay up this late."

Hawke nodded, understanding many times throughout his life just how that felt. Producing a bottle of wine that Merrill hadn't seen when Hawke first sat down beside her, she became unsure of what exactly her husband had in mind. If he was in that kind of mood, she wished that she would have been given the chance to have done something different with her hair.

She didn't realize until Hawke opened up the small bottle and offered her the first sip that they were apparently forgoing cups that night. With some hesitation Merrill accepted the bottle, the Elvhen woman wondering if James remembered that they had a busy day tomorrow. Either way she couldn't help but grin when she took a whiff and smelled what kind of wine it was.

"It's my favorite," Merrill whispered as she continued to smile, face warm from the fire, and cheeks from something else.

"Drink up," Hawke pressured, Merrill quirking an eyebrow at the thought that perhaps her husband wanted to get her drunk that night.

Her slender fingers readjusted over the shaft of the bottle as she toyed with the idea of taking a long drink. As she swirled the dark red wine, Merrill took in another deep breath of the aroma. It smelled like spring.

"We have to get up early," Merrill countered, still looking down at the wine.

Hawke groaned at the thought of more farm work. Soon enough though he had a counter of his own, "Malcolm and Bethany can feed the animals and milk the cows. I'll get a late start with everything else."

"And a late end," Merrill added an addendum.

"And a late end," Hawke conceded, before giving one of his famous smirks that Merrill had never been able to resist, "but a late end that's worth it."

She gave a sigh that was half-dreamy and half-tired, Merrill in that moment knowing that the night would be one of drunken happiness and half-conscious laughter, while tomorrow would be a day of hangovers and hoping that their children wouldn't notice that there was anything wrong with them. She knew that she probably should have pushed for postponing this night, but the truth of the matter was that she had always had trouble saying no to the smiles of James Hawke. She remembered the first time she had seen that smile, and it remained one of her most pleasant memories of her time in Kirkwall.

She remembered that she had met him at Sundermount. He was on a mission then to fulfill a promise made to Asha'bellanar, and even though James had been laughing and joking with his companions that day, she remembered seeing an undeniable fierceness and strength in his eyes that she had never seen anywhere else before. The first real smile however came when Hawke had accompanied her back to the Kirkwall alienage at the request of her Keeper Marethari. Merrill's face became red when she remembered how she had asked James if he was going to visit her. She had felt stupid and silly for asking at the time, but even now she could still recall the great sense of relief that had come when Hawke had only looked at her strangely for a moment, before he left her with a smile and a promise. Her chest had tightened that day in the way that only a young girl's heart could, and even now Merrill could only wonder if Hawke's had done the same.

"The wine is a gift from Carver," Hawke admitted after watching her take the first drink from the bottle. "He said he had to scour Val Royeux for three hours to find the right vintage. Apparently, he had to duel a chevalier to get it."

And she was glad that he did. Carver had always had a great affection for her, just as she had had an equal but very different affection for him in return. She took another deep drink of Carver's wine, never knowing that something so wonderful in the world could even exist. It reminded her of the summer in the forests of Ferelden. It reminded her of spring.

"It's very sweet," Merrill sighed as she handed the wine back towards her husband, Merrill smiling as she watched his handsome face, the woman halfway to dreamland already.

Hawke took a long drink that was larger than either of hers were, unable to hide the frown that now appeared across his face. "What's sweet? Carver, or the wine?"

Merrill only laughed, light and airy, her mirth sounding much too wispy and hopeful for a woman had seen the kinds of things she had in her life. When she brought a hand to Hawke's face, she could only shake her head. The relationship between Carver and James had always been a contentious one. It was better now that Carver was a Warden and James a farmer, but every now and then there was a kernel of something that still stood between them-either for a disagreement of the future, or the remembrance of some shade from the past.

Quicker than Hawke had time to react, Merrill snatched the bottle out of his hand. If nothing else, Hawke's annoyance with Carver was more humorous than anything. Sure, it was true that the two brothers had always been prone to harp on and snipe at one another when the opportunity presented itself, but she knew that deep down that there was nothing in the world that the two wouldn't do for the other. It was perhaps that fact more than any that made this little human family as charming as they turned out to be for a lonely Elven girl with not a single friend in the world. As she watched Hawke's face fluster at the thought of his brother, Merrill couldn't help but to think about the sister-in-law she had never had the chance to meet, whose brothers only spoke of her in tender fondness, and whose stories of her were as beautiful as they were hauntingly sad.

She wasn't sure how odd a thing it was to have named her daughter after a woman she had never known, but Merrill figured that it was a name more fitting than any other, Hawke having often described his sister as 'like sunshine', with Merrill feeling the same whenever looking at her own little Bethany. Her thoughts came back to the present the moment that Merrill brought the wine back to her lips, and the woman laughed as she stumbled her way up off the floor. For a moment she danced to an orchestra of silence, Merrill smiling and laughing and perhaps even singing for a moment, the spring in her soul, and the summer in her heart.

"Both are sweet, Ma'vhenan," Merrill stopped dancing, and instead bent down to hold out a hand towards her husband. In a spur of the moment decision she even decided to channel Isabela's spirit and send a wink in Hawke's direction, "and I love both very much."

She nearly didn't notice it, but there was a second or two of hesitation before James grabbed her hand and stood up with her. James was staring at her now with eyes that were oddly intense, and when she tried to dance once again she expected that her husband would dance along with her this time. Instead, Hawke remained as still as a statue, eyes having never left his wife.

"He loves you too, Merrill," Hawke almost whispered, trailing off before he had the chance to say anything that he would later come to regret.

Merrill stopped dancing once again, and was now standing just as still as her husband was. For all the years that they had known just how far Carver's affection for her truly went, it had always been something that remained undiscussed, a secret that everyone already knew, but which remained untrue just so long as it went unspoken. She didn't think that it was the wine that was making James bring up this uncomfortable truth considering that they had only just started drinking. Unsure of anything else, Merrill didn't move a muscle, unable to gauge from Hawke's face on just what exactly he was thinking.

"Hawke," Merrill treaded, taking one step and then another in her husband's direction, "this isn't something that you can hold against your brother. You don't get to choose who you love."

Surprisingly, James only shook his head. "I don't hold anything against Carver. Sometimes though, I can't help but hold things against myself."

Of all the things she expected Hawke to say, that indeed was not one of them. Anger she would have hated, but could at least have understood. Jealously was even worse, but not unexpected when it came to two brothers falling in love with the same woman. This however? She had no idea what to say. Instead she sat back down on their floor, and waited for Hawke to do the same.

"What," Merrill hesitated with her question, unsure if she should have let her husband's statement simply die into the wind, "what do you have to hold against yourself?"

Sitting back down with his wife, Hawke wished that he had gotten more to drink. He didn't look at Merrill though, and instead found himself staring at the flame in their fireplace. "You know, he wouldn't be a Grey Warden if I hadn't dragged him into the Deep Roads."

"You wouldn't have brought him if you knew what would have happened," Merrill said as she placed a hand on Hawke's forearm, in an attempt to soothe whatever it was that was troubling him.

Ignoring his wife, Hawke continued on. "I…hear stories about the Grey Wardens. I hear that they have nightmares where they see and hear the Old Gods, and the Archdemons. They can sense the Darkspawn, you know? I remember Anders saying once that it's because their blood is tainted, and their souls are too."

"I'm a blood mage, Hawke." Merrill broke her silence with the truth that more often than not went unspoken ever since they had started this second life out on the farmlands of Amaranthine, "If your soul is tainted, if Carver's is, that means that mine is too."

And so, they sat in silence for the rest of the night together, drinking their sweet wine, unable to sleep from their musings and their wonderings, and their fears and hopes and dreams. Perhaps they were tainted, or perhaps everyone was.

Somewhere in the Void, in that dark Beyond, a Black Star was shining.

To you, David Bowie, I send a late farewell.

Goodbye, Starman.

Remember the diamond stars of cosmic light. Embrace the quasars that shine through endless night.