May 312015
 

[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 91
Co-Conspirator: TumblrMaverikLoki
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke , Artemis Hawke , Anders , Fenris , Carver Hawke , Merrill
Rating: T (L2 N1 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Magic ass, strange secrets, mage-floors
Notes: Carver learns his brother’s strangest secret. Anders teaches Fenris a new trick.


The alienage was a slum, by anyone’s standards, but while Merrill had eyes only for the eluvian and Carver, Carver kept his eye on the rest of her hovel. He was almost willing to call it a house, now. The roof no longer leaked, the wind didn’t blow through the windows and the cracks in the walls. Really, the same could be said for a few other houses, nearby, and the neighbours knew his name, just as they knew Cormac’s, but for very different reasons. Cormac, he gathered, still hadn’t given up his lifelong obsession with elven mythology — the elves in the alienage said he’d brought stories from the south that they’d never heard. Carver stuck to being Merrill’s pet shem — the nice young man with the money and the tools. And the sword. When the guard patrols weren’t enough, Carver was there to pick up the slack. It was still horrifically overpopulated, but the alienage was looking almost liveable, these days. Not much worse than any other part of refugee-packed Lowtown.

He scraped the rest of the putty off the edge of the neighbour’s new window and turned around to find Merrill standing behind him, with a book in one hand and a glass of juice in the other.

"You should have something to drink," she said, offering the glass. "It’s very hot out here, and everyone’s watching. You don’t want to fall down, with an audience."

"I don’t want to fall down at all!" Carver laughed and took the glass. "Well, unless you’re knocking me down, so you can play with my sword. And that, I definitely don’t want an audience for."

Merrill waited until he finished drinking, before she opened the book. "I’ve been meaning to ask, but I wanted to make sure, first. The elven language isn’t written much, any more, outside of very specific ritual contexts, but I was to be the Keeper of my tribe. I can read many words that aren’t written any more." She paused and shifted uncomfortably, uncertain if this was an offensive thing to ask. "Your brother… his face… Why does he have ‘attractive buttocks’ tattooed on his cheeks?"

Carver almost regretted that he’d finished his drink. Right now, taking a sip and spitting it out would have better conveyed his surprise than the slack-jawed look he gave Merrill. "He has… what?" He shifted to get a look at whatever she was reading. Elvish. He couldn’t read Elvish. "Cormac?" He felt he needed to clarify, though he only had the one brother with tattoos across both cheeks.

"Yes. Cormac." Merrill blinked up at him, eyes wide and concerned. "Did you not know? Was I not supposed to tell you?"

A snicker started in the back of Carver’s throat. "Are you being serious, right now?" he asked. "Or are you having me on?"

"Why wouldn’t I be serious?" Merrill asked. Her mouth popped open in an ‘o’. "Wait, does he not know? I assumed it was on purpose."

"I don’t know if he knows! I just know I didn’t know. He’s had those since he was a teenager!" Carver stared in dawning horror, cackling a bit between words. "Our dad was so mad. I don’t even remember where we were living — we moved a lot, for a while — but he came home with those swirls on his face and said something about elves and magic. I was so young, I don’t even remember, really. I just remember dad being furious, because there was no way to hide a face like that."

He shook his head. "I guess that does sound like a Cormac thing to do, though. Get praise for his ass tattooed on his face. I don’t know why he’d do it like that, though, if nobody could read it…"

"I wonder who he went to! Someone who could read and write the language so well, and was willing to do… that!" Merrill looked more surprised by that, than anything else. No wonder he had the reputation he did, here. He’d known a real scholar, maybe even a keeper. But, was she really surprised? That was how she’d first met him, after all, though Mahariel had to remind her. He’d come to trade stories and magic.

"Now I have two reasons to punch him in the face," Carver said. "One for each cheek." His nose scrunched as a thought occurred to him. "The cheeks on his face. Eugh." He guessed that was why Cormac had the tattoos put where they were.

"I’ll have to ask him about it," Merrill said, thumbing through her book. "For an elf to tattoo a human is… very unusual. At least that sort of tattoo."

Carver tried to remember what it was like getting his tattoo. He’d been drunk, and that part of the night was a blur of ‘ow’. Still better than what Artemis had ended up doing. "Oh, I’d like to be there for that," he said. "Or at least I think I would. I generally end up regretting listening to any of Cormac’s stories."

"I’m just impressed the lines are so clean. There’s nothing to stop the pain, if he had that done the traditional way." Merrill smiled. "It’s worth it, of course, but we’re raised to expect it. Your brother is very brave. Or very stupid. But, he is your brother, so I think he’s brave."

"I think he’s stupid," Carver said, shaking his head. Cormac was into pain, as best he could tell, but straight lines? He couldn’t have been moving at all. That was actually a little bit frightening. "Dumber than a flaming sack of nug-shit." Still, it was Cormac.

>————————————————————————-<

It was a thankfully slow day in the clinic. Nothing more serious than a dog bite, all morning, and Anders had actually had the time to enjoy lunch, for a change, when Cormac brought it. That was the thing, he’d noticed, after this many years, there was less trouble. Less people getting stabbed, less people getting sick, less people wandering in and picking fights — in fact, that never happened any more. He liked to think it was a sign that he’d actually made a difference.

Cormac had stayed, after lunch, rolling bandages and singing terrible songs of the sort that had punchlines. The echoes were less ragged than they had once been, since … someone, although Anders assumed Varric had been involved, had actually finished the room into something almost as cavernous as the Chantry hall and just as finished. It had always been large, but it had just been the unfinished end of a tunnel. Now, it was a proper room — doors and all, not that he much closed the doors. Shelves were fixed properly to the walls, cabinets bolted to the floor, where they had been free-standing, a place for everything, and most things in their places, most of the time. He’d still gotten inky fingerprints on most of it. Still, he could take a certain pride in the idea that there was some order in his environs, after so long without, and that it was nobody’s business but his own what that order was. He lived and worked as he meant to, and on the whole, even the templars had stayed away since Alrik’s… unfortunate accident with the presumed smugglers. That brought a smile to his face, as he filled and corked another bottle and set it on a shelf.

"Artie’s been on a binge, this week," Cormac said, tossing another roll into the basket. "He’s been driving Orana crazy, so Fenris sent him home, and now he’s driving Bodhan up the wall. I’ve mostly stayed out of the way. He’s just got to get it out of his system. Locked my door, though. There’s a limit, you know?"

"He labelled and colour-coded my potions and reagents," Anders said, shaking his head. "I’m hardly complaining." Anders put a few leaves of elfroot and embrium into the mortar and pestle and started on another potion. "Though it took me a while to find where my clothes had ended up."

"Your clothes ended up exactly where they should have," said a voice from the doorway. "Instead of on the floor. You’re welcome."

Anders turned to see Messeres Fartemis, the mage half of the pair looking even twitchier than usual even as he smiled jauntily. Fenris stood at his shoulder, unenthused.

"Did you get ink on everything?" Artemis asked, walking over to straighten one cot until it was parallel with the wall. "Already? Maker."

"Not on everything! Just most of the flat surfaces. I was working on something, and then there was a bleeder. I didn’t really have time to wipe my hands off before I started casting." Anders shrugged and looked at his hands. "I’m mostly less inky now!"

"If there’s no ink on his hands, check my robes," Cormac joked. "There’s a reason I wear black."

There came a squeaking sound from one of Fenris’s shoulders, and a small ginger and white kitten appeared, clutching at his shoulder seam. "I am not a mountain, kitten. I am not even a hill." The yowl from the straps on his shin-guard disagreed. "I… I am not a playground, either." Fenris looked like he’d been having this conversation through most of the cellar.

"That’s not what my brother says." Cormac laughed and tossed another roll of bandages into the basket.

Artemis smacked Cormac’s arm on his way by, frowning over the inkprints on the shelves. He poked at them with a finger to see if they were dry, and then he had a scrap of cloth on hand and scrubbed away at them.

Anders shook his head at him over his mortar and pestle. "Do you keep scraps of cloth in your pocket? Purely for cleaning purposes?"

"Don’t judge me, sparklefingers." Artie didn’t pause in his scrubbing.

Fenris tried to pry the lump of fur off his shoulder. Said lump had claws curled around the seams of his armour, claws that had to be prised free one at a time. No sooner had he freed one paw then the other grabbed hold. Fenris sighed.

Cormac waved to Fenris. "Come here and sit. I’ll get them off you. Just be glad Assbiter hasn’t. Purrcy’s not that bad. Kind of clingy and cuddly, but a lot less bitey."

"Hasn’t.. what, exactly?" Fenris crossed the room and sat on a cot near Cormac.

"Bit your ass." Cormac got up and lent a hand in the claw-dislodging. "They’re not allowed in the room when daddy and daddy are having naked time, any more."

"Did you just describe yourself as the father of a cat?" Fenris looked up, disgusted, as Cormac handed Purrcy to him.

"Metaphorically. Don’t think too hard about it. You might sprain something, and whatever it is, I’m sure my brother’s not done with it." Cormac knelt and wiggled his fingers at Lord Assbiter, who let go of Fenris’s leg to latch onto his wrist, instead. "Aww, who’s my little deathtrap of razor-sharp ends? Yes, you are!"

Artemis was straightening the potion vials so that they were evenly spaced. Anders paused in his work to shake his head. "Artie. Sit down. Pet a kitten. You’re making me nervous just looking at you."

"Just… let me finish this row." Artemis finished spacing out the lyrium potions and stepped back, only to frown at the cluster of healing potions on the row beneath them.

"I’m just going to mess it up again in a few minutes, Artie," Anders said. "Kittens."

"Right. Kittens." Artemis pulled himself away from the shelf, scratching at his arm, and joined Fenris.

Fenris continued to look vaguely annoyed with the kitten that was now curled up on his arm, licking his fingers. Its tongue scratched at the lyrium in the most irritating way. Lyrium. Hm. Maybe he shouldn’t let the cat get too attached. He suspected it would have to actually bite him to poison itself, though.

"Take this," he grumbled, offering the kitten to Artemis. "I think perhaps your … ‘nephew’ should not be trying to lick the lyrium out of my hands."

"I didn’t mean it literally!" Cormac insisted, winging the next roll of bandages at Fenris’s head, while Lord Assbiter rolled around in what could have been a roll, but was now a cat toy.

Anders snorted, still bottling potions, on the far side of the room. "Who’s mangling your metaphors, this time, Cormac?"

"He’s mangling them all by himself," Fenris said.

"He’s good at that," Artemis said, in between coos at Purrcy. His fidgeting seemed to relax a little as he scratched under Purrcy’s white chin. "The babies are getting big! Aren’t you, Purrcy?"

"‘Babies’?" Fenris shot Artemis a pained look that said ‘not you too’.

"Fuzzy babies," Artie insisted. "Though they’re quite accomplished for their age. Both knighted." Purrcy clambered up onto Artemis’s shoulder, claws digging into skin. "Ow, Purrcy!" The kitten purred and headbutted him in apology.

Artemis sighed and pet the cat on his shoulder, trying not to notice the mess around him. Sure, the place was neat by Anders’s standards… by anyone’s standards, really. But Artie found himself frowning at smudges of dirt on the walls, at the scuffed floors. No. Best to ignore it.

Artemis didn’t realise his leg was bouncing until there was a hand on his knee holding it still. He offered Fenris a sheepish smile but still found himself distracted. He could clean one more thing, couldn’t he? It would only take him a few seconds, and surely Anders wouldn’t mind… Artie muttered a spell under his breath, directing his magic at the floor.

Anders put a cork in the last potion and set it on the shelf, before turning around to go see his cats. The floor gleamed in a way it hadn’t, previously, but the meaning didn’t register until too late. "Shit! What!" He slid out, all attempts to regain his balance, just resulting in a spin that wouldn’t let up. Finally, he thought he’d caught himself, the slide evening out, just in time for him to hit the basket of bandages and topple to the floor at Fenris’s feet.

"Tell me you have the cats," he muttered, from the most uncomfortable position he’d found himself in in years, chin on the floor, neck bent against one of Fenris’s feet. His legs were twisted, one jutting under the cot and the other curled under him in a way he more fondly remembered from one of those times he got completely shitfaced with Nate Howe. He seemed to be kneeling on the inside of one of his elbows, and he wasn’t quite sure where to even begin getting up.

"Cats are fine," Cormac reassured him, quickly. "That’s… I’m sure I shouldn’t be laughing, but if something was significantly wrong, you’d be healing yourself." The laugh followed almost immediately.

"Ho shit!" Artemis squeaked, scrambling to get the cat off his shoulder and onto the floor. "I’m sorry! Are you all right, Anders? I was just… shit!"

"Mage-floors," Fenris hissed, recognising that gleam. That hadn’t been there a moment before. Mage-floors, and a mage-face pressed dangerously close to his feet. Fenris curled his toes and slid his feet out from under Anders and up onto the cot.

Artie tried to help Anders up, but Anders’s knees just kept slipping on the floor.

Purrcy clambered over Anders, climbing up to perch on top of his head, with a concerned sounding mew. Anders tried to make a suggestion, but the minute he opened his mouth there was a cat paw on his tongue. "Gmaaah! Frghn cmmmt!"

Purrcy looked spooked and slid down Anders’s face, scrabbling for a grip, but finally no longer kneading Anders’s tongue.

"Ew." Anders tried to spit the cat fluff off his tongue, and in the process, managed to lick the floor, which was, at least, gleamingly clean. "Is that… lemon?"

Cormac choked his laughter down enough to move the basket, finally, and reach down to flip Anders onto his back. "Better?"

"That would have been much better before I got the sneak-attack hairball." Anders clawed at his tongue.

"I love what you’ve done with the place," Fenris said to Artemis, setting his feet on Anders’s chest. "Mage-waxed floors, and … is that a genuine mage-bone footstool? You bring such class everywhere you go."

"I thought it might match the décor," Artemis replied before Cormac could make a joke about ‘mage bones’. "Apostate chic." He knelt next to Anders, looking sheepish but less horrified, seeing that Anders wasn’t hurt. Well, aside from the cat scratches that would be easy to heal. He scooped up Purrcy again before the fluffy terror could slip on the floors too.

Anders spit out another piece of cat hair. He wondered if he should point out that the broody death elf was touching him and not hissing or glowing. "Do I want to know how you learned a spell for spontaneously waxing floors?" Anders asked, content to let Fenris use him as furniture.

"Necessity?" Artemis said with a helpless shrug.

"Because lemony-fresh floors are always a necessity. Tell me whatever you used was non-toxic…" Anders sighed and picked up one of the feet on his chest, not particularly thinking about whose foot or why it was on him. Years in the tower left him with some expectations, in that regard. He was the healer. If someone’s feet were on him… He pressed his thumbs in and stroked healing magic down the long bones, with his fingers.

A warm sound spilled out of Fenris and his face twisted in abject panic and confusion. It felt good, and he’d expected it to — he’d once paid a very talented young woman in a brothel to do very much the same thing for him, but with less magic — but this was not some talented courtesan, this was the abomination. Their healer, yes, but… He hadn’t asked, he’d been making a joke and— Oh. Right. He’d been making a joke. This must be the next part of it, to wring some unspeakable sound out of him as payback for using the healer for a footrest.

He knew some of the ways his feet could be used against him — he’d actually worn boots, for a while, for just that reason — but Anders didn’t seem to be going for any of those spots, just the ones that relaxed his legs and the muscles in the back of his hips. That — maybe he wouldn’t complain, just yet.

"Be careful," Cormac said, smile as clear in his voice as it was on his face, as he kept rolling bandages, between pokes at one of the cats. "He’ll turn you into a warm jelly, if you let him keep that up."

Warm jelly was not something Fenris wanted to be, and he had a protest ready, just there on the edge of his tongue. He even planned on saying it. At some point. Soon.

Artemis watched perhaps a little too raptly, absently petting Purrcy all the while. He never thought he could wring such sounds from Fenris by touching his feet, and that was clearly his loss. "Cormac’s not wrong," Artie said, remembering Anders’s massages. "I’m a bit envious."

Fenris’s ears twitched at that, and Artemis wondered if that was something Fenris ought to be reminded of.

Anders started paying attention, again, no longer distracted by other times, in other places. His eyes rolled up. Cormac was behind him. Artemis was next to him. He focused on the foot in his hand. And that was Fenris’s foot. On the bright side, he hadn’t been murdered, yet. "Artie, you’re making eyes at me. Do you want me to teach you how to do this? Because I will totally trade this for what you just did to my floor. I think I have a use for that, and it doesn’t involve floors at all. Or wax, actually. Probably. Might involve lemon oil, though."

"I… do I want to know what you’d be using it for?" Artemis asked. He’d never used that particular spell for anything other than cleaning, but Anders could certainly be… creative. "But yes. Sure. I like making my glowy elf purr." He looked at Fenris and grinned.

"My hands. So I stop leaving inky fingerprints on everything because I don’t have time to clean them between writing and healing. Lemon oil would probably be perfect for that, and it kind of tastes like that’s what you used on the floor. But, that’s … what, some kind of summon?" Anders looked oddly fascinated at the mechanics of it — of all the ancient Tevinter magics he’d studied, cleaning hadn’t really been on the top of his list.

"So, take his other foot, and watch my hands…" Anders demonstrated a few basic motions, a few points to hit, a few points not to hit.

"Don’t mind me," Cormac muttered, picking up a strip of bandage that contained a kitten, well tangled in the fabric. "I’m just going to sit here and … uh … Assbiter, what are you doing?"

Fenris thought he could get used to this. Two mages at his feet, long fingers caressing his skin in ways that made his toes point. He still wasn’t thrilled that the abomination was a part of this tableau, but the sounds coming out of his mouth weren’t sounds of complaint.

Artemis followed Anders’s instructions, his touch tentative at first, then firming at his elf’s reactions. "Oh, this is a fun trick," he said to Anders. Hands still kneading Fenris’s skin, Artie added, "I’m not sure how that spell will translate, though. It’s kind of… well, I learned to use it on large spaces. Then again, most of my spells involve large spaces."

Anders hummed, adjusting Artie’s grip before replying. "Artie, know that I say this with the greatest affection, but that’s because your aim is terrible. Mine is not."

"I’d probably be insulted by that if it weren’t true."

"You remind me I’m so glad I elected to swallow, that last time…" Cormac found himself tangled in bandages, and no closer to untangling the cat. "Sonofabitchin’ furball," he grumbled, earning himself a sharp bite on the forearm.

Fenris leaned back, propping himself with his hands wrapped around the pole on the opposite side of the cot. It wasn’t the ideal position, but he wasn’t sure there was an ideal position he could get into that involved this rickety piece of furniture. He smiled to himself, though, just letting that warm, wonderful sensation run through his legs. The abomination was, as Isabela claimed, ‘glitter-handed mage-trash’ and at least three people claimed he was great in bed, too. So, perhaps it was in his interest to encourage the mage he liked least — mage, not magister — to pass on those skills to the mage he liked most. This could be fantastically advantageous, even if he did have to occasionally permit the abomination’s hands on him. The abomination’s apparently extremely talented hands.

Artemis smirked up at Fenris, pleased by the way his elf all but purred under his hands. Anders’s hands, too, and wasn’t that interesting.

Which led Artie to realising he’d slept with everyone in this room. Sober, too. His hands paused, and he felt his ears heat.

Purrcy crawled into Fenris’s lap, purring so hard he chirped every now and then. Tiny paws kneaded at Fenris’s thigh. "Getting a massage on two fronts," Anders huffed, reaching up to scratch behind Purrcy’s ears. That brought his hand a little too close to Fenris’s crotch, and the elf tensed. Anders’s hand stilled as he looked up at Fenris, the elf’s eyes narrow slits. He waited for his organs to be rearranged, but miraculously, they stayed in place.

Fenris continued to glare, some combination of confused and distrustful — mostly confused. Also, slightly pained. He twitched and hissed as one of Purrcy’s claws made it through the leather, catching on the inside of his thigh, and his eyes darted from Anders to the cat. "Your cat is extremely sharp," he remarked, with a thought for his own gauntlets. He considered removing the kitten, himself, but both hands were supporting him, and his feet were off the ground. "Please remove it from my lap."

"Please don’t rip my hand off," Anders said, catching Fenris’s eye again, before he unhooked that one little claw and scooped up the kitten, depositing it on Cormac.

Fenris made a relieved sound once the cat and Anders both stopped touching his thigh. "Thank you."

Cormac muttered something about ‘playground for the kitten elite’, as Purrcy climbed up the bandages he was still trying to untangle Assbiter from.

"You know," Anders said, raising his eyebrows at Fenris. "If you want to trade places with your mage, here, I can teach you how to turn Artemis into a puddle of warm goo. You might need to carry him home in a bucket, though."

Fenris’s ear twitched. "I have my own ways of turning him into goo," he said, even as his gaze slid sideways to Artemis to gauge his reaction. His mage looked far too eager, only to school his expression when he saw that Fenris was looking.

"He glows," Artemis informed Anders, nodding. "Well. You glow too, but not inside me. Er. That is…" Artemis coughed, reminded of a time when Anders glowed inside his brother. Ah, the Deep Roads…

"I glow, too!" Cormac chimed in, still tangled in bandages and cats. "But, I don’t glow inside anyone. In fact, I try not to glow, too much. The last time I glowed, I ended up with Justice inside me…" He coughed, awkwardly. "You should take him up on the goo-massage thing, Fenris. It’s magical, without involving any magic at all. I’d say you should let him try it on you, first, but I think you’d end up removing his organs."

"That is always a possibility," Fenris said, earning an eye roll from Anders.

"I’d forgotten that you glow now," Artemis said, looking at his brother, the kitten playground. "I’m the only one in the room who can’t glow." He pouted up at Fenris. "You should console me. Perhaps with a goo-massage."

"Come on, Fenris, it’ll be fun!" Anders grinned. "You’ll never have to give me dirty looks again. I’ll pass on my secrets. You can spend half the time glaring at me, and twice the time glaring at Cormac, who probably actually has it coming." He paused. "Has one of us coming, most of the time, for sure."

Fenris’s face twisted in disgust. Cormac. All the things he’d watched Cormac do to his mage. On the other hand, all the things he hadn’t watched Anders do to his mage… "Your clothing will stay on."

"Mine, yes. A lot of his is going to come off, though, because you need to be able to reach his back and see what I’m getting at."

"Reaching is not going to be a problem, for me," Fenris pointed out.

"Nope. No glow hands. Not until you get the hang of it." Anders shook his head. "I know you probably have a very good map of where to stick your fingers to cause a lot of pain, and I’m going to give you the map of where to stick your fingers to cause a lot of pleasure. But, some of those are really close together, and some of them are the same spot from a different angle. No glow hands, yet."

Artemis was almost disappointed by the lack of glow hands, but he supposed Anders was right. Better to learn the lay of the land first. And really, how disappointed could he be, if Anders was going to be teaching his elf that?

"That’s one way to get me to stop cleaning your everything," Artie joked. The smudges of dirt on the wall still nagged at him, but not as much. He tugged at his tunic, pulling it up over his head and tossing it at his brother and his fuzzy entourage. Artie rubbed his arms. As much as Fenris seemed to appreciate the sight, Artemis doubted his elf would be thrilled if he shucked off his pants in front of Anders as well. At least in this context.

Anders gestured for Artemis to lie down, which he did, picking the cot next to Fenris and lowering himself onto his belly, wriggling until he was comfortable. He rested his chin on his arms and looked up at Fenris and Anders expectantly.

A little bit of prodding and a few dirty looks, later, Fenris knelt over Artemis’s thighs, with Anders behind him. "I know you’re not a big fan of the idea of me touching you, but I’m going to need to hold your hands. I’ll do what I do, but I’ll do it with your hands. And I’m going to try my damnedest not to lean on you too much."

No, Justice. Stop. We are not licking the elf. Yes, that’s lyrium. It’s not our lyrium, and the elf does not want to be licked. Knock it off! What if I get Cormac to glow for you, later? That’s better than lyrium, right? Anders was less than entirely thrilled with Justice’s reaction to being this close to Fenris. All these years and he really hadn’t been quite this close, had he? Never more than a hand, usually at arm’s length. He remembered the ring he’d buried with Kristoff and cursed himself soundly, not for the first time.

"Your magic is somewhat painful," Fenris admitted, quietly. "Please don’t touch more than you absolutely must."

"I can’t turn it off. Maybe a different type of magic? I know I can’t change the base of it, but if I cast something small and hold it, it should feel different." Anders shrugged and took Fenris’s hands. "I really don’t want to hurt you."

"I am accustomed to it. Just get on with the demonstration and refrain from groping me." Fenris did wonder if there were spells that would feel if not good, at least less bad. Maybe he and Artemis could experiment with it. His fingers learned the motions of Anders’s hands fairly quickly, as he’d expected. The physical repetition of the motions made them easier to remember, and he’d always been a fast learner.

"And now, I’m going to teach you to cheat." Anders laughed, lifting himself up a little higher. "Artie, I need about three more inches of your back. He needs to be able to get to your hips."

"Mm?" Artemis was doing his best impersonation of jelly at that moment, sagging into the cot, eyes shut as he drifted on the edge of wakefulness. The lyrium lines on Fenris’s hands, tracing the inside of his fingers, tingled against Artemis’s skin. "Oh. All right." Artie threw them both a lazy smirk over his shoulder and reached down to unlace his trousers, loosening them just enough to get them past his hips. He’d shimmy out of them altogether at this point — if Fenris hadn’t strangled Anders yet, he likely wasn’t going to — but that would involve getting up.

Fenris narrowed his eyes at the abomination. "Cheat?" he asked. "How? With magic?" No, that made no sense. But he didn’t trust that smirk on the abomination’s face.

"Nope, just with your thumbs." Anders dragged Fenris’s thumbs down either side of Artemis’s spine. "You feel those dips, here and here? Push in and tilt your hands like this…"

A groan caught in Artemis’s throat. Oh yes. This had been a great idea.

Fenris’s eyebrows arced up. "Cheating with thumbs? This seems very effective." He pressed a little harder, rubbed little circles against those little thumb-sized dents in Artemis’s back.

Anders got up, carefully. "You really want to cheat, move your knee." He pointed as he explained. "Put your weight on that leg and move this one so you’re resting your knee on his tailbone. Resting. Tiny bit of pressure. Don’t kneel on him, he’ll kill you." Anders could recall having been knelt on, once. It was one of the more surprisingly painful moments of his teenage years — emphasis on the surprising. He hadn’t been expecting to have his junk suddenly crushed against a stone floor.

"Little help?" Cormac asked, still draped in bandages, now with one kitten on his head and the other one hanging from his shoulder, biting at his ear.

Fenris moved his fingers and his knee as instructed while Anders got up to de-kitten Cormac. Anders was careful of the floor this time, slip-sliding his way over to Cormac. "Honestly," he laughed, taking Purrcy off of Cormac’s head and feeling the little fluffball wriggle in his arms. "I can’t take you three anywhere."

Heedless of his brother’s plight, Artemis squirmed a bit under Fenris, making more of those breathy, pleased sounds Fenris so enjoyed. "That is cheating," Artemis sighed against his forearm. He really hoped no patients walked into the clinic right now.