[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 96
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Cormac Hawke ♂, Anders ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Questionable commentary on innumerable things
Notes: A conclusion. A solution. A return.
Cullen showed up at the door with orchids, like he hadn’t done in years. It seemed like the only reasonable way to approach the problem. Well, the solution. He supposed he was the problem. Anton’s brother still hadn’t returned from wherever he’d gone, and the family was understandably tense, moreso now that another brother had signed on with the order. He couldn’t bring himself to destroy a family like that, especially not Anton’s family.
Bodhan looked entirely unsurprised to see him, and they talked a bit about Sandal and the goat, as they walked through the house. "Ser Cullen to see you, messere," Bodhan said, before ducking out.
Anton put down the lock he’d been futzing with, and looked up. Orchids? Now? Had he forgotten something important? "In the middle of the day, even? Goodness, how do you get any work done?" he purred, standing up and wrapping his arms around Cullen.
"What can I say?" Cullen said, squeezing Anton to him with his free arm. "You are a distraction even when you’re not in the room." Which was true, Maker help him. Even after years of this. "But I came to talk, actually. Or to apologise rather."
Anton pulled back to look at his templar. "Whatever for?" he asked. "You didn’t play strip Wicked Grace without me, did you?"
Cullen chuffed. "No, that was… no. I’d rather not lose my entire wardrobe." He pulled away from Anton long enough to set down the orchids on an end table. "It’s about your brother, actually. Cormac."
"You’ve decided, then?" Anton made an effort to look unaffected, but he still paled. The orchids, an apology… He’d have to tell Varric. And then Cormac would never come home.
"I’m sorry I thought about taking away your brother. I— it’s my job. But, I can’t do that. Not when I can’t promise him safety, in the Gallows. You brought me the evidence. I don’t know if the problem is solved, and I can’t do that to your family. I can’t do that to you. Maybe one day, but not now. Not soon." Cullen left out the part where Cormac would probably be sent away, anyway, to keep him away from his family, to make it harder to run. He’d never much liked that idea — it seemed like letting mages see their families would make them run less. "Not until I see changes. It’s not somewhere I’d trust my family, and your family is my family, now. Or, well, it will be. If I wouldn’t put my sister there, I shouldn’t put your brother there."
Anton was practically dizzy with relief. "Thank the Maker," he breathed. "And thank you." It almost gave him hope for the order, that they had a man like Cullen as captain. The man deserved that goat.
Cullen smiled and kissed Anton’s cheek, pleased to see the tension finally leave his fiancé’s shoulders. "I’m sorry I put you and your family through that," he said. He’d already said as much, but one apology didn’t feel like enough. He wondered what that said about him as a templar, as a captain, and wondered if he was being a hypocrite, that he’d spare a mage he knew but not one he didn’t. But surely Cullen could keep as much an eye on Cormac here as he could in the Gallows?
Cormac threw open the door, Anders slung over one of his shoulders and a porter from the docks following with a cart full of bags. Far more bags than they’d left with. "Rum and wenches, serah!" he shouted boisterously, as Bodhan came around the corner, into the hall. "Actually, sandwiches. Cheese plate. Something that isn’t hardtack and dried fruit. And a couch that isn’t rolling. Let us not get on another boat, in weather like that, hey, Anders?"
"You can put me down any time. I’m pretty sure I can stand up, now. I’m pretty sure I could stand up, then, too," Anders muttered, before he bit Cormac square on the ass.
Cormac shrieked and almost dropped him. "Maker-damned mountain savage!" he swore, turning to the porter, as he fished out a few coins. "That’s fine. Thanks for the help."
Anton walked down the stairs, hands in his pockets, and Mintaka scampered off ahead of him, little nub of a tail wriggling. The dog snuffled at Cormac’s feet and pawed at his leg, whining for pets.
"Really, Mintaka," Anton huffed, reaching down to scratch behind the dog’s ears. "One would think you were starved for attention." He straightened, grinning at his brother. "Welcome back, Cormac. Anders’s ass." He nodded to each in turn.
"My ass thanks you," Anders replied, waving at Anton as best he could from the awkward angle.
"Your amazing network of people who don’t know enough to be dangerous worked exactly as intended. We got the news, and here we are!" Cormac grinned and finally set Anders down. "And now I think maybe I’ll lie on the floor a bit. Which is rolling like a wave, by virtue of being the first non-rolling thing I’ve been on in a day and a half. Keep talking! I’m just going to hold on to the floor for a bit."
"You weren’t like this when we went up the river for that, er, hunting party," Anton pointed out.
"That was a river. This was not." Cormac lowered himself to the floor and sprawled, face down, holding on to the tile. "Merciful Andraste. It’s a floor. It doesn’t smell like salt and fish."
"You should join us in the sitting room," Anders decided, handing a bag to Anton. "We brought back strange and exotic things from the north. Not that we were anywhere near the north, because I’m not suicidal, but other ports are fun!"
"I’m not getting off the floor. It’s a floor. It’s magically unmagical and not moving." Cormac suddenly got even more still and tilted his head to look up at Anton. "Artie’s not here, is he? I’m not feeling the urge to be used as a mop."
"No, Artie’s not here," Anton answered, grinning. "There’s a chance the floor wouldn’t be ‘unmoving’ if he were."
Anders cringed and laughed. "There’s a point," he said. "Though I can’t say his earthquakes have ever made me seasick."
"Not something I need to think about, Anders," Anton said. It was, he supposed, his fault for bringing it up. "And no, I’m afraid the welcoming party is limited to Mintaka, Bethany, and myself. Well, Bethany when she’s done with… whatever it is she’s doing, exactly. I saw a row of skulls and wasn’t about to ask."
Anders bent down and rolled Cormac over — a move met with a dreadful groan — before sweeping him off the floor and heading toward the drawing room.
"Holy shit, Anders, put me down! I weigh like two of you! You’re going to drop me! The floor is further away than I like it!" Cormac wrapped both arms around Anders’s neck and held on, wide-eyed and a little green around the edges. "Please don’t drop me. I’ll be so sad. And I’ll probably barf. And Artie will kill us both."
Anton followed behind them, laughing. "Did you always suck at getting picked up? I think you did. I was pretty small, but I don’t ever remember dad picking you up."
"Not by the time you were old enough to be paying attention," Cormac said, as Anders deposited him on a couch. He groaned and clutched at the cushions. "A saint. You are a saint. The holy apostate has brought me to the cushions, and now I can hold on to the squishy thing that is not a boat. Of course, if we’re on squishy things that aren’t boats…"
"Isabela’s not here, either," Anders said, picking up Cormac’s legs long enough to sit down and drop them in his lap.
"What did we miss? Anything exciting, other than your not-a-boyfriend’s change of heart?" Cormac asked, as Bodhan came in with a tray of cheeses and meats.
‘Not-a-boyfriend’. Ha. Cormac had missed more than Anton had realised. "Oh, nothing exciting," Anton said, pausing to nibble on a slice of cheese. "Bethany had some breakthrough or other in her research, Mintaka got dog fur on your bed, Artie spent most of the time drunk, Carver joined the templars, and I asked Cullen to marry me."
"What!?" Cormac sat up so fast he nearly headbutted Anders’s shoulder. "This is ‘it’s fine, come home’!? Our little brother is a templar?" Cormac breathed a few more times, before any more words came out of him.
"Congratulations," Anders said, "assuming you’re doing this because you want to, and not as part of some extended bribe."
"No bribing," Anton answered, "though I suspect it helped. I brought him a goat and everything. Well. Fenris’s goat, the one he gave Mum. And technically I gave it to Meredith, though she wanted nothing to do with it."
"Meredith?" Anders squeaked. He bit his lip to keep from bursting into laughter. "You brought Meredith a goat."
"Well, I didn’t know where Cullen’s mother was, so I figured she was the next best thing!"
"You gave a goat to Meredith. You gave a goat, our mother’s goat, technically — my goat, if you want to get really specific — to the Knight-Commander?" Cormac did laugh. "Did Artie and Fenris find out? Does this have anything to do with why Carver is now a templar? Is he— oh, Maker — is he trying to protect us?" Cormac stopped laughing. "I should probably let him punch me in the face, shouldn’t I?"
"Just don’t let him punch you in anything I’m still using!" Anders teased.
"You’re a healer. What do you care?" Cormac pinched Anders on the shoulder.
"Protecting the family?" Anton said. "Maybe. There’s also the chance that he is fed up with us and just wants out." He shrugged. "Then again, maybe it’s a bit of both. Bethany seemed less surprised by it than I’d expect, but Artie seemed hurt. Then again, Artie was using Cullen’s pants as a scarf at the time, so…"
"Oh dear." Anders raised his eyebrows. "We didn’t have a repeat of that infamous party, did we?"
"Ha. No. Artie managed to keep his clothes on, for once."
"Do I want to know what your pet templar was doing, in a room with our brother, without his pants on? Or how our brother managed to keep his own pants on, given that you said he was drunk the whole time I was gone?" Cormac looked amused.
"I’m equally interested in that answer. Has Fenris discovered some new talent for keeping Artie’s pants on? Perhaps glue on the knots?" Anders’s eyebrows hadn’t come down yet.
"You’d have to ask Fenris about that last one," Anton answered with a cringing laugh. "As for why my templar was pantsless, it was Wicked Grace night, and Cullen ran out of coin to wager. Fenris won his pants and belt while Izzy won his tunic and smalls." He thought of where those smalls were now and shuddered. "Izzy has those smalls up on the wall next to an, uh, other trophy of hers." He looked meaningfully at Cormac.
Cormac blinked and looked slowly over at Anton. "So, you’ve met that, have you? Even I have limits."
Limits… But, Cormac had said… "She hung it on the wall!?" Anders’s eyebrows looked like they might become migratory, if they climbed any higher.
"Of course she hung it on the wall. What else was she going to do with it?" Cormac shrugged and finally laid back down, resting his head on the arm of the couch. "Did you see the little plaque under it? ‘Conquered Cormac’s Cockiness, 9:32 Dragon’. No mercy, not that I ever expected it from her."
"Mercy is not part of her charm, no," Anders shook his head. "I was more terrified of her when she left my room than when she’d walked into it, but that didn’t stop me from going back for more! And now, I just don’t have the time… Where did all my time go?"
"Up Cormac’s ass, I suspect," Anton said. And there was a visual he didn’t need to give himself. Best to change the subject before he gave himself nightmares. "By the way, the cats missed you. Terribly. They’ve been cuddling with Sandal and the goat, but Mintaka keeps trying to terrorise them. Or they keep trying to terrorise Mintaka. It’s a bit hard to tell with those furballs, really."
At Anton’s feet, Mintaka whined in agreement.
Anders chuckled. "We leave for a short holiday, and everyone goes crazy," he teased.
"Andraste’s finely sculpted posterior," Cormac swore, "I take a week up the coast, and everything happens. That’s it. I’m never leaving home again. You’re stuck with me, Anton. I suppose I have to start shopping for wedding gifts, now… Two of my brothers getting married?" He shook his head. "Two brothers getting married and another one licking lyrium with a bunch of fanatics. Dad would be rolling over in his tomb, if we were Nevarran."
"Yes, but just think, none of them are producing grandchildren," Anders pointed out. "He wouldn’t be stuck with another generation of you … extremely flavourful nutbars running around the house."
"Assbiter hasn’t tried to eat the goat? Are we still calling it ‘goat’? Does it have a name?" Cormac snagged a few slices of cheese and rolled them up, stuffing them in his mouth.
"Maybe you should ask Fenris," Anders suggested.
"If it’s friends with Sandal, maybe we should just call it ‘Enchantgoat’."
"Engoatment?" Anton suggested. He made a sandwich out of a slice of meat and two slices of cheese and stuffed it into his mouth. "I swear Sandal and the goat have developed their own language. It’s a bit frightening, really. The last thing we need is for Sandal to enchant the goat so that it farts rainbows or something."
"Now that would be a goat worthy of proposing with," Anders replied.
"Well, the goat already has a perfect proposal record," Anton reminded him. "Why mess with something that already works?"
"Remind me to keep that goat away from you," Cormac muttered around a few slices of meat.
"Oh, don’t worry. I don’t want to ruin the enchantgoat’s perfect record by turning you down in front of it." Anders laughed. "It wouldn’t work, even if it did fart rainbows. It could shit healing runes, and I still wouldn’t marry you."
Cormac smiled fondly and reached for the cheese again. "Thank the Maker for that. I think the Chantry would spontaneously combust from the irony."
"If I thought that was true, I might actually say yes." Anders snorted.
"Oh, don’t. Bethy would be so pissed if we accidentally dropped the Chantry on Sebastian." Cormac seemed intent on discovering exactly how much ham he could fit in his mouth at once.
Anton watched this display for a moment and rolled his eyes. "Once you’re done discovering how much meat fits into your face-hole—" he began.
"Ohh, he knows just how much—"
"Anders, no." Anton held up a hand. He supposed he walked into that one, but he really didn’t need the visual. "When you’re done, Cormac… can you tell me what the fuck you meant about giving me the house before you left?"
"I mmmt…" Cormac swallowed some of the mass of half-chewed meat. "I meant I don’t know how to house. The gardens are going to shit. I’m sure we need .. things? And people? You’re the nobleman in the family. Make the house work like a house. I’ll take care of making it defensible, in case of … things. Orlesians. Qunari. Irate gentlemen in platemail who disapprove of your marriage." A sliver of ham flipped up and landed on Cormac’s nose. He blinked and stuck it back in his mouth before swallowing again. "This is why I was supposed to wait until I was done, wasn’t it."
"And I’m the savage," Anders complained. "I see how you are."
"I see," Anton said, nibbling on a piece of cheese to give himself a chance to think that over. "Irate gentlemen in platemail have been a problem in the past. Perhaps we should install a moat? With a drawbridge into Hightown?" He folded up another piece of cheese and tossed it into his mouth. The house was Cormac’s to do with what he wanted. If Cormac wanted him to have the house, that was his choice, but… "Shouldn’t you at least discuss this with Artie, first?"
"Why? Artie’s got a house. This one is my house. And now it’s your house. Just… I don’t know, don’t kick us out, I guess." Cormac laughed and choked on a bit of ham, rolling over onto his side, for a moment to cough. "I know we’re loud. I know we’re obnoxious, but I’d really appreciate not being put out on my ass, seeing as I just gave you a house and all."
"Please? I’ll invest in a gag, if I have to," Anders said, covering Cormac’s mouth with one hand, until the noises of complaint stopped.
"No damned gags, Anders. You know why." Cormac looked mildly annoyed. "And no moat. The Viscount would have our heads for breaking up the street like that. Maybe some more stained glass, though. The lines conceal a multitude of sins and salvations."
Anton was still trying to process this. His house, this place… his? All this only a few years after fleeing Lothering with nothing but his family and the shirt on his back. "A house… a future husband… People are going to start thinking I’m respectable, and we can’t have that."
"Throw a few parties," Anders suggested. "I’ll sure that will give them the right impression."
Anton grinned around a mouthful of ham. "All right," he said. "If you want me to play house, I will play house. I’m still going to petition the Viscount for a moat."
"If you win us the right to build a moat, I will know I made the right decision. There will be no question that you are truly the heir to the glory of the Amells. Of course, Anders is also right. Our granddad made his name on parties. You’ve got some powerful expectations, there, but I’m sure you can outdo even the memories of the elderly Orlesian contingent." Cormac grinned across the table. "This isn’t the life I was meant to have. It’s yours, and I’ll make sure you get to keep it, as long as I can. That’s what I’m here for, and you know it."