[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 94
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Aveline ♀, Fenris ♂, Varric ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D1)
Warnings: Goat shit, knob jokes
Notes: More goat. Anton’s got a bad plan. Aveline’s got a terrible plan. Maker forgive us all…
Anton wasn’t sure at what point carrying the goat had started to sound like a good idea, but there he was, wearing black, with a white goat on his shoulders. This wasn’t going to be his finest moment, if he had to stop and pick all the goat fur off his shirt, but at least he wasn’t stuck dragging the goat through three neighbourhoods, while people stared. He wasn’t very good at goats, he decided. But, he’d found the lace the goat had been dressed in, and he … well, he knew there should have been three sheaves of wheat, but wheat seemed stupid, and Cullen liked oranges, so he’d tied laden boughs of orange to the goat, instead, and now he was carrying a lacy orange-laden goat through a sewer. In his party clothes.
He let himself in to the drainage room, in the cellar, and paused to rinse his boots in the least disgusting stream of water from the upper floors. By the time he reached Cullen’s office door — right across the hall from Meredith’s, thankfully, he was sweating and completely uncertain of his own sanity. What was he doing? This was insane. It was stupid. It was the sort of thing you’d find in a trashy Orlesian novel, and that made it the right thing to do.
He tested the door, and then threw it open. "Knight-Captain, I love you!" he announced. "And I have come to bring a goat to your mother!"
Cullen’s instructions trailed off mid-sentence, punctuated by nonsense stuttering. The recruit — Keran, was it? — who’d been standing at attention turned to stare at their goat-laden guest. "I… you… Anton?" More stuttering. Cullen blinked at the Hawke in his doorway, blinked at the lacy goat on his shoulders, and then Anton’s words caught up with him. "Did you just say you loved me? With a goat?"
Anton hoped the awe in Cullen’s voice was the good kind. He kept his chin up and the smile on his face, shifting his grip when the goat started to squirm on his shoulders. A hoof kicked at his cheek. "How else would I say it?" he said. "You, Knight-Captain Cullen, are the only the one worthy of my spicy Fereldan horseradish."
Keran looked back and forth between them. Anton and the goat blocked his escape route. "Um. Should I go…?"
"You should go get the Knight-Commander," Anton said, firmly, stepping the rest of the way into the room. "I don’t know where his mother is, and neither does he, so she’ll have to do."
Keran inched out around Anton and fled across the hall.
Cullen tried to stand up, but forgot to push his chair back, cracked his thighs on the edge of his desk, and sat right back down. "You brought a goat." He remembered to push back the chair and managed to successfully get to his feet, on the second attempt. "Anton, are you serious? This isn’t just because…?"
"Cullen," Anton started, and then had to stop to put down the goat. The goat was very tired of being held up. He picked goat fluff off his jacket. "It’s just about you and me. No one in the world looks at me like you do — all that delight and exasperation at once, and somehow, you’re still with me. Three years you’ve put up with my jokes and the way I just let myself in to your office. It’s not serious, because I don’t do serious, and nobody does serious when they’re holding a goat, but I do mean it."
The goat brayed in agreement. Cullen stared at Anton, mouth agape, and almost didn’t notice the goat trying to eat his reports until it was too late. "And this is after you told me not to get you a goat," Cullen said with a dazed laugh. He moved around his desk, gently nudging the goat aside so that he could stand in front of Anton. Cullen took Anton’s hand in his. "Anton. I—"
"What is the meaning of this?" Cullen managed not to jump at the sound of Meredith’s voice, but only just. The Knight-Commander stood in the hall, staring first at Cullen, then at Anton… then past them both at the goat chewing on the curtains. "That’s a goat."
Keran stood next to her, looking even more uncomfortable.
"Knight-Commander, it’s a proposal." Anton turned to face her, trying to ignore the stream of sweat running down his spine. "Your captain has misplaced his mother, and I wish to ask for his hand. It is Fereldan tradition to offer a goat to the mother of the person you’re proposing to, and I have a goat, but he has no mother — or at least no mother that we know where to find. So, I have come to ask you, instead. Take this goat and these oranges, and all the prosperity they are meant to bring." He was talking out of his ass, at this point, but that was something he’d had years of practise doing. It was some minor rural tradition, and he had no idea what the symbolism was, but he could fake it. Meredith was a native Marcher. She wouldn’t know. Anton dropped to one knee, still holding Cullen’s hand. "But, please, tell me you’ll allow me to wed your Captain. He’s an amazing man."
Cullen wasn’t sure he was capable of turning more red than he was, at that moment. It might have approached purple. He suspected his cheeks might have lingering bruises. He smiled awkwardly at the Commander.
Meredith looked at Anton like he’d lost his mind. For a moment, Anton wondered if she would say no just out of spite. Maybe even accuse him of blood magic.
"I am not his mother," Meredith said, sounding offended. "And I have no use for a goat." Cullen’s awkward smile turned pleading, and Meredith pursed her lips. "If the Knight-Captain wishes to marry you, that’s his decision. If so, you’re welcome to him. Just please get this animal out of here."
Cullen looked back at the goat to see it squatting next to his desk. "Oh, Maker," he groaned as the room filled with the smell of goat shit.
Anton looked horrified, glancing over his shoulder. "Goat, no!" He rose swiftly to his feet, bowing deeply to the Knight-Commander. "I thank you. We will… remove the goat, shortly."
Grabbing at both of Cullen’s hands, he tried to block out the stench of goat shit. "I wanted this to be something out of one of those books you keep reading, but reality seems intent upon intruding upon the moment. All the same, will you marry me, Ser Cullen?"
Cullen hesitated. Why did this have to be so complicated? Anton’s family, a goat shitting on the floor, the Knight-Commander staring at him, Anton giving him that darling, rakish smile he so adored… "Probably," he said, with a nod. "It is extremely likely that I will marry you, Anton." Was there supposed to be a kiss here? Meredith was still staring at them. He could feel it. But, he hadn’t quite said yes, so the least he could do was — He kissed Anton — warm, sweet, slightly goat-scented Anton — just to stop the chattering in his head. There were so many things that were wrong with this, but he wanted it so very much, wanted to believe this could be real.
"If it is extremely likely, then I am extremely happy," Anton said, jaunty smile softening around the edges. "Not to mention extremely lucky."
Meredith’s long-suffering sigh broke the moment. "I suppose a congratulations are in order," she said. "Now if you’ll excuse me, I have witnessed enough of this Fereldan insanity. Ser Cullen, you may take the afternoon off, provided you use it to clean up this mess." She turned on her heel and headed back towards her office.
"Congratulations, Captain," Keran spoke up. "And to you too, Messere Hawke." Then he scampered after Meredith.
The Hanged Man again. Aveline wasn’t sure why she kept ending up in the slummiest pub Kirkwall had to offer, with relationship problems — hers or anyone else’s — but there it was. Here she was. Again. Fenris and Artemis were with her, just as drunk as she was and easily twice as bemused. "It’s not like I can just order him into my office and … proclaim my intentions! How would that look? I’m his captain!"
Varric passed the table on the way to his rooms. "Ah, hey, Artie? Do you know why Anton’s … turned into a one-man musical theatre production? I went by the house to see him, but Bodhan said he’s been like that all afternoon, just running around the house, singing. Suggested I might want to try again, tomorrow. I’ve seen him drunk, and drunk doesn’t even begin to cover that…"
Artemis grinned into his rum, clapping Varric on the back a bit too hard. "You wanna know why?" he asked. "He’s a one-man musical theatre because he’s turned into a one-man man. Finally. Idiot s’been in as much denial as Cormac."
Really. How many years of ‘it’s not serious’ did either of them have to go through before they realised it was?
Varric looked suddenly interested. "Him and Cullen?" Aveline asked.
"Yep," said Artie, popping the ‘p’ at the end. "Goat and everything."
"Goat. What is it with you kids and your goats?" Varric shook his head. "I’m starting to think Ferelden really is populated by nothing but barbarian tribes. I keep reading things that tell me you guys actually developed civilisation, at some point, but goats? I’m starting to doubt it."
Fenris looked relieved at that assessment, raising an eyebrow and subtly nodding to Varric. That would explain it. They were all barbarians, posing as civilised people. Of course, that didn’t quite explain the native Kirkwallers, but Kirkwall was its own excuse, he was sure. The sheer number of demons, alone, and no magisters here to blame. Except that one, he supposed, and they’d killed him.
"The goat dowry is a long and proud tradition, Varric! It’s a sign the family can support another person!" Aveline scolded.
"So, it’s basically ‘marry me, I’m rich’." Varric rubbed his chin and nodded. "There are ways to get that point across that don’t chew the furniture, you know."
"Ways that involve biting a pillow instead, I’m sure," Artie said. His chortle ended in a hiccup, and he covered his mouth with his hand. "I said that aloud again, didn’t I? I sound like Cormac."
"If you did, I’d need earplugs," Fenris muttered into his drink.
"Hey, where is Cormac, anyway?" Artemis asked, poking at Varric’s arm. "He usually comes to these. He usually drags me to these. I sent him flowers this morning, and he never responded."
Varric gave Artie an odd look. "Didn’t he tell you? Must’ve forgot to mention it. He’s on holiday. Didn’t tell me where, just said he was taking Blondie out of town for a bit. Of course with the way your family and holidays get on, maybe I should be concerned."
"I’m sure they’re fine. As long as they’re not exploring the Deep Roads, I can’t imagine they’ll get into too much trouble," Fenris said, though he thought that depended entirely on one’s definition of ‘too much’ and ‘trouble’. He expected they’d live, at least.
"You don’t think Cormac’s finally got his head out of his ass?" Aveline asked. "Two brothers in one week? It’d have to be divine intervention."
"Or demons. It is Kirkwall," Fenris pointed out.
"Knock it off, Broody, it’s not demons. I’m sure he’s going to be gone just long enough for the neighbours to stop wearing earplugs." Varric shook his head. "Might be he’s not telling anyone, because it’s something to do with Anton’s wedding. The timing is a little … coincidental. Maybe he’s gone out to find an Orlesian acrobatics troupe, or specialists in Rivaini cuisine, or whatever the fuck you Fereldan barbarians do for posh weddings."
"Dogs," Artemis told Varric, straight-faced. "We Fereldans use dogs. The grooms arrive on sleds pulled by mabari."
Fenris smiled awkwardly, in that way that said he wasn’t sure if Artie was joking but really hoped he was. "Mabari are preferable to goats," he said, shrugging. "Less likely to poop on the floors."
"But more likely to fart in your face, so it’s all a matter of perspective," Artie replied. He paused to consider. "You know, knowing Anton, I’m sure the dog will be involved in the wedding, somehow. Hopefully without the farts, but if there is Rivaini cuisine, involved, I wouldn’t hold my breath. Or I would, actually. Those farts are toxic."
"As delightful as this education in the wedding customs of barbarian peoples has been," Varric said, cocking a thumb at the stairs, "I’ve got a business to run. Try not to do anything too barbaric with your goats and dogs…" With that, he left them, shaking his head, all the way up the stairs. That was going in a book. Had to. And no one would ever believe it. Maybe he’d throw in a little something about Cormac setting out to seek a bride for the dog, so it could be married with its master. It’s not like he had to worry about his Fereldan readership — the Fereldans all died in the blight, right?
"So, I shouldn’t get him a goat? It’s too soon, do you think?" Aveline looked just as distressed as she had, before Varric’s interruption. "If I can’t get him a goat, and I can’t just… call him into my office and tell him — which I can’t, that would … that would look terrible. That would not be the way to get an honest response. What do I do?"
"Then don’t call him into the office," Artemis said, nodding as though he were imparting some great wisdom. "Call him into a closet. Worked for Anton. And here he is, three years later, giving his man a goat. If that’s not romance, I don’t know what is."
Aveline’s face looked pinched. "Not helping," she groaned, slumping over the table.
"He’s not… entirely off," Fenris said. He waved his hand at Aveline’s incredulous look. "He is about the closet, but not about the… inviting Donnic elsewhere. Like here. Buy him a drink. Talk to him."
"Oh yes," Artemis said, nodding more emphatically. "Alcohol is very helpful when you’re nervous about that sort of thing. S’how Fen and I got together." He draped an arm over his elf’s shoulder.
Fenris coughed into his fist. "I’m not sure that’s the example Aveline ought to be following," he said, even as he wrapped an arm around Artemis’s waist.
"Okay, so, I should … get drunk with him, here? Why does everything with your family involve someone getting drunk?" Aveline shook her head.
"I ask myself that frequently," Fenris added. Not that he could complain about where drunken Hawkes had gotten him.
"Very well. Invite Donnic here. Not— not today, not now. Tomorrow? Thursday. I don’t know if I should be drinking like this two days in a row." Aveline bit her nail and squinted across the tavern.
"Thursday we’re playing cards, with Varric," Fenris pointed out. "So, if anything goes wrong, we’ll all be here for you. Upstairs."
"I’m not sure that eases my mind at all," Aveline confessed. "But, invite him for Thursday. Don’t — don’t say anything about me, just make something up. I don’t want him to think he’s meeting the captain."
"He… is meeting the captain, Aveline." Fenris wondered if they shouldn’t have cut her off a couple pints ago.
"No! No, not like that. That’s the whole point! It can’t be my office, because I don’t want to be the captain. It’s just me." She looked distressed — perhaps even more distressed than usual. "Artie, you know what I mean, don’t you?"
"I do," Artie said honestly. As a native speaker, he was, after all, fluent in ‘nervous babble’. "Being outside the office will help, but you know he’s still going to view you as ‘the Captain’ at first, right? S’going to happen. Just… be your self, your drunken self, and let him get to know you as ‘Aveline’, instead."
"That’s probably the smartest thing he’s said while this drunk," Fenris said. "I’d listen to him."
Artemis put more of his weight on Fenris’s shoulders. "That’s because I usually have someone’s tongue down my throat by the time I’m this drunk," he said in Fenris’s ear, whispering but still plenty loud enough for Aveline to hear.
"Yes," Fenris said, clearing his throat. "Someone’s ‘tongue’."
"You two are the best!" Aveline clapped Artemis on the shoulder and staggered out of her chair. "Make it happen. I’m… I’m going to go, before any more of anyone’s tongue gets involved. Or anyone’s… ‘tongue‘. Drink up! It’s on my tab."