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30 March 2011 @ 10:35 am
Still Warm Ashes (Part 1), Sebastian/F!Hawke (DA2)  
Title: Still Warm Ashes (Part 1)
Fandom: Dragon Age 2
Rating: PG-13
Characters: F!Hawke, Sebastian
Pairing: F!Hawke/Sebastian
Word Count: 2,440
Summary: Some people are meant to be in your life, for better or worse. Two years after the events of Kirkwall, Sebastian believes that chapter of his life closed - until a woman from his past resurfaces seeking refuge and forgiveness.
Warnings: Set post-game. Major spoilers for endgame sprinkled throughout.


It begins with a letter, privately delivered by a footman whose name Sebastian does not know. He has lived in Starkhaven, ruling as its rightful Prince, for time enough now and has taken care to learn the names of his servants. This man is not one of his own, made even more apparent by his lack of dress and rank smell. A lackey then, likely hired for discretion or anonymity. His nobles do love their court intrigues, although he cannot for the life of him understand the appeal. Once upon a time, his younger self might have delighted in the sport of it. But that boy is gone now, buried beneath chantry rubble.

He takes a breath, clearing his head of fire and debris. With his curiosity piqued, he breaks the wax seal, still warm to the touch. The handwriting is agitated, as if scrawled in haste, uncertain, with words scratched out and ink bleeding from the punctuation. It is familiar in its way – he deciphers desperation in the way it’s been folded and unfolded, again and again. Someone agonized over this. Sebastian has received countless petitions for one thing or the other, but this feels different. Odd.

Sebastian,

Please meet me in the chantry. Midnight tonight.

Come alone. I’ll be waiting for you.


His eyes scan to the bottom, then narrow. It is signed, an old friend. Many claimed to be just that when he took the throne, only to later expose themselves as self-serving opportunists. A crown, as it turns out, makes fewer friends than it does enemies. Experience continues to teach him this the hard way. Even now, Sebastian can feel himself losing grip of what is considered a fool notion by most everyone else: that the goodness of man will prevail against his sinful nature, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Idly, the Prince of Starkhaven wonders how many betrayals it will take until wisdom replaces his optimism.

Who then is this so-called friend of his? Who will not give their name, and who calls him by his given? He knows that if he brings this to his advisors, they will think it a trap. It would not be the first attempt on his life. They would forbid him from going, as if that would prevent him.

There is no point dithering. His mind is already made up. He holds the letter over one of the lit candles, letting it burn. Then discarding its charred remnants into the hearth, he grabs his bow and flings it over his shoulder.

Elthina always called him impetuous. He wishes he could tell her she was right.

~ ~ ~


The chantry is dark except for the hypnotic flame that burns day and night in Andraste’s outstretched palm. Sebastian pauses before her golden likeness, admiring its soft glow.

“I wasn’t sure you’d come.”

He tenses at the voice, that voice. Sometimes he dreams of her, and she sounds exactly the same. A part of him doesn’t want to turn around, as if doing so will only confirm his suspicions that none of this is real and dispel the fantasy. But he does turn around, eventually, because he has to see her with his own eyes to believe that she still exists, that she’s here. Sebastian’s faith does not extend to the Champion of Kirkwall. Not anymore.

“Hawke,” he says and the name sours in his mouth. He thought he had gotten past all of this. Apparently not.

She melts from the shadow of a massive, ornate pillar and steps into view. The effect is dizzying. He almost doesn’t recognize her. She’s not wearing armor, and her dark hair is longer than he remembers. It hides the marks, but not entirely. There are several well-pronounced cuts and bruises on her face, and he imagines more elsewhere. Her bottom lip is split, swollen. She tries for a smile, but it can’t quite reach her eyes. Those bright grey eyes that had once laughed and teased, and later accused him of heartlessness. They are dimmed now; the light is gone. It is a terrible thing to watch a warrior go to war, but far more terrible to witness their homecoming.

She stands before him, dirty, tired, and completely defeated. “Hello, Sebastian.”

He represses the urge to go to her, to care for her. It’s obvious no one else has in a long time.

“What are you doing here, Hawke?”

“I was in the neighborhood,” she says lightly. It’s the tone she takes when she doesn’t want to divulge the truth – for whatever reason. Like when she tried to talk him into distracting the Grand Cleric. She made a joke of it then, something about his inability to talk to women. Even older women. The memory provokes him.

“I did not come here to play games,” he says and starts for the door.

“Wait!” She catches him by the arm as he passes by her in the aisle. “Sebastian,” she says, so quiet he can barely hear the words. “I need your help.”

The way her voice catches at the end unmans him. “I . . . do not think the Maker would look kindly on me for turning away one of his children in an hour of need, not before his Bride’s gaze. I will listen, but I cannot promise you more than that.”

She nods and releases him, slowly. He hears her tale of the conflict between the mages and the Chantry. It is one he is familiar with. It is impossible not to have heard the news, whispers of persecution for all who will not bend the knee. A holy war in everything but name. The Prince’s province has been mercifully kept from bloodshed thus far, by sheer luck alone. The Circle in Starkhaven had burned down some time before the events of Kirkwall. There were no mages to rebel here and bring the wrath of the Templars down upon them.

“Everything has gotten lost in the telling,” she explains, appearing equal parts confused and frustrated. “Even Varric seems helpless to set the record straight. Both sides are blaming me for the conflict. I’m not only the scapegoat, Sebastian; I’m to be the sacrificial lamb.”

“You are not innocent in all of this, Hawke,” he reminds her, a bit more harshly than he intends to.

“I know that,” she bites back, showing some of the fire he remembers. “Don’t you think I know that?”

“I have never been privy to your thoughts or confidences.”

A lie, and she calls him on it. “You were once.”

There was a time when she would have come to him, late at night, in the chantry. Some nights, it was to seek absolution for something that weighed on her conscience. She often made such a show of strength in public, that it was initially difficult for him to witness her private struggles. Like watching an impervious shield melted down for scrap metal. Other nights, she would rage about the injustice of it all – the Templars, blood mages, her family’s death. Kirkwall seemed not a home to her, but a personal purgatory. She would be fury and vengeance and he would cool her temper with a reassuring word or gesture.

“That was a long time ago,” he says.

“Yes,” she agrees sadly. “It seems like another life now. Like it happened to someone else entirely.”

He knows the feeling. For the first few months after he left her on the steps in Lowtown, threatening a righteous reckoning, he would wake up in the middle of the night and for a few moments forget where he was, what had happened. He would imagine the warm walls of the Kirkwall chantry around him, the wafting scent of the incense. Then everything would snap back into focus, reality brought into sharp relief. Sometimes, it would make him sick. He hasn’t forgotten.

“It did not.”

“I wish it had.” The sorrow in her expression deepens the lines in her face, making her seem older than she is. It stirs his heart to pity, begs his mercy, and he denies himself from going to her a second time.

She smiles like a bitter widow who knows all that she has lost, and then takes a seat in one of the pews. He continues to stand. Sitting beside her will invite a sympathy that he’s not ready for. Maker forgive him, because he was not ready to forgive her.

“They’re hunting me.” Her appearance suddenly makes sense. She’s been on the run for her life. Alone?

“Who?”

“The Seekers. The Templars. The Resolutionists. Take your pick.”

“And you’ve come here for, what, protection?”

Her confidence wavers, but she meets his gaze. “Yes,” and then hurries to add, “I didn’t want to involve you, but . . . There’s no one else, Sebastian. No one I can turn to, no one else I can trust. And I can’t keep running.” She runs a hand across her forehead, as if trying to head off a headache. Even at her worst, he has never seen her looking so . . . worn down. “Maker, I am so sick of running.”

Sebastian feels uneasy in the light of her words. Her weary honesty tears at his resolve. He is not heartless, and he has never been able to hate her. Now is no exception.

“I know I have no right to ask this of you. I know we didn’t part on good terms –”

“That’s putting it lightly,” he interrupts. “You let a murderer go free. You let Elthina’s killer go unpunished.”

A hardness enters her eyes. “I spared the man I loved. Isn’t that what the Chantry teaches us? To temper justice with mercy?”

He bristles at her argument. “Do not hide behind scripture. You have no right.”

“Maybe not.” She runs her hands against the gilded wood of the pew, not looking at him. “I won’t pretend it wasn’t selfish. You might be able to turn off your emotions at a moment’s notice, Sebastian, but I am not you.”

If she had smacked him, it might have hurt less. “I wasn’t aware you had such a low opinion of me, Hawke.” This seems to give her pause. It would have been the perfect note to end on. He wants to leave, wants to go back to bed and pretend none of this has happened, but his feet won’t carry him to the door.

She stands, although it clearly pains her to, and approaches him tentatively. “You weren’t the only one who suffered betrayal that day, Sebastian,” she tells him.

“So I am in the wrong now, am I?”

“That’s not what I’m saying.”

“No?”

No!

They are in one another’s faces now, yelling. His anger is obscuring reason, he knows but doesn’t care. What it’s really doing is masking the pain. Because she’s right. Sebastian knows she’s right. They all made choices that day. They all made mistakes. Good people died. Good friendships were destroyed. It is amazing to him how much power a single moment can have.

Her signature flashes in his mind. An old friend. It’s like a splash of cold water to his face, and he steps back.

“I shouldn’t have come,” she says, at last. “It was a mistake to think . . .” Her voice trails off, leaving him wondering how she would have ended that sentence. “Just forget I was ever here.”

She reaches the door before he can regain himself.

“You can’t leave,” he says lamely.

The Champion of Kirkwall does not even turn around. “What, will you arrest me? Throw me to the wolves? It’s what I deserve, don’t you think?”

His jaw feels tight, and it’s a fight to get out the words. “Let the Maker sit in judgment of you, Priscila.” He rubs his forehead, and ventures a small smile that she does not see. “I am tired of the charge.”

They stand in tense silence, where all their faults are felt keenly.

Then, he asks her, “Have you eaten anything?”

She looks over her shoulder at him.

“What?”

“I can have the cook fix you up something . . .”

“You have a cook now,” she says with a barely perceptible smirk. The old days are in her voice, although he knows that things will never be the same again.

“I have a cook now,” he says. “There had to be some perks to this job.”

“What does this mean?”

“The cook?”

“The food,” she clarifies.

Sebastian knows what she’s asking, just as he knows that he has given in. “I can put you up in one of the servant’s rooms. It’s no estate, but you will have clean clothes and a place to sleep. Anything more than that would draw suspicion.”

He watches her expression closely, and sees nothing but relief. “Thank you . . . doesn’t seem adequate.”

“I will send for someone to . . . tend to you,” he tells her, glancing at her wounds. She nods, looking a little embarrassed by her broken state. He starts for the exit.

“Can we talk?” she asks, stopping him with quiet hope in those grey eyes. “Later?”

“Later,” he agrees softly. Sebastian doesn’t know what he’s agreeing to, or what this will lead to. With Hawke, he can never tell what he’s getting. But a strange sense of peace settles on him, and it is enough to convince him that he has made the right decision, for now.
 
 
 
Miss Stacy: fierce/sassyarysani on March 30th, 2011 10:35 pm (UTC)
I'm solving it with a slap and some appeal to his rationality, which probably won't work so then I intend to appeal to his sense of mercy, that with his help, more pointless slaughter need not occur. I'll get back to you on whether that works. The whole "let's rally to a common cause and fight about this later mmmkay?" ploy lol

When are you posting another chapter of this again? ;o)
lady_boromir: angels & demonslady_boromir on March 31st, 2011 02:36 pm (UTC)
I wish you could reason like that with Sebastian at the end, but it's kind of the same deal with Alistair if you spare Loghain. Those princes, very determined to get their way! Only with Seb, instead of becoming a wandering drunk, he just goes to get an army. xD Not sure if that's better or worse; guess we'll find out in DLC (hopefully)!

And I'll probably be posting the next chapter later today some time! =)