Apr 062015

Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 15
Co-Conspirator: TumblrMaverikLoki
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters:  Cullen , Anton Hawke , Varric
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D1)
Warnings: Fereldan food is terrible, Cullen has no idea what he's doing, no one is drunk enough for Anton
Notes: Some lovely, fluffy Anton/Cullen.

Thursday was no longer Cullen's favourite day of the week. In fact, he was rather hoping he could skip right over it into Friday, every week, so that Thursday would never come. He was going to make a fool of himself. He was going to screw this up. He was going to sweat through his nice clothes if he kept fretting over this.

He left the Circle, fiddling with his cuffs, and passed Emeric on his way out the door. The older templar offered him a knowing smile. "Good luck, Captain," he said.

Cullen smiled thinly. He was going to need it.

The restaurant was surprisingly crowded, and the smell of the greasy Fereldan cuisine wafted out into the street. Cullen hoped they'd have those pork pasties he'd always loved. They didn't have pork pasties in Kirkwall, it seemed, and it had bothered him since he'd gotten to this Maker-forsaken armpit of the Marches. He hoped he'd be able to find a table. It hadn't even occurred to him that might be important. It hadn't even occurred to him how many Fereldans could afford to eat at a restaurant in Hightown. Of course, maybe if he'd been in the habit of getting food in Lowtown, he'd have found pork pasties, by now. He filed that thought for future reference, in case he couldn't get them here.

And there, that was someone getting up from a table! As soon as the dishes were cleared, he dropped into one of the seats. A bit of a small table, but it would — Oh, Maker. Was that Anton? That was Anton, in some … complicated Orlesian-looking outfit. With a mask. And a dwarf at his side. A shaven dwarf. Cullen waved and offered a completely terrified smile.

Anton bowed, elegantly, before dropping into the seat opposite Cullen and kicking out the other chair, for his friend. "Good evening, Ser Cullen! And what a lovely evening it is. May I introduce my companion? Varric, this is Ser Cullen, a Templar. Cullen, this is Varric, of the Merchants' Guild."

"Knight-Captain Cullen? Oh, an honour to meet you." Varric stuck out his hand and grinned almost predatorily. "Anton meets all the best people, don't you, Anton."

"Don't I just," Anton replied as Cullen shook Varric's hand.

"So how did you two lovebirds meet?" Varric asked, chair scraping against the floor as he made himself comfortable. There was that predatory smile again, and Cullen found himself missing his armour. Especially his helmet. Helmets were wonderful for hiding behind.

"I, er…" No one could tell how hard he was blushing behind a helmet.

"Why, at the party, of course," Anton answered without a trace of embarrassment. It was rather unfair that Anton was wearing a mask. Cullen felt exposed in comparison and, really, pretty as the mask was, it just hid Anton's even prettier face. "We shared a bottle of Orlesian wine and had the most intimate conversation."

"Ah, yes," Varric said around a smirk. "Now that was quite the party!"

If Cullen blushed any harder, his skin would catch fire. Luckily a waiter saved him from spontaneous combustion. "Can I get you anything—?"

"Wine," Cullen blurted. "Oh, so much wine. Please."

"An Amaranthine 8:89, if you have it. If not, the house red," Anton clarified, sounding more Fereldan than he had in quite some time. Better to let the waiter know not to spit in his food, early on. "And fairy cakes, while my companions decipher your offerings. My man, here, I'm afraid, has never been across the sea." He clapped a hand on Varric's shoulder.

"And if I'd gone, what then? I'd have spent a week by the sea and got caught up in the Blight. Nope. Born in Kirkwall, staying in Kirkwall." Varric squinted at the page tucked between the vinegar and the salt cellar. "What's a kidney pie?"

"See?" Anton shrugged. "Cakes, for now."

"As you wish, gentlemen." And the waiter was gone.

"Don't kidney pie," Cullen cut in, tapping another line. He could talk about food. Yes. Food was safe. He could talk to the dwarf about food, until he'd had enough wine to face Anton. "If you have to kidney, steak and kidney pudding."

"How is that a pudding?" Varric demanded. "Steak is not a dessert food."

"Different kind of pudding," Anton said. "I'm thinking of cauliflower cheese, myself. There's so little good veg in this town."

"Your problem is that you eat veg," Varric pointed out. "You're on the sea. Eat fish."

"What do you think, Cullen? Where's the line for good Fereldan-Kirkwaller fusion cuisine?" Anton asked, unfastening the edge of his mask, so he could set it aside for the actual meal.

"Well," Cullen said, "like you said, we're on the sea. There's always the fish. Most of that should be recognizable to you." He pointed at the seafood section of the menu. "If you're looking for comfort food, you can't go wrong with chowder."

All this talk of Fereldan food was making Cullen ache for his home. He looked across the table at an unmasked Anton, and from the wistful look on his face, Cullen suspected he was thinking much the same thing. Something in his chest eased at the thought, and he relaxed. It was going well. They were barely five minutes in, but he was going to look on the bright side.

The waiter returned with their wine and took their orders, but by then Cullen didn't feel like he needed a drink quite so badly.

"So, Anton," he asked, after wetting his throat, "what part of Ferelden were you from?" It had seemed like a safe question. Or it had, until Cullen remembered why Anton and his family had fled to Kirkwall in the first place.

"Oh, here and there," was Anton's vague answer. His smile had a bitter edge.

Varric caught on and turned the question on Cullen. "What about you? Did you come over on the boat like half of Ferelden?"

And, oh, that hadn't been the question to ask. Cullen looked even more distraught, one hand twisting the edge of the tablecloth and the other clutching his wine.

"I came over on a different boat. I was out of Kinloch Hold. Once a Templar, always a Templar, except that one jerk who ran off with the Wardens and made us all look fools." The rest of the wine went down his throat, and Varric was quick to pour him another glass.

Anton sucked in a sharp breath. He'd heard what happened at the tower. "Good time to get out," he offered with a smile, holding up his glass.

"Not good enough," Cullen muttered, but took the toast, anyway.

And that answered questions Anton hadn't even known he'd had.

"Oh, look, cakes. Thank you." Varric grinned up at the waiter, glad for the distraction. He wasn't much for sweet, but if it kept the Blight off the table, he'd try one. Spongy and sticky, but mostly lacking in any bold flavours. Not the worst thing he'd put in his mouth, that was for sure.

Anton groaned around a mouthful of cake. "There's that Redcliffe flavour."

Cullen was eager to stuff his face with cake. The ease from a few minutes ago was gone, and tension thickened the air again. Ferelden was a sore subject for them both, it seemed, however much they might miss it. At least the cakes were delicious. He licked icing off his thumb.

Conversation drifted to easier topics, alighting eventually on family and the many joys and annoyances of being a middle sibling. "And there I was," Anton said, laughing, "flat on my ass, with Cormac licking my face and proclaiming 'dog kisses'! If that is not the most Fereldan sibling idiocy, I don't know what is!"

Cullen chuckled into his wine, warmed as much by Anton's crooked smile as he was by the alcohol. "Well, I can't say any of my siblings ever licked my face. Thank the Maker." But really, the wedgies were bad enough.

"Siblings ?" Anton's eyebrows rose. "How many do you have?"

Cullen gave him a wry, long-suffering look and took a deep drink, more for dramatic effect than anything. "Three," he said. " An older brother and two younger sister s we spoiled to bits."

"Well, that sounds familiar . Our Bethy's the baby, but I think she's going to be the first of us to wed." Anton laughed easily, as he slipped another layer of protection for his sister into the conversation. "She's being courted by the Prince of Starkhaven, if you can believe it. Mum's all aflutter. She'll do well, you know. Not like the rest of us randy old men."

"You can't be that old. Not with that face." Maker, where had that line come from!? Cullen blinked and stuck another half a cake into his mouth.

Anton just laughed. "I'm the pretty one, but I'm dead centre. Twenty-five, this year."

"Damn kids," Varric grumbled, looking for the waiter.

"Oh, come on, Varric, you can't be that —"

"That's not something we're discussing." Varric helped himself to the wine. "You don't ask a dwarf, and you don't ask a woman."

Anton thought about it. He got as far as opening his mouth and lifting a finger, before Varric's eyebrow stopped him cold. "What about you?" he asked Cullen. "You can't be much older than me. And Knight-Captain already!"

"I'm…" Cullen coughed. "Not older than you. I'm twenty-two?"

"Might as well be twelve, the both of you," Varric insisted.

"Nonsense. I was much less dashing at twelve, if just as determined." Anton managed to look entirely too smug. "And is that why you shave your beard? To hide all the greys?"

"Don't you start," Varric scolded, wagging a warning finger the rogue's way. "I have all manner of blackmail material on you Hawkes. Don't make me bring out the embarrassing childhood stories."

Anton pouted, pretending to look properly chastened. His brothers talked too much when they drank. In fact, his brothers drank too much, but that was another issue.

"I wouldn't mind hearing those stories," Cullen said, emboldened enough to offer Anton a smile and a wink. Maker, did he just wink? Really?

"Stick around a while," Varric said. "The Hawkes are constantly adding new embarrassing stories to the list."

"Mostly, I blame Cormac," Anton huffed. "And Carver. In fact, I blame everything on Carver."

"Sound reasoning," Varric agreed.

"And I blame a whole lot more on wine. Artemis gets drunk, and then Carver punches Cormac. Every time." Anton shook his head. "Of course, Cormac has it coming, every single time."

"Your brother sounds like a challenging individual." Cullen sympathised. He had a brother like that.

"They're all challenging. Where do you think I got all this charm? I've been talking them out of drowning me in a chamber pot for years." Anton shrugged dramatically, as the waiter returned with their food.

"Most people think Cormac's the charming one," Varric pointed out, getting a plate out of the way of his plate.

"I don't introduce myself to most people." Anton levelled a flirtatious smile at Cullen and knocked his ankle against Varric's under the table, acknowledging the delivery of the perfect straight line for the occasion.

Cullen sputtered and flushed, any calm he might have achieved going straight out the window. Maker, he was the Knight-Captain of Kirkwall, and in a public place! He had to get it together!

Varric hid a smirk behind his wine glass. He'd been concerned about Anton fraternizing with a templar, but it was Ser Cullen who was out of his depth. Barely through one date, and Anton already had the man wrapped around his little finger. Rather fortuitous, considering his standing in the Order and the mage-count of the Hawke family.

Cullen wisely took a bite of food to avoid talking for a moment. Food goes in, otherwise stuttering comes out. All in all, he'd that coy smile as the mother of all good signs.

Anton tucked into his own food, but he was eyeing Cullen as he if were the meal on his plate. He had to know how that simple look was affecting him, had to be doing it on purpose. Maker. The next time he was going to come in full plate. Next time. Next time. He was getting ahead of himself.

"How are you enjoying your taste of Ferelden?" Cullen asked Varric, eager to divert Anton's stare long enough to get himself back under control.

"It's not bad. Seafood is the same anywhere, I guess. And I have no idea what this vegetable is, but it's an improvement on what you get around here." Varric squinted at something on his spoon.

Anton grabbed the chunk of veg and popped it in his mouth. "Parsnip. It's a parsnip. Like a turnip, but better."

"Keep your damn barbarian fingers out of my food, if you want them to stay attached," Varric grumbled, taking another spoonful of chowder. "Maybe I should start importing parsnips. I could probably make a killing."

"You do it right, and you could push the turnip out of Kirkwall, entire." It was impossible to tell if Anton was joking.

"I never understood turnips," Cullen said, between bites. "They don't taste like anything. Why would I eat something that doesn't taste like anything?"

"Nevarran food." Anton nodded sagely. "It's all in the sauce."

"You like Nevarran food?" Cullen's face lit up. "I love Nevarran food! The leaf things with the barley and mint in them? And those fried bean-flour things I can't pronounce?"

"Nobody can pronounce Nevarran food except Nevarrans." Anton grinned, lopsidedly. "But, the sandwiches, with the cucumber sauce and the bean sauce and that cheese…"

"The cheese!" Cullen looked like he might swoon.

Varric had a feeling he knew what they were going to eat for date number two. He almost said as much to make Cullen turn that wonderful shade of red again, but he decided to take pity.

"Anything but Orlesian food," Varric muttered into his chowder. "'These olives taste of despair'," he said, affecting a rather terrible Orlesian accent. "Who wants to eat depressing food?"

"I hear the chicken is especially sorrowful," Cullen added.

"One could almost say the chicken is 'foul'," Anton said, still wearing that cocky, crooked grin. Cullen and Varric groaned in unison at the pun.

"In his defense, you left that one wide open," Varric sighed.

Anton smirked and took another bite of cauliflower, looking thoroughly unapologetic. The look he sent Cullen had him grinning like an idiot around another sip of wine.

"So, Nevarran, next Tuesday?" Anton asked. "And afterward, I'll show you eight dozen things that can be done with honey and walnuts, none of which I will detail in front of my fine dwarven companion?"

"I thank you for that, but I could have done without even that much detail," Varric complained between spoonfuls of chowder.

And that was when Cullen finally fumbled his glass. Badly. The wine ended up all over him, all over his food, the tablecloth, Varric's sleeve. "Whoop! Drat! Andraste's sword!" He could not get a grip on the glass again, and in the end, it exploded across the floor. "I, er…"

Anton looked across the table in some combination of confusion, amusement, and mild concern. "Watch the glasses. They're tricky."

Varric absorbed every splash and every fumble, saving them for later. This would be amazing in print.

Cullen cleared his throat, trying to pretend he hadn't just thrown wine on everything. "Nevarran?"

"On Tuesday." Anton had never really gone for the fumbling virgin type, but he was starting to see the appeal, at least from the comedic perspective. "I know a nice place in Lowtown with clay cups."

A joke. Anton was joking about the wine. And still asking. Actually asking. No flowers, no showing up on his doorstep, just … asking. In the middle of supper. "Tuesday. Yes. I — I can Tuesday. I mean, I have time, Tuesday. I can go with you. For food. Tuesday."

"Breathe," Varric suggested. And this man was the Knight-Captain. The order was doomed.

Tuesday was fast becoming Cullen's favourite day of the week. Thursday was high in the running again. In fact, all days beginning with "T" were looking good from this perspective.

And this was after Cullen had spilled all his wine. The waiter appeared at his side with a rag and another glass. Cullen took the glass with a sheepish smile, which the waiter returned politely. At least it was too late for him to spit in Cullen's food. He hoped.

"Of course," said Anton blithely, "we don't have to wait until Tuesday for all of that. I can teach you a couple of tricks early to give you a taste of what to expect." The look Anton gave Cullen was sin incarnate.

Varric waited and — yep. There went Cullen fumbling with his wine glass again.

"I, er… that is…" Luckily he managed to keep most of the wine in the glass before he righted it this time. What were a few more stains on his nice shirt?

Maker, Anton was going to eat this man alive.

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