Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 14
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Bethany Hawke ♀, Leandra Amell ♀, Cullen ♂, Anton Hawke ♂
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Political manoeuvring, zero relationship skills, Cullen has no idea what he’s doing
Notes: Cullen decides he needs more thinging in his life. Because things. And Anton. And things with Anton would be best. Thing. Yes.
"Mum, please, nothing too political. Nothing too religious. He’s a Chantry brother. And for all that he’s strongly considering going home to Starkhaven, he’s very much got the Chantry on his mind. He can be terribly uptight about some things, yet." Bethany folded another napkin and watched her mother unpack the jam cakes and the tea sandwiches from the bakery across the plaza. They were going to need to hire a cook, soon, just to keep pace with the way Leandra entertained.
"Well, what does one discuss with a prince, if not the glory of his principality?" Leandra carried the first tray to the table, angling it just so, beside that lovely flower arrangement Bodhan had found for the occasion. She hoped Cormac was paying the dwarf well enough.
"You’re welcome to chat about the glory of Starkhaven, mum. Just keep it cultural and artsy. Like you talk to your Orlesian friends." Bethany rolled her eyes. "If you want me to be the princess of Starkhaven, his politics aren’t of issue. He’s a devout Andrastian — all about doing good things and right things, even if I think he’s a little confused on the subjects."
"How confused?" Leandra looked concerned.
"Well, he doesn’t know I’m a mage, yet, or he’d be whining for me to submit myself to the Circle, for my own good. It’ll be good to expand his horizons, a little, but not too quickly, or we’ll all be in trouble." Sighing, Bethany slipped a tiny sandwich out of the pile and adjusted it to cover the gap. "His heart’s in the right place and he’s likely to become very powerful, soon. He just needs a little guidance."
"And you think you’re the one to do it?" It wasn’t intended to be cruel, but Bethany was just barely twenty.
"I think it’s best that someone else doesn’t get the opportunity. There are three of us in this family, mother, and Kirkwall is terribly tense, between the trouble with the Circle and the Qunari. We are running out of places to run." Bethany popped the sandwich in her mouth and continued around it. "Besides, he’s adorable! And he knows all the most terrible things, from before he joined the Brotherhood. My toes tingle when he smiles. You’ll see."
"Perhaps I should be more concerned about him than I am about you…"
They were interrupted by the sound of Bodhan answering the door.
Time passed, and the more of it that passed, the more of it Cullen spent thinking about that night he spent at the Amell estate. He’d meant to go in and come back with a mage. Instead, he went in and wound up getting introduced to some extremely erotic arts by the mage’s brother. Her brother. Her surprisingly handsome and very talented brother, he was willing to admit, if only to himself. He hadn’t been back to the estate since, despite the standing invitation. Anton had seemed interested in doing more of the same, at a later date, and this was… this was absolutely the opposite of how these things were supposed to go, Cullen was sure. He was supposed to end up naked with someone, not … start there. But, that could be overcome. If he wanted to overcome it. If he meant to do something about this… thing. That might not even be a thing. Because who was going to have a thing with him? He was creeping up toward twenty-five — slowly, but surely — and there had been no thinging in his life, thus far.
But, Anton Hawke had seemed interested. Or at least interested in getting him naked again, which usually went with other things. Unless it was at the Rose, but that was different. Anton was quite a man, obviously, and had very likely done a great deal of thinging in his time, both the naked kind and the non-naked kind. If Cullen expected to get anywhere, he was going to have to make the right impression. Somehow. Maybe he’d ask Emeric. There was a handsome knight. Surely he knew how to go about wooing people.
"Ser Emeric!" Cullen called out in his best Knight-Captain voice. Emeric stood at attention, breaking off the conversation he was having with a well-dressed, older woman. Yes. Emeric was exactly who he should be talking to.
"Yes, Ser Cullen?"
"I have a problem. Well, not so much a problem as a situation. A dilemma. An instance." His best Knight-Captain voice was deteriorating into his awkward, stuttering voice. Emeric was polite enough to not say anything, but Cullen could see his frustration mounting.
"And how might I help you with this… instance, Captain?" he asked when Cullen finally stopped rambling.
"I, er, well…" Cullen rubbed his gauntleted hands together. They made a grating sound, so he dropped his hands back to his side. "I suppose I should clarify. This is a personal problem. Instance. Dilemma."
"I see," said Emeric, who clearly didn’t.
"It’s, well … You seem to be a man of great worldly experience." Cullen nodded at his own words. Yes, that sounded good. "And I, well… There’s this … person I’d like to … um…"
"A person you’d like to um!" Emeric got it immediately. "Well, I suppose the next step depends on what kind of person and what kind of um. By and large, though, I suggest orchids."
"The noble kind of person," Cullen clarified.
"Ah, wooing the daughter of some noble house! Good for you, Captain!" Emeric patted the young man on the arm, gauntlets clanking against the plate.
"Er, yes. Daughter. Right." Cullen turned a few shades of pink.
"Well, you’ll want a chaperone — one of her friends — to go with you, so no one can say anything untoward happened. That’s very important. Start with something simple — ask her to supper or to see a performance with you. Maybe a walk in the arbour, in the Gallows, if you think you can get her past Meredith and Orsino. I understand the arbour is very romantic." Emeric smiled easily and watched as Cullen started to relax. Good. The kid was going to need to remember how to breathe, if he was going to get through the asking part without fainting on the doorstep. "So, bring her some flowers, ask her to go somewhere with you — not right away — maybe three days or a week out, and let her know that you’re willing to pick up the price if she’d like to bring a friend, because you know how the rumours can get."
Cullen took a deep breath, committing all this to memory. It all sounded so very simple when outlined like that. "Thank you, Ser Emeric," he said, smiling politely if distractedly.
Right. Flowers. Flowers, first. He headed to the market.
Something was rattling. It took Cullen ridiculously long to figure out it was him, his foot bouncing nervously, making the plates of his armour clack against each other. He straightened, cleared his throat, and forced himself to hold still, balancing the bouquet with one hand and knocking on the door with the other. Petals flopped over onto his face.
Maybe he shouldn’t be doing this in armour. He was already baking inside of it. He could feel sweat sliding down the back of his neck, could feel it lining his palms.
Maker. He would rather face a dragon than do this.
The door creaked open, and Cullen straightened, holding his breath.
"Hello, Messere," said a balding dwarf. Right. Why would Anton be answering the door.
"Hello," Cullen replied awkwardly.
"Can I help you?" the dwarf prompted.
"Anton. I, er, that is. I’m… I’m here to — to see Anton," Cullen sputtered.
"Of course, Messere. Please step in. Is he expecting you?" The dwarf stepped back and held the door open, and Cullen nervously took the last few steps into the house.
Expecting? Was Anton supposed to have been expecting him? Should he have sent a messenger first? A letter? His eyes sprung open in panic. "Expecting? Uh, n— no, he’s not expecting me. It’s, um, I just thought I’d stop by?"
The look on his face triggered some memory for the dwarf, who suddenly smiled. "Of course! You’re his friend from the party! Ser… Cullen, wasn’t it?"
Cullen flushed. He’d hoped no one would remember that. Ever. At all. He cleared his throat. "I… yes. That — that was me. I, um, I’m sorry about the…" He gestured at the closet door.
"Oh, it’s quite all right, Messere. It was less a mess than the wine cellar, truth be told." Cullen suspected there was a story there he didn’t want to know. "So I’ll just go fetch young Messere Hawke, shall I?"
"I… yes, please."
Bodhan bowed his head politely and shuffled out of the vestibule, leaving a nervous Cullen rattling in the doorway.
Bethany poked her head out of the library. "Do we have a visitor?" she asked Bodhan.
"A gentleman caller for Messere Anton," Bodhan answered on the way by. She could have sworn his eyes glittered in amusement. Bethany smirked behind her hand and looked about for a good place to eavesdrop.
Cullen continued to fidget, in the vestibule, imagining the very worst. He’d be laughed out. In the mean time, Anton had become a blood mage. Anton had become a blood mage and was going to laugh him out. Yes, he’d be laughed out by the son of some Fereldan refugee family, who would then tell the Knight-Commander about everything that had happened in the coat closet and after it.
He’d worked himself into quite a state, by the time Anton’s voice cut in to the reverie of terror. "Well, well! Ser Cullen! Back for more?"
Cullen blinked and stared, flushing and sweating, as he held out the orchids, wordlessly sputtering. Anton still moved like he’d been hand-crafted by the Maker from pure, unadulterated sexy, which meant that hadn’t just been for the night, and the man really was just that enthrallingly wanton. And dangerous, he recalled, thinking of the pile of daggers.
"This isn’t— I mean, oh Maker, I… Flowers." What had Emeric said to him? "I brought you flowers. And I, er, I wanted to ask — to ask — You know, there’s a new Fereldan restaurant off the plaza? One of our countrymen finally made it. No, but, what I mean to ask—"
Anton stepped forward and seemed to wind himself around the bouquet of orchids, without removing them from Cullen’s hand, as behind him, Bodhan struggled to keep a straight face. He inhaled deeply. "Are you asking me to dinner, Ser Cullen?"
"Maker, yes! Yes. I am asking you to dinner." Cullen’s breath rushed out in relief. "And if you’d like to bring a friend, so there won’t be rumours, er, so no one will imagine anything untoward—"
"Anything untoward, like what’s already happened between us? Oh, yes, what an excellent idea to protect against such allegations of lechery and ill-intent." Anton looked terribly amused. "Yes, Ser Cullen. I will go to dinner with you, at the new Fereldan restaurant on the plaza, and I will bring a friend, to save you from the rumour mill. When would you like to do this?"
"Thursday?" Cullen nearly swallowed his tongue.
"Thursday it is," Anton replied, finally taking the orchids from Cullen’s hands, voice and smile smooth enough for the both of them, smooth enough to counteract Cullen’s bumbling.
"Thursday," Cullen said again, nodding. Thursday might possibly be his new favourite day of the week. "I will see you then. On Thursday." Without the orchids, he didn’t know what to do with his hands. He offered Anton one last, shy smile and made his retreat as elegantly as he could. Which was more frantic than elegant.
Anton watched the door close behind him, orchids in hand and a bemused smile on his face. He turned at the sound of laughter to see Bethany in the doorframe, her hand barely stifling her giggles.
"Shall I put those in water for you, Messere?" Bodhan indicated the orchids in Anton’s hands.