Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 82
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Carver Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Isabela ♀, Varric ♂, Fenris ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Anders has secrets, Cormac is so not okay
Notes: Exeunt. On the road again.
Some great lot of kicking and force magic later, along with several drinking songs, a few dead darkspawn, and another meal of deepstalkers, they were back up in dwarven territory, and fresh air had never felt so good. Another half hour and a whole lot of Cormac whining about dragging Anders up more stairs, Maker damn the man who put all these stairs here, and they were back out on the trade road that headed back down the mountain.
Cormac had sort of recovered. Ish. At least enough that he was actually carrying Anders on his back, with the assistance of some rope, even if he was still clinging to his staff with both hands to keep himself upright. "Artie? Am I hallucinating, or is that some kind of fruit tree? I’m starting to think those are pears. I’m starting to think we can do the thing with the tree, and eat pears all the way back to Kirkwall."
Artemis followed Cormac’s line of sight and laughed. "If you’re hallucinating, so am I," he said. "And what a thing to hallucinate, pears. Then again, things did go a bit pear-shaped in there, didn’t they?"
Carver groaned loudly at the terrible pun. "We should have left you back at the prison."
Artemis nudged Carver with the butt of his new staff, making him stumble a bit. "See if you get any pears!" Artie huffed. To Cormac, he said, "You know what? I’m hungry, and I’ve had enough deep lizard to last me a lifetime. If you want to do the thing, I’m in."
Cormac dropped to one knee before trying to cast anything. No sense in falling down, at a time like this. He cast a barrier around the top of the pear tree, just like when they’d been harvesting fruit, those few years on the road. "I got it. Let’s see what comes down."
Varric watched, confused. Shielding a tree? He elbowed Isabela’s hip. "Is this the exhaustion kicking in? What are they doing?"
"I’m not sure, but if it wasn’t going to work, I think one of them would have noticed. This sounds like something they’ve done before, even if I’ve never seen it… ‘The thing with the tree?’ Almost sounds kinky!" Isabela grinned at Varric. "You should make it sound kinky in your book."
"Remind me to tell you about my other thing with the tree, Izzy," Artemis said as he gathered more force magic under his fingers. "That one is kinky."
"Now I’d like to know the thing with the tree," Fenris said, eyebrow arching.
Artie aimed his spell at the tree with a practised motion, just enough to shake the tree without crushing anything or knocking it over. The pears came tumbling down, landing in Cormac’s shield in steady plops.
"Oh, so that’s the tree thing!" Varric said.
"We don’t have a bag, do we? This is going to be interesting…" Cormac untied Anders from his back, leaning the healer against another tree, a bit distant from the pear tree. He stripped off the first layer of his robes and tied a few knots in the cloth, before holding the makeshift sack under the barrier. Slowly he eased it open, catching fruit as he circled the tree. Even his robe wasn’t quite enough for a tree that didn’t see a regular harvest or frequent travellers, and he had to let some of the pears fall to the ground.
"I’m sorry," Cormac said, sitting down all at once, as he turned to face the group. "I think we’re making camp, here. At least we have food!"
He still wasn’t looking so good, but nobody had mentioned it to him. A decent amount of his beard was burnt off, and there were still faint traces in his skin, where the lightning had blasted through him. Not scars, just lighter lines that might fade in time. Add to that the amount of time he’d spent grey-faced and sweating, in that last fight, and he looked like he’d gotten … well, into a fight with an ancient Tevinter magister, frankly.
While no one looked as worn out as Anders or Cormac, just about everyone was grateful for a rest. And for food. Carver was especially relieved at the prospect of pears after turning his nose up at cooked deepstalker.
Artie grabbed a few pears and plopped next to Cormac. He pressed his water skein into his brother’s hand and took a large bite of fruit. A tiny bit riper than he preferred, but still food and still good. "Your beard is bothering me," he teased, catching a bit of fruit juice that dribbled down his chin. "But maybe you could start a new trend in Orlais."
Cormac took a long drink of slightly stale water, before grabbing a pear. "How about I let you satisfy your deranged urges, hmm? As long as you’ll let me keep Anders in the room, in case you … in case of accidents, I’ll let you shave it off me. I don’t think there’s any saving it, now. I’m just going to have to start over. Might as well let you enjoy the demolition of what’s left of my beautiful beard."
"I always wondered what you looked like under that thing," Varric said. "Might be time to air out your face and take in the possibilities of glamorous beardlessness."
"Yes, well, unfortunately, it looks like this may be a time for taking in overall glamorous hairlessness. Bastard destroyed my chest hair, too. I can feel it," Cormac complained around a mouthful of pear.
"Ooh. Not the chest hair! Can’t lose that!" Varric rubbed his own chest sympathetically.
"But it’s the source of your power!" Anton said in mock horror. Artemis lobbed a pear at his head, which he caught, grinning.
"I don’t think I’ll be touching your beard," Artie said. "Not after what happened last time. We both have scars from that." He rubbed at his own scruff and shuddered. He took back his water skein and took a long drink as well. There was hardly any water left by the time he’d finished. "Finish your pear," he told Cormac, "then get some rest. You look like shit warmed over. And I should know, since you set fire to some shit a few hours ago."
"The resemblance is uncanny," Fenris agreed, smirking.
"Yeah, yeah, the next time you get nailed by a possessed Fade spirit and then shield nine people from an attack by the biggest badass ever to walk out of Tevinter, I’ll remember to inform you that you look even worse than you feel, when it’s over." Cormac shoved the last of the core into his mouth and winged the pear stem at Fenris.
"You know, I was really trying to forget that first part happened…" Carver grabbed another pear and looked thoroughly grossed out.
"I don’t think I’ll ever forget that part happened!" Isabela purred, squeezing Carver’s arm.
"Neither will I," Cormac muttered, in a decidedly neutral tone, as he stripped off another layer of robe and rolled it up for a pillow. He laid Anders down, first, and then stretched out alongside the healer, wrapping around him. The second-to-last layer of his robes bore soaked-through bloodstains, stiff yellowish patches, and scorch marks. He didn’t notice. It was all healed by then, and he’d been walking around in the remnants half the day.
Artie looked at the passed-out mages and tried not to worry. They were safe. Ish. As safe as they ever got, really, in or around Kirkwall, safest surrounded by friends and family suffering from the same brand of insanity as they. Fenris sat down next to his mage, laying his sword out next to him in case it needed to be snatched up, and Artemis leaned into him, nuzzling under his chin and sighing happily at the tingle of lyrium against his skin. He wasn’t as scraped bare as Cormac, but he was feeling a little hollowed out.
Varric chuckled at this display, cleaning blood spatters off of Bianca with a scrap of cloth. "Naptime for the mages," he said. "Except for Bethy. Bethy looks like she could take out another magister before lunch."
"Single-handedly," Bethany replied primly. "I just didn’t want my brothers to feel left out."
Anders woke to the taste of dirt in his mouth. It wasn’t the worst thing he’d woken up tasting — in fact, it was a reminder that he was outside and outside meant free — but that didn’t make it pleasant. There was a warm weight against him in the shape of a familiar mage, and pale, early morning sunlight hit his cheek. Something nagged at him, a tug at the back of his mind telling him there was something he needed to remember, something urgently important. Something actually urgently important, as opposed to any reactions he might be having to the way Cormac’s hands kneaded at him.
A moderately displeased sound from his own mouth woke Cormac, as Anders moved his hands to places they’d both be less horrified by anyone else noticing. Of course, after the day before — the day before! Possession, magister, fire—! Cormac’s eyes shot open, and a strangled sound of panic followed. No, that was really just Anders. They were outside. And something in the back of his mouth tasted like half-fermented pears.
"G’morning, gorgeous," Cormac muttered into Anders’s shoulder, trying to drag his heart-rate back down. "Fucking hero, you know that? Hope you know that. ‘S important." It was important. Way more important than any of the stupid, horrible shit that had happened on the way to or from that heroism, Cormac was sure, even if he was still missing part of his beard.
"Hero?" Anders echoed, voice still rough. There was that nagging feeling again. He looked down at Cormac as best he could from this awkward angle, and it was the sight of his singed beard and robes that made everything click into place. He sat bolt upright, and this time it was his heart hammering in his chest.
A voice in his head that wasn’t Justice’s. And… fire. There had been fire. "Sweet Maker, I melted a magister," Anders breathed.
Nearby, Fenris snorted. "Yes, it was the only acceptable use of magic I’ve seen from you," he said. Well, aside from the healing, but he wasn’t about to admit that, not to the abomination.
"You did." Cormac grinned and wrapped his arms tighter around Anders. "It was amazing. I have no idea how you’re not burnt, but you… You were yelling. I’ve never heard you raise your voice, but you just went off, and he burst into flames. You burst into flames, too, but that seemed less important, once I realised they weren’t hurting you. I don’t think I’ve ever seen an actual fire spell turn blue, either — or white. That was some power you had going, and it was delightful to watch."
"Singed my skirt on the molten rock, but I think that was my fault," Bethany said, midway through another pear. "That was incredible, Anders. That was the kind of incredible you don’t see outside of manifestations. If you ever figure out how you did that, teach me?"
"I didn’t think you did fire. I’ve never seen you use it except to warm the bath." Cormac pressed a kiss to Anders’s chest. "Hidden talent?"
Hidden. Not so much hidden as buried, suppressed. He remembered a barn, the stink of smoke and burning hay. "Not sure I’d call it a talent," he said, trying and failing to smile. "Do you remember what I told you about my magic’s… manifestation?"
Artemis shifted, lifting his head from Fenris’s spiky shoulder. There had been panic in Anders’s voice when everything had combusted, a panic that had seemed familiar. "You can’t control it, can you?" he asked.
"Oh, shit," Cormac muttered. He’d forgotten that, actually. "Well, lucky you, I’m mostly fireproof, too. Mostly. Usually. You light me up by accident, we’ll be fine. Not that I think I’ll ever piss you off enough for that. That seems to be a particular talent reserved for ancient assholes from Tevinter."
After the last day, Cormac thought maybe he should have been afraid of Anders, but he just couldn’t muster it. It hadn’t been fire Anders had used on him, and that hadn’t really been Anders, either. He decided a holy terror of ancient magisters would suffice on all counts. Ancient magisters trying to kill him with his — his Warden. His Warden who was going to turn into a sexy darkspawn at some point in the distant future. He tried not to laugh at that image. He did. And then he failed miserably, burying his face against Anders’s armpit as he cackled.
"Sorry, I…" but the laughing didn’t stop long enough for him to finish.
Anders stared down at his armpit and the cackling Hawke with his face buried in it and wondered which one of them had finally lost it.
"Did I miss the joke?" Anders asked with a nervous laugh of his own. He nudged Cormac with his shoulder, tried to get Cormac to look at him.
Artemis exchanged a glance with Anton, who shrugged in reply.
It took Cormac several more tries to manage words. Finally, he choked out, "Sexy darkspawn." The cackling continued, unabated. He was sure it wasn’t actually that funny, except for the part where it absolutely was. He struggled to explain, but wound up settling for, "Can’t… stop…"
Cormac didn’t suppose this was quite what his father had in mind, with the instruction to keep smiling, even and especially in the worst of times, but here he was, completely unable to stop laughing, as he struggled to pull himself together and actually offer some comfort to the poor bastard he was leaning on.
"Cormac, breathe." Bethany looked at him like he’d completely lost his mind, which to be fair, was an increasingly likely conclusion. "If you don’t start breathing, I’m going to knock you out. You’re turning colours."
"You sound a little like Mintaka when you laugh like that," Anton said with a concerned smile.
Anders cupped the back of Cormac’s head, fingers probing for injuries he might have missed. "Cormac, listen to your sister," he said. "Breathe." He took a few deep breaths himself to illustrate. "Now, when you say ‘sexy darkspawn," he added after a beat, "I hope you’re not referring to Corypheus."
"Huh," Varric muttered, "Cormac’s the first Hawke to go nuts. All this time my money was on Nervy."
Artemis threw him a rude gesture.
Cormac panted, first, to shut himself up, and then slowly eased back down, with a few breaks for cackling, into something a little closer to breathing normally. Every few seconds, he’d choke on another laugh, but he managed to keep it down. "No, gorgeous, I meant you. That little reveal in the tunnels just stuck with me." Cormac wheezed around another laugh he couldn’t stop. "In the last day, we slaughtered an offshoot of the Carta, narrowly avoided an ancient thaig-destroying demon, got trapped underground, discovered an ancient Warden fortress containing a secret prison for an ancient Tevinter magister-turned-darkspawn, you got possessed and I …" He waved a hand dismissively and went on. "And then I punched my brother and exploded a woman’s head, Anton pissed on and pissed off one of the Old Gods, and then you melted a magister. It’s been a long day, and right now, all of it is funny, because we’re not trapped in a musty hole in the ground, full of darkspawn."
"I dispute that I pissed on an Old God," Anton argued. "I pissed on an altar to an Old God, and one that’s been dead for a thousand years. How was I supposed to know it had demons in it?"
"I don’t know, maybe because everything else that was glowing in that shithole had demons in it? I’m just saying…" Cormac laughed again, with a little less force.
"It has been a rather eventful Tuesday," Anders agreed with a tired laugh of his own, "even by our standards." There was something absurd about it all, when put together like that, and he had to bite back a hysterical giggle too. No. He had to keep his head. Best not to set Cormac off again or they’d never stop.
"The mages are getting punchy," Varric said, sharing a commiserating look with Isabela.
"Those mages are getting punchy," Bethany corrected him, "and this mage is quite eager to get back to Kirkwall."
"So is this mage," Artemis said from Fenris’s shoulder.
"This mage," Cormac groaned, fumbling around behind Anders, until he found the next layer of his robes, "would very much like to get home and shave the scorched remnants of his beard." He leaned back and pulled on the robe, without standing up. "Am I still going to be good enough for you, when I’m all bald-faced, my sexy darkspawn? ‘Cause if not, I will march right back into that tower and set that corpse on fire all over again."
"I’m going to look twelve. This is horrifying." Cormac hadn’t been without a beard since he was seventeen, even if it had just been a silly little patch on his chin, then, like the one Artemis wore, now. "Do I shave my chest? Do you care if I’m asymmetrical?" He grabbed his staff and heaved himself to his feet, holding out a hand to Anders. "You’re going to have to tell me how bad this is, you know. I don’t think I’m going to be able to look."
"When is a bear not a bear?" Isabela whispered in Fenris’s ear, as she leaned over to grab the sack of pears.
"You’d be like a hairless cat," Anton said. "Anders is a cat person." He stood as well, pausing to stretch his arms over his head and smothering a yawn. The others followed suit, standing and gathering their things.
"At least you didn’t lose your eyebrows," Bethany said as she snatched another pear from Isabela. "That would have been horrifying."