Apr 282015
 

Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 58
Co-Conspirator: TumblrMaverikLoki
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke , Cormac Hawke , Anders , Fenris , Isabela
Rating: M (L2 N0 S0 V3 D0)
Warnings: Dick jokes, oh my god Cormac, demons, don’t introduce your friends to demons, betrayal, shapeshifting, brotherly love
Notes: And then, everything went wrong.


They were still in the Templar Hall, but at the far end of the room was a desk and a young Feynriel sitting behind it. Very young. Much younger than when they’d last met him.

"That’s it, Feynriel," said a man with an Antivan accent. He stood over Feynriel’s shoulder, watching him write. The man was familiar, and Artemis squinted at his features. Feynriel’s father? "Hard on the downstroke, then lift. Good!" The boy beamed up at his father with heartbreaking pride. "I’ll have you scribing all my letter soon. If I’d known you were such a bright lad, I’d have brought you into the business years ago."

"Does that mean I can come with you to Antiva, Father? Mother said maybe this summer, right Mother?" The boy looked across the room and…

Cormac looked at himself. Boobs. Dress. Light skin. "Andraste’s brazen and polished thigh," he muttered, before getting himself together and crossing the room to the boy. Why couldn’t this have been Fenris? At least Fenris was an elf!

"A summer in Antiva sounds like a wonderful holiday, but since when has the shem wanted anything to do with you? How many years has it been that he’s just brushed us off, and suddenly, now, he wants to sweep you off to Antiva?" Cormac laid a hand across his… He was not getting used to the idea of his chest not being where he thought it was, as he smacked himself in the boob that wasn’t supposed to be there. "I suppose we should be grateful for the attention, after so long, but what’s he after, I wonder?"

"What do you want? It has been a long time, hasn’t it?" The boy looked up at his father.

"Don’t listen to her, son. She’s always been ashamed of you," Feynriel’s father explained, carefully. "She wanted you gone, so she could go back to the Dalish. I’m the one who loves you."

"But… why can’t I remember you?" Feynriel asked, in slow realisation that something was, perhaps, not quite right.

"Because it’s a trick, Feynriel. He wants something from you." Cormac elected not to move any more than he had to. At least he could say he’d been an elf, now. And a woman. He decided he wasn’t terribly fond of being either one.

"Why…? That’s right! I spent my whole childhood waiting for you!" Outrage began to dawn on Feynriel’s face.

"Your mother never allowed—" his father began.

"No, my mother loves me. She showed me the letters she wrote you. You never wrote back!" There it was. Disgust, confusion, and offense. "And it was mother who taught me to write, not you! I’ve never met you before! Who are you?"

"Don’t—" The man lit up, radiating what Cormac had come to identify as fade glow. "— question —" A flash of light blocked out everything, for a moment. "— me!"

And that was a desire demon, yes it was. Cormac had seen those, before. And, oh look, no more freaky body parts that didn’t belong to him.

Feynriel took one look, and ran out of the room, with a shout of surprise. As Cormac moved to go after him, the demon got in his way.

"You. You turned him against me." The demon pointed at Cormac.

"Yeah, funny thing that, I have an enormous prejudice against demons." Cormac shrugged. "Gets away from me, sometimes. I’d say I was sorry, but I’m really not."

"Take away my pets, and I’ll take away yours. How loyal are these friends you drag into the Fade?" The demon smiled like it had already won.

"Don’t even bother tempting me," Artemis said. "I’m not into boobs." Please, please no more demons staring through him.

The demon looked past him directly at Isabela. "Would your pirate queen stay if the open water beckoned?" she asked, voice echoing with magic as she sauntered over to Isabela, who — fuck — who looked far too interested in what this demon had to say. "What do you say, sweetheart? A two-mast brigantine, a square-main topsail… a hundred well-built lads to answer your every whim." Isabela tilted her head, eyes glazed as she pictured it.

"Isabela," Fenris growled, but she didn’t respond.

The demon continued, hand tracing enticingly over the curve of one breast. "I know you’ve been looking for a stiff masthead."

Isabela hummed.

Well. Hard to compete with that.

"Between us we’ve got two dicks, an assortment of dildoes, and some amazing magic tricks," Cormac offered. "Sure you’ll get more dicks with the ship, but you’re really losing out on the sparkles."

"Oh, I can give her all the sparkles she wants," the demon purred, eyes still locked on Isabela.

Artemis sighed in resignation. "Shall I just turn around now to let you stab me in the back, or would you like it to be a surprise?"

"At least you’re an easier target than the book," Fenris added.

"Not helpful, Fen."

Isabela tutted as she looked at Artemis, already reaching for her knives. "You are just the sweetest," she said.

"The ‘Siren’s Call Two’ awaits in Kirkwall Harbour," said the demon, stepping back while Isabela followed. "I’ll be under the furs in the captain’s quarters."

"I like big boats. I cannot lie." Isabela struck out at Cormac, first. A shot that would have landed, right in his kidney, had he been anyone else. As it stood, apparently an Arcane specialist in the Fade was an extremely dangerous thing. Perhaps moreso than usual.

"I know," Cormac said, with a sad smile, as he clenched his fist, and the fabric of the Fade began to crush one of his dearest friends. "I forgive you, Izzy. I’ll see you on the other side."

The demon, however, let him be, focusing first on Fenris and his enormous sword — a very recognisable threat. It purred offers as it danced between his strikes. "You don’t like magic very much, do you? Corrupts and destroys everything it touches. But, what if I give you your mage, with no magic? What if I give you a lover who can never become what you fear?"

Fenris got sloppy, and oddly that’s when he finally landed a hit. Artemis free of all the — No. He liked the earthquakes. Anton had made a joke about trashy Orlesian novels, and how the heroes talked about it being so good the earth moved, and despite never having read any trashy Orlesian novels, himself, not being able to do so, that idea had stuck with him. Artemis’s earthquakes had become something Fenris could be proud of. And on top of that, he’d just watched Artemis refuse a demon who was apparently tempting him with the exact same thing. That was something they were going to have to talk about, later, he was sure, especially now they’d both turned it down.

The demon made shrill sounds, every time it was struck, which was, perhaps, not as often as Fenris would have liked. He tried to ignore the sound of Isabela becoming a cube of goo in a pool of blood, next to him, but it wasn’t the first time he’d been present for something like this. It wasn’t even the first time it was someone he kind of liked. No, Artemis wouldn’t turn against him. Cormac, though… The mage had turned on their companion without question, even when there was no reasonable way she could have hit him.

In the end, it was Justice who struck the killing blow, not with a blaze of magic but with a sword that rivalled Fenris’s in size, a spike of blue light through the demon’s chest. She wailed and thrashed, disintegrating into the air in a plume of ashes.

And then there were four. Fenris was still panting when he looked up, eyes catching Artemis’s and knowing from the look on his face that he’d heard the demon’s words.

"You are afraid of me," Artemis said, face pale. He looked like he was going to be ill.

"Artemis," Fenris started, but his mage was shutting himself off again and making for the door, knuckles white around his staff. He ached to follow, but he feared getting thrown into a wall for his efforts. Fenris growled and turned to Justice. "How much more of this, spirit?"

"FEYNRIEL’S POWER ATTRACTS POWERFUL DEMONS," Justice boomed. "I CAN SENSE AT LEAST ONE MORE NEARBY."

"That’s fucking great." Cormac was down into the expletives at the end of his nerves. "Let’s go get this over with. Anybody else got any deep, dark desires they want to get off their chests, before we take care of this shit and get the fuck out? No? Great. Do me a favour and don’t stab me in the fucking kidneys. Find the damned kid, Justice, and let’s just get him out of here."

He didn’t look at the pile of flesh that used to be Isabela, but his knuckles were pale on the hand around his staff, as he followed Justice back out of the room. She’d be fine, he told himself. She wasn’t a mage. She certainly wasn’t the mage whose dream they were in. She’d wake up with a nasty headache, and when he got back, he’d punch her in the fucking teeth, and they’d be fine. It was all just fucking fine.

Gritting his teeth, Artemis pushed into the next room, eager to get this over with. The Fade warped again, one reality bleeding into another, and there in the middle of the room stood Marethari, addressing a crowd of ghostly elves.

"My people," she said. "I present to you our hope. His features may mark him as human, but in his heart beats the blood of the Dales!" Feynriel stepped up beside her, looking somewhere between bewildered and hopeful.

Artemis pushed his way through the crowd, only noticing then how noodly his arms were. He looked down to see long pale hands that were definitely not his. "What in the…?" Okay, and that voice was definitely not his, either.

"He came to us to learn his heritage," Marethari was saying, "to release the power from a lineage as ancient as our own."

Feynriel shuffled from one foot to the other, ducking his head. "I… I don’t know what to say."

And, really, Artemis had had just about enough of this bullshit. "You could say, ‘Hey, I know you’re a demon. Stop that!'" And that was… Was he speaking with Orsino’s voice? Great. Just great.

"Do not listen to him!" Marethari said, turning to Feynriel. "The First Enchanter is a pawn of the templars!"

"No," Feynriel said, straightening and speaking with a conviction that wasn’t there before. "Silence, demon! Weren’t you… Keeper Marethari warned me of this!" Feynriel started edging back and away, and Artemis readied to intercept the demon in case she — he — it —- decided to follow. "You’re not the Keeper! Mother’s people have no Circle, but they don’t consort with demons!" Feynriel darted off, disappearing in a flash of blue magic.

Not-Marethari turned a glare Artemis’s way, lips curled in a snarl. Artemis smiled cheerfully.

"You!" she growled. "Why did you interfere?"

There was another flash of blinding light and — yep, that was a demon. An ugly one, too, all scales and spikes and long, twisting horns. "Really? Cormac gets the one with the boobs, and I get this?" And, thank the Maker, that was his voice, and yes, those were his hands.

"You don’t even like boobs, Artie." Cormac shrugged, something like a smile lingering on his lips. His shoulders had gone loose and his chin tipped up, arrogantly. It wasn’t that he’d stopped being bothered — terrified — by this, except that’s exactly what it was. He was running on hope and fumes, and there was nothing that would stop him finishing what he’d come to do.

"And you. Why did we interfere? Because the kid’s ours, not yours, you slavering donkeyfuck. Now, back away from my brother, before I end you." Done. He was just done.

The demon turned its gaze to Cormac. "You worry so much about your precious little brother, don’t you? What if the templars get him? What if that mage-hating elf hurts him? What if he just can’t take it any more and kills himself?"

No part of Cormac had ever been as white as his knuckles were on his staff. This wasn’t what he wanted Artemis to hear. Ever.

"What if I give you everything you need to make the world safe for him, for you, for your activist lover? What if I give you the power to show him he has nothing more to fear. You’ll always be there to protect him. No templar can stand against you."

Cormac’s eyes squeezed shut, damp in the corners, and he pressed his forehead against his staff. He wanted that. He wanted it so very much.

"Perhaps you will even be the mage to get the Order disbanded. A world without templars, just like you always wanted. A letter to the king wouldn’t have helped, you know, but I can."

"No," Cormac breathed, voice shaking. "I’m enough. I’ve always been enough, and I’m not so weak as to think I need help doing what I’ve done without your help, for all these years."

Still, he was frozen in place, still trying to find the ends of his fingers, as all his nerves fired in all the ways he didn’t want them to — a dizzying storm of a thousand tiny pains and doubts — as the demon turned to Justice.

"And you, brother? You have stepped into the world, where you are not as strong. Will you accept my help to further your cause and his? The templars still stand against you. The people fear magic as a curse. A thousand years of fear and hatred cannot be overturned with what little you have left to you. Let me help you, my brother. We will do this together."

Justice had spent too long with Anders, and for a moment, the offer nearly appealed. To have a conduit back to the Fade. To be able to channel the power he had once commanded. But, no. The thing in front of him was what happened to good spirits who succumbed to human desire.

"I HAVE NO INTEREST IN YOU, DEMON," Justice replied. "ANDERS AND I HAVE A STRONG TEAM TO WORK WITH. WE DO NOT NEED THE POWER OF THE FADE TO CHANGE THE MINDS OF MEN. WE NEED THE TRUST OF MEN, AND THAT YOU CANNOT GIVE US, HONESTLY."

"You’re grasping at straws, here, demon," Artemis said, his chin at a defiant angle. He had a hand on his brother’s shoulder, gripping hard enough to bruise, to feel Cormac shaking. He was about ready to tear down the walls of the Fade with his bare hands. For the demon to use him against Cormac like that…

"Am I?" the demon purred. "What about your lover? Do you think this slave would choose you over his freedom?"

Fenris stepped up to Artemis’s other side, lip curled in a sneer. He’d been tempted once already. He wasn’t about to give in to whatever this filth had to offer. "Cast your eyes elsewhere, demon," he spat. "I won my freedom from the magisters long ago."

"But you fear them still," said the demon, beady eyes focused on Fenris. "They left their marks on your body and your mind." Lyrium markings itched but would not light. Markings Danarius wanted back. Fenris remembered the pain of getting them, agony excruciating enough to wipe out everything he was before. Here, in the Fade, staring into the eyes of a demon, the memory of that pain was so vivid he could taste bile in the back of his throat. "With my aid, you could be free forever. You could have power enough to challenge any who would chain you!"

Images of Danarius on his knees and begging for mercy replaced the memory of pain, and Fenris smiled.

"Fenris?" And that was another mage — his mage, a distant part of him struggled to remember. He turned to see that mage’s eyes wide and terrified on his. "Don’t you do this to me. Don’t you dare."

"My life does not revolve around the will of a mage," Fenris growled. He turned back to the demon and all else seemed to blur at the edges. "What… would you want from me?"

"A moment of your time," said the demon, "and nothing more."

Artemis stared at Fenris, at the lost light in his eyes, and shook his head. "Don’t do this to me," he said again in a broken voice as Fenris drew his sword. He made no move to defend himself as Fenris attacked.

Cormac turned like a well-trained mabari, eyes locked on Fenris, face a mask of rage, as he slapped Artemis behind him with one hand and swung his staff with the other. Fenris shot back and skidded across the room on his ass. "You stay away from my brother," Cormac roared.

Mine, mine, mine. Not yours. It echoed in his head as he stepped closer. "Close your eyes, Artie. Please. I don’t want you to see this." He clenched his fist, as Fenris struggled to his feet, and the elf went right back down. "It’s going to be fine. Just don’t watch. Don’t watch me do this."

Behind him, Justice engaged the demon, the clank of metal and the lack of breathing sounds a distinct reminder that Anders was not here. There was no healer. Just Cormac and this spirit-warrior. And Artemis, who wasn’t moving, as best Cormac could tell. He tried to stand in the way, to block the view with his body. And now the count was up to two. Twice today, he’d had to watch people he’d fought for and defended die. Twice today, he’d had to kill them, even if only in a dream. "Justice? Just keep it away from Artie!"

Cormac turned around in time to see a blade almost as large as Fenris’s plunge through the demon’s chest. In a blaze, the thing was gone.

"Artie?" Cormac lurched stiffly back to his brother’s side. "I’m sorry. I couldn’t let him— I love you. He’ll be waiting for you outside, and after that, it better be with embrium and whiskey, or I’ll punch him right in his stupid point-eared face all over again."

The words washed right over Artie, who just kept staring, unseeing, at where Fenris had been standing. His breathing was ragged and too fast.

Torpor’s words echoed through his head. If he’d taken the deal, Fenris wouldn’t have seen him as an enemy. If he’d taken the deal, Fenris wouldn’t be afraid of him. If he’d taken the deal, he wouldn’t have had to see this.

Artemis stared at the gore his brother had crushed the man he loved into and promptly lost his lunch on his brother’s feet.

"Oh, shit, Artie…" Cormac wrapped his arms around his brother, pulling him close. The boots… well, they were boots. He’d stepped in worse. It probably wasn’t real anyway. His brother, however, was the realest thing here, and at this point, almost the only thing that mattered. "Don’t look. He’s fine. He’s outside waiting for us. Demons, kiddo. It probably wasn’t even really him. I’m so sorry, Artie. I couldn’t — You’re my world."

And with that, Cormac started to shake again, tears streaming down his face, as he just kept holding on to Artemis. "Shit. Waterworks. Sorry. I’ll try not to get snot in your hair."

Artemis pressed his face into Cormac’s shoulder, eyes screwed tight against his own tears. He clutched at the arms around him, Cormac’s sleeves bunching under his fingers. He had to pull himself together. For his brother’s sake as much as his. He could have a proper breakdown later after a bottle of rum.

"I puked on your shoes," he said in a watery voice with a watery smile. "You’re allowed to get whatever you want in my hair."

Justice’s silence in the wake of that startled a hysterical laugh out of him. "Anders would have said something ridiculous to that," Artemis said. His tears kept falling, the blasted things.

"Come on. It’s just you and me and shouty, over there. Let’s get the kid, get out, and go the fuck home. We’ll get trashed and eat pastries. I’ll get Anders to give us both back massages." Cormac managed a shaky laugh and kissed his brother’s cheek. "I’ll let you sleep in my room, tonight, like when we were kids. Pillow fort. We can unscrew the brass bits of the bed and throw them at Anton."

"WE DO NOT HAVE MUCH TIME," Justice reminded them. "COME QUICKLY, BEFORE FEYNRIEL IS LOST TO US."

Artemis sucked in a breath and steeled himself, slowly disentangling himself from his brother. "I’ll hold you to that," he said with a shaky smile, wiping at his eyes with the heel of his hand. "And we can tease Carver about Merrill when we get back. Mum is going to have kittens."

Justice led the brothers out of that accursed room and back into the main entryway, where Feynriel stood, looking about him. "I’m not sure if this is real," he said as they approached. "If so, it is the second time I owe you my life." He offered the brothers and spirit a sheepish smile. "The Fade feels different now. I can see the stitches, the seams holding it together. I feel I could wake at any moment."

Artemis gave him a tired smile. "Dreamers control the Fade and the dreams of people in it," he said. "It’s a neat party trick, really."

And there was something to think about. As much as Artemis hated his own magic, his force magic, Feynriel’s gifts were much more terrifying.

"I see why the Chantry fears us! I’ve heard tales of magisters who stalked their enemies and used their own dreams to destroy them." Feynriel looked like that very thing was occurring to him, as well. "I must learn to master it, find someone to study under. The Dalish do not have what I need. Perhaps Tevinter. If these powers can be trained, it would be there. My mother would not look kindly on such a journey. Can you give her my farewell?"

"I could," Cormac admitted, "but you should do it yourself. You’ve faced demons. You should probably learn to stand up to your mum."

Feynriel huffed irritatedly. "But, it’s two days down the mountain and back into the city!"

"I’ll tell Marethari to wait for you, if you think you need backup." Cormac was grinning again, as if he were talking to his own brother. "But, she’s not a pride demon. She’s just your mum. Tell her not to worry. You’re going to a place where you’ll be taught how to be amazing, and then you can come bother her in her dreams. Look me up, sometime, too. Let me know how that’s going for you. I’d tell you to drop in on my brother, too, but I know the kinky shit that goes on in his head." He elbowed Artemis.

Artemis opened his mouth to argue, only to pause to consider that. He closed his mouth and nodded with a shrug.

Feynriel shook his head, smiling softly. He turned around and sucked in a breath, squaring his shoulders. "I can do this," he said. He waved his hand, and the air rippled, the Fade bending and warping again.


Artemis’s eyes fluttered open, and he found himself back in the Alienage, in Arianni’s rooms. The walls and floor were solid in a way the Fade hadn’t been, and Artemis was tempted to kiss them. "Oh, thank the Maker," he breathed. He looked about to see his brother and Anders stirring nearby, with Marethari standing over them. Fenris and Isabela were nowhere to be found, and for a moment, Artemis had to fight down his panic, worried that their deaths in the Fade had been more real than they’d thought.

Isabela kicked the door open. "Are they back yet?" she demanded, stopping as Cormac sat up, rubbing his eyes. "You killed me!"

"You stabbed me," he replied, voice pitching up in exasperation, "in the kidney!"

"I know." It was as close to an apology as one could expect from Isabela, and she made her way down the stairs, dropping into Cormac’s lap, with a smile. "Good on you. C’mere, Mage-Shoulders. I owe you a little something after that."

Cormac laughed. "After I get some real sleep, I’ll buy you a drink and loosen your teeth. We’ll both feel better. Demons, right?"

"How did you…?" Isabela asked, leaning back to squint at him.

"You didn’t have our dad, Izzy. You don’t say yes to demons, and you don’t say shit to templars. Doesn’t matter what they’re offering, they’re all lying." And that sparked an uncomfortable thought about Anton. "Where’s the broody death elf?"

"Outside having a nervous breakdown. What happened in there?" Isabela toyed with Cormac’s beard.

Cormac took a deep, shivery breath, and then heaved it back out. "Demons, Izzy. Demons. You stabbed me in the kidney. He—" He tipped his head at Artemis.

Isabela looked horrified. "No! I’d have thought he’d go for you! You’re the annoying one!"

"Fucking thanks, Izzy. See how much dick that gets you." Cormac laughed, coming up short as he remembered something. "Anders? Is that really you?"

Anders offered him a crooked smile. "Well," he said, looking down at his hands and turning them over, "I’m not glowing, so I guess it must be." He sucked in a breath. "Maker, that was weird. Like being a passenger in my own body." Which must be what it was like for Justice all the time. A trapped observer. "Can we not do that again? I could live without doing that again."

Artemis’s nervous laugh said he agreed. As it was, he wasn’t sure how he was going to sleep after that, if that’s where he went when he dreamed.

"Were you successful?" Marethari asked. "Your friends awakened before you did and did not know. Does Feynriel live?"

"Yes," Artemis replied. "He’s just peachy. He conquered his demons, and he’s not Tranquil or anything."

Marethari’s shoulders sagged in relief. "Then I shall tell Arianni," she said. "You have my thanks for your help in this matter." She bowed her head and ducked out of the door.

Cormac stood up, dropping Isabela on her ass. "Don’t look at me like that. You stabbed me in the kidney."

"You had shields! I didn’t even connect!" She was on her feet in less time than it took her to fall.

"It’s the principle of the thing," Cormac insisted, reaching out to help Anders up, before holding a hand out to Artemis. "You want to go home, Artie? We’ve got the real Anders back, and that means awesome back massages."

"It does!" Isabela agreed. "Oh, lucky you, tonight! Any chance I can borrow him, when you’re done?"

"What?" Anders sputtered. "Have you been bribing your brother with me? I am not a commodity! I am a mage!"

Cormac smiled at Anders, like the moon and all the stars shone out of his ass. "But, you’re the single most talented and amazing mage in all of Thedas! And nobody’s got hands like you do, Anders! Come on. We’ll get you drunk and load you up with sweet cakes and quail. We can all get trashed and ignore that any of that just happened, because I don’t really want to deal with it, and neither do you."

Anders looked at Cormac, at Artemis, at the twin pleading looks they were giving him, and sighed. Maker, these two were worse than any demon. "Fine," he sighed. "Though you will just have to find a way to make it worth my while." He smirked and winked at Isabela, who grinned.

Artemis was feeling all kinds of wrung-out. A massage and drinking himself stupid sounded divine in that moment, never mind how he tended to act when he was drunk. And Fenris…

Fenris was waiting just outside, wasn’t he?

"I don’t want to see him right now," he said, staring at the door. He trusted that he wouldn’t have to explain who he meant. He picked at a splinter in his staff. If he saw Fenris right now, he suspected he’d do something he’d regret.

"Izzy, you’re with me. Anders, don’t let anything happen to my brother." Cormac nudged Artemis back toward Anders, before opening the door for Isabela.

She preceded him out and spotted Fenris, immediately, as he rose to his feet, every inch of him tense and leaden. Cormac knew the feeling. Isabela shook her head. "He’s fine, Broody. Mostly."

"Mostly?" Fenris’s eyebrow lifted.

"Here’s what’s going to happen," Cormac said, pulling two sovereigns out of his pocket. "You and Isabela are going to go get smashingly drunk, together, and I’m going to take my brother home with me. I’ll talk to him. Demons, all right? I get it. You know I get it. He’ll come around. But, this is the last time, Fenris. You hurt him again, and they won’t find all the pieces of you, if they bring along a templar to sniff out the lyrium. That’s my little brother, and I won’t have it."

"And yet, you’ll have him," Fenris growled.

"You really want to have this conversation in front of Izzy?" Cormac asked, cocking a thumb at her. "You took a sword to Artemis. Yes, he’s pissed. You really don’t get to be. Not right now."

Isabela plucked the coins out of Cormac’s hand and wound her other arm through Fenris’s. "What’s this? Something filthy and exciting that Cormac doesn’t want to tell me? Let’s have a drink, Fenris, and you can tell me all about it, just to spite him."

"I need to tell him…" Fenris protested, ignoring Isabela.

"Not right now, you don’t. Go drink. Wallow in guilt. Whatever you have to do. But, Artie doesn’t want to look at you, right now, and I’m not sure I blame him." Cormac did not look amused, in the least, and with how often he smiled, even at the worst of times, it was that much more disturbing. "Just go. Somewhere not here. I need to get him home. When he’s ready to see you, he’ll come back to you. This is the last fucking time, Fenris."

Fenris’s eyes screwed shut. "It is," he said. "Or at least I pray it is. I do not enjoy hurting him any more than you do." Isabela tugged on his arm, and he allowed himself to be led away, shoulders slumped in defeat. He threw Cormac and the door one last desperate look before disappearing around the corner.