Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 39
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Fenris ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Serendipity ⚧
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Fenris needs to get his foot out of his mouth
Notes: FLUFF! AND! KITTENS! … and then some angst. (I swear Fenris gets his head out of his ass, soon. Honest.)
Anders’s hand was starting to cramp. He’d traded in the gloom of the clinic for the cheerier gloom of the Hawkes’ basement, but he spent just as many hours hunched over a desk, lips tracing words that slipped by under his quill.
Anders blinked. He didn’t even remember coming down here, let along lighting the oil lamp and sitting at his desk. He’d left inky fingerprints all over the desk and the sheets of his manifesto, and he wondered if he should let Artemis clean that up for him later.
Hours. It had been hours, judging by the ache in the small of his back. He sat back and stretched, the laugh on his lips nervous.
"Maker, Justice, you’re a slave driver," Anders said, hoping that making a joke would make this funny.
"Oh, my lord of legendary beauty?" Cormac called out from down the hall, by the Darktown door, kicking it shut and locking it behind him. "I have come to improve your evening with cakes and cheese and other gifts from far off places, like upstairs."
Anders groaned and slumped back in his chair, hoping he could get the crick out, if he leaned the other way. It never worked, but he could hope. "Is one of those gifts a back massage? How long have I been down here? I don’t even remember, and there’s no windows…"
"You got out of bed, in the middle of the night, last night. I’m not sure what time. I thought you were sleepwalking again. You’ve been doing that. Getting up all blue and glowy and rambling, and just coming down here to write. I watched you for a few hours, but you never even saw me. Sleepwalking. It’s midday, now." Cormac kept talking as he came up the hall, to the main room.
"Midday?" Anders rubbed at his forehead, accidentally smearing ink into his hairline. He remembered none of this. Dread was something cold in the pit of his stomach, but he conjured up a smile as he rose to greet Cormac.
Then a second set of footsteps echoed down the stairs, this tread lighter than Cormac’s but just as familiar to him.
"Anders?" called Artemis. "Are you still down here? I brought you something!"
Anders looked back and forth between the doorways, eyebrows raised, and he eased into his smile. "Two Hawkes and two presents? Is it my name day already?"
"Oh, well, here’s Artie to outdo me, as usual," Cormac joked, coming in with a basket hung over his arm and pressing a kiss to Anders’s ink-stained cheek. "You know, you look almost as good in black as you do in white. It’s a good thing, too."
"Shit." Anders looked at his hands and sighed. "I don’t…"
Cormac handed him the wrapper from something from the Orlesian bakery to wipe his hands on, and Anders looked distressingly grateful as he wiped off his fingers.
"So, presents for me… I hope some part of these fabulous gifts are your amazing asses. Because I’ll tell you, the last few weeks have been painfully short on Hawke ass." Anders looked up and winked at Artemis, who appeared in the doorway with a basket suspiciously like his brother’s over his arm.
"I don’t know about Cormac," Artemis said, "but my ass’s existence is a present to everyone." He frowned at the mess of ink Anders had left on his face and desk, and his fingers twitched around the basket as though he were physically restraining himself from cleaning it up.
Anders laughed. "And all of Thedas thanks you," he said.
Artemis looked up from the mess long enough to squint at his brother and his basket. "Hang on," he said, drawing the syllables out. A squeak from inside his basket interrupted him.
"Did your basket just meep?" Cormac squinted at Artemis. "Your basket just meeped. You went to see Merrill, didn’t you."
Anders looked increasingly confused. Meeping baskets? He’d been awake too long for this. Hallucinating. Dreaming! Maybe he was still in bed with Cormac, and all of this was some weird and terrible dream. The pain in his back did make that a little less likely, and he debated whether he could heal it without knocking himself out.
Cormac whipped the cloth off the top of his basket, revealing a tiny ginger kitten, a wheel of sweet, sharp cheese, and a box of duchess cakes. "We think alike. We’re brothers. We’re like that."
Anders’s eyes bugged, but before he could react, Artemis sighed and pulled the cloth off his basket, revealing a second ginger kitten, this one with a swath of white down its chin and belly. "Damn it," he muttered. "Merrill didn’t tell me you’d already taken a kitten!"
There was another squeak, but this time it was from Anders. He was practically vibrating with glee, turning back and forth between the baskets as through trying to figure out how to flail over both kittens at the same time. "Kittens," he said, his voice still a squeak. "You brought kittens?"
Artemis bit his lip against a grin and scooped out his red and white furball before setting down the basket. The kitten meeped again and wriggled, but Artemis soothed it with a finger down its back. "Merrill found a litter in the Alienage," he said, pressing the kitten to Anders’s chest. "She’s been trying to find homes for them all, and I thought… well, the same thing as Cormac, apparently." Anders wrapped his arm around Artie’s kitten and pressed his face into its fur as he reached over to pet Cormac’s kitten. "That one’s a boy," Artemis said. "Very affectionate, if a bit of a klutz, or so I hear."
"Just like you," Cormac said with a grin, setting the other ball of orange fluff on Anders’s shoulder, where it curled up and chewed on the tip of its tail. "This little gentleman is a bit standoffish. All teeth, she tells me. Very independent. Kind of like Fenris, really, but she didn’t have a drunken shithead kitten, so you couldn’t have one just like me."
"As long as it doesn’t have a grudge against mages, I think I’ll be fine," Anders laughed, pressing a kiss to Artemis’s forehead. "You two are amazing. Kittens. You brought me kittens. Am I dreaming? I’m going to wake up with half a page printed on my cheek, in another hour, and there will be no Hawkes and no kittens, and I will be very sad."
Cormac pinched Anders’s ass, and he jumped. "Nope, you’re awake. I’m still standing here."
"As am I," Artemis said between cooing at the kittens himself. The orange and white one had started to purr, his eyes happy little slits as Artemis scratched under his chin. "I both look forward to and dread finding out what you’re going to call them."
"Dread?" Anders huffed, reaching up to pet the kitten on his shoulder. "I have excellent taste in cat names!"
Artemis let the look on his face speak for him. He reached up to pet the fully ginger kitten and got hissed at for his trouble. "He is like Fenris," he grumbled.
"I will call this one Ser Nibbles, because he keeps biting me," Anders decided, with a kitten firmly attached to his fingertip. "Aren’t you a sweet and deadly thing, Ser Nibbles? Yes, I think you are! I think you will be an excellent ally in my battle against the evil templars. You’ll chew right through them, won’t you?"
"The only thing worse than a kitten in your platemail is a ferret in your platemail. Maybe I should’ve gotten you a ferret." Cormac opened the box of cakes and offered it to his brother.
"Oh, please no. Not ferrets. Ferrets are actual demons. One of the apprentices managed to sneak one in… It took six months to even find the damned thing, and by then everything smaller than a bathtowel in the entire tower had been dragged off into the walls." Anders shuddered and attempted to get his finger back from the kitten still trying to kill and eat it.
"Ser Nibbles sounds about right," Artemis said as Anders finally saved his finger from the jaws of kitteny death. "What about this one?" Kitten number two was still purring at everything.
"I’m thinking… Ser Purrcival," Anders decided. "Yes. Ser Purrcival."
"Why are all your cats knighted?" Artemis asked. "Don’t they usually have to go through a ceremony for that sort of thing? Wait. Hang on."
Artemis plucked up Anders’s quill and tapped it to Ser Purrcival’s shoulder. "I dub thee Ser Purrcival," he said as the knighted kitten in question tried to bat at the quill. Artemis moved on to Ser Nibbles. "And I dub thee — ow, cat, that’s my hand!"
Cormac grabbed the quill and tried again, poking tentatively at the tiny ball of death and destruction. "I dub thee— Hah!" He jerked his hand back and went in for another go, as if he were fencing the kitten, finally landing a tap on each furry shoulder. The kitten chewed on the feather fluff. "I dub thee Ser Nibbles, Cat of Death!"
"Cat of death? Really?" Anders looked less than entirely amused.
"You’re the one that wanted him to fight templars," Cormac pointed out, still holding an open box of duchess cakes in one hand.
"Cat of Death. Eater of Hands." Anders conceded the point and snatched a cake, taking a huge bite that left glaze and cream all over his face. Ser Purrcival tried to lick the lemon cream off his chin, before deciding lemon was not for kittens, with a distinctly dismayed look. "Cakes and kittens and Hawkes, oh my!"
Or at least Cormac was pretty sure that’s what Anders was aiming for with that gummy mutter. He was getting good at understanding the distinct tones of Anders with his mouth full. Which, really, was probably a good thing, considering how often Anders had his mouth full, when the two of them were together. "And cheese. I got that cheese you like, too."
Anders groaned happily, and sank to his knees, still covered in kittens.
Bare feet or no, Fenris was in danger of wearing a hole in the Hawke Estate’s floor. From the balcony, Anton watched him muttering and pacing indecisively, ears twitching. Anton chewed on a slice of apple and cut another for Serendipity.
"Oh my," said Dips, "he seems to have worked himself into quite the state, hasn’t he?" She munched on her apple slice and leaned her hip against the railing.
"He does that," Anton replied. After another minute of watching Fenris in all his twitchy glory, Anton called down to him, "He’s downstairs, you know."
Fenris jumped, brands flaring as his hand twitched for his sword. Spotting his audience, his ears burned red as the blue from his tattoos faded. "I don’t —"
"Yes, yes, you don’t know what I’m talking about," Anton sighed, rolling his eyes. With a mouthful of apple, he said, "He’s downstairs."
And downstairs was exactly where Fenris found Artemis, sprawled lengthwise on a green couch and a book in his hand.
"So, it’s true, then." Fenris looked around, slowly realising where he was. "You and Anders. You and your brother and Anders."
Whatever had been in his head was gone, as he noticed a couple of spots that hadn’t quite come out of the couch. This was Artemis lying on the abomination’s sex-stained couch, where he had probably let that abomination fuck him. He was standing in the room in which the most annoying mage in all of Thedas had stolen from him. This mage was his mage. And he’d come here to make that clear, but this… this wasn’t what he’d wanted to see. This wasn’t what he wanted to know. He’d been so sure Anders had just been jerking him around, for a laugh, but… here it was. Proof.
"Mages," he hissed, frustratedly, unable to stop himself.
"What’s it to you?" Artemis asked, his look of surprise turning to something cold. Noting the page he was on, he closed the book he was reading and set it aside, sitting up. What was Fenris doing here? He noticed him noticing the stains on the couch, and his face flushed red. "I could be letting Meredith fuck me with a broad sword and it would have absolutely nothing to do with you!"
Fenris growled, gauntleted fingers twitching. He wanted to grab this foolish mage. Wanted to shake sense into him. Wanted…
"What are you doing here, Fenris?" Artemis asked, and Fenris remembered a time when those blue eyes weren’t so cold.
"Obviously not what you are," Fenris snapped, without thinking. Smooth. That’s exactly what you want to say to someone you want to … and that really was the question. What was he doing here? What had he even expected to accomplish? "Wasting my time. That’s what I’m doing here. I’m wasting my time."
His fingers twitched again as he looked Artemis over. He wanted to grab, to take, but… Artemis’s eyes were so cold. This wasn’t the mage he’d come back for, any more. For everything magic didn’t ruin independently, he touched it, and it came apart. Fenris’s eyes settled on Artemis’s hands, instead. Something safer. Something that didn’t stare back at him and look right through him. His face twisted, angry, betrayed, lost.
And then he felt something warm and fuzzy on his foot. He looked down to see a little orange kitten, still small enough that his fur stuck out in tufts. "What do you want?" he asked the kitten.
Ser Nibbles looked up at him, and his mouth opened around a little "mree!"
"I don’t speak Cat," Fenris replied. Ser Nibbles lived up to the name and gummed at his big toe. Fenris moved his foot, and the kitten followed. Sighing, he picked up the kitten, holding him under the armpits.
Fenris looked up at Artemis and saw… something in his face. It was gone before Fenris could parse it, blue eyes going cold again before looking away.
The kitten struggled until it wrapped its back legs around one of Fenris’s wrists, stretching to get its teeth into the knuckles on the other side. Kittens, it turned out, were very flexible. Like furry little bags of jam. With very sharp points. Fenris was not above making comparisons, but he wouldn’t make them out loud, and certainly not in present company. He continued to angrily cuddle the kitten.
"You," Fenris declared. "I came here because I wanted you. But, you — It just had to be Anders, didn’t it?" Fenris huffed and scritched the kitten chewing on his fingers. "Not Isabela, not some pretty thing from the Rose, no. You did that to me, and when I got pissed off, you came running to the abomination. I should have known, after than night, but I thought your brother might — I don’t know what I thought. Expecting anything from Cormac… Mages! Damnable mages!"
"Yes, because everything is about you!" Artemis snapped. He was on his feet now, eyes no longer cold but brimming with something just as ugly. "And you know, I was drunk enough that it could have been anyone! But Anders was the one who scraped me off the floor and made sure I was all right after you —!" Artemis clamped his mouth shut at the end of that sentence.
Ser Nibbles has his ears back, eyes huge as he struggled to look over his shoulder at this noisy human.
"Oh, I see," Fenris sneered. "You were drunk. That explains everything."
"Oh, fuck off," Artemis grit out, hating the way his voice shook.
"Oh, fuck Anders," Fenris snarled, shoving Artemis back onto the couch. And that was a lot harder than it should have been. His fingers twitched, trying to grab, at first, but he fought himself and won. He dropped the kitten into Artemis’s lap, a lot more gently than he’d dropped Artemis, and stormed off toward the stairs.
This— this hadn’t been what he meant. This hadn’t been what he wanted at all. But, there were things in the world that were meant for people other than him. People who weren’t elves or slaves. People who had families and real lives, and didn’t live in hiding. Stupid mages! Everything about them just seeped into the things around them, befouled everything they came near. Perhaps the Qunari had it right. But, his breath caught in his throat at the thought of Artemis chained and stitched up. This wasn’t what he wanted. This wasn’t it at all.
Cat cradled in one arm, Artemis picked up his book and threw it after Fenris’s shadow. The elf was already gone, but the book made a satisfying thud against the wall. He soothed the squeaking kitten in his arms, eyes glittering with angry tears.
From the balcony upstairs, Anton and Serendipity watched Fenris storm back out of the house. "Damn," Anton muttered. They hadn’t even finished the apple.