[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 254
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Cullen ♂, Anton Hawke ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Keran ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: Sibling rivalry, angst
Notes: Cullen’s kindness and attention to the law finally comes back to bite him in the ass.
There was a pile of mail accumulating for Anton on the side-table. Bodhan drew his attention to it every time a new letter joined the pile, or at least he had for a while. Now Bodhan merely cleared his throat and sent the pile a meaningful look each afternoon, when Anton came down for breakfast.
"Yes, yes," Anton sighed on this particular afternoon, admitting defeat. He gathered up the pile and brought it with him to sift through over tea.
Junk. Junk. An advertisement for a potion guaranteed to improve his junk. More junk. A letter for Bethany regarding her research that had somehow gotten mixed in with his mail. A message from Orsino.
Anton squinted at the last one and set it aside. That sounded like something mildly important.
Anton was looking over an invitation to a ball later in the week when he heard the front door open. Bodhan’s voice spilled in from the foyer, answered by Carver’s. Anton half stood out of his chair, stretching to peer around the corner, but he could see nothing from this angle.
"Hey, Bodhan!" Anton called out. "What did I say about letting assholes into the house?"
Carver appeared in the doorway shortly after. "Well, I’m assuming you told him to let them in, since you and Cormac are still here."
A second templar appeared in the doorway, and Anton held back his reply. "I’m not an asshole," said Keran.
Anton sobered, sitting back down in his chair. This wasn’t just a social visit if his brother brought Keran.
"And that’s why everyone suspects you’re possessed," Carver shot back, parking his ass on the edge of a credenza and running his hand through his hair.
"No, everyone suspects I’m possessed because this city is a demon-infested pit, and I got kidnapped by blood mages." Keran’s shoulder plate clinked against the wall, as he leaned on it, and he hoped, in the back of his head, that he hadn’t scratched the paint.
"Not being an asshole, in a whole building full of assholes, isn’t really helping your case," Carver pointed out. "Anyway, we have a problem. You have a problem. And if you attempt to make this a larger problem, I will punch you in the face and tie you to that chair."
"I’m not sure threatening your brother is really the way to start this conversation." Keran shifted uncomfortably.
"If I didn’t threaten my brother, he’d think I was a demon." Carver levelled a flat look at Keran, before he went on. "Cullen’s been removed from duty. The Commander says it’s ‘temporary’, pending an investigation of his actions and office."
"So, why isn’t he here, telling me this, himself?" Anton asked, looking between the two templars in the entrance to his study. Something was very wrong, here. More wrong than was immediately obvious from the words.
Carver exchanged a look with Keran, each trying to silently goad the other into telling Anton. In the end, Carver sighed and turned back towards his brother. "Because he can’t," he said.
Calmly, Anton set down his tea. "Can’t. And why can’t he?" His tone was measured, serene in a way that promised trouble.
"Because he is currently locked in the Gallows," Carver told him. "By Meredith’s order."
"She says that’s temporary too," Keran hastened to add, eyeing Anton uncertainly as he pushed back his chair. "We just wanted to… well, to let you know since he can’t himself, and — where are you going?"
Carver blocked the door with his bulk, bulk that was a great deal bulkier with the extra armour weight.
"To visit my husband," Anton answered, standing in front of Carver and folding his arms across his chest. Carver could block the doorway all he wanted, but Anton didn’t need the doorway to get out. "I’m sure even Meredith would understand that." Whether she would let him was another matter.
"Don’t walk in there, Anton. Do not set foot in the building." Carver shook his head, and for a moment, Keran looked confused.
"Why would—" Realisation flashed across Keran’s face. "She wouldn’t, would she?"
"She’s arrested the families of escaped mages — people we don’t properly have the right to arrest," Carver pointed out, staring down his brother. "If she can make a case that you had anything to do with whatever she thinks he’s done, we’ll never see you again. Don’t do it. He needs you out here. He needs all of us out here, if this is going to work out."
"Out here," Anton repeated, still threateningly calm. "And what good, exactly, can we do him from out here when he is in there?"
"I’m working on that," said Carver. Anton looked unimpressed. "Look, there’s not much we can do until we figure out what it is Meredith thinks he’s done. Then it’s simply a matter of convincing her he’s innocent."
"Simple?" Anton finally raised his voice. "This would be simple if we were dealing with someone sane! Meredith sees what she wants to see. You can’t out-logic her delusions!"
Carver still wasn’t moving from the door. Keran looked between them with wide eyes.
"Look." Anton rubbed one eye with the heel of his thumb. "She won’t know I’m there. No one will know who I don’t want to know."
"Then don’t go, right now. Don’t go now, and don’t tell us when you do go." Carver held up his hands. "I don’t want to know you’re in the building."
"You sound like Cormac," Anton pointed out, a little impressed. Carver didn’t have to explain why. There was only one reason for him not to know. If he didn’t know, he couldn’t tell anyone.
"I’d tell you to take that back, but under the circumstances, I almost hope I do. It’s the only thing he’s any good at," Carver groused. "Dad’s precious Maker-damned general… He’d have had better sense to pick one of us."
"You were too young," Anton said, with no malice, finally turning away from the door, to finish arming himself.
Keran watched Carver’s brother make blades appear from places he’d never have expected them, and after a few moments’ consideration vanish either back to where they’d come from or onto his person somewhere. The way those hands moved was a clear reason for Anton to have become Champion, he realised. He’d wondered how this man, for all that the Captain loved him, could have killed a Qunari warrior in a duel, with nothing but daggers, but this completely casual, offhand display was clearing that question up.
"Well, what about you?" Carver insisted, knowing that Anton was right about him. He had been too young, by quite a bit, which would never stop pissing him off, but Anton was five years older. "At least you’re not that. At least you didn’t completely screw up Artemis — or me and Beth. You know it’s probably Cormac’s fault he’s like that. At least you’re not screwing—"
"Shut your damned mouth, Carver." Anton’s voice was low and hard, as he pointed the pommel of a dagger at Carver, and Keran reflexively stepped back. "We’d both know if that were true, and you know exactly why. No one would be able to hide that. Not with the two of them. Dad made them both crazy."
Carver opened his mouth again, but Anton cut him off.
"That’s enough. This isn’t about you or about them. This is about my husband and how very badly I’d like to stab something on his behalf." The look he gave Carver said that Carver could be that something if he wasn’t careful.
Keran looked back and forth between the two of them, hardly daring to breathe and wondering if he should slip away while neither of them was paying attention.
Letting his mouth fall shut, Carver pursed his lips instead. "Fine." He held up his hands, palm out. "I’ve told you all I know. Now Keran and I are going to go back to see what else we can do. Try not to kill anyone important."
"Can’t promise that," Anton said, last dagger slipping into place. "But I can promise to kill them only if they deserve it." Anton smiled sharply, and Keran wondered if someone would end up finding Meredith dead in her sleep.
Cullen woke to slivers of wood bouncing off his cheek. Someone was standing outside the door, he thought. They were starting with him, already. "Shove off, Denis," he guessed, pulling his knees up higher, curling into a smaller ball on the cot.
This time something a little heavier bounced off his forehead, and he squinted angrily at the barred space in the door. There were no lights in the room and whatever light was in the hall was behind whoever that was. He could get up, he supposed. Half a day without lyrium hadn’t done much — that was still fairly normal — but the closer it got to the time he should have been taking the next dose, the more frustrated he got. He wasn’t sure, any more, that he hadn’t missed one. His hands were already shaking, and he wasn’t certain how steady he’d be on his feet, but if getting up was what it would take to make this stop…
He got up, testing his legs, for the first time in a few hours. They still worked about as expected, and he made his way toward the door, keeping himself to an angle that would put better light on the face at window-height. He couldn’t get too close. He wouldn’t put himself where he could be stabbed through that opening. Not yet, anyway — he shoved that thought back. And then the light struck the edge of that face, and he knew it. Anton. That was Anton. He’d been off the lyrium longer than he’d thought.
"Hello, husband-dear." A smile softened the edges of Anton’s face. "Miss me?"
Cullen rubbed his eyes with the heels of his hands, pressing until he saw spots of colour behind his eyelids. "You’re not here," he said. "You can’t be here." His heart was beating rabbit-quick in his chest, and he tried to will it to settle.
"I can be and I am," said Anton. When Cullen pulled his hands away, Anton was still there, just outside the door, half of his smile lit by the hall torchlight. "But as far as anyone else is concerned, no, I am not here. Are you all right?"
The shadows shifted, distorting the light behind them, and a hand reached through the bars for Cullen’s face. Cullen jerked back before it could touch him, all but tripping over his own feet.
"Well, that’s a no." Anton sounded determined to keep this as lighthearted as he could manage. "Just me. I’ll get you out of here."
"You can’t be real. You’re a demon or something worse. This is a trap." Or he was hallucinating, but Cullen was trying very hard not to think of how long he’d have to have been in here, for that to be the case. He couldn’t be missing that much time. "And if you are real, you’re going to get me killed."
"I’d like to think I’m trying very hard not to get you killed. You’re locked in a cell in the exceedingly large and cell-filled basement of the Gallows, and I picked a dreadful number of locks and pockets getting in here. I can’t imagine anything good will follow, if I don’t get you out." It was a reasoned argument, Anton thought.
"If I’m not here, it’s an admission of guilt. And I’m not guilty. And I’m not … wandering out of here with some demonic illusion of my husband." Cullen’s hand swept up dismissively, still staying out of range. He paused. "There’s no time in here. How long has it been?"
"A couple of days," Anton answered. He still had one hand threaded through the bars. "I would have been here sooner if not for the stick up my brother’s ass. Carver’s ass, I suppose I should specify. I’d rather not think about what’s up my other brothers’ asses."
And that sounded like Anton. Cullen wanted to believe it was him.
"Still not a demon," said Anton, "but it’s sweet that you think so even after all this time. Just like the day we met. It’s almost romantic."
Cullen’s laugh came out thin. "Yes. Dungeons, torchlight, it’s all extremely romantic," he drawled. "You’re a very good imposter, demon. But I am not going anywhere."
Anton sighed, his forehead coming to rest against the bars. "Are you sure? Who cares what Meredith thinks? We could stow away on a boat and run off to Antiva."
An absurd but tempting thought which, Cullen supposed, was rather the point. But running away wouldn’t stop the shaking in his fingers or the ache in his bones.
"Let me get you out of here. Run away with me. I’m very good at running away. We can throw ourselves on the mercy of some pirates and take to the seas. I doubt she’ll even demand payment in the form of your exquisite body. Well, I’m sure she won’t, when she can have mine, instead. You’re gorgeous, but I’m still a Hawke."
If that was a demon, that was a very good impression, which, he supposed, was the point. He thought of Anders, for a moment, and almost agreed — he wasn’t sure he could do the things Anders had done. But, that was probably a demon. This was probably a trap. And most of all, even if it wasn’t, there would be no more lyrium out there than there was in this cell, and he’d be just as dead, in the end. At least if he stayed, there was a chance this would be cleared up in a few more days, and he’d get his ration back. Assuming they didn’t … he’d heard stories about some unlikely confessions. Still, there was no chance at all, if he ran.
"Go home, Anton." Cullen sank to his knees and kept going, hands pressed between his knees and forehead for a long moment. "It’ll be okay. I haven’t done anything wrong." But, he wanted to go. He wanted so much to go home with Anton, to leave all of this behind. None of this was the way it was supposed to have been, and now he was trapped — even more literally than he had been. "I can’t leave, Anton. I can’t."