I’d hoped to do more with Emeric in Shadows, considering he was really my favorite NPC in the entire game, but sadly, his story never really fit in so well with Carver’s, no matter how hard I tried to squeeze it in. Poor Emeric, my Thedasian Humphrey Bogart. I’ll see you on the other side—or another fic.
Previously: Like Old Times
Carver doesn’t open the door to the barracks so much as stagger against it, nudging the wood with a shoulder too weak to even lift the rest of his arm. A plague in the alienage has left the mess hall severely understaffed, and two back-to-back shifts of lugging trash and washing dishes and wondering if Merrill was dead has left him almost as tired as he used to feel at the end of a day in the hole.
“I am Carver Hawke,” he mouths the words without really thinking about them. “I am from Lothering, in the country of Ferelden.”
But he falls silent, for he is not alone in the barracks.
On the edge of Paxley’s bunk sit Paxley and Moira, whose face is wet, blotched, her ridiculous hair all a-tangle. Paxley’s arm drapes across her shoulders, and she sags into him, like a sail without any wind in it. Moira spares Carver a glance, then, sniffling, buries her head in Paxley’s shoulder.
“You’re crying,” says Carver. Moira doesn’t stir or make any indication that she’s heard him, so he tilts his head instead at Paxley, who shoots him a sour glare. “Why is she crying?”
“Not now, man,” sighs Paxley, his hand rubbing soothing circles on Moira’s shoulder.
“Emeric,” her voice is muffled by Paxley’s neck. “Emeric is dead.”
“Oh,” says Carver. “A heart attack or something?”
“No, you idiot,” she shrieks. Moira lifts her head, nostrils flaring, her fists slamming against her knees. “Blood mages. I found him face down in a Lowtown gutter, half his face gnawed off by shades before it’d even got cold.”
“Oh,” he says.
“Oh? That’s all you can say is, oh?” She stands, easily shrugging off Paxley’s hand as he attempts to pull her back down to a seated position.
“I’m sorry?” offers Carver.
“Listen to him.” She spins back to Paxley, whose eyes are wide, beseeching. “Now he’s sorry.”
“Mo,” he murmurs. “We talked about this.”
“No.” She wheels back to Carver. Nose pinched, eyes narrow, she looks as if she’s wearing a Feastday mask of her own face. “No, you don’t get to be sorry. You don’t get to be anything, Carver. What do you care anyway? You always thought he was crazy.”
“A little.” Moira’s jaw strains. By her side her hands curl into fists, all knuckles and tendon. Paxley stands, putting his hands on her shoulders, and Carver knows there’s something going on here that he can’t parse, like someone speaking in a language he forgot. “But,” adds Carver, “Emeric didn’t deserve to die over it.”
“Mo, don’t,” Paxley mutters, a strand of her hair caught against his mouth. Moira’s fists relax, but only slightly. “You know he’s not right in the head.”
Suddenly, Carver realizes he’s angry too: he wants to rip Paxley’s meaty little hands off her—no, that’s not it. He wants to throw something, break something. Smash his head against the wall until he bleeds.
“Emeric wasn’t crazy,” Moira says through clenched teeth. “A killer is out there. He was right, and I’ll prove it.”
She shrugs off Paxley’s hands and, glaring at Carver as she passes, stomps out of the barracks. Carver watches the door long after it slams shut.
When he finally turns away, Paxley is staring at him.
“Nice going, Hawke,” he mutters. “Some man you are.”
Carver frowns and walks over to his bunk, where with tense, jerky motions he yanks off his shirt. He barely restrains himself from tearing it to shreds. “I don’t recall asking your opinion.”
Paxley chuckles bitterly. He picks up a helmet lying by his bunk and regards it for a moment, and then hurls it to the ground, where it clatters against the grey flagstones, the noise echoing through the room. Carver, halfway through tugging on a fresh tunic, flinches and lets his arms fall to his sides.
“You’ve always been such an entitled shit,” says Paxley in a low, tense tone. Shoulders slumped, he does not turn to look at Carver. “Thinkin’ you better than us, like you own the place. But since you came back from the hole, it’s like—“ He sighs, and looks up to the ceiling. “Maker, it’s like you’re not even there anymore. Like you’re tranked.”
Carver cannot reply, cannot think over his heartbeat, the blood rushing in his ears.
“Yet still she loves you. Of course.” Paxley chuckles again, a hollow thing, bitter as the wind through the Gallows belfries. Then, suddenly, he kicks his bunk, the iron shrieking as it scrapes across the stones.
Paxley turns, finally, his expression murderous. Carver braces himself for an attack. Welcomes it, really; motion, action, something he can understand—anything to diffuse this incoherent rage hammering its way out of his ribcage.
But the punch never comes.
“May the Blight take you, Hawke,” says Paxley, turning back to his bunk, “and maybe leave something for the rest of us.”
Then he yanks his bunk back into its original position and climbs on.
Carver stares at Paxley’s motionless form for a few moments, thinking about how he could tug the bed off his pallet and beat him senseless, how good Paxley’s blood will feel spurting on his knuckles, wet against his skin.
Then, briefly, vividly, Carver remembers Alrik, lying senseless and pulpy in the courtyard, and all his rage surges out of him. He sags onto his bunk, breathless, boneless, even more exhausted than before.
“I am Carver Hawke,” he mutters, clasping his shaking hands together. His vision blurs. “I am Carver Hawke. These things are true. I am Carver Hawke.”