[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 255
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Isabela ♀, Aveline ♀, Cormac Hawke ♂, Artemis Hawke ♂, Carver Hawke ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S2 V1 D0)
Warnings: Facepunching between friends, brotherly facepunching, hot Hawke-on-Hawke action
Notes: Anton visits Aveline and eats a knuckle sandwich. Carver bursts in on something and receives the same reward.
Cullen’s voice haunted Anton long after, the way it shook. It made the laughter filtering from Aveline’s office all the more incongruous.
"And then he says…" Was that Izzy? "…he says, ‘I swear I had two when I came in here.’ You know those stains never come out!"
Anton slumped against the doorway and watched the pair of cackling women and the bottle they passed back and forth over Aveline’s desk, paperwork forgotten.
"You are horrible," Aveline choked out mid-laugh. "Every inch."
"You love it, big girl," Isabela said, grinning and pointing at Aveline’s face. "And you owe me for the bottle." She jumped off the edge of Aveline’s desk and finally spotted their visitor. "Anton! What a lovely surprise. Come to escort me back to the Hanged Man? Perhaps to my rooms?"
"I’m sure you can find your rooms on your own this time," Anton replied, forcing a smile. He tipped his chin at Aveline’s desk. "Anything left in that bottle?"
"And what makes you think I’d share it with you?" Aveline shot back, holding the bottle close to her chest. After a moment she tipped her head to look around Anton — Isabela was long gone, already. "You know, she’s not so bad. Except when she is."
"I’m about to be even worse. And a lot more drunk, if I can help it." Anton leaned back against the corner of a bookcase. "So, I thought we solved your problem. Cullen signed off on you and the prisoners were made to pay a fine that helped to move a Fereldan farm family onto an actual farm, a little ways out of town."
"Irony at its finest. I thought that was an excellent choice. We can’t afford to lock people up forever, but we can definitely make it less profitable for them to keep inciting stupid, half-assed rebellions." Aveline held out the bottle. "That’s worth a drink. You’re right."
Anton accepted the bottle and took a long swig, before he spoke again. "I was wrong. Meredith’s arrested Cullen for some sort of malfeasance. He’s being held with no lights and no lyrium, and he… he won’t come home."
Aveline squinted at Anton as he fiddled with the bottle. "‘Won’t’? Because, what, your plan was to break him out?" Anton’s unapologetic shrug was all the answer she needed. Aveline rolled her eyes and pressed her fingers to the headache she knew she would have by the end of this conversation. "That wouldn’t help, Anton. Especially if his lyrium is cut off."
"You sound like him." Anton let his head thunk back against the shelves behind him. He took another long drink, and it almost eased some of the tension knotting his stomach. "I just don’t like doing nothing."
The look Aveline gave him was almost sympathetic as she took the bottle back. "You’re not doing nothing," she said. "You’re trusting him. And you’re drinking." A quick swig and she handed the bottle back. "So," she said, pausing to wipe her lip, "did you know I’ve been dead for seven years?"
"What?" Anton chuffed. He eyed her up and down. "You look good for a dead person. Is this something I should ask Bethany about?"
Aveline barked a laugh. "Maker, no. They only just sorted the casualties of Ostagar. I got word last week. The queen has offered to reinstate the commission of any surviving officers who will return to Ferelden."
"… And?" Anton asked, eyebrows arcing up.
"And what?" Aveline seemed unmoved by the question.
"I thought you swore your service to the old king. You know, the dead one." Anton squinted and took another drink, before Aveline plucked the bottle out of his hands again. "Does this offer even matter?"
"Queen Anora has apparently become something of a sensation. Not the ruler Ferelden expected, but the one it needed. She’s quite commanding, as I understand it." Aveline took a sip and leaned back against the desk. "Regardless of who has the throne, I served Ferelden. The country survives, even if King Cailan didn’t."
"So, what are you going to do?" Anton asked, considering the bottle, but sure that she was expecting him to go for it.
"It’s been a strange time, here in Kirkwall. Did Carver ever tell you about that last night at Ostagar? How it happened?" Aveline asked, looking a little distant and not waiting for an answer. "I don’t mean the betrayal — everyone knows the signal went up and the flanking charge never came. But, that moment when the tower lit and then… the fight just kept going. It was the oddest feeling. Hope answered with … nothing." She paused, the distress of that moment stilling her tongue for a time. "I don’t like the thought of going out with a whimper, Anton." A small smile pulled at her lips. "Not again."
Anton slumped dramatically against the bookcase. "Shock of shocks," he said. "You’re staying." The humour didn’t quite hide the relief in his voice. As rocky as things had been with them these past few years, Anton knew he’d miss her.
"You’d walk all over a new captain," Aveline said, trying for stern and missing. "I could never subject these men to that." Her smile slid as she considered. "But… with what’s happening with Cullen. If it has to do with those ridiculous rumours around me, maybe it’s something I should…reconsider." The word was distasteful in her mouth, but Cullen, at least, was a good man who’d gone out of his way to help her.
"Reconsider getting a second bottle," Anton said, shaking his head. "Not that. I doubt it’d help now anyway." He swirled the bottle, finding barely an inch of liquid at the bottom.
"This all started with me, when I removed Jeven," Aveline went on. "It feels like the problem should end with me as well. That this is something else I should put a stop to."
"You want to put a stop to the Knight-Commander’s lunatic quest to alienate the whole of Thedas, one group at a time?" Anton scoffed, knocking back the last of the bottle. "I suppose there’s always naked mudwrestling. Even if it doesn’t work, I’m sure Donnic and I would appreciate the attempt."
He didn’t move quite fast enough, and that might have been intentional. Aveline’s fist slammed into the side of his head, hard enough to knock him to the floor.
"Get up," Aveline commanded, looking down at Anton, who was still holding the empty bottle. "Get up so I can hit you again."
"Maker’s balls," Anton spat, droplets of blood following the words, "I’m not Cormac, you know."
"Could’ve fooled me with a line like that. There are simpler ways to ask me to render you unconscious, if you think there’s not enough booze in that cellar of yours." Aveline continued to tower threateningly over the Hawke sprawled across her office floor.
Anton licked his split lip and chuckled. "Please. If there’s not enough booze in my cellar, all I have to do is visit my brother’s cellar. And why should I get up if you’re just going to punch me again? Your floor is nice, but the ceiling is dipping a bit in that corner. Should I be concerned?"
Aveline kicked him in the thigh.
"Ow! Oh, I see. Kick a man while he’s down."
"Just get up, you idiot."
Anton rolled up onto his knees to dodge her next kick, holding the bottle between them defensively. "Yes, yes, the idiot is getting up."
Aveline folded her arms across her chest, her glare no less threatening. "Good. Then the idiot can get out of my office."
This was not the usual way of things, but this was not a usual day. Anders and Fenris were working on something with Anton, and Cormac had been left to distract Artemis from the horrors purportedly happening to their brother-in-law in the Gallows. Obviously, the apostates could not be a part of whatever came next. And so, Cormac found himself standing in his room, with his brother in his arms, and the contents of a particular drawer scattered across the bed, where they’d get to them, later.
"You know why we can’t be anywhere near this," Cormac reminded Artie, with a teasing kiss, as if he could nibble the objections off his brother’s lips. "Let them take care of Cullen. It just gives me time to take care of you." He nuzzled behind Artemis’s ear. "Tell me what you want. Is there anything I haven’t given you? Tell me. Show me. Teach me to please you."
Artie leaned into Cormac’s touch, turning in his brother’s arms to nip up the line of his jaw. A part of him felt guilty for this, for enjoying this while his brother-in-law — and Anton, by extension — were suffering, but Cormac truly was a wonderful distraction, better than cleaning everything into oblivion. "Teach you?" he purred, pausing to tongue at the shell of Cormac’s ear. "I think you do pretty well without my tutelage." He squeezed Cormac’s ass, rocking their hips together. Still, he took Cormac’s hand and wrapped it around his throat, telling Cormac exactly the sort of distraction he wanted.
"One of those days, is it?" Cormac purred, taking a moment to eye a few spots in the room. "What about the vanity?" he asked. "What if I bend you over the top of it and let you watch yourself squirm for me, while I pound you until you can’t breathe?" One quick squeeze, and then his hand moved to tuck Artie’s hair behind his ear.
As Cormac took a deep breath, meaning to kiss Artemis soundly before manhandling him into position and tearing open his trousers, the door slammed open, Carver filling the doorway and his voice filling the room.
"What the fuck are the two of you doing up here? Is this because you’re mages, and you can’t bring yourselves to care about a templar? That’s our brother’s husband. What if it was me, huh? Would you be fucking around instead of helping, if it was me?" Carver finally turned far enough to notice the half-organised pile of toys on the bed, and then the way Cormac held Artemis like most reasonable men held women they weren’t related to.
"You know that we can’t get involved. Anton made that perfectly clear. We can’t be seen with anyone involved in this, or this entire family is going to be locked up, and you’re not going to be a templar any more," Cormac pointed out. "And off that subject, have you ever considered knocking?"
Artemis had stopped breathing, his knuckles white where he clutched Cormac’s robes. That was his little brother. In the doorway. With a perfect line of sight to where he and Cormac had just been grinding against each other.
"Why?" Carver sneered, disgust clear in his eyes as he looked at them. "Because you were doing something you don’t want your little brother to see?"
"Carver," Artemis said weakly, passing a hand over his face and looking at everything except him. "There’s a thing called privacy. I was just…" He gestured at the bed and its contents, his face and ears burning red. "Cleaning. I was cleaning. Probably too much." He still didn’t look at Carver, but he still clutched Cormac’s sleeve. He didn’t know how Cormac could keep so calm but took his cues from him.
Cormac pulled Artemis closer, one arm around his waist, resting the other hand on the back of his head. "You know how he gets. We’re just as scared as you are, but unlike you, we actually can’t help. So, why don’t you get off our asses and go do something for Anton?"
Carver sneered. Anton had already put him out, for much the same reason — he wouldn’t endanger the rest of the family, like that, and Carver, as a templar, had just as much to lose as the mages. "So you can get back on each other’s asses?" He jabbed a finger in their direction. "The two of you always touching each other — always. This is your fault, Cormac. Maybe I’d have had a normal older brother, if you hadn’t fucked him up. It’s not the magic. Beth isn’t like this. It’s you and your unnatural… whatever the fuck this is you’re doing. Look at him, Cormac, can’t you even see what you’re doing?"
"You were too young to know him before," Cormac said, letting go of Artemis. He’d let Carver see that Artemis had his own motivations, here. "This isn’t about me."
Artemis let Cormac’s robes slide from his fingers, and finally he met Carver’s glare with one of his own. Three steps brought him in front of his little brother, and Artemis looked at him for a long, solid moment before punching him square in the nose.
Carver staggered back into the doorframe, cursing as he clutched his bleeding nose.
"I’m sorry you don’t have a ‘normal’ older brother, Carver," Artie said through grit teeth, hands still clenched into fists. "But I swear to the Maker, if you talk to Cormac like that in front of me again, it will be more than your nose that’s bleeding. You think I don’t know there’s something broken in my head? Cormac was the only thing keeping me glued together for years, and how fucking dare you decide that I don’t know how to take care of myself now?"
Carver stared at him with wide, wild eyes over his bloodied fingers. "I wasn’t—"
"You weren’t there," Artie said, voice dangerously close to a shout. "You were a baby when I found out I had magic. And you were eleven when I tried to turn myself over to the templars. So stuff your assumptions, Carver!"
"Artie, don’t punch your brother. He’s just a kid." Cormac sighed and held out his hand. He hadn’t known about the templars, but that made so many things make sense, right around that time. That was the thing he’d been missing, but he managed to mostly keep the surprise off his face, or at least low enough that it could be read as a reaction to Artie actually throwing a punch. "C’mere. It’s all right. You know and I know." And that was something he’d picked up from Anders. "That’s what matters."
Eyes still unblinking, if watering like someone was working the pump, Carver stared at Cormac. He looked and sounded so much like their father, right then. Distress shot across his face before he wiped his hand on the wall next to the door and stormed out, before he could make things any worse for himself. Had that all been true? Cormac hadn’t even flinched at any of what came out of Artemis’s mouth — totally unsurprised. He’d known it all, already. This family and their secrets — it was going to get someone killed, one of these days. It had probably gotten his father killed, but with the things Cormac had said and the things they’d learned in that fuckawful Blight-steeped spire in the mountains, their dad had probably known he was going to die. He’d expected Cormac to take his place, and apparently, Cormac had, at least with Artemis. They’d both always been so much older, it was hard to remember there were years between them. But, maybe that was it. Maybe Cormac was just an overprotective father. It still didn’t sit quite right, but it was a lot less horrible than anything else he’d thought about them.
"And don’t bleed on the carpets! Go see Anders before you get blood on anything else Artie’s going to want to clean!" Cormac shouted after Carver.
After Carver disappeared from sight, Artemis stared at the smear of blood left on the wall and scratched at the hand that had punched him. "Maker," he muttered, processing what had just happened. "He walks in here, nearly sees… us, and I end up punching him." And he was usually so careful about locking that door when he was with Cormac. Well. ‘Usually’ meaning when he was sober and considerably less frazzled. "I always thought the punching would go in a different direction if that ever happened. And now I need to clean the wall. Excuse me." Artemis turned, casting about for the rag he’d been cleaning with before Cormac had distracted him.
"Clean it after," Cormac said, firmly. "Lock the door and come here. You’ll have enough else to clean when we’re done." He was completely horrified at the last several minutes of this otherwise … actually pretty dreadful day, but he had a purpose, and that purpose was to keep Artemis distracted from the crisis going on in the other room. That was something he could do. That was something he was sure he needed to do even more of, after that interruption. "Come here, my love, and let me give you what you need."
"Cormac," Artemis groaned, even as he let Cormac fold him into his arms. "Our little brother nearly walked in on us. Earthquakes after he leaves does not sound like the wisest idea."
"Maybe not, but who says I’m going to let you start one?" Cormac purred, burying his face against Artemis’s neck. "Maybe I’ll just get you desperate and pleading and then carry you home to Fenris, for the earthquakes."
Slowly, the knot of terror in Artemis’s stomach started to loosen. There was nothing he could do for Cullen. Or for Carver, for that matter. "All right," Artie said, his hands starting to wander again, "but I would like to petition having a bell put around Carver’s neck. A loud one."
"I wonder if Merrill would go for that?" Cormac asked, but the thought vanished into the background, as Artemis’s hands caressed him. Later. He’d worry about it later.