[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 252
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Keran ♂, Ella♀, Cullen ♂, Aveline ♀, Anton Hawke ♂, Donnic ♂
Rating: M (L2 N2 S3 V2 D0)
Warnings: Non-explicit het, canon-typical violence
Notes: Shenanigans on the Knight-Captain’s desk. Aveline discovers she has a problem, but Anton’s willing to help fix it.
Keran did not hear the door open. He missed the clatter of platemail in the hall, the sound of voices approaching the door, everything until his reverie was interrupted by one voice in particular.
"Ser Keran!" Cullen barked. "What are you doing on my desk?"
Ella shrieked and sat forward, hands clutching at the back of Keran’s neck, as she wrapped her legs around his chest. Neither of them was quite undressed, but they were definitely unclothed enough.
Keran blushed, but recovered quickly. "Exactly what it looks like, Captain! Once we got all the paperwork taken care of, we decided to make sure the desk would hold up to the uses you and the Champion were going to put it to."
Cullen fought to keep his expression stormy as he looked everywhere around the room that wasn’t the partly clothed pair. "I can assure you the desk is solid enough without you… testing it."
"Yes, it seems to be well-constructed, Captain," Keran replied, nodding. He was still disentangling himself from Ella, trying to right his clothes as he moved. She smoothed out her robe, head ducked as she slipped off the desk to stand next to and just behind Keran.
Cullen took a long, deep breath before continuing. "Ser Keran, she is a mage. Surely you must know that is grossly —! Hold on. Did you say finished the paperwork?"
"Well…" Keran gestured at the desk. The desk which was, for once, clear enough for two people to engage in… activities on.
"How?" Cullen looked poleaxed at the very idea.
"Well, Captain, that’s what I went to see Ella about, actually. She’s, um, done some very interesting work with patterns and paper density, and we — she’s made a spell that can find particular patterns. You just need to have a list. We’ve been going through the reports at night and tracing out some of the words that mean the report’s got nothing in it. Or the ones that mean you should look at it much more closely. And… well… After a couple of weeks of testing, it works. We found all the ‘nothing to report’ reports, first, and put them away, and then went through everything else. And once we got it down to a few different types of report, it was pretty easy to just read the rest and summarise."
Ella pointed to the last remaining pile of paper. "Everything else is put away, but the summaries say where it went, if you need to find the originals."
"You did this with magic? This can be done with magic? Why is every circle in Thedas not doing this?" Cullen wobbled and grabbed onto the edge of the door for support. "You need a raise," he said, pointing at Keran. "And you…" he paused, looking at Ella. "There’s really nothing I can do for you, is there?" And that was wrong, he knew. There had always been something, back in Ferelden, but things were different here. Mages were permitted so much less that there was nearly no reward that could be granted even for the greatest of doings, of which Cullen was certain the handling of his desk had been.
Ella smiled shyly — and sadly — down at her hands. "There’s no need for that, Captain," she said. Cullen wondered if she believed that or was just resigned to it. "I’m just glad I was able to use my magic for something useful."
And the way she said that pulled at Cullen’s heart. This was a girl who had been taught to be afraid of and disgusted by her magic, a girl Meredith didn’t know but thought of as a weapon. Cullen thought of Anders and the spectacle at his wedding, thought of Artemis and his ‘mage-waxed’ floors. There was something beautiful in these simple, mundane uses of magic, and after Uldred, after all those years of waking in a cold sweat from dreams of death and demons, Cullen was finally starting to understand that.
He’d been no better than Meredith once, and that realisation sobered him.
"Thank you, Ella," Cullen said. His mind raced with new possibilities, and he wondered how Meredith would take him asking for a mage assistant — probably not well, unfortunately. "As grateful as I am, however, I still need to have a word with Ser Keran regarding a templar’s proper conduct with his mage charges. Not about working with them — that was brilliant — but about the…" He gestured expansively. "…the desk activities."
"It’s less about the mage and more about the woman," Keran insisted. "And if it’s about the desk, this entire floor knows what you’ve used that desk for, Captain." He tugged at his ear and his eyes drifted down to Cullen’s shoulder. "You, ah… you get a little… right before… Everyone knows."
Cullen was going to kill Anton. That was all. That was it. He loved his husband, but this was ridiculous. He wondered how a murder-suicide would play out in the Gazette.
"Keran! It’s not about the desk!" Ella hissed, clutching at his arm. "Don’t upset him!"
Cullen was much less ‘upset’ than ‘mortified’, really, and his cheeks spoke for him on that subject, nearly glowing with how fast they flushed. "As a married man, it falls to me to use my desk however my husband sees fit, when it’s not covered in paper, and thank you for solving that problem," he gritted out. "But, the two of you… What if she’s possessed by a demon, in the future? Will you be able to handle that?"
Keran laughed and eyed Cullen oddly. "Look at me, Captain. If she’s possessed by a demon? You know as well as I do it’s not just the mages you have to worry about, around here."
The man had a point, albeit one Cullen would rather not talk about in front of a mage. A Circle mage. "That doesn’t make it any less of a concern, Keran," he said. He remembered his days in Kinloch Hold, remembered how his hands had shook on the day of Solona’s Harrowing. "But… it’s not just you I’m concerned about, you know."
Ella still clutched at Keran’s sleeve, her gaze cutting down and to the side. "Ser Keran is a good man, Captain," she said after a pause.
"I’m glad we agree on that," said Cullen, and Keran all but preened. "But, in the future? Find another desk, if you please."
Cullen managed to get about half his platemail off before collapsing onto the bed, with a jingle of plates and buckles. By the time Anton followed him in, with a pitcher of beer and two glasses, he’d gotten out of most of the rest of it, and was sprawled flat, starting at the ceiling.
"There’s no paper on my desk. This is the sixth day. It’s faintly terrifying, really." Cullen giggled, in idiotic relief.
Anton put down the drinks and joined him, crawling up across the bed, over Cullen’s body, nipping at bare skin. "It’s a good thing, you know. I was starting to forget what my husband looked like. Wondering if my friends were just humouring me in my delusions of matrimony."
"Well, you are pretty delusional about your expectations of it," Cullen joked, stroking and squeezing any part of Anton he could get his hands on. "Exciting sex five nights a week? I think my ass might fall off from exertion."
"It’s just because you’re out of practise. Need to get you back into the habit." Anton grinned.
"Speaking of getting back into the habit… are you still in the habit of talking to Aveline? Something’s come up." Cullen groaned and rubbed his eye with the palm of his hand. "Accusations of corruption. I’m sure they’re not true, but that needs to be proven, or Meredith’s going to make me Guard Captain, on top of everything else. And I rather like Aveline. And I rather like not being Guard Captain."
"And I rather like having you here," Anton sighed. Corrupt? Aveline? Please. "In my bed, instead of behind a desk. Although, on a desk is rather tempting as well, yours or Aveline’s." He broke off his grumblings to reintroduce his lips to Cullen’s bare chest.
"Bed is better," Cullen insisted, one hand sliding up the planes of his husband’s back. "I’ve seen enough of my office. Or any office. So would you mind speaking with her about this? As the Champion and all, your word holds a decent amount of weight. It might save her career and my sanity."
Anton hummed distractedly against Cullen’s skin, feeling Cullen’s breath quicken in the rise and fall of his chest. "Of course, Captain," he purred. "Whatever you wish, Captain. Is there anything else I can do for you, Captain?" He smiled ever so sweetly up at his husband.
Anton didn’t know the templar speaking to Aveline, but he looked somewhat familiar — of course, half the templars in Kirkwall looked familiar, by now. He lurked in the doorway for a moment, just to get a feel for the situation.
"You have no viscount. It is clear you are suffering without … sufficient leadership."
Whoever the guy was, Anton wanted to punch him in the teeth. No sneaky backstabbing, just a good, solid, well-deserved fist in the mouth.
"That doesn’t grant default authority to you or your commander," Aveline pointed out.
The templar put on his best pitying look. "It would be easier if you cooperated."
"Wouldn’t it?" Aveline crossed her arms, gaze unwavering.
After a moment of staring, the templar nodded. "Guard Captain." He saw himself out, with a lingering backward glance.
Aveline watched him go, her jaw clenched. Her body was a rigid line as she fought not to bristle.
"Trouble?" Anton asked as he sidled into her office, and her glare shifted to him.
"Yes!" she exclaimed, unfolding her arms to throw her hands up in the air. "He’s been hounding me. These templars strut around as it is, but now it’s just…" Aveline was all but spitting in anger. "…out of hand!" She jabbed a finger in Anton’s direction. "And you can tell your husband I said so. I’ve had enough of this!"
"Honestly. I’m starting to feel like a messenger between you two," Anton said, putting a hand on his chest as though struck. "Is that all I am to you two?"
"Messenger?" Aveline’s eyes narrowed. "Why? What does Cullen have to say about this?"
"He says… well, he says he’s heard some troubling things."
"Such as?" Aveline growled. Gauntleted hands clenched into fists.
"That you coddle your men. Give special treatment. Lies, of course."
"Someone… has dared?" Aveline’s voice could strip paint, and Anton caught himself surreptitiously checking the walls, as she went on. "Who? Who accuses me of this?
"No names given, of course." Anton shrugged. "I don’t think Cullen even knows. Someone else handled it, and it went straight up to Meredith. She’s just looking for an excuse, these days."
"No wonder the lieutenant was harassing me. Bastards." Aveline looked more hurt than angry, for a long moment. Just tired, really. And then her face set again. "If they think I’m coddling someone, it’ll be Donnic. You and I will intercept his patrol, tonight. Then you can see for yourself if I’m coddling him, or any in my command."
"Well, I could do with a breath of fresh air. Bedroom’s a little stuffy, after last night, even with the windows open." Anton grinned.
"Anton!" Aveline huffed. "Well, good, anyway, because there’s no way I’m letting this go. Cullen wants to know if these things are true? You’ll be able to tell him."
"Actually, I thought I might show him. A templar witness to events. Much less likely to be disputed, if we come up with a result Meredith disapproves of."
"Bring whoever you like. The outcome will be the same." Aveline’s gaze remained firm. "Donnic’s patrol, Anton. You and me. Tonight."
When Anton appeared in the Gallows, Cullen was surprised and a little put out to find that Anton had stopped by to borrow Keran. "Wouldn’t you rather borrow me?" he asked with a meaningful look.
"Borrow you? Never. I’d steal you, whisk you away into the night." Anton leaned over Cullen’s desk to give his husband a kiss. "But right now, I’m looking into that thing you asked about. Stealing you would be more fun but counterproductive. Ser Keran, however, is also perfectly reputable but much less distracting."
"Thank… you?" said Keran, unsure if he should be honoured or insulted by that.
When Anton led him into the Docks, at night, Keran wondered if Cullen was still upset at him about the desk and if this was some absurd sort of punishment. He kept one hand on his sword.
Anton had already talked Aveline into going back to her office — it wasn’t like sending her home would do any good with Donnic out here — with reminders that everything would look questionable, if she was there for it. He had no doubt it was all lies, and Donnic would laugh at the very idea, but still. They had to do this in a way that left no question about Aveline’s competence. Eventually, she’d given in. Eventually.
They found Donnic and his partner swarmed by one of the dock gangs, around the next bend, the sound of metal ringing back out of the alley. "Help out the guardsman, or do you want to watch a bit, first?" Anton asked Keran. "He’s walking out of this, either way. I’ve seen Donnic in action before. Might just take less time, if we help him out."
"I don’t see any reason not to help." Keran shrugged and drew his sword, the sound drawing the attention of some of the goons at the edge of the fight. As they moved toward him, he realised he had no idea where Anton had gone — at least not until two bodies suddenly dropped, in a flicker of shadow. They made quick work of the gang, and Anton reappeared, looking almost as put together as he’d been before, aside from the bloodstain on his sleeve that he was tutting about.
"Serah Hawke!" called out Donnic, wiping sweat and blood — someone else’s — from his cheek. "Or is it always ‘Champion’ now? You’re too much of a chameleon, my friend."
"On the contrary," replied Anton, clapping Donnic on the shoulder, "I work hard to be just the right amount of chameleon." He shook his head, looking about at the corpses around their feet. "I didn’t expect to find you so… deep in bandits."
"A good day, to be sure," Donnic agreed. He stretched as he spoke. "I’ll be sore tomorrow, but it was my choice." His friendly smile turned wary as he noticed Ser Keran lurking at Anton’s shoulder. "So… what’s going on?"
Anton cleared his throat. "The Knight-Captain has been hearing troubling things about Aveline. None of which I believe — don’t give me that look — but Ser Keran and I are here to look into things so we can prove that it’s bullshit. Which I’m assuming it is."
Keran waved at Donnic awkwardly. "So… can you tell us how you ended up on this patrol? You said it was ‘your choice’?"
Donnic clasped his hands behind his back. "Every guard chooses the patrol they want. My wife promotes from the bold, not the reckless. Action is up, casualties are down. It is… remarkable. She is remarkable."
"She’s also your wife," Keran pointed out, thinking of how he might describe his wife, if he had one.
"Ask any of the guard." Donnic shook his head. "They’ll all tell you the same thing, except the ones who are only guardsmen because they couldn’t make the cut to be soldiers. Still shaking off the last few of those, from before."
"Well, it’s late tonight. We can talk to Cullen in the morning — mostly because I’m not getting him up in the middle of the night, for this — and see if he wants us to keep going." Anton shrugged and held his hand out to Donnic, still talking to Keran. "You know he’s actually sleeping in bed, now? Coming home? It’s amazing. Whatever you did — and I’m sure it was you — thank you. Keep doing it."
Keran laughed, and Donnic shook Anton’s hand. "Good day to you, Serah Hawke. Safe travels!"
"Take care, Donnic! Don’t get knifed!" Anton called after him, crouching to get a better look at the bodies. "This isn’t some dock gang," he said after rifling some pockets. "These folks were Coterie, which means they’ve got something coming in. Hm. That sounds like fun."
Keran shook his head. "There is something wrong with you. The Captain’s right. ‘Oh, the Coterie’s trying to kill the guard because they’re smuggling something big! That sounds like fun!’ That sounds like a great way to get killed, if you ask me."
"You’re young and running around in platemail. It would be a great way to get you killed." Anton laughed. "Things are a little different for me. Come on, I’ll buy you a pint on the way back down."