Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 17
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Carver Hawke ♂, Leandra Amell ♀, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Cullen ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Anton’s mouth, zero relationship skills
Notes: Cullen meets Bethany at last!
"Those elves you’re friends with, they’re… Rather strange, aren’t they?" Leandra asked, looking up from the accounts, as Carver and Bethany came in, strangely not shoving each other, for once.
"He’s an asshole, but she’s pretty nice," Carver said, with a shrug.
"She’s a—" Bethany started, and then shifted gears entirely. One didn’t admit to having friends who were blood mages and consorting with demons, in front of one’s mother. "—very nice girl. Just… a little Dalish, sometimes, you know?"
"She gets lost a lot," Carver admitted. "I had to walk her home from the docks, the other night. She’d been out with Anders and Varric, and somehow ended up there, from the Hanged Man, instead of back at the Alienage."
Bethany covered her face and laughed. "But, he’s definitely weird. And an asshole. And he hates mages!"
"Sometimes, I worry about Artie," Carver sighed. "It’s like Cormac’s bulletproof stupidity is rubbing off on him. What is he even doing with an elf who hates mages?"
The door slammed again, this time followed by Artemis making unmistakeably distressed sounds, in the hall, and some sort of soothing patter from Cormac.
Carver looked at Bethany, but she just shrugged. He sighed, again. "I have to go punch Cormac, again. Maybe this time it’ll help."
"Carver!" Leandra complained. "Leave your brother alone!"
"You know, doing the exact same thing and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity," Bethany pointed out, as Carver stalked off in the direction of the front of the house.
Tuesday had arrived quicker than usual. Well. That wasn’t right. Tuesday had arrived at the usual time, right after Monday, but for Cullen, it felt like the days of the week were playing tricks on him. He’d blame it on magic, but even he wasn’t that paranoid.
Cullen arrived at the Nevarran restaurant a tad early so as not to repeat Thursday’s flailing for a table. That left him sitting alone at said table and fidgeting with the cutlery. When Anton arrived in another dashing Orlesian outfit, Cullen almost capsized the table in his haste to stand. Maker.
"Anton!" he said, unable to contain his smile. "It… it’s good to see you. You look…"
"Handsome? Dashing? Ravishing?"
Cullen looked up at him coyly. "Yes," he said. Clearly the right answer, judging from Anton’s smile. It was only when she cleared her throat that Cullen realized there was a woman next to Anton. "Oh! Hello. Varric, you look different."
"Would you believe, the man has a sense of humour, too. I am so fortunate." Anton laughed and put an arm around the woman’s waist. "No, no. This is my sister, Bethany, scholar and spearwoman. Bethy, this is Knight-Captain Cullen, my Templar… friend. She’s been wanting to meet you, ever since she heard."
"And oh, what I heard." Bethany batted her eyes and grinned wickedly at Cullen. "I’m surprised you two didn’t take down that door!"
Anton’s other hand shot up to span his cheekbones, and a surprised laugh escaped him. "Bethy! Public!"
"You do it all the time, Anton." She pulled out a chair for herself and sat, unshouldering the monstrous spear she carried and leaning it against the wall, beside the table. It was barbed and engraved, and from the look of it, based on an old Avvar design. Definitely enchanted, but all the good weapons were, these days.
"I’m also not a teenage girl." Anton sat across from Cullen, and shrugged. "Sisters."
"Brothers." Bethany retorted, picking up a stained menu.
"You remind me of my sister, Mia," Cullen said, finally, when the banter had died down a bit. "Very outspoken."
"Really?" said Bethany with a smile. "She must be a charming woman."
"She has… many admirable qualities," Cullen said diplomatically. He chuckled. His gaze flit to Anton, who was smiling behind his menu. "Your brother speaks very highly of you."
"Of course he does," Bethany replied. "He’s a smart man."
"I see the sharp tongue is genetic."
Anton and Bethany exchanged commiserating glances. "Oh yes," said Anton. "But I got all the looks. We," he amended at a narrowed look from Bethany. "We got all the looks."
"You’ll hear no arguments from me," Cullen said, surprising himself. No wine yet, and he was already flirting. He’d only stuttered once so far and avoided knocking over the table. This was a good start.
A waiter came over, and Anton let Bethany order, since she was the only one of the three of them who spoke Nevarran, and she did so passably well, he thought. Of course, he probably shouldn’t be thinking about it, since he couldn’t string together enough words of Nevarran to order a cup of coffee — yet another delightful Nevarran delicacy. And that one, he could pronounce.
"I trust her judgement," he told Cullen, listening to his sister chat about the details of ingredients and sauces with the waiter.
"As will I. She seems a great deal more competent with the language than I. I tend to resort to pointing to things on the menu." Cullen chuckled nervously. "Oh, a pot of that mint tea!"
Bethany pointed at him, and kept talking to the waiter. He thought he could make out enough hand gestures to gather that she was ordering tea for all of them, which was even better. Perhaps they would make it through the meal without any wine, which would mean he couldn’t drop any wine on anyone, including himself. Tea wouldn’t stain like wine did. It would be a lot hotter, though. Maybe tea wasn’t quite as brilliant an idea as he thought.
"You seem quiet, today, Ser Cullen." Anton stretched an arm along the table and stroked the side of Cullen’s hand with one finger.
"What? No. I — that is, I — I like the sound of the language. I’m trying to learn a few important words by listening." Cullen had, in fact, been completely distracted, but there was no sense in saying that.
"It is a lovely language," Anton said, dropping his voice into something like a purr. That voice, coupled with that look, was simply not fair. "I know a few phrases myself." His finger was still tracing patterns along the side and back of Cullen’s hand, leaving trails of sensation in its wake.
"Oh?" Cullen prompted. He didn’t care what language Anton spoke as long as he kept talking.
Anton’s smile turned wicked. He glanced at the waiter and said, "I’ll whisper them in your ear later."
All the heat in Cullen’s body rushed to his face and his crotch.
"Anton, don’t scandalise the poor man," Bethany sighed, as the waiter left the table.
"I don’t think the poor man minds a little scandal, do you, Ser Cullen?" Anton affected innocence, which was, overall, profoundly ineffective. In fact, it conveyed much the opposite effect.
Cullen sputtered, wholeheartedly and halfassedly. "I— scandal—? I mean— that is—"
"My brother is incorrigible. You can’t let him push you around, Ser Cullen. Unless, of course, you’re into that sort of thing. Which is between you and him, and please don’t tell me about it."
"Bethy!" And now Anton looked scandalised. "Is that what prince charming is teaching you? Am I going to need to have words?"
"I think you should be much more concerned with what I am teaching Sebastian, than with what he’s teaching me. And hold on to your words, Anton. You’ll need them."
Cullen wondered if all the Hawke siblings were like this. If so, their mother must have the fortitude of Andraste herself. "I like her," Cullen decided of Bethany, earning him a grin from Anton and a preening look from Bethany.
"And to think," said Bethany with a devilish smirk uncannily like Anton’s, "I could have bowed out and left you two alone. How bored you boys would have been."
And that had Cullen thinking about Orlesian coats, soft skin, and other kinds of entertainment, which had him squirming and blushing again. Though saying "again" was a bit misleading, considering all the blushing and the squirming were part of his natural state around these two.
There was some movement under the table, and Bethany jumped, giggling into her hand. Anton narrowed his eyes at her in a playful imitation of a glare.
The waiter arrived with their tea, the smell of mint sharp and refreshing. Calming. This was really rather lovely, Cullen decided, nerves aside. So long as he didn’t spill the tea.
"So, Bethany," Cullen said, "Anton says you are a scholar?"
"Oh, yes. I’m a student of Nevarran tomb architecture and, by extension, beliefs surrounding death and the Mortalitasi. There’s some fascinating history, there." Bethany smiled brightly.
"And that is why you speak Nevarran," Cullen intuited, quite proud of himself for having stopped staring at Anton long enough to recognise the obvious. But, there was something on his ankle. Something that felt distinctly like a pointed boot.
Anton sipped tea and watched his sister, both hands above the table. He wondered how long Cullen could keep putting one word after another, under the circumstances, and making this Templar blush had become Anton’s new hobby. He’d see how long he could keep things interesting, but not so interesting as to catch Bethany’s attention.
"That is why I speak Nevarran." Bethany poured herself a cup of tea. "I’m certain I could bore you to tears with stories of Nevarran necromancers, but if you really want…"
"Oh, I doubt I could be bored in you or your brother’s presence," Cullen said politely. And yes, that was definitely a boot. A boot tracing tiny circles along the inside of his ankle and trying to sneak under the hem of his trousers. Cullen coughed into his fist. "Definitely… definitely not bored."
Anton smiled, again too sweetly to make Cullen anything but suspicious.
"Flatterer," cooed Bethany between sips of mint tea. She hummed and licked her lips. "Oh, this is lovely. Anton, how come you’ve never taken me to this restaurant before?"
"Because I am a terribly neglectful older brother," Anton replied, hand over his heart in mock solemnity. "You have my apologies."
"I might forgive you," she sniffed, "depending on what dessert you get me later."
Anton chuckled. "I think I already know what my dessert is going to be," he said, gaze sliding Cullen’s way. He was starting to wonder if those rosy cheeks were part of his natural complexion. "Something with… what was it? Honey and walnuts? What do you think, Captain?"
"Do walnuts really—" Cullen’s eyes snapped to Bethany. "What I mean to say is, er… Honey. Yes. I think— a nice … sweet accent."
"And you’re paying the laundress on the plaza an extra sovereign for that, I hope, Anton?" Bethany looked terribly disapproving.
"What I pay that laundress is between she and me, but I assure you it is more than enough for the trouble." Anton’s eyes never left Cullen. "Not much for the walnuts? Perhaps a nice stiffened cream, maybe a hint of rose syrup and orange."
Cullen looked like he might combust. Felt like he might combust. Maker, what was this man even doing in a room with him, never mind on a second — third? — date with him. Surely Anton could have half of Kirkwall eating out of his hand, but no, he was sitting in a Nevarran restaurant with Cullen, who couldn’t even keep up his half — third — of the conversation, because, well, because Anton. What man outside the Blooming Rose — and that was just from rumour! — was so dedicatedly, divinely indecent, in a public place? This one. Obviously. Cullen was in so far over his head, and he wasn’t sure he minded that a whit.
"I like oranges." Because that was intelligent, Cullen. His cheeks had actually started to ache from holding the blush so long.
"You know," Bethany saved him, looking at the menu again, "there is a lovely orange pastry, here. I’ve always wanted to try one of these. Maybe you should have one too, Ser Cullen."
Bless that girl.
Just when he remembered how to breathe, the foot on his ankle grew a bit friendlier, and there he went, choking on nothing. Cullen reached under the table to remove the foot from his inner thigh, shooting Anton a look that was only mildly disapproving. As much as he regretted its loss, there was no way he was going to make it through dinner with a foot there, even — especially — Anton’s foot. And that was something he needed to do, make it through dinner, if Anton was going to make good on his promise of ‘dessert’.
Anton pouted, and his booted foot went back to nudging Cullen’s ankle. All the while, Bethany looked over the dessert menu, blessedly oblivious.
Maker. And they’d barely started on their tea.
Their waiter retuned, arms laden with full plates, and Cullen’s stomach growled in greeting. Anton sat up, his foot finally leaving his ankle. Regrettably.