[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 101
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Corset shopping
Notes: Anton is having a party. Cullen is having heart failure.
Maybe he'd had no business inviting Warden-Commander Amell, but she was his cousin. The cousin he'd never met, who'd apparently met all the interesting people he'd found in Kirkwall. The cousin his fiancΓ© had a crush on… Anton had decided, in the end, that his first event, after his mother's passing, would include his cousin. He'd bring the family back together, for the first time since magic had come into it. That would be his legacy.
Unfortunately, the letter he'd received, in reply, made that a little less likely. Solona was unable to extract herself from the duties, blah blah, rebuilding Amaranthine and the Keep. Apparently things had gone well, in that regard, but she still didn't dare leave the Banns alone long enough to make the journey. Still, there were fewer darkspawn and more new recruits, so she was sending a few of her closest friends, in her place, to … liven things up. More Wardens? Anton couldn't wait.
Anton looked up from his desk to find his favourite templar filling the doorway with his nervous fidgeting. He was turning a familiar piece of paper over in his hand, fine stationary addressed in Anton's own handwriting. "Yes, my knight in too much armour?" Anton asked, resting his chin on his palm.
"There is — that is, I think there is — a mistake in your invitations. To this party. That you're throwing."
"Is there?" Anton asked. "Did I send the invitation to the wrong Ser Cullen? Did I mislabel the Estate's address?"
"No, er, it's the… dress code that you have suggested." Anton would never tire of seeing Cullen blush like that.
"Oh, how silly of me!" Anton exclaimed. "I neglected to specify that shoes should be worn! One never wants barefoot guests, once the drinking starts."
"This… but… I do not own a corset." Cullen tipped his chin up, stubbornly. "And I doubt you do, either."
"You doubt I own a corset?" Anton laughed, as he slowly rose to his feet and slunk around the side of the desk to tap on that clattery plate. "Would you like to put a few coins on that, before you go check my wardrobe?"
Cullen's face fell, and he looked dreadfully betrayed, mostly by his own instincts. Of course Anton would own one. He'd probably bought it before he sent out the invitations, if he meant them to read like that— and that had been what Cullen was counting on, that this whole thing was some absurd mistake. "I… no. Let me not put any coin on that. I've lost enough, this week."
"Smart man!" Anton stole a quick kiss. "But, you don't have a corset, you say? We'll have to do something about that."
"I— That's— You can't honestly expect me to wear—"
Anton watched Cullen through all this gibbering, his smile tugging higher and higher. "Expect you to wear? Of course I expect you to wear! That wouldn't be fair, would it, specifying that a corset was required party attire and then changing the rules for you."
"But— I couldn't possibly—" The red of Cullen's face was a lovely contrast to his blond curls. He stared down at his figure as though trying to visualise it, which would be less than helpful at that angle.
"Don't worry, Ser Cullen," Anton purred, winding his arms around Cullen's waist so that his templar was looking at him instead. "We'll find something in a flattering shape and colour for you. Much easier to move in than platemail armour, I assure you."
"I rather like my armour," Cullen said weakly.
"Oh? Then perhaps Fran can make you a nice platemail bustier."
"No! No, I… No." Cullen managed to look quite firm on that point. "No platemail bustier. I will not bring down scandal on the entire order, just because you're throwing a party." He also didn't much like the thought of how people would look at him in it, the order aside.
"So we won't do platemail. I'm doing red and black. You should probably match. Maybe red and gold? Black and gold? I think I like the idea of gold." Anton leaned back and studied Cullen's face, both his reaction and his colour. "Maybe not the red. You blush too much for red. It'll clash."
"Anton, I'm not a piece of meat!" The words were out, before Cullen could think about saying them.
"What? No, of course you're not, darling." One of Anton's hands fluttered up to stroke Cullen's cheek. That was not among the objections he'd expected from Cullen. Objections, yes, but not that one. "You're a handsome and talented man, and very much among the living. I think death comes before meat, so if you're meat, I'm kinkier than all my brothers combined."
"Anton," Cullen said, the name a huff of breath against Anton's palm, "that's not what I…"
"I know what you meant. This is all in good fun, and if you feel uncomfortable, you don't have to go. But everyone will be dressed accordingly, you know."
Cullen weighed this in his mind. "Everyone?" he asked, eyes narrowing dubiously. "Even your brothers?"
Anton smirked. Especially his brothers — well, especially Artie — but saying as much probably wouldn't help with Cullen's blushing. "Even the Arishok, if he decides to come. I haven't heard a reply from him yet."
And that just sent Cullen gibbering again. "T-The Arishok? You… invited the Arishok. To a corset party."
"Why not? I'm hoping this might ease some tensions, after that whole disaster with Saemus."
"Maybe platemail isn't the worst choice," Cullen muttered, nervously kneading Anton's hip, with one hand. "Qunari. In lingerie." He paused and stared at the wall, over Anton's shoulder, for a long moment. "You didn't note what else should be worn, on the invitation. It's not just shoes, it's… Is this a pants-wearing occasion?"
"If you like. I'm not wearing pants. I thought I'd go for a drape, maybe a loincloth. I'm sure someone will wear pants — maybe the broody death elf." Anton smiled, again, nuzzling Cullen's cheek. "Come on, we'll go to the shop, together, and find something nice. Fran made that dress for Anders, you remember? She'll make something that looks good on you."
And that was another thought Cullen hadn't meant to have. Anders in a corset. Anders in a ballgown had been bad enough. Something about that image nagged at him. There was something wrong with it — more wrong, even, than the idea of Varric using his chest hair in place of a lace ruffle. But, he couldn't place it. Either way, Anton was still looking at him like he expected an answer, and … what was the question?
"I'll go with you. I'll look. I will not promise to be tarted up in strange lingerie for the sake of everyone else's good time." That. He could do that.
"Everyone else? But, it's your good time I'm interested in, Ser Templar…" Anton purred, and Cullen felt his thighs get weak. He was probably going to end up looking ridiculous, and everyone would stare. Better ridiculous, he supposed, than the alternative.
Cullen was the picture of discomfort. His arms folded tight across his chest, shoulders hunched, as he eyed the array of corsetry and hosiery as though waiting for the lace to rise up and attack him. Anton held up another corset design, tilting his head and hmm'ing, comparing the shapes to Cullen's figure.
"No," Cullen said.
Anton rolled his eyes. "You could at least try it on, you know."
"No. That has ten ruffles too many. I draw the line at ruffles."
Anton sorted through some designs on the other wall, and Cullen spotted something in a rather severe cut, near the back. He slipped around Anton, pretending he wasn't actually going to look at anything under his own volition. Still, the simple lines seemed much less distressing than anything else in the shop. No lace, no ruffles, high at the chest and low in the hips. It was almost an actual piece of clothing.
A woman's voice behind him surprised him, and his cheeks flushed as he turned to face the speaker. "That's probably a good choice, for you. You're what, a soldier? That'll accent your shoulders nicely. Swordsman, I'm guessing, with those arms."
"Swordsman, yes." Cullen swallowed and backed into the display.
"The cloth doesn't bite, and neither do I, but those display hooks are deadly," Fran joked, smiling warmly as she rearranged a few pieces to make room for the one she was holding. "Step away, before you hurt yourself, and tell me what you're looking for."
What was he looking for? A way out. That's what he was looking for. Anton sidled over, examining the racks as though he weren't spying on the conversation.
"It's… for a party," Cullen explained, eyeing Anton. "A corset party. To which I've been invited."
"Ah, at the Hawke Estate?" Fran nodded in understanding. "I suspected as much when I saw you arrive with Messere Anton. I've been delightfully busy ever since those invitations went out."
Anton stopped pretending he wasn't eavesdropping and turned around, grinning. "Have you now, Fran, my dear?" he asked. "Working on anything particularly exciting for any of my guests?"
"Of course I am," Fran replied. "But I'm not going to ruin the surprise, messere, no matter how charmingly you smile at me. I can tell you that you just missed Serendipity, and that she's going to look as stunning as ever!"
"Something simple!" Cullen's hands leapt up defensively, at the mention of Serendipity. He knew she was Anton's very best friend, and he knew she had tastes that could overburden Orlais, when she put her mind to it. "I'm looking for something simple!"
Fran reached up and took down the corset Cullen had been looking at. "This one obviously won't fit you, but… I think it would look good, in your size. What do you think, Anton?" She held it up in front of Cullen, who looked profoundly disturbed to be studied like that.
"That's a high one," Anton noted tilting his head as he studied the lines. "Needs something to break it up a little."
Cullen saw the idea start, as his eyes met Anton's. "No. Absolutely not. No. I will not bring disrepute upon the order."
"Sunburst?" Anton suggested, a hint of a smile curling the corners of his mouth.
Cullen groaned. He tried not to picture it, he truly did. Not the corset, but Grand Cleric Elthina's reaction ("The symbol of the Chantry on a corset? Andraste did not die for this."). "Better than the Sword of Mercy," he conceded anyway. For all of Elthina's potential disapproval, Meredith's was far more terrifying.
Anton patted his arm. "We'll save the sword for more… private showings."
"A sunburst?" Fran considered. "Yes, I could certainly do that." Cullen considered it a lost cause. "And what about the rest of messere's outfit?"
"There should be a rest of my outfit. Yes," Cullen agreed, a little too quickly. "I, er… I don't… My legs are not meant for the general public. Something long. Pants. Pants are good. I can just … pants. Yes."
With a great amount of trouble, Anton swallowed a laugh, and then a few more attempts at giggling. "Don't wear pants, darling. I'm not wearing pants." Anton held up a finger, when Cullen's mouth opened. "I'm not saying you shouldn't be covered from your hips to the floor, because I think that could look incredible on you. I'm just saying it shouldn't be pants."
Cullen's concerns were more about blasphemy than skirts, and those concerns were vindicated, almost immediately.
"I like the formal templar drape — no, don't wear yours, it's too red." Anton grinned and Cullen groaned, but let him finish. "Something similar, but in black, to match the corset? It won't be official, then. It's just … suggestive."
"That drape would look lovely," Fran agreed. She hummed and looked Cullen over some more in a way that made him feel like his chest was already exposed. "But all black? That would be too much. A bit severe, don't you think?"
Anton tapped his chin and looked Cullen over as well. Cullen fought not to fidget under their combined stares. "This is true," he said. "What would you suggest?"
"How about red and black?" Fran suggested. "In a gradient, to soften the look?"
"Oh, that would be striking," Anton agreed, nodding.
Cullen wondered who else would be there — who would tell the Knight-Commander that he'd spent the evening prancing around in templar-themed undergarments. On the other hand, 'prancing' would likely be overstating it. He was much more likely to spend most of the evening standing behind Anton, and hoping no one was looking. The Arishok had been invited. How was he supposed to serve as a representative of the Chantry, to the most important Qunari in Kirkwall, in next to nothing? Of course, he supposed, the Arishok would also be corseted, so the point was sort of moot. He could answer any questions about his clothing with, 'Oh, look! A Qunari!'
"Striking. Wonderful." Cullen did not look thrilled. It was an Orlesian underwear party — exactly the sort of thing he should have expected from Anton, really — and he was going to walk in as a mockery of himself. A striking mockery. He wondered, for a moment, if Anders would be there, and how long it would take before the mage was crippled with laughter. Better laughter than other things, he supposed. "I'll take your word for it, Anton," he sighed. "Please don't… nothing exciting? Nothing scandalous?"
"Scandalous? No, no, no. If you're doing scandalous things, I want to be the only person in the room for them." Anton winked and grinned.
And that wasn't helping, but Cullen supposed it was rather pointless to say so. Only Anton could talk him into something like this, and Cullen suspected Anton could talk him into anything, if he thought about it. The man had proposed with a goat, for Maker's sake, and gotten a 'yes'.
"Fine. I will… fine." At least there would be alcohol at this party. Assuming Artie didn't get to it first. "We will get—" he gesture vaguely at the corset in Fran's hand "—that. What you were saying. And I will… wear it." Assuming he didn't die of embarrassment first, which might be a mercy.
Fran's smile didn't waver. She'd seen her share of unsure clients and insecure clients, almost all of whom left satisfied after she'd worked her magic. "As you say, messere," she said pleasantly. She turned to Anton. "And what about you?"
Anton winked at Fran, this time. "Don't you remember? You made mine, when I first came to you with the idea. Still, maybe I should wear a little more than I intended. What are my brothers wearing? Yes, I know, the surprise, but I should make sure I match."
Reaching under one of the tables, Fran pulled out a thick book. "Cormac's wearing a variant of skirt sixty-five. As a loincloth, instead of a skirt, front and back only." She opened the book across several rather daring pairs of knickers and then reached for another book. "And a ninety-six with it, red and black, of course. Both of you with the red and black."
"We're brothers! We match! It's a grand universal constant!" Anton laughed and looked at the drawings. "The sixty-five looks good. What do you think, Cullen? If I switch to something long, how would that look?"
Cullen studied the diagram, trying to figure out the angles and the way the arrows indicated the cloth worked. "That's… rather immodest, isn't it? Even if it is long."
"Trust me, you'll look like the very figure of decorum, beside me." Anton handed the other book to Cullen, after a moment. "Or next to Cormac, apparently."
Cullen nearly went cross-eyed trying to picture it. Cormac. In a corset. In that corset. He fumbled for an adequate response to that and came up with nothing.
"It looks like Varric's going to have some competition," Anton said, "with all that chest hair on display."
Cullen let out a nervous laugh, only to stop short when Anton's words truly caught up to him. "Wait. Varric. You invited Varric?"
"Of course I invited Varric." Anton thumbed through a few pages. "He's sort of made himself the Hawke biographer, and Maker knows what sort of story ideas this will give him." Anton's grin bordered on terrifying.
Cullen looked like he might topple in the next stiff breeze. "There will be no unauthorized biography of me. It's bad enough he was there when— for that time. At the Hanged Man."
"You mean when you—" Anton didn't get to finish the sentence, before Cullen was trying to cover his mouth. He dodged a few times, and they eventually stumbled into a table.
"Gentlemen!" Fran's voice was strident, even if she looked amused. "Kindly take your horseplay out of my establishment. I'll have these done no later than the night before."