[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 88
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Carver Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Aveline ♀, Cullen ♂, Fenris ♂, Sebastian ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Death, necromancy, serial killer, nobody is okay
Notes: The procession. A return to the estate. Sleep.
They were approaching the bridge into Hightown when an armoured troupe caught up to them. City guards, Carver could tell by the uniform, and he uncurled his hand from around his sword hilt.
"Messeres Hawke?" a guard with a scarred face addressed them. "We have been sent to —"
"Well, you’re too bloody late," Carver snapped, cutting her off. "What took you so long?"
"We came as quickly as we could," the guard protested. "The captain obviously didn’t have as much information as you did."
Anders pushed to the front, still holding Leandra’s body. "We were all too late. If you want to try to identify the bodies, some of them — parts of some of them are probably still in the foundry. The only part of the blood mage responsible for this you’ll find is where we let all the blood and magic out of him."
Cormac finally looked up from where he was still intertwined with Artemis, the two of them holding each other up. "Tell Aveline I said thank you. And thank you for trying." He was much quieter than usual, voice much more tired. "But, we need to go. Please, tell me if you find the rest of our mother. This is…" He choked. "This is just her head."
A murmur ran through the group of guards, and the one who had been speaking spoke again. "I’ll come by in the morning. Myself. Good day, messeres." They stepped aside, just as a Templar patrol arrived from another direction.
"Are you—?" The templar at the fore took in the guards, the corpse, and the band of distinctly non-merry individuals. "The Hawkes, I presume. Is one of you Anton?"
"Anton’s—" Bethany turned to point at her brother, but didn’t find him. "Anton’s fine. He was here just a moment ago. I’d send you back to the Gallows to tell the Knight-Captain he’s on his way, but I doubt you’ll make better time than he will."
"Anton’s fine. Just as fine as I am," Cormac grumbled. "Now get out of my way. The nice guardswoman over there can explain. I’m not doing it again."
"He’d be sorry," Anders offered, "but I’m carrying his mother’s head, attached to the bodies of several other women. So, he’s really not sorry at all. Do move."
The templar eyed the guardswoman, who nodded, and then waved his men back. "I’m very sorry about your mother, messeres."
"Oh, sod off," Carver muttered, only to be shushed by Bethany. Artemis went wherever Cormac led him.
After Anton’s message, Cullen hadn’t been able to focus all day. He was worried for Anton’s mother, yes, but also for Anton. He thought of Emeric and that poor man’s grizzly death and —
And when Anton strode in through his doors, Cullen knew something was wrong but couldn’t help sagging in relief. "Came in through the doors," he said with a weak smile. "Must be bad news." He set his ledger and stylus down on his desk, frowning at the bloodless look of Anton’s face and the distant look in his eyes. "Anton?"
"It’s mum," Anton finally said. "We found her. Or part of her." That wasn’t quite how he’d wanted to say that, and he winced.
"Maker’s breath," Cullen swore under his breath. He reached for Anton, wanting to enfold him in his arms but unsure if he should. After a few false starts, he went with his instinct and wrapped his arms around Anton.
"He’s dead, Cullen. We got him." Anton relaxed against Cullen, until Cullen’s arms were the only thing holding him up. "I said we’d get him. I just… my mum. She— he turned her into— I know why there were only pieces left."
Anton struggled to focus, but couldn’t hold on to anything long enough. Bits and pieces of everything that went through his head came out of his mouth, as Cullen eased them both to the floor, pulling Anton onto his lap as he leaned back against the desk. It wasn’t comfortable, but Cullen wasn’t sure anything would be, right now. He just stroked Anton’s hair and listened.
"He took her head. But, she talked to us, anyway. She loved us. She was proud of us. And then — then she left us. She was there, and then she left us." And that was the worst of it, Anton thought. She’d still been there, to some degree, but even Anders couldn’t fix her. He’d tried. Anton had watched that glow, hoping something would change, but…
"Her… head?" Cullen hadn’t meant to ask, but that had been just odd enough.
"He sewed the parts together. He took the pieces and sewed them together to be his wife. He took my mother’s head and put it on his wife. It wasn’t even his wife. None of it was his wife." Anton choked up in horror — he thought he should be used to this sort of thing, with all the years he spent with his sister, but Bethy hadn’t tried to raise dad from the dead. "There’s no pieces of him left. Nothing anyone can use. Just a bloody smear half an inch deep. More of a pool than a smear, I guess. My brothers killed him — destroyed him. There’s nothing left."
A smear. Cullen suspected that’s what his mother’s killer would look like, if, Maker forbid, she had one. "Blood mage," he murmured, shaking his head. This was the sort of thing the Order was supposed to prevent. Cullen was surprised Anton could even look at him right now, after the templars had failed him so completely, after Cullen had failed him. "Anton, I’m so sorry. We should have been there. I should have been there." But that was selfish, wasn’t it? Thinking of his own regrets? "But I’m glad the bastard’s dead at least," he added, pressing a kiss to the top of Anton’s head.
"So am I," Anton grit out, his grip on Cullen tightening. "White lilies. If it weren’t for your friend Emeric, we wouldn’t have found her. We wouldn’t have known." And that, he supposed, was a worse thought. Their mother still down there. That man still alive. Too bad it didn’t make what had happened any more bearable.
"It would have pleased him to hear that, I think," Cullen sighed, wiping away Anton’s tears with the pad of his thumb as they fell. "Would you like to stay here, for the night? I won’t tell Meredith if you won’t."
Anton thought of the estate and tried to picture it with her gone. The thought just left him cold. "I think I would, yes," he said with a weak smile. He could face the house and its new reality tomorrow.
Fenris had been sitting in the library for hours, trying very hard not to snap at Bodhan, when he heard the knock at the door. He listened, wondering if this was news or just a delivery. Artemis would have just let himself in, he knew. But, he was so distracted by his own thoughts he missed everything until Bodhan appeared in the doorway, leading Aveline and Sebastian.
"Fenris," Aveline said, looking confused. "I thought you’d be with them…" She took a seat on one of the chairs by the fire, opposite to the one Fenris sat in.
"He was out the door before I could even get my trousers. White lilies, he said." Fenris shook his head. "I still don’t know. Bodhan’s not sure."
"I know," Aveline said. "There’s a killer, and they think he has Leandra. He sends his victims white lilies."
Fenris sat all the way up, sucking in a sharp breath, eyes widening. "A killer? He’s gone after a killer, and you and I are both here?"
"I sent guardsmen after them. There’s only one killer. There are five Hawkes, and I sent six guardsmen. No one’s alone," Aveline reassured him.
"I am still concerned," Fenris said, but he looked a little less tense.
Sebastian took the chair by the desk, the movement causing Fenris to finally notice him.
"Bethany came to the house, to get Artemis. I understand she’s…" your girlfriend? special? important to you? Fenris wasn’t sure what went there, when speaking of that relationship.
"A mage?" Sebastian snapped. "Yes. She is. I know what you think of mages, and now is hardly the time."
"And I know what you think of mages, as well, and here we are, each dating one." Fenris smiled blandly. "And that is what I meant to say. I know she is … important to you. You must be just as concerned as I am."
"Maybe less concerned," Sebastian admitted. "She’s really quite terrifying. I’m sure everything will be fine."
Then they heard the front door open and Bodhan’s voice. Aveline told them needlessly to be quiet as she listened, popping back into the doorway to peer down the hall. "It’s them," she said. "And… it looks like Anders is carrying a body."
Fenris and Sebastian were pushing past her and out the door before she finished speaking. Fenris let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding when he saw the body in Anders’s arms was female, only to suck in another breath when he was close enough to see her face. "Venhedis," he breathed.
Bodhan looked close to tears as he held the door open. Anders offered them all a tired smile as he walked past, and the Hawkes spilled in after him, complete with a droopy-eared Mintaka. Bethany’s face smoothed over when she caught sight of Sebastian, and she went straight to him, letting him fold her in his arms. Carver followed after, looking dead-eyed and tired, followed by Cormac and Artemis.
"Get Merrill," Fenris said to Aveline, quietly. "Carver shouldn’t be alone." He stepped into the hall to relieve Cormac of Artemis, only to find the brothers wouldn’t let each other go.
Anders turned in the front hall, looking for anywhere to put down the body. He spotted Fenris, tugging at Artemis, and called him away. "Fenris? Help me find a table to lay her on. She needs to be warded until the funeral."
Fenris glared, but caught the tiny head-shake Anders gave him. There was something he was missing here. Something Anders could see. That seemed to happen an awful lot, he noticed, when it came to Artemis, and he suspected he should be profoundly jealous of what they had, for however short a time they’d had it, except that Anders seemed intent on passing those skills and knowledge along. He pressed a kiss to Artemis’s cheek, but it went unremarked, and then he went to help Anders.
"What is this?" Fenris whispered. "What’s going on? Aside from the obvious — are those stitches?" His eyes lit on Leandra’s neck and widened in horror.
"I promise I will tell you everything, later. Right now, help Bodhan find a table. He’s not taking this well, and I don’t think he’s going to come up with anything. I think the table in the west drawing room is the right size." Anders lived in the cellar, but he spent enough time in the house to know at least a few rooms worth of furniture.
Fenris looked confused, but went to suggest the table to Bodhan. The last time he’d seen that table had been… not something he would speak of in front of probably even Anders, actually, for as much as Anders had to know, by now. He and Bodhan carried it back out to the front hall, and he waited, scratching at his arms, as Anders laid the body on it, and cast a few spells.
Anders finished and turned to Fenris. "He needs you, but he needs Cormac more, right now. They’re brothers. They grew up together. And they just lost the only parent they had left. So, let’s find them, and just be with them. No questions, now. I don’t think he can answer you, but Cormac probably still can, and that’s not a pleasant proposition. Once they’re asleep, I’ll tell you everything. I just don’t want them to be alone or to have to hear it all again." Anders headed for the stairs. "And Fenris? I know you love him, but save that for the morning. He really doesn’t need to hear that after what we just saw."
Fenris burned to ask so many things, but he knew how to take orders, even from a mage. Especially from a mage.
"Just tell me one thing," Fenris said, and Anders turned to look at him, expression carefully neutral. "Whoever did this… is he dead?"
Anders answered with a grim smile. "There isn’t enough left of him to fill a ring box."
Fenris nodded and followed Anders up the stairs, unbuckling the gauntlets he’d been worried he’d need. So he wouldn’t need to kill someone on his mage’s behalf. That, however, would have been simple enough for him. But this? He didn’t know how to handle this.
They found the brothers in Cormac’s room, on the bed. Cormac was curled around his brother, and Artie’s knuckles were white where he clutched his brother’s robes. Fenris sent his gauntlets on the bureau and wondered what he was supposed to do. Cormac, at least, seemed to know that they were in the room, but his mage was distressingly still, eyes vacant and breathing shallow. He stood by the bed for a moment, just looking at them and feeling helpless.
"Artemis," Fenris murmured, finally sinking to sit at the edge of the bed. He brushed Artemis’s hair away from his face, and Artemis blinked, breath hitching. More of a reaction than he’d gotten downstairs. "I’m here." He bit his tongue against the ‘I love you’ that wanted to spill out, almost on reflex. Why would those words hurt him?
"We’re all right," Cormac promised, looking up at Fenris. "We’re as all right as anyone’s going to be."
"Okay, that second one I believe," Anders said, sitting down on the other side of the bed, behind Cormac. It was kind of surprising either of them were even here. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to get them out of that room, for the first couple of minutes, but Cormac was determinedly stubborn.
"My sister," Cormac murmured, after a moment. "She’s still…?"
"She’s with Sebastian," Fenris said, hands still gently patting and stroking Artemis.
"I’m going to owe her so much, after this." Half an awkward laugh leapt from Cormac’s lips, and he looked pointedly at Artemis and back up at Fenris.
"I have—" Anders started, but Cormac cut him off.
"You really think that’s going to work, right now?" A sleeping potion would require that Artie be able to drink it, which Cormac wasn’t sure of. Bethany, on the other hand, could pass on a dreamless sleep from the doorway. "Give it to her. She’ll need it. Won’t work on herself."
Fenris missed most of the conversation. "Mages," he huffed, almost fondly.
"Lie down with us," Cormac suggested. "Hold him. He’s going to cut off circulation in my arm if he keeps this up. I can’t feel my fingers, but I’m not sure that’s him. Actually, I can’t feel my anything, now that I think about it. Nothing but his hands, and I’m pretty sure that’s not right. Anders?"
"If you’re still like that in a couple of days, I’ll worry." Anders moved first, nodding to Fenris as he stretched out behind Cormac, wrapping close around him. "Feel that?"
"Kind of. Bed moved. You’re warm. But, I try to think about it, focus on it, and there’s nothing there." Cormac pressed his lips to his brother’s forehead.
"Yeah, it’s not serious," Anders assured him, watching Fenris slowly, haltingly wrap himself around Artemis.
Fenris slid in behind his mage, slipping an arm under him and enfolding him in his arms. "I’m here, Amatus," he said again, this time at Artemis’s ear. He didn’t know how much his mage could hear, but Artemis let Fenris pry his hands off of Cormac. Fenris curled those hands in his, thumb smoothing over the knuckles.
Fenris peeked at Cormac over Artemis. "I suppose it’s a good thing you have this ridiculously sized bed," he said with the faintest smile. Not that his was any smaller, really, but he almost felt like he needed to fill Artemis’s silence. "And no Orlesian silk sheets." He sighed when that didn’t provoke a reaction from his mage either, ears drooping. Fenris kissed Artie’s hair and held him close, glancing at Anders to make sure he wasn’t doing anything wrong.
Anders laid there for a while, holding Cormac, his hand rubbing Cormac’s arm. "Do you want me to get Bethany?" he asked after a while. Sleep would do them both good, he suspected.
"Trade her a potion. And bring one for me, too. Less she has to cast, the better." Cormac hadn’t let go of Artemis, but his grip was less bruising than his brother’s. His family, now. Always his family, but not like this. Dad had always said the day would come, but this… this wasn’t how he imagined that would go. "I’m so sorry," he said, to no one in particular. "Tomorrow. It’ll be better tomorrow."
Anders kissed the back of Cormac’s head and got back up. "I’ll be right back. If she’s already asleep, I’ll bring two potions."
"Did you ward the — you know. Did you put up the wards? Don’t need demons, if I can’t get out of bed," Cormac muttered.
"I may look the fool, but you know me better than that." Anders winked and ducked out of the room. "Of course I did."
Cormac stroked a hand over Artemis’s cheek, sighing softly in place of whatever words he’d thought he might say. Then he pressed a finger down just before Artie’s ear, gently stopping sound from entering it, and looked up at Fenris, with an unexpected clarity in his eyes. "He tried to raise his wife from the dead, do you understand me? You are about to marry my brother." That was the most important thing, he thought. It was the thing that had been hovering in the back of his head, trying to assemble itself, since he laid eyes on Fenris. "And for all that you don’t have family, that was our mother. I know patience isn’t usually your strongest point, but…"
Fenris didn’t understand, not really. What did a murderer’s wife have to do with Leandra? And then he thought of the state of her, the stitches on her neck. On someone else’s neck. The man had been trying to make a facsimile of his wife from other women’s parts. Fenris had seem some terrifying and revolting things in Tevinter, but few of them made his stomach roil quite like that realisation.
"Venhedis," he breathed, grip tightening on Artemis. "And… you’re afraid of what, exactly? That if something happens to Artemis, I will try to raise him from the dead?" And there was a thought he hadn’t considered or at least hadn’t wanted to consider. He’d always assumed that Artemis would outlive him, mainly because anything that would try to harm his mage would have to go through him. Except that wasn’t how death always worked, was it? He couldn’t always be there, and some things couldn’t be fought with a sword. "I assure you that if I outlive Artemis, it won’t be for long. Certainly not long enough for… that."
It would perhaps sound melodramatic to Cormac, but Fenris was simply being honest. He knew himself and knew what stupidity he was likely to fall into.
"If I was worried about that, I’d be looking at my sister, not you. But, my brother’s a lot like me, in some ways. Very much a one-night stand kind of guy. I don’t need to know it, because I fucking know better. And you’re not in love with me — at least I hope you’re not. If you are, you’ve sure got a weird way of showing it." A smile tugged at the corner of Cormac’s mouth, and he choked back the hysterical giggle that threatened to start. Good. Laughing. As long as he could still laugh, everything would be fine. Don’t let the bastards get you down, and he guessed his mother was really the case in point, there, with her sleeping potions and her late-night crying jags. If you slow down, they’ll get you. And they certainly got her. He hadn’t been enough to stop it, any more.
"Everything he said came back to love. He loved his wife, love was the most powerful force, our mother loved us… It turned him. Or he turned it. Just… remind my brother you don’t mean it like that. You care, and not in some sick, obsessive way that’s going to involve demons and dead bodies." Cormac shrugged one shoulder. "I don’t know what else to do."
Fenris nodded, forehead smoothing over. "I think demons are the last things either of us wants to associate with, after everything," he rumbled. He tried not to think about the devastated look Artemis had given him in the Fade. "I’ll tell him," he said, "when he’s — when I know he can hear me." He went back to smoothing back Artemis’s hair. "I’ll tell him our love isn’t about demons or dead bodies. Goats. It’s about waxed floors and goats." He smiled against his mage’s hair.
The giggle Cormac had been fighting became irresistible, and within seconds, it progressed from a hint of sound, slipping out between his teeth to full on cackling. He turned his face down, against the top of Artemis’s head, trying to muffle the laughter, but he couldn’t make it stop. "Waxed… floors?" he wheezed, and then nothing more, but another wave of hysteria. His hand moved from the side of Artemis’s face, unable to keep blocking that ear, as he shook.
Fenris’s smile turned nervous as Cormac kept laughing past the point any sane person would have. Did he break the mage? "Yes, waxed floors," he said, trying to distract him. "Did Artemis not tell you? Or Anders, for that matter?" He glanced down at his mage then looked back at Cormac, making sure the mage was focused on him. "Your brother is something of a imp, as I’m sure you know. One morning, he decided it would be funny to replace our bedsheets with that ridiculously slippery Orlesian silk and waxed the floors into non-existence. I ended up sliding on my belly like an eel until he threw me my pants."
Cormac did not stop laughing. The laughter did not even pretend it might abate, and Cormac’s face turned unusual shades that indicated he might not be breathing as well as he should be. Tears streamed down his cheeks.
Fenris chuckled against the back of Artemis’s head. Those were happier memories, of the sort that the Hawkes needed to remember.
"You kept making faces like a wet cat."
Fenris’s laughter cut short at the sound of his mage’s voice. Slurred and confused sounding, but definitely his mage. "Artemis?" He pushed himself up one elbow and tried to look at Artie’s face.
"Mm." Artemis blinked at the two of them. "Cormac, you sound like a dying goose." He looked around him like he wasn’t sure where he was or how he’d gotten there.
Cormac managed to wind himself back down to hysterical giggles, at the sound of his brother’s voice. "Oh, good. I was afraid you weren’t making it to this party," he laughed, untangling himself from Artemis and sliding down the bed to come face to face with his brother. "Are you sure it’s a goose and not a jackass? Anders always tells me I sound like a jackass."
"It’s because you do sound like a jackass," Anders said, from the doorway, two potions in his hands. "Bethy was all out, but I’ve got sleep, if you want it. Once you’re done having your sleep-over giggle fit, like the big, hairy, teenage girl you are."
"You take that back!" Cormac insisted, his grin still a little deranged. "I am not a dwarf!"
"Well, you are hairier than Varric," Artemis reminded him. He pushed himself up on one elbow too, finally seeing enough of the room to recognise it as Cormac’s. "What… happened?" Bits and pieces of the last few hours filtered back to him in a jumbled mess, and trying to focus on them just made his head ache.
"Worry about that in the morning," Fenris said, rubbing a hand along Artemis’s back. "You’ve… all had a long day."
"He’s not wrong," Anders said, pressing a potion into Artemis’s hand and curling his fingers around it. "I think we could all use some beauty sleep."
"If you get any more gorgeous, my head’s going to explode," Cormac complained, stretching his fingers toward Anders, until Anders put the other potion in his hand. "Me, on the other hand… It’s going to take more than sleep to make me beautiful."
"I don’t know if even transformation magic would help," Anders joked, putting out most of the lamps, before he stretched out behind Cormac, again.
"You don’t know," Fenris teased, "he might be a very pretty bereskarn. To other bereskarn. It might be worth the study, for a pair of hairy savages, like the two of you."
"I’m not that hairy!" Anders protested, knowing that was mostly because of the scars.
"And I’m not a savage! He’s the savage!" Cormac spit the cork across the room and knocked back the potion, before handing the bottle back to Anders. "Drink up and come to bed, Artie."
Fenris gave them a wry look. "I’m an elf. You’re both hairy savages. I might as well be consorting with magical bears in the wood. Magical bears might be an improvement. What do you think, Artemis? Would magical bears be an improvement?"
"Since that would lead to all sorts of uncomfortable questions regarding bestiality, I’m going to have to say no," Artemis said. At least Fenris wasn’t including him in the ‘magical bear’ category.
Artemis looked at the potion in his head, then at the three men in bed with him. He supposed there were worse things than sleeping amid all that handsomeness, assuming glowy and glowier could keep from killing each other. He uncorked the potion and knocked it back, handing the empty vial to Anders as well before lying back down. Artie tucked his head under Cormac’s chin as Fenris wrapped himself around his mage’s back again.
"You are a hairy savage, though," Artemis said against the hollow of Cormac’s throat. "Even if most of the hair hasn’t grown back yet." His words started to slur again, limbs feeling heavy.
Cormac couldn’t find enough words to answer that. Something about itching. Something about how he couldn’t feel his anything. Something about being Artie’s hairy savage until the end of time. But, he kept misplacing the words, between finding one and looking for the next, and he drifted off, arms wrapped around his brother, a warm purr in his throat.
Anders propped himself on one elbow, reaching across the brothers between them to take Fenris’s hand. "Hey, asshole, we’re pretty lucky, aren’t we?"
Fenris looked like he might take offence, until he remembered the last time Anders had called him ‘asshole’ — ‘asshole little brother’. "Yes. We are. But, if you continue to call me asshole, you may run out of luck, very shortly." He strongly considered taking his hand back. The lyrium burned in Anders’s grip. But, he thought of the Hawkes, and decided that was what brothers were for — to poke where it hurt and call you an asshole, but never to leave you bleeding on the ground.
Anders smirked wryly, and after a few minutes, after the third time he turned Cormac’s head to make him stop snoring, he started to explain to Fenris what had happened.