Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 16
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Bethany Hawke ♀, Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V1 D0)
Warnings: Zero relationship skills, almost violence, ugly relationship issues
Notes: Artemis makes a minor miscalculation. Fenris makes an actual mistake. This is the angst chapter of angst and angst. If you don’t like angsty cliffhangers, there’s more fluff due tomorrow, with Anton and Cullen.
Bethany sat in the library, translating an ancient Nevarran text on the construction of the tomb of Caspar the Magnificent and listening to her brother carry on a discussion with their mother, through a closed door. Mum had probably started with him when she heard him walk by. Cormac did not walk softly, unless he meant to.
"Well, I presume you told them where they could stuff tha— No, mother, I will not consider it!"
Cormac was getting shouty again. Of all of them, he could really maintain volume for the longest. Which was why Bethany owned earplugs. There were, after all, some things one only wanted to know about one’s brother once or twice, before they got tiresome.
"Yes, fine. I can pretend to have considered it for a week, but I’m not—" Cormac punched the wall. "I’m not actually considering it! It’s bullshit! It’s political self-serving bullshit, and the self it’s serving isn’t anyone in this family!"
"No, I will absolutely not! I will not ‘be seen’ with her. I will not give anyone the wrong idea about her chances." Cormac’s irritation started to strain the urn by the top of the stairs, from the sound of it, and presumably he put a stop to that, since the sounds ceased, without a crash.
"I will not be marrying one of the de Launcet girls, and that is final!"
Cormac punched the wall again. "I know I haven’t met them! They’ll be at some party eventually, and I’ll have to, and maybe one of them will impress me, but I’m not making an effort to woo some Orlesian creampuff for the sake of a political marriage! You didn’t have a political marriage, did you?"
"I’m already an apostate! It’s not like it’s going to get any worse for me!" Cormac shouted. "You didn’t even like the guy! I’m not marrying his daughter!"
Cormac stormed down the stairs into the library, slamming the door behind him, before he noticed Bethany. "So, ah, sorry about that. I’m just… book. I’m going to go read. Over there."
"Please don’t slam anything else, Cormac, it makes the desk jump, and then I end up having to re-write things." Bethany smiled amusedly, without looking up, but her voice left no room for argument. Cormac knew what happened when one argued with Bethany. Dad’s lessons about not tormenting one’s siblings with one’s fantastical cosmic power had never quite sunk in with her, not the way he and Artemis had gotten them.
"Why no, I think I’m just going to slide a bookcase down the stairs," Cormac drawled, climbing up to the second level. "I said I was sorry once. Don’t push your luck."
It was not, by most people’s standards, an unreasonable hour of the day. Fenris, on the other hand, was not most people, and it was still before noon. What values of stupidity would lead anyone to bang on his door like that, at this hour, were beyond him. He dragged himself out of bed, still dressed from the night before, picked up his sword, and went to answer the door.
And that was a pair of Hawkes. "Mage. Mage." He nodded at them both, before noticing the extremely uncomfortable position in which Cormac held his brother by the collar. He’d seen people hold cats like that, and the cats were rarely any happier about it than Artemis appeared to be. "Cormac? Why are you strangling —" my mage "—your brother, on my doorstep?"
Cormac held Artemis off the ground, fist a little higher than his shoulder, and thrust his brother toward the extremely confused broody death elf. "He has something to tell you."
"No, no he doesn’t," Artemis muttered, gaze skittering about. He grappled with the hand in his collar but half-heartedly, already looking resigned to whatever it was he was supposed to be doing. He certainly looked like a miserable cat but also a little like a dog with its tail between its legs, which was, Fenris mused, more fitting for a Fereldan.
Fenris narrowed his eyes at the pair of them. Artemis had clearly done something. Something even Cormac didn’t approve of, which was quite a feat. What had he done? More importantly, what had he done that had to do with Fenris?
Blood magic was the first thought that came to mind, but Fenris didn’t want to think about that.
"Do come in," he said dryly, stepping back to hold the door open for them. Maybe the mess would torture Artemis into saying something.
Cormac stepped across the threshold, hauling Artemis with him. His arm was starting to get sore. He was a mage, after all, not a warrior, and however much hiking up and down the coast, setting slavers on fire, he did in his spare time, carrying his brother across Hightown in one hand was a bit much. Following Fenris out of the vestibule, he tossed Artemis into the front room, just hard enough to be sure his brother would stumble. It would keep him from bolting for at least a second or two.
"I want to be completely clear it’s not what he’s done that I disagree with. It’s the part where he wasn’t going to tell you he did it." Cormac lingered in the doorway, arms crossed. "And now, he’s going to. Because you should know."
"I would like to be completely clear that I have no idea what’s going on beyond the fact that you’ve gotten me out of bed, and there are now two mages standing in my house. Start talking, before I become any less pleasant." Fenris tapped the end of his sword against the ground, as he looked back and forth between the brothers.
Artemis eyed the door behind Cormac longingly. Mages and running seemed to go hand in hand, and running was exactly what Artemis looked like he wanted to do. "Could we maybe put the sword away first?" he asked, his smile aiming for casual but looking pained. "Pointy things. All pointy things put away, please."
And there he was, avoiding eye-contact again. Fenris leaned his sword against the wall without a word. He was plenty dangerous without it, even against two mages… one of whom was currently straightening the dusty books on a shelf Fenris didn’t know was there. Irritation was an itch between his shoulderblades.
"Mage," Fenris growled impatiently. "I would like to know what this is about."
Artemis flinched, fingers still flitting over book spines. Dust. Everywhere. "It has to do with your mansion," he said to the books. "This mansion. On the bright side, you don’t have to worry about being evicted."
Fenris’s eyes narrowed. That was an odd thing to say. "I wasn’t worried," he said. "That’s why I answer the door with my sword." He waited, but Artemis didn’t elaborate. "What did you do?"
"I… I may have bought the mansion."
"See! That wasn’t so hard!" Cormac chimed in from the doorway.
"You bought my house." Fenris blinked. "I have gone from living in a house owned by my former master to living in a house owned by … what, my new master? Mages. All the same."
"Whoa, no. Not like that." Cormac held up his hands. "You can’t own the house. You don’t have the standing. We do. I’m the heir, so our place is assumed to be mine, by default. It’s not that weird for a second son to take another place in town, though, and this one’s been sitting empty for… longer than we’ve been here, from the looks of it."
"So, this is some unasked charity, then?" Fenris demanded. "It was my house, and I needed nothing."
"Except a roof that doesn’t leak," Cormac pointed out. "You can have that, now. It’s a favour for a friend."
"I didn’t ask for anything!" Fenris insisted, fingertips scraping against his palms as his fingers curled and uncurled. He wished he’d put on the gauntlets, when he got up.
"And this is why he didn’t want to tell you."
"Look, Fenris, nothing has changed!" Artemis was quick to sputter. He turned pleading eyes Fenris’s way, but all he got was a cold stare in reply. "Absolutely nothing! This place is yours and always has been. I just… I just wanted to keep the vultures from circling, so that you wouldn’t have to hide the fact that you were living here. I won’t touch a thing you don’t want me to. I won’t even clean. I—" Artemis realized he was still straightening books as he said this. "I… er. I won’t even clean starting now." He crossed his arms across his chest to keep from touching anything.
He wished Fenris had kept the sword after all. It couldn’t cut half as well as his glare. "I did not run away from Tevinter to become bound by another mage," he said, voice dangerously soft in a way that made Artemis’s hackles raise. He turned away from both mages, and from this angle Artemis could see his jaw muscles clenching. "I suggest you both leave before I do something I might regret."
Artemis hadn’t felt this small since he was a child, his mother scolding him for making Bethany cry. "Fenris…" He reached for the elf’s spiky shoulder, but Fenris caught his wrist before it could touch him. Those green eyes were close, dangerously close, and sharp as glass.
The mage was making those sad eyes at him again, and Fenris could feel the invisible hand clutching at his heart again. His hand clenched tighter around Artemis’s wrist, and he found himself unsure if he could push him away, now that they were touching. Which had been the whole point of grabbing that wrist — so Artemis wouldn’t be touching him. It was poorly thought out, but in his defence he’d just gotten out of bed.
Cormac’s hands clenched into fists. He wanted to call his brother back to him, and walk away from all this. Sort it out over cakes and cream, like when they were younger. But, it wasn’t going to be that easy, this time. This was between the two of them, and he was just here to make sure his brother didn’t get killed.
Even from the door, he could see that look on Artemis’s face, and it broke his heart. For the first time, he actually suspected whatever this was, it was a whole lot more serious than either of them were letting on. Yes, most people would have assumed that somewhere around the petition for and purchase of the house, but that didn’t even register with him. Of course Artemis would do that. He would have done it. The mine was enough to pay for them all to live reasonably well, by Orlesian standards, and the disposal of most of this year’s extraneous income to provide security for a friend was … exactly the sort of behaviour their father would have approved of.
Fenris’s grip was even tighter, his knuckles whitening, as he stared into Artemis’s eyes, confused, betrayed, and more afraid than he’d been in a long time. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t know what to say. His fingers still clawed at his other palm, finally loudly enough to be heard in the vacant stillness of the room.
Fenris’s grip was just this side of painful and starting to cut off circulation, making Artemis’s fingertips tingle. He wasn’t sure if he winced somewhere in there, but he didn’t pull away or tell Fenris to stop. If hurting him in any way, physically, verbally, made Fenris feel better, Artemis would let him do it and gladly. But Fenris was just staring at him, and somehow that was worse.
They were standing close enough to kiss if Artemis wanted to — he always wanted to — but he didn’t dare. Not now. Not like this.
"Fenris," he said, voice nearly cracking. He could feel bones grinding as Fenris adjusted his grip. Artemis definitely winced that time. "I am sorry. I just wanted to make sure you were safe."
"I don’t need a mage’s help to be safe."
"What about a friend’s?" Artemis murmured, letting the sting of mage pass over him.
"I don’t have any friends," Fenris snapped, eyes glimmering strangely, as an extremely unpleasant smile wormed its way across his face. "The last time I had friends, I was compelled to murder all of them. So, now, I have none. They’re all dead."
"We’re your friends, you prick," Cormac declared, still leaning on the doorframe.
"Are you? All I see are two more mages taking control of my life." The hand in his chest gripped even tighter than his hand around Artemis’s wrist, tight enough that his next breath made sound. But, still, he didn’t let go. He didn’t want to let go. And at the same time, he wanted to throw them both out of his house, bodily, pick up what little he had, and set out for southern Ferelden. The darkspawn had already destroyed everything of value, there. It would be miles of burned out wasteland, and him. Just him. No mages, no magisters, no hunters. But, to do that, he’d have to let go of Artemis, and the mage — his mage — this mage was giving him that look again. It pissed him off. He hated it. And he didn’t want to let go. He hoped someone, somewhere, understood, because he sure as shit didn’t.
A mage. Artemis wondered if that’s all he’d ever been to Fenris. That night in the tent, then in the cellar… hot breath, hot skin and touch and need. And with all the heated glances and stolen touches in between, he’d thought… he’d hoped…
He was a fool.
There was going to be a bruise in the shape of Fenris’s hand later, the skin itching where lyrium lines touched, and Artemis reflected, a touch hysterically, that at least Fenris wasn’t wearing his gauntlets.
Artemis’s throat worked around a swallow. "If that’s all I am to you," he said, voice raw, "then maybe I should go." Dangerously close to saying what was on the tip of his tongue and had been sitting there for weeks, maybe months. It felt like Fenris was squeezing his lungs alongside his wrist, and he had to look down to check that there wasn’t a glowing fist there, sticking out of his chest.
Fenris couldn’t even manage to look furious any more, just betrayed. This had all been a terrible idea, right from the word go. This was what happened when he let himself want things — they came to him and took away from him. There was no good of wanting. His eyes closed and his hand relaxed, fingers sliding over Artemis’s hand one more time, before he let go. There were a hundred things he could say. A hundred ways to stop this, and all of them would end the same way. He couldn’t surrender himself to another mage.
"Go," he breathed, so quietly he wasn’t sure Artemis could even hear him. "Just go."
"Shit," Cormac grumbled, standing up straighter and holding out his hand. "Come on, Artie. Leave him be. And you, when you’re done being a prick, you know where to find us."
Artemis had to pull himself away from Fenris, had to remember how to breathe. He backed up a few steps and then fled out the door, ignoring Cormac’s proffered hand and pushing past him with a cold glance. Outside, the air was warm in contrast, the air heavy with humidity, and Artemis didn’t need the sun glaring down at him. Fuck the sun.
"Thanks, Cormac," he grated out without looking. "Brilliant plan, that. You’re a great help."
And, alright, so it might not be fair to take his hurt out on his brother, but he was so conveniently there and Artemis could still feel Fenris’s hand on his wrist.
"You did right. He’ll get over it." Cormac sounded so sure of himself. "He’s… he’s in love with you, Artie. He’ll come around."
Artemis rounded on Cormac. "In love?" Alright, that may have come out a bit shrieky, but all the blood was rushing to his head and all he could hear was his pulse. "Really? With a mage?" Don’t shout that in the streets of Kirkwall, a little voice in the back of his head said. "It seems to me that he thinks mages are only useful for two things: killing and f…"
He couldn’t say it. He couldn’t. He also didn’t think he’d be able to hold himself together after this.
"I fucked up, didn’t I?" he whispered.
"Nope. He’s a prick." Cormac shrugged and wrapped an arm around Artemis’s shoulders. "But, you like him, and I am completely sure, after what I just witnessed, that he’s madly, stupidly in love with you. So, he’s a mad stupid prick, right now. He’ll get over it, Artie. You’re irresistible. So, here’s what we do. I’m going to walk you home, and when we pass through the market, I’m going to stop and get those little cakes you like and a big bottle of Antivan brandy, and we’re going to go home and eat cake and get very drunk. We can be very drunk together. We have a healer downstairs. And he’s only invited if you tell me you want him there."
Cormac hugged his brother awkwardly, in the middle of the street, mostly awkward because it had been years since he’d been in a position to do any such thing. But, if ever there had been a time for it, now was that time. Because he was not allowed to turn around and walk back in there, to slap the damned sense into that elf. This was his little brother, and nobody outside the family was allowed to put that look on his little brother’s face.
"And I will totally look the other way if you want to force push Carver down the stairs. You know the dog thinks it’s funny."
Artemis’s lips twitched as though trying to smile. "I might need to," he said. "When he realizes you’re getting me drunk, he’ll probably try to punch you again. I think I might let him this time. Then force push him down the stairs." The dog thought Carver punching Cormac was funny too. "And if you think you’re only buying me one bottle of Antivan brandy, you’d better think again." He planned to drink until he couldn’t see straight, until there was no room in his head for thinking about broody elves and unsanitary houses. He considered his bruising wrist and murmured, "Inviting the healer might not be a bad idea."
"Carver is welcome to punch me in the face. Twice." Cormac patted his brother’s cheek and headed in the direction of home, leading Artemis with the arm still wrapped around his shoulders. "And I will buy you one bottle at the market, so we can start drinking, while I send Bodhan out to get enough to keep us drunk for a week. Sorry, Aveline, no cleanup on the coast this week! I need to keep my brother drunk."
The patter went on, as he led the way across Hightown.