[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody In Ass Major – Chapter 156
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Cormac is a mess, blasphemy, confessions, non-explicit mentions of past sex
Notes: Cormac visits Artemis, in the aftermath, because who else knows panic like Artie knows panic?
Artemis had just gotten the flowers from Cormac when there was another knock on the door. He squinted at the vase in his hand as Orana flit off to answer it. ‘A mess’? What was Cormac up to? Moreover, did he really want to know?
Orana reappeared in the doorway. "Messere Cormac is waiting for you in the lounge, messere," she announced, folding her hands in front of her primly.
"I suppose it’s too much to hope that this is a coincidence?" Artie sighed, placing the vase on the mantel, wasting a moment or two to turn it this way and that, making sure the flowers were evenly displayed. "Right. Cormac. Lounge," he muttered to himself, forcing himself to stop fussing. He offered Orana a smile and a thank you as he went off in search of his brother.
And his brother was in one piece, at least, so it hadn’t been that kind of a ‘mess’. "Flowers and a visit? My, Cormac, you know just how to make a man feel special." One look at Cormac’s expression, however, and Artemis’s teasing smile softened into something more concerned. "Ah. Your flowers said you were ‘hoping for the best’. I take it the… best did not happen?"
"We’re both still alive, so it’s not the worst." Cormac looked up from where he was leaned forward in the chair, elbows on his knees. "Justice says he doesn’t want to see me. I went— I went to take a piss, and I got back, and … Justice. I did — I don’t— No. I do. Look, sit down. You’re making me nervous, and I’m already nervous." Cormac paused. "Okay, terrified. I don’t even know where to start… It all just… I thought it was fine. I thought we were fine, and then everything went wrong." His voice was strangely calm and well-measured, eyes wide and hollow.
Artemis had no idea what Cormac was talking about, but he nodded, eyes wide. Usually it was his brother talking him down, but he could do this. He hoped. "All right, just… Let’s start from the beginning, shall we?" Artemis sank into the chair next to Cormac as he spoke. He leaned forward, elbows on his knees, mirroring his brother’s posture and bending so he could better see his face. "Did something happen between you and Anders?"
Cormac just nodded, collecting his thoughts. He took a few more breaths. "I did what he asked me to," was the first thing he said. That was the most important point to get out, before he started talking about anything else. "He’s… I guess he’s got a thing. Like you and your …" he waved a hand. "Like me and mine. But… shit, how do I even… I don’t want to… I shouldn’t say too much. It’s a little messier than your taste and a lot less dangerous, I think, than either of us likes. But, I… He put it in my head and I wanted to try it. I just… somewhere in there, I should have stopped it. I should have. Something went wrong, and I knew it, and he just kept telling me to keep going. I trusted him to tell me to stop. And he did, but… I should have stopped it sooner."
Staring at his hands, Cormac caught his breath and tried to put words in an order that made sense. "He’s not hurt. If he is, it’s nothing he can’t fix. I asked." That seemed important — that always seemed important. "I have some thoughts, but I didn’t ask. There are things you don’t ask, you know? I think — I’m really sure, actually — that he asked me to do something… I think there were templars, once."
That made the picture a little clearer. A part of Artie was curious to know what, specifically, they had done, but he didn’t need to know and suspected he didn’t want to. "And… now Justice has taken over?" He thought back to the Deep Roads, to the panic on Anders’s face, the faraway look in his eyes when Bartrand locked them in. Justice, he’d surmised, was protective of Anders and tended to step in when Anders would otherwise be too panicked to act. "How long ago was this? Did it just happen?"
Again, Cormac nodded. "I went to take a piss. I came back. Justice was … And I knew it, too, even through the door. The cats look at him funny. And now I’m here. Didn’t know what else to do." He leaned back in the chair, still perched on the edge of it, hands covering his face, and his robes tangled uncomfortably and obviously in his lap. A sharp laugh slipped out between his hands. "And a bottle of liquid Warden, to boot," he laughed, bitterly. "Longest and most difficult piss I ever had to take. I just… if I’d gotten back, sooner, would it have mattered?" It occurred to him, as someone else into some extremely weird things, that ‘that was amazing’ occasionally degraded into ‘stop looking at me’, at the first sign of disgust.
A soft, pitying laugh punched out of Artemis when he noticed his brother’s state. He patted his brother’s arm, offering a consoling squeeze. "I don’t know," he said. "But… from the dribs and drabs you’ve told me? My instinct is to say no." He looked down at his hands, picking the dirt from under his fingernails as he spoke. "You think the templars… did something, and that what you two did reminded him of… well. It sounds to me like physical closeness might have just upset him further. Giving him some space to himself was probably the best thing you could do." Artie hoped so, anyway. He remembered how he’d been with Fenris, the first few times after they’d had drunken sex and later when they’d tried to do it sober.
Artemis rubbed a hand over his face. "Give it time," he said. "The panic needs to work itself out of his system before we can get a good look at what we’re dealing with. And that’s… that’s not your fault. I know you, and I know that when you say you only did what he asked, you’re telling the truth. And he knows that, I’m sure, but… well, panic like that isn’t logical."
"Why do you think I’m here?" Cormac muttered into his hands. "I don’t know anybody who panics like you do."
Artie gave him a look that said he was less than impressed with this observation. "Thank you for noticing," he muttered.
"No, shit, not… I don’t mean that in a shitty way. I’m your brother. I’m supposed to give you a hard time." Cormac’s hands dropped into his lap. "I just mean if you weren’t … you, I wouldn’t have known who to even talk to about this." He sighed and rubbed his face, again. "He wanted me to kiss him. I mean, yeah, I completely misunderstood, at first, because knowing him, how could I not, but… he meant it. And it was so good, so wonderful, just so much of him at once… And it was so horribly wrong, I’m not sure how he managed to talk me into it." There was a pause. "No, I know exactly how. He meant it. There’s this look he gets, when he’s sure of something, and I trust it, because he’s always so quiet. And that’s something. Quiet. Always quiet." Cormac worried the side of his knuckle with his thumb. "He wasn’t quiet, tonight. It’s a good thing we were downstairs, because you’d have thought he was me. Almost scared the fuck right out of me, but hey, liquid Warden."
Artemis’s eyebrows inched up. Loud? Anders was never loud. "That… hm." He scratched his jaw, nails rasping against stubble. "He only ever let me kiss him once, and then I got the sense that he… was just sort of tolerating it. But he’s only ever been damn near silent with me. I… again I suspect that was a Kinloch Hold thing. All those people, living in such tight quarters? Had to be quiet, right?" He shrugged. "Unlike you, even when we were all living together at Gamlen’s." He gave Cormac a flat look that was anything but serious.
But Artemis chewed at his thumbnail and considered all this. "It’s—This will probably sound strange, but. That honestly sounds like progress? Like he’s trying to break out of certain habits, learned at the Circle." He was assuming that’s where the kissing thing came from, anyway, though really he had no idea. When they were sleeping together, he’d just thought Anders wasn’t that into it. "It just, it… it takes time to get over habits like that. And… every now then, there’s going to be panic."
Artemis was trying very hard not to fidget. Cormac was feeling nervous enough, he’d said, and the last thing he needed was for Artie’s agitation to rub off on him. But this… All this was reminding him of his first time with Anders, his first time sober since he was a teenager. "Anders… well, he helped me get past some of my own habits, you know," Artemis went on, ramblingly. "After Mahariel, I… Well. Not everyone liked the earthquakes you know." Artie managed a weak laugh but looked at his feet as he said this. "And alcohol made it less likely to happen, if I got drunk enough. Still happened, most of the time, but. Anyway. After a while, I just sort of… forgot how to let someone touch me when I was sober. Anders helped me remember. And that? That isn’t this, but it still took some time. And some freaking out on my part."
He wasn’t sure if he should be comparing the two, but he wanted to reassure his brother. Then again, he also didn’t know how much of that Cormac knew.
Cormac watched the shift happen, watched the way Artie nearly vibrated. He reached out and took his brother’s hand."Hey. Why do you think I wanted you sober, that one time? I didn’t have eyes for it, like I guess you had for me and mine, but I was up late enough, often enough. I knew what you looked like, when you came home. I wasn’t going to be that, for you. Couldn’t do it. Everything before that? We were drunk. Ridiculously drunk. The kind of drunk where I look back and wonder how that worked at all. The kind of thing you could always just write off as too drunk to remember or drunk enough the memories must have been hallucinations. That… Maybe it was selfish, but I wanted you to remember it. I wanted you to be absolutely sure that it was real."
He squeezed Artie’s hand. "And I was not that bad, at Gamlen’s. Maker’s balls. I was never even in the house for any of that! I know how loud I am! I subjected someone else’s neighbours to it!"
The corner of Cormac’s mouth tipped up. "And I like your stupid earthquakes. Shit, tonight… I got lost, for a second. Couldn’t figure out why the ground wasn’t shaking."
Artemis smiled, turned his hand over to take Cormac’s, pulling his brother’s hand up to his lips. "Thinking about me, were you?" he teased, thumb stroking over Cormac’s knuckles. "And you don’t have to comfort me, you know. This… this was years ago. These are old problems. What I was trying to get across amidst all that rambling was that I panicked my first time with Anders, but I wanted to do it and I was glad we did it. And… it might be wishful thinking, but maybe… maybe that’s what this was for Anders. I know you two—" Artemis stopped himself mid-word, then turned the half-finished sentence into a complete thought: "I know you two."
I know you two love each other, was what he was going to say. Cormac wouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be this distraught, over just anyone. But now was not the time to start that. "Do you want to stay here tonight?"
"Fenris would shit a brick," Cormac declared. "And I’m not trying to comfort you. Thought I might even piss you off, with that one, which I’m not trying to do either. I just— no matter how many times I say it, or what other words I put with it, I don’t think there’s a way for me to tell you that I love you, and have it mean what it should mean, when I say that to you. It’s not what you and Fenris have, and I’m not trying to step on his toes, and the fact that I even feel like I should say that is fucked up so far you could touch the Black City before you got near it. But, you’re not exactly Bethany, either, you know? I’m not just your brother, any more. I don’t think I ever was. Not just. It was always you, first. Even when Anton got old enough that I should have been looking after him, too — but, you know how Anton’s always been. Might as well politely ask a chicken not to eat the corn. I’m pretty sure I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve denied you anything. I just want you to be happy. Maybe that’s selfish, too. I just remember, even when we were kids, you’d smile — and you’d smile when you force-pushed me down the stairs, you little prick — but, every time you smiled, I really believed everything could be all right, one day. But, here we are, and everything’s just as fucked up as it’s ever been, and you still give me that."
The rambling ceased, and for a moment, Cormac forgot to breathe. "Some people have Andraste. I’ve just got you."
Artemis swallowed, his mouth suddenly dry. He made some stuttery sounds that wanted to be words, only to give up with a self-deprecating laugh. Maker. He knew Cormac loved him, but… that wasn’t love. That was in love, complete with preposition. Those were the words he’d been waiting for his brother to say to Anders.
"Cormac, I…" Artie floundered some more. "I… am shit with words. So I’m just going to…" He gestured vaguely and cleared his throat before reaching for Cormac’s cheek, half standing out of his chair to kiss him, trying to pour all the affection he had into that one kiss. This wasn’t how things were supposed to be, he knew, but he couldn’t bring himself to care.
"Saying it again," Cormac mumbled against his brother’s lips. "I’m not stepping on Fenris’s toes. Your lover. He’ll stand with you. I’ll stand in front of you. You know the difference. I know you do." He kissed back, warm and gentle, some treacherous voice in the back of his head reminding him how Anders’s lips had felt, not even an hour before. "You’re a god to me, Artemis. Always have been. All the faith I have in good and right, you gave me. Anders may be most of my world, right now, but you are still my god, and my profoundest apologies to Dirthamen, but he’s always been my second choice, which may be how I ended up with this on my face."
Artemis pulled away from the kiss to laugh against his brother’s shoulder. "High praise from you, Assface," he teased, cupping Cormac’s cheeks and tracing those ridiculous tattoos with his thumbs. He still couldn’t quite wrap his head around the words themselves, around the depth of Cormac’s affection. He wanted to believe his brother was exaggerating, but knowing Cormac… "You’re not going to tattoo my name somewhere on your body, are you?" He chuckled again, only for his smile to freeze. "No, seriously, you’re not, are you? Because I swear to the Maker, if I see my name on your ass…"
"My ass? What do you take me for? No, no. I was thinking about having it done in Tevinter lettering, on my knob." Cormac burst out laughing, but it was impossible to tell if he was actually joking, or if he was completely serious and just knew how ridiculous it was.