Jul 162015

[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 132
Co-Conspirator: TumblrMaverikLoki
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke , Cormac Hawke , Artemis Hawke , Anders , Aveline , Cullen , Fenris , Isabela , Merrill , Donnic , Varric
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Aveline is not amused, Anton is less amused,
Notes: An unexpected celebration to which no one was invited. Cullen still sucks at Wicked Grace.

This time, Cullen came armed with a sack of coins and a full suit of armour. He sat down next to Anton, and Isabela’s grin was predatory as her hands moved over the cards. "Why, good evening, Captain," she purred. "Do I need to make room for another trophy on my wall?"

"Not tonight," Cullen said with a confidence that almost sounded genuine. "Anton has been giving me pointers, and if anyone is going to leave home with a trophy tonight, it’s me." At Izzy and Varric’s twin smirks, Cullen backtracked. "Not… the kind of trophy you got last time. I don’t… that is… your smalls…"

"I’m trophy enough for him, is what I think Cullen is trying to say," Anton cut in, patting his templar’s arm and watching red mottle his cheeks.

"Yes," Cullen said, coughing into his fist. "That. Exactly."

Aveline and Merrill swept into the room, each carrying a pitcher of beer. "Seriously?" Aveline clucked, setting down her pitcher. "We’re letting the pirate deal?"

"What?" Isabela huffed. "If I’m going to cheat, at least I’ll be more subtle about it than Ser Templar over there."

"What?" Cullen squeaked. "Cheating? I would never—! A-As a member of the order…!"

Fenris plucked the card sticking out of Cullen’s bracer and tossed it onto the table. Mottled cheeks turned a uniform shade of red.

"…It was Anton’s idea."

"It’s always Anton’s idea," Cormac laughed. "And don’t take ideas from Anton. Take them from Isabela. She’s much better at cards and at cheating."

"If she’s so good, why did I not end up as a cabin boy?" Anton leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms across his chest and his ankles under the table.

"Obviously, because she thought if you were that bad at cheating, you’d be so much worse at other things." Cormac grinned up, as Anders came in with a cup of tea and a questionable sandwich.

"I happen to think he’s very good at those things," Cullen muttered, still vibrantly red.

Isabela leaned over the table and snatched a bit of tomato from the edge of Anders’s sandwich. "As it turns out, cheating is the only thing you’re truly terrible at, Anton. I rather liked the rest of what you could do, when you’d still do those things with me. What about both of you, hmm? No need for jealousy, if we’re all there…"

"That sounds entirely too delicious for my continued survival," Anton purred, following it with a wink and a chuckle, and under the table, a hand on Cullen’s thigh. Just a reminder that his decision was the important one.

"That’s… ah…" Cullen cleared his throat. He couldn’t feel Anton’s hand through the armour, but his leg twitched anyway. "Thank you, Isabela, but I don’t think a ship can have two captains."

Isabela chuckled. "Your loss," she said as she finished dealing, setting the rest of the deck on the table. Without a word, Artemis reached over to neaten the edges of the deck, fussing with it until Isabela distracted him by trying to pinch his rump.

Aveline sat to the other side of Isabela, across from Anton. She barely spared him a glance, but the look she gave him was the chilly kind. Anton’s smile stayed firmly in place, though it didn’t quite reach his eyes. Varric watched them over the lip of his tankard.

"Smart of you to wear all those extra layers this time, Curly," Varric said, "though betting templar-issue armour might not be the best idea."

"I’m not betting my armour!" Cullen said, sounding offended. "It’s to protect me from her wandering fingers." He pointed at Izzy. "And his." He batted aside Anton’s with a fake scowl.

"And his, once you get a few drinks in him," Cormac joked, cocking his thumb at Artemis as he picked up his cards. "But, don’t worry. Fenris is here to absorb most of the drunken groping, before it gets to you."

Cullen looked profoundly offended that anyone would bring that night up, but before he could protest, Anton spoke.

"Artie gropes everything in reach, after a few drinks, including Cormac on one notable occasion. It’s why I’ve got you and Fenris between us. I don’t need my brother drunkenly grabbing my fabulous ass."

"Hey, I was just buffering for the Orlesians," Cormac protested. "And that wasn’t a few drinks, that was probably half a dwarven brewery. I’m pretty sure he thought I was Anders."

"Why is it never my fabulous ass?" Isabela complained, making sad faces across the table at Artie. "My Hawke tally is still short."

"It’s because none of your dicks are attached to your body," Varric pointed out, tossing a few coins into the middle of the table.

Artemis covered his burning face with one hand. Looking through his fingers, he gestured at Varric and nodded. "That’s… yes. Essentially."

Isabela harrumphed, folding her arms across her chest. "Not even once? For my nameday?"

Artie fiddled with his cards. "Is it your nameday?"

"What would you do if I said ‘yes’?"

"I still wouldn’t grope you. But I’m sure someone else at the table would be willing to give you a nameday spanking." Artemis smirked at Cormac, who looked more than ready to volunteer.

Around the table, they placed bets, refreshed drinks, and pretended not to cheat. Merrill had just drawn the Angel of Death card when a man in armour appeared in the doorway, platemail clinking. He cleared his throat politely and offered the table a wave.

"Donnic!" Varric greeted him, inviting him into the suite with broad sweeps of his hand. "Come on in! Want us to deal you in?"

"Here to lose more coin to me, Donnic? Was Tuesday not enough?" Fenris joked, spreading his cards on the table, with a terribly certain smile.

"No, I… I’m just here to visit my wife, before I go home and stop clanking." Donnic edged around the table to drop a kiss on the top of Aveline’s head, as she threw down her cards with a huff, after seeing Fenris’s hand.

"That’s funny!" Isabela chuckled and spread an equal number of points on the table, with a sly look at Fenris. "Your wife. Because you’re always together. Actually, that’s kind of sweet."

"No, my wife because she’s my wife…" Donnic blinked at Isabela. "We … got married? Did she not tell you?"

"What." Anton did not look amused. He didn’t even look at his cards as he slapped them onto the table. "You didn’t invite me to your wedding? Aveline! How could you!? That was your wedding!"

"It’s not like it was my first!" Aveline said, stridently. "We just wanted something quiet. Nobody was invited."

"I’m your best damn friend!" Anton protested. "And you didn’t even tell me!"

"Are you?" Aveline snapped. "And I’m telling you now, aren’t I?"

Anton’s face went blank, devoid of emotion, and Aveline found that more unsettling than if he’d been shouting. She kept her chin up, stare defiant as Donnic’s hand squeezed her shoulder. "If this is about the Arishok—"

"It’s not about the damned Arishok!" Aveline threw down her own cards, letting them scatter across the table, mixing with the rest of the deck in a way that had Artemis’s fingers twitching. "It’s not even about my ‘best friend’ not backing me up when I needed him to! It’s about what Donnic and I wanted, which was to be married before any other shit hit the fan."

Donnic fidgeted by the table, free hand rubbing the back of his neck. Slowly, Cullen set down a winning hand but said nothing. The sound of cards flexing and rubbing together was loud in the silence.

"Well, congratulations, Aveline," Merrill said softly, sweetly. "And you too, Donnic. That is marvellous news!"

"Thank you." Donnic smiled gratefully at Merrill.

"No bachelor party?" Cormac asked rifling the table for an unused glass. "We’ll just have to get you drunk after the fact, then!"

"Really?" Fenris looked around the table. "None of you knew?"

"You say that like you did," Anders pointed out, mouth stuffed full of sandwich.

"Because I did." Fenris shrugged. "I beat him at cards, every Tuesday night. It came up. Aveline’s not the only one with friends, you know."

Donnic nodded. "Fenris got me very drunk. I suspect I lost a lot of coin, that week, but I stopped counting at some point, and my pockets weren’t empty when I got up in the morning."

"That’s because you were getting married. I figured you’d need the money for the goat. I won it, of course, but you were too drunk to notice when I put it back in your pocket." Fenris smiled slightly, behind his tankard.

"I think maybe you’re going to have to start calling him ‘Sweetie’, Varric." Cormac laughed and offered a full glass of beer to Donnic. "Sit! Drink! Don’t mind my brother… That’s not your problem or mine."

"Which brother?" Isabela asked, determinedly cheerful. "Because Artemis could be his problem after a few more drinks. I’m envious."

"What? No! I’m not…!" Artemis’s words sputtered out into disjointed, offended syllables. Fenris patted his hand, and Artie slumped onto the table, giving up.

Donnic laughed weakly, pulling up a chair next to Aveline. "I will sit over here just to be safe," he teased Artie.

Anton didn’t laugh. He merely sipped at his drink while Cullen collected his winnings and Aveline started to deal. Married. And he hadn’t had a clue.

"So," Anders said, pulling out a bit of lettuce that was falling out of his sandwich, "did you get her a goat? Did she get you a goat? Inquiring minds want to know."

"And was it a recycled goat?" Fenris asked, drawing a scowl from Anton. "Don’t give me that look. I worked hard to pay for that goat!"

"I still can’t believe you bought my brother a goat. Well, my mother, I suppose, but still. You bought us a goat. It’s a collective goat. We’ve gotten a lot of use out of that goat." Cormac rambled, trying to fend off a laugh by keeping his mouth in motion.

"I don’t care how many goats your family ends up with, Cormac, I’m still not marrying you," Anders said, before cramming more sandwich into his mouth.

"Thank you, sweetness. Please don’t. It would be a great mess, and we’d have to go into the Chantry, and then one of us would end up punching someone…" Cormac shrugged dramatically and picked up his hand, flicking through the cards.

"One of us? Both of us," Anders mumbled with his mouth full. He didn’t play until he finished his sandwiches. Claimed he lost less terribly after he’d eaten.

"And you wonder why I didn’t invite you to my wedding…" Aveline grumbled, slapping the deck onto the table and picking up her cards.

Anton tsked, rearranging his cards and sneaking a glance at Cullen’s. "I wouldn’t have punched anyone in the Chantry," he said, but the words came out less teasing than he’d meant them to. Aveline’s glare ratcheted up in intensity, and Anton smiled back.

"No, you would have been much more subtle about it," Aveline replied. "But it was a quick ceremony. No one was punched."

"Glad to hear it," Cullen said, trying not to look uncomfortable in the wake of all the glares being tossed across the table. He counted up his coins and placed his bet, pausing to exchange a commiserating glance with Donnic.

"Though Aveline punching Elthina would have been hilarious," Artemis muttered. Cullen gave him a scandalised look, and Artie shrugged. "What?"

"Please do not encourage people to punch the Granny Cleric, Amatus," Fenris sighed, throwing down a card and drawing another. "It isn’t politic." Not that he thought her approach was correct, but it would look bad. He was getting used to having a house, and he’d hate to lose it over Artemis encouraging people to punch the Grand Cleric.

"Punching the people who run the city is usually bad form," Anders muttered, washing the last of his sandwich down with a gulp of tea. "Which isn’t to say some of them don’t deserve it, but it’s not generally accepted practise. Deal me in, next hand?"

"Going to empty my pockets across the table, again, sweet thing?" Cormac teased, pushing a few copper into the pot. There was no venom in it. Neither of them were particularly good players, and Cormac had more money than he knew what to do with. He just kept giving it away, when it struck him to do so.

"You know it." Anders was entirely unapologetic about it. They both knew how this would turn out. "Like a wedding present you have to work for," he teased Aveline. "Assuming Donnic doesn’t lose it all to Fenris."

"Oh, he will," Fenris assured the table.

"Someone has to make up for the amount I’ve already lost," Artemis sighed. He winked at Fenris.

All bets were placed, and the game began with Donnic drawing a card.

"How my brothers turned out to be so hopeless at cards is beyond me," Anton said with a melodramatic shake of his head.

"You say that like it doesn’t always turn out in your favour," Cullen replied. He set down his drink and blinked at his cards, wondering when they’d all changed. Anton’s smile was far too innocent when Cullen cast him a sidelong glance. He kept an eye on Anton when it was his turn to pick a card.

"Carver isn’t so bad at it," Merrill chimed in. "Or at least, he doesn’t seem to lose as often." She glanced around the table and at the door as though expecting him to be there and didn’t quite manage to keep the disappointment from her face. "You really should let him out to play with us next time, Cullen."

"Has he not been visiting?" Cullen asked, shooting Merrill a slightly surprised glance that faded quickly into an eye roll. "Oh, because he’s probably washing chamber pots again. Aveline, one captain to another, I should never have doubted your decision. Anton, what is wrong with your brother?"

"That depends on which brother. Carver? He never quite got used to being the youngest." Anton laughed, as if it weren’t serious at all. "He only takes orders when his sword’s involved." He paused for a moment, staring into the space between Merrill and Anders. "Well, the metal one, anyway. How about the other, Merrill? No, wait, don’t tell me about his swording. I don’t want to know."

"Tell him anyway," Anders suggested, tipping his chair back, as he stretched his legs under the table. "He asked!"

"If you’re not going to tell him, tell me!" Isabela called down the table.

"No," Artemis said, drawing out the one syllable until it became three. "What have I said about my little brother’s swording? I don’t want to know. I don’t need to know. Please do not inflict such knowledge upon me." Fenris snorted next to him. He said nothing but didn’t need to. Artemis wondered what it said about him that his older brother’s ‘swording’ didn’t disgust him in the same way.

Merrill giggled into her cards. "Don’t worry, Artie," she said. "I don’t really ‘order’ him around enough to know anyway."

Artemis groaned. "That? Still more information than I needed. Fenris, block my ears."

"My hands are full of cards and drink, Amatus. I’m afraid you’ll have to block your own ears."

"Unless he was implying you should use something other than your hands," Anders teased, before his eyes glazed over. "On second thought, no, that just sounds painful."

"Glowing," Artemis countered. "He could… glow…" At Fenris’s odd look, he added, "No, I’m not saying I want you to do that. Please don’t do that. I’m just pointing out that it’s… technically possible."

"Can someone please block my ears?" Anton groaned.

"Artie?" Cormac looked down the table. "Little much. Even for me."

"Two!" Isabela crowed. "Two things that are too much for Cormac! … I still got there first." She looked unconscionably smug.

"Do I want to know?" Donnic asked, tossing in a couple of copper and drawing another card.

Aveline covered her eyes with her free hand and leaned forward. "I don’t know, and I’m sure you don’t want to. It’s… they’re… Hawkes."

Anton poured himself another beer and sniffed haughtily. "Well, it’s a good thing you’re sitting by the reasonable one of us, isn’t it?"

"In what world, Anton, are you reasonable?" Aveline groused, lifting her head and looking Anton right in the eye.

"In this one. The one that’s being torn apart by classist fancies — I’m a product of the system! I do what I must, and that’s perfectly reasonable," Anton smiled widely and batted his eyes at Aveline, before taking a swig of his drink and playing through the round.

"You hang on to that one, Cullen," Anders said, a hint of a smile tugging at one side of his mouth. "If he keeps talking like that, I might think about trading up."

"You’d never give me up, entirely," Cormac said, rearranging his hand. "You like it too much when I—" he leaned closer to Anders and purred something into his ear, that had Anders squirming in his seat.

"Something else neither of us wants to know," Aveline said.

"And something else I do," Isabela purred, making a show of cupping her ear and angling herself towards the pair.

"Angel of Death!" Fenris announced, holding that card aloft before throwing it down.

Artemis peeked at the next card in the deck, the one that would have been his, and groaned, laying down a hand that only boasted one pair. "You couldn’t have picked that card the next round? I would have had three Songs!"

"My apologies, Amatus," Fenris said wryly, his smirk saying he was anything but sorry. "And I apologise on behalf of the cards. They do not seem to be favouring you today."

"They never do," Artie muttered.

"So what you do you think?" Isabela asked Cormac, grinning as she laid out a promising hand. "Who’s going to go home in nothing but a sheet this time?"

"Just leave my sheets out of it!" Varric said. "They better be yours this time, Rivaini."

Aveline shook her head again at Donnic’s questioning look.

"Well, it’s like they say, ‘Noli deponere tuas vestes si fraudare audies,'" Anders said, squinting at Cormac’s cards.

"That is not, in fact, what they say," Fenris grumbled. "It is a sign that you should not be speaking Tevene. Where did you learn those words, from a Nevarran? Isabela’s pronunciation is better, and she could make magisters weep."

"So, that makes me your secret weapon, right, Broody?" Isabela laughed and looked down the table. "Oh! All mine, this time!"

Merrill shook her head and pushed the pile of coins toward Isabela. "I’m not even going to bother. This hand was not kind."

"Well," Anders started, gathering the cards, to hand them to Isabela, "if I’m so bad at it, maybe someone should teach me how to be better at it, hmm? I can read Old Tevene just fine, but I never knew a native speaker of Old or Modern. That’s the trouble with the Circle. Only half an education."

"At least you had an education," Fenris growled, half-heartedly, inspiring an odd look from Donnic.

Cullen looked like he might say something, but Cormac caught his eye and squarely turned his hand palm down. Cullen blinked inquisitively, and Cormac traced a quick swirl on the table. ‘Later,’ Cullen knew, from time spent watching Anton. The Hawkes had entire conversations without ever speaking a word.

"I’ll trade you," Anders offered, as Isabela dealt the next hand. "I’ll teach you to read it, if you’ll teach me to speak it."

Artemis raised an eyebrow at Fenris. "There’s a thought," he said. "I can’t read the Tevene alphabet, but Anders can." Anders, who had been teaching them all sorts of things. Artemis thought of the rock armour spell first, but then his mind wandered to the electricity trick and to the sounds Fenris made whenever he used it. Yes. Anders was a helpful friend.

"The two of them spending that much time together?" Aveline huffed. "That’s a recipe for disaster. Or murder."

"I will not murder the a… the Warden unless he gives me reason to," Fenris replied neutrally, gathering up his cards as Isabela dealt them out, looking them over to avoid looking at Anders as he considered this. Being able to read Common was already an addicting power, one he’d been abusing, devouring what he could of Artemis’s library. To be able to read Tevene, his mother-tongue (or as close to one as he had, with his memory as it was) was a tempting thought. And Fenris found Anders less… irksome than he had in the past. "Very well, mage. Quid pro quo. I will teach you, and you will teach me."

Then he could read to his mage in Tevene. His mage loved being read to. In fact, his mage just seemed to like listening to him talk no matter what he was saying.

Fenris looked up at Artemis to see his mage having another silent conversation with his older brother across the table.

Cormac raised his eyebrows over narrowed eyes, a smile tugging at the corners of his mouth, before he looked down at the next hand, and his face returned to a neutral state. "You know, Anders, I’m going to be extremely upset if I find your entrails all over my cellar. I don’t think the cats would be happy, either."

"Seventeen years in the tower, and you don’t think I can keep from pissing him off?" Anders sounded offended as he tossed a few coins into the centre of the table. "Well, maybe. I’m sure I can keep from getting the clinic redecorated with my intestines, though. How many years has he not killed me? I even gave him a reason!"

"Do not remind me how good I have been to you, Warden." Fenris glared over the top of his cards.

"Should I remind you how good I’ve been to you, instead?" Anders deadpanned, head tipping to the side, as he considered both Fenris and his cards at the same time. Yet another tower-born talent.

"Not in front of Aveline and Anton, sweet thing. The building will implode from the force of their combined horror. I don’t think there’s enough ‘lalala I can’t hear you’ in existence for that story." Cormac, in typical Cormac fashion, was not helping. "Besides, it would be rude."

Cullen’s eyes were huge and round as he kept them on his cards. Even the Order wasn’t this bad! And he was marrying into this family. Playing cards with all their friends… He darted a desperate look at Aveline, who seemed entirely unimpressed with all of this. Donnic, however, looked like he might drop his cards in his lap, and Cullen felt a bit better about his own reaction. Perhaps he’d buy Donnic a drink, later, and they could commiserate about Hawkes.