[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 97
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Aveline ♀, Fenris ♂, Isabela ♀, Merrill ♀, Varric ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Cormac’s ass, awkward flirting
Notes: AVELINE NO. CORMAC NO. ANDRASTE’S FLAMING ASS, FENRIS! AVELINE YES.
Aveline’s palms were sweaty inside her gloves, and she stretched her fingers, trying to get her skin to unstick from the fabric. Donnic walked next to and a little ahead of her, platemail clanking with each step. She shouldn’t have agreed to this. This wasn’t going to work. They were taking too long and —
Up ahead, a signal fire lit up the path. Right. So no one had died then. This was her chance to say something, anything. Words. What were words.
"So this route’s pretty quiet," Donnic said, slowing so that they walked more in step with each other.
Or he could say something first. Yes. That was much simpler. "Yes," Aveline said, perhaps too eagerly, "and it’s… a real nice night for an evening."
"Uh, as you say, Captain."
Donnic walked ahead of her again, and Aveline laughed weakly. "Yes," she muttered, "as I say."
Maker. She was better off not talking.
Ahead of them, Aveline’s friends cleared out more bandits. What was it with the bandits on the coast, this particular weekend? Isabela and Anton had just been up this way a couple weeks ago, and made a point of clearing out this stretch of coast. Still, it was near the city, so it was the obvious place to bring in questionable cargo.
Varric recovered what bolts he could, from the latest round of corpses, while Isabela opened up that questionable cargo. "Pants," she said. "What is it with Kirkwall and pants?"
"I can think of numerous occasions for which more pants might have been a solution," Fenris said, poking through a chest she’d left open. He tossed a pair to Artemis. "These would look good on you, I think. If they’re the right size."
"I think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you tell my brother to put pants on," Cormac laughed. "Aren’t you usually the one who wants less pants on him?"
Fenris turned on Cormac, and promptly bit his tongue. He took a breath. "But, there is a certain joy in choosing something good to be taken out of, is there not?"
Artemis made a face, holding the pants out by the waistband and looking them over. "It looks like these pants were… well-loved," he said, which was another way of saying that someone else’s crotch had been in those pants. Some stranger’s crotch. "I could clean them, but they’re a bit worn in the knees."
"They would be a good style on you, though," said Merrill brightly. "I can see why the bandits liked them."
"We’ll have a pair like that made for you when we go back to Kirkwall," Fenris said. Then, in Artie’s ear, he added, "And then you can wear those in in the knees."
Artie smirked and blushed, throwing the pants in Fenris’s face.
"Hey, hey. We’re here for Aveline’s dirty shenanigans, not yours," Varric reminded them, as they set off along the coast, keeping just far enough ahead of Aveline to be sure nothing got behind them, but to still have time to throw the corpses into the sea.
"Oh, Cormac, I keep forgetting to ask you…" Merrill caught up to him. "Why did you choose to have ‘attractive buttocks’ tattooed on your face? And who did you get to do that? The work is really very nice."
"Oh, shit." Cormac clapped a hand over his eyes and dragged it down his face. Of course Merrill would know.
"He has what tattooed on his face? No, that’s just some lines. There’s no butt on his face!" Isabela spun around and danced backward to get in front of Cormac and check.
"It’s elven calligraphy — the type used for tattoos. That’s why it took me so long to be sure. It couldn’t possibly be that, because who would write that on someone’s face? But…" Merrill shrugged. "I don’t mean to be rude, but knowing you, it does seem like the sort of thing you would do."
"I didn’t do it on purpose!" Cormac complained, to the sky.
"Oh, you accidentally got ‘nice ass’ tattooed on your face?" Varric asked. "This I gotta hear."
"Where do I even start… Let’s start with I’m not Andrastian." Cormac shrugged. "I know it’s the only thing going, these days, on the surface, but I’m a mage. It doesn’t really appeal. The core was pretty solid, but I just can’t handle what people are doing with it. So, I gave it up. Dad and I had a big fight about it."
"I’m not seeing what this has to do with getting a disclaimer about your ass on your face," Isabela said, still walking backward.
Merrill’s eyes got wide. "Oh, no. You didn’t…"
"I might have." Cormac shot Merrill a pained look. "I … did. The Tevinter gods were dead or dying, and the elves looked at mages as actual people — and that was something I wanted. For my dad, really. But, I went and studied with as many newcomers to the alienages as I could. People who’d left on purpose, outcasts — well, you met me around then — a little later. The first time, I mean. Took a while before I was brave enough to go sit in the road, like that. But, one of the last people I met, before the road, was … actually a lot like you, Merrill. A storyteller with unpopular politics. Every day for eight days, he told me no. And I’d go back and beg him, every day. I’d devoted myself to Dirthamen, I said."
"Why?" Merrill asked. "Of all of them, why Dirthamen?"
"I’m a mage and a human. There’s a lot of secrets tied up in that. It’s a long road from where—" Cormac stopped and flicked his hand, setting a pair of archers on fire. Varric finished them off. "— from where we are to a world where I can be people, just like everybody else. I needed something I could trust. So, as it turns out? I couldn’t trust this storyteller. I was an obnoxious teenager, but this…"
"You hassled the man you meant to have tattoo the most obvious part of your body," Fenris clarified. "And you expected this would end well?"
"I was fifteen !" Cormac shook his head. "But, he told me to sit for it, finally. Not to move, not to make a sound. And it was my face, so … I bit through my lip. Twice. Turns out that didn’t actually help at all. He told me I had a great and terrible secret on my face, and I was ready to devote my life to my god. So, I did. You want to tell her why I already know what it says?" he asked Artemis.
Everyone turned to look at Artemis. "I, uh." He paused to clear his throat. "I told him."
Merrill blinked up at him. "How do you know what it says?"
"Well…" Artemis’s fingers twisted in his hair. "I, uh. I knew someone who could read elven calligraphy. Mahariel, actually. Met him around the time we met you the first time, Merrill." He darted a look at Fenris.
"Was this the one who called you ‘Earthquake Boy’?" Fenris asked.
Artie grinned sheepishly and nodded. "Yes, that was Theron. Theron Mahariel. I was — what — fourteen? So this would have been a year or so later, I suppose. I’d gotten used to Cormac having those lines on his face and didn’t really think anything of it. Then, one afternoon, as Theron and I are, uh —" Another pause to clear his throat. "Anyway, he just starts laughing out of nowhere, and says he has to ask me something. And then he just… he tells me what Cormac’s tattoos really mean, and…" Artemis pursed his lips together to keep from laughing. He looked at his brother, and his face turned red from the strain. "I’m sorry, Cormac," he said, voice shaking with laughter. "I know you were upset, but it was pretty funny."
"So," Isabela said, drawing out the one syllable, "how long did you know this before you told him?"
"I assumed he already knew." Artemis shrugged. "And I wasn’t going to say anything. He was so proud of devoting himself to Dirthamen, the Secret Keeper, and here he was, with the most ridiculous secret written on his face. I thought it was intentional too. So, um. A few years. At least." He gave Cormac a sheepish smile.
"What the fuck were we even fighting about?" Cormac asked, rubbing his beard. It still wasn’t quite right, but it was better. "Did you throw me down the stairs again? Or was it the time I didn’t spot the hornets in that tree, before we shook it down — not that you spotted them either. I don’t know, we were at each other’s throats. And you turned on me and said, ‘At least I don’t have propaganda about my ass tattooed on my face!’ And I tried to blow you off, because how would you know? And then you just went on like you had a prize, because you’d been banging an elf who could read it."
Cormac shook his head and laughed. "I thought about getting it broken up — a few more lines, and it wouldn’t be legible. But, in the end, I couldn’t think of a better secret to carry. So few people could read it, and it was writ right on my face. Made quite an impression on a couple of Keepers, over the years. … The face. Not the ass."
"Oh, I bet the ass made an impression too." Isabela turned around and knelt down to unhook the tripwire she’d just touched with her foot.
"If it did, I never heard about it." Cormac shrugged. "But, I guess I wasn’t listening for it, either. Not what I was there for."
"No," Varric drawled, "I suspect that’s more in line with what your brother was there for."
Artemis looked offended for all of two seconds before he nodded and shrugged. "I’m not even going to deny that," he said. Glancing at Cormac, he smirked and added, "I’ve always been a fan of elven… culture." He looped his arm with Fenris’s and slammed a few bandits up ahead into the ground. Varric picked them off where they sprawled.
"I’ll bet," Fenris muttered.
"Culture. Is that what we’re calling it, these days?" Cormac laughed and lit the campfire as they got closer to the camp, but no more bandits appeared. "I was there for the mythology. He was there for the … ‘c…ulture’." The smile that accompanied the word was slow and wry.
Merrill didn’t even pretend she wasn’t laughing. Her giggles carried up the coast, echoing off the stone. "You are both amazing fools. Truly amazing."
"Amazing fools with amazing asses," Isabela agreed. "Which waypoint are we up to? Is that the last one, up there?"
"I’m so glad she marked the path, or we’d have ended up hunting bandits until we hit another town," Varric joked.
"I’m sure the dawn would have stopped us, sooner," Fenris pointed out, still looking askance at Artemis.
"I am, in fact, an amazing fool, with an amazing ass," Cormac agreed, after a moment. "And I think both of those things are included in the disclaimer on my face."
"So less of a secret than you’d like, really," Artemis said, shrugging. He wasn’t going to deny the fool or the ass part, regarding either of them. "Speaking of fools, I wonder how Aveline is doing. Any platemail flying yet?"
Fenris disengaged from Artemis long enough to sneak back, closer to the path Aveline and Donnic were walking. Isabela padded after him, grinning. Fenris’s ears pricked, "They’re talking about swords," he said.
"Ooh, are they?" Isabela purred. "That’s my girl."
"No, not… metaphorical swords," Fenris explained. He listened a bit longer and made a face like he’d eaten something rotten. "Actual swords. Making swords. This is quite possibly the most unerotic conversation I’ve ever heard."
"Oh, this is just sad," Isabela sighed. They padded back to the rest of the group and filled them in.
"We’re going to have to do something, aren’t we?" Varric asked, with a heavy sigh.
"We really are." Cormac stared down the path.
"Well, as long as we can help her, I’m sure it’ll be fine!" Merrill seemed so optimistic. "It’s good she’s finally trying to get out and do things, again."
"People," Isabela said. "Get out and do people . But, I agree. We just have to make it a little more obvious."
"We can stand around and wait for them to catch up. They’ll have to come past us to reach the end of the patrol route — which should be happening any second, now." Fenris grabbed Artemis’s arm and pulled him onto the path.
"Fenris! Fancy running into you here!" Aveline’s smile was desperate and awkward, and her eyes darted to the side, encouraging them to go away.
Cormac followed his brother, Isabela and Merrill following him. "Aveline…"
"Cormac, no. Don’t." Aveline held up her hands and looked away, as if anything would stop Cormac when he had a plan.
"Would someone please tell me what’s going on?" Donnic asked, looking confusedly between Aveline and the group suddenly blocking the path.
Fenris shook his head and looked straight at Donnic. "She wants you," he said. "Which is pathetic. And admirable."
Aveline’s eyes popped wide. She looked more terrified than she had fighting dragonlings.
"I mean, really," Varric chimed in, "do you want me to draw you a picture of where she wants to touch you?"
"Varric —!" Aveline hissed. Her entire face coloured.
"Diagrams are nice," Artie agreed. "But we’re short on paper. How about pantomime? You." He indicated Aveline with one hand. "And you." He indicated Donnic with the other. Then he brought his hands together and made obscene kissy noises.
"Just bend her over a basin, will you?" Isabela said over Artemis.
Aveline looked ready to commit murder.
Cormac was laughing so hard his face had turned colour, and Merrill was leaning on him for support, as she laughed right along with him. He looked like he might say something but just gestured helplessly at Artemis. "What he said. They. What they said," he finally choked out.
"Captain?" Donnic managed, after a moment staring. "I… should get back to the barracks." He turned around and set off back down the path.
"I thought we were friends!" Aveline accused the group in front of her.
"Friends sometimes push," Fenris said, not unkindly. "At least you know where you stand."
"I… I have to fix this. He’ll file a complaint. Ask for a transfer…" Aveline jabbed a finger at Fenris. "You. You’re coming to the barracks to explain why you put him on the spot! Double-time, Fenris, or so help me…"
Aveline marched away, her hands clenched into fists, and Fenris threw his arms out wide. "Why me?" he asked. "I wasn’t the only one who said something!"
"Come on, Fenris," Artemis mock scolded. "Double-time, she said. Get a move on." He shooed Fenris on while Isabela cackled next to him.
"Mage," Fenris huffed, grabbing Artemis by the arm and pulling him along too. "If I’m going, you’re going."
"Fine, but only because you’re cute." Artie allowed himself to be elfhandled but threw a pleading look at Cormac over his shoulder.
"Yes, I know, you like my… culture."
"Maker," Aveline sighed, pacing in front of the bunkroom door. "Where is Donnic? I need to head this off before it goes to the viscount. Maybe a formal apology. Something that shows the guards they can still trust me."
"Maybe try copper marigolds this time," Fenris drawled, leaning on the wall. "In hindsight, they weren’t the worst option."
"It’s not funny!" Aveline insisted.
"I beg to differ…" Artemis chimed in, from beside Fenris.
"You’ll beg for more than that, if you keep this up!" Aveline looked entirely scandalised.
The sound of throat-clearing made them all look down the hall. Donnic hovered awkwardly. "My apologies, but I need a moment with the captain," he explained.
"Guardsman… Donnic?" The scandal slid off Aveline’s face and just kept going. She looked like she might implode with the combination of embarrassment and uncertainty.
"Please." Donnic smiled at her, and embarrassment turned to hope. Aveline glanced at Fenris, at Artemis. Fenris nodded while Artie gave her a grin and a subtle thumbs-up.
The guards disappeared into the bunkroom, and Artemis pressed his ear to the door.
"Really?" Fenris huffed.
"I just want to make sure they’re not talking about swords again," Artie said. "At least, not unless they’re talking about those swords." He couldn’t hear much through the thick door, but after a while, he heard what sounded like Aveline giggling. He couldn’t remember ever hearing her giggle before, at least not like that. Artemis grinned up at Fenris and pulled away. "I think our job here is done."