[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 231
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Aveline ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Anton no, stop talking Anton, nobody wanted to know that least of all Aveline
Notes: Aveline’s troubles continue, this time with the Templars.
Anton heard Aveline’s voice before he saw her. Barked words to her guardsmen filled the barracks and echoed up the stairs as he trotted down them.
"Guardsmen," she called out, "duties for the week will be…"
Anton lingered at the landing, leaning against the wall and watching her pace in front of the lines of guards, their backs ramrod straight.
"Lowtown canvas," called out one guard. "Five on, three off."
"City perimeter by twos," said Donnic, the twitch of a smile breaking his stern expression as he caught Aveline’s eye, "clear by second watch."
"Training recruits," said a third guard, "full metal by week’s end."
"Anything else, Captain?" Donnic asked, his smile creeping higher.
"No," Aveline said. "Thank you."
"Well, well, if it isn’t the Champion of Kirkwall." Aveline crossed her arms and glowered. "Have you come to turn yourself in for crimes against this city? That would be heroic."
"If I’d committed any crimes against this city, I might consider it. By and large, though, I empty Orlesian and Tevinter pockets back into the local markets." Anton held out a box. "Speaking of the markets, it came to my attention that these might be your style."
"You can’t buy your way back into my good graces, Anton," Aveline snapped, making no move to take the box.
Anton looked hurt — not even the dramatic face he’d put on for a good show, but actually hurt. "I’m not trying to. What, a man can’t buy a gift for his oldest friend?"
That gave Aveline a moment’s pause. He was right, she realised. They’d known each other longer than either of them had known almost anyone else in the city, with the exception of his siblings. They’d come up the road, together, after Lothering fell, and crossed half of Thedas, in each others’ company. And he was stupid, yes. But, she was no longer sure it had been a particularly malicious stupidity. That was just… Anton. Anton, the revolutionary. Anton, the thief. Anton, the Champion of Kirkwall, which was still just horrendously wrong.
"Fine. It better not be more fake ‘Ser Aveline’ junk," she grumbled, taking the box.
Anton merely gestured at the box, wise enough not to point out that she still used her ‘fake Ser Aveline junk’ on a nearly daily basis. "Just take a look. If you don’t like them, I’m sure I can find another use for them. But they made me think of you, first."
Aveline’s eyes stayed narrowed in suspicion as she opened the box, sighing as though greatly put-upon. She stilled when she saw the contents: a pair of gauntlets. The sunlight from the window gleamed off the polished steel, outlining the graceful bends and curves, highlighting the detailed etching and the embossed design of an iris on the cuff. They were beautiful but well-made, and they matched the damned shield she pretended to hate.
"What is this?" Aveline asked, schooling her face to show no reaction, not yet, not while she was still processing this. She’d seen these gauntlets before, displayed in a shop window, and knew exactly how ridiculously priced they were. She knew because she’d asked the shopkeeper about them with one hand already in her coinpurse.
"A gift," said Anton, trying not to show how anxious he was for a reaction. "I know you are familiar with the concept. Well? Do you hate it? Should I pawn them off to Carver instead and hope he likes irises?"
Aveline struggled with herself. Had he known, somehow, that she wanted them? Did he know her so well he could just tell? Or had he bought them to match the shield? Had he bought them at all? And, really, with Anton, that was always the question. "Did you pay for these?"
"You know I would never bring you anything I didn’t pay for. You’re the Captain of the Guard. How would that look?" Anton folded his arms, looking dreadfully insulted at the very idea. "I have never, and I’m not going to start."
"So, what, you just saw them and thought of me?" Aveline scoffed.
"You were all I could imagine, from the moment I laid eyes on them." It was true, but it conveniently left out the part where Donnic had told him she’d been eyeing them. "Look at them. Strong and beautiful, just like you."
"Knock it off, before I call Donnic back in here to punch you." Aveline set the box on her desk and took out one of the gauntlets, studying it in the light from the window.
"Oh! Not even going to punch me yourself?" Anton pressed the back of his hand to his forehead. "Oh, you wound me more than any fist could!"
"If I punched you, I’d get blood on my new gauntlets," Aveline muttered, a stripe of red settling across the tops of her cheeks. She did still want to punch him, but it was Anton — she’d wanted to punch Anton since they met on the road. Bethany was the only sane member of that family.
Anton grinned at the threats of violence. That, he thought, sounded more like the Aveline he’d known when they’d first come to Kirkwall. "Ah, ‘your’ new gauntlets. Then you like them!"
"I did not say that," Aveline huffed, halfway through putting one on.
"Admit it. You’d hate to see them go to Carver."
"Only because Carver would dent them against Cormac’s shields. Repeatedly." She tried not to smile at the way they fit, flexing her fingers and testing the give of the joints. They still needed to be broken in, of course, but they sat well on her hands.
"And you would much rather dent them on villains’ skulls," Anton said, nodding sagely and pretending not to notice her determinedly not-smiling expression. "That is a much worthier cause, I agree."
"And I know just the villain to start with. How is my favourite villain doing?" Aveline asked, looking pointedly at Anton.
"You mean Varric? He’s great." Anton grinned. "I think he’s got a thing going with a girl who killed a Carta boss or something. She’s been spending a lot of time hanging around his rooms."
Aveline snorted. "Varric. Of course. I couldn’t possibly be talking about the master of underhanded acts currently standing in my office."
"Master? Ooh. I like the sound of that. That’s even better than the Ass Bandit of Kirkwall." Anton batted his eyes and leaned against a bookcase.
"Ass Bandit of—" Aveline turned a horrified look on him.
Anton winked. "It’s what Cullen calls me."
Aveline groaned, covering her face with both gauntleted hands. "Amazing. Now we have the Ass Pirate and the Ass Bandit. It’s a miracle there are any asses left in this city. I should arrest you both for public indecency."
"My name would be in good company! I may be the last of the Hawke brothers not to have been picked up for that!" Anton looked much too amused with himself. "Really, though, Aveline. How are things? I’ve been trying to keep the coast clear for you, because I know how hard it is if you’ve only got two guards and a whole team of smugglers. You don’t need to lose men to things like that."
"No, I don’t," Aveline murmured, looking down at her gauntlets. Her expression softened, not quite in guilt but not quite in gratefulness either, landing instead somewhere between the two. "I imagine the smugglers have come to fear the mighty Ass Bandit, then."
"The Ass Bandit gives them good reason to." Anton smirked. "But I think they’re starting to think twice before messing with your guardsmen, and not because of me. Your guards look like they could give the templars a run for their sovereigns." He tipped his head in the direction of the hall, where he’d found her issuing orders when he came in. "Though don’t tell the husband I said that."
Aveline harrumphed. "Paying me compliments, buying me things… I think the Knight-Captain would come to some conclusions." Her gauntlets clicked as she opened and closed her fists. "As for my guardsmen, they’ve had to be that way. Without a viscount, the Order thinks they can bark at any man in uniform." She clenched her jaw. "I won’t have it. The people of Kirkwall need to see themselves in their guard. Lose that connection, we’re just targets."
Anton nodded. Meredith had been getting out of hand lately, but, "I’ll talk to Cullen about that. You shouldn’t need to put up with it."
"Thank you. I do wonder what he’s been thinking. It’s not the templars’ place to be out on the street like this!" Aveline shook her head. "I don’t want to get between the two of you, but do you know what he’s trying to do?"
"Get home at night." Anton shook his head. "It’s not him. It’s Meredith. She’s been keeping him buried in paperwork. You know she brought him on because he was mercilessly straight and by the book, but she’s stepping out some, and I think she knows he might not be good for it." He paused, straightening up and then leaning against the bookcase again. "I don’t know what we’re going to do if he loses his job. It’s not just his job. It’s the lyrium. And after all the time I spent cracking down on lyrium smuggling… It just feels like a bad joke."
"If he doesn’t die from it, I could always use another guardsman." Aveline wasn’t sure what else to say. "Maybe he can have my job, if he’s so good at paperwork." She gestured irritatedly at her desk.
Anton almost smiled. "Speaking of which, they haven’t taken any shots at you, have they?"
"As much as the templars want my authority, they don’t seem to want my job." Aveline laughed. "Just shows they’re not ready to do what it takes."
"And thank the Maker for that," Anton replied. "Andraste help the templar who tries to cross you."
Aveline met his words with a dangerous smirk. She closed up the box, pulled off her gauntlets and laid them neatly on her desk. "I’m not sure even Andraste could," she said. She regarded the Hawke in front of her, remembering how angry she’d once been with him. "Thank you, Anton. It’s good to see you, surprisingly."
"It’s always good to see me. I’m a good sight."
Aveline knew that was Anton-speak for ‘it’s good to see you too’.