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Skyhold looked like a sturdy enough place, but rumor had it some sort of enraged Seeker of Truth was roaming the area, and Hawke was rather attached to her own neck.

It seemed a better idea not to linger. Her horse, a dun mare named Precious who possessed an inconveniently stubborn disposition, did not entirely agree. On their way through the courtyard walking side by side, she put all her four feet on the ground under an apple tree and gave Hawke a most significant look.

Precious piece of arse.

"It's easy for you to want to stick around," Hawke argued. "You're not the one who's going to end up boiled and beaten into Hawke Custard and served to my enemies. I bet you don't even have enemies."

Precious gave her a blank stare. The horse had long since heard all of Hawke's jokes and never even pretended to be amused any more.

"That's not quite how custard is made."

The reply did not come from Precious. Hawke swiveled around on her heels, finding herself face to face with a woman who looked like she'd stepped right out of a very fancy Orlesian ballroom. Silk for miles. Legs, also for miles. And a jewel-encrusted staff strapped to her back that looked like more like a work of art than a weapon.

The voice was all Marcher, though.

Gathering her wits — a quick thing, admittedly — Hawke put on her best smirk. "I'm not much of a cook. I prefer to eat."

The lady in question looked her up and down as if she was a particularly troublesome fungus. Her eyes lingered on Hawke's staff, and Hawke could see the exact moment she recognized it for what it was. Rather impressive considering it looked mostly like a walking stick with knives sticking out of it. Hawke had made it herself. It was her pride and glory. Isabela had made more inappropriate jokes about it than any other staff she'd ever had, including the one that had Andraste with her tits out on top.

The woman's gaze burned into her, and Hawke could feel her back straightening in response, the hair at the back of her neck standing up. Women who looked at her as if they would like to crush her under their delicate boots always made her horny.

"I heard an absurd rumor about the Champion of Kirkwall finally crawling out from under her rock."

It was her own fault, Hawke supposed. She'd arrived at this wreck of a fortress the night before and spent the evening with a motley crew of dwarves and elves who were not cheap with their booze. It was possible she'd let some things about herself slip out. It was possible she'd loudly announced herself as the Champion of Kirkwall and told them horror stories about blood magic and abominations until she was too drunk to stay awake.

All of that was an even bigger reason to leg it out of Skyhold before more people who wanted her dead showed up. Staying hidden would be so much easier if she could keep her mouth shut.

"Call me Hawke," she said. "Do you come here often?"

The woman raised an eyebrow with such deliberate flair it spoke volumes.

She grappled for a name from her memory. Varric had given her a brief run-down of noteworthy members of the Inquisition, few of which were mages and only one who fit a description along the lines of 'fancy-as-fuck Orlesian who wouldn't be caught dead wearing anything but silk from top to bottom'.

"I can't imagine the Iron Lady would have a single fuck to give about you," he'd added, moving on to people more likely to be an aid or hindrance to Hawke's general existence.

Varric had, however, neglected to tell her that the woman in question looked like that. He never took into account the intricacies of her love life.

"You must be First Enchanter Vivienne," Hawke added smoothly, giving the woman her best fuck-me grin. "Varric never said you were a Marcher."

Vivienne pointedly ignored her, reaching up to take a low-hanging apple from the tree and holding it out for Precious.

The horse sniffed her hand gingerly before taking a great big bite, sending little pieces of apple and drool flying. Vivienne did not seem to mind, holding out the half-eaten apple for Precious to finish, stroking her other hand under her chin, between her jaw bones, until Precious was a puddle in her hands. Hawke could not precisely blame her.

"In a hurry, are we?" Vivienne finally asked.

"Oh, you know. Places to go, people to fu—ight."

"You spoke with the Inquisitor."

Leaning against Precious, Hawke cracked a smile. "You sound suspiciously like someone fishing for information."

"Is there any other reason I'd speak to you?" Vivienne replied without missing a beat.

Hawke had to laugh at that. "Good point," she said. "But it's a long, boring story that I'm sure someone else will fill you in about."

Vivienne looked at her without blinking and Hawke wondered what she saw there, what rumors she'd listened to and what Varric had said.

"I suppose I won't delay you then," Vivienne said finally. "From the places and the people."

Hawke found herself tempted, then. To stick around, enraged Seekers of Truth be damned. There was most definitely some sort of challenge in the way Vivienne spoke, and Hawke had always enjoyed rising to those.

The words were on the tip of her tongue, ready to leap, but her mouth remained stubbornly shut.

She'd been alone so long, even since she left Kirkwall and everyone she cared about behind. It was better that way. Maybe when Kirkwall burned, part of her did too, and though she was still alive, it had turned her into someone old and bitter. When everyone who bore your name had burned to dust and blown away, and the only place you ever loved had crumbled beneath you, what was left? It wasn't a question she particularly cared to answer.

Hawke contorted herself into an exaggerated bow, before she tugged Precious along by the reins and left Skyhold behind.

 


 

There was no sign of Loghain anywhere near Crestwood.

Hawke spent weeks scouting the area, keeping her ear to the ground, trying not to think about the depressing inevitability that the old fool finally got himself killed.

There was nothing to do but wait or give up, and she was definitely too much of a Hawke to do the latter. Luckily, there was an awful lot of undead to keep her company around Crestwood, and if there was one thing she was good at it was killing things.

Meanwhile, Inquisitor Cadash had decided to fuck around all over the place and also go to some sort of Orlesian ball. They'd sent word with a scout who had the most adorable freckles, and when Hawke had asked what the fuck the Inquisition was doing with their time, she had blushed sweetly and said they were saving lives. Hard one to argue with.

Hawke smashed her staff into the skull of another undead ghoul, watching it crack open, black goo leaking out of it. She'd been to Orlesian balls before — well one anyway, if Château Haine counted — and it wasn't much different to this. In fact, the company may have been worse.

Another undead ghoul hit her over the eyebrow with a bony fist, blood spilling into her vision. Raising her arm, she froze it from the feet up and then smashed her staff through it so, shattering it into tiny undead bonecicles.

It was the last one for the moment, though it seemed like there was an endless supply, new rotting corpses walking out of the water every day. Precious had run away after Hawke dismounted to fight, but she could see her striped butt on a hill in the distance, head buried in the tall grass. Enjoying a hearty meal while Hawke was getting the necessary dirty work done; it was almost like having Carver back.

Focusing hard, she slapped her hand over her bleeding eyebrow, shoving a burst of magic into her skull as her flesh reluctantly knit itself together, inch by agonizing inch.

It was not too far to the Waking Sea from Crestwood.

If Loghain was dead and gone, perhaps she ought to simply find a ship to take her back to Kirkwall. There was no need for her to stay away any longer after all, and it needn't be a dramatic return; she could sneak in like a thief in the night, find Aveline, put her head in her lap and let herself be small in her arms.

Hawke slumped down on a rock, wrapping her arms around herself.

What a foolish idea. Aveline was more likely to call her an idiot and tell her to go fix her messes instead, and if she thought more about Aveline she would definitely cry.

There was nothing more pathetic than letting her mind dwell on old friends, so she made her thoughts drift to other things instead. Things like silk knickers to bury one's face in and the art of untying a corset. At night, curled up against a tree in her bedroll, she let her hands wander.

In an inn by Lake Calenhad she finally struck lucky.

After announcing herself to the crowd as The Champion of Kirkwall, will tell terrible stories for free drinks, the bar maid — a beautiful lady with yellow curls and arms that looked like she could lift Hawke over her head without breaking a sweat — slipped her a letter.

It was unsigned, of course, but on the page was something much more useful: a set of dates. She already knew where to look.

"You look like shit," Loghain said when she found him huddling in one of his caves. For a former Teyrn he knew an awful lot of smuggler's hide-outs.

"So do you," Hawke said, "but I didn't think it was worth mentioning because that's how you always look. You're unfathomably old, after all. Meanwhile, I've been beheading the undead for weeks while waiting for you."

"And I've been hiding in swamps and actual piles of dung trying to avoid my fellow Wardens, and I still smell better than you do."

"I ran out of soap, and besides, the undead can't smell you if you smell like they do."

"Unfortunately I can. Is the Inquisition on its way?"

"Should be here any day."

"Wonderful. In the meanwhile," — he dug into his bags, pulling out a bar of soap — "Bathe."

 


 

Inquisitor Cadash joined them in Crestwood, accompanied by Varric, a Tevinter mage, and Vivienne, who gave Hawke the same sort of look she'd given her in Skyhold.

At a glance, she hadn't seemed like the sort of person who'd appreciate mud, rain and endless hoards of undead. But she didn't make any noise about it, at least not any that could be heard above the dramatic sounds coming out of the Tevinter mage's mouth. The man had clearly made an art of the way he groaned at every new nuance of rain.

"We meet again, Lady Enchanter," Hawke said when she had a chance. "Did you miss me?"

Vivienne looked down her nose at Hawke. She was rather tall, which probably made such a thing easy for her. "Like one might miss an infected wound once it's healed."

Her cleavage looked even better than Hawke remembered. She was hardly dressed for the rain and the mud, with clothes as well-tailored as what she wore in Skyhold; a facsimile of Circle robes, though unlike any Hawke had seen before. Someone very clever was clearly responsible for deciding on the right cut to show off her long legs, the curve of her hips, and the dreamy dip between her tits.

She held Hawke back before they entered the cave, the back of her hand brushing against Hawke's arm. "I have little faith in Wardens," she said. "Your friend. Can he be trusted?"

"Sure. He's a bastard, but Warden-Commander Clarel put a price on his head, so who else is he going to turn to? The Carta? Empress Celene? Fucking Andraste?"

The look on Vivienne's face was rather skeptical.

That was why Hawke felt she was entirely in her right to be somewhat resentful that once she'd introduced Loghain to Cadash and they'd started on their return journey, Vivienne seemed to drastically change her tune.

When they stopped for the evening, Varric prepared a surprisingly edible meal, begging the question of who exactly taught him to cook since the Hanged Man burned to the ground. It wasn't that Hawke had a problem with her friends moving on without her, learning new skills and meeting new people, except that it definitely was exactly that.

Meanwhile, Vivienne was sitting with Loghain, the fucking traitor. She'd said she didn't care for Wardens and here the bastard was, chatting her up, using all his charm, of which Hawke for a fact knew he had none.

Vivienne laughed at something he said, and Hawke scowled. Never make friends with Wardens. Bag of dicks, the lot of them.

Varric nudged her in the ribs. "You okay, Hawke?"

"Peachy," she grumbled back.

"Is there a reason you smell like roses?"

"I thought she didn't care for Wardens."

"Who?" Varric looked in the direction Hawke was glaring. "The Iron Lady? Well, Loghain is very charming."

"Since when?"

"Didn't you read A Study of the Fifth Blight? It painted him in a very sympathetic light." Varric chuckled. "On the other hand, Blight Histories made him a bigger villain the the Arch Demon, so I guess it's a matter of perspective."

"Oh, Varric, you know I don't read."

"Yeah? Why is it that I know for a fact you're carrying around a pair of spectacles in your pocket?"

"They make me look clever."

"Is that why you tear them off anytime anyone comes close?"

"Obviously. Wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea about me." Hawke frowned as she watched across the fire. "I'm getting the impression that she doesn't like me very much."

"Hawke," Varric said. "You know I love you, but she's a Loyalist First Enchanter who rubs elbows with Orlesian nobility and you're an apostate who grew up in a barn."

"And a fucking Champion. Not that I go around talking about it. But it is known."

Varric chuckled. "Yeah, but a Champion of Kirkwall. Which currently is somewhere between a hole in the dirt and a sewer masquerading as a sinkhole."

"I am technicality nobility, you know."

"Hawke, an hour ago you were licking food off your shirt."

"It was going to stain."

Varric sighed, pausing. "Vivienne, she's... had a rough time of it lately. So let it be."

"Who hasn't had a rough time of it lately? The whole world has had a rough time of it lately."

"Fair enough," Varric said and didn't speak any more on the subject.

Not that Hawke asked. She was intimately acquainted with what it was like when everyone knew the whole sordid business of your private life. Like, for instance, when one of your best friends wrote a book about it.

Hawke crawled into her tent and pretended to sleep when Loghain joined her, wrapping himself up in his blanket and then, predictably, starting to snore. Through the gap in the tent flap, she could see Vivienne sitting by the dying fire. Well, she supposed someone needed to sit guard.

Alone, her face looked softer.

Chin tilted up, her eyes were on the night sky, perhaps to watch the stars, and the only words Hawke could think of were ones she herself preferred not to dwell on.

Turning over, Hawke shoved at the sleeping log that was her idiot Warden until he grunted and gave her a bleary look.

"Wake up," she hissed urgently, shaking him harder when he groaned in protest. "You have to go out there. You made her laugh before. Do it again."

"What? Who?"

"Vivienne, you ancient idiot."

"Hawke. Sincerely. I'm asleep. Do it yourself."

"You're useless."

"You should have a talk with my daughter. Good night."

He assumed log position again, and two breaths later he was back to snoring. It was genuinely impressive, if more than a little aggravating.

Dragging herself out of the tent, Hawke glared at Vivienne, sitting down next to her with a huff. "Can't sleep," she grunted.

Vivienne said nothing for the longest time, as the little flames of the fire lost the battle and slowly died, shrouding them in shadows.

"Do you pray?" Vivienne asked, when the fire had finally given up the fight and the only light that remained came from the stars and a sliver of the moon hanging onto the sky.

"No."

"Me neither."

They lapsed into silence again.

That was alright. Hawke found that sitting together in silence was better than sleeping anyway.

 


 

On their way back, Cadash, who was clearly a multi-tasking and also generous kind of Inquisitor, found a fortress in Crestwood occupied by a group of road bandits and decided to take it off their hands.

Well, why not. It was going to take the Inquisition time to mount their expedition to the Western Approach, might as well do some good deeds and kill people in the meantime.

It was a familiar dance. Back in the day, her father had shown her the steps and stood back to watch with a smile on his face as her feet sought a rhythm and her restless mind opened itself up to the Fade and found peace. Perhaps she would be too old for this too, someday, but not yet. The rain and the rubble turned the dirt in the courtyard slippery and wet, and Hawke let her staff do the talking.

Was it what the Inquisition expected of her?

The focus on her staff sparked red as she turned the mud into a sea of fire and let it scorch their path, slowed their enemies into a crawl, and clenched her magic into an invisible fist.

In the midst of it, she glanced over at Vivienne to make sure she was paying attention to the show, and promptly stumbled over her own feet at the sight. The blade in her hand was made up of nothing but pure magic, pulled straight from the Fade and held together by nothing except the strength of her will.

One of the bandits took the opportunity to put an elbow in her face, and some indeterminate time later, Hawke woke with a face full of mud.

Loghain tugged her up to her feet and Hawke bent over to retch and spit, nose gushing blood down her face and into her throat. The courtyard was a mess of bodies and mud, but there was still more fighting to be done.

Grabbing her chin to look at her face, Loghain visibly winced. "I suppose you're lucky your face didn't look that good in the first place."

"I wouldn't call it lucky that I'm seeing two versions of your ugly face."

Hawke shoved him aside. Breathing through her mouth, she tentatively touched her fingers to her nose. It made a crunching noise when she poked it.

"Stay back if you need," Loghain said.

"Pfft, do you think I've never broken my nose before?"

Further ahead, Cadash and Vivienne were cutting a berth through the opposition, and having made sure she could stand on her feet, Loghain ran up to join them while the Tevinter mage and Varric came up to flank her.

"Maker's breath," the mage said, looking at her with undisguised mirth, "do we put her first to scare off the opposition?"

"It's not a bad idea," Varric agreed, looking her up and down to assess her.

He'd seen her in worse shape and still walking, still able to get the last word in. Maker, she missed those days. It was harder to bounce back these days than it had been ten years earlier. Harder to drag herself up in the morning, harder to see suffering and believe anything she did could help, harder to see a reason to keep fighting except because it was the only thing she knew how to do.

There was so much blood on her hands, and had any of it mattered in the end? Another question she didn't want to seek the answer to.

"Thanks for your fucking support," Hawke grunted. She stumbled past them, heading back into the fray.

The rest of the fight was a blur, but she'd never needed to think much about fighting. It was all some sort of instinct for killing, she supposed. Whether by means of magic or by the sharp blades attached to her staff, it was in her bones. Perhaps she'd inherited it from her father, along with the the name, the magic, and the propensity for trouble.

Once the bandits were taken care of — Cadash speared their chief on her sword with all the straight-forward brutality one might expect of a former member of the Carta — Hawke sat herself down against the wall, lifting her face against the rain. Her nose had stopped bleeding at some point, and she let the rain wash away the dirt and blood from her face.

When she opened her eyes again, Vivienne was looking down at her, an irritated frown between her eyes. "Allow me," she said, the tone of her voice quite clearly conveying that she had much better things to do with her time.

"No need," Hawke said. She gathered her wits enough to focus her magic, slamming hand and magic against the side of her head, ears ringing.

"Maker, what do you think you're doing?"

Hawke peered up at her. "Healing?"

"A rather generous assessment."

Vivienne went down to her knees in front of her, in the mud.

Cupping her hands around Hawke's face, she held her with more tenderness than Hawke would have expected. A cool rush settled around Hawke's face, dulling the pounding in her head. Vivienne's fingers were cold against her cheeks, and after a little while her congestion cleared somewhat, nose squeaking as she pulled in a breath.

"Thanks," Hawke said.

"I haven't started yet."

With no bedside manner whatsoever, Vivienne abandoned all pretense of tenderness and put her fingers around her nose, yanking it back into position.

"Ow ow OW," Hawke cried, eyes tearing and fresh blood pouring from her nose.

And then Vivienne's magic settled around her, tangling around flesh, bone and cartilage. Hawke could feel her body adjusting itself to accommodate it. It had been so long since someone else cared for her injuries. She hadn't let another mage heal her since Anders. More tears spilled out of her eyes, but at least she could blame the pain. Maker, she hated healing magic. It always felt like a kindness she hadn't deserved.

On the bright side, sitting like this she had a perfect view down Vivienne's cleavage. Perhaps in a different world, she would get to lick the sweat from between her breasts.

"It was your fault," Hawke mumbled, trembling a little as Vivienne held onto her face. "You could have warned me you had a magic sword."

Not even Vivienne had avoided the mud; it was splattered across her fine robes, her neck and her chest. The rain started to wash it away as they sat together. "I suppose there aren't too many Knight-Enchanters in the Free Marches."

"If I could make a sword out of magic I wouldn't have to put so many knives on my staff."

Vivienne's mouth twitched. "And what a loss that would be."

"I've never seen anything like that before," Hawke confessed. "It was... out of this world. Literally, I guess."

"You know, I felt much the same the first time I saw a Knight-Enchanter. I'd almost forgotten."

Vivienne did smile then, and Hawke couldn't stop herself from letting out a laugh as she thought back to Lothering. "The first time I saw someone make it rain fire, I devoted weeks to learning how to do it. Embarrassing because it was my baby sister and I couldn't very well ask her to teach me. My pride would never have recovered."

Having finished her healing, Vivienne sat back. Hawke poked at her nose again. It seemed to be in one piece this time, a little sore and bruised, but everything was back where it should be. Good news for her face, probably.

"Your magic," Vivienne said. "It's a rather unique blend of techniques. Who taught you?"

"Maker, I love the way you say 'unique'. You make it sound like a disease." Hawke got to her feet, brushing her hands off on her pants, and added, "Haven't you read Varric's book? It tells all my secrets."

"Ah. No. I skimmed the chapter on Corypheus, but the rest seemed like tripe of limited historical significance."

"Wow." Hawke laughed. "I've truly never heard my life described better."

 


 

It was still raining by the time they were done, water washing away the blood from the stones, letting the earth soak it up. Once the bodies were cleared, the fortress looked practically homey.

Cadash put a flag on top of the highest tower and then ran through every room and every chest and drawer in the whole fortress with remarkable speed: clearly a thief in Hawke's own taste. In her thorough investigation, she found a bathhouse on the cellar level.

"Have you ever been to a Tevinter bathhouse?" the Tevinter mage asked.

Hawke tilted her head, putting her hands on her hips. "Sure, I go there all the time."

"Well, this is nothing like it. But we'll have to make do."

"Dorian, was it?" Hawke said. "You're not half-bad with a staff."

He gave her a long look and then shared his bottle of obscenely strong booze with her, which definitely put him on her good side. There was nothing like a good fight to bring people together. Or booze, for that matter.

There was a mechanism to bring cold water in from the lake to fill up the big bath set into the stone floor. Maybe in the summer, the water would even be a little warm. For the rest of the year, she imagined it would be quite bracing.

Unless there was a mage around, of course! Dorian had already crouched next to the bath and touched his fingers to the water, letting the elements warm it, slowly but surely, until steam rose from the surface.

Dorian and Varric went in first, and then Cadash, who was all compact strength and soft curves, skin a match for Dorian's but a touch ruddier, gorgeous in the sort of way one had to simply admire, and Hawke had never had any particular qualms over nudity, her own or others.

"For you," Loghain said, handing her a fresh bar of soap before she stepped in.

"If you keep giving me soap I'm going to start to take it personally."

"Courtesy of Madame Vivienne. She asked me to tell you she doesn't care for roses."

Hawke put the soap to her nose. It smelled good, sort of warm and lush, a little sweet. "Why does Vivienne care for how I smell?"

"Were you always this dumb or is it that punch you took to the nose?"

Before Hawke had the chance to tell him that yes, she was always this dumb — did he not know about Kirkwall? — the last person of their little group joined them.

Hawke positioned herself in the bath so that her back was turned, sinking down so the water reached her jaw. The heat made her cheeks flush as Cadash told some grand story about various people she'd killed at one point or another while smuggling lyrium, and underneath her voice there it was, the sound of Vivienne removing her clothes: the clack of her boots on the stone floor, the rustling of fabric. Then she slid into the water.

Hawke looked only a little bit at a time, glancing in the corner of her eye; fingers, bent over the edge of the bath, rounded shoulders, a knee, breaking the surface of the water.

Inexplicably, the others seemed unaffected.

If anyone should have been troubled with nudity, it ought to have been Loghain. Everyone knew Fereldans had delicate sensibilities, and yet here he was, completely unbothered in the face of so much naked skin. Maybe old age made his dick fall off.

In time — long enough that the water was cooling but definitely not long enough for Hawke to have had time to gather her wits — the others departed with the promise of food and booze, leaving Vivienne and Hawke behind.

It seemed so convenient that she wondered if Vivienne had orchestrated it, but she would have known if Varric had been in on such a plan — he was much too fond of his own voice to keep his commentary to himself.

The room seemed eerily silent once it was just the two of them. Hawke could feel Vivienne's eyes on her, studying, assessing.

"Would you like to join the others?" Vivienne asked finally.

Hawke laughed. "Not unless you kick me out."

"Good."

With that, Vivienne moved through the water.

Hawke straightened her back as she was straddled, the slippery feel of Vivienne's skin against her own making her heart beat hard and wild. Her gaze dipped, following a drop of water meandering down from her collar bone on a most fascinating path. Sat in her lap, the water reached only just above her waist.

Putting her fingers on Hawke's chin, Vivienne tilted her face back up again. "You're staring."

Hawke, having regretfully torn her eyes from her breasts, saw no reason to argue. "Well," she said, "yes."

Vivienne kept her grip on her chin, and then she leaned in to press her mouth to Hawke's, kissing her the same way she composed herself in battle: with utmost skill and precision.

When they parted, Hawke rubbed her thighs together. Even in the water she could feel herself getting wet.

"What do you want me to do?" Hawke asked, voice a little wobbly, gaze sucked down to Vivienne's mouth. "Anything off the table?"

There was definitely a smirk there, a quirk of her lips, a dip at the corner of her mouth. "Oh, now you're polite."

"I can be less polite if you'd like."

Under the water, Vivienne sat down further onto her thigh, moving her hips in a slow rhythm.

Hawke trailed her hands up over her sides until she could run her thumbs under her breasts. Her nipples were hard, and Hawke wondered if she'd be allowed to touch them.

She hadn't really answered the question. Perhaps she was waiting for Hawke to find out on her own. To impress her. Even here, stripped of clothes and weapons, it was impossible to forget just what sort of person Vivienne was, and who Hawke was in return. Hawke may have bedded her fair share of women, some men and a few who didn't neatly fit into either category, but she could hardly claim to be more than a mediocre lover.

"I'll be right back," she said, slipping out from under Vivienne and bolting out of the bath.

 


 

Out of the hot water, the air was chilly and damp the way a fortress built of stone was bound to get in the rain. Her teeth clattered as she skipped across the cold, damp floor stones to get to the corner where she'd left her scuffed bag.

Vivienne was notably unhappy when she returned. "Did no one ever tell you," she said, arms crossed and a frown pulling at her brow, "that it's quite rude to run off like that."

Hawke stopped on the steps leading into the bath, trying not to drop the things she'd gathered from her bag. "It's been mentioned, but look, I'm happy to see you."

She made a little gesture in the direction of her crotch, in case Vivienne had missed the polished onyx dildo strapped to her hips.

Vivienne looked at the item in question, and then to the stuff in her arms, quirking an eyebrow. "You travel light, I see."

The contents in Hawke's arms, brought in the interest of providing a selection of choice, included, among other things:

  1. A Very Large Peacock Feather
  2. A candle, purchased in Val Royeaux and marketed by the hapless merchant as The Most Romantic Candle in the World. It was on sale.
  3. An object that managed to look both like a severed tentacle and a dick, depending on the angle.
  4. High quality linen rope, tragically unused.
  5. A vibrating dwarven artifact sold as a 'back massager'.

If Hawke had known what kind of wilderness survival she'd be engaging in, she would have definitely brought a larger selection when she left Kirkwall. As it was, she'd stowed all her most beautifully crafted implements in Aveline's closet. What a waste. It wasn't like Aveline would get any use out of them.

"Bare essentials," Hawke said with a shrug.

"Is that a candle?"

"You ask about the candle but not about the tentacle dick? Yes, it's a candle." With a flourish no one in this world could resist, probably, Hawke tilted her head and lit the candle in her hand with a decisive eyebrow waggle. "I've heard things about Orlesians. Also about Circle mages."

"Have you now?"

"Would you like to tie me up? There's rope. Maybe drop some hot wax on my nipples? Or perhaps you prefer the Feather?"

"Darling, while all of that looks delightful, I'd like for you to get me off before someone comes down here to see if we've drowned."

"Crude, I love it."

Vivienne stood up in the bath and reached up so she could grip the leather straps snugly attached around Hawke’s hips and thighs, tugging her a few steps further into the water. "You may keep this one on."

"Oh," Hawke started, and then forgot what she'd been meaning to say. She dropped her armful of sexy paraphernalia next to the bath and sat down on the steps, the water licking at her thighs.

The candle flame, having been abandoned in favor of other pursuits, fizzled out and died.

Glancing briefly at the door, Vivienne moved up on the steps looking like something out of a really good sort of dream. There was a bar of soap in her hands, the one she'd gifted Hawke earlier, and she passed it to Hawke, quirking her eyes in the direction of her crotch. Hawke laughed as she soaped up the dildo and rinsed it. She always did appreciate a practical woman.

Bending over, Vivienne found the bottle of oil from Hawke's big pile of Sex Things, pouring a generous amount into her hand. Hawke sat back as Vivienne put her hand on the dildo, getting it slick, and then Hawke entirely forgot how to breathe as Vivienne stood up straighter and put her hand between her own legs, oil running between her fingers and down her thigh.

Hawke's crotch throbbed as she stared. Then Vivienne sat down on her lap. She leaned her cheek against Hawke's, her breath warm and heavy against her ear as she lined the dildo up and sank down on it, slowly, slowly, until they were flush, Vivienne's thighs thrown wide over Hawke's. One of her hands followed the same path, knuckles brushing against Hawke's lower stomach as Vivienne touched herself.

"Are you... comfortable?" Hawke asked, her whole face burning hot.

"Quite."

The places where they touched lit her up; the soft brush of her cheek, her thighs against Hawke's hips, the base of the dildo pushing against Hawke's clit when Vivienne moved her hips. Hawke slid her hands down from Vivienne's hips to her backside, and together they found a slow grind. If there was anything more arousing than a woman getting off in her lap, Hawke certainly couldn't imagine it.

"Do you always make sure people bathe in your soap of choice before you fuck them?" Hawke asked, eyes drawn down to the way her tits moved as she circled her hips.

Vivienne laughed a little at that, moving her hands up to grasp at her shoulders. "When the opportunity presents itself."

"So do I meet your approval? Did I scrub enough?"

"You'll suffice, I suppose."

"You're so good at compliments. It turns me on."

Vivienne's eyes were dark and hot when Hawke looked back up from her chest, and Hawke leaned in to kiss her hard, on the mouth, on her jaw, dragging her lips down her neck.

"The last person I was intimate with..." Vivienne started, her voice vibrating in her throat against Hawke's mouth. She left the sentence unfinished, but she didn't need to say the words to get the message across. Taking a sudden breath, she added, "I'd like for that not to be the case."

Hawke knew that sort of grief, the kind that didn't want to be spoken about, the kind that held you by the throat until you choked. And she didn't mind being Vivienne's little interlude. A means to an end, a warm body and a beating heart. In fact, it was kind of hot.

"Maker, I get it," she mumbled against her neck, moving her hips a little quicker against Vivienne's. "The last time I slept with someone it was an absolute disaster."

"Hmm. Did it involve the feather?"

"Oh, I wish."

After all those years of friendly flirting, she and Isabela hadn’t crossed that line until the very end, and she wished now they never had. A sad pity fuck in the ashes of Kirkwall, no wonder Varric hadn't put that in the book.

She'd started to cry in the middle of it and Isabela had gone down on her while they both pretended she hadn't seen. Then she'd cried more after and not even Isabela had been able to pretend. She'd looked at her with wide, terrified eyes, and then went to get Aveline.

It was a bad memory.

Rather than dwelling on it, Hawke went lower, cupping Vivienne's breasts delicately, tracing her fingers over them, bending to kiss them softly. She moved her mouth in circles until she could suck a nipple into her mouth, pushing the flat of her tongue against it.

Vivienne's fingers dug into Hawke's shoulders, back arching. She made a soft, sensual, sexual sound, the kind that could very well get Hawke off by itself if she did it enough times.

Hawke could feel the tension in her body building, and it made the blood pound in her ears. It was the best moment, that escalating pleasure and the inevitability of it. When Vivienne tipped over into her climax, Hawke held her trembling thighs hard and fucked her through it.

Vivienne took her time gathering her wits, running her fingers over Hawke's back as if she didn't realize just what a throbbing mess Hawke was. More likely she just enjoyed torturing her.

"Would you like me to return the favor, darling?" she said eventually.

Vivienne reached down to touch the straps around her hips, and Hawke couldn't help but picture it: turning around to put her hands and knees on the steps, Vivienne's hand on her back bending her over, her front pressed up against the back of Hawke's thighs.

It might be the thing that would finally kill her.

Here lies the Champion of Kirkwall, fucked to death. Isabela would be so proud. Aveline would never forgive her.

"No," she said, in the interest of staying alive for the mission at hand, etc. "I want to go down on you."

"By all means."

Vivienne rose up to separate them, letting the dildo slip out of her, and Hawke reached for her, hands clutching her shoulders as she stood to kiss her. Reaching down, Vivienne gently unbuckled the straps around her hips. She sat down on the steps into the bath, and Hawke went after, going down between her legs.

She was slippery wet, oil and arousal, and Hawke tasted her, inhaled her, pressed her tongue against her and ate her up.

Pushing in closer, Hawke dragged Vivienne's knees further apart, licking into her and through her folds, finally putting her lips around her clit. She worked her with her tongue until Vivienne put one of her hands on her head, sliding down to grab onto her short hair.

It was more than Hawke could handle. The taste of her, and the clench of her fingers against her scalp. Andraste knew she was lonely and starved for any kind of touch that felt even vaguely like affection. Hand darting between her own legs, she moaned into Vivienne and came, hard and long, as if her body had forgotten how good it could feel to have someone else pressed against it, pleasure blooming up her spine and all the way down her legs.

Her heart beat like a drum in her ears, a quick, trembling rhythm. All this time, all the blood she'd spilled and all the stupid mistakes she'd made, she still lived and breathed, somehow.

But, she thought, as Vivienne's thighs clenched hard around her ears, if there was any place she'd like to die and be buried in it was here, with her face against Vivienne's cunt.

 


 

It was still raining when the others detoured to knit together some tear in the Veil or another in a cave under the old village, and Hawke and Loghain set off in the direction of the Inquisition outpost outside of town.

They'd drained the dam and left the debris of Old Crestwood bared to the eye. Hawke was relieved Cadash had not asked her to follow her down there. She'd seen enough ruins.

"Inquisitor Cadash snores," Hawke said, tangling her fingers in Precious's rain-wet mane and running her hand across the withers.

Loghain looked at her as if he was expecting a really dumb joke to be the next thing out of her mouth. "I'm on tenterhooks," he said.

"Maker, you're hilarious. Am I finally rubbing off on you? The Inquisitor snores and so do you."

"I still don't follow."

"In the interest of me getting any kind of sleep on the way back to Skyhold, I think it makes sense that the two of you share a tent. Snoring along together. Maybe even in tune."

"Huh. So I'd share a tent with the Inquisitor. Snoring together. Where would that leave you?"

"In blessed silence."

Precious snorted — in affirmation, Hawke assumed. Loghain and his chestnut gelding gave her identical blank looks. No sense of humor, either of them.

"The Inquisitor," Loghain said after awhile, "she shares a tent with Vivienne, does she not?"

"Oh, I wouldn't mind letting Vivienne sleep in my tent. I'm sure she's very quiet."

"And this would be in the interest of you getting more sleep?"

"Yep." Hawke cleared her throat. "Good, old-fashioned, quality sleep."

 


 

The road back to Skyhold was much more pleasant than the trip in the opposite direction had been.

 


 

The Fade defied description.

They walked inside a dream, and like a dream, the details seemed to slip away once they were dropped back onto solid ground, feet finding their step in the real world. Only bits and pieces lingered, echoing inside her head.

Did you think you mattered, Hawke? Did you think anything you ever did mattered?

Hawke hadn't noticed it happening, but something must have slid through her defenses in there. There was a gash in her side deep enough to bleed sluggishly until Vivienne ordered her into their tent outside the fortress like a general.

Sitting down for the first time since they returned, Hawke slumped, staring at her hands as Vivienne unbuttoned her shirt to bare her midsection. She pushed Hawke's arm up roughly, putting her hands on her wound. It hurt.

"There's no need to whine," Vivienne said, and Hawke wasn't the sort of person who minded a bit of manhandling, but also she had just been stabbed.

"Why are you angry?"

"I do not care for the healing arts. I wish you'd stop making it necessary for me to utilize them."

Vivienne had been unaffected in the Fade, a bastion of control and authority. When the Nightmare had spoken to her, it hadn't even seemed to find anything useful to claw at. Her face was blank and unreadable as she applied her magic in waves, and Hawke suffered through it.

"At least I'm still alive," Hawke mumbled, the hollow truth of it cutting deeper than her injury. "Loghain was my friend. It shouldn't have ended like that for him."

Vivienne stopped what she was doing for a moment, hands dropping into her lap. "There's nothing worthy or dignified about death," she said, putting her hands back on Hawke's side. "But what he did saved the rest of us."

"Fucking bastard."

He was always as bad as she was at articulating all that nonsense that kept floating around in her head and in her heart. Maker knew Loghain had been a arsehole and a prick and the villain of so many people's stories. Bad deeds stacked high on top of bad deeds weighing heavy on his back. He fucked up so badly he could never go home again. There was a reason he was the only person she could stand after Kirkwall.

It occurred to her rather belatedly that Vivienne had worried for her.

Maybe the Nightmare had done something to her, after all, no matter how inconsequential its words had seemed to Hawke. Tongue-tied and uncertain, she hesitated. Maker knew she had no talent for comfort, giving or receiving. Besides, the only thing that stopped her from running willingly into certain death was Cadash's word.

"Stop," she said, putting her hands on top of Vivienne's and stilling her. "Can I undress you?"

She did it slowly, putting her mouth on every bared bit of skin, tasting her sweat and the salt of her skin.

After, when Vivienne was laid out on her bedroll, Hawke laid down beside her, watching the dim light touch her skin with more gentleness than she had managed.

"My father," she said. "My father taught me."

Vivienne was quiet.

"He was a Circle mage," Hawke continued. "Then he got my mother pregnant. See, I was trouble even before I was born. What he didn't teach me I read in a book, picked up along the way, or made up."

Hawke licked her lips, still tasting Vivienne in her mouth.

"He died before the Blight. And then it was down to me to keep everything together. I did a terrible job of it."

Did you think you mattered, Hawke? Did you think anything you ever did mattered? You couldn't even save your city. You're a failure, and your family died knowing it.

Those words, what were they if not things she had felt down to her bones all these years but never quite managed to face? They died, all of them, one after the other, and there was nothing she could do. They put Kirkwall in her hands and she razed it to the ground.

Loghain died so she could live. She wasn't a Warden, but he died and so she must pick up his burden. Anders was a Warden too, once, and it may have meant nothing to him but when she struck him down it meant taking on his responsibilities, even the ones he didn't want. She wasn't a Warden, but they were her problem now.

She was going to miss Vivienne's tits something fierce.

"I have to go to Weisshaupt. It ought to be Loghain, but I guess they'll have to make do with me."

"I hope you're not planning on doing something foolish like getting yourself killed or joining the Wardens, darling."

"Maker's tits, no."

She didn't know how to be anything but a failure and a Hawke, and being a Hawke still meant something, even though she was the only one left. Sometimes it seemed like they were still with her, little flames in her heart that kept it going, that kept her alive.

Vivienne reached out to run her hand along Hawke's hip, raising goosebumps as she went. "There is much to be done."

"I have to go back to Kirkwall eventually," Hawke said. "It's still my mess to fix. Besides, we never got around to that thing where you tie me up and drop hot wax on my nipples."

"Things will be quite different when the Inquisition has accomplished its task. There are a great many things I intend to do once that happens. Things that would make such suggestions highly inappropriate."

"Oh. Well, I'd hate to be inappropriate."

Vivienne's smile was quite self-satisfied and very, very beautiful. "On the contrary, darling. I rather look forward to it."