Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 62
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V1 D0)
Warnings: Don’t force magic the elf, improper uses for floor wax, accidental injury, wow damn you can say that in Latin
Notes: Cormac is a sweetheart. Artemis, however, is kind of an asshole. This is not the way that’s supposed to work, I’m sure of it.
Fenris watched Artemis flit back and forth, his desk the eye of his storm of activity. Books, parchment, inkpots, quills — more than one. Fenris wasn’t sure why he’d need more than one, but leave it to Artemis to have a spare… everything. ‘Just in case’, he was always saying. That was Fenris’s philosophy about wine. Spare bottle or three. Just in case.
Fenris cleared his throat as Artie moved the desk chair out of the way and force pushed a bench in the direction of the desk. "Orana will want to know what you — what we — would like her to cook for tonight," he said.
Artemis looked up as he straightened the bench. "Ah. Food. Haven’t thought about food. Do you have a preference?"
Fenris shrugged, a bit helplessly. He was used to scrounging food for himself, and before that he would just eat whatever his master would spare him. Food was fuel, something he’d often gone without, and though he’d developed a fondness for anything with apples, knowing he had an employee who would cook him anything was… well. Best to leave those decisions to Artemis.
And Artemis was giving him that funny look that said he knew what Fenris was thinking. "Never mind," he said. "I have something I’d like to talk about first. Come sit with me." He sat on one side of the bench and patted the vacant spot next to him.
Fenris could deny him nothing when Artemis smiled at him so hopefully. "Should I be worried?" he asked, sliding his rump onto the bench and sitting hip to hip with Artie. He considered the quills and parchment. "Are you going to ask me to draw dirty pictures too?"
Artemis chuffed and picked up a quill, checking its nib. "I did not realise that was one of your skills," he said. "You’ve been holding out on me."
"I did not say they were good dirty pictures," Fenris drawled. "Imagine a pair of sticks rutting and you get the idea." There had been quite a bit of wine involved in that discovery, if he recalled correctly.
"Now you definitely have to draw those later," Artemis laughed. "But, no, that’s…" He twirled the quill in his hand. "You said something in the Fade, about how you couldn’t read, and… Well. I thought I might teach you. If you like. Just an idea. If not, well, there’s plenty of parchment for those naughty stick-people to frolic on and —" He quieted when Fenris’s hand curled around his.
"Mage." It was difficult to speak with a lump in his throat. "I’d… I’d like that, yes." And Fenris thought it best to leave it at that, before his throat choked off words entirely.
A feather teased under his chin, and Fenris looked up to see Artemis’s eyes soft on his. The mage, his mage, his lovely mage, pressed the quill into Fenris’s hand, molded Fenris’s fingers around it in a way that he said Fenris would get used to with practice. Then Artemis picked up the second quill and dipped it in the ink, and Fenris mimicked his every motion.
After an hour, there was ink everywhere. Spattered across the parchment, some of it in shaky but recognisable shapes. Spattered across the open pages of a book, the desk, Artie’s sleeve. Fenris’s fingers were black with it and left fingerprints on everything he touched. He could feel Artemis twitching next to him with the desire to clean it up, but the mage kept smiling, kept ignoring it, for as long as Fenris wanted to continue the lesson.
They only paused when Orana peeked in to ask about the food herself.
Sometime after midday, Cormac went down to make sure Anders was eating. That was a thing. He didn’t. So, for months, Cormac had been making sure he did. And never just enough for Anders, either. Every day he went down to the clinc with a decent lunch for Anders and bread or cheese or day-old pastry for anyone else who happened to be there. Day-olds were easy. Anything that couldn’t be sold at the end of the day and was more than a shop could use would be cheap enough to just buy up, and not that Cormac didn’t think Lowtown needed that food, but Darktown needed it more. Yeah, he was bleeding money, but it wasn’t enough to be crippling, and people who liked you didn’t turn you in for being an apostate, as Anders had pointed out, more than once.
He kicked aside the curtain, making his way into the clinic with Anders’s lunch on one arm and a sack of rolls, in the other hand. "Anybody using that table? Somebody get the bottle off of it."
A couple who had been rolling bandages got up and dragged the table out into the middle of the room, and Cormac dropped the sack of rolls onto it. "Bread, today. It’s what I could get. Help yourselves, feed your neighbours. I’m going to go make sure your healer doesn’t work himself into a coma."
He turned around and called up the room, "Hey, Anders! Are you dead yet?"
Anders barely glanced up from where he stood, smoothing healing magic into an older woman’s broken hip. "Oh, hello, Cormac," he said, sounding as harried as he looked, hair coming free from its tie and spilling into his eyes. "Is it midday already? It can’t be midday yet." Not that he could tell with the meagre sunlight coming in, which. Well. Which was why it was called Darktown, wasn’t it?
The woman let out a sigh of relief, her whole body sagging with the motion. "Thank you, Messere," she said.
"Just Anders, please. I keep telling you. Now, you try to stay off your feet for a while. You know you shouldn’t be taking those stairs…"
As Anders gently admonished his patient, Ser Nibbles bounced across the room to see Cormac, fluffy little tail arced high in the air. He pawed at Cormac’s feet and looked at him seriously as he said, "Eee?"
"Aww! It’s Lord Assbiter! Who’s a fluffy little demon-spawn!" Cormac put the basket on a flat surface it probably didn’t belong on and crouched down to pick up the little cat, cradling him in one crooked arm. "You are! Yes! You are the furry little rage-demon who keeps sticking his claws where they don’t go!"
Cormac nuzzled the cat’s belly and promptly got bit on the eyebrow. He looked disapprovingly at the cat, and spoke to Anders, instead. "Who’s not serious? I’ll start getting people out of here. You take care of anything that might be an emergency, and then we’ll have lunch. You know you have to eat, or you’ll never have nice shoulders again, and you’ll just have to settle for envious thoughts about mine."
"I like your shoulders just fine," the old lady with the newly-repaired hip informed Anders. And winked.
Anders laughed nervously and helped her to the door, where her son waited. "Hear that, Cormac? You have competition." He squeezed Cormac’s arm on the way back. "Looks like there’s been an outbreak of the flu," he said. "I have one more bone to set, and then I’ll see what I can do for them. Just… look after them as best you can and make sure Lord Assbiter doesn’t bite off anybody’s toes. Or asses."
"I think he’s a little small to be biting off asses, just yet. I mean, you never know, maybe one day, he’ll be as big as Mintaka, and won’t we have troubles, then, but I can keep him off the toes." Cormac kissed Anders on the cheek, and across the room someone whistled. "You keep that up, and we’ll get to you last!"
For about an hour, they worked together. Cormac’s magic wasn’t much for healing, but he could fix the little things — scrapes and splinters, a couple of hairline fractures. Slowly, the clinic started to empty out, until there were more people working in it than patients. The sack of rolls was nearly empty.
Cormac looked back to where Anders was working on… someone. He couldn’t tell what the problem was from across the room. "Is that one bleeding? Some kind of critical?"
Blood flowed around Anders’s fingers as he tried to stem it, pushing enough magic into the injury to make sweat bead on his forehead. This man — his patient — had a gash running up the side of one leg, deep enough to nick an artery.
"Cormac, I could use a hand here," he called out. He was scraping the bottom of the barrel, magic-wise, after a morning of constant use. Thank the Maker Warden stamina was good for more than one thing, although this one thing was less fun.
Cormac didn’t even have to look at the shelves to know which one he was reaching for, the lyrium potion appearing in his hand as he crossed to Anders. There was still a cat on his shoulder, chewing on the ends of his hair, as he uncorked it and held the bottle to Anders’s lips. "Drink first. Then tell me what else you need."
This. Cormac hated to see this, almost as much as he hated to see Anders up for days, lost to the world, scrawling sentences that were missing the parts that would make them make sense. Cormac knew how they went together, though. He could find all the pieces in the scattered, ink-stained pages, and some nights, he would. He’d just sit and number the sections, as Anders knocked pages off the desk and tugged at his hair, unaware that Cormac was even in the room. There were two of them for a reason, Cormac figured. He thought that about his brothers, too, sometimes.
But, Anders pushed himself much too far, almost every day, and no man could live like that for long, but here they were, three years later, and Anders was … almost looking better, if one ignored how often Justice distracted him. Looking more solid, at least, less like he’d blow away in a stiff wind. He was going to change the world, and Cormac meant to help him do it. This man was what Cormac had been waiting for, for most of his life. He only wished his father had lived to see it.
Anders drank the potion at his lips without asking what it was. He knew it was lyrium, knew that Cormac knew his rhythms better than he did and would know what he needed. The taste was sharp on his tongue, invigorating, and he sucked in a deep breath before pressing more healing into the wound his fingers held shut, stitching the leg up with magic from the inside out.
"Thank you," Anders said when he had the space to do so. "Keep him still for me." He trusted Cormac to do that too and slowly, painstakingly, finished closing up the man’s wound.
Anders straightened and stretched his back with a satisfying crack. Offering Cormac a tired smile, he went over to the patient’s family to tell them he would be fine and that he was sleeping for the moment. While they checked on him, Anders sat on the edge of the cot Purrcy had claimed and scratched under the cat’s chin.
"You’re covered in blood, sweet thing," Cormac said, quietly, holding out a damp rag. He didn’t seem at all unsettled by this. It was just the way things were. "I got you cabbage salad and pork pies."
He dabbed at a blood spatter on Anders’s cheek, when the rag didn’t leave his hand fast enough, and after a moment, Anders took it. "One step at a time, right? I’m pretty sure you don’t want to eat until after you wash, and there’s nobody here who’s going to drop dead if you take the time to eat. I checked. Just some more of the flu." He leaned down closer to Anders’s ear. "And as much as I enjoy you as you are, the idea of you with shoulders like fucking buttresses just turns me on. Immensely. I’m always so afraid I’m going to break you, but, well… you are the healer. You’re looking a little less like bones, lately, though. It’s a good look on you, actually having flesh."
Cormac sat down and unpacked lunch between them, nudging Purrcy out of the way. Purrcy flopped over an inch to the side and curled right back up, purring up to his name.
Anders smiled at them both as he wiped off his hands, scrubbing a bit at the caked-in blood around his nailbeds. "Shoulders like ‘buttresses’, hmm?" he said, poking at a bite of pork pie. "So I can just pick you up and throw you over my shoulder whenever I like?" He did miss having thicker shoulders. Thicker everything, really. "I could say something about you liking your men bigger, but we both know that."
Maker, but food tasted divine after all that. Lyrium was good in a pinch, but food and rest were the best ways to recuperate. Facts he often forgot applied to himself.
"I may be short, but I’m not tiny. I like someone I’m not going to accidentally turn into a pudding with a firm hug. Well, not in the bad way, anyway. I do like it when I can turn you all gooey in the good ways." Cormac snagged a pork pie for himself. Thank the Maker for a proper Fereldan restaurant. "Haven’t seen you in bed, all week. You all right?"
Cormac knew exactly where Anders had been. He’d been there, too, but Anders didn’t need to know that. He’d figure it out eventually, looking at the notes, and Cormac would bullshit about having gotten bored while Anders was working in the clinic. Cormac had stopped sleeping the way people usually slept, taking little naps between things, instead. Rout a gang in Lowtown, catch a couple of hours. Go talk to Aveline about the lily killer, have a nap — sometimes in her office, which just annoyed her to no end. Anton had told him Aveline was starting to worry, but Cormac passed it off with a joke about stairs and getting old.
Anders chewed on his cabbage salad as an excuse not to answer for a moment. He considered telling him, about the black-outs, the gaps in his memory that were getting closer and closer together. He’d been in Lowtown last night, heading for the Hanged Man, only to find himself bent over his desk with a familiar cramp in his back and a dried-up quill in his hand.
Anders looked at Cormac and ended up saying, "Oh, I’ve just been busy. You know how it is. A gorgeous healer is always in high demand for one reason or another. Have you been missing the flagpole so terribly?" He smirked at Cormac through a large bite of pork pie, and really, only Anders could smirk with his cheeks bulging like a chipmunk’s.
"I miss the flagpole every second of the day that I’m not sitting on it." Cormac smiled widely, mischief in his eyes. He wanted to call Anders out on it, but then he’d have to admit he’d been there. A hundred and something hours, at this point, Anders had been awake, as far as Cormac could tell. He wondered how much lyrium was needed to support that kind of … dedication. "Come to bed, tonight. I mean it. Yes, Justice, I can hear you disapproving from here. Shut up. Anders needs to get laid." No, Anders needed to sleep, but they’d get there.
They were interrupted by a sudden flutter of motion at the front of the room. Wasn’t that his brother’s cook? What was she doing down here?
"Messeres! It’s…" She paused to catch her breath.
"Is anyone dying?" Cormac asked.
"Not dying, no." Orana continued to look somewhat uncomfortable.
"Good! I’m not worried." Cormac grinned.
Anders took pity on the poor woman. "Alright," he sighed. "What have Messeres Fartemis done this time?"
"I think maybe, you should come with me, Messere…"
The first thing Fenris was aware of was the new sheets Artemis had bought. Some sort of Orlesian thing. They’d been sliding off him all night, much to his dismay, and taking the blanket with them. Now, the blanket was on the floor, Fenris was freezing, and the sheets were still slippery. Which he was suddenly reminded as he rolled over to grab the blanket, and slid off the bed. "Fasta vass!"
Fine. The sheets had a vendetta or something. He’d just take the blanket and go sleep on the rug by the fire. Except that involved getting up and the floor seemed to be suffering the same issue as the sheets, for some reason. "Futue tuam matrem auri!" His legs headed in opposite directions, and he threw himself at the floor, defensively.
"Artemis, tu fututor matris, what have you done to the floor?" Fenris shouted, clutching the floor for dear life. Except that didn’t work, because the floor in here was stone, and the seams were nearly invisible.
Artemis came gliding into the doorway in socked feet, hands spread palm-out to keep his balance. "Good morning, Fenris," he said with the cheeriest smile. Fenris would crawl over to him and strangle him for that smile if his body could remember how friction worked. "What did you call me? You spit ‘fututor’ to yourself often enough that I guess it means fuck or fucker. Did you call me a mattress fucker?"
"No, I— argh!" Fenris’s fingers scrambled along the floor. "With those sheets, you can’t do anything except fall to your death on that mattress anyway!"
"Oh, yes, the new sheets. Do you like them? That’s the Orlesian silk I told you about. Remember?" Artemis’s grin was equal parts sweet and mischievous. "As for the floor, I waxed it this morning. I thought it could use a little shine."
"Wax. On the floor?" Fenris looked at Artemis as if he’d gone mad. He remembered the gleam of the floors in Tevinter, but they weren’t… deathtraps! Well, except the ones that were, but those weren’t … this. "Why would you do this? Is there not some less deadly way to, as you say, shine the floors?"
He pulled the corner of the blanket over himself, carefully. "And I’m sure you tidied my trousers into oblivion, again. Would you please bring me something to wear, before Orana comes running about the noise?"
"Oh, Orana has heard worse noise and seen worse things from you," Artemis said, sliding a little ways into the room, pushing one foot one front of the other as if he were skating. "And I’m rather enjoying watching you slide about on your lovely rump."
Fenris growled up at the mage and hated that his glare only seemed to make Artemis’s shoulders shake with suppressed laughter. "This is not funny, mage. Fetch me my trousers."
Artemis tutted and slid over to the closet. "I think every bard that describes elves as graceful needs to see you first thing in the morning."
Before he could respond, Fenris found himself with a faceful of pants. "My buttocks thank you."
Now, of course, the issue remained of how to actually wear the pants. Standing up, like a normal person, seemed to be right out, so he tucked his feet into the legs and lifted them, pulling down toward his body. He didn’t usually think about how tight he wore his clothes, but times like this, he’d make an exception, and he smacked his elbow into the floor, several times, spinning himself around.
He glared at Artemis. "Stop laughing! You got dressed when the floor was still a floor, and not some lunatic’s impression of a floor, based on the remembrances of a drunken cleric sliding down a window!"
Artemis leaned against the wall, making high-pitched wheezing sounds he was laughing so hard. If Fenris glared any harder, Artemis would catch fire. "I’m sorry," Artemis panted. "But you just… you’re like an angry wet cat."
Fenris snarled and attacked his pants with renewed determination, ears vibrating.
Artie snatched up his staff from where he’d tucked it against the doorjamb, and then he slid over the flailing elf. With a strategic poke of his staff, Fenris went spinning again.
"Mage!" Fenris rolled to his knees, tugging the pants up over his hips. He tied one knot, just to keep them mostly closed, then slid one foot out in front of him. He could walk on ice, for Andraste’s sake. He could do this. He shifted his weight to his toes, as he stood, lunging forward before his foot shot out from under him, and catching himself on the other foot, almost well enough to stay up. Almost. Both hands shot out and grabbed Artemis’s staff, to steady him.
"And now, I’m awake." There were too many teeth in that smile, and Fenris clicked them together teasingly, just shy of Artemis’s nose.
"And so you are," Artemis said with a smile of his own. Letting go of his staff, Artie propelled himself backward with a push of force magic, grinning and waving his fingers as he slid back out of the room, perfectly balanced.
Fenris leaned backward to compensate for the change of weight, using the staff to balance himself. Mages. Always mages.
"This—! This is not the way I meant to spend my morning," Fenris complained, spreading his feet and settling his weight more firmly. If what he was seeing worked then… He leaned forward and crouched slightly, before shoving off the side of the bed, using the staff.
"Hah!" Just like paddling a boat, he told himself, and that was something he knew how to do. After a few more tests, he shoved himself out the door, after Artemis. "Didn’t think you’d confound me for that long, did you?"
"For that long?" Artie repeated. "Maker, no. You’re moving slow this morning." He slid a few steps towards Fenris, then propelled himself forward again, the spark of magic making the lyrium on Fenris’s skin prickle. Artemis slid just past him and spun, pinching Fenris’s ass and making him jump before flying backwards again. Artemis’s cackling was cut short when he clipped a doorframe on the way back, sending him spinning.
Fenris lashed out with the staff, just close enough to get in one good shove, knocking Artemis into the open room. "Got you now!" he crowed, poling his way the last few feet down the hall and into the room. He knew he’d get the hang of it, eventually. Except… shit. Force magic. He spun the staff out and caught himself in the doorway. There was a way around even this. There was always a way… He was still in the doorway, which meant he had a bit of a hand up, yet.
Then Artemis came gliding at him across the floor, hands outstretched and knees bent to tackle him, and Fenris pushed off one side of the doorframe, spinning to the side out of Artie’s way. Artemis shot back out through the doorway, just missing him, and spun back to face him, laughing. "See? I told you we didn’t need a rug up here," he said. The others he had rolled up and to the side for the waxing, but he was rather enjoying this set-up.
They slid around each other on bare and socked feet, eyeing each other. Then Artemis curled a finger in a beckoning motion, and Fenris found himself shoved at the mage.
Fenris braced the staff along one arm, stretching it out to the side, as he flew toward Artemis. He could still come out of this on top. The staff caught Artemis in the chest, and he bounced off the rail, spinning around the decorative pillar that marked the head of the stairs.
"No!" Fenris dropped the staff and grabbed Artemis, but it was too late and they both pitched down the stairs, Fenris rolling to pull Artemis on top of him, before they collided with any steps. The journey to the bottom was short and painful, and then the staff caught up, slamming into Fenris’s clenched teeth before it rolled off to the side, somewhere.
"… Mages," Fenris sighed, as his mouth filled with blood.
Artemis groaned against Fenris’s chest, pulling his hand out from under them to clutch his shoulder. "Well," he choked out, "that ended about as well as I expected."
Anders found them on that staircase shortly after, though they were, by then, in less of a heap. And sitting upright. For certain values of upright. Artie leaned against the bannister with one hand clutching the opposite shoulder. Fenris had a hand to his mouth and a drying trail of blood down his chin and chest.
Anders stood over them with his arms folded across his chest. "Now, children, what have I said about running in the house?"
Fenris gave him a rude gesture.
"It wasn’t running," Artie mumbled. "We were…" He made a swooping motion with the arm not bent at a painful angle. "…sliding. Ish."
"Stupid mage floors," Fenris mumbled. Artemis nodded.
"Do I even…?" Anders shook his head and glanced around. "I thought it looked a little shiny in here. This place looks great."
Anders continued to examine the main hall, while he channelled healing toward Fenris. "I love the sconces. Who picked those?"
"I did, messere." Orana stepped in, behind him, having finished whatever she was doing in the entrance hall. "The old ones were broken and much too gaudy."
"Smile for me, Fenris?" Anders crouched in front of him. "I just want to make sure I didn’t do something ugly to your face."
Fenris’s ‘smile’ looked more like a sneer.
"I don’t think his face gets any uglier than that," Artemis mumbled.
Anders shrugged. "Close enough." He reached for Fenris’s chin before thinking better of it. "Looks good," he decided. "You’ll be back to biting my head off again in no time." He patted Fenris’s head.
"I’ll be biting your hand off in a moment," Fenris growled.
Artemis nudged Fenris’s ribs with his elbow. "Be nice," he said. "The healer just fixed your pretty face."
"Still think you’re prettier than he is," Anders said, backing up and gesturing to the floor. "If you did what I think you did, I need you to lie down, so I have the angle to put it back in, and you don’t wind up with a completely useless arm that doesn’t hurt."
"Usually someone buys me a drink before saying that," Artie said with a weak smile.
"I’ll get you a drink when you’ve got enough feeling in your fingers not to pour it into your lap." Anders helped Artemis into a reasonable position on the floor, bracing one hand under his shoulder and using the other hand to pull Artemis’s wrist down toward his knee. The shoulder hand flooded the joint with healing, as Anders carefully reseated it. The grinding squishing sounds were far more comforting than the choked noises of panic coming out of Artemis.
"You’re fine. Give me a minute. I need to convince it not to swell up. If it swells, you’re going to stop being fine." Anders let go of Artemis’s wrist and tucked that hand behind the shoulder, checking the shoulderblade and the ribs. "Yeah, that wasn’t too bad. You must have just caught it and twisted it on the way down."
"Fuck. Fuckity fuckpie, that hurts," Artemis said through grit teeth. He cautiously shook out his arm as he sat up. "All the times I’ve force pushed Carver down the stairs, he’s landed on his ass with nothing but a bruise. I fall once and dislocate my shoulder. Well done, me."
"But you saved your own ass, which is much nicer," Anders said, squeezing Artie’s uninjured shoulder.
Fenris’s answering growl promised some kicking of asses if Anders continued in this vein.
"I think I’ll just leave you two feral love-badgers to continue with your … er … sliding." Anders grinned and got to his feet. "Have you mentioned Cormac’s … suggestion, yet? Me, I’ve got no investment, either way, but … If you’re going to be knocking people down the stairs for a lark…"
He headed for the door, winking at Orana on his way out. "You’re welcome to come see me for non-critical things, too."
Fenris narrowed his eyes at Anders’s back, then turned that narrowed look at Artemis. "What’s this about ‘Cormac’s suggestion?" he asked.
Artemis’s gaze skittered away, looking at everything that wasn’t Fenris, and his ears turned red. "Uh. Yes. About that." Artemis coughed into his fist. "We might need to be a bit drunker before talking about that."
Fenris frowned, ears twitching. "So it was that kind of suggestion."