Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 66
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Isabela ♀, Varric ♂
Rating: M (L3 N0 S0 V0 D1)
Warnings: Awkward conversations about terrible things, prelude to Hawkeward Hawke-on-Hawke action, confused!Fenris, oh my god Artemis
Notes: Should I say it with flowers? The answer is always yes. More Wicked Grace. A conversation about Cormac’s… suggestion.
"You are — That is — Fenris, you’re doing clean wrong."
Fenris stilled, the knife he was using as a strigil pausing mid-scrape down his shoulder. He wasn’t aware one could do clean wrong, but then again, Artemis was a master of the Neurotic Arts. "Um." He looked down at his naked body, his right ear twitching.
Artemis cursed under his breath and stepped into the bathroom properly, shutting the door behind him. "Sorry," he muttered. "That… came out funny. What I mean is, there’s a bathtub right next to you, and we have running water. Why are you…? Hang on. Is this a Tevinter thing? This is a Tevinter thing, isn’t it. Maker, I sound like an ass."
Artemis bit his tongue long enough to truly appreciate the sight in front of him. The oil Fenris was scraping off made him glisten in the sunlight, highlighting the sleek perfection of Fenris’s body. Isabela would have kittens, if she saw this.
Andraste’s tits, maybe Artie was the one doing clean wrong.
"I use the water to rinse off after," Fenris said slowly, finally lowering the hand holding the strigil. He just looked confused.
Right. Slave. Maker. "Hang on," Artemis said, scratching his jaw. "Fenris. Have you never had a hot bath?"
Fenris’s jaw worked around words for a moment. There had been that one time in Seheron, when he’d stumbled on those hot springs. He’d fallen asleep, much to his dismay, and woken to find his fingers pruny and his pants stolen. But a hot bath at home? "That is… that is a mage thing," he said, barely biting back any lingering contempt at the word ‘mage’. Those mages. Tevinter mages. Not his mage.
And… oh. Mage. He had a mage now, didn’t he?
Artemis clucked his tongue and sauntered over, brushing his lips against Fenris’s and smiling. "I suppose it is," he said. "And now I’ll make it a broody-elf thing. You just stand there and glisten for a moment, while I take care of this."
Turning the strigil over in his hand, Fenris watched Artie draw him a bath, long fingers dipping into the water and making it ripple with magic. When Fenris sank into that water, those same long fingers teased along his scalp and trailed down his neck to knead at knotted shoulders. Fenris all but purred under the attention, at the clever press of his mage’s hands and the curl of heat soaking into sore muscles. Now this, he thought, was the height of decadence.
Fenris almost didn’t mind when he woke up to pruny fingers and his pants gone. Again.
Cormac looked up from his book to find Bodhan standing in the doorway with a bouquet of flowers and an odd look on his face. "It seems you have an admirer, messere."
"What? No. You sure those aren’t for Anton? Anton’s got a sappy boyfriend who brings flowers." Cormac put down the book and got up for a closer look as Bodhan arranged the flowers in a vase atop the fireplace. Iris and bird’s-foot. ‘Good news! I’m going to kick your ass!’ That fucker. He laughed. "They’re from Artemis."
"Why is your brother sending you flowers, messere? Not that it’s my business." Bodhan looked terribly curious.
"Prank war." Cormac grinned at the dwarf. "Here’s what I want you to send back…"
Bodhan looked terribly confused as he stepped outside and hailed a messenger to send word to the florist. Flowers as pranks? Every time he thought he’d gotten the hang of the Hawkes, they got a little stranger.
Orana cleared her throat as Artemis came down the stairs. "Was that the door?" he asked. "What was it for?" He hoped there weren’t kids leaving poop on his doorstep again.
"More flowers for you, Messere," Orana said, holding out a bouquet she’d already trimmed and placed in a vase.
Artemis took the vase and turned it around in his hand. Balsamine, lobelia, and… lime blossom? Red spilled over Artie’s cheeks and down his chest. Roughly, ‘Hurry up and kill me with your dick’. He could hear that in his brother’s voice. Andraste’s tits, he had heard it in his brother’s voice. Maker, Cormac.
"Orana, my dear," he said with a tight smile, "could you do me a favour? I’ve another bouquet I’d like to send to the house…" Orana took the vase back with a puzzled look. "And, Orana? Please don’t put those on the mantel."
The florist sighed with relief, when the next order from the Hawkes came through. Maker. Those brothers. She found herself increasingly glad she only had sisters, herself. But, after that last one… Had the older Hawke made a mistake in his selections? Surely, he couldn’t have meant… But, perhaps he had a lover staying with his brother. Ah, nobles, so little time, so much treachery. Still, the next order was a simple one, and she sent the single blossom out with a courier.
Bodhan accepted the flower at the door and brought it to Cormac. "Messere? A reply." He held out the single yellow carnation.
Cormac looked up and then doubled over laughing. Trust Artemis to keep it simple. ‘No.’ He’d been expecting a more thorough reaming, to be sure, but somehow the simple answer was even better.
He scratched out the reply on a scrap from Bethany’s desk and handed it to Bodhan. "Thanks for putting up with this. Order a fruitcake for tonight, when you step out again? You and Sandal should have something nice."
"Venhedis," Fenris swore when Orana appeared in the doorway with another bouquet. He eyed Artemis across the table. "Who keeps sending you these?"
"Still Cormac, I suspect," Artemis replied, setting down his wine to get a better look. Bellflower, balm, buttercup. Ah. At least the message was family-friendly this time. By regular standards of family-friendly. An expression of disappoint and, "He wants to know if I’ll be at Wicked Grace tonight."
Fenris squinted at the flowers. Plants could say that? Had to be a mage thing.
"Do you have a reply, Messere?" Orana asked.
Artemis chewed his lip for a moment and considered. "Yes. Yes I do."
The florist was getting curious. The last message hadn’t made proper sense, either, and if the replies hadn’t kept coming, she’d have thought the elder Messere Hawke to have just been making shit up. Perhaps the Hawkes had some other context for some of these flowers. She’d heard they were Fereldan, after all. Whatever was going on, after assembling this bouquet, she felt a little sorry for the younger brother, or whoever he was accepting flowers on behalf of.
"The fruitcake should arrive before supper, messere. But… More flowers." Bodhan presented another bouquet, already in a vase.
"That was quick. Let’s see…" Lemon blossom, thyme, and rue? Ouch. ‘Not if I keep losing like that.’ Well, that was a fair point, after that last game. Still, it was Artie’s own fault for making that bet. He was sure there were substantially worse things that could have happened, and he was absolutely sure this one had ended in his brother getting laid. There was no way it hadn’t. Well, unless Fran had dressed him up as an actual Orlesian maid, instead of the kind one found illustrated in trashy novels. Still, he doubted that.
Something encouraging this time, he thought. No promises. Just… suggestions. He wrote out another order and handed it to Bodhan. "I’m trying to talk him into a card game," he explained, which explained nothing at all, as far as the dwarf was concerned.
"I’m starting to run out of vases, Messere," Orana said, looking harried.
More flowers? In the same day? Maker, the florist must be having kittens. "You can put it in the vase with the last bouquet," Artemis said, "assuming they fit. Then again, they’re from Cormac. You’re welcome to just throw them out the window, if you wish." It was less about the display and more about the message, anyway. And throwing something out a window was another kind of message.
"Really?" Fenris drawled, peeking at the new flowers as Orana handed them over to Artie for examination. "We’re defenestrating plants now?"
Celandine and Cowslip… hmm. A bit harder to parse, but the tone was coaxing overall. And there was a pun in there about ‘winning grace’. "Cormac’s trying to convince me to go to Wicked Grace tonight," he explained.
Fenris looked dubious. "With flowers."
"I… yes. With flowers." Artie wondered if Fenris had any brothers. He wasn’t about to ask, with Fenris’s memory the way it was. "Orana, could I…?"
"Yes, Messere. Just write down the order, please."
"You are a gem, Orana."
"A single stem, messere," Bodhan held out the most recent arrival.
"Ouch," Cormac muttered, once he got a good look at it. Well, it wasn’t a ‘no’, but it wasn’t the best series of things he’d ever been called. The kindest interpretation was ‘liar’.
"Send back a full bouquet. A whole dozen. Thorns, leaves, and all." Cormac grabbed another slip of paper and scratched out another order. "Add a card, this time, to tell him Anders and I will be there at seven… ish. Assuming I can pry Anders away from whatever he’s doing at the time."
Artemis didn’t win big that night, but he considered it a victory that he wouldn’t be in a skirt that barely covered his ass later. And he was still just sober enough to wonder what that said about him, that that was his new standard for successful gambling. Isabela had the opposite standard, however, and spent the whole night pouting and trying to coax Artie into putting the maid outfit on, just for them. Then Fenris had made things worse by announcing that the dress had been torn to pieces, and Artemis couldn’t make eye-contact with his brothers for the rest of the night.
Eventually the game had fizzled out, somewhere around the time Aveline had said something about an early morning and stumbled home. The cards were still in a heap on the table, empty bottles cluttering the floor, and Artemis’s brain was just saturated enough not to care. Cleaning would be sober Artie’s problem, he decided. Or maybe Orana’s, if he gave her large enough puppy eyes when she came in in the morning.
At some point Artemis found himself escorting Varric and Isabela to the door, if staggering in a generally doorward direction counted as escorting. Varric swatted at a flower on an end table. its stem just starting to droop. "Usually gardens are outside," he said, gesturing about at the absurd amount of plantlife in the room.
"It’s a… Tevinter thing," Artemis slurred, earning him a narrowed look from Fenris across the room. "Yes."
"A Tevinter thing?" Isabela purred, turning around to back toward the door in front of Artemis. "I bet you know all about Tevinter things. Has he told you to… er…" She had to stop and think for a moment, and being drunk was not helping. "Irru— something. Irrumambo?"
Fenris nearly glowed he turned so red, so fast. "Do not make me regret teaching you that word, Isabela. And you’re still saying it wrong!"
Cormac shot an amused look at Fenris. "What, were you teaching her dirty words in Tevene? When? How drunk were you?" He paused for a moment. "Was that the time you ended up with lipstick on your ears?"
Fenris buried his face in his hands as Varric dragged Isabela out the door.
"Come on, let’s let Broody and Nervy get back to their evening. They don’t need you telling them how to get it on," Varric tugged Isabela toward the door. "You can tell me all about why you know dirty words from Tevinter, on the way back to the Hanged Man, though. How much did you have to pour down him?"
Artemis shut the door behind them and staggered back over Fenris, flopping onto his lap. "Lipstick on your ears, hmm?" he slurred, eyes narrowed.
Fenris wrapped an arm around Artie’s waist. "That was the only place there was lipstick," he was quick to say. "I swear. Your brother can cor… corroborate." Four syllables was too many after that many drinks.
"Can he now?" asked Anders, looking over at Cormac, regrettably sober, as always. "He checked everywhere else to be sure?"
Fenris made a choked sound in the back of his throat. "No!"
Artemis nibbled on Fenris’s currently lipstick-free ear and locked eyes with Cormac over the elf’s head. "He didn’t? Shame."
"I’ll tell you he was shitfaced and complaining about Izzy groping him. Whatever she might have done, it wasn’t his fault. You know what she’s like." Cormac shrugged. "It was… ah… that night. After you went home, again. You were otherwise occupied. Fenris and I had a little chat about that."
Anders had been unaware it was possible for Fenris to look less amused than he had, but the look on his face after that bit of news was amazing. He suspected if Artemis hadn’t been weighing the elf down, he might have had to perform an awful lot of healing very quickly. He glanced around the room, hoping to change the subject.
"Is that lime blossom?" Anders looked surprised. "Kinky, Fenris. I didn’t take you for the type."
"I didn’t send them," Fenris snapped, glancing first at the flower Anders had indicated, then at Cormac. His grip was possessively tight on Artie’s hip. He pulled his head to the side, pulling a twitching ear from between Artemis’s teeth. "Artemis says they were from Cormac." He wanted to believe Artie, but there was something going on here. Something his mage wasn’t telling him.
"They are," Artemis insisted, flush deepening. Fenris narrowed his eyes at the mage in his lap.
"You said they were a message about Wicked Grace tonight," he said, careful to keep his tone from sounding accusing.
"That’s the next one. First I told him I wasn’t sorry about the dress, then he threatened me, then I was just… Oh. You two haven’t had that conversation have you. Oh, shit. I…" Cormac looked at Anders for help.
Anders shrugged. "Don’t look at me. You dug this hole. I was in the clinic all day."
"I was just being kind of gross." Cormac laughed, a little self-consciously, not sure how much to admit to. ‘Kind of gross’ covered ‘kill me with your dick’ pretty well, even if it was well within the range of things he wouldn’t mind. Possibly with a little less actual killing, though. "Then he got pissy, and then we started talking about cards."
"Pissy?" Artemis baulked as Fenris echoed, "Gross?"
Artie glanced at the unamused look on Fenris’s face and wondered if he should really be sitting on his lap for this conversation. Then again, keeping him pinned was probably a good thing. So was distracting him with his ass against Fenris’s crotch.
Fenris sucked in a steadying breath. "What, exactly, do the flowers say?" he asked. "For one. For another, what is this ‘conversation’ Artemis and I have not had?" He looked from one mage to the next. How was he always ending up in a room full of mages?
Artie reached behind him for the half-finished bottle of rum and shot Cormac a desperate look.
Anders examined the bouquet in question. "Is that… Impatience, malice, and lust? Hurry up and hate-fuck me?"
Cormac covered his face with both hands and prayed for a quick death. "‘Hurry up and kill me with your dick’ is what I was aiming for. In my defence, the preceding message was something along the lines of ‘Good news! I’m going to kick your ass!’ I was aiming for something ridiculous and worth a blush. The reaction’s always half the game, and you can ask Bodhan about that."
"Kill me with your dick?" Fenris shifted from wrathful to completely confused and slightly horrified. "To your brother?" He did remember the blush, though. Cormac had been right about that. "Mages," he huffed.
Artemis wondered if there was enough alcohol in all of Thedas for him to be drunk enough for this conversation. There certainly wasn’t room enough in his liver.
"I don’t know if I would consider that a strictly mage thing," Anders said. "I think it’s more of a Hawke thing. I think it’s a more of a ‘these two’ thing."
"Anders," Artemis said, voice strained, "you’re not helping."
"Who ever said I was going to help?" Anders said, shrugging. "Personally, I just want to see how hard Fenris’s ears can vibrate."
"My ears do not vibrate!" Fenris snapped, lyrium lines flickering. Artemis tried to soothe him with a finger down the tattoos on his throat. That just earned him a growl and another ear twitch.
Cormac made a flapping gesture with his hands. "Like a butterfly. Come on, you saw that. You checked the mirror the last time I pointed it out. Of course, you were about this drunk, at the time, so maybe you don’t remember."
A vague memory surfaced of checking the mirror in the entrance hall of the Hawke estate. Lipstick. Twitching. Perhaps that actually had happened. "I do not wish to discuss my ears. What is this conversation you think we should have had?"
"It’s not on me to tell you," Cormac said, voice a lot steadier than he felt. "Artie and I had a little chat, while he was staying with me, and it’s up to him how much of the conclusions he came to he wants to share with you. I just… thought one in particular might have come up. My mistake." Keep it general, he figured. Less murdering. Less of his brother murdering him, at the very least.
Artie was picking imagined lint off his sleeves again when Fenris looked at him. "It’s… not exactly an easy subject to broach," Artemis muttered. "Especially sober. Maker." But he thought of Cormac against him, Cormac screaming for him, Cormac’s taste on his lips. Shit. Yes, they needed to have this conversation.
"Fen," Artemis murmured, against the shell of his ear. "Can we talk in private a moment?"
Fenris looked at his mage, stomach knotting. "Very well," he said, brows knit in a question.
Artemis slipped off his lap, wobbling a bit when his feet touched the floor. "It’s like we’re on a boat," he said to his feet. "When did the floors get like this?"
Anders got up and hauled Cormac to his feet. "Probably around the time you waxed the floor, last. Sit. We’ll step out and bother Orana for some more tea."
Cormac staggered up, kicking his chair back and trying to avoid cracking both his knees on the table. "We’re less drunk, and it’s your house," he explained, catching on to Anders’s logic. "Just, you know, shout if you need us. Shields… healing…" Cormac laughed uncertainly.
They closed the door behind them, as they stepped out, and Anders gestured for Cormac to put his ear to it, while he made a point of audibly calling for Orana.
Artemis settled into the chair next to Fenris, angling it so that he was facing his elf. Fenris fought to keep his expression neutral, but Artie knew him well enough by now to see the worry he was hiding. And really, that just made Artie more nervous.
He opened his mouth to speak, paused to take a long drink instead. First, apply alcohol. Then words.
"You and your brother had a discussion," Fenris prompted him.
"After the… mess with the Fade. Yes. Erm. You remember the corset? Of course you remember the corset. I was drunk off my ass and I’ll never be able to unsee the corset." The corset which was definitely still in his closet somewhere. Not that he was going to admit it. "Anyway, Cormac was… I mean. You saw. You were… then he was… and um."
Fenris counted his breaths to keep his frustration under control. Artemis would get there eventually.
"He told me he wanted me," Artemis said all at once, in a great rush of breath.
Fenris was on his feet before he realised he was going to stand up. "I’ll kill him."
He’d seen some wrong, in his day, but this was so wrong it wouldn’t even fly in the Imperium. On a scale of one to Tevinter, this was the Black City. His mage subject to something like this, from a sibling? From Artemis’s own older brother? Cormac pissed him off endlessly, but this just surpassed any previous annoyance by entire orders of magnitude. He had suspected, maybe, that there might be something like this going on, but for Artemis to confirm it… He lit blue and circled around behind Artemis’s chair on the shortest path to the door.
"Fenris!" Artemis choked. He reached for the elf, but Fenris had gone ghost, and Artie’s hand passed right through him. Panicked, he reacted with force magic, pulling Fenris back away from the door. "Don’t! Please! No killing!"
Fenris turned his murderous look Artie’s way, struggling to keep his balance after being pulled several feet back. "Magic," he growled. "You’re using magic on me." This wasn’t wax floors and harmless mischief. This was his mage using magic to restrain him.
Cringing, Artemis threw his hands palms up. "No, I… I’m sorry. The last time I tried to stop you from killing my brother, grabbing your ass worked, but it was… incorporeal this time. Your ass was. Your everything. I panicked." Oh Maker. This was a disaster. "Please, Fenris. Just… sit. Talk to me. If you still want to kill Cormac after, I doubt there’s really much I could do to stop you, but talk to me first."
"Your brother … wants you. Wants… to…" Fenris was still terrible with words around some subjects, this one among them. "Wants to do with you as I do. And you… don’t want me to kill him? I don’t think I understand. That is not the way things are done, in Tevinter. I understood things to be similar in the rest of Thedas. Have I heard wrong?"
It wasn’t like he had any siblings to judge by. Well, except that theoretical and probably imaginary sister Hadriana had offered him. He had been alone so very long. Perhaps he had misjudged something? Misunderstood? It wasn’t as if he could read books on the customs of other lands, although he had heard such things existed. Well, maybe some of them. Perhaps a children’s history of the Marches might be a place to start, although he doubted very much that would cover the subjects he’d be looking for. He was at a somewhat awkward point in his education.
Artemis saw the disgust in Fenris’s face, heard it in his voice. He felt like he might be sick and not just because of all that rum. He took one of Fenris’s hands in both of his, which had started to shake, and coaxed him back into his seat. Fenris sat stiffly, reluctantly, one eye still on the door.
"Nothing about this is… normal, I suppose," Artemis said with a weak smile. "You are not wrong there. But it’s…" Artemis swallowed, staring down at the clenched hand in his. "You seem… to be under the impression it’s one-sided, which is my fault for the wording. And I… it… was. One-sided, that is. For a while. But… the other way around."
And that was it. Fenris was going to leave him. Fenris would find him disgusting and go off to find someone else whose head wasn’t screwed on wrong, who wasn’t a mage.
Fenris looked hurt, first. There was that invisible hand squeezing in his chest again. "You… Are you… Are you leaving me? For your brother?"
He supposed he deserved it, really. Things like this weren’t meant to last, and he really had nothing to offer this mage. This nobleman. He was just an illiterate former slave. He was just an elf. "Do you… want me to go?"
"What? No!" Artemis stammered, eyes wide and pleading. "That’s not… Fuck."
He was terrible at this. He was terrible at this and he kept hurting the man he loved. Artemis squeezed the hand in his and brought it to his lips. "I love you," he said against that hand. "So fucking much. You are enough for me, more than enough. If Cormac were… in the equation, it would only be in addition to you, not instead of. Never instead of. You must know that."
Artie prayed he wasn’t making things worse. "I just… I-I just wanted you to know the whole story. Take it as you will."
Fenris sighed in shaky relief. "Like the corset. You mean he’s volunteered himself to be your pillow, if you want him, and you … do?" Well, that hadn’t been entirely terrible, the first time. Aside from the part where he’d had to touch Cormac, it had been pretty good. Of course, Artemis made almost the same sounds with a pillow as he had with Cormac under him, but…
"I would not have to touch him?" Fenris asked.
Artemis’s laugh came out a bit hysterical. "No, you don’t have to touch him," he said. "You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. And… volunteering to be my pillow." Another punchy laugh forced out of him. "Not quite how I’d put it, but… close enough."
His thumb traced the shapes of Fenris’s knuckles. "You don’t find me disgusting, after that?" He looked everywhere but at Fenris’s face.
"I… No. You are my mage, and I love you. Did I not tell you that I loved all of you? Every bit of your magic? Every one of your quirks?" Fenris reached up with his free hand and tugged at Artemis’s chin, until he could look into those lovely blue eyes. "Perhaps I was drunker than I thought, but I remember saying that even after you used your brother for a pillow."
He kissed Artemis gently, chastely. "I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know at all. But, I’ll learn it with you. And I’ll try not to kill your brother. I’ll try at least as hard as he tries my patience."
"I think all we can ever do is try not to kill Cormac," Artemis replied. Maker. Was Fenris agreeing? He not only wasn’t leaving but was consenting to this?
Artie pulled Fenris closer by the collar, turning the chaste kiss into something more heated, one full of promise.
"And speaking of Cormac… he said against Fenris’s lips. With a push of force magic, he shoved open the door.