[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 180
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Carver Hawke ♂, Merrill ♀, Cormac Hawke ♂, Aveline ♀
Rating: G- (L1 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: A great deal of the talking of the shit, uncomfortable politics.
Notes: Carver presents himself to Merrill, in the aftermath. Cormac tries to make peace with Aveline.
"I don’t understand!" Merrill said, again, running her hands over Carver’s freshly de-platemailed chest. "How did you get stabbed by another templar? I thought you were supposed to be on the same side!" Even now, Merrill didn’t quite understand the nuance of what went on in the Gallows. The entire structure of human society was confusing, and she mostly ignored the parts she didn’t have to deal with regularly.
"Templars are supposed to get in the way. I got in the way." Carver grinned, picking Merrill up high enough to kiss her cheeks without having to stay bent over.
"Now you’re just being difficult," she said, poking him in the chest.
"You like it when I’m hard," he joked.
"I got that! I got that and it was very dirty, Carver Hawke!" Merrill laughed delightedly. "But, you have to tell me what happened! Anders told me you got stabbed and there was blood everywhere!"
"Mmm, not as much of it as you’re going to get," Carver laughed, pressing his face to Merrill’s neck and taking a deep breath. "But, how I got stabbed? Well, not all templars are as amazing as me. Some of them aren’t even as great as Cullen. And this one guy, he really doesn’t — well, didn’t, I suppose — like mages. Of course why he’d be doing that with someone he didn’t like just doesn’t make any sense to me. But, I caught him terrorizing some poor mage, and I told him exactly what I thought of that. And then he insulted my entire family, so I told him what I thought of that, right in the teeth, I told him."
"Well, to be fair," Merrill teased, "you insult your family all the time. But I’m proud of you, my brave hero!"
Carver puffed out his chest. "Well, I don’t know if I’d call myself a hero," he said, "even if some people are. I was just doing my duty, you know. Looking after mages."
Merrill chuckled, winding her arms around his neck. "And you’re very good at it. Just try not to get stabbed again." The thought that she might have lost him, this shemlen who’d become so important to her made it difficult to breathe.
"I’ll try, but I make no promises," Carver replied, holding her tight against him. There was still a dull, phantom ache where the knife had stabbed him, but his only regret was that the wound hadn’t scarred. It would have been impressive.
"What are you doing in my office," Aveline grumbled, not looking up from the pile of paper on her desk.
"Well, hello, Captain Aveline! It’s a lovely day, and I thought you might have time to do lunch, with an old friend. No, I didn’t bring my brother. You’re welcome." Cormac leaned in the doorway and held up a basket from the market.
"You’re not getting me drunk in the middle of the day," Aveline snapped slapping another completed report onto the pile on one side of her desk.
"No, I’m not. South Reach-style cranberry lassi." Cormac stepped into the room and set a tall jar of creamy pink liquid in the one spot he could still see wood on the desk.
"South Reach-style? How did you…?" Aveline looked up, suspiciously.
"I asked Donnic." Cormac grinned completely unapologetically. "Come on, I know you’re still pissed at Anton, but you can’t take that out on the rest of us."
"Yes, I can. I’ve been doing it very effectively, too, I might add," Aveline growled, quill catching on another page, as she pressed down a little too hard.
"Look, Aveline, Artemis really wants you to be at his wedding, and he’s been refusing to schedule, because he knows you won’t come. You’re part of the family. Don’t just ditch us because Anton fucked up a negotiation with someone who didn’t want to negotiate." Cormac leaned the basket on the edge of the desk, tilting it so Aveline could see into it. The food looked distinctly Fereldan, but as with so much Fereldan cooking, it was a bit difficult to distinguish — at best she could tell both parts were brown and probably baked goods. "On top of that, thank you for not arresting my brother. I think I owe you at least one good lunch, for that, and probably more. It’s not a bribe. I just owe you."
"You really don’t understand, do you, Cormac? He didn’t just screw up a negotiation. It reflected directly on this entire office. You can’t understand. You’re not a captain of anything. Not a day of service in your life." Aveline threw the quill into an inkwell she shouldn’t have been leaving it in.
"You know what else I’m not?" Cormac asked, a little too calmly and quietly. "Champion of Kirkwall. Politics has done me no favours, and Anton holds my title, my lands, and complete control of our family’s estate, because he’s the only person in this family who’s not going to get fucked like I did."
"I could always arrest him," Aveline pointed out.
"And then you’ll be turning my holdings over to the Knight-Commander, because we have no viscount. I’m not asking you to like him, Aveline, whatever the two of you had going on before. I’m just asking you not to look away from the rest of us, because you don’t."
Aveline blew out a harsh breath through her nose, lips pursed as she stared at the basket of food-related offerings. Her scowl was impressive enough to make Broody swoon. "You’re a close family, Cormac," she said. "It’s hard to avoid one Hawke without avoiding them all. But, I will go to Artie’s wedding, and I will be civil. I owe that much to him and Fenris." Aveline shook her head. "Beyond that, I don’t know what you expect me to say. Anton completely undermined me and betrayed my trust, and I’m having a hard time looking at him without remembering that."
Still. Anton wasn’t there now, and here was Cormac, standing in front of her with a peace-offering.
"Now, are you going to keep standing there," she muttered, rifling through the next set of papers on her desk, "or are you going to sit down? I’m not going to eat with you looming over me like that."
"Well, I wouldn’t be looming if your office wasn’t designed to make people on the wrong side of the desk uncomfortable," Cormac scoffed, unloading two heavy clay dishes from the basket, and setting one in the middle of the papers Aveline still hadn’t moved. "Apple pudding. I’m holding the cottage pie. I don’t think Bodhan managed to put plates in here, but I’ve got spoons, and I’ll trade you at the halfway mark." He jammed a spoon into the pudding and sat down on a pile of books, beside the desk, resting the other bowl on his thigh.
"Anton’s… an idealist, really. And he told you at least twice not to take him with you, for that. And you knew he didn’t agree with what you were trying to do." Cormac shook his head. "I’m not saying either of you was right. I’m just saying most of this was predictable. He tells it to me, again and again, how he was really more interested in stopping the war — convincing the Arishok that we weren’t all useless barbarians. But, nothing. It was the end of the road, there. They got their book, and they went home. You want somebody’s head, consider Isabela’s." Cormac paused for a mouthful of cottage pie. "And no, that doesn’t imply that I’m no longer sleeping with her. The one has nothing to do with the other."
"I expect Isabela to look after her own interests first," Aveline said, stabbing the apple pudding with more force than necessary. "Doesn’t mean I’m giving her pass, not after all the lives that were lost because of her. But… I trusted Anton, and I…" She closed her eyes and shook her head, picking at her food with the spoon. "Well, I suppose that was my failing, not his. I should have known better."
The apple pudding was just the right amount of sweet on her tongue, and Aveline took a moment just to enjoy the taste before speaking again. "Look, maybe I’ll forgive Anton at some point, but I am not at that point yet. For now, will you tell me what I’ve missed? What’s going on with you and the others?" She licked her spoon clean before taking another bite.
"Bethany’s just gotten another book published. Something about the design of tombs and their role in attracting spirits. I don’t understand a lot of what she does, but she doesn’t understand my work, either. I’m sure there’s overlap. I’m sure we’ll find it. It’s just not there right now. But, this book’s a big one, I guess. Lots of people waiting for it." Cormac took another huge bite and tapped his spoon on the edge of the dish, as he thought. "Fenris is learning to read Tevene. Somehow this hasn’t ended in him disembowelling Anders, for which I am grateful on a daily basis. Anders is amazing, as always, and I have no idea what the hell this gorgeous revolutionary is doing, hanging around with a shithead like me. Artie’s… you know I really have no idea what he’s doing, but it hasn’t involved him being drunk in public, so it can’t be too bad. And Carver… you heard about Carver, didn’t you?"
Aveline nodded, humming around her spoon. "Donnic told me," she said. "Apparently he found the body of the templar who stabbed Carver." Her tone was neutral, but the look she gave Cormac over the food said she knew exactly who was behind that. "And how is the poor sod, anyway? All healed up and back to being a pain in the ass yet?" Aveline pulled the jar of lassi closer and twisted off the top to take a quick drink. "Mm, that’s good," she sighed.
"I’d assume as much. He hasn’t been to the house, that I’ve noticed, but Merrill didn’t show up for Wicked Grace, last night, so I’m thinking he’s putting in some appearances, at least. I just hope Bethany doesn’t decide she needs to get involved. Not that I think she would, but… He did just get stabbed pretty badly. You can bet if we still had a viscount, she’d be making complaints." Cormac shrugged, perfectly content with the idea that Anton had solved the problem before anyone had to summon higher powers. "Still, Anders is writing another angry letter to the Grand Cleric. Something about Meredith not being able to keep her men in line, even internally. And there’s a thing. Since when do we have templar patrols on the streets? Last time I checked, there was no reason for that. That’s what your men are for, right?"
"Last I checked," Aveline replied, eyes narrowed. "Then again, I have a feeling we’re not looking for the same things on these patrols. I would ask the Knight-Captain about that." Aveline managed to keep from sounding catty despite mentioning Anton’s husband.
She took another bite of the apple pudding and then gestured at Cormac’s dish with her spoon. "I think I’m about halfway. Ready to switch?"
Cormac took another enormous bite and held out his bowl, spoon still in his mouth as he nodded. They swapped dishes and he worked his way through a mouthful of potato, before he spoke again. "As pissed as you are, it’s still a shame you missed that wedding. The performance was amazing, my brother aside. Sebastian almost walked out. And then Cullen somehow convinced Anders to demonstrate some attractive but harmless magic. I heard old man Amell used to bring in mages for the big events, but Anders surrounded by templars, putting on a show like that? Definitely worth all the wine I didn’t drink."
Aveline raised her eyebrows, humming a note of surprise around a bite of cottage pie. Cullen had convinced Anders? "In Kirkwall? And no one ended up maimed, killed, or thrown in the Gallows? Or at least, I’m assuming they didn’t." She pointed her spoon at Cormac. "They didn’t, did they?"
"A particular lieutenant looked like he might lose his commission, but nobody ended up bleeding on anything or spontaneously folded into breakfast pastry. Anders hasn’t had to move. And the Knight-Captain has made his position of Wardens extremely clear." Cormac made a small blissful sound around a mouthful of apple pudding, before he went on. "I suspect Isabela may have had something to do with the actual convincing part, but Cullen gave permission and thanks for it. Even apologised for the dick who was making trouble. Man’s getting his head around the idea that not all free mages are lunatic maleficars. Some of them may still be lunatics, but still not maleficars. I might even mention it to him, if I didn’t think the very thought would get him fired."
A few bites of pudding passed. "How are things with you and Donnic? I only ever hear things from Fenris, third hand."
Aveline couldn’t help the smile that pulled at her lips just at the sound of Donnic’s name. "Things are good. Fine." Which wasn’t to say it had been easy, but they were finally settling into each other’s routines. "Though I worry what you might have heard from Fenris. He and Donnic are usually well into the wine whenever I see him. Though really I should just be grateful Donnic hasn’t gambled away our livelihood yet." She licked her lips after another sip of lassi. This was almost pleasant, she decided, Hawke or no Hawke.
"Don’t you dare tell Donnic I mentioned it, but Fenris wouldn’t let him. He’s starting to come around to the idea of friends and family as the people you don’t stiff, even if you did do it according to the rules. Unless it’s Anders. And balls, but I have to hear about that every week. Fortunately, Anders is betting my money, so it doesn’t usually matter all that much." Cormac laughed and scraped some of the burnt bits off the bottom of the bowl, for a bit of extra-sweet crunch in the next bite. "You know why Anders is poor? It’s because he can’t think of himself, first. I don’t even mean he doesn’t. I’m pretty sure he’s just fundamentally incapable of it. I know I could be doing other things with this money than pouring it down the bottomless hole that is Darktown, with him, but … I want to know what it’s like to believe something so wholeheartedly, so dedicatedly, that everything else stops mattering. I don’t know how he does it."
"Justice," Aveline said around her next mouthful. "Justice is how he does it." She finished chewing and, looking up at Cormac, softened her words. "But it is admirable, what he does. There are few who have the patience for caring for so many people and fewer still who have the resilience to do it for this long." Which, Aveline decided, didn’t help the man’s sanity any. "And I’m glad Fenris won’t let Donnic gamble all his money, or the next body found in an alley would be my darling husband’s." She smiled tightly, until she thought of Wesley and realised that wasn’t something she wanted to be joking about. "Well. You know what I mean." Her spoon scraped up the last bites of the cottage pie.
"I know. Really, I know." Cormac laughed again, gnawing the last sticky bits off the spoon. "So, I’ll let Artie know you’ll be at his wedding. It’ll take us months to get this going — weddings are … Let me just say I’m glad I don’t intend to have one. And with the party, and… We’ll let you know. And, Aveline, if you need someone to make a run up the coast for you…" He cracked a smile. "Call Fenris. No, but really, he’s always liked the coast. Or, I guess, call me, but I still live with Anton, so showing up at the door’s a bit of a gamble."
Aveline smirked, putting the empty dishes back in the basket. "I’ll call Fenris," she said. "And if I need a loudmouth mage, I’ll call Fenris to call you."
"Well, then. I look forward to being woken up with the wrong kind of sword, soon!" Cormac winked and swept off the stack of books, toward the door, before Aveline could swat him upside the head. "Lunch next week? I’m still buying! Oh, wait, did that sound like a question? That wasn’t a question. Don’t get stabbed or anything!"
He was gone before she could object. "Hawkes."