Tempus Libero–Moments of Freedom: Two

A/N: This story may contain sexual situations considered offensive and/or inappropriate for some readers. Reader discretion is advised.

“I know it isn’t my place to criticize, but…”

The sound of that mocking voice in the parlor stirred familiar angst inside him. Fenris lingered in the foyer, hesitant to walk in on their conversation, but even more reluctant to make himself known before he heard something he didn’t want to hear. Such actions made him feel underhanded and sneaky. His muscles stiffened, shoulders straightening as he took the final few steps to reach the parlor doorway.

She was expecting him, so it would be no surprise when he appeared there. At least not for her, anyway. Anders, on the other hand… The mage would probably take great pleasure  in being overheard while expressing his concern about Hawke’s personal relations.

Fenris told her a hundred times over the years he didn’t trust the man, that he believed Anders had more than warm, friendly feelings toward her, but she waved him off, claiming that even if he didn’t always agree with Anders, his healing had saved them all more times than they could count. And if Anders harbored romantic notions about her, that wasn’t her fault. She’d never done anything to lead him on, though about that Fenris  had his doubts. Hawke was a flirt. She flashed that pretty smile at nearly everyone, a point of discomfort he still had trouble expressing to her.

Regardless of the mage’s reasons for trying to steer her away, it was a moot point he didn’t feel like arguing with her. He’d come in hopes of a pleasant evening together, not to bicker about their companions.

And yet, there he was. The perfect start to an evening that was sure to be filled with at least two arguments before she snapped the conversation to a close in that emasculating way that usually left him feeling like she had his balls in a vise and wouldn’t hesitate to squeeze until he begged for mercy. He feared losing her every time he spoke his mind in that capacity, a fact he kept quietly to himself.

“Are you sure about Fenris?” he went on. “He seems less a man to me, than a wild dog.”

Beneath his skin, the lyrium burned. His jaw tightened, teeth clenching and grinding together as he stalked toward the opened door to announce himself, no longer able to hold back as a silent observer. The mage was so consumed by his tirade, he didn’t see Fenris when he arrived in the doorway, arms crossed and ready to hear what Hawke had to say, if anything, in his defense. He was instantly ashamed to think she wouldn’t defend him.

He watched her shoulders jerk back, as if an invisible force slammed into her body. “You just don’t know him.”

“I know as much as I’m ever likely to.”

“That’s right, mage.” He stepped into the room, stopping beside Hawke and glancing over at her with narrowed, angry green eyes. He didn’t know why he’d thought he was coming to have dinner with her alone. It seemed no matter where they went together, one or all of their companions were in tow. He should have expected to find Anders there; he didn’t know why he was actually surprised.

The feeling of her mabari’s wet muzzle startled him as it burrowed its cold nose into his palm in greeting. Why she hadn’t trained it to attack unwanted mages on sight, he’d never understand. Perhaps her loyalty to Bethany, he thought, but maybe it wasn’t too late to teach her pet to tear into abominations. Grinning down at the dog affectionately, it rubbed its head against his thigh and whined. For a few moments, the only sound was his heavy panting echoing through the parlor.

“He has let one bad experience color his whole world.” He barely acknowledged the elf’s arrival, his imploring and pathetic stare still focused on the woman in front of him. “Surely, you want someone more open-minded.”

Enslaved by magisters, his childhood, his innocence, his very freedom wrenched from his grasp… How the sum of all those evils equated a single bad experience in the mage’s mind was utterly boggling, yet there it was. Fenris spent years believing the brands on his skin had been forced upon him, only to later discover he’d fought for them, battled to undergo a magic most foul so he might set his mother and sister free. And in the end, his own sister turned against him in order to be made a magister…

Anders called him a hypocrite; said he was jealous because he hadn’t been born with the ability to wield magic. Maybe that had once been so, but magic had tainted everything in his life, and there wasn’t a jealous bone left in his body… when it came to magic, anyway. He’d give anything to live in a world where magic was muted. A world with only tranquil mages… wouldn’t that be something?

Open-minded? Surely, Anders meant someone more like him. Someone so open-minded, he’d invited a vengeful spirit from the fade to inhabit his body, and who would inflict that darkness on Hawke if she let him.

“A mage and a hypocrite.” It felt good to throw that back in his face. “What company you keep.”

“Fenris, you’re here. Anders was just leaving,” her tight-lipped grin followed. “Weren’t you, Anders? Goodbye. I’ll be in touch.”

“Are you still going to help me, then? With the potion ingredients?” How dare he ask for help after endeavoring to insult her that way?

Naturally she wouldn’t refuse him. She rarely ever refused any of their companions when in need. It was her nature. “Yes, I will help you, but if you don’t use your magic to make yourself disappear right now, I can’t make any promises.”

“Of course.” He lowered his head, the brows above his amber eyes knitting together as he stalked past them and toward the door. “Come and find me at my clinic when you’re ready to head into the sewers.”

Hawke didn’t answer. Instead, she closed her eyes, huffed the wisps of black hair off her forehead and then ran her fingers through them. Clenched in her fist, she held them near the top of her head before finally letting them fall back into her face in that tousled fashion that lent a wild edge to her stunning beauty.

She didn’t acknowledge Fenris again until she heard the door at her back slam behind Anders, then the tight smile returned to her lips as she looked over to greet him. She batted the long, dark lashes of her brilliant blue eyes at him as she tilted her head, a look that always brought an appreciative and genuine smile to his lips.

On the outside, she was hard and unyielding. She put up a good front, but he knew better. Behind closed doors she was vulnerable and soft. He doubted there were many people who understood that about her at all.

He felt… lucky, privileged to be trusted with her secret self.

“You got my invitation.” She clapped her hands together, the smile broadening as she took a step toward him. “Though I don’t know what the point of taking a day off is if no one’s actually going to seize the day. I should have planned a picnic on the Wounded Coast. We’d have been far less likely to be disturbed. Kill a few Tal-Vashoth and giant spiders, and we’re all alone for the duration.”

“Busy day, I take it?”

“It’s been nonstop in and out all bloody afternoon. Aveline, Merrill, Anders… Letters from the Knight-Commander and her captain and a plea from the First Enchanter, as well. It’s always Hawke this, Hawke that. Why does everything fall to me?”

“You are the Champion, Hawke,” he pointed out. “The one with the shiny medal and an elven manservant…”

 

“Shiny medal,” she laughed. “Manservant? You’re not still brooding about that whole Tallis thing, are you?”

“Still? It happened two days ago, and we have yet to properly discuss the matter. I’m not brooding about it,” he muttered, his eyes arching toward the balcony and lingering on the chandelier before he brought them back down to her expectant stare. “All right, maybe I’m brooding a little, but I didn’t come to argue.”

“And I’ve been holding onto my best arguments all day, keeping them just for you so we have perfectly good reasons to kiss and make up.”

Fenris surged toward her, an unexpected maneuver that brought the desk against the backs of her thighs. He loved it when he caught her off guard, though it never lasted very long. She barely had time to reach back and brace herself, her other arm coming in quick to grip his shoulder. Within a matter of seconds she’d turned the tide and pushed him up against the banister leading upstairs. He nearly lost his balance, reaching back to catch himself and almost missing the railing.

Only for a second did he wonder where her actual manservant was, and if the dwarf and his savant son might walk into the middle of something that quite obviously required no explanation.

“I’ve heard stories, you know,” he managed between kisses. “There are gentler ways for two people to make love.”

“Is that what you want, Fenris?” Tilting her forehead into his, she turned her eyes upward until their gazes met. She appeared almost innocent as she blinked at him. He knew better. “To take me gently? Maybe in a field of flowers?”

“I…”

Closing her eyes again, she kissed her way down his cheek, tenderly at first, soft brushes of her lips until she found his mouth waiting for her. Gasping with excitement, he felt the tease of her tongue trace across his lower lip, and then she grinned… right before she drew it between her teeth and gave it a delightful tug that stiffened all the right parts of him, igniting a need that could only be quelled by her touch. The lyrium itched and prickled beneath the surface of his skin, heat spreading through him as desire mingled with dominance. A dull blue glow illuminated her with otherworldly light, and his hands  dug into her upper-arms. He squeezed, just enough to make her wince delightfully, but never enough to leave marks, then he pushed her back two paces.

“No,” he growled. “That isn’t what I want.”

“Good.” Throwing her weight forward, she edged him toward the stairs again. “I’ve never really been a flowers kind of girl.”

Breathless, frantic, they barely made it up to her bedroom, the door slamming behind them after she shoved him inside. He grabbed her, pulling her with him as he stumbled. Clothes and armor flew about in a furious storm of soft fabric, pliable leather and metal. Sometimes they didn’t make it to the bed, but that time he pushed her onto the mattress, and with little more than a sneering, single nod of his head instructed her to slide back.

She crawled backward, using her elbows to guide her, and Fenris stepped in between her parted thighs. He took a moment to appreciate her, large eyes scanning every inch of her body, widening as she slid her calf along his bare thigh before curling her leg and jerking him down atop her. It was a clumsy fall, one he barely managed to catch with a quick, forward throw of his hand. Hawke laughed as she rose to meet him, soothing his embarrassment with a gentle kiss before throwing him onto his back with a breathless thud among the pillows.

Pitching her leg across his, she hovered above him, slowing her movements to a  deliberate, precise tempo. Each time she brushed against him, teasing him with the promise of her warmth, he swelled with need. There was nothing he wanted more than to be inside her, but she was a dreadful tease and drove him to the edge of release by emulating the act without actually engaging.

It was maddening, the fever of his need for her making his markings glow as the lyrium hummed and raced through his veins. When at last she reached between their bodies, gripped him in her hand and guided him inside, it was impossible to even consider regaining control of the situation. He was lost, his well-practiced discipline and self-control waning as he gripped flesh and sheets, battling internally to hang onto the last thread of restraint holding him in check.

Let her have her moment. Let her believe she was in control. It was in her nature to hold tight to the reins of power, but he knew what she really craved. Outside the bedroom, she had no choice but to take command, an often thankless effort that pitted her against her companions who didn’t always agree with her methods. And yet she was expected to hold it altogether, nevertheless.

Behind closed doors, she wanted to be taken by surprise, grabbed and opposed, tossed onto her back when she least expected it. Hands pinned above her head until she was powerless and at his mercy, that was when she was truly his. For the moment, he allowed her to cling to the illusion that it was the other way around.

They sighed simultaneously, throaty moans of relief and ecstasy filling the space of her room as they answered each other’s movements and found perfect rhythm together. Fenris studied her through heavily lidded eyes. He centered his focus on her face: the sharpness of her nose, the fullness of her lips, the wisps of soft black hair that fell in slices across her forehead. Eyes half-closed, they shone like jewels before disappearing behind her lids. Bliss rolled through him as he watched her drop her head along her shoulders and release another long, breathy moan. His desperate hands sought purchase on the hard bones of her hips, and he guided her in deliberate circles while rising to meet her each time she lowered herself.

Only when the fever pitch began to wane did their movements slow– each breath a challenge, each thrust an answer. She was his first, his only. If he’d had other lovers before Hawke, he did not remember them and did not wish to. He liked living in a world where she was the balm for his troubled soul, the peaceful whisper that soothed the war raging within him.

He lifted up off the bed, brought her legs in around his waist, and arched into her as she dropped into his lap. She shuddered and quivered against his chest.

“Yes,” she whispered. Cupping his face in her hands, she kissed him again and again, lips parting, gasping, closing over his mouth. “Fenris,” she sighed his name and the vulnerability of it was all the signal he needed to take charge of her.

All his insecurities melted away when he was inside her. His inhibitions lost, he’d learned to let go of memories he no longer wanted to dredge up. There was only her. The softness of her breasts rising and falling against his chest. Her breath a warm rush across his cheek. Her arms tightening around him, holding him, squeezing him.

“I love you,” she whimpered softly.

Shifting her weight with a quick maneuver, she landed among the pillows and he rushed in above her, one hand reaching and wrenching her arms above her head to pin them, the other holding his weight as he entered her with near-violent fury.

“Do you?” Those simple words were an aggressor’s challenge, issued in search of proof.

“Yes,” she gasped as he came down hard, her hips rising, cutting into his. There would be bruises later, well-earned and appreciated far more than injuries earned on a battlefield.

“Say it again,” he commanded.

She quivered, gasping lips forming a soft o before she bit down on the lower one in attempt to stifle her own elated cries. “I… love you.”

Fenris stole the words as he kissed her, devouring and swallowing them like an invigorating potion. It was a selfish thing, how much hearing her say that empowered him. No one had ever loved him, not the way she did, and sometimes it felt strange for him to say the words himself. The emotion behind them was so overwhelming they felt like a sacred incantation, a worshipful devotion.

His need to dominate her faltered, and letting go of his grip on her arms, he came in slow and soft until their bodies were nestled together. Rolling onto his side, he brought her with him, drawing her thigh across his hip and resting there while still inside her. For a time they remained that way, intimately linked on equal ground, slowly moving together while sharing soft, thoughtful kisses.

“I do love you so,” he whispered as he closed his eyes and rested his forehead against hers. “You are the single most important thing that’s ever happened to me.”

Her hand lingered against his cheek, her lips little more than a breath from his. They stayed that way, sustaining their gentle pace, until the fever resumed and he could no longer hold back. Pushing her onto her back again, he drove down hard, drawing frantic, pleasured cries from her with his every descent. Their bodies writhed in a furious, decadent rhythm. He’d made love to her enough to know when she was on the verge of losing herself entirely, and moments before she reached that edge he let himself go, the stiffening of his body toppling her into the abyss of pleasure, bringing them to simultaneous release.

She shuddered and trembled beneath him, gasping, laughing with delight and curling into him as he rolled onto his back beside her in the bed.

Snuggling into the crook of his arm, she lowered her head onto his chest. For a long time they lay that way—soft, sated, oblivious to the world beyond each other for that brief, stolen moment. Fenris absently stroked her hair while staring at the canopy arched above them.

“Are you really upset with me about Tallis?” Her voice was thoughtful, curious.

“Is this really the time to talk about such things? While we’re lying here in bed together?”

“Is it ever a good time?”  There was nothing defensive in her tone, but it worried him nonetheless that she would react badly if he spoke the truth.

“Very well,” he conceded. “Upset is not the word I would use, no.”

“But it bothered you. Did it make you jealous when I flirted with her?”

His muscles tightened involuntarily, the stiffness causing her to lift her head to look down at him. The depths of her beautiful eyes compelled him to speak truthfully, and though he feared her reaction, he could not deny that pleading gaze. “I do not like to think of you with anyone else but me.”

“You do know I was only teasing her,” she pointed out, “right? It was just a game. Nothing would have ever come of it.”

“And had I not been there to voice my objections and dismay?” he wondered aloud. “Could you still honestly say the same?”

“Yes.”

“Really?” Brow knitted almost involuntarily, the prickling tenderness of jealousy rendered him cold and exposed before her. It didn’t help matters that he was naked.

“Do you not trust me, Fenris?”

“Of course I trust you, but…”

“You can’t say you trust someone, then follow it with a but. Either you trust me, or you don’t.”

“I do trust you, Hawke. I… When I was a slave I had nothing, you know that. On the rare occasion I did manage to make something mine, no matter how small and insignificant, I treasured it. I hid it away and kept it to myself because I knew if anyone ever found out about, it could be taken away. With you…” he paused, terrified of finishing that sentence. He did not own her. She was not his possession, and yet the mere thought of anyone else even coming near her conjured up those possessive habits. He wanted to hide away with her, keep her to himself, but she was a person. To do that to her would be no better than making her a slave to his whims. The thought shamed him. “I want you to be mine, Hawke. I want… I want you to only be mine.”

“But I am yours, Fenris,” she insisted. “Surely you know I would never… I don’t want anyone else but you.” She traced her foot up the length of his calf, then stretched into him again as she lowered her head. “I love you.”

“And I you.”

They were quiet again for a time, pensive in their silence. Fenris ran his fingers delicately across the base of her spine and delighted in the way it made her shiver from time to time. He thought the conversation was over, he’d even started to drift off a bit, but then she asked, “Would you feel better if I made an effort to curb my meaningless flirtations?”

“At least when I’m standing right there beside you, yes.”

“So, I can flirt if you’re not there?” she teased.

Lifting his head off the pillow to look down at her, he scowled before growling, “No. You may not.”

“All right,” she submitted with a sigh. “I will abandon my wily, wily ways if it will make you happy.”

“Nothing would make me happier,” he sighed and stretched. “Except, perhaps, getting you away from the trouble brewing in this city before it’s too late to walk away. But I suppose that’s out of the question. You only seem to be happy when you’re standing amidst a bloody pile of dead bodies two feet deep.”

“You know me,” she started, “I do love a good pile of dead bodies.”

“Alas, that is true,” he chuckled appreciatively. “But what happens when the last laugh is on you? I worry about you. One of these days, you’re going to get yourself into something you cannot charm or fight your way out of.”

“Then it’s a good thing I have you beside me,” she said, smiling into his shoulder.

“Hawke…” he started, then thought better of it. All day he’d thought of little else but laying in her arms, losing himself in the comfort of her company. He did not want to invoke tension and spend their time together in argument.

His silent hesitation provoked her exploration. When she lifted her head to look down at him again, he was unable to go on avoiding the issue.  “What?” she prodded. “What were you going to say?”

“You… I can’t… Sometimes you terrify me, Marian.”

“This must be very serious indeed. You hardly ever call me by my given name.”

“It is serious,” he glowered. Ignoring her attempt to lighten the situation, he went on. “More than once I have faced moments in which I thought I might lose you, or worse yet, that you’d already been lost and I was powerless to do anything about it. The relief upon learning you were unscathed was not unlike skirting death for myself, but what am I to do when that is not the case? If you’re hurt, or worse…”

“Nothing is going to happen to me, Fenris.”

“You cannot promise that,” he argued. “You are a force to be reckoned with, yes, but you are not untouchable.”

“No one is untouchable,” she reminded him. “Any one of us could fall at any given time, but that is no cause to stand idly by. So long as I am able, I will fight to make this city a better place. It may not be where I came from, but I am here now, and for the last seven years Kirkwall has been my home. Not always the best of homes, but it’s my home. Our home.”

“I…” Head drifting along the pillow, he turned his stare toward the high window. Darkness lurked beyond the panes of glass, the barest hint of stars reflected there. “I understand,” he gave in. “And you’re right. It is our home, but I will never accept the fact that I could lose you to the madness of this place. The mere thought of you in danger… The fear that I could not protect you…” Shame at his own weakness warmed and colored his cheeks. “It defeats me.”

“Oh, Fenris,” she sighed and nestled her head into his shoulder again. Bringing her hand up, she drew his gaze away from the window and touched her lips to his cheek. “You are a good man,” she told him. After a few moments of silence, she brought her head up once more, looked down at him and asked, “Are you hungry?” It was her way of ending the conversation without starting another argument. He was grateful, but he knew there would be more arguments before all was said and done, perhaps even before the night itself was through.

“You invited me to dinner,” he reminded her. “Of course I’m hungry.”

“Good. Because I cooked.”

She started to get up, pushing onto her knees beside him, but he reached for her again. She tilted her head to study the gesture, only hesitating a second before succumbing to the invitation.

“Not that I’m averse to your… culinary exploits,” he began as he ran his hand along the curve of her spine, “but I just want a few more minutes like this.”

He didn’t know how many peaceful moments they had left, but he wanted to cherish every single one of them while they lasted. Maybe that made him a pessimist, but having already lost so many moments of his life, he held a greater appreciation for sustaining that which he held precious for as long as possible.

“You can have as many of my minutes as you like,” she told him.

Fenris smiled, and for a short time felt strangely optimistic about the future. He was sure it wouldn’t last, but those seconds… They belonged to him.

About erica

Erica North is the fanfiction pseudonym for fantasy/romance author Jennifer Melzer.
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