[ Master Post ]
Title: Rhapsody in Ass Major – Chapter 261
Fandom: Dragon Age
Characters: Anton Hawke ♂, Bethany Hawke ♀, Carver Hawke ♂, Anders ♂, Cullen ♂
Rating: T (L2 N0 S0 V0 D1)
Warnings: Lyrium addiction, PTSD, black humour
Notes: Cullen comes to his senses. Mostly. Sort of. Anton continues to hover and worry.
[ Master Post ]
Bethany leaned her hip against the wall and tried not to listen for whatever was going on inside. "They don’t need to be distracted," she assured Anton. "And you pacing and scowling is really quite distracting." Anton opened his mouth to argue, but Bethany help up one finger. "Sandwich. One sulky bite does not count as eating."
Anton took a second sulky bite while Mintaka pawed at his leg and whined. Bethany clicked her tongue and tried to call Mintaka over, but the lure of food was stronger. Anton tore off a bit of turkey and fed it to Mintaka, much to Bethany’s displeasure.
"What?" Anton asked innocently. "Maybe he was looking whiffy too. Or woofy."
Bethany rolled her eyes. "You are hopeless," she sighed.
"I inspire hope in others!" Anton argued, around a mouthful of sandwich. "Hope they might beat me at cards, hope they might get me in bed, hope none of their children turn out like me…"
"That last one, I’ll believe," Bethany teased, glancing at the door as a barely-audible groan percolated through it.
Carver’s voice followed. "He’s fine! I was talking to Samson, and—"
The groan arced up into an incoherent scream, fragments of words colliding as Cullen completely failed to express himself. Anton was through the door in an instant, tossing the sandwich to the dog, as he shoved past his sister. The bed was lit in green, some sort of spell, and Cullen wasn’t moving, except to scream.
"What the fuck did you do to him?" Anton shouted, as Carver caught him with one hand in the chest, setting aside the lyrium kit on the cabinet beside the bed.
"He’s fine, Anton. That’s normal, at this point. I traded a day’s ration of my own to Samson, so he’d tell me what to expect." Carver moved with Anton, one side and then the other, arm lashing out as Anton tried to fake him out. "It’ll stop in a minute or two. He only got half a dose, because I’m trying not to kill him by accident. He’s coming back. That’s why he’s screaming. It means he’s alive."
"That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard," Anton snarled, still trying to manoeuvre Carver into a position where he could get past. "Of course he’s alive. He’s been alive."
"Do you think he knew that?" Carver asked, hoping he was right, hoping he hadn’t just fucked up horribly. "Do you really think he knew that? Because he knows it now."
"It’s not real! Get them off of me!" Cullen shouted, and Anders moved closer to the edge of the bed.
"Cullen? Look at me. You’re safe. You’re home," Anders assured him. "You can’t move because I’m trying to keep you from hurting yourself. Calm down, and I’ll let you up, but don’t try to sit up, yet."
"You’re not real! None of you are real!" Cullen insisted at the top of his lungs, eyes wild.
"There’s only one of me. If you’re seeing more than one of me, the other ones are definitely not real," Anders joked, hoping the response would give him some insight into exactly what Cullen was seeing. "Although — Carver? Any chance he’s seeing double?"
"Probably. It’ll wear off." Carver cleared his throat. "Afternoon, Captain. Good to have you back." This, he thought, was what he owed. Cullen had saved him, when he’d gotten stabbed, and now they’d be even. Now, they’d both have that same trust, which wasn’t something Carver had really expected from anyone but Anton and Bethany. Everyone looked to Cormac for life-saving heroics.
Cullen’s wild-eyed stare roved around the room before landing on Carver. Despite the screaming, despite Cullen’s laboured breathing, that told Carver that he had done something right. He hadn’t been able to stand Cullen’s vacant stare and the way his captain had looked at him without seeing him.
"Not real," Cullen insisted, no longer screaming.
"Come on, Captain," Carver teased gently. "Would a demon really use me to try to tempt you?"
Cullen didn’t seem to find that reassuring, and Anton elbowed his brother out of the way. "Carver is, regrettably, real," Anton drawled, his smile a touch too shaky to be convincing. "As am I, less regrettably." Anton laid a hand over Cullen’s, thumb stroking the back of his hand. Cullen didn’t jerk away, thanks to Anders’s glyph, but the way his eyes bugged even further said he wanted to.
And Anton saw it, the fear in his eyes. He’d never thought of heartbreak as an actual, physical sensation, but he could feel it like a weight on his chest.
"Cullen, love, it’s just me," he murmured. "You know I’d stab any demon pretending to be me, right? Only one person could be this handsome, and you’re looking at him."
Cullen remembered the night he’d thought Artemis was Anton, that he’d thought it was a demon, until he realised the demon would be more perfectly Anton. And this… this was imperfectly Anton, thinner in the cheeks, darker in the eyes, a smear of mustard on his lip. This wouldn’t be a demon, would it? He’d never seen Solona with mustard on her face, when the demons had pretended to be her. But, was any of this real? Had he even made it out of Kinloch Hold? Seven years? Eight? Were they all a dream? No. Things would have gone so much better, if this were a dream.
"Anton?" Cullen finally asked.
"You going to try to strangle anyone, including yourself, if I let you up?" Anders asked, as the tension in Cullen’s muscles eased. "I’m a little out of practise on the grappling front, and I’d prefer to avoid you rearranging my extremely attractive face."
"Just let him up. There’s three of us in here." Anton shrugged, still watching Cullen with a mixture of relief and trepidation.
Anders rather wished they had Cormac and his shields, just in case. He waved his hand, and the green glow surrounding Cullen rippled and dissipated. He waited for Cullen to lunge, but if anything Cullen just sagged deeper into the bed. He moved his head from side to side just to be sure that he could, and then he moved the hand in Anton’s, turning it to press palm to palm.
Cullen’s hand was cold and sweaty, but Anton pressed it to his lips. That felt real, more real than his fractured dreams had been… if they had been dreams.
"What happened?" Cullen asked. He tried to sort through his jumble of memories, to figure out what was dream and what was real.
Anders answered, leaning against the bedpost and returning to Cullen’s field of vision. "Meredith’s paranoia happened. She accused you of something ridiculous and had you imprisoned for two weeks without lyrium."
There was something terrifying about that answer. Two weeks. Was that all it took?
"I had a dream… that you were a templar," Cullen murmured, squinting up at Anders.
Anders cleared his throat and rubbed his face. "I’m surprised you remember that at all. Not a dream, though. I wanted to get in and check on you, so I borrowed Carver’s armour." He glanced across the room. "Has anyone ever pointed out how tiny you are, Carver? Because you’re small. I thought I was never going to be able to stand up straight again, after that."
"I am not small. You’re a giant." Carver finally relaxed enough to lean against the wall, by the door, and Bethany slipped in around him. "A giant mountain savage — that’s what my brother calls you, right? Well, you are. Real people are Anton’s size. I am large. You are a giant. It is not my fault that nobody in this demon-infested city wears plate in your size."
"Someone kept trying to tell me you were a mage," Cullen said slowly, eyes returning to Anton. "Or maybe they were asking? I don’t know. Kept trying to get me to say it was true. Kept telling me you were controlling me with blood magic."
Anders nearly choked on his tongue. "Him? A mage? That— that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. The most magical thing I’ve ever seen him do is card tricks!"
"Wonderful," Anton muttered, shaking his head. "Have we all been suspected of magic now? Except for you anyway, Carver, though I wouldn’t be surprised if Meredith convinces herself that you’re secretly a mage masquerading as a templar."
"That would not make sense," Carver said, canting his head to the side as he pictured it.
"Which is why Meredith would think it," Bethany drawled. She leaned against Anton’s chair and smiled down at Cullen. "Now, how do you feel about sandwiches and beer? I’m afraid if we wait any longer, Mintaka will run off with the plate."
Anton looked over to see Mintaka snuffling at the edge of the tray. "Mintaka! Bad dog!" Mintaka jumped down from the end table and gave Anton the full force of his sad eyes. "You already had my sandwich, you greedy beast. You’re not getting Cullen’s." Anton leaned half out of his chair to grab the plate. Mintaka whined. "Don’t give me that." He paused to scratch behind Mintaka’s ear with his free hand.
"Ah, food. Real food. I’d almost forgotten that existed." Sitting up gingerly, Cullen took the plate from Anton.
"Should I be insulted that you look more relieved to see food than you did when you saw me?" Anton huffed.
"There’s mustard on your face," Cullen told him.
Anton’s eyes widened and his hand darted up to wipe his mouth.
"Ah, Captain?" Anders leaned in and whispered something to Cullen, to which the response was a horrified look and Cullen frozen halfway through the bite he was trying to take of the sandwich. "Yeah, I thought so. Leave you to consider why that wasn’t a problem I had. Carver? You’re near the door. Run down and get some of that melon your brother likes."
"Isabela’s not here," Carver scoffed, pushing himself off the wall. "Yeah, yeah, I know the one you mean. I’ll be right back."
Sneaking a sliver of meat out of the sandwich, Anton looked between Cullen and Anders. "Is this something else I don’t want to know?"
"Yes," they both answered at once, Cullen holding the sandwich to hide the fact he was talking with his mouth full.