To the Last Drop
It wasn’t that Fenris had never seen liquid lyrium in use.
Obviously, that wasn’t the case. The mages of the Imperium had always made sure it was in reach, of course, and Hawke and the other two kept it on hand whenever they expected a brawl. He’d seen empty vials of it tossed aside mid-fight, seen it sipped from the finest gold goblets, passed from mouth to mouth in intimate moments—yes, Fenris had seen plenty of lyrium in use.
He wished it weren’t the case, though. Because if he was unfamiliar with it, that might explain the way he couldn’t seem to help watching Hawke when she drank it down.
Unfortunately, it was not novelty but something else entirely that kept his eyes on her lips, pressed to the glass, on the long line of her throat when she tipped her head back to finish the draught.
On…on her tongue, when she traced it over her full lower lip to gather up any loose drops.
“Ready?” Isabela asked, twirling a dagger in one hand absently, “I’ve an itch I need to scratch.”
“Oh?” Hawke said, laughing, her head still half-back. She was all but a silhouette to him, standing near the top of a hill while he leaned against a boulder at the bottom.
“Again?” Merrill asked, peering at the Rivaini, “Is it the one under your shoulder blade that you can never reach? D’you want me to try—”
“No, no,” Isabela laughed, slinging an arm over the elf’s shoulders, “Not that kind of itch, Kitten.”
“Oh,” Merrill said, as the two began to wander back toward the road, “I thought…”
Fenris had already stopped paying attention to them. Hawke was looking at him, one arm stretched across her bountiful chest, her head angled to the side. Fenris pushed off of the boulder and made his way very deliberately up the last rise. He stopped a decent distance away—he knew because he was measuring the space between them very carefully in his mind—and went on looking at her.
He’d intended to say something. He knew he’d intended to stay something.
Hawke eyed him carefully, then stretched the other arm across her chest, wincing faintly. She only ever did that when he was the sole observer—and yes, he only knew this because he was so often watching her—but Fenris could find no reason for it.
Under other circumstances, he might think she was trying to get something from him. For anyone else, he would be right. But this: that he was the only one she allowed to bind her wounds, aside from the healer; that he was the one she balanced herself with when she was limping or woozy from blood loss. Fenris could not understand it, and he dare not ask. The obvious explanation—that she still trusted him after everything else that had happened—was simply beyond consideration.
There had to be a reason. If she were anyone else, he thought with a sense of dissatisfaction, he would almost certainly ask.
“Stiff?” he asked gruffly, tapping the fingers of one hand against his thigh.
Maria—her given name, not that anyone ever used it; Fenris only thought of her thus because she’d gasped it into his ear that night three years ago, told him not to call her Hawke while—
Hawke sighed and her mouth turned down at the corners in an exaggerated pout.
“I’m getting old, Fenris,” she said, so woefully that he almost believed her for a moment, “I feel it in my bones. Soon, I’ll only ever talk about…oh, gout and how young folk these days never know how to treat their elders.”
“You could have just said no,” he told her sternly, but the corner of his mouth lifted faintly. She must have seen it, for her lips curled up in answer, even as she lifted her eyes dolefully to the sky.
“No, Fenris, you don’t understand,” she said, and set the back of her hand against her forehead, “Who will chase mercenaries all over these hills when I can’t hobble after them? Soon I shall be all wrinkles and white hair and—”
“And still look just as—”
Fenris bit the end of the sentence off before he could make the fatal mistake of speaking it aloud, but both of them froze anyway.
And still look just as lovely as you do now.
The words hovered on his tongue for a moment, kept caged behind his teeth, and it was a force of will not to say the words aloud.
They’d only made it this far by pretending it—that night—had never happened. Three years, nearly, and they were both still here together. That first night at cards in the Hanged Man, Fenris had hesitated at the door, abruptly itchy everywhere, as if the air itself were anathema to him. He’d thought to leave, to prevent the inevitable discomfort, but she….
She’d met his eyes and scooted over, nudging Isabela with her, clearing room at the other end of the table. So…so he’d know he still had a place there, even if it wasn’t at her side. Fenris thought he might be grateful to her for that forever, no matter what else happened between the two of them. How strange, not to realize how much having a place of one’s own meant until one faced down the possibility of losing it permanently.
“Well,” Hawke said after a moment, blinking first and lowering her eyes, “In any case, maybe I’ll be lucky and go bald. I cannot believe I forgot to tie all this up before I left the manor this morning. The wind is wreaking absolute havoc.”
“I can—” Fenris began, then winced inwardly.
He could, in fact, help with that; it wouldn’t be the first time he’d tied someone else’s hair up, nor the first time he’d done it for her—but those had been simpler times.
“If you have a bit of leather, or…anything, I can manage,” she said.
Fenris’s fingers touched her token, still tied around his wrist, but he would not part with it—not even for the sake of her comfort. He reached into his pocket instead and retrieved a loose bit of leather he’d intended to tame his own hair with in case the weather turned. He despised the way wet hair stuck to one’s skin, and he’d endured it several times too many on these outings to the coast. The leather ought to be long enough for her hair, too, if he plaited it first.
“Turn,” he told her, his voice thicker than he would have liked, and she turned without a word.
Fenris gathered the bounty of her hair in his hands, untangling several knots as carefully as possible. It seemed to cling to his fingers, twining around the joints, black against the pale blue lyrium that lined his skin. It had looked like that three years ago, too, had tangled around him just so when he’d tilted her head back over his hand to kiss down the length of her neck. It had felt like this draped over his chest when he’d combed his fingers through it after, and—
“Are you coming down from there anytime soon?” Isabela demanded from the bottom of the hill, and Fenris realized he’d been combing his fingers through Maria’s hair without moving onto the next step. For how long? Her chest rose and fell too quickly, as if she’d just climbed a very steep hill, but that was…probably just exertion.
Fenris let his eyes focus again on her dark curls, pulling them into a simple plait down the middle while she answered Isabela. They were laughing about something—not him; it sounded different when Hawke was laughing about him—so all must be well enough. He finished the braid, tied it off as intended, and then he just…stood there, holding the end of her thick hair.
It was soft as silk between his fingers, shiny as a raven’s wing and dark against the brown of his hands, against the pale blue of the lyrium that thrummed beneath his skin like a second heartbeat. Hawke was underneath his skin, too, in her way; and it was all the worse for knowing it had all been his choice. That having and leaving her had been his choice. And for all the times Fenris had wished he could forget what her skin had felt like, how she’d sounded when—
For all he’d wished he could forget, he was deeply, deeply grateful that he could still remember every second of it. What would he be if this, too, had been taken from him? He did not wish to consider it.
“Finished?” Hawke asked, turning her head.
There was a faint quiver to her bottom lip that made him want to press his thumb to it, but he did not. He hadn’t the right.
Fenris didn’t move at all. He just stood, and looked, and wished.
Finished, she’d asked.
“I am…not certain,” Fenris told her.
Hawke’s fingers found the end of the braid, tested the leather tie, but her attention was on him. He could tell; one could always tell when Hawke’s full attention was fixed on them.
“Are you?” he finished, the words nearly carried off by the wind. She opened her mouth to answer and—
“Let’s go,” Isabela called from the other side of the hill, “I have plans for tonight that don’t include murder!”
Hawke turned, shaking her head at the words, but for a moment—just a moment—her hand brushed against Fenris’s, the warmth of her fingers barely felt between the joints of his armor. As she set off down the hill, the hand she’d touched curled into a fist, tight enough to dig into his palm, and flexed loose again.
Fenris set off after her, eyes carefully on the steep ground ahead, but a careful observer might have been able to note the color in his cheeks, and the matching red that spilled over Hawke’s.
It was unfortunate, then, that Varric had not come with them that day—for there was nobody present who would notice such things at all.
(For @14daysdalovers, Day 5: Lyrium. In case anyone is keeping track, this was about a week before the party ficlet I posted yesterday c: )