Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 4
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Aveline ♀, Fenris ♂, Isabela ♀, Merrill ♀, Varric ♂
Rating: T (L2 N2 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Exhaustion, brotherly love, zero relationship skills, dick jokes
Notes: Getting out of the Deep Roads. The joy of being outside. Does anyone remember the last time we slept?
"Andraste’s tits!" Cormac grabbed his nearest brother by the chin and twisted his head toward the light. "That’s light. That’s daylight. That’s outside!"
Carver batted Cormac’s hand off his face. "And now we get mobbed by darkspawn, again, because you’re shouting, right?"
Fenris pushed ahead of all of them, squinting in the light, sword at the ready. "I, for one, am done with this vile, corrupted hole," he proclaimed, waiting for his eyes to adjust, every few steps, as he moved toward the light.
Cormac followed at the usual distance, ready to rain fire and lightning on anything that even thought about disrupting their break for freedom. "I could make a joke about corruption and holes, but I’m the one fucking the Warden, so let’s just not."
As usual, and thankfully, Justice missed most of the nuances of Cormac’s horrifying commentary on the situation.
"Was that something dirty?" Merrill asked. "I missed something dirty again, didn’t I."
"‘Missed’ isn’t really the word I’d use," Carver replied. "More like ‘were saved from’." Aveline huffed something that sounded like agreement.
"Oh sweet Maker," Artemis whimpered, coming up beside his oldest brother. He grabbed Cormac by the chin and planted a kiss on his cheek, days of beard growth making it a more prickly experience than he was expecting. "Smell that? That’s fresh air. Air that doesn’t smell like rot or your disgusting, unwashed body. Andraste’s pert nipples be praised !"
Once back out in the air, out in the sweet, Maker-loving air, Anton dropped face-first into the dirt and groaned in relief.
"I’m probably the only dwarf who’s this relieved to be out of the Deep Roads," Varric sighed. He patted Anton’s shoulder as he passed, still squinting into the sun. "Alright there?"
"I’ll never leave the surface again," Anton said, voice muffled in the grass.
Artemis, meanwhile, was happily kissing anyone in reach.
Fenris found himself in reach. Possibly slightly intentionally, although he would deny it to his dying breath. He growled a little less than entirely threateningly as Artemis’s lips met the side of his face, and having angled himself just so, he landed a quick pinch under Artemis’s shapely bottom. Nothing anyone would ever notice. Another little secret he was sure they would both deny until they were blue in the face.
Cormac was wrapped around Justice’s legs. "Annnnnders, come back to me. Come down here and look at that sky! We’re out! We’re out and we’re never going in again!"
"I CAN STILL —" and the non-stop blue blaze that had burned from the time they’d been sealed into that room went out. "— hear them."
Anders’s eyes rolled back in his head, and he dropped, knees aimed for Cormac’s face, but Aveline caught him under the arms, and with Cormac’s help, she laid him out on the ground.
"He’s been up for days," Cormac whispered. "Did you see him eat anything?"
"How much did any of us eat?" Aveline responded, shrugging. "Keep him down and don’t let him do anything that’s going to make him more tired."
"Yes, mum," Cormac snarked, sprawling across Anders.
They smelt of sweat and death, all of them, but they were still alive, and they were out.
Fenris moved to stand before Varric, but wouldn’t look at him. "I’m sorry about your brother."
Varric’s answering smile wasn’t the happy kind. "Not as sorry as he’s going to be," he said, hand twitching for Bianca at his back. The not-smile twisted again, and Varric patted Fenris’s arm, too tired to observe his unspoken "no-touching" rule. Either that or Artemis had broken down that wall. "Let’s get everyone back home. Hawke needs to heal the healer, and I have a feeling you have a use or two for his little brother." He winked and walked past Fenris, exchanging wicked smirks with Isabela.
"Which one?" Fenris countered with a nonchalance that was fooling no one. He waited until Varric wasn’t looking to glance at Artemis, who was leaning now with his back against a tree, body one sagging line and eyes closed.
Merrill crouched beside Cormac and nudged his arm with a water skin. "Here," she said. "He probably needs it, poor thing."
Anton peeled his face off the ground and found he wasn’t the only one sprawled upon it. "Hmm." Maybe he’d started a trend. It seemed like everyone had stopped for a rest, so he made no effort to get up. He pressed his face back into the dirt and breathed deep.
Cormac smiled dazedly up at Merrill. "Thanks. I don’t… He’s pretty passed out."
"Oh." Merrill sat down, looking thoughtful. "That’s true. I don’t suppose he’s going to drink until he wakes up."
Cormac choked off his first response. There were things he just didn’t say while he was looking at Merrill. It was worse than saying them to his sister. "Did you find water, or is this just the last of what we have? We should find water. And drink it. And wash in it. And drink more of it."
"I’m holding out for beer," Anton muttered into the dirt.
"Oh, what I wouldn’t give for a beer and a bed," Carver groaned. "But, no. My stupid-ass brothers dragged me down into the Deep Roads on some theoretically profitable family bonding expedition. For the record, I hate all three of you, and I know where you sleep."
Aveline clanked as she sat down. "We followed the darkspawn out. The ones we killed aren’t going to be the only ones that know about this exit."
Fenris sighed, still standing. "I’ve got first watch."
"I’ll join you," Artemis said before his brain could catch up to his mouth. "For the… watching, that is. First watch." He pushed off the tree, smothering a yawn with his fist. They were all exhausted, but he was the giddy, trembling-fingers kind of exhausted where there was no way he was going to sleep yet.
"I’ll go scout for water," Aveline volunteered. She walked as though her armour were ten times heavier than usual. "Anton, you’re coming."
Anton groaned into the dirt. "I’ll start digging a well," he said.
Anton muttered something uncharitable about Aveline’s mother under his breath, but he pushed himself upright, making a show of how heavy his limbs were, drawing on the ground. They wandered off into the woods together, the image of exhausted determination.
"Can I help in any way?" Merrill asked Cormac, eyes large and green and so very hopeful.
"You’re Dalish. Do you know any spiffy tree magic, so we can get shelter?" Cormac muttered into Anders’s chest, barely clinging to consciousness. He’d been obnoxiously loud and cheerful for… he wasn’t even sure how long, but it was damn near non-stop. It wasn’t really the obnoxious part that was difficult, but that much consistent cheer just took it out of him.
"Oh. I … I don’t… I’m sorry. I’m not a woodcrafter." Merrill looked saddened by this sudden lack of skill. "I could get leaves, though! They’re very warm in large piles."
Cormac started to laugh, just a dull snicker at first, but it built out into a guffaw he was surprised didn’t wake Anders. "Yeah. Do that. Leaf piles sound great."
"Are you just humouring me?" Merrill asked, peering suspiciously at Cormac.
"No. I’m just laughing because we just crawled out of certain death, and now we’re going to sleep in a pile of leaves." Cormac blinked. "That made more sense in my head. I welcome your leaf pile! You should ask Carver if he wants one. I’m sure he’d love some of your leaves."
Away from the noise, Fenris squinted at Artemis. "For the watching. Yes . Are you certain you should be standing? Are you sure you won’t mistake me for a hurlock and light me on fire?"
He tried to sound dismissive. He did. He was tired enough, though, that he might have sounded concerned.
"Yes, because I know loads of glowy hurlocks in tight pants," Artemis quipped with a tired smile. "Though you’re welcome to hold onto my staff if it makes you feel better. Er, that is…" Artemis’s ears flushed red as he thought of Fenris holding his other staff, long fingers on hot skin. He coughed into his fist. "This staff." He offered Fenris the staff in question, the larger and probably more deadly staff in his possession.
Fenris glanced at the staff, then looked back at Artemis, a raised eyebrow saying he knew where Artemis’s thoughts had wandered. He didn’t move to take it.
"Right. Watching," Artemis babbled. "The first watch. We are watching. We are the ones who are watching the first watch…"
His mouth tended to run away from him when he was tired. His staff bounced on the ground in nervous agitation.
Fenris’s hand lashed out and grabbed the staff, finally, stilling the jitter. "We are atop a cavern. Don’t."
That was loud enough to be heard, at least as far as Anton was from them, but Fenris lowered his voice and stepped closer, and the rest of the words were unintelligible more than a foot or two away. "I suspect you would be even louder, if I took hold of your other staff."
Across the camp, Merrill dumped more leaves on Cormac and Anders. "Leaves are really good for this," she rambled, "because they’re never quite flat, and the space between them traps the warmth. You should never underestimate the insulative properties of plant material. Not that it would help much in snow, but you can build little cabins out of snow, and those are much warmer than they should be."
"Do you know that from the Dales or from your demon?" Fenris loudly asked, exhaustion, giddiness, and the terror of what might come up after them if he closed his eyes having chewed through his self-control.
Varric sucked in a sharp breath, but Merrill rounded on Fenris, all smiles. "The Dales, of course. You should take more of an interest in your elven heritage, Fenris. It could save your life, one of these days."
"I will take that under consideration." Fenris intently observed the grass growing.
A short distance away, Aveline and Anton came across a spring. It wasn’t something they could bathe in, but the water was fresh and clear. Anton showed his appreciation in his characteristic way: by smashing his face into it.
"Maker be praised," Anton gurgled, words bubbling in the water.
"Stop that," Aveline scolded, pulling Anton back by the collar. "The point is for the water to be drinkable."
Anton shook his head like a dog, water spraying every which way. "I was just testing it," he said. Aveline huffed and rolled her eyes, pulling out her water skin.
Artemis meanwhile stared at his staff where Fenris had touched it. After Fenris’s almost-altercation with Merrill, he leaned in and said, "You know, if you wanted to touch my staff, all you had to do is ask. In fact, you don’t even need to ask. You could just make a grab for it, and I’d let you do whatever."
There went his mouth again. Maker.
"I doubt this is an appropriate time or place for me to be grabbing at your staff," Fenris rumbled, amused. "What would your brothers think?"
Anton filled his waterskin and then one of his boots, taking the latter back to pour over Carver’s head. He’d wanted to hit Cormac, but Cormac was curled up on the healer, and the last thing Anton wanted to do was piss off the healer, before they got back to civilisation.
"Free yourself from the stench of sweaty plate-mail!" he shouted, upending his boot over his youngest brother.
Carver sputtered, fumed, and punched his brother in the junk. It was, Anton reflected, as he crumpled to the ground, for the best that he’d elected not to piss off the healer.
"Andraste’s brazen ass!" Carver complained. "There’s water in all the joints. There is bunched, wet cloth in my elbow. Cor—" He stopped. No, asking Cormac would be a bad idea under the best of circumstances. Waking Cormac up to demand dry underarmour was not going to end well. Ask the other mage.
"Artemis, do something useful!" Carver dripped menacingly.
"Do your brothers think at all?" Fenris asked, watching things unfold.
"No," Artemis sighed. "But then I clearly got all the brains in the family."
Fenris glanced at Cormac and hummed in agreement. Looking askance at Artemis, he was inclined to think he had the best ass in the family too, despite how vehemently Anders praised Cormac’s.
At Carver’s accusing glare, Artemis threw up his hands, staff balanced in one palm. "What do you expect me to do?"
Carver flicked water in his direction, looking like a spiteful wet cat. "You could dry me off," he said.
"By what, lighting you on fire? I’m a force mage, Carver. We’re not exactly known for our finesse!"
"Then light him on fire!" Carver growled, flapping a hand in Anton’s direction.
"Please don’t," Anton groaned, still curled up in the mud.
"It could have been worse," Fenris pointed out. "You could have tried that on me."
"You’re not related to me," Anton retorted. "Thank the Maker."
Aveline attempted to engage Merrill in a conversation about local edible plants, over by the spring. Anything to escape from the haze of testosterone and idiocy that hung over the camp. And maybe they’d end up with something to eat, too, which Aveline had no intention of sharing, at this point. Well, maybe with Varric. It had been his brother who started all of this, and that didn’t seem to sit well with the dwarf, however much he tried to pretend he should have seen it coming.
Isabela took advantage of the situation she was so felicitously presented with. "You know, Carver, if you don’t want to be stuck in wet armour, you could always take it off. I’m sure Merrill and I would have no objections, Sparklefingers is passed out, the dwarf’s absorbed, the other elf is supposed to be looking elsewhere, and you’re related to everyone else. Except Madam Guardswoman, over there, and who cares what she thinks."
"Oh. Ew. Isabela," Artemis groaned. "Please don’t encourage my little brother to strip."
Carver made a rude sound in the back of his throat. "Trying to protect my virtue?" he sneered. Almost as if to spite him, Carver started removing his wet armour, unbuckling each piece and tossing it in Anton’s direction.
"Trying to protect our eyes," Artemis replied.
Isabela tutted as she approached Carver, throwing him a wink before walking behind him, thief’s fingers making quick work of the buckles there. Carver threw a nervous look at her and at Merrill, then tried to hide it behind a cocky smirk at his brother. Artemis rolled his eyes.
"Ow," muttered Anton as a vambrace hit his head before slipping into the mud.
"You know," Carver said over his shoulder, "I have this tattoo…"
"Don’t even think about it, Carver," Artemis interrupted before it was too late.
"Do you, now? Has it got fins or feathers?" Isabela rested her chin on Carver’s shoulder and looked Artemis right in the eye.
"Neither! It’s a good Fereldan tattoo, a Mabari!" Carver looked terribly smug about that. "I can make it bark."
"I’d rather see it wag," Isabela purred, right in Carver’s ear, and the youngest Hawke turned a bright red.
"Izzy, leave the poor boy alone," Varric called out. "At least while his brothers are watching."
Carver kept a tight grip on one of his pauldrons, both hands keeping it firmly in front of his crotch, as Isabela unwound herself from his back and slunk off to pester Varric some more.
"Can you at least set something on fire?" Carver asked. "It’s still light out. It’s not like it’s going to be a blazing beacon leading right to us. I’d just really like to stop being wet."
"I am so glad Cormac’s asleep," Aveline muttered.
Fenris hummed in agreement, lips curled in a grimace.
"Don’t tempt me, Carver," Artemis replied, looking heavenward for strength. He let Carver stand there, shivering, with a pauldron over his crotch, for a moment before taking pity. He summoned a ball of fire in his hand and approached his little brother, holding it between them in silent offering. Carver sighed in relief and soaked in its heat, creeping closer.
Artemis hated that his little brother, who he still saw in his mind as a little boy with a snit face and a wooden sword, was taller than him, if only just.
"Well," Fenris rumbled, "if the magic does summon darkspawn, at least Carver’s crotch will be protected."
"Lucky him," Anton muttered.
"You should consider investing in a better codpiece," Anders muttered, pulling Cormac more solidly onto him. Cormac was, if nothing else, quite warm. He considered continuing this arrangement, once they got back to Kirkwall, if only so he could stop freezing his toes off in the middle of the night. "I once knew an assassin with excellent taste in crotchwear."
"As did I." Isabela leaned to get a view around Artemis. "Did we know the same assassin? A pretty little blond, with an interest in ‘impact redistribution’?"
"Mmm, Zev," Anders muttered, groping Cormac’s ass before he passed out again.
"Do I want to know?" Varric asked.
"You already know," Isabela assured him.
Carver was trying to dry his tunic over Artemis’s hands, without setting it on fire — a feat that might require more hands than he had, but he was willing to take that chance, for the benefit of having something warm and dry. "You’re the best brother, Artie."
Aveline and Merrill hung back, by the spring, enjoying their salads in peace.
"We’re going to have to go back over there, eventually," Aveline pointed out.
"Yes, but they’ll be asleep and we’ll have had supper." Merrill smiled brightly. "Supper makes anyone a little more bearable."
"So does unconsciousness."
"See! You’re getting it!"