[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 238
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Varric ♂, Anders ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Meredith ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S2 V0 D1)
Warnings: Groping, horseradish jokes, Tuesday in Kirkwall
Notes: Kirkwall: a love affair with crisis. Anton is on the job, whether he wants to be or not.
Anders sat on the edge of the table, a tankard of beer in his hand, despite Justice’s protests, as he regaled Varric with stories of his time in Amaranthine — when Justice had still been someone else. In fact, he thought he might tell the story of how he met Justice, originally. "If you think that was bad, I should tell you about the Blackmarsh!"
Varric chuckled and reached for the bowl of garlic-dusted bread ends. "See, when you say things like that, Blondie, it just makes me glad I didn’t know you sooner." He took a bite and washed it down with beer. "Who goes to a place called Blackmarsh on purpose? Now, if they called it Beermarsh… No, still doesn’t work."
"You’ve got a point." Anders nodded, contemplatively, sipping his beer. "The marsh part does cancel out anything else. Flowermarsh? Kittenmarsh? Nope. No good."
Varric was still cackling as Anton appeared at his shoulder.
"Ah, you’ve got company," Anders told Varric, toasting Anton with his tankard as he pushed off the table. He considered getting a refill, but Justice started grumbling again. Maybe not, then. "I’ll see you later."
"Kittenmarsh?" Anton asked. "Is that Anders’s new name for the basement? The kitten part I understand…"
"Hey, I don’t ask questions, Stabby," Varric said with an exaggerated shrug. "So. What can I do for you?"
Anton perched on the edge of the table where Anders had just been. "What was Anders doing here?"
Varric shrugged. "Only place in Kirkwall he can get a decent drink. Blondie comes by here, and I put him on my tab. He’s got some stories about his days in Ferelden that sound implausible even to me."
"Oh, I bet Justice is thrilled with that arrangement," Anton said, eyebrows arcing up.
"Justice can stuff it," Varric muttered, over the top of his pint. "The fact that Anders doesn’t start glowing blue when he says some things about that guy suggests they’re true things, and if those things are true, he’s cordially invited to stuff it. I’m surprised Anders doesn’t drink more, just from putting up with that shit. Still, he’s not bad for a mage. Crazy, but that’s most everyone in this city."
"Not bad for a mage," Anton scoffed. "You don’t live with him. And if you’re putting people on your tab, I could go for a pint."
"I should make you buy the drinks, O Champion of Kirkwall!" Varric laughed and Anton did too, after a moment.
"Yeah, you should." Anton leaned back out the door and tossed a coin to a kid who was running down the hall. "Run down and grab us a pitcher. Keep the change."
With a whoop, the kid grinned and made for the stairs.
"Bouncy little fucker, isn’t she?" Anton shook his head and turned back to Varric. "So, what’s the word in Lowtown?"
Varric gave another shrug and lounged back, taking a swig before resting his tankard on the arm of his chair. "Nothing you don’t know already," he said. "The viscount’s departure. A vacuum of power. Trouble’s brewing. And you know trouble."
Varric sighed into his drink. "Get rid of one threat and another appears. I’m starting to think this city is in love with crisis. Hope you’re ready for it, Stabby. I’m keeping Bianca close."
"You always keep Bianca close," Anton said, though the grin didn’t quite reach his eyes. All he could think of was the Arishok, the mess the city had only just recovered from.
"A lot closer than I keep your brother, whatever he might think." Varric laughed and picked up another bread end. "You know he was in here, the other week, trying to get me to pick the locks on a chastity belt for him? A chastity belt. On Shouty. You’d think it would do more good on Nervy."
"You… didn’t, did you?" Anton inquired, as the kid returned with their beer. He took it and slipped her another copper piece, this time pretending to pull it out of her ear.
"What? No. I’m not getting that close to your brother’s junk, unless it’s an actual emergency." Varric shook his head and took a bite of the bread. "There are secrets in this town I do not need to know, few though they may be."
"Good, good," Anton replied, absently, pouring more beer into the tankard Anders had left behind.
"You know something about how he ended up in that thing? He seemed pretty upset about it." Something about Anton’s reaction wasn’t right, and Varric couldn’t quite place what was going on.
"He should be upset. Maybe he’ll think twice about not using a gag. You’ve heard him." Anton tipped his head back, swallowing about half of what he’d put in the tankard, as he went. "I don’t want to hear him. I’m married, my husband is sleeping on his desk, and I have to listen to my brother scream for more and harder all night, almost every night. I don’t even want to know why he can still walk in the morning."
"Because it’s the healer making him scream," Varric reminded him. "Things okay with you and Curly?"
"When I see him? Things are fantastic." The smirk Anton gave Varric over his beer told him just how fantastic. "I’m more concerned about him and Meredith, at this rate."
"I think everyone’s concerned about Meredith," Varric grumbled. "Just hearing her name gives me heartburn."
"In fairness, that might just be the beer," Anton said. "But like you said: trouble. Brewing. I just wish it would brew somewhere else, so that I could actually see my husband. I’m starting to forget what he looks like."
"Just remember, he’s the templar with the noodle hair. Hard to miss."
Noodles. Varric had said it, and now Anton couldn’t stop thinking it. Less that his husband’s hair might or might not look startlingly noodly and more that he actually wanted noodles for lunch. Breakfast, technically, but the respectable parts of Kirkwall were eating lunch by now. He stopped in the market to grab a bowl of those barley noodles with the hazelnut-hot pepper sauce — two bowls, on second thought — and headed down to see Cullen. He’d have to come through the front door, carrying as he was, which was a bit saddening, but he was sure it would be good for a few bawdy comments from the templars, which would no doubt make it back to Carver. And Carver, being Carver, would proceed to punch Cormac for it, which, Anton had no doubt, Cormac had coming, if not for these reasons.
Cullen’s door was, as usual, open, which lasted about at long as it took Anton to assess the room and kick the door shut behind him. "Keran gone to lunch, then? Good thing I brought yours."
Cullen peered up from his desk, the lines on his forehead and the corners of his eyes smoothing over at the sight of his husband. "Oh, you’re a much better sight than paperwork," he said, sitting up to stretch his back, cringing at the pull of sore muscles. "You too, Anton," he teased, stretching out a hand for one of the bowls.
Anton pulled the bowl back, just out of reach. "Should I leave you and the noodles alone for a bit then?"
"I would much rather you join us," Cullen said, smiling warmly, if tiredly. "Come here." He stood out of his chair to plant a kiss on Anton’s lips.
"Mm, hungry for my noodle too?"
"You are incorrigible," Cullen laughed, nibbling at Anton’s lip, "and insatiable."
"You wouldn’t have me any other way." Anton leaned to the side to set one of the bowls on Cullen’s desk. "Although, perhaps we should eat, before we get too far, or we’ll end up canoodling in the noodles, and that would be a terrible stain to get out."
Cullen rubbed his cheek against Anton’s, before he let go and sank back into his chair like a sack of wet flour. "Noodle puns? Noodle puns." He picked up the bowl and fished in his desk drawer for a fork that he knew he’d put there, after the last time he’d gotten himself into a position where he was eating millet salad by drinking it from the bowl. "You’re lucky I like you," he said, pointing the fork at Anton, who had managed to get a mouthful of noodles using only his knife. Show-off.
"I hope you like me! You did marry me!" Anton looked down into the bowl. "Kind of mild, today. Still good."
"Don’t worry. I’m sure your noodle is spicy enough on its own."
"It is," Anton agreed, expertly twirling the noodles around his knife. "But then it’s more horseradish than noodle, isn’t it?"
Cullen snorted a laugh, and already his cheeks hurt from smiling so much. Maker, he loved this man. "I suppose you want me to say that it’s delicious either way?"
"It would be the honest thing, yes," Anton said gravely. He perched on Cullen’s desk just to the side of him, careful not to sit on whatever document Cullen had just written on but close enough that their legs brushed.
"I do like spicy Fereldan horseradish," Cullen admitted. "And yours is delightful." He tipped his head from side to side, as if considering the issue in depth. "But, as far as ‘delicious’, better with a splash of hibiscus syrup."
"Git." Anton shoved the side of Cullen’s chair with his foot. "And now I’m just curious about the combination of hibiscus syrup and actual horseradish. I wonder if I could make a sauce out of that…"
"As long as you don’t get your horseradish sauce on my lunch, we’ll be fine." Cullen raised an eyebrow, pointedly.
"Horseradish sauce is definitely a dessert food." Anton nodded, sagely, and wiped the bottom of his boot against the top of his other boot, before resting his foot in Cullen’s lap.
A chuckle rumbled in Cullen’s throat, and he let Anton have the last word just so he’d have a chance to eat his noodles. Half because he was hungry and they tasted good, and half because he was looking forward to ‘dessert’. Even with Keran, he’d been swamped, and he was starting to forget what the world was like outside his office.
Anton’s boot shifted, and Cullen nearly choked on the noodles in his mouth. Anton faked innocence and watched Cullen over his bowl. "If I choke on my lunch, I won’t be able to have dessert," Cullen reminded him.
Anton smirked as he scraped up the last bits of noodle, pushing them to the edge of the bowl with his knife before slurping them up. "It’s not my fault you eat too slowly."
"I like to savour my food," Cullen muttered with his mouth full, "even more now that it’s the only sign of life outside this room that I have."
"Oooh, Captain, does that mean you’ll be savouring dessert as well?" Anton purred, licking off his knife, as he set down the empty bowl. The knife vanished into his belt, somewhere, as he stood up and swung himself around the back of Cullen’s chair, sliding his hands down Cullen’s chest. "Should I have brought you something sweet to go with all the horseradish sauce?"
"I love your saucy horseradish, even when it’s not sweet. Even when you’re not sweet. I don’t think I’ve ever heard you not saucy, though." Cullen finished the last of his noodles and put the bowl aside, even as he chewed. Swallowing, he reached up and turned his head, pulling Anton into exactly the sort of kiss that shouldn’t have been happening in his office. Of course, given all the other things that had happened in his office, a kiss, no matter how delightfully complicated, would hardly rank.
They ended up a tangle of limbs in Cullen’s chair, the armrests digging into Anton’s thighs, someone’s shoulder knocking against someone’s elbow. All these years, Cullen wondered why he hadn’t replaced the damn chair with a more spacious one. Or perhaps not a chair at all. Cullen wondered what Meredith would say if he replaced his desk chair with a loveseat.
Cullen was too focused on Anton’s sighs and pleased hums to notice the tell-tale sound of platemail coming down the hall until it stopped just inside his door. Before he looked up, Cullen hoped that Keran was under that platemail. Or Carver.
Meredith cleared her throat. "Hard at work, I see, Captain," she said. Her scowl twisted when the double meaning in her words hit her, and it was the closest thing to embarrassment Cullen had ever seen from her. From what he could see over Anton’s shoulder.
The next sigh in Cullen’s ear was less pleased and soon followed by a muttered curse.
"We were just having a bit of lunch," Anton insisted, looking over his shoulder with a smile, as he gestured to the two bowls on the desk. "This office really needs another chair. The seating arrangements are a little tight."
Meredith’s lips tightened as she dodged that pun, as well. "It’s just as well you’re here, Serah Hawke. There has been an incident in the Gallows. A number of phylacteries were destroyed, and several mages took the opportunity to escape. Though we’ve recovered most of the fugitives, I require your assistance in tracking down the last three. Perhaps it will keep you from distracting the Captain, while he is at work."
"If he were ever home, I wouldn’t have to resort to distracting him at work," Anton laughed. "And certainly he’d be much less distracted by a bowl of cheap noodles from the Lowtown market."
"If you wanted a husband who came home at night, you wouldn’t have married a templar," Meredith pointed out.
"Don’t argue, please," Cullen whispered in Anton’s ear. Nettling Meredith tended to just make things worse.
Reluctantly, Anton turned so that he was sitting with his back to Cullen’s chest. "All right. How did the phylacteries get destroyed, anyway?"
"An insurrection," Meredith said, her eyes cold. "Several of my own templars orchestrated the escape, presumably out of sympathy for the mages." Her lip curled as Anton kept his expression neutral. He wondered if Anders had anything to do with this. "They turned their backs on their duty and endangered their charges, as well as the city. Thankfully most who escaped fled to their families and offered no resistance. The last three are proving more… difficult."
Anton sat up, looking around the room exaggeratedly. "And, what? All the templars magically disappeared? Is that why you need my help?"
Meredith gave him a flat look. Or, rather, gave it to Cullen, who smiled weakly over Anton’s shoulder. "The apostates," she said, "are being sheltered by their families. Some have been reluctant to talk to templars, but you are another matter." Her smile was anything but friendly. "These families can better relate to you, I’m sure."
"Ah, because I’m such a people-person." Anton nodded. "It’s good to know you’ve finally noticed my charms. I was getting concerned I’d lost my touch!"
Cullen looked utterly appalled, and Meredith raised an eyebrow at him, as if to say, ‘Well, you married the man.‘
"The people of Kirkwall trust you, Champion. They are more likely to be honest with you, than with us." Meredith couldn’t bring herself to acknowledge that Anton had spoken.
"Ah, so you expect me to exploit their trust in me, to further your agenda! How cunning." Anton did not sound amused, in the least.
"Is it so different to what you already do for money? At least you can use your talents for the greater good!" Meredith shot back.
Anton bit his tongue. He was not to tell the Knight-Commander that she wouldn’t know the greater good if it sank its pointy teeth into her desk-sitting ass. "I can use my talents to betray the people who make it possible for me to run a business in this town. That doesn’t really sound all that profitable, in the long run."
"I can make it worth your while, in coin. I can also avoid doing away with your apostate brother." Meredith smiled bitterly.
Cullen froze, hands clenching around Anton’s hips, and Anton’s eyebrow arced up.
"Well played, Commander." Anton’s smile was sharp and his eyes carefully blank. "I’ll see what I can do."
"As Champion of Kirkwall, you have shown once again that you are on the side of justice." Meredith couldn’t resist a final taunt.
"Justice. Yes. You have no idea how very much I am for Justice." Anton’s smile remained unmoved.
"Good. Then you will find these mages before they do harm," Meredith said, chin tilting up. She leaned over Cullen’s desk so that she was eye to eye with Anton, and Anton would almost believe the look of sympathy she gave him if he didn’t know her. "I know you, of all people, understand the danger such apostates pose."
Wood creaked as Anton clutched the arm of the chair. Cullen clutched his arm in reply, steadying him.
Meredith straightened, half-turning towards the door. "Speak to my assistant, Elsa. She can tell you whatever you need to know about the fugitives. I’m sure Cullen can point you in her direction."
Cullen cleared his throat. "That’s — yes. Yes, I will, Knight-Commander."
Meredith nodded. "I bid you good day, Champion. Knight-Captain, I expect those reports on my desk within the hour."
She took her leave. Cullen rested his forehead against Anton’s shoulder and groaned. "Dammit," he sighed. "Sorry, love. How about we pick this up later, him? I’ll even supply the noodles, if you like."
"Mmm, as long as you supply your noodle, I’m interested." Anton kissed his husband’s forehead as he got up. "Do you think you’ll make it home, tonight? I don’t have any Orlesians to relieve of their extra travelling weight, this evening."
"Maker willing, I’ll be there. I’d say don’t wait up, but I know when you sleep." Cullen reached out to rub Anton’s divinely-crafted bottom, before he realised what he was doing and picked up his quill, again. "I expect it will be on me to sort out these … ‘discipline problems’. I hope, for all of our sakes, that your brother wasn’t involved."
"Whether he was or not, someone’s going to point that way. Carver has a talent for pissing people off, and those people are probably going to grab onto this opportunity." Anton shrugged. "If you need me to extract him, just let me know."
"I suspect I can work it out, but thank you." Groaning, Cullen looked down at the papers in front of him. "Now, please get out of my office, before you distract me even further."
"Oh, we wouldn’t want that." Anton let himself out, swishing his hips just so, as he walked. He fancied he could feel Cullen’s eyes on him right until he pulled the door shut.