[Fic] Offer Me
tarysande asked: Mmm. Merrill and Fenris, Offer Me?
Characters/Pairing: Merrill, Hawke/Fenris
Word Count: 1,000 (drabble’s a guideline, right?)
Prompt: Offer Me: one character gives another a gift.
Summary: Merrill sees more than people think.
This is what Merrill sees:
A focused gaze that lingers too long; the sudden, startling curve of a smile before it is swiftly killed; a hand marked front and back with white vines that clenches into a fist of both impotence and longing when no one is looking but Merrill. But she isn’t much of anyone anymore either, she supposes, so perhaps it doesn’t really matter.
Merrill sees, too, the stiff lines of awkward tension that splint together their broken conversations. They neither of them take hurt well, Merrill has found, especially when it’s the soul that’s cut, but Hawke’s determined cheer is very daunting and Fenris has never been tolerant of sympathy, so instead she laces her fingers together in her lap and shores up their fragile peacework when she can, without them noticing, without speaking of scars.
This is what Merrill hears:
Anders’s ungentle words, prodding with the sure fingers of a healer at a bruise too fresh for touch; the shift of armor and leather as two people put a distance between themselves; the quiet joy in Aveline’s voice as she pledges herself to Donnic, and the hush of an unmet hope from the place where Hawke stands beside her.
Fenris wears silence like armor. But Merrill knows better than him the way a wounded thing crouches and flinches and makes itself small and quiet before the hunter; and the greater way a forest settles into deep stillness in the hour before opening itself to dawn. Fenris straightens his back and sets his jaw; Merrill hears the thump of blunted claws as a lean wolf whines for the warmth of a fire he desperately fears.
Merrill has lost her pack, too. Sometimes she walks with him where he follows, quietly, not because he wants her there but because she knows what he doesn’t, that it is best sometimes to be beside someone and not behind them, that to be lonely does not mean you must always be alone.
This is what Merrill does:
Lets Isabela wonder about what went wrong; lets Varric wish he’d heard the story; lets Hawke’s dog put his great slobbery head on her knee and look up at her, knowing, a secret between the two of them like a promise. They match well here, elf and hound, because if they do not always understand the jokes they both know truth when they see it, even if the truth is hard, and they know too that not all secrets must be beaten and bruised and dragged out into the light before they are ready.
And one night, when Hawke comes to visit and has a good deal too much elvhen sweet wine, Merrill lets herself be calm and open as a pool hidden between the roots of a great oak tree, listening, learning, absorbing truth and hurt alike as it spills out between Hawke’s fingers. She waits for Hawke to finish even though she knows the way this tale goes already, because sometimes too the act of speaking is as much a lance as a salve, and then she kneels down and takes Hawke’s hands in her own, and she tells a little tale of her own.
It’s not much, not really, but it’s one of her favorites and true besides, about a stoneworker who lives at the edges of camp and makes the faces of the Creators and the Forgotten Ones in ironbark and jet. One day he finds his work disarranged, the Dread Wolf brought full into the circle of the others; he moves him away when he is finished with the day’s work, and the next morning he finds again Fen’Harel standing in the circle. That night he asks his little daughter what she has seen, and his daughter tells him that she herself had been the one to put the Dread Wolf with his brothers again.
He asks her why she has done this, and in the easy confidence of a child she tells him, “Because when you are alone so long, sometimes you forget how to make your way back home.”
Hawke stares at her when she has finished, as if Merrill herself has become one of the creatures of her stories, but when she tries to pull away and stand Hawke hugs her instead. “Thank you,” Hawke says into her ear, smelling of sweet wine, as if Merrill has given something of worth to her friend. Then Hawke stands and laughs a little, more freely, and strides out the door with a wave and just the barest hint of a wobble, and Merrill leans against the table and sighs.
Three years, she thinks, is a very long time.
So in the end, then, what Merrill gives is what she keeps: Hawke’s secrets, and Fenris’s secrets, and the truths that hide between them both like rock ivy rooting deep and strong before it bursts at last into the light. That is what she has always been meant for, after all, Keeper in training and in spirit, whether or not Marethari wishes it.
These things are hers to remember, and to understand.
And when at last one day she sees Fenris step a little closer than three years’ habit has allowed, she is not surprised at all to see Hawke look over and smile, openly, without hurt. And when she hears Isabela laugh and Varric go digging for his pen, Merrill permits herself a little smile of her own because she knew how this would end, because there is no story to tell that does not have an ending.
One day, Fenris falls into step beside her. He cannot quite meet her eyes, because even wolves who are not so dreadful are proud, but he says, “Hawke told me,” and, “I am grateful,” and, at last, “Merrill.”
And as he strides forward again to his place beside Hawke, Merrill links her hands together and lifts them above her face, looking up, smiling, into the sun.
35 Notes/ Hide
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- bearfootscar said: Delightful! I like the narrative frame and the subtlety.
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