[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 164
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂
Rating: E (L3 N0 S0 V4 D0)
Warnings: Explicit discussion of past abuse
Notes: Cormac gets the answers he doesn’t want, but does need. Cullen still wishes he wasn’t having this conversation.
"We templars," Cullen began, swallowing past the tightness in his throat and staring down at the twitching stone between Cormac’s feet. "We templars aren’t supposed to be intimate with our charges, you know. We technically aren’t even supposed to befriend them, but." The rest of that sentence died on his tongue, and he shrugged. "There were a few templars in Kinloch Hold who had a nasty reputation among the mages. Rather like Alrik or Karras, I suppose." And that made his insides twist again, remembering that he’d let men like that serve the Order, even if he hadn’t known what they were at the time. "And Anders had the, ah, reputation of lifting his skirts for pretty much anyone. Not my words, I swear," he hurried to add. "But… well. You put a mage in an isolated part of the tower and let scum guard him, and I think you know where I’m going with this." He finally looked up at Cormac again as he said, "I have a feeling you already know what must have happened. And I’m… I’m sorry. But I can guarantee you those men died painfully when Uldred took over the Circle." He wished that made it better, but he knew it didn’t.
Cormac nodded, as if none of this was surprising. "I should give you something, for that. You suspected it. I suspected it. But, I have a sense that wasn’t all of it. Let’s say that’s not the first mention of his ‘reputation’ I’ve heard. I know there were a few times he was using himself as a target, to protect someone else. Several someones, from the sound of it. I know he walked into at least some of it with his eyes on, but … Shouldn’t have needed to happen. There shouldn’t have been a situation in which that was the best answer. He shouldn’t have been in a position where he knew that would work." The stone between Cormac’s feet shrieked.
"Still not blaming you. You were the new guy. Nothing for it, really. But, understand that if I ever find out you put a hand on him in a less than friendly fashion — which I honestly don’t think you did — you will stop having a hand. And that’s because I like you. But, I think if you had, you wouldn’t have lived long enough to marry my brother, because I have no doubt he’d have solved the problem, himself. And that is why I trust you." Cormac took a few deep breaths. The stone at his feet was almost entirely gold and cloudy, and it seemed to be radiating heat. "Next one. ‘Love seems like a real dick thing to do to somebody’? I … I’ve asked him about that one, and he keeps treating it like I’m asking if the sky is blue. I’m just going to gesture vaguely in the direction of Karl’s memory, and ask if that’s something he had any business expecting."
Cullen kept staring at the stone as he mulled that over. "The Chantry discourages mages from forming romantic bonds," he said, speaking in the detached way of someone repeating another’s words. "There are affairs, certainly, and… quite a few of them." Cullen’s cheeks coloured as he remembered. He’d walked in on Solona once, bent over a library desk, and that was a memory he still found equal parts mortifying and inspiring. "But… any real relationships, if found out, are usually broken up. It’s the same reason they isolate mages from their families." He shook his head. "If you had been found out, if you, Artemis, and Bethany had been taken as children, you would have been split up and sent to three different Circles." Which was another rule he didn’t quite understand. All it did was make mages bitter, lonely, and resentful.
Cormac was finally starting to understand it. "It’s the insistence that mages are weapons. Objects to be aimed and unleashed, like ballistae. If you want somebody to act like an object, you can’t treat them like people. People have things like love and hope. Anders… has neither, any more, but I’m working on hope." Another bitter laugh from Cormac. The stone, he’d noticed, seemed to be getting smaller, which made a certain kind of sense, since he was squeezing it, but he’d never considered crushing stone. "… The … toilet one. You said you saw the aftermath of ‘things’. Is that as bad as I think it is? Because that sounds terrible, and I think it’s worse than it sounds." This was the one, really. The rest were curiosities, and they’d be important one day, but this one…
Cullen’s face twisted, looking nauseated. That was another memory burned into his mind. "It’s…" More struggling for words, Cullen’s face turning green. "It’s exactly what it sounds like. And, Maker help me, but the men who did that? After Solona had come back and cleared out the tower, I was relieved to find out they hadn’t made it. Desire demons, it looked like, and that seemed awfully fitting." He peered at Cormac then, the grimace still on his face. "If… what you and Anders did was related to that, I don’t want the details. But why would he ask for…?"
"You’re telling me it was worse than was obvious. The fact that you’re even asking that tells me I’m right. Regardless of whether it’s related, you’ll never know. Like I said, ‘at least one of these things’, and they all cut pretty deep. For your sanity, though, I’ll tell you I even know about that one because he was much, much too drunk to be talking to anyone. Scared me, you know? Scared the fuck right out of me. Not for me, but what if you’d taken my sister, my brother? Again, not … not you, but… between this and Alrik…" Cormac looked a bit grey in the face, when he looked up, this time. That had been confirmed, not that he’d doubted it after what Anders had said about Howe, of all the things to have made it fit together. But the combination of ‘fucking Howe until he pissed himself’ and ‘not my fingers’… But, obviously, Anders had been stupidly drunk, at the time, nevermind how drunk he was talking about it.
"Last one. There’s a question I’m not asking, here, and your answer to this is going to answer that question for me. Doesn’t matter if it’s related, I’d want to know anyway. Do you know that scar?" There was really only one way Cullen would have seen it, other than— "Again, not blaming you. Not asking if you were involved. Just… a little something that’s been left out of all the stories, so far."
Cullen sat back in his chair. Anders had a lot of scars, but… "I’m assuming you don’t mean the half that’s on his hand?" he asked with a humourless smile. "And… and yes. I wasn’t there when it happened, and I didn’t ask, but I’m familiar with the scar on his — yes." He gestured vaguely towards his privates. "Which… I suspect does answer your unasked question."
"Thoroughly." Cormac turned his arm, rested his face against his fist, and finally forced himself to stop casting. "Thank you. You have to know it’s not that I doubt him, it’s just… there’s so many things he can’t tell me. So many things it wouldn’t be right to ask him. And you, well… I probably shouldn’t be asking you, either, but…" He trailed off. "So, I’m going to change the subject, so there’s a chance you’ll actually be able to swallow food, by the time Anton finishes cooking. I know that look. I see it a lot. You knew my cousin, before she was famous? I didn’t know her. I still don’t know her, except that Anders thinks she’s a hopeless prude with a hot husband. Was she interesting, before she was a hero?"
A high-pitched laugh left Cullen, and his face started to look less green and more red. "Interesting. Yes, she certainly was. Absolutely fearless, really." He cleared his throat, glancing at the unlit fireplace. "You still haven’t met her, have you? There’s some family resemblance, you know. Not… not just in the fearlessness, though Maker knows the Hawkes and Amells do ‘reckless’ better than anyone. And… maybe not so much a resemblance to you, but you take after your father anyway. A bit like Anton, though, with the eyes and the smirk and the… erm." There was that image of Solona in the library again, showing off a few of her, er… finer attributes.
"The… ‘erm’?" Cormac tried to turn a snicker into a cough and ended up choking on it. "You’ve got a type, don’t you? Amells. Well, better Anton than me. Was she as flirty as he is, too? I mean, I doubt it, given what Anders has to say about her, but…" He laughed against his arm and nudged the stone with his boot, earning the smell of burning leather for his efforts. He debated cooling it, but remembered the eight or ten times he’d blown up dinner, like that, before he got the hang of slow cooling.
"She was… th-that is…" Dammit, there he went, stuttering again. And Cullen wished he could argue, but Cormac was right about him having a type. "Solona was rather more… blunt when it came to her affections. She didn’t so much flirt as… make a reasonable albeit scandalous suggestion involving a broom closet." And there was another theme: Amells and closets. Except now he was thinking of that one time he walked in on Artie and Fenris and just… no. "And I assumed Anders would’ve mentioned it," Cullen muttered, "the way he and that crazy elf were carrying on at the time."
"Anders insists she was uptight and terribly boring, at least until she became the Hero of Ferelden. And then something about how he ended up in bed with her husband." Cormac laughed until the rest of the sentence caught up with him. "Crazy elf? Carrying on? Oh, this sounds like fun!" He wasn’t sure why he’d never considered that Anders might have had friends who were elves. Possibly because he was so used to listening to Anders and Fenris threatening each other over cards. At least until the … electricity thing. He’d softened to Merrill, after a while, too, even if he was still a little uptight about the blood magic and the demon. Cormac was still a little uptight about the demon, too.
"Surana," Cullen said, three syllables’ worth of exasperation. "Alim Surana. That elf was…" He shook his head. "He’s something you have to experience yourself to understand. And then you’ll understand even less. I had no idea mages could summon bees before I met him. He filled Greagoir’s helmet with them once, and I just…" He laughed helplessly, wiping a hand down his face. "How he survived the Circle I’ll never know. Except — no, I suspect he survived the Circle because Anders was a healer."
Cormac suddenly remembered Anders mentioning he’d learnt the bees spell from an elf. This elf, no doubt. "Anders found a way to make that even more terrifying. He summons swarms of tainted wasps. Only ever saw him do it once, and that was with the Qunari." Watching Cullen got him started laughing, too. "Only survived because of Anders? Is this another story I’m not going to be happy to have heard? More of the same? Maker’s sagging balls, how common was that?" He assumed the worst, of course, because Cullen hadn’t explained anything, which suggested it would be.
"I— no!" Cullen blurted, eyes popping wide. "Not like—! Surana was just a terrible troublemaker. He had tattoos on his face, you know." He gestured at Cormac’s cheeks. "Like the Dalish, but… well, the story goes that one day he didn’t have them, then suddenly he did. Rumour had it he did them himself, and if you knew him, you’d believe it."
Anton poked his head around the corner while Cullen was still shaking his head. "Dinner is served!" he said. "It’s been a while since I’ve cooked, but I want you both to notice that I have not burned down the house!"
"I’m sure we’re all thrilled at this sudden bout of competence. Let’s just hope you’ve managed something better than roast deepstalker," Cormac joked.
"I was very proud of that deepstalker, and you should be happy there was food at all, after that!" Anton jabbed a finger at his brother.
"Do I… want to know?" Cullen asked, looking back and forth between the brothers, as he stood up.
"Probably not," Cormac assured him, also getting up. He could bring a plate back here, he decided.
"Action! Adventure! Evil dwarves!" Anton crowed, heading back toward the kitchen. "But, he’s right. You probably don’t want the details."