A white sea pelted the windshield, Fenris unable to see even the headlights pathetic attempt to highlight the road. All he could make out were the windshield wipers struggling to mop away the blizzard swarming above them.
He braced himself against the console, not a matter of if but when the truck he foolishly climbed into would spin out of control and upend into a ditch. Sadly, his companion appeared unperturbed by their plight.
Hawke had his seat pulled so close to the windshield, his knee knocked over an empty coffee cup. The cheap styrofoam rolled around on Fenris’ boots, probably working a new stain in, but he had bigger problems. Like surviving this night.
Tugging down the wrists of his jacket, Hawke tried to wipe away the condensation building up inside the cab on the windshield. A freezing cold winter outside, a broken heater in, and two men puffing away was increasing the fog like cataracts.
“Damn snow,” Hawke grumbled in his baritone roll. “Come on, baby. Hold it together,” he cooed to the truck as if the blighted thing could respond. Fenris tried to not roll his eyes for fear it might distract the driver. Why did he agree to this again?
No one else moved on the highway, the streaking lights through the slits of snow long abandoned to darkness. It was so desolate, Fenris began to wonder if they were the only two left alive on this blizzarding night. “Hawke…” he began, his voice rolling lower into a growl.
The man had his entire bottom lip jutted out, his eyes pinched to the size of raisins as he attempting to glare through the darkness. When it seemed no response was coming, Fenris tried again. “Hawke!”
“We should stop.”
“Nonsense, just got another…” And, the man who was the only bulwark between them and being impaled on the drive shaft, dug out his phone.
Tevene curses rolled under Fenris’ breath as he glanced around wishing there was a second seatbelt in this rickety truck. No such luck, and — as he noted before — the nylon across his lap was held in place thanks to duct tape. How was Hawke not dead ten times over already?
“Hour and a half to go?” Hawke’s optimism deflated at that fact. The way they were already creeping over the highway, it was probably more likely going to take two to three hours. Fenris tried to burn his eyes into the man who was sheepishly placing his phone into the fallen shelf overladen in rusted bolts.
Hawke wrung his hands against the steering wheel, the bullheaded man never one to turn tail and run. Most situations, Fenris wasn’t either, but no one could defeat the weather. No one sane at least. They rumbled past another mile marker, the green sign reminding them that they passed the last one some ten minutes back.
With a groan, Hawke slammed the heels of his hands against the steering wheel. “Fine, get us some place to stop for the night.” He jerked his chin at the abandoned phone, Fenris fishing it up.
He was about to ask for the password, when a swipe of his finger opened it right to the home screen. Of course Hawke wouldn’t hide his things behind a password, look at the people he let into his life. Not staring at the lewd picture Isabela downloaded for Hawke’s wallpaper when he wasn’t looking, Fenris scrolled through the close options for the night.
“You know,” Hawke said during Fenris’ search, “they’re gonna wonder what happened to us.”
Fenris didn’t answer as he was too busy trying to close out windows asking him to rate places they hadn’t even been to. Curse this.
“Might worry too. Maybe it’d just be easier to…”
“Take the next exit,” Fenris declared, depositing the phone in Hawke’s favorite spot.
The man groaned, his head tipping up as both watched the sign above warn them about their oncoming ramp. Fenris glanced over once, his glare trying to tell Hawke that they were turning off and stopping. He had no intentions of pulling himself out of a crashed and crumpled pickup in freezing snow. Nor did he think he’d have the strength to carry Hawke towards whatever passed for a hospital out here in nowhere.
“Fine,” Hawke acquiesced once again, “you win. But don’t look smug.” He waggled a finger even while cranking on the wheel. As he did so, his precarious phone tumbled from its perch and landed beside Hawke’s feet. The man didn’t even notice, all his focus on keeping the truck from spinning off the iced-over ramp.
* * *
By the time they parked the car in front of the halo of angelic light seeping from the motel’s front door, even Hawke came to agree with him. “Holy Maker, that was…did you see that?” He kept describing their near miss of slamming into a light post while drifting down main street.
“Yes,” Fenris groaned. He glanced up at the mass of white flakes already accumulating on his hood. More concerned about the state of his favorite shirt/jacket/lifestyle than his hair, Fenris tugged the faded black hood down. Not as if anyone would be able to spot the difference between his snowy locks and the real stuff.
With a bound in his step, Hawke dashed into the Dream Inn. As he yanked back on the glass door, the scent of cleaning fluid and fluorescent light struck Fenris. Some people claimed they couldn’t smell the difference between acrid fluorescent and incandescent, but he knew it well. Scowling at the light bashing in his skull after the hour or so of darkness, Fenris retreated deeper into the collar of his hoodie while Hawke moseyed up to the counter.
In his rustic, Carhartt jacket he looked like the typical fare to stop at a cheap-ass motel in the middle of farm country. The barely trimmed beard, apple cheeked smile (even more rosy than usual thanks to the cold) and bright blue eyes landed him into adoptable son for the fair town. Fenris knew where he stood, which was out — as was typical. He never stopped long enough for someone to point out all the reasons he didn’t belong.
From a side door came a young woman — maybe twenty at most. As her eyes swung over to Hawke — the man with one elbow planted on the counter, his chin in hand — she perked up. “Well, hello,” she smiled wide, showing off a set of teeth bleached whiter than Fenris’ hair.
“Hello back to you,” Hawke chuckled, clearly enjoying the attention. Was there anything Hawke didn’t enjoy?
“Checking-in?” she asked, fingers poised above the keyboard.
“Not entirely,” Hawke confessed. “We ran into the storm outside…”
“It’s awful, isn’t it?” The woman confided in Hawke as if he was a random fellow bar patron and not a customer. “They say we’re liable to get a whole eight inches tonight!” she gasped at the thought.
Here it comes. Fenris folded his arms, anticipating her eyes clearly trailing the muscles even Hawke’s bulky winter jacket couldn’t disguise. The counter kept her from inspecting what she was trying to insinuate, but she certainly tried. As was typical, it all flew over Hawke’s head.
“Maker, I hope not. The shovel I keep in my bed got nicked by Merrill for some garden emergency and I never got a new one.” It was hard to say if Hawke was talking to him or her, or just talking in general. Filling the void with words was his preferred state. “Anyway, we need rooms for the night, but don’t have any reservations.”
“I see,” she brightened at the s added to the room part. Pounding into her keyboard, she mulled over whatever options were there while Fenris paced around in the ‘lobby.’
Bolted to the wall were two chairs with ripped plastic upholstery. There was what looked like a magazine rack beside them, but nothing inside it. And along the wall was a coffee cart, the pot scorched black from years of use.
“Hm,” the woman announced, “I’m sorry to say that we only have one room available.”
“Seriously?” Fenris scoffed. Who would swarm into such a town to the point of overbooking a squalid motel? When he felt the hostess glaring at him, he shook his wet head and turned to face the blizzard. It was more interesting than watching someone fawn over Hawke.
“Is that going to be a problem?” she asked, as if they had any choice.
“Nah,” Hawke’s words grinned. His damn entire being glowed bright as he nearly hopped onto the counter. “We’ll take anything at this point.”
“Okay.” She nodded, inputting whatever they needed to let people sleep in a bed for a night.
Fenris’ blood ran cold. One room. Did that mean…? He strode towards the chuckling Hawke who was giving her his info, and snickered, “Let me guess. One room, snowy night, abandoned on the side of the road.”
“Hey, me and ol’ Blue got us here in one piece. Assuming the bumper didn’t fall off again.”
Not glancing at Hawke for fear of his reaction, Fenris asked the woman, “There’s only one bed, isn’t there?”
She chuckled, her golden hair shaking in the light. It was the same color as the damn abomination’s. “No,” she laughed, “there are two queen sized beds.”
“Oh,” Fenris faded back, his lips pinching at a rise and fall of… He didn’t know, but whatever the emotions in his gut were he wasn’t pleased with their visitation.
“How will you be paying?” she asked, plunging another icy dagger into Fenris’ heart. He’d been scraping by as of late, taking whatever temp jobs he could and playing the ‘which utility can I survive a month without’ game.
“Here,” Hawke dropped down his credit card and slid it towards her. “Put it all on that.”
Fenris hustled at that, hands digging for the ratty wallet in his back pocket. “No, no. I can cover half…”
A hand landed on his bicep, keeping Fenris’ wallet stuck in place. As he glanced to Hawke’s eyes, the man smiled, “Don’t worry about it. I can cover it. Besides, it was my foolish idea to head off on this road trip.”
“That’s…” He despised owing anyone anything. Pay up his debts, move on, don’t look back. Hawke’s baby blues crackled at the edges, the shattering carrying to the sides of his eyes as he gazed at Fenris. Releasing the grip on his barely enough cash, Fenris relented, “That’s true.”
“I’m glad you agreed to come,” Hawke said, fingers drumming on the countertop. “Otherwise it’d just be me all alone in some strange hotel room with nothing to do.”
Fenris turned just in time to watch the woman damn near scatter the key cards. A smile churned in his gut at the thought of ruining at least her plans. Of course, Hawke seemed unaware of the subterfuge occurring, his shaggy head turned towards the downfall building into two foot tall drifts outside.
“Here,” the woman coughed, struggling to lower her voice from the shock no doubt building up her throat, “here are your keys. Room 216.” She passed over the little envelope slip crammed with two of them. “If you need anything, don’t hesitate to call.”
“Thanks,” Hawke picked up both, the pair vanishing in his meaty hand. Nodding his head to Fenris, the two turned towards the truck. While they didn’t have any luggage to pull in, it was probably smart to get it parked before the snow buried it in place in front of the lobby.
“My name’s Sandy!” the woman called, her hand shooting through the air.
Turning on a dime, Hawke threw on his brightest smile, pointed at his chest, and said, “I’m Hawke.”
With a groan, Fenris nudged him in the ribs. “She already knows that.”
* * *
It could have been worse. Fenris snorted to himself at the thought. Outdated decor, the lingering stench of bleach, unexplainable stains, and beds that bowed in the middle was luxury compared to the places he’d bunkered down in before. His eyes swung over to the man juggling a couple plastic bags in his hands. Too much time around Hawke must be giving him airs.
“Maker’s hairy buttcheeks, it’s cold in here!”
To a point.
Shaking his shaggy head, barely feeling the chill, Fenris wandered over to the giant A/C unit that took up the underside of the window. While prodding at the controls, he had a lovely view of a neon sign across the parking lot. Some of the letters went dead, so all he could make out was “Kn__k__s.” Though, judging by the neon woman splaying her legs with every rotation of the lights, he didn’t have trouble guessing the establishment’s purview.
While a blast of heat rattled out of the vents, Fenris turned to watch Hawke strip off his jacket. Despite the winter blizzard, he had his blue plaid’s wrists unbuttoned and rolled up to the elbows. A forest of black hair covered the forearms tugged taut from the bulging bags. Fenris frowned and shook away his noticing.
After depositing whatever he had to grab from the mess-strewn back of the truck’s cab, Hawke dug out his phone. It was a notorious piece of technology, somehow surviving even the worst of Hawke’s impromptu decisions that could include such feats as leaping off a waterfall because it was there. Tucking it between his shoulder and ear, Hawke popped his lips a moment while fishing into the sack.
Whoever he was calling must have picked up as Hawke’s attention fully fell from the bag. “Varric?”
Ah. That made sense.
“Hey, so…funny story. No, not that. Or that one. Or even…Maker’s breath, how did that happen?”
As Hawke fell into nodding along with Varric’s tale, Fenris tugged up the remote left on the empty dresser. Wasn’t even a flat screen. How ancient was this place? He flipped through a few channels, not listening to anything, nor caring what was on, when he paused at weather. It showed half their state blanketed in white triangles. The meteorologist was flapping his suit coated arms around as if bees were attacking him.
An uproarious laugh shook Fenris from the dreaded inches count. Looked as if they might even head into the brag-worthy ten range before the night was over. He watched Hawke tenderly cupping the phone to his ear, cheeks bright red as he laughed his guts out. That was Varric’s pull over the man, always got him in stitches.
“That’s bloody amazing. How’d they even get an emu on a motorcycle?” Hawke’s striking blue eyes rose from the ether to catch his. Fenris had been so absorbed in watching Hawke unawares, he was exposed when the man glanced up. His lips twitched, Fenris realizing too late he wore an idiotic smile upon them. Snarling, he turned back to glare at the tv, leaving Hawke alone with his phone call.
“Listen, I’ve got bad news. We aren’t gonna be able to make your signing.” Hawke gritted his teeth the whole time, the man despising letting anyone down. Glaring towards the carpet, Fenris picked at the drawstring in his hoodie, knocking it about like a cat. His stomach churned with guilt, a sensation he did not enjoy.
“Well,” Hawke continued with his one-sided conversation, “for starters there’s a killer blizzard going on outside. Look!” And the fool yanked his phone off his ear and held it to the window.
Without Hawke’s luscious hair in the way, Fenris could hear Varric’s tinny voice sighing, “I can’t see it, Hawke.”
“Still, point being, death storm. Pulled over to a motel for the night. Got to be safe and all.” Hawke glanced up to shrug at Fenris, as if to apologize for his having to check-in with Varric. Suddenly, he cupped a hand to the phone and tried to speak in a whisper. There was nowhere in this thin-walled room where Hawke wouldn’t be overheard.
“It wasn’t exactly planned. No, not by… Anders—”
If Fenris had hackles they’d be rising from his tailbone to his neck. He should have known, of course the abomination would be there. Hawke was planning on attending. The fact that Anders was also Varric’s friend did little to soften Fenris’ assumption the man was up to nefarious plans.
“Yes, if I’d left earlier like you suggested I’d be there. But I was busy…killing dragons,” Hawke shrugged.
Fenris whipped his head over in shock, watching the grown man huddled tighter to his phone as if he had to apologize to a teacher for being truant.
“Nearly got the high score this go around and lost track of time. Once we hit the road, well… Never thought the blizzard would catch up so fast. Damn weather, someone needs to do something about it. Look, just wanted to say we’re fine, hunkered down, no one’s bleeding or nothing. And, if they get the roads cleared up, should catch you guys tomorrow.”
Hawke gulped a moment, his eyes canvassing to the ceiling. “Can you put Varric on again?” His toe tapped during the phone passing on the other side. When his eyes lit up, his jaw dropped but a groan bounded out instead. “Izzy. Yes, all cozy in here. I’ll tell him. Look, I’m gonna run out of juice soon…”
A blush rose clear over his face, even managing to burn under the burly beard. Hawke’s eyes whipped up to Fenris and he stammered, “No. No I will not. Just, tell Varric I’ll meet him at the same pancake place. The one that does waffles instead. Waffles are far superior!”
Hawke struck a proud pose as if he had to defend waffles honor. It seemed natural for the man’s chest to inflate to barrel standards, proud and regal as he pulled in his muscled but not thin gut. “Goodnight, Izzy. And no, I will not do that either!”
With that he silenced his phone and tossed it onto the table. Shrugging his meaty arms wide, Hawke brought them in for a loud, solitary clap. “Well, guess we got the whole night to ourselves,” he threw out, then grimaced. “Two beds,” Hawke jerked his chin to the at-best full sized ones sitting side-by-side. “Nice to know we weren’t lied to.”
Fenris released an arm holding his chest. “Why didn’t you tell them we’re delayed because you were waiting for me to get off?”
At that, Hawke coughed as if surprised he’d been caught in a lie. His wild eyes snapped over to Fenris, then swung down the man’s bundled up frame a moment before returning to his face. “Didn’t seem pertinent. Besides, I was playing Dragon Warfare while waiting for you to call. It’s still the truth.”
“If you had gone with…” the abomination’s name died on his tongue, so he chose, “Isabela and Aveline, you’d be there instead of trapped here.”
“You ever been in a car with Isabela and Aveline? Especially Izzy’s tiny sports one? Those two’d nearly come to punches over a blown stop sign, meanwhile my legs are nearly impaling my ribs as I’m crammed in the backseat.” Hawke tried to mimic such a pose by scrunching down in a squat. It was both hilarious and intriguing. Even with the baggy jeans, there was no hiding the man’s thigh muscles.
Shaking off the thought, Hawke returned to the bags he dragged through snow already climbing up the doors. Curious, Fenris asked, “What is in those?”
Spinning in place, Hawke shouted, “Catch.” An amber bottle hurled through the air in a perfect spiral, Fenris fumbling to do as commanded. He tucked the errant glass into his gut, breath held until he was certain it wouldn’t drop and shatter. With a gulp, he looked up at the man who managed the throw, his hands both in the air to celebrate.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise, he had been a first draft pick. Not that Hawke liked to brag about such things, or even talk about them with anyone. He walked away from it all six months in. Best Fenris could find from a google search it was due to ‘family issues.’ And most who met the effervescent mountain of a man never had a clue who he could have been.
With a quick pop of his thumb, Hawke hurled the bottle cap onto the table and took a long drink. Fenris had to unearth the hem of his hoodie for leverage, the damn carbonation clinging to the cap. When he finally got it off, an explosion of foam was what he got for his trouble. He raced to try and suck it down before it coated the carpet, bubbles of beer dribbling down his chin.
A snarl at the mess Hawke caused rose in his gullet, but as he glanced up to find the man with a beer perched to his lips but his eyes consuming Fenris, the anger faded. “Do you always carry beer in your truck?”
“Old college secret,” Hawke winked at him, answering the question with another drink. “Ahh,” he wiped off the spritz of beer swimming in his beard and glanced over, “though these were ones Varric requested special. Way to top off his first signing.” The regret stung in his voice. Hawke had been looking forward to this. He was gonna stand behind the famous new author and play at bodyguard. Even got a pair of sunglasses to look the part.
And Fenris ruined it all.
Watching the slosh of his half-beer, Fenris spoke, “I’m sorry.”
“For what?” Hawke chuckled.
“If you hadn’t have brought me, waited for me…” Fenris frowned. Hawke was insistent that everyone had to be there. Fenris gave him some mealymouthed maybes, but even with the real excuse of work, Hawke bent himself like a paperclip to fit him in. And look at what it got him.
The big man shrugged, “Not as if you can control the weather. Shoulda checked it before.” He fished up his phone and wafted the screen back and forth. “Though this hunk of junk only updates once every ice age. Pain in my ass most days.”
Fenris wouldn’t know having managed his life without one. It shocked the rest of their group, even Aveline was well connected technologically speaking. But after what he escaped, the last thing Fenris wanted was a private connection anyone could hack and use to find him.
“So,” Hawke waggled his nearly empty beer bottle at him. “We can either stand here, staring out the window at the snow piling up. Or…”
“Or?” A trill ran up Fenris’ spine at the tone in Hawke’s voice. He couldn’t be sure if it was terror or anticipation.
Yanking a brown bag out of the plastic sack, Hawke freed its contents to reveal a long blue bottle of top shelf gin. “We get into Varric’s good shit.”
* * *
“What are you doing? Run up the middle!” Hawke’s bellow at the television was greeted by a thump on the wall behind them. While Fenris turned towards it, Hawke waved a hand and tried to shake away the interruption. Still, he lowered his voice a touch while he continued to yell at what looked like a rebroadcast of some old football game. Fenris had no idea who either the Wyverns or their foes, the Griffins, represented. Though, there was a chance Hawke didn’t either.
They were both down two beers and more than a fair share of shots taken straight from the bottle. While it surprised no one how easily Hawke tucked it back, it was Fenris’ iron stomach that’d catch a few curious looks. Like when they first met, Fenris in a foul mood over…he couldn’t even remember. Hurling what money he’d scrounged up at a bartender and insisting on the strongest stuff in the place.
When a burly man with all the bulk in his arms and chest wandered over, even in his inebriated state, Fenris tightened. He assumed a bouncer or regular who served as one wandered over to dump him on the street. But Hawke stuck out his big hand, cheered Fenris for taking on so many shots while remaining upright, and the two struck up a long conversation.
“What?” Hawke’s eyes turned from the game that faded to a commercial about soybeans. The bright blues were sizing up the scraggly man huddled to the bed closest to the window. They both decided to stake their claims by sitting on their beds for the evening, Hawke insisting on the one near the door.
Fenris ran a palm roughshod over his smooth cheek. What would a thick bramble of hair there feel like? Flinching at the pointless thought, he muttered, “Nothing.”
“No, no. It’s not ever nothing when you get that look in your eye,” Hawke explained with his beer bottle. It had to be empty or close enough, but he kept it in his fist as much for emphasis as anything.
“Like you’re smiling but not. Not on the mouth bits anyway.”
Fenris blinked at the thought, fingertips grazing his flat lips. He didn’t know he did such a thing. For a beat, his green eyes cut over to Hawke before failing to focus on the cheap tv screen. “I was thinking about how we met.”
“Oh,” Hawke guffawed. While Fenris was huddled up tight, his legs in a cross, Hawke was practically splayed over the bed. He stacked all the pillows up under his head to aid in his view of the game, but the rest of the man looked like a starfish. “That was hilarious.”
Fenris whipped his head over in confusion, not finding the old situation all that humorous. He had to wait for an explanation as Hawke was sucking down the last drops of their beer. Swiping his hand over the bramble of black beard, Hawke chuckled. “When I found this tiny guy huddled over on avenue…avenue something or other, shrieking every curse word that’d get your mouth scrubbed with soap at a tipped-over bike.”
Maker’s sake. Fenris’ jaw dropped. How did he forget?
He hadn’t been in the city long, maybe a few weeks at most, and the first job he took to keep from starving was running food out to lazy trust funders that never tipped. Not that he could complain about it, or the long hours, or whenever the boss needed petty cash and took it from the delivery crew’s paycheck. Fenris wasn’t technically supposed to be here, a fact that kept him in the shadows and silenced. Didn’t matter what abuse was heaped on him, he had to take it or risk…
Far worse if they sent him back.
In dire straights, half-starved, fully exhausted, the chain on the cheap bike he still had to make payments on snapped. With pad thai leaking all over the sidewalk from the tumbled bike, Fenris unleashed all his fury upon the metal tubes. He had no plan, he had no hope, all he had was the breath in his lungs. Last thing he ever suspected was a random stranger to wander up and fix the damn thing.
“I’m surprised,” Fenris said, his fingers digging at the polyester bedspread, “that you even dared to approach a man like that.”
“What were you screaming? It was that…that guttural one with the v.”
“Venheedis?” Fenris asked tipping his head.
Hawke snapped his fingers, “That’s it! I almost wanted to ask what it meant, but you didn’t seem to be in an explaining mood. Damn near kicked me when I approached.”
“Sorry,” Fenris blanched. How did he forget that was Hawke? The mountain of the man shrugged, as if a stature as scrawny as Fenris’ could be any threat to him. “Why did you stop?”
While he never forgot the random passerby that did him a good deed, Fenris couldn’t understand why. He’d also been in such a state, he’d barely glanced at the man’s face. Fenris was well trained in not meeting someone’s gaze in his previous life.
“Figured it was the chain, the way the wheel was spinning all woo-woo-woo,” Hawke tried to twirl his beer in the air but the alcohol dulled his usually sharp reflexes. The empty glass tumbled from his fingers and bounded against the carpet. Both men watched it fall, before Hawke resumed explaining. “Used to fix ‘em when I was younger. My brother, Maker’s sake, he was the worst with his shit. Thought he was some kinda DMXer, always ramping his bike. Then throwing a shit fit when he’d dent the frame and demand a new one.”
Silence thundered into the room, blanketing over the light air like an avalanche of snow. Fenris fiddled with his hoodie string, yanking it back and forth in his fingers while Hawke did what Hawke drifted inward. He never talked about the family issues, whatever they were or had been. A few in the group knew he had siblings, twins, but not much more. Sometimes merely mentioning a sister or brother shut Hawke down.
“I always thought we met in the bar,” Fenris confessed, needing to find any change of subject. “And, truth be told, was confused about you approaching me even then.”
Hawke chuckled, “I do always seem to bump into you when you’re about to rip someone’s throat out. For a time I thought that was your default setting.”
Shrugging, Fenris glared at nothing. He was a bundle of knives haphazardly knotted together with leather. It could lash out at his enemies as readily as it’d cut him. No wonder he was always running from job to job, hoping to hide and struggling to stay out of trouble.
A thought rolled inside Fenris’ gut as he took in the man who kept allowing the jumble of blades in his life. “And now?”
“Don’t get me wrong, you’re a prickly sonnofa when you want to be. Which seems to be most times of the day, and night.” Hawke laughed to himself, a sting rising against Fenris’ cheek at the truth. “But,” Hawke continued, “you’ve got your reasons and…there’s more under there too.”
The sting transformed into a full on blush, Fenris fumbling with his hands to grab onto anything to support him. It was as if Hawke’s brash tongue stripped him to the bone. Fenris despised being exposed, even in the safest of places.
As Hawke gathered up the mass of bottles they’d swam in and moved to tuck them into the bag for returns, Fenris glared down at the man’s phone. It’d been left off, or on silent mode, but Hawke would occasionally check it and frown. At first, he feared it might be Varric giving the man shit for missing his big moment. But as the missed calls and texts continued on into the third and fourth quarter, Fenris knew who it really was.
The reason Hawke could never truly be safe.
Biting on his lip, Fenris plunged into the mix of gin and beer sloshing through his veins to ask, “Have you told Anders about me?”
That tripped up Hawke, the bottles tumbling the last centimeter or so to the table. They twinkled like bells as Hawke pinched his fingers against his chin hairs and tugged on them. “Pretty sure he knows you exist.” Those blue eyes drifted back to the phone. “Damn sure.”
“No, about my being…illegal.”
Hawke reared back at the thought, his fists tugging on the beard. For how often he mangled it, it was a wonder any fur grew there never mind the lush mane. “I dunno. You told Izzy, right?”
“More she determined it on her own,” Fenris coughed out, not happy about her snooping, but he trusted her with the fact. As far as anyone trusted Isabela.
“Maybe, maybe not. Not like anyone cares. Not in our group.” Hawke was stumbling from the awkwardness, his rosy outlook on life crumbling.
While Fenris could agree with Varric not caring, Isabela barely noticing, Aveline looking the other way, even Merrill either unaware or considering it too impolite to mention, the abomination was another story. Hawke plummeted to his bed, the frame creaking at the weight and nearly burying the man in the bendable middle.
“You don’t think Anders would…” Hawke scoffed, “I know you two get on like cats in a river, but he’s not like that.”
“Selfish, prone to fits of judicial ramblings, sanctimonious?”
A snort broke from Hawke’s nostrils as he scrambled to free himself from the bed. “Okay, sometimes he’s those things. Especially when he’s on twitter.” At that, the man shivered. “But he won’t turn you in, or call you-know-who on you.”
“How can you be certain?”
“Most days he’s not so bad, I swear. I know you don’t see it, cause the cats and…
“In a river, yes,” Fenris sighed, not in the mood to correct the idiom.
“Look, whatever beef you two have. Whatever fights you start…” Hawke twisted his form around to sit on his bed, his feet burrowed into the carpet. He stared so deeply at him, Fenris’ first instinct was to turn away. But he held the stare long enough for Hawke to finish, “I won’t let him. I promise. I’m good at talking Anders down from whatever new flight of fancy he has.”
Fenris nodded, wanting to accept Hawke’s words as gospel. But to place his full trust in another person…to rely on someone outside of himself for protection. The last time Fenris did such a thing he wound up nearly dead from heat stroke and dehydration. Before that, the scars were worse.
A tinny cheer rose from the tv, both men returning to the old game. The final score flashed on the screen as footage of the crowd hustling out of the stadium rolled below. With a wide stretch, Hawke pivoted his neck back and forth and sighed, “Maker, is it really that late? Sleep sounds good. Shit, ain’t you been up since 5?”
“Four,” Fenris answered.
Hawke killed the tv and underhand tossed the remote at the dresser. It skidded a touch but landed right where it began. Rubbing his hands over his cheeks, Hawke muttered, “Shoulda told me to shut that thing off so you could get some sleep. You have to be exhausted.”
He was when he stepped out of work reeking of fry oil and sweat. Traveling for two hours in a broken-down truck seemed a waste of his time and a greater drain on what few reserves Fenris’ had. Then he spotted Hawke grinning from the front seat and telling him to hop in. Two hours alone with the busy man was a better shot of adrenaline than any coffee shop could manage. He hadn’t anticipated those two hours turning into twelve.
Without a care, Hawke wrenched off his plaid shirt. Even in the unforgiving fluorescent light beaming on him, Hawke’s skin glowed. The raw power flowed from bicep to tricep, across pectorals and even rumbled in his abs. Fenris should have anticipated the tufts of black fur decorating Hawke’s chest. The line down his flat stomach was so thick it looked like it was drawn on by marker pointing towards his crotch.
When the sound of a zipper drawing straight down filled the air, Fenris’ icy sheen burned red. He whipped his head away, unable to watch Hawke strip down to his underwear. Boxers, briefs, or the hybrid? Izzy liked to play that game, often with Merrill lost as to what they were doing. Fenris assumed he’d never learn the answer and now, with the temptation a head-turn away, he was terrified to look.
Focusing on himself, Fenris reached under his hoodie’s wrists and undid the button on a cuff. As he laid the first down on the table, Hawke exclaimed, “No way. Those come off?”
Fenris turned from the spikes of stainless steel on leather to find Hawke’s lower half eclipsed by the bed. He breathed a sigh of relief, when the damn fool rose from whatever squat exercise he was performing. Despite his protestations and orders to them, Fenris’ eyes copied the fastest picture it could of the man’s hips hidden below a thin sheet of cotton. His thighs were in even more stark relief than Fenris thought possible, flexing against the taut legs of the underwear. And, if he closed his eyes, he could see the bulge amplifying the curves below.
“You thought I slept in them?” Fenris coughed out, struggling to come up with a reason why he couldn’t stare in awe at the nearly naked man in his hotel room.
“I figured you were born with them. Or cursed with ‘em.”
With a chuckle at the thought, Fenris added his other cuff to the first. He reached to tug off his charcoal-black hoodie and paused. While he didn’t despise his body, it wasn’t the envy of a gym rat’s the way Hawke’s was. The legs were certainly scrawnier, as were his arms. There was no chance he could stand Hawke’s crystal blue gaze wrinkling to disgust if he stared at Fenris’ ropey form.
Hawke read Fenris abandoning his plans to disrobe and asked, “Are you gonna sleep in that?”
Shrugging, Fenris muttered as an excuse, “The sweater’s comfortable enough, especially in this frigid room.”
“I’m more concerned about those jeans plastered to your legs. Won’t they cut off circulation or something important?”
Fenris gulped, his eyes casting down the black skinny jeans suckered to him. While at home he’d certainly shrug them off, as his hand brushed against the belt, Fenris thumbed the reason he couldn’t strip down. He’d rather Hawke laugh at his chicken legs than get even a glimpse of Fenris’ excited state.
“It’s fine,” Fenris snarled, scrabbling at the far end of his bed. He yanked back all the sheets and worried his way underneath, keeping his back turned to the nearly naked man left standing alone by his bed.
“Okay,” Hawke shrugged. “Just don’t want to have to amputate a foot or something in the morning. Messy stuff.” With that bit of wisdom, Hawke pushed the overhead light off. A hazy darkness swept over them, not the impenetrable kind Fenris preferred. This was amplified to a grey indigo by the snow piling up outside. Every time the splayed neon woman stretched her legs, a red and orange heart would crawl across their carpet.
He tried to pay it no heed, Fenris screaming at his brain to power down. Then he heard Hawke bouncing into bed. The man must have to sleep on his back, or maybe stomach judging by the rustling sounds. Not content yet, Hawke punched the pillows into the proper fluffiness. In time, even that fidgeting gave way to nothingness.
As a gentle quiet filled the room, Fenris breathed through his nose trying to count the beats. This would all be over soon. Hawke would return to his best friend’s side, the pair would eat all the waffles in the place and laugh at the blizzard. Fenris would keep being nothing more than that odd man who orbited Hawke’s golden sun.
“Night, Fenris,” Hawke called, his voice heavy with sleep.
A swell of warmth piped through Fenris at the thought of an exhausted Hawke mumbling his name before slumber. Another aspect of the man Fenris never thought he’d get to experience. “Goodnight,” he whispered, trying to fall to the dreams that awaited him.
* * *
Three hours into the night and Fenris couldn’t maintain trapping his body in one position on the illusion of sleep. It was a cursory dream anyway. As he stumbled towards the window, snowy light seeping in even through the drawn blinds, he thought of all the other holes he’d tried to sleep in over the years. Often with a knife under his pillow. Here was relatively safe and still he couldn’t let go.
Hard to think of anyone challenging Hawke, not only because of his bulk but his overall Hawke-ness. He was the kind of man to scoop everyone up under his arms and drag them up to the bar to get over their problems. Was that the only reason he kept Fenris around? A problem to fix? A hobby?
It didn’t make a lick of sense in any universe. Blue eyed, ebony-haired, all-American quarterback who damn near went pro befriends a brown skinned immigrant who’s more likely to bite a helping hand than take it. A mirthless chuckle rolled through Fenris throat as he gazed upon the sea of white. No trucks moved through the blanketed streets to tarnish the pristine snow to a filthy grey. Even the stars themselves seemed more vibrant, radiating off the snow that homogenized the landscape. Filthy street, corn field, parking lot for exotic dancers — it was all the same under the wintery frost.
A grunt erupted from Hawke’s bed, Fenris glancing over to make certain he was still asleep. The man whispered something incoherent to follow up the grunt, but didn’t rise. Probably a dream.
Fenris resumed his vigil of the parking lot, when Hawke’s grunts shifted to a breathy staccato. The pants grew in volume. As they began to increase in speed, Fenris’ heart raced to keep the beat. Through the indigo shadows, Hawke’s hand lashed into the air as if he was scraping at an invisible presence above him. Suddenly, a groan rose from the bottom of the man’s…
Venheedis! A blush burned Fenris’ cheeks as he realized what type of dream Hawke was in the middle of. He swallowed, eyes straining to focus on anything moving in the white world. But his ears, traitors as they were, honed in on the enticing pants that stirred his blood. They were back in full force, Hawke punctuating each one with a moan.
After overhearing this, how could Fenris face him in the morning? Could he ever look him in the eye again?
A flash of blue eyes glowing with a never-ending smile took over the fear at such a future and Fenris eased back. He could, no doubt. In time. Just…please don’t say the abomination’s name. Fenris could overcome much with regards to Hawke, but that would be a test to try and break him.
“No,” Hawke moaned, whipping Fenris’ frazzled state to stare at the man. He’d managed to twist in his sleep onto his back, both hands paddling in the air. No, they were clawing it, fingers locked like rigor mortis claimed them. And the man was babbling, shrieking under his breath as if he feared someone hearing him succumbed to his terror.
Dumbstruck, Fenris stumbled from the window towards the racked man. “Hawke?” he whispered, fingers raising as if to grab the man’s. Suddenly, Hawke slammed both hands to his chest, the moans beginning again.
If this was a wet dream, it was the most disturbing one Fenris could imagine. As he drew closer, his jaw dropped from finding tears streaking down Hawke’s icy cheeks. Still entombed in the throes of whatever tormented him, Hawke continued to writhe in place. The breaths Fenris misdiagnosed as sexual were building so fast he feared Hawke might hyperventilate.
Tumbling to a knee, Fenris reached a hand through the inky air towards Hawke. He’d aimed for the hands, but Hawke yanked one aside and Fenris’ wayward palm wound up smoothing his cheek. It was so much softer than he’d imagined, the beard tickling instead of scratching.
“Hawke,” he tried once more, the man’s gush of tears striking at the dead buried in Fenris’ heart.
With a jerk, Hawke sat upright. His eyes flew open and he shrieked, “No! Get off of her! I’ll…!” A hand lashed out, fingers folded to a fist, but as reality shaped around him, Hawke’s eyes darted to the man crumpled on a knee beside his bed.
The fist plummeted unused to the bed, Hawke’s words bobbing in tears, “F-f-fenris?”
“You were…having a nightmare.”
“Oh Maker!” Hawke cried. Without any warning, he wrapped both of his naked arms around Fenris’ stringy body pulling himself to the gobsmacked Fenris. The mountain man buried his face in Fenris’ shoulder, the hoodie catching his tears.
Hawke’s chest heaved with each fresh gasp of pain, his face pressing deeper. Limply, Fenris patted him on the back. Blessed Andraste, his naked skin was warm and inviting. He tried to shake off the libidinous thoughts rousing in his body as the man crumbled around him, but it was proving a monumental task.
He never dreamed he’d draw closer to Hawke than a slug on the shoulder and now… The sobs were ransacking Fenris’ ribs, each fresh one pinching him flatter in the vice. What did Hawke need? What did people in this state want?
What would Fenris want?
Winding his hand up higher over his back, Fenris drew his fingers through Hawke’s hair. He needed the right words, there had to be some phrase people used to soothe others after such a nightmare. To calm their loved ones and bring them out of the dark. But Fenris didn’t know it, had never heard it. All he knew was…
“I’m sorry,” he whispered, rocking the man while combing through his hair. “I’m…so sorry.”
“Mom,” Hawke spat out, eyes screwed up so tight Fenris could feel the knotted lids against his neck. “Finding her like that. Watching him… I never… Should have been me.”
He had no idea what Hawke was talking about, but he knew that voice. The one of defeat, of loss on a scale so great no word could embody it. Of revenge, of fear, of being too weak to crush those who hurt you. Of falling back there again and again no matter how far you ran.
“You’re not alone,” Fenris whispered, his own tear ducts he thought long desiccated springing to life.
The cries from Hawke slowed, his crushing embrace softening. As he leaned back, Fenris regretfully opened his arms. But for a brief moment, Hawke nuzzled his cheek against Fenris’ before fully rising to his bed. It had to be an accident in this dark room.
“Sorry,” Hawke mopped up his tears and scurried a palm over his forehead. “Sorry ‘bout that. Shoulda…” He flinched deeper into himself, a hand hiding away his eyes. “Didn’t think it’d get that bad and… Shit, I must have woken you up.”
“No, no, it’s…” Fenris tried to retreat into his armor. The steel protected him, the cold that seeped into his soul eased the pain. How easily he could say that Hawke didn’t bother him and they should both get some sleep. Forget about the whole issue come morning. Act as if nothing happened.
Was it what Hawke wanted? Far as Fenris knew, no one else in the group experienced the man’s night terrors. Did he hide it that well, even from Varric?
What did he want?
“Hawke?” Fenris rose off his rickety knees to sit on the bed. It was barely an inch to hold his tiny frame, giving Hawke the room to slink away. But Hawke remained close, one hand still obscuring his face while another glanced against Fenris’ back.
“Are you all right?” Fenris asked.
He struggled to pump out a smile, those always grinning lips falling with a thud. “I don’t know,” Hawke admitted. A hand clenched over his chest as if he feared his rampaging heart may shatter the ribcage and fly free.
Crumbling at the sight, Fenris turned and — bold as brass — cupped his palm to Hawke’s flushed cheek. The man leaned into it, the other hand finally falling from obscuring his eyes. “What do you need of me?” Fenris whispered, wishing he could draw the painful memories from the man’s mind.
A fist clamped onto Fenris’ forearm, the long fingers easily meeting the thumb. Fenris’ eyes darted to it, fear rising that he crossed the unbreakable boundary, when Hawke cried, “Don’t go.”
The man’s crushing hug resumed, this time both hands locked around Fenris’ waist as he pulled him further into the sanctity of his bed. “Stay, stay and…and I don’t know,” Hawke blubbered.
Share the bed with him. An idea Fenris both feared and ached for. To be so intimate with someone to entwine with him, to lock lank limbs, to feel the morning whispers of breath against the nape of necks.
Slowly, Fenris slid his clothed body under Hawke’s blankets. “Okay,” he whispered while raising his arm. As Fenris’ head bounded against the bed’s cardboard headboard, Hawke nestled to his chest. His head was so great it nearly covered three quarters of the chest, Hawke’s wandering hand smoothing against the pocket in Fenris’ hoodie. The heat of Hawke’s naked skin pressing against him squelched the detractions trying to rise in Fenris’ brain.
Solace, for the first time in decades, enraptured his heart. Tipping his head down, Fenris puckered his lips to Hawke’s hair. It wasn’t a kiss, no. Only a promise that he wasn’t leaving. Even if things drew difficult, even if the days became impossible and nights lonely, he’d be there for Hawke.
Cuddled under the blankets, the pair matched breaths and heartbeats, living together as the snowy night rolled towards dawn.
* * *
Light hammered into his skull, the rays trying to snatch up his eyelids. With a groan, Fenris risked a single peek, then reared at the reminder of how much he had to drink last night. Maker’s sake, so much sunlight poured in through the drawn blinds it looked as if someone aimed a spotlight at the window.
He moved to sit up, prepared to nurse his aching head, when the full weight of the situation landed on him. Arms entwined around his chest, cuddling Fenris to a naked Hawke. One meaty leg wrapped around Fenris’ hip, ensnaring him deeper into Hawke’s web. A breath syncopated up his throat as Fenris felt all of Hawke’s hips pressing against his tailbone. It seemed as if the man happily snuggling around him was rather excited.
It was delightful, to be enveloped in such strong, safe arms. It was a mess. What if Hawke regretted it? Hawke was going to regret it. Grumble. Awkwardly, try to throw Fenris aside. As far as he knew Hawke wasn’t even into…it didn’t matter.
Blessed Andraste, how was he going to get himself out of this? Holding his breath, Fenris tried to slide one leg out from under the blanket towards the floor. His toes met with freezing cold air, the five digits wriggling just below the hem of his pants. So he did keep those on at least. Why would he have assumed different? Just a few more inches to touch the carpet, then he could slither to the floor and hustle to his bed.
The limp hand nestled near his heart cinched tighter, pinning him in place. Terror flooded Fenris’ veins, his eyes opening wide. Tender lips smacked in the gum of sleep and a warm yawn broke against the back of his ear.
“Morning,” Hawke said, his voice golden from slumber. Fenris could feel him stretch from behind, the joints locking tight. It was a chance he could take. But before Fenris even managed to slither his big toe to the ground, Hawke locked him back in his burly embrace.
Could he feel his heart fluttering around like a moth trapped inside a lampshade? Fenris grimaced at the thought, but let himself run his fingers over the back of Hawke’s hand. He felt the man’s smacking lips press against the nape of his neck, swirling the thin hairs with his breath. A sigh of contentment rose in Fenris’ throat, but he tamped it down.
“How’d you sleep?” Hawke asked. He wasn’t feeling Fenris up, but he wasn’t letting him go either. What did Hawke want?
He knew what he wanted, but it was impossible to imagine.
Deciding to face the dragon rather than run from it, Fenris twisted in place. Hawke’s fingers went limp, those hazy blue eyes watching as Fenris rotated until he was nearly nose to nose with the man. A man he shared a bed with for a night.
“I did,” Fenris grumbled in his throat.
“Don’t tell me you’re one of those ‘only needs to sleep four hours’ types,” Hawke groaned. Even with sleep sand in the crinkles of his eyes, his hair smooshed to the side, and lines from the sheets embedded into his dehydrated body, he was gorgeous. Fenris glanced down at those lips ripping open for another yawn.
Shaking off the urge to smother Hawke’s mouth with his own, Fenris said with a shrug, “Why do you think I’m so cross?”
At that Hawke snorted, his laugh trembling the bed so hard it caused Fenris’ smaller body to roll closer. Hawke reached out and gripped to his hip, keeping him in place. What did that man want? To pull him close or hold him back?
“I don’t even want to think about how much snow is out there,” Hawke groaned instead. There was a long journey ahead of them yet, but neither were rising from the bed, leaping into clothing, digging out the truck wheels. This creaky, pitted bed was an impossible dream, a refuge from reality. Fenris knew he didn’t have the courage to be the first to shatter it.
“Perhaps we’ll get lucky,” Fenris rumbled instead.
Those blue eyes drifted up to glare at the headboard a moment before swinging down with a twinkle. “Think summer’s already rolled in and melted it all?”
“I was weighing the existence of a plow sweeping the streets but your idea has merit.”
Another chuckle rolled up Hawke’s exposed chest. How long had that been pressed to Fenris’ back, the downy hair coddled by his hoodie? When he realized Hawke fell silent, Fenris glanced up into his smirking eyes. Fenris’ cheeks burned at being caught leering, his tongue lolling around for an excuse, or an explanation. Hawke’s hand released off his hip, Fenris already sliding towards the edge, when it landed upon his cheek instead.
Pinning him to the bed, Hawke raised up. Fenris mimicked him the way a mirror’s reflection would, his back falling to the mattress as Hawke hovered above him. Hawke’s tongue darted out, wetting his lips. When his thumb hooked under Fenris’ jaw, he tipped those glistening lips towards him. Fenris’ eyes closed, his fingers digging into his palm to prove this wasn’t a dream.
Bang. Bang. Bang. “Housekeeping!”
Hawke froze, his head whipping over to glare at the door. “We don’t need any, thanks.”
Another three knocks answered him, and the strangely falsetto-sounding voice once again said, “Housekeeping!”
Eyes rolling wide, Hawke groaned, “I said…”
A creak and rattle of the knob answered him. Someone was barging into their room! Without thought, Fenris dropped to the floor, his ass striking the cold, threadbare carpet. Hawke was yanking up a blanket trying to cover himself from the intruder. At the moment, Fenris was tempted to hurl whoever it was out the window. As he rebounded off the floor, fists raising for a fight, a groan rose in his gut.
“Varric!” Hawke shouted, his hands opening wide for the tiny man in a parka striding into their room.
“Hey Hawke,” Varric grinned, his cheeks pink from the cold. Those shrewd eyes darted from the nearly naked Hawke to the clothed Fenris trying to act as if he spent the entire night in his bed. “Having fun?” Varric voiced the tension in the room without thought.
It drew a scowl to Fenris’ already throbbing psyche. “What are you doing here?” he spat, wishing the damn man a pain in his leg.
Varric, never bothered by anyone, extended his arms wide. “I couldn’t let my best friend suffer in the middle of some terrible snowstorm nearly all alone. Also, you promised pancakes.” He jabbed a finger at Hawke, who was laughing and trying to mold his bedhead into shape.
“Waffles, I distinctly said waffles.”
“Nope, I’m only hearing pancakes,” Varric kept on, causing an exasperated Hawke to bundle a hand to his hip. The movement snared Fenris’ gaze, only for a flicker, but he couldn’t help himself. On the way back to glaring at nothing, he caught the knowing look from Varric. Damn him for butting into everyone’s lives.
“Better question is how did you get here?” Hawke seemed unperturbed that his friend was able to finagle a key off of the staff and break in. Though, Varric did make a habit of going where he was often not wanted or allowed. Why not break into a hotel room?
“Hitched a ride on a snow plow come dawn. Here,” Varric hurled one of his Hard in Hightown books at Hawke who caught it and smiled wider. “Your signed copy.”
Hawke flipped through it, cracking up from whatever inscription Varric left for him. After closing the book and cupping it to his hip, Hawke asked, “What about the others? Are they…?”
“Here too. It was a tight squeeze in that plow’s cab but we managed. They’re all down in the café eating…pancakes. Which you promised me.”
His eyes rolled at the continued jabbing, but Hawke was dancing on pins and needles at the thought of food. That was one of many things that seemed to bond the ex-quarterback to the jack-of-all-trades author.
“I did,” Hawke stepped forward, his blanket trailing him. “Let’s get some breakfast.”
“Er, Hawke,” Varric jabbed a finger at his naked chest, “might want to put pants on first. Unless you’re trying to score us free food again. If so, we’ll have to get a shit ton of melted butter first.”
Fenris frowned at that, having no memory or even heard of such an occurrence. But Hawke was blushing from below his black chest hair. “Right right,” he nodded, a hand cradling the nape of his neck. “Uh, think you can give me a few to get clothes on?”
“I suppose.” Varric raised up the fur-lined hood on his coat and stepped towards the door. “But don’t be late or Merrill will drink all the syrup.”
Hawke escorted him out, one hand clinging to the frame as he laughed to Varric, “Just hide one of the blueberry syrups behind a stack of toast!” After a wave that served as either a promise or brushoff from Varric, Hawke closed the door. For a beat, his eyes met Fenris’ before the man rushed to try and cram his legs into the wadded up jeans on the floor. The promise of breakfast had him racing while Fenris forlornly wandered over to button on his cuffs.
It didn’t happen. It was amazing how much it didn’t happen. Hawke didn’t crumble in your arms, you didn’t hold him tight and soothe his trembling body until sleep took you both. He certainly didn’t cling to you as if he never wanted you to leave. And in the morning, all that happened was…a visit from Varric.
With a sigh, Fenris rose up from his buckled boots. Hawke had his plaid shirt on but not buttoned, the man cramming his feet into shoes without socks. He really wanted to get to that breakfast. Maybe laugh at the night he had to spend in a crappy motel thanks to the snow. Fenris could fade into the background, doing his best to slice apart the bud of hope that tried to sprout in his heart.
“Is that everything?” Hawke asked, his wild eyes glancing over at Fenris who walked in only with the clothes on his back. He still shrugged and gave a quick look under the bed.
“I think so.”
Hawke stood sentinel beside the door, his meaty hands working up the buttons fast. He abandoned ship with two or three left undone and shrugged it off. Summoning up his armor, Fenris walked past Hawke and reached for the door handle to return to the cold. A warm hand grabbed his, twisting him on his toes. Fenris’ back flattened to the wall as Hawke wrapped a palm to his cheek. Soft, pliable lips plunged to his. The heat they’d nurtured all night roared inside Fenris’ body, a tingle sparking from his kissing lips and down to his toes. Hawke’s nose brushed against his cheek, his hand kneading against Fenris’ hip while their bodies melded together. It was bliss.
Lapping his bottom lip against Fenris’ before breaking off the kiss, Hawke’s blue eyes gleamed a touch away. “I had to do that,” he breathed, his voice deeper than the ocean.
“Hawke…” Fenris skirted his fingertips just above the man’s cheek, the ends trembling at the thought of touching him. “I didn’t think, you didn’t seem to be into… I thought…”
Hawke locked his hand over the back of Fenris’ hand and pressed his palm into the black thicket on his cheek. It was soft as down, a smile rising to Fenris’ freshly-kissed lips as he thrummed it. With a laugh, Hawke pulled the stroking palm over and kissed that.
“You’re so damn intimidating, I was scared to try,” Hawke admitted, Fenris swinging his eyes over to him in shock. “But there was no way I was missing this opportunity.”
This time Fenris kissed him, a sweet melding of lips. Hawke’s head tipped to the right as he cuddled the nape of Fenris’ neck. It was impossible, but it was real. No one could convince him otherwise.
Tugging in a breath, Fenris asked, “What now?”
Hawke shrugged, his crystal eyes trailing around the room before landing right in Fenris’s. “Waffles?”
“Oh, not you too…” Hawke pouted, but even as he opened the door, he kept his hand entwined with Fenris’s. Before leaving the room to whatever awaited them, Fenris cast one last look out the window. A gleaming new day awaited, purified by the snow.