“Must you snore so loudly?” Fenris asked the mabari in his lap that currently had him pinned where he sat upon the warm, damp earth. Howler—Hawke’s and Bethany’s family pet—only huffed and rolled onto his side with the elf’s legs still trapped beneath his girth.
Rolling his eyes, the elf wore a soft smile and tentatively played with the hound’s ears, which he seemed to enjoy. While Fenris thought that bringing Howler along was a bad idea, at first, he soon warmed up towards the intelligent creature. Not to mention, the mabari’s presence ensured that Fenris didn’t look too out of place by himself, overlooking the lively forest beyond the safety of their camp’s light.
Hawke’s choice of location for their camping trip had been a strange one, but Fenris quickly learned to appreciate it. They were a good day’s journey into the Planasene Forest, west of Kirkwall, and the ancient forest was surprisingly swampy in nature; they had even needed to use canoes in order to navigate the waterways that wove beneath the canopy.
However, Fenris had only recently found himself enjoying their peaceful escape from the madness that awaited them back home. With Bethany and Merrill as he first two and most excited participants, Hawke seemed to have only brought Fenris along since Aveline was too busy with her duties, and Varric was too skeptical of the idea of camping to accompany them. So, Fenris felt like an unwanted addition to the expedition for the duration of their traveling, yet his companions did nothing to support this feeling.
It wasn’t until they arrived at their predetermined campsite on an island-like swath of land within the Planasene Forest did Fenris begin to find the endeavor truly relaxing, mostly because he favored the serenity of the forest around him when he was alone—much to Hawke’s vexation. Hawke had tried to include Fenris in their goings-on several times, but none of those attempts were successful.
Had it not been for Howler’s nearly constant following Fenris around, the others might have even lost track of the reclusive elf.
So, Fenris kept to himself, for the most part, only really returning to camp to eat and rest. After the first few days of his elusiveness—their camping trip was nearing about a week, now, and they had planned to stay a few days longer—Merrill and Bethany had decided to simply leave Fenris to his own solitude if that was what he preferred. Hawke, on the other hand, was far too stubborn to do such a thing.
Fenris was too absorbed in the sleepy peace of the forest to notice his companion’s approach until Howler’s ears perked up attentively. Arching a brow, the elf resisted the urge to sigh when he heard Hawke say behind him, “You know, if you two want some alone time, you can always ask.”
“Not now, Hawke,” Fenris responded flatly, almost pleading, so he wouldn’t have to receive another earful.
With a tired sigh, the rugged fellow sat down beside Fenris, leaving a respectful distance between them, and he began to stroke Howler’s backside. “You have no sense of humor. At any rate, dinner should be done soon. Merrill’s cooking some sort of stew with those little pinching critters we caught earlier.”
A brief chuckle escaped Fenris, who deftly remarked, “I can still hear you screaming like a woman when one of those crawfish grabbed you.”
Snorting, Hawke was quick to defend himself, “I could have lost a finger to that little demon! My reaction was justified; maybe we might get you out there with us before we go.”
“Unlikely,” The elf replied honestly, and the mabari whined softly as a certain tension manifested between the two men.
“And why is that?”
Either unwilling or incapable of providing any sort of justification, Fenris merely chewed his lip and stared into the darkness beyond their camp; the trees’ dense foliage kept most light from ever breaching the dark except for the occasional ray of ghastly moonlight.
Several moments of uneasy silence passed before Hawke eventually groaned, “Fenris, give me a straight answer. Did you want to come?”
Another tense moment passed by at a snail’s pace, but Fenris did eventually reply, “Yes.”
Stunned by his companion’s honest response, Hawke scratched his head for a good minute or two. “Why are you avoiding the rest of us, then?” He asked once the right words came to him.
With each question, Fenris became noticeably more irritated until Howler rolled off of him and trotted away in search for a better place to sleep. The elf closed his eyes and remained silent after that, finding Hawke’s question difficult to answer.
“I feel unwelcome as if you three would have enjoyed this journey more without me.” His friend’s confession astonished Hawke even more.
“Why would we have invited you if we didn’t want you with us?” He promptly asked, a heavily arched brow resting on his forehead, “What gives you that impression?”
Fenris felt his patience dwindling more and more with each question, and he remarked a bit more caustically than he intended, “Do you think I wouldn’t tell you if I knew why?”
The harsh undertone of the elf’s statement effectively drove off Hawke’s curiosity, yet his concern remained. Ushering a saddened sigh, Hawke did what he could when words ceased to be of any use and rested a firm though gentle hand on his companion’s shoulder; it was a habit he did with all of his friends, though he rarely did so with Fenris because of the elf’s dislike of being touched.
Even though the sensation bothered him, Fenris understood that the gesture was meant to be reassuring, somehow. So, he did his best not to speak out against Hawke’s unspoken kindness.
“Dinner won’t be ready for a little while, Fenris. You’re welcome to join us by the fire until then,” Hawke finally said, surprising the elf with an unusual degree of control over his remarkably short temper.
Without another word, the roguish fellow stood, brushed himself off, and headed back to camp the way he came, leaving Fenris to steep in his own solitude if he so chose.
Fenris didn’t know what to think once he was alone. Unlike before, it felt strange, even uncomfortable. He had steeled himself for another exchange of banter when Hawke confronted him, but the man’s uncharacteristic sentiments caught the elf off-guard. Maybe he should spend some time with the others, Fenris eventually considered.
Soon after he came to that conclusion, the elf released a gentle sigh and rose to his feet. The scent of Merrill’s stew reached his nose, and Fenris quickly felt his stomach growl in response. He would thank the petite Dalish mage for her offer to cook. That felt like the right thing to do.
So, the willowy figure turned on his heel and headed towards the camp where his friends awaited him.