Fandom: Dragon Age
Notes: Post-game, so spoilers. Assumes Bethany as a Grey Warden.
Summary: Alone together in the aftermath, Bethany and Fenris find a brief respite from their personal darknesses.
Hawke leaves in the middle of the night, when she thinks Bethany is asleep. She's mentioned the possibility a few times in the past few days, surely not wanting her sister to be entirely unprepared, but in the end, it seems she can't bring herself to say goodbye.
But Bethany is not asleep. She doesn't sleep nearly as well as she used to, and Hawke hasn't realized it yet. She doesn't know that Bethany is watching through half-lidded eyes as her older sister gathers her things with Anders and murmurs preparations to him. She doesn't know that Bethany is awake to feel it when Marian comes over and touches her hair, awake to hear it when she whispers, "Be good for me, Bethany. You can do that."
Anders must have an educated guess about her state, though. Before they set off, he stops and glances beyond the fire to where Bethany lies, his expression unreadable in the shadows. It makes sense. He knows about the nightmares, or some of them, anyway. All the same, when Hawke beckons him onward to join her, he goes without a second's hesitation.
* * *
The campsite they've been in for the past three weeks has no feel of home for any of them, so without Hawke there it's remarkably easy to leave.
Aveline sent Donnic ahead to a nearby village some time ago. She's grateful to be able to join him, although she looks a little troubled as she goes. "Feels like something's falling apart," she says. "Do you ever get that feeling? I wish I didn't."
Isabela has a ship waiting for her, and she gripes about how much time it'll take her to round up her crew. "That's one thing I can say for the past six years," she says. "I never had to worry about a knife in the back. Not when I wasn't expecting it."
Varric takes off with Merrill to parts unknown. "She says she wants to learn to tell better stories than the Dalish have," he says. "It's going to take a lot of teaching. Huh. I'm a teacher now. That's a little embarrassing. You probably shouldn't tell Daisy I said that."
By the end of the week only Fenris is left. Bethany knows she should go back to the Wardens, but she's delaying it. Delaying things is much easier than truly refusing to do them, and Bethany has always walked the path of least resistance.
* * *
After another week, he still hasn't left. He spends his time reading a few worn books he picked up from merchants along the way, or sitting by the fire, sometimes scratching things into the ashes before scuffing them out. Occasionally she hears him practicing with his sword nearby. He doesn't hunt and rarely forages. He's terrible at hunting, as they found out earlier--too likely to hack his prey to bloody pieces to be useful. Instead, he fetches supplies from nearby trading posts, which conveniently gives him more reason to spend time alone and on the move without really going anywhere.
Bethany says she's practicing Grey Warden training techniques, but she devotes only desultory effort to them. What she's trying to do is take some small pleasure in the light of the day, the life of the woods around her, before she has to go back to old fortresses built on the Deep Roads and more ventures to confront darkspawn.
They don't talk much, and they take their meals separately. At most, they clean up together a little.
She's helping him clear some debris from last night's fire when they both reach for something a little too quickly and her hand winds up under his, her knuckles brushing his palm where the gauntlet doesn't cover it. He jerks away like a rabbit jumping clear of sudden danger (which is a strange image because she's always thought of him as more akin to some predatory beast than the prey). After a moment that sits awkwardly on both of them, he shakes his head and walks away, mouth pressed into an embarrassed line.
Bethany thinks at first that it's because of her: because she's a Grey Warden, a tainted being, and a mage at that. It's an explanation she's content enough with: it makes her sad, but most things do these days. Still, something nags at her, and later, she begins to wonder. She searches her memory not just of the past few months since the battle in the Gallows, but of that time before the expedition when everything wasn't quite as dark yet. She realizes that she's almost never seen Fenris touch anyone. Here and there Hawke has laid a hand on his arm, and he's allowed it, and once she caught a glimpse of Isabela kissing him. Bethany knows she hasn't seen that much of him, but it seems strange that this is all she can recall.
* * *
She wakes from the nightmares often enough and sees Fenris's bedroll empty, but that isn't her business. If he chooses to keep strange hours out here in the thin spaces of civilization, that's his choice, and she'll make her own and not bother with those of others. One night, though, visions of darkspawn drive her out of sleep (which means it's one of the better nightmares, the ones all Wardens get, not the ones that only come to her), and Bethany picks herself up from the bedding to see shadows flickering madly nearby.
Fenris paces in front of the dim fire, his steps and his posture kept unrelentingly tense by the pressure of the masks he wears. She's only thought about what those masks must be like lately, since he shied away from touching her. Thinking about it too deeply almost feels like a violation, so she's tried to push the ideas away, but the memory of his hand over hers and the sudden rush of air as he retreated so swiftly goads her on sometimes.
Now she gets up in her rough nightclothes and heads for the fire. He's in full armor; as far as she can tell, he sleeps in the less blatantly uncomfortable parts of it and pulls the rest on lightning-quick when he wakes.
He stills at her approach. "Did I wake you?" She's started to hear now how low and careful his voice always is, how tightly restrained.
"You didn't send the dreams," she says.
He looks up from the flames, his pale eyes peculiarly luminous with their reflection. "You speak as if someone did send the dreams."
"Well, someone did," she says. "They come from the darkspawn." These dreams do, at least, and she doesn't feel right discussing the other ones. It's not her place to burden someone else with her problems.
"Ah," he says. "The joys of your order never end."
The cynical sting to his words leaves her feeling bold enough to ask, "And why are you awake, Fenris?"
He glances away. "The sunset doesn't heal all wounds."
She probably would have let him get away with that, once, but she doesn't really feel like it now. "What does that even mean?"
He looks back at her in surprise. "I--" Is he flustered? He's flustered. "I couldn't sleep."
She glances at his bedding; she can tell even from this distance that it's been slept in tonight.
Fenris follows her gaze and her thought process. He sighs. "Not every nightmare comes from the darkspawn."
An old shadow is back in his eyes, and all of a sudden a rift yawns between the two of them. For a moment there, Bethany began to assume some sort of momentary closeness, a connection found in his unexpected awkwardness. It's gone now in the abrupt awareness of the vast differences in their experiences. She may hate this dark and bloody life, but there are even worse ways to live.
He turns and walks away from the fire, out of her reach.
* * *
The rain comes the next twilight in faint torrents. It's not the deluge or tempest that would be needed to force them off the campsite for good, but it's heavy enough to push them both into the single tent left at night. They arrange the bedding in near silence, breaking it only for the occasional comment on fixing a drip or checking the ground.
Bethany sleeps, as ever, fitfully. She would think nothing of her brief flickers back into wakefulness at the edges of dark dreams, but she opens her eyes during one of them and realizes that something is a little strange. There is light in the tent. It isn't much, but with the clouds covering the moon, there shouldn't be any. She rolls over.
A scant few feet away, Fenris sits amidst disheveled blankets, his knees drawn very loosely to his chest. He's in his leggings, but otherwise hasn't put the rest of his armor back on. The light's coming from him. The markings crawl across his bare chest like the tendrils of a strange flower, and right now they're glowing faintly. He has his head in his hands, his arms resting on his knees. The light gleaming up his throat is just enough to reveal his face drawn in pain, though if it weren't, the faint raggedness of his breathing would also be a hint.
She'd forgotten. Bethany forgot, though he told her before, years ago. Now she watches, her fists clenching with worry on her blankets. She can't imagine he'll be happy about her seeing him like this if he realizes she's watching, but she can't just leave him to suffer alone, either. After a minute, she says quietly, "Do you want me to try healing...?"
"No!" One hand jerks up abruptly; his eyes flare open. "No. That will make it worse."
"I'm sorry," she says.
He shakes his head a little. Eventually, he says, "Thank you."
"For asking," he says. He seems a little calmer now that he's talking to her. She can't tell if that simply means he's hiding the pain better, or if it really is better. Maybe he's just distracted by talking. Even that would be good, wouldn't it? He seems to have the same idea, because he keeps talking. "We were waiting some hours once on the Wounded Coast to ambush an enemy when I...allowed my guard to drop. Anders tried to heal me." His mouth curls into a sneer rather than the thin grimace of pain it was in before. She's not sure it's an improvement. "I nearly killed him for it. Perhaps we'd all be better off if I had. But in the end, it was not my choice to make."
The words slip out of her with a sudden sense of familiarity, as she thinks that maybe she understands why he's still here. "Do you have any choices left to make?"
The light has dimmed a little, which means she has to concentrate in the near-darkness to make anything out. She realizes, too late, that this also means staring at the exposed skin of his arms and chest, smoothly muscled and tense as ever. She starts to look away in embarrassment, not out of any sense of propriety long bred out of her by the harshness of life in the Wardens but rather a conviction that finding his pain attractive is somehow unfair. But curiosity keeps her gaze pinned. She's heard enough of the words tossed around about elven appearances--delicate and fine to look at when the speaker is feeling generous, womanish and useless otherwise--but none of them really fit him. Right now he looks powerful and wounded and maybe gorgeous if only he weren't hurting so badly. She tries not to think about it too much, or to wait with too much interest for his answer to her question.
"I don't know," he finally says. He rests his head back in his hands. "Enough. I won't burden you with my troubles." He withdraws into silence again, and the window of opportunity that seemed to appear between them snaps shut. It's just as well, Bethany tells herself. She doesn't need to burden him either.
* * *
The rain stops, and they do their best to dry out patches of the grounds. After last night, a question rests securely over the entire lonely camp. Why haven't they left to go their separate ways yet? They do their best to avoid addressing it, which mostly means going about the day in near-perfect silence, save for a single exchange after Bethany catches them dinner.
She dashes out the brains of a pair of rabbits with force magic, then brings their limp bodies back to the sputtering fire. "Dinner."
"That will be difficult to clean," he says. "Must you hunt with magic?" She still feels the rough rasp of hate in his voice when he says the word, but it's gentled slightly from when she first met him six years ago. The changes in him are inscrutable to her--the strange and familiar hints of lonely resignation, the worn-down edges of his anger replacing the perfect contempt with which he first looked at her. She credits them to her sister and tries not to think too hard about that.
"I don't see you doing a better job," she says. "And the meat is already tenderized this way."
He sighs. "Let me cook it, at least. Fireballs char."
That's all they have to say to each other until much later, after she's slept. After she's tried to sleep and the nightmares have chased her back.
They're not the tolerable nightmares, the ones where the darkspawn call to her from somewhere distant. They're the ones where she's a little girl trying to hold her sister's hand, but instead she finds herself clawing it with gnarled and tainted fingers. They're the ones where her father reaches down to hug her only to recoil as he finds her changing into something twisted and dark within his arms. The darkspawn are inside her in these dreams, because they're her dreams alone, the ones born of an agony in the Deep Roads that even the other Wardens don't fully understand.
Bethany wakes up, finally, sweating and trembling and nearly screaming, after control of her own dreaming body finally abandons her, and she grabs Carver with monstrous hands and flings him to his death on the ground.
She hopes, for a moment, that she's alone in her sudden wakefulness. But it's not to be. Fenris is standing beyond the fire, watching her in his usual inscrutable silence. She meets his gaze for a second, then looks away.
So his voice comes unexpectedly to her ears. "The darkspawn again. I am sorry."
Unsteadily, she rises to her feet, feeling her face sting at the knowledge that she's been seen like this, when she goes to so much trouble to keep her misery locked up inside her. Not that she's very good at that. It always comes out anyway. "No. Not the way you think." She feels his curiosity even though she's not looking at him, and suddenly she resents it bitterly. There's an almost mocking ring to her voice as she says, "Not every nightmare comes from the darkspawn."
His tone is quiet and steady. "Then I understand."
"No," she says, much to her surprise. "You don't. You can't." The outburst has been waiting in her for a while now; she has to say it to someone. "Darkspawn destroyed everything I ever had. My home, my brother, my life! But I'm as good as one of them now, or I will be soon enough. Don't tell me you understand. Don't tell me you know what it's like to have the essence of everything you hate pouring through your blood. I can't ever escape it, you know. Don't tell me you understand dreams where the thing that ruined your life consumes you. Don't--" She stops.
Too late, her heart catches up with her hate.
A million things she should say all ball up into, Oh, Maker, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, how could I have, and she can't even bring herself to say that. She can only bring herself to look at him, horrified apology in her eyes.
He stretches out one hand, palm up so she can see the markings radiating down his long slender fingers. A blue-white glow collects in his arm, pulses down his wrist and through his hand, then fades.
Bethany can only give a strained little laugh. "I can't blame you for hating me right now."
"I don't hate you," he says. "You are a good woman, Bethany." His brows arch. "And if any other mage had said such things to me, their heart would be between my fingers now."
"I'm sorry," she says. "I wasn't thinking."
"You were not."
"Fenris--" She struggles with herself for a moment, trying to find a better apology than mere words, or perhaps something more than an apology.
"Speak no more of it," he says. "Will you be able to sleep again tonight?"
"Maybe I don't want to," she says softly, and she finally meets his gaze without shame.
He starts to speak, frowning in concern, then clicks his mouth abruptly shut as her implication hits him. Is he embarrassed? He looks almost embarrassed.
Bethany reaches out, very carefully, very slowly, and touches the tips of her fingers to his cheek. When he doesn't flinch away, she settles both hands on his chin and draws him down to kiss her. He offers her no resistance, but it's still far too tentative, too hesitant. His lips only brush hers, and while he leans in a little, his mouth remains closed against hers.
She steps back. He looks away.
"Wake me up if you need anything," Bethany says. With that, she returns to her bedroll.
* * *
It's like he had all the words in the world inside him, and in the morning they spill out. Fenris speaks to her of the books he's been reading, of the games of cards he played with Varric and Isabela and even Donnic, of his occasional acquaintances in the city and how tired he is of camping in the woods (although he still says nothing of leaving). He fumbles sometimes over his words, and he makes no mention of anything that might hurt, which is quite a lot. But he keeps talking, and in turn, so does she, though she has scant few good experiences to share from her time with the Wardens, and she doesn't want to bring up anything bad.
Neither of them brings up the kiss or her offer while there's still sun in the sky.
But when the moon is out, Fenris rises stiffly from the dimming fire and asks, his gaze cast just a little to the side, his posture even tenser and more awkward than usual, "Will you sleep alone tonight, Bethany?"
She smiles. It feels nice to smile, for once. "I don't know. Will I?"
"Apparently not," he says, trying his level best to seem calm and collected. She looks at him and waits patiently, pretending she doesn't see the faint flush to his cheeks.
Finally, she's rewarded. He settles one hand, still in its gauntlet, behind her head, draws her close, and kisses her. This time, after a few fluttering moments of uncertainty, he parts his lips and presses his tongue into her mouth, a little roughly, but more adeptly than she expected. Bethany sends a silent thanks Isabela's way for her lessons to both of them.
Then she takes his free hand in hers and draws him to her bedding.
The gauntlets have to come off first. There's no question about it. He's on the verge of scratching her with them anyway. Bethany has every intention of pulling off his breastplate as soon as that's done, but the moment the gauntlets clatter to the ground he buries both hands in her hair and kisses her again, and again, and again--it's impossibly distracting. All the tension that hums through him normally transmutes into passion now.
And then, before she can get the chance to do more than reach for the buckles on his back, he's tugging fiercely at her armor too. He lets out a frustrated little grunt and pulls back for a second. "Robes," he says with the utmost of disdain.
Bethany rolls her eyes and guides his hands to the perfectly simple buckles of her Grey Warden armor. "You're in no place to talk."
He tries to sigh in exasperation, but it comes out more like a shudder. His fingers tremble a little against her. "Perhaps we should attend to our own clothing."
"That would be easier, wouldn't it," she agrees, and after a momentary touch of her lips to his jaw, she steps back and starts neatly undoing her robes. She's down to her boots and her bodysuit beneath them, the deep blue of her Warden clothes cast gratefully down around her feet, before she notices something. He isn't looking at her. Not quite.
She is certainly looking at him: at the slim but toned body revealed as he undoes his belt, pulls off his armor, and unlaces his coat. But his gaze skitters away from her body as she starts to peel out of the last layer of her clothes. The fabric is down around her shoulders, the top of her breasts exposed, when she reaches out to take his chin and turn him to face her. "Is something wrong?"
He starts. "No. Am I mistaken in something?" He's so much more tentative in this than she would have expected from someone as intense and painstakingly controlled as he is. And yet the fierceness of his kisses is still bright in her mind.
"Did you look away from Isabela when you bedded her?" If one of them needs to be direct, Bethany has no problem making it her. Even if she'd rather not delay at all. The hunger for some moment of connection, a warm spot of joy in her darkness, is on her now, and the grave earnestness in his eyes only intensifies it.
"You aren't Isabela," he says.
"I'm not a flower wilting under your gaze either," she says.
"You are stronger than that," he says quietly.
It's her turn to flush a little. "That wasn't what I meant."
"And yet it's true," he says. His cheek is warm and smooth against her hand, until he reaches up to wrap his fingers around hers and pull her away from his face. When his hand enfolds hers, she has to suppress a gasp at the sudden shiver of power tingling through her. She can't let him know that she feels the lyrium that way. Fortunately, he doesn't give her time to think too much about it. A second later he's kissing her again, harder than before. His free hand slides over her bare shoulders--she arches into the touch. And then it's better than that, because he's sliding his fingers down between her breasts, cupping his hand around one.
Bethany tips her head back from his and smiles. "That's better." She disentangles her hand from his and pulls the suit the rest of the way down to her hips. She starts to back away a little, to give herself space to pull off her boots, but he follows without thinking, reaching out to take hold of her by the waist. He's suddenly all instinct and desire, and she's becoming a little sorry she didn't do this with him sooner. There's always something to regret, isn't there? But the point of this is to get away from regret for a while, to wield the warmth pooling inside her now to beat back the sorrow for a little while.
She kisses him once more, and as he leans into it, she slides his coat off his arms and lets it fall to the ground. He gives a little shudder at the suddenness of the touch, then pulls away from her. His breathing is heavy but controlled as he starts to peel off his leggings. He moves almost too quickly, and in a moment she sees why: he's already growing hard beneath the tight material.
"That must have been uncomfortable," she says with a small smile as she finishes taking off her boots. She sets the last of her clothes down next to the bedroll and, kneeling, reaches up to rest a hand on his thigh. It's so strange to see him naked, and for a moment she's not sure why. Then she realizes: it's those masks of his. They make it easy to forget that all that spiky armor isn't permanently attached to his body. Seeing him like this, she's distinctly glad that it isn't, after all.
For the first time since she took him to her bed, he smiles, just a little. "I suspect it will be worth it."
"I think you're right," she says, and before either of them can say anything more, she leans in and takes his half-erect length between her lips.
For all his usual attempts at self-control, he's utterly unable to stifle his sudden rough moan or suppress the shiver that rocks him. "You don't--" He has to stop and draw ragged breath. "You don't have to--" He pushes further into her mouth, despite his protests.
She slowly lets him back out, her tongue working at him as she goes, until he's free of her once more and now completely hard. Bethany gets back to her feet. "Don't tell me what I don't have to do, Fenris," she says. "For once, I'm enjoying myself."
"Of course," he murmurs, starting to cast his gaze down. "My apologies." He fails entirely to look away, instead landing his attention on her body.
"Honestly," she says. "Do you always apologize during sex?"
"I don't want to hear it," she says. "I just want to feel good for a little while. I know when I'm asking too much, but right now I'm not." And she folds his hands together between hers and draws him down to the blankets atop her.
He braces himself with both arms at the last moment and digs his hands into her hair as he stretches taut above her. She gives a pleased sigh; even without the gauntlets, his fingers are rough against her, and that's what she wants right now. "You are more beautiful than you know," he says, low and hungry.
She thinks her smile might be a little sad now. "I'm not doing this to be flattered, Fenris."
"But that was no flattery," he says. His voice is unsteady now, like the masks are falling apart. The thought of him exposed to her like that sends another lovely rush through her body, and it instantly blossoms into deeper pleasure when he lowers his head to her chest and kisses her breasts again and again, his tongue flickering hard against her, teeth tugging lightly.
She's forgetting, she's on the verge of forgetting that her body is monstrous, but it's not quite enough, so she bursts out with, "Oh, why aren't you inside me already? Hurry up!"
He draws back abruptly with a choked noise of awkward surprise, the eager passion flashing quickly back into uncertainty. "I can move faster, if you wish."
Bethany laughs a little, then leans up to kiss him. He's still so tense against her, and it only makes her want him more. As his mouth moves on hers, she reaches down, takes him between thumb and forefinger, and guides him between her legs. "Now," she says. "Go on."
He murmurs his assent and starts to slide into her. For a second the motion is slow, his need held in check. Then--she can sense the exact instant it overwhelms him, because she feels it pulse through his body and hum against her senses. Then it's far more obvious, as he thrusts swiftly within her.
It's her turn to cry out, both in raw pleasure and delighted amazement at how good his body feels joining hers. Bethany puts her arms around him and locks her fingers together atop the small of his back. He responds first by turning his head away a little, uncertainly, but then by running his hands down her body, too roughly for any of it to be called a caress. He moves with such fierce deliberation. "You don't have any idea how good you are, do you?"
He looks back down at her and grins, a more open expression than she's seen from him before. "Some."
She laughs, she actually laughs, because she finally feels good enough to do so. "That's...I suppose that's enough." She buries her face against his throat, then, reveling in the feel of his pulse on her lips...and the eerily sweet flicker of the lyrium to her touch.
Bethany wishes she could tell him that the flesh he thinks is as tainted as hers gives her this peculiar and unexpected delight, but she knows that would be going much too far.
Mercifully, he interrupts that dangerous line of thought with a sudden stroke of his fingers right where it counts. With a little cry, she hurriedly reaches down to guide his hand just so. He obliges almost too easily. It's such a strange combination of ferocity and obedience he has, and she knows it would make her sad if she thought more about it, so she doesn't. She just appreciates it. That's the sort of thing she's learned to do these past several years--although the lesson hasn't been easy, or complete.
His lessons aren't finished either, she can tell. Even now, he trembles a little when she rubs her fingers against his spine. It's almost a flinch. She eases her hands away from his back to let them fall at her side. "You should tell me," she says softly.
"Does it bother you," he says, "that I am quiet?" He pushes deeper into her, but in the wake of his words her little gasp is the only noise between the two of them.
"It takes more than that to bother me now," she says when she regains her words. She's suddenly a little too aware that he is, impossibly, trying to keep a distance between their bodies where he can manage it, that even now they only physically connect where he's inside her and where his fingers flicker over her. "That isn't what I mean. If I do something to hurt you..." She lets the next words go reluctantly. "I'll stop."
His voice is low, intent. "No one else hurts me anymore."
Bethany very carefully takes him by the hips, her touch light though she wants to grab him hard. "Only you?"
He closes his eyes in defeated confirmation and kisses where her shoulder joins her neck. "I want you, but--"
"No buts," she says firmly, sliding one hand on his hip further back, "except this one." And she gives an embarrassed little giggle. "I'm sorry. That was awful. Even Isabela would scold me."
"And yet you told me not to apologize," he says, smiling again, his need to be so guarded briefly forgotten.
"Terrible jokes are different," she insists, as her hand behind him insists, more gently, on pressing him against her and into her. "Just--will you tell me if it's all right for me to hold you, Fenris? That's all I was asking."
He looks at her in surprise, going still within her for a second. "Hold me?"
"Yes." And she wraps her arms around his body, cautiously pulling him close, pressing him to her so that as she breathes, she feels the finely muscled shape of his chest heavy on her breasts. The thrill that spreads through her grows hotter. "I'd like it, for a little while. But," and she starts to let him go, "I won't ask what you can't give me."
"I can't give you something worth holding," he says simply. But he doesn't flinch away this time.
She would tell him otherwise if she thought she could ever get through to him. She can't, she knows she can't. She's not her sister, now least of all. "I just want to know if it bothers you when I touch you."
Fenris shivers a little. "I...no. I thought it might. It does, so often. But it is pleasant, and I yield to your touch gladly for now."
"For now," she murmurs sadly. She wonders when he'll realize that the body, the person he called beautiful is dead and tainted. Best to get this over with before that happens. She spreads her legs a little more and feels him immediately, instinctively arch and flex the rest of the way inside her as the angle opens her up. How he can want to still eludes her a little, but she accepts it anyway. She twines her legs with hers and holds him to her there as well.
It's too much for him, that's obvious immediately from the sudden tingling flare that sparks off his body and into hers. She prepares to draw away without a word, but before she can, he's buried one hand in her hair and begun to kiss her fiercely, teeth against her lips, then tongue against her tongue. Another mask just fell, another ounce of control spilled, perhaps the last one of each.
Bethany wonders if he's frightened of that loss, as he must be whenever all the emotion he holds inside overwhelms him, or if, like her, he's able to enjoy it for once. Then she stops wondering, because there's no point in thinking about that. Not when it feels so good to kiss him, to move with him as he pulls out of her and then thrusts back in. Keeping one hand around his back to hold him close, she untangles the other and slips it into the narrow space between their bellies, then down, to rub herself against his hard length moving in and out of her. He shifts to brace himself, then sends a hand to join hers in the task.
The darkness recedes, though only the moon gives them light from above, and as she takes what he can give her and yearns for more, her body stops being the enemy and instead becomes a temporary accomplice in stealing back a few moments of life.
He speeds up, his hand between her legs shifting to grasp her hip instead (with a wordless little moan of apology which she accepts with another kiss). Bethany tries to match his pace again, but she's starting to shake a little and that's distracting. And there are no more gentle solicitations from him, either, just the low eager cries and his movements against and inside her as she trembles more and more.
So she gives in, she holds him, and she lets uncommonly wonderful sensation finally burst through her and drown out the bitterness of the corruption utterly for an instant.
Her shudders ease, and he pauses above her with his mouth pressed just below her temple (she wonders how many obvious bitemarks there are on her now). She feels his lips part and then close again against her skin, as if he's trying to remember how to speak. She saves him the trouble. "You don't need to stop." Her own voice feels a little foreign.
He doesn't need any more encouragement than that; the quickness with which he resumes his motions in and out of her gratifies her. It's a confirmation that he's past the darkness as well right now, even if it's different for him. With her arms slackening on him, he moves more fluidly on her. Every thrust and every tug of his teeth on her skin sparks off more small waves of pleasure, an enjoyable series of aftershocks. It's not to last long, though. Within moments, he finally surrenders control too with one last uneven moan.
Bethany doesn't push him off her and away immediately, and he doesn't move to get up. They lie there, their breaths complementing each other so that, she fancies, no one listening to the sound would know anything of how badly damaged and darkened they both are. Anyone else would only hear a pair of lovers.
* * *
When she wakes up to the sunlight, he's still asleep next to her. Sometime in the night, though, he managed to put a little distance between them again; he's half off the bedroll and on the grass and dirt. Rather than wake him, she gathers up her clothes and quietly slips away to wash up. If she moves quickly enough, she can have her things packed up and ready to go by the time he's awake. No long goodbyes, just a few words of acknowledgment and some advice on directions.
It's not to be. When Bethany gets back to the campsite proper, he's fully awake and in his armor once more--and back on the other side of the ashes of the fire, studying one of his books. So she gathers her few possessions in silence and pretends he isn't watching.
"You're going back to the Grey Wardens," he says finally, with little inflection in his voice.
"I was never going anywhere else," she says. "What about you?"
"I don't know," he admits. Honesty strips the expression from his face; it's like he doesn't know how to emote when he has no pretenses to fall back on.
She can't offer him an answer. But she can say, "I think our paths will cross again. All of us."
"Do you?" Still unreadable.
"I have to," she says. "Still...I don't have to look forward to seeing you again, Fenris. But I will anyway."
He hesitates. There's a flash of something in his eyes. Gratitude? Respect? It's gone too quickly for her to be sure. "You have my thanks, Bethany. Travel safely."
They know better than that. They both know that no matter how safe they make the rest of the world, they won't be safe from themselves. But they've spent a little time pretending together. Bethany does her best not to look back when she leaves--
--but she does wish, for a moment, that she could touch him again, kiss him once more. It's not the time anymore, though. The dreams are back in place within their heads.