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Airtight Alibi, Fenris/Vivian Hawke

Title: Airtight Alibi
Rating: PG for mentioned death
Summary: Fenris needs an alibi. Hawke needs a date. Funny how things work out that way.
Note: Takes place in the years between Acts II and III. And did I decide to have Fenris wear Balthier’s outfit as party-worthy finery? Why yes I did. I blame Note the Second (see below)
Note the Second: Written while incredibly tipsy from drinking the very wine described in the story. I could never be Fenris’s drinking buddy; I’m such a lightweight when it comes to red wines and can only tolerate the lighter, sweeter varieties. I tend to steer away from the darker, heartier ones unless I’m using them in cooking. [/tmi drinking bio]


“You can’t keep on doing this, Fenris,” Vivan told him as she put away her first aid supply. “At least not by yourself.”

He flexed his arm to test the tightness of his bandages. “Slavers are not to be missed. I saw a group of them and acted. Would you rather I stand by and let them take others without acting?”

She put her hands on her hips. “I would rather you come get me or Aveline before running off on your own. There are proper channels for things like this.”

He scoffed. “Just more red tape.”

“And that same red tape is what’s been keeping you housed for the past five years. Had the Guard not been restricted, I’m sure that you would have been out on your pointy little ear for trespassing ages ago.” She ran her hands through her hair. “Just…I ought to be honest with you. Aveline told me that there are orders from the nobility to find the person leaving strangers slaughtered in the streets, slavers or no. If it is known that you’re the one doing this…” Vivian sighed. “We both don’t know if we’ll be able to protect you from Kirkwall law if that happens.”

Fenris frowned at her. “I don’t need your protection,” he said softly, turning his back to her. It had been a little over two years since that fateful night, two years since Hawke had helped him defeat Hadriana. Two years since lost memories swirled around him in a confusing tangle and he had walked away from Vivian’s bedroom, regret leaving a bitter taste on his tongue.

Gentle fingers pressed against his shoulder. “You’re my friend, I would do anything in order to keep those I care for safe,” she said just as softly. Clearing her throat, she let her voice hold a businesslike tone that brooked no argument. “That’s why you’re going to be attending a party tonight. With me.”

He turned. “What?”

“Those bodies aren’t going to be hidden forever. You need an alibi; being seen in a public place by nobles and the Guard will draw suspicion off of you for at least a little while. Seneschal Bran is holding a party to kick off the Spring festival at the Keep. You will be at my door to escort me promptly after the evening bell has chimed.” Vivian picked her hand off his shoulder, wishing that she could reach out and sift her fingers through his hair like she had ached to do for years. Keeping Fenris in her life was one of the most important things to her, even if it meant that she had to push her feelings for him aside and limit herself to merely being his friend.

“So I’m to be paraded around as what?” he asked, resigning himself to the fact that he was going to be busy that evening. There was no moving her once Vivian got that determined look in her eye. “Your bodyguard? Your escort? Your – ”

She drew in a breath and slowly let it out her nose, one of her telling points that she was at the end of her patience. “As my friend, Fenris. As my equal. Is that such a hard concept to grasp?” She had been forced to go to so many social gatherings over the past two years that she had wished Fenris would have been at her side, offering up his own brand of sarcastic commentary. Occasionally she pulled Varric along with her so he could act as the merchant prince he often referred himself as or she would invite Sebastian as a way for him to strengthen political ties for when the time came for him to retake his lands, but more often than not, she found herself going to these events alone and acting the part of the wallflower after making an initial sweep around the room to talk to the hosts and other important guests.

Snatching her medical kit, she made her way to the front door. “I’ll see you later tonight,” she said, tamping down the urge to go back up the stairs and hug him when she saw the shocked expression on his face. “Wear something nice.”

***

“Remind me again why you’re lacing me into this contraption,” Vivian grunted, holding onto her bedpost with one hand and her ribs with the other.

Varric gave one final hard tug to the laces at the back of Hawke’s bodice, cinching her waist and making her draw in a shallow breath. “One, because I’m your best friend and two, because I’m a man of distinction and impeccable taste.” He tucked the loose ends of the laces into where they crisscrossed over her back so they wouldn’t loosen during the course of the evening. “Besides, you said you couldn’t decide on what to wear on your date with Broody.”

“It is not a date,” she said, carefully sitting down at her vanity to do a few last minute touch-ups on her makeup. “I already told you why I was doing this.” As a man who appreciated the female form, Varric enjoyed watching as she applied paints and powders in a way that detracted from her so-called faults – she claimed that she had inherited her father’s sharp cheekbones and stubborn nose – and highlighted her assets – had Bianca not been Varric’s number one girl, he would have thought Vivian’s eyes were worth getting lost in and found her mouth to be particularly kiss-worthy.

He leaned against her bed and watched her reflection as she held up different earrings to her face before deciding on a pair shaped like sapphire flowers. “Sure,” he drawled, smirking while she attempted to untangle a matching necklace from her jewelry box. “You just keep on telling yourself that. I’m sure one of these days you’ll actually believe it.”

“He doesn’t even want to be there,” she said, more to herself than to him. She put aside the dangly pair of earrings that had been knotted in the silverite chain and stared at herself in the mirror. “It’s going to be awkward, I just know it.”

“The two of you aren’t awkward when you do those reading lessons, are you?” He’d been privy to the little dance she and Fenris had been doing for years; he’d been the one she had come to when things had gone pear-shaped and the only thing keeping him from introducing the elf to the business end of his crossbow was the fact that Vivian had begged him not to. He’d kept his opinions to himself, but he definitely had some choice words that he wanted to say if he ever got the chance.

“That was different.” Evenings spent helping Fenris learn how to read and write were precious to her, even if he did tend to throw books in frustration. It never failed that he would fume for a while before going over to where they had fallen and picking back up where he had stopped before his temper had snapped. As the years went on, those tirades had happened less and less and Vivian’s help hadn’t been needed as much to the point where she would find herself sitting next to the fire and merely listening to him read aloud to her. To her surprise, instead of ending their lessons once he had mastered literacy, one night he had brought out a leather bound book and invited her to flip through the pages. One look had told her that it was written in Arcanum, a language she didn’t know how to speak at all, let alone read. She had picked her way through the first few words, sounding them out the way that they looked on the paper as best as she could and Fenris had sat close to her, quietly correcting her pronunciation and informing her of the meaning of each word. All at once, the tables had been turned – Vivian found herself to be the student and Fenris the instructor. Some nights she would go to his place to show him what she had worked on during her spare time, but he would often show up at her doorstep, the two of them sitting in her library for hours on end. For the most part, they would practice out of whatever book Fenris had brought with him, but there were times that he would just sit next to her, his legs stretched out in front of him and his hands folded over his middle and strike up a conversation entirely in Arcanum. She was still a complete novice and often found herself tongue-tied as she tried to translate and then form a reply, but she was slowly getting better, if his pleased smiles were anything to go by. If anything, she now knew how to say you speak too fast, slow down! and several choice curse words as clearly as a native speaker. “This is different.”

His eyes softened and he stood behind her to fix the clasp on her necklace. “It’s different because you still love the guy, don’t you?”

Her face fell and she stared at him through the mirror. “Maker help me, but I still do.” She looked away and bit her lip. “I don’t understand what went wrong between us, but I can’t stop myself from feeling the way I do about him.”

“Hey,” very carefully, he tipped her chin upwards. “No crying allowed. Your luck, you’re going to wind up smearing your makeup all over and looking like a mess before Broody even shows up.”

She gave a watery sounding laugh and dabbed at her eyes with a lacy handkerchief – that threw Varric a bit; he was used to Hawke running headfirst into a group of enemies with her knives drawn. Seeing her doing anything daintily was a surprise. “I guess you’re right.” She took as deep of a breath as her bodice would allow and sat up straighter. “Let’s get this over with.”

***

Fenris paced in the hallway, wondering what was taking Vivian so long. Her maid Orana had already gone up and come back down from announcing his presence, which made him twitch. Had she rethought her plans? Maybe she had decided against the party, maybe an alibi of spending the evening together would suffice once the Guard surely found the bodies he had left behind. The slavers had been staying in the Undercity, so it might take the Guard a little while longer to find them than usual.

He was in the middle of tugging at the cuff of his sleeve when he detected movement on the upstairs landing. He wondered what Varric was doing up there, but then all thoughts flew out of his head at the sight of Hawke descending the stairs, her hand on the dwarf’s arm. To say that she was beautiful would be an understatement; she was dressed in a cornflower blue gown made out of heavy brocade to combat the cold – the calendar might say that it was early spring, but apparently the weather hadn’t gotten the hint; winter still left a bite in the evening air frigid enough to create a light layer of frost on the windowpanes in his home. From this far away, he couldn’t tell what the pattern on her bodice was, but the gold thread caught the candlelight from the chandelier.

“Evening, Elf,” Varric said cheerfully once the two of them met Fenris at the bottom of the staircase. “Looks like what I picked out worked well for you.”

Fenris brushed a stray bit of lint off his sleeve. “Yes, it seems that way.” When Hawke had told him to wear something nice, he had come up short. While he might have been able to pick out something formal to fit in with others in Tevinter, he had been at a loss as to what would work in Kirkwall. Luckily, Varric had been wandering Hightown’s market and had offered his opinion.

Varric grinned. “Distinction and impeccable taste, I tell you.” Taking a hold of Vivian’s hand, he dipped into an oddly formal bow and kissed her knuckles. “I’ll be off. I’ve got a rematch with Riviani over at the Hanged Man to go to.” Very deliberately, he transferred Vivian’s hand to Fenris. “Have fun, kids.”

And with that, both of them watched as he left. “You look…nice,” Fenris finally said, clearing his throat. From up close, he could see that her bodice was covered with a delicate floral design. She’d cut her hair right after he had left her and she’d kept the style for the past two years. Without the length weighing it down, her hair was a riot of gentle curls and waves that framed her face and neck, making him itch to plunge his hands through it all to see if it was just as light as it looked. To see if it was just as soft as he remembered it being.

She stared stupidly at their joined hands. “You do too,” she replied, taking in his outfit. She was so used to seeing him in dark colors that the bright white of his long-sleeved shirt threw her. Besides the basic lace ruff at his neck and the decorative triangular lattice pattern close to the shoulder seams, it was simple, probably so that the elaborately worked leather vest Fenris wore was the main focus of the outfit. The stiff, high collar of the vest seemed to frame his throat, showcasing the lyrium tattoos there instead of hiding them. Instead of his usual leggings, Fenris’s legs were encased in snugly fitting leather pants subtly tooled around each thigh, catching her attention. “You’re wearing boots.”

He shrugged and lifted a foot. “Sandals, actually. It was the compromise Varric and I came up with when he said that arriving barefoot probably would not have been proper. I believe he said something along the lines of looking less like an ex-slave and more like a leading man.”

There was a lull in conversation and Vivian suddenly realized that she was still holding onto his hand. “We ought to get going,” she said, tucking a curl of hair behind her ear as an excuse to let his hand go. “There’s a difference between being fashionably late and simply late, you know.”

***

“So this is what you do when you complain about having to get dressed up for parties like this,” Fenris commented, sipping on the wine one of the servers had offered him. It was a light red vintage, bubbly and almost too sweet for his liking; he preferred sipping on the darker, more complex tasting Orlesian merlots and the slightly vanilla flavored Antivan Rijoas, but beggars could not be choosers.

“Actually, this is one of the livelier events,” she replied, nibbling on an apple wedge. They’d already made the rounds, Fenris’s appearance turning many heads, which was what Vivian had hoped for. The only things she hadn’t anticipated were the intrigued glances many of the women had thrown his way. While she had no claim to him, she couldn’t stop herself from standing closer than necessary while they talked or from folding her hand in the crook of his arm as they walked around. Surprisingly, Donnic had been at the Keep as one of the guards stationed for appearances. He hadn’t looked too happy about it, especially since Aveline had told him that she was going to be making a patrol into Darktown, but Vivian had left Fenris talking with him while she had taken a mandatory turn on the dance floor with her host’s family. Bran’s son had made no secret of his interest in her and she had been grateful when Fenris had suddenly appeared at her side and asked her for the next dance in order to get her away from the boy’s unwanted advances. Where dancing with the seneschal’s son had been forced and mechanical, dancing with Fenris was anything but. In battle, they were so much in synch with the other that they didn’t even have to look in order to know where the other was on the battlefield and it seemed as if that trait had transferred onto the ballroom floor. Vivian gave a brief thought to the comment Fenris had once given Varric about how he spent his free time choreographing dances in his mansion - he was incredibly light on his feet and seemed to know all the different dances that the orchestra played. She didn’t know if he kept her on the floor for several consecutive songs to make certain that people noticed them or if he continued to dance with her because he genuinely enjoyed it, but she did know that she was the happiest she had been in a very long time. Whatever awkwardness that she had anticipated had never truly shown its face and for that she was glad.

“It seems as if our dear Captain has made her way back from patrol,” Fenris said, nodding his head in the direction of the ballroom door. Aveline was standing there talking with Donnic, but it didn’t take her very long to pick them out. Putting a smile on her face, Vivian slid her hand into Fenris’s and the two of them walked towards their companion.

“Evening, Hawke. Fenris,” Aveline said. “Having fun?”

Vivian rolled her eyes. “About as much fun as we can have, given the fact that I’d rather be at the Hanged Man playing cards instead of hobnobbing with the rich.”

“Tell me about it.” She worried her lip and looked at the two of them. “How long have you been here?”

“I’d say at least several hours,” Fenris supplied, feigning innocence. “Why?”

Aveline leaned in very close. “You know exactly why, as do you, Hawke. You could have at least attempted to hide the evidence.”

Fenris widened his eyes. “I have no idea what you’re implying. Vivian and I have been dancing since the evening bell chimed.”

“But we were thinking of heading home soon,” Vivian added, ignoring the little thrill that ran through her at the sound of her first name on his lips. “I think the wine has gotten to my head.”

“Then allow me to walk you outside,” Aveline said. “We haven’t had a lot of time to talk, but I’d love to catch up with old friends.” Fenris and Vivian waved goodbye to Donnic, who merely shook his head. He knew his wife; she was relentless when it came to obtaining information when she had a hunch. It was one of the many reasons why he loved her as much as he did.

Aveline pulled them into her office once they were free from the majority of the partygoers. “All right you two; we’re safe from eavesdropping, so I want the full story. Explain to me why I found ten slavers dead in my city.”

Vivian looked at Fenris. “Ten? I thought you said three.” Her eyes went to his arm, surprised that he had come out of the fight with only one injury.

“I didn’t want you to worry.”

Aveline sat down on the corner of her desk. “You could have come to me with this information instead of going out on your own. I would have let you come along if you really wanted to take matters into your own hands.”

“I’ll take that into consideration next time.”

Aveline pinched the bridge of her nose with her index finger and her thumb. “Please do. I like you, but I can’t keep rumors at bay if I’m not aware of what you’re planning beforehand, Fenris. Do you know how difficult it’s going to be to try to cover up your involvement in my report? Bran isn’t going to easily believe that my group and I stumbled across a party of Tevinter slavers whose fresh deaths seemed to be the outcome of a fight amongst themselves.”

Vivian crossed her arms over her chest and looked at her friend. “I thought you said you never falsified records.”

Aveline shook her head. “I won’t be. Many of the injuries looked as if they were inflicted by weapons the slavers were found with. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t accurately determine time of death, but if I work on conjecture, I might be able to say that it seems as if they died sometime between seven and nine this evening,” she gave Fenris a pointed look. “A time where you could clearly be placed as being here with Hawke.”

“Thank you, I appreciate it.”

She frowned. “Don’t go thanking me just yet. I still have to write that report.” She let her expression soften. “Though if you happen to throw in a few bottles of that wine Donnic brought home the other night, it might go a ways to getting me to forgive you for putting me in such an awkward spot.”

“Consider it done.”

“Good. Now go home, the both of you. I heard that there was a new post on the Chanter’s board that you might be interested in; I’ll expect you to be outside the Chantry bright and early.”

Fenris walked Vivian back to her home. Where they had been relatively at ease with each other the entire evening, that awkwardness Vivian had been afraid of decided to rear its ugly head. “I had a good time,” she said, clasping her hands behind her back.

“Despite the circumstances, I did too,” he told her. He fidgeted with his sleeve again. “You’re an excellent companion.” All through the night, she had kept her word that he was there as a guest, introducing him to nobles as this is my friend Fenris instead of letting him wander around unnamed and unannounced, more as an arm decoration than an actual guest. Looking back, he really couldn’t see her as doing anything less; while she might be sarcastic and slightly Machiavellian in nature at times, she was genuinely a nice person who cared for others more than she probably should. It was a trait that drew him to her, despite his best intentions. He was still trying to make sense of those flashes of memories that had hit him; he was in no shape to offer Hawke any sort of future together, no matter how dearly he wanted to remain at her side. He didn’t know how to express his thoughts in words, but the red swath of cloth he always tied to his wrist was proof enough of his loyalty to her.

“Thank you. You were a pretty good dance partner yourself.”

He smiled. “It wasn’t so hard, especially when I had a partner such as yourself.”

Vivian backed up until her back touched her door. “Well, good night.” She brought her hands out from behind her back and twisted her fingers together. “Would you like to come inside?”

He couldn’t help taking a few steps towards her. “Are you asking to continue this façade or are you asking because you genuinely want to be with me?”

She looked at him and swallowed hard. “What do you think?”

His brow furrowed. “When it comes to you, I don’t know what to think,” he told her honestly. “I have given you no reason to continue our friendship and yet…” He took another step until they were practically nose to nose. “Why do you do the things you do for me?”

Vivian let her eyes flutter closed and savored the scent of leather and lyrium that radiated off his body. The night had gotten colder and their breath puffed out and mingled in the evening air around their faces. She opened her eyes, caught by how very close he was to her. If she wanted to, all she had to do was lean in a few inches to press her lips against his. “You’re a dear friend, Fenris,” she said, curling her hands into fists to keep herself from touching him. “I care for you.”

Fenris reached out and braced his hands on the door on either side of her body. He made a noise deep in his chest and lowered his head until his nose was buried in her hair. “I’m unworthy of your affections,” he said quietly, his breath ghosting across her ear and making her shiver even as the heat from his body soaked into her clothes. He skimmed his lips over her jaw before leaning away, his hand cupping the side of her face so carefully that it felt as if he was afraid she might break if he put too much pressure into his touch. “I have to go.”

Vivian fought to not lean forward when he moved back in a vain attempt to keep him close to her. “Of course,” she said, crestfallen as she fumbled at the lock to her door. “Good night.” With her back to him, she let her disappointment show on her face, but paused when he called out to her. “Yes?”

He looked uncertain, the light from the street lamp he was standing under reflecting off his hair. “I might not be worthy of your affections now,” he started, looked as if he was trying to properly word his thoughts. “But please, give me time.”

She nodded before stepping inside. Clicking the lock on the door, she pressed her forehead against the wood. Oh Fenris, she thought, her palm flat on the surface. I’ll give you all the time you need.

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
liltxangel83
Sep. 5th, 2011 06:33 am (UTC)
I just got shivers... that was awesome :) Not only the Fenris/Vivian pairing, but the insight into Vivian's friendship with Varric... so adorable :D
iceprincessd
Sep. 5th, 2011 08:55 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I haven't written anything with Fenris and Vivian in a while, so this was fun to play around with.
forest_rose
Sep. 5th, 2011 10:45 am (UTC)
This is gorgeous! I love the delicious tension between them, and the attention to detail through the whole fic. But I think my favourite thing of all was Vsrric! He's so perfectly written here.
iceprincessd
Sep. 5th, 2011 08:54 pm (UTC)
Thank you. I ♥ Varric like crazy. In this playthrough, he and my Hawke really hit it off and I feel like he's the perfect guy best friend a girl can have. *grin*
jadealiya
Sep. 5th, 2011 01:10 pm (UTC)
Lovely. ^_^ There needs to be more fic filling up the Act 2/Act 3 gap for these two!
iceprincessd
Sep. 5th, 2011 08:53 pm (UTC)
I agree. It's really interesting to read what everyone has to say about the gaps between acts and I'm so glad that the game gave us an opportunity to fill in the blanks. :)
ashfae
Sep. 5th, 2011 07:20 pm (UTC)
Nice! Especially like the closing bit of dialogue.
iceprincessd
Sep. 5th, 2011 08:51 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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