Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 30
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Bethany Hawke ♀, Carver Hawke ♂, Leandra Amell ♀, Anton Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V1 D0)
Warnings: Dried blood, scavenger hunt gone wrong, Anders is fucked the fuck up, Cullen sputters
Notes: Bethany and Carver discover they have a cousin. ANDERS AND CULLEN HAVE A CIVILISED CONVERSATION! … Almost. Ish. NOBODY GETS KILLED.
"So, mum, what if I told you you’ve got a niece?" Carver leaned on the table, flakes of mud and dried blood peeling off his armour.
"That’s no way to tell her!" Bethany followed him in, sighing, looking just as clean as when she’d left the house, despite having traipsed across half of Darktown and crushed the life out of a few bandits. "Uncle Gamlen’s got a daughter. Her name’s Charade. And before you get on his case for not telling you, he didn’t know, either. She seems like a nice enough girl."
"Nice enough? Nice enough to almost get us killed, you mean!" Carver complained.
"She wasn’t trying to get us killed! It’s not really her fault, she just picked a bad team to man the scavenger hunt." Bethany shook her head. "Honestly, Carver, you’re just determined not to like her."
"She’s Gamlen’s get. What’s to like?"
Leandra stared at the two of them, across her tea, unmoving. "Begin at the beginning. Gamlen has a daughter? How old is she? How did you meet her?"
"She set us up, that’s how," Carver grumbled.
"She’s about our age, mum. I guess her mum didn’t tell Uncle Gamlen what was going on — she just disappeared. Something about a jewel?"
"The Gem of Keroshek?" Leandra looked surprised. "He spent years looking for that thing. Ever since he heard about it as a teenager. I’m sure he thought he could pay his debts with it, later, but he just wanted it for the glamour, when we were young."
"Well, she found the stupid thing, and sent him a note," Carver explained, picking at a bloodstain. "And he didn’t want anything to do with it. Thought it was a trap. Which it was. But, Beth, here, wouldn’t let it go. So we went on this stupid scavenger hunt all across the worst of Kirkwall—"
"Oh, the Alienage wasn’t so bad! We got to stop and have tea with Merrill." Bethany smiled. "I think she’s sweet on you, Carver."
"What? Don’t say stupid things." Carver flushed. "Anyway, some guys decided to kill us for the gem, because they thought we had it for some stupid reason. Why we would have it when they were supposed to give us the next clue to find it is beyond me."
"Obviously, they failed," Bethany pointed out. "They were expecting Gamlen, not us. I almost feel sorry for them."
"And finally after slogging through sewers and fish-guts, we find the damned girl, and she has the damned gem, and she tells us what’s going on. Why couldn’t she just go knock on his door, like a normal person?" Huffing, Carver ran a hand through his hair and crossed his arms over his chest.
"Have you met our family?" Bethany asked, amused. "Since when are any of us normal people?"
"Me, okay? Me. I’m normal people," Carver insisted.
"Of course you are, dear," Leandra reassured him. "How do you know she’s not…?"
"Please, mum, who would go to Uncle Gamlen, now?" Bethany pointed out, quite sensibly. "She’d have come to us, if it was about money or title. Besides, Uncle Gamlen says she looks just like her mother, and the Maker’s grace for that."
"His words, mum." She shrugged.
"Her friends are all back-stabbing sewer-rats. I should know. They tried to stab me in the back," Carver complained. "Nothing good will come of her, and keep her away from Anton, or Aveline will have our heads!"
"Oh, come on, Carver, I think Anton’s got enough in him to escape notice! He’s kept up this long!" Bethany winked over Carver’s shoulder, and Anton swaggered into the room.
"Someone taking my name in vain, again?" he asked, kissing Leandra on the cheek, as he leaned over to steal a tea cake.
"Vain’s the only way to take your name, Anton, and your vanity will be the death of all of us." Bethany grinned.
"Bethany! Don’t speak to your brother like that!" Leandra scolded, before noticing she’d been relieved of a cake and Anton was suspiciously quiet. She squinted suspiciously at Anton, whose cheeks bulged around his determinedly innocent smile. "I take it back. Speak to your brother however you like."
Leandra pinched Anton just above the hip and he bent to the side, choking and laughing, cake crumbs falling from his mouth. She did it again, and he cursed her.
"Shit! Mum! Ow!" Anton laughed, spraying cake crumbs across the carpet.
"When you’re done making Artie cry, I should tell you about your cousin. Our cousin." Bethany smiled in that way Anton had learnt to fear.
"What’s the price?" he asked, stumbling away from their mother.
"Lunch at that Nevarran place."
Leandra opened her mouth, but Anton cut her off. "Yes, mum, the orange pastries you like. I promise."
"You see that?" she said to Carver. "At least one of you boys knows what’s going on."
Carver rubbed his face, irritatedly, and then headed back toward the door. "You’re all crazed. I’m going to go play cards with Donnic. If I’m not home tonight, assume I drank myself into a stupor and it’s your fault."
"Poor bastard," Anton said, holding his arm out to Bethany, "you’d think he’d have got the hang of us by now."
"Not really. He’s my twin, remember? All the best got saved for last." Bethany wrapped her arm through Anton’s and led him in the direction of the door. "How are things with you and Cullen? Tell me everything!"
Cullen had sent the letter off weeks ago. A nice missive to the Warden-Commander in Amaranthine, inquiring about the presumed apostate, Anders. He’d still been seeing Anton, since, but things had been a little strained. He wasn’t sure how to handle the idea of dating a man who consorted with an apostate. Of course, if a positive response came back, then he could push his reservations aside.
Anders wouldn’t be the first mage from Kinloch Hold to become a Warden. After that nonsense with the blood mage and the sister, that Amell girl he’d liked had been taken away by the Wardens. And Anders had disappeared around the same time, so maybe that was it. Maybe the Wardens had taken him, too, just to rid the tower of responsibility for him. After all, a Warden was just as likely to be killed in battle, and that battle at Ostagar was still ahead. They’d sent so many mages down, but the only one who came back, he thought, had been Enchanter Wynne. Anders had been Wynne’s student, hadn’t he? He thought that was right. So much had happened so fast, right in there, though, and so little of it good.
Cullen was so deep in thought he almost walked into the squire jogging his way. "A letter arrived for you, Captain," she said, cheeks red from the wind and exertion. It bore the seal of Amaranthine. Cullen swallowed and nodded, taking the letter from her.
"Thank you," he said. "You may go about your duties."
The squire saluted and jogged back the way she had come. Cullen tapped the letter against his palm nervously before opening it. He was making his armour rattle again.
There was something familiar about the handwriting, he decided. The forward slant. The small letters. It was writing used to being crammed into margins of books or small notes passed in the hallway. It was… it was Solona Amell’s handwriting, he realised, skimming to the signature, seeing her name written boldly, proudly, after the title Warden-Commander.
Warden-Commander Solona Amell, the Hero of Ferelden. He’d… spent too much time at Greenfell. They made sure he hadn’t gotten much news, with the state he’d been in, but somehow, he’d just assumed she hadn’t lived. That was how the stories went, weren’t they?
But, here she was, Arlessa of Amaranthine, writing him a letter that — Oh. She’d thought he’d killed himself, when they wouldn’t tell her what happened to him. Poor girl. Had she really cared? And now she was married to an elf and looking after the Wardens. Good for her. They’d never have worked out — a Templar and a mage, and from the same circle — someone would have put a stop to that, eventually. And look, someone had.
And yes, she knew Anders — she’d worked with him for a few months, in Amaranthine, before sending him to Kirkwall, which she’d heard was badly short of Wardens, to hold back the tide and protect the refugees. He was, in fact, a Warden, and in Kirkwall on Warden business. Well. Not an apostate after all. Cullen would have to apologise for his assumptions.
And what a relief that was. He had enough nightmares from Kinloch Hold. He didn’t need to be digging up past ghosts, and he didn’t need anything to come between him and Anton. Anton, who’d be relieved to hear the news. Anton who… had the same dark hair and roguish smile as his cousin, now that Cullen stopped to think about it.
"Huh." Turned out he had a type.
Cullen passed Emeric on the way to his chambers, planning to get changed and head over to the Amell — Hawke — Estate. "Greetings, Captain," said the older Templar. He was looking a bit worn, cheeks thin and eyes determined, but he conjured a smile for Cullen. "Going to see your lady friend?"
"I… er… yes. Lady friend." Bethany counted as a friend, didn’t she? "You’re not looking well. Is there trouble? Do you need some time off?"
"I keep looking at these murders. I’m sure they’re all the same killer, but the guards don’t see it that way, and I’m just one man," Emeric sighed. "Would you take a look for me, Captain? Maybe if you find the same thing, they’ll listen to you."
"Show me what you’ve got, and I’ll take it to the Commander for you. If there’s someone on a murder spree in this town, we’ll get it sorted out. It’s not really our job, but if people are getting killed, we can definitely get the guard involved." Cullen shrugged. "Leave what you’ve got on my desk, and I’ll take a look, when I get back. And take tomorrow for yourself. You can’t do anyone much good if you’re stumbling around half-alive."
Emeric nodded, and Cullen couldn’t tell if the smile he gave him was grateful or resigned. A death in Kirkwall was hardly a shock, though a handful raised some eyebrows. Either way, he owed it to the man to check it out.
First, however, came Anton and the — and Anders. Once out of his plate, Cullen marched to the Hawke Estate and knocked on the door. He remembered the first and second time he’d knocked on that door, first to the party, second with an orchid balanced on one arm. How nervous he had been that second time. How much had changed since the first.
Bodhan answered, as always. "Ah, good afternoon, Knight-Captain! Do come in! I shall fetch Messere Anton right away."
Leandra bustled into the front hall. "Did you say ‘Knight-Captain’? Is that my son’s beau? Oh! What a handsome young man! How dashing!"
Cullen blushed profusely. Anton’s mother. Maker. He’d never been introduced. "Lady Amell?" he assumed, bowing.
"And so polite!" Leandra smiled brightly. "Come in, Knight-Captain! Have a cup of tea with me, while we wait for Anton. Tell me, how did you meet my son? What brought you two together?"
Cullen hadn’t been aware he could turn any redder than he was, but he was relatively sure his face was going to combust. "I-I, er… that is…"
"The party, Mother." Cullen sagged in relief when Anton came to his rescue, sauntering in to put a hand on his shoulder. "He came on behalf of the Order." He offered Cullen his most pleasant smile, and somehow that just made Cullen blush harder. "He looked so dashing in his Templar armour."
If Leandra looked any more gleeful, she would start to vibrate.
Cullen cleared his throat. "I, er. Anton." Words. In the correct order. He should be familiar with the concept by now. "The letter… the letter has arrived. From the Warden-Commander."
"And what has the Warden-Commander of Amaranthine got to tell us, hm?" Anton’s hand slid down, arm wrapping around Cullen’s waist.
"I, that is, I mean to say— I’m sorry."
For a moment, Anton couldn’t tell if that was good news or bad news. "Sorry?"
"For calling your friend a maleficar." Cullen rubbed his forehead and looked at the floor.
"A maleficar!? Here?" Leandra looked like she might faint, and Anton just gave her the driest look in his facial vocabulary. Because she had room to talk.
"No, mum, he got upset about Anders. Our Grey Warden friend." He left out any mention of Cormac, if only because making this more complicated was quite possibly the worst possible idea.
"Oh," breathed Leandra, brow knitting. "Oh. Oh dear."
"It’s… it’s fine, Lady Amell," Cullen insisted, fidgeting with the letter in his hand. He’d already given himself a papercut doing that. "I-I just misunderstood the situation."
Anton plucked the letter from Cullen’s fingers and read it himself, eyebrows raising. "She certainly vouches for him," he said, cutting a look to Cullen. "Did you know her? My cousin?"
Blushing. Cullen swore he was always blushing when he was in this room. Or this house. Or… anywhere around Anton. "Er. That is…"
"It sounds here like you did," Anton said with a mischievous smile.
"I, er, we…" Cullen coughed and tried again. "I was at her Harrowing. When she, er, became a proper mage. It was, you know, kind of a big thing."
"Not a coat-closet affair, then?" Anton teased. "Anders tells me a lot of that went on at Kinloch Hold."
Cullen looked like he might melt through the floor. "What? No. I— that is — no, nothing like that. She was a mage. That— no. That would never—…"
Leandra swatted Anton on the shoulder. "Anton! Don’t embarrass the man!"
"Why would I not? It’s adorable!" Anton laughed.
Cullen tried to hide the worst of his blush behind his hand. Maker. He was not having this discussion in front of Anton’s mother. "Anton, do you think we could, er — is Anders around, do you think?"
Anton gave Cullen a speculative look. He wasn’t sure it was a good idea for a Templar to be around Anders, even just to apologize, but… "Mum, have you felt the house shake at all in the last few hours?"
Leandra gave him a puzzled look. "I don’t believe so. Why?"
"No reason." That was one brother likely not naked in the basement. As for the other… "Have you seen Cormac?"
"He’s in the library, I think. He’s been reading an awful lot of terrible Orlesian novels about Nevarra. Should I be concerned?" Leandra raised an eyebrow.
"He’s just practising to give Bethy a hard time. Don’t worry about it. You know how she gets about actual Nevarran history." Anton shrugged. "Cormac usually knows where Anders is. Let’s go disrupt his sleeping under books."
"And tell him to get his feet off the table," Leandra threw in. "A pleasure to meet you, Ser Cullen. You’ll have to join us for dinner, one night."
Maker. The thought of all these Hawkes under one roof, surrounding one table… "I-I would be delighted, Lady Amell," he said. And terrified, but she didn’t need to know that.
"Cormac!" Anton shouted from the library doorway, poking his head inside. "Wake up!" Leandra tutted at the lack of manners and offered Cullen an apologetic smile before taking her leave.
"Fwhat!?" Cormac sat up and dumped the book in his lap, blinking owlishly. "Oh. You. What?"
"Go find Anders. Cullen wants to apologise." Anton leaned in the doorway in such a way as to display Cullen, behind him.
"I— er — what I mean to say is… thank you." Cullen rubbed at his face and stepped back behind Anton. "I remember what you said, the other night, and thank you. And, I’m sorry I called your friend a maleficar."
"So am I. He’s still pretty bent out of shape about that, you know. And I imagine you know why." Cormac stood, giving Cullen a hard look. "I’ll go get him. I might give him one free swing, if he decides to punch you, though. Just the one."
"Punch?" Cullen sputtered. Oh dammit. Maybe he should have stayed in the plate mail.
"Just one," Anton reassured him, patting his arm. "Though I have to warn you, he has a surprisingly good right hook for a mage. Keep an eye out for that."
Cullen gave Anton a resigned look, but the man chuckled and kissed his cheek. He didn’t think he deserved to be punched. He was merely doing his duty.
Minutes passed, and then some more minutes, and finally, Cormac returned leading an extremely reluctant Anders, who was still complaining, when they stepped into the library.
"Fine, great, he’s made a mistake and Solona straightened him out. What the fuck else does that have to do with me?" Anders looked terrified, when he laid eyes on Cullen, a dreadful spackle-white shade.
"Be kind, sweet thing. He’s just trying to apologise for being a horse’s ass." Cormac’s arm was wrapped around Anders’s waist, and it looked like he might be in some way either supporting or restraining the taller man.
"Might as well apologise for being a Templar," Anders spat.
"He wakes up screaming, just like you," Cormac pointed out.
"I don’t scream," Anders protested.
"Which is even more terrifying."
Cullen cleared his throat. He didn’t quite know what to do with his hands in this situation either. "Er, hello, Anders."
Cullen didn’t know two words could hold such contempt. But at least Anton’s hand was still on his arm, his thumb tracing soothing circles. "I wanted to apologise for, as Cormac put it, ‘being a horse’s ass’." He gave the Hawke brother in question a bland look. "I’m… I’m sorry for calling you a maleficar. It’s… just what I learned in the Circle."
Anders stared him down stonily, and Cullen could have sworn he saw blue flash across his eyes.
"Er, I’m… that is, I’ll make sure the other Templars leave you alone in the future as well. So you can focus on your… Warden duties. Whatever they are."
"Funny, the last time someone told me that, I got stabbed in the chest." Anders tried so hard to ignore the rush he felt listening to this Templar stutter. "How did you even end up here? You were new. You were nearly no-one, the last time I saw you, and here we are not three years later, and you’re suddenly the Knight-Captain of Kirkwall. I’d never accuse the Order of making sense, but that’s a step out even for you guys."
"I, er, I have a bad feeling they wanted someone who would sit down and shut up. I, well… I always trusted, you know?" Cullen laughed and looked at anything that wasn’t Anders. "I guess they forgot they picked the guy who survived the demons."
And that shut Anders up for a minute.
Anton looked back and forth between the two men. The tension was thick enough to cut with a knife, but no one had been punched and there had been a minimum amount of glowing. He was impressed.
"Anyway. There you have it," said Cullen. "I misjudged you, and I apologise." He wondered if Anders would have done the same but was far too polite to say so. "So… I might as well take my leave. Anton, m-may I call on you tonight?"
"You may call on me right here on this desk, if you like."
Cullen coughed and smirked through another blush. "I’ll take that as a yes."
"Whatever you do on the desk, don’t get it on Bethany’s notes. She’ll come after me, first!" Cormac protested.
Anders had one more thing to say. "Ser Cullen, I—" This was utterly insane, and he knew it, thank you Justice, but he was sure it was the right thing to do. "I would hear about the demons. Another time. I passed my Harrowing. I survived them, too."
Cullen held out his hand. "Another time, Warden."