[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 138
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cullen ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Anton Hawke ♂
Rating: M (L3 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Carver is a jerk, Anton is irrepressibly absurd and obscene, Isabela writes Arishok porn and leaves it in weird places
Notes: The art of being Knight-Captain. A Cullen-centric interlude.
"Ser Cullen?" The recruit hovered in the doorway, as if setting foot past the change in the tile, without permission, would be dangerous. Which, had it been Meredith’s office, it might have been.
Cullen looked up from the slowly-shrinking piles of paperwork on his desk. "Please tell me it’s not more paperwork," he groaned, curling forward to pound his head on the edge of the desk.
"It’s a letter, Captain, from the Warden-Commander in Amaranthine." The recruit — what was his name? Cullen couldn’t remember, the kid was too new — continued to stand in the doorway.
"Give it to me," Cullen said, without lifting his head, reaching a hand over the stacks. At least they were shorter than they had been. He was sure this was terribly unprofessional of him, but it was the middle of the afternoon, and he’d been in this chair since before dawn.
The recruit handed over the letter and lingered in front of the desk, standing stiffly as he willed himself not to fidget. Cullen dismissed him with a wave of his hand and waited for the recruit to disappear through the door before opening the letter. Or before staring a the letter, really, which he did for a solid minute first. The fate of his family could be in there, condolences or reassurances. Or Solona could have been another dead end, and he could be sitting here, sweating, for nothing.
When Cullen finally did open the letter, the sight of Solona’s neat handwriting brought a smile to his face. He skimmed through the pleasantries at the beginning and skipped to the meat of the letter, where his eyes landed on the name ‘Honnleath’. The words ‘I’m sorry’ jumped out at him as though written in red, and his breath caught, fingers crinkling the edges of parchment, until he forced himself to read the rest of that sentence:
‘I’m sorry, but I don’t know where they are now.’
And Cullen backtracked, reading from the beginning. Solona had seen the Rutherfords while in Honnleath, during the Blight, and remembered because she and Mia had gotten along famously. ‘We didn’t have a chance to exchange embarrassing stories about you,’ the letter read, ‘so I have a vested interest in finding your family as well, to make up for lost time’.
Solona had contacted an acquaintance in the area, but could only tell Cullen that his family had fled at some point during the Blight. ‘I’ll keep an ear open,’ she wrote.
Cullen folded up the letter and sagged against the desk. It wasn’t the worst news he could have gotten. In fact, Cullen planned to take it as great news until proven otherwise.
Cullen sighed and re-shelved a book, still watching the door out of the corner of his eye. He’d been meaning to talk to Carver, for a while, now, since Merrill had complained, the other week. It wasn’t his business, he supposed, except for the part where Carver was a recruit and the fact that he spent every weekend scrubbing chamber pots was absolutely the Captain’s business.
He’d pulled the file from Meredith’s office, while it was still dark. She wouldn’t ask, if she didn’t know. Of course, Cullen thought it said more about him that he was up at that hour, regularly, these days, and he wondered if he looked half as tired as he’d been. But, Carver’s file showed some disturbing trends — the ones Aveline had warned him about, actually. The kid always thought he knew better than everyone. Any argument dragged on longer than he wanted it to, and he’d start punching people, just to get them out of his way. On the other hand, most of the times he wound up punching people, the arguments had been about mages. A common theme seemed to be his insistence that mages were fucked up people, but you couldn’t go around treating them like trash, even if punching them in the face for being assholes seemed to be an acceptable answer, although Cullen suspected both of these things had a great deal to do with Carver’s family — specifically Cormac, if he’d read that relationship properly. Very much a ‘that is my brother and only I can punch him in the face’ sort of affair.
The door creaked open, and Cullen turned to find Carver standing in it, arms crossed.
"What?" Carver asked, and then, after a moment. "What, Captain?"
Cullen squared his shoulders, chin held high, wearing his title in his bearing as he stepped closer. "Hello, Carver," he said. The greeting was pleasant enough, but there was a warning in the look he gave the recruit, a warning that said he’d let that lapse in manners slip by only once. "Cleaning the toilets again, I see? I don’t think I’ve ever seen them quite so spotless until you joined us."
Cullen raised an eyebrow and looked pointedly down at Carver’s crossed arms. Carver sighed and dropped his arms, affecting a position that could loosely be described as ‘standing at attention’.
"Was that a statement or a question, Ser?" Carver asked, the little shit. And, really, Cullen supposed it didn’t help that they were so close in age. Maker help the boy if he behaved like this in front of Meredith.
"An observation," Cullen replied. "Merrill misses you, you know. Wouldn’t you rather be with her than scrubbing toilets?"
That had Carver’s eyes darting away, for a moment. "Does it matter what I want?" he asked. "I mean, that’s really what this is about, isn’t it? I’m not good enough at taking shitty commands from people, just because they’ve been here longer? Isn’t that exactly why you let me in? So you wouldn’t end up with some groveller who wouldn’t report the next Alrik?"
"Carver, if you were reporting my men, we wouldn’t have a problem. But, you’re not. You’re punching them in the face." Cullen sighed, shoulders finally loosening a bit. He couldn’t talk to the kid as his superior, if he expected Carver to listen. Not after that. "And acting like this makes people wonder if you’re going to be the next Alrik, yourself. You can’t just ignore orders. You can’t punch your Lieutenant, because he said ‘robe trash’, which if he does it again, he will be in my office in a great deal more trouble than even you are in, right now, provided you can be bothered to tell me about it."
"Don’t punch people. Yes, Captain." Carver rolled his eyes.
"No, Carver, not just don’t punch people. That’s important, but it’s not the point. I brought you in here to help me keep the Order under control, because I know that you and I have some very similar views on what this Order is for. But, you can’t just go around —" being a dick, Cullen wanted to say, but that wasn’t professional at all. "— picking fights! There is order to the Order, and I expect you to find your place in it. But, I am also giving you a great deal of leeway in that I expect you to bring your complaints to me. Personally. Because I am willing to trust that if you see a problem, it’s an actual problem. The Knight Commander is not going to give you that much except as rope to hang yourself, so please stop hanging yourself, recruit."
Carver stared down at his feet, and Cullen could practically see him biting his tongue. "The way my brother brought some complaints to you?" Carver asked. "I haven’t seen much good come of that, yet."
There was a headache growing, starting in the centre of Cullen’s forehead, and he fought the urge to press his fingers there. He was starting to see the appeal of punching people if this was where talking got him. "And you’ve seen more results from breaking noses and cleaning latrines, have you?" He watched Carver’s jaw muscles work as he grit his teeth. "Right. Carver, I’m on your side. And not just because I’m marrying into that tempest you call a family."
"A tempest?" Cullen glanced back to see Anton walking in from the hallway. "Better than an earthquake, I imagine."
Cullen and Carver groaned in unison, for different but related reasons.
"Why are you here?" Carver asked.
"Hello, brother-dear," Anton replied, leaning against the wall and folding his arms. "Good to see you too, brother-dear. And I think it’s fairly obvious why I’m here." He tilted his head at Cullen, who now had three fingers rubbing at his forehead. "By the way, pumpkin, Artie is borrowing one of your books. I hope you don’t mind."
Cullen found himself caught between the word ‘pumpkin’ and wondering which book Artie could possibly be borrowing. "Not in front of the recruits, Anton." The words sounded more than a little strangled.
"Recruits? It’s just my little brother." Anton laughed easily. "My little brother who should go see his girlfriend before she runs off with Izzy. They’ve been spending an awful lot of time together, according to Bethy."
It was the mention of his sister that coloured the tops of Carver’s cheeks. "Don’t you dare suggest anything about Beth, Anton, or I will kick you down all the stairs in the keep."
"I didn’t suggest a thing about our sister and your girlfriend," Anton pointed out. "You’re the one who took it there. Bethy spends enough time with Izzy, and she says Izzy’s spending a lot of time with Merrill. But, if you’ve got so little faith in our sister…"
"Practise!" Cullen said, suddenly, clanking a gauntlet against Carver’s shoulder.
Carver blinked, confused, and then caught the meaning. "Captain, I have a complaint. My brother is an asshole. Make him stop."
"Your complaint has been noted," Cullen replied, nodding his head approvingly. "And this is the part where I would normally write that complaint down and file it away for future reference, but I think I can deal with this issue right away instead. Anton." He took his fiancé’s arm and steered him back towards the hallway. "Let’s grab some lunch, and leave your brother to finish dealing with the latrines."
"That’s only a temporary fix, you know," Carver called after them. "I have a whole folder’s worth of complaints for him!"
"Duly noted, recruit," Cullen replied over his shoulder. "I will make sure he’s thoroughly reprimanded."
"Ooh," purred Anton. "I love a good reprimanding."
Cullen was early. He knew he was early. He was almost always early, because it was in his nature not to be late. After a brief chat with Bodhan, he decided to wait in the library for Anton, which was what he tended to do. Anton would still be getting dressed, if he was even that far into his day, yet. ‘Lunch’, Cullen had called it, but he suspected it was breakfast, with the hours Anton kept. But, Anton had always said he wasn’t much for breakfast food — or rather, he’d made an extremely explicit point about what he considered to be breakfast, the very thought of which still brought a hint of pink to Cullen’s cheeks.
As he went to take the chair beside the fire, Cullen’s eye caught on a stack of paper wedged between the couch cushions. Probably Anders and his manifesto, again. Cullen actually enjoyed reading that, as much as he disagreed, at times, with quite how far it went. He and Anders were of similar mind, in some ways, though on opposite sides of that one, central disagreement.
He pulled out the papers and sat down, smoothing them out, beside the pile of Tevinter texts stacked on the table. The first thing he noticed was that the handwriting wasn’t Anders’s. He was familiar enough with that, by now. The next thing he caught was Anton’s name — it seemed to be an outright pornographic text, featuring Anton and… He blinked at the line several times. No. Maybe. Oh, Maker…
‘The Arishok rammed his enormous pole into the body beneath him, and Anton screamed in horror and delight. "The Qun demands it, Hawke."‘
No, that… that couldn’t possibly be… Maker, Cullen had been reading too many of those trashy Orlesian novels, hadn’t he? Cullen stared at that sentence, squeezed his eyes shut, shook his head, and looked again. It was still there.
"Andraste preserve me," he breathed. Who had written this? He knew Anton’s handwriting and, thank Maker, this wasn’t it.
‘"Well, I’m always happy to submit to the Qun," Anton panted, writhing as the Arishok sheathed his rod in Anton’s heat, again and again.'"Oh! Arishok!"
Cullen shook himself and slapped his cheek. No. No, he shouldn’t be reading this. This was terrible. He glanced at the fire, which was certainly within tossing distance. He could throw this filth into the flames without even getting up from his chair. But… what if there were important documents buried in there? He should really check that first. Just in case. Yes.
An hour later, he was quite certain there were no important documents between the pages, nor was it written in code. Well, it might still be written in code. Some of those misspellings had been fairly egregious. But, then there were footsteps on the stairs, and he was still holding the document. The incredibly incriminating document. Panicking, he stood up and jammed it into the back of his waistband, pulling his tunic down over it. As he wondered why he hadn’t just stuck it back in the couch, Anton appeared in the doorway.
"Well, hello, Ser Templar. Did I keep you waiting long?" Anton purred, leaning in the doorway and cricking a finger.
Cullen took a moment to reassure himself that there was no way Anton could possibly know what he’d been doing, before he crossed the room and pressed a kiss to Anton’s cheek. "For you? Not long at all," he teased. "Nevarran or Fereldan?"
"Ooh. Fereldan. Definitely." Anton’s hand wandered over Cullen’s rather nice clothing. "So nice seeing you out of your platemail."
"You see me without my platemail on a regular basis, Anton, if only because you keep removing it from my person." Cullen gasped as Anton’s hand skated across his knob and darted between his legs for a quick squeeze, which was something he’d come to expect from Anton, really, but…
"Oh, what have you been reading today, that your sword’s already prepared for battle, and I’ve only just got here? More wicked Orlesian trash?" Anton’s smile was more wicked than any Orlesian text Cullen could remember having read. "Maybe you’ll have to read it to me, after we eat."
Read it. To Anton. Cullen hoped the laugh his lungs squeezed out didn’t sound as high and nervous to Anton as it did to him. He caught Anton’s hands as they snaked around his waist, intercepting them before they could feel the wad of paper under his tunic. He pressed a kiss to each set of knuckles as though that had been his intention all along.
"I… I haven’t been reading anything," Cullen said, smiling innocently for Anton’s narrowed eyes. "Just been thinking of you. Daydreaming. In front of the fire."
"Daydreaming, hmm?" Anton purred, pulling a hand free to trace a finger through the stubble along Cullen’s jaw. "What about? Thinking about that time in the closet?"
"Which time?" Cullen sputtered. "That is — no. No closets were involved." The hand on his stubble brushed his cheek, and he could tell from Anton’s smirk that he was blushing. Maker dammit.
"Were we in your office? Was I on my knees under your desk, worshipping your ‘manhood’?" Anton pressed the length of his body against Cullen.
"N… no. Not my office. Though there was a… chair involved, at one point." Cullen tried desperately not to think about the Arishok’s throne with the low, wooden arms, wide enough to lounge against. And — no. The Arishok was dead. The Qun had to be against reading smut involving a deceased Qunari.
"Should we skip lunch? We could skip lunch and just do dinner, instead. I’m sure you could show me all sorts of creative uses for chairs." Anton nipped at the point of Cullen’s chin.
"Lunch first!" Cullen yelped, a little too quickly. "That is… I’m very hungry. We should eat. And then, maybe we can discuss chairs. After eating. Eating first. Eating food, Anton."
Anton fluttered his eyelids, in faux innocence. "I have to say, I’ll be looking forward to your insight into the furniture, all through lunch."