Title: How Far Can Too Far Go? (Chapter 1)
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Fenris ♂, Anders ♂, Hawke ♂, Varric ♂, Isabela ♀
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V1 D1)
Warnings: Knob jokes, drinking, and throttling
Notes: So, technical difficulties sorted, I’ll now be posting the last two weeks of crap. Kind of all at once. Something something fandom happened. I made a joke about Fenris/Justice and effingshamwow totally egged me on. This is probably the only relatively tame chapter, and I’d still suggest putting down your drink. It arcs up pretty fast. (You can blame Fallen London for the mushroom wine. It just seemed like a very Darktown thing to do, and you can’t convince me the Hanged Man doesn’t serve some sincerely questionable things.)
Hawke was in love with Anders, and Anders was in love with Hawke. There was no mistaking the signs, if one knew either of them well. They lived and breathed a haze of each others’ well-timed jabs and gibes, Templar jokes, and bawdy songs about wizards, with time apart for Anders to work in the clinic and Hawke’s endeavours to teach the Arishok to enjoy chess. (Fenris insisted the game embodied the Qun, at its very essence, while still leaving room for outrageous designs, and that the game would be the salvation of them all.) And, from time to time, Hawke would drag someone home with him, and Anders would pretend to be jealous for the five minutes it took to rinse the spikeweed and orichalcum from his hands and size up the offering.
And then there was that time Hawke brought home Isabela, but even Varric won’t talk about that one. Bring it up and Hawke will pick at his nails, Anders will find something fascinating about the floor, and Isabela will add another splintered wound to the tabletop and all-too-cheerfully order another round. Some things, no one will admit to, even when they weren’t involved.
There was, Fenris thought, something sickeningly right about the two of them together. Two smart-mouthed, devastatingly flirtatious, apostate mages, clearly cut from the same cloth, the one an abomination and the other a drunk. He would have loved to hate them. He had loved hating them, for a while, but they were useful. The kind of flirtatious drunken abominations that could get you back out of anything they got you into. Or anything you got yourself into. Or anything your blighted windbag former master got you into, Maker take his soul and grind it. He might almost call them his friends — aside from the part where he didn’t have friends, didn’t want friends, and doubly didn’t want anyone regularly putting his name in the same sentence with the names of two mages. It was bad enough that people referred to him as Varric’s ‘Broody Death Elf’.
And that’s where it started, he thought. With Varric.
"Oh, no, you don’t get to walk out of here without paying what you owe me, tall, dark, and stupid. That didn’t work last time, and it won’t work, this time." Varric kicked a chair, and the human dropped into it as it smacked into the back of his knees. The dwarf leaned over his shoulder, almost companionably. "Don’t make me bring the elf into this."
Fenris groaned and rested his aching head against the bottle in his hand. Even in the Hanged Man, perhaps especially in the Hanged Man, he drank from the bottle. It was just safer. And if this pounding in his head didn’t stop, soon, he’d need a few more bottles. "Please. Don’t make him bring the elf into this. The elf will be extremely upset at being dragged into a certain loud-mouthed dwarf’s financial affairs."
"The only thing worse than a drunken Broody Death Elf is an upset one," Varric threw in, and the human squirmed in his seat, before slapping a fistful of silver onto the table.
After Varric’s ‘business acquaintance’ left them, Fenris got the dwarf’s attention by barely missing his head with an empty bottle that shattered against the back of the fireplace. Even Fenris’s fingers twitched at the sound, and the angle of his ears shifted, flattening in annoyance. "I am a weapon, dwarf. I am not your weapon. That honour belongs to your Bianca. What would she think?"
"Well, as long as I’m not feeling up your long bits and checking your tautness, I don’t think she’s got what to complain about." Varric laughed and grabbed his flagon of what passed for ale in this dump.
"I need more wine," Fenris sighed, pressing a thumb against the curve where his nose met his eyesocket.
"Lucky you!" A bottle was pressed into his other hand, and his eyes eventually focused enough to find Hawke on the other side of it.
"I knew there was a reason I hadn’t killed you in your sleep, mage." After wrestling the cork from the bottle, Fenris took a long swallow and tipped his head back with an uncomfortable sound.
"If I knew my life was so cheap, I’d have started buying you wine sooner!" Hawke’s ass hit a chair, solidly, and his boots thudded onto the table.
After a moment, Hawke started again. "Don’t—"
But, the hands were already on the sides of Fenris’s face. "You’re touching me. Do you have a death wish? I could assist you with that."
"The fact that all of my knuckles are still intact tells me you don’t just look like shit, today, Fenris. And I spent enough time in Ferelden to be extremely familiar with shit in all its multitudinous varieties."
Anders. He hadn’t even been able to feel the magic. The mage maybe had a point, but Fenris wasn’t about to admit it. "Why are you touching me, mage?" This time it wasn’t just an observation, but an accusation.
"If you prefer, I could just leave you to the gentle caresses of your aches and pains," Anders offered, fingers tracing lightly over the paths of the lyrium etchings, as his thumbs settled behind the elf’s ears.
"If I become less drunk, you are paying for me to become more drunk," Fenris declared, and Anders took it for the acceptance it was.
"Be careful with that. This isn’t the first bottle. Or the third," Varric chimed in, from somewhere to the side.
"I think it’s well within my power to avoid disturbing a man’s drunken comfort, even while I rid him of his pains. I have a particular talent for that, actually."
The last went unremarked. They’d all learnt there were some things one didn’t ask Anders about — pretty much anything before he’d met them. But, none of them really talked about what came before. Well, none of them except Varric, but you could at least be pretty sure Varric was full of shit. Mostly. Usually. Fenris would admit the ‘Broody Death Elf’ stories were pretty accurate, though. Maybe more accurate than Varric realised.
A low sound slipped out of Fenris, as the magic crept through his skin, racing along the lines of lyrium and washing away the worst of the pain. He hadn’t realised how much he hurt until it stopped. Then it was just his throbbing head, still cradled in that abomination’s wonderful, cool hands. No, that wasn’t right. Abomination. Wretched mage-beast. Spite! Malice! … leaching the ache from between his temples, until his ears tingled and his skin buzzed along every silvery-blue line. A rumble of delicious contentment started low in his chest — ABOMINATION. TOUCHING.
"Enough!" Fenris suddenly shot bolt upright, cracking his head soundly against the mage’s chin, as he came to his feet. "Get your hands off me. Keep your hands off me, abomination."
Anders stumbled back into the wall, spitting blood as he healed his own bitten tongue. "There’s the Broody Death Elf we know and love!"
"Yes, yes, you hate mages, we know. Don’t break the healer. I was using that and so were you." Hawke took another swig of his drink and smacked the flagon onto the edge of the table. "Sit down and have another drink, before you hurt something."
"After he hurts something," Anders complained, still rubbing his chin as he made his way to the seat beside Hawke.
"Did he break anything?" Hawke asked, mischief gleaming in the corners of his eyes. "Better let me check…"
"And you wonder where I get the ideas in those books I keep writing. Keep it up, you two. You’ll get a whole chapter to yourselves in the next one," Varric teased, as Hawke thoroughly explored Anders’s mouth for damage, tongue first.
"I had better never find myself in any impassioned embraces in your books, dwarf," Fenris warned, sitting back down with his wine.
"You can’t even read! It’s not like you’d notice!" Varric protested.
"Isabela can read just fine. What did you think we were doing alone together, all that time?" Smugness rolled off the elf in waves. "She is teaching me to read. Using your books. She has read them all to me, so far."
"What did I think you were doing? I thought she was putting her unspeakable talents to good use on your pointy-eared flesh! She sure talks like that’s what she’s doing with you!" More supposed ale went into Varric’s mouth. "Wild tales about secret Tevinter sex acts and how your tattoos light up when you get— you know!"
For a split second, Fenris could swear Anders had blue eyes. Gleaming, electric blue, in exactly the way the mage’s golden eyes weren’t.
"I wouldn’t know. And neither would she." Fenris stretched his shoulders and tipped his chin up, dismissively.
"Wait, wait. I get ‘she wouldn’t know’," Anders butted in, "but, you wouldn’t know?"
"I don’t do those sorts of things. They’re unappealing." The elf shrugged and looked away. "You know exactly how much I appreciate being touched."
"Hey, you almost appreciated it for a minute, earlier. A whole minute!" Anders teased.
"The key word there is ‘almost’." Fenris paused, studying the mage. "Did I break any of your teeth?"
"Nah, I just bit my tongue. Takes more than that to break me."
"Nice of you to ask, though, you big softie."
And then Anders’s tankard of spice tea hit the floor, knocked out of his hand as Fenris leapt across the table, into a crouch at the edge of it, and grabbed him by the throat, bending his neck back over the back of the chair.
"Say it again," Fenris growled.
The smile that lit Anders’s face wasn’t pleasant, but it was saucy. His golden eyes glowed in what light could reach them. This smile was strangely dangerous. This smile probably accounted for more of his scars than he’d ever admit.
"Big… softie," he choked out. "Can’t keep your hands off me."
"Man’s got a point," Hawke remarked into his flagon, looking entirely unconcerned with the elf currently choking the life out of his beloved. If it were serious, at least one of them would be glowing.
Fenris let go and stepped back, still standing on the table, wiping his hands on his leggings. "Disgusting…" he muttered, looking more confused than disgusted.
"Oooh! Pointy and gorgeous is on the table!" came a delighted cry, from the end of the room, as Isabela entered with as much ale as she could heft in both hands, which was quite a bit. "You going to do a little dance and take it all off, for us, or do I have to buy you some more wine, first?"
Still coughing, Anders flicked a sovereign into one of her cups and offered a thumbs up. Fenris was pretty sure the mage actually did have a death wish, and the thought gave him pause, as it often did, when it crossed his mind. The power to rain fire from the sky and heal nearly any wound, and the mage just wanted someone to kill him. But, it wasn’t like that, really. In battle, he was unfaltering; never stepped in front of anything he could step away from, didn’t stand too close to the front of a fight, and brought down lyrium-powered wrath on anything that got too close to any of them. In that last, he supposed, they weren’t that different, and my, wasn’t that an uncomfortable thought. Stepping back off the table, he washed it down with more wine. Shitty, Lowtown mushroom wine.
"Why, exactly, would I do something that might inspire that nug-brained abomination to put his hands on me, again?" Fenris growled, glancing around the room in case any of the bottles from earlier might still have more in them.
"Again? Ooooh! What have I been missing?" Isabela set down the ale and perched on the edge of the table, looking intrigued and terribly gossipy. Reminded Anders of Zevran, when she did that, though he’d only spent a week in the assassin’s company. ‘A forgiveable weakness for Antivan accents,’ the Warden-Commander had called that.
"Oh, you know, wild debauchery, dark Tevinter sex secrets, temptations of the Anderfels." Anders leaned back, resting the back of his chair against the wall. "I groped his face a little. Terribly titillating."
Hawke’s face turned alarming shades of red, as he pressed his knuckles against his forehead, holding his breath not to laugh.
"Oh, yeah," Varric added, "with delicious sound effects. Did you know elves purr? I didn’t know that."
There was a line, Anders knew, and the dwarf had crossed it. He could feel Fenris tense, and the way the air cooled ever so slightly around the elf, even from halfway down the table. "Knock it off, Varric."
Fenris shot a surprised look at the mage, whose face was buried in his tankard, not looking at any of them.
"Too much?" Varric asked.
"Do you like your organs inside your body?" Anders asked, tilting his head toward Fenris, who looked entirely fascinated by the fact he’d run out of wine.
"I’ve had cat piss better than the wine, here," Fenris remarked, totally changing the subject in the worst possible way.
Anders and Varric answered simultaneously.
"Do I want to know why you were drinking cat piss?" Anders squinted down the side of his tankard at Fenris.
Varric’s head bobbed in an exaggerated nod. "Which is, of course, why you’ve only had four bottles of it."
Fenris just ignored Anders. "Yes. I kept hoping it would improve as I became more intoxicated. It has, instead, gotten worse. If you will excuse me, I’ve had enough bad wine, for the night."
"Retreating to your cellars, for the good stuff?" Hawke asked, squinting into his flagon, as if considering a similar choice.
"That merchant had excellent taste. If he lived, I might ask after his connections," the elf admitted, setting the bottle on the table, as he edged around it, toward Varric’s side.
"If he lived, you wouldn’t know about his taste in wine," Anders pointed out, "and you wouldn’t have a half-trashed estate in Hightown to call your own."
"Are you running out of good wine, my dark and pointy friend?" Isabela asked. "Come see me, tomorrow. We’ll arrange something to keep those cellars full."
"I hesitate to speculate what you might ask, in return." Fenris’s eyebrow arched up, as he came eye to eye with Isabela at the end of the table.
"Oh, you know me, I might just lighten your jingle a little." She moved her legs, to let him pass.
"Jangle your jingle, she means," Varric joked.
"If I wanted to jangle his jingle, I’d give him the wine for free."
Across the table, Hawke finally lost it, resting his head on the edge of the table as he cackled.
"Don’t mind him." Anders clapped a hand on Hawke’s shoulder and stood, the chair clacking back to an upright position. "He started early, tonight. Rough week."
To Fenris’s discerning eye, the mage could not have looked more raw with his skin off. He squinted and rubbed his forehead, as he headed for the door. "I never pay Hawke any mind. Why should this time be different?"
Anders looked at Hawke, looked at Fenris, and went after the elf. "I’ll walk with you."
"Should you not be more concerned with your lover?"
"He needs to be drunk, right now. Drunk and with people who will keep him laughing." Anders shrugged. "Varric and Isabela are good at that. Both of those, really."
"And you can’t be funny? Or is it just you can’t be drunk?" Fenris squinted sideways at him.
"Can’t be drunk. Both, maybe." Anders paused. "And you still look like shit."
"Charming, as always, mage."
"If I was trying to be charming, you’d have me by the neck."
"You may be correct."
They walked in silence, down an alley, here, across a road, there. Fenris wondered what he’d done to deserve the sudden, blazing, mage-bright ‘kick me’ sign, that had decided to walk with him. "You know that I am able to care for myself, yes?"
"You don’t eat, you barely sleep, and you drown your sorrows in vats of wine. I guess that could count as caring for yourself. It’s no wonder you have headaches."
The mage had a fair point. However… "Two of those could be said of you, as well, and the third in the not so distant past."
"Never wine," Anders protested. "The hangovers are horrible."
"Hangovers?" Fenris had heard the word, but never got a grip on the concept.
"Yeah, you know, the thing where you drink way too much, and then you wake up in the morning and throw up a lot and pray for death, because everything hurts like you’ve been beaten stupid by a hurlock with a mace?"
"I have never had this experience. No wonder you’ve stopped drinking." It seemed much more sensible, if that was the consequence.
"I’d still be drinking, if Justice was a little more tolerant. I’d be back in the Hanged Man, four cups down, and singing bawdy songs about wizards’ staves." He elbowed Fenris, companionably, without thinking about it. "A wizard’s staff’s got a knob on the end, you know."
"So, I have heard you sing. I can’t interpret that in any way that isn’t utterly disgusting." Oddly, Fenris didn’t find it in himself to recoil from the elbow, even attached to an apostate abomination, as it was.
"It’s because you don’t like wizards. Or maybe you don’t like knobs, either."
"I certainly don’t like wizards’ knobs."
"Maybe because you’ve been keeping company with the wrong wizards. Hawke’s got an amazing knob, and a real talent for putting it to use."
"I’d really rather not envision the uses Hawke puts his knob to. I’ve heard enough from Isabela to make me want to boil my ears clean."
Anders shot a calculating glance at Fenris. "How much does Isabela know about the uses Hawke puts his knob to?"
"More than I want to." Resigned disgust dripped from every word.
"Oh, hey, the all-night, by the Chantry, is still open. If we stop off, I can grab some things and show you the pleasures of Orlesian cooking. You know, since I can’t remember the last time I ate, and I doubt you can, either." Anders pointed off in that direction. "It’s right across the plaza from your house…"
"I have nothing in which to cook, mage." Of all the objections, that one made it out of his mouth.
"I need a metal bowl, a clay bowl, and two bricks. That’s it, for cooking utensils. I bet we can find that in the wreckage." Anders smiled temptingly, eyes all aglitter. "Just think: warm food. In your own house. And all you have to do is put up with me a little longer."
"You tempt me, mage." Fenris considered the offer. Warm food, without having to pay attention to more than one possible threat, while he ate. "You’re buying?"
"Make sure you buy enough. I’m very hungry, and you look thin." His stomach punctuated the final sentence, uninvited.
"I look thin, because I am thin. Long, lean beauty of the Anderfels, tempered by a decade of dogs and shit." Bright, jovial bitterness spilled out of the mage, absently, like a rupture in some pustule he’d been too busy to tend.
"And buy yourself something to drink. I have only wine, and the water…" Fenris grimaced. "I would not trust the water in my mouth, nor in the mouth of someone cooking for me. Even someone tempered by dogs and shit."
"Careful, people might think you’re sweet on me, or something," Anders teased, turning away to head toward the shop.
"There are no people here, and you know better." Struck by an uncomfortable thought, Fenris squinted at the mage’s back. "You are the one offering to cook me a hot meal, is it not more likely people would think you are sweet on me, if any of them were looking?"
"What a ghastly thought. Unimaginably distasteful, isn’t it?" Anders smiled over his shoulder, in that suicidal way he had. "Whatever would I need with someone just as broken and scared as I am, when I have Hawke… who is… just as broken and scared as I am, if a little more outrageously bold in his intents."
"Damaged, not broken." Fenris protested, quietly. "And I am not scared. I have no fear left in me."
"Damaged, broken, what’s the difference—"
With the shadow of the Chantry on them, Fenris reached out and yanked Anders around to face him. "You get out of bed, of your own volition. You do what you feel you must. You fight for yourself, and what matters to you. You bite the hand that holds the leash, however much I may think you need that leash. You are not broken. I don’t know what it would take to break you."
"I do," Anders breathed, looking at the ground between them, clenching his fists as if it would stop the world from spinning, and trusting the iron grip of Fenris’s hand to keep him up, if he lost his own hold. They stood a long time in silence. Finally, he looked up. "Thank you. Now, let’s get to the shop and back, before the Templars catch us standing around like we own the place."
"Is it truly so bad, under their watch?" Fenris asked, letting go as they crossed the plaza.
Anders took a deep breath, and Fenris clapped a hand on his shoulder. "No, I mean it. Honest question," the elf clarified.
The breath raced back out of Anders, and he reached for the door of the shop. "Ask me another time, when I’m not cold, hungry, and standing in front of the Chantry."