[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 89
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂, Fenris ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V1 D1)
Warnings: Face-punching, funeral pyre, excessive drinking
Notes: Anton tries to remember how to exist. A funeral on the beach. Carver jumps to some terrible, but not inaccurate, conclusions.
Cullen woke to a crick in his neck and his door slamming open.
"Excuse me, Captain, but the Knight-Commander would like to know if — oh. Er."
Anton made a sleepy noise of protest against Cullen’s shoulder, and Cullen shot a glare at the recruit in his doorway over Anton’s head. He squirmed under Anton, rotating his shoulders as best he could without disturbing him just to get some of the stiffness out. Sleeping with his back to the desk wasn’t the most comfortable thing he’d done, but he didn’t have it in him to complain, not with Anton still in his arms.
"It can wait, Keran," Cullen told the fidgeting recruit.
"But, Captain —"
"It can wait," Cullen insisted. "Please lock the door on your way out."
Keran looked like he might say something else, but he grabbed the door handle and backed out. "Yes, Captain."
Meredith was probably going to fire him. Maybe kill him, too, the way she’d been getting, lately. But, Cullen couldn’t seem to concern himself with more than the issues very literally in his lap. The lily killer had been real, and was now dead. Anton had fallen asleep before the report came in, but the papers still sat beside them, on the floor. How had this gone on in Kirkwall? How had this continued to go on in Kirkwall, after they’d lost both a mage and a templar? Something was very wrong, here, and this was the crowning gem on this vast trove of failure.
He picked up the report, to read it again. Char-marks of the type most often associated with demons being beaten back through the veil, women’s bodies in various states of disassembly, armed and armoured skeletons, a man identified as Gascard du Puis according to the contents of the corpse, and a volume of blood that suggested at least one more person had died there. Anton had found his mother in this place. Or part of his mother, anyway. He wondered about his own mother, for a moment — debated sending her a letter — but he realised he didn’t know where to send it, any more.
Anton squirmed in his arms, making frustrated sounds, before suddenly sitting up, panting, one hand scrabbling at Cullen’s chest.
Cullen gently took him by the shoulders. "Anton," he coaxed. "Anton. It’s all right. Look at me. You’re safe." It broke his heart to see that look of panic in Anton’s eyes, a look he’d worn often enough himself.
Anton let out a deep, shuddery breath, wiping a hand over his face. "It wasn’t a dream, was it?" he asked. "I was rather hoping it was." He offered Cullen a wan smile that Cullen tried and failed to return.
"I’m sorry," Cullen said, and those two words sounded just as useless as they had last night.
"Me too," Anton murmured.
Cullen had no idea what to do. He couldn’t even promise that Anton would be safe with him — not after that. He wished his sister was here — she was always good at these things, what to do when someone died, what to do when the world refused to behave like you wanted it to. But, her answers usually involved tea and food. He could probably do that.
"Do you want to get breakfast? Maybe just pick something up in the market, and we’ll find somewhere quiet to eat. Quieter than my office, anyway, which I should probably get out of, before the Commander comes in demanding to know what I think I’m doing. I know what I’m doing. I’m taking today off." Cullen paused, looking awkwardly at Anton. "If you want me anywhere near you after…"
"After what? After I came in here and dragged you away from your work and made you sleep on the floor?" Anton scoffed, rubbing his face. "No, I’m sorry. Breakfast sounds great." That might have been an exaggeration. Nothing sounded great, but food at least sounded like a good idea. "Pastry?" he suggested after a moment. "Nothing with meat."
Food and sunlight. Those were two things Cullen decided Anton needed. A bench in the Viscount’s gardens fulfilled the ‘sunlight’ requirement, after Cullen had glared imperiously enough at the guards to get in, and an assortment of tarts and duchess cakes fulfilled the ‘food’ requirement.
Cullen offered Anton a duchess cake, and Anton smiled fondly, if faintly. Cullen would buy a hundred duchess cakes if it made Anton smile again after what he went through.
"Feeling sentimental?" Anton quipped, taking a bite of the pastry and scooping out the cream with his tongue.
"If I were feeling sentimental, I’d have gotten you flavoured syrups and spilled wine on myself."
Anton smiled and ducked his head, trying not to laugh with his mouth full. "Can we do that later? You did take the whole day off."
"Only if that ends with a long bath. Do you know how long it took me to wash off all the sticky spots?" Cullen chuckled and helped himself to a tart. "Of course you do. I seem to recall you being just as sticky."
"More sticky," Anton pointed out. "You got sloppy with the syrup."
"I was distracted." Cullen sat up, primly, looking out into the garden, with half a smile on his face. "You’re very distracting when you do… things like you were doing."
"I’m sure I can be more distracting than that," Anton pointed out. After a moment, his face fell, and he just sat and chewed for a bit. "Can you be distracting, for me? Don’t let me get lost in this…"
"Anything," Cullen promised, and he meant it, even if he wasn’t sure how he was going to deliver on that. "Though if I’m too ‘distracting’, we might scar the Viscount and his guards. Don’t want us to knock over anything else, like the last time in the garden." Cullen offered Anton a shy smile around a bite of tart. He didn’t remember much of that night, but he remembered it feeling like the earth was moving.
A nervous laugh stuttered out of Anton, his eyes a shade too wide. "No, we… wouldn’t want a repeat of that," he said. "Definitely not." Maker. If Cullen ever found out… Well. He wouldn’t.
Anton turned so that he was leaning back against Cullen, the sun on his face. If he didn’t think, if he didn’t remember, this would almost be pleasant.
"What’s your family like?" Anton asked, realising he didn’t know. "Are your parents still…?" He knew he didn’t need to finish that question.
"I don’t know. I know they were alive before the Blight, but I haven’t been home — I haven’t heard anything since. But, they don’t know where I am, either. I should probably send a letter. Especially after that mix up — they told your cousin I was dead, when she asked! The templars, I mean. I hope no one told my mother that. I should really write. I hope she’s still there, or I don’t even know where to start looking…" Cullen looked a bit dazed. He hadn’t thought much about his family, since the blight. It had all been work and then work and Anton. Sure, he’d mentioned them, talked about them, but never realised he’d been out of touch so long.
"My mum’s a strong woman — raising four smart-mouthed thankless gits like us in a tiny village like Honnleath, it took a lot of power, and she wielded it well. We were farm folk, you know? Up before dawn with the chickens, milk the cow before the sun goes down, the whole thing. Mum worked the fields with us, while dad stayed home and cooked and traded with the neighbours. He’d been a warrior, once, until the pirates got him. Or at least that’s the story he told, and mum never let us question it too much. He still worked hard for all of us. My sisters were an unending challenge. They stuck together. It was the worst. I can’t count the number of times I wound up in pig shit because of one or both of them. Got to being a templar, and all the stupid things that went on in the barracks were a relief compared to my sisters." Cullen laughed.
Anton chuckled softly. "As a middle child of four loudmouth siblings, I feel your pain," he said. Still, he couldn’t imagine going that long without talking to his family, his brothers and sister, his…
Anton’s throat closed up. Cullen seemed to sense the shift in mood and wrapped an arm around him, pulling him close.
"Always thought she’d go peacefully," Anton said. "Or at least that was what I’d hoped. Old age, surrounded by grandkids." He fiddled with the half-eaten duchess cake in his hand. "Not like that. Maker, not like that."
Cullen squeezed tighter, feeling terribly useless.
"It’s not like when dad died," Anton continued, resting his head on Cullen’s shoulder. "He just didn’t wake up, one day. Young, too… I mean, not that young, obviously, the man had five kids, and there’s nine years between Cormac and Carver. Nine? Ten? Nine, I think. But, it wasn’t like he was an old man, not really. Didn’t look it, either. Looked like Cormac, but with a few more creases in his face. Just as much of a pain in the ass, too." Anton rubbed his face and laughed, quietly. "Never just pointed something out, if he could make a production of it, instead. Practically musical theatre, every time something happened. And for a year after he died, I kept asking myself how I could still look at Cormac, ’cause he did look just like dad, by then — but now, I think it made it easier. There’s nobody who looks like mum. I don’t get to ease into her being gone… Like someone just turned off the light, but less turning it off and more dousing it in blood."
"Your father looked like Cormac?" Cullen asked, which was not what he ought to be focusing on out of all that, but it nagged at something in the back of his mind. A terrified father standing in a doorway, all dark skin and broad shoulders, and an equally terrified child. It was the first time Cullen had ever seen magic, and that child had destroyed the room he was standing in.
That child, now that Cullen thought about it, would have been the same age as one of Anton’s brothers. Cullen felt dizzy.
"Honnleath," he murmured. "Were… were you ever in Honnleath? You and your family?"
Anton sat up to look at Cullen, expression guarded. "I don’t know," he said. "We moved around a lot, when I was young. There were a few years, in there, where I’m not sure we really stopped moving for more than a couple months at a time — dad was a mercenary, you know? We went where we had to."
"Your dad was a mercenary, and he died in his sleep?" Cullen looked surprised.
"Well, he was retired, by then. Gave it up, when we got to Lothering. Decided it was time for us to live like real people — which Cormac promptly interpreted as banging everything that moved. Everyone knew. Nobody talked about it. You know, you’ve heard him. Please take a moment to imagine how many years I’ve been living with that. At least he had the courtesy to keep it out of the house, usually. But, you’d be walking past a field and suddenly, you’d know exactly what was going on in that field, because you’d be hearing all of it. I’ll give dad that. At least he and mum were quiet."
"Thank the Maker for small blessings." Cullen looked a little faint, considering the idea of having lived with Cormac for that many years. How did Anton still have a brother, exactly? Even his sisters weren’t quite that … ew. No. "I feel like I should know your father’s name. I know I looked up your family, before we met — it’s how we ended up in a coat closet. Wasn’t he originally from the Kirkwall Circle?"
"Malcolm," Anton answered. "Malcolm Hawke. He never said where he was originally from, but he ended up in Kirkwall Circle, yes. We suspect Rivain, though he never said as much. Izzy rather likes the idea."
"How did a mercenary mage end up with a noblewoman?" Cullen asked.
Anton smirked. "He charmed the pants off of her, that’s how," he said. Then he paused, grimacing. "I meant that metaphorically, but it might have been literal. Best not to think of that. But yes. Dad was a pain in the ass, but he was a charming pain in the ass."
"So that’s where you get it from," Cullen teased, earning him a playful nudge in the ribs.
"Well, I did charm the pants off of you, didn’t I?" Anton replied. "And in record time too, Captain."
"I can tell you I’ve never had my pants charmed off that quickly, before or since." Cullen grinned. "In fact, that might have been the first time anyone managed to charm my pants off, but your cousin wasn’t trying very hard."
"Is that a fact? How do your pants usually end up on the floor, then? Pretty girls just ripping them off you? I imagine you must have quite a collection of spare trousers, if that’s the case." Anton finished the cake he was still holding, stuffing it into his mouth, before he rested his head on Cullen’s shoulder again.
"I— er— that is to say…" Cullen sputtered. "Hazing," he finally managed. "I don’t think I’d had my pants removed for anything quite so enjoyable, before your charms. A lot of running around a bonfire and getting swatted with wooden paddles, though."
Anton chuffed. "I’d pay to see that," he said, even as his stomach twisted. "But really? Anders told me Kinloch Hold was a ‘friendly’ place. No other mages tried to get into your pants? Or under your templar skirts, I suppose?"
Cullen’s cheeks turned a mottled red at the question. Questions. "That’s — um. That wouldn’t really have been appropriate," he said. All this time, and this man still made him blush.
"Neither is sneaking into the Viscount’s gardens. Or having mindblowing sex in a coat closet."
"Mindblowing, huh?" Cullen asked, grinning. "And, er, well. I guess you just bring out that side of me."
"The inappropriately mindblowing side? Hmm… I’ll have to do more of that. I can’t wait to see what you’ll surprise me with." Anton nipped at the side of Cullen’s neck, before stuffing food in his mouth, again. Food was definitely helping. Everything was easier when his stomach wasn’t complaining on top of everything else. "This is pretty nice, though. Not as nice as it could be, but pretty nice."
"Not as nice as it could be?" Cullen looked moderately offended, before he remembered Anton’s mother had just died. His face underwent a few contortions involving terror, horror, embarrassment, and guilt.
Anton didn’t seem to notice, eyes still on the half tart in his hand, as he talked with his mouth full. "I have a very nice garden, at home, and one we could do some even more inappropriately mindblowing things in, without the Viscount’s guards watching us. Unless you’re into that kind of thing, and then we could do inappropriately mindblowing things right here, but I doubt we’d be invited back for tea, if we did."
A nervous laugh tore out of Cullen. "I doubt I’d still have a job, if we did," he said. He kissed the top of Anton’s head and asked, "Are you saying you’re ready to go back to the estate?" He tried to imagine it was his home, his mother. He didn’t think he’d set foot in that building again if it were him.
"Ready might be an exaggeration," Anton replied. "But I’m as close to ready as I’m ever likely to be. Plus my family — the rest of my family — needs me. Someone needs to keep Carver from punching Cormac. That’s how my darling little brother ends up with broken knuckles."
Joke. Joke like nothing is wrong, like everything is as it should be.
"All right," Cullen said, packing up the rest of their pastries, "but I’m not sharing the duchess cakes."
Bonfires dotted the shore, that evening, and twisting spires of woven reeds and flowers rose up along the water’s edge, to mark the tide and keep anyone from drunkenly stumbling into the sea, without anyone else noticing. Kegs of beer and wine rested on blocks, and Bodhan watched over them to ensure no one knocked them over or poured too much into the sand. Orana held hands with a young human woman — Kirkwall’s florist, actually — and the two of them directed the last few workmen in assembling what would be the pyre. Guests, she knew, would arrive first, followed by the family. Everything had been planned down to the last torch. She waved to the musicians, directing them to the low stage that had been assembled on a twist of sand and stone that rose up from the beach.
The caterers arrived shortly before the guests, and tables full of cakes and fruit and finger-food sprung up along the far side of the fires, between raised torches. As the last of the food was set, the first families began to arrive, nobles of Kirkwall and Orlais, all dressed in monochrome. White masks, veils, and hats stood out against the encroaching dark, and whispers barely rose above the sound of the sea, as low music in a minor key drifted down.
A wave of chatter announced the arrival of the family and their companions, the body borne before them, on a stretcher that would unroll to top the pyre with an accelerant-soaked cloth illustrated with the achievements of Lady Amell. Anders and Cullen held the fore poles, and Isabela and Serendipity, the rear. Behind them, came the siblings, an assortment of friends and more than supporting them, in some cases a little more literally than others.
Words were offered in Leandra’s honour by those who had the will to speak. Anecdotes shared by friends, even a surprisingly heartfelt one from a choked-up Gamlen. But Varric offered the most eloquent words, on behalf of his grieving friends. Anton even considered letting him win at Wicked Grace next time.
Then Sebastian led them in a prayer, and a torch was touched to Leandra’s pyre. As flames engulfed her shrouded figure, Artemis tried not to think about how much of that was her under the cloth, tried not to think about whether the guardsmen had recovered the rest of her. He sucked in a breath and clutched Cormac’s hand in his, Fenris a comforting presence to his other side.
Cormac tilted his head back against Anders, hoping not to catch his hair in the Warden armour. "Get me a drink, would you? And one for Artie. I’m not drunk enough for this, and if I don’t start getting drunk, I’m going to start telling people exactly where they can stick their sympathies. Pretty sure mum would possess something, just to kick my ass, if I did that. On the other hand, we might be able to stop inviting the de Launcets to everything. … No, no. Drinks. We need drinks."
Anders stole a kiss, first. "Share that with your brother. I’ll be right back." With a quick squeeze of Cormac’s shapely bottom, Anders ducked back into the crowd and made his way to the wine.
Share—? There were far too many people here, but Cormac pressed a kiss to Artemis’s cheek, all the same. No one could fault them that. Not at a time like this. "We’ll get through this, Artie. We always do." He drew a cloth pouch out of his sleeve — elven incense for the dead — and tossed it onto the pyre. His mother had been Andrastian, but at a time like this, it seemed best to cover all the bases. The incense girl, Lani, had been so kind, when she heard why he needed it, this time.
On the other side of the pyre, Carver looked up just in time to see it happen, before the smoke thickened. The third time. This would not do. Those were his brothers. What the fuck was Cormac thinking? And at their mother’s funeral? He must have said something, made some sound, because Bethany grabbed his hand and patted it, reassuringly.
Artie squeezed Cormac’s hand in reply. "I know," he said, and he almost sounded like he believed it. "And tonight, I plan to get through it with alcohol."
Fenris sighed but didn’t argue or even imply Artie shouldn’t. Not tonight. Tonight, his mage could drink himself into oblivion. Which meant that Fenris probably shouldn’t, just to keep him out of trouble. "Plan to scandalise the Orlesians?" he asked, wrapping an arm around Artemis’s waist.
"Mum would expect no less," Artemis said with a pained smile.
"Ooh, if we’re scandalising Orlesians, can I play too? Maybe we’ll get rid of those two ridiculous little creampuffs for good. Can’t possibly be good for the family name to be associated with the likes of us." Cormac grinned, eyes gleaming. "I wonder if I can get Varric to sit on my lap."
Anders returned just in time for that. "And to think," he said, "you’re not even drinking yet, never mind drunk." He passed the darker of two glass mugs to Artemis — wine — and the lighter, a beer, to Cormac. And that left Cormac’s hands full, but Anders had enough empty hands for both of them, and he patted the asses of both brothers, before settling both hands on Cormac. Really, he just wanted to make sure Artie stayed engaged, and annoying him seemed like the best option, there.
"What? No!" Cormac rinsed his mouth out with the beer and pulled closer to his brother. "We’re trying to scandalise the Orlesians. I figured faking a thing with Varric would be a hit!"
"Only faking?" Anders asked. "Shame. And here I thought I’d be invited in on the fun this time." He shot a wink at Fenris, and the elf’s ears flattened against his head.
Artemis took an impolitely long drink of wine before replying to any of this. "Bet you I can get Varric to sit in my lap," he said. "Ten silver to whomever does it first."
"Try to remember this is a funeral," Fenris sighed, shaking his head.
"Oh, I remember," Artie replied with a tight smile. "That’s why I’m drinking. And placing bets on dwarf-fondling."
"It’s likely to get less bloody than dwarf-tossing," Cormac pointed out, squinting through the crowd and the flames.
The first warning any of them had was Anders suddenly squawking, "Don’t—" just before Carver dragged Cormac around to face him and slammed a fist directly into his… shields. Cormac blinked, eyeing the enormous amount of beer he’d just sloshed all over his arm and hand.
"What the fuck, Carver? It’s a fucking funeral." The annoyance was thick, but Cormac’s voice was still oddly flat.
"Maybe you should leave the fucking out of it," Carver snapped, rubbing his knuckles.
Cormac sighed. "Anders? Is he drunk? How drunk is he?"
Anders squinted at Carver. "Not drunk," he said. "Just Carver."
"Carver," Artemis said, hand disentangling with Cormac’s to gesture, palm out, "you’re welcome to punch Cormac later for whatever the fuck it is he did this time. But right now? Get a drink, make sulky faces at Merrill, and shut up."
"‘Whatever the fuck he’s done’?" Carver repeated, apoplectic. The veins in his neck strained. "Whatever the fuck? It’s you he’s done, isn’t it?"
Artemis made a strangled sound in the back of his throat.
Cormac spit beer, choking and wheezing, in the aftermath. "Are you sure he’s not drunk?" he demanded of Anders. "What the fuck have you been drinking, Carver? Where are you even getting this?" He didn’t deny it, but he did a damn fine impression of outrage. "You come over here and accuse me of fucking our brother in the middle of mum’s funeral? Have you lost your mind?"
"He kissed you!" Carver accused. "With tongue!"
"When— Oh, that party. Excuse us all, but did you see what else he did at that party? We were all extremely drunk. Better me than someone who might take it seriously! You know how that works!" Cormac tried to keep his voice down, without giving up any of the impact.
"I’ve watched you kiss him twice in as many days!" Carver insisted.
"So what? Bethany used to kiss your cheek all the time! She still does it, when you’re not listening to her!" Cormac stared at Carver like he’d lost his mind. "Yes, okay? I kissed one of my brothers. The one immediately next to me in age. The one I’ve been looking after since we were kids. The one I’ve been getting into trouble with since we were like ten! — Well, I think I was ten. He might have been eight or nine. The real trouble, anyway. — The one who is not handling this nearly as well as you or I, and I’m starting to think you’re not taking it so well, either. I comfort Artie, and you come over here and insist we must be fucking? Now who’s scandalising Orlesians?"
Artemis winced at that description of him. He knew Cormac was right, knew he wasn’t handling things well, but he didn’t like being reminded. While Carver was still sputtering with rage, Artemis sucked in a breath, grabbed Carver by the hair, and pulled him into a kiss.
"There!" he hissed, pulling away. "Now I’ve kissed you too. Does that mean we’re fucking? Shit no! Now get over yourself." He grimaced, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand while Carver stared at him in bug-eyed horror.
Fenris cleared his throat. "The Orlesians…" he reminded Artemis.
"Oh, fuck the Orlesians," Artemis muttered. "Fuck Orlais. And fuck this wine. Anders, please tell me we have something heavier. Never mind. I’ll find it." Artie pushed past them in search of alcohol, still drinking what he had in his hand.
"Personally, I’d rather not fuck any Orlesians. Here’s hoping we’ve scared off the de Launcet girls, though. If that didn’t do it, I don’t know what will." Cormac clapped a hand on Carver’s shoulder. "Thanks for that, I suppose." He paused and glanced around, but the crowd had already closed around Artemis. Andraste’s ass, why the fuck did their mother know so many people? "Fenris, don’t let him do anything stupid. Stupider."
A sound like a tea-kettle or a dolphin squeaked out from behind the hand Anders had clutched over his mouth, preceding the laughter that folded him in half. He sank to a crouch in the sand, between Cormac and the sea, cackling into his hands. "That was amazing," he choked out. "I couldn’t have done it better, myself. All those years, and I have never seen the like!"
Carver glared and kicked Anders over, before he stormed off, looking for his sister. He was sure something was going on there. The look on Artemis’s face, when he first said it…
Anders wheezed a bit and stared up at Cormac. "I have sand in my hair."
"And you’re not even drinking."
Fenris shook his head at them both and went out in search of his disaster of a mage. "Try not to let each other do anything stupid, either," he called back before he disappeared.
Across the way, Cullen stared. "Did your brothers just—?"
"Nope," said Anton, sipping at his own wine.
"But I could have sworn I just saw—"
"You didn’t. Your eyes are lying."
Cullen narrowed his eyes at Anton, who was steadfastly not looking in his brothers’ direction. "Then how do you know what I was going to say?"
"Your face is an open book, Ser Cullen," Anton blithely answered. "I can always tell what you’re thinking."
"You could tell from my face that I was going to ask if your brothers just—"
"Please stop that."