Rating: PG, for brief recitations of Isabela’s friend-fiction.
Characters: Varric and Isabela
Summary: Even the roughest of people need a little love now and then. Editing pen in hand, Isabela thinks Hard in Hightown’s hero is one of those men.
Note: I was looking through Aimo’s gallery on DevArt the other day and Bespectacled!Varric in all his awesomeness has now become a permanent part of my headcanon.
The faint rustle of paper to his left was his only warning that he wasn’t alone. Without looking up from his writing, he dipped his quill into the inkwell. “Well? What did you think?”
The floorboards creaked and a thick document bound in twine was placed on the table with an audible thump. “Do you want my honest opinion?” Isabela asked, perching on the armrest of his chair. His position gave him an excellent viewpoint of a generous spill of cleavage and scantily covered leg, but he merely looked up at her face over the rim of his rectangular shaped spectacles.
“I do have other chairs, you know.”
“Yes, but this one is so comfortable.” She hopped off the armrest and made her way to the sideboard he had along the wall. Regular visits had her casually opening the panel at the back where he kept his best brandy hidden away. Without asking, she poured them both glasses and made her way back to him, deciding to sit on the edge of the stone table instead. “Now where were we?”
Varric carefully folded his glasses and put them in a concealed pocket sewn into the inside lining of his coat. “You were going to tell me what you thought of my latest work in progress.”
She took a sip of her drink, enjoying the pleasant heat that ran down her throat and settled comfortably in her belly. She could always count on Varric to have the good stuff instead of the usual junk she normally tossed back downstairs. Sometimes she often wondered if Corff even bothered to age any of his products or if he merely bottled them straight from some secret still he kept in the back storeroom. “Ah, yes. You know that I love a good installment of Hard in Hightown as much as anyone else…”
“I’m sensing a but coming along here.”
Isabela waved him away. “You do wonderful with action scenes. That one portion in chapter five where Donnen is surrounded in an alley and up against thirty bandits was simply amazing; I could practically smell the blood as it flew around. You have a special knack for elaborating the gritty and violent parts of your stories.”
He sat back in his chair. “What can I say? Donnen’s a gritty and violent man.”
She nodded. “Yes, but even the most grizzled war horse needs a bit of softness now and then. I mean, take you for example. You’re the definition of everything a man should aspire to be.”
He grinned. “The epitome of manliness and refined taste, no?”
She smirked back at him from over the rim of her glass. “Exactly. And even though you’re rough and tough when dealing with the bad guys, you still have Bianca. Donnen needs that sort of thing going for him too.”
Varric tilted his head. “You haven’t noticed that he talks to his sword in each of my books?”
“I thought that was a metaphor. You know as well as I do that all men stroke their swords lovingly every now and again. No, what I mean is this.” Isabela reached out and untied the twine holding the sheets of paper together. Licking her thumb, she quickly paged through to the middle of the pile and pulled out a modest selection of additional pages. “I took the liberty of making a few additions where I saw fit. I even tried to keep the tone similar to what you use so that the reader wouldn’t be too jarred by different writing styles.”
Varric took his spectacles back out of his coat pocket and picked up the extra pages. Skimming a few paragraphs, he looked up from Isabela’s writing and raised an eyebrow at her. “Donnen grabbed Ava by the hips and shoved her against the wall. ‘If I don’t have you, I’ll go mad,’ he growled, capturing her mouth roughly with his. ‘Here? Now? We could get caught at any minute!’ Ava might have sounded scandalized, but the look on her face told him that she wanted this just as much as he did. Amid the noise from the marketplace just a single alleyway from where they were, he threaded his hands in her copper-spun hair and… You just added another character that I’ve never introduced before.”
“I’m way ahead of you. Truthfully, he’s known Ava ever since your very first book, but the missions he was on made it far too dangerous to mention her.” She thumbed through another part of his novel and pulled out a few more pages. “See? I’ve explained it all in this flashback sequence.”
He read what she gave him, years of collaborative work on naughtier projects making her normally cramped handwriting legible to his trained eye. “Well, that does tie up several loose ends rather neatly. And I was thinking about giving him a love interest in an upcoming novel.”
Isabela stood up and sat down in one of the other chairs lining his table. “I’m sensing a but coming along here,” she echoed.
“Don’t get me wrong; you have a gift for this sort of thing, but Ava?” He pulled out a few more pages and read them over. “Coppery red hair, vibrantly green eyes, freckles…if I didn’t know any better, I’d say that this Ava sounds suspiciously like a certain Guard-Captain we both know.”
She stretched her legs and stacked her feet on top of the table. “And your Donnen doesn’t sound anything at all like a certain guardsman that happens to be Milady Man Hands’ object of affections,” she said, examining her nails.
“You know she hates it when you call her that.”
She shrugged. “And I hate it when she calls me a whore, a tart, and a slattern. By my accounts, I’m due at least two more insulting nicknames to throw her way to make us even.”
“At least you’re the only one to catch on to Donnen’s real life inspiration so far,” Varric said, steering the conversation back onto his writing.
“Hawke’s had her suspicions. Oh, and that reminds me. She threatened to do bodily harm to us both if we ever wrote anything about her and Sebastian ever again.”
Varric’s mouth turned down into a frown. “But the Rogue and the Reformed Rake is currently one of our finest pieces of work, and a bestseller at that. I caught Norah reading a copy of it during her break once.”
“And judging by the mottled purple shade our favorite Chantry Brother turned when he realized what he was reading, I’d have to say that we nearly wrote a non-fiction memoir instead of a tawdry romance novel.”
“I prefer the term bawdy instead. Tawdry sounds somewhat cheap.” He leafed through more of her additions, mulling the changes over in his head. “I’ll strike a deal with you. I read the rest of this and then pick out a few…romantic additions to put in. I don’t want to go overboard since none of my other installments went in this direction.”
“Change the formula and risk losing your faithful readers. I understand.” She steepled her fingers together. “I’ll make a counteroffer. Add in the scene involving the basin and I’ll let you have all the credit.”
He grinned and held out his hand. “Rivaini, you have yourself a deal. This is going to be one of the best Hightown novels yet.”
Isabela clasped his hand and took her feet off the table. “When are you finally going to end this series anyway? You’ve been saying for years that Brennicovick’s too old for the shit you put him through.” What she really wanted Varric to do was start work on that pirate serial he had been making noises about doing. Seeing as he rarely visited the docks, he’d need her technical expertise if he wanted to make the details really sing.
“This one just might be the end, especially when Aveline gets her hands on it. You do know that she’s going to kill us, right?”
Isabela leaned her elbows on her knees and gave Varric one of her trademark smirks that was usually followed with her going ‘what’s the worst that could happen?’ “Oh yes, but it will be completely worth it.”
Returning her smirk with one of his own, Varric picked up another page. Yes, he thought, this is definitely worth it.