Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 71
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Bethany Hawke ♀, Sebastian ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Isabela ♀, Varric ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂
Rating: M (L2 N3 S3 V2 D2)
Warnings: Knockout drugs, barfight, oh my god Artemis, application of the magic flagpole, flower war
Notes: An end and two beginnings. All of this is unusual, even for Kirkwall.
Sebastian looked unwell, when Bodhan brought Bethany out to where he sat in the garden, quietly sipping tea. He stared across the lawn, red-eyed and tired, moments from pouring tea into his own lap, as Bethany joined him.
"Aren’t you a vision of good cheer!" Bethany poured herself a cup of tea. "What’s wrong, pumpkin?"
"I had hoped prayer might cleanse me of the desire demon’s touch." Sebastian put down his cup, still staring. "But, I still hear her voice so clearly. I feel like I’ve bathed in filth that will never come off."
"Well, I’m sure I’ve got something for that," Bethany teased.
Sebastian blinked and finally looked at her. "Do you, then? Would you, even now?"
"Even now, what? We killed a demon. You didn’t give in to her, no matter what she might have offered you — and I don’t pretend to have heard it all. I know they don’t say the same things to all people, even to all the people in a room." Bethany shrugged. "You could have taken what she was offering. Maker knows, that’s already happened once, this year. But, you didn’t, and that’s the important thing. There’s enough you left in you to feel dirty about even hearing her speak."
"The demon was right. I used to be bitterly jealous of my brother — envious, I suppose. I wanted to be prince. Now everything he had is mine, and he lies in ashes." Sebastian shook his head. "I keep asking myself, do I want to take Starkhaven because it’s right or simply to have what I never thought I could."
"You didn’t ask for this. I’m not sure it matters if you wanted it or not, since it was never about you. Lady Harimann and her demon meant to put your cousin on the throne, not you. The only thing your desire does is ensure you don’t hate your job, if you step up." Bethany sipped her tea and reached across the table to take Sebastian’s hand. "If you let her drive you away from it, it’s just as bad as letting her force you to take it. Do what you want, and nevermind the demon."
"Always such a reasonable mind. Some days, I wonder if I’ll wake and find you’re truly the demon, here." Sebastian smiled wryly and picked up his tea again.
"If I was a demon, I’m sure I’d tell you I wasn’t. If I’m not a demon, I’m sure I’d tell you I wasn’t. All the same, Sebastian? I’m not a demon. Demons rarely have loving families and good tea." Bethany’s eyes sparkled with amusement, and Sebastian laughed.
Anton, Varric, and Isabela were lucky enough to nab a table in the main room, if crushed into the corner, knees knocking knees. It was Corff’s nameday, and half of Lowtown had shown up to honour him with their drunkenmost selves. The Hanged Man smelled of even more booze, vomit, and body odour than usual, but Anton loved every minute of it.
Isabela went to get the next round of drinks while Varric dealt out the next round of Wicked Grace. She had to muscle her way through the crowd, and Anton saw an elbow or two connect with someone’s face on her way by. Anton didn’t even bother with being subtle. He peeked at Izzy’s hand once Varric had dealt it, angling the cards so that Varric could see them too. That was the thing about playing with rogues: everyone cheated and everyone knew it. Besides, sitting this close made it impossible not to see each other’s hand.
"Your dog would be growling at you right now," Varric said, voice raised to be heard over the din.
"The dog’s not here," Anton reminded him. "Are you volunteering to stand in for the night?"
"He’s little and furry! He’d make a great dog!" Isabela laughed, setting the drinks on the table. "He even catches you cheating, just like your real dog."
Another dwarf bumped into Isabela from behind, and the drinks sloshed onto the table. "Oh, here, let me help you with that," the dwarf apologised, blotting at the table with a kerchief. He made a few passes over the drinks, drunkenly blotting at the spread of little puddles on the scarred wood.
"Why don’t you go sit down, before something else gets knocked over," Varric suggested, a little unpleasantly. Carta dwarf, from the look of the guy, and the Carta never presaged anything good.
The other dwarf squinted at Varric, before stumbling off, still apologising, bumping into a few more tables.
"Varric!" Isabela sounded disapproving, as she sat down and picked up one of the tankards. "Was that really necessary?"
"Carta. Maker only knows what he’s up to, and I’m not letting the Carta get too close to where I’m sitting, for long." Varric leaned to the side, checking under the table. Nothing but beer running between the boards. Maybe it was nothing, then.
"You could try barking at them," Anton said, moving his chair a bit to avoid any other drunken patrons knocking into him. "That’s what a good watch-dog does."
By the time Varric looked up again, the Carta dwarf had disappeared into the crowd, and he put it from his mind. "If you start calling me Mintaka, you can go sit somewhere else," Varric said, picking up his cards again. "And don’t expect me to lick your face."
"Not even if I rub your belly?" Isabela purred, eyebrows arching suggestively.
"I never said I wouldn’t lick your face."
"I suspect that’s not all you’d be licking," Anton said, picking up his refilled tankard and clacking it against the side of Isabela’s.
Somewhere in the middle of the tankard, Anton started to think he was drunk. This was, of course, extremely unlikely. "You been getting Corff to slip rum into the ale?" he asked Isabela, squinting over his cards at her.
Isabela was sitting at a strange angle, as if halfway to her left was straight up. "It’s just ale. I think all the good stuff’s been paid for already. I think we all bought it for Corff, tonight!" She laughed and slipped off her stool, to the side, somehow landing on her feet. "You tipping my chair again, Hawke?"
"I’m nowhere near your chair." Anton shot a look at Varric. "How are you holding up, Barky?"
"That’s it." Varric shoved one sleeve up, stood up, and promptly sat back down. He eyed the contents of the table. "I’m going to strongly advise against finishing what’s in these cups. Possibly also against touching anything that Carta jerk might’ve touched. I’ve got a real bad feeling all of a sudden."
Anton set down his drink a bit more heavily than he meant to. He didn’t remember the table being that close. "Is that bad feeling vertigo?" he asked. "Because if so, I have that bad feeling too." He held a hand out to steady himself, his other hand reaching for the knife at his hip, the feel of cold steel giving him something to focus on.
The Carta dwarf from earlier slipped back out of the crowd, looking decidedly less drunk than before, and either Anton was seeing triple or he’d brought along a few friends with matching hoods.
"Him," said the first dwarf to his mini entourage as he pointed at Anton. "He’s the Hawke."
"Varric?" Anton said, struggling to start upright. "Might want to start barking."
Varric sighed and picked up Bianca from next to his seat. Firing into a crowded bar while drugged was not on the list of things he really wanted to do, but the situation wasn’t going to improve itself. At least he didn’t have to be standing up for it.
And suddenly, Isabela wasn’t there. Anton wasn’t quite sure if she’d ever been where he’d thought she was, a moment ago, but she wasn’t there, now. There was a brief flash of movement at the edge of the crowd, and then a flurry of elbows and fists, as Isabela reappeared, elbowing a dwarf in the back of the head, grabbing his beard, and slamming his head into the edge of the table. "Do you know how much time I spent drugged, in my life? It’ll take more than that to put me down."
She wasn’t quite steady, but she was in much better shape than Anton or Varric.
"Get the Hawke!" the dwarf on the floor shouted, trying to rub the blood from the gash on his forehead out of his eyes. He didn’t get the chance to recover, as Anton’s heel slammed into his face, the second blow knocking him out.
Varric squinted down his crossbow. Isabela was a blur of limbs among the dwarves, and he tried to aim at somewhere she wasn’t, but he didn’t remember her having that many arms when all this started. She knocked a Carta stumbling his way, and Varric reacted before thinking, kicking out a leg to knock him to the floor, launching a bolt into his face a moment later. It was much easier to shoot someone lying on the floor. Easier still when that someone was only a few feet away.
Anton felt himself slipping from his chair and lurched upright, the back of his head knocking the dwarf he didn’t see come up behind him. Isabela grabbed the dazed dwarf by the hood and launched him backwards into the crowd. The dwarf ricocheted off a pair of scruffy men with sailor tattoos. In an instant, the brawl spread to the rest of the bar, fists and bottles flying, and the dwarf disappeared, likely trampled into oblivion.
On the other side of the bar, Corff looked about him in dismay.
"Any of them still alive?" Anton asked, clinging to he table to keep himself upright, as the bar-fight raged on behind him.
"Not if I’ve got anything to say about it," Isabela muttered, blotting at some blood on her arm.
"Well, shit. If it was just some Carta dwarves after me, that’s easy enough to explain. Never did stop stepping on their toes." Anton laughed, before deciding laughing was a terrible idea that made the room get all sloshy. "But, ‘the Hawke’? That doesn’t sound nearly as personal."
"I’ve got contacts," Varric assured him, staggering to his feet. "But, right now—" He didn’t stay standing for long. "Right now, someone needs to get Anders."
"One two three, not it!" Anton lost his battle with gravity and pulled himself under the table, for some protection against the ongoing brawl.
"You two are hopeless," Isabela grumbled, staggering toward the door. "Don’t get killed while I’m gone."
Fenris was making a face at the ceiling, like he’d eaten some bad fruit.
"Can’t say that was the reaction I was going for," Artie said with a nervous laugh as he adjusted his grip. "All right?"
Under him, Fenris was silent for a moment as he squirmed, wincing. "I… still don’t see the appeal," he said stiffly. He peered down at Artemis. "You don’t find this… uncomfortable?"
"Generally, I find this amazing. Hold on, maybe a different angle…"
Fenris hissed, fingers bunching in the sheets but not in a good way. "I am no less uncomfortable."
Artemis frowned, wondering if he was doing this wrong. He enjoyed it. Cormac enjoyed it. And — oh. That was it, wasn’t it? He and Cormac had a different threshold for this sort of thing.
Fenris tried not to tip his hips in any direction, as every direction was fairly terrible. He’d been decently sure he’d met all the horrors mages had to offer, but this was a new one. Still, he’d watched Artemis do exactly this to himself on several occasions, and this was not the reaction he’d witnessed. Did Artemis just enjoy pain? No, that couldn’t be right. Maybe the problem was that he was an elf. Some subtle difference of anatomy. Or that he was just that little bit smaller than Artemis, over all. Actually, quite a bit smaller.
"I couldn’t help but notice this is much larger than your…" He cleared his throat. "Is this… the usual size?"
Artemis stopped moving the toy in case he made it worse. "No," he said. "Not the usual size. Quite on the large side, in fact, and… probably not the best place to start, in hindsight." It was a good thing Fenris didn’t know where the toy had come from, not really. There wouldn’t be enough pieces left of Artie to deliver to his mother if Fenris knew this was modelled off of Anders’s knob.
Gently, Artemis slid the toy back out of Fenris. This wasn’t working. Not like this.
Fenris eyed the jade-green thing, warily. That was much larger than his own knob. He’d never really thought about it before — a knob was a knob, wasn’t it? — but Artemis seemed to have a taste for the upper end of things. At least he hoped that was the upper end. For humans, anyway, and that was a thought he pushed away as soon as it entered his head.
"You enjoy that — I have watched you enjoy it. I have helped you enjoy it. And I am… still enough for you?" Again, not something he’d ever given any thought to, but with the obvious size difference having already been pointed out, and the fact that he, himself, was clearly not cut out for the ‘large size’…
Artemis threw the toy to the side, letting it bounce on the sheets, and crawled back up over Fenris. "More than enough," he purred. "You’re all the elf I can handle. I think the earthquakes can attest to that, otherwise we’d be able to have a mirror in the bedroom again." He leaned in and kissed his elf gently. "Maybe something smaller? A bit more… proportional? I don’t have anything smaller, but I know someone who does."
He wasn’t going to say who. That was something else that would get him murdered.
"Your fingers were not unpleasant. Perhaps smaller would be less … uncomfortable." Fenris tried to wrap his mind around the idea that he was even willing to consider continuing this experiment, but he did want to understand what it was his mage got out of these … things. "I trust you to know your way around … these things. You seem much more experienced than I, and I … I am willing to learn more of this from you. You enjoy it so much. It seems I might be missing out on something."
And Artemis thought he was, and he wanted to share this with Fenris. "We’ll try again," he said, "the right way. And if you still don’t like it then, that’s fine. There are plenty of ways for me to have my wicked way with you." He kissed Fenris again, a bit more deeply, and made a note to send a message to Cormac later.
Bodhan stepped into the sitting room, where Cormac was cursing into a book, something about the translator being useless. "Flowers for you, messere. I believe them to be from your brother."
"Stupid bastard can’t tell the difference between — What? Oh, just leave them on the … wait." Cormac swung his feet off the couch — another benefit to Artemis having moved out — and stood up to get a closer look. "What the fuck…?" That didn’t make sense at all. "Put them in water, and bring them back in here. I have to think about this one."
Bodhan bowed and went to do so. "Yes, messere."
Viscaria. An invitation to dance. Possibly even ‘May I have this dance,’ depending on the surrounding context. And… Aster. A token of love. Maybe a locket, sometimes a favour… What the fuck was Artemis trying to say? Broader. He’d have to go broader. Okay, a request and a symbol of love. An object. A token. A symbol… A dance. Oh, no.
He burst out laughing, as Bodhan came back in with the vase. "Wait right here. I’ll have a package that needs to go out in just a moment."
Cormac went upstairs to get the one he assumed Artemis meant, wrapping it in a silk pillowcase and tucking it into a box. "Return this with a sprig of mint and narcissus." An accusation, certainly, but if he’d read this correctly, not an unfounded one. ‘May I dance with your dildo’, indeed…
The last time Fenris had been this drunk at the Hanged Man, he’d taught all sorts of naughty Tevene to Isabela for her to abuse. Tonight, he was sitting in the same seat at the bar, but he’d traded in one blade-wielding woman for another.
"So," Fenris said once awkward conversation had turned into drunken, awkward conversation, "Artemis tells me you helped him, when we were… when there were no earthquakes?" He ordered another round and didn’t have to worry about his drink mate stealing coin out of his pockets. He hoped.
Aveline made a noise somewhere between a hum and a squeal, her cheeks noticeably red even in the dim lighting. "Yes, with the corset," she slurred, grinning. "Mint is a good colour for him."
"It was a fine choice. I… thank you for that." The words were stiff, as if Fenris resented that he even thought to say them — that anyone but he had seen Artemis in that … thing. "But, I have … other questions. I am afraid I do not understand the ways of human romance, except what is sung in songs. Since you seem to be so, ah, insightful, I was hoping you might be able to help me, as well."
It was utterly foolish, he knew, but he didn’t dare ask Cormac or Anders… not after … no. And Isabela would never give him a proper answer. She’d tell him all sorts of strange things, just to make trouble. He’d considered Varric, briefly, but Varric didn’t seem to be much into humans. So, Aveline. Aveline who had already proven her skill in these things.
"Trouble again? You need fancy underwear, now?" Aveline asked, squinting at him pointedly. "I don’t think the mint’s your colour, but I’m sure Fran can find you something."
"What? I — no!" Some of Fenris’s drink sputtered out with the words. "My underwear is… sufficient." His underwear was non-existent, but that was probably more than Aveline needed to know. "I… merely wonder if the rest of me is." It was difficult keeping up with his mage, with his experiences as limited as they were.
"Well, to be fair, Artemis thought his underwear was ‘sufficient’ too," Aveline replied, "but I talked him into it. And here you are."
"And here I am," said Fenris miserably into his drink.
"Maybe you do need better underwear," Aveline prodded. "If you’re wondering if all of you is as sufficient as the underwear I can tell you’re not wearing."
"It is not that obvious!" Fenris insisted.
"Yeah, it kind of is, the way you wear pants. Maybe it’s different in Tevinter, because of all the robes, but you get an eye for it, around here. You’d have lines," Aveline patted Fenris’s hand.
"How do I show myself to be… more than I appear? How can I — I don’t even know! He says that I am enough for him, but he keeps … toys. I don’t understand the toys. No, I understand how the toys work. I enjoy him enjoying them. I do not understand why he enjoys them. I do not understand what position this puts me in. He is so quick to reassure me — I do not know what to believe." Toys. Yes. He was sure he could refer to both Cormac and the … dildo that way. Aveline didn’t need to know. Really he was sure Aveline didn’t need to know half of that, but he wanted to make sure she had the right idea of what he needed, for this situation.
"If you want to appear to be more, there’s underwear that can help with that too," Aveline said. She patted his hand again. "I don’t think he’s going to replace you with a toy, Fenris."
Fenris’s ears twitched. Definitely best not to tell her about Cormac. Ever.
"But you don’t want that," Aveline said, brow furrowing as she considered. "You want to prove that you love him."
And Fenris wondered what that said about him that that was something he thought he needed to prove. "And if I do? What then?"
"Well, if you want to go big, you could always pay his dowry. Back home that was a goat and three sheaves of wheat, most of the time." Aveline finished her drink.
"Dowry? What… purpose would that serve?" Fenris tried to look at least a little less confused than he was.
"I thought elves had dowries, too!"
"I am less an elf, as you think of ‘elf’, than you might imagine, looking at me," Fenris reminded her. "Explain this to me."
"I keep forgetting you’re not from around here." Aveline chuckled awkwardly. "Dowry. It’s when you pay the family for the right to woo the person. It’s one of the steps in proposing, which would definitely make the point."
"So, before I propose, I should buy his… family… a goat?" Fenris looked even more confused by this.
"Traditionally, yes," Aveline said, nodding sagely. "And I imagine Lady Leandra is fond of that sort of thing."
That piqued Fenris’s interest. He hadn’t spent much time around Leandra but knew that she wasn’t fond of him. "A goat," he said, nodding. "I can get her a goat." He wasn’t sure where Leandra would put it. Perhaps out back with the topiary and that fuckawful tree.
Fenris was glad Aveline was here to explain these things to him.
"See?" Aveline beamed. "We found a solution, and we didn’t even need to buy you special underwear! Not that it’s too late to do that too."
"I think the goat should be sufficient for now."