Jul 122015

Title: Brotherly Love: 9:22 Dragon
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke , Cormac Hawke , Artemis Hawke
Rating: E (L3 N4 S4 V2 D1)
Warnings: A prank involving pheromones, unrelated smut, ridiculous drunkenness
Notes: Cormac is 19, Artie’s 17, Anton’s 15. Antagonizing the livestock. One slightly-used and misused paramour.

His room was spotless. That was the first thing Anton noticed. It was, all told, the first time Anton had a room, and it was his room. All his. All for himself. His older brothers shared a room, and the twins shared a room, and his parents shared a room, and he had a room. And his room was, for entirely fathomable reasons, spotless, when he knew for a fact he hadn’t left it that way. There were things he needed, things he was looking for that had been tidied into oblivion.

Well. That was going to stop.

He bought the liquid from one of the Turpin boys — something they used to make the cows more appealing, when they were trying to breed them — and soaked a pair of Artie’s socks in it. As long as his brother stayed out of the cow pastures, he’d be fine, but any bull he passed would take an unusual interest. The idea of Artemis being followed around by bulls for a whole day, in a village like this one, just amused him to no end. When the socks were dry, he slipped them back in with the rest of Artie’s socks. This would be worth hearing about, when it happened.

Picking herbs, Artemis found, was more arduous than picking fruit, but then, he and Cormac hadn’t found a way to force push herbs into a basket, though not for lack of trying.

"There has to be a faster way of doing this," Artemis muttered as he bent to examine a cluster of wildflowers. He swatted aside tall blades of grass that tickled his face. "Does this look like Andraste’s Grace to you?" he asked, holding up a white flower for Cormac to examine. "It looks the same, but I swear every one we’ve picked so far has had four petals. This one has five. Does that matter? Does it make a difference? I feel like it makes a difference…"

"I don’t know. Put it in the basket, and we’ll figure it out when we get home." Cormac groaned and stretched. He’d been on his knees in this field for hours, but they were almost done. They were coming up on the edge of … somebody’s pasture. He wasn’t even sure whose that was, this far up the hill, but when they hit cows, it was time to call it quits.

"You want to get some of that cheese, on the way home? We’re going to pass the market, and I want to stop for a bottle of blaand. I am not staying sober after this." Not that milk-wine was really the way to get drunk in a hurry, but it was a local speciality, so it was cheap. "That and it’s a great excuse to grab Gantry’s ass. Not that I need an excuse, but you know he’ll be out there with the cheese. Did I catch you looking at him, the other week? You should go for it. He’s great."

Artemis nearly fumbled the flower as he put it in the basket. "He’s… uh, he’s not really my type," he said, not quite meeting Cormac’s eyes. "My type being…" You. "Elves. The more… elfy type." Cormac didn’t need to know Artie had been ogling his ass, not Gantry’s. "But cheese. Yes, cheese is a fantastic idea." Artemis rubbed the petals of one flower between his fingers, the silky texture soothing. He didn’t need to think about Cormac and Gantry. Together. Doing… things.

Artemis cleared his throat and looked around them. "Do you think we have enough? I’m not sure we have enough." Picking herbs was a simple enough distraction, even if his back was starting to ache from all that bending. "I see some more white flowers over there," he said, pointing in the direction of the grazing cows. "You don’t think the farmer would miss them, do you? The cows will probably just end up eating them."

"Nah, nobody will notice. Just be careful of the cows, Artie. They weigh like ten of you, and if you spook them, they will not stop. I don’t want to have to save you from becoming a small, attractive pancake." Cormac stopped and squinted at his brother. "You are getting pretty, too. Bethy’s going to be jealous as fuckall, when she gets a little older. Me, I just keep getting wider and fuzzier. You’ll marry into some rich family, one day, with that face. Don’t forget your brothers back here on the farm, when you do, huh?" He gave Artie a lot of shit about that, mostly because it was a constant that he could use to take Artie’s mind off his magic.

Dragging himself to his feet, Cormac took a seat on the edge of the pasture fence — a sturdy structure that was meant to handle getting hit by a cow — and rubbed healing into his back. Didn’t do much, but at least it took the edge off. With enough time he could wear it down, though.

Artie busied himself with neatening the pile of flowers in the basket to avoid looking at Cormac. He hoped his brother didn’t see how red his ears were, but he probably did. The bastard.

Artemis dropped the basket at his brother’s feet and climbed the fence, dropping lightly to his feet on the other side. "Take a break, old man," he teased, noting the way Cormac rubbed at his back. His own was stiff too, but he’d whine about it later until Cormac threw some healing magic his way.

"Good afternoon," Artie greeted the cows as he approached, and they lifted their heads, ears pitching forward. "Don’t mind me," he chattered as he bent over another white flower. "You don’t want to eat these anyway. There’s lots of tasty grass much closer to you."

The cows went back to nosing at the grass, but the bull in the middle of the group still had his nose in the air. As Artie plucked more flowers, the bull continued sniffing, following his nose in Artemis’s direction.

Cormac looked up in time to see the bull getting much too close to his brother. The cows had started to mill out of the way, and the path was clearing. It didn’t look like the bull was going to charge. If that had been the problem, it would have been in motion, already, but… Better safe than sorry. "Artie? Don’t move. The bull’s checking you out, and I promise he moves faster than you do. Stay really still." The barrier spell hovered at his fingertips, because a simple shield wouldn’t be enough against something like this. With a bull, immobile was the way to go.

Artemis was still hunched over when he heard Cormac, and, without straightening, he peered over his shoulder at the overly friendly bull. "Um. Hello." He hoped this didn’t come to him force pushing the bull. He didn’t want to force push a bull.

Artie waited for the bull to grow disinterested and back off, but instead he stepped closer to Artie and snuffled at his rump.

"Whoa!" Artemis jumped, straightening and stepping away. The bull made a frustrated noise, tail flicking as he followed. "Maker. I know Cormac said I was pretty, but this is a bit much."

Cormac cast the barrier. "Just stay put. It can’t touch you. It’ll get bored in a minute, and then we’ll get you out of there." He thought about walking Artie back to the fence, like they’d done with the river, but the bull was a lot less predictable than the water, and he didn’t much like the idea of trying to get Artie over the fence, unprotected. And the bubble had come out a little short, since he’d been trying to make sure it cleared the bull.

Still, the bull did not seem to be turned away by the introduction of the barrier spell. It sniffed at the bubble a few more times before mounting it, as Cormac looked on in horror. "Maker’s balls," he muttered. "Sorry, Artie! There’s… not much more I can do, really! It can’t get to you. Just hold on!"

Artemis stared at the bull in wide-eyed horror. "Cormac?" he called back. "What do you mean there’s not much more you can do? Cormac!" The bull continued to make love to Cormac’s barrier as Artie shrank back as far as he could. This was far more than he ever needed to know about the mating habits of cattle.

Once finished, the bull dropped back to his feet with a grunt and promptly lost interest in Artemis and his bubble. Artie’s face continued to twist in disgust. "I feel so violated," he said.

After a moment to be certain the bull wasn’t coming back, Cormac swapped the barrier for a shield. "I’m so sorry, but move! Move before anything else decides it’s interested!" He waved frantically, trying to keep an eye on everything that wasn’t his brother.

Artemis bolted the moment he saw the barrier drop. He’d spotted another bull, deeper in the fields, sniffing the air in his direction, and he didn’t want to repeat whatever-in-Maker’s-name just happened. Artie scrambled up and over the fence. "Oh — dammit. The flowers." He glanced back to see them lying on the ground where he’d dropped them. At least he’d left the basketful with Cormac.

Pointing an accusing finger Cormac’s way, Artie said, "You! You trapped me in a bubble while a bull tried to have his way with me!"

"Yes…? It was an impenetrable bubble. It was an immovable bubble. The bull is faster than you. That is never going to stop being true. If I’d used a shield, that would have been even less pleasant, because you would not have made it back here, before that thing caught up to you. I mean, the options were really humping the barrier or humping your ass." Cormac gestured frustratedly. "And you know we couldn’t take a shot at it. If either of us had hit, we’d at least have pissed it off, and that would have gotten even uglier. If we hit it any harder than just pissed off, we’d have had to pay for damages, and I don’t care what we’ve got a basket full of, we can’t afford a bull."

After a few more abortive gestures, Cormac threw his arms around his brother. "I didn’t know how to get you out, without making it worse, so I did what I could to protect you. I’m sorry it wasn’t enough, but you’re still here, yelling at me, so that’s the important thing."

Artie stiffened in Cormac’s arms. They’d always been close, always touched like it was nothing, but it wasn’t nothing anymore, not to Artie. "Cormac," he said, voice strained, "between the bubble and your squeezing, you’re starting to make me claustrophobic." He hated pushing his brother away, but he knew he had to. "Just stop, all right? Let’s get these damned flowers back and get your damned cheese and go home." He picked up the basket and busied himself with straightening the flowers again as he set off towards Gantry’s.

Cormac muttered some choice unpleasantries under his breath, and followed. Two bottles of blaand. He was going to get drunk. He’d done his very best, but Artie was just… weird, these last couple of years. Ever since they’d moved to this town. Ever since they’d gotten separate beds, he thought, and soon Artie would have his own room, once the extension on the house was finished. Cormac wasn’t sure he liked the idea of having his own room, of Artie being even further away, but if Artie was going to be like this, from now on, maybe it would be for the best.

Anton sat at the table, shuffling cards and trying out a new trick, fingers moving in complicated patterns until the motion looked smooth, effortless. He was certainly not watching the door and waiting for the results of today’s prank, but he was in an advantageous spot to see the look on Artie’s face when he walked through the door. Except Artie didn’t walk so much as storm, looking much angrier than Anton had anticipated, and Anton’s hands stopped mid-shuffle.

"Problem?" Anton asked, eyeing his brother. Artemis had immediately gone into cleaning mode, looking as though the dust on the shelf had done him personal harm.

"Flowers," Artemis explained without actually explaining.


"Yes." Artie cut a glance at Anton before fiddling with their father’s books, pulling them out one by one to clean underneath them. "Picking flowers. Herbs. That’s how I planned to spend my day. It’s how I spent yesterday and the day before, but in neither previous instance was I molested by a bull."

Anton dropped the cards, spilling them out over the table, a few fluttering to the floor. He sucked his lips between his teeth and bent to pick them up, shaking with silent laughter.

"And now Cormac’s being hovery again," Artemis muttered, shoving the books back with more force than necessary, if the non-magical kind of force. "I swear. One bull, and suddenly I need him escorting me everywhere."

"Andraste’s raging crotchfire," Cormac swore, kicking the door shut behind him and tossing half a wheel of the cheese Artie liked onto the table. "Really? Huffing and storming off in the middle of the market, when I stopped to get cheese for you?"

He chewed the wax seal off one of the bottles he was still holding, wadded it up and stuck it in his pocket. No sense in pissing Artie off even more. "And Gantry says hello, by the way, which he would have said to you, if you hadn’t flounced off like some lord’s son who didn’t get a pastry." A few swigs off the bottle, and Cormac turned to Anton, offering him the bottle.

"A bull. Do you believe this town? Our brother nearly got buggered to death by a bull, I saved him, and now he’s …" He gestured frustratedly with the closed bottle, in Artie’s direction.

Anton took the bottle, sniffed it, and handed it back. "A bull? He mentioned a bull. What…?" He tried to keep a straight face. Maybe even affect a bit of concern. If they ever figured out he’d had a hand in this, bulls would be the least of his problems.

"Tell our brother," Artemis scoffed, looking at Anton and ignoring Cormac, "that ‘saved’ is an overstatement. I could have handled that bull on my own without getting stuck in a bubble and being forced to watch the bull trying to…" He gestured curtly, face a flaming red. "You know!"

"Make sweet, sweet love to you?" Anton suggested, not even trying to hide his smirk anymore. Artemis shot him a withering look. Anton shrugged at Cormac.

"You know, if you’d made any move to handle the problem that didn’t look like it would end in you getting stomped into the ground — shields aren’t so good when you start sinking in, because there’s half a tonne of bull standing on you! Shit, dad dinged me in the face in a duel, last week, so don’t think the shield would have gotten you out of that! If you’d made a move to save yourself, I might have been able to drop it. But, if you’d hit the thing, I say it again, you’d have either pissed it off or hurt it, and then it’s a cointoss if you survive it and we might have to pay for the bull either way!" It was the fourth time Cormac had pointed it out. "And you can blighted and damned talk to me, if you can talk to him, I’m standing right here!"

Anton considered regretting his decision for about half a second, and just let that thought go. "Our brother says ‘saved’ is an overstatement," he told Cormac, nodding.

"Our brother is cordially invited to go fuck himself," Cormac snapped, taking both bottles back outside with him. He meant to get drunk and then go back and get his hands on Gantry some more. Something about the idea of bleeding was especially appealing, tonight.

The next morning, Artie woke to morning sunlight in his eyes. He sat up, legs tangling in the sheets, and stretched his arms, nearly knocking over the vase that hadn’t been on his nightstand the day before. He fumbled for the vase, steadying it as it wobbled, and blinked at the fresh-cut flowers inside. Flowers? Who was leaving flowers next to his bed? It took him a moment to remember what his mum had taught him about the language of flowers, but when he did, he scowled, knowing immediately who they were from.

A yellow rose, wolfsbane, and daisy: ‘I’m sorry, I love you, I’m still innocent, and you’re a dick‘.

Artemis glared across the room at the other bed, where Cormac was still sleeping. He tossed the flowers out the window.

Cormac woke up, a few hours later, to the smell of mint and the taste of old blood. Only one of those things made sense. Opening his eyes, he found himself face to flowers with some plants that had not been there when he went to sleep — oh, Artie. Of course. He could vaguely remember having drunkenly left flowers for his brother, on his way back in, the night before. And now… Mint and bellflower? Oh, that was just grand. Suspicion and disappointment. Just what he wanted to wake up to.

He kicked off the blankets and rubbed the dried blood out of his chest hair, debating what to do about this. First things first, though, that mint was going into his mouth, because blood and the slept-in aftertaste of blaand was not something to wake up to. Even less so than disappointment and suspicion from his brother.

Artemis supposed it was too much to hope for that this part of the creek would be deserted. He wasn’t interested in company just now, and he definitely wasn’t interested in Cormac’s company. He stopped when he caught sight of his brother, a fishing rod dangling from Cormac’s hands, and let out an exasperated sigh. He was about to turn around and march to the other end of the creek, when he caught sight of what looked like flowers braided into Cormac’s hair. Artemis squinted. Was that…? No.

"Have you come out to play, then?" Cormac asked, looking over his shoulder, without so much as an acknowledgement of the flowers in his hair. "Saved you the good spot, the clean spot on the rock."

Artemis glanced at the rock and would have considered it if he hadn’t seen the flowers first. White carnation and eglantine? ‘Innocence’ and ‘a wound to heal’?

"Unbelievable," Artie scoffed, shaking his head as he walked away.

The next morning, Cormac itched. Critically. Painfully. He’s apparently been scratching, because he woke up to it, but the itch did not abate. Instead, it had spread to his hands. "What the—" And then he sat up. And never in nineteen years had he more regretted his decision to sleep pantsless, when a handful of nettle loosened from his chest hair and dropped into his crotch.

"Nooo!" He howled, leaping out of bed and swatting at the stinging plants with the bedsheet, batting them off as best he could, before he had to slow down and untangle the last few broken barbs from the increasing amount of fluff in the middle of his chest. He seriously thought about shaving it, for a minute, before realising his razor wasn’t where he’d left it. More than that, neither was the vanity. A quick healing spell solved the worst of the burn, and he yanked out the drawer under the bed that should have contained his underthings, only to be met with shirts that had been hung in the wardrobe, the night before. Nothing. Not one single thing. Was where he’d left it, the night before. And he was naked and covered in rashvine nettles.

Oh, this was war. He gathered the nettles in the bedsheet and ground them against his brother’s pillows and sheets, before smoothing the bed again and throwing the nettles out the window. He would choose his sentiments with care, today.

Artie had managed to avoid Cormac and his flowers the entire day, a feat that should have pleased him but didn’t. He’d found the leftovers of his last ‘statement’, the nettles smeared along his bed and pillow, and though that had taken a while to clean, Artie doubted Cormac’s revenge was complete. Yet there had been no spiteful flowers by his bed or under his bed or in his socks, shoes, or clothes (and he had checked every last one). He should be relieved, not disappointed.

So when Artemis stepped into the barn and found a crushed flower at his feet, he wondered for a moment if it had been left for him. Which made him panic, wondering how Cormac knew he liked to come here for some ‘alone time’ when it was raining and traipsing through the woods didn’t appeal.

"That’s ridiculous," Artie muttered to himself, shaking his head and stepping on the crushed geranium as he closed the door behind him.

His hand was still on the knob when a noise brought him up short. A second sound followed, a groan that was either pained or pleasured, and the heat rose to Artie’s cheeks. Artemis was about to head back out into the rain until he heard his brother’s voice.

"Oh, please. Oh, fuck. Gant… Gant! Shit, if you keep doing that—" Cormac wailed and dragged in a heavy breath. "I’m gonna — Fuck! Yes! Again! I’m— Oh, Maker— Gant! I’m gonna come again…"

And Artie really should head back out into the rain after hearing that. Cold rain, preferably. Not this again. He shouldn’t have stayed that first time he’d stumbled on the two of them years ago, and he shouldn’t stay now. Artemis kept telling himself that as he stepped away from the door and peered around the stall blocking the couple — blocking Cormac — from view.

Cormac was twisted across a hay bale, half his back to Artemis, with Gantry standing between his legs pounding roughly into him. Every few thrusts the sound of a slap echoed through the barn, and Cormac arched and shrieked. Gantry’s hand flicked, and blood spattered across the hay, pushing Cormac to writhe under him. The flowers in Cormac’s hair caught in the hay, working themselves out, and the bale and the floor around it were littered with blossoms.

Artie should look away. And he would, any minute now. He didn’t know when Cormac — his brother, his brother — had become such a tempting sight, but Artie wondered what it would be like to touch him, to make him twist and scream like that. And that? That was not a thought he should be having, let alone one he should keep having.

The half-crushed flowers reminded Artemis that he was supposed to be mad at his brother, though he was too distracted by the sounds to parse their meaning at first. Dandelion, mallow, geranium, and… medlar blossom? Leave it to Cormac to come up with a bouquet that meant ‘eat my entire ass‘, which, by the looks of things, Gantry had probably already tried to do.

Maker, his brother was an asshole. But that didn’t stop his pants from suddenly feeling too tight.

Another scream and an incomprehensible stream of pleading marked Cormac tipping over the edge, again, the spurt of white visible as it arced up over his belly and splashed onto his chest. Gantry pressed him flat against the hay, lapping at the bloody lines carved into his skin, and rutting in harder and faster for a few moments, before he bit down, entire body tightening so fast his feet lifted off the floor.

They lay tangled in each other for a while, dizzy and panting.

"Good?" Cormac asked.

"Amazing." Gantry laughed against Cormac’s chest, before staggering to his feet and pulling out. He grinned. "You taste like blood and come."

"Because I’m covered in both of those things," Cormac reminded him, finding his simple black robe on the floor and tugging it back on. He winked and blew a kiss as he backed toward the door, while Gantry tried to find the rest of his own clothes. "Later in the week, yeah? I want to get a few more good ones before the harvest." They’d both be too busy, then.

Artemis shrank back as Cormac headed for the door, but the shadows hid him better than he’d thought. His brother looked glorious like that, sweaty and sticky and debauched, and Artemis ached to touch him, but Cormac slipped out the door without even knowing he was there.

Gantry was in the middle of lacing up his pants when Artemis stepped out of the shadows, Artie’s head full of his rapid pulse and little else. "Oh!" Gantry said, pausing when he caught sight of the younger Hawke. "Artemis. What are you doing here?"

"Same reason my brother was here, I presume," Artie said, hoping the look he gave Gantry was at least half as tempting as Theron had found it. And this was a bad idea. A terrible idea. For Maker’s sake, Gantry was still covered in his brother’s sweat, his blood, and his… "You should save yourself the trouble," Artemis added, glancing at Gantry’s hands, which were still holding his laces. "Or are two Hawkes too much for you?"

Gantry gaped at Artemis, mouth still working on aborted syllables when Artemis reached for the laces, pulling Gantry to him by the trousers and laying back on the bale of hay still strewn with Cormac’s flowers.

Cormac was in bed, unwashed and enjoying the afterglow, when he heard the front door close. Great. He’d managed not to see Artie all day, and now something stupid was going to happen. More nettles or something. He wondered if enough of the flowers were still in his hair to make a point, if he just pretended to be asleep, when Artie came in. At least he was wearing smalls, tonight, but after last night, he wasn’t taking any chances. Of course, he didn’t actually own any smalls, so they were Artie’s anyway. If his brother didn’t want to get his underthings stolen he might consider not filling the bed with rashvine nettles.

Artemis stumbled into the room, one hand on the wall to keep his balance. Cormac’s back was to him, and he looked like he was asleep. His brother. The brother he didn’t deserve, not after what he’d just done. Artie staggered towards the bed, Cormac’s bed, and wiped at his eyes, which, if anyone asked, he would say were red from drinking. And he’d been doing quite a lot of drinking, tonight.

Cormac could feel his brother standing beside his bed. He could keep pretending to be unconscious, or he could put a stop to this before it got stupid and ended with more terrible attempts to heal himself. Rolling over, he grabbed Artemis by the thigh and the collar and rolled back, flipping his brother onto the bed, and pinning him down. "How about if I’m awake this time? More nettles? Hm? Or maybe something a little more interesting?" He tried to keep it light, but he was too tired not to look tired. Tired and more than a little betrayed. "What the fuck is with you, lately?"

Artemis held onto Cormac’s shoulders and waited for the room to stop spinning. "‘A little more interesting’ might be vomit in your bed, if you keep throwing me around," he said, words slurring past numb lips. "And I don’t… I don’t want to clean that up after. But I will. Because the monsters will get you if I don’t. And you’re an ass, but you’re my brother, and I love you so much." Artemis’s hands reached for Cormac’s cheeks instead, smushing his face. "I love you, Cormac."

"Do I need to get you a bucket, Artie?" Cormac suddenly looked a lot more concerned. "I love you, too, and believe me when I tell you the last thing I want is vomit in my bed, whether or not you clean it." He pressed a kiss to Artie’s forehead and got up, patting Artie’s chest to get him to stay down. A moment later, he returned from the other end of the room with the chamberpot, which he set next to the bed, as he sat back down. "Nobody’s going to get to us, Artie. Not the templars, not the monsters, not the wasps or the darkspawn or the waspspawn or whatever horrible thing that was. I’m right here, and I’m not going to let it happen."

He turned and very carefully moved across his brother, to the side of the bed closer to the wall and eased into that little space. "Stay here, with me. I’ll hold your hair, if you throw up. But, in the morning, we are having a talk about … whatever the fuck you’re so pissed at me about."

Artie grunted something noncommittal and waved his hand, letting it flop back to his chest before scooting closer to Cormac. "M’not pissed," he mumbled. "Not at you. M’sorry. I love you. Did I say that?"

"Yeah, you said it. I love you a whole lot, too, Artie." Cormac smiled, finally, winding himself around Artemis, nuzzling his hair. His hair which did not smell clean, and that was very unlike Artie. In fact… Cormac took a few more deep breaths, closer to his brother’s neck. "So, you got drunk and lucky, tonight. Who’d you get? Was he any good?"

Luckily Artemis’s face was already flushed from drinking. He groaned and hid his eyes behind his hand, still trying to decide if that had actually happened. The last thing he needed was to be thinking about Gantry while his brother was wrapped so tightly around him. "It’s— that is…Gantry. It was Gantry. And he was… well. You know." No earthquakes, though, by the grace of the Maker.

Cormac flushed. "Hah, well… I … Gantry? Tonight?" He was suddenly extremely aware of the dried blood still on his chest and the ache in his ass. "For your sake, I hope he washed first. I mean, it was just me, but…" Cormac pressed his face against his brother’s neck and laughed. "I’m right, though, aren’t I? He’s good. Or maybe he’s just that good for me. I dunno, you’re probably not into the same kind of thing, and if you are, I probably don’t need to know."

Artemis’s answering laugh came out strained. "Probably not," he agreed, voice weak. "But yeah, he was… good. Still prefer elfy, though." Some days he really missed Mahariel. "But I… this… You still have flowers in your hair."

"I thought I was remarkably restrained considering the circumstances," Cormac grumbled against his brother’s neck. "Considering you covered me in rashvine nettle, I think I was outright pleasant. Are you done? Can I stop wearing your smalls to bed? And I am wearing your smalls, right now, because I was expecting you to do it again, and I don’t need to be washing rashvine off my junk two days in a row."

Artemis’s laugh choked off into a stutter. "I… you… you’re wearing…?" Something else Artie didn’t need to be thinking about. "You better clean those before you give them back to me. And please. Like I’d pull the same thing twice." Though it had been fun to hear him squawk. "And I could be done. I could also just be waiting for you to let your guard down," he teased.

"Understand, when I say this, that I love you very much, but I swear if you ever pull a stunt like that again, I will personally ensure that you become a soprano. You’re not the heir. You don’t need to produce any children." Cormac pinched Artie’s hip. "And I’ll jizz all over your pillows, too."

He let that sink in for a moment, before his hand drifted back up to settle over his brother’s heart. "Missed having you here, though. Hard to sleep without this." He pressed his palm flat, just feeling Artie’s heartbeat.

"Sap," Artie muttered even as he squeezed Cormac’s hand, a sad smile on his lips. "Now shut up and let me sleep."