[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 145
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Artemis Hawke ♂, Fenris ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Branson ♂, Jethann ♂, Isabela ♀
Rating: M (L3 N0 S0 V2 D1)
Warnings: Anti-elvish sentiment, facepunching, strippers, it’s a Hawke party – what were you expecting?
Notes: Not all the Rutherfords are as delightfully charming as Cullen and Mia.
"Cullen… this… really?"
"Always thought it’d be you, didn’t you Bran?" Cullen laughed and rubbed his face, as the stripper in the middle of the table bent down to pluck a coin from Isabela’s fingers. A wink passed between the ladies.
"This is outrageous. And you think you’re getting married, in the morning? After this? You do know you’re going to be staggering drunk for your own wedding, and mum’s going to strangle you, right?" Branson seriously considered being horrified by his brother’s entire lifestyle, from the title to the fiancé to the stripper with the griffon tattoos. On the other hand, it looked like Cullen was sufficiently traumatised for the whole family, with his pained laugh and the blush that covered most of his face.
"I’m not going to be drunk. I’m going to be hung over. And we have a healer for that." Cullen tried not to consider that the last time he’d seen the healer, Anders had been being helped up the stairs by two of Anton’s brothers.
"You. You have a healer." Branson’s stare was flat and utterly unimpressed. "Aren’t you supposed to, I don’t know, put mages away in safe places, as opposed to letting them out to consort with the populace?"
"Not my decision." Cullen shrugged and leaned back in his seat as the stripper leaned down over him and tapped him on the chin with one finger. "Unlike the exceedingly lovely lady with the, er… very… distracting, um… assets? The healer is an actual Grey Warden, out of Amaranthine."
On the other side of the table, Anton found himself dragged into Isabela’s lap to clear a seat for another templar.
"Amaranthine?" Branson’s eyebrows shot up. "You have gotten some… interesting friends after joining the Order, haven’t you?"
That prompted another strained laugh from Cullen. "Oh, Bran. You don’t know the half of it." He made a mental note not to let his family see his fiancé’s gardens. He took a long drink, the alcohol like warm cotton around his brain. "Do you know how he proposed to me?" he asked, looking past the stripper for a moment at Anton, who was laughing and trying to balance on Isabela’s lap. "With a goat. He brought a goat into my office, Bran, and because he didn’t know where Mum was or if she was even alive, he gave the goat to my boss." The look on Meredith’s face had struck fear into his heart at the time, but now he almost found himself drooling with laughter at the memory. "The goat tried to eat her skirts and kept shitting on her floors, and it was the most romantic thing anyone has ever done for me."
Branson looked at his brother like he was crazy, shaking his head at the sheer adoration he saw in Cullen’s eyes. He turned back towards the much more pleasing sight before him. "The goat thing? He did the goat thing? In your office?" Cullen nodded, grinning. "And you said yes?"
"Your brothers have been gone a while," Isabela said in Anton’s ear, resting her chin on his shoulder. "What do you think they’re up to with Sparklefingers and Broody, hmm?"
"There have been no earthquakes," Anton pointed out, "so I’m not worried. Or… hm." His brows knit as he considered, tilting his head. "Maybe that should worry me."
"There’s also no screaming and no blood running off the balcony, so I’m guessing whatever’s going on can’t be too exciting. A shame, really." Isabela gazed up at the second floor, thoughtfully. "No glowing, either. I was so looking forward to some glowing and screaming. The good kind of screaming. A bright blue tangle of ‘yes, yes, more’. But, Anders is pretty quiet, so maybe we just can’t see it from here. Too bad he’s the healer or I’d just watch him walk down the stairs."
"You know, Izzy, none of that was on the list of things I wanted to think about, tonight." Anton switched his empty glass with the mostly full one of the templar beside him, and after a long swallow, turned Isabela’s face, so she was looking at Cullen. "That, right there, is the entire list. And you’ve seen most of the good parts. Most of them."
"You’re getting old and lazy, Anton. I can think of at least three other things that should be on that list, and that’s before we get anywhere near me." Isabela laughed and bit Anton’s thumb.
Cullen couldn’t quite make out the conversation, over the music and the raucous cheering from the other people at the table, but he could guess, from the way Anton and Isabela were looking at him, like he was dessert. The blush crept higher up his cheeks, a darker shade than the pink already covering his face.
Branson saw the blush on his brother’s face and followed his stare to the culprit and the buxom lady he was using as furniture. He rolled his eyes. "I think you might be in a bit over your head, Cullen," he said. He whacked his brother’s arm to make sure he had his attention. "Hey, that woman your fiancé’s sitting on. Is she going to dance later too?"
Cullen turned wide eyes on his brother. "No!" he stammered out. "That’s Isabela. She’s a friend, and — well, all right. She probably would dance on the table if you ask her to, but…" Branson was already halfway out of his chair, and Cullen grabbed him by the arm, pulling him back down. "But you’re not going to ask her," Cullen hurried to finish. "You are going to sit here and enjoy these… other… sights." He indicated the dancer gyrating in front of him, turning the gesture into a wave when she smirked at him. "Good sights. Wonderful sights."
Branson nodded. "That they are," he said. "But you’ll introduce me to Isabela later?" He caught Izzy’s eye across the table and offered her what he considered a sultry smile.
"No. Absolutely not."
Isabela smirked, waggling her fingers at Branson.
"Definitely not!" Cullen squeaked.
Isabela dipped her fingers in Anton’s drink and licked them clean, eyeing Branson the whole while. "Bet me I can make him cry," she whispered to Anton.
"Why would I bet on a sure thing?" Anton asked, moving the glass before she could get her fingers into it again. For a few minutes, it turned into a sleight-of-hand duel, with Isabela reaching for the drink and Anton sliding it out of the way. The glass was spun, batted and slung across the table a few times, until Isabela quit trying and dragged Anton into a long and gooey kiss. The drink ended up in his lap.
"Just a friend, huh?" Branson asked, watching the scene unfold.
"It’s an act." Cullen shrugged and reached behind him for more Orlesian fruit wine. "You will not repeat what I am about to tell you to our mother, or I will run your smalls up the flagpole on the docks with you still in them."
"You haven’t been able to do that since you were eleven," Branson scoffed.
"I’m the Knight-Captain of Kirkwall. Imagine how much experience ten years in the templar barracks gave me." Cullen didn’t even look at his brother.
Branson continued to watch Isabela toy with Anton, as if he were an expensive courtesan. "I didn’t say I was telling mum. I just said you couldn’t do it if you tried."
"My fiancé, the nobleman, hustles cards for a living, and she’s his… mentor, I suspect, although partner might also work. That’s business." Cullen drank more. It had taken him a while to get used to the idea that while Anton was utterly profligate in public, the rogue had actually stopped sleeping around, somewhere in the early months of their relationship.
"Looks like a pleasurable business to me," Branson remarked, still making eyes at Isabela, across the table.
Cullen rolled his eyes at Branson, wondering if he’d even really heard what Cullen had just told him. "No telling Mum," he reminded his brother.
"Please." This time it was Branson rolling his eyes at Cullen. "You know I won’t need to. She’ll sniff it out if she hasn’t already."
And Cullen wanted to argue that, he really did, but Branson had a point. He would just leave it to Anton to charm her pants off. Metaphorically. Literally charming off one Rutherford’s pants was enough. Speaking of pantsless, Isabela was staring at his brother while doing something obscene to a sausage wrap. Cullen caught her gaze, signalled for her to look at him, and mouthed "NO" in capital letters. The look Izzy gave him as she tore into her sausage was the opposite of reassuring.
Cullen looked helplessly at Anton, hoping his fiancé would help. He knew what sort of trophies Isabela kept on her wall, after all.
Anton smiled coyly, leaning back against Isabela’s shoulder. Above them, the lovely lady with the griffon tattoos collected her coins and stepped down from the table, to be replaced by an elf. For a moment, Cullen thought it was Jethann, but the man had lighter hair and darker skin.
It wasn’t important. The important thing was keeping Isabela away from Branson, and Anton was not helping. Cullen had learnt to read Anton’s hands — at least a few gestures he used while he and Isabela were gaming the deck — and that was ‘stay’ that Anton was giving him, with a wink. That he should just let this pass.
Cullen widened his eyes, staring expectantly at Anton. This would not do. That was his brother! Maker. But, Anton seemed intent on letting Bran make his own mistakes. With Isabela. Cullen struggled not to envision any of that, comforting himself with the fact that it hadn’t happened yet, and was still potentially avoidable. Maybe. If he was very lucky. If he tripped his brother into the punchbowl.
Off to the other side of the room, Fenris came back down the stairs, holding Artemis’s hand in his own, as the mage looked thoughtfully up the stairs, behind them. Fenris might have been described as ‘grimly amused’, had Varric been paying attention.
"This is why I don’t like being the sober friend," Artemis was rambling. "It is much easier to deal with… non-sober people as another non-sober person."
Fenris gave him a wry look, thumb tracing Artemis’s knuckles. "You’re still not drinking tonight," he reminded his mage.
"I know. And I know why. I just…" Artie grimaced, looking about the room. "This place is a mess."
Fenris distracted his mage with a kiss and then grabbed his chin, pointing it towards Anton’s table. "Then don’t look at the mess," he told Artie. Artemis saw the dancing elf, and his eyebrows shot up. Yes. This was far more distracting than a few overturned chairs and spills and such. Fenris chuckled at his ear. "You’re welcome."
"I love you," Artemis told his elf. "Let’s grab some chairs."
Jethann noticed the pair trying to squeeze around the already crowded table and sauntered up behind them, a templar in tow. "Is my room still… occupied?" he asked, looking them over.
"Yes," Artemis answered, struggling not to fidget. "My brother and Anders are in bed. Napping! Yes. I hope."
"Don’t worry," Fenris drawled. "We left the room cleaner than when we found it."
"Well, I hope so, but I doubt it. Very few people are up to my standards of cleanliness." Jethann sniffed and looked up at the dancer.
"And that after everything Anders had to say on the subject?" Fenris remarked, tartly. "I’m surprised. From his descriptions, one might think you wallowed."
"The healer lives in the sewer. I’d hardly take his word for it." Jethann seemed entirely undisturbed. It wasn’t the first or even the fifteenth time he’d heard the like, working here. Possibly the first he’d heard it from another elf, though, but he’d never met an elven nobleman, before.
Fenris hummed, wrapping his arms around Artemis, rubbing his cheek against the mage’s shoulder. "Yes, I can see where that might impair one’s judgement."
Cullen nudged Branson and gestured in Artie’s direction. "Anton’s brother. The other brother. There’s another other brother around here, somewhere, too."
"Maker, are there more of them than us?" Branson laughed. "Is he… being fondled by an elf? I— Oh, well, we are in a brothel, I suppose."
Cullen had to glance back at Artemis to make sure he was being fondled by the right elf. "Oh, er." He rubbed the back of his neck, the chair creaking as he shifted his weight. "That’s Fenris, Artie’s fiancé. They have a place on the other side of Hightown. Fenris can be a bit prickly, but he’s a good sort."
Taking a drink, Branson looked askance at the couple, at his brother. "An elf? He’s marrying an elf?"
This came out a bit louder than he’d intended, and Cullen hurried to shush him. He looked over to see Fenris eyeing the pair of them balefully.
"You’re growling," Artemis informed Fenris. "In my ear. Which is hot and all, but I don’t think this is the place."
Jethann scoffed. "Honey," he said to Artemis, looking him over appreciatively, "if there was ever a place to growl in your ear, it’s here."
"Bran, don’t…" Cullen sighed, rubbing the heel of his palm into the corner of his eye.
"Oh, what, is proper thinking too provincial for you, Knight-Captain?" Branson snapped, disgust plain on his face. "Just because we could never afford any, you suddenly think elves have any business … blatantly consorting with decent and proper men? I’m sure they’re nice for a night — brothels are certainly full of them — but who would marry an elf, except another elf?"
Fenris kissed Artemis’s cheek and pushed him into Jethann’s arms. "Hold this for me," he muttered, circling the table to come up behind Branson.
The jovial air had left the table, and Anton was also on his feet. "It does make you provincial," he barked. "Provincial, wrong-headed, and an embarrassment to your family. I’m sorry for your sisters, already, never mind your poor brother, who’s watching you act out like this, in front of his men." It sounded like something his mother would have said, Anton reflected. He supposed he’d been listening, after all, all those years.
"You nobles always think you’re better than us, because we’re farmers, and we work for a living. You and your disgusting perversions. What sort of grotesque filth have you been teaching my brother, all these years?" Branson was, frankly, drunk, like just about everyone else in the room. But, he’d never been a pleasant drunk, which Cullen had been gone too long to know.
Fenris tapped Branson on the shoulder, and the man turned to face him, muscular and tall, like his brother. Branson’s mouth opened, but Fenris’s fist was quicker.
"Do shut up," Fenris remarked, calmly, as Branson dropped to the floor between him and Cullen. "I’m sorry about your brother."
"So am I…" Cullen muttered, pouring the rest of his drink down his throat before he leaned down to see how bad the damage was. "He had that coming."