Anonymous prompted: “Fenris/fem!hawke; Hawke is trapped in a coma post-Fade. Her mind is still shackled there, but her body is found by a new rift. Fenris arrives to Skyhold for her funeral, but what he finds is even more unbearable. Cue angsty bedside Fenris– stages of grief. Mad at her, pleading for her to wake up. Hawke can hear it all and after a time, she returns to him.”
- Fenris/fem!Hawke, angst/stages of grief
- ~ 2500 words
- On AO3 here
“The living tell the dying not to leave; and the dying do not listen.”
When he arrives at Skyhold, Fenris is not surprised to learn there will be no funeral after all. He is unsurprised because he knew it could not be true, that the world could not still exist if it were true: Hawke could not be dead.
What he finds instead is, somehow, almost worse.
Hawke has been found. But she is not—whole. She is not awake. Her body came back from the Fade after all; discovered crumpled and twisted by a new rift. The scouts who stumbled upon her couldn’t tell how long she’d lain there; what unknown magic might have allowed her to pass through the Veil almost physically unharmed. But whatever allowed her through, it did not bring back all of her. She lays still and silent, as though sleeping, but unwakable.
Her body has returned. But her mind is gone.
No one knows quite what to do. The healers have done almost nothing for her, barely keeping this shell sustained. They have moved her to a room of soft pillows and white sheets; gentle sunlight streaming in through high windows, and she cannot appreciate any of it. They do it for themselves, because there is nothing else to do but grieve, and wait.
Fenris sits beside her. Her hands are have been folded atop her chest, a picture of stillness. He wants to take them, to tug at her until she wakes up and comes back to him, but he is terrified. Terrified that if he touches her, she will collapse, like so much else he has shattered. He has only ever been good at killing things. It’s what he was made for, twisted into, and many would be surprised at how accustomed he has grown to this fact. Long ago he stopped dreaming of the enemies slain; instead, his nights are haunted with visions of his bloody-blue hands turning against his will, tearing into those he loves. He did it once, in a land of mists and shadows. Who is to say he won’t fall again?
But this nightmare is real, and even if it was not he who tore from Hawke her soul, he cannot bear to touch her. Instead, he sits, and watches her chest rise, fall, rise.
He thinks: This cannot be real.
He thinks: Let it be me who wakes up.
But when he does wake, numb and cramped in the stiff wooden chair he has dragged into her room, nothing has changed. This is no Fade-terror he is trapped within, and there is nothing he can do. Hawke’s face is blank and empty, and his own twists with pain as he stares at her.
“Wake up,” he whispers. “I can’t bear—”
Suddenly, the room is intolerable. Too tiny; too still. Despite the light and the space it feels to him like nothing so much as a crypt: a tomb they have sealed her away into. A problem the Inquisition couldn’t solve and so set aside instead. Dust motes drift through the slanting sunbeams and he can feel the white heat of rage building within him. He flees the space before his anger can fill him, bare feet flying across the flagstones of the Keep.
It is not fair. It is a ludicrous thought—what in his life has ever been fair, what has fate ever dealt him that it did not eventually snatch away? He was a fool to ever believe he could have found happiness. He was a fool to let her go alone, slipping from his side and refusing his help.
You take unnecessary risks, she had told him. You would throw your life away for mine. I won’t let you do that.
She was right, of course—he would have sacrificed himself in her stead in a heartbeat. She was the Champion, the savior, and what is he? Nothing but a slave, a marked toy who managed to tumble into freedom and has hardly known what to do with it now that it is his. He stalks the halls blindly, not seeing the guests and soldiers who hastily step out of his way; not noticing the icy bite of wind that cuts across the flesh his armor didn’t cover.
It would have been better, he mourns. It should have been me. He is nothing, and she was—everything. She was a glorious flame, a quick laugh and a quicker tongue, her sharp edges fitting into his like pieces of a puzzle. She was where he finally realized he had found a home: not in a place, but a person.
His hands are shaking, and he slams them into the walls. The stone does not move, his blows as ineffectual as raindrops. He would tear through mountains to bring her home, but the door she stepped through is the one place he can’t touch. He does not know the Fade; has never cared for dreams.
Later, exhausted and raw, he stands at her bedside. The Inquisitor’s apostate had told him it was as if her spirit still wandered, unable or unwilling to return to her body. But it was still hers, and some part of Hawke must still be tied to it, for it to still draw breath. It was possible she could hear every word they said. But even though she cannot reply, he still can’t bring himself to ask the question frozen on his tongue, the one he was too terrified to ever ask when she had been here and whole:
Did you want to die?
He does not know that he could bear to hear the answer.
He’d known it in his heart when she left, even if she did not admit it herself. She had fought and fled for so long; he had seen the exhaustion dragging at her soul; the deep weariness that pulled her down ever since Kirkwall burned. She had lain in bed for days, sometimes, and when nothing he could do or say drew her out of whatever dark corner of herself she’d fled to, he would lay with her. But then just as suddenly, she would come back, vibrant and laughing and fierce. Each return was a relief, and worrying: ever more, there was a giddy madness creeping into her voice, the manic gleam in her eyes that had only grown brighter.
She was too damned stubborn to give up; give in. Every time she sought more ferocious and furious foes; daring them to finally best her; seeking out the monster that would finally prove strong enough to bring her rest. It had only been at his insistence she’d resisted the Inquisition for so long, and part of him will never be able to forgive Varric for finally allowing her to go to them.
“You should never have come here,” he tells her now, his voice as bitter as bark. “You already gave them everything, in Kirkwall. They did not need your life here, too.”
She does not reply, of course, and his anger beats in waves against her stillness, rocking his rage into a frenzy. But there is nowhere for it to go now, without her to draw it out of him with a sharp reprimand or a gentle touch. Their fights have always been loud and passionate, some violent mixture of anger and love neither is good at expressing, but recognized in the other: two cracked mirrors; breaking but not broken, reflecting back upon each other the last dim shards of light. But all her brilliant vivacity has fled her husk of a body, and it knocks him unstable, his anger swallowed back into his throat like burning poison, acrid and sharp.
After the first week, his anger fades into desperation. He talks to her for hours, begging her to return until his voice is as ragged as his heart. He does not know if she can hear him; if there is anything left inside her to hear him. When he runs out of words, he repeats himself. When even that deserts him, he sits in silence, mind as blank as fog.
For the first time since gaining his freedom, he wishes he’d been born with the curse of magic, so that he might find a way to reach her. Even if it took the sacrilege of his own flesh, a deal with a demon—it is for the best, probably, that he cannot be so tempted now. All mages can fall, he knows. He’d never realized how much he could wish to himself.
But the only mage he would trust to chase her for him also fled when the cities and skies began to burn. He can see her sad green eyes now; for all her naivety, she would know how much it would cost him to ask. She would have done it, too; if not for him, then for Hawke—as fierce as his love is, he was never the only one to hold her in his heart. But Merill is oceans away, in hiding herself, and he would not know how to reach her.
It is for the best, he tells himself, and his bargains are only inwards, tumbling inadequate and ineffectual from bruise-bitten lips to no one at all.
When the torrent of pleas finally runs dry, it is as though they have taken every one of his emotions out with them. He feels only a dim and numbing pain; his body an aching shell filled only with a deep, throbbing sorrow. When he is not at her side, he floats dream-like through the Keep, a ghostly wolf of steel and grey.
He finds himself staring at his hands. He can see the red that stains them through the years, even dried and clean when no one else can. It is no mistake that the bright sash he bears is red, too—but this time, it is his own blood, his own heart. He has torn so many from the chests of his foes that he can still hardly comprehend how Hawke managed to draw out his—gently, so gently, cradling his name on her tongue. It came out not with a wound but a whisper; the sigh of his name from her lips, even when he could not bear to hear it and fled. When he could not deny his feelings to even himself, he set the sash upon his wrist—a reminder, that not every touch needs to break.
But his hands bring only death, and he can’t reach in and rip her out like he does so much else
“I can’t promise you happiness,” he tells her. He has never known where to find it himself, least of all now. “I can only promise I am here.”
She does not reply. He waits at her bedside, and sometimes, he feels as empty as she must be.
Fenris is calm.
Hawke rests, her limbs arranged like slowly wilting flowers. Someone has been here, tucking the crisp sheets in just a bit more, plumping the pillows back to fullness. The woman lying in the bed is unchanged, her face pale and wan. Already, the work the healers have done is fading, her body wasting away despite their efforts to keep her alive despite her absence.
He is calm because, finally, he has accepted the only truth that can be possible: she will not die.
He will not allow it.
Gently, softly, he reaches for her, his fingers trembling against her skin as he brushes loose strands of hair from her face. They trail across her brow to rest at her temples, her face cupped within one hand. The soft warm skin of his palms is nothing like the cold, spiky outer armor of his gauntlets, as finally he holds her.
“Hawke,” he tells her in a whisper, and her name on his tongue is a prayer, a plea, a promise. “You will wake up.” He was made for reaching into things, and pulling them into the light. He cannot help himself as emotion wells up, the familiar pain searing across his skin and there is no point to fighting it.
And now, he reaches again, with his heart instead of his hands. White lines gleam blue, brilliant and dazzling in the dimness of the chamber; a lyrium ghost and his husk of a lover. He does not know what he is doing. He only knows that there is no other future but one with her in it, and he stares at her face, tears splashing onto her hair and the pillows as he calls her back.
“You do not need to be their sacrifice,” he tells her now, his voice breaking on the words like glass. “You are good for more than dying, Hawke. You can stop fighting. You can come home.”
The room is still and quiet in the stillness of morning, the only sound the constant muffled wail of wind along the stones. Soft rays of light scatter through the low clouds, gently suffusing the rafters of the room as thebright lyrium glow chases away the darkness that pools along the floor. Somewhere beyond the walls of the chamber, the Inquisition slowly wakes, the members who comprise the great entity stretching and resuming their duties. Beyond that, somewhere, Corypheus waits and plots, as his army swarms across Thedas.
But the world still spins. Snow drifts higher in the mountains, just to be blown away by the breeze. Over eons, mountains rise, crumble, rise. Far away, a man in hiding hesitates for a moment as magic crackles along his fingertips, listening in confusion for a trace of voice he thought he almost heard. On the Waking Sea, waves crash and break against ships, and a pirate queen sailing into the horizon stops to look back at a shore that is long out of sight, for no reason she can explain. An elf, a dwarf, and a lost lonely prince all pause inexplicably in their morning rituals, while a tired and dusty guard-captain closes her eyes in reminiscence after a long night patrol. Scattered and broken, a family of lost souls all falter, waiting.
He had only ever been good at killing, Fenris thought. The white-hot slashings of his tattoos fade, receding to a dull ache, and shadows slowly creep back into the room. He can barely make out her features in the dark, half blinded and dizzy.
Around Skyhold, endless winter rages. The winds blow and buffet against the bricks. But somewhere far out of sight, soft green grass slowly turns the damp black soil; reaching for the light.
The chamber is still and silent.
Hawke opens her eyes.
Thanks for the prompt! I hope you enjoyed it. I do so love Hawke-in-the-Fade things.
More of my writing can be found here.