[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 260
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Carver Hawke ♂, Cullen ♂, Anders ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D0)
Warnings: PTSD, lyrium withdrawal, black humour
Notes: Cullen returns. All is not well.
Anders was used to Hawkes dragging him out of his clinic. When Anton tugged his arm and cocked his head at the door, Anders didn’t even ask, at least not until he had gathered up his staff and his potions and he and Anton were already halfway up the stairs.
"Is everyone all right?" Anders asked. "Did someone else punch Carver?" The joke did little to hide his concern, especially when Anton had that look, that haunted look Anders had seen on too many patients and their families.
"Not yet," said Anton, practically running up the stairs, forcing Anders to keep up. "It’s Cullen."
That brought Anders up short, but Anton was leading him into the estate and not the Gallows. "Cullen? What—? Meredith released him?" He squinted at Anton. "Or did you do something?"
"I did plenty of somethings," Anton huffed, "all — or most — of them legal, surprisingly." Words rushed out of him more quickly than usual, humour in his words but not his tone. He threw Anders a desperate look all but telling the healer to hurry up.
Anders found Cullen in Anton’s room, his skin pale against the bedsheets, his hand gripped tight in Bethany’s. Cullen looked about with dazed eyes, his stare lingering on Anders before sliding off, and Anders wondered how conscious the man actually was.
"He needs to eat," Bethany said, as she noticed Anders. "And he probably needs his lyrium. Carver went back to get it. But, I think a warm beer and some fruit would do wonders."
"Nailed it," Anders laughed, humourlessly, as he sat on the edge of the bed, studying Cullen’s papery skin and dark eyes. "For me it was this horrendous frozen fruit and cream disaster. Possibly one of the less pleasant things I’ve put in my mouth over the years, but it helped."
"You’ve been…?" Bethany looked up, curious.
"I did something stupid. They had me for a year down there. All I wanted was a bath and a sandwich, when I got out." Anders shook his head and ran some gentle magic into the side of Cullen’s neck, with one finger. "Of course, I also had a much better beard."
"I really can’t imagine you with a beard." Bethany smiled and reached out a hand toward Anton. "Stop pacing, Anton. You’re making me nervous."
"Consider how nervous that means I must be." Anton stopped pacing and drew a knife from somewhere, to clean his nails. "Is he going to be all right?"
"Physically? Yes," Anders assured him. "But, I don’t know enough about the lyrium to predict how long it’ll take his faculties to come back. Cutting his ration would have been more humane. In fact, it’s what I’d advise, if he decides to leave the Order, after this. Easing out of the lyrium, not stopping it outright."
Anton paused in cleaning his nails but only for a moment. Would Cullen consider that? Leaving the Order? Maker knew Anton wouldn’t need to worry about him so much if he did. "You know this man is turning my hair grey?" Anton said. "I found three grey strands this morning. Three. I’ve aged five years in two weeks."
"Oh, poor you," Anders drawled. "Three whole greys." Anders took the hand Bethany wasn’t holding and pressed his fingers to the inside of Cullen’s wrist, counting his heartbeats.
"All three of them his fault," Anton said, pointing at Cullen with his knife before going back to cleaning under his nails. He was starting to understand why Artie felt the need to clean everything. He needed something to do to distract him from his nerves. "Well. Meredith’s fault. Someone should lock her up."
"You’ll hear no arguments from me," Anders murmured distractedly. Cullen’s pulse was fast, too fast, his skin cold to Anders’s touch. "Anton, could you grab another blanket?"
Anton nodded curtly and darted out the door, grateful to have instructions. Bethany watched Anders work, her thumb rubbing soothing circles over the back of Cullen’s hand. "You said you weren’t sure when his faculties would come back," she said, "but… they will come back, won’t they?" She’d encountered her share of lyrium addicts during her time with Athenril and remembered them by the hungry look in their eyes. Some had been little better than raving madmen.
"I was on the wrong side of the templars to really get a look at that." Anders shook his head, helplessly. "I expect he will recover. It was only two weeks, and I’ve known templars who were shut up for a week or two, but I also don’t know what happened to them, while they were locked up. I don’t know if their rations were cut. I just know they ‘went away’ for a while, and they seemed to be all right, if a little more nervous, when they came back. But, he’s…" he trailed off, just watching Cullen’s face, for a while. "We should never have been in that place. Either of us. I got the templars. After I was gone, he got the demons."
Anton came back with his arms full of blankets. "I didn’t know what kind you wanted," he said, dumping them into Anders’s lap.
"Oh, this one’s nice!" Anders rubbed the corner of a silk and down comforter between his fingers. "Let’s try this one, first. It’s light and soft, and it’s probably the warmest one in the pile."
Bethany took an edge and pulled it toward her, across Cullen, whose hands twitched as the sensation swam through the haze. He clutched at the blanket and stared confusedly at Anders and then Anton, behind him. And just as quickly, the recognition passed, and the haze dulled everything.
"He’s strong," Anders said, nodding. "And he wants to come back. I think he needs lyrium and a good meal." He looked over his shoulder at Anton. "He’s going to be a mess. You need to know that. Probably pretty literally, for the first few days, if they weren’t feeding him anything but bread and water, in there, so expect that. Depending on what else went on, he may also be an unbearable shit, for a while, in addition to shitting unbearably. Maker knows I was, even after the first time. Just let it go. He’ll come back."
Anton nodded, swallowing heavily. "I think he knows exactly how cross I’d be if he didn’t," he said, his smile curling higher on one side but not quite reaching his eyes. "Or at least he’d better."
Bethany finally coaxed Anton into sitting, vacating the chair by the bed so that her brother could take it. Anton’s leg still bounced restlessly even as he slid his hand into Cullen’s.
Carver returned shortly after, cheeks red with the wind and a wooden box tucked under his arm. Bodhan followed him up the stairs, his steps careful as he balanced a laden tray. "I have it," said Carver, brandishing the box for his siblings and Anders. He shuffled to the side to let Bodhan through the doorway. "How is he?"
"He’s been better," Anders admitted with a shrug. "But he’ll also get better, so there’s that." He eyed the box. "Do you know how to administer that?"
Carver shifted his weight, opened and closed his mouth before simply nodding.
Bodhan set down his tray on one of the endtables. Anders considered the sandwiches and pitcher and thanked Bodhan.
"You know, your dog is out in the hall?" Carver told Anton, hooking a thumb over his shoulder. "He’s just sitting there and whining, looking pathetic."
"Aw, he missed his daddy!" Bethany cooed, gently patting Cullen’s foot through the blankets.
"Hey, hey!" Anton shot Bethany a look. "I’m the dogfather around here!"
"Don’t look at me. I have cats." Anders held up his hands and stood up. "You need to be where I am, I think, Carver. You know what you’re doing, and I don’t, for a change, which is a little distressing, really."
"Have you seen him do this?" Carver asked Anton, catching the flicker of uncertainty that crossed his brother’s face. "You don’t want to watch this. Take a sandwich and go out in the hall with Beth."
"But—" Bethany protested.
"No. Anders will help me. Go make our brother eat something." Carver’s jaw was set, and the look he gave his sister was one they’d used with each other since they were children. Now was not the time to argue. He’d suffer whatever she wanted to throw at him, later, but now was the time to do.
"I’m not actually hungry. You know I did eat breakfast, right?" Anton was once again attempting to pace a hole in the carpet. "Besides, the sandwiches are for Cullen, not for me."
"Anton," Anders sighed. "I know what he’s about to do, and you don’t want to watch. You don’t need this, right now. And if Cullen wants another sandwich, when he’s finished the ones that are left, we’ll get him another sandwich. Eat something. You’re looking whiffy. And do it out there." He pointed to the door.
Anton wanted to protest, but he wavered, seeing the united front Carver and Anders made and eyeing the box in Carver’s hand. Bethany slipped a hand around the inside of his elbow. She was no more thrilled than he was at the thought of leaving, but she understood.
"The healer says you’re looking whiffy, Anton," Bethany said. "And that the cure for said whiffiness is food. Out there. Can’t argue with healer’s orders."
"Watch me," Anton muttered, even as he let himself be steered out into the hallway. He took up pacing a hole in the carpet out there instead, sandwich in hand. Mintaka followed him back and forth.
Carver laid out the box on the edge of the bed while Anders discreetly shut the door.
"This is absurd," Anton snarled, with no real heat. "That’s my husband. I am standing out here in the hall while my little brother and the healer who’s doing most of the family are doing things they don’t want me to see."
"It’s for your health, Anton. If Anders says you don’t want to see — after the things you’ve seen — you don’t want to see," Bethany pointed out. "And he’s not doing most of the family. Less than half, assuming he hasn’t been keeping you more company than you’re letting on."
"You’re not helping. If that was supposed to be reassuring, that was the opposite of reassuring." Anton gestured with the sandwich, and Mintaka edged to one side and then the other, always directly under it. "What could they possibly be doing? What could they possibly be doing that I wouldn’t want to see? That I shouldn’t see? I’ve seen my own brother’s intestines!"
"Would you want to see them again?" Bethany asked, as Mintaka finally lunged and tugged a hanging slice of meat out of the sandwich. "And I’m fairly sure the sandwich was supposed to go in you, not the dog."
Anton took an enormous, petulant bite and chewed angrily. It actually was a good sandwich, and maybe he’d have another, when he wasn’t standing in the hall, waiting on unspeakable things.