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More Fenris/M!MageHawke, spoilers for Act 2 up through the end.

The night was drawing on, and after several hands of Wicked Grace and several hours of drinking everyone was in good spirits: Merrill giggling and half-leaning on Isabela, who was not showing her drink nearly as much and clearly enjoying the little elf's accidental attention; Fenris had removed his gauntlets to avoid marking the cards, and had enough drunken warmth in him that he no longer moved quite so stiffly without them; Aveline had brought Donnic with her, who had agreed to play on the condition that she wouldn't get upset with him if he won, and while he was competitive enough the man didn't seem particularly concerned with winning or losing, content in the company; Anders was well out of his league with some of the players, but enjoyed himself all the same, happy enough to be away from the clinic and out of the Templar's scrutiny so long as he was in the presence of the Champion; and Varric, of course, did what he did best, dramatically losing or winning as he pleased and making sport out of throwing the game one way or another with Isabela's help.

The only obstacle to their good natured cheating was Hawke. Varric had discovered early on that his fingers were quicker than expected, and combined with his sharp eye and often unreadable expression he was a natural cheater; Varric had caught him instinctively counting cards the first time they played, unaware that most people didn't or couldn't, and he had a knack for laying a deck to perfect advantage. So Hawke usually wasn't allowed to shuffle or deal, as he couldn't stop himself from doing it. Tonight was just a friendly game, though, the only wagers passing between them being for drinks, and it was silently agreed on, somehow, that Hawke was actually paying for the rounds Isabela, Merrill and Fenris lost. Nobody said anything about it, so no pride was lost.

Hawke was much drunker than he usually allowed himself to be, never actually looked at Fenris even when speaking to him. Whenever Donnic made sweet little gestures toward Aveline, things you wouldn't notice without a sharp eye, he looked away, and would lose the next round phenomenally. Even Isabela's flirting with wide-eyed Merrill seemed to irk him, and Anders' flirtations with the both of them. Varric picked up on all this, the only one who wasn't blinded to it by some distraction.

“Oh, I've never noticed before—you've got such lovely hands, Fenris.” Fenris twitched visibly at Merrill's cooing, looked up at her briefly. “Have you ever thought about playing an instrument?”

The surprised sound the pulled itself out of the other elf's throat was not quite a bark, not quite a laugh. He recovered himself quickly enough, and Isabela and Anders started laughing. “What?”

“It's just, you've got such lovely, long fingers, but your hands still look so strong.” Emboldened by wine and the combined attention of Isabela and Anders, she stage whispered across the table, “If I were Hawke, I know what I'd be doing with those hands.”

Fenris looked back down at his hand of cards, face perfectly neutral and eyes hidden by his hair but the barest hint of a flush creeping across his skin. Hawke was suddenly all smiles and laughter, joking with them, trading innuendo with everyone but Fenris, while he lost the next few hands dramatically, not bothering to conceal the fact that he was cheating for other people. Eventually he folded his hand, stood unsteadily, brushed his shaggy hair out of his face in a nervous gesture they were all well familiar with by now. He only made eye contact with Varric, and Varric didn't like what he saw there.

“I think I'm done,” Hawke announced, gave them a goofy little smile, one he generally reserved for his friends. “You all keep going.”

“You're not walking home alone like that, are you?” Aveline's glare was almost tangible, as much admonition in her voice as concern.

“I'm the Champion,” he answered, smiling broadly. “But no. I'm just done. With cards.” Before she could offer any more caution he stumbled off to the bar, laying a hand to the back of each chair he passed for balance.

“Well, as long as he's still paying, let's keep playing!” Isabela made a grand show of shuffling and dealing the next hand, and they slowly ate up the space Hawke had left at the table until everyone had a little more room. Varric tried to keep an eye on the absent Champion, as the man had been through a lot recently, but the good spirits at the table were still infectious, and after laughing riotously at a particularly raunchy suggestion that went right over poor Merrill's head Varric lost sight of him.

Aveline and Donnic bowed out first, citing duties the next day as an excuse, though anyone with an eye for such things could tell they had other ideas. Before they left Aveline told the group, “Someone should check on Hawke when you get a chance.”

Soon after Isabela and Anders were escorting Merrill off between them with promises that Anders would show her “that electric trick” that Isabela had mentioned to her. Varric shook his head as the two humans sauntered off, motion sleek as a pair of cats, Merrill stumbling happily between them.

Which only left himself and Fenris, sitting in an awkward silence until Varric said, “Well, I guess that's it for tonight. One of us needs to make sure Hawke isn't drowning in his beer.”

“I don't think he would appreciate my presence,” Fenris murmured, and for an unguarded moment he looked shamed, refusing to make eye contact with Varric.

“And I don't think I want to listen to him blubbering like a child all night.” Green eyes flicked up to meet his, a little surprise coloring the shame, and Varric shrugged. “What do you think he does all night when he's here? What do you think he does when he's at home? He tries to drink until it stops hurting, but all it ever does is make it worse. I know you've got your angst and all that, but think about what's happened to him in the past month. About how much of that happened in one night.”

“He... told you, then?” Fenris' voice darkened, and he seemed to be trying to hide behind the hair obscuring his eyes.

“He didn't need to. I make it my business to know these things.” Varric threw his hands wide, shook his head, exasperated with the whole thing. “Look. I know you have problems. So does he. You're both my friends, but I'm not going to do what you should be doing. You two need to talk, because that's about half his problem. At his best he talks about going on a bender and siring a dozen bastards, which isn't like him at all. At his worst he talks about going back to Lothering. Can you imagine someone like him missing being a farmer?” Fenris' eyes only met his for a moment, but the look in them told Varric, yes, he could imagine Hawke wanting a simple life. “And worse things I don't want to talk about and you don't want to hear about. How do you do that, anyway? Break up with someone and make them love you more for it?”

“It's complicated.”

“It always is.” Leaning forward, putting his elbows on the table, Varric did his best to catch Fenris' eye but the elf was very practiced at avoidance. “Look. All I know is that if Carver were here, he'd have kicked your ass and Hawke's a week ago. And after seeing him during the invasion, I'm convinced he could do it. Hawke just acting like you're not there is going to tear us all apart!”

“It hasn't seemed... appropriate to discuss. He had more important things to deal with.”

“And now they're over. Right now you are the only important thing in his life.”

The pain in Fenris' voice was almost enough to convince Varric to stop pressing the matter, the elf sounded like he might be about to cry of all things. “I can't--”

I can't get any sleep when he sits in my room all night crying in his beer. And I get it, I get why he's doing it, he's lost a lot more than just you, and he's my friend. So I can't kick him out, but this has to stop. Fenris, look. I don't care what you say to him. Use my bed to get this worked out if you have to; I won't cry foul. You can tell him to screw off if you want to. Just get it resolved.”

With that Fenris stood, but he still refused to make eye contact, looking away, and Varric finally figured that part out, taking in the elf's broken stance, the slouch to his whole body that made him seem smaller—it was a throwback to his enslavement, refusing to meet someone's eyes under duress, and Varric briefly felt guilty for causing that but dismissed it quickly. If Hawke stopped crying in his beer and drinking himself to stupidity every night, it would be worth it.

“I'll... try,” Fenris choked out, and started making his way towards Varric's room. He was already out of sight when Varric noticed the elf's gauntlets still laying on the table.

Varric had given him some idea of what to expect, but it was still jarring to see Hawke sitting at the long table in Varric's room with his head buried in his arms on the table, shoulders shaking, an empty bottle of Rivaini rum and a glass with a little mouthful of brown liquid left in the bottom sitting at arm's reach. He closed the door behind him, wanting no one else to see this in an attempt to help Hawke save some pride, before calling out softly. “Aodhan.”

Hawke stilled, stiffened, rolled his head as if surreptitiously drying his eyes on his sleeves, then sat up, blinking his eyes blearily, and forcing a weak little smile. “Fenris.” His voice was tight. “Did you need something?”

“We... decided someone should check on you.” Fenris moved up until he was just an arm's length from the mage, and his hands twitched, resisting the urge to reach out and touch the man. “Everyone else has left. Will you be alright to walk home?”

“Of course.” The smile grew haphazard, decidedly not any sort of emotion one would want to associate with a smile. “I'm the Champion.”

“You still have enemies who would take advantage of your state. Meredith...” Fenris gestured emptily, a sort of grasping motion, not wanting to think about what might happen should the Templars decide Champion wasn't enough to keep them from taking Aodhan. It was funny, he'd never though he would possibly fear for a mage or want to keep one out of the Circle, but here it was all the same. When he'd owed Aodhan his life and more he simply pushed his hatred aside to repay that debt, and now... well, here they were, and Fenris often felt Aodhan and Varric and Aveline and Donnic were as much a family to him as he had never dreamed of having. There was no hate left in him for Aodhan, especially after what he'd nearly done the night they made love, only some measure of pity and respect and... other emotions. “Aveline and Varric cannot look after you all the time.”

Aodhan sighed resignedly, looking away from him and slouching, still leaning against the table. “We'd all be better off if they'd just let it go. If some thug decides to knife me in an alley on my way home, what's it matter if there's a guardsman or someone Varric's paid off to witness it? Because they won't stop it if I can't myself.”

“They care for you, Aodhan.” Fenris hesitated a moment, as this wasn't exactly his strong suit. “Its more to ease their own minds than for your safety.”

“If they really cared,” Aodhan muttered darkly, sinking further down until his cheek rested on his arms, “Aveline wouldn't be here every other night telling me what a child I am, that I'm making an ass of myself in front of everyone, and Varric wouldn't tell Corff to cut me off. If I'm here I won't do anything stupid; if I'm at home....” He sighed again, buried his head in his arms again so all Fenris could see was his perpetually mussed hair. “Thank you for your concern, but I'll manage.”

“How long are you going to keep blaming yourself?” Fenris wanted to reach out and touch the mage, but he wasn't sure if it was to comfort him, to brush that mop of hair back and dry his tears, or to shake him until he saw sense. “Carver seemed more mature when we saw him. Your mother would not blame you, and no one wants to see you reduced to... this.”

“Then don't look.” Aodhan lifted his head, looked up at Fenris, eyes narrowed, lips drawn thin. “How long do you intend to keep hating me for an unhappy accident of birth? How long do you intend to let the marks your master left keep you his slave? And how long do you intend to remain silent about--” Before he could say anything else Aodhan buried his head in his arms again, and though he was silent the shake of his shoulders betrayed his tears.

Fenris stood there, anger at Aodhan's words draining away immediately. They were perhaps deserved, and better said than not in Aodhan's condition. Still, he offered no comfort, uncertain how to go about it and stinging from the cruel questions. Eventually Aodhan's shoulders stilled, and he looked up at Fenris with a weak little smile, eyes red-rimmed. “I'm sorry. You didn't deserve that.”

Fenris shrugged, noncommittally; he most certainly had deserved it, for his poor choice of words and the offenses themselves. “Would you permit me to walk you home?”

“I'd like that.”

Aodhan was very drunk, it turned out, and had to keep a hand on Fenris' shoulder to keep his balance. Once they were outside he stepped away and after a little pulse of magic Aodhan's balance was more or less restored. Fenris grimaced at the taste of it on the air, assuming this was Aodhan's force magic keeping him grounded, because he still grinned dumbly and made a point of looking at everything but Fenris.

They were halfway to Hightown when Aodhan's hand reached out for his, twined their fingers together, and Fenris finally realized he'd left his gauntlets on the table with Varric. After a spike of panic he looked up at Aodhan, found the man staring at him with a gentle smile, a warmth in his eyes that Fenris had never realized he craved. With a little squeeze Aodhan said, “I don't need more than this.”

“You deserve more,” Fenris muttered, looking away, and Aodhan squeezed his hand again, drew him a little closer. “But I can't give it to you.”

They passed the rest of the way in silence, at first awkward but growing more comfortable. Aodhan meant it, then, when he said Fenris didn't have to talk about it. The mage was so very tolerant of every cruel word and thoughtless abuse, kept waiting patiently for whatever Fenris was ready to give but asking next to nothing... it shamed Fenris, but he knew Aodhan wouldn't stand for that and so he didn't show it.

When they reached Aodhan's estate they stopped at the door, and Aodhan kissed him on the forehead, just the slightest brush of his lips. “Thank you.”

Fenris finally looked up at him, found only gentle acceptance and love in those eyes. “Next time you're that drunk, send someone for me, please. Walking you home was... enjoyable.”

“I will.” And from the smile on his face, an infectious one that made Fenris' own lips twitch as if he were about to mirror the expression, Fenris trusted Aodhan would.
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